Monday, February 27, 2017

Our Aunt Margie

My sisters and I went to visit our Aunt Margie on Friday afternoon. Born just 15 months before Mom made her appearance in the world, they grew up close although entirely different as sisters often are. Mom was the more social, Aunt Margie more reserved, and yet it was Aunt Margie who had the full time job at Xerox and she who held the driver's license Mom never obtained.

There was a long period of time in my childhood when Mom and Aunt Margie were not on speaking terms. I'm sure there were wrongs and misunderstandings on both sides of the aisle. That's how it goes with relationships. When I was old enough to cross Main Street (I think I was 9...), I would walk or ride my bike to the village of Webster to play with my cousin Pam at their apartment while Aunt Margie worked.

Though Mom and Aunt Margie's relationship was strained, my aunt was always kind and welcoming. She invited me for supper, took us out shopping, and loved me. I am blessed to have those memories I would otherwise have missed. By the time I "grew up" and my children began to arrive, Mom and Aunt Margie had renewed their relationship. They became fast friends and Aunt Margie was there to welcome each and every child of mine, to celebrate birthdays, and special occasions. She showered us with gifts and cards, bags of chocolate, homemade Christmas cookies, and most of all, love.

In later years when Mom's memory began to fail, Aunt Margie remained her constant friend and

visitor. When Mom's conversation with others fell short and sometimes silent, her sister would fill in the gap. She never stopped coming, usually on Thursday afternoons, and with her came a bag of candy, some fresh fruit or a box of cookies, a new puzzle, and always a gift for Mom at Christmas or on her birthday. It was Aunt Margie who took Mom out for dinner dates with their brother, my Uncle Chuck.

I found myself looking at her time and again on Friday, trying to store a mental picture of the woman in front of me, the one with straight gray hair and familiar smiling eyes... She'd told my sisters that she had been to the hairdresser there in the care facility where they washed her hair and it turned that color... She's been there nearly 2 years now but her things are still packed in boxes because "someone is coming to take me home in a couple weeks..." She's not sure why she is there, "It's a place for people with Alzheimer's and dementia" she tells us. "They brought me here by mistake."

I find myself sometimes sad and reflective... but also grateful for the faith that this is not all we have to look forward to. There is a God who loves us, one who knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust. A God who made a way, who paid the price, so that we could have hope beyond what often seems so hopeless here. Aunt Margie is almost 85 now...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

It Was a Zoo!

It's February and kids get into the zoo free with a paying adult, so we packed up a few kids and went out to enjoy midwinter. Along with the rest of Rochester, NY.

The parking lot was full. No surprise there. So we parked down the road in the "overflow" parking lot. We could take the shuttle bus into the zoo or walk. We walked.

February is typically brutal in upstate NY, but for some reason this past week has been more like late spring. (Actually, it felt a little like early October, 65 degrees, naked trees, and leaves blowing around.)

I'd imagine the zoo seldom has great crowds of visitors in February, which is probably why kids get in free...

I had to laugh at this sign. Couldn't help it. And to top it off, several children, who hadn't read the sign, were howling into the wind.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Kids and the Puppy

We had visitors last night, three more grandchildren and their sweet mama. Grandpa set some rules and let the dog out of her crate to play. "Lay down on the floor," he told them, "and put your face down on your arms." The dog went crazy, running circles around them, hopping across their backs, and stuffing her nose into their faces and under their necks. Giggles erupted from the boys which just made the dog run faster.

Jilly was a little overwhelmed and kept her distance, especially after the puppy jumped up and nearly knocked her over, but Jakie decided to become a puppy himself. He grabbed Nassa's stuffed dog with his teeth, like little boys will do, and had a good old fashioned game of Tug O'War with her while his  mother said, "Jake! Get that out of your mouth!" Yeah. Good luck with that. The game was just too fun to give up. Ha ha!

It was a nice evening. We ate ham, broccoli, and cheese soup, which the boys declared "delicious," munched on soft, crusty bread, and doled out lavish amounts of love and affection. When it was all said and done the little dog was more than ready for a nap.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Making Some Connections

It is a strange and unusual phenomenon to have sunshine and 65 degree weather mid February in upstate NY, but I woke up yesterday morning to bright, sunny skies and promising temperatures. My mind and body are in mid winter mode, but the sunshine called louder than the sofa, and I laced up my walking shoes and called my sister. We took another 3 mile walk, this time in shirtsleeves. No scarves or mittens this week.

The walk was wonderful, aside from my aching toes (they aren't used to walking anymore), but a paralyzing fatigue set in following our after-the-walk visit to Panera Bread, and as soon as I returned home, I collapsed on the couch. I later learned she had done the same, along with several other friends who'd taken in the day's beautiful fresh air and sunshine.

