Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why Yarn Shopping Is Like Dating

There's a nor'easter howling outside and I can't decide which knitting project to start. Do I dig into the super bulky to make hats for that feeling of instant gratification, experiment with the new Nicky Epstein book, or do I start those boot socks that have been calling me for over two weeks? I search my stash and come up with nothing that does any of the above-name projects justice. Out of frustration, I  yell to no one in particular, "This is just like dating!" 

When I enter a yarn shop it's similar to entering a singles bar. (BTW, I don't go to bars, but stay with me.) I walk around the room to get the feel of the place, for example are the lace weights all hanging around together or are they mingling with the crowd? Are the bulkys poured into a basket or do they have their own shelf? A slow walk through gets me acquainted with the crowd. High-ends are always at eye-level sometimes looking a tad desperate IMHO.

I have to tell you I've met some real losers. Skeins losing their twist, mismatched dye lots, yarns hanging by a thread, etc.,etc. Truly the slobs of the dating scene. And there's the funky types, aka the novelty yarns, who remind me of salesmen. They do. The novelties usually hang out at the front waiting to grab me by the ankle the second I walk into the store.

I'm still looking across the store when we lock eyes.  Like a beacon in the  night I  notice THE most handsome skein in the store.  He's an Aran weight wearing his best autumn colors - rusts with green accents.  The package takes my breath away.  He's going to keep my feet warm and his colors are going to curl my toes.  He extends his soft hand, his gauge matches my sock pattern perfectly.  I begin to walk away as I don't want to jump into a relationship on looks alone and I need to know what he's made of.  I pretend to be interested in another skein.  This one with muted blues and greens.

As I look back toward Mr. Aran, he's watching me and shining.  We shake hands again and in that moment I realize we were meant for each other.  He claims he has enough yardage for a pair of boot socks.   I'm taking him home with me.  I'm eager to find out if his love is true or if underneath it all he's got issues (such as knot mid-skein, fraying, uneven color, or just a miserable, self centered sot [read "Skein of Terror].)
In my heart of hearts I do not believe I'm a yarn snob. Those acrylics make great fathers and love babies. Blends add just the right amount of strength to keep my heals together. Lightweights? They are the ones who go with you into the yarn shop with their hand around your shoulders.  Worsteds?  Classic in any sweater and can multi-task with the best of them.  Chunkies and bulkies make life easier, are heavy heaters, and don't waste time.

At the end of the day I know I'll never settle for one type of yarn. I'll keep looking until the right yarn finds me.

So, what's your yarn type?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Of Prosnostications

It's 1 AM and for the third consecutive night Dad's gotten me out of bed resulting in a false alarm. My eyes sting from sleep deprivation. His behavior is new. I keep asking myself if the adjusted medication is the culprit, or perhaps a waking dream, or maybe those things that go bump in the night interrupted his sleep. I just can't predict when my next attempt at sleep will be derailed.

Usually fall's coolness equals a good night's sleep. The season has an other-worldly feel to it that belies explanation. I marvel at the crispness of the air, the shorten days wrapping itself around me and the garden's rush of activity as it prepares to hibernate.

New Englanders are famous for forecasting the severity of the coming winter through natural occurrences, such as when hummingbirds pack their bags and the woolly worm's attire. If the worm's wearing white we'll be shoveling, black not so much. Folks on my gardening forum post impassioned messages challenging this mythology in the name of the scientific method. It's enough to make one's head spin. I've yet to see the world of mythology and method meld until this week.

My father went to his post-rehab physical with his GP. We (and I do mean we) were treating some things that had cropped up during his stay at rehab. The doctor and his young resident poked and prodded offering an occasional mumble that I didn't quite catch. After the exam, the doctor turned to me and said. "You know this is a prognostication. Get his affairs in order now." All I could do was nod, meaning I hear you, but my brain's not digesting this word too well. My world rocked with the intensity of a 7.0 earthquake. How will I tell my mother?. What are my next steps? My brain kicked into overdrive. We have turned a corner. Since when did those elite members of the medical world offer predictions? I know the word "prognosis" is derived from "prognostication," but I never associated it with fact-entrenched medical science. I have to admit my head still reels from the doctor's two simple statements.

