Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Dying House

 

The past three weeks… four weeks? Honestly, maybe it’s been longer, but it doesn’t matter, because what really matters is this moment, and in this moment we’re waiting for Death.

A few months ago, the old woman decided to stay in her room. Tammie would get her out of bed and into a chair, where she could sit near the window, look at photographs of her late husband, and read the books and magazines on the little table next to her. No matter how many times we would try to coax her out of her room to come watch some television or visit with us, she would refuse. If we insisted, she would become agitated, and that was no good. So we stopped.

One day, she fell in her room when her leg quit working and ended up going to the ER where she spent several hours getting tests done and attempting to remove all the IV’s and monitors that were attached to her. That fall was the beginning of the end. It was the last day she spent any time sitting in the living room, and it was only for about 30 minutes. She always complained that her legs hurt, but we coaxed her to keep using them. She fell a few more times, and since she’d broken a couple ribs on that first fall, we couldn’t lift her with the gait belt, so we called the paramedics for a courtesy lift which she didn’t like. So she stopped. She stopped getting out of bed. She stopped going to the bathroom to void her bowels and bladder. She stopped eating solid food. She simply...stopped.

Someone, either at the hospital or fire department, suggested hospice, so Tammie called the old woman’s primary care provider, and she came to the house to assess her patient. It didn’t take long for her to agree that this situation wasn’t going to get better and we needed help. “We’ll turn the paperwork in today and you should be hearing from them by Tuesday.

On Thursday, hospice came in and it was a breath of fresh air. They were very upfront about what to expect and the relief we felt was immense. Their kindness and understanding were a balm to our ragged nerves and frayed emotions. After fifteen months of 24/7 care, we had found a lifeline; we had help and understanding. We also had a couple of booklets that explained what we can expect and that’s where we learned she’d been slowly dying for a few months.

By the time hospice got involved, the old woman was completely bedridden. We were changing diapers and bedding and she was only taking in liquids, and not large quantities. In attempts to keep her hydrated, we had been giving her electrolyte drinks, and came up with the bright idea of mixing the protein powder with it for a super meal. It worked. For a while. But it was too sweet and she asked to not have it any longer.

Then it was down to just the electrolyte drink (still too sweet), chicken broth, and water. Then just the broth and water. Then water. It wasn’t long before she forgot how to drink from a straw and we gave her water with those pink tooth sponges.

The social worker from hospice came to visit. She listened to us spill our guts, good, bad, and funny, and passed no judgment. She even laughed at our gallows humor and got our inappropriate jokes. She assured us there was nothing wrong with what we were saying, because that was our way of dealing with a very difficult situation.

It was a much more relaxing experience than the one we had with a nurse who wasn’t quite prepared for... us! After checking out the old woman, she came out to talk to us about meds and I mentioned that we would be interested in some home-health care help. She turned to me and asked, “So, how often are you here?” When I said, “I live here, this is my home,” you could hear her brain kind of back up and slowly fall over a cliff. “Oh” was all she said. I just smiled and sniffed the air, fragrant with the scent of burning synapses. The bath lady thinks Tammie and I are sisters. Some day we’ll laugh about it, but right now, we just want it to be over.

As crude, rude, crass, whatever as that may sound, it’s true. It’s heartbreaking to see the old woman in that room, the twilight cast of the sun through the blinds pinched closed against the light because it hurts her eyes. She sleeps all day now, barely moving, so Tammie and I have to do that for her. But first we have to give her pain meds because it hurts her so much. Her breathing is slowing to the point where we’re counting at least 4 seconds between breaths. Try it.

She gags and chokes on the drops of water she gets off the little dental sponge we use to give her water and to wet her excessively chapped lips. Her liquid pain medicine, metered out in .25 mg doses, causes more choking and gagging, but we have to give it to her.

One of her meds is to keep her calm, because that woman has the grip of a caped crusader when we’re trying to change or move her. She pinched me under my arm once and it felt like I’d been bitten by a horse. We got a new hospital bed for her, this one with half rails, so she can feel safe when we move her around on the bed. Unfortunately, with her grip, she’ll glom onto one of those rails and there’s no moving her. Tammie has tried to get her to hug herself when we’re doing this, and it helped for a while, but she forgot and the fight was on again. She’ll jam her elbow into the mattress, stiffen her shoulders, and become a solid rock of stubborn old woman.

