As I was looking through pictures from the trip that Dottie and I took last month, I realized I have neglected to tell you about 2 things that have to do with pumpkin. Two things you might need to know if you are having guests in the next 6 weeks or so.
Thing #1 is that the Pumpkin Ale from Buffalo Bill's Brewery is delicious. It is the pumpkin ale I will be serving at our Thanksgiving festivities. It is a pumpkin ale for the beer aficionado. Chris even thinks it's ok.
Thing #2 is that this is my favorite pumpkin flavored coffee. I am not much into flavored coffee's these days, but I make an exception for this one. It is smooth and delicious without being over the top on the pumpkin flavor. It also makes a really excellent cold brew if you live in a climate where it is warm at this time of year. As the coffee connoisseur in the family I give it 2 thumbs up.
I included 2 pictures of Dottie in this post because A: I liked them, and B: She is not a beer aficionado or a coffee connoisseur but she also approved highly of the pumpkin ale and the pumpkin spice coffee.
P.S. She received no compensation for the endorsements.
In addition to bringing flowers, wire cutters, and pumpkins for our "grave sprucing" duties this past weekend. I also brought chairs. One lawn chair that my dad used to sit in when he cleaned his clubs and shoes after each and every round of golf, and one chair I got at Augusta National in 2003. Reflecting chairs. It's nice to have a spot where you can sit down and take a load off when you might be engaged in some nose-blowing and eye-wiping.
There might be a prettier place to be buried than where Ray and Angie are... but lordy, I can't see how. Those firey red and orange trees with the smattering of yellow and green for contrast was breathtaking. Seriously.
Building some rituals into the process of grieving was a good idea Dottie. Making a regular pilgrimage and doing some simple things feels very comforting. I don't know that it still will in five or ten or even fifteen years, but it does right now.
I don't know what we might add to the ritual building next year. I do know there will be chairs, and stories, a drive by the old house, and the after cemetery trip to Neighbors Mill for lunch. The key to a good ritual is in it's simplicity as well as it's meaning. Next year I may have to bring a recording of Placido Domingo singing "Blue Spanish Eyes" for mom and Willie Nelson singing "On the Road Again" for dad. I feel quite certain that everyone at the cemetery will enjoy those selections. As long as we don't do a sing-a-long. Unless everyone there wants to. In which case, it might be nice.
Dottie and I could not have picked a more beautiful weekend to spend down in the Ozarks. The weather was mild. Ideal for hiking, walking, or strolling. We got in some of all three.
It's important to get plent of walking in when you are eating shrimp wrapped in country ham served over jalapeno cheese grits. We also made a meal so we could add another chapter to our history of attempting to cook complex, time consuming, recipes. In 1998 we made a "celebration cake" for our birthdays that took about 10 hours. It was supremely delicious. Even if was around midnight when we finally got to eat it. So what if it made enough cake for about 20 people and we were the only two eating it.
In that tradition, we whipped up this harvest tart with pumpkin, red peppers and olives. Neither of us had made a tart crust with olive oil instead of butter before. Nor had we had the experience of grating 4 cups of butternut squash (which we substituted for the pumpkin).
In the final analysis Dottie summed it up best when she said "I think it's delicious but I am not sure everyone would appreciate it". I said "mmmm" alot while I was eating it. When your arms are sore from grating and rolling you tend to be very invested in the outcome.
In addition to cooking, eating, and walking, we got to see lots of beautiful flowers and spend time sitting on the balcony just looking. It was perfect. Plans are in the works to return next year.
We are hoping Ray and Mary Ann can come too. For the record, it's not just so brother can do the cooking. But he will probably volunteer to take over. Especially if we tell him we are making the harvest tart again.
Dottie and I are on an adventure to celebrate mom's birthday. There might be some leaf peeping involved. A couple of baseball games to be watched. Maybe a harvest tart with pumpkin, red peppers, and olives to be made. A walk down Horseshoe Bend road where I learned to ride a bike when I was 35 could pop up on the agenda.
In other words... a whole lot of possible and nothing set in stone. Just the way Dottie likes to roll. I think it sounds perfect. See you when I get back.
In honor of Mom's almost birthday, coming up soon, I present an Angie re-run. These photos were featured in a post I did about Mom on 9/16/2011. We were on a mission at the grocery store. I wanted to get some shots of the gourds on display so I told her to hop to it and give me a few of her best poses.
