Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A really (REALLY) long one

It's been a rough month.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, when I'm down (low, troubled, stuff not going well) I tend to want to embrace my inner introvert and find the nearest blanket fort to hide in.  Hence, the few and far between posts.


So, long-time readers will probably know this, and so will close friends and long-established family: my mom died when I was 15.  Thereafter, lots of not-so-awesome stuff happened and eventually, in an effort to lift me out of the mire and save me from a direction that would have (maybe) proven ultimately fatal (maybe), I was adopted (legally) by my aunt and uncle.  My father's sister and her husband.  Therefore, when I speak of my mom in the present tense, I'm referring to my adoptive mother; my biological aunt.

It's confusing, I know.

That's a very basic introduction into my complicated family.  And it's important to know and to understand when I start explaining myself and why I've been so stressed out, distant, and down in the dumps.


Flashback to December 18, 2015: Mom was with a friend and they stopped at the post office so he could get his mail.  She (from what I understand) was standing outside waiting on him - probably having a cigarette - and while waiting, lost her balance and fell over, hitting her head solidly on the concrete.  A subsequent hospital visit and CT scan of her head told us there was no concussion and further - when she told them she could hardly walk because her foot hurt - an X-ray told us nothing was wrong with her foot.  She was sent home.

Fast-forward to January 15, 2016: I get a call from another friend of Mom's who tells me, "There's something wrong with your mom, you may want to come over."  To which I reply, "I'll be right there," and am there within 30 minutes.  (I'm a 20 minute drive away.)  I arrive to find friends fussing and scared and my mom passed out - in a twisted heap - on her bed.  I couldn't wake her up.  I couldn't tell for sure if she was even breathing.  I truly thought she was dead, and it was the second worst moment of my entire life.  I called 911, and they immediately dispatched EMTs.  911 personnel told me to wake her up - try hard to wake her up; shake her if you have to - but see if you can get her to open her eyes.  Which I did.  She opened her eyes, but she didn't know who she was or where she was or who I was or what year it was or who was president or what year she was born.  She kept asking me questions, but the words she used were jumbled and confused and slurred and made no sense.  She was clearly not in her right mind.  By now, first responders arrived and went through the same questions the 911 folks had me ask her, with the same lack of responses.  They were concerned she'd had a stroke and so we bypassed Local Hospital for one in Nearby Big City as they were better equipped to diagnose and treat stroke patients.

Thus began a very long night of emergency room treatments, personnel, questions, more questions, still more questions - most of which I could answer, but a lot of which I could not, since I wasn't there when all this occurred.  (I'm leaving out a lot of details here, because there just isn't room.)

About 3AM they confirmed a room for her on the 5th floor and admitted her.  She was slightly more lucid than when we brought her in, but only just.  Enough to remember who she was, who I was, ("Oh, you're my Jenny!"), what year it was and what year she was born.  Still iffy on the President question.  I got her situated in her hospital room, talked to the nursing staff for a few minutes, then gave Mom a hug and went home to rest.

She was somewhat better on Saturday - enough to have a perfectly normal conversation with her - but she was still off in that she seemed vacant; not really there.  Sunday morning, when I visited, was more of the same.  Conversational, but not proactive.  She would respond if I asked her a question directly, but she wasn't actively engaging in conversation.  It was hard to watch.

By Sunday evening, though, (according to the nurse in charge) Mom had taken a turn for the worse and was actively hallucinating.  I wasn't aware of the change until I got to the hospital early on Monday afternoon.  Monday was a holiday, so the kids weren't in school and I was not at work.  Boy-Child and I had taken a bunch of stuff over to the donation center and afterward decided we should go see Gammy.  (That's what my kids call her.)  So we drove to Nearby Big City to visit and found her in a full-blown hallucination.  She was convinced she was at the edge of a cliff, and was going to fall off.  She had hold of my hands and was staring at me - absolutely terrified - telling me to, "Push me back, Jenny!  PUSH me back!"  Her feet were flailing and she was stiff with fear.  It was horrible to witness.  And as bad as that was, it was worse for Boy-Child, who expected to see his Gammy doing better, not actively worse.  I absolutely could not convince her she was in a hospital or even laying down, safe, on a bed.  The cliff-edge was her reality.  She stayed inside this hallucination for over 40 minutes, until the Physical Therapy girls came in to do her PT and, upon seeing them, the spell was broken.  She was immediately limp and relaxed, but still not mentally in the now.  PT couldn't be done because she was unable to follow directions and fought them when they tried to assist.  Finally, she looked straight at me and said, "I wish you'd just leave!" we did.  There wasn't anything I could do and Boy-Child was terrified, too.

