Home Again, Gone Again.

I just run back and forth from Louisville to Elizabethtown these days.  Mom is better, then she’s worse. 

I’m letting go of my anger with her.  Letting the love override everything else.  Mom is who she is and I’m not going to be able to change her.  She’s never been a fighter and, although I want to scream, “Dammit, Mom, fight this!”, it’s just not who she is.

Little Sister (Donna) called last Saturday and said Mom was going downhill fast and the doctor told her she ought to notify the family.  I went down there last Saturday and she was pitiful.  Tiny little thing lying in that big hospital bed.  She’s barely a bump in the covers.  She wouldn’t open her eyes on Saturday and seemed to drift in and out of awareness.  She was responsive to questions and seemed to be with us…then she’d do something totally off the wall.  Her hands were fluttering in her lap and I asked her if she needed something.  She said she was trying to get some money out of her purse so I could go get us something to eat.  I explained to her that she was on a feeding tube and couldn’t have anything by mouth and she was confused about that.  Finally started fumbling around and I asked her what she wanted and she asked me to “Put this money back in my purse.”  I just said okay.  Even though she didn’t have her purse or anything else.

DH took me down there.  I was upset and he didn’t want me to drive.  Little sister was there.  Big brother had been there for two or three hours with Kim (his girlfriend, who’s confined to a wheelchair after her stroke.)

I stayed a couple of hours and then went to her house to collect the things I’d left down there.  Obviously, I won’t be taking care of her at the house anymore.  I came home but told Mom I’d be back the next day.

Sunday, I packed an overnight bag and went back.  I planned on staying at the house overnight so I could see her on Sunday and Monday.  When I got to the hospital, around 2:00, she was about the same as the day before.  Maybe a little bit better.  She seemed more cognizant of what was going on.   She still kept her eyes closed but would open them and greet anyone who came in.

I hate hospital rooms.  She’s in a semi-private room and there was just too much joy and activity going on with the woman on the other side.  It’s difficult to watch Mom struggling and then have people playing cards and laughing in the same room.  I’m happy for them but it’s difficult when all I want to do is cry.  And it’s uncomfortable.  The people on the other side had taken the chair from Mom’s side of the room and I could only stand there.  Big brother was there and stayed for a couple of hours.  He’d left Kim with a sitter.  I finally got a chair moved into the room but it was such a tight squeeze that I had to turn my legs to the side because there wasn’t room for my knees between the chair and the bed.  I stayed three hours, told Mom I was going to go see little sister and take my bags to her house and then return.

I drove over to Donna’s and we talked for a while.  She helped me with understanding Mom.  I said, “Donna, think about it, how many times in her entire life have you seen Mom overjoyed about anything?  I mean, laughing to the point of peeing in her pants?” 

Donna said, “I’ve seen her smile but I’ve never seen her like that.  She’s always too concerned about what everyone else will think and too timid to do anything that might bring attention to herself.”

I said, “Why on earth is she like that?  She talks about how mean Grandma was to her.  How she was bullied by her brothers.  How Daddy was always to blame for her unhappiness.  But Grandma was wonderful.  Sweet and loving and full of joy.  Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Charles were just normal people.  I can’t imagine that they did any more bullying than any other sibling does.  And Daddy…I remember all the times Daddy would try to get her to dance and she wouldn’t.  How he’d cut up with her but she couldn’t take a joke and always turned a little joke into some kind of personal affront.  What on earth could have made her like that?”

And Donna said, “I’ve thought about it and I think there’s just something wrong with her.  Something she can’t help.  Some kind of paranoia that makes her look at everything in a negative light.  And I think David is a lot like her.  Maybe that’s why they can live together so well.”

Funny…I never thought of it like that.  Maybe she really can’t help being the way she is.  If we act that way, we’d probably be seeing a shrink on a regular basis but, women who are 87 years old probably didn’t have that option.  You don’t see someone as depressed if that’s the only way you’ve ever known them.  The symptoms, which seem so obvious now, were just inherent in her personality.  And I’ve always thought, “That’s just Mom.  She’s so negative about everything”.  I never really thought about a personality disorder.  She can be so sweet and charming with everyone and then, after they’re gone, complain about them and twist everything they said into something unrecognizable.  I never thought that maybe that’s the only thing she really saw.  Never considered that all the negativity she saw in people was how she really saw them and not just something she liked to complain about. 

And so, I’ve forgiven her.  And I think I needed to.  I need to stop wondering why she won’t fight for herself and just accept that she can’t.  She isn’t able.  She’ll do everything in her power to help one of her children but then complain about it later.  And we all just thought about how she always likes to make herself look like such a martyr.  But perhaps she was born a martyr and never was able to rise above it.

I dropped my bag and my coffeepot off at Mom’s and headed back to the hospital.  Although I’d only been gone about an hour and a half, I walked in and had a dozen people asking me, “Are you Patty?  She’s been calling and calling for you and we didn’t know what she wanted.”  About that time, my phone rang and Donna said, “The hospital just called and said Mom keeps calling for you so you’d better get back up there.”