As of this writing, she’s still alive, although I personally feel “alive” is a bit of a stretch. Let me rephrase that: She’s still breathing, she’s still waiting. I just wish I knew what it is she’s waiting for. Tonight, as we were tucking her in, we told her it’s ok to go. There are people waiting for her on the other side and she’ll get to see them again, only now she won’t be in pain, she won’t be tired. The music will play and she and papa will dance once again. We told her everyone understands and wishes her well, and it’s ok to go.

Friday, February 12, 2021

My Big Event

 I must say, despite all the good things that have been happening in 2021, it kind of feels like 2020 is still trying to get in a few good licks before it completely leaves my system.

In January, I was stressed beyond coping with everything that was going on: all the political crapola that was happening and being spilled over all of social media; the Old Woman continuing to drive us nuts; and of course personal finances (because not getting paid at the first of the month when you’re supposed to because all your bills are due then is just so much fun). Early one morning, I was awakened by a pain in my chest that wouldn’t go away. I listed all the symptoms of a heart attack, and the only one that fit was the pain, so I just figured it was asthma and tried to get back to sleep.

Not happening. Giving up on sleep, I got up and took an aspirin, which didn’t alleviate the pain. Then I took a hit of albuterol and the pain eased. So did my breathing. Asthma. It sucks.

Then, in the early hours of the 8th of February, I was once again awakened with chest pain. I assessed what I was feeling: chest pain? Check. Jaw pain? Nope. Left arm pain? Nope. Tightening in the chest? Not really. Difficulty breathing? I’m asthmatic, so it wasn’t much different than usual.

What WAS I feeling? It felt like a pillow had been stuffed into my chest. A very hard pillow. But the difference this time was the pain in my back and what I can only describe as tingling “tracers” running down the backs of my arms. There was no relief in changing positions. I might have been a little nauseous, but it didn’t last long. Nothing read “heart attack” to me, according to what I’ve read about them. Later in the morning, Tammie and a friend finally convinced me to get checked out.

I called the non-emergency number for the local fire department and asked if I could come in and get checked out. “Of course, but are you ok to drive, or do you want us to come to you?”

The last thing I wanted was an ambulance sitting in the driveway. The Old Woman would have a cow, the dogs would lose their minds, and I really wasn’t in the mood to give the neighbors a show.

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

The paremedics met me at the door and ushered me into a small room, hooked me up to the ekg and chatted with me about symptoms and stuff while the machine did it’s thing. The captain strongly suggested that I go to the ER because, while THE EKG WAS NOT SHOWING ANYTHING ABNORMAL, but he was concerned with my slightly elevated blood pressure.

I made them promise to not run lights and sirens.

We got to the hospital, where I was placed on a most uncomfortable gurney and hooked up to more monitors. There was a lump directly under my tail bone that, after an hour, had surpassed the pain in my chest and I set off alarms trying to get comfortable. I apologized and tried to be still. Blood was drawn, calls were made, and I heart someone at the nurse’s station say, “St. Joe’s is full. Longview has a bed, but they require a negative covid test.” Mind you, I was not the only patient in the place, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Until that nurse came in with the angry hamster on a stick and jammed it up my schnozz. “It’s a covid test. Longview won’t take you unless you’re negative.”

“Oh, my god, that hurt. What do you mean Longview?”

“We’re transferring you to a place with a cardiac unit because we can’t diagnose you here.”

Another ambulance ride and I was in Longview. More monitors, and of course, none of them use the same leads, so it was slap on, rip off, slap on again, rip off once more, and slap on. I felt terminally sticky. And MORE blood draws. IV’s hooked up, and so many beeps, hums, buzzes... They put me in a bed with one of those air mattresses that adjusts to keep you from getting bed sores, but this one was protesting my excess weight and refused to stop running. The whole time I was in it, that damn thing sounded like someone was waxing the floors right outside my door. But it was a pleasant distraction from all the beeps of the IV’s and monitors.

Within an hour of my arrival, I was listening to the doctor say a bunch of words, but only two stuck fast: “heart attack.”

“Wait… I had a heart attack? My heart attacked me? I thought we were friends!”

“Your enzymes are elevated, and continuing to climb which indicates damage, so tomorrow we’re going to do a procedure called a cardiogram and go on a tour of your heart. If it doesn’t look too bad, we’ll put you on meds. If it looks bad, we’ll put in a stent. If it looks REALLY bad, we’ll transfer you over to another hospital and they’ll do a bypass.”

“Um… ok.”

Now, mind you, I was NOT prepared for ANY of this, emotionally, or physically. I had NO change of clothes, NO phone charger (and my phone battery is notorious for lasting all of five hours on a charge, and it was already quite low). Contacting anyone had to be done quickly and via text (and only a couple of them). Fortunately, when I mentioned this to a nurse (around eight pm). She let me use her charger and I was able to bring my phone back to life, but since the battery had gotten so low, I would have to wait about 45 minutes to use it and she was going off shift in an hour, which meant I still wouldn’t have a full charge.

