Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weight Watchers

I joined Weight Watchers yesterday. I'd like to lose about 75 pounds. I'm trying out the online version, rather than go to the meetings. If it turns out that I feel I'm lacking motivation or falling off the "wagon" using the online version, I'll start going to the meetings, but I'm hoping it'll work out with the online only approach.

Over a 2 year period from 1999-2000, I lost 98 pounds using Weight Watchers. I felt great, was physically active, and enjoyed having a far greater set of clothes options available. Slowly but surely, 75% of those pounds have returned. And they're weighing down this mid-50s body.

The program has the core concept of "points" that you allocate to your food for the day, but the calculation of points has changed quite a bit since I last worked the program, so I'll need to dig in and figure out how it works. This is a good thing for me. The more I dive in and learn, the better the new model will stick with me.

I love to eat but, honestly, I feel I'd rather feel healthier and be more physically fit than eat to my heart's content. Gotta get in shape to make sure I can take care of Skip in the years to come!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Quiet Christmas For Us

We've got a low-key Christmas going this year. No big parties here at the house. And, we aren't giving each other too many gifts, unlike years past. We have so much stuff, it's hard to rationalize spending money on more things we don't need. This is sad for Skip because she is a great gift-giver. Picks out great things to give me. She's also a great gift-picker, finding things for me to give her!

On Christmas day, we're having brunch with my mother at her new home. She sold her house on the Cape this fall and now lives in a very nice independent living apartment in central Massachusetts. (She's encouraging us to move there, but we're still 7 years from age eligibility.) We went there for Thanksgiving and the brunch was very good; we're expecting another good meal on Christmas. Then, we'll head back to her apartment to exchange stockings and visit. She'll let me put football on the tv. My brother's son got married this fall, and that nephew and his wife will be stopping by for a visit since they're heading off on vacation the next day.

On the 30th, we'll be getting together with my mother, my siblings and their kids for a family celebration. We'll be having this shindig at my mother's place, where they have a private dining room for family get-togethers. My brother's 3 kids are all adults now and my sister's two sets of twin boys are 16 and 20. I'm not very good with kids, so it was hard for me to chat them up when they were young. Now, I enjoy their company very much so these get-togethers are really fun for me. The fact that we'll be at my mom's and none of has to cook or clean up is just an added bonus.

We used to host a party for Skip's brothers who live in the area and their kids and grandkids but we skipped a year some years back and never brought it back. We will be seeing 2 of Skip's brothers and a sister-in-law for dinner in early January, though.

Even though we're not exchanging a lot of gifts, we're not completely done. Guess I'll have to get out today or tomorrow and finish up!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Worry

Let's just say right up front here that I am not a worrier by nature. I expect positive outcomes and I rarely worry about the bad things that could happen. All this in spite of Skip's 20+ years of progressive MS.
But now I worry about one thing in particular ... breaking down when Skip's in the car. I've mused here and there about it ever since our vacation in Maine in August 2009. I spent a good amount of time in the 3 hour drive to Maine worrying about what would happen if we broke down. The car contained Skip, two dogs and me along with an unbelievable amount of stuff, such as a 5' ramp and a hoyer lift. Of course, we didn't break down on the way up or the way home.

In fact, we have only broken down once in the last 25 years of driving and it happened in summer 2010 (so does this mean I shouldn't worry about this?). Ironically, it happened a day after I spent way too much money having tons and tons of preventive maintenance done on our car. Some kind of cable moved out of position and I couldn't put the car into drive. Turns out it was caused by that preventive maintenance. The car had to be towed, and we had quite a time finding a handicapped-accessible cab to get us home.

But our Honda Element with wheelchair mods (aka the Toaster) isn't brand new anymore. Right now, it's only 6 years old with a bit less than 60,000 miles on it. My plan is to keep it for as long as possible, ideally for another 100,000 miles.

I think I worry because it would be so difficult to get Skip home safely and easily from a breakdown.

What would happen if we did indeed break down? Let's say the wrecker dispatched by AAA comes and he needs to tow us somewhere. We can't hop into the front seat of the wrecker and drive with him. Skip can't stay in the Element while it's towed. So where does she go? How does she get home? So far, I've thought of using a handicapped cab (not available everywhere), an ambulance (big expense, and I don't see how we get the wheelchair into it), and lifting her out of her wheelchair and into a regular car, but that would require leaving behind the wheelchair in the car and at least 3 or 4 folks to make the transfer both into and out of the car.