And, as soon as I let Mom know that I was back, she visibly relaxed and seemed more restful.  She said, “I didn’t know where you were.  Are you going to stay with me tonight?”  And I told her I would.  Told her not to worry, that her children would be there for her.  That one of us would always be with her. 

I stayed another four hours and then I told her I had to get some rest.  I said, “I’ll be back in the morning, Mama.  You just need to get a good night’s sleep.”

She said, “I know.  I understand.  Just leave your door cracked so you can hear me if I need something.”  And I assured her that I would.  I gave my cell phone number to the nurses and said, “Call me if she gets scared or aggitated and I’ll drive back up here.  I don’t want her upset and feeling alone.”

I didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight but I was back in her room by 8:00 yesterday morning.  She was much more alert.  Little sister was there and she brought her bluetooth.  She placed it in Mom’s ear and called my brother and Mom smiled as she talked to him.  She really enjoyed that.  Donna called our little brother in New Orleans and Mom enjoyed talking to him, too.  Donna and I stayed with her a couple of hours and then Donna left.  DH called me and I put my phone on speaker and held it next to Mom’s ear and she talked to Donnie for a few minutes.  The physical therapist came in and got her up and in a chair for a couple of hours.  It was tiring for her but she kept her eyes open and talked with me.  She was very aware of everything going on but she’s confused about why she’s in the hospital and how long she’s been there.

I finally told her I needed to go home but I’d be back today and I’d bring DS, David, to see her today.  She took my hand and said, “You’re a good daughter, Patty.  I appreciate everything you’re doing and I know it’s hard on you.”

I said, “I had a good mother.  She taught me well.  She taught all her children well.  She taught them about love and sacrifice and those are the most important things a mother can teach her children.”  And then I kissed her and said I’d see her tomorrow.

I don’t know how many more tomorrow’s she’ll have.  But I’m at peace with her.  I’ve forgiven her for not fighting for herself.  If she doesn’t eat, she doesn’t eat.  If she gives up, she gives up.  It’s not my decision to make for her.  I’m not going to fuss at her and tell her she has to do this and she has to do that.  I’ve accepted that she’s not able to do the things so many of us take for granted.  She won’t die fighting for her life, she’ll slip away quietly and her light will just fade away.  Out of respect for her, I’ll let her finish her life the way she’s lived it.  I know she’ll find Joy and Happiness in the afterlife and I think it’s way overdue.

She isn’t perfect but who is?  In her own way, she made her daughters strong.  Even if it was by us seeing how she let life beat her down and being determined not to follow that road.  She raised gentle, living sons who see women and children as fragile beings needing protection.  And I don’t guess that’s a bad thing.  Even if the women and children in their lives are strong, we all need a little protection at one time or another.

And now, I have to get moving.  I’m going back to Elizabethtown for the day.


Petunias to Pumpkins

Yeah, Pumpkins.  I was surprised, believe it or not, to find pumpkins all over the place at our local Kroger.  I always park in the back and don’t see the front of the store.  I decided to park out front yesterday afternoon and see if they had any decent perennials for the garden and found myself staring at a bunch of pumpkins.  When did that happen?  All these hospital and nursing routines this summer have caught me off guard.  Even with the pool getting cold I wasn’t prepared for pumpkins.  Where did my summer go?

I called Mom yesterday evening and she sounded pitiful.  I felt bad for her and I’m racked with guilt this morning.  Her veins are so tiny they couldn’t keep the IV in her arm and had to do a mini-surgery to use the veins in her neck.  She sounded so weak and helpless and said she wanted me to come and sit with her.  I told her I just couldn’t go down there right now but it made me feel guilty.

I never know with Mom.  I don’t know if she’s really that bad off or not.  I DO know that my house is a wreck and I have tons of stuff to do around here because I’ve spent so much time away from home caring for her. I asked Mom if anyone had been to see her yesterday and she said, “Only Donna.  And she brought that baby so we couldn’t really visit.   She doesn’t seem to understand (or doesn’t want to) that Donna has taken on four foster kids and she’s dedicated to them.  She’s raising them.  Mom seems to think she’s babysitting or something.

Little sister retired from the medical field.  She was a respiratory therapist for years and she’s the one who manages Mom’s medical issues.  She’s the one the doctors talk to and Mom’s primary physician is a close friend of hers.  She’s also exhausted with dealing with it.  She has four foster children ages 10 months to 14 years.  Between the problems the 14 year old has and the demands of a ten month old and a two year old, she’s pretty busy.  She told me the other day that she’s constantly on the phone trying to deal with arrangements for Mom and it seems like she can’t get a minute’s peace.  Said she felt like just turning the damn phone off.  Guess that explains why she didn’t call me back yesterday or this morning to give me the real story on how Mom’s doing.

I wish I knew how serious this latest problem is.  I don’t know if I should say to Hell with the house and my own obligations and go see her or not.  It would be a three hour round trip and then I’d have to sit in a wooden chair to visit for a few minutes.  Mom’s not even in a regular room.  Just a tiny little room off the ICU unit that barely has space for the bed and a wooden chair.

