Saturday, October 31, 2009

Visit to the Wound Clinic

With Skip's wound not responding well to the treatment prescribed by the wound nurse, we had to pick up things up a bit. We'd resisted going to see a wound doctor because we had no way of getting Skip up onto a table for an examination and treatment. Skip's wound nurse had worked at a different wound clinic at another local hospital and knew there was a setup there for Skip to get on a stretcher and be cared for. So, she arranged for an appointment there on Thursday.

The atmosphere right from when we walked in was very different from what I'd experienced at other clinics, which were always professional, but never warm. Right from the start, everyone was warm and friendly ... from the receptionist to the intake nurse to the wound nurses to the doctor himself, it was a great team. The intake nurse had an excellent means of transferring Skip from her chair to the treatment table using a sheet until Skip's knees and a bit of strength from the nurse and me.

The wound nurse gave us some disturbing news when she measured the wound. She let us know it was 3.8 cm deep. Yikes!

The doctor came in and debrided the wound. We have to go back next week for another round of debridement, with the application of an ointment that will continue the cleanout in between. Once the wound is prepped for healing, he told us they'd use a vacuum approach to promote healing. On Friday, when the visiting nurse came to change the bandage, she was pleased to hear about the vacuum approach since she'd seen great results with that with another client.

I was very concerned about the wound prior to the clinic visit. I'm still concerned but also optimistic about the prospects now that we've got the clinic folks engaged.

The Mother of All Cranky Reasons

In my post on Tuesday night I asked, essentially, why I bother with it all. Why do all this work; why provide all this care? What's the point? These questions were prompted by an outburst I might characterize as the mother of all crankiness. It was caused by a not-so-delightful combination of Cranky Reasons #9 (this freakin' disease), #6 (this shouldn't be happening) and #5 (I get scared) plus an unnumbered reason: enough already. The situation was that Skip's hands were so weak she was finding it too hard to eat her dinner salad and asked if I'd feed her.

This request prompted a cascading series of images in my mind as I imagined helping her eat becoming a part of the daily mix of caregiving tasks. If you're a caregiver, you can become accustomed to a certain level of care that you're providing, but adding new items can be a scary prospect. I reacted very badly to this new possibility.

Right now, we have a pretty good routine in terms of serving dinner to Skip and the level of support she needs that allows me to eat and enjoy my meal at the same time. If I have to feed her, then the entire routine will change and I won't be able to eat at the same time and someone's dinner will be eaten cold (most likely mine).

But, most importantly, if I'm feeding Skip, then this is one less chunk of time I can call my own that is instead given over to caregiving. This is what I most regret about the need to take on any new tasks ... I lose that much more time in my day where I determine how that time is spent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Unanswerable Questions

I'm having one of those kinds of evenings. Wondering what it's all about. Why are we here? What is all this work for and is it worth it?

I have no religious beliefs to fall back on; I basically come up empty at times like this. Just looking into a black hole when trying to fathom the reasons for it all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October is Birthday Month ...

... in my family. Today is my Dad's 84th, two weeks ago, my mother turned 81. My brother (who's been spending a lot of time here lately doing home projects) hit 57 early in the month. (My sister and I have July birthdays.)

The proximity of my parents' birthdays to one another led to a wonderful family tradition that went on for 10 or 15 years (traveling up for the get together is a bit too much for my dad now). Sometime each October, the whole family would congregate for dinner in a private room at a local historic inn. This included my parents, Skip and me, my sister, her husband and 4 boys and my brother, his wife and 3 kids. After dinner and coffee, every one in the family would talk about his or her year.

I loved the stories from my nieces and nephews. We'd hear about sports, school, boy scouts, travel. Year over year, it was interesting to see how they grew both in the nature of what they reported and their ways of reporting.

I liked the adults' stories, too. One year, my brother-in-law spoke very movingly of the death of his father earlier that year and how that experience added insight into his relationship with his sons. Even the occasional guest was expected to join in the storytelling. My mother has a very warm spot in her heart for one of Skip's brothers who spoke very movingly about our relationship and my care for Skip during our civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001. Ever since, he was a perennial invitee to the party and always gave his updates when his turn came.

On Wednesday, I'm heading to the Cape to join my father in a meeting. Afterwards, we'll head back to their house to join my mom for a nice dinner. I'll love seeing them and enjoying their company, but this write-up is making me long for a full-out family gathering to hear the year's stories from all the generations.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Front Walk is Done

It's actually been done for about a week, but I haven't gotten around to posting photos. We're delighted with the results. We still have some other work in the front yard, including replacing the lights and modifying the gutters, but this is a huge improvement.