We had a little "party" last night. Invited a couple of our kid families over, and cooked up a batch of buckwheat pancakes (with real maple syrup) and a bunch of scrambled eggs. I did not take pictures, but I did get to snuggle my newest grandbaby, love on the next youngest, and hug the big brother who is still just a little guy himself. It was a somewhat quiet and controlled party, unless one counts baby cries and childhood giggles as noisy.

I have "stolen" some grankid photos to brighten up this post and make you smile. Thank you to my kids for taking them and posting them where I could grab a copy.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wants and Needs

Call them coincidences or call them answers to prayer, either way I am always amused when the same subject comes up randomly multiple times in a day.

"What do you need?" he asked me (and he's been asking for months upon months). It's not like I don't try to be prepared. I always know he's going to ask, but I never know how to answer. My mind always goes blank as soon as the question is posed, and it was no different on Monday. I'd already been rolling it around in my mind previous to talking with him, and I left rolling it around as well. "Keep track and write them down as you notice them," he'd suggested.

I went to work mulling it over, and on to my support group meeting pondering it too. "How do you tell the difference between wants and needs?" I'd asked someone before the group got started. He told me it was a good question and would have to give it some thought, and on we went. Then this came up in one of the readings...

Codependents often... are unable to to identify or ask for what they need and want.
In recovery... I meet my own needs and wants when possible. I reach out for help when it's necessary and appropriate.

Food, clothing, and shelter. Those are always put out there as our needs and everything else is touted as a "want," but we have spiritual, emotional, and mental needs as well. I need friends, I need to be loved and cherished, and I need to know I have worth and am worthy. I need connection, I need sleep, and I need to be happy at least some of the time. I need to cry when I am sad and I need an outlet when I'm angry. I need to pray and know He hears and I need answers even if I have to wait for them. Once in a while I need a cup of coffee. I need some money in my bank account, even if it's just a little. Some days I need a long walk. Every day I need a shower. Yesterday I needed a haircut... And I need to know that even if my friends and family don't always agree with me, that my perspective counts for something and I am loved in spite of not always seeing things from their point of view. I need to be honest, and I need honesty from others.

I'm not sure if this is the kind of list he was looking for, and I'm still mulling over what to answer when he asks again (because he surely will), but perhaps I will have a better answer next time than I have in the past. And now I "need" to turn off this computer and go take that shower.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


I usually stay home on Thursday mornings, but I typically go out on Thursday nights. Out to Community Bible Study. Today I stayed home and sorted through old papers I had dragged out of my dresser drawer. I threw out about a million old church bulletins that years ago had been stuffed into my Bible and once removed, popped into a drawer. In old notebooks, I found lists, stories, notes, and prayers. How about a story? Or at least a partial one...

Average longed to be special, but she was just an average girl.
She had been an average baby and had an average childhood.
She had average brown hair and brown eyes. 
She was average height and made average grades in school
Her average family lived on an average street in an average neighborhood. 
Her house, though very nice, was still average... 

My inspiration? A five year old girl named Emma (story here) who kept me entertained with her ability to entertain herself with imaginary friends. I loved listening to her play. Now, when my nursing home friend has "one of her days," I listen to her and find myself almost as entertained as I was with Emma.

She was wound up the other day and talked almost nonstop...

"You are the smuggest thing I've ever seen," she told me, although she can't see me at all.

During her nap she was anxious about getting home to her mother. "You can stay here," I told her, and she replied, "Oh, thank you. I promise not to be a bourbon..." and then she realized she'd said the wrong word and we both laughed.

She is constantly asking for help with things that I am not able to help her with. It's not an unwillingness on my part, but liability on the part of my company. The job is hands off but she has a million and one reasons why I should "help" her. And "help" usually means either take her to the bathroom or get her into bed. On Monday it meant get her out of bed and so we had these  mini conversations.

"I love you and I love all your friends. Most of them. Will you help me?"

"Can you please help me just a little bit?"

"I love you. I want you to be my friend. Will you help me? It's not a big deal."

"I love you and I love everyone that's been nice to me. And not anybody foolish."

If I don't remember to entertained, I will end up extremely frustrated, but I also must try not to smile when I answer because, although she may not be able to see me, she can hear it in my voice. And let me tell you, she is not entertained if she thinks I'm laughing at her.

* Puppy photos because I am not allowed to take pictures at the nursing home. Her name is Nassa (nah-sah).

Monday, February 13, 2017

What is This?

I told him I wouldn't be mad if he got a puppy. So he did. I came home from work and there she was.