I’ll probably go tomorrow.  This whole situation has me feeling so guilty and inadequate.  But then, Mom always manages to make her children feel inadequate.  It’s just the way she is.

Guess I’ll try to call her and see how she is today.  I wanted to talk to little sister first.  Get a handle on the situation before I make a committment to drive all the way down there tomorrow.  If Donna says, “Yeah, she’s in pretty bad shape.  Getting weaker and weaker each day.” then I’ll definitely go.  But, if Donna were to assure me that she’s about the same as she has been, that’s a different story.

– 20 minutes later –

Finally blew up little sister’s phone until she answered.  She says Mom is much better.  Says they’ll probably discharge her to a nursing home in the next couple of days.  She says, “Mom is playing you.  Just like she always does.  Of course she’s sick.  She’s 87 years old and she’s gotten herself in this predicament because she refused to eat for weeks after her surgery.  She’s much stronger since they started feeding her through the tube and they’re getting all her vitals back where they should be since they’re finally getting some nutrients into her system.”

So that takes care of that.  I’m going to call Mom and chat with her but I’m not driving down there.



Where to begin?

I have to get back on track.  On with my life.  I’ve spent the morning just doing nothing.  First time in a couple of weeks that the house has been quiet and no one has been demanding something of me.

It’s time to regroup, refocus and get back to taking care of myself.  Of course, last night when we went to bed, DH told me his heartbeat is irregular again.  Says it’s been that way for four or five days.  Did he call the doctor?  No.  He waits until Sunday night to mention it.  And he was off Thursday afternoon, all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I just don’t have any strength left to deal with other people not taking care of themselves.  Sorry.

Little sister called me this morning to tell me that Mom is refusing to answer her bedside phone.  Even though it’s sitting on her lap.  Says she doesn’t feel up to talking to anyone.  She’s just too tired.  And yet she complained to little sister that no one has called to see how she’s doing.  Continues to tell everyone that no one would give her anything to eat but yogurt.

Of course I’m hurt that she would do that but I’m not letting it get me down.  She’s a bottomless cup.  There’s just no filling her up.  You give and give until you’re empty yourself and she’s still wanting more.  I tried to call her.  Just so I could say I did.  But she’s not answering the phone.  Wants everyone to call the nurse’s station to see how she’s doing and then the nurses will go in her room and say, “Your daughter, Patty, called to see how you are.”  And I’m not going to do it.  The nurses have enough to do.

I’m looking around the house and you can tell I haven’t been here for a while.  The laundry is piled up.  The bathroom looks like it belongs in a BP Gas Station.  Sheets need changing, the carpet needs vacuuming and the kitchen is full of clutter.

I’m going to rest.  Watch TV.  Play my games on Facebook.  Fix a good healthy dinner of Lemon Garlic Chicken, fresh green beans from the garden and homegrown tomatoes.  Start logging in on My Fitness Pal and recording what I eat.  No pool laps today.  I think we’re finished for the year.  The water is very cold because temps are going down in the 50s at night and it’s supposed to be even colder this week.  At some point, I’ll grab my bathing suit and jump in.  Do a final vacuum for the year and clean it up.  Get it closed before the leaves start falling in bushels.  But not today.

Think I’ll go watch some TV while the chicken thaws on the counter.  Maybe, when I feel a little more energetic, I’ll go across the street and pick some green beans and tomatoes.

Wow!  Long time since I’ve been on here.  I’ve only been home three days out of the last 14.  I’ve been consumed with taking care of Mom and I was beginning to feel like she was eating me alive.  I’ve lost three pounds over the last two weeks but it wasn’t from dieting or exercise.  It was because, at the end of many of my exhausting days, I’d be getting ready for bed and thinking…”Did I eat anything today?  I don’t think I did.”

My plan was to go and stay with her Monday through Thursday to help her finish her recovery and get back to where she was before her surgery.  Maybe do it for two weeks.  It’s been a rough ride.

The first week, I went down on Sunday afternoon and stayed until Thursday night.  She was doing pretty good the first couple of days.  She’d be up and dressed by the time I got up around 8:00 and she’d be in the living room with the TV on or reading a book.   She was getting up before 8:00 and staying up until around 8:00 in the evening.  But then, after a couple of days, she said she didn’t feel well and began to be more demanding.  She’s nice about it…”Honey, I’m just too weak to get up.  Can you fix me a glass of water?” and then, “Honey, I’m just exhausted, can you help me to bed?”  She wanted me to do her hair and nails.  She wanted me to rub her feet, wanted me to help her get dressed and help her get undressed.  And the entire time, I’m cooking and cleaning and trying to get her to eat and take her meds.  She only took little nibbles of food and her entire meal would only consist of a couple tablespoons of food.  She told me she was craving yellow squash so I sauteed it in olive oil and topped it with parmesan.  I also fixed homegrown tomatoes with fresh basil, olive oil and mozzarella.  She ate one tiny slice of the squaah and one fourth of a tomato slice. 