Fortunately(?), I was kept too busy to do much communicating. More blood draws, more questions, forms to sign, and at some point, someone brought me a tiny snack at 11:30 because I was going to be NPO at midnight and I hadn’t eaten since noon. I was having a hard time thinking about anything other than what was happening and the fact that both my parents, and my maternal grandparents, died from “cardiac events.”

I needed comfort, a friendly voice, some contact with my family, but… the charger was plugged in and the phone was out of reach, unless I got up from the bed to get to it. In order to get out of bed, I would have to call the nurse to have her come in and move the IV stand. I felt she had better things to do, so I stared at my phone and willed it closer. It didn’t work. Besides, I had no news to share, nothing new. I needed to get some rest, which was hard. Then my gut decided it had been good long enough and didn’t want to hold on to anything.

Three hours later, I felt like I’d shed 50 pounds. I was sure the bed would stop vacuuming all the air from the room, but no.

The next day was a waiting game of blood draws, IV’s of nitroglycerine that, let me tell you, WILL give you the WORST headache, and of course, I was not allowed aspirin, only tylenol, so that was fun. I did get an ice pack, which helped a great deal, but damn, that hurt. Fortunately, it was time to go in for the procedure. To keep me calm, they gave me a valium. To keep me alive (because I’m allergic to the contrast) they gave me a shot of benedryl.

I’m not sure what hit hardest, the valium or the benedryl, but I was pretty out of it by the time they rolled me into the OR. Of course, the pain wasn’t affected by the meds, and they were still doing all the jabbing, so that was lovely, but by the time they were ready to start invading my heart, I was happily snoozing and didn’t feel a thing.

Until the end.

They had put a compression bracelet on my wrist to keep the incision site closed. They’d held my arm in whatever position necessary for so long, my shoulder was on fire and my wrist was screaming. I must have struggled a bit because someone was telling me to relax and everything will be fine.

One question for medical personnel: WHAT THE HELL IS IT ABOUT NOSTRILS THAT YOU NEED TO JAM THINGS INTO THEM??? Seriously. I was starting to calm down when someone stuffed a grumpy hedgehog up my right nostril.

“What the hell was that for?” I demanded. The doctor said something and the nurse sounded defensive.

“It’s to check for MRSA. It’s IMPORTANT!” Just like that. To the doctor. And probably me. I kept my thoughts to myself after that.

TL:dr I had two heart attacks. My symptoms were NOT textbook, which is why it took TWO of them to get me to the hospital. I am now a card-carrying member of the “thing in my heart” club declaring my stent-in-residence. Also, there is residual heart disease, so I’ll be on a “heart healthy” diet for the rest of my life (which I fully intend will be long). It will be an adjustment, but it’s for the best. My body has been trying to get my attention for a long time to take better care of it. Apparently, diabetes wasn’t enough of a warning for me, so this time it brought out the big guns and, this time, I listened.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Onward Ho! We're Cooking Again!

 

I’ve made it to the point where I can function like a neuro-typical human and not either fight or cry when faced with conflict. I’m going to stick that in the positive column.

On another positive note, I’ve been cooking unusual, a.k.a. new-to-me recipes. We’ve been missing good Asian food where we live and we found out why after asking around. It seems most everyone here would rather drive 2.5 hours to the nearest big city for a meal of good Chinese food, than subject themselves to the local fare. Long car trips are not something we can do at this time because, besides the plague, the old woman doesn’t travel well, and quite frankly, watching her have “seconds” by whipping out her false teeth and licking them is just not something I’d like to experience in a public place. It’s rough enough at home, especially when she looks up and says, “mmm, good!”

I know, right? If I ever end up with false teeth, my children have permission to take them away if I ever start doing that shit.

We found an easy recipe for hot-and-sour soup, a long-time favorite of ours. So I made it, and you know, it was pretty damn tasty. It reminded me of the soup we got at a place we used to go to when we lived near Seattle. Their soup was ALWAYS made right there and it was amazing. Then the original owner retired and the person who took over started using a mix for the soup. Not ok. In fact, we were very sad at the quality of all the food we had there the last time, but I digress.

Egg rolls were next on the list and I had a recipe for air-fryer egg rolls, which, to be honest, I wasn’t sure would turn out.

