Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Bout Old Men, and Laughter, and Watermelon Toes*

July seems to be The Month of the Whimsical Toenail for me. Last year it was patriotic toes for the holiday, and this year...well, nothin says summer like walla-mellon!

Here a picture of 4 of my 5 toes. Well, 4 of 5 on one foot; there are 5 more over there. I had them "customized" by my favorite pedicurist, Kim, on Saturday afternoon. It wasn't quite what I was after, but we had fun clearing a language barrier with drawings of big toes, and I let go the fact that I wanted "rinds" on all of the other toesies.

Lord. Is there such a thing as Botox for toes? Toe-tox, maybe? [Gah, Toe-tox, that just came to me while I was writing that sentence. I break me down!]

Anyway, the watermelon blather isn't even the story. The story is that I wore my new toes out to the "Blues, Brews, and BBQs" Fest in Downtown Urbana on Saturday (pix to come if I get around to it) and they were noticed by an elderly gentleman that called his wife over for a looksee.

He went on to tell me that at first glance, he wasn't sure if he was seeing watermelon, or lady bug.

"You know what you should do," he said, "next time, get a ladybug pattern, then glue little antennae to the ends of your toes."

It is rare that an encounter with a stranger really makes me bust my gut, so I appreciated this one all the more. We were crying and slapping each other on the back as we both rolled around laughing at the idea, leaving Clint and Mrs. Stranger wondering what in the hell the joke was.

God, someone pass the tissue, I'm blowing my nose and wiping my eyes...

...and I am SO going to do this.

Who's with me?

*Hat tip to Tom T. Hall.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mama Update

WARNING: This post isn't particularly pretty, it's just is what it is, and what it has been for the last 4 months or so. It has a happy ending, though so feel free to skip ahead to the last page if you're squeamish and just want to see how things turn out.

Part of the reason for my blogging lag in the last few months is that I've been spending a lot of time and energy with Mom. The last 2 to 3 months have been particularly trying. With money already becoming an issue, a trip to the dentist revealed that thousands of dollars worth of work needs to be done. I have, on her kitchen counter, a regular toothbrush, an electric toothbrush, and usually 5 or 6 prepasted, disposable brushes, layed out in a row for her to choose from during the day when I'm not there. Epic Fail.

Next up: An MRSA of epic proportions; a boil...on top of 10 other boils, that came on in 4 days and required a lancing and 40 days of antibiotics, because after 10 days of them, that nasty thing looked us in the eye and laughed. So, Forty. Excruciating pain on her part, with holes the size of pencil erasers on her chest, and for me, lots of rubber gloves and bandage changing, and trying every topical painkiller I could think of for her; me and the pharmacist, we are now like *this.*

Oh, it gets better. My Aunt visited for 2 weeks, and was a Godsend, organizing and cleaning Mom's house properly—not the one- or two-hour-a-day system that I try to zoom through. In the end (no pun intended) there was a toilet paper snafu after she left. The extra TP was in the hall closet, where it should be. When the roll ran out, I never noticed. And when the roll ran out, well, Mom just ran out. There was none, and in a few days, in Mom's World, toilet paper just ceased to exist. Fast-forward to the world's worst adult diaper rash/painful infection, and a prescription for something that caused her to lose control of all bodily functions, embarrassing her so much that she swore "I'm never going to poop again." And she by-God meant it. I'll just have you e-mail me to find out what happens if you swear off pooping. Let's just say, it doesn't get any easier or any less painful or messy for Mom.

For me, this meant emergency phone calls at 3:15 in the morning, running to her house and standing over her as she sat on the potty, explaining to her that she has to poop, everyone poops, and listing the names of everyone we know that also poops, while she sobbed with resistance. Yes, I named you too, you poop and Mom needed to know that. That was followed by a shower, clean pajamas, stripping the bed and putting on new sheets. It took 3 of us—me, my Aunt (on the phone), and Mom's weekly caregiver to explain to Mom, over and over, how to go about it, how to use the T.P, and how to flush the toilet. We literally had to re-potty-train her, and that it was doable is more of a relief than you can imagine.

