Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Darkness falls early on the summer solstice

The view this morning.

We had a very big storm blow through last night around 8:00. I was at the library picking out books when a staff member announced over the p.a. system that there were tornado warnings for our area, and to find your family members in case the need arose to head for the library's shelters.

Instead, I headed for home (just several minutes away) as G was home with a caregiver, and I realized the caregiver didn't know where flashlights or candles were if the power went out. And if there was a need to head for shelter, I wanted to be able to help getting G to the basement. I got home in time, just before the rain hit. Shortly after that, the wind increased suddenly, the sky got very dark, the power went out, and we could hear cracking noises and bumps and thumps all around the house. All the while I was getting out candles, lighting them, and trying to find my windup flashlight (still unaccounted for, as are a number of things that got packed up last fall before the remodeling).

Lucky for us, the high wind was over quickly. Edited to add: We found out later it was a tornado. Eeek!

As the rain continued, we could see flashlights starting to appear outside. Clearly people better prepared than I.

The amount of tree limbs down, and the size of them, was astounding. Several trees had been split in half. Our street was blocked with large tree branches, but none were so big that a couple of people working together couldn't drag them to the curb, so the street got cleared pretty quickly. The only property damage seemed to be a car whose back window was smashed and a few dented gutters from falling limbs.

This morning we found out our power probably won't be restored for several days.

And so now I'm better prepared for another night or two without power. Made the rounds of the stores and stocked up on battery powered lights, an extra cooler, and bags of ice. As long as I have enough light to read a book, I'm fine. No television will be hard on G, though. And we are very lucky that the weather is going to be in the low seventies the next several days, so we won't roast without AC or fans.

Pictures tomorrow - we have power at work, but I don't have a connection for my camera with me. It's at home, where the power is out.

Edited to add: Pow-wah! Our power is back - even though I received an alert at 4 pm that it would be another 48 hours before power would be restored (which caused me to accept my boss' offer of a gas-powered generator, which he brought over and showed me how to use, and which I hooked up to our sump pumps and fridge), our power came back on at 6:15 pm, just as I was pulling into the driveway with 2 more gallons of gas to add to the pint or so that I had on hand when we started up the generator. Electricity is a wonderful thing. Here are some pictures from this morning - and our street is now clear, as the village crews have been hard at work picking up and chipping all the debris.

Looking across the street from our driveway.

Some of what was piled on one side of our driveway.

More stuff piled on the other side of the driveway.

Our neighbor's.

The neighbor's tree.
Glad it fell away from our house and across their yard,
and not on the next house.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Last night I met two friends for dinner and a movie (a movie! The second time in a month, after 3 years of movie-going drought.). We saw Midnight in Paris and loved it.

The location scenes in the movie were especially poignant for both my friends: one's husband was from France, so they spent a lot of time there visiting his family; he died several years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's. The other friend spent six months in France during her junior year - and then later took a three week honeymoon there with her husband, who is now in residential care due to Alzheimer's.

A silver lining to this disease - I never would have known these two lovely women if not for meeting through caregiver support groups.

But I know this is true for all of us: we would trade those friendships if we could have our husbands whole and well again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

An easy choice

Saturday morning we took a caregiver and drove to my parents’ cottage in Wisconsin for the weekend, as a test for future weekends of how G would fare during the trip and at the cottage, and how I liked having the caregiver en route with us.

Pretty good, overall, though when we got home, G said we couldn’t go again – too hard on him. We’ll see – he seemed to enjoy himself most of the time.

The best for me, though, was being with family, and especially getting to be with my dad on Father’s Day. I’m so fortunate that I have healthy, active parents, and I count them among my most precious blessings.

So the list of Three Good Things was easy yesterday. Very easy.

My dad returning to a surprise homecoming celebration at Midway Airport
from the Honor Flight, October 2009

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day three

Today is day three of the adult day program. I found out G had risen to the occasion on Tuesday, despite the very long process to get him out of the house and into the venue. Yesterday he had argued about not going, but finally, reluctantly, made his way to the car. But I learned when I picked him up that once he was there, he refused to participate for most of the time. Fingers crossed that today he is willing to try it again, or at least lets me convince him to try it again, and that he likes it better today.

