The Busy Boater

It was 81 degrees yesterday, mid 70s today, and snow’s coming by mid-week. That’s Minnesota for you.

Last weekend a co-worker sunbathed on her cabin deck, while her husband did some ice fishing. He was safe. The ice was 42 inches thick.

At least some of that ice is melting, and it’s cleared from the bay near me. But it will be a while before the meters for the boats get any coins.

My husband Richard likes the water. Last summer volunteers invited Richard and the other residents to go fishing on pontoon boats. They went 5 times on 5 different lakes. I was told he smiled a lot.

I joked with a caregiver that I never got out on a boat last summer, and my husband has a busier social life than me!

Thanks for the memories

When I look at the pictures of the beautiful quilt being completed by fiber artist Maria Wulf for my sister…

I hear mourning doves cooing in spring as we picnic at Grandma’s backyard table.

I taste the first bite of summer with Dad’s hot grilled burgers, fresh off the Weber.

I smell cinnamon sprinkled apples, baking in Mom’s pie in the oven in the fall.

I see Mom and Dad huddled in their Macalester wool plaid, protected from winter’s chill,
recalling college days long ago.

Thanks Maria, for the memories.

Donuts or Root Beer Floats? One tough choice

My uncle from California called today. We shared many memories. He told me how Grandma Esther couldn’t drive past a donut shop without stopping in for one, along with a cup of good, strong coffee. Maybe she was the inspiration for Dunkin’ Donuts?

I countered that she couldn’t drive by an ice cream shop serving root beer floats without stopping either.

Twenty minutes later I sat outside at a coffee shop with a donut and coffee, toasting Grandma. My uncle had planted the seed for my craving, and after all, the glaze looked so fresh!

Then I saw the ice cream store next door had just opened for the season, with a sign advertising root beer floats. Grandma would have been in her glory!

One unique support group

Last fall I was preparing to take a drive to a magical farmhouse for a few days. I rent it every year. The dates were no longer working out with friends and family. As a result, I was making the drive alone. I didn’t want to cancel, as Mom had just passed away after a long time spent in hospice for her Alzheimer’s. I knew I really needed the trip. On my way out of town, I stopped by my library to grab an audio book to keep me company in the car. I chose ” Izzy and Lenore” by Jon Katz.

I’d heard of him. I knew he wrote books about a farm in upstate New York, and his dogs. Since my canine clan was riding in the back of the Subaru, and I was going to a farm, I figured it had to be the perfect choice. It was, but there was something in the book I hadn’t expected.

Crossing the state line, Katz had me in tears. He talked about his volunteer hospice work, with a dog named Izzy, and working with clients with Alzheimer’s. It couldn’t have been a better time for me to hear the beautifully written stories read aloud.

I became an instant fan, and found my way to his blog in a snowstorm back in January. That’s when I discovered that sometimes the Internet can be a wonderful thing!

Although I’ve never met Jon Katz in person, through his support of his local independent bookstore, and through his blog, he has ‘introduced’ me to some amazing people via my computer.

First, I discovered booksellers Connie and Kate one morning at Battenkill Books. They are both so knowledgable and always enclose the kindest hand written notes in my packages. Next, through a call to the bookstore another day for some thoughtful reading recommendations, Katz introduced me to a compassionate, supportive writer named Diane Flore. Diane also blogs about Alzheimer’s.

Finally, through his “blogs I follows section”, I’ve been introduced to several other remarkable bloggers. One is Katz’s wife, fiber artist Maria Wulf.

Maria just finished a beautiful quilt for my sister using fabric from several members of our family who have passed away from Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’m having one made too. It is bringing some closure to our more recent losses.

Jon, thank you for creating a truly unique and supportive virtual community. Sometimes support comes in the most unexpected ways.

Spring has sprung: One happy corgi!

I’ve gone from wearing boots and a winter parka yesterday, to flip flops and shorts this afternoon.

I took the afternoon off work to celebrate that Monday night’s snow will soon be out of here! Picnic season has finally arrived after the longest winter in 28 years!

I’m bringing tulips over to Richard’s caregivers. I’m also bringing some M & M cookies for a female client, who told me she’d like to marry my husband. I suggested that we could “share him.” She thought that was ok. Maybe it’s because I keep bringing cookies.

