Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Delights

Turkey soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Fresh baked gluten-free fruitcake cut with my gloriously lovely new knife (Thank you, Victoria and Eric!).

Two sleepy tabby cats on the daybed.

Ahhh - all the simple pleasures of the day after.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Solstice!

This will be such a quiet Solstice this year. No rushing around, no stressing over cards and shopping. We have chosen to give ourselves the gift of peace this year. We aren't even planning a big dinner. I have a 20lb turkey I got for free up at Fred Meyer at Thanksgiving. Today I'll throw it in the oven and forget about it until it falls off the bone, at which time I'll dismantle it, divide it into packages for the freezer and set the stock pot to work for a massive turkey soup. If anyone drops by I'll greet them with steaming bowls of soup and gluten-free bread.

There is no snow forecast but I love this photo from Christmas a few years ago. It sets the proper mood. May your holidays be filled with love and laughter (and fragrant soup)!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sunset on this November novel

Here it comes! Still have about 3000 words to go to the 50k mark. This is always the hardest slog there is. The mental muscles are burning, the breath comes in ragged gasps. Will I make it before midnight? Will I actually manage to come up with a PLOT???? The jury is still out.

Have to admit I despair of this year's novel. Sad to say, it is a disappointing child. It is unruly and unfocused. I catch her daydreaming in the back of the class. If anything comes of her I shall be the first one to be surprised. Ah well, the value is in the journey. See you in December when I'm sane again.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Okay, it's the first day of November which means that I'm writing a new novel. This one is number seven. The working title is Foggy Night, City Bridge and for the first time I'm writing a fantasy. Here's a brief synopsis of the story (What do you think?):
Fog enshrouds the First Avenue drawbridge. It is stuck in raised position to allow a tug to push a barge up the Duwamish River. Homeless Vietnam Era veteran Dee Dee O'Neil stands at the rail waiting for the bridge to lower so that she may pass to the other side. She is late for check-in at the Pioneer Square shelter. Once the doors are locked she will have to sleep in a cold doorway as she has done countless times before. She won't make it to the shelter that night or any other. Instead she will be transported back to the war years where her life twisted out of control. A mysterious young woman offers her the opportunity of editing her past choices, thus changing her fate. But will she take the chance?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ghost Story Month

October is a month made for reading ghost stories! (hint, hint - Red House Blues is a ghost story. Read it and review it PLEASE! Thanks a bunch.: Red House Blues)

My cozy mystery set in Westport, High Tide and Low Expectations, is on its final revision. Have to have it off and away by the end of the month because (wait for it) next month is National Novel Writing Month - AGAIN! And I'm so far from having a plot for this one that I'm already panicking.
(photo: Inn of the West Wind looking toward the Maritime Museum at Westport - key scene in High Tide and Low Expectations. Hint: the widow's walk plays a role in the murder.)

Want to do something completely different with the new NaNoNovel. Considering writing a fantasy set in the years 1963 to 1967 - Kennedy to war protests but with a twist (not sure what that is yet - time travel? It's been done but it's fun.). This Spring I transcribed a packet of letters I wrote during those years - surprised they were so content-thin and self-involved considering how momentous the period in our history. Ironically that was the only decade I didn't keep a journal. So since I have little to check my memory against I can give free rein to the imagination . . . I'm welcoming all ideas. What do you think?

Thursday, October 6, 2011


My Macs are in deepest mourning this morning - rest in peace Steve Jobs - and thanks!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Minding my own business

Well, it's finally happened - I've become a meddling old busy-body. Who woulda thunk it? Here's the situation: on our street there are three elderly women living in horrible conditions in what I would characterize as a shack not fit for habitation. It has a warped slab of plywood for a roof and a window that was broken out last year and never replaced. (What they are going to do when the weather turns is anybody's guess.Freeze to death probably.) They have no garbage pick-up, burying their garbage in their yard when they are able. When they can't dig they leave the black garbage bags in piles all over their property. As you can imagine this has resulted in an impressive population of rats overrunning our neighborhood.

Thinking that these women had somehow fallen through the cracks in the system, I sent an email to the City of Burien outlining the problem.

