Thursday, January 26, 2012


Of rain!

This is still a really big deal to us here in Texas. God sent us three inches of rain yesterday and then stopped it at just the right time. This is the view from Mom's kitchen window. The first gray area is the driveway. The second gray area is the creek. It filled right to the top, then receded. No flooding of house or garage, just lots of wonderful water.

When Nate, Meg and I returned home from our day of educational therapy, work, school, and lake house, Nate wanted to make paper boats to put in the creek. Growing up, this was a favorite activity to do with Grandma at her house. Nate asked Mom about it and she exclaimed, "I was just thinking how I don't even want to make paper boats for the creek." Not so easily dissuaded, Nate brought in some papers, and gave it a try anyway. Soon Mom picked up a paper,

worked through the frustration, and voila! Paper boat success.

(My thanks to Meg for clandestinely snapping photos.)

More than just rain showers though, we've had showers of grace. Mom asked me the other night, "Honestly, how are the kids doing with the move?" I honestly answered that they were adjusting and handling it fine. Then I asked, "Honestly, how are you doing with the move?" Mom said, "I'm surprised at how well it is working out." I'll take that as a very good sign. And I realize that it is only by the grace of God showered all around.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Daily

Past history tells me that Mom has a hard time living with people. I'm hoping to ease the daily strain by:

*All of us mainly using the master bath, leaving Mom's bathroom free.
*Keeping the living areas as unchanged as possible.
*Keeping the kitchen as unchanged as possible. Plus staying out of the kitchen when Mom is in it.
*Only conversing with Mom when she initiates conversation. I've asked the children to be low-key and not talk much.
*Using the master bedroom as alternative living area, to allow Mom solitude in her own home.
*As many of us being gone as much as possible. Not hard to do between school, work, sports, educational therapy, and getting the lake house ready to sell. I made Mom a schedule of our comings and goings.
*The dogs are staying outside. We kennel them in the garage at night and when Mom wants to sit out on the patio.
*Ev's kitty is staying at the lake house for now. We are out there every day anyway.
*Making tasty food.


We are in. All of us. Mom seemed satisfied with the moving process. She commented several times that she liked that we measured first, decided what to bring, and did the moving ourselves. Is there any other way?

It has been over ten years since we last moved. I forgot. Maybe moving is one of those things that God wipes from your brain, you know, like childbirth, so you forget how hard it is and willingly do it again later. Plus we are older and more tired than the last time. I spent the past week reminding myself to breathe and repeating God's truth to myself: Be anxious for nothing. Be anxious for nothing. Let God know your concerns. Then during the weekend as we did the actual physical labor, I kept thinking, "This is really kicking my butt!"

We only moved a bed, two dressers, a small table, tv, mini fridge, two kennels, two dogs, clothes, and assorted family flotsam. Our old house, which at Karis' request will henceforth be referred to as "our lake house," is far from empty. But the three bedrooms we are occupying at Mom's are about as full as they can be.

The master bedroom at Mom's is quite large, so we are attempting with the tv and mini fridge to make it sort of an alternative living area. I'm hoping we can leave Mom's living areas as untouched as possible in order to maintain the tranquil environment she loves so much. Still, she went to her room last night at 7:00 and listened to Dave's sermon cd sitting in the dark.

So, Mom is happy with the move. Now begins the hard work of living together.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I don't think I can string together enough coherent thoughts today to tell all about it, but tonight I will be moving over to Mom's. This weekend, the rest of my family will make the move. We will continue to work, school, and do our normal schedule as much as possible, but Mom's house will be our home base. This was Mom's choice as opposed to having adult siblings cycle through to help with her care.

Huge life change, here we come, ready or not!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sibling Revelry

My big brother Loren, the golden boy, came up with this crazy idea to have all of us siblings here together this weekend to celebrate Mom's 91st birthday. The Recipe: 1 weakening, terminally ill mama; 5 disparate, grown children; slightly less than 2,000 sq. ft. of ancestral home; 3 days. Combine and allow flavors to mix. I figured it was a recipe for disaster. Happily, once again, I figured wrong.