I was kind of right. The flavor was amazing! EXACTLY like the ones we used to get at the restaurant, but I didn’t get enough oil on the wrappers and they got a little dry and, um, burnt in a couple of places. But I’m sure with practice, I’ll get them figured out and we can have them whenever I feel like chopping veggies until my back is bent and I can’t stand up straight. Oh, there was LOTS of chopping for both the egg rolls and the soup. We’re talking up to the eyeballs in mise en place, folks. And lots of chaos with some panic tossed in for good measure.

Because the recipes were new, I was a little flighty, going from one place to the next, then back… Next time, I’ll have a better idea of what to do and how to get everything set up first. Like, the day before or have someone else do it. Also, it will be beneficial if the old woman isn’t busy setting my hair on fire while I’m cooking because I’m pretty sure the cutting board will not withstand another round of chopping meat like that last one. The cleaver is heavy and I’m quite strong, so there are some seriously deep cuts in the surface of that plastic cutting board. I will admit, it was loud, it was destructive, but it was also highly satisfying.

So was the meal. Satisfying, not loud and destructive. I think next on my list of dishes to learn will be sweet-n-sour pork, bbq pork, Szechuan green beans, mu shu pork and I’d really like to get either fried rice or chow mein mastered. I’ve already done General Tso’s chicken a couple of times. Great dish, but the mess… yeowza! However, the sauce makes the chicken dish, and I got that one spot on so far.

I’ve even made pot stickers from scratch. Totally from scratch, like even the wrapper. It wasn’t hard, but it was a royal, tedious pain, and if you don’t keep the wrappers slightly damp, they dry out and get sassy when you try to wrap the filling. I may just stick to buying those, because dang…

I’ve found a source for sweet bean paste, which delights me. I want to make some baos, which are a big hairy joy because of all the extra kneading you have to do to get the texture just right, but they are so damn good, I just have to make it work.

Then there are the sesame balls, but I’m not sure I’m really ready for that one. The last time I tried it, things did not end well and I wound up with gooey, snotty balls of sticky mochi that were about as unappetizing as the description: gooey, snotty balls. However, I discovered the error of my ways and will know better than to drop them into that temperature of oil, causing them to kind of blow up… And the clean up for that one was off the charts. Sticky, starchy, gooey and greasy… The four horsemen of the kitchen apocalypse, also my constant companions while cooking, much to Tammie’s dismay.

Tonight, we’re doing leftovers, because neither of us feels much like cooking or cleaning.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Road Trip

 Getting out of the house has become one of those activities that, at one time, had almost been a bane of our existence, but has now become a necessity. What we miss most are those opportunities of going out together, just the two of us, for a nice trip to the grocery store, or better yet, just out tooling around the countryside on a whim or adventure. Still, getting away from the Old Woman, even if it’s a solo trip, has become our motive for keeping the car keys handy.

Any excuse to leave for a few hours is a good one.

However, neither of us can truly get “away” because our time off is wrapped in guilt for leaving the other one stuck in the pit of despair with the Old Woman. But that bit of guilt doesn’t stop us, so when an opportunity to travel 2.5 hours (one way) to see a friend came up, I didn’t blink twice, I just went. And yes, I feel guilty, and yes, Tammie gets a break very soon.

My get-away came in the form an offer to meet a friend in Olympia so I could pick up a glass etcher she was selling. We also decided to grab some lunch while we were there. I had intended to get gas on my way off the peninsula, but I was running late after having to scrape the windshield, and when I got in the car, the gas gauge read ¾ full. I figured I was good to go, so I did. And it was. It’s a Prius, so you can go a long way on about 7 gallons. Besides, there are gas stations in Olympia, so it was no big deal.

A little voice in my head said, “don’t you think you should just top it off before you go?” I told the little voice, “Bah, I’ll be fine. Besides, it’s a hybrid. I get EXCELLENT mileage.” I plugged my phone into the stereo with the aux tail, pulled up some Apocalyptica, and headed east, rocking out grooving on the familiar scenery. I passed through a couple small towns, with half a gas station each, toyed with the idea of taking a new route before remembering I was on a schedule and decided to stick with a familiar path. Pretty soon I hit the highway, tunes blaring, head nodding, feeling pretty ok.

