Mom update

It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned anything about my mother, so I thought i’d do an update post. It’s taken several months to work through all her doctors to get a handle on her full health status, but now we think we have most everything figured out.

We already knew mom has diabetes and asthma. As we got her meds organized, it became obvious she also has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She’s on a lot of meds, including two different types of injectible insulin, an oral med for diabetes, an oral med for asthma, and a maintenance inhaler. Just keeping them all organized and filled is a chore. I looked into mail order prescription services, but her insurance didn’t cover the one that really intrigued me (Pillpack.com), and mom said she prefers to get her meds from the pharmacy anyway.

Sister and I were worried about mom’s inability to take her diabetes medications regularly, and her primary care doc thought that had a lot to do with her forgetfulness. Finding a way to get her to take her meds properly was imperative for us.

We also recognized that mom was stuck at home with only her two little dogs for company. Her days consisted of getting up and fixing breakfast for her and stepfather, then spending the time after he left for work mostly watching TV and dozing in a chair. She would do some light housework and usually get dinner ready during that time, but she wasn’t getting any real physical or mental stimulation. She was also skipping or missing meals, which wasn’t good for her blood sugar. Mom lives in a rural area and there are no close neighbors for her to interact with, either.

After a bit of research into senior services and activities in her area we found that there was a day program at a private senior living facility within 30 minutes of her home. We also discovered that the township would pick her up and drop her off there for a small fee.

It took quite a bit of negotiation to get mom to agree to visit the place and try the activities. We had to get a lot of forms completed with health details and doctor permissions for activities, too. We finally managed to get her going to the day program in July. She goes two to three times a week and is loving it. There are chair exercise classes, games, puzzles, and cooking classes. The staff make sure she takes her insulin shot and she gets lunch and a snack, so her blood sugar is now more under control.

Stepfather covers the cost of the transportation, and sister and I split the cost of the day program since they can’t afford it. Each month it costs me between $250 and $350, and I can make that fit in my budget. Every week when I talk to her she tells me how much she enjoys going there and thanks me for paying for it.

Tomorrow sister is taking mom to the neurologist to discuss the results of mom’s most recent EEG. The first visit to this doc resulted in a diagnosis of dementia and a prescription that mom had to stop after a few days because it made her sick. We’re not sure what this visit will bring, but hopefully there will be something else she can try for the dementia symptoms.

The last few times I’ve talked to my mom she has mentioned that she would love to come out to visit me. I’m considering that progress.

The distance I’ve had from her has helped me feel less stressed about my mom, but I recognize that sister has taken on a lot of the burden of taking her to doctors and organized her health care. I had a pretty transparent dream about this a few weeks ago, in fact. In my dream, I was living in a beautiful suite of rooms in a big house. I left my suite to go find my sister since I knew she was living in this big house with me. When I found her room it was small, cramped, and dingy. It really didn’t take too much thought to realize that even subconsciously I know sister has the more rotten deal here. :-/

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Highs and Lows

Fair warning: there’s some adult content here!

Stuff that makes me feel good:

  • I’ve been getting into a groove with exercising in the mornings. I found this fitness program that I really like on the local PBS station. It’s a sort of ballet/classical dance based program and each episode is only about 25 minutes long. I went looking for DVDs online and found that in addition to the DVDs you can subscribe to a bigger catalog of streaming programs, so I did that instead. With my employer fitness program subsidy it only costs me about $7 a month. In case anyone wants to try these classes they’re at essentrics.com. At the end of each session I say “Thank you, Miranda Esmonde-White!”
  • One of my close friends from Chicago contacted me a couple days ago and asked if it would work for her to visit me over Labor Day weekend. Yes!! She scored a super cheap flight. We’re going to have so much fun!!
  • I’ve been listening to the Against the Stream podcasts more often and thinking about how I can add meditation into my days. I’ve sat a couple of times for a whole 20 breaths.  Woo hoo!
  • In a totally different vein, I’ve also been amused by listening to the Guys we F****d podcasts (NSFW!), starting with the oldest ones first. I still have quite a few to catch up on, but am finding them intriguing. I admire that these young women are claiming their sexuality so boldly, and find some of their advice to be spot on, yet at the same time I think they still have some things to learn about relationships. But they are stand up comedians, so the podcast isn’t meant to be super serious. A few of the shows have been annoying, but I just skip past those. It will be interesting to see how the podcast continues to develop as I catch up with the current episodes.

