One More Thing

There is always one more thing to do, one more chore to accomplish, just one more job. The unpaid but highly rewarding job of care partner is filled with unrelenting detail and a never ending series of little jobs. The list is long. New things are added often.

Take some time to reflect. Cheryl’s creeping dementia does not allow her learn new things or compensating techniques easily. And she may not learn them at all. She might learn the reverse. Always be encouraging even as you as care partner become discouraged.

Carpe Diem

Enjoy the rest of it.

Whatever it may be.

Help where you can. Sometimes she will refuse the help. Help anyway.

Double Carpe Diem.

Where have Handwritten Notes Gone?

I have saved a lot of old crap. Like most people I suppose have saved from the earlier part of their lives. Always with the intent of “doing something” with that letter, that picture, that article, that thing.

A few months ago I found a bag of that kind of stuff in my armoire crammed in the back of a bunch of other memorabilia. My diplomas and certificates and other ATTAboys are stuffed into the same place near socks and pajamas. My sister refers to these as little treasures.

In this particular bag left over from Waldenbooks (remember them?) I found a collection of old letters written by Cheryl to me in high school. These are not love letters. She is merely writing to tell me about her day. In the example I show here she has continued her letter on the next day, so, it is two letters.

Six pages of handwritten conversation as though I was there or at least on the telephone with her show several concepts of interest. The first thing to note is that her cursive when she was seventeen is written as though it is on lined paper even though there are no guidelines on the stationary. The second thing I noticed as I re-read her note was how she must have taken to heart practicing her craft in grade school and high school. The letter is dated and located and each page is numbered so the reader is not confused.

Not as much emphasis is placed on American standard cursive as it once was when we were children. Many of the MEME-ers on Meta believe this is appalling. I think it merely shows progress in education.

These days Parkinson has stolen her cursive from her as well as other things. Her ability to think in a straight line is gone. Cursive writing is just another item greatly diminished in our new life. And handwritten notes seem to be a thing of the past as we leap into the SMS message days. I have been chided by others for not responding to text messages rapidly. I notice that my smartphone service does not always provide a little chirp when a message appears and I am okay with that.

That last thought sent off to contemplate the idea that voice phone calls except from Mumbai are mostly none existent.

Carpe Diem.

A Never Ending Search

Breakfast

In my never ending search for a good day for Cheryl, this morning I went to a little donut shop near us and bought a dozen from Maggie. I had not purchased donuts from Maggie for some time.

Linda was coming over today to sit with Cheryl. I was intending to ride my bike around Lunken and the Ohio river trail. I asked Linda what kind of donuts she liked last night. The chocolate iced ones are hers. I sent this picture to her in a text this morning. She appeared early.

The donuts were only hours old. Ron makes them overnight.

Donuts used to be $11 a dozen with coffee. Today they were $14 a dozen without coffee. That is twenty-seven per cent more for you math weenies out there. It might be more considering the coffee. Inflationary pressure has finally come to donuts. Gasoline prices are down. Donuts are up. Darn.

I went to ride my bike. When I had returned Natalie was almost finished cleaning our little condo.

I made chicken Parmesan for dinner. We went to a little ice cream shop for dessert.

It was another good day.

Carpe Diem.

Organizational Techniques

This is such a good story I am unsure where to start. Had I been more alert to how Cheryl treated this book I could have foreseen the difficulties that eventually came to her and became much of my daily life. But seeing how she treats it now is unimportant and I flatter myself into believing I could helped her if I had been paying careful attention at the beginning.

About three years ago – certainly prepandemic – Cheryl was struggling with her birthday card organizational techniques. She had several old books of names. One of these was left to her when her mother had passed from this life to the next. When a new month was approaching she would collect these to her in her office in the evening to make a list of folks whose birthday was coming to buy cards.

When her mom was still alive she would take Elaine to the Dollar Store to buy cards to send out. She took this over in time for her mother and eventually kept it up after Elaine passed away. She did this, of course, in addition to her own birthday card list. So, one evening I noticed she had several old handwritten books that she was looking through to discover whose birthdays were coming next month.

She had entered much of this same information into an Access database that she had created during her working career to help her and her mom keep track of things in an organized and businesslike manner. Cheryl was an extremely organized business woman. The most disheartening thing for me to watch as this disease progresses is her loss of organization and control. If the disease was merely physical it would, I think, be easier to deal with.