One thing I've realized over the last few weeks, with this work and the work my brother is doing, that home improvement projects I do aren't the only ones that spawn other work. I think it may be that almost ALL of them do! That's been a good thing for me to realize. These follow-on projects aren't due to my incompetence as a home improver, but they are actually quite typical for any home projects.

Anyway ... on with the pics. Before ....

And, ta-da, AFTER!

After the leaves and needles are done falling and then are all cleaned up, we'll put some mulch around the perimeter of the wall to cover the raw earth. (Yet another project spawned by this one. :-) )

Try a Little Tenderness

Who knows why certain moods overtake us? I do know that my general tendencies towards good moods are in the morning, bad moods at night. Well, this morning, I was in a wonderful mood and that extended into strong feelings of tenderness towards my wife.

Skip's really been having a rough go of it lately, as her pressure wound has escalated over the last 1-2 weeks into a serious problem. It's got her freaked out, as I'm sure I've mentioned before (this almost daily posting does tend to create some repetition in my posts).

I got her up this morning and into the shower to start her day. I always help with part of the shower, especially because her arms aren't strong enough and her hands aren't dextrous enough to manage a good shampoo (for her inch-long hair). I was struck with such strong feelings of tenderness and a desire to take care of Skip while helping with her shower. MS is such a sucky, horrible disease. It has taken away so much from her and she needs so much as a result. I was glad I could be the one to help.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bells are Ringing in My Ears

I don't often talk about any maladies that effect me, but today I want to talk about my ears. They ring.

I know they've been ringing for over 30 years because I clearly remember speaking to a doctor about them when I was 21 or 22. In my late 20s, the ringing was accompanied by loss of hearing in my left ear such that if I was speaking on the phone with the handset to my right ear, I had little awareness of ambient noise in the room. And what I could hear in my left ear was blurry.

The partial deafness and working in a good job with medical benefits prompted my first significant exploration into my ear problems. I went to Mass Eye and Ear, a part of Mass General Hospital, and had all sorts of tests. These essentially determined there was no clearly definable reason for the deafness or the tinnitus.

The hearing loss in the left has come and gone over the years. I have learned to accomodate it by strategic seating in settings where I'm in a group, such as large, in-person meetings and restaurants with a group of friends.

In my mid-30s, vertigo joined in the fun, so I now had a trio of ear issues. This led to the identification of Meuniere's disease as a likely culprit of these issues. My father has Meuniere's, though he hasn't had any vertigo attacks in 15 years or more. (This is lucky for him since his mobility is now impaired by Parkinson's.)

The hearing loss is always there to some degree, the vertigo is a very infrequent visitor, but the tinnitus is always with me. I'm writing about it now because it's really spiked up over the last week or so. Over the years, the loudness and the tone have varied significantly, even varying by ear. With the recent increase in volume, I now have a pulsing, high-pitched ringing shriek localized slightly to the left of center in my head. This is also accompanied by distinct ringing sounds located directly in my ears. When the house is wonderfully quiet in the mornings, like right now, it's presence occupies a fair portion of my consciousness; later in the day, when the activity level and noise increases, competing with the tinnitus, it will fade into the background.

In addition to all of this in the present day, I look at my dad and worry about the future of my ears. He is 84 and has two hearing aids, having worn them for at least a decade. Despite this, he needs to be spoken to in a fairly loud voice and dialogue often needs repeating. I suspect this is in store for me. D'oh!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stop the World!

Warning: drivel ahead!

I had a brief period of overwhelmingness today. I had a good sense of what the day would bring and then a curve ball got thrown. Skip's aide, MW, had talked yesterday about not coming today because she was trying to get packed for moving this weekend. As a result, I thought the day consisted just of work, with only my brother coming to do some home maintenance. No nurses, no MW, no physical therapist. All in all, that seemed pretty quiet.

Late morning, MW called and said she'd like to work 1-5. Skip was thrilled. That would get her outside on the patio (it was a lovely, warm day here), a visit and a cigar smoke. I was not thrilled, though. Skip and I had planned that she'd spend time lying on her side in the early afternoon to take some pressure off her wound. That was out. We'd planned on only have one visitor today, my brother. That was out.

Suddenly, this change in plans had me completely overwhelmed. Not for any good reason, but just because it was a change. But, I didn't crank out. Instead, I gave myself a time-out. For about 15 minutes, I sat in the living room and wasted time on my home computer. I completely separated myself from the day's pressures. It did the trick as I was able to climb back into the day's responsibilities and routines and get through it all without descending into a bad mood. In fact, I ended up appreciating MW's presence as she took care of a lot of household activities (such as empty diswasher, fold laundry) that would have been part of my routine instead.

