Is Anyone Listening?

I don’t blame you if you’ve decided not to read this blog. I understand. After all, it’s been two months since my last post. I got out of the habit of writing. I haven’t felt like it even though I know that writing would ease some of the pain I’ve been in. Not all of it though, since some of it is physical and using my right arm/hand can be painful.

Now that I have your attention, the physical pain is caused by a massive rotator cuff tear as well as a tear in the bicep of my right arm. I am right-handed. I am a church organist. I am the caregiver for my parents. I am the driver for my parents. I am not on any pain medication other than the anti-inflammatory I take for my arthritis. I’ve been using ice and Extra Strength Tylenol to help cut the pain. This is the injury that happened in early November, the one I had a cortisone shot for and that I went through physical therapy for. I don’t know when the bicep tear happened, but it’s possible it happened at PT when they added weights.

As for the other pain, the mental/psychological pain I’m going through, well, I learned two days before I had the MRI that resulted in the above diagnosis that my dad has Alzheimer’s. The psychiatrist at the VA GEM clinic told us that when she examined him. I had called the day before the appointment and requested that one of the doctors explain to dad why they took away his driving privileges. That is the reason.

I was surprised and not surprised. After all, my aunt, his sister, had it, and the changed I’d noticed in him were troubling enough to make me think something like that was going on.

The biggest problem now is to get mom and dad to agree to a move to assisted living and to move right away so that I can get the surgery I need. Even then, things will be delayed because I need someone to come help me through the first weeks of recovery and that means coordinating my schedule with my sister’s schedule. I hope it happens soon because I’m tired of hurting.

Just thought it was time to check in and let you know what’s up in case anyone is still out there.

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 5:37 PM  Comments (5)  

Belated Christmas Blessings to One and All

The reality of the work I had to do the week before Christmas came crashing down on me and before I knew it, Christmas came, went, and now I’m super-late in posting. The week was extra-busy because I had to play for another funeral at church. One of my dad’s golfing buddies and a member of the congregation passed away the Sunday before Christmas. The funeral was last Wednesday, which meant the part of the week I had planned to do baking and cleaning was, instead, devoted to taking dad to the viewing, doing things for them, taking him to the funeral. On top of that, my hands were still giving me problems – dry, cracked skin. That meant limited time practicing for Christmas Eve services.

Christmas Eve day was busy for me. I cooked everything we would be eating on Christmas day and practiced like crazy. Then, after a quick check of the weather and traffic, headed off for service number one. It was at the church that is usually number two on Sundays, so it was nice to have the time to actually set up the organ the way I wanted it set up and to run through some stuff beforehand. I think the congregation was pleased with my selection of a simplified version of the Hallelujah Chorus as postlude. The minister wasn’t so sure when I told him I’d be doing that because Christmas Eve services usually end with a candle lighting ceremony and the carol Silent Night. But, we’d already sung three lively carols in the service with lots of alleluias/glorias in them, so I figured that if I waited just a bit after the lights came on and then HIT IT, it would work. To my surprise and delight, several members of the congregation began to sing along. I was my own little flash mob!

Then, pastor and I drove, separately, to church number two for the second service. It was a bit calmer. I was bone-tired and he was hoarse. This was his sixth and final time for this service that day, so no wonder his voice was giving out. My fingers were really sore by the time I hit the last chords and I was ready to make the trek home.

The next morning, I packed all the food I’d made the day before into my car, picked dad up for church, and then, after church, unloaded the car and made lunch for the three of us. After cleaning up, I packed the leftovers up and headed home to prepare for the following day’s services. At least I did not have to play on Christmas Day. But it felt weird to sit in the congregation instead of at the organ.

I am now awaiting the return of my sister and brother-in-law. They are spelling me on visits to mom and dad for a day or two and then it’s on me again. I’m taking full advantage by cramming in as many things as I can – clothing donations to Goodwill, catching up on some reading, doing this blog entry. What I really need, though, is a few days of sleep.

Just in case I don’t get to write an entry on Thursday, I’ll take the time to wish everyone who reads this a very Happy and Healthy 2011!

Published in: on December 28, 2010 at 1:29 PM  Comments (1)  

Sometimes It’s Lemonade, Sometimes, the Juice Burns Your Eye

Guess what it has been for me recently?