Anyway - she spent from Sunday, January 17th in the late afternoon through Thursday, January 21st in the morning in a solid state of various hallucinations.  She talked to people who were not there, she ate food that was not there, she yelled and screamed, she swore like a sailor, she would not calm down and called me all manner of names and said all manner of horrible things.  I know it was not her - not really - but it still was hard to handle.

Wednesday, January 20th came an early evening call from the physician at the hospital overseeing Mom's case.  She and I talked at length about what was happening and at that time I was told that subsequent CT scans and MRIs done since she came in through the ER (where they had also done a CT scan and an MRI) showed that Mom has something called Chronic Microvascular Ischemic Disease, also known as Vascular Dementia.  I was told that we should consider not allowing her to live alone anymore and was told it would be good for me to move her in with us, if we could.  We discussed how that was not possible due to lack of space (truly, I live in just over 1000 sq. ft. with four people and one potty) and was then told that I needed to consider assisted living.  Which is also not an option because we simply can't afford it.  Believe me, I've done the research.  I was then told that we would need to see about getting her permanently into a nursing home; that she absolutely, without fail, could not live on her own.

Oh, and they also discovered that she did, indeed, have three broken metatarsals in her left foot!  So much for an accurate diagnosis at Local Hospital back in December, eh?

She spent 9 days in the hospital.

Well now we're going to fast-forward to today.  Mom's been at the nursing home since Monday, January 25th.  They say that if they didn't know what was wrong, what she'd been through, that they would never have known she'd had a problem with her mental capabilities.  They say she's doing great and, if they could rehabilitate her physically, she could go home.  The reason the Physical rehab is taking so long is that because of the broken bones in her foot the hospital discharged her with orders to wear a giant walking boot every time she even thinks about getting up.  The problem there is, Mom's 98lbs soaking wet and the boot is too heavy.  She's off-balance anyway, she normally uses a walker for stability, and therefore the boot makes walking nearly impossible.  Therefore, rehabilitation is stymied until they can remove the boot.  She had an X-ray of her foot on Monday night and they determined she's not completely healed, but it's up to the doctors at the nursing home to write a new order for a lighter-weight boot that wouldn't hinder rehab.  They're wanting to get her up and moving so she can go home.

During all this time, I've been taking care of Mom's cat (not that I mind, she's a sweet - though scared - little thing).  Among many, many other things.  My brain is sore, my body is tired, but it's not about me.  I think that's my new mantra: It's Not About Me.

Believe it or not, that's the short version.  I could add all the details of her various hallucinations.  I could add all the awful things she said to me while she was not in her right mind.  I could tell you about what happened before she passed out on the night of January 15th, or, at least as much as we can piece together; no one really knows for sure.  I could add stuff we did while she was hospitalized.  I could elaborate on lots of things, but I won't.  Your time is precious.  And you'd probably get bored.

Anyway - that's what has been going on.  It's been the primary thing on my mind since mid-January and is the reason I have not posted anything substantial in weeks and weeks.

Happy 2016, right?


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Just checking in...

With me, I suppose, it's feast or famine.  When there's nothing really going on, and all is running smoothly, I tend to feel more creative - feel more like sharing - and will therefore post more often.  When there's stuff going on and I'm being pulled in too many directions and I quite literally just don't have another minuscule part of me to share with anyone else, I tend to feel less creative and more like sticking my head in the sand and shutting out the world.