I have to watch out for tomorrow, though. We're having 4 new appliances delivered and partially installed (gas appliances being installed by a plumber on Friday), MW, the house cleaners, my brother and a full day of meetings. Oy! I'll have to be on my guard for crankiness! (Actually, I've already come up with ways to settle myself into a "cone of silence" so I can work away from all the chaos. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Circle of Sh*t

I used to often ask Skip "what's wrong?" I'd know she was in a gloomy state, but wasn't sure of the root cause, so I'd ask. I thought this was a good way to start a dialogue to see if we could work together to battle the problem.

Skip wouldn't want to talk about whatever the problem was, though. Nine times out of ten, the cause of the problem would be one of a small set of things, such as her increasing disability, her mobility issues, her prognosis. You know, all the kinds of things someone with a chronic debilitating disease would worry about.

She just didn't want to talk about this stuff. But, I continued to ask. (I am just a pest, I guess.) Because she didn't want to talk about the MS stuff that was bringing her down, we ended up getting into small tiffs when all I was trying to do was help out. Eventually, we came up with a shorthand way for Skip to say what was bothering her to short-circuit this bad pattern, "circle of shit." If I'd ask what was bothering her, and she said it was circle of shit, I knew what the root cause of her bad mood was and I could be supportive without being invasive.

It's amazing how just having this exspression we were able to defuse any issues created by my trying to poke at Skip's grumpiness/sadness. Often as not, we'd end up laughing about the circle of shit saying and Skip's mood would lighten.

I realize we haven't used the "circle of shit" saying in quite some time. Over the years, Skip's overall attitude and outlook on life improved to the point that she doesn't get as gloomy as she once did. In fact, my mother frequently comments on how positive her attitude is.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Caregiver Aids #12: Drug List

Skip takes a lot of prescription drugs. There are so many, I started keeping a list. We bring the list with us whenever we go to a medical provider or the emergency room. It almost always generates a word of thanks from the person handling intake. And, it results in a complete and accurate list of all drugs for the provider who's thinking about prescribing something new.

Over the years, it's morphed a lot. I've now got it categorized by medical condition, describe the pill itself, indicate when it's taken and, when Skip developed some drug allergies a few years back, I added a list of drugs she's allergic to at the bottom. 

Here is a sample of the drug list with some MS drugs left in as examples:

Patient Name

Daily Drug List

As of: Month Day, Year

Drug,* dosage and pill description
For MS Symptoms

Baclofen, 10 mg, white tab, imprinted 10 a

Tizanidine, 4 mg, white flat oval tab, imprinted R180


For Condition X

For Other Issues

As needed:

* Where now available as a generic, the generic is used

  • List as needed

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shopping Therapy

Skip is having a rough day. The pressure sores -- their presence, their pain and discomfort -- have her a bit freaked out. So, we're going out for a bit of shopping therapy. And what will we buy? Why, appliances!

Our oven is about 25 years old. The pilot (or some part of it) died at the beginning of the summer. We've had this repaired before and it cost a good bit, as Skip recalls (I have a memory like a sieve for those kinds of facts). We kept vacillating between repairing it for the umpteenth time or just breaking down and buying a new one. After comparing the cost of repair vs the cost of a new one, we've finally decided that it's time to buy a new one. With the cold weather now here, we're ready for some roasted chicken so we must have an oven!

The clothes dryer is well over 20 years old. The last time we had it repaired, the repairman suggested we buy a new one when the next thing went wrong. The clothes washer is just over 20 years old. It's never been repaired as far as I can remember, but it's starting to have troubles with the spin cycle. I have read that front-load washers are more energy efficient and clean clothes cleaner; I'm having a bit of a yen for a front-loader.

I read this morning that the federal government has a program for household appliances similar to the cash for clunkers program for cars. If you replace your current appliances with items that are energy efficient, you can receive a rebate between $50 and $200 (or was it $300?) from the feds.

It sounds like a three-fer in the appliance department. I guess it's a sad story of my total domesticity that the prospect of buying a washer, dryer and oven all have me pretty excited. And, Skip loves, loves, loves to shop ... even for appliances. So, we'll all be happy. Well, except for the pups, who will be together in their crate while we're out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Special Appreciation

Earlier today, I was getting Skip dressed. Part of that routine includes care for a pressure wound she's developed. Her wound nurse recommended a new approach in caring for it. We started today to use a Dakin solution, which requires packing the wound with gauze soaked in a diluted bleach solution. Yes, regular Clorox bleach is used to help clean the wound to create a better bed for healing.

