Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
After a rough breathing night last night she has slept most of the day - in between visits from the nurse and nursing assitant. Family visits have been brief today - just going in to check on her, say Hi or touch her hand, but really just letting her sleep. After only 4.5 - 5 hours of sleep last night, I'm pretty darn ready to hit the hay myself. Good night.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
The hospice facility welcomes visitors any time day or night. I got there about 10:15. She was sleeping, like I anticipated. But it was just so nice sitting with her in the dimly lit room without any hubbub going on. She still had her TV quietly on. I sat there for about 1/2 an hour. It was a sweet time, there in the quiet, just with her. I had just spent a nice bit of time at church with beautiful gentle worship music as a background to my prayers for Mom. I found my way to the most out of the way corner and sat down on a pillow against the wall. I got some crying out. I prayed for God to love me through this. And I prayed for Mom. As I sat there with her peacefully sleeping, still looking beautiful in her 81 years, I felt peaceful, too.
It was getting late. I had just kissed my fingers to touch her hand with a goodnight kiss when she coughed and woke up. I got to say hello. She said, "Hi Honey." She seemed herself. We talked a little bit and I reminded her of the good news decided upon today: we're taking her home on Monday. She was happy. The doctor thought it would be good to wait until Monday in order to get a hospital bed and some other equipment delivered over the weekend. Another big reason was that Monday allows the regular case-managing staff to do the initial transition stuff, rather than getting started over the weekend with the fill-in staff and then on Monday having to "start" anew with the main staff. That continuity in the first transitional days seemed important to the doctor.
I'm thankful for the sweet time I had with Mom tonight. I'm so glad I went back. I felt compelled to go back by after church, and now I know why. God had a blessing waiting for me...and Mom, too, I think.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Lance won the Iditarod Sled Dog Race today around 11:30 a.m. Alaska time. He was about 7.5 hours ahead of the 2nd place guy. Third has yet to come in and it's a very close race for 4th being fought by about 5 mushers, including a father and son, Mitch and Dallas Seavey. Lance pulled a daring move midway throught the race. His dogs were running strong so he pushed over 100 miles past the favored check point at which most mushers take the mandatory 24 hour rest. He took his 24 at the mining ghost town of Iditarod, the halfway point. He never looked back. He just increased the gap between him and the next pack of mushers. About 55 other mushers will reach Nome in the coming several days.
As he drove his dog team down Front Street in Nome - over 1000 miles away from the starting point of the race - Lance stopped them and changed out his lead dog. Being a sentimental guy, he wanted his long time leader, Larry, to take him across the finish line (or "under the burled arch" per Idita-language). He said he has a great new little leader, a girl named Maple, who led him through some rough miles of this race but he wanted Larry in lead for the finish because Larry has lead him to so many victories in his career. Larry is being retired after this race. He's earned a spot on the couch as Lance likes to say.
When he won, his mom was there at the finish line. His dad was home in Arizona and couldn't make it, but someone soon handed Lance a cell phone. In front of cameras and microphones he talked to his dad, another Iditarod champion. We could hear Lance's side of the conversation. The connection was bad, or was it something else? Dad? Hello? Dad, speak up. What? You can't speak? Are...are you crying? It's OK; I did my crying about 40 miles back.
Her health is in a Catch 22 place: she is weakened from anemia but they can't give her enough blood to solve that problem because it creates a worse problem of increased congestive heart failure. She has never been formally diagnosed with dementia but one of her hospital doctors said he is certain she has it. Her "short term memory issues" are certainly dementia. It's funny how just staving off that label had been a comfort, an island respite of denial. But now that she has experienced such a harrowing health emergency, it is showing itself even more. Some days she is fine; other days she seems more confused, not quite on the right page. It is puzzling to me how one day can be so different from another. Is it rest? Is it nutrition? What makes the difference?
She was transferred to the hospice hospital yesterday at dinner time. She and we are so blessed with the beauty of this place. It is a home in a beautiful neighborhood I am very familiar with. It is the neighborhood of my church and I know a dozen or more people who live within a mile. Our Women's Ministries director lives right next door. The home was donated to Hospice, remodelled and expanded to be a home-hospital.