My three good things for yesterday:

A perfect day for hanging laundry.
I love it when the weather is right and I have the time to hang laundry outside.

The weekly delivery from our CSA.
carrots, turnip tops with a few small turnips, asparagus,
scallions, leaf lettuce, eggs

Flowers from the garden
rose (plant is from my grandmother's garden, circa 1920),
sundrops, catmint, feverfew

It was difficult to choose only three.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Attitude adjustment

I am normally an optimistic person. When I started this blog in November of 2007, it was a tool to help me focus on life's possibilities and small joys instead of allowing myself to be washed away by the challenges and grief of dealing with my husband's disease. For the first year and a half, it worked really well.

The last year or so of our lives, and especially the last two months, have been difficult. A month ago, when we were at a very low point, I heard about a webinar called The Importance of Positive Emotions for Caregivers, by a speaker named Janet Edmonson. I could really have used it at the time I signed up, but it wasn't going to be held until June 14th. Tuesday night I logged on and listened; it was short but effective. Most of the information shared I knew already but had allowed to get buried by life's distractions: that scientific studies show again and again what Norman Vincent Peale knew from his own observations - positive thinking can impact lives in profoundly powerful ways. Priming people with positive words helps them perform better on tests, for instance. Positive thinking improves our cognition and our physical health, increases our longevity, and gives us more resilience.

Ms. Edmonson gave a homework assignment that turned out to be something that I had read about in our local paper a couple of months ago. She called it "What went well today." The newspaper article I read in April called it "Three good things that happened today." Both techniques are to recall at the end of the day three positive things, big or small, that happened that day. The newspaper article said some studies showed that most people who use this technique start to feel better within two to four weeks.

I had started my "Three good things" journal in mid April, during the 12 days G was in rehab. Kept up with it very well until he came home a week later and was so very ill and miserable - then my entries became less frequent and often quite terse. It was an effort to find something positive to write, and I was mentally exhausted.

Life is calmer, more stable at the moment, so now is the time to re-start that habit and to hang on to it. Last night I opened the journal and posted an entry of three good things that happened yesterday:

Made a dinner that G really enjoyed
(roast chicken with herbs, broccoli and kale gratin, mashed potatoes).
It was delicious, if I do say so myself.

The rain came after I had cut the grass the previous night.
Love that timing.

I sold all 4 of my university yearbooks on ebay.
I'm a few dollars richer and a chunk of shelf space lighter.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Something new

10 days in hospital getting meds adjusted, and now G is much, much better - some of his sense of humor has returned, and he can sometimes laugh and find pleasure in things. Better living through chemistry, to paraphrase an old advertisement. The restlessness and misery are just below the surface, though, if the medication starts to wear off.

Before G left the hospital, his doctors recommended he start attending an adult day program, as he had willingly participated in the occupational therapy programs held in the common room for the residents of his unit. Or, as one of the doctors put it, "He didn't say, 'Why are you making me do things with all these crazy old people?'".

A day program is something we have talked about over the years. All the literature strongly recommends "socialization" for people with dementia. (Also for people without dementia, for that matter.) Because those with dementia tend to become isolated, it's even more important to make an effort to be with other people. Joining a group, though, is not something that G has ever been keen on, even before the onset of the disease. He always was very social, but after he retired, didn't want to commit to a volunteer group or anything else that required him to be someplace on a particular day.

As it happens, G had brought up the subject of attending a day program on his own a few months ago, before he got sick. He was lonely being at home while I went to work. And all was ready to go - the interviews done, the paperwork completed - when he got sick and had to be taken to the ER and the whole cycle of illness and recovery began. More than 2 months later, here we are. Ready to begin the day program. Today.

When it came time to actually leave the house, instead of saying, "I don't want to go," G said, "I can't go down the stairs." "My legs don't work." "I have to sit down." "I can't walk." I don't blame him. I wouldn't want to go to a new place, either.

More than an hour of coaching and encouragement later, I left him with kind staff and a group of older adults in need of companionship.

I hate this disease.