Skip was nervous about the bleach. She worried it would hurt. The wound nurse had assured her that some folks notice stinging when first applied, but it's not a painful solution. Still, bleach was freaking her out.

Whenever I'm doing something for Skip's care that she can't see, I tell her each step as I'm about to take it so she knows what's coming. Today, I explained in even more detail than usual so she'd be right with me as we tried out the Dakin solution.

When the bleached gauze was in place and a gauze covering taped on, she told me that I take great care of her. At times like this, when we're trying something new that's got her a bit freaked out, she is comforted by how much she can trust me and knowing that she's in good hands.

That made me feel great.

Oh, and by the way, she's noticed a bit of stinging, but not a major problem. That's good, because it gets applied twice a day!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Still Cranky

I haven't written about it much of late, but I still get cranky. Especially at bedtime. At the end of the day, I just have no ability to let it "roll off my back" and I can get quite crabby very easily. In addition to the low tolerance level I have at bedtime, I don't seem to have much flexibility in general.

Yeah, it's not just at bedtime. It feels like the demands of life are too high and there's little ability to absorb anything else. Admittedly, my absorption capabilities are higher in the morning than at night, but that's a fairly fine distinction lately.

I'm taking a few days off at the end of the month. I'm hoping to unwind and, if possible, be irresponsible, if only for a few hours. That should take the edge off.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To Costume or Not to Costume?

Skip and I are going to a Halloween party. It's a costume party and it's requested that all partyers wear costumes. The last time we went to this couple's Halloween party, Skip wore a simple costume and I was bad, going in street clothes only.

It probably wouldn't surprise folks who read this blog to learn that I'm a curmudgeon who's not much on costumes. And, to a certain extent, not much on parties. I do find, though, that I am usually happy that I went to the party when all is said and done.

Sometimes I'm able to give up my curmudgeonliness and actually loosen up and have fun. I'm going to attempt that here. Skip is all for wearing a costume and has been regularly asking me to look through costume websites to get ideas for what to wear.

It's a struggle for me. I can be such a stick in the mud.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Baseball in Beantown

I wrote a while back (April 13th), the following:

Cranky Reason #8: the Red Sox
Cranky Reason #8: the Red Sox. I have to admit that it's not only caregiving stuff that can make me cranky. I was really looking forward to the Red Sox season starting up last week ... their poor start is making me frustrated and cranky.

De-crank Strategy: Just turn off the game if it's going badly. If they come back and win, I can read about it and enjoy the outcome secondhand. If they don't come back, I don't have to be frustrated by their inability to take advantage of opportunities. I have been employing this strategy frequently already this season.
I noted there's an even better de-crank strategy for dealing with occurrences such as this that are completely out of my control ... don't care! If you don't care about the outcome, then you won't get angry if the outcome is bad.
The Red Sox played well at the start of the season, way way back long ago. As the season progressed, they began to suck. Although they made the playoffs, it was pretty clear it was their play in the first half of the season that gave them the record to clinch a playoff berth. So, I was hopeful they'd do well, but wouldn't have been surprised if they did badly.
Well, play badly is exactly what they did in the first round of the playoffs. But, when they lost the third game in a row against the Angels and were swept out, I wasn't cranky. I had stopped being invested in the outcome. I was disappointed, but that was it. My expectations were very low and the Red Sox met them.
I guess I can learn from this ... in order to get cranky, I have to care.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Maintenance ... On to the Front Walk

The front walk consists (or, actually, consisted) of cement blocks about 3' X 5'. It's 30' long. The blocks were poured by my father about 40 years ago, with help from a friend and my brother. Over the years, they've moved slightly, sunk a bit in a few places and the wood shims between then has rotted away in some places. The yard has been steadily encroaching on the edges of the cenent blocks. All in all, the thing looked crappy.

We decided to take the leap and have the walk rebuilt. We'd get to raise it up slightly to stop the water pooling, put a short wall along the edge to ensure no further encroachment of the yard and improve the look overall.

The first guy who came to give us an estimate is the brother of the woman who cuts Skip's hair. He is semi-retired, had lots of great photos of work he'd done and gave me an estimate for the work that made my hair stand up. We mulled that over for a while ... could this really be what the walk rebuilding would cost? So, then we called the guy who'd repointed the chimney last year, who'd built some walks for some friends, and he gave us a quote 25% lower than the first guy. Bingo! We were in business.

He came on Saturday, with a crew of two guys, and they made huge progress. Unfortunately, they ran out of bricks and, with the Columbus Day holiday, the store that sold them to the mason won't reopen until Tuesday. So, they did a little bit of work on Sunday, but are now just waiting for more materials to finish the job. We're anxiously awaiting their return so we can see the outcome!

