Meditation on a Painting

Last week’s assignment for the journaling class I’m taking was to write a short essay on an emotion evoked by the Edward Hooper painting, Hotel Room.  I thought I’d share what I came up with since it does touch on my focus of my blog.

The emotions I listed are :







Here is what I wrote:

I had to do it. There was no other way out of the situation. It was all too overwhelming. So, rather than stay there and continue to spiral into depression, I left. Now that I’m away, I am re-thinking that decision.

But if I don’t take some time for myself, I’ll crack and be no good to anyone. I need to find new ways to help myself and in turn, help my parents. Looking for that help while coping with the situation and maintaining my own house and health has me in such a state that I can’t think anymore. I can barely function.

Day after day I go check on them. Every day it’s the same thing. Mom’s sitting in her chair in the corner, covered with an afghan, watching TV, whether or not it’s working and no matter what’s on. Dad, if he is home, is trying to fix the TV, meaning turn it up and running. He always blames it on the TV, which is not even a year old. The problem is either that he’s misplaced the remote or he is trying to use the wrong one. Once I find the remote, I show him, yet again, how to turn on both the cable box and the TV using the single remote. Every time, he tells me he didn’t know that. Some days, I just want to scream.

So, I left. Now I’m worried that they’ll fall or set their house on fire. But, I need space and time to think and to find the answers. Maybe something will come to me while I sit here in this hotel room as I contemplate what to do next. Or maybe not.

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM  Comments (2)  

If I Won the Lottery

It’s only Tuesday, but it’s already been a long week. Besides my usual Sunday routine of driving to and from two churches and my mom and dad’s house, I added a Monday morning trip with them to see one of their doctors and, at night, my trip into Pittsburgh for my fibromyalgia study meeting. Yesterday was a rainy day in the area and the rain continued into the early evening, which meant I had to drive in it. I hate driving in rain and dark and, oh yeah, fog.

That’s when I decided that if I ever come into a lot of money, I’ll hire a car and driver. Everyone else seems to want to buy  designer clothing, jewelry, a new house, fancy vacations. Nope, as of yesterday, I’m going with something a friend of mine said many years ago. A car and driver is the ultimate luxury. No more fighting traffic on the parkway. No more worrying about being able to see the road when it’s dark and raining. Just the pleasure of watching the scenery while someone else is at the wheel.

So, what’s your idea of the ultimate luxury?


Published in: on October 26, 2010 at 7:25 PM  Comments (2)  

Trying to Catch Up on Classes and Life

So, today is Friday, and I’m late, again. This schedule thing is hard. So is trying to do all the work that the instructor of the blogging class assigned for this week. But, I have managed to do a couple of things. OK, maybe one, but I did it twice.

I posted to Gather, which is kind of Facebook for adults, that I have a blog up and running and listed the URL. I also went to my rather inactive LinkedIn account and added the URL for the blog to my profile.

But, wait, there’s more. I also have to come up with a contest to run on this blog, schedule it, and run it. And think about inviting guest bloggers who cover the same topic. And, go read and comment on five other blogs on the same topic as mine. The last one seems to be the easiest right now. At least I’ll only be reacting to somebody’s work rather than coming up with my own. I might even make a few on-line friends.

In the meantime, I took yesterday off from life, the universe, and pretty much everything. After a quick run to the grocery store, I stayed in the house all day and, even though I made a brave attempt at starting this assignment, I succumbed to the fatigue brought on by my earlier adventures in doctorland and took a nap. I felt much better for it, and this morning felt I had the energy to get caught up until I found my dead cell phone.

I keep my phone in my purse since it’s not my primary phone. I still use my land line as my main phone. The only problem is that the aide who helps my mother calls me on my cell whenever she needs to get in touch. Did I mention that I also keep the ringer down low or completely off? I like it that way for two reasons. I hate the jarring noise of other people’s phones so it would be hypocritical of me to let mine do the same. I can’t have my phone ringing loudly in the middle of a church service while I’m in the middle of playing a hymn. That means I often forget to turn the sound back on. Which is what happened this week and the reason I missed the two calls she placed to me yesterday.

But I digress. I started charging the phone and then went to make my daily pot of iced tea and toss in a load of laundry. When I came back into the room with the cell, I noticed that there were a couple of voice mail messages on it. I checked and they were from the aide. It seems that when she got there, dad told her his car had been stolen from around the back of the house. Now, he keeps it parked in the garage, and it was there on Wednesday when I was over there to check in on them. This means he must have used his riding mower to cut the grass. He keeps that in the garage, too, and has to move the car to use it.