Through all of this, she always, always tells me "thank you." "Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for all you do for me. I don't know what I'd do without you." A day doesn't go by that she doesn't say that to me. I tell her "I don't know what I'd do without you either." 

Collectively, then, all of this meant one more thing for me: I can no longer take good enough care of my mother, by myself. My time and knowledge limitations are now causing her pain and illness and money. I freakin' need some help...and the good news is that I got it.

We were assessed for some senior assistance, and within the next 2 weeks, Mom will have a 4-hour-a-day caregiver, 5 days a week. A housekeeper. A cook. A chauffeur. A hygienist. A nurse.

This is amazing, amazing relief for us. For now, it means that Mom can continue to stay in her own home, where she's comfortable, for a bit longer. It means that putting off a $4000-$6000 assisted living/nursing home situation. Seriously, assisted living without Alzheimer's starts at $3400.00 a month, at one establishment in Urbana.

In the meantime, everything that's been ailing my mother is completely healed, and she is a new woman. She has a tendency to fixate, and when she's ill or uncomfortable, it's extremely difficult for everyone. She will tell you this hurts, and cry, the next minute saying she'll be ok. Then, as if her mind is an Etch-a-Sketch, being shaken clean, she will inform you this hurts, then she'll cry, and then be laughing again in the next sentence. We are not talking about 15 minutes, or 1 hour of this behavior, we are talking about 6 straight weeks of it, alleviated only by larger distractions: lunch out, taking walks, or watching M*A*S*H.

*For those of you that skipped the poop stories, I think it's safe to pick back up about here:

But when she's well, when she's completely well, she is nothing but lovely and happy. She is sing-songy on the telephone, and proud of herself for remembering how to call me. She even calls just to see if she remembers how to use the phone. When I tell her that she just called me, she celebrates, "ohhh, gooodddyyy!!!" She's proud of herself for getting the little girls' room routine down, and she's thrilled to call and tell me that she's reading again, a book about Angels that she just loves. She is freakin' adorable, and chipper, and funny.

I picked her up for lunch today, and gave her hair a quick rinse to tame the bedhead. When she was drying her hair, she exclaimed, "I'm all wet!"

I reminded her, "That's because I just washed your hair because you looked like a chicken."

"Oooo, I love chicken!" she said, which set me to guffawing, and saying "you're a funny lady."

She said "Yeah, I know, listen to this: Eeenie, meenie, miney moe/catch a tiger by the toe/if he hollers, make him pay/Fifty dollars every day!" And then she collapsed into such a fit of giggles that she actually snorted. God, I think I might have too. This sudden memory of the childhood poem/game just came to her today, and she repeated it to our friend Diane at lunch, snorting all over again. I just shrugged as Diane laughed, and said "this is new."

She's a good sport; she's appreciative of her place; she's thrilled to be feeling good, and learning and coping so well right now. I pray this isn't a calm before a storm, and I am enjoying every second of her in this state of mind. She is more who she is, and I love it.

If you want a quick view of my sweet Mom, here's a video I made a couple of weeks ago, to send to my Aunt Karla. She's happy here, but as I watch it, I take note that she's been much more coherent and confident with her speech today, even, than she was when this was taken. It wasn't until the end of the video that I realized she thought I was talking to her with a telephone, and not a camera.

The penny walk is her favorite thing to do; hide handfuls of pennies in your pocket, walk just ahead of her, and drop them for her to find. Not only does she get excited at finding the change, but it gets her revved up for some exercise, some walking, and lots of bending. Just what the doctor ordered!

And, for grins, this one, where I ask her to say "Red Leather, Yellow Leather," more of a tongue twister than you'd think.

Aw, that's my Mommy, and I love her. Wish us luck in our future endeavors with new caregivers. I am praying there is no adventure to blog about in this area of our life. I am praying for smooth transitions, and loving caregivers, and for progress and happiness in my Mother's life.