I'm sure there's other options I haven't thought of. Any ideas? I'd love to have some solutions in my pocket in advance of any traveling.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Stuff on the Right-Hand Nav Bar

I've added 2 new items on the right-hand side of my blog: a space to replay my last 5 tweets and a list of the most popular blog posts. Of course, so far, I've only tweeted twice, but one of those tweets was a test text sent from my phone, so it'll be easy to add updates going forward. When I was looking for the tweet gadget, I noticed another gadget for listing your most popular posts. I thought that'd be fun for a while. Not surprisingly, most of the popular ones are about caregiver aids, since those are the ones that'd show up in Google searches. Because, from experience, I haven't found much online about things like our modified Honda Element (called the XWAV) or the lift system (Surehands) that we've got installed in the bedroom and bathroom. But why was a post about going to a Halloween party with or without a costume a top post?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

October Nor'easter

Suffice it to say, we don't get snow in Massachusetts in October. We barely get it in November and often don't even have a white Christmas. Turns out it's a good thing we don't get it that early. When heavy, wet snow lands on trees still filled with leaves, trees and limbs fall on power lines and lights go out.

For us, the power went out at 3am on Sunday, October 30th. The storm had started early on Saturday evening. We only got a few inches of snow, but it was very, very wet. We kept the heat up higher than normal through the night just in case we lost power, so the house would stay as warm as possible. Skip has a low air loss mattress on her hospital bed to help with her pressure sore. To stay inflated, the mattress requires electricity. We have a battery backup that lasts for about 80 minutes. From previous outages, we knew it wasn't too uncomfortable for her to lie in the deflated bed for a number of hours.

When we woke up in the morning, I figured we'd need to book a hotel room as soon as possible, before they were all taken by others in the same situation. We could always cancel before the evening if the power came back on. Here in the suburbs of Boston, there are plenty of hotels around like Courtyards and Embassy Suites. The first handful I called either didn't answer or answered and said they had no power. On the fourth try, I found a place with rooms and power but they didn't take dogs; fortunately, they had a sister property nearby that did.

We still had hot water (thanks to gas heat!). Skip's aide came in the early afternoon and bathed her, dressed her and got her up. The aide had a hard time getting to our house because there were trees down all over the place including multiple trees down on the street just before ours. Multiple lines were down. From that, we knew it would be a long while before power came back on.

With a fully packed car (boy, the disabled sure need a lot of crap to get through the day. I used to take multi-day trips for business with just a rolling suitcase that fit in the overhead compartment on a plane. That suitcase was about 1/10th of our load.), we drove over to the hotel. The setup for guests with dogs was excellent. Our room was on the ground floor with a second entrance out the back leading to plenty of space for dog-walking.

The room itself was great. Plenty of space to get around with the wheelchair, nice furnishings and quite clean.

At home, we have a system for transferring Skip installed in the ceiling of our bedroom. We also have a Hoyer lift that a friend gave us after her mother, who had MS, died (we used to have a manual one, but this baby had power!). At bedtime, it worked like a charm for the transfer at the hotel, able to get Skip up plenty high to get onto the higher than normal hotel bed.

I don't know how Skip is so brave, allowing herself to be hoisted up for transfers. She is so accepting of this stuff, never freaking out. She's calmly handled a crew hauling her in her chair up a flight of stairs on more than one occasion. I know I wouldn't handle it with such grace. At home, these transfers are old hat, but this definitely was not. So, we walked through each step of the transfer beforehand. Just knowing what's coming makes things easier for her.

We ended up staying 2 nights at the hotel. Ruby, who is a mellow dog, settled right in. She spent her time chilling on the bed (after just a short bit of sniffing around when we first got there) and was fine going out on a leash. Addy, not so much. Lots of investingating. Wouldn't pee when I took them out. Once she lasted 16 hours before finally going. Barking when she heard noise out in the hall. Slowly but surely, she got used to her new surroundings.

On Tuesday morning, we knew we wouldn't be able to stay another night as the hotel was fully booked. Power still wasn't on at home, though the power company web site said our town's power should be restored everywhere by midnight that night. We decided we'd head down to the Cape and stay at my mother's house overnight. My mom just sold her house and was moving on November 3rd, so I needed to be there, helping her, my sister and brother pack up. This also was a chance for Skip to get one last visit to the house that had been my parents' home for 20+ years. The last time there for her was a short visit after my father's memorial service in June 2010. We hadn't stayed overnight in years because, though accessible, the guest bedroom and bathroom were hard for Skip to manage. With the Hoyer, we'd be able to handle it.

