An Icy Day in February

The puzzle is completed. Hallelujah! Kill the fatted calf. The Christmas 2017 puzzle is complete. So, now the question is what to do with it? I suggested that she break it into the tiny little pieces she started with and pass them on to her sister Nancy. She is still thinking about it but that is probably what will happen.

Who knows maybe this is a new hobby. It certainly is an occupation once it starts. Cheryl seemed very content while this whole process was happening. Cindy is an enthusiastic cheerleader and champion during the activity. I was not gone for a long time but when I came home they were puzzling away.

I started dinner. I had been out in the rain that we had ahead of the icy wet snowy crap that came today. While out I decided it was a good day for stuff soup.

Stuff soup:

  • 2 small onions chopped
  • several (5) carrots pealed and chopped
  • several (4) small potatoes pealed and quartered
  • several (5) stalks of celery chopped
  • a head of broccoli chopped – the stems are good in soup the flowers tend to disintegrate like peas.
  • the end of the bag of frozen corn (maybe ½ C.)
  • half a cup or so of frozen peas.
  • ½ lb. of mystery beef – bought out of the get rid of it soon shelf at IGA – chopped int ½ in. cubes
  • some whole wheat pasta for health reasons.

In a dutch oven put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and dump in the onions. Stir them when they start to sizzle. Rinse the carrots and celery and when you are satisfied with the onions, let them brown a bit, dump in the beef. Brown the beef for awhile and enjoy the aroma. When the kitchen smells like a good diner, dump in the celery and carrots. Stir it up for a bit and put the lid on and give it a few minutes. This is a good time for a little salt and pepper to taste.

When you are ready dump in a box (32 oz.) of whatever broth you like. I used beef broth here. Bring it all to a boil and start the oven set to 300F.

Dump in the frozen peas, corn and chop the broccoli into small pieces. When it starts to boil again, dump in the broccoli and put the lid back on and stick in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

Add the healthy pasta at the end of 30 minutes and set the timer for 10 minutes more. Set the table and find some rye bread to go with everything. Put out the butter, bowls, silverware, etc.

Sit down in the kitchen to eat so that the puzzle can be viewed from afar. It is better to leave the dining table undisturbed. Speak to the small children attempting to mess with the puzzle even if you cannot see them.

Maybe I should look for the special table to build the puzzle on. I kind of liked having dinner at the dining table. We sat closer to the little apparition girls and I could chase them away as necessary while eating. The little girls seem to show up a lot at dinner time.

Everyone is smiles when the puzzle gets finished.

Carpe Diem.

It takes Time

Many months ago Cheryl started on this puzzle. I wrote about it before. I could figure out exactly how long ago but the specific span of time is actually unimportant to the story. Last week when Cindy came to sit with Cheryl for a bit so that I could go do whatever I wanted to do by myself, I said to her that she could help Cheryl with this puzzle that she has been ignoring for months. I said that thinking that it would go over like the proverbial lead balloon – what is a lead balloon? – but Cindy is an enthusiastic puzzle doer and she sucked Cheryl along with her. I left to do a couple errands and take a walk.

Two hours or so later when I returned Cindy and Cheryl had not moved from the spots alongside the dining table where I unrolled the puzzle and reinflated the tube that the felt surface was wrapped around with the trapped puzzle pieces. Cindy had Cheryl hard at work sorting pieces of like color and they had assembled several chunks of pieces to figure out where they fit in the picture that came with the puzzle. They did not finish it that day. It is a half thousand pieces of a complex image of small town Christmas.

The picture when completed

Lots of colors are involved. We bought this puzzle several years ago. I think we may have had it for a couple years by the time the pandemic broke into pandemonium everywhere. It came from a Barnes & Noble book store that we happened to be shopping in for one of the grandkids. Cheryl passed by the puzzles parked in the aisle and was inspired to retell the story about someone at Bridgeway Pointe assisted living facility who worked puzzles all the time and lived down the hallway from her mother. I remarked that she should pick one out to do for herself and she selected this Christmas scene.