I don't know what came over her. She pulled out all the stops and started acting like a super model right there in HyVee.
I speculated at the time that it was likely a residual high from her new found freedom after she hitched a ride from the optometrists office to where she needed to go to catch the bus back to her cottage the previous night. We discussed how if I had done that I would have immediately been placed on restriction. She said something like "oh Carol" and then moved right on over to where they were giving out free samples of cheese.
So much for my lecture. In one ear and out the other.
I kept myself quite entertained this afternoon attempting to accurately capture the top row of the low bookshelf that sits just across from the table in my art room.
It was almost as much fun as having a blind contour drawing contest with my 6 year old nephew Bryce last night.
He confidently informed me "I am pretty sure I won" when we showed each other our results. When I asked him if he was sure he said, "well we can ask some judges" and proceeded to ask all the guests at our dinner party if it didn't look like his was better. I love that kid.
As someone who has been in nursing for 33 years, the first half in oncology and the second half in palliative care, I am intimately familiar with the process of grieving. I regularly run into people in the community whose mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, child, I took care of when they were dying. When I see them they usually look at me, they cry, and we hug. Then we talk about stuff. Stuff like how things are going, how much they miss the person who died, how things went at the end, how what they are going through right now is normal... you get the idea.
Well the other day it happened to me. I unexpectedly ran into one of the people from hospice who took care of Angie. She was a nurse who swooped in during a particularly rough spot, at a moment when I really needed help. When I saw her, I initially did okay, then... horror of horrors, when I was telling her how much I appreciated her... I started to cry. Yes, I know it is good for me to experience all this, and it's ok to cry, but lordy. It's hard.
In the last weeks I have been missing Angie a lot. I think about things I would have done differently (knowing I couldn't have at the time), I wish for a 30 minute post-death visit so I can be sure she is doing ok (knowing of course she is doing ok!), and most of all wanting to go pick her up so we can go to Sheridans for a caramel pretzel crunch. I want her to tell me just once more "get me a medium size, not to big and not too little" and "be sure and get me a lid in case I can't finish it all" and "get some napkins you know I always need napkins". Then watching her total enjoyment as she ate it and when she was done hearing her say "oooh that was good".
Grieving is funny business. We all need different things to get through it. I'll tell you right now what is the most helpful to me. Doing blind contour drawings of myself. It makes me laugh like nobody's business.
I think after work on Friday I'll drive over to Sheridans and order up a carmel pretzel crunch. Maybe I'll call ahead and let the people working know they should draw straws to see which one of them is going to get their picture drawn. I'll just keep the part about me not looking while I'm drawing to myself. That would only confuse them.
Exactly 60 years ago today Ray and Angie got married. One fine looking couple if I do say so myself.
I am pretty sure when they started out on their journey together they had no idea whatsoever that they were going to make homes in Hawaii, California, Greece, Spain, South Carolina, Texas, Panama, Kansas, and Arkansas while raising 4 extremely opinionated and very sassy kids. That was definately for the best. Some things are best revealed on a need to know basis and in real time.
Wherever you two are, and whatever you are doing today, Happy Anniversary. I am drinking a toast to you both as I recall driving over the Thatcher Ferry Bridge in Panama in 1973 on our way to the American Legion Restaurant to celebrate some special event. You two up in the front seat with Mary Ann sitting in the middle, Ray and Dottie and I in the back. Doing our very best not to get into some kind of fight. Ahhh. Those were the days. We didn't know it then. But we sure do now.
I am here to report that the Steen's Cane syrup cake was a SUCCESS.
Moist without tasting undercooked, dense but not heavy, the perfect balance of ginger and cloves, and cinammon.
We all liked that it was not overly sweet. A mild gingerbread taste. Unexpected on a spring morning with strawberries, grapes, a bit of yogurt, a walnut or two and some coffee.
We took the time to look up Abbeville Louisianna on the map as we sat at the table and reviewed the bottle carefully. It's about 3 1/2 hours south of Provencal, where my Dad grew up.
My Dad and all his family (including Aunt Bea above) used Steen's Cane syrup on their bisquits. But if this syrup cake is any indication of the sort of thing I can create with it, you can bet I will be sending in my $5.50 for the Steen's Family Recipes.
