Parental Journal 114 from Planet Elderly: This Is Your Life via Photo Album

Thursday, September 10, 2020 – early afternoon

The twice-a-week visits with Mom are going well. We meet at about 11 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and visit for 30 minutes. We are both enjoying them.

Although it took a long time, I finally got around to sorting through boxes and envelopes of old photos. I went through them three times before I was able to reduce them to a chosen group with which to make a photo album of Mom’s life. The album is large, so when I took it to share with Mom, I gave her individual pages so that she could more easily view the photos.

Mom is looking at a page from the photo album

Overall, she was very curious about the photos and did not recognize most of the people in the photos. There was one photo she saw and she immediately said, “That’s my brother.”

I did not include photos of her first husband, Walter, who was my biological father. I’ll put those in the album I make for my life. That said, at one point I mentioned Walter’s name and Mom quickly said, “I don’t think I was ever married to Walter.” All I said was, “Oh…okay,” and I let it go. When she saw a photo of her and my stepfather, Victor, she said, “I don’t think I ever married Victor.” I just showed her the next photo of their wedding day. She looked a bit perplexed, but she did think the dress was “very pretty.”

Here are some of the album photos my 94-year-old mother with dementia has seen recently…for the very first time, according to her.

Mom’s mother’s wedding: Jeanette and Arthur Peters. Jeanette and Arthur had three children, but their marriage didn’t work out.

Mom as a toddler:

Mom, left, and her older sister, Martha:

Love poem I think Victor typed for Mom:

Wedding Day – 1954
Wedding day: Mom, Me, and Victor

Photo of Mom on her honeymoon:

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Pandemic Times: Soil, Sun, Rain, Beauty

August 24, 2020 – mid-afternoon

Blooms

In addition to all the baking people have been doing during these pandemic times, growing things has also becomes more popular than ever. Whether it’s deciding to put out a few pots to grow herbs or flowers…suddenly becoming interested in growing orchids…or even tilling up half the backyard to grow a ton of vegetables like grandma and grandpa used to do, plenty of people around the world worked with soil, seeds, and plants. Some have done so for decades. Others planted for the first time.

I’ve always been a flower gardener, but this year I did put some potted herbs and vegetables out on the back deck.

Romaine lettuce – regular and red

The lettuce did well and I had plenty of salads for a while. Of course, I had a neighbor who insisted in coming over to inspect things.

Fortunately, this neighbor was not interested in lettuce

My one potted cherry tomato plant became a favorite snack item for squirrels. My attempt to grow peas and beans didn’t work out well, but I did get a taste. The spinach was fine, the basil was terrific, and the rosemary plant is tall and still out on the deck soaking up the sun. At least I tried.

The garden areas turned out quite nicely this year. We had an ideal amount of rain this spring and plants thrived. The soil, the sun, and the rain did, indeed, provide a lot of beauty to enjoy:

Coneflowers and Balloon Flowersgarden area by front mailbox
Hosta Blooms
Clematis
Delphinium
Coneflowers
Black-eyed Susan
Crocosmia “Lucifer”
Coneflower and Balloon flowers

For anyone who sees this post, I hope these blooms give you a sense of beauty, tranquility, and hope for the future we will have after COVID 19.

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Parental Journal 113 from Planet Elderly: The Birthday Tee Shirt Arrived!!

Yesterday, the tee shirt I ordered for Mom’s birthday arrived, so I was able to give it to her today during our Thursday visit.

She has always loved my dandelion/heart shirt, so now we have matching shirts. She was so surprised and delighted!

(This tiny post took me quite a while to compose because WordPress changed to a block editing format and I had to hunt and peck to find how to do things. My first impression is: Crap! I hate this! …and I had even looked at some tutorials the other day. Eventually I will learn how to use it. However, I miss the old way to edit…because I am OLD and learning a new block editing setup will have me bitching and moaning every time I try to write a post.)