We ended up staying two nights even though the power came on at home Tuesday evening (when the answering machine answered the phone, I knew the power was back). I was able to spend a lot of time packing and Skip got an extended visit with my mom.

I'd rather have not had to spend the money on the hotel and restocking the refrigerator, but otherwise, this turned out to be a fun change of pace. We haven't traveled since our 2-week vacation in Maine two summers ago. Skip's now more disabled, primarily due to her 5+ week hospitalization from her bone infection in late 2010. I'd love to be able to travel again. This short stay in a hotel proved we can do it successfully. Skip spends a lot of time in bed and only gets out about once a week, so this was a great chance for her to getaway. And, Addy isn't very good with new people. She barks, she has submissive pee issues. In the 4 day period of traveling, she met lots of new people and experienced lots of new things. Since getting home, when we send her outside to greet the nurses and aides who come to the house, she's not peeing as much. Let's hope this trend continues.

Dreaming of all those different places we might go to ...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Back!

Over the last 8 months, since I closed the door on posting to this blog, I've often thought that the experiences I was going through, the things happening to Skip or my musings of the moment would be good items for posting here. So, I've decided to get back in the saddle.

So let's bring everyone up to speed on our little family and its current state ...

Skip and I celebrated our 30th year together in August. Yikes! How did that happen? How did we get that old?

Skip's MS is about the same as it was last March, though she says her left hand has gotten worse. Fortunately, she can still feed herself most of the time and manages to do a lot of surfing on her computer. Ruby recovered beautifully from her back surgery last February and dropped 6 pounds (20-25% of her body weight) because we changed how we fed her. She's gotten quite spry. Addy will be 2 at the end of January, so she's a teenager now. Still rambunctious and a barker. Her long hair is just beautiful and I'll have to post some photos so you can see what I mean. In many ways, she reminds me of the dearly departed Sally, with her extreme lovingness to both of us and her total attachment to me. Unlike Sally, though, she has not managed to piss off any skunks and remains unsprayed to date (Sally got sprayed 5 times in her short 4 years of life).

And me? Well, I'm still unemployed. Whenever I stop to think about it, I wonder how I managed to be a caregiver and work a very demanding job for all those years. Because, let's be honest, being a caregiver is a demanding job in and of itself. I know part of it was accomplished by being perenially sleep deprived. And, I pretty much always had a neverending to do list that nagged at me. No longer am I tired and behind on things. Also, I seem to be slowly but surely gaining back all those pounds I lost in my early 40s. Unfortunately, the additional discretionary time in my day hasn't resulted in my getting any exercise. This needs to change.

I've got some stories I want to share so will be posting these in the coming days and weeks. I look forward to writing them and hearing your thoughts on them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Let's Call it a Day

I see it's been 3 months since I've posted here. I think that, in and of itself, tells the story ... that I've lost the momentum and enthusiasm for these musings. I very much enjoyed creating this blog, using it as a means to tell stories and think through some of the challenges and my reactions to caregiving life. But, while I often think of things that I could mention on the blog, I no longer find myself sitting down and writing a complete post.

In addition to the fun I had with writing this blog, it also opened up to me an entire community of folks who deal with the same crap every day that Skip and I deal with. Wonderful folks whose friendship and support has meant so much, especially since they have walked in my shoes or rolled in Skip's chair.

Skip and I are doing well, as are the puppies. I am still unemployed. Skip still has MS, unfortunately. Ruby had back surgery in early February and she has recovered beautifully. Addy, now 14 months old, is wonderfully loving but very vocal, barking and whining a lot. So glad I don't have to deal with all that noise while on conference calls!

This winter, I spent a lot of time working on ways to reduce our living expenses. When I was employed, I always viewed my time as the scarce resource and was willing to pay others to perform services that would have used up much of my spare time. That's no longer the case, of course, my time is not so scarce any longer. Now, no more house cleaners. I bought a snowblower to clear the driveway rather than use a plow service. I then examined our expenses such as cable tv and trash pickup to see where we could achieve some savings.

Now, it's time to move on to revenue generation.One of the things that I've recently started doing with an eye towards money-making is bidding on abandoned storage units to resell their contents. Since this is the new thing for me in my life, I've started a blog about it, Well, started at this point means I've created the site and updated my profile. Posts to come soon; feel free to join me there!

And, finally ... Thanks for all your support!