Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Life

There have been events that have changed the direction of my life in the last couple of months. I've been  riding them out for awhile, before blogging about them.

1 day into my new job, back in February, I realized that Mom was in some pain. She'd probably been sick for a few days, but I'd missed the cues. If I questioned her about her suddenly grasping her abdomen, she'd merrily respond, "What?! I have no pain." How do I call the doctor and ask to get her in right away...because I'm not sure why?

Of course, if you let some things go, they worsen and it was suddenly terribly obvious that she needed to see her doctor. I cut out early on the 2nd day of my new job to take her to Convenient Care. Her illness, thank God, was treatable with antibiotics and painkillers, but they still took a few days to kick in.

I got up at the buttcrack of dawn to tend to Mom before starting Day 3 of my new job. I arrived to find a gargantuan mess. Her bed was wet and soiled, she was wet and soiled, the floors were wet and soiled. I set water running, and stepped out of my sweater and blouse, to keep from making a mess of my own clothes, and got Mom into the shower. I settled her in warm jammies with a cup of tea, then stripped beds, started laundry, washed floors, cleaned carpets. Then I raced out the door to try to get to work on time.

Of course, I realized that I'd left my phone at home, so I had to head in the opposite direction. As I approached the house, I realized that my clothes were still in Mom's living room. I found another outfit, grabbed my phone, and hit the road to my new office where I was going to arrive late and have to explain that I had to leave early today. Frazzled and stressed, I decided on the spot:

It's enough. I'm done. I've done a good job. I'm proud. But I'm done; I can't do it any more.

I called a case manager that mom had been assigned to ages ago, and, without reservation, told her "I need help. Today."

Within an hour, I had a call back, with news that there was an opening at Champaign County Nursing Home, 1 mile away from her home, 3 miles away from ours. In Garden View Court, a unit set up specifically for Alzheimer's patients. This was looking good.

I took care of Mom through the weekend, and the following Tuesday, I loaded her and her baby doll,  "Savannah," into the car. I told her we were going to go somewhere that there would be nurses to take care of her all while I'm at work, and she would have lots of girlfriends to talk to. She was excited.

Mom and Savannah

It was harder on me than it was for Mom. It's kind of like dropping your kid off for her first day of kindergarten...but not.  I didn't know how it was going to go, and you's still a nursing home, with nursing home sights and nursing home smells, and nursing home nurses, and it's intimidating on your first day.

I was teary, and worried, and anxious, but instantly comforted when we arrived: The staff was waiting with open arms for Mom...and a stroller and a blanket for Savannah.

Mom got her settled, and took off like she'd lived there for years. Several staff members stopped to admire her baby.

Her bedroom overlooks a walking path (good for pushing strollers on), in the midst of a garden tended by Master Gardeners.

There's a small aviary, and this is her favorite bird:

"Oooo! Pink and purple!," she says.

8 weeks later. You can see by the pictures that she's pretty content in her new home. She sometimes asks to go home, but she imagines a home in which she is a child, and there are friends and family around her. When I remind her that she would have to sit by herself all day until I get off of work, then she agrees, that she likes it better where she is.

I focus now on paperwork and the exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for Alzheimer's care, while I adjust to living a life that doesn't rotate around tending to Mom. I have been amazed to discover how much of my time, energy, and money have gone into taking care of her, but I'll save that for a different post.

It is a new life for both of us.

I am damned proud. I am proud that I took care of my mother as long as I could and as good as I could. I made a few mistakes, and I know I was criticized along the way by a few friends and family that felt I should have put her in a nursing home earlier.

Ahh, but they weren't there, my armchair critics. I don't move blindly through my life. The decisions I made were the right ones, for us. I kept my mother happy, safe, and healthy for as long as I could, and took action when it was beyond me.

Yes, it's made for hectic schedule in my life, at times. So what?

I have, for years now, wondered at people that  "console" me with the words "it's as if you've already lost her." Really? Because things have changed, and she is not the same woman that she once was, I have lost her? She no longer ISI bristle, darlings. Would you think that of your spouse, your best friend, your sister? Your child? 

Let me explain that her pronouncing "Jingle Bells" as "Bangle Jells" doesn't make her dead. I have not lost her. She is a beautiful little girl that wants to sing Bangle Jells and Jesus Loves Me. She likes babies and birdies and shrimp and bacon. Not a day goes by that she doesn't tell me I'm beautiful, thank me for all that I do for her, and tell me that she loves me so much. 


And she is safe and happy, and I rest easy, these days.

Life is good.

*Shout out to my new employers, Jennie & Paul Edwards, who never blinked an eye over my sporadic first weeks in their office, reiterating only "Mom comes first."  You guys just dropped right out of heaven!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

$1000 Winner: A Short Story in Twice As Many Words Are Necessary

When I found out in late January that the place I'd worked for 24 years was folding, I kicked it into gear on the frugality front. I've never been careless with my money, but nor have I, admittedly, been a financial micro-manager.