Link to recipe included in yesterday's post.
Happy Birthday Dottie.
I hope you are putting on a special dress along with your socks and patent leather shoes with ankle straps and going out to celebrate. When you get home make sure you have some birthday cake with ice cream and when you are almost done mix the last of your frosting with the last of your ice cream and make a wish as you eat it. Just like we did in the old days.
When we were kids mom frequently would say to us "ok kids, for the next hour we are only going to speak in spanish". This was her attempt to improve our conversational skills in her first language. We would roll our eyes and play along for the first 5 minutes. Dottie is the only one who has become fluent. The rest of us can scrape by if need be. But since it is mothers day, in honor of Angie, sometime today, in your best spanish accent, please tell your mom feliz día de las madres!
P.S. Hey mom, Chris and I are going to speak nothing but spanish tonight from midnight to 1am. Also, I am taking good care of your vase and the Iris from your house in Arkansas are having a really good year.
Photo of Angie and I courtesy of Dottie Moss.
I bought some marigolds the other day to put out on the deck. Angie always planted them. I haven't for years. But I will every year from here on out until I am no longer physically able. When that time comes I will let Krissy and Katherine and Allie Grace know that it's time for them to pick up the reigns. These simple lines of succession in the marigold monarchy are important.
I also made banana bread on Sunday. Mom always appreciated banana bread, even when she was in one of those phases where she thought she shouldn't eat dessert. Banana bread after all is bread, not cake. Plus it contains fruit.
I "spring-ified" it by putting pastel sugar on the top instead of the usual raw sugar. It was a good idea. In theory.
Pastel crystals of colored sugar actually look better on cream cheese frosting. But still, I didn't want to throw away that pretty sugar and I was thinking it might be reaching it's expiration date soon.
Again, Angie was on my mind when this idea hit. Mom would approve of using up the sugar instead of throwing it away which I had considered. She did not believe in wasting anything that had even one ounce of use left in it.
Can you tell I am thinking about Mothers Day coming up next weekend? I am fortifying myself now. If things start to get shaky at any point during the day my contingency plans will call for pulling out the sparkly banana bread and marigolds.
I almost forgot to tell you about something I learned when I was at Big Cedar Lodge a few weeks ago. It started with me bemoaning the fact that Dottie got all the hair in the family. I have never been able to comprehend this. She said it had nothing to do with heredity.
She swore me to secrecy then revealed that if you go out on the night of a full moon, after having collected the spit of a turtle and combined it with flowering quince petals to make a paste that you rub on your head while standing on one leg it encourages the development of new hair follicles.
I thanked her for this tip and told her I was going to think long and hard on it. Then I ran back to our cabin, took the cinnamon rolls out of the oven, made coffee, and told Mary Ann what she said. We decided rubbing the extra frosting from the pan on our scalps while talking to a female cardinal might just do the same thing.
We also recommend wrapping your head in a warm towel after the frosting application and taking a nap.
If you guessed this was a tall tale carefully crafted in order to allow me to show you 6 more pictures from Big Cedar Lodge you would be right. Everything except the part about wrapping your head after the frosting. That is the whole truth, and nothing but.
This is Olivia Mulvenon Helmer. I made her acquaintence in person for the first time this past weekend.
She wasn't sure what to make of me and my camera, but she kept making faces and I kept clicking.
My favorite thing to do at weddings is play with children. Oh, and eat wedding cake with salty nuts and butter mints. Luckily I was able to do both of them last Saturday. I was NOT however able to keep my camera in macro mode as I had intended to.
Olivia's aunt Nikki was such a pretty bride I needed to zoom out to catch it all.
Taking care of business in the Ozarks. Driving around curves and encountering breathtaking views. Flowering trees. Flowering bulbs. Talking about the old days. Funny how our recollections of the same events differ slightly. Like the place where I got the bird wind chime with the broken tail feathers in 1994.
We all agreed however, that the Bloody Marys we had at brunch today were first rate.
So good in fact that we are arranging to return to Big Cedar Lodge next year and have them again.
Chris and I are packing up the car tonight. Headed south to Arkansas in the morning. Meeting up with the rest of the Moss clan and taking Angie home. I'm bringing the thimble from the monopoly game to bury with her. I think she would like that.