Dad did not call me about the possibly stolen car. I checked. There were no messages or even hang-ups on my answering machine. The aide said she told him to call the police. He tends not to think of calling them when things happen. I guess he doesn’t want to bother them. Anyway, she left a second voice mail to say that the car had been found in a neighbor’s yard. My theory is that he hadn’t put it in park and hadn’t set the parking brake and it rolled downhill. I have no idea what shape it’s in or how they got it back into the garage. All I know is that I feel, once again, like the worst daughter in the world.

I realize that is unrealistic. I can’t control anything that my parents do, but it seems that these sorts of things happen on the days that I take time for myself. It’s part of why I’m afraid to do that. I just know that if I take the time away to gather my strength, I’m going to end up using all of it and any reserves the next time I’m over there. Almost not worth taking the time off.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, contest. Maybe I should offer a prize to the first person who can come up with a way for me to be in two or more places at once?

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 10:00 AM  Comments (9)  

If It’s Wednesday, I Must Be Late

Yes, I’m late posting. I know. Just last week I promised to have a new post up every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. And the first week of my new schedule, no new post on Tuesday. I blame it on modern medicine. Let me explain.

Monday morning, I ran over to see mom and dad. I’d promised to hit the K-Mart to pick up stuff they were out of, mainly paper goods like Kleenex and paper towels. Instead of going to K-Mart first, though, I went to the house. Good thing I did. Mom was up, but dad was still in bed, a reversal of what I might normally find. Seems dad wasn’t feeling well.

He had a bad sore throat and hiccups. I asked him how long they’d been going on – a couple of hours. Now, he’d had this problem before and had gone to the ER for it. I was working at the time and wasn’t able to go, but remembered that they’d treated him, and the hiccups went away. The cause was a bad case of indigestion. He’d had to spend the night there because hiccups could be a sign of heart problems. The ran all kinds of tests then and found no heart problems. The good news is that our family doesn’t have a history of heart problems.

After I talked with dad, I tried to get mom to eat something, but she didn’t want anything. Then, the aide who helps her bathe showed up. Since the shower stall they use is in dad’s bedroom, she decided not to give mom a shower, but instead made her breakfast while I ran to K-Mart and picked up the needed supplies, including some generic Tylenol for dad.

When I got back, my mother, who’d claimed she wasn’t hungry, had eaten 2 scrambled eggs and 2 pieces of toast and downed a glass of grape juice. She’ll eat for the aide, but not for me! Amazing. At least she ate.

Since dad was still hiccuping, I made him get up and dressed and took him to the ER to get checked out. After several hours of exposure to whatever is currently going around the schools of Southwestern PA, we left. Dad had had blood work (negative) and a chest x-ray (negative). They gave him a shot of something for the hiccups which took care of them, but made him very, very groggy. The doctor then gave us prescriptions for three things: an antibiotic for dad’s sore throat (yes, he checked that out), a major tranquilizer for the hiccups if they come back, and a pain killer for any pain associated with them. The only thing the x-ray did reveal is evidence of a hiatal hernia which could be related to the hiccups.

I spent Monday evening with my new fibro friends at a tai chi session, re-learning that I do love the gentle movement of tai chi and need to get back into it. Tai chi is great for people with arthritis and fibromyalgia since it is low-impact. The Arthritis Foundation even sells a specially designed tai chi DVD for arthritis sufferers, something I should probably purchase. I figured that I’d have time on Tuesday to write a post after I got back from my own doctor appointment.

But, I figured wrong. I went to a pulmonary specialist about a problem I have with coughing whenever I get a sinus infection and sometimes when I don’t have one. I’d been diagnosed with a mild case of asthma years ago. I’d also been diagnosed with allergies to all things that grow in the ground starting with trees, then grasses, then weeds. No wonder I like cold weather! Anyway, the appointment meant I also had to get a chest x-ray and a pulmonary function test. The PFT is not fun. You sit in an isolation booth made of glass and blow into and out of a mouthpiece connected to a tube. It measures different things about your lung capacity and other issues related to breathing. But, you have to blow really hard sometimes and that strains the intercostal muscles (upper chest) and mine hurt a lot last night.

Then, the real fun began. The actual examination by the doctor. Since my problem involves my sinuses, he had to view them. To do so, he literally stuck a rubber hose up (and down) my nose (and throat). It was kind of like a colonoscopy for the nose. There is a miniature camera attached to it, and he and his intern toured my sinuses and throat while I sat there in some discomfort. Notice the I did not mention any sort of numbing before he inserted the camera. Oh, no. He said it would be a little bit uncomfortable, but he’d only numb it if I was in real pain. Trust me, I’d rather be numb.

