Think good thoughts

We put in an offer on a house yesterday… please think good thoughts for us and keep your fingers crossed!!!

Other than that semi-big news, there’s nothing new to report.

We scattered Mom’s ashes near Big Tree Wayside in the California Redwoods. The area we chose had a baby tree growing out of a burned out shell of a tree, surrounded by a grove of cathedral trees. Super pretty – and I remember visiting that area with Mom so many years ago!

We also had her memorial. I gave her eulogy. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Maybe I just practiced it enough that it became more comfortable. The weird thing about me is that I’m much more comfortable going up in front of a crowd and giving a speech than I am to go into a small group and make small talk. That’s something I need to work on, I think.

On February 23rd we had a little get together at our house to watch the first female UFC fight. I had fun and met a couple of the people DH does Jiu Jitsu with.

One of our long-time librarians is retiring, so her work is being divvied up among everyone until we can fill her vacancy. I’ll be taking over adult book displays, teen volunteers and meeting room calendars. I’m looking forward to the book displays – I’ve had a few ideas over the years. The teen volunteers kinda feels like a hydra just because of the scale, but it’s something I’m familiar with from all of my time at my old branches. The meeting room calendars are a pain, but I’ll suck it up and do it.

That’s it for now… time to figure out lunch and then see about dinner.

Mom is gone

My mom passed away on Sunday, January 27th. Although she was in hospice, her death was sudden.

In some ways it’s a relief because I don’t have to worry about her any more. In a different way it’s like I lost her all over again.

I started a blog that will be filled with memories of mom. It’s called Dear Mama. I think it’ll help me work through some of the feelings I have. I hope that it will keep her memory alive in some way as well.

If you’re inclined, you can visit the new blog at http://memoriesofmama.wordpress.com.

Updates…

Update on Mom:
Those of you who know me in real life have probably heard that my mom is in hospice now. Her condition has declined a lot. Long story short, her last stroke basically advanced her dementia to the point that she’s having trouble swallowing, she’ll spit out her meds if you don’t trick her into taking them, she doesn’t recognize us kids, she can’t sit up (she basically sleeps all day), and she can’t communicate meaningfully. Every time I see her I want to cry. I usually do.

Update on household stuff:
We’ve been looking for a house to buy, but we keep getting outbid. The last house we put in an offer on had over 50 bids! Insane, right? There’s just not a lot on the market right now so everything is going for so much over the asking price and there are soooo many bids!

DH and I have been working through cleaning up our house. We’ve realized that the clutter is really stressful, and the best thing we can do is start to reduce. It’s also a good thing because it means that if we ever buy a house we’ll have less to move!

Update on quilting:
I made my first minky quilt. Man, that sucked. The quilt was cute, but minky is a bitch to work with! I also went to a quilt retreat and finished 3 quilt tops and sandwiched the Christmas quilt. I haven’t done any other sewing, though.

As part of my decluttering, I’ve been trying to organize the fabric, patterns, batting and quilt books so that they don’t take up as much space and are easier to find. I discovered that I have “kits” of at least 5 different quilts, I have at least 7 different tops finished that need quilting, and I have a TON of other fabric. *sigh* No matter how much I organize and reorganize it just doesn’t make it any easier to quilt.

Update on health:
I finally went to see a psychologist. I realized that I’m pretty depressed and I have been for awhile. It all came to a head with the latest mom stuff. So I’m talking it through with a doctor. It seems to be helping a little bit.

It’s really hard to work up the gumption to run – and I have a half marathon with DH in January. He’s been good about trying to get me to run, but it’s hard to want to do it. My ankle kinda hurts after my run on Sunday. I’m hoping that wrapping it will help with keeping the training going.

So I think that’s it. I’m looking forward to the new year and the resolutions it always brings. I know at least one of them will be sewing related, and another will be health related. It’s just a matter of figuring out what I want them to be.

TTFN and Merry Christmas!