She is in a room with two other women but you can't really tell from her area. You can hear but you can't see. There are beautifully painted partitions between beds. Pale green backgrounds with big flowers painted on the sections. Not hokey flowers but real flowers with stems and roots - kind of like botanical paintings. They are really very nice. Her bed faces a glass wall that looks out to clinging vines in the eaves, a Spanish tiled patio, lush green grass, and a round swimming pool with a gurgling fountain. (The pool is behind fencing.)
We thought it would be a wonderful transition for her on her way back home. However, her first reaction was discomfort and anxiety. I realized after the fact that her anxiety was probably a result of a number of factors. 1. Despite the fact that we had a good meeting with the doctor and the hospice people the day before and she was very congnizent during it all, when it came to the next day, she didn't remember about it. When reminded of the meetings and the details, she said she remembered. But I had to explain it to her about 4 or 5 times that afternoon before they came to get her. 2. The ride from the hospital to the hospice place was frightening and uncomfortable for her. On top of not remembering why, what and where, it was an unimpressive [euphemism] transport van with a very rough ride. I can see how she'd be frightened. Plus, the strap securing her to the gurney was too tight around her legs and every bump hurt her right shin - and there were a lot of bumps. I went with her and I can't imagine how she would have felt without me. It was a pretty awful ride and she would have been so scared if she was alone.
These two factors together I think set her up to be anxious about even being in this new place. What I thought would be the comforting and comfortable aspects of the place seemed to produce just the opposite in her. The homie-ness of the place, I think, led her to distrust it. We spent a few anxious hours before she relaxed and seemed comfortable enough for me to leave. I had received some calls on my cell phone and spoke with the nurse for a bit, too, so I was out of the room for about half hour. By the time I got back, my brother and sister-in-law had arrived. We walked in together and Mom was much more relaxed. When they commented on some of the nice features of the place, she agreed. She was given something earlier to calm her nerves and I also think the time away from me actually helped, too. Sometimes, fear and anxiety can magnify when we're with someone we think can take it away. I often think of how a child who has hurt himself will sniffle with a quivering lip while in the presence of those leading him to his mom, but the moment he reaches her, it all busts loose and he erupts into full blown crying. It all comes out. We adults do that, too, in more subtle ways.
Today Mom was quiet. I got the sense that she was sad but I didn't get a good chance to come out and ask her during my first visit. When I came back around dinner time she seemed contentedly picking at her plate - she has little appetite. I had all my "stuff" with me, purse, bag of miscellaneous, as well as some food my sister-in-law prepared for Mom. When Mom saw me, she said, "Where are you going?" I explained that I was just coming back after being gone a few hours.
Somewhere during the first few moments of this visit I had wanted to encourage her that this place was only temporary - thinking of her quiet and seeming sadness earlier today - so I explained again that it was just for a few days before getting her home. She asked me where that was. On a couple other occasions when she's been in a confused moment (perhaps it's pain medication moments) I've explained that it's my brother's old house, given her the address and she immediately says, "Oh, yeah" usually followed by a "Geesh! What's the matter with me!?" This time, she just seemed to be thinking about it.
A few moments after I'd been there she looked around the room and, seeing the homelike furnishings in front of the windows, said, "You must have cleaned up the house before you left." It seems she thought she was home. I guess that's a good thing, better than the anxiety and apprehension she felt the night before. But it made me sad. Tomorrow may be completely different. It may not.
When my brother and family came to visit after dinner, they brought their dogs. Mom loves dogs. And she especially loves "her" dogs - the dogs of my brothers' families. When Sparky arrived, she called him Tinker, my brother's similarly sized and shaped (but differently colored) dog of many years ago. As the dogs rested on Mom's bed and my brother's lap, Mom didn't seem very interested. We think she was tired. Still, it made me sad.
The doctor is coming in tomorrow, specifically to see her. Usually the doctor is there two days a week but constantly available by phone to the nurses. I understand this is a very respected hospice doctor who recently received an award for her excellence. Her coming in just to see Mom a day earlier than her scheduled rounds was at first concerning. But then we began to think it's probably to fulfill some insurance requirement regarding the time between admittance and a doctor evaluation. The nurse gave me no specific reason for the visit, but that's our assumption.