On Saturday morning, the first thing they did was to break up the cement blocks. They did this by levering one up with a pry bar, then the other guy slammed down a sledghammer to break it. Wow, brute strength!

The work in progress is looking great so far!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leaf Peeping

Skip, the two pups and I went to our favorite spot for fall foliage viewing today. It's a cemetery in a nearby town that is filled with maples, especially red maples. We decided to head over there today to gawk at the great red maples in all their glory.

The trip wasn't entirely successful. First, we went to a seasonal ice cream/clam shack restaurant that we like to take in here and there in the warm weather. At the tail end of the season, they are open only on weekends, so we thought they'd still be open. Unfortunately, the sign that greeted us said "closed for the season." We decided to postpone eating until after we went to the graveyard as we didn't have a clue what we wanted to eat as an alternative (I'd been thinking fondly of friend clams, clams with bellies, not the strips). At the cemetery, we found lots of color, but mostly yellows ... the big red maples hadn't turned yet.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our drive through the cemetery. Skip likes to check out the gravestones, I was focused more on the foliage. The weather was mild and the sky was a clear, beautiful blue.

While we drove around, we decided to get Thai food and bring it home to eat. Unfortunately, the place we called was closed as we were between the lunch and dinner hours. Oy! Well ... we ended up with Chinese, which Skip loves.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Driving to Cape Cod

Today was one of my semi-monthly day trips to Cape Cod to visit with my parents and give them a hand with the bills and their checkbook (though in all honesty my Dad handles 95% of the bills).

I enjoy visiting with my parents and the opportunity to help out. But I think the drive down to the Cape is very restorative for me. I get time alone, time when I listen to music and think. Over the last few trips, I've also started giving friends a call to chit chat, trying to be better about keeping in touch with them.

Shortly after I left the house, I made my first call, giving a ring to Skip's cousin JH. She's a lesbian, married to her partner of more than 30 years. JH's wife has COPD, is on oxygen all day, and the cousin is a full-time caregiver (they're both retired). I've recently started calling to check in and try and give support, as I know full well how difficult and challenging that role can be. And, I enjoy her sense of humor and perspective on things. Then I called the home of two friends of ours that used to live about a mile from us, with whom we once socialized 2-3 times a month, but they moved away about 5 years ago. Our contacts have really dropped off, yet we love them and I want us to stay in touch. We had a nice chat. Couldn't reach the other person I called. (In case you're thinking I was holding a phone and driving one-handed all this time, I do wear a wireless headset and all the calls are hands free.)

That killed almost half of the drive. Then, I fired up the Dixie Chicks and listened to them the rest of the way. I don't usually listen to Country music, but I really like the music and voices of the Chicks.

I realized while I was driving along that I was happy. Very happy. Looking forward to seeing my parents. Enjoying the lovely fall weather, and the fall foliage (nowhere near peak, but still some beautiful spots of orange, yellow and red). Confident that Skip was in the capable hands of MW, and that she would have a good day herself. Not really any particular reason for the happiness, but it felt great, almost euphoric.

I always enjoy the drive down to visit, but this was definitely one of the best. I hope I can recapture that feeling soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Drivel Post #1

Some of the folks who read this blog may feel I've already penned drivel in a prior post or posts. I won't take offense if you think so. After all, what's interesting to me isn't always going to strike a chord with you. And, sometimes I can be accused of a bit of navel-gazing.

When I started the plan to post 30 out of 31 days in October, I knew I'd eventually come to a day when the well was a bit dry. Today is that day. I'm a bit wiped out from the week, Friday nights are always the low ebb of the week for me, and I'm needing a good night's sleep to recharge.

I'm relaxing on the couch in the living room. Sally is sleeping snuggled against my leg, Ruby is sleeping, lying on her back, just to Sally's side. Skip is in her wheelchair a bit to my left. She's got her feet elevated. Her rolling table (sort of like the rolling tables used for patients reclining in hospital beds) is in position for her to easily use her laptop. Everything she needs is within easy reach ... water bottles, tv remote, phone, snacks.

I'm waiting for the Red Sox playoff game to start. They're in California, playing the Angels, and the game doesn't start until 9:37. Right now, we're catching the end of the Yankees/Minnesota Twins game and I'm happy to see, in the top of the 9th, that Minnesota has a 3-1 lead. I'm hopeful the Red Sox win tonight as they lost last night and being down 2 games in a best of 5 series isn't a good situation. Considering the late start of the game and the fact that it'll conclude sometime after midnight, I suspect I'll not find out the result until tomorrow morning.