Things are bad with Mom

Mom had another stroke this week – it was a doozy. She’s pretty much lost the ability to swallow. She doesn’t understand most of what we say. She doesn’t say much besides “Mom”, “help”, “yes”, “no”, “OK”. Sometimes I can get an “I love you” out of her, but I don’t know if she’s saying it out of reflex/mimicking, or if she’s expressing actual emotion. She’s lost about 10 pounds in a little over a week. She’s bed bound now. We have a meeting with palliative care on Monday. I’m going to push for hospice. I don’t think Mom will last long.

Today when I was visiting – which is really just sitting by the bed and rubbing her leg/arm when she calls out – she reached for my face and held her hand to it. She said “love you.” I knew that she was expressing real emotion there. I cried bittersweet tears. I said “I love you too, Mama.” Then she went back to snoring.

Losing a parent is hard. I’ve sought help with a psychologist to help me through this. My husband is great and so supportive. I know things would be 10 times harder without him. (I Love you babe!!!)

So… that’s what’s going on. NO new quilting. No training for the half marathon. Just a lot of panic, fear, worry, sadness, and a tinge of relief.

Mom again

Mom’s back in the hospital. They took her by ambulance to the ER after calling my sister. When my sister saw mom, she wasn’t responding to most stimulus. Mom wasn’t responding to words, sight or touch. She just kept shouting “Mom” like she does when she’s deep in distress and suffering another stroke.

I wasn’t there, but my sister called. I beat the ambulance to the ER. The paramedics had trouble getting her to sit still to get any readings. But by the time they got to the ER she was a bit calmer. I walked up, rubbed her arm and said “Hi Mama, how are you.” She smiled and said “Hi. OK.” That was the first thing she’d said besides “mom” in almost an hour.

She has improved a bit since then. The doctors say that she has an acute UTI, which caused stroke-like symptoms. The problem is that she’s had so many TIAs that they can’t see new ones because of all the damage from the old ones.

Once she wakes up, I’ll do her memory exercises again. Before we left last night, she remembered her own Name. She also remembered she had 3 kids, but could only really remember my name with any regularity.

Us kids have a meeting with her doctor and care team in a couple hours to talk about next steps. Hopefully her prognosis is good.

Sad, depressing, dementia post

I visited my mom today, as I do nearly every Friday. And, like I usually do, I came away feeling sad.

I miss my mommy.

A few months ago, we moved her into a different board and care facility. It seemed to be serendipitous when we drove up and brought her for a site visit. The house was on Normandy so she wouldn’t be wrong (on her bad days, she reverts to believing it’s the 70s and she lives on Normandie), and there were calla lillies in the front yard (she loves callas). There was a piano in the living room (she played piano as a child) and some of the nurses used to work at the Masonic Home, so they were super nice. We got her approval and she moved in.

Mom is calmer now than she was at the old place, but she’s less alert. Her memory isn’t as good as it was at the old place either. She regularly asks me how my classes are going (I finished school 2 years ago), she asks me how my kids are (no kids for me), and she doesn’t remember a lot of her favorite things (like recipes she used to cook all the time, the words to her favorite songs, etc.).

It’s gotten to the point, now, that I dread visiting because I know that I’ll just end up really, really sad afterwards. Of course, I visit anyway because she needs that human contact with people who love her. I cry as I drive home almost every time.

What brought today’s sadness on was that I wanted to ask her advice about buying a house, and I couldn’t. I had to settle for asking about when she bought the house on Normandie, and the house I grew up in. She couldn’t remember anything. She didn’t remember looking at houses, what made her know that these houses were “the one”, her fears about the process… nothing. I tried not to let my sadness and disappointment show, but I think the other residents saw it. One lady gave me a sad smile when I looked away from mom for a minute.

I tried to finish the visit on a positive note. I don’t ever want her to feel that she has done something wrong, when she hasn’t. I talked about running, how hard DH is working, good things that are happening at work (even though I’m so upset at work right now I want to scream), the crock pot meals I’ve been cooking, the baseball tickets I have, etc. Then I told her I loved her, gave her a kiss and walked out the door. In tears.

It’s times like this – where something big is happening in my life – that I miss her most. People who haven’t had a loved one go through dementia/Alzheimers, don’t really understand. The body is there, but the mind (that thing that makes her who she is) is not. That’s what I’m mourning. That’s what I miss. That’s what makes me cry as I’m reminded every Friday when I visit.

