Monday, March 31, 2008

The Caregiver's Needs

I'm beginning to lose myself.
So focused have I been on Hubby's needs, that I've neglected my own.
Nothing new - most Caregivers do the same.
But all of a sudden, I've got musculoskeletal pain everywhere. I go on my usual walks around the neighbourhood, get back home and later in the evening the pain begins. It wakes me up at night.

Plantar fasciitis is back. Almost like it never left. I was just starting to take pleasure in the joy of walking once again. And sunshine. It's still cold here, but the sun is strong. Snow is melting. Walking outside in the fresh air with my face turned to the sun feels wonderful. A change in energy that I thought was making a difference.

But not anymore. It's turning into pain.
So I will make the appropriate appointments and look after my needs.

But I'm still in shock. Where did it come from? I thought I was doing well. Learning to accept that which I can't change, going with the flow, etc. etc.

Looking back, I can see that I have ignored nagging little symptoms. Little aches and pains that would come and go. Nothing horrible, after all Hubby's problem is much greater than mine. His needs far outweigh my own. Or do they?

This had not been a good day - or past few days. The focus has been on me and I'm not comfortable with this. I'm not the patient here. Hubby is. I'm not the one who needs attention. Hubby does.

I feel as if I'm losing myself. Looking back at old photo albums this afternoon, I wondered: who is that happy looking lady of only a few years ago?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Time well spent?

Yesterday, I went to buy a vacuum cleaner.
Hubby wanted to fix our old one.
I wanted a new one - preferably central vac.
We agreed on a canister type.

I drove off to Sears department store, parked in the parking lot and entered the store at the baby department.
Wrong! I should have entered in the mens shoes or washing machines.
Baby clothes! Oh no! All those cute spring outfits - yellows and blues and pinks.
I'll just have to walk past with my eyes shut.
Well, maybe just a little peek.
Hmmm - is that a "liquidation section" over there in the corner??

I spent about 3/4 of an hour checking out all the sales. I got some good deals too.
"I came here to buy a vacuum cleaner", I told the sales clerk.
"I hear that all the time", she laughed and directed me up stairs to the proper department.

I walked in and saw exactly what I wanted. It was a brand-new model on display - and on sale too.
"Sold!" I said to the salesman.
"I've sold 35 of these this week", he told me. "They really are good vacuums."

Down the escalator, back through the baby department, on my way to the car, when I spotted the baby clothes sales clerk.
"I bought my vacuum cleaner in 5 minutes", I told her.

She probably thought I was nuts. It took me 5 minutes to make a $350.00 purchase and almost an hour to buy about $20.00 worth of baby clothes.
But - I had fun.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ripples on a Pond

Computer Son (my youngest) made an announcement over Easter - he and his wife are expecting - twins!!
I greeted his announcement with joy. Others groaned.

Computer Son will turn 30 in April. They already have 4 other children. Their small apartment has only 2 bedrooms. Now, they'll have to move. They had plans to move with the birth of Child Number 4 - two years ago. But never did.
They can't put it off any longer. Problem is - money's tight. But, I believe they will find a way to accept life's challenges and make things work.

This Grandma is ecstatic! Twins! I believe every birth is a miracle, every child a creation of God/dess. Meant to be. To live here on this Earth and experience life with the rest of us. A new baby, to my way of thinking, is an affirmation of Life.

I cast my mind back over the years; something I find myself doing more frequently, as time goes by. Thinking back - to trace the unfolding of events to the Source, the beginning. To the trigger, the catalyst. To the pebble thrown into the pond.

I was standing on my head.

Watching a morning yoga program on T.V. The pose of the morning was - The Headstand.
I warily placed a cushion on the floor against the wall. Took a deep breath, plopped my head on it and heaved myself up, using the wall for support.

This was supposed to reverse the flow of gravity - realign your body. Ha! my boobs were falling in my face and my head hurt, despite the cushion. This was not fun!

So I pushed my feet hard against the wall and came crashing down on the floor. My two little ones looked up from their toys in fright. My daughter started to cry. My 6-year-old son came over to see what was wrong.