I have packed some knitting, the french knot experiment, walking shoes, a raincoat, many bottles of wine, and several boxes of kleenex to tide me over. I think I am as ready as I am going to get.
Angie used to call frequently and leave messages on my voice mail at work or the answering machine at home. They always went something like this:
"Carol, it's your mother, call me right away".
She never qualified the nature of the emergency that required a call back ASAP. But I always got the idea that it was SERIOUS because of the tone of her voice. Mothers are experts at cultivating the ability to convey meaning through the use of inflexion.
I will admit to getting darn irritated when she would call and leave these messages at 7am on Saturday or while Chris and I were right in the middle of eating supper.
So... when I saw this window display the other day I felt like I had received a message from Angie. I think she was letting me know she had landed at her destination and was figuring out how to use the new communication system. If she holds true to form, I suspect this will be the first of many messages.
I am officially on color #4 of my latest knitting project. Which means I am somewhere between halfway and almost halfway done. Pattern and yarn info are here.
This modular knitting is quite satisfying. It's almost like you finish a mini project each time you get done with a triangle.
I thought I would find picking up and casting on stitches over and over again tiring. Banish the thought. It is thoroughly enjoyable. There will be more modular projects in my future. In fact, if any of you have a modular knitting project that you think is right up my alley please do share the name of the pattern with all of us.
I knit quite a number of these triangles when I was sitting with Angie. When I wear this little scarf I will forever think of her. Me knitting. Her watching. Intermittent eye contact and smiling. Every once in a while she would ask me a question. Mostly quiet sitting. Knitting is good like that. It keeps you occupied so you don't try to clutter up a nice peaceful space with needless words.
I am certain many of you have already done this job for the year.
I myself, have never been able to complete the taxes before March no matter how much I want to.
Moving from desire to achievement is always hampered by the steps that have to happen for the process to come to fruition. Steps like taking all the papers out of the giant folder marked "taxes" that someone has crammed all manner of things into for the last 13 months. Then sorting all those papers, and running around searching for that one receipt that is somehow not in any of the 7 places I can see it in... in my mind.
Does anyone else miss the old days when you used an "adding machine" instead of a solar calculator? The kind that had a spool of paper on it and made that satisfying clickety clack noise while it was doing it's thing? Chris says for me to hold on he thinks we still may have one in the basement and he knows just which box it's in. Yeah right.
P.S. On a totally unrelated topic, speaking of the old days, happy birthday brother
As evidenced by the many blog posts I have done about food over the years, you all know of my great appreciation for "good eats". Food is part of celebrations all over the world and is closely tied to our concept of love and family.
When Angie was in the last weeks of her life she was not interested in food at all. The only meal she still enjoyed was breakfast. When I asked her if she wanted me to bring her something she usually said no. This is very common when people are at the end of life. They simply are not hungry. At this stage, trying to make people eat is not helpful and can make them feel uncomfortable. They should be allowed to eat what they want, when they want, and in the amount that they want. This is called "comfort feeding".
I am also a big believer in letting people have what they want even if you know that some of it might go down the wrong way and they will cough a bit. When people are dying, aspirating food (which may cause pneumonia) is not something to be concerned about. Any symptoms that cause discomfort from pneumonia can be treated. When my mom's health care providers asked me about using "thickened liquids" I told them no thank you. The only thing mom asked for in her last 3 days was diet coke and water. Thickened diet coke and water does not taste the same.
Sometimes I am asked by families about IV fluids at the end of life because they don't want their loved one to "starve to death" or be "dying of thirst". IV fluids do not provide comfort and when someone's body is shutting down the extra fluids can actually lead to swelling which is uncomfortable. I have taught many family members how to provide good oral care and give their loved one drops of liquids safely. A clean, moist mouth and lips provides much comfort to they dying person.
Angie loved shrimp pasta, deviled eggs, peanuts, huevos rancheros with tortillas, and ice box cheese cake a whole lot. I am very glad that she enjoyed them while she still had her appetite for them.
Just about every single plastic container that I own has a "C" written on it. For some reason Angie wanted to be certain that my containers did not get mixed up with anyone else's containers. As far as I know there was never anyone else bringing her left-overs in plastic containers, but she persisted in making the "C" no matter what I said about not needing to.