Bottom line is that he doesn’t think it’s asthma. He is not sure what’s going on, so we are experimenting with different treatments to determine what, if anything, works.

And despite the torture, I liked him. When my PCP first recommended him, I figured he was Russian since his name (first name, patronymic, last name) definitely sounded Russian. So, I asked him. He said yes. My next step was to greet him in Russian, which made him smile. We even talked a bit, but I told him that I’d only had 4 semesters of it as a minor in college so I’m not at all fluent. I was shocked at how much came back, though, and how naturally some of it just came out. His intern told me that I’d made his day by speaking Russian with him.

So, with apologies to Vinnie Barbarino, it’s always a good idea to be nice to the person who sticks a rubber hose up your nose.

Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 9:17 AM  Comments (3)  

Weekly Blog Schedule

Assignment Two for the blogging class I am taking is to come up with a weekly schedule for my blog and to post it and then, stick to it. If you read my last post, you will see that the sticking to it part is what I have trouble with. No matter, I am going to do this.

My schedule will be:

  • Tuesday – Blog Entry
  • Thursday – Blog Entry
  • Saturday – Short Blog Entry and Response to Any Comments

One of the readings for the class also suggested that I post certain topics on certain days. I don’t plan to do that, at least for now. This blog is mainly a journal to help me deal with the issues of aging and health, both mine and my parents. If I do find that certain topics come up more frequently than others, I may end up devoting a specific day to that topic. But right now, I’m using this blog to help me and, if I’m lucky, others who are facing the same issues I am.

So, come back on Tuesday to read the next installment of Me, My Health, and I.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 8:42 AM  Comments (3)  

Good Intentions

Lately, my life seems to be full of good intentions that never quite get fulfilled. Take, for instance, regular posting to this blog. I am taking a class specifically to help me develop a regular schedule and the discipline to STICK TO IT. Well, we all see how that has turned out so far.

Sometimes, though, life, and by that I mean, my health, gets in the way of those good intentions. If I didn’t mention this earlier, I suffer from fibromyalgia (FMS), a chronic pain and fatigue condition. This week the emphasis was on the word “suffer”. I was in so much pain that I spent the days I didn’t have to drive anywhere heavily (and legally) medicated. I’m thankful that I rarely need this particular medication to manage my symptoms, but when I do need it, I need it. And I needed it this week. Taking it makes it difficult for me to think, and I like to think before I write even if what I end up writing doesn’t always read as if any thought went into it.

The pain finally abated, just in time for me to do some major furniture rearranging in preparation for the delivery of the new furniture on Thursday. Of course, with FMS, I take my time on such things. My doctor’s guidance is 15 minutes of work followed by 15 minutes of rest. That way, I can’t overdo it. It means things take a lot longer, but I end up not going into flare on a daily basis.

Today, I plan to finish this post and write a second one that includes info on the blog’s schedule, which is the class assignment. I also plan to do some laundry and practice for church tomorrow. I think I mentioned that I’m the organist for two churches, in two different towns.

Most people rest on the weekends. That’s when I actually work. Or at least intend to.

Published in: on October 16, 2010 at 7:51 AM  Comments (3)  

Finding Help for Mom and Dad

In my most recent post, I mentioned that I’d found some help for my folks. One of the people who commented on the entry suggested that I let everyone know how I did that. Here’s what I remember doing.

The first help that we had was visiting nurses who came to check on mom after her various hospitalizations in 2007-2009. Nearly all of those nurses were from Concordia Visiting Nurses (CVN), an organization related to the skilled nursing facility where mom stayed for rehab, Concordia Lutheran Ministries (CLM). For those of you who don’t know, if something is named “Concordia”, there is a good chance it is associated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. We are Missouri Synod Lutherans, and our home congregation has always supported CLM. It’s the first place I’d think to place a loved one in need of skilled nursing or assisted living. So, when we decided to get mom some help, that’s where we went.

Their social worker came to us and did an assessment. She suggested at the very least help with bathing and help with cleaning. I asked how my folks would pay for this, and she told me to talk with people in the county’s Area Agency on Aging. Since dad is a veteran, she also suggested the VA, specifically the Aid and Attendance Benefit program. If the VA hospital has a patient advocate, he or she may also help you find information. But don’t rely on the advocates to do the work as they are often overworked themselves.