When I got to Olympia, I still had four bars left on the gauge, so I knew I was golden. I was also hungry. My friend did some research on local Thai eateries, found a couple with good reviews and away we went. The reviews were correct, and the food was as excellent as the company. After we finished eating, we hit up an arts-n-crafts store so she could get some items for a project, and I found a watercolor book for beginners on sale, and two tiny (2.5 x 3.75 inches) tablets of hot press watercolor paper. I have some of my mom’s watercolor blocks and tablets, but they’re huge and all cold press, so I wanted to try the smoother hot press paper (without spending a huge amount of money on something I’ve never tried and may not like). Oh, yeah, guess who has a new “thing” in her life. It’s me. I have a new thing. It’s watercolor painting. It’s what my mom did and I totally see why. Watercolor is awesome.

After that, we hit a bookstore where I found another watercolor tutorial-type book in a slightly different style (and it was on sale, too!). I’m rather proud of myself for getting out of both stores for less than $40. It was a great break, but unfortunately it was time to head home. The last thing I wanted was to be on the road after dark, because deer and elk like to come out to play and none of them are afraid of little hybrid cars. I, however, am afraid of wildlife on the road, even though my car is probably small enough to zip right under most elk. Not even blasting a Nightwish CD would faze a gang of elk wandering across the road. Especially when it’s coming out of a Prius. Seriously.

(Funny aside, when I bought the car, my dad was worried that I’d get a speeding ticket, because “cops know people who drive red cars are always speeding.” I said, “It’s a Prius, Pop. The only way I could get going fast enough to get a ticket is if I was going down hill, with a tailwind.” After he saw the car, he agreed there was nothing to fear. Elk know this, too).

Anyway, I was about 10 miles from home when there was a “ding” that didn’t come from the CD, it came from my car. I had no idea what the hell was happening, until I noticed the fuel light was BLINKING! That’s an “aw shit” moment, if ever there is one. And a well-deserved “I told you so” for the little voice in my head. The last time the “ding” happened in my current ride, I was very close to home, and a gas station. There is a readout on the dash that will tell me how many miles I have left on the tank, and that time, when I was within walking distance, it was going down to TOTALLY EMPTY super fast. Since I did not want to watch my fate approach me like that so far from home, I didn’t switch the readout to show me the bad news.

Memory finally served me, because several years ago I had read an article about hyper-miling. It’s a technique you can employ to extend your gas mileage. Slow down, don’t accelerate up hill, coast whenever possible, don’t rush up to stop signs, lots of ways to improve mileage. I tried it while I was driving my old Subaru (a five-speed darling that I miss to this day) I went from 23 mpg to 38 mpg on a trip to southern Oregon, so I know hyper-miling works, and I remember how to do it.

So I hyper-miled: I pulled over to let cars go around; I went slower up the hills; I coasted as much as I possibly could. As I was still several miles from home, I called Tammie with the bad news. Since we only have one working vehicle, and I was driving it, she called her son who was on standby with a gas can. According to my car, I was getting 56 mpg, but would that be enough?

Three miles away I could see the light at the intersection where there are two gas stations. So. Close. I coasted down the last hill, accelerated slowly (much to the annoyance of the person behind me who just wanted me to get the hell out of the way), and the gas station grew closer. This time the readout said I was up to 63 mpg.

Still, the light blinked faster.

Less than ½ a mile to go, nice level road, the electric motor kicked into give me some help, boosting my mpg up to 90.

¼ mile, I was able to pull off far enough off the pavement to let the cars behind me go around, then back onto the road I went, easing my way up to the 35 mph limit and crashing my mpg to 20 as I gained the speed limit.

I reached the intersection directly across from the gas station I’d been aiming for, but their fuel delivery truck was there and all the pumps were blocked off. I turned off the music so I could think.

The light blinked faster. I saw the other gas station, 100 yards across the street to my right. I took a chance and went for it. But the driveway had been reconfigured, and I had to go a little farther to reach the pumps and I still had to cross traffic. If I stalled now, I’d be in the middle of the road with oncoming vehicles and drivers around here aren’t all that kind to fools who run out of gas in the middle of everything.

As I waited, the engine stopped and I panicked. But then my brain said, “hey, it always does than when you’re stopped more than a couple seconds, remember? It’s a Prius! Prius play dead at stops.”

Oh, yeah.

Traffic cleared, I hit the accelerator, and zoom! I bounced into the driveway and up to the pump, cheering all the way. Until I saw the price of gas at that conveniently located station. Gadzooks! With no other choice, I put a couple gallons in, knowing that would be more than enough to get me home.

I was quite pleased with myself for making those thin fumes of fuel last the final miles. But next time, I’ll allow my paranoia to have its way and I’ll make sure I have enough gas to get home without playing will she, won’t she? with my car.

I don’t need that many gray hairs all at once.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

When it Rains...I Don't Care

 Would you look at this! A second blog post in a month. What will I think of next?