The meds were a nightmare.  She must be taking 30 pills and they’re all spaced out during the day so that they have to be carefully monitored and timed out correctly.  AND, she decided that she couldn’t swallow them.  She decided that before she ever came home from the hospital.  So, not only will she not eat, her meds had to be crushed and mixed with applesauce and she would gag and talk about how nasty they were and it was like trying to get a two year old to take his medicine.  Then, because she took her meds with applesauce, she’d say she couldn’t eat because she just had applesauce.  I was constantly running up to the store and cooking all kinds of stuff to try to get her to eat.  Anything she wanted, I’d fix and she’d just take a little nibble or two.  Still, she was getting up every morning and dressing herself and staying up all day but taking a little 20 or 30 minute nap in her chair in the living room around noon or so.

I came home for the weekend and she was very clingy when I left.  Wanted to know when I’d be back and kept delaying my departure.  My brother called Saturday morning and said Mom wouldn’t get out of bed.  Wouldn’t get dressed.  Wouldn’t take her meds.  Said she had horrible diarrhea and he’d had to clean up a couple of messes.  I called her and asked how she was doing and she said she “missed her little helper”.  I told her she had to eat and she couldn’t just subsist on applesauce.  I told her the diarrhea was probably being caused by her refusal to eat and taking in nothing but applesauce.  And frozen peach yogurt.  That’s the only thing she wants to eat.  Kroger frozen peach yogurt.

I had planned on heading back on Monday morning because I figured she could be on her own for the two or three hours between little brother leaving for work and me getting there.  After all, the rehab center said she was able to be fully independent at home.  But, when little brother called Sunday morning and said she still wouldn’t get out of bed, wouldn’t eat, yada, yada…I decided to go on up Sunday afternoon.

As soon as I got there, Mom made a big fuss about how glad she was to see me.  How much she had missed my help and she got out of bed (by herself), got dressed (by herself), and walked into the living room (by herself) to watch TV.  Little brother was a mess.  She had refused to do anything for him all weekend.  He was really upset and worried about her because she’d spent the entire weekend telling him she couldn’t get out of bed and wouldn’t eat anything.  I went to the kitchen and cooked a pot of homemade onion soup with toasted bread and mozzarella.  Mom ate about 1/4 cup and said she couldn’t eat anymore.  She’d had diarrhea all day and I called one of the nurses who said blueberries might help if I could get her to eat them so I went to the store and bought blueberries, stuff for pancakes and stuff for muffins.

Mom told me she’d had diarrhea ever since she got out of the hospital and it was getting worse.  I called the doctor (keep in mind, she’s having visiting nurses and therapists every day) and he ordered a stool sample.  I won’t go into the gory details but getting a stool sample from an 87 year old woman who has severe diarrhea and can’t make it to the bathroom in time is not an easy job.  The sample had to be delivered to the hospital within an hour and I felt like one of those nurses on TV during a heart transplant.  Ready to go.  The car warming up, the culture bag ready.  Following Mom around like a shadow trying to get an opportunity to collect a sample and rush it to the hospital in time.  To my credit, I got it done.  Not something I ever want to repeat.

After I got back home, Mom said she’d like some blueberry pancakes so I fixed some and she said it was good but she only ate two bites and I had to throw the rest of the pancakes and batter down the disposal.  I used up the rest of the blueberries making muffins and figured I might be able to coax her to eat one.

The lab called a couple of hours later and said Mom had a disorder that’s caused by a strong antibiotic destroying all the good bacteria in her intestines along with the bad.  The doctor ordered her to eat nothing but yogurt with live cultures for 24 hours to begin to replace the bacteria in her intestines.  I checked the frozen yogurt that she likes and discovered that it was lacking live cultures so I went to Kroger and a health food store and found vanilla frozen yogurt with live cultures, Activia, and some yogurt smoothies (peach) to feed her.

I came home to find that she’s made a horrific mess all the way from the living room to the bathroom and couldn’t figure out why she was “leaking” as much as she was.  She was a mess and I took her to her shower to clean her up. I discovered she was wearing a large diaper and it was literally hanging around her knees.  I bathed her and, when I went to get her dressed, she refused to wear the correct diapers.  Instead, she insisted on wearing some of the large size that the hospital had been using when she was bed bound.  They were literally falling off her and she had to hold them up when she walked (not an easy task when you’re using a walker).  I told her she needed to wear the small diapers that fit but she said they were too tight.  They weren’t.  She just didn’t want anything touching her waist.

I spent the next three days following Mom around like she was a puppy I was trying to housetrain.  She refused to wear the proper size diapers and I alternated between trying to get her to eat yogurt (which she refused to do, except her “peach” yogurt that didn’t have any live cultures), scrambling to fix anything she’d eat, monitoring meds, and cleaning carpets.  Mom likes yogurt.  She used to have Activia for breakfast every day and yet she would gag and carry on and make sour faces everytime I got her to take even a tiny bite.  Told me she couldn’t stand it and it was so gross it made her gag so she couldn’t eat it.  I was ready to tear my hair out.  I called the doctor and told him she wasn’t eating and would just take little sips of water now and then.  No matter what I tried to do, she just wouldn’t eat.  He said to be patient and just try to fix bland food that she enjoys and keep trying to get her to eat the yogurt.  Still, mom just refused to eat.  Like a little kid who refuses to eat his vegetables.  And she’s doing it all with her sweet little baby manner of acting like she’s so helpless and she’s trying so hard to please me.