Leaving it on the dining table is somewhat of an inconvenience at dinner time as I had gotten into setting the dining room area for two. We had used mostly the kitchen table when we first moved into the new condo and reserved the dining table for company. As I took on most of the cooking duties I decided to use the dining area more instead of preserving it for non-existent company. Had we stayed in our old house I suspect that I would have gotten to this point there also. For now, we are back in the kitchen for dinner.

For several days after Cindy’s inspiration we walked around the puzzle on the table awaiting Cindy’s return. I did not mention it. Cheryl once suggested that she could put it in her office and I persuaded her that it was not in the way of anything. She was worried that her little people that she sees occasionally would disturb it but they have not. Last evening she started to work on it. It was a spontaneous move on her part. She worked on it for a bit. I texted this picture to Cindy. She responded with, “Great! Don’t let her finish it without me.” There is not much danger of that, Cindy.

I checked on her during the evening. She worked on it for about an hour. She found two pieces that seemed to fit together but they did not. I was able to help her find a couple pieces and fit them somewhere in the picture.

Her memory seems to be going faster. She looks at a piece and as she looks at the picture the shape is lost in her visual memory. It is a long process.

Carpe Diem.

January Eight

I am not a huge sports fan, so, should I write or should I read? On that day I elected to read after hanging the new calendar on her office door, putting away most of the Christmas decorations and helping her finish a batch of cookies. It was a pleasant two hours of downtime before preparation for church.

Church was sadly uninviting as the pastor is out with illness due to covid. We are back to socially distanced mask wearing in a gathering of perhaps eighty people in a building that holds 450 but has not experienced that level of participation for many years prior to the whole pandemic pandemonium.


So today is January 9, 2022. I checked with Cheryl and it is time for the three kings to go back to the orient. But the storage area is actually slightly west of where they are displayed this morning. Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar (or Casper) are their names according to Western church tradition. Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia or sometimes Ethiopia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India. So, maybe, the fact that the bucket and the storage area is west makes little difference. It is a much shorter walk than the guy going back to India.

Guys chasing a suspected super nova…

The past week has been a bit of a trial. Cheryl has been having trouble sleeping through the night. It is a common issue with Parkinson’s disease. As a consequence during the day she is easily upset, occasionally moody, somewhat apathetic, quick to anger and often fatigued. The rivastigmine was making her nauseated so it was discontinued. She has been taking quetiapine (Seraquel) and in working with her nurse practitioner we are slowly changing the dosage and timing of that to help with sleep. It is an annoying process but it seems to be working sort of.

Last evening we made blueberry muffins for Sunday breakfast today and for awhile she sat with me to watch our used to be favorite CBS Sunday Morning show. She has not sat and watched this show with me for any length of time for many months. It used to be our Sunday morning activity after returning from church.

Times change and I suppose I am attempting to preserve as much of the routine as possible while we travel this Parkinson’s journey. I do miss watching various pieces with her and commenting about it.

As her memory, creeping dementia and other odd behaviors appear it is incumbent on me to not correct her or even explain those behaviors to others. Her friends all know what she is dealing with. I do not have to remind them. People will show kindness or not. Total strangers can be remarkably kind and generous. Maybe because Cheryl navigates with a cane in her hand.

Carpe Diem!

Cheryl’s Cookies (Not the Commercial Venture)

Living with a parkie makes me alert to new information when it comes up. That being said I do not always recognize my new task. This is about becoming a master cookie maker on the fly.

Executive function

Dementia occurs in about 40% of Parkinson’s sufferers. Some behaviors are side effects of medications. Some come with build up of unpronounceable proteins in the brain. No matter the source, the behavior can be disheartening and annoying from a care partner perspective. Cheryl’s reaction often is anger to some perceived slight or merely, the question, why do it that way? (It is an engineer’s question.)

It starts with me. Words and question structure is important. Engineers always want to ask why something is done some way or simply is some way. Why often sounds like a challenge, even to other engineers, if it is not asked properly.