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Parental Journal 112 from Planet Elderly: She’s 94 and Still Spunky

Monday, August 17, 2020 – mid-afternoon

Extended Birthday

Mom’s birthday was yesterday, August 16.  Visitors aren’t allowed on the weekend, so we celebrated early during our Thursday visit and again today.  On Sunday, she had specially made birthday cake and a celebration with staff and neighbors.  So it is during these COVID times.

On Thursday I brought her a lovely bouquet of flowers from me and her cousin, Carol.  When I told the florist at the store about my mom’s birthday, she removed a tired daisy and replaced it with 5 bright and beautiful sunflowers.  Way to go, Schnucks Customer Service!

Mom flowers for 94 birthday 2020

I also brought her a card from me and a card from Carol.  She can’t read well, so I read the cards to her and she looked so happy.

“How old are you going to be on Sunday, Mom?” I asked.

She paused to let the question sink in, wrinkled her brow a bit, and replied, “OLD!”

When I saw her today, I brought my 15-year-old cockapoo, Cinnamon.  I adopted him when he was 11.  He doesn’t see well these days and he’s basically deaf, but Mom always enjoys seeing him.  Today was no different.  It took her a minute to associate who he is and who he belongs to, but it wasn’t too long before she reached out to pet him.  Eventually, he got close enough for her to pet his head and then he could smell her.  I let her hold the leash a bit and I told her to hold it tightly.

mom and cinnamon 081720

It was then that Cinnamon took on the role of guide.  Before I knew it, he was walking around and pulling Mom with him.  She enjoyed the ride and we laughed.

There is one more gift to give her…as soon as it arrives.  She loves my dark blue tee shirt with the heart dandelion design.  I ordered one for her and I can’t wait to give it to her.

Assessment

I brought Mom two additional birthday cards today:  one from the bank and one from friend Sharon in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  I had opened the card from the bank, so it was just placed back in the envelope.  The card from Sharon had not been opened.  I wanted to see how well Mom could maneuver getting access to the cards.

She managed to get to the card from the bank fairly easily, except that I had to keep reminding her that there was a card inside.  She preferred to focus on reading her name on the envelope.

The unopened card was exactly the challenge I thought it would be.  She was easily distracted by the different stamps, her name on the envelope, and had difficulty distinguishing the front from the back.  I let her work on it for quite a while and coached her with some suggestions about how to open it.  At one point she started to get a piece of the envelope opened, but she was more interested in what Cinnamon was doing.  After it was clear she had forgotten the card in her hand, I offered to help her.  I opened it and read it to her.  She liked the message, seemed to recognize Sharon’s name after I said, “Sharon was married to your cousin Grant.  They moved to Las Vegas for a few years.  Sharon returned to Wisconsin to be closer to her family after Grant passed away.”   That statement did not go unnoticed.  Her expression showed concern after hearing the words, “passed away.”

Old Photo

A couple of weeks ago, I brought Mom a photo that I believe was taken her senior year of high school.  It looks like a senior high portrait.  She was surprised to learn that the person in the photo was her.  Donnie, one of the supervising staff aides, texted me today to say he got a frame for the photo.  He included this photo:

Mom’s wedding cake topper from her marriage to my stepdad next to her high school graduation photo.  Pearl is, of course, wearing a pearl necklace and pearl earrings.

Mom HS graduation photo

When I look at that photo and think about Mom’s life journey and where she is now, I am so proud of her.  She is a survivor..a spunky one.  I am also grateful that we are having these later years to grow old together.

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Pandemic Times: THANK YOU, JOE!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 – early a.m.

Biden and Harris

I woke up this morning with a sense of hope. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s choice for a running mate, is the reason for that.  I am beyond thrilled.  I am moved to tears and a sense of hope for our country and for all women of color.

My desire to see a female president in the White House before I die will likely happen.  I just have to keep healthy enough to live and witness it.

With so many pandemic, economic, social justice, political, and racial issues creating havoc in the US during these dire times, Kamala Harris will help Joe open our hearts and minds and restore dignity to the leadership of America.

THANK YOU, JOE!