But then, you knew that about me already, didn't you?

Suffice it to say, there's stuff going on and I'm not feeling particularly inclined toward sharing.  I'll get there - and I'm sure the story will come out of me eventually, once I know what the ending is going to be.  But I'm still here.  Sort of.

And since you asked, yes, I could use (and would appreciate) some prayers, or good thoughts, or positive vibes or whatever you feel like sending up.

That's it...for now.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Animals are family, too, by golly!

NOTE: This is a rant.  Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge animal lover.  They are fur babies; four-legged family members with feelings, just like you and me.

I’ve recently become more actively involved in our local animal shelter - with both the dogs and the cats - and with that involvement has come several new friendships - in person and on Facebook.  These friends keep me up-to-date on the happenings of the critters who need full-time families and I do my small part to pass things along.  I may never know if one of my forwarded posts has gotten one of these critters a home, but I can hope it helps.

Also, I am seeing a lot more posts about animal abuse; including some really graphic, horrific things done by animal abusers to the animals in their “care.”  It’s impossible for me to unsee such atrocities. It's impossible for me to not say anything.

I’m getting off-track, I think.  Let me start small...

There’s a beautiful, humongous chocolate Labrador Retriever who “lives” up the street from me.  I’ve nicknamed him “Big Brown” because I don’t know his real name.  He seems to live full-time in the backyard, which is fenced.  A fenced yard is good because he isn’t chained up and he isn’t out carousing.  He has a dog house under the back porch which provides both shade and shelter from rain or other weather.  Though I cannot see it, I’m certain he has food and water.  Outwardly, he seems strong and basically healthy.  All these are signs that someone, potentially, cares for this dog.

For me, all I see is a dog who never gets to go inside.

Now, Hubby has said a couple of times, “Honey, you aren’t up there all the time.  You don’t know how it is at that house.  Maybe he does get to go inside occasionally.”  And really, Hubby is right.  I’m not there, and cannot know.

But all I see is a dog who never gets to go inside.

I’d wager that if I walked up the street tonight (in freezing temperatures thanks to it being practically mid-January) I’d see him outside, wearing his usual paths in the landscape of his small backyard world.

At first, this huge dog with a deep, scary, stay-the-heck-away-from-my-yard bark with fur standing on end down his spine seems intimidating.  Yes, one instinctively wants to stay the heck away from his yard and cross the street when passing by.  But not me.  Nope.

When I was more actively walking around my block in warmer weather, I finally - after about a week - decided to call his bluff.  I stopped at his fence as he barked furiously at me, looked directly into his dark brown eyes, and said, “Oh really?  You think you’re scary, huh?”  And he immediately shut up and started wagging from nose to tail.  I came closer to his fence, slowly, and held out the back of my hand so he could sniff it.  More wagging.  It immediately became clear that he was - literally - all bark and no bite.  We were instant friends.

Now, whenever I walk by and he comes barreling over to the fence to start his usual barking nonsense, he cuts off mid-“Arf” when he realizes it’s me.  Then he puts his big front paws on the top of the fence (easily, I might add), shoves his head over and demands love.  Pet me, pet me now, you must hug me, I love you I love youIloveyou!  We do this for a few minutes, nose-to-nose, at which time I need to move on, so he follows me to the end of his fenced-in world and I go on my way.  It’s become routine.  We have bonded.  Big Brown is my buddy.

But all I see is a dog who never gets to go inside.

I wish I could steal him and let him sleep in the warm, safe, indoors, on a padded bed.  And give him a bath ('cause he really needs one).  And buy him dog toys and watch him play and let him give me and my children sloppy doggie kisses.

I suppose the message here - loquacious though it may be - is: If you have to chain your dog outside permanently, you shouldn’t have one.  Period.  If your pooch is never allowed inside, you shouldn’t have one.  If your dog needs a heated water bowl because his only access to unfrozen water is outside in freezing temperatures, you probably shouldn’t have a dog.