Turns out I am the "problem". A gentleman from city hall called me yesterday. Since he didn't give me his name I'll call him Nameless Official. He told me that he was well aware of the women's plight. His points were:
1. People are entitled to live any way they want. (I thought the exception was if they were endangering themselves and others - apparently I was mistaken.)
2. Rats range for miles. Who knows where they are coming from? (Actually I don't care where they are from - the point I was making was that they ended up on our street drawn by the heaps of trash.)
3. The women don't want any help.
4. The problem will resolve itself as soon as the older woman dies since her two mentally disabled daughters are living on her Social Security check. Since they have no income of their own . . . (Not sure what his point was here.)

Gee, I sure got told. He didn't actually say "mind your own business, lady" but that was the gist. And here I always thought (to quote Dickens) "mankind was my business"! Whatever happened to the concept that communities must look out for the welfare of their most vulnerable citizens? I must have missed the memo that that concept had been repealed. It took Nameless Official to remind me to butt out. And to think that I pay taxes for him to do so. Live and learn. I hope he sleeps well tonight. That will make one of us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dead in the Water

Stalled out on the rewrite of "High Tide and Low Expectations" until I had a sudden inspiration! Came up with the perfect way to kick a case of writer's block. I'm calling it the S. O. S method (which stands for Sallie's One Star method). See, what you do is search for your favorite author's most highly rated book - then read every one star review of that book - ONLY the one star reviews. Knowing that even the finest writer out there gets buckets of crappy reviews removes all the pressure to reach for an imagined state of excellence. The poet William Stafford once told me that when you get stuck on a poem the best way to move things ahead is to lower your standards. That was perhaps the wisest advice I've ever received. By letting yourself off the hook you open up a world of endless possibilities you otherwise would have rejected out of hand. Give it a try.

And yes, "High Tide and Low Expectations" is chugging along again at a healthy clip. Should have it finished by the end of this month.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This was the summer that never was. I borrowed a sunflower from years ago to bring color to this post. My present garden is a slumping disappointment draped with dew-spangled spider webs. It's given up. I'll be lucky to harvest a few green tomatoes. The cukes were stunted nubbins, the green beans made one meal, a single zucchini struggled into existence. (I gave it to our neighbor thinking surely there would be more appearing soon - nope.) Slim pickin's indeed.

This week I put away the deck furniture and cleaned up the front courtyard. There is little chance anyone will be sitting in the sun before next year. Of course we in the upper left hand corner should count our blessings - compared to the rest of the country the season was blissfully benign. No hurricanes, no triple-digit temperatures, no floods or fires. Basically, no nuthin'! And here we are, ready for winter. I'm hauling out the trappings of Samhain already and before I know it I'll be clipping strings of lights on the gutters to celebrate Yule. Happy New Year!

It's almost a year since our big family reunion. Already it has slipped into memory as a watershed year - the year Mom took her fall - the year I became a full-time caregiver. I have to look at it as a learning experience. The best we can do in life is roll with the punches - do the best we can with what we have. Though I know I'm pretty inept I just keep plugging away. Even the worst garden imaginable will sometimes produce a lone zucchini you can gift to a hungry neighbor.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When I announced I was publishing Red House Blues in e-book format people were asking me "how come?" - why an e-book? So I thought I'd take a minute to talk about my thoughts on the subject.

The other day I read an interview with one of my favorite mystery/thriller writers, Earl Emerson. (If you don't know his work, it's worth your time to check him out. He's utterly brilliant. He's also a Seattle author, and I'm all for supporting the locals!) In the interview he points to the radical change in the publishing industry in the last few years, what with the growth of print-on-demand and e-books - quite an understatement, I'd say. He wonders why writers continue to play the silly antiquated games foisted on us by the New York publishing industry. He's ready to bail and start publishing his books as e-books. He's not alone. (He also says nobody is reading anymore - a statement I don't agree with, but more on that later.)