How to do

Our latest challenge to our marital bliss is Christmas cookies. Baking is a hobby and a passion. I like to think I have perfected my meager talent at making breads of various types and shapes. I am proud of that but lately I have pushing into cakes and pies. The pandemic pandemonium gets to us all in various ways.

My perception of making cookies is one of a trivial exercise in baking. That seems to be an incorrect perspective. Cheryl’s helping me. Two cooks in the kitchen is a recipe for a challenge to peaceful coexistence. Two bakers near an oven enables battle lines to be established and defended with vigor. Starting a question with why is akin to removing one’s glove and casting it upon the dueling ground. (smiley face)

Cheryl has made perhaps a giga-dozen (I just made up that word) of cookies. I have made none. What can I say to redeem myself? Engineers ask why a lot.

Where to start

To a skilled cookie baker the recipe is merely a guide, a refresher, a list that says these get lemon zest. Interestingly, that is much like how I view a new bread recipe. I am on familiar territory.

But not so fast apprentice! Nearby there is a master cookie baker. Do not question the master’s skill at her craft with disdainful utterances such as, why and how come? All will be revealed. But also keep an eye on the recipe and make suggestions such as, yes, we have put that in the mix. Shall I add the butter?

Sometimes with creeping dementia ingredients are forgotten. Sometimes without that factor ingredients are forgotten. Try to be kind and remember that no one got up in the morning thinking, how can I mess with his mind today? Most importantly, do not raise your voice two octaves, that is a dead giveaway to your ignorance.

How does one check for doneness? It is common sense! Look at them. (the “fool” is left unsaid.) They will look right. What is right? (and on and on and on…)

Cut out the Crap in the Conversation

To a person standing nearby this conversation can sound rude. It sounds like one person is giving another orders and it can be that way. If, however, it is done with kindness in the communicator’s heart and with understanding that a Parkinson’s patient also may be dealing with confusion issues, it is neither rude nor demeaning in any way. Often a person experiencing Parkinson’s cannot or does not get the implication or inference. Be clear. Have kindness in your voice when speaking.

The onus is on the care partner to be patient, kind and clear. Be aware, care partner, that this is hard to do because you remember how your partner/spouse/parent/friend was before. (Good natured teasing may be misinterpreted. Be certain that your partner is not confused.) You too can be unaware of how they are now. The Parkinson’s patient may become sad or angry. Be persistent if you as care partner are very concerned about safety. Add some love to the conversation if you think you are not getting through the confusion. Strive to not become frustrated and raise your voice (two octaves).


We did wind up with our first battle batch of cookies. Although they are a motley crew, they taste fine.

Carpe Diem.

So What Should I Do?

I really enjoy a good detective murder mystery. When I first started reading this genre I would try early on to uncover the “doer”. I do not do that anymore. I just go with the author’s flow and let him or her tell the story as they want me to hear it. Mom used to cheat and read forty or 50 pages and then jump to the back of the book and discover the miscreant. That works for really wordy authors like Stephen King – who does not write detective murder mysteries but I like his stories also – sometimes but often one misses the word craft of the author. It is tough to start with a nugget of an idea and turn it into a novel. You will miss word gems created by the author and any new vocabulary.

Recently I rediscovered John Sandford (John Cloud) and his “prey” novels with Lucas Davenport. I have read many. They are always entertaining to me. A week or so back I thought, you know Paul, you have not read his books through from the beginning to now. He started writing in the mid 1990’s so there is a lot of ground to cover.

I started reading his stories electronically on my tablet all the way to “Night Prey”. It is out on my electronic library so I turned to the print library. It is out there too. (damn) Read faster people!

I usually read two or three things in parallel and I am now. A novel, perhaps some journalistic book and maybe something technical are on my reading list at the same time. I will be patient but not for long. It is my winter project for now. Read faster people. (Even the big print version is out.)

