Sunday, May 27, 2012

Expiration Dates

When I was a kid, back in the Paleolithic Era, milk didn't last for very long before it went sour. My mother went grocery shopping once a week and milk didn't last that long, so a milkman delivered it during the week, too. Everyone had the milkman deliver when I was a kid.

I can't believe how long milk lasts now. At least a couple of weeks. Cream even longer, well over a month.

When something I'm looking forward to is coming up, I am always glad when the expiration date of the cream I buy occurs on or after that event. This was especially true of vacations. I'd always be excited to know vacation was so soon our cream would still be good when we headed out.

Earlier this week, I bought cream that'll expire after we've moved. That means we're really, really close.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Caregiver Aids #15: Panic Pendant

"Help me, I've fallen and I can't get up!" That's how many of us were first introduced to panic pendants. Basically, it's a device that hangs around the user's neck (or is clipped somewhere convenient) that can be used to notify a monitoring service that you're in trouble.

The one we have today is pretty limited, with no ability to speak to a rep. All it does is alert the security folks that Skip needs help and contacts the police to come to our house. We've had it for about 3 years and she's never used it, fortunately.

The 5Star Responder

Moving, I figured we'd look at a more up to date device that, at a minimum, included the ability to converse with the call center. The Jitterbug folks, who market a cell phone that's easy for seniors to use, have just introduced the 5Star Urgent Responder. It's basically the size of a folding cell phone and works without a base station. It has a big button on it. You press the button to reach a rep or, if you press it for a long time, it'll call 911 directly. Because it comes installed with a GPS and isn't tethered to a base station, it's usable pretty much anywhere, not just inside our home. The gadget costs about $50 with an activation fee of $35 and a monthly service fee of $15. The monthly service fee is about half of what other services typically cost, though most of those services give you all the equipment without additional charge. We'll break even by paying for the equipment in about 6 months and, of course, we'll need this service for far longer than that.

Like a cell phone, this will need to be charged regularly. It goes for about 3 days without recharging. I can just charge this when I'm at home and make sure it's back with Skip before I go gallivanting off to do something outside, like take the dogs out to pee.

I'm thinking we'll give this one a try.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Best Chair Ever

Skip got a new wheelchair yesterday. She had a pretty cool one before, but this new one has every bell and whisle imaginable. It's a mid-wheel drive machine, so it has a tighter turning radius that her previous chair, which had rear wheel drive. It's got all sorts of power features, primarily designed to help the user change pressure points to head off development of pressure sores. It tilts. It reclines. The legs can be raised up. The best feature? You can raise the seat up a full 12". This will be great for Skip, especially in social settings, where she can be more at eye level when speaking to people who are standing. It's just completely cool.

At rest - cool body color, eh?

With the seat elevated

The seat fully reclined and the legs lifted

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Caregiver Aids #14: Video Baby Monitor

Why didn't I think of this before?

Skip spends a lot of time in the bedroom. I am in there with her quite a bit, but am often elsewhere in the house or garage. And, now that I've started my new part-time job, I'm working downstairs (here and there) in the family room, so I can close the door and cut off the sound of dog barking while I'm on the phone. Basically, I'm often out of earshot. When Skip wants something, I hear mumble, mumble, mumble, occasionally catching a word or two. Sometimes she calls my cell phone. So, I have to go into the bedroom to find out what Skip needs. The call out for assistance (that I perceive as a "come here now" demand) followed by the need to perform the task, which I often view as trivial (but face it, Skip can't get it done without my assistance), can trigger crankiness. I'm wondering why this isn't listed as a cranky reason.

When I was still employed full-time, we briefly tried a walkie talkie to communicate between rooms. Unfortunately, Skip's hands don't work well enough to operate the buttons so the experiment was a failure. I resigned myself to being summoned by mumble, mumble, mumble for the years to come.