It’s still along the same vein as the last one, griping about this, that, and the cryptkeeper’s effects on her caregivers, but to clarify:

A) I’m still not “on” facebook. I can share this post on facebook without actually going TO facebook, and that’s fine by me. Except I can’t see any comments, unless Tammie remembers to share them with me. Every time I think about pulling up facebook on my phone or computer and checking things out, my stomach does this thing that feels a lot like wanting to barf, so I play a game of solitaire and go work on my article or a manuscript or a painting or a card project or baking...

B) I have gone beyond the wishing-I-was no-longer-here feelings and am now firmly ensconced in the I-feel-nothing stage of whatever the hell this is. I suppose it’s a scary place to be, because there’s a tiny part of me that asks, “what will happen if something goes wrong, will you be able to help?” and to be honest, I don’t know. I could pretend, and if that gives comfort, then fine. Whatever. But that’s the deal, everything is just “whatever.”

What.Ever.

Things can still piss me off really bad, probably more so and a lot faster now than before. Just recently I was placing an order online and there was a problem with the address. Because we have a P.O.Box, getting things delivered can be a problem. Not all delivery services will accept a POBox address. That’s fine. We also have a street address, but that one is NOT the address registered with the bank. So, I have to have separate addresses for shipping and billing. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal, however, the business where I was attempting to shop insisted the two addresses be the same, and they do not deliver to POBoxes.

Enter the bad Karen. Bad Karen WILL make you cry and wet your pants, because while Bad Karen has been trying to play the game by the rules, the rules are broken so it doesn’t work. After 30 minutes of attempting, and failing, to make the address thingy match up, Bad Karen was ready to make a phone call that would definitely ruin someone’s day/week/month/whatever. And I didn’t care. I was gonna make all those Karen memes look like child’s play when I finished my phone call. I was gonna dump out my drawer of offensive language and personal attacks to mix in with my rant AND I was going to start the whole thing with them. I didn’t fear hurting someone’s feelings. My “anger filter” has always been fear that I would hurt someone’s feelings or ruin their day just because I’m unhappy about something. But that filter is gone, Bad Karen has no fear and I was ready to go raw on someone.

Thankfully, my Tammie filter is still working and disaster was avoided (she took away my phone). This means at some point I’ll be able to attempt to do business with that company again (since they’re the only store of their kind within a two-and-a-half-hour drive). If the order doesn’t go through because of sheer stupidity on their end, then they’ve lost a sale and I don’t fucking care.

Whatever.

So, am I ok? I don’t think so, but I don’t care. There’s a big hard lump where my all my feelings used to be and anger is all that’s left. It’s pissed off at everything, and most everyone, but I don’t care. I will probably punch the first person who tells me to “smile” or tries to tell me, “it’s not so bad” or “other people have it worse” or even say those things as a joke, because it’s not funny. It hurts.

It fucking hurts, and I’m furious. And I don’t care.

Will there ever be any blog posts that AREN’T fueled by rage? Will I EVER feel like a decent human being who can enjoy watching puppies play, chatting with strangers in the grocery store, or sunsets at the beach, or funny memes on facebook? I don’t know. It will depend on several things over which I have zero control.

So, if after all this you still want to contact me, come on over to the blog and leave a comment because that’s the only way I’m going to interact with anyone online for a while.

It’s been a rough four years with a pandemic chaser and for us, we have a side of old woman to go with it, so I know I’m not alone. If you’re feeling much the same as I am, let me know and we can rant together at the blog.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Let's Play Catch-up. Again

 Here we are, a new year and a long stretch of non-communication since the last time I posted (and promised to post more often, but we can all see how well THAT turned out).

Lots has been happening. Not much of it has been good or happy, either, which totally sucks.

The pandemic is STILL going on and we’re STILL at home, eyeing every stranger (and a few family members) with suspicion and standing fast with face masks and cans of spray disinfectant at the ready. I honestly think we could have enjoyed it a lot more if we hadn’t taken Tammie’s mother in to live with us. Dementia sucks, and her mother, besides being a victim of dementia, is also a HUGE fan of drama and is still quite capable of inflicting all kinds of havoc on the household. On purpose.

Due to several small strokes that have jettisoned most of what was left of her mind, the Old Woman has taken to wittering (a kind of high-pitched mumbling) about whatever she’s doing. For instance, “I’m walkin’. I’m walkin’. Here I come. I’m walkin’.” as she very slowly makes her way down the hallway from her room to the living room. It’s a very long walk. The house isn’t large, but when someone is narrating their adventure from one room to the next, it gets both larger and smaller at the same time.