This morning my folks are sleeping-in as the rain pelts what's left of the garden. I'm still wrapping my head around what's to come. I'm allowed to predict, but not to believe the outcome because I don't have a shingle on my front door. I'm allowed to make the best of each moment without trying to waste that present moment with forecasts of gloom and doom. This morning they are both with me. When it's time I'll grieve, but now is not the time. Today, in this moment, we'll celebrate the gift of life no matter its stage with love, laughter, and naps in between. Today the only forecast I will manifest concerns the weather - snow predicted for Saturday evening and we all know that branch of science gets paid to be wrong.

I'll sleep later...


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meet Frederick

I'm Frederick!  (Only in burgundy.)
But, ancient Greece and ancient Rome - people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then, OK? People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.
Elizabeth Gilbert

One of the problems in caregiving my father rests solely on two directions: up and down. He can walk with a walker once he achieves “up” and dives like a scuba diver as he attempts to master “down.” Needless to say offering assistance can sometimes hurt the caregiver (I have the Advil to prove it!)

As we were going through the discharge process at the Rehab Center, I asked for a doctor's order for a lift/recliner. The doctor said, “No problem.” On THE day of discharge, I asked for said order and the nurse told me that the “Physical Therapy Department” claimed he didn't need one. Huh? When did you do the home evaluation? Did I miss something? The reason Dad got up so easily for them was because each room contained a LIFT RECLINER!!!

When he came home (24 hours before my mother's arrival) “up” and “down” hurt like the dickens. Dad gave it all he had but the settee in the living room (kinda like a love seat) cut off the circulation to his legs making “up” almost impossible and “down” the equvalent of landing on concrete.

Our G.P. came to the rescue by approving the lift/recliner. Great! Now to get the necessary paperwork done. The necessary paperwork took almost a month! Back and forth between the medical equipment company and the doctor. By then Dad had gone from anger to deep depression over the current state of affairs. “When is this chair coming?” “Why is it takiing so long?” Reassurance notwithstanding, desperation took its toll on both of us.

When the approval finally came through, the company told me to bring Dad down to their showroom to be measured for the chair. Ummm, measured for the chair? I asked what they meant by “measured for the chair.” The customer service representative told me each chair had to be custom-made involving another month of wait, frustration and desperation.

Admittedly, I hit the roof. I had been played by bureaucracy, an ill-informed Physical Therapy Department, and now a nit-wit. Sorry, but that's where I was at the time. I asked to speak with whomever signed paychecks at this joint and was put in touch wth the General Manager who apologized for the delay as there had been an insurance mix-up. My father's physical therapist told me all that they needed to know was Dad's height & weight. Period. Donde the chair. Color did not matter to me at all. Martha Stewart might get picky about aethetics, I'm not. I wanted a chair with a new working motor and didn't give a fig if the blessed thing had pink polka dots. My dad needed the chair. My elbow needed the chair. My back really needed the chair.

Three days and two trucks later (lift gate broke on the first truck. Seriously!) Frederick arrived. I named it Frederick after my late-husband who helped me with all life's heavy lifting and comforted me during our lives together.  It come from www.goldentech,com and a life-saver. This piece of human or other worldly creativity holds a hallowed place in our living room. From the kitchen, I can hear my father making himself more comfortable as I hear the sweet purr of the motor. Frederick is good. We'll keep Frederick!

As for the criminal settee, it enjoyed a night out on the curb before getting a ride to the landfill. Not one picker stopped to snatch it. Bad settee!

Carpe diem!

[Apprehensive note: I can't find a manual crank on this baby. What happens this winter if Dad's all comfy reclined and the power goes out? Oy!]

“What Are We Doing Here?”

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Lao Tzu

That's the question Mom asked me this morning. Dad had a “soggy” sleep (the catheter came off! Ugh!) and Mom roamed the halls twice without her walker after an afternoon of vomiting. Let's say sleep deprivation is the rule for today.