 

kamala

 

 

 

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Pandemic Times: Yes, I Joined the COVID 19 Bread Making Craze and Returned to Reading Books

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 – mid-morning

Using My Stay-at-Home Time Constructively

I know I’m not alone.  We’ve all been adjusting to and living with various COVID 19 developments and restrictions for over six months now.  We want it to end.  As the saying goes, “Buckle up, Buttercup.”  I’m convinced we’re going to be living in these uncertain COVID times for many more months, if not an additional year or so.  But that’s just me.

COVID 19 came for a visit, and the realization that this was a historic worldwide event made many of us wonder, “How can I use this mandated stay at home time constructively?”  Among the various options, bread baking received plenty of press.  So I joined the craze.

Ingredients

When the baking craze started, it soon became difficult to find yeast and flour.  I went to three stores, found a bit of all-purpose flour but no yeast.  I turned to Amazon and purchased some yeast, but because of the demand, it took a while to arrive.  Bread flour and whole wheat flour?  Finally found some in May.  Quality rye flour?  Ordered from Amazon.

Recipes

No problem finding recipes online, of course.  I researched recipes for sourdough starter, French bread, Italian bread, rye bread, rye bread rolls, Jewish rye bread, Russian rye bread, sourdough pizza crust, bread, and rolls…hamburger buns, English muffins, and Naan. (Yes, I have a carb addiction problem that I try to keep in check.) I refer to all my attempts as “experiments,” so when I tried a recipe, I shared the results with a neighbor.  Nobody got sick.

Results

Of course, I took pictures.  These are historic times, and before I die I wanted to make sure my friends and family knew that I had, indeed, succeeded with some of my baking experiments.

 

One of those bake-in-a-Dutch-oven recipes:

042720 for Scovilles

 

Getting kind of fancy with the sesame seeds.  This one I did not share.  Delicious.

043020 Italian with roasted garlic

 

Two loaves of Italian bread.  Not too bad.  Yes, I shared.

051920 Italian Loaves

First attempt at French bread.  Not bad.  Certainly not traditional baguette quality.

Bread 041320 (2)

Lemon meringue pie.  Ok, I had a sweet tooth episode.  Crust made with olive oil in an attempt to make it healthier.  Shared with my neighbor, Bonnie H.

041320 lemon meringue pie

I think this was my first attempt back in April.

Bread 041320

Becoming familiar with a high-quality serrated knife has consequences:

041320 serrated knife incident

The first loaf of rye bread I ever made.  There will be more.  I love the flavor carraway seeds create.

first rye bread 073020

Experiment with sourdough pizza crust.  Great taste.  A bit too thick for me, but it provided three meals.  About 14 inches in diameter: onion, tomatoes, red pepper, black olives, and homemade pizza sauce.

20200808_152020-1

Next experiment:  “Pain de campagne” (French country bread) that requires using sourdough to make a levain and letting that sit for 20 to 24 hours…then preparing the dough and letting it sit in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. It uses sourdough starter, rye flour, whole wheat flour, and bread flour.  A bit of a challenge, but I can taste it.  The levain will be assembled to rest for 24 hours at 7 p.m. tonight.  I think I’m going to love this one.

 

Slowing Down to Enjoy Literature Once Again

My baking craze has slowed down quite a bit because I’ve turned to reading these past several weeks:  The Underground Railroad (2017 Pulitzer Prize winner) by Colson Whitehead…The Nickel Boys, 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner also by Colson Whitehead…This Much I Know Is True by Wally Lamb…The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (a must-read to begin grasping the meaning of black Americans’ demand for justice in an unjust society)…and currently fascinated with The Overstory:  A Novel by Richard Powers.

Ending Comments

I believe I’m quite fortunate to be elderly during this pandemic.  As a retiree who lives alone with an elderly dog and an aging cat, I do not have to deal with the craziness of juggling work and children that millions of others must face, plus I will not lose my job.  I bake, work in the garden, read, watch things on Netflix and Amazon Prime, Zoom with a few folks, gather with gal pals outside where we chat about life and world events while socially distanced, and I get to visit my mom twice a week.