Most mornings she’ll sit back in her bedroom stuck halfway through getting dressed, with her pants at her ankles, all the while saying, “Stand up, pull up. Stand up, pull up. Stand up…” you get the idea. This will go on for an hour or more, despite being reminded several times that if she wants breakfast she needs to finish getting dressed, which means she needs to STAND UP and PULL UP her pants. Wittering continues once she’s in the living room, because everything must be narrated. It’s like having a mosquito buzzing around your ears for hours and there’s absolutely nothing that will make it stop. Then there’s the regular whining about all kinds of things.

Twice this month she gave us a break and spent a majority of the day in her room, talking to no one, at least no one we can see or hear. I like those very rare days, because with music from the stereo, most of the wittering is drown out and we have some peace. Tammie checks in on her every 20 – 30 minutes or so, brings her food and makes sure she’s okay. Around 4 p.m., right about the time we’re starting dinner preparation, she made her appearance.

Yeah, 2020 was not a fun year, and some of that is leaking into 2021.

Besides the extra help the Old Woman began needing, things were kind of scary all over, especially during the Black Lives Matter marches in Portland and Seattle. That’s when Tammie discovered that friends of ours had strong opinions of the protests and had no compunctions against lobbing them at her. Tammie and I are firm believers and supporters of Black Lives Matter and are doing our best to be anti-racist. It’s hard work with lots to remember (which is the hardest part because stress is beating the hell out of our ability to remember stuff), but it’s work we’re more than happy and willing to do.

Our friends, on the other hand, while insisting they aren’t racist, will not support BLM because “all lives matter” “they’re destroying legitimate businesses just to wreck things” blah, blah, blah and no amount of offering up information would change their mind. They “know things” because they listen to “the deep, dark web where ALL the REAL, unfiltered information comes from” and it’s the same with the “hoax virus” which leads them to not wear masks. Tammie was crushed. We had both hoped that we could nurture a friendship with them, have couples movie night or host dinner and table games. But that doesn’t look likely to happen now. What hurts the most is their cavalier attitude that some high-risk folks are simply expendable (like Tammie, me, and the Old Woman). Nothing says “fuck you” like refusing to keep people safe.

To keep with the theme of 2020, we ended up closing our hat store. We had high hopes for our new location, but between the plague and the Old Woman, we were done, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Even though the new location was truly wonderful, any time you move a business, even if it’s to a cleaner, safer location, you lose business. So, with all those things in play, and no end of the pandemic in sight we decided it would be best if we just closed it down. It still hurts like hell.

November rolled around and we had the elections. Then came the fun part. Let me just sum it up: Fuck. Good grief. WTF?!? and, of course, the HOLY SHIT! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME day of January 6th.

My fear level had already been cranked up into the red zone, and reading things on social media didn’t help, especially with the pundits pundit-ing that there would be more trouble on inauguration day. The thought of seeing all the hopes and dreams we hoped and voted for come to a horrific halt was more than I could bear. Things started to spiral down, hard and fast.

One morning, I woke up and was hit with an old feeling that I hadn’t had in a very long time. A crushing hopelessness, dread, and regret. Regret that I woke up because I knew I was facing another day of the exact same things that we’ve struggled through every day for nearly a year, another day of fear, stress, more stress, and trying to keep Tammie supported while she deals with her mother and her mother driving us both into despair. It was too much. I had reached a point where I wasn’t sure I could, or even wanted to live through it any more. I no longer cared about me, or anyone else.

Tammie had to spend the emotional and physical “spoons” to comfort and support me. It was hard on both of us, as neither of us has the energy to spare. I made the decision to get off of facebook for the foreseeable future. There are not enough videos of baby animals that could lift that mood.

While stepping away from facebook has helped some, we’re still assailed on a daily basis by many of the things that constantly beat us down and contributed to my despair. It goes on every fucking day. ALL FUCKING DAY LONG. Every so often, we can distract her with a magazine or catalog with pretty pictures in them, but she loses interest and if the television is off (“you don’t need to turn it on for my sake”) the wittering begins. On goes the testosterone-poisoned westerns, or the Walton’s with their whiny harmonica soundtrack, or, gods help me, Little House on the Prairie. It’s like being verbally and emotionally beaten by noise that offends. It’s crushing, not just emotionally, but spiritually and mentally. And, to make things even worse, all the elder care support groups are no longer meeting due to the pandemic.