The audio version is available. Those are usually read too slow for me and sometimes I say to myself – did I miss something? – and I go back to re-read a few pages. And occasionally I find a word that I am unsure of its meaning even though I can discover it from the text, so, I look it up in one of my Webster’s. This by the way is the feature I like most about reading on my little tablet. I can touch the word and Merriam will awaken and tell me its definition. (sweet) Cannot do those with an audio book.

Read faster people! Although the “Family Roe” is well written and an interestingly sad story, I want to see how Lucas grows and develops. He just met the love of his life, Weather and she just saved his life. Let’s go, people.

Carpe Diem

Traveling Where?

This past year I ventured farther from home than usual. Google keeps track of where I am as long as my phone is on and I allow it to do so. I do not mind the “keeping track”. God does it. Why not Google?

This is the time of year when folks send out cards to their friends and family. Often these cards are family pictures or collections of pictures to tell the story of their family. They have grown. The children have grown. They visited various places. They had a good time there. I enjoy these types of cards and so does Cheryl.

I think I will take this google map of were I have been the past year and add pictures of those places to tell the story. Stay tuned.

Carpe Diem.

Don’t Think, Just Do

Words from the Karate Kid and advice given to Drew on B-Positive tonight.

It is always possible the think and over think one’s situation and find a reason to not do something which could easily be very beneficial to one’s own well being. I discover this often with care giving to Cheryl.

Today Cheryl’s cousin-in-law (a relationship I just made up) made a very kind offer to me. Let me back up a bit, her CPAP machine bit the dust. She thought it was merely the cord but as it turned out it was dying long before it bit the dust completely. I brought it home to try to figure it out. Alas I could not. I do not have a manual or even know how it is supposed to operate.

She came to pick it up this morning and as she had never been to our home I showed her around and we chatted for a bit. I mentioned that I was taking Cheryl to her exercise class in about an hour. As she left I walked out to her car and she said that she did not live very far and if I needed someone to sit with Cheryl while I did something or wanted to ride my bike for exercise, she would do that.

I choked me up for a second. A kind and very generous offer of help, freely given, not requested, completely out of the blue. I sent her a text a while later and asked how much warning she might need to do that for me. She only needed a day or so warning and even suggested which days might be best. I thanked her profusely.

I do not ask for help with Cheryl, probably because my maleness gets in the way of that. I am planning, not thinking.

Some days the road seems smoother and less treacherous when you are not focused on the potholes coming up.

Carpe Diem.

It is All Hallow’s Eve

Ghosts and goblins come out during the daytime these days of the covid wind down and the continued concern for small ones who are the ghosts and goblins. We will see no ghosts or goblins unless we go seek them out in their own habitat.

For our own scary feature to today’s activities, Cheryl got up early so I gave her the 7 AM meds at about 6:45 or so and we went back to bed. She got up and dressed at 7:30 while I napped on until 9 AM. (That felt great!) When I came to the kitchen she informed me that she had taken her medicine. She had taken her 10 AM meds at about 8 AM. I need a new system. I think.

It might be a scary day. So far, however, it is not.

Poking around my photos and ones that I could on Facebook has brought back wonderful memories of times before. I cherish them. These pictures are Halloween through the years and my favorite picture of my mom and dad as Raggedy Ann and Andy. (Truman in sunglasses is not Halloween but it is a great picture.)

Carpe Diem and Happy Halloween!

Her favorite show was Big Bang Theory

… and then Young Sheldon for a while but the young Sheldon is a bit more melodramatic and less fun and funny. She has lost interest it appears to me.

I, however, have become attracted to the rest of the characters. I am watching how the child actors age; a midlife crisis development in the family; Memah (grandmother) deals with life and widowhood; how life in Texas is portrayed. Sheldon’s role is reduced to narrator. He has become a semicolon between scenes. I think his older brother Georgie is getting ready to branch out and chase his entrepreneurial instincts and fly to the world of small business.