Couponing! I grabbed a newspaper and poured over the ads. When all was said and done on that particular Sunday, I realized that I'd clipped coupons for crap I'd never buy in the first place. Spend $18 to save $2 on (not my usual) facial moisturizer? Howzabout I don't buy it all and put the $18 in the bank, smarty?

I was (blessedly) offered a job within 2 weeks of being unemployed. Still, facing unemployment was eye opening: I don't want to do it again, and financial awareness is high on my list of priorities: I need to knock out some debt and accrue some savings. Stat!

Couponing wasn't a total bust. I'll never be extreme, but the fact remains that there's no sense in paying "more" for anything. I created online accounts at my favorite stores and had ads e-mailed to me. I friended them on Facebook and followed them on Twitter. I may hit a weekly savings jackpot, but if not, there's no harm done.

A couple of weeks ago, Niemann Foods, the corporate office of my favorite grocery store, County Market, put an offer on Facebook: "Sign up for a drawing for $1000 worth of groceries!" Pfft! I'll bite. I signed up, and sent Clint and Diane a note about the opporunity.

Last Friday, April 1, I received a phone call from Pat at Niemann foods. Did I know why he was calling?

I knew immediately why he was calling: He was calling because it was April Fool's Day, and Clint had set up a friend to make me think I'd won $1000 worth of groceries. So I answered him animatedly, and hopefully not too snidely, "Did I win a thousand dollars!!?"

"You DID win $1000 dollars worth of groceries!!" he told me! "Congratulations!" I'm pretty sure my next words were shut up.

"Shut UP! Is this an April Fool's joke?" He assured me it was not, and that I could look up the phone number and call him back and he'd verify it in reverse. I was to go to my favorite County Market on Philo Road  in a week and pick up my loot!

I thanked him, hung up, called Clint, and accused him of jacking with me. Such a great actor he was, pretending he had no idea what I was talking about, $1000 worth of groceries.

I checked my caller ID, and did a reverse look-up online, and it did go to Niemann Foods in Quincy, IL. Meant nothing to a supergeek like me: There's an app out there that will call your phone with anyone's phone number in the caller ID. Someone is yanking. my. chain.

Or, maybe not.

Yeah. I won $1000 worth of groceries. How cool is that?


Thanks so much to Niemann Foods, and all of the great employees at County Market that scurried to deliver when I showed up this evening. This was so much fun, and will continue to be.

You don't know me, but I promise I'll pay it forward.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Photo Dump, April 2011

Scrap photos are slim' pickins these days. This winter was bleak. There are snow & deer aplenty, but they've been done to death here. Here are the Photo Dump Dregs:

Out of Order!
You don't get change back from your dollar?
What in the heck does this mean, out of order?
Perhaps it means "Screws are loose! Sit here and fall on your butt!"
I can't know.

Oh, a few more Cancun pix. Please to note the last two sentences in this sign on the window of the bus we were riding in:

Prohibited to serve drinks!! ... 2 beers, $5.

Think they're kidding? That's Jen and our bus driver, serving our 2 for $5, on the way back from zip-lining, (which I can scratch off of my bucket list, but will never do again).

Seriously, we sat in the middle of that van serving beer and counting money, maintaining sales to the back row. Never, of course, while vehicle was in motion. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.

I mucked out into sub-zero temps for this one sometime last Winter. No justice in this pic.

Mini monkey bread! Clint and I have mastered the 1-Whomp-Biscuit Monkey Bread! Itty-bitty baking pan, 1 can of whomp-biscuits, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar & butter, and raisins. Don't count the calories. It's disgusting how your boyfriend can eat the entire plate and lose weight, while your nibbling on 1/4 of a biscuit throws the scale off 4 lbs.

A snap I took while perturbed at winter drivers who were "disoriented" in the Lincoln Square parking lot. Seriously. 1/2 inch of snow, and ya'll can't even PRETEND to know in which direction you should be parking? Shut UP. It's a little late to discuss this now, but we shall revisit this next winter.

A snap from a pre-thaw walk at Meadowbrook. Notice the black lab on the right, wanting to PLAY! Pick me, I want to play, can I play? Play me! I love you, Me, Me, Play, me now, is it my turn?!!

While were passing this minor flood below, a woman huffed, "THIS IS RIDICULOUS!!" While I was wondering, "what, you expected the park district to prevent snow from thawing into water?"  Diane snapped "Would you like us to get a straw and suck it up for you?" There you go: why we are best-est friends. She has buckled me with laughter for almost 30 years now.

Who among you noticed that this is a Lost & Found station?

Did I already post this somewhere on my blog?
No matter, I like it enough to post it twice. Women. Dogs.


Part of Clint's Valentine's surprise. So precious. Except for that outlining goo morphed into those mini-sticky hand toys that you slap on your wall:

Seriously disgusting, those cookies were, to eat. At least they were cute.

This is the end of Photo Dump Day, 4-11. I'll clear off my disk and start saving more photos that I would never frame and hang in my own house, for the next PDD.