I called the Westmoreland County (PA) Area Agency on Aging and set up another assessment. The county social worker came to the house, talked with dad about their finances, talked with mom, and verified a few things with me. She submitted the info she collected and came up with the cost. It’s a sliding scale, depending on income. Since they have an OK income, they pay about 60% of the cost and the county pays the remaining 40%.

Next, dad had an appointment at the VA with his primary care physician. I asked him about the Aid and Attendance Benefit program and said that if Concordia Visiting Nurses was one of the approved organizations, that’s who we wanted to supply the cleaning service. He asked his supervisor. (Most of the VA doctors that dad sees are still in training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and have to consult with a senior physician.) He did so and, within a week, CVN had called dad to set up a time for someone to come in and clean every week. The VA covers the entire cost of that service.

The county social worker also suggested that they get Meals on Wheels. Dad said no at first, but I eventually talked him into trying it for a week or so. That was in January. I don’t remember if the social worker set it up or if I had to call the local MoW myself, but it happened fairly fast after dad agreed. This is something they have to pay for every month. The cost, though, is minimal. I don’t know what it is in other areas, but this particular MoW charges $8/day for 3 meals, which they bring 3 days/week. The other 2 days are provided free of charge by the county. That means that for $104/month, mom and dad get 20 days-worth of food including cereal, fruit, sandwich, hot meal, milk, maybe a dessert. In the winter they also get two extra emergency meals to use if MoW can’t get to them because of snow or ice. The hot meals are packaged the way TV dinners are and can be reheated in the microwave or oven. It’s a very good deal and my folks like the food.

I don’t know what the agencies are called in different states, but a Google search on “aging agency”  or a visit to your state’s website would probably  lead you to the proper agency. As for Meals on Wheels, I suggest checking the phone book for the local organization. Remember that these are staffed by volunteers and the phone may not be manned a full 8 hours/day.

Hope this helps you help your family.

Published in: on October 10, 2010 at 7:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

Finally in Focus

I finally came up with a title and a focus for my blog thanks to the two classes I am currently taking. One is on blogging basics, the other on keeping a journal for holistic wellness. I believe I need the discipline of both classes to get me to begin writing and keep writing. The intent has always been there, but life seemed to get in the way and before I knew it, years had slipped by. At least Word Press didn’t kick me off the site or delete my previous entries.

Those entries are what helped me focus. I actually came up with the title last year on the occasion of my 60th birthday. Besides wondering if I were twice as untrustworthy (2 times 30) or completely trustworthy again, I also wondered what this, hard to admit, final stage of my life would be like. That got me to thinking of all I was dealing with:

Who will I be when I finally grow up?

How will I cope with my chronic health problems as I age?

How will I cope with my parents’ health problems and eventual deaths?

I read through my earlier posts and found that the primary topic was helping mom and dad cope with the tasks of every day life and the adjustment, at that time, of mom living in skilled nursing and moving to assisted living. She has since moved home, and then back into skilled nursing a few times in the last 2 years. In addition, she has been diagnosed with bladder cancer and has had periodic surgeries for that condition. Dad has had some skin cancer issues and continues to have balance problems. Both are suffering from varying levels of dementia, with mom being the most affected. They still live at home and will not even consider moving to assisted living.

In the past year, I’ve managed to arrange for some help in the home. Someone comes in and helps mom shower twice a week, thus avoiding my one nightmare scenario of finding them lying on top of each other in the shower stall, unable to get up after mom has fallen and dad has slipped trying to help her up. That service is partially paid for by the county’s Area Agency on Aging. The county social worker also helped me set them up for Meals on Wheels, something they insisted they didn’t want because someone once told them that the food was no good. It’s been 9 months now and they like it. The last service is the cleaning woman who comes in once a week. Her services are paid for in full by the Veteran’s Administration, as dad is a disabled WWII vet, Purple Heart and everything.

This means that I don’t have to go over there every day of the week and I don’t have to do a lot of cooking for them. I still do some special things for them, favorite dishes to supplement what MoW supplies. And we go out to lunch on Sunday. I should say, dad and I do, since mom rarely leaves the house anymore. It’s helped me to rest up a bit for when I do go over since there is always something to do.

Let me stop here so I have something to write in future posts. For now, I want to say that this blog will be about my attempt to answer the questions posted above. Along the way, I may share some tips or the URLs of websites or organizations I’ve found to be of help. Believe me, that might come in very handy if you are looking for something on the VA site since it is a bear to navigate. Not at all user-friendly.

I hope I get regular readers, but if I don’t, that’s OK, too. After all, this is first and foremost a blog for me, my health, and I.

Published in: on October 9, 2010 at 8:16 AM  Comments (8)