Amen, yo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Girlfriends, New Shoes, and Gender/Communication Barriers

While puttering around the casa a couple evenings ago, I received a text-e-mail from one of Da Girlzs, Georgie, updating all of us on her travels, the men that are chasing her newly-single self, and the fact she'd just bought herself some great shoes. Oh, and when are we having Girlz Night, again?

We sent a few lines back and forth, and then this one came in from her: "I just tried to send you a picture of my new shoes. I don't know if I did it right."

I checked the picture, and mailed her back: "No, that was a picture of that guy that smells like corn."

"Damn," ... "Try it now."

When this picture finally came in, I oooo'd and ahhhh'd, peaking Clint's curiosity. "What?"

I handed him the netbook to show him the photo.

He squinted at it, then said "What's that?"

"Georgie's new shoes."


"Because she got new shoes."

"But, what happened?"

"She got new shoes."

"There's no story?"

"The story is: Georgie got new shoes. And she's showing them to us."

Then I gave him a look that said "What is there to understand?"

He returned the laptop with a "women are weird" shake of the head.

That's the whole story. Now, I'll be curious to hear how many women "get" this, and how many men have no idea what this blog is about.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Determined to get back to panicking if I don't blog at least 3 times a week, I am forcing myself to sit down and start talking. Forcing!

It's not that I have nothing to say, it's that I have so much to say. There's a gigantic menu in my head, and the titles of the entrees don't give away what in the hell is being served, so I have to sort through the entire thing.

IDEA! I'll could make a menu for you, and YOU can choose what you'd like to eat read.

1. Skin Tags. Are they warts or not, and how best to get rid of them?

2. PTSD. Is she ever going to finish this series?

3. Re-Potty Training Mother. Do you really want to know?

4. Nature photos. Comes with a side order of provocative insect s-e-x porn. Rated... R, unless you have a really good zoom.

5. Anti-Depressants. Inquiring minds want to know.

6. Photo Dump Day. A local favorite.

7. Mommy Blogging: The latest soldier baby quotes and photos.

8. Family Special: Comes with never-before-seen photos of my brother-in-law that he doesn't know I have. Limited time only videos of slow-mo running.

9. For the gardener in your life: The deer-feed herb garden.

10. Steel-cut-oats and the Ozone layer: The methane factor.

11. Exhausted Soldiers: You're not as funny as you think you are, but the accidental 10-minute voice message takes the edge off.

12. Grief and guilt. A heavy meal. Come hungry, or wait for colder weather.

13. Here Comes The Sun: Relief! Help with Mama = Quality time in our future.

14. Country Casa. House with a side order of pole-shed construction, rain, and mud.

15. Whimsy: Superficial Blather du jour. Friday's special: Georgianna's shoes

16. Philosophy: If a Gnightgirl screams in the country [at a spider], and no one hears it, did it really ever happen?

And last but not least, desert~

17. Blog Trolls. For the record, I do not condone putting razor blades on their heels and tossing them into a pen.

::hat tip to the honorable gnightroll::—the rest of you will have to wait for me to call your name from my Romper Room Mirror. Stay tuned but don't hold your breath; the signs say not to feed you.

 ***Create Your Own: Don't see what you like here?a
Custom orders encouraged if ingredients are in-house.***

Not sure if this qualifies more as a post or as propaganda. I didn't make any of it up and became sleepy before I finished the list, so that's informative in itself. At any rate, I'm taking orders off the menu, and requests are welcome.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Return to Blogging: I Mean It, Now!

I found myself, this morning, standing in front of the mirror, flawlessly applying my new Cover Girl, "Tickled Pink" AmazeMint mint-flavored lip balm, when this thought came to me: "What in the hell am I doing?" I was still in my nightgown, had horrific bedhead, and was wearing pop-bottle-bottom glasses that magnified the eye makeup that I didn't wash off last night. I was a vision, with meticulous shiny lips.