So, just checking in with a drivel-istic update. Hope you're all well!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Diary of a Typical Day

What's a day like in my life? Well, today wasn't all that out of the ordinary for a work day ... balancing work and personal life stuff combined with visitors to the house. (Speaking of visitors, my brother mentioned to me that he was surprised at the amount of comings and goings with visitors to the house. Every day he was here over the last few weeks, at least one other person came to perform some service or another on behalf of Skip.)

Thus, my day in summary:
  • Alarm went off at 5:30, I only hit the snooze once
  • Got up at 5:40, took the pups out, gave them treats, ground beans, got the coffee brewing
  • Settled in at the computer for personal fun, especially to have time to play the Facebook games I'm presently addicted to. When the coffee was ready, got a cup for myself.
  • Around 7 or so, gave Skip her a.m. pills (I have them all set up in advance)
  • At 7:30, moved into the kitchen to begin working as I had a call with my boss at 10:30 and wanted to get some stuff done before that call and get organized for the call itself
  • At 8:40, got Skip up for her shower
  • At 9:00, while helping Skip with post-shower stuff (hair maintenance and the like), got onto my first conference call of the day
  • Between 9 and 11, worked. Occasionally helped Skip out in her morning routines. Somewhere in there I got dressed. Got load of yesterday's laundry folded and washed/dried sheets.
  • Around 11 or so, my brother showed up to do some more work around the house. In particular, he worked on a balky silverware drawer, sealed a leak in the shower and examined a few downstairs doors that need replacing (measuring and the like).
  • Between 11 and 12, got Skip her breakfast and then got her dressed, including cleaning and dressing her skin wounds that we're managing (they're definitely in the healing mode, but will take time to repair).
  • 12:15 finally got around to having breakfast, my typical repast of high-fiber cereal, fresh fruit and 1% milk.
  • It was a quiet day for conference calls, yay!
  • At 1:15, the intrepid MW (Skip's aide) showed up and took Skip off in the car for a 1:45 podiatrist appointment. The pups, Ruby and Sally, would be unsettled and sad while Skip was gone, hanging out by the kitchen door, keeping their eye on the garage door, until their return.
  • At 1:30, had a check-in with a team member to discuss her current projects and their status.
  • At 2:45, the house cleaners arrived (they were 45 minutes late) for the every other week cleaning. This meant I needed to be careful to keep doors closed to minimize noise of the vacuum cleaner while on work calls.
  • At 3:00, had a client call. It was scheduled for an hour, but all content was completed in 30 minutes, yay!
  • Skip and MW got back around 3:30. Skip never even came in the house, but just went right to the patio so she and MW could have some cigars.
  • At 4:00, got back on the phone with my boss, who'd had to cut the 10:30 call short due to an issue that came up while we were talking. He delegated to me an interesting project for a new service to deliver to our client.
  • Started to wind down work-wise around 5. Got a call from someone at my client who wanted to talk billing and budgets until 5:30.
  • As that call was wrapping up, the cleaners said goodbye (the house smells great when they're done!), my brother wrapped up for the day and Skip and MW came in so MW could start on dinner. She made grilled chicken with BBQ sauce, hash browns and a lovely salad. (It's so great to have someone else cook for you.)
  • At 7, we ate dinner. I cleaned up.
  • Checked in on some work stuff while I watched a bit of the LA Dodgers/St. Louis Cardinals baseball playoff game.
  • Settled in on the couch around 8:30 to play a bit more of my addicting Facebook game. Turned on the Red Sox/LA Angels of Anaheim playoff game. Watching it now.
  • Will go back out to the kitchen shortly to do a bit more work before I shut that computer down for the night. (This is one negative of working from home ... the office is never far away.)
  • I expect we'll head in to bed around 11:30 or so.
And that's another typical day here at the Cranky and Skip house.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

On To Pine Cones and Pine Needles

Acorns were falling in huge abundance a week or two ago. Today was very windy, and the pine needles fell like snow, the pine cones dive-bombed all around us. Sitting in the house today, we heard almost continuously all afternoon ... pow! pow! pow! as the pine cones hit the roof.

Our yard is pretty minimalist, meaning we have no grass and not much ground cover (that is, the yard is mostly dirt). The pine trees that surround the yard keep the grass from flourishing. We used to put down mulch every year but discovered that was raising the level of the yard and contributing to the water flooding problems we now have. So, we've left the yard "as is" ever since.

As a result, this time of year, when the pine needles have covered the yard, this is the time it looks best. We are thinking of doing more with the yard after the front walk is rebuilt, but that's still TBD. I bet a comprehensive planting of ground cover would cost a bundle, so we'll probably have to take it slow on that front.