Nevertheless I put on my engineering hat to help with different methods to enhance and at the same time add ease to the organization of the birthday cards. In a second career as a high school science teacher which never completely panned out, I discovered a wonderful organizational tool that teachers use and might very well be adaptable to Cheryl’s needs. Teachers use a weekly planner to help with organizational tasks and as I discovered with my small experience, to keep track of how far behind you are with the course material. Usually these are dated with the year but at Staples I found a wonderful version that in addition to having only two days per page was lined and printed in a 8.5 by 11 format had no year printed. It could be a yearly calendar of birthdays, anniversaries and other information without concern for the year or day of the week.

The doomsday algorithm would give you the day of the week. Look it up. It is pretty neat.

She had been struggling with organizing the birthday cards. I suggested she use this yearly planner. In the store, she agreed that it could be a useful tool to organize the activity. I was proud of myself for finding such an elegant solution to her dilemma. Being the ever helpful hubby I produced from her Access data a list that I could put into Avery’s online printing tool and produce the information for the dates that were known. New information would come along with use and could be added by hand as the years evolved.

Almost a good idea but my idea therefore NIMBY and NIH reared their ugly heads in unison. And I, not to be defeated, began to defend my method to a woman who spent her working career in computer databases and systems analysis, as she, slowly crept into memory loss, confusion and dementia. What a hoot! I completely and totally missed the AHA when it went by about two years ago.

How to help without helping? I continued for many months to reconsider and think about how to make the Big Black Book useful to her. In her old multi-book system she looked at a single page to discover who had a birthday that month. An index my engineering mind shouted at me. You forgot to make an index. I thought about that for awhile and realized that the planner was organized by month, not day-of-the-week, not year, only day of the month mattered. It was self indexing. I was at a loss as to how to fix her thoughts.

I quit concerning myself with instructing her on how to use it. I just rolled with her confusion.

Over time the preoccupation with getting out the birthday cards dissipated. Other thoughts of how to help her organize it left me. I became an observer. She always tells me, if I don’t do it myself I can’t improve. She is right. I am merely her aide.

Carpe Diem.

To My Cousin Frank (aka Butch)

Frank, I know you are not with us any more and have not been for awhile but I suspect that like Google and Facebook you can watch us, so here is what I want to say to you.

Thank you ever so much for marrying Linda all those years ago when we were young. These days she is an immense help to me and a good friend. As you are aware, her simple act of kindness to Cheryl and me comes in the form of being with Cheryl while I go do something else. Lately that has been riding my bike around Lunken Airport.

When she first started doing this for us I had signed myself up for a care giving class which put great emphasis on making sure that you take care of yourself as a care partner. I asked if Linda could be with Cheryl during those class times and she agreed. I took the “take care of yourself” message to heart and make an extra effort to find help so that I can be on my own for a couple hours.

Since I am seeing Linda more these days, prior to this as you know we met for pizza Tuesday maybe four or five times a year, I think often about our conversations and ponderings in Aunt Dorothy’s kitchen. Do you remember some the questions we posed? How does one determine if sour cream is bad?, for example. I had not thought about it at the time but it was the same sort of thing that would puzzle my dad and I am guessing his brother, your dad. Sometimes small people would run through and we would wonder who they belonged to. Those are good memories. That entire older generation of our family is gone now. Aunt Bert passed away last year. But you know that. Have you talked to her yet? Does dementia go away when you get to heaven?

So, here is a couple questions for you. How are you doing in heaven these days? Is heaven a no smoking area? Is there a smoking section? Or did you give that up?

Did you know grapes are better when they are frozen? I learned that from Sarah’s Luke.

Ray and Shirley passed through town a few days ago. We gathered at Sarah’s house with as many folks as we could conjure up. Not all of your kids were there but some were. Betty and Herb came from Brooksville. Andy was not there but Kyle and Julie were. It was a great time. Ray took a picture:

the gathering

Good talking to you.

Carpe Diem.

How Big are You

Author and futurist Robert Anton Wilson on the size of a person:

“You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.”

Source: Nature’s God

— from James Clear’s email

This appeared from James Clear in his email newsletter.

It spoke to me. Deeply.

I do feel small when I allow Cheryl’s disease to become her. It boils over into anger and guilt. I forget often that she is not her disease.

She has been getting physical therapy to help her with movements like getting out of a chair. Sit to Stand is the notation on the PT’s notes. This motion is natural to non-PD people. One does not even think about the mechanics of it. Cheryl has to think and remember the sequence of moves. Depending on the time of day and how she is feeling, thinking and memory are difficult. So she simply cannot remember how to get out of a chair.

When she has fallen and when she falls it is always backwards. I encourage her to lean forward at her waist and push off the chair as the PT told her. Nose over toes is the mantra. But in view of anything, walker, table, person, nearby grab bar or whatever grip, grab and pull easily win over N-O-T. I encourage by telling her where to put her hands and how to position her body. She responds with don’t-tell-me-what-to-do anger. I respond in kind and then feel bad because I was to her unkind.