It's a disillusionment I've been hearing quite a lot lately from traditionally published writers. Why on earth would anyone these days put up with the idiocy of submitting a manuscript to a couple of dozen publishers without getting so much as a howdy-do? Then - should a miracle occur and you get your novel accepted - you're looking at a lag time of a few years before your work actually sees print! That's outrageous. A friend of mine who has been publishing romance novels with some of the top houses in the industry for over 20 years can't get a reading anymore. Why? Because the purse strings are in permanent spasm back east. Publishers are terrified of committing the bucks unless they're guaranteed they have a bestseller on their hands. And even then there are no guarantees they'll sell enough to pay for printing, distribution and marketing - even if your novel is up to its jugular in vampires and teenage witches. That means if you aren't writing what has already sold, you aren't going to be selling a darn thing.

Now, Earl Emerson says he doesn't see people reading anymore. I do think that's true of print media. We can blame our lousy economy in part. When you have to choose between supper and an $8 paperback . . . well, it's a no-brainer you'll opt for a pizza (gluten-free of course). Which you will eat while reading a dollar version of the novel on your Kindle! (You don't even have to buy a Kindle device - just put Kindle on your laptop and you're good to go. Who knew?)

The sea change came to the music industry years ago. We can all remember the days when bands used to cut demos and pray they get signed by a record label. Now all they have to do is throw their work out there on the Internet and sell per download. Maybe we writers are a tad behind the curve but we're catching up. Check out and you'll see a boggling number of free or cheap-cheap-cheap books available for download. Clearly, people are still writing and they're reading - and saving trees while they are at it.

Technology is freeing our creativity, opening channels of expression unheard of a decade ago. No longer is writing and publishing reserved for the elite and favored few. We all have our stories and now that it's so easy to share them we have an obligation to do so. Fly, be free!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm still trudging through Camp NaNo-land trying to reach 30k on "Washed up on Barnacle Beach" - but I have managed to publish "Red House Blues" as an ebook on this morning. Really not as hard as I had imagined! I should do a few more. Here ya go with a link: Red House Blues

Friday, August 12, 2011


It's an addiction at this point, this novel writing thing. Wrote a novel last month in conjunction with Camp NaNoWriMo and figured that was all I needed to feed my habit - but no, now I've launched a second novel in as many months - this one called Washed up on Barnacle Beach. It's set in Westport, Washington (my home away from home) - my third novel set in Westport.Here's a link: CampNaNoWriMo

Wish me luck that two novels will be enough for me for a while. It wasn't too long ago I was stretching it to write a ten line poem. What a slippery slope!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Letter from Camp

Hi! Can't believe it's the last week of Camp NaNoWriMo! Friday I reached my 50K mark in my new novel, "Speaking of Witch . . ." and I'm pressing ahead, searching desperately for a PLOT!Have to say I'm having a fun time with this one. After all, it's summer camp. I remember one summer I decided to read everything Jane Austen ever wrote - now that was a slow slog (but I recovered). And a few summers ago I set myself the task of writing 200 haiku poems. Another year the goal was everything Dickens. Now THAT was a long season.Check out this year's progress at CampNaNoWriMo!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


For some reason the National Novel Writing Month people decided that one novel per year isn't enough for me to write. So for the first time ever they are challenging the world to write a 50K word novel in the month of July! And since I can't pass up the opportunity to write a novel in one month, I'm pounding away on my new novel "Speaking of Witch . . ." (spelling intentional) - Check Camp NaNoWriMo to track my progress and read an excerpt of the novel. Of course it involves the ghost of Lord Byron and a Wiccan priestess who is determined to expose his lordship as a geeky fraud who used a body double to do all of his swashbuckling and womanizing for him. Obviously pretty heavy reading. :)

So if you don't hear a whole lot from me this month . . .

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have pulled this sunny summer photo from my archives to remind myself that we are on the cusp of Solstice. Woke this morning to dark and gloomy rain. The garden is at least three weeks behind schedule, we have had so few warm days. There are less than six pea plants listlessly twining up their strings. They have not begun to bloom. I'll be lucky to get any peas at all this year. Perhaps I should prepare to learn how to garden on a glacier while making friends with the neighborhood polar bears. Climate change is taking its toll on my garden, though yesterday I noticed hundreds of darling golden honey bees on my climbing hydrangea. Happy to see they aren't extinct just yet!