But I also weep for the suffering others around the world must endure. I read and watch the news every day to witness and learn what is happening to others around the world during this time of COVID 19. News of world events are at my fingertips one click at a time. It is overwhelmingly tragic and frustrating.

I weep and I feel guilty.

 

Winston and Cinnamon 080920

Winston, the cat and Cinnamon, the dog chilling while I watch the evening news Aug. 8. 2020

 

 

 

 

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Six Weeks after Knee Replacement Surgery: Going Rogue Worked for Me

Saturday, August 8, 2020 – mid-morning

Going Rogue

After 4 1/2 weeks, I decided to go rogue.  I was no longer taking narcotic pain medicine, I could bend my knee fairly well, so instead of having my neighbor drive me to physical therapy, I decided to try driving myself.  It was just a two-mile drive.  No problem.  Been driving ever since…without the surgeon’s permission.

Then I decided to take back the walking of my dog.  It was good physical therapy as long as I kept control of the leash and walked carefully.  As a 15-year-old Cockapoo, my angel dog, Cinnamon, is not prone to darting around.  Together we are a slow and steady team of elders.

Cinnamon 042319

By 5 weeks I was mowing the front lawn.  It’s not large, it’s fairly even, and I just took my time.  No problems.  I started doing some simple gardening by then, as well:  weeding, digging up baby starts of Black-eyed Susans and potting them, deadheading this and that, etc.  It felt great to be working outside, and it was wonderful to go visit Mom and start our socially distanced/masked visits in the courtyard.

Six-Week Follow-up Visit with Surgeon

This past Wednesday I met with Dr. Hockman.  He reviewed x-rays taken just before the visit and said they looked excellent.  Then he had me walk, extend my leg, flex my leg, and he did some manipulations to assess strength.

I was absolutely delighted when he told me that at six weeks, I was at where most people are at 4 months.  Really???? 

No talk about prescribing additional therapy. He knows I have been serious about doing the exercises every day and will continue to do so.  No announcement to tell me that I could drive. He probably assumed I was already doing so.  Just, “Okay!   We’ll see you in 10 to 12 weeks to see how things are coming along.”  Happy surgeon; happy patient.

Moving Forward

In addition to continuing the repertoire of physical therapy exercises I was taught, I added a new activity this week:  Working with an Xterra fitness folding bike.  The best price I found was on Amazon: under $140 delivered on June 18.  That price is no longer listed.  With COVID 19, it seems this has been a popular item for so many people stuck at home.

 

20200806_162003

I like the new bike toy a lot, and I understand why it has so many favorable reviews.  It is extremely quiet, sturdy, very portable, once out of the box, it only took about 30 minutes to assemble.  The Chinese manufacturer did a superlative job setting it up for a logical and efficient assembly.

I’m starting with a simple routine:  two miles in the morning and two miles in the late afternoon on level 4 of 8.  Baby level, I know…but I’m old!  As that becomes easier, I’ll increase my distance.  This will be great for the knee, and with it getting my heart rate up, this will be an excellent exercise option for the fall and winter weather ahead.

Plenty to do to keep me physically active in the months and years (I hope) ahead.  And the best part is that I can engage in these activities while keeping up with world events, listening to a podcast, or binging on Netflix.

grandma clipart 01                        knee hug

 

knee reconditionng

 

lets get physical golden girls

 

 

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Parental Journal 111 from Planet Elderly: Covid Greetings from Mom

August 5, 2020 – early afternoon

Terrific Visits

Once I began driving after my knee replacement surgery, I was able to resume some “chatterbox” visits with Mom, and they were terrific.  They are held inside, which was awesome because outside we were having many days of 90+ degree weather.

It was wonderful to see her recognize me, smile, chat a bit, and listen to me gab on and on about various matters…my new knee…physical therapy…baking…socially distanced yard visits with my gal pals…Zoom visits with my cousin, Bob.