Why? Because I've had the attention span of a carrot the last few days. I had started out firing up the laptop, getting ready to sign Mom up for online checking. All cozied up with coffee and a country morning breeze, I forgot to grab Mom's checkbook and the banking info I needed, which was in my purse. While digging through the purse, I spotted my new lip balm, said "oooooo!" and ran to the mirror to play makeup.

"What in the hell am I doing?" was followed by the answer, "Oh, crud, I'm banking right now!" and dashing back out to the computer to finish up Mom's financial business.

If I had decided to put that tidbit on facebook, I would have left an update such as
What is wrong with me? Just got sidetracked with lipbalm while doing Mother's banking!

I've read blogger after blogger comment that Facebook has been the demise of their blog and their posts, and I have fallen into the very same trap. I've just given you an example. Great blog posts are being lost to 1-line mission statements! (Ok, lip gloss and bedhead do not necessarily a great post make, but you know what I mean.)

I was recently discussing this dilemma with my wise dear friend Revision99, and his input was thought-provoking:
Facebook does take you away from blogging. The idea of a whole post being just a couple of hundred characters is pretty tempting compared to the effort of sitting down and writing something funny or touching or meaningful on your blog. And people tend to leave Facebook on all day, so even if you just say "This coffee stinks!" you will have 7 comments in a few minutes. Very beguiling.
He also had some interesting things to say about its contributing more to our dumbing-down.
Who needs a beginning, middle and end? No one will read it anyway. I recognize the attraction, but I am dismayed by it. [...] Everything is thoughtless and abbreviated.
I agree with him wholeheartedly, and unfortunately, I sometimes resemble those remarks. I still read all of the blogs I ever did, but often I'll open someone's long post with no photos, and I'll sighhh, and mark it was unread. It's too much, I'll come back. My own short & sweet posts with funny pictures are always better received than the longer ones, and I'll admit to hunting for photos, sometimes, so as not to lose you. 

Welcome to Central Illinois Humidity.

See how that works?

In summary, then, and in my own personal "Save the Blog" campaign, I'm going to try to get those oh-so-witty Facebook updates transferred back to blogger, and to liven this place back up.
Let's get this party starteddddddddddd!

For now, I must take my leave; I'm sure my lip gloss needs touching up.

So pretty.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To Occupy You While I Finish Up...

Yesterday I finally got around to writing Vol 3 of my PTSD "series." Isn't it clever how I use the terms "volume" and "series" to disguise the fact that I just talk a lot? If I put all of those posts into one, you'd be dozing off before the thi—HEY! Wake up!

Anyway, it was the best post I've ever written in the whole wide world, and when I hit the "publish" button, Blogger got ornery with me, and told me it was unable to perform that particular function at that particular time.

Clever girl, I quickly highlighted all of the copy and "Ctrl + C" so I could paste it into another program and not lose my work. Ooops! I missed the Ctrl button, replaced my copy with a lowercase c. Before I   could Ctrl + Z, Blogger, on it's own, AUTOSAVED my post.

You cannot imagine how stunned I was to have worked for hours, choosing my words carefully for this oh-so-important post, and having only a c to show for it. Not even a capital C, just a little bitty lowercase c. I moved quickly enough from shock to raging lunacy with a side order of Tourette's. Then I searched all of teh Internets for a possible recovery tool, which apparently Blogger doesn't have. Then, of course, back to Tourette's.

So, while I go rework this post, you just sit here and play nice, and here are some pictures for you to look at until I'm done.

I watched Facebook update after update from Iraq a few weeks ago, soldiers talking about the red skies, due to a dust storm. Here a few from Brian's page. A little dusty:

A lot dusty. I lightened this picture up just a tad to show the details, but the red sand and sky in this shot  is the real deal:

He let me know the other day that he wouldn't be in touch for a few; they were going out into the field to do some target practice, or something...I think there was another term for it, but I know it was something shooty or bomby.

He called again last night to tell me that they ended up on guard duty while the other guys got to do the shooty bomby things. It's been 125 degrees in Diwaneyah, and A/C on a humvee will only cool the place off so much. It turned out to be 3 days of sweltering in the sun.