Suddenly, I felt myself bleeding. That was odd. Wrong time of the month. I waited a bit, but it didn't stop.

Alarmed, I called my doctor. He told me that it was probably my IUD (yes, we wore those barbaric pieces of plastic inside, in those days, for birth control) had shifted and was irritating the inside of my uterus.
"Come in if it gets worse." he advised.

It got better. But this episode had frightened me. As a young mother I felt vulnerable, and bleeding to death during a yoga session was definitely not something I looked forward to.

That night, my husband and I had a discussion. Initially, he had wanted 2 children and I wanted 4. But in light of the IUD episode (I couldn't take the Pill and did not feel comfortable having my tubes tied after only 2 children) we decided to compromise. We'd have one more child and then I'd have a tubal ligation. Close up shop. No more babies.

The IUD was removed the following week.

Nine months later - Computer Son was born.

The ripples on the pond begin to spread....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Easter is early this year. With March winds howling, we welcome the festival of Spring, with it's eggs and bunnies. New life, new growth.

I spent the day with all of my grandchildren but one, yesterday. The newest grandchild couldn't make it.

I arrived at my daughter's house laden with Easter gifts for the children and hard-boiled eggs to colour.

The older children had fun decorating. Dye spilled all over the dining room table, but this Grandma was prepared. I had bought a plastic table cloth at the Dollar Store and it served the purpose well.

The babies were too young to colour eggs, so played happily on the floor. Well, most of the time. Granddaughter grabbed the chocolate eggs away from Grandson. Grandson retaliated by hogging her toys. She thought it was funny and kicked out at him, just for fun.

Grandson #1 decided to check out some video games on the computer. At almost 10 years old, he thought colouring eggs was boring.
11-year old Granddaughter didn't. She put her artistic flair into it and came out with some interesting creations.

7-year old Grandson spilled the coloured water. He dropped an egg or two on the floor. Didn't use the egg dipper, so got his hands thoroughly dyed - pink, purple and yellow.
All in all - a successful Easter celebration.

Hubby stayed home, as always. Happy in his comfort zone. Happy to listen to my adventures with the grandchildren, once back home again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Spring Everybody!

Here is what you see when you open my front door. Our front walk looks like a tunnel between snowbanks.
If you look very closely, you can see the neighbour's house across the street - well, only the rooftop.

But - Spring is finally here!!

And Hubby looks great! Gone is the fatigue, nausea, and frail-looking person. He looks fine. In fact, he looks better than I do.
I look tired.
I feel tired.
I am tired.

"My head feels tight" I tell Hubby after lunch today.
"Yeah, tight - as if the skin is stretched too tight.
"Do you have a headache?" asks Hubby
"No, just tight."
"Hmmm" Hubby's humoring me.
"Why don't you lie down?"
I hate spending any part of my day lying down. I bite my tongue so I don't say it out loud. Hubby always spends 3 hours after lunch sleeping in bed. And he thinks I should "nap" after lunch too.
Maybe he wants company.
Maybe he thinks everybody should rest part of the day.
Maybe he's right. Maybe not.

I bundle up well and go for a walk in the sunshine. It's cold and windy, but I don't care. I'm out moving my body, breathing in fresh air, and listening to the birds singing in the treetops.
Sounds of spring - and I want to be part of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Life Supports Us to Fly....

..... is an affirmation I learned recently. But why do I feel as if my wings are clipped?
It's almost spring and yet - these last few weeks feel like the worst, as we wait for the snow to melt.
Conversations always start with "when the snow melts we will...."
...get out and go for a long walk, bicycle, take our baby out in the stroller, go visiting and spend some time in the outdoors, clean the garage, paint the garage floor, clean up the back yard, see some spring flowers, etc. etc.

So, today, I jumped in the car and off I went to Chapters to buy some books for the grandkids for Easter. I'd already purchased colourful baskets and some chocolate eggs and bunnies. I keep the amount of chocolate small as I know the Easter bunny (and the other grandma) will bring more.