I love her dearly (big). I am annoyed with her disease (small) and I allow it to be her (smaller).

My personal reason for writing this is to hold that idea up in the light and discern how to be better next time. I am grateful for all the next times even though anger anxiety and anxiousness might creep back in. It is hard work and I am not that good at it.

Time to meditate and ponder with deep sagacity.

Carpe Diem

Distracted Morning

Sometimes when I am distracted in the morning and helping Cheryl along to her next task I poke around on the the internet of all knowledge and little information (aka world wide wait, world wide waste, wordle word wrestle, etc.). Google is helpful with amusing little short articles to pique your interest and use up a few minutes of your day. I tripped over this:

The Simple Trick For Removing Stuck Labels From Glassware – BY AUTUMN SWIERS/AUG. 18, 2022 2:22 PM EDT

Maybe you’ve heard recent rumors that Mason jars are the new, unofficial beverage holders of hipsters. Even CBS News says, ‘to be truly hipster, one must drink from a used Mason jar. It doesn’t count if you bought one in a store. It had to be used for another purpose, like for blueberry jam, pickles, or canned peaches. (CBS made the statement when a Chicago 7-Eleven began selling slurpees out of Mason jars, calling the move a “Hipster Apocalypse.” HuffPost expressed a similar sentiment.) A recent survey by the International Food Information Council, via Food Insight, found that younger generations care more about sustainability — and a hipster is “usually [a] young person’ It’s fitting, then, that recycling your used Mason jars, and other glassware, is an easy way to make an environmental difference. You can reuse that old jam jar to sip cold brew out of, to keep food fresh, to plant flowers in, or for storing buttons. But, maybe you simply don’t want the glass jar you’re using to hold those cute cozy overnight oats to have a big “Pepperoncini” label across the front.

Luckily, there’s a simple trick for removing stuck labels from glassware. Whip out the baking soda

To remove a stuck label from your glassware, craft supplies purveyor Avery suggests scrubbing the label off with acetone nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, lighter fluid, or cheap vodka. Let the label soak face-down in the solution of your choice for 15 minutes, then scrub away with a sponge. Frugal Minimalist Kitchen recommends employing the help of a scraper. But, if chemicals and tools aren’t really your thing, there’s another method.

Simply submerge the glassware in a pot of warm water, add a little dish soap or baking soda, and let it soak, says The Kitchen. You can heat the pot directly on the stove. The labels, it says, should come off on their own, but spot-scrubbing with baking soda will take care of any stubborn residue. To safely remove the hot glassware from the pot, use tongs and transfer them to a dish towel to cool. (If you’re all out of baking soda, Aim Plastic Free says white vinegar works, too.)

Sustainably Kind recommends a similar technique, but with a slight variation. If you’d rather bypass the hassle of putting a pot on the stove, it says, you can simply fill those jars or other glassware with boiling water from a tea kettle. Let the water heat the jar for 3-5 minutes; This will soften the adhesive that holds the label on, and you should be able to easily remove it while the hot water is still in the jar.

Next up — HERE’S THE TRICK TO COOKING THE TASTIEST BACON ON THE PLANET — could it be fry it in a skillet?

I had to laugh at myself for spending a couple minutes reading all these words that can be summed up as wash it. I am not a hipster. Maybe hipsters do not understand washing, after all, they have apparently only recently discovered glass. (Who was Mason, anyway?) I am glad, however, that the kids have rediscovered glass. We used to drink beer from glass jars when I was in college… in 1970-ish.

Cheryl has had breakfast. Shortly we will go to her last physical therapy appointment and decide what happens next. She slept a little later this morning but she seems rested and relaxed.

Carpe Diem.

We had a Moment

It was early afternoon. It was about an hour after she had taken a dose of meds. She was standing at the kitchen sink. Her dyskinesia was noticeable. Her conversation was anxious.

She was worried about what was going to happen with the occupational therapist … I think. I tried to convince her to sit and rest for a bit until we had to go there.

I went to putz in my office. Alexa was playing Rod Stewart old standards from his Great American Songbook album. Time after Time came on “… so lucky to be loving you” a waltz or foxtrot. I asked her if she wanted to dance. The song was a favorite of ours. I turned it up a bit and coaxed her into the space between the dining and living area. She put her arms up around me and I did the same. We hugged and danced in place.  She burst into tears as some Parkinson’s emotions took over.

Me too. We took a moment to feel a little sad about our current situation. We took a moment to let the emotion wash over us. At that point in time life was overwhelming. We had to let it be overwhelming in order to move forward with life some more. It is okay to lament life for a bit.