The birthday weekend was great! All the siblings enjoyed each other. Mom enjoyed all her children. There was good food and lots of it. Ruth brought her violin and Gayle brought her flute and they delighted Mom with their beautiful music. Loren built roaring fires and Mom exclaimed, "Even my toes are warm!"

I think it was on Friday evening, as we girls looked through a box of Aunt Helen's linens, that I realized how very nice it was to be all together and still have Mom with us. You know, as opposed to all being together at Mom's funeral. It was definitely an epic, once in a lifetime event. And Loren is now the official family event coordinator.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guest Blog from Gayle

Sister Gwen asked me if I wanted to guest blog while here in Texas. It is sweet of her to give me a chance to give my perspective of the journey that our mother is taking. I think we are all on the same page--weary and waiting. Death is a cruel experience, no matter what the circumstance. It creeps along or it snatches furtively. It drags out suffering or it cuts short energy. Death is fearful and unknown--like being born, it is a once in a lifetime occurrence; no dress rehearsals.

Mom is a weary traveler, with her children encouraging her on. This weekend is the birthday bash, celebrating 91 years. She is definitively rallying for the occasion! Still, worries crowd her mind--about her children, her home in Kansas, the dying process. She relishes the quiet and ordered surroundings of her home, but she is unusually cooperative about the upcoming weekend. Mom knows she can escape to her bedroom if the partying gets out of hand. Time to celebrate! Let the wild rumpus begin!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Relatives Came

My sister Gayle is here for the week with my mom. Mom invited my cousin Marsha, and she came for a day while Gayle was here. Poor Marsha lost her mom recently (my Aunt Helen, Mom's sister), and it was hard for her to see Mom weakening. It was sweet of her to honor Mom's request and come.

Next up, my brother Loren is coming on Friday. My brother Bill is coming Saturday. And my sister Ruth is driving in sometime this weekend. They are all converging to celebrate Mom's 91st birthday on Saturday. It should be a sight to see. Bill, Ruth, and Gayle will leave after the weekend. Loren will stay into next week.

And then where will we be? I just don't know.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Highest Compliment

Tonight my mom was cleaning out her basket and gave me this sticker.

And then she said, "You should have this. You make the tastiest food of anyone I know. Except Panera."

Aww! That might be the nicest thing my mom has ever said to me.

Blame Shifting

Mom had a rough night. She stayed up late, until 9:45, watching the New Hampshire republican debate. She got up her usual amount of times in the night, every hour or two, to visit the bathroom, but then around 2:00 a.m., I didn't hear her walker shushing back to her room. She had headed out to the living room, where she read for an hour or so before going back to bed. Then Mom was up at 7:00, opening curtains, but went back to bed until 9:00. As you might expect after a night like that, she settled in the red chair by 10:00.

As I tidied the kitchen and Mom finished breakfast (which she made for her herself, thank you very much), she talked again about the evils of the .5mg of lorazepam hospice had provided to help her sleep. (She quit taking it Tuesday, I think.) She feels it brought on her current "crisis." Not cancer, not age, not deteriorating condition, not sleep-deprivation. That medicine is the devil. Alrighty then. No sense in trying to argue or answer back; there is no logic here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why God Sends 75 Degree Days in January

Can you see Mittens on the ground to the right of Mom's chair?

Friday, January 6, 2012

More of the Story

This morning my sister Gayle called. She had just spoken with Mom, and Mom had confessed that although she was up and dressed, she had no appetite and no energy. She had not eaten anything all morning and was just sitting in her chair. She told Gayle she thought it was time to start being honest with her children about how she was really doing.

Mom called while I was on the phone with Gayle and left me a message. I called her back and she told me she had no interest in food. No mention of the lack of energy. I guess the honesty phase was short-lived. I asked her if she wanted to have someone there and she said no, she felt comfortable being alone.

Shortly after noon, Mom called back to say she felt unsure about being alone. She asked if I could come. Of course, I can come! I was getting ready to tell her I would come after taking Meg to register for dual credit spring semester classes, when Mom wrapped up by saying she was sitting on her bed and she would stay there until I came. What? How did we get from "Everything's fine" to "I'll wait here in my bed until you come?"

I quickly jettisoned all previous plans and packed a bag. Meg texted Karis, and Karis texted me.

Karis: Gma's been up all day til now so that's you want me to go sit with her?