Hubby watched me go, as always. He is feeling better and I am glad. It's been a rough couple of weeks. I wonder if he will ever regain the strength he lost over those weeks.

This morning we had an "argument" (we don't really argue, just voice our opinions, and I usually just give in at this stage of the game, rather than adding to his feelings of powerlessness) over the vacuum cleaner. It broke and I need a new one. Hubby thinks we should send it out to be "fixed". Yeah, right. Imagine the cost of repairing an old vacuum? And the time? They'd probably want to keep it for weeks. If they do still repair vacuums.

I came home from Chapters with more books than I had intended. It's always like that. I love buying grandkids gifts (who doesn't?).
"Whoa - I think you went a little overboard!"
Oh puleeese, I thought. We have very different opinions on spending money.
He hates to spend money. I love to. I equate spending money with opening up and enjoying life. He equates money with losing something.

His world is closing around him. I know that, but I don't want to go with him. I want to jump back into the stream of life.
He occupies a world of fear. I feel bad for him. It must be horrible, and I am trying to do everything I can to ease his pain.
But it's not my world.

I want to open my world up and live! And dance! And have fun!!
And fly!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day (tomorrow)

Some bright tulips on my windowsill to brighten up our winter!!!
This must be the longest winter on record.
Well, at least the snowiest!

Here in Montreal, we have a St.Patrick's Day Parade the Sunday before St. Paddy's Day. So, this afternoon, under a nice bright sunny sky, Montrealiers will be marching in the parade, drinking green beer (yuk!) and just having a ball.

On another note - I have joined BlogHer Ads because I get to choose the kinds of ads that go on my site. Rather than just having random ads.

They are doing a survey about - what else?? Blogging, our favourite sport (o.k., activity) so if anyone wants to take it:
this is where you can check it out

Have fun, whether you're Irish or not.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kitchen Window in Winter

Beverly posted some beautiful daffodils in her blog. Hers are blooming in the ground and look much prettier than mine.

But - I thought I'd post these anyway. I don't think I could go through winter without cheery yellow daffodils on my windowsill. Or begonias (in the back), or tulips or anything else that brings colour to the snowy background.

Spring is just around the corner. My son turns 36 on March 22nd!!! And we always have a snowstorm around that time. Just to tease us -

But, the good news is - it doesn't last.

It will melt.

I can't wait!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm in limbo

Not sure what's happening with Hubby. One day he's nauseated and feeling shaky, the next he's feeling better.
Then we're back to nausea, spacey head, weak and tired.
It doesn't seem to matter what he does - whether he eats or not. Rests or not.

So one day I'm feeling encouraged. The next, I'm down in the dumps again.
That's me - what about him? It must feel awful for him - feeling like you're going to throw up all the time.
Reminds me of being on a boat during a storm.

Back in 2005, I was in the Bahamas. Joined a group to go swimming with dolphins. It was awesome!!!!
It happened the first day out on the boat (catamaran, actually).

The journey out to sea was wonderful. Sun beating down on us, ocean breeze, as the catamaran sailed gently through the waves. We stopped along the way to practice snorkeling. It was fun! Something I'm glad I learned and will definitely do again!

Back on the boat and out into the ocean once more. Scouting for dolphins.
The plan was to wait for their approach and then quietly slip into the water, hoping they would stick around and swim with us.

This was our first day out and we saw not a one. Quite disappointing. But we were at the beginning of our exciting adventure - no need to panic, there would be more days ahead.
Finally it was time to turn around and head back.

Suddenly, the wind grew stronger, rocking the boat. Apprehensively, I looked around. One minute everything was clear, but now fast approaching were these humongous thick, gray storm clouds. I watched helplessly as they came closer and closer, electrifying the air.

Soon we were engulfed in the fog. Rain pelted the boat.
Waves intensified - rocking our boat even more!
Some of the ladies threw-up over the side. I came close, but held on tight and kept my eyes on the horizon (someone told me to do that and it worked).