I know I’ve been AWOL for over a week now and I have only myself and life’s little problems to blame. Doctor appointments for me, mom, dad, physical therapy for me, running errands for mom and dad, trying to get ready for Christmas, playing for Advent services, and dealing with a case of extremely dry skin on my hands. But what I had to deal with yesterday topped everything.

Yesterday was supposed to be the day I practiced for today and the upcoming Christmas Eve services and next Sunday. The day I was going to clean house and do some baking and some decorating and my laundry. Then, at 11 o’clock A.M. the phone rang. It was dad asking me to come over because he’d had an accident. So, I dropped everything, put on clothes I could wear in public, and drove over there.

The accident actually happened on Friday probably right around the time the sun was going down. Per dad, someone hit him on the left side of the car. Dad is OK. The car is not. He wanted to go see it and talk with the people at the garage where the cops had it towed. Of course, dad didn’t remember the name of the garage, just that it was in his hometown and “near where he used to live”. Very helpful if I had been there at the time, but I wasn’t around then.

We found the garage, it was open, and we got to take what few things dad had left in the car home. Then it was to the bank and the grocery store and pharmacy. Then I had the singular joy of talking to dad’s insurance company. Lots of time spent with automated menus while mom and dad were both asking me “Maybe no one is there?” or “Aren’t they answering?”. I finally got a person to take the info on the claim, but I didn’t have all the info. One thing I didn’t know for sure was the name of the police department that helped dad because he didn’t remember. I also didn’t have any information on the other driver or drivers because dad said the person who hit him drove away. I don’t know if there were any witnesses, either.

The insurance company wanted us to use one of their approved garages to get faster service, but dad wants to keep the car where it is. Actually, I didn’t ask him about this since I was afraid that the approved garages might not be as conveniently located and it would mean more driving for me. The company also asked if he wanted a rental car. I told them that we hadn’t talked about it. (The last time dad had a rental car, he wrecked it and his insurance had to pay.)

After all this, I had to make them lunch since they had not eaten. Never mind that I hadn’t eaten either. Neither had I made it to Weight Watchers last week. (The WW week begins on Sunday, so I missed a week.) I could not fit in a meeting. I had planned to run in to get weighed yesterday. So much for the best laid plans.

I mentioned extremely dry skin on my hands. That’s the topic for another day. I can report on my visit to the dermatologist and the the lifestyle changes I am making because of it.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to get everything done so that I can be provide people with a meaningful Christmas Eve worship experience when all I want to do is go hide in a heated, furnished cave with indoor plumbing, Internet access, and HBO, for about a month. And, please, Lord, no snow on Christmas Eve since I’ll be out there driving in it. Thank You.

Published in: on December 19, 2010 at 7:45 AM  Comments (2)  

Snow, Wind, Repeat

Before I get into a rant about the cold wind blowing in from the northwest, here’s an update on my progress at Weight Watchers. Despite being less than 100% faithful to the new program, I dropped 1.8 pounds last week. That’s as much as I lost during the whole month of November. The trick was not in the new program, but in the mindfulness of my eating. There were times when I ate small quantities of things (OK, chocolate) that, just a week before would not have been enough. But instead of buying a bag of Hershey’s kisses and eating nearly all of them in a day, I picked up some good, dark chocolate and nibbled on a piece a day. A nice treat that satisfied my craving for something rich and sweet. I also ate a lot of grapes that, oddly enough, satisfied my urge to crunch on something.

Now to the weather. Most of the U.S. seems to be in the grip of a cold snap that is also producing snow. Here in the Pittsburgh we are fairly lucky. The snow totals aren’t too bad, but the winds are. Combine the wind with the cold temperatures, and it is just frigid outside. I know, I spent a lot of yesterday out in it. The walk from car to building was enough to convince me that I wanted to be inside. Of course, once inside, I wanted to be back outside because I could not get anyone to wait on me.

That’s one of my pet peeves about some stores. You have money that you are willing to spend, but there is no one around to assist you. I did manage to get what I wanted. Now, I just have to find someone to help me get my new, flat-screen TV out of the box without breaking it. It’s a little heavier than I thought it would be and with my shoulder injury, I’m afraid to do too much lifting on my own. I also decided to upgrade to a Blu-Ray player. Hey, if I’m going to be stuck at home a lot this winter, I should have the means to enjoy myself, right?


Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM  Comments (2)  

Snow, Stress, Migraines, and Pedicures

Sounds like a recipe for a Seinfeld episode, doesn’t it? That show used to tie a bunch of seemingly unrelated ideas together and weave them into a brilliant story and hilarious half hour of TV. Well, my life is no TV show, but there are lots of seemingly unrelated pieces that do manage to weave themselves into the story of Barb.

For instance, snow. Yesterday I made a comment on Facebook about the snow that was falling and how pretty the trees look with a thin coating of snow. It’s as if they have a layer of white icing on them. That prompted an exchange with someone in Hungary, a young girl to whom I may be related. I’ve contacted all the other people with my last name on FB and “friended” them. She’s the friendliest of the bunch. Anyway, we have been chatting about snow and what we like about it and the fact that neither of us like sleet or ice. I’m constantly amazed that just 3 years ago, I didn’t know she or any of the other people I’ve met through FB existed. Technology still has the power to wow me.

Technology can also stress me out when things aren’t working. And that brings me to topic number two. Earlier this week, I called an electrician to check out the lighting in my mom and dad’s basement. One circuit of overhead lights wasn’t working and it made a trip down there dangerous for everyone, including the cleaning woman who does their laundry. I thought the problem had been fixed a few weeks before by a handyman, but it recurred. My aunt’s death and Thanksgiving got in the way of my doing anything to rectify the situation. So, on Monday, an electrician was there and found that it was no more than a tripped circuit breaker. Problem solved. Except the lights are out again.

Dad called me last night at 6 P.M. asking for the phone number of the electrician so he could call for them to return to fix the problem. Since it was past closing time, I told him I’d call this morning, before my physical therapy appointment and my hair and pedicure appointment. That satisfied him. Not me, though. I started to stress out about all the things I have to do today – cook a big Weight Watchers breakfast since lunch may not happen, call the electrician, go for blood work, go to therapy, maybe have lunch, go to hair appointment, do several loads of laundry, write this entry, cook a WW-approved dinner, practice for Sunday. Yeah, it stressed me out, especially when I thought that I’d have to run over to see mom and dad between appointments and there really isn’t time in the schedule for that.

So, I cooked and ate the good breakfast – 2-egg omelet with spinach, mushrooms, 1/4 c. reduced fat feta, and a toasted whole wheat pita – and then showered and dressed. While dressing, I saw the aura that means one thing and one thing only: the onset of a migraine. And it is now here. I raced to the kitchen to grab one of the melts I take to help lessen the severity of the headache, but the aura ran its course, followed by the dull headache and nausea. This is the third time since last week I’ve had a migraine and, if this continues, I’ll contact my doctor about changing or increasing my preventative medication.

Which leads me to the pedicure. I don’t really want to smell the nail polish and polish remover and possibly permanent solution or hair dye, but my hair is in need of a cut or at least a good shaping and I am overdo for a pedicure. These are not an indulgence for me. I consider them a necessity. I have difficulty cutting my own toenails, so why not get the fun polish job along with the cutting?

The soak in the warm, swirling water and the foot and leg massage will help ease some of my stress and maybe help with the migraine even if I have to walk to my car in the snow while wearing flip-flops afterward. See, all tied together. Rather Seinfeldian, I think.

Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 9:05 AM  Comments (4)  

It’s a New Day!

I finally went back to Weight Watchers today for a lot of reasons, the least of which is my weight. They started a new program this week. Tomorrow is a new month. This is a new year, a new church year, that is. I’ve completed my fibromyalgia study/class at the University of Pittsburgh. And, I am ready for a new start.

Of course, it’s raining and ugly outside, a perfect day to stay inside, but I chose to go out into it. That is something I learned at Pitt, that I have a choice. And right now, my choice is to get back on track with Weight Watchers. Perhaps if I start controlling what I eat, I’ll be able to be more accepting of those things in my life that I can’t control.

After my meeting, I went out to a non-WW-approved lunch. Kind of a last fling. I feel no guilt since it was a choice. Then, I went to my hair/pedicure appointment. I planned to spent the next several hours getting pampered. Except, my appointment is actually for Thursday.