A Workout Plan for my Memory

Like many of us, I often wonder if I’ll be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia at some point in my life. Since I have a family history, I know it’s a possibility. But I try not to waste time dwelling on the thought.

We’re often told in the news of activities we should participate in that will prevent or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Crossword puzzles is one I often hear about. But I don’t think puzzles will be going on my list. Trying to fix technology issues (like I’m doing tonight) won’t be on my list either. Admittedly both challenge the brain, but also frustrate me too much!

As our time here is short, I created a list of 10 activities for myself to keep my mind exercising while enjoying life at the same time:

1. Read great books that challenge and inspire me, and share my love of them with others.
2. Take up an active new sport that I can enjoy with a team.
3. Volunteer for a cause that I’m passionate about, and share that passion.
4. Learn a new skill that I can truly master, then teach that skill to someone else.
5. Laugh more often and laugh loudly, then others may join me!
6. Widen my age span of friends. The old be may be wise, the young energetic. Or maybe the reverse will be true.
7. Travel more to broaden my horizons, and choose trips where I’ll be sure to meet new people have new experiences.
8. Take more risks. Get out of my comfort zone.
9. Simply. I’ll have less to worry about.
10. Determine what my legacy will be for family, friends and community and start taking steps to deliver that gift.

The clock is ticking. I need to get moving!

Stressed out caregiver: Not a pretty picture

Two years ago I knew something had to change. I had too many fires going on at at work and at home. I wasn’t getting enough sleep either. My nightly three hours just wasn’t making it anymore. One afternoon had been particularly tough, and I was short of breath. I’d also felt some chest pain. I knew I should visit the nurse in my building, but I didn’t want to take the time. I needed to hurry to join the other rush hour commuters in another snowy commute. I had to make sure I arrived across town by 5 pm, at the latest, so I could pick up husband Richard from his adult day care program.

I secretly feared I’d be carted off by ambulance to the hospital emergency room for tests if I saw the nurse. Definitely no time for for that kind of ride! Who would pick up Richard if that happened?

I hoped maybe it was just stress. Lucky for me, that’s all it was. But the experience was a wake up call. I needed to do something quickly about my stress level. Otherwise I would soon find myself checked in the hospital for something more severe.

Hug a Caregiver Day!

Maybe I should start a “Hug a Caregiver Day”. I know I don’t thank the caregivers that help me with my husband often enough. They are a compassionate and caring group of people, dealing daily with a diverse group of personalities and temperaments. In addition, as many of the clients they work with are in late stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, that nearly constant compassion is even more amazing. I am truly humbled by the work they do.

One minute it could be comforting a weeping woman, terrified as she doesn’t know where she is, or why. The next, it may be diffusing a tense situation between a couple of 6 foot tall, angry male clients. And it’s not uncommon for a client to be ill, with a cold or something more severe, requiring even more heroic efforts by the caregivers.

These caregivers do their ‘caring’ with humor and respect for each individual, and in spite of the diminished memories of the clients, I believe each client feels the love!

I’ve also met many other caregivers at adult day care programs and full care facilities as they assisted us with Mom, Dad and Grandma the last few years. I’ve been impressed with them all.

I know caregivers aren’t valued enough in our culture, and as a result often aren’t paid enough. In some areas of the country it sounds like cashiers at Walmart are making more money.

As for family caretakers, still taking care of their loved ones at home, they deserve medals of honor for what they do for no pay and often with a shaky support system at best.

So if you see a caregiver today, give them a big hug. Or if you’re a little shy, at least some tulips.

Where’s the suntan lotion?

I commuted back home tonight in yet another snowstorm, with possibly 7 inches coming by morning. I’d never heard my bus so quiet.

Snowy days and Mondays always get me down, and apparently everyone else, too. Particularly when the snow comes in late April. Even the robins in my yard look dejected searching for worms under the white powder.

But tonight I’ve changed my tune, and just started a spring shopping list for my husband. At the top of the list is suntan lotion, a new cap, and tennis shoes. He’s going outside for a picnic lunch I’ll be packing, as I just heard temps will be in the 70’s by Saturday. His quality of life is definitely about to go up with all the fresh air and sunshine. I may even get a smile out of him!