I cooked beef barley soup from scratch.  Chicken noodle soup from scratch.  Tiny little chicken nuggets from scratch.  Fresh green beans, homegrown tomatoes, cheese and crackers, peaches, canned pears, cereal, oatmeal.  She wouldn’t eat more than a teaspoon or two of anything and just kept demanding her frozen peach yogurt.  I bought a six pack of Ensure but she wouldn’t drink it.  I tried to get her to eat a blueberry muffin but she just nibbled a couple crumbs and you couldn’t even tell she’d touched it.  On Wednesday, she was begging me to fix her fresh kale greens with bacon, fried potatoes with onions and cornbread.  I stood my ground.  No way.  Not gonna happen. Eat your damn yogurt or I’m calling Jamie Lee Curtis.  She kept on and on and I finally wore down and said, “Okay, if you eat the yogurt from now until dinner tomorrow, I’ll fix it for you.  IF we see an improvement in the diarrhea.

So she did.  A little bit.  A spoonful here and a spoonful there until, by Thursday morning, her diarrhea had improved and I hadn’t had to clean up any accidents for almost twelve hours.  I went to the store and bought all the crap I needed to fix her dinner and started cooking.  HER kind of food.  All the things I KNOW she shouldn’t have.  I fried bacon, cleaned kale, cooked kale in bacon grease, peeled potatoes and fried them with onions.  I made a pan of cornbread from scratch, set it on the back burner of the stove to cool, turned on the wrong burner switch to fry the potatoes and burned the bottom of the cornbread all to Hell.  So I made a second batch of cornbread.  Mom kept going on and on about how good the kale smelled and I hope the neighbors enjoyed it as well because the entire block smelled like kale greens.

After all my efforts, she ate a piece of cornbread the size of a gumball, two bites of kale, and a couple of fried potato slices.  And then, when I told her she needed to eat some yogurt, she refused.  She was too full.

Little brother got home from work at 6:00 and I was ready to go.  My bags were packed and I was headed home.  Little brother had plans from weeks ago to meet up with a bunch of his friends Saturday and go camping from Saturday morning to Sunday evening and I had told Mom I would be going home Thursday evening, little brother would be with her until Saturday morning and I would be back before he left.

Before I could get out the door, Mom said she needed me to help her to bed.  Then she needed me to help her undress.  Then she wanted her nightime meds.  I told her it was too early for nightime meds but she insisted that she was exhausted and needed to go to bed for the night.  So I went to the kitchen and crushed her meds, mixed them with applesauce and went back to her bedroom.  Found a trail of diarrhea from the bed to the bathroom and Mom was a mess.  Her diaper had fallen off and her gown was a disgusting mess.  I had to clean her up, get her dressed again.  I told her it was ridiculous for me to have to clean up this kind of mess and she was going to wear the right size diapers.  I changed the sheets on the bed, put new pads on it, cleaned the carpet and got her back in bed.  By now, it was 7:15 and I KNOW she was trying to stall enough to get me to the point of just saying, “It’s ridiculous for me to drive all the way back to Louisville tonight so I’ll just stay.” But I was determined to get a break.  Even if it was just for one day.

I drove home, got here late and DH was already in bed.  I got to relax a little while and, before I went to bed, little brother called to say that Mom wanted to know where I put the large diapers.  She said she couldn’t sleep wearing the correct size because they were too tight.

Little brother called non-stop on Friday.  Mom wants this, Mom wants that, Mom refuses her meds, Mom refuses to eat.  Mom has diarrhea again.  I told him to hang tight and I would be back Saturday morning.

On Saturday, I was awakened by the phone.  Little brother was very upset.  Said he thought Mom was dying.  She was unresponsive.  He’d called little sister and she was on her way.  Called an ambulance and they were on the way.  Wanted me to know so I could be prepared for the worst.

I told him I’d get dressed and meet him at the hospital.  DH said he would drive.  I cried and told myself that maybe it was for the best.  I felt terrible for little brother.  He has a lot of problems of his own but he truly had tried to help her and she just wouldn’t let him.  Big brother cares for his significant other.  She had a stroke a couple of years ago and never really recovered.  Still, he’d been by to see Mom three times during the days I’d been with her.  I called him and told him what was going on and he said he’d get someone to come in to be with Kim and would meet me at the hospital.  I decided not to call little brother who lives in New Orleans because I wanted to wait and see what the situation was before I called knowing he couldn’t come and would just be upset.

Little brother called just as we pulled into the hospital parking lot to say Mom was being admitted but seemed to be much better.  We walked in the room and, I swear, I think she smiled.  She had this look about her…like, “Now, are you all paying attention?  See how sick and helpless I am?”  Little Sister and I exchanged a look.  We knew what was going on.  We understood.  The boys don’t.  My brothers were being so solicitous.  They were hovering over her and patting her hands and hugging her.  Donna and I were not so enamored.