Not so good stuff:

  • I cried during a conference call today. I think my colleagues (both women) knew what was happening. One sent me an email message tonight that was really nice. I’ve been working on a project that is really frustrating the hell out of me because I seem to be hitting all sorts of roadblocks. The project team keeps telling me I need to step up and make some progress, and that just is getting to be too much for me because besides this project I have like 5 billion other things I am supposed to be doing. I have 3,500 emails in my inbox. I’m waaaaayyyy behind on just about everything, and I keep getting more piled on. My new boss (yes, I have a new boss and a new organization I’m kinda sorta not quite fully integrated into) says things like “Just speak up when you need help,” so I do and the people he tells me to get help from are also already really busy and help just a tiny bit and then it just bounces right back to me. *sigh* Every Friday I am ECSTATIC that the weekend is nearly here. Every Monday I am hopeful. By Wednesday, I am frequently in the pit of despair. But I have a job, right? I am employed and able to pay my bills and all that. That’s good, right? Right?
  • I am currently in a stand-off with my father and stepmother. When I was back in Chicago for my mother’s 75th birthday my dad was unexpectedly hospitalized. I hadn’t been planning to add a visit to my dad that trip, but I had a rental car and some flexibility in my schedule so I drove out to see him in the hospital. He was released a few days later and has been doing OK, but I apparently made a couple critical errors around that whole event. I didn’t know that he and stepmother don’t want any references to them EVER posted on social media. I had made a reference on my Facebook account to going to the hospital to see him and what his condition was. Big error, apparently. A lurking relative contacted dad and stepmom about his “health scare” which is how they got tipped off. They let me know they did not like that I had posted something about them on Facebook, etc., etc. Fine, I took my lumps and said I wouldn’t ever reference them again on any social media [which I guess I’m sort of breaking right now], but apparently that wasn’t enough and they were still miffed about it. Also, the fact that I had expressed any interest at all in dad’s treatment by asking questions was seen as bad, too. When sister had a visit with dad and stepmom last month, stepmom apparently complained vehemently about how I had not only shared information about dad’s health with all sorts of people who didn’t need to know (and not just mentioning that he had been hospitalized on Facebook, but likely talking to my friends about it, horrors!!) but that I also had tried to give my dad medical advice. ????? I guess by asking questions, I was giving advice. So for the past three weeks I have been in a f*** them mood and refused to call them, and since they refuse to call any of their “kids” (we are expected to call them once a week…yes, EXPECTED, as they have made abundantly clear to me) we are in a stand off. They’re older than me and not in as good health as me, so I’m gonna bet they break first. We’ll see.

Not sure if good or bad:

  • Last weekend I did some social media “gardening” (such as removing some “friends,” etc.). One of the things I did was update my Google profile photo. I don’t use Google +, although I do have an account, but I use Gmail and comment on Blogspot blogs and had noticed that my photo was very old (like, at least 14 years old!). So I changed it out for a more recent one. Ever since then I’ve been getting notifications that men I do not know (they are all men) had added me to their circles. I have checked my G+ privacy settings and strangers should not be able to add me to their circles, so I’m very confused by this development. And a little creeped out by it, too. Is G+ now some sort of clandestine dating site where guys troll for women? WTH?!
  • I had a very odd, but very sexual dream about an old boyfriend last night. The boyfriend in my dream was someone I dated a very long time (like nearly 30 years) ago. I had ended the relationship because he had become very disrespectful of me (by cheating a couple times, and essentially raping me once) and then proceeded to creepily stalk me for a while afterwards. So it disturbs me that I had this dream about him and it involved sexual stuff. Certainly I’m feeling healthier these days because I’m having…ahem…cravings, but to dream about this particular guy in this particular way…ewww. Maybe I need to listen to less Guys we F****d podcasts.

Delayed reaction

Sometimes I just can’t tell when or how something is affecting me. It’s just truly a challenge to be in touch with your feelings all the time. Who has time for that? I’m too busy working full-time, taking care of the dog, taking care of the house and yard, taking care of my physical needs, etc., etc.