Once when we went to eat at my brother-in-law's house, my sister-in-law packed up a nice plate of leftovers for Angie. I dropped it off at her house on the way home. The next morning I called to tell her the container was not mine so don't put a "C" on it. Mom said "oh, ok". When I picked up the containers later, sure enough, there was a "C" on it, but she had done her best to cover it up ... with white-out.
I can't make this stuff up.
As I look back over the last months of Angie's life I am MOST grateful that all of us kids got to spend time with her.
Even though we could not predict how much time she had we all recognized that it was short.
I do wish that we had gotten hospice involved earlier than 9 days before her death. In the last weeks I finally could see the stair step pattern of continued decline with her never recovering to what had aready been a diminished quality of life. I wonder with the help of hospice if we could have gotten a better handle on her anxiety and restlessness.
Please forgive my rudimentary drawing below, but I use it because it illustrates a good point. Angie lived in a cottage independently for almost 10 years when she moved to Kansas. By March of 2013 she was using a walker, no longer drove, had fallen several times, had reluctantly let me take over the bill paying, and had trouble with tasks like using the microwave. These things prompted the move out of the cottage and into an apartment where she still remained independent with a lot of support in taking medications, phone calls to check on her and remind her to eat, laundry services etc...
In November there was a big decline in her functional status and she could no longer live alone. I think she had a stroke but can not be sure because we had decided no more testing and hospitalizations. There was no point if she could not get better. From the time she moved into the care center her quality of life steadily declined - this was through no fault of the care center staff. I have nothing but good things to say about how they cared for my mom and did their best to keep her functional. Her body was just shutting down. As I look at the chart above it's abundantly clear that I should have called hospice right when she moved in.
BUT, hindsight as they say is 20/20. We did the very best we could, and that is all you can do. Overall I have no regrets. Mom and I spent a lot of time together in the last 3 months of her life. We said "I love you" a LOT.
When I look back on this time together my body is tired but my heart is full.
Today at 5:30am Maria Angelina "Angie" Vela Moss departed this world to parts unknown. I am fairly certain she has given up the house-dresses and is once again attired in pedal pushers and color block sweaters.
Over the last week we spent many hours together. Her wondering if she was ok. Me reassuring her that everything was just as it should be and there was nothing to do. Aside from providing good mouth care and making sure your family is getting enough medicine to keep them restful, murmuring words of comfort are the most important thing a family member can do.
This morning as I packed up her room I overheard a staff member asking a newly admitted patient where her shoes were. She said "my boys didn't pack them, I guess I don't have any." At that point I just happened to be thinking about what to do with the latest shoes I had bought for Angie that she never got to wear. You can bet I dashed out to the hall and in my best shoe salesman voice asked what she thought of them. She exclaimed that they looked just like some she had and they were on her feet in about 15 seconds. Perfect fit. She did not seem to mind one bit that they had Angie Moss written in silver sharpie on the sides of the heels.
If you don't believe Angie had a hand in the timing of this it's only because you don't know how much Angie loved being able to help someone in need.
I have more useful things to tell you in the days to come about our end of life experience but right now I need to just sit and (as Joyce told me) grieve unabashedly. Good advice.
Every once in awhile someone in my knitting group gets a wild hair and says "hey let's do this as a class project". Then we all go crazy throwing out helpful suggestions on the best color combinations based on our individual attributes.
I got extremely creative and used the exact colors shown on the pattern. There was a sample in the shop and the color combination is what drew me to the project in the first place. No brainer.
Here is a link to the aranami shawl pattern if you want to join in the fun. Can I just say how much I love Ravelry? What did we do before they came into being and we wanted a pattern?
I am swiftly moving through my colors. Done with the cream, only one more triangle to do in the oatmeal, then it's on to the light gray. Ths is a pretty easy pattern to follow once you get the hang of it.
Knitting is a good thing to occupy the mind while mom is resting and I am sitting, watching, wondering what she is dreaming about. Hoping it's something very dear.
Today for the first time in many weeks I had a Sunday where I did not leave the house. Dottie was spending time with mom so I was "off duty".
Chris made breakfast for us. I sat on the couch and stared at the fire and out the window.
I read for awhile and took a long afternoon nap. About 4pm I decided I needed to take a shower and get out of my pajamas.