As we approached the dock, I heaved a great sigh of relief. I was so happy to get off that d*mn boat and back on to dry land once more!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Carpe Diem

"Does it look like I've lost any weight?" I ask, parading in front of Hubby in my underwear, while trying very hard to suck in my stomach.
"No," he replies.

"Hey - you're not supposed to be that honest!!!" I said struggling into my jeans. "You're supposed to say - "yes, of course - you look terrific!"

Hubby smiled. He was sitting on the edge of our bed, taking a little rest after his "breathing treatments".

He is still feeling weak and tired. Still having GI complaints. There is not
much food going in. And this is a concern. He can't afford to lose any weight.
"How about taking some of my fat?" I tease.
"I'd love to, but you won't give me any."

This is a conversation we have regularly. It usually takes place in our bedroom where one or both of us is getting dressed (or undressed).

I'm trying to lighten the atmosphere. Hubby sits there looking so forlorn, like a little lost puppy dog. "when will I feel better?" his eyes plead.

I don't know. He may never feel better. This is a constant worry. Is this episode of weakness and yukkiness just another bump in the road? Or a permanent step downward.

No matter what the outcome, we will get through this.
Carpe Diem is a Latin expression meaning "Seize the Day." So, we'll start by seizing the day.

And I've started the day by making him smile.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Nursing Notes

As I sit and watch Hubby sleeping my thoughts drift back to the days when I was a student nurse - not that long ago. Here is a page from my nursing notes:

Ring Ring
"Come in, dear!"
Ring Ring
"Come in..."
Ring Ring
"Why is nobody there? Oh do come in!"

Nurse (me) walks into the room in the geriatric unit of a Montreal hospital.
"Who's ringing for me?"
Ring Ring
"Oh, Mr. Jones, you can stop ringing now I'm here.
Ring Ring
"Mr. Jones - let me take that call bell from you. Now, what can I do for you?
"Who's there?"
"It's alright, Mrs. Smith. Nobody is at your door.
"Oh, there you are dear, would you like to come in for a cup of tea?"

Nurse(me) leaves Mr. Jones bedside and walks over to Mrs. Smith's bed.
"Mrs. Smith, you are in the hospital. Nobody is at your door." Nurse (me) plumps up pillow and smooths covers.
"Are you alright, Mrs. Smith? Do you need some water?"
It's important to keep older folks hydrated.
"Thank you. Would you like some tea?"
"No, Mrs. Smith. I have work to do. Try and get some rest."
Ring Ring
"Come in!"
"Mr. Jones, you don't need to ring the bell. I'm right here."

This was real. One of the elderly patients - a very sweet old lady, thought she was at home. Every time someone rang the call bell, she thought it was her doorbell.
She could never figure out why nobody came in to visit.

Another hospital, another rotation, another teacher. This one thought she was teaching us "proper vocabulary".
Ms. Prim & Proper Teacher along with 2 nursing students (I was one of them) walk into the room of a patient with a bit of a hearing problem.
"We are going to change your incontinence product".
"What?" says Mrs. B.

A little louder this time :"It's time to change your incontinence product."
"What?" says Mrs. B., cupping her ear with her hand.
"Your incontinence product, your incontinence product!" Ms. Prim & Proper practically shrieks.

A nurse aide was puttering around the room, sorting towels and bed linens. Turning around to face Mrs. B. she said in a loud voice "Yer diaper, yer diaper!"

"Oh," says Mrs. B. "Why didn't you say so in the first place!"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

One Day at a Time

"How's Hubby?" daughter asked over the phone this morning. Hubby is not her father.
She belongs to Hubby #1.

"Tired, nauseaous, does not want to eat, went for a nap after his bath this morning".

"How's Baby?" I asked.
"Tired, crabby, did not want to eat, went for a much needed nap this morning after her bath."

Hmmmm - do I see a parallel?

Hubby is starting one of his spirals downward. It seems all I ever write about is his ups and downs. They are happening with more and more frequency. At least the downs aren't too far down. The ups aren't too far up, either.

Last night lying in bed, he told me his chest was "heavy". Vital signs were normal, making heart involvement not likely a concern. But - I was concerned anyway.