I love you mom. I miss you, so much.

It’s done.

Well, mom has been moved.  It happened two days late, but it happened.  I dragged my sick self over to her house to help get her ready to move.  Then I got her into the car, drove her to the new home, brought her inside, unpacked her things and left her there.  Like she was an unwanted puppy or something.

God, I feel so guilty.

I was OK until we drove away from the home she’s lived in since 1978.  I had to work really hard not to cry as I drove her to this board and care home.  I described the place to her, reminded her of the caregivers’ names, talked about her room, etc. because she didn’t remember.  She said she was sorry for whatever she did to make us not want her any more.  I tried to explain to her that we weren’t moving her because we didn’t want her.  We were moving her because we couldn’t take care of her any more.  I also told her that as her daughter and health decision maker, it was my job to make sure that she was living the best life we could get for her.  And staying at home wasn’t the best for her any more.

I don’t think she got it.

So I left her there.  I gave her hugs and kisses and left her there.  With virtual strangers.  In a house that isn’t home.

You don’t have to tell me how much better this will be for her.  Trust me, I know.  I just feel as though I’ve given up on her or something.  Intellectually I know this is a good decision.  But emotionally it’s hard.

I’ll sit here and cry for a bit longer and then get up and calm myself down.

I don’t consider myself to be a religious or very spiritual person, but I found myself praying a lot today.  I prayed for guidance and strength.  Now I’m praying for peace.  I hope I find it soon.

Moving Mom

Today is moving day. It’s for my mom, not me. You see, for the past 2.5 years, my sister has been Mom’s primary caregiver. It’s taken a toll on her family emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s become too much. And now that my nephew is having so much trouble learning the things he needs to know for school, and having emotional problems… I think my sister has finally realized that the family can’t do this for much longer. I tried to explain that this would happen in 2008 when we were discussing options for Mom’s care, but either she didn’t want to hear it, or I didn’t explain it well enough.

So, we found a place for Mom. It’s a board and care home 3 miles from my house. They have lots of experience with people who have dementia and Alzheimers. The residents seem very happy. We brought my mom and my sister’s kids for a visit. They all gave their stamp of approval as well. And today Mom’s moving into her new place.

I don’t think Mom totally “gets” what’s going on. She keeps thinking that it’s like a vacation or something. You know – only temporary. I don’t want to tell her that it’s permanent, but I don’t want her to think we’re abandoning her either. I know this is better for everyone. The level of care Mom’s receiving at home isn’t what it should be. The kids need 100% of their parents’ attention. My sister and her husband need to be a married couple again. My brother needs to feel like he’s allowed to go off and have fun, find a new place to work, and move out. And me? I just need to not worry so much, and to go back to being the daughter instead of the babysitter.

It’s hard though, you know? I cried making the list of things we would need to pack for her. I didn’t cry when I was actually doing the packing, because I knew if I started then my sister would too, and then mom would get upset. Funny how you can be strong when people are watching, huh? But I’m crying again now. I feel like I’m betraying Mom, somehow, by not keeping her at home. But at the same time I feel a bit of relief that we’ve moved forward and aren’t in caregiver limbo.

I’ll be fine later. And tomorrow. And the next day. But for right now I’ll be a bit sad and maybe cry some more if only so I can be strong again later.

Dreaming of Mom

Mom had a second stroke this week – yesterday, in fact.  It’s weird how much can change from one moment to the next.  I was counting the money for the cash register yesterday morning when I got the call.  My sister said Mom couldn’t say anything but “Mom” and “Dad.”  They called 911 and I was on my way.

So, Mom’s back in the hospital.  She was admitted yesterday.  If she does well, she’ll be released tomorrow.  She’s super confused, talks like she’s had way too much to drink and lacks coordination.  We’ll see, right?

The ER neurologist showed me Mom’s CT scans.  She walked me through all the damage that her previous 7 (?) strokes have done, the damage the blocked carotid artery has done, the damage caused by diabetes, cholesterol, etc.  Almost the entire back of her brain on the right side is dark gray – a sign of damage.  There’s similar, but less widespread damage on the left side.  There are black pin-pricks in other parts of her brain.  The arteries are very narrow leading up to and through her brain.  The doctor said that there is so much damage caused by her previous strokes that it’s difficult to find the new damage caused by the stroke on Sunday and yesterday.

After Mom was admitted I went home to relax and sleep.  After my dad passed away, I dreamed about him.  I told him how much I loved him, he gave me words of warning and I woke up at peace.  I had a similar dream about my mom last night, but she hasn’t passed on yet.

My dream last night was peaceful, beautiful, touching and sad all at the same time.  I don’t remember all of it, but I do remember the most important part.  My mom, sister, brother and I were all standing in a field filled with yellow and white daisies.  It was sunny, but not hot and I wasn’t worried about us burning in the sun’s rays.  We were all so happy and calm, but there was a touch of sadness too.

Mom was standing tall without her walker.  She looked so vibrant and alert.  She was smiling.  Her hair was done like she used to do it before all these strokes.  Her face looked younger too.  She spoke to each of us kids and told us that everything was going to be alright.  She said that she loved us very much, but that she had to go away for awhile.  She would see us soon so we shouldn’t worry and we should always remember that she loves us.

Then I woke up.

I don’t really know if this dream is a precursor of things to come; if she’s telling us goodbye before she’s gone for good, or if she was simply talking about her stay in the hospital.  I do know that when I woke up I felt a little bit lighter and sadder all at the same time.

I don’t know what I’ll do when Mom passes on.  For a long time, she’s been mostly gone but bits and pieces of her have shown up and they remind me of what I miss.  As frustrating as they were at the time, I miss our “noon-thirty I love you calls” that came about as a mutual check-in from 2005-2008.  I would be so annoyed because she would panic a little if I couldn’t answer the phone.  After her stroke in 2008 the calls stopped because she was confused by the phone.  And now she’s confused by talking.

I know that death is another part of life, and that Mom has not passed on yet.  But knowing that it’s basically around the corner for someone I love so much is very difficult to handle.

So Mom, I know you can’t read this, but please know how much we love you.  Please understand how much we miss your guidance and nosiness.  And how much I’d love to hear your stories just one more time.

TIAs: God’s Little Reminders

Yesterday started out really good. My husband and I got up, went for a Starbucks breakfast, hiked part of the way up Mission Peak, did our grocery shopping, visited his parents, and then came home to cook a Mexican meal. About 8:30pm I got a call from my sister saying she was calling 911 for Mom. Mom’s speech was slurred, she got lost inside the house (a house she’s lived in since 1978), and wasn’t self correcting when she got stuck with her walker.

Yep. She was having another stroke.

Mom has been having mini-strokes (TIAs) since 2005. We’ve gotten used to spotting them. Her first good sized TIA was in 2008 – that’s what got me started with losing weight and being healthy back then. It was my wakeup call.

We met the ambulance at the closest Kaiser hospital with a stroke center. They were wonderful with her last TIA. But this time was different. The doctors didn’t seem to want to understand that her speech isn’t normally slurred, that she doesn’t normally get lost inside her own house, and that she’s normally aware enough of what she’s doing that she can call for help if her walker gets stuck somewhere. We had to argue because they said she seemed “fine”. I finally looked at the doctor and said “My mother doesn’t normally sound like she’s downed a 5th of whiskey. She doesn’t normally think she’s at Oak Knoll and living in Oakland. She doesn’t normally get lost on the way to the bathroom at home. This is not normal. We are not taking her home until we know she is stable.” Sometimes being the health care advocate and having Power of Attorney means being forceful.

Around 2am her memory showed improvement, but not her speech. My sister said that she felt like she could take care of mom if she were to go home. I didn’t see mom getting any worse, and she was in much better condition than she was during her last ER visit. So we took her home.

Mom doesn’t remember anything about last night and her speech is still slurred. She’s still having problems with walking. We know that she’ll show improvement over the next month until she reaches her new “normal.” We’re old hands at this, right?

Is it bad that I use my mom’s strokes as a reminder to live healthfully? Is it bad that I use them as a reminder to live life to the fullest? Probably not. But every time they happen I think of them as God’s little reminders; another kick in the pants to keep me going and to remember what’s important.

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