So, instead of fretting, I looked at it as a free afternoon to catch up on a few things, like this blog and a bit of housework and some meal planning.

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 2:16 PM  Comments (2)  

The Day After

Today is the day after my aunt’s funeral and I have some time to breathe before I move on to Thanksgiving. Getting through the funeral service was the easy part for me. I just had to play the organ. Oh, I did start to cry a few times, but was able to control it. I was able to do that because my sister and brother-in-law were here to take care of my parents. That was a huge help.

The meal afterward wasn’t as well-attended as my cousins originally thought, so that meant there was a ton of food left over. What that means is that I don’t have to cook for Thanksgiving. Well, not exactly, but I won’t be doing a turkey. Yet another huge help. They gave me about a dozen or so pieces of the chicken, a lot of green beans, and a generous helping of the pasta dish. After sharing that with my folks for their lunch, I have enough for a good meal tomorrow. All I have to do is the pie which really isn’t that much trouble. I have all the ingredients and now the time to put it together.

I am still exhausted from this extended weekend ordeal, but I think I am stronger for having gone through it. I am definitely closer to my sister and brother-in-law who continues to surprise me with his kindness.

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 7:25 AM  Comments (4)  

Today Is My Aunt’s Funeral

We will bury my aunt today. Yesterday was extremely hard. Dad was devastated at seeing her, but I think he enjoyed seeing all the relatives. I plan to write an actual update later today, unless I fall asleep as soon as sit down after arriving home today.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 5:56 AM  Leave a Comment  

Life Got More Complicated

I slept in this morning, read the paper over breakfast, and then cleaned the bathroom before I showered. While I was doing that, my phone rang. It was my cousin calling to tell me that my aunt had died. She was my dad’s last remaining sibling and we hadn’t seen her in about 6 years. She had Alzheimer’s and was in bad shape then. Dad kept wanting to go visit her, but my cousin kept telling him that she would not know him. I was torn between taking him to see her and having to comfort him as he broke down then or dealing with his grief when she passed away. I took the easy way out, but now feel guilty for not going to see her.

Besides the obvious complication of dealing with a death in the family, I will also have to deal with preparing for house guests and practicing for an additional church service. My sister and brother-in-law are coming up for the funeral. My cousin asked me to play for the funeral, which will be difficult because I’ll be crying. Hard to read music when there are tears in your eyes. The preparation for my house guests means cleaning that I hadn’t intended to do just yet. I was going to tackle the major cleaning this week, but have to do it NOW.

The hardest part, of course, was talking to dad about Aunt Ann. He broke down and eventually left the room and took to bed. He is sick (on antibiotics for a chest thing) so that isn’t too unexpected that he’d want to go to bed. But, he was definitely crying when I left. The best thing about my sister coming up, other than seeing her, is that she will be able to sit with dad and mom at the funeral while I’m at the organ.

I realize this post is scattered, but that’s how my mind is right now. Time to sign off and figure out something with the music. Or maybe do the dishes or vacuum or something.

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 7:23 PM  Comments (4)  

My Shoulder Diagnosis

I saw the orthopedic surgeon yesterday, and got some good news. There is no obvious tear, but there is some damage. I have a bone spur and some calcification. The pain is tendonitis. I got a cortisone shot which wasn’t as painful as the others I’ve had in the past. And, it helped quite a bit. So much so that I went shopping and carried my purchases in my right hand, which hurt, but which I was able to do. Of course, by the time I got home, the shoulder was pretty sore and I had to ice it. That’s why I waited till today to post this. I also have to start physical therapy.

All this means that I will be making Thanksgiving dinner and playing the organ for Thanksgiving morning, regular Sunday services, mid-week Advent services, and two more services on Christmas Eve. Then, there is going to church on Christmas day, cooking for mom and dad, and then playing for regular Sunday services the following morning. I’m tired just thinking about it. But, that schedule had me completely stressed out because I had no idea how I’d manage it all in pain. Or how I’d get through it if I had to have surgery and there was no one to take me to and from the hospital and to help with my rehab. Now, I’m just under the stress I normally feel when I sit down and think about my life.

Since I have to run over to see mom and dad, I am going to cut this short. I’ll be posting something else later today or tomorrow, something more on topic, I hope.

Published in: on November 19, 2010 at 10:10 AM  Comments (4)