When I asked how she was doing, she said, “Pretty good.”  She is eating well, doesn’t take many pills, still likes to be up quite late at night, and she still manages to assert herself with staff at times (and they know how to handle her anger and stubbornness–just get a different person to ask her to do the same thing and she’ll go along with it)  Considering Mom’s general nature and feisty personality, she just seems to be going with the flow. On August 16th, a Sunday, she will turn 94.  I can’t visit on weekends, so we’ll have an early celebration on my scheduled visit the Thursday before her birthday.

Mom and Donnie 073120

Mom with a super gifted angel staff person, Donnie.  He works with her so well and with such care, respect, and humor.  She’s not fond of the mask.  Can you tell?

 

I’ve been bringing in some flowers once a week.  She loves them and I know her neighbors and the staff enjoy a bit of color also.

Mom chatterbox visit 073120

 

Outdoor Visits

More recently, Mom’s community initiated in-person visits outdoors.  Residents and visitors must be masked and must be six feet apart, but the visits last for 30 minutes instead of 15 for Chatterbox visits, and there is no screen or plexiglass barrier.

We had our first outdoor visit Monday of this week.  It was wonderful. The weather had cooled off and sitting outside was quite nice.

It was also difficult because we could not touch each other…no hand holding, no hugs.  It’s something people worldwide are experiencing during this pandemic outbreak.

But I just chatted away about my physical therapy sessions and the two-part documentary about Frank Sinatra I saw the other day.  Of course, I could not resist asking her about how she reacted to Frank Sinatra as a young crooner when she was a teenager. She said she thought he was okay; she liked his songs.  When I said the film showed old footage of screaming girls in the audience, Mom just shook her head.

teens and Frank sinatra

“I mean, it was just like teens acted when Elvis became popular…and then the Beatles, Mom!”

teens screaming Elvis                        teens and the beatles

Her reply:  “All that isn’t necessary.”

Nice to know we are two peas in a pod, so to speak.  Both of us enjoyed popular singers as teenagers, but neither of us got swept up in the hysteria.

Mom kept fiddling with her mask during our visit and exposing her nose.  I kept gently reminding her to “pull it up.”  After my fourth or fifth reminder, she pulled the mask up to cover her eyes; then she pulled it down.  I just shook my head and laughed.

Before I left our first outdoor visit I took a photo.  It’s Mom’s COVID wave.  Despite the progression of her dementia, she is well, she responds to conversation, she has a great sense of humor, and she tells me she loves me when I tell her I love her.  I feel blessed.

Mom covid greetings 080320

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Four Weeks after Knee Replacement

July 16, 2020  mid-afternoon

Just a short post that the recovery from my knee replacement is going well.

After two weeks, I was no longer using the walker.  It just seemed to get in the way.  I never transitioned to a cane.  Just walking pretty well, although I have not been outside to walk a few blocks because we’re in a heatwave of 90-degree temperatures.  Instead, I tour the cul-de-sac on foot after the heat of the day, and every second round I stop by my mailbox to do some leg lifts/knee bends.

Physical therapy is going well.  I like my therapist, Dan.  He has a master’s degree, gives good instructions, demonstrates exercises, and he’s professional.  We seem to be of the same type:  Let’s get to work.  Not a lot of chitchat.

Dan was impressed that I was walking on my own after just two weeks, and I surprised him with my flexibility when I was asked to bend down to stretch.  The concern we both shared was the stiffness of the knee, so he recommended going back to icing and elevating for 30 minutes three times a day.  That has made a big difference and I feel like I’m making pretty good progress.

Here’s a photo of my 15-year-old cockapoo, Cinnamon, taken one day within the first two weeks when I was just icing the knee a bit.  His care and supervision were much appreciated.

Cinnamon and knee recovery June 2020

I look forward to getting permission to drive.  I see the surgeon in early August for a 6-week check-in.  Not that I’ll be going to many places or even shopping during these COVID times.  But once I can drive, then I can get back on a regular schedule of visiting Mom.  Her community will be opening up a bit for outside in-person visits with masks and social distancing in the courtyard.  Not sure how well that will work with the heat of July and August in Missouri, but I look forward to making an appointment to see her, bring her some flowers, and check in on her functioning.  No hugs or touching, so that will be difficult.