I have to admit her question is valid. What are we doing here? After having spent six weeks in a rehab center with weekly demands by the center's administration centering around the same question. It's the same question I asked myself when I arrived at the decision to bring Mom & Dad home; rather than commit (and that is the correct term) them to a dementia unit, which the rehab center pushed. It's the same question I ask myself daily in terms of schedules, care, cooking and the state of the world in general. What ARE We Doing Here?

After replaying that question over and over in my head, I run through my 10 questions. It goes something like this:

Question 1: Do they know who I am? Answer: Yes
Question 2: Are they comfortable? Answer: Depends on the day.
Question 3: Do they have the services they need: Answer: Yes (more are on the way!)
Question 4: Do they know the day of the week? Answer: Yes (OK, for the most part)
Question 5: Am I happy? Answer: Yes and no (Each day brings a blessing; but.the work is hard & I miss traveling. )
Question 6: Do I have a life? Answer: Life? Maybe. Freedom? Not so much.
Question 7: Are they demanding? Answer: Yes...yes...yes! (Working at a Manhattan McDonald's during rush hour is a cake-walk compared to morning drive at this house.
Question 8: Can I do this? Answer: Well, I can go to my grave knowing that I tried.
Question 9: Will they be better cared for in a facility? Answer: I don't know. The Rehab Center didn't give me time to investigate other offerings. Just rubber-stamped them with dementia and quoted insurance rules.
Question 10: Is love still alive in this home? Answer: Yes!

I don't know what today will bring. The only things I do know is that they are home, after 64 years of marriage they still love each other, and hope springs eternal. That's what keeps me going.

Squeeze every living moment out of your day!

The Road to Caregiver

Courage isn't the absence of fear; it's the dealing with it. -- Randall

It's two weeks before Christmas 2008. I stand at the bus stop (car at the mechanic's) with a trash bag holding my personal possessions gathered from my office, my heart racing as that dreaded animal known as “fear” rears its ugly head. The employment epidemic, a contagion of a bad economy, found me. The symptoms of this disease are emotional pain, insecurity, intense stress/anxiety, and just feeling lousy about myself. How could this have happened? I took all the preventative measures by working hard, being open, listening, and being a Company person. Geez, the week before I learned my named appeared on the Employee of the Week email!

Not being the inactive sort, I took some courses at the local community college. Sharpen my knives if you will. Unemployment benefits would keep me alive, but quite frankly, positions were few and far between. My “just older” status detracted, rather, than attracted potential employers. (I can still here all that experience going down the drain.)

I did well during the first quarter of the first semester, enjoyed my courses, and then the phone call came. My 85-year-old mother called to tell me she couldn't walk and would I come to check her out. Without breaking any HIPPPA regulations, let me just say that 9-1-1 arrived less than five minutes after I hit the door (more in a future post). She recovered, spent a few weeks in rehab and returned home. That was three years ago. My then 88-year old father suffered different issues, but all in all, stable.

As I searched the job market, went on second interviews, chewed my fingernails, I stayed close to attend to their routine needs – grocery shopping, bill paying, doctors' appointments, etc. The community college courses morphed into online courses to free up my time for job-hunting and very light caregiving.

One of the courses, I did attend was offered by the American Red Cross focusing on training caregivers. Over those weeks we reviewed the basics to quality caregiving. The course proved to be money well spent as well as prophetic. Little did I know what events were on the horizon.

All That I Was

The years teach much which the days never knew.  
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This blog chronicles a precious journey in caregiving. Journeys are unique to each life as are our fingerprints. According to there are over 40 million family caregivers in the United States, yet few shine a light on their journeys. As I go further down this road, I'm learning that we are truly the “Forgotten Majority.”

As for me I am a widowed, “just older,” daughter who worked in television for over 25 years, trying to make my folks comfortable while still grabbing on to snippets of my life. I will say this experience has its blessings. Through the eyes of my parents I've been able to view bits of their youth, learn their fears, laugh at their insights, and hold hope in a death grip during the dark times. I'm also learning about myself which is a little late in the game, but maybe that's the purpose.

Most of all this blog's purpose is to share what I've learned and, hopefully, to learn from you. The importance of helping our parents, the elderly population proper, IMHO, has to be regarded as a great honor, rather a burden. Their journey takes them on a road we cannot see or imagine, but remains nonetheless real.