The doctor came in and said Mom was dehydrated, malnourished and just extremely weak.  He said they were going to give her fluids and take advantage of the fact that she still has an unused feeding tube in place from her surgery to fatten her up and get some nutrients in her.  The feeding tube was supposed to be removed this coming Thursday and little sister and I had rearranged schedules and appointments to be able to transport her to Louisville to have it removed.  Good thing we didn’t.  She weighed in at 90 pounds.  Down from the 115 she weighed two months ago and the 100 pounds she weighed when she came home.

The doctor joked and said, “Why haven’t you girls been feeding this woman?” and Mom said, “They wouldn’t fix anything for me but yogurt.”  And I had to bite my tongue.  Instead of raging, I said, “Mom, I fixed you beef  barley soup, chicken noodle soup, onion soup, kale, cornbread, fried potatoes, cereal, Ensure, sandwiches, fruit, and anything else I could think of to get you to eat and she said”…(Are you ready for this?)…”I don’t remember any of that.  Just yogurt.  You kept trying to make me eat that stuff and you know it makes me gag.”

To finish up this epic post, I gave her a kiss and a hug, said I’d be back to see her in a couple of days, and came home.

Little brother called this morning and said Mom looks a lot better and they’re saying they’re going to keep her a few days and keep feeding her through the tube.  After that, she should be able to go home.  He wanted to know if I would be able to help her out for a few days when she comes home.  I told him I’d have think about it and let him know.


Yesterday evening my ankle was hurting me and I’d been sitting at the computer working on my book for a couple of hours so my back wasn’t feeling too good either.  I decided that a soak in the spa might help so I headed out there.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know I’m a water baby.  I’m always in a pool or spa or soaker tub but I don’t like bathing suits.  They’re wet and drippy and clingy and I really wish I never had to wear one.  Usually, I head out to the spa after dark and happily gaze at the stars in my birthday suit with a glass of Crystal Light lemonade.  But, yesterday, it was still light so I looked over the selection of bathing suits hanging on the wall of the lean-to next to the spa and chose one that would cover me enough to avoid scandal if one of the neighbors happened to spot me but still be loose and comfy.  It’s a raggedy old thing.  Stretched thin as tissue paper and the band bra is nothing more than a floppy stretched out little bib.  It hangs on me but I’ve kept it because it covers enough for me to slide into the spa and submerge myself in bubbles at times when there might be a possibility of someone seeing me and yet, it’s threadbare enough to feel like I’m wearing nothing at all. 

So I put it on and I’m sitting out there thinking and watching the birds and I keep looking at the pool.  It’s gray and drizzly and the pool is full of leaves and debris from the rain we’ve had all day but the damn thing is making me feel guilty.  It’s the first day in weeks that I haven’t exercised.  Eventually, I succumbed to the guilt and decided to go ahead and do my laps.  Figured I’d just jump on in before I changed my mind.  I scurried up the ladder and down into the water hoping none of the neighbors caught a glimpse of my butt because my ratty old bathing suit is so stretched out that it has a tendency to hang to my knees while still exposing my butt. 

I walked around the pool, scooping out leaves and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought.  The water has warmed up considerably because of last week’s heat wave but the torrential downpours had filled it to the very top of the skimmer and that’s a good five or six inches higher than it’s supposed to be.  I started jogging around and immediately discovered that, with every jog, my boobs bounced up out of the water and out of my suit.  With the deep water, I was covered clear up to the tops of my shoulders but every bounce pulled the top of the suit down and the boobs popped up.  I thought about getting out but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convince myself to get back in if I took the trouble to go in the house and change bathing suits so I just kept pulling the straps up as tight as I could and trying to keep things contained.

About this time, my neighbor steps out on his elevated deck to take a smoke and I figured I either had to give it up or do something about the situation so I grabbed the right strap and pulled it over my head to the other side and then repeated it with the other strap to take up some slack. Gives you an idea of how loose it is.  It worked.  Kinda… It kept the girls contained and I was able to keep on going. 

It was getting dark and the mosquitos were swarming because of all the rain.  They were everywhere!  Buzzing around my face and ears and I kept taking a dive every lap or so to submerge my face and try to camouflage the “human” smell with a good drenching of chlorine but it didn’t help much.  I began to feel bites on the back of my neck and I couldn’t figure out how I was getting so many bites because I’m only 5’2″ and there was only about two inches of my neck above water.  And even that was getting a pretty good splashing.  Eventually, the bastards began to bite my face and my ears and I was totally miserable.

My goal was 180 laps and I wasn’t about to quit.  I kept going for 1 1/2 hours and I’m not sure if that’s a sign of determination and committment or total ignorance and stupidity.  At any rate, I got my laps done and it was well after dark by the time I finished and raced inside.

I tossed my ratty old suit in the trash so I’d never be tempted to wear it again.

I was rewarded this morning with a new loss of a pound and a half from yesterday.  That puts me at a new low.  I’ve lost the weight I picked up during my four day decadent period plus an additional pound.  Yay, me!!