And napping:

And trying to cool off. I'll admit that my first reaction to these two photos is "You put your helmet on, young man!!!" I thought we had an understanding that he's never allowed to take it off until he gets home?
Not a very comfortable napping situation, they finally took turns sleeping on the cots in the ambulance:

True to his last tour in Iraq, these boys have regaled me with plenty of —Brrrrrrrr—spider stories. There's an amusing thread on facebook, a conversation between him and a friend that was doing PT with him:

Brian Christopher Jolley: haha. howd you like your visitor during the run

Anthony Michael Mcfarlane: did i scream like lil girl? i think i did, and you won't hear me admit that very often lol

Brian Christopher Jolley:You know when homer simpson screams? like, a little high, but rough? like that. he doesnt have those moves though.
Me: Are you guys talking about spiders?

Anthony Michael Mcfarlane: im dodging some thing flying through the air, balancing with my arms while running backwards from a huge ::censored:: spider and STILL trying to finish my lap? just to paint a picture

Brian Christopher Jolley: yeah. a camel spider graced mcfarlane with its presence. Moore had passed it already.

Anthony Michael Mcfarlane: I can handle a mortar attack, even the threat of IEDS, but that spider was the scariest thing ive encountered so far
Me: How big was it? I have to plan my nightmares.

Anthony Michael Mcfarlane: as big as a tea cup saucer. which is bigger than any spider ive ever seen. and it chased me quickly, so it FELT like it was the size of a damn house cat

Me: I'm hyperventilating.
That's funny if you're anyone but Mcfarlane. Then, yesterday, Brian told me that while they were on guard duty, they spotted a scorpion, and for some reason, Matt Marlow wants to catch a scorpion. So 3 of them grabbed the pretzel barrell I sent them, snuck up on the scorpion, and trapped it underneath. The barrell began hopping all over the place, and when they put their flashlights on the thing, I hear that Brian started screaming "OMG, it's a spider!!!" and they all ran like little girls. Why the spider is so much scarier than a scorpion, I'm not sure...until I see these photos, of the spider that died during the night:

I cannot believe my kid even got that close to that nasty thing, dead or alive. He and I share the same disdain for spiders, any spider. No matter how much we tried to think of them as cute when he was growing up, we just never got there.

And I KNEW this wasn't his hand, there's no way in heck he'd voluntarily come into direct contact with this thing:

That's Marlow's hand, and from here on out, I'll refer to him as Cray-Mar. That's short for Crazy Marlow.

Speaking of Marlow, we've been running all over the country looking for sweet-tea candy for this one, and for SPC Brandon Bishop. Anyone know where we can get it? We've got one internet source to order from, but if you know of any bulk sources, let us know!

I have to run now, and get back to work on that lost post. You just enjoy yourself flipping through these photos, and I'll be right back!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Relay for Life: June 12, 2010

Last fall, Tim & Teri's niece, Jenny, just 30 years old, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was news that rocked the family, and I won't even pretend to have any idea how Jenny and her husband Tommy felt. She has since finished up her chemotherapy, and is on the backside of her radiation treatments, with 4 more to go. Woo hooo!

I've met the family for many Sunday lunches since Jenny was diagnosed, and she's always there with her hubby, tending to their 2 children, Clayton and Kaitlin. She is sweet and smiling, and her love for her family is always evident. My heart always goes out to all of them, and I admire her courage more than she knows.

I am walking, on June 12, in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, in honor of Jennifer Holzinger.

Our Team name is Strides for Jeni, and if you'd like to sponsor me, to raise some important money in Jennie's name, click HERE.

I want to go on here, and write something prolific about how important money for cancer research is, and how scary and terrible this disease is, but I can't think of anything that wouldn't be stating the obvious. Instead, I'll just note that we're tent #82, I'll be at the track off and on all day, and taking my shift at exactly midnight, with celebration in my heart for Jenny and the end of her treatments, and with my sister's memory, as it does every day, moving me forward.