Granted, I am highly opinionated, and I’m sure folks think they have very good reasons for keeping their dogs the way they do.  But dogs are family and, in this person’s humble opinion, they should be allowed to partake of the pleasures of being inside with their humans.

One more thing.  If you treat your dogs the same way you treat your family - you shouldn’t have a family, either.  But maybe that’s just me. 


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Change is good, right?

The beginning of the year marked a small change in my life.  This change is certainly nothing major or earth-shattering, probably nothing to truly write home about, but still, it’s a change.  Now, I’m not one of those folks who resists change at all costs.  In fact, I tend to embrace change as often as possible; I like the fresh perspective change can bring.  This doesn’t mean I really like change - I don’t particularly - but it does mean I’m somewhat flexible, which I suppose is a good thing.

At the beginning of December, Boss-Man and I discussed my schedule.  He suggested a new one, and I, at the time, half-heartedly agreed to it.  At first I was hesitant.  I mean, I really liked my schedule the way it was.  I got to work early and didn’t have to stay too terribly late.  I felt productive and I liked the quiet-time the early mornings afforded me, as well as the time to catch up on things and figure out my plan of attack for the day.

But, when I really thought about it, Boss-Man’s schedule change suggestion wasn’t really all that awful.  Come in 30 minutes later in the morning and stay 30 minutes later at night.  Big deal, right?  A few extra minutes of sleep in the morning, a little bit less stress, plus the added bonus of being able to drop Boy-Child off at school personally and spend just ten extra minutes with him each day.  So, what started as a little bit of a bummer, turned into something pretty good. 

We haven’t had too much time to put this new schedule (any portion of it) into practice, and I know it will take me a little time to get used to it, but I’m trying to think positive.  And really, just because someone moved my cheese (a very worthy read, by the way) does not mean my world is coming to an end.  See?  I can totally be flexible. 

I'm sure you're very proud.


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Dwarfs, Coffee and Chocolate

So, you know the Seven Dwarfs, right?  Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Bashful and Doc…?  Well, a very good friend and I have decided that there must be others; long lost dwarf cousins, if you will.

Some days I wake up and am at least two of the seven original dwarfs.  Typically Sleepy and Grumpy, or maybe Dopey and Grumpy.  Other mornings, adding allergies, I am also Sneezy.  I’m rarely Bashful; I’m only Doc when I’m tending to boo-boos; Happy is a relative term on which I have had the occasional occasion to be.

Anyway, it stands to reason that Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, Bashful and Doc were not the only dwarfs in the world.  Maybe the only ones in that region, though.  It further stands to reason that as humans we all have innumerable feelings, thoughts and yes, even personalities.  (I’m not talking about split personalities or other such disorders.  Just that sometimes we put on one face for our families, another face for our co-workers, and yet another for our friends or our church folks or our school mates.  We are rarely just...ourselves; the societal pressure is too high.  That, however, is another post for another time.)  So why couldn’t we, therefore, relate ourselves to the dwarfs?  

More than that, the original seven could not possibly cover everything we could be, so my friend and I invented the dwarf cousins: Drippy, Gassy, Ouchy, Messy, Pissy, Sweetness and Light, along with Bitchy, Twitchy, Crabby, Crampy, Prissy, Missy and Wino.  (You may, or may not, need to use your imagination.)  We think this pretty much covers all the bases.

So, in my case, this terribly tangential analogy boils down to this:  If I’m Grumpy, give me coffee; it usually helps.  Either that, or just leave me alone for a while and let me recharge.  If I’m Sleepy, give me coffee.  Or, at the very least, point me toward a bed and force me to take a nap.  Naps are good.  Why don't we have daily nap times anymore?  If I’m Sneezy, give me coffee as the warm liquid always makes me feel better; maybe also an allergy pill...but then Sleepy will be along shortly.  If I’m Dopey, coffee will give me focus.   

Essentially, if you notice that I’m any of the original Dwarfs, just ply me with coffee and I’ll come around pretty soon.  That, or chocolate.  Chocolate is always good, too.  If I'm one of the cousins, well...I'm not sure there's a cure for any of them.