Even when I know Angie is in good hands she is not far from my mind. On Friday we met with Crossroads Hospice and she is now under their care. Someone came to see her on Saturday and had to come out tonight to see her as well. I told Dottie no less than 4 times in the last hour how relieved I am that they are involved in her care. I can not tell you how good it feels to be able to be a daughter and let someone else figure out what might be causing her symptoms and work on a solution.
Angie has hit a bit of a rough patch on this road that is slowly leading to her death. I would give anything to take her off this route and put her on one that does not include falls, bumps, bruises, skin tears, anxiety, restlessness, and now pneumonia.
I want to put her on the route that is a little less rocky, a little more peaceful. But we are shouldering through it, trying remedies till we find one that works. Dottie flew back to Kansas last night to be with mom. So far, that loving, familiar presence at the bedside has helped Angie the most.
The hardest thing for me is not being able to predict if this is something she will recover from or if we have only days to weeks left. I have seen countless families struggle with this and I tell myself what I tell them... there is just no way of knowing.
Angie and I have embarked on a new phase in our relationship. The one where I cut her hair while she tells me how she cut bubble gum out of my hair in the "good old days." I tried to buy a proper pair of hair cutting shears and a cape today but struck out at Beauty Brands. We made do.
Just to be clear, I am not a "hair-cutter". But I did pay very close attention to what Jami was doing when she cut my hair this past Saturday. I assured mom it was going to be an adventure, she assured me she was up for it.
I am actually making some gains in my attempts to meet all of Angie's coiffure needs. Today I did not get any water on her clothes, OR on the floor when I washed her hair as she stood over the sink in the bathroom.
Overall, I gave myself a C+ on haircut #1. I will do some re-shaping when I wash it next. In terms of therapeutic value though, the hair wash / cut / curl / style gets an A. Mom loves having her hair worked on and is always in a trance and ready for a nap when I am done.
In days gone by I would never have considered cutting mom's hair. She has always been very particular about it. Today I did not even bat an eye when I started snipping away with my embroidery scissors. Neither did Angie. I think if I told her I was going to do open heart surgery on her she would say "ok Carol, whatever you think." This trust is a change that has come about in the last 4 months. A small gift that I am grateful for.
I have been re-reading parts of this book lately. Of all the books out there about end-of-life care, it's the one I most often recommend to both health care professionals and the general public. I just bought copies of it for each of my sisters and brother. It goes over all sorts of practical things. Stuff like what you might expect to feel like when you are dying; based on your disease. Most people have never been around someone who has died and don't know what it will be like. Often they are afraid to ask. I usually ask patients and families if this is something they would like to know about. They almost always say yes and are relieved when we talk about it.
If you or someone you know is facing a serious illness this book may be a helpful guide. My suggestion is to pick it up, flip through the pages, and stop at places that seem pertinent to you instead of reading it from beginning to end.
Angie and I had a good visit today. We listened to Placido Domingo singing "Spanish Eyes" and things were right with the world.
When I left Angie she said "you keep looking out for me and I'll keep looking out for you ok?" I told her that sounded like a pretty good arrangement to me.
My sister Dottie picked me up at the airport last night. She came IN to the terminal to get me. Nobody does that anymore. Did I mention she is an exceedingly nice person? She got my share of niceness and I got her quota of bossiness. The thing is we both know it and I try to be mindful of my tendancies to direct all activity around me.
She is headed back home now after doing a most excellent job as Angie's sidekick/companion for the last 5 days. In addition to completing all assigned duties, she matched up mom's 72 pairs of knee highs that were all jumbled together in her drawer. That is no small feat.
Tonight I practiced making letters with my dip pen and ink while I stared out at the Kansas sunset. I have more to tell you about art retreat #2, but my words need some time to simmer before they are ready for serving.
Those of us in the health care industry do what is commonly called "change of shift report" whenever one shift is going off and the next one is coming on. Basically you fill the person taking over for you on what they need to follow up on, watch out for, be sure and get done, etc.... Dottie and I decided to do ours at Cafe Provence. You can have wine during change of shift report at Cafe Provence... and carrot-cumin soup.
The hand-off has officially happened. Dottie is on duty. Mary Joan has signed up for back-up duty. How lucky am I? Angie is in the BEST of hands. Palm Springs here I come!!
While Mary Ann was here Angie came over and spent some days with us. Just hanging out. Visiting. Napping. Looking at pictures. She was very excited about the prospect of playing Monopoly.