I have launched into revisions on my novel High Tide and Low Expectations. An excellent rainy day pursuit. This novel is a cozy mystery set in Westport, Washington. Lots of pirates and smugglers, rusty crab pots and irate seagulls.

It's the story of Cora Jane Dooley, ex-wife of a serial killer the media had dubbed "The Boise Butcher". She's on the coast living in her RV, seeking an uncomplicated retirement far from the eyes of the tabloids. Oops! Here comes murder and mayhem . . . and she is compelled to become involved in order to clear herself from suspicion. All in all a perfect rainy day project. I'll keep you posted on how it's goin'.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Red House Blues

I've finished the fifth rewrite of my novel, Red House Blues! Now the fun part - having a cover designed, getting the proofreading and editing sorted out, getting it published - etc, etc. I will be publishing through Creatspace probably by the end of summer.

Many of you know that I've been participating in National Novel Writing Month for the past five years. I figured it was about bloody time I got one of those stories out into the world! This particular novel was sparked by a conjunction of deadly incidents surrounding one particularly nasty old house in the Central District of downtown Seattle. (No, that's not the house in the picture but that structure is only blocks from the house in question. The meeting hall pictured has its own fascinating history - it was one of the first places Jimmy Hendrix played. It's reputed to be haunted, by the way.)

It's a supernatural/mystery/thriller combo plate of a book that I have had huge fun writing. The story centers on Suzan Pike, a young widow who goes in search of her murdered husband's lost notebooks and in the process stirs up a mindless and voracious evil. As soon as it's up on I'll let everyone know!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Oh yes, the cheese! A former plant care client of mine, Kurt Dammier, has been in the local news lately ever since his mac and cheese made Oprah's top ten favorite things list. His company, Beecher's Handmade Cheese is well worth checking out. For years I urged him to come up with a gluten free version and I'm happy to report that it's in the works! His restaurant already offers it if you call ahead. Thanks Kurt!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Okay, I'm ready to admit it, I've become addicted to couponing! Last night I took a two-hour class at the Burien Community Center on how to more effectively feed my addiction (and thus my belly). The place was packed with eager cheapskates like me. Instructors were a mother and daughter team from the neighborhood who write a couponing blog. It's a sign of these hard times that we are all pinching pennies. But it's more than that. It's FUN!!! Every week the "junk mail" contains free money! Who knew?

My garage pantry is exploding!

My wonderful sister-in-law has been doing this for years and is a genius when it comes to getting things for pennies on the dollar. She is a true inspiration to this rank beginner. She has actually used bags of chocolate candy as packing peanuts when mailing more fragile goodies to us. Blows my mind! One time she shipped some homemade jams inside a giant box filled with tuna packs. We're still happily eating tuna-mac practically every week.

Which brings me to the subject of cheese . . . (to be continued. Have to get to yoga class.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shimmer Contemplating Sun

Shimmer warms his nose in a rare sunbeam, perhaps fearing that given the kind of spring we have been experiencing it may be the first and last indulgence of its type this year.

He teaches me to grab fleeting pleasures with both hands (paws in his case). This morning, having nothing scheduled, I sit in my semi-cozy chair revising a novel. In the living room Mom is finishing her breakfast while catching the news. Shadow is outside completing her early morning prowl of the garden. Later, if I can manage to get motivated, I will do the laundry and perhaps make a pot of spaghetti for lunch. What the heck. Perhaps the sun will break free once more from its cloud prison. I'm optimistic. Can't think of anything more nourishing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's been a long time coming this year but Spring may be sneaking in the back door. Yesterday I cleaned our algae-clogged fish pond, emptying it of all but a few inches of green water before I discovered that our three goldfish had survived the raccoon's winter foraging! I hadn't seen them for quite some time so supposed they had met their fate as a sushi platter. Happy surprise! There they were: Eenie, Meenie and Minie swimming delightedly around in their now-pristine pond. Alive!

We should be used to miracle resurrections by now, shouldn't we? Today we celebrate Easter with friends and family. This is the time of year our ancestors too celebrated the yearly resurrection of life.