There's a jewelry store ad running on tv that uses a video baby monitor as a prop in the story. I knew there were audio baby monitors, which I assumed only communicated one-way, but never thought that there were video ones. I took a brief look on Amazon to find a huge array of video monitors, but didn't make a decision on which to purchase. Skip and I talked about how she could signal me by waving her hand so, even if I was on the phone, I'd know she needed me. Last night, we watched an episode of The Mentalist on the DVR and saw a baby video monitor used as a plot device. This time, I saw it included 2-way communication, which I didn't realize existed, but which makes sense if I'd thought about it.

So, today I ordered the setup above on Amazon. It's got all the features I'm interested in plus a few we'll never use. Interesting features: 2.8" video monitor, mute on my end, wireless connection up to 600', secure connection to protect privacy, 2-way communication. Unnecessary features that parents will like: infrared camera for night visibility, in-room temperature monitor and 5 pre-loaded lullabys. The info on Amazon said you can use the 2-way communication to sing or speak to your baby. I've already warned Skip she'll be hearing my singing soon! Best feature of all: it's returnable for up to 365 days, as Amazon has a special return deal for baby items. So, if it turns out not to meet our needs, we can return it and try a different one.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

At the Pahk

Gary and Josie

G&J with the lovely Skip during the 10 minutes she wore this hoodie. Then she got too hot.

We went off to Fenway Park on Sunday to meet up with my brother, Josie and Gary to take in a Red Sox game. Some impressions from the day:
  • We got up nice and early (can you say 6am?) as we had to be out of the house by noon.
  • The weather turned out to be nicer than I'd expected. Neither Josie nor I ended up using the throws I brought.
  • Skip got quite a sunburn on her face, arms, neck and upper chest. I got a minor one on the right side of my face only. Stylish!
  • The tables at the right field roof box (under the Budweiser sign for those familiar with the Pahk) are great for visiting with friends but not so great for watching the game. That was okay with me, as my intentions were 75% socializing and 25% game watching.
  • The Red Sox suck! Clay Bucholz gave up a home run in the first and we knew the game was over. Spotting the Orioles a 5-1 lead, the Sox did score a grand slam in the 4th (I think) to tie things up. We finally left at the start of the 13th inning and watched the Sox lose in the 17th when both teams had position players pitching since they'd used up all the pitchers.
  • This was a chance to get to know Gary and Josie better and I enjoyed myself with them immensely. My brother and Gary spent time talking about tracking the game (Gary had a pad for scoring) ... adventures in geekland! Skip is shy meeting new folks but enjoyed herself as well.
  • It was great having some time out with Skip. She doesn't get out much, mostly just for quick shopping trips and the like. We had time outside, time with new friends, a no-stress outing.
One last thought ... the Red Sox organization has been claiming a sold out streak of many years duration. Unless "sold out" means 90% of the seats in the park are sold, I think their claim is bunk. We saw whole rows in the upper bleachers completely vacant. Seemed to be more open in general than I recall from years past. I noticed the handicapped accessible seats down by the ball boy on the first base line that cost $250 each in 2004 were all vacant. I wonder when they finally admit the park isn't sold out?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fun and Remembrance

Tomorrow, May 6th, I'm going to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Orioles. By coincidence, it's also the second anniversary of my dad's death.

Skip and I are meeting up with my brother, Josie and Gary at Fenway. We're up on the right field roof box, a relatively new area in the park, with table seating and waitress service. This has become our go-to spot for Red Sox games. You're pretty far away from the game, but the setting is great for socializing.

We started going to games at Fenway, taking advantage of wheelchair seating, in 2004 (great timing, eh?). Turns out the park has a lot of excellent wheelchair seating and it's relatively easy to buy these tickets. For instance, we wanted to go to opening day 2005 to see the ring ceremony and the rest of the celebration for the Red Sox' win of the 2004 World Series. We got those tickets, first row of the bleachers, at face value by calling the Sox ticket office. When I met Gary at Foxwoods a while back, he mentioned he'd bought tickets, horrible last row of the bleachers tickets, for that game so he and his dad could take in the excitement and he paid a huge sum of money for them in the aftermarket. So far, this is one of the only silver linings I've found to Skip's wheelchair usage. (Other examples are handicapped parking and getting on the rides at Disney World by skipping ahead in line.)