We didn't end up playing one of the usual marathon 4 hour games. Pretty early on Angie said she was done. It was too hard for her to remember all the things she needed to do. No matter. Her excitement at looking forward to playing the game was enough.
It is possible to still love something you can no longer do if you hold loosely to the idea of doing it again while grasping firmly to the memories of the joy it gave you. Good lesson mom.
There was a delightful (and not one bit frightful) barbershop quartet at Angie's place recently. The music totally captivated her.
One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music. I have a lot of Christmas pageants, folk choir Christmas masses, and high school holiday concerts in my past. That means I can harmonize to lots of songs and there is nothing I like better than singing along with Garth Brooks to "Silent Night" or to "The First Noel" with Suzy Bogus. If either of them realized how much the addition of my alto part added to their performances they would likely re-record that old Christmas from the 90's CD - and include me of course.
My sister is coming tomorrow. I am going to talk her into singing a Christmas carol with me to post on the blog for the 25th.
I'll just be here waiting for Santa and trying to decide if Mary Ann would prefer to do Hark the Herald Angels Sing or The Little Drummer boy. If this never materializes you know it's because she put the kibosh on it.
Who doesn't have one of these classic photos? The kids home for Christmas. Mom insists we gather around for a picture. Mary Ann clearly has someplace better to be. Dottie's wearing a dress!? Cheryl is wondering why she is thinking about marrying into this family.... everybody smile!
I came across it when I was going through stuff at Angies. I brought it home with a few other valuable items. I can always use another pin cushion and synthetic feather duster.
But the real winner in the photograph below is best explained by reviewing this post.
Another example of how indispensable twisties are. Come to think of it a packet of these would make a great Christmas present. Perfect for the person you can't decide what to get because they already have everything. Reasonably priced, easy to wrap, and so useful. You heard it here first.
A few weeks ago I heard a presentation about social media and how those of us who work in palliative care should use it as a tool to reach the public. Everyday I have conversations with individuals and families about end of life care. BUT I have never had a discussion with over 800 people about it before! I want to thank each and every one of you who added to the richness of the conversation by sharing your perspectives and asking good questions.
I intend to continue to share my personal perspectives as my family moves through these hard times. Not as medical advice, but simply to acknowledge that it is part of life.
Somehow sharing the sadness helps. I found that out when my sisters and brothers arrived on the scene to prop me up. Taking a few moments to enjoy the sunset yesterday was pretty restorative too. I ate a home-made soft biscotti cookie with pink icing and sprinkles while I watched... and that my friends, is good stuff.
Several weeks ago I began to tell you about transitioning Angie from an independent living apartment to the memory care unit in her retirement community. Since then all the Moss kids have been arriving in waves to help hold down the fort. I don't know if it's the right thing to have one of us try and be there regularly, but it feels too hard not to do that. Everytime one of us walks in her room the response is exactly the same ..."oh Carol (Dottie, Ray, Mary Ann) I was just praying that one of my children would come to visit". Who knew the Moss bunch would one day be the answer to a prayer?
The hardest piece of this whole thing has been for the daughter part of me. Realizing that I can just do my best; understanding what we are facing can not be fixed. The palliative care nurse part of me however, does know there are some important issues that must be addressed. Such as making it very clear to Angie's caregivers what her goals are. It occurs to me that most of you don't have my background but from your comments it is clear that many of you have been through this with your parents. For those of you who have not I want to share a few things. AND I hope some of you will join in this conversation with what you have learned from your experiences.
Angie wants to be comfortable. She does not want to go to the hospital or undergo aggressive tests. Procedures and interventions can always be offered but I know they will not fix her dementia and they may increase, and possibly prolong, her suffering. The last time we went to see her primary care doctor we had a conversation about what mom would want to do in the event that she were dying. She let us know she wanted us to "let her go". She does not want attempts made at resuscitation. This is important for the staff at the care center to know. If she can not swallow safely she still wants to be able to eat for comfort reasons. If she gets pneumonia she wants to have her symptoms treated but does not want to go to the hospital or have IV antibiotics. She does not want a feeding tube. She also has an "outside the hospital DNR" form on her record. This is for her protection and ensures that if 911 is called for some reason they will not attempt to resuscitate her (which they are normally obligated to do if they are called).