As the last season ended George (father) is struggling in his marriage and is feeling a little put out by Mary (mother) who is certain only she can take care of the family. He winds up going to the local bar to have a beer or two and enjoy the company of others rather than stay in a bickering duel with Mary that he is certain lose. He meets up with his newly divorced neighbor and they chat about old times and other things about their lives. They both whine a little to each other. George has some pain in his chest which they perceive as a heart attack.

The beginning of the new season episode tells us that it is just gas. Everyone is relieved. George and Brenda (neighbor) spend some time working through their (perceived) guilt about talking in the bar. George with his newly divorced neighbor is searching for meaning in life. Brenda is simply looking for companionship after her marriage fell apart. They finally sit at her kitchen table and she suggests that they both just wanted to feel special for a bit. A very succinct conclusion to the show.

All of us have a need to feel special for a bit.

Folks with a chronic condition that makes everyday living difficult want to feel special for a bit but separate from their condition. The condition is not them.

Carpe Diem!

Purses, Zippers, Pockets

Cheryl really did not use a purse much. She had one she used when the children were small but with small children there is a lot of extra baggage and equipment so overtime she consolidated everything. So it is my recollection that she did not carry a purse but I am thinking that is probably incorrect.

As her neurological condition degenerated I encouraged her to carry a purse. I helped her find a purse that had a long strap that she could drape over her shoulder and would not require her to keep a hold of it with one hand. She needed more and more to have hands free to keep her balance and grab me or the door frame or the car or the back of a chair or the back of a bench or a stair rail or something.

The first bag I helped her find was a smallish brown leather purse that was perhaps 10 inches by 8 inches and a depth of 4 inches. She carried little with her. In my maleness it seemed adequately sized for the couple of things that had to go along. Glasses case, small wallet, keys, a pen or two, a small package of tissues, this purse had room aplenty for all of these. We left Target with our prize one evening after eating in Frisch’s restaurant across the road from Target.

Two things happened over a period of weeks. The strap, although it seemed adequate at the time became inadequate. The capacity mysteriously reduced in much the same fashion as a cotton T-shirt that had resided too often in a hot water bath to be cleansed.

Back at our favorite Target store we found a somewhat larger green cloth purse with a different style of strap which I thought could be made much longer. Alas I was foiled by the fact that the straps did not get longer as it first appeared. The straps converted the purse to a mini back pack. Unsure of what to do about that situation or whether it might prove useful for Cheryl, we gave it to one of our granddaughters who happened to be visiting a few days later.

The selection at Target seemed to be shrinking. I started to search Amazon for a suitable new carryall to replace the rapidly shrinking brown artificial leather messenger bag. One night the pinkish purple purse appeared in my Amazon search window. It is available in other colors and made of a canvas material. Most importantly Cheryl likes it.

It has other features that are not readily apparent. It has a total of five zippered compartments. These provide the entertaining feature of hiding most anything that Cheryl puts in there. Additionally there are several internal zippers that provide further confusion for any parkie. It is, even without these extra attractive accouterments, a fine messenger bag with plenty compartments to organize one’s stuff whatever that stuff may be.

This purse can be a distraction and an entertainment. Cheryl often zips and unzips one or two or three zippers as soon as she spies this purse benignly resting on the edge of the table as it is shown above. It is a delicate dance between her and the bag. Men cannot understand the attraction to the zippered compartments.

Parkinsonism must provide a bit of obsessive-compulsive attraction to the zip itself. Much like a fidget spinner the zipping happens but somewhere in her thought process she puts stuff in, maybe takes it out, maybe not, maybe moves it so that it is in a better situation.

She seems in no hurry to disparage this bag and it features. Sometime she will complain that it has too much in it. That is good information.

I try to unobtrusively observe where she has placed objects in the purse. I often place her medications in her purse before we go somewhere if we might not return before the next dose. Have you ever watched the guy with three cups upside down a pea or a pebble underneath one of them. Same thing with the zippers if close attention is not paid.

Carpe Diem and happy shopping.