This year, the Red Sox are heartily sucking and the weather is only going to hit the mid 60's tomorrow. However, I am sure we'll have a wonderful time because the company is going to be wonderful. I plan to laugh all day. Win or lose, it'll be a winner day for me on the Fens.

I only went to Fenway once with my dad. It was my first visit there, back in 1967. I did suggest taking him when he was in his late 70s or early 80s, but we never worked out the plan. It would have been fun. He was smart and observant and open to new experiences. I'd have enjoyed a chance to see the park and experience the game through his eyes, as he shared his observations.

My dad was an impressive guy. Good at everything he did, active in the town and our church and incredibly handy around the house. Difficult to be his daughter while I was growing up, especially as a teen and young adult. In my teens, especially, we tangled frequently. As I became increasingly responsible as an adult, his respect for me grew and it was wonderful to have him in my court as a source of support. In his last few years, I became a regular (twice a month, on average) visitor to my parents' house on the Cape to help pay the bills and (supposedly) balance the checkbook (at which I'm not very good). But, really, it was mostly about the visit.

A lot has changed since the old boy died. My mom tried out one assisted living place that wasn't a good fit, sold her house on the Cape and moved into another assisted living place that's working out beautifully for her. I got laid off. I took stock of what my life had been like pre-layoff, with all the demands of my job combined with all the demands of caregiving, and realized I never, never, never wanted to go back to that kind of life. I always had an endless to-do list, I was always behind and under stress. I felt some satisfaction from my job, but not enough to make it soul-satisfying.

If we were entering a new financial reality where we'd no longer enjoy a nice paycheck in exchange for that demanding job, our circumstances would have to align with that reality. Downsizing to a much less expensive home is a key part of aligning our lifestyle with our finances. So, soon we'll be saying goodbye to the first house my parents designed and built together. My dad betrayed a strong streak of sentimentality in his later years, so I'm sure he'd be sad to see this house leave our family, just as I will. But, he was a practical yankee and will applaud our hard-headed sensibility that sees us embarking on a new phase of life, in our new condo in Worcester.

And, now that I've made myself feel thoroughly sentimental, I shall sign off. Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It was a long weekend, waiting for negotiations to wrap up on the condo we chose to buy, but it all came to a happy conclusion last night.

As I mentioned in my last post, we decided to take a road trip on Thursday so Skip could get inside our top two options and see them for herself. We first went to the loft in Worcester. She was able to get around as well as I expected. Those schoolroom hallways are WIDE. She was concerned about the lack of a private deck, the need for me to take stairs to take out the dogs (I found on this visit that it's only 6 stairs out, no need to take an elevator) and the lack of storage in the place. On the way into the building, we met a tenant who clearly loves the place and talked about how the patio out in front of the building gets a lot of use on warm and sunny weekend days.

On the way out, I asked the developer, who had let us in, if we'd be able to park pods in the parking lot when we moved in, if we bought there. I explained we'd be moving out of our home a few days before moving in so would have to briefly store our belongings in pods. He said if the tenants move out (he's been renting to tenants at will for a while) by June 30, we could move in before actually buying the place. This would save us a ton of dough for a hotel, for pod rentals and for extra moving effort!

Then we went on to the exurb where we were looking at the 55+ condo. Skip really liked the private deck, though didn't like that it was one story off the ground and thought that'd be an issue when Addy was out there with us ... she'd be trying to find a way off of it. She liked the size of the main living area, which is a bit bigger than in Worcester, and the amount of storage, especially since it has a full basement. She really didn't like the counters or appliances in the kitchen, though they don't bother me much ... just quite dull.

We chatted for a bit in the master bedroom about the two options. How should we proceed? Skip was clearly torn. She liked both places for different reasons. Then, I had a flash of inspiration. 55+ condos have sprung up all over the place, they're a dime a dozen. This loft is unique and we won't have many opportunities to get a place like it if we let it pass us by. That decided it. We chose the loft. If, as we age, we feel a suburban setting at a 55+ place makes more sense, we can always find something suitable and move into one then.

We are very excited! Now, if I could just get a home inspector to call me back so I can set up the inspection ...