 

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Two Weeks After Knee Replacement: Doing Well

July 1, 2020, early morning

Looking Back

Things move along pretty quickly with knee replacement surgery, and my situation was no exception.

The surgery previous to mine ended early, so I was hustled along an hour earlier than scheduled.  I woke up in my room at 2 p.m.  I was home the next day by 2:30 p.m.

That was fine with me.  I’m not accustomed to being in a hospital, and in general, I dislike having to have any kind of medical procedure.  And the older I get, the crabbier I become.  Okay, I can get a bit bitchy.

My first act of rebellion was to divorce the compression sock.  I wore it in the hospital and wore it a few days at home.  Then it was killing me and I felt like the swelling was worse with the sock on.  Went online and read that after a week or so, some people don’t wear the sock to bed at night.  I tried that and my leg felt much better by morning.  After a consultation with the visiting nurse via phone, she finally said I could go ahead and not wear it if I felt better without it.  Done.  She was under the impression that I was to wear it until I saw the surgeon in six weeks.  Nope.  Not happening.

thumb_when-you-gethome-and-take-off-your-compression-socks-char-18943765

The pain medicines have been another issue: a blessing and a curse.  The pain is well controlled, and two weeks in, I’m not using it near as much as I was.  I won’t need a refill.  That said, I have had no appetite.  Nada.  Zilch. I have had to force myself to make a simple sandwich, cook some oatmeal, or boil an egg.  This will get better.

Important note:  If prescribed narcotic meds to control pain after surgery, make sure you have a bottle of Phillips Milk of Magnesia – liquid wild cherry on hand.  A different visiting nurse mentioned it the other day after we discussed the side effects of narcotic pain meds. It’s available everywhere. Yesterday I texted friend Lynette to please get me some.  Life is now more comfortable.

Now

I’ve made good progress.  The visiting nurse has declared the current condition of the knee as “beautiful.”  I’ve been walking around my place without the walker and doing some house chores in-between times of elevation and icing of the knee.  At-home physical therapy began right away and I will now transition to therapy sessions at PEAK Performance.

Like most people, bending the knee and improving the range of motion is the most difficult part of this healing process for me. I have been dedicated to the exercises, despite my grumbling that it is unrealistic to expect a great deal of improvement with a range of motion during the first week.  The physical therapist who is starting me out with exercises at home does not seem pleased or interested in the fact that I, as usual, have done a bit of research about physical therapy for post knee surgery.  Once I told him that in 2017, the Mayo Clinic orthopedic department relaxed their expectations for a range of motion during the first few weeks, he became a bit defensive.

“Well, that’s fine if one wants to go through knee manipulation later … and then you’ll be where you are now.”

Kudos to me for keeping my mouth shut.  I just told myself, “I see this guy only one more time.  Then I move on to regular physical therapy sessions for about six weeks, and it’s THOSE folks who will come to understand that I am completely devoted to doing all required exercises to the point of discomfort, but not to the point of pain.  Period.

What brought me to this kind of thinking was a website I came across doing my research:  Bonesmart.  It hosts various forums for folks facing or recovering from hip, knee, and shoulder replacements.  I learned a lot reading through various information packets and reading posts from people and the replies they received.  The main thing I learned is that there are varying theories and practices concerning physical therapy for post knee replacement.  So I approach the next phase of physical therapy with a bit of caution.

skeptical

My new physical therapist will come to understand that I am not a gymnast rushing to get back onto the beam.  I’m a grandma who wants to enjoy long walks again and garden without concern about my knee giving out.  I will do what I am told to the degree that it makes sense to me and does not cause a pain level that makes me wince.  There are some therapy practices I may refuse because I have read that they are controversial.

I expect to be living in pandemic quarantine for at least another year; thus, strong, steady progress is my goal.

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