The past two days have been rough for me, and I’m only starting to figure it out now. My aunt is dying. This is upsetting to me on multiple levels.

See? It should be so simple to figure out. Why has it taken me the better part of a week to get to this realization, though? And even now that I’m understanding my reaction better, what can I do about it?

I first found out about my aunt’s condition in February. She had noticed some odd neurological problems a few months earlier and so the brain tumor was discovered. The neurologist recommended chemotherapy and radiation, and she completed the treatments in early June. Last week she returned to the hospital with new symptoms and they checked the tumor again. It had gotten larger. She was offered hospice and told she had two to six months to live. Those are the facts.

My aunt is in her mid-sixties and has lived a blameless and clean life. She’s a nun in the Dominican order, and entered the convent after high school. She has devoted her life to her god and for many years she worked in the convent’s mother house running the kitchens. My family used to visit her there and I found the spacious buildings, park-like property, and dozens of doting women a wonderful treat. One summer I spent several weeks staying at the mother house with her, and my parents were thrilled that I returned with a photo of me wearing the head-piece of her habit. I guess they thought I may join the convent, too.

I have an issue with dogma and am not religious, but when I was traveling through Spain in March I visited several churches and cathedrals. In each one, I stopped to reflect on my aunt and her condition. I can say that I even prayed for her a few times, although my prayers were more exhortations than humble requests. In Cordoba I recall kneeling in the Mezquita cathedral, staring at the altar and thinking, “She’s devoted her life to serving you because she believes in you so much. The least you can do is not treat her like shit.”

Next Monday, Independence Day, I’ll get to see her. Most likely it will be the last time. That’s what she’s planning, anyway: a final visit with all the nieces and nephews and grand-nieces/nephews, and grand-grand nieces/nephews before she dies. (Catholic families are typically large; I have nine cousins who each started families young. I’ve lost track of how many second and third cousins I have, quite frankly.) She’ll travel through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Tennessee to visit the clan. My other aunt — her twin sister, and also a nun — will be driving and watching over her.

I haven’t even lost her yet, but I’m grieving. I’ve been feeling exhausted and reactive the last two days and had no idea why until today.

It’s not just that I’ll be losing an aunt that is stirring me up. I also can’t help but project myself into her situation. I think about how cheated I would feel to have wasted so many years. Life is finite; why am I not spending my days doing something I really love and am passionate about?

During my long drive last weekend I had some time to talk with Ellen about how drained and unmotivated I’ve been feeling. My garden is pathetic this year, and I haven’t been doing as much cooking as I’d like. I’m not writing very much, either. When I get home from work at night, I just want to collapse on the couch or into bed. This is because I’m not getting any energy back from my work. I’m not enjoying myself, or feeling a sense of accomplishment. It just seems to suck the life out of me every day, and I spend the evenings and weekends trying to restore myself to some balance.

I’ve decided to seek out a career counselor and start figuring out what to do with myself for the next few years. Hopefully when I reach the point that I need to say good-bye to my friends and family I’ll feel good about what I’ve been doing with my limited time.

A conversation

DS: Mom asked me if I’ve talked to you lately. She wanted to know what’s going on with you.

Me: Well, she could call me if she wanted to talk to me. I’m not sure why she doesn’t call; the phone works both ways. Anyway, what does that mean “what’s going on with me?”

DS: She wants to know why you’re not coming to Christmas. So, why aren’t you?

Me: Well…well…I guess I don’t feel like my family is very interested in me.

DS: That’s so selfish! Why does it always have to be about you?!

Me: ………

 

Big stuff

Well, tomorrow is my day in court. I’m on the docket for 9:30 AM, so it will be a split personality type day: in the morning I will be a married person, but by the afternoon I will be offically single again.

But that’s not all!

I also was able to arrange my closing on the house refinancing for tomorrow afternoon, so I will get that business accomplished, as well. It may seem like a lot to deal with in one day, but I’m taking the entire day off of work anyway, so why not conduct all my business in one day. It will save me having to take time off later in the week, which would be difficult to manage these days anyway.