And of course today our family is celebrating Mom's return from the brink! Happy Easter one and all!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


My Spring visit to the inimitable Doctor Amos Shirman provided a wake-call. I'm pretty much back to where I was last Spring, health wise. And I was doing so well before Mom's fall last Fall! As Doctor Shirman pointed out I haven't been taking very good care of the caregiver. Stress, worry, and lots of comfort food has taken its toll. So the "Doctor Shirman's Orders" list has gone back up on the refrigerator door. No added salt, no butter, watch the red meat and cheese, pile on the veggies, get back to yoga class, drink lots of water, get more sleep. The usual.

He is right, of course, in getting tough with me. If I fall apart, who takes care of Mom? Which is more of an incentive than the fact that I'll be able to zip the jeans. Mom is doing pretty well now. She's been home almost three weeks and is getting around the house with her borrowed walker. Still pretty weak but gaining in strength every day. We have had a steady parade of physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and personal health care aids. It's gotten so that I really need a bigger calendar for all of her appointments! It is enough to wear out a pro football player.

Check out the photo of Mom and our friend Mary sitting down to St Patrick's Day supper. Hard to believe Mom was deathly ill a month ago. She's one tough cookie. That's how you get to 96.

Still, it would be short-sighted of me to think she won't need my assistance for the foreseeable future. It's easy doing your duty by someone who needs your help - not as easy to pay attention to your own needs. Women tend to think they are being selfish if they take time for themselves, are taught that they're a good mom or caregiver only if they sacrifice themselves. It's something we must get over. Martyrs by definition don't thrive - not to mention that no one likes being in the same room with their self-destructive behavior. I'm keeping that in mind as I round up a crew of "mom sitters" so I can get back to yoga class once in a while.

It's been a pleasant surprise how many resources are actually out there for caregivers. At first I was so totally overwhelmed, feeling that I was doomed to house arrest 24/7 while I looked after Mom. That was before the army of social workers began showing up at our house (Thanks Gerry, Stephanie, and Selena!). I learned there are many services that provide respite care - as well as support groups where caregivers may vent and regroup. Through Medicaid, Mom qualifies for household helpers who can spell me off a few times a week. Sure, I'd heard the horror stories about how Medicaid takes away your home etc. Happily those stories seem to be urban legends. Yes, if you have to go to a nursing home your assets are tapped after you die to repay the system for your care - but assisting you to stay in your own home is so much cheaper! Thus, the in-home care programs that cost the client little beyond, in some cases, an affordable co-pay. I'm beginning to believe I can do this without killing myself in the process. Who knew?

Oh, almost forgot to mention: the dandelions are up in the yard! Already harvested and ate the first "crop". Doctor Shirman would approve - they are wonderfully jam-packed with vitamins and minerals. Yum. Called my son Paul, inviting him for lunch. He had some sort of lame excuse why he couldn't make it. Go figure.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Penny-wise/pound foolish - or how Medicare saves money by "losing" patients: Here's a sneaky little trick we discovered over the weekend. When a Medicare patient arrives at the E.R. they are given written notice (double-sided) of their rights to appeal should they believe they are being discharged too early. They must sign the notice acknowledging that they understand their rights. It is stated that you must appeal to the Quality Improvement Organization NO LATER than your "planned discharge date and before you leave the hospital". Once you are out the door you have no right to appeal. Sounds good? You have an option, right?

Here's how we discovered how underhanded, sneaky and downright criminal this system is: Friday night the doctor in charge of Mom's case told me that she had one more week left of her coverage (see previous post). Did that constitute a "planned discharge date"? Nope. Just a vague indication that she was going to be in the hospital maybe until the end of the week. The very next day, Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. I get a call from a nameless person at the hospital informing me that Mom would be discharged at 2 p.m. and I was to come pick her up! One hour notice! On a Saturday when Medicare offices are not likely to be responding. The medical attendants had unplugged Mom from all the various devices, stripped her bed, put her in a wheel chair and fifteen minutes later we were virtually shooed out the door for home. So much for time to appeal her release!

Our tax dollars preserved at the expense of the people they are supposed to be helping. Hey, I'm as patriotic as they come (seven years in the United States Air Force has to count for something) but today I'm thoroughly ashamed of a few aspects of our so-called health care system - and I also feel a bit betrayed. May the morons who are dragging their feet instead of reforming the system live long enough to get thrown out of a hospital on one hour notice - and to make it even more fun may they be thrown out in the dead of night wearing only a backless hospital gown. That outta show um, don't you think????