Below is the view out the kitchen window and a few other views of the needles and cones. You can see our yard statuary ... two armadillos and a lion.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fast Maintenance

When my brother showed up this morning to continue work on the first repair project, he had a surprise. His son was with him! It was a huge help to him to have my nephew on the job because 4' X 8' masonite sheets are a bit hard for one person to install. And, the same is true of 10' or 12' redwood siding. Together, they worked like a well-oiled machine and got the repair virtually completed this afternoon. All that remains will be to re-stain the wood, which won't get done until after the front walk is replaced (that work is scheduled to start Saturday). Yoohoo!

(Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of the entryway with all siding back in place. But, man, it looks good!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Home Maintenance

In the interests of full disclosure, let me start this post by stating the facts: I am not handy. I am completely and utterly not handy. In fact, when I start projects, I often end up making things worse by spawning the need for new projects to really get the job done right. So, I'm not so good at projects around the house and I'm reluctant to start up the ones that I have the skills for because I know the project will become much, much bigger before it's completed.

My lack of handiness is a bit surprising when considering my upbringing. My father is perhaps the handiest person on the planet (well, he was into his mid-70s, when he finally had to break down and hire a handyman). He lived in and maintained for 25 years the house Skip and I now live in, he built the house my parents retired to and he general contracted a Habitat for Humanity house after he retired. I spent many, many weekends as a kid helping him out. He was a hard worker who kept his kids busy as helpers. Unfortunately, I think I missed out on some key learning opportunities when I figured out in my teens that by sleeping in I could avoid getting drafted into helping out on Saturdays.

As a result of all this lack of handiness, our house maintenance has been a bit neglected during the 20 years we've lived here. We've been able to hire folks to handle the big jobs that couldn't be left undone ... new roof, staining the outside, painting the inside. But the smaller stuff has gone largely unaddressed. For instance, the silverware drawer in the kitchen has been screwed up for too many years to mention.

Over the last year, we've developed some troubling problems that are all associated with water ... water getting into the house in a couple of different places. I have been struggling with how best to handle completion of the projects to correct these problems. I had a brainstorm one weekend day whilst visiting my parents. My brother was there too, and he was talking about his project to rebuild the deck at his house. I realized he was capable of the kind of work that needed doing and he's got some time and could use some money as he's out of work right now, having been laid off some months back.

He started in on his first project last week. He's doing a great job. And, he grew up here so he knows this house as well as I do. He's got my dad as a sounding board. They're having a great old time talking masonite and galvanized nails. This is a pretty unique house (you don't find too many redwood houses of modern design in New England), and I'm glad that my brother is able to glean so much info about it from my dad while he's still around and of sound mind. If we'd hired a handyman or carpenter to do this work, I can't believe it would get the same level of care and attention to detail combined with respect for the structure that we get with my brother on the job.

The work my brother is doing is at the front entry. Today, we hired a mason to rebuild the front walk that leads up to the entry. We've taken down a bunch of the yews at the front of the house, in part to make way for my brother's work and in part because they were quite overgrown and in need of replacement. I see other work we can do that builds on these first two projects. Work that will definitely improve the look of the front yard. Suddenly, home maintenance feels like a good thing, instead of the burden it's always felt like before. Yay!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Caregiver Aids #11: Grabbers

The first of these we got as a Christmas present from my sister, probably about 15 years ago. At the time, I thought, why do we need one of these? She thought it would be useful for Skip to reach items on high shelves in cupboards (at this time, Skip was still ambulatory).

That first one probably sat unused for years before we started taking advantage of it. Its usefulness became apparent quickly. Now we have one in the laundry room (next to the kitchen), in the bedroom and hanging from Skip's table that she uses at her wheelchair when in the living room.

Since Skip's hands are numb and her fingers no longer dextrous, she often drops things. These grabbers get called into action multiple times every day. Since I'm the one picking up the item on the floor, they help me a lot.

These grabbers are available all over the internet. I searched on "grabber picker upper" and got a ton of hits, so they're a cinch to find. We did once buy a model that had opposing suction cups at the end rather than the grabber design shown in the photo. This item proved to be useless (at least for us), because the cups kept sticking together.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Feeling a Bit Restless

Life is going along pretty smoothly. Status quo. Steady state. Same old same old.

I haven't been too cranky, though maintaining good spirits around bedtime remains a challenge. Skip is doing fairly well, except for a couple of wounds on her "undercarriage" that aren't healing readily. Work keeps me busy. All the routines around the house are comforting, and help to keep us grounded and feeling that life is in order.