Work is very demanding lately. That’s good because it means a) my employer really wants/needs my talents and I’m unlikely to lose my job anytime soon, and; b) it helps me keep my mind occupied so I’m able to deal with this divorce and personal transition in smaller chunks at a time. It’s not always easy to compartmentalize and “schedule” personal stuff/work stuff, but the fact that I am compelled to keep my act together these days so I can accomplish stuff at work is a help.

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I was at my house for a few days last week while Mark was out of town. On Friday, I checked the nest box in the afternoon and saw this.

Peak production

Peak production

Four eggs. All in one day. Woo hoo! With only 4 laying hens, this is the best it can get. I’m very proud of my ladies and how well they’ve done.

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So, I’ve been back at my sister’s house since Friday night. We’ve been doing very well together, although this morning there was a bit of an exchange that I didn’t care for. While sis has been generous in allowing me to stay at her home, she did ask me to help pay for food I consume. Considering that I am consuming utilities in her home, too, the estimate of $40 a week seemed pretty fair.

Well, last week I wasn’t at her home all week. And I put out $70 picking up groceries for her earlier in the week. So when she broached the subject today and generally asked when I was going to pay her for food, I was a bit thrown this morning. Yes, I ate dinner with her last night. Yes, I ate lunch at her house yesterday that consisted of some food she had purchased. But, geez, it just sort of broad-sided me this AM while I was in the midst of figuring out how I’m going to do banking after the divorce tomorrow.

Bear in mind that while I do eat stuff she buys, I have also brought over foodstuffs from my own house to eat. After all, she and I don’t consume exactly the same. I like a lot of unprocessed, “real” food (no “buttery spreads” for me, but real butter, etc.), while she purchases different stuff. Plus I’m sticking to my no-cow-dairy rule, so that limits some of what I would consume from her fridge, anyway.

I’ve brought over and shared: tea, eggs, homemade jam, home canned peaches, and home canned applesauce. I pretty much eat my own stuff for breakfast (excepting coffee, since it is readily available in the AM) and bring my own food for lunch on days I go to the office (from my dwindling supply of frozen soups).

Additionally, she takes full advantage of me being here to help with her pet care and be a “responsible adult” to help out with her teen son. So, I figure I’m contributing more than just a few dollars to the household by being here and all should be balancing out.

I’m not trying to get down into the weeds on this stuff, but it became a much too long exchange for my comfort. I hesitated as I thought through the implications of giving her some of my rapidly dwindling cash on hand. I offered her a check, which she declined, and then I explained my dilemma about accessing ATMs and how banking is going to be challenging for me over the next week as I give up the shared account at a major banking institution with ATMs all over the place and instead am relying on my personal accounts at a credit union with NO ATMs in the city at all.

Call me cheap, but I don’t want to spend $5-6 in transaction fees to get her $40 for the week; I’d much rather wait until I get another account set up that I will use for ATM transactions and online bill paying. What made this exchange go on too long was her observations and commentary on  me sharing my dilemma, and the fact that she seemed to have no sympathy for my situation in her response.

It just goes to prove that family can really get you in vulnerable parts, eh?

Giving thanks

I was thinking this morning of what I’m thankful for. After all, this is Thanksgiving day. So, although I’ve had what seems like a very challenging year so far, I still think I have many things to be thankful for.

  • My closest friends and family. Over the past two months especially, I would have had a much worse time getting through the days and nights without the love and support they provided me whenever I needed it.
  • Colleagues and friends in my community. This is a bit harder to express well, but it is greatly affirming to get words of support, thanks, and expressions of caring from the people I work with daily and the friends I’ve formed through community. My community extends beyond my neighborhood to those with whom I share common interests such as chicken keeping, gardening, and living more sustainably.
  • My job and workplace. Yes, I complain about it at times and have gone through periods of frustration like most people, but I am very happy to be working for a good company and to have a job in these crazy times.
  • My pets. My dogs and chickens give me a sense of grounding and help me maintain a routine so my life doesn’t seem too topsy-turvy.
  • My health. I’ve had health challenges this year, but I’m much better than I was and I have more good health to look forward to.

I’m spending today with my sister, niece, nephew, mother, and stepfather. We’ll eat the traditional foods: turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc. And we’ll probably have a few tussles during the day where someone will say something awkward or a bit mean to someone else. But that will be OK. We’ll be together, and that’s the thing that really matters.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!