Nausea, fatigue, dizziness - are all signs of C02 build-up. This heavy chest was disconcerting.
I held him close to me and prayed.
Please don't take him yet.

I saw myself in this life cuddling Hubby. He was warm, breathing, and talking softly to me.
I looked ahead into the coming years at myself lying in that empty bed. Warm body, gentle breathing, soft voice - still.

I did not sleep well. Freezing rain pelted the windows. Fear of a power failure kept me awake as well.
I no longer wring my hands and say "will this ever end"?
I am so afraid it will.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Good Vibrations

I had a wonderful day today!
Walked into my physiotherapy appointment with stiff ankles. The Physio manipulated and massaged; stretched and pulled.
I left there walking on air. The stiffness was gone!

I headed over to Starbuck's to meet a friend for coffee.
Such an ordinary thing to do, but it felt good to get away and "just chill".
A woman walked by, then abruptly swivelled back to look at me.
"Oh my god - I haven't seen you in years!!"
"Well, pull up a chair and join us."

There's something about bumping into old friends. Immediately your energy level rises a few notches, as you excitedly share gossip and "catch up" on each others' news.

This was one of those "high energy" days for me where nearly everything falls into place. I had good news from my book publisher. I won a free coffee. I was invited to sing in a choir (one of the things I stopped when Hubby got COPD). I even had a good hair day (doesn't happen too often in winter). And, the new recipe for shrimp fettucini turned out better than I expected.

How can I have such a good day when Hubby is not?
He was feeling tired and under-the-weather today.
I took his blood pressure. Normal
He took mine. Normal.
"You're fine," I reassured him.
He nodded. "Be careful driving. Go slow on the bridge and stay in the slow lane."
"Of course I will."
I kissed his nose and merrily waved goodby.

Today I felt good. Life is changing and I am growing.
How can that be? How can I be growing when Hubby is deteriorating? We've always moved in the same direction, and all through his illness, I have been right there suffering along with him.

But something shifted inside of me earlier this year and I can feel myself separating, detaching from him. I am going on with my life - now - instead of waiting.......

And it scares the daylights out of me!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March is coming in like a Lion!

Snow, snow and more snow this morning! What a way to start off yippee-the-worst-months-of-winter-are-over!
March brings feelings of excitement as we turn the calendar and see ( yes see on this calendar page!) March 21st - Spring at last!
Well, certainly not today, as I look out my kitchen window to the snow- topped birdhouse and sad garden shed.
The good thing is - if we are to believe the old saying: March comes in like a Lion and out like a Lamb, the Lion is roaring today!
I really hope they're right (about the Lamb).
Hubby sits at the kitchen table with a pen and paper in his hand. I sit opposite him, gazing at my windowsill full of colourful spring tulips and cheery yellow daffodils. I'm dreaming of the time when I can get my hands in the Earth and feel the warm sun on my face.
"Do you know they've come to clean our driveway 16 times this winter?"
"Hmmmm?" I'm deep in the soil, playing with garden worms (really I don't mind them. Hate earwigs, though.)
"And our guy-who-shovels-the-walk has come 18 times. Quite a difference from last winter!"
"Oh really?"
My husband is a detail guy. I'm not.
He loves "playing with numbers" as he calls working with our budget and investing our finances. He loves statistics.
I don't. Statistics bore me.
He writes everything down on the calendar. Time to clean his desk. Time to change the oil in the car. Time to wash the kitchen floor.
I'm not kidding. When I first moved in here with him, he'd say "it's Wednesday, time to clean the floor"
I looked at him incredulously - "What? You have a schedule for cleaning the floor?"
"Yup - and tomorrow is vinegar-in-the-coffee-pot rinse."
You've got to be kidding!
Well, since I've taken over housekeeping, I wash the floor and rinse the coffee-maker whenever it looks like it needs it - certainly not on a time-table.
I guess that's why he's the Organized One , while I'm the Spontaneous One.
What's this got to do with a very snowy First Day of March? I have no idea. I just got sidetracked.