These are the basic points that make up a good talk on preferences for care at the end of life. I share my mom's preferences as examples only. What is right for one person is not right for another. The important thing is to talk about it ahead of time so you know what is the right thing for YOUR loved one.
Just one more thing... Angie is not actively dying right now. She may live for another year or even more. But I do know she is on the road to dying. As the palliative care nurse in the family it is my job to be looking ahead for roadblocks and make sure they don't cause needless suffering. As soon as I think she is eligible, I will also get hospice involved for the added support they provide even for someone being cared for in a nursing facility.
OK - time for me to stop talking... and for you to start.
Sister: I found your other coded message. Not to worry. I have already packed the white staedtler for the 2nd annual art retreat in January.
I ate a few M&M's this time and cracked the code within 83 seconds. Bring Your Eraser! You thought I wouldn't get it didn't you?
P.S. Dottie's flight was cancelled because of snow. When she finally gets here tomorrow I have a bunch of outfits picked out for her to try on. I am going to do a photo shoot so we will have lots of pictures of her to draw when you come back this way again.
Sister headed back to sunny California this afternoon. Just in the nick of time. She was not cut out for the cold weather that returned with a vengence today.
When I got home tonight I found this strange message in her wake.
I am working on de-coding it right now. I think it means she thinks I should wear more red lipstick and my overbite will be less obvious.
It could also mean she thinks I should give Dottie M&M's before she goes to sleep tomorrow night to prevent the Great Horned Owl nightmares that plagued her while she was here.
Code breaking is hard work. The replacement of one peanut butter M&M with a plain M&M in a complex sequence can totally change the meaning.
Thanksgiving leftovers and a little sketching was how we ended our day yesterday. Sister gave the maple-pecan phyllo pie her nod of approval.
Today we explored more of the common areas at Angie's place. We have found what we believe to be the most comfortable chairs in the place. Pillows provided.
There was also a lovely patio area protected from the wind with abundant sunshine to ensure our vitamin D levels are in the therapeutic range. Angie comandeered the Jackie O. sunglasses and I am not sure she is planning to give them back.
Meanwhile Chris was at home smoking a brisket for supper and we have more art therapy planned for tonight.
Counting. My. Blessings.
This morning Mary Ann gave me a complete run down on the beaches of Southern California between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria with a focus on Summerland. Exhibits were included to reinforce my learning.
I then began preparations on breakfast. Baked eggs florentine to be specific. Sister was quite unconvinced that they would suit her because of the spinach, but realized the error of her ways after the first bite.
Here is the recipe in case you also have someone in your family who thinks they don't love spinach. After breakfast we headed over to see Angie. She was tickled pink to see Mary Ann. "Is that Mary Ann? Mary Ann Moss?!!!"
Afternoon activities included power naps and a cut-throat "pease porridge hot" competition.
Brother headed back East this morning. Channeling our father (who loved to get an early start) he was on the road by 6am.
Angie misses him already. Me too. To distract myself I went downtown today to buy my first Christmas present of the season. I have a party on Tuesday and intend to be prepared. Luckily for me, strolling in downtown Lawrence I can usually find what I need. Today was no exception.
I am not saying exactly where I went but I am pretty sure my present will be highly desirable for those of you participating in the annual Quail gift exchage.
It seems like just last month that Angie moved from her "cottage" to an apartment in her senior living community. That was a tough move, letting go of a place where she had grown comfortable.
This week we had to move into the "memory care" center. I think the hardest thing about all this is watching Angie's world continue to shrink. She says to me "what causes my mind to do this?" then she will look at me and say "so I guess I am crazy?" Heartbreaking questions. Some have answers, some do not. She knows she is where she needs to be for now to be safe.
I feel like a mother worrying about her kid going off to college. Is she ok? Is she getting to the dining room? Is she making some friends? I hope everyone is treating her ok.
I am learning new things everyday. Things that are unbelievably hard. Things that you can't prepare yourself for. As a good friend just told me when I asked about any wisdom he could pass along from his experiences "it's a tough dance to teach..." We have our tap shoes on.
Members of the Moss National guard are arriving from the East and the West in strategically staggered shifts. Mary Ann has outlined the plan of attack well. Boots are officially on the ground with the arrival of Dottie last night. Chