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Caring For A Stranger

Alzheimer’s disease is a lot of things. But mostly it is sad and awful. Sometimes it feels like my soul is being sucked out of me just being around it. The burden of caring for someone with it is one thing. The loss of that entire person’s being is another. Not only am I no longer her daughter, she is no longer my mother. Physically and legally, yes she is. But emotionally and mentally, she is a stranger. Today I asked her again, “Who am I?” She said with utter confidence, “My sister!” I left it like that. I don’t bother correcting her when she thinks that. It wouldn’t do any good. I just accept it and it doesn’t even cause me that much anguish anymore.

I don’t know this woman who refuses to answer me when I ask her something. Who when she does answer uses “I don’t know” as a reply. Many articles about Alzheimer’s disease address the patient’s not knowing those closest to them. That isn’t even the half of it. The fact that my mom doesn’t know me or what I do for her on a daily basis is heartbreaking. But the worst is that I don’t recognize the person in front of me. The spark that was in her eyes, her quirky wit, her generosity, her curious and adventurous spirit are all gone. Vanished into thin air like they were slowly let out of a balloon. I miss the woman who loved to read recipes and sew. I miss the woman who’s eyes lit up when her favorite tv show was on or she got handed a bowl of ice cream. I miss the woman who spent hours weeding the garden and would come in with a bouquet of flowers she’d grown for all of us to enjoy. I miss the woman who would tell me I looked “clean from home” when I got dressed up. I miss the woman who loved petting the dogs more than just about anything else. Now she doesn’t know the names of any of the dogs or whether they are male or female. They love her all the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to keep her with me as long as I can. However, when she finally dies, there will be nothing left to mourn. I feel like I’m mourning her a little bit each day. I’m not crying, more like numb at what this horrible disease has reduced her to. Nothing really makes her happy anymore, no matter what lengths I go to. It was the oddest thing that on vacation, she didn’t take a nap once. When she’s home, she usually naps every afternoon and part of the evening. It’s like her body doesn’t even tell her when she’s tired anymore. Or hungry. Or thirsty. I have a bottle of water next to her at all times. She goes days without drinking hardly anything. Then one day she’ll drink 2 bottles in a few minutes.

 It’s funny how things happen in life and they change your entire perspective and outlook. I was Judgey McJudgeypants when I heard of people putting their parent with dementia in a nursing home. How could they not look after their own flesh and blood? Well, I guess if the person doesn’t even realize WHO is caring for them, it really doesn’t matter. Why put yourself through the work, frustration, sacrifice of caring for another person who is virtually a stranger? Because I can. Because it’s the right thing to do FOR ME. Because I wouldn’t want to be turned over to the care of strangers if it happened to me.

On a day to day basis, there is enough involved in getting myself ready to face the day. Between hygiene and grooming, it is no easy feat. And I’m pretty low maintenance. Imagine having to remember to comb someone else’s hair every day, even if she’s not leaving the house. Imagine having to test the temperature of food before giving it to someone because they have no “sense” or ability to tell if food is hot or cold until they’ve burned themselves. Even if I give her hot food and tell her not to eat it right away, she will immediately grab the spoon and shove it in her mouth. Same goes for the need to always be cognizant of if the person you’re caring for is hot or cold and dress them accordingly. That means putting a sweater or cover up on when there’s a chill in the air. The Alzheimer’s patient will not tell you they are cold. They won’t tell you when they need to use the bathroom. They will start squirming or moaning and you have to figure out if it’s time to get them to the bathroom or if they’re in pain.

It has become all consuming. I really don’t like talking or writing about it. I don’t even like living it. The times when I’m able to get away because she is occupied used to be my respite from the stress. Now I spend most of that time talking to my hubby about how bad she’s getting and what might happen next. What scenario I’m dreading or what strange thing she just said.

After we were on vacation for a few days, she said, “Let’s go home”. Well, she says this when we’re at home too. It still can’t help but feel like a kick in the gut. Things have now reached the point that I need to accompany her to the bathroom EVERY time she goes. I can no longer send her in and hope for the best. I need to be there to remind her to change her pad, use toilet paper and wash her hands with soap. I need to be there to turn the light switch on at night. The computer games are becoming too difficult for her. We have it set up so that she no longer has to use the mouse, only push the space bar. Even with that she can run into difficulties. On the ipad, if any message pops up, it screws her all up. Also she’s not careful when she hits buttons and will hit anything.

My mom was somewhat of a perfectionist prior to her descent into the Land of Know Nothings. She used to have to have to have her clothes all ironed and everything “just so”. Now the only thing she is precise about is how her toilet paper is folded. I’m not even kidding. It is the oddest thing. I usually fold it for her and hand it to her and if it’s not completely straight and even, she refolds it! She also takes great pains to do it herself. It makes no sense to me since she’s not careful about where she wipes her hands or puts food.

I cut up half of a tiny apple into itty bitty pieces for her on vacation. Then we left to run errands and came back. When we left she was shoveling the pieces in her mouth as fast as she could. When we came back, I found the plate with the cut up apple pieces (all brown) under the pillow on the couch. I wonder if she took them back out of there mouth. A few were on the floor.

This woman could eat steak “without teeth” ever since her teeth were pulled in 1988 and she hated her dentures. Now she suddenly can’t use a knife and can barely feed herself with a spoon. She claims everything is too tough for her to eat. She can eat everything up until the last bite. Then she leaves it in her mouth chewing on it FOR HOURS unless we have her spit it out. I’ve tried to ask her why she can’t swallow the last bite when she ate the rest. She doesn’t answer. If I ever badger her for an answer and say, “You have to answer,” she mockingly replies, “You have to answer!”

People tell me she’s lucky to have me. My husband says he wishes she knew everything I did for her and appreciated it. So do I but it’s not going to happen. We never did have a talk about the possibility of her getting Alzheimer’s. At first it just seemed like typical loss of memory as happens with aging. Then it got worse and after her diagnosis, it seemed already too late to have a conversation about it. The concept was beyond her grasp already. I don’t know if it would’ve changed anything anyway to talk about it. We used to have conversations about EVERYTHING. I can’t imagine how we never got around to discussing the memory thief and personallity burglar that is Alzheimer’s.

I sometimes wonder if she’s lasted so long because I take such good care of her. None of us know when our expiration date is but we certainly don’t expect to live past it. We do the best we can and hope for the best. Whatever other cliches we have handy, we use those too. My dad’s aunt, who was ancient when I was a kid, used to have a saying she said so much, she wore it out. “That, too, shall pass.” I don’t doubt it for a minute. Mom’s memory may be mush but I still remember the love we had between us. It’s hard to love this stranger but I still deeply love the mother I had.

 

Vacation Recap

Today is a day of recovering from our vacation. We got back yesterday afternoon and things went about as well as they could under the circumstances. No devastating accidents with the RV or Jeep. No physical illness for any dogs or people. We had the best weather that money can’t buy! It was like Indian summer the whole week. It is expected to be beautiful at home here this whole week too. The summer we never had. :-)

We took it easy and slept in most mornings. We ate every meal for the 10 days in the RV. Twice we got carryout of barbequed chopped beef brisket from Joe’s Texas BBQ in Green Bay. Otherwise we got some ground beef from Maplewood Meats and made hamburgers on the George Foreman Grill. We hit 2 cheese factories so we came home with plenty of good cheese we can’t get in Illinois. Mom didn’t want to go along on any excursions so we set her up on the couch in there and she watched tv, played games on the ipad or browsed through magazines while we were gone. The dogs kept her company.

The highlight of our trip was apple picking the day before we left. We got 2 bags of Honeycrisp apples for eating and a bag of each of the cooking apples–Courtland & McIntosh. It was the perfect temperature to pick apples and they were as lovely as can be for surviving the past year of crazy weather.

We also did some treasure hunting which we spread out over the week. We hit 3 Goodwills, 1 Salvation Army and 1 antique store in Green Bay and 2 antique malls in Appleton. We found some amazing goodies that it will take us awhile to get hung up all over the house. My new favorite obsession is religious art.  I can’t put my finger on why it struck a cord with me at this point in my life. In the past, I wouldn’t have glanced twice at it. Now I find it mesmerizing. In the future, I’ll do a blog post with pictures of some of my favorite pieces.

I didn’t take any pictures on vacation which makes it almost not seem like vacation. If you don’t have visual proof, did it happen?! ;-) My iphone4 is completely maxed out on memory. I had to delete a bunch of apps (& I don’t have that many to begin with) just so I could do an update for our online banking app. It wouldn’t let me go  into it until it had been updated. So I was stuck getting rid of things so I could get online to pay bills! Yikes. I guess that’s one of the things on my agenda is to get a new iphone. Trying to decide on the iphone6+ or going with iphone5.

We stayed outside of the Oneida casino and actually did get to go gambling a few times. We took Mom along every time and we all played next to each other. After trying this and finding it too annoying having to feed money into both her slot machine and mine, we started playing on the same machine together. Surprisingly, it was actually fun! I let her have the main seat and I pulled up a stool next to her. I fed the money in and we took turns hitting the spin button. I didn’t mind if she hit the button more often which happened a lot. I’ve never seen anyone play as fast as she did. If I didn’t watch her, she’d hit the “Max bet” button or “collect” by accident. It was nice that we were able to get her out in public several times over the course of the trip.

We didn’t gamble on the weekend and instead we relaxed as much as possible. We sat in the RV with all the windows open and read antique books! That’s another thing I never cared about before and now I just love them. It fascinates me to think a book made of paper can survive to be over 100 years old! It has given me the idea for a fiction book I want to write if I ever get time. I might have to make time for it since even hubby thinks it’s a fabulous idea!

Last month there was a multi shop sale on Instagram for vintage sellers. It was the first one and I did it even though I only had time to put on about 10 things. 54 shops participated. Tonight there’s one for this month and I didn’t even bother signing up. This time 90 shops are participating. I knew it would stress me out to try to get things photographed, measured, weighed, etc. in time when we’d be gone beforehand. I could’ve worked on it while we were away but then it wouldn’t have felt like vacation.

This week is going to be busy. Tomorrow I’m giving Mom her bath. Tues. I’m taking her to the ENT doctor to get the wax removed from her ears. The girl that usually works on the hearing aids left in March! I was so shocked. We’ve been going to see her for over 9 years. So now someone else is going to check her hearing aids after the appt. Hopefully we won’t have to come back again but you never know. Wed. I’m taking Amber to the vet for her vaccinations. Elvis has been battling allergies on his feet for 2 months now. I had to pick up more cortisone pills to take with “just in case”. He had a flare-up just before we left but after a few days, it cleared up. Now that’s he’s home, I can see it’s going to be coming on again.

As much as we enjoy our short roadtrips to our home state of Wisconsin, we’re happy to be back below the cheddar curtain! :-)

 

My proudest achievement of the past few weeks has been getting my aol mailbox almost empty. To me, “almost empty” is under 650 emails. I’d been hovering around 3,000 to 4,000 emails in my inbox. I’m not talking my “old mail” that’s been open and sitting there waiting to fall off the planet. No, these are ones I’ve kept as new. I had 3 year old emails that I’d never opened. Yes, it’s utterly ridiculous. I didn’t want to delete them even if they were “forwards” because I didn’t want to miss anything. The joke’s on me because I’d already missed them. Just keeping them there had been a big burden on me. It’s kept me from wanting to go online since I knew there was such a massive amount. I was to the point of just wanting to close my email account and not start another. I get very few personal emails. Mostly jokes, forwards, newsletters, customer service reminders…the list goes on. Nothing of value.
 
So I made a small goal for myself to go through emails and get them under 3,000 to start. Well, I’ve actually gotten it to that point more than a few times. Maybe even to 2,5000 once or twice. But probably never in 15 years have I been under that amount in my inbox. Mail I’d actually planned to open eventually or look at again. Ha ha. As you can guess, a lot of the jokes and forwards are out of date. No longer relevent. A lot of the newsletters that included photographs no longer even load the pictures. Some of the food/cooking newsletters I sent to myself to check out later, no longer even have a working link to the recipe. The emails I do read, I read on my iphone4. If I go to someone’s blog and want to read a post or go back and leave a comment later, I will email the post to myself. Hence, there are probably 1,000 blog entries I planned to read or write a comment to. At this point, the person who wrote it wouldn’t care that someone left a comment on something they wrote 3 years ago. What’s worse is a good portion of these blogs no longer exist! I call them the missing and the dead. In case you haven’t noticed, I have to be dramatic and seem to be obsessed with death. Probably one third of the blogs are still out there but the owner hasn’t written anything in 3 years! I’m not even kidding. Another third of the blogs are completely missing in cyberspace. They were taken down completely. This makes me sad on so many levels. I don’t know which is worse, to quit writing and never return to your blog or to decide one day that everything you’ve spent the time to write, no longer deserves to be seen.
 
I know in the past I’ve said that I never understood how anyone couldn’t find something to blog about. Or didn’t understand how someone didn’t feel like writing. Everytime I make a broad sweeping statement like that, it comes back to bite me in the ass. I had never felt like that until the past 3 weeks. I’ve had at least 3 occasions where I had the time to blog and in the past would’ve ran to my computer with glee to quickly type out a blog post. Instead I just wasn’t up to it. Part of it is how I’ve been feeling physically. Aug. 20th I went with hubby to the doctor for his checkup appt. and the doctor told me I looked fantastic. I keep laughing when I think of it. I feel so unwell. Back in the day, on the tv comedy show Saturday Night Live, there was a character who always said, “It is better to look good than to feel good.;-) I’ve had this dizziness and general malaise the past few weeks. I briefly mentioned the episode I had in the bathtub to the dr. and he said it sounded like I had a virus in my left ear that brought on vertigo. He said if it kept up to call and he’d give me some medicine. He said he didn’t like to prescribe it because it makes people so sleepy, it’s impossible to function. I don’t have it all the time but it comes and goes. Sometimes while I’m sitting even. My sinuses have been awful and that’s been giving me pain in the face and making it hard to breathe.
 
Of course, I know what I can blog about but I surely get sick of complaining about my health. No doubt people are sick of reading about it too.
 
People are abandoning blogging like rats off a sinking ship. I’m wondering if it was just a fad that has now jumped the shark. Obviously, everyone has different reasons to quit blogging but it does seem like it’s gotten “uncool”. With my contrary nature, that just makes me love it more. As much as I will miss those blogs (& some of them I will), it’s fine that so many have dropped out of the blogosphere. As big as the Internet is, it’s starting to get crowded. There’s too much crap out there. If people really don’t want to be there, if they feel they no longer have anything to say, or choose not to do it in that format, they should leave. They are taking up space that someone else could use to better advantage.
 
At the risk of making another statement I’ll later regret, I will never walk away from my blog. Mostly because if I left it up and never added anything new, it would be a constant reminder that I’d failed at another thing. I hate failing but I’m good at it. I don’t want to be good at it. I want to be good at blogging. I’ll never be as good as others at it but it lets it be known that I’m not missing or dead.
 
I wrote this last week and didn’t publish it. I always think I’ll have something better to add or change and never do. He who hesitates is lost. I’m so lost, I need a GPS for blogging. Siri, when should I post on my blog? In other news, I’ve had 3 days in a row where I haven’t gotten dizzy. I’m afraid to say it out loud because it might jinx it. Sat. Aug. 23rd, our basement flooded again. Yawn. 2 inches of rain water and I had hubby do most of the carrying items up the stairs since at the time I was still dizzy. It’s almost dry enough to go down and wash a ton of clothes that have piled up. You know what I’ll be doing. Maybe I’ll get some ideas for future blog posts. :-)

 

A Memorable Birthday

At some point, without realizing it, I have quit living. Don’t get me wrong. I am still among the breathing souls on earth. My life has become one big circling of the drain. Not going down due to the drain being clogged and never making any progress. Just existing with massive amounts of frustration thrown in for good measure.

I pretty much self-reflect year round but it tends to happen more around my birthday. My birthday has come around again but instead of my usual pity party, I’ve become almost apathetic. That’s so not me. I am always filled with vast quantities of enthusiasm and hope. Almost naively so. It’s not even the repetition and routine of my daily life that has me feeling pointless.

No doubt caring for my 93 year old mother with Alzheimer’s has worn me down to a nub. I can go and go until suddenly I can’t anymore. It has all caught up with me. Tuesday is bath day for Mom and I usually pretty much leave that to be the priority for that day. I don’t try to do much more because it’s so exhausting for me. Yesterday was Tuesday Aug. 5th and I pushed myself too hard. I knew it while I was doing it but still did it anyway.

I got Mom up and fed and got her on the computer to play games while I paid some bills online. I get everything ready ahead of time. I bring downstairs: her comb, my razor, a scissors, a towel, her earplugs, etc. I lay out the clean clothes she’ll wear after the bath. I get out her towel, washcloth and bathbrush. I put the 2 plastic gripper bars on the tile above 2 sides of the bathtub. I get out the No More Tears shampoo and clear away around the kitchen sink. I pick up the area rugs on the kitchen floor.

I cut my fingernails and toenails and then I cut her fingernails. She protests and pulls away to look at each one after I do it. It takes a lot longer than it should. Then I have her go into the kitchen and sit in the chair. I comb her hair and then start cutting it. I cut it about once a month. I’ve gotten better at it over time. Mostly because I care less how it turns out. I was always afraid of cutting too much and making her look funny. Now I just cut away with abandon and it turns out fantastic. I guess that’s what real hairdressers do! Afterwards, I throw out the hair I’ve put in the kleenex on the counter and wash the comb. I use the razor on her chin hair and mustache. I trim her eyebrows. I get the water to just the right temperature. I tell her what I’m going to do before I do it. I tell her I’m going to take her hearing aids out and put in the ear plugs. They are attached to a string that hangs down. I tell her NOT to try tucking it into her pajama because it just pulls them out. Then I show her how to lean over the sink so she’s far enough over that the whole kitchen doesn’t get wet. I take her glasses off and put the earplugs in. She leans over and starts tucking the string in her pajama. My words and speech are repeatedly in vain all day long, every single day. What I say has no consequence and doesn’t matter. I guess I know there’s more at play like her inability to hear, comprehend or verbalize a reply. Most of the time, I can shrug off the feeling but sometimes I can’t help but take it personally. Rationally, I know it’s ridiculous but after yelling and getting myself worked up, I’m completely irrational. I get her hair wet and before I can reach for the shampoo bottle, she is yelling, “Ya done?” Not quite. So I lather up her hair, massaging her scalp. I rinse it really well and wring it out. Then place a towel over her head and guide her back to the seat a yard away.

I dry her hair with the towel and comb her hair. I put her hearing aids back in and her glasses back on. Then I tell  her to come upstairs and sit on her bed. I carry everything else back upstairs. She sits on the bed while I draw the bath. I have to keep checking on her so she doesn’t start putting the clean clothes on that are on the bed. I explain to her that she’ll have to use the toilet before getting into the tub or she’ll crap in the tub. She always says “but I don’t have to go”. I’ve learned to not listen to this EVER. I make her get on the toilet. I explain to her how to get in the bathtub. There’s only one way she can do it. She faces the wall with the window on it, holds the window ledge, lifts one leg in and then the other. She uses the grip bars and 1 side of the tub to lower herself onto her knees. Then she rolls onto her side and then onto her back. To get out she has to do the reverse. It should be simple but often she’ll forget how to get out or won’t listen to me and try to get out another way or just say “I can’t!” I put the lid down on the toilet and sit there and guide her through the bath. I have to tell her what body part to “wet” with the washcloth, then I squeeze liquid soap out of the bottle onto the washcloth for her and she washes said body part. Then I tell her to rinse it off with water. I have her start with her face, then do her neck and chest and stomach. Then if I’m not on the ball, she’ll start doing her face again. So I catch her and tell her to do her arms. Then it’s her hips, legs and feet. After that I wash her back for her with the washcloth and then the bathbrush. Then I wash under both her arms since she seems to neglect that area. Then I tell her to wash her crotch and then her bum. She seems to do a crummier job each time. I know eventually I’ll be washing more parts of her body as time passes. In the meantime, I want her to do as much for herself as she can.

After the histrionics of getting out of the bathtub, I wrap her in a towel and dry her off. She doesn’t even bother if I don’t do it. I have her sit on a towel on the toilet lid while I go get a pair of underpants and a pad. I put on her glasses and hearing aids. Then I get her to come into her bedroom to dress. I have to get out the paper towel, postal tape, Neosporin to wrap her leg. She’s still scratching it much to my chagrin. She also tears the bandage off within hours of me putting it on. She dresses herself with a little help from me. Meanwhile, I drain the tub and rinse it, hang the towels to dry, take down the plastic grippers and put them away. I come back in the bedroom and recomb her hair since she pulled her shirt over and mussed it all up.

I tell her to go downstairs and know she’ll be lost without a game up on the computer so even though I have things to do upstairs yet, I go down ahead of her and put a game up and get her a cup of coffee. Which she says she wants but then will forget to drink. She plays while I go back upstairs. I strip her bed and see that the sheets are torn and go to the linen closet and put a nice fresh set of sheets on. I take the others down to the basement to wash. I come up and get the broom and dustpan out to sweep the hair up off the floor and replace the area rugs. I put away the shampoo.

I then make our lunch and realize that I need to make a sandwich for my husband’s lunch the next day. By this time, I have to get her to the bathroom again, all the while reminding her not to pick her leg. We eat lunch and I go put the sheets in the dryer. Then I go upstairs and strip our bed and put our sheets in the basket to take down to wash. I then have to go back up another 2 flights of stairs to the spare bedroom to get the vacuum out. I take it down to the first floor where Mom is napping and vacuum the whole house. She doesn’t wake up until I’m vacuuming underneath her. Normally, I would do it Wed. so it is clean for the weekend but this morning I had an early vet appt. and I wanted to get some other things done. So I did what I’d do over 2-3 days in a single day. Not a good idea. The house looked better but I was ready to drop. I was hurrying since I wanted to have everything done before hubby got home from work at 7 pm. I went down and put the sheets in the dryer and then went back to the 2nd floor to take a bath.

So I get in the tub and I’m thinking about past birthdays and my next blog post. I stand up to wash my hair. I use the hand held showerhead to wet my hair. Then I put the shampoo on it and was lathering it. I’m completely bent over at the waist. I’ve done this thousands of times. Then all of a sudden I feel this weird sensation behind my left ear and SUDDENLY I’m so dizzy I can’t stand up. I started listing badly to the left. All I could think of was how I didn’t want to fall and hit my head. So I kneeled down. I thought it would pass. Instead it got worse. I had to work to keep my head from diving into the tub. Meanwhile, I have shampoo in my hair and it’s getting in my eyes. I NEVER go without putting conditioner on my hair. Due to its natural curl, it looks like I stuck my finger in a light socket when I don’t use conditioner. But I was physically unable to proceed so I pulled my legs out from under me and just sat in the tub. Face plant successfully avoided. I took the handheld showerhead and rinsed most of the shampoo out of my hair. I had to crawl out of the tub using the towel rack under the window. I thought it was going to snap from my weight. I sat on the toilet seat and was sweating profusely. I didn’t want to make any sudden movements for fear of passing out. I just sat there and made a plan to try to make it to the bed. First I had to use the toilet in a hurry and then I suddenly felt so nauseated. I stood up to wash my hands at the sink. Then I started vomiting clear saliva. It would be dry heaves except for saliva. I’d never done that before. I had 3 bouts of that. Once as I’ve mentioned, another after I was sitting on the bed and one after Greg came home.

After a few minutes, I attempted to get to the bed. I made it and laid out a towel to sit on. All I could think of was lying down. But there were no sheets on the bed, only the mattress pad and I was still soaking wet. I made another calculated move and went back in the hall and just reached in blindly for another bath towel. I put one on the pillow and laid the other one where my body would lay. I didn’t make it that far. Greg came home and I called to him to come upstairs. He helped me lay down and I had him lay next to me. He checked me to make sure I didn’t have a stroke. I didn’t have any body numbness and could raise both arms plus I had no slurring of my speech. I had my own clean clothes laid out on the bed so I  had him help me get my underpants on. I just felt so weak and sick.

I made it downstairs to the couch and just laid with an icebag. A little later my face got red and very hot. Feverish. I had Greg take care of getting Mom to the bathroom and dishing up supper for the 2 of them. I had made a pasta salad the day before and that’s what we would’ve had anyway. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like eating. I skipped dinner. Me miss a meal?! That’s unheard of. Usually it doesn’t matter how sick I am, I can always eat. Well, this was a special kind of sick. I’m thinking it’s a bad sinus infection. We went to bed earlier than usual and I slept well, all things considered. I haven’t been sleeping very well all week so I really needed it.

I didn’t know if I’d be able to take Elvis to the vet today. But I got up at 7 am and made it over there by 8:30 am. I still feel weak and I’m feeling worse as the day goes on. I’ve had a headache for most of the day. I had planned to rest most of the day when I got back from the vet but that was not to be. The vet prescribed Benadryl for Elvis’ allergies and I had to drop him at home and then go to Jewel grocery store. While there I picked up a loaf of bread (we were out) and a gallon of milk (almost out). After lunch I tried to lay down on the couch but it didn’t make me feel any better. So I got up and worked on this blog post.

My birthday is tomorrow and now all I want is to feel better. :-( We didn’t really have any major plans, just treasure hunting and go out for a late lunch with Mom to a fish place. We just found it a month ago and it’s what I’m craving. I love fish when it’s fresh and cooked right. When I was younger, I didn’t care much for it. So many things change as we get older. If I don’t feel better by tomorrow, I doubt I’ll be going anywhere. I don’t want to have a reoccurance that I might not make it through. I don’t want sympathy, just some birthday wishes. If anyone else has had anything like this happen and can tell me what it was, please do speak up. If I don’t have a good birthday, at least I’ll have a memorable one. ;-)

 

I don’t talk about one of my passions very much. It’s cooking and baking. I love to eat, obviously. You can merely look at me and know I don’t miss many meals. ;-) You wonder why I even have to say that I love to eat. That should go without saying. Except not everybody does. Some do it simply to fuel their bodies out of necessity. Whether they are watching calories or are too busy to slow down and enjoy a meal, they are missing out. Easy for me to say. The people who don’t revel in the intoxicating and stress relieving properties of food consumption are probably not overweight either. They really don’t get the otherworldly pleasure that I do from lifting a fork or spoon to my lips, opening my mouth for the first bite and partaking of the texture and flavor of nature’s goodness. Not to mention the joy and anticipation I get just from looking at and thinking about food.

I feel exceptionally blessed that I was given the gift of a palate that can appreciate most foods. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t even realize that food is a taste like tv shows or music. That people have preferences–likes and dislikes. I would never (probably not) try to get someone to watch a tv show if they said they hated it. Just because I loved it, I would assume they had different tastes and move on. Where as with food, I find ALL of it DELICIOUS and figure people don’t know any better when they don’t like a certain food or dish. I jumped to the conclusion that they’d just never had it prepared right or that they were close minded without even trying it. When I’m eating various things, I always think, “HOW COULD ANYONE NOT LIKE THIS?!”

When I was thinking of starting my blog 4 years ago, hubby suggested I do a food blog. I was all for it. Until I really began to weigh what that would mean. I didn’t like the idea of only blogging about food, cooking and baking. Although it is a big part of my life, I didn’t want to ONLY do that on the Internet. I could’ve done a blog about dogs, more specifically OUR dogs. But that would also have been very limiting. Maybe I would’ve had a bigger audience if I had narrowed down what I write about. I saw so many doing the food blog flawlessly and knew I couldn’t compete with the likes of The Pioneer Woman. I wouldn’t even try. In the last 6 months, I found another food blog I love which has the yummiest desserts and appetizers that I simply have to share with you. It’s called Averie Cooks. She does a food blog the way it’s meant to be done. I’ve tried several of her bar recipes and they are all to die for. She hooks me with the first picture and then goes through every step along the way with pictures. Then maybe they’ll be 27 MORE pictures of the finished product. Cut  into individual pieces, put on a plate, stacked on a serving platter, etc. It’s total overkill. She’s selling past the close. That is why I can’t have a food blog. I would be like “I made this. Here try it. Here’s what they look like. You MUST make this!” :D

Today I roasted garlic for the first time and it changed my life. I was dumbfounded that I’d waited so long to try it. I’d read about how to do it on the Internet several times over the last few years. It just seemed so intimidating. It was ridiculously easy. I love garlic in its natural form so I was like, “How much better could it be roasted? Is it even worth doing?” WHY YES, IT IS! I cut the tops off heads of garlic (the big bundle thing that has the cloves attached). I was worried I would end up cutting the wrong end but it’s obvious when you go to do it which end to do. Then I drizzled each head with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil and wrapped individually in aluminum foil (shiny side out). I put them on a sheet pan and baked in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. I let them cool and then unwrapped the heavenly goodness. You can either peel the paper/skin off with your fingers or squeeze it out of each clove. I popped out the cloves and they were soft and buttery with a sweet, very mild and EVEN MORE SCRUMPTIOUS FLAVOR than regular garlic. I spread a clove on each 1/4 of our sandwich for lunch. It gives a hint of flavor, not overpowering at all. Then an entire head I mashed with a fork and put in the dressing for a pasta salad I made for dinner. I had roasted some eggplant as well for it. I love pasta salads and put everything under the sun in them and they’re always good. The one I made today had white onion, celery, roasted eggplant, roasted corn on the cob (leftover from the other night), a diced tomato and a bit of diced cheddar cheese. Now I want to make a hot pasta sauce (another night) with some of the other roasted garlic. It’s so tasty, you can just dig it out and eat it plain. I mean I can but so can you if you haven’t already decided that you don’t like garlic! ;-) Please let me know if you’ve tried this or if you’re going to try this. I would love to say I turned someone on to the joys of roasted garlic.

I wrote the above post almost 2 weeks ago. I was going to add more to it but never had time. Today when walking the dogs, I stopped and chatted with a woman who was gardening. She said she didn’t plant vegetables but did herbs. So we were discussing the different herbs and I asked her if she’d ever made homemade pesto sauce. She said she hadn’t. (I’m making it tonight for dinner! Another first for me.) Then I asked her if she’d ever roasted garlic. She said no. I told her I’d done it recently for the first time and how wonderful it was. In all my exuberance, I said “they undertold how good it was”. <blink, blink> Who talks like that?! Apparently, me. I can hardly believe I said it. She didn’t let on how stupid it sounded but as I continued on my walk, I couldn’t get it off my mind. That was hours ago and I STILL haven’t been able to conjure up the correct term. Normally, I don’t really freak out if I say something wrong but I feel like I should know better. What limited intelligence I had seems to be slipping away. Now I have to wonder if I’m on the path to losing my memory too…I hope I can find my way back to this blog to post in the future. <sigh>

 

 

We left on Thurs. June 26th for a 9 day vacation to Green Bay, WI. I had hoped to escape my day to day life & problems and come back refreshed like you’re supposed to after a vacation. Alas, that was not meant to be. The trip to GB was only a 3 1/2 hr. drive and we were lucky enough to find an open RV spot behind the casino. They charge $15 a night and for that all you get is electricity. It used to be free but they had people living there for over a year and never leaving so I can see why they had to make some changes to the rules. We took things very easy due to Mom’s limitations. We took her with us to gamble once a day for a few hours. When we did other things like go to the cheese factory, meat market and antique mall, she wanted to stay in the RV and rest. So she played games on the ipad and the dogs kept her company. We made sure we were never gone for too long. We cooked all our meals except one in the cabin (what I call the RV). The 3 of us went out for a fish fry at a bar in DePere the day after we got there and it was pretty flavorless. Since we knew we’d be there over a week, we only bought a small amount of cheese and meat that would last us through the weekend. We had plans of going back to the meat market and getting a bunch of meat to take home the next week. We also were counting on hitting the bigger cheese factory for some cheese to take home. Not to mention we had hopes of going strawberry picking while up there. Even a return visit to the antique mall whose prices were so much cheaper than where we live was on my mind.

None of this came to pass. The first 4 days were pretty uneventful. When Monday came we knew the end of the week would be super busy everywhere due to the July 4th holiday. There’s a ton of construction going on in GB now. Trying to save ourselves some grief later in the week, we looked up a place to dump the RV’s waste tanks. We knew we had a couple days before it was full but didn’t want to find out the hard way that they’re full. One trip we had stayed in an RV park in Michigan and they had everything at the site but a dump. That time, we thought we could wait until the day we left to dump (which would have been convenient). Instead the night before, water from the grey line (not the toilet, the sinks) came backing up in the bathtub. From washing dishes too much! Not a lot of water, just enough to let us know we had to empty it immediately. Anyway, this trip, the dump site was not on the property and quite a distance away across town. With the construction, it took us about 20 minutes to get there. It was actually an RV dealer and there was a line. We had to wait about half an hour for the folks ahead of us to use it first. While we were there, we decided to get propane. We had probably 2/3 of a tank already but figured if we ran the refrig. on the way home with a lot of food in it, we didn’t want to take the chance of it running out. So we got that filled. Things went better than we expected since we’d been dreading it. It was great to have it over with and know we wouldn’t have to leave our site from Monday afternoon until Sat. when we left to come home.

Or so we thought. We got back to our site and hubby plugged in the electrical and only a few things worked. The microwave and outlets worked but the slideout (which is the room that expands to make way for a bed in the LR area), the jacks and the refrig. didn’t. This made NO sense. Everything had been in working order when we left earlier that day. We were in the same site with the same plugin and yet: nothing. The refrig. works off of either propane gas or electricity. When we’re driving, we run it on propane, when in a campsite, we run it on electricity. Now it wouldn’t run at all on either one! It boggles the mind. Hubby looked and saw one of the fuses was blown. He tried putting in one from a different area and blew that. Then he went to an auto parts store and bought extra fuses and came back and started blowing those. It’s some electrical problem that can’t be fixed by mere mortals. It has to be something more complicated that someone who went to weeks or months of schooling on RV repairs has to deal with.

Hubby was so mad, I couldn’t even talk to him. We had to regroup and come up with a new strategy. We called the RV dealer we got the propane at first to see if they could take a quick look at it and help us out so we could stay the week. They said they were booked up until July 14th! There was no way we could stay since all our food would spoil if we didn’t go home immediately. Hubby had to go in to the casino and see if he could get a refund for the unused nights we’d paid for. They usually don’t give refunds but said they would take care of it the next day. I’ve had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since then that nothing will come of it. I’m having hubby call the credit card co. tomorrow to see if they ever did credit us the $75.

It was lunch time so we quick ate some cottage cheese and headed on our way home. We had no bread and our first stop that day was going to be a bake shoppe. We scrapped that idea and left in time to get home about 6:30 pm. Ok, so our vacation was cut short. We won’t even talk about how we wouldn’t have had to go to the RV dealer to dump or get propane if we knew we were leaving. Or that if we’d stayed plugged in all along, it may not have happened at all. Here we were trying to save ourselves grief by taking care of things early and then it backfires. There’s nothing like packing a ton of extra clothes when you think you’re packing for 9 days when it’s really only 4! I kept telling myself that we can adjust and make the rest of it a “staycation”. Just be at home and do some fun things we don’t normally do. We took both weekends off from going to estate sales so we were looking to do something else exciting.

We were lucky that the spot in front of our house was open to park and unload the RV. I wouldn’t want to cart everything from around the block (which we’ve had to do before). It was super hot and muggy and then it started to rain. Rain is no big deal for people who’ve never had their basement flood. When I heard how hard it was raining, I started to panic. I was on edge and checking the basement every 10 minutes for water coming in. Hubby was checking the street and saw it flood all the way across. That’s always disturbing. One of the sewer drains by the curb (not at the intersection but a bit away) is clogged. We’ve tried opening it ourselves with a rake handle but it won’t work. We’ve also both called the city more than once about it and they’ve never done anything. About 10 pm, I was down checking the basement when I literally saw the water coming in by the standpipe, up the drains of the laundry tub and near the foundation. It comes in incredibly fast and I called to Greg to come down and start the sump pump immediately. Meanwhile, I picked up everything I could that was on the floor and carried it upstairs. I know most people think “just don’t put anything on the floor if you know this happens”. Well, that’s just not an option. We just don’t have room. Maybe we have to buy some baker’s racks to put everything on. We were up until almost 2 am waiting for the rain to stop. When the road went down some, we were able to open the standpipe and the water drained out. It was all clean rain water. No garbage or dirt or sewage like we’ve had happen before. Things could have been a lot worse. If I subscribed to “everything happens for a reason”, I’d think that’s why we had to come home early, to be there in time to catch the flood before anything was ruined. But I don’t believe in that at all. If I did, what, pray tell, would be the reason we needed to flood in the first place?! :-(

No one needs that kind of excitement. Especially us on the very same day we came home early from vacation due to an emergency. The next day, hubby took the RV back to the storage place in Elgin since we can’t it in to our dealer for repair unitl the 10th. Then we spent the day sucking the water up with our rug cleaner. We tried to get as much up before we shampooed the carpet. You can imagine it takes forever for a damp basement to dry out. We’ve got a dehumidifier down there and it runs constantly. We used to run a large box fan down there which helped get some air circulating to dry it out but it got wet in one of the past few floods and quit working. Yesterday we were finally able to put everything back downstairs and resume living.

As you can imagine, I was beyond depressed after what transpired. Other bad things kept happening as the days went by too. Including but not limited to: a charming ceramic teapot clock I bought from someone on Instagram came broken beyond repair, our new furnace rebate from Nicor Gas was rejected again (it’s $300), our Postal claim for the lost package was denied with no reason why again.($50), our 2nd half of last year’s property taxes came in the mail due Aug. 1 ($3645) and we’ve been getting a ridiculous amount of spoofing phone calls. I can’t even keep track of all the bad things that have been happening. I have to believe it’s NORMAL to be down after an avalanche of bad things happening. I honestly can’t remember being THAT down for awhile though. Not since the last time our basement flooded June 25th, 2013. Any of the things I mentioned would be enough to go wrong at one time but to be inundated with THAT MANY in such a short time, is a real test of strength and fortitude. I allowed myself 2 or 3 days to sulk and feel sorry for myself and then I started to gather my bearings and start over again at life.

When I say that I’m starting over, I don’t mean with gung ho or gusto. I’m slowly lifting myself back up to my usual positive self. I can’t live life negatively for too long or the outcome would be nothing short of tragic. I’m not the most resilient person in the world but I like to think I can bounce back with a little time and effort. Obviously, things are never as grim as they seem or as I make them out to be. Believe it or not, it was hard to think of anything to be grateful for for a few days there. Now I can be thankful that: no one died, no one is in physical pain, we still have a roof over our heads, something to eat, etc They come easily to me now but maybe that’s the blessing of time and perspective.

Needless to say, our staycation was NOT stress-free. We were drowning in stress. But we lived to face another day FILLED WITH PROBLEMS. Just kidding (I think). Our fun was cut short and none was readily available so we made our own. Yesterday, we worked outside, trimming all the bushes and trees in our front and backyard. We weeded the veggie gardens and the potted herbs. We got busy cleaning up the mess that is our lives and tried to find order where there was none. After we were done, we were exhausted but had a sense of pride and accomplishment that only hard work you do yourself can bring. It may not sound like fun but it was. We had the dogs in back with us while we were working and we got to watch them playing together. We got sunshine and fresh air and exercise that wasn’t scheduled. Hard work clears the mind, strengthens the body and frees the soul. I also realized that when I’m depressed, the best medicine is hugging the dogs. :-) My advice for the week is if there’s no fun to be had…go make some!

 

 

I recently took notice that a lot of my blog titles have some reference to death or being dead. I don’t know why. I’m forever having trouble picking the title of a blog post. Some people seem to have a knack for it. I never quite tie the title in with what I’ve written. If I do, it comes out as trying to be “too cute”. It may be worse to make no reference to the title at all like it is so random, it doesn’t belong to the post at all.

At this point in my life, I don’t have the time to dwell on such things. I just pick a title and send it out to the universe. Even though I haven’t been blogging much lately, I’ve been thinking about blogging. I used to lament about how plain my blog is compared to others. How others have so many bells and whistles and are just plain fancy. From the background to all the pictures and the buttons. I was like a poor person admiring a rich person’s possessions and wishing for their fur coat or their high heels or their Mercedes Benz. I can covet what they have until the cows come home but deep down, I don’t really want them. I’d be afraid the fur coat would be stolen. I couldn’t endure the agony of squeezing my feet into 4″ heels, let alone strut around in them. I might enjoy driving a Mercedes but my 21 yr. old car is more my speed. I don’t think I could love a car more than that one.

What I’m trying to say is that my blog suits me. With it’s plain jane look that’s mostly words and no flash. If it was all fancy and full of bling, it wouldn’t reflect me. I may like looking at other people’s fancy blogs and even temporarily wish for the stylish details they have. But I’ve finally come around to accepting that my blog doesn’t have to look (or read) like anyone else’s. I have a very select audience. The people who read me are mostly from other countries. I don’t know what that says about me. Maybe that I’m unappealing to Americans. Somehow, I can live with that.

My spelling is better than most but not flawless. I refuse to use a spell check–that would be cheating. My sentence structure could use some sprucing up. I don’t always word things correctly and am often not completely happy with how a paragraph sounds. I don’t always have time to fiddle with it until it sounds right. As long as I’m getting my point across, I let it go. If I tried to write a perfect blog post, I never would’ve been able to start. It used to bother me that a few others who started blogging around the same time I did just skyrocketed to fame. Obviously they put more into it, more time and effort, more networking, more everything. I didn’t begrudge them their success but I felt almost invalidated that I was going unnoticed next to them. We don’t all have to be the star of the show. In fact, we all can’t be! Some of us must be supporting players. Being a Leo, I love the limelight under the right circumstances. As long as I’m not being embarrassed or made fun of, you can call attention to me and I thrive on it. I no longer expect to gain any fame through blogging. Going to BlogHer13 last year made me realize how insignificant I am in the blogging world. I’m not even one of the thousands of stars in the sky, I’m the fleck of dust on the telescope that others are looking through to see the stars. Mostly annoying and in the way but occasionally helpful by reminding you of the need to dust.

I’m no longer going to vow to blog more. I will blog when time allows, as I always have. I will continue to just sit down and write without measuring my words as carefully as I should. I will jump from one topic to another, unintentionally alienating people along the way. July 18th will be 5 years that I’ve been blogging. I’m proud that I’ve kept up with it. I know blogging is something I’m in for the long haul. Hopefully, I’ll always enjoy writing on here and sharing my life stories. Several of the blogs I enjoyed reading have just up and disappeared over the past 5 years. Most of the time there’s not even an announcement. I just go to the blog and it’s NOT THERE. That is a rude awakening. It’s akin to being invited to someone’s house and you get there, knock on the door and they’re not home. You’ve been stood up. Obviously, I’m making it personal. I know how to do this quite well. I’ve never felt like closing my blog since I started it so I’m unsure why others are doing it. If it is boredom or they’re just not that into writing. Maybe they’ve gotten other interests or feel bad neglecting it so just quit entirely. Blogging feels like the only thing I do for ME. There’s no way I’m giving that up. You can’t put a price on the feeling of achievement I get after publishing. Or the smiles I get reading the comments. Or just the emotional release I get from sharing thoughts or events in my life. What I’m trying to say is you’re stuck with me. ;-) Even if I tried to fancy up my blog, it would still at the heart, be a pig. My blog and I are both pigs that don’t need lipstick. Oink. (What a stupid ending to this…)

 

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