Thanks for bearing with me through this long post. I had kind of decided to not get detailed or too personal in any posts about my mom. But tonight I just needed to write about it.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Sitting outside this Sunday morning writing in my journal about fears over my Mom’s condition. The sun shone warmly in the backyard as I sat in a chair on the grass facing into the yard. Several times some birds flew rather low over me and on into the yard behind. They flew at a diagonal, crossing Mom’s yard, the yard behind and on into the yard next to that. As I watched them fly over our yards, in my mind I glimpsed an aerial view. Here we are with our rectangles of land sectioned off by dividing walls. They fly freely over our boundaries, over and through our defined spaces.
Often, boundary walls make me feel safe. They legitimately serve this purpose. They keep danger out. They keep privacy in. Sitting there in my little box of a yard seeing the birds flying unrestricted, the walls of this yard took on the faint resemblance to a cage.
Speaking of the personal life of the soul and spirit, it takes wisdom to know what are truly dangers to be kept out. I’ve tended to get those mixed up in my life, believing some things to be dangers that are not and thus creating walls that cage me rather than protect me. It takes wisdom to not build walls to keep out that which is good though not risk free. It takes wisdom and courage to not build walls that are actually cages. It takes trusting God to build and place the walls - protective walls - around me. Only He can build a protection that is not a cage.
"Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. Your walls are continually before me." Isaiah 49:16
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I love the color combinations in this one below. I made it as a gift for my mom's special friend.
I made this next one for a friend who loves lots of wild colors. I changed my usual fuzzy stripe from down the center to a waving stripe that curves from one side to the other several times all the way through the scarf, stepping up the wild and funky look even more.
Another gift...not yet given:
I love all the colors in the yarn. On one hand, it's disappointing that they don't really show unless you look closely. On the other hand I also really like that art can have different layers of beauty, of creativity. In this case, the yarn itself is a piece of art and when you look more closely at it, it reveals another range of beauty different from the overall image.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Most of the top contenders drew bib numbers in the 30's and 40's. And they're all tightly bunched at the front of the pack on Day 5. That means, Mackey has passed about 40 other mushers to get there. Passing is done on the trail or at checkpoints by leaving earlier than the others. Several former champions are running in a tight pack in positions 4-10 with some younger guys pulling out the surprising 1-3 spots. It's going to be a tight and exciting race. One young musher has gone from a 60-something-th start to around 12th position. He's surprising everyone, even his dad (a former Iditarod winner and constant strong contender) who is also running the race. They are Mitch (dad) and Dallas (son) Seavey. Dallas' new bride is also running the race. Sometimes musher couples run together, but they must have had an agreement because Dallas left her in his snow dust early on. It was at the Seavey "Iditaride" and kennel tour (2008) that the photos in my sidebar at right were taken.
Last year they had a free GPS tracking on a handful of mushers. It was a trial year that went over as a huge success with the fans. So of course, this year you have to pay for it. I didn't. The Current Standings page (once on the page, click on Current Standings at right - not that I believe any of you actually are interested enough to do so) only tells in and out times from check points. You have no idea what happens once a musher leaves a check point. They list info from the last check point to the current one so you can see how fast they travelled on the last stretch but you don't know what they'll do next. They could rest on the trail, they could have a great trail and go fast, they could have a soggy trail and be slowed down. They could run into moose, wipe out around a tight curve, get a broken sled (like several mushers already have), or any number of delays. They could pass the guy ahead of them and show up first to the next check point. The dogs, of course, are the major factor - how they're feeling and what they need. It adds a fun dimension watching the Current Standings only and trying to figure out who's really in the lead based on how fast they've traveled to the last check point, how long they might rest there and that even though it LOOKS like Martin Buser is in first place, he's really not because he's just starting his 24 while mushers behind him are just coming off theirs.
For a quick look of fun film footage of the dogs and mushers, go to Anchorage's Channel 2 Iditarod page.
Hospitals often seem to release patients before I think they're ready. I'm not sure Mom is stable enough in the heart department to be released. I need to trust the doctors determiniations and not my own insecurities that are based on ignorance and fear.