She is a Boston terrier/border collie mix and pretty adorable. She doesn't have a name yet.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Barn Collective

About a mile down the road is an old farm. No one lives there right now, but years ago I would see smoke coming out the chimney of the little cinder block outbuilding closer to the road, and sometimes an elderly woman could be seen working in a garden out front. This past summer a car was in the driveway and a woman was doing yard work. I found myself wondering if this had been her childhood home.

I took a picture of the house on Friday afternoon as well as the barn. The snow was deep and fluffy and I imagined a time many years ago when the elderly woman I'd seen tending flowers would have been baking a loaf or two of bread in a cozy kitchen while a cup of tea steeped on the table...

This week though, the kitchen remained silent and cold. There was no aroma of fresh bread, no hot tea steeping, and no humming of the elderly woman. No smoke wafted from the chimney of the cinder block building, and the elderly woman's husband did not stomp the snow off his boots by the back door or come inside for lunch.

Time marches on. Perhaps one day a new family will arrive to inhabit this old farm and make more memories... I can only imagine.

The Barn Collective

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Change of Plans (post #2 today)

It's my weekend to work. I'm not working. I am staying home.

I got a text from one of my boys during my nap yesterday afternoon ... "Are you at work?" I told him I was at home and soon the phone rang. On the other end was a worried dad who told me his little boy was on his way to the hospital with terrible stomach pain. I read desperation in my son's voice. It wasn't long before we were blessed with two grandchildren and he was on his way to the hospital to meet his wife and son.

We fed the kids, watched "Storks" with them, fixed up some beds, read a few stories, said a prayer, and tucked them in for the night. I called in sick to work this morning. Grandchildren take precedence over my friend in the Memory Care Unit, and besides I am fighting this nasty head cold that has been knocking everyone off the map. I don't like to give up my hours, but I had two good reasons to stay home and so I did.

This morning Grandpa made buckwheat pancakes and, of course, the toys came out. There was mac and cheese for lunch and a movie or two on the television. This is what being a grandparent is all about. Just being there.

The child has had surgery and is recovering. Mom and Dad are relieved, and so are we.

More Bits and Pieces

A few leftovers from this week...

* I spotted the Happy Gnome outside his home on Thursday afternoon. The windchill was bitter and I can't imagine he stayed out very long. In fact, by the time I returned to the kitchen, I was half frozen myself and Mr. Gnome was no longer standing on the steps.

* Bitter temperatures and snow easily convince The Naughties to spend more time inside than out. Empty baskets and boxes magically turn into forts, beds, and sitting spots.

* We were blessed by an overnight snowstorm, thanks to those lake effect snow bands, and woke up Friday morning to a foot or more of fluffy whiteness. Linda, if you're reading, I heard there wasn't so much as a flake at your house.

* With the longer days, the hens are laying more eggs again. Rather than one or two a day we are back up to 5-7. The snow keeps them home where they hang out under the shelter of the barn's shed roof.

* I dug out my car late in the morning and ventured out to try out "Betsy's new hiking boots." (She has new tires...) Our road was only half plowed and I managed to stay on the road without difficulty. I exerted more energy just sweeping the snow off the roof than driving down the road.

* My sister and I went for a walk three out of seven days this week. Three miles around her neighborhood. By the time we got back to her house I was cold, my feet were wet, and the cold I've been fighting was winning the battle. Once I was home again, I changed my clothes and curled up under a blanket in my spot on the couch.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Off To Work

The memory care unit has been a bit on the crazy side lately. My friend has been more anxious than usual, more demanding, and more snippy, which is putting it gently. Thankfully, my skin has grown thicker with the year and a half of sitting with her, so if she gets angry and calls me a Son of  B----, it doesn't hurt my feelings at all. She's just upset that I can't take her to the toilet or help her into bed. In fact, I keep telling her she has to stay put and wait for the aides to come assist her.

But my friend is not the only one making the unit a little wacky. We have new residents who are able to walk, but need supervision. Of course they don't know that so they keep hopping up which leaves the aides and nurses scurrying to get them settled again. Yesterday, while my friend was quiet and sleepy, I held a few hands, rubbed a back or two, and hopped out of my seat to make sure one dear, old, gentleman didn't topple over. I don't typically jump quite so fast and I'm not even really supposed to, but I just can't sit there and watch them go down. Besides, the aftermath of a fall only makes the unit all the more unsettled, even if the individual isn't injured. I saved not only T from a fall, but the nurses a whole lot of paperwork as well.

I have no clue in the world what I will do when this job comes to an end, but so far my friend is healthy and doing well aside from her agitation and angst. I've been using the quiet afternoon time to read my books, do my Bible study, write in my journal, or do online puzzles. It's not a bad job and it gives me a sense of purpose that I don't find on those days I sit at home.