Then on January 20st, nothing horrible happened. President Biden was sworn in, took the office and began undoing some of the horrors that was caused by the previous administration. It was a HUGE load off our shoulders, both Tammie and I felt it, and from what we’ve seen on the few social media outlets we still look at, we weren’t alone.

My funk has receded enough that I might consider feeling some hope, but it hasn’t shown up yet. We’re working on clearing out the spare room (because it took the brunt of harboring stuff during the holidays) so with luck, Tammie’s sister will come and take care of their mother for a few days and we can go somewhere else. Someplace where we can find that hope, feed it, and allow it to return, even for a little while.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Tales of Battle from the Kitchen of a Failed Domestic Goddess.

 


There’s been an incident… That’s Karen-speak for “the kitchen is a disaster and stuff has landed where it really shouldn’t and now it’s dried up and stuck there forever. Or water. Sometimes there’s just a whole lotta watta EVERYWHERE!

Actually, there were TWO incidents in as many days. The first happened when it was time to clean our wonderful steam juicer. We love that thing, as it is a much easier way to extract juice from fruits in order to make jelly. Clean-up, however is another story.

The juicer is quite large. It comes in three pieces (five if you include the hose and the lid). You’d think being able to break it down into smaller components would mean easy clean-up, right? Not in our tiny kitchen sink. It’s like trying to bathe a buffalo in a bathtub. There was a lot of loud noise, clanging, and some swearing. It managed to get caught between the sink and the tap, which forced water to go places. Many places.

Then, just when I thought it was all over, I discovered I’d forgotten to clamp the hose. I learned of this omission quite simply when the front of me became sodden. I grabbed the hose to bring it back up to the sink and it flung an arc of water across several cabinets and counter areas. It reminded me of when my older son was born and he peed on the doctor that delivered him. At least this time nothing was sticky.

That same day I canned 9 quarts of veggie broth done, so I was a bit tired and the kitchen was sweltering.

The very next day someone (Tammie) mentioned zucchini bread and I thought, "what the hell. I'm terrible at quick breads, but I'll give it a shot."

We (Tammie) looked through several cookbooks (we have...a few...dozen) and all the recipes called for a cup of oil. That seemed a bit excessive, so we (Tammie) decided I should buzz up a couple of apples to replace some of the oil. This requires the use of a piece of kitchen equipment with whom I am locked in an eternal battle of wills, but because zucchini bread sounded so good, I figured, "eh, I can do this."

I peeled, cored, and chopped up some apples and tossed them into mine enemy, the Vitamix ®, placed the pitcher onto the base and then watched the blades slap the shit out of the apple pieces. Fine. I’ll throw in a banana to give it something more to work on. That helped, but there were still apple pieces in dire need of pulverizing. Ok. Let’s add ½ cup of oil.

Yeah, that didn’t do much either, so… it was time to bring out the tiny cup thing. Now, this tiny cup thing is a marvel. It gets the food right where it needs to be in order to turn it from solid to semi liquid in mere seconds. It’s super small, and therefore will not tolerate bouncing apple bits. I put part of the apple/banana/oil mixture into the tiny cup, fastened the blade part, and set it on the base. That little bastard made short work of the mix, giving me a lovely smooth sauce-like stuff. Very tasty sauce, at that. I emptied the cup and refilled it with the remaining stuff from the pitcher, attached it to the blade whatziz, set it on the base and… nothing.

Zero, zip, zilch-a-roonie. This is not unusual, and highly annoying. I took it apart, cleaned things, put it back together, and still nothing. After several minutes of repeated nothingness, I surrendered. Fortunately, I had enough “sauce” to get things done, it just wasn’t all super smooth.

Turn we now, to the stand mixer. The mixing paddle was present, but the bowl was AWOL. Then I remembered, I’d assigned it dishwasher duty and it was awaiting further orders. I changed tactics and dumped stuff into a regular mixing bowl and grabbed the electric hand mixer. We’re good buddies. We understand each other.

Of course, one of us just has to be a fucking traitor.

Everything was going as planned. Batter was mixed and the mixer was removed from the bowl. Unfortunately, there was a bit of oil on my hand and it compromised my grip. The next thing I knew, the “on” thingy had been moved forward and the beaters were flinging batter EVERYWHERE!

There’s batter on the counter, there’s batter on the cabinets, there’s batter on my jars of broth, and there’s batter in my freshly washed hair. Zero to disaster in .5 seconds.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow I’m going to work at the shop and stay as far from the kitchen as possible. By the way, the zucchini bread turned out perfectly, despite the lack of walnuts. But with what’s been happening to me in the kitchen the past couple days, I wasn’t about to add sharp knives to the mix.