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Health care in America - Perhaps you've heard that it's in trouble, that we have the crappiest health care system of any industrialized nation. You might not believe that. You might point to all the amazing machines and wonder drugs that seem to be able to cure practically anything that can be thrown our way. Granted, we have made huge strides in curing all sorts of diseases and patching up the human body when it's broken. So what is there to complain about?????

Imagine that you are lucky enough to reach the ripe old age of 96. Imagine that you take a fall one morning as you come in with groceries. You end up in the hospital emergency room with broken bones. Not to worry, right? Doctors and nurses will rush to your aid. You've seen this on countless TV medical shows. You hardly ever miss an episode of House. You'll be just fine in no time. We have a fabulous health care system in this country.

Not so fast. From the moment you enter the system, the clock starts ticking. Your body had better get with the program or get left behind. You have a finite number of days to get back on your feet. If, heaven forbid, you get an infection or two along the way to slow down your recovery or your body just naturally heals more slowly you are in a world of hurt in more ways than one. Your Medicare rehab money runs out in 100 days. The day after the money runs out you are on the street whether you can walk or not.

Now imagine that you are home from rehab just two days when, your body already weakened, you develop a life-threatening infection? You find yourself back in the emergency room. And the clock starts ticking once more. You have exactly two weeks to get well. Nobody really cares if you are breathing well or can get out of bed or can recognize family members or eat without help. You will be sent home to live or die on your own at the end of two weeks.

Oh sure, there are options - if you have lots of money in your savings account. However, if all you have is a thousand-dollar a month Social Security check between you and starvation you are (pardon the expression) screwed. At 96 years of age you are sent home to fend for yourself.

This is what our so-called health care system is doing to people who never managed to become internet billionaires or Wall Street wizards. This is the fate of The Greatest Generation. And this is going to be your fate too unless something is done. You are one stumble over a door sill away from utter disaster and despair. This is you, wondering how you'll get up out of your bed to use the toilet. This is you, crying yourself into a fevered sleep. You, wondering how it came to this. How? After a long happy marriage, a life of hard work building a comfortable home and rearing your children in the American Dream here you are - a throw-away in the gears of a heartless and broken system.

If my mother lived in Sweden, England or Canada she could get the care she needs. As it is she'll have until next weekend to get well. Yesterday she had a small stroke as her attendants gave her a sponge bath. She was totally unresponsive when I arrived to help her with her breakfast. She couldn't talk, couldn't move. Never mind, her days at Highline Community Hospital are numbered. Literally. I have applied for Medicaid for her though I have no illusions the paper-pushers will treat her plight with any urgency.

I never imagined that this blog would become a soapbox but I'll tell you a story. I was a high school student the year the road in front of our house was scheduled to be straightened and paved. It was a cold, especially wet Fall. Half way through the project the road crew packed up their gear and left. They had already torn out the culvert through which our creek ran, cutting us off to the east. The road west was a muddy, churned-up construction site. I set off to meet the school bus one morning through a driving rain for the paved north/south road a half mile up the hill. Nearly to the road I slid knee deep into a sucking mud hole. I couldn't move. I clawed at the mud to get out, clawing for something solid. It was like glue, like quicksand. Eventually my younger brother found me and helped pull me free. That afternoon our mother tied a wool scarf over her hair, buttoned on her old farm coat and pulled on her "barn boots" - black knee-high rubber boots she wore where she went out to the barnyard to feed the cows. Mom trudged through the rain and mud to the main road where our old Ford was parked. She drove two hours of the state capital in Olympia, marched into the office of the highway department, trailing mud and water after her. She demanded to be heard. She told them they had nearly killed her daughter by abandoning us with no safe way out. She stood her ground and demanded that the state do its job. Two hours later when she returned home the machines were already back on our road. After that day whenever Mom took on a cause we would say that she was "pulling on her barn boots again". Oh how I wish I had a pair of barn boots that I could pull on this morning and march on "city hall" to save her from the terrible pit that is even now pulling her down! But I can't fix this alone. It's too big a mud hole for me to climb out without help.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Caregiver panic has set in! What’s caregiver panic, you ask. That’s when you wake up at midnight (as I did last night) in a cold sweat over where you’re going to get something called a “gate belt”. (Later found out it's a gait not gate belt.) No, it’s not the same as a belt of fine Irish single malt (though that would have been most welcome). It’s a device that helps you steady a person who needs a bit of assistance with their mobility. Mom’s physical therapist says I will need one when she comes home from rehab next week.