I talked to little sister and little brother this morning and things seem to be much better than they were a day and a half ago.  Mom is beginning to eat and dress herself and little brother is beginning to step up to the plate a little bit more than he was.  Even so, he has to go back to work tomorrow morning and won’t be off until Friday.  He has a four day work week and this week will be even shorter because of the Labor Day holiday.  So I’m going down there.  I’ll be staying from this evening until Thursday evening so I should be able to get a pretty good handle on how Mom’s actually functioning.

I hate to give up my routine.  Mom and I have totally different palates and I’ll have to cater to her to get her to eat but I also want to stay focused on my diet.  Exercise?  I don’t see how.  I won’t have the pool, it’s supposed to rain non-stop for the next four days so there’s no sense in taking my bike.  My ankles won’t tolerate walking any distance on asphalt or concrete.  I guess I’ll take a workout tape but I don’t think there’s room in Mom’s tiny little house to do anything.

Under the circumstances, I guess I’d better get out to the pool and do my laps for today.

And it’s not Isaac.  Even though the remnants of Isaac have arrived and it’s been pouring rain since yesterday.  No, this storm is personal and it’s gaining momentum day by day.

Little Brother, David, has always been very needy and Mom has contributed to it by enabling him her entire life.  Even now, David lives with Mom and she pays the mortgage, utilities and buys all the food.  He’s lived with her for the last ten years and she tells all of us how much David helps her out.  He cuts the grass, goes to the store, runs the vacuum…yada, yada, yada…  Isn’t that what we all do?  And we do all that and still pay the house payment, utilities and buy food.

Still, we all know how David is and we love him.  In spite of all his problems.  And someone needs to be with Mom so it all works out.  Mom has told all of us kids that she’s leaving the house to David and that’s okay.  He’s lived there for a long time and the rest of us are pretty well settled into our lives so we don’t need it.  Besides, she took out a second mortgage a few years ago and the house is not paid off.  She has a house payment of $400 each month which is still pretty cheap.

David has a job.  He works for an apartment complex doing general maintenance.  It doesn’t pay a whole lot but it’s a full-time job and he makes enough to support himself.  At least he should.

So Mom gets sick and has to have surgery.  What should have been a week at the most has turned into six weeks of recovery including a recent stay at a rehab center where they made sure Mom could go to the bathroom by herself, dress herself and be able to stay by herself as long as she has someone close by.  She was released Friday and I was hoping everything would be okay.


Mom hadn’t been home an hour before she wanted David to call little sister to come and sit with her while he went out to get her some Popeye’s chicken.  Little sister has four foster children ages 18 months, 2 1/2, 6 and 14.   She can’t just pick up at the drop of a hat and come over to sit with Mom.  So she told David that the doctor said Mom would be fine by herself and he should just go.  He argued and said Mom was adamant that the doctor told her she was not to be left alone.  Little sister called the doctor to check and he reiterated that Mom should be independent and does not need someone to take care of her or stay with her as long as family is close by to check on her daily.

Two hours after that, David is calling little sister to tell her that Mom had an “accident” and she needs to come over and help her clean up.  Little sister goes over, helps Mom get cleaned up and changed and then tells David that, if Mom needs to go to the bathroom, he needs to help her get in the room for the first couple of days and make sure she has a clean shirt and pair of pants hanging in there so she can clean herself up and change clothes if she needs to.  David immediately starts whining that he’s not going to do that.  Mom is supposed to be independent and he shouldn’t have to follow her around and sort through her clothes and stuff.  Little sister tells him he needs to be there for Mom for the next couple of days to help her out until we can figure out how much she’s really able to do for herself.

An hour later, David is calling her to say that Mom says she can’t swallow her pills and they were crushing them and putting them in her food for her at the rehab center.  Little sister wants to know what the problem is and he says he doesn’t know how to crush her pills.  Are you kidding???  She tells him to get a hammer and a paper towel and just do it.  He repeats that he doesn’t know how to do that and doesn’t feel like he should have to.  Little sister has to take all four of her kids with her, go to the pharmacy to get a “pill crusher” and go over to the house to show David how to crush Mom’s pills.

Yesterday evening, big brother, (who lives about eight miles away and is a caretaker for his girlfriend who had a stroke a couple of years ago) calls David to see how Mom’s doing and David says she had another “accident” but she managed to get herself in the bathroom and clean up and then she walked out of the bathroom with nothing on but her shirt and a diaper and sat down in the living room.  Big brother calls little sister and finds out what David has been doing and he heads over to Mom’s to give David an earful.

He gets there and finds Mom sitting in a chair in the living room with no pants on and wants to know why David didn’t take care of the situation and why there were no clothes in the bathroom for Mom to put on when she did try to take care of herself.  David complains that he shouldn’t have to run around behind Mom trying to make sure she’s dressed because she’s supposed to be independent.  In the meantime, there’s Mom, sitting around in a diaper crying because she doesn’t know what to do.  She doesn’t want to bother David but she’s too weak and unsteady to take care of everything herself.