The photo, quite obviously, has absolutely nothing to do with work. It's just a little corner of my living room.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Bits and Pieces

- Monday. Today is Monday. It gets hard to keep track when my schedule is all over the map.

- My oldest daughter posted this photo of her little girl eating breakfast. Looks oh, so much! like her Uncle Ben a few years back. Gotta love Life cereal.

- My youngest daughter is having fun with her baby. Getting him into reading early, and he actually looks quite intent on that books he's "reading." They've already instituted a bedtime story routine.

- We still have eleven chickens and that rooster is still an idiot. I carry my broom to the coop every morning just in case he needs a swat.

- Naughty One has taken up the very bad habit of sleeping on Grandma's table. He gets away with it only because we rarely go in that room. Well, that and he's been hiding behind a box. It doesn't help that I'm gone so often...

 - This is Day 28 of my 30 Day Challenge. I've lost 6 pounds, which is what I gained over the holidays. The best part is I've been drinking lots of water. I'm aiming for 60 oz or more a day and my skin actually feels different. Now to make it a lifelong habit.

- I went to Color-Me-Mine a week or so ago and glazed my first piece. A coffee mug, because I don't have enough of those already... Plain boring white cup with "Now Jesus loved Martha" written around it. I couldn't recall the scripture reference at the time but it's John 11:5.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Cookies and a Day at Work

I stayed home on Saturday. It took some stubborn willpower, but I did it, just to prove I could. I even made a couple batches of cookies, just because I wanted to. And I learned not to warm coconut oil in my microwave if there is vanilla sealed in the bottom of the jar along with it. That vanilla warmed up and blew the coconut oil right out of the jar and made a mess of my microwave.

I did not stay home today. I traded my Wednesday at work for Superbowl Sunday and after church I headed off to "The Pen". It was a crazy place today. Too many of the members who need assistance walking were hopping out of their chairs. The poor CNA's ran from one to another trying to keep everyone safe. I tried to help but there is really very little I can do aside from hold a hand or be another pair of watching eyes.

My "dear friend" was not pleased with me today. She is the anxious sort and her anxiety is getting the better of her lately. She wants me to "help" her do things like go to the toilet or get into bed, but I am hired to be a hands-off companion and am not able to assist her with such things. She asked me, in a nasty tone, why I had to be so nasty. She told me I only think about myself. She called me a Son of a -----. She let me know, in no uncertain terms that she was highly displeased with my performance. I answered her kindly and was thoroughly amused, which, come to think of it, would probably annoy her no end. Ha ha!

Saturday, February 04, 2017

He Laughed

Friday was our day to visit Tim, so Rachel picked me up at about 2 pm and we headed off to find our big brother. I signed him out while he got his jacket and dragged Rachel out to the car. This is our routine.

We took our usual drive through the drumlins of Wayne County NY past farms and fields, horses and bison, and that little ski slope called Brantling Hill, the one that produced a gold medal Olympic skier. We talked along the way. Well, Rachel and me anyway. Tim listened.

I'm always trying to come up with memories, and this time it was a song I remember Mom singing when we were small, Wonderful Words of Life, one I was sure Tim would recall. Rachel didn't remember the song. She remarked on how I have a better memory and I reminded her that some of my memories go back nearly five years farther than hers and that Tim's go back another five beyond mine. The we talked, for some reason, about that DNA test we want to do just for fun and Rachel said, "What if we find out I was switched at birth by mistake?" She glanced over at Tim in time to see him almost laugh out loud.

We're used to getting precious little reaction from this brother of ours. As little girls we had great fun asking him his name because he would belt it out loud, "Timmy Plotzker!" One time he surprised us by saying he was Henry, and we all laughed because it was so unexpected.

I took my camera along for the ride yesterday and we snapped a couple pictures out by the car. Rachel looked at the one of her and Tim and said, "Perfect! I love it!" and he laughed out loud.

Back in the house I went to sign him back in while he hung up his jacket. I turned around in the dining room to see that he had followed me in which is highly unusual. (He normally bolts for the bathroom.) As he got closer he reached out, took my hand, and wrapped me in a gentle hug. Then he put his face down so I could give him a kiss. Last week he'd done this with Rachel. What a blessing! What a gift!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Grandflower Day

I have been out and about every day for the past week. (Church, work, appointments/meetings, shopping, kids...) Years ago I could spend day upon day caring for and playing with small children, never leaving my home, or at least never going far. The debate for whether I prefer the new way or the old has not yet come in. Yesterday I was busy out and about (again), but it was good. I even met a friend for a late afternoon salad at Panera Bread.

It was a "grandflower" kind of afternoon. I took Number Nine over to visit Numbers Five and Eight. Such fun!

 They're all just a little too cute, dontcha think?