The song ended and we sat in the living room. Rod started singing, “I see fields of green, red roses too…” She watched some of the pictures go by on the Frameo that Anna gave her a couple years ago. She cried a little bit more and enjoyed the nostalgia. And then we were ready for life again.

an earlier dancing opportunity

Carpe Diem.

MMXXII and Enjoy the Moment

Tim Scott has a new book. It has just been published so he is making the rounds promoting his new effort. Perhaps merely because he is intelligent and half of the Senate representation from South Carolina but probably also because he is black and Republican, the CBS Morning newsies cannot resist asking questions that have little to do with his book.

To a question about whether he was considering a run for the Presidency of the U. S. he responded, “… You shouldn’t worry what’s next if you haven’t finished what’s now.” He gets my new life philosophy.

Carpe Diem. Latin for seize the day. I use it to end my little posts about various issues Cheryl is dealing with but it is also a reminder to me to stay in the present. Do not linger in lamentation over perceived losses. Stay focused on the now. But do not get so narrow minded that everything has to be “just so.” It can be good enough. (An engineer would add – for who it’s for.)

Do not become anxious about the future unless you are making a list of stuff to take care of before leaving on an extended trip. Worrying about what is to come is of no useful purpose. Plan and if God laughs at you, laugh with Him.

Carpe Diem to me also means stay in the moment. Enjoy this moment. Take a selfie if you want to have a remembrance in some future time. I personally do not understand the selfie thing. Most of the selfies I see on Facebook do not give one a sense of where one is. Occasionally there is a glimpse of beach or Mickey Mouse ears but often the background is some drinking establishment which could be anywhere in the world. I have also noticed that the camera aficionados in my family point the camera away from themselves. Me included.

Cheryl found this image of my youngest sister, Laura and her husband Jeff. They look very happy. Laura looks radiant. They are enjoying the moment. I maintain it is impossible to look this happy and not be happy in your soul.

This picture was made pre-smart phone. It is therefore not a selfie. Many years ago I visited with my west coast sister in Seattle. I was working on a job farther north in Vancouver BC. Walking down Market St. I was nearly clothes-lined by some woman with her selfie stick. It was the first time I had seen a selfie stick. (Oh, I have wandered off into the weeds.)

Carpe Diem.

EEEEke, Get Outta Here!

House centipedes occasionally wander into the house. This morning one went to its demise after scouting for prey in our kitchen. If you read the link to family handyman at the beginning it tells you that you probably should not kill them. Cheryl did not read that article.

Watching that activity, I thought about it from the bug’s point of view…

bug – “doddy-oat doe” Humming to itself. This looks like a good place to hunt as it moves into lighted part of the kitchen floor.

Cheryl – “Eeeeke! Get outta here you!” Lot’s of thumps and bumps while she tries to get up.

bug – “Holy cow there must be some kinda earthquake going on.”, it thinks. It freezes to check its surroundings.

Paul – “What’s happening in there?”

Cheryl – “There’s one of those thousand leggers.” As I come into the kitchen she says, “There it is!”, pointing to the insect hiding under the base cabinet front. I grabbed the fly swatter hanging on the pantry door and handed it to her as Mr. Centipede scampered out of harm’s way under the refrigerator.

Paul – “Here use this it will work better.”

The centipede stayed under the fridge for a few minutes searching for prey and weighing options for escape. Soon the cry erupted, “There you are!” WHACK. WHACK WHACK.

bug – “Damn. Crazy woman. What is up with you? I’m outta here.” It retreated back under the fridge and Cheryl shoved the fly swatter under the front of the refrigerator in an effort to chase the bug out from underneath. It reappeared to the left when Cheryl was probing to the right. She whacked at it some more as it attempted to scurry away.

bug – ” Ow, ow ow. OUCH. That hurts. Why are y…” Centipedes are delicate creatures and tend to disintegrate with a direct hit. This one did just that.

Gone to centipede heaven as dust.

Cheryl – “Got it!”

There is a rule in our house. No bug of any type may live there. No benefit may ameliorate the absoluteness of none.

I laugh now. It is entertaining to watch. I used to worry because of Cheryl’s balance issues. I worried that she would fall down chasing a bug across the floor. And then I realized that often her Parkinson disappeared for a bit. The necessity to cause death to all bugs overrode any Parkinson. In fact she is pretty good at mashing ants with the tip of her cane or the tip of a walker leg. The only thing that needs improvement is her reaction time.

Bug whacking is also pretty good exercise. She will come right out of the chair to bush whack a bug.

Carpe Diem.