Mike totally goes off on David and says he has two choices, put Mom in a nursing home, in which case she’ll lose her social security and David will have to take over paying the mortgage and utilities if he wants to live there or step up to the plate and help take care of Mom.  David starts whining about how he can’t afford to take over all the bills and he doesn’t see why Mike can’t take Mom to stay at his house for a while since he has to be there to take care of his girlfriend anyway.

So now Mike’s furious, little sister is furious, and Mom is trying to avoid doing things she ought to be able to do but is afraid to try.  Guess I’m going to have to step in.  I had hoped to give it the weekend to see how things would go but I’m not comfortable with Mom being alone yet and David is no help at all.  I guess I’ll have to pack my bags and head down there tomorrow or the next day and try to help Mom transition to living at home.

By the way…I lost another pound but I think it’s stress.

I had a box of whole wheat couscous in the cabinet and went searching for a recipe to try to do something healthy with it for dinner.  I was trying to use the ingredients I had on hand so I wouldn’t have to go to the store so I used a recipe I found on the internet and then lightened it up and changed it so I could use ingredients I had on hand.  The result turned out pretty good.  Note: the recipe I found used broccoli and called for dill but I didn’t have any so I used the herbs from my garden, basil and rosemary and some peas I had in the freezer.


1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat couscous)

14 oz. chicken broth

1 tsp. olive oil

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

1 tsp. fresh, chopped basil

1 tsp. fresh, chopped rosemary

zest from 1 lemon

salt and pepper

1/3 cup parmesan cheese


  1. Combine broth and oil in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let plump for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook peas on the stovetop or in the microwave according to package directions.
  3. Add the peas, basil, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper to the couscous; mix gently and fluff with a fork. Serve hot, sprinkled with cheese.

Nutrition Facts 





  6 Servings      

Amount Per Serving
  Calories 161.1
  Total Fat 2.8 g
      Saturated Fat 1.4 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
      Monounsaturated Fat 1.4 g
  Cholesterol 5.8 mg
  Sodium 427.4 mg
  Potassium 236.3 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 25.9 g
      Dietary Fiber 2.8 g
      Sugars 2.2 g
  Protein 7.8 g


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into chunks about 1 1/2 to 2 inches square

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

20 large garlic cloves

1 lemon

1/2 cup cooking sherry

salt and ground black pepper

1 tsp. cornstarch

Directions: Add oil to large skillet and heat on medium.  Add chicken pieces, salt and pepper, and saute until no longer pink.  Add chicken broth, peeled garlic cloves, sherry, juice from one lemon (I prepared couscous with this dinner and saved the zest from the lemon before I juiced it).  Cover and simmer approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until garlic cloves are soft and liquid is reduced to about a cup. 

Mix cornstarch with a couple teaspoons of water to form a slurry and slowly add it to skillet while stirring to thicken.

This would be good with rice or pasta because the sauce around the chicken was wonderful.  I fixed couscous with frozen peas, lemon zest and parmesan and it was a great side.

Nutrition Facts 







  4 Servings    

Amount Per Serving
  Calories 209.2
  Total Fat 4.3 g
      Saturated Fat 1.0 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g
      Monounsaturated Fat 3.2 g
  Cholesterol 58.1 mg
  Sodium 835.7 mg
  Potassium 368.4 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 10.7 g
      Dietary Fiber 0.4 g
      Sugars 1.4 g
  Protein 24.7 g



170 is a Bad Number

I’m just saying…It’s difficult to work with.

As I do my laps in the pool, the count goes round and round in my head with each step I take like a mantra. 

“One…one…one…one…one…one…one…(pass the ladder) two…two…two…two…two…”

I have to be careful about what’s going on in my head.  If I get distracted, I can wind up passing the ladder over and over and still keep repeating the same number.  When I realize that I’ve been going round and round and thinking about what to fix for dinner and lost track of my count, I never try to guess where I am.  I go back to the last number I remember and start from there.  I’m sure I get a lot of extra laps in when I get distracted.

I do, however, do simple arithmetic as I’m jogging to encourage myself.  For example, if I’m doing 100 laps, it’s easy.  As I’m chanting “twenty… twenty… twenty…”, I can easily multi-task my thoughts and tell myself “Okay!  You’re a fourth of the way finished!”  And it’s easy to recognize on lap 50 that I’m halfway there.

So I have trouble when I do 170 laps.  I guess I probably did more like 200 because I kept trying to figure out how much more I had to do.  85 laps is halfway.  That was easy.  But it takes me 42.5 minutes of jogging to get there and I need encouragement a lot more often than every 42.5 minutes.  So I kept trying to figure out where I was at lap 20 or lap 30 or even at 100.

So I’m not doing 170 laps anymore.  Hopefully, I’ll move on to 180 tomorrow and I might eventually have to go to 200 so my poor mind can keep up with the fractions.

8:30 p.m. Update – Dinner was really good tonight!  I was trying to use up some stuff I had on hand.  I decided to make lemon garlic chicken breasts, couscous with green peas, lemon zest and parmesan and ensalada caprese using fresh tomatoes out of the garden.  It was really good!  Guess I ought to add the couscous and chicken to my favorite recipes category before I forget what I did.