I don't want a crisis to shake things up. But I do want to inject a bit out of the ordinary into our lives. Something like a trip into Boston to see live theater, a day out with Skip to "leaf peep" the fall foliage, or maybe a day where MW stays with Skip for the day and I run off to be irresponsible and play some poker at a Connecticut casino. Maybe we should take in a Red Sox baseball playoff game at Fenway Park (these tickets are normally unavailable, but wheelchair seats can usually be had for just about any game). At this point, I think I'd be happy just to go to a movie in a theater and eat too much buttered popcorn.

Whatever we end up doing, I've got itchy feet and they want to take me off to do something out of the house and out of my daily routines.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Lovely Change of Pace

Last Saturday afternoon, Skip and I drove up to coastal New Hampshire (there's a little tiny piece of Atlantic Ocean coastline in New Hampshire, shoehorned in between Massachusetts and Maine). We went to visit a friend of ours, C. We got to know C over the years when we visited at the home of a friend in common. We like her and enjoyed her company but never socialized with her except at our friends' house.

Then, she came to Maine on our 2 week vacation in July. We got to know her much better and our friendship grew. We really enjoyed her company, her perspective on things and her sense of humor.

The second to last day of our vacation, she spent a good part of the day in the emergency room of the local hospital because of a killer headache. Even with an MRI (I believe an MRI was taken rather than a CT Scan, but I could be wrong), the ER docs couldn't identify the root cause, so they told C it was the result of a sinus problem and sent her off with some prescriptions. The day after she got home from Maine, she had a stroke!

She spent about a week in the hospital. After going home, she had lots of therapy and nursing visits to help her get back to the point where she could walk steadily, think clearly, drive safely and get back to work. She is doing all those things now, though transitioning back slowly into work. She also says her short-term memory is a bit dicey.

We wanted to see her, to see how she was doing, get some time enjoying her company, and take her out for dinner. C suggested if the weather was good, we could go down to Hampton Beach and walk along the sea wall, which is accessible. Skip loves the beach and this sounded like a lovely idea. So, we drove up on Saturday afternoon.

It was a cool, early fall day in New England. The trees were already turning a bit, though the fall foliage wasn't yet at peak. We picked C up at her apartment and drove the 5 or 10 minutes over to Hampton Beach. I'm sure the place is hopping in the summer; on this cool day, it had plenty of folks, but the beach was virtually empty. All of us were up walking the sea wall or browsing the shops that were still open (many were closed for the season).

The sky was a clear blue. The sea below it a beautiful, dark blue. Lots of breakers at the shore. Light sea breezes that were cool but not uncomfortably so, since we all wore light jackets and baseball caps. We walked for a bit, chatting and enjoying the sites. Skip was feeling a bit weak, so we took a break with a late lunch/early dinner at an informal cafe across from the sea wall.

As we headed back to C's home, we took a roundabout route so C could show us a bit of the area. We got talking about apple picking and she ended up taking us over to a nearby orchard that was known for their pies as well as their apples. By chance, we arrived at the tail end of a harvest festival and the place was jammed. We would have loved a taste of cider donuts (if you've never had a cider donut, you are missing a great seasonal treat that Skip and I love) but the line was about 100 deep (not a huge exaggeration). Instead, we picked out some Macoun apples (another favorite of ours, a variety that's typically only available at orchards and not in supermarkets), cider and a few other goodies to bring home.

We took C back to her home and drove the hour plus back home in the fading light (don't you hate how early it gets dark as the year progresses?). Of course, the pups were delighted to see us (Skip's aide, MW had watched them for us), which always makes for a wonderful homecoming.

We've been enjoying those Macouns. And, while writing this, I polished off a cold glass of cider.

It was great to visit with C. To see that she's well on the mend. And, best of all, to enjoy her company taking in the beach at Hampton. I hope we do it again soon (before the weather gets too cold).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

30 Posts, 31 Days

I notice that my posting frequency has been dropping with each month since I established this blog.  September saw only 8 posts, the lowest so far in a month.

I find blogging both fun and personally enlightening. I do my best thinking when I have a conversation or write about something, as I'm not a particularly introspective thinker. So blogging is a good tool for me to think some things through. And, of course, I am my own favorite subject, so I love to write about me!

When I first got started, I had lots of stuff to write about. I documented the kinds of things that made me cranky, scoured around for recommendations on the internet for how to deal with anger, wrote about the aids that we use here at home to help with caregiving. I also didn't have many blogs that I read, having not yet found the large community of MS bloggers and the smaller community of MS caregivers. Reading those blogs can take a surprising amount of time (time well spent, I might add).

Part of my drop off in blogging, I believe, is just getting out of the habit. I plan to post something at least 30 times this month. This should get me back into the habit. So, be prepared for lots of stuff here, some good, some drivel. I look forward to a fun October.