For those of you who don’t know, my mother took a tumble over the front door sill back in November, breaking her shoulder and cracking her pelvis. Since then she’s been in a rehabilitation facility eight miles south of here. They’ve taken fabulous care of her, giving her physical therapy three times a day to get her strong enough to come home. And now the time is almost upon us! Medicare cuts her off within the next week and she’ll be “kicked to the curb” (aka sent home).

I’ve cleared out her room to make way for a hospital bed and wheel chair, painted the room, wired it for cable tv and internet and put up new curtains. I’ve provided special grab bars etc in the bathroom. I’ve sent for a fancy portable access ramp, rounded up a wheel chair, and ordered a cute sort of panic button thingy Mom can push to summon me from the kitchen if she needs a drink of water.
But the panic has, as I said, set in. I’m going over and over in my mind every possible scenario. The what-ifs are driving me nuts. What if she can’t manage to climb in the bath tub? What if she has trouble getting out of her chair? What if, what if. What if she needs something in the middle of the night? And then the HOWs set in – how am I going to get out to buy groceries if I can’t leave her? How will I teach my Wednesday night yoga class up at the church if I can’t leave her? How will I manage to get out for two hours for writer’s workshop on Fridays? How do other caregivers manage????

I’ve done a lot of things in my rather checkered life but NEVER have I ever been in the role of caregiver. Well, except in the early days when my son was young but I was younger then too. Younger, stronger, more laid back. It’s quite a different matter caring for an elderly person. With a kid you can always drop him off at daycare or take him along with you if you have to run up to the store for groceries. What do you do with a frail elderly woman? One who still thinks of YOU as “the kid”?

Oh the joys of being a Baby Boomer! An entire generation is learning how to “parent” their aging parents. At least it’s a comfort to know that I have lots of company in this process. I’m fortunate that my mother is mentally keen and has managed to keep her sense of humor throughout her recent ordeal. She’s recovering well and should be just fine before too long. She’s doing better than I am in many respects. I’m the one getting up at midnight to shop for a “gait belt”! (Which I found, by the way. Less than $15 with two day shipping!)

There are no doubt many considerations that have not yet occurred to me. There will be many more sleepless nights because I want to do the best I can for her and am not at all sure I’m up to the challenge. It’s scary to be responsible for someone else’s physical welfare. No doubt about it. I think of all the millions of people who routinely and gracefully care for vulnerable family members and I’m in awe of them! How do they do it? Do they ever wake up in the wee hours of the night in total mind-numbing, gut-churning panic???? I’ve decided that for my own peace of mind I will assume that they do, that we are all in the same leaky boat and bailing as fast as we can. There is a certain comfort in that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What the heck happened to last year anyway? It was such a chaotic whirl wind of projects and ideas, heavy lifting and short deadlines, parties and broken bones, sound and fury. I am thinking it's possible I fell victim of the dreaded plague of the newly retired: late onset attention deficit disorder - so much time, so much to do, so many people depending on me, so many dreams deferred for way too long! It was overwhelming! By the end of September right after our big family reunion I hit the wall.

And the poor old blog had run out of steam. I had clear intentions starting out but somewhere in the chaos of events and expectations it had lost focus. It had become a chronology of projects and a bit of a journal - a combo plate that served no purpose well. So I've been letting it get some rest, letting it catch its breath.

This morning I noticed that the garden is just beginning to show some life. Chives are threading up from the cold soil, buds are forming on the hydrangia bush and crows are loud in the fir tree. Certainly winter is not through with us yet but there is every hope it's loosening its hold. Perhaps it's time for the blog to emerge from hibernation?