Gwen: Up to you. I don't think she's dying right this minute. I think she just used up the last little bit of strength and independence and is ready for me to be there again. She hasn't eaten so probably weak and light-headed too.

I talked with a friend on my way, and she went by Panera for some quarts of soup to bring by Mom's house. When I got to Mom's, she was sitting in the red chair. She had slept in bed, then moved out to her chair. My friend came with the soup, but Mom didn't want to eat. She did finally drink a cup of tomato juice around 2:30. I heard back from the hospice nurse at 3:00. She said it would be good to get Mom to drink some Ensure.

Right. As if.

I told Mom what the nurse said, and Mom replied, "I think I would rather try some potato soup from Panera." That's my mom! So she had 1/2 a cup. And loved it. Then at 6:00 she had 1/2 a cup more. (Yes, I'm measuring. I'm really not that anal-retentive. I just want to keep track of Mom's intake.)

After Mom ate some soup this afternoon, she started to feel better. Before, she had told me how glad she was I had come and that she had been anxious earlier. With me here,she said, she was relaxing. As she started feeling better, Mom began feeling foolish for calling me. She felt like it was a false alarm. I assured her that I was happy to come. Karis told her my bags were probably already packed, just waiting for her call. We laughed that as soon as Grandma hung up the phone, I was knocking on the door. But, I digress. I did suggest to Mom that maybe she was feeling better because she needed a little help, and now was getting a little help!

I asked Mom if she would let me stay until Gayle comes Sunday night. She agreed.

On a Dime

Mom just called. She woke this morning with no appetite. She feels so weak that she wants me to come. My sister Gayle will be here Sunday night. Of course, the story is longer than these few words, but they will suffice for now.

State of the Union

Tuesday morning, I stopped by Mom's. I had made a stupid mistake with her check writing Saturday night and needed to see what I could do to rectify the situation. It was Ev's first day back to school, and my first day back to work. I went over to the house midmorning and woke Mom from a nap in the recliner. She was very sleepy and very slow. Mom told me she had taken herself off the little pill that helps her sleep, because it "affected her balance." I asked her if she didn't think her balance was shaky before, but she didn't remember. The laundry room was filled with about a dozen bags full of bathroom trash and the accompanying scent. I took out the trash, fed the kitty, made a couple of phone calls about the checks, then went on my way with a heavy heart. I do not like this arrangement.

Mom told me she was ready to have her Christmas decorations taken down, so Wednesday morning Meg and I went over after dropping Ev at school and Nate at educational therapy. While Meg efficiently stowed away the holiday cheer, I asked Mom if she would mind if I did some cleaning. She replied, "I'm against it." Then she said I could. I went to work on her bathroom and tossed a load of towels in the wash. Meg and I both dusted. Mom went to nap in her bed. I did some kid shuffling, and came back with Nate. He blew off the drive, walk, and back patio, and I vacuumed inside. I'm so thankful Mom let us help.

While I was cleaning the bathroom, I saw Mom was down to her last roll of paper towels (which she uses as personal wipes) and her last box of pads (which she uses in lieu of adult diapers). I peeked in her fridge and saw it was pretty bare. I asked if we could get her anything, and she said no, because Karis would be home the next day and could take her to the bank. Now, I'm really trying to stay out of Mom's business and let her handle everyday life. But, really? Run out of food and supplies, imagining that a returning 18yo will take care of it? No.

So, after work and school, Ev and I went to Walmart and Sam's for food and supplies for Mom. And, happily, the gamble paid off. I felt much better knowing Mom had what she needed, and Mom was delighted to have food and supplies magically appear at her house. She called me a "wild woman."

I'll take that as a compliment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


It seems that as we were kicking 2011 to the curb, it was kicking back. Not going gently, you might say.

As I marveled at our week between Christmas and New Year's Day that included, among the five of us here at home, one case of strep, three head colds, and one stomach bug, Dave reminded me how that often happens following periods of intense stress. You know, like completing a semester of doctoral studies, or finals, or tending to/separating from a dying loved one. You buck up, hold it together, do what you need to do, and then when the pressure is off, your body falls apart.

Oh, yeah. That.

Now I need to go make a little chicken noodle soup.