I was reminded by a sweet young woman yesterday that God has already prepared me for what He is bringing my way. When I worry about if I will be able to care adequately for Mom when she comes home, I am encouraged that, though it won't be without challenges, God has and will provide what I need to care for her and to discern when I need help. This was a sweet reminder that continues to bolster my confidence in meeting what lies ahead and help me trust Him with my todays and tomorrows. Thanks, Kelly. Thanks, God.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Those are the facts. Now here's the emotions. Well, actually, I think I'm stuffing my emotions. The scenes of her 911 day were anxious, urgent and overwhelming. And it was my Mom! Yet I don't seem to have let myself feel the natural emotions that appropriately correspond with such events. They seem to be held at bay. I have cried. But not enough. I begin, then stop. So, I'm sort of a zombie: spent, sleeping like a log but remaining very tired, can't seem to engage, mentally foggy.
That's why I can only post this much....
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
My husband and I live in the woods on five acres of Arizona woods. We have no children; it’s just us and some cats (We formerly had two special, cute, beloved dogs, also. Oh, and several chickens. And some turkeys. And a nightly racoon visitor we named Steve.) At Christmas time 2005, we had just bought some land in Alaska and were planning for him (my husband, not Steve) to spend the summer of 2006 working there. More like 5 months when all told. At Christmas we came down to Phoenix to be with family and my husband noted that my mom was starting to show her age more than before. He thought perhaps it was time she not be living alone, and maybe I should go to Phoenix to live with her and care for her. My response? "Um...I’m married!" But then, just two months later, she got herself into a pretty serious situation, and we knew... We knew that’s what we should do.
We thought, well, we’re going to be totally apart for 5 months anyway. At least when he gets back we’ll only be 200 miles apart instead of 4000. 200 is doable on weekends and holidays. So, I quit my job as a church secretary and moved in with Mom. We knew it was the right thing to do. We received much affirmation to add to our own inner conviction. I’ve been here 3 years. When The Fisherman comes home in September, he goes to our 5 acres and resumes his guitar teaching at a local school and in various communities "on the mountain" as it's called where we live. We've gone back and forth to see each other. We have a commuter marriage. What an amazing and sweet thing that he saw my mom's need first and was willing to take the raw end of the deal by staying alone all winter so I could - so we could - give to my mom this way.
At first my presence here was more as a companion, addressing the loneliness and security issues of my now over-80 year old mother. Even so, within that first year, Mom was in the hospital three times. I don’t know if she’d be here now if I hadn’t been here in the night with her. One brother lives very close-by but Mom may not have called him, not wanting to be a bother and also hating to go to the hospital. She quite possibly could have ignored her symptoms for too long, trying to let them pass, which probably would have meant big trouble.
Gradually, her needs became a little greater as her body became weaker. Recently, my role has definitely changed. I am a real caregiver now. I don’t think I’m very good at it in some ways. In other ways, I do fairly well. I find, however, that our own particular mother-daughter dynamic is getting in the way a bit. So, she and I are both going through some challenges.
Well, that’s the explanation of my weird living situation. I feel like I have three homes: our Arizona mountain home, our Alaska "home", and my place here with Mom. When I run into people I haven’t seen for a long time (particulary at church where you don't always get to talk with people you see in passing every week) and we actually get to talk, many times I get the questions: Do you drive down every Sunday? Are you back living in Phoenix? What’s Rusty doing? I’m sure some folks have even wondered if seeing me without him means we’ve split up - (Ugh! I hate even writing that. I don't take offense at their probable wondering, but NO we have definitely not!) I have yet to come up with a concise, quick answer to questions about our living situation. It just can’t be done. There’s too many cities and too many jobs involved. Living situation? Weird.
She has several stories archived as well. I stumbled upon the story of how she met and fell in love with her husband, whom she calls Marlboro Man. It's a fun read. She calls it: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. It's like reading a romance novel but it's their real story. You can read Chapters 1-31 here in an easy continuous fashion but then you have to switch over to here to click on the titles and open up the remaining chapters. But be warned.... She leaves you totally hanging at the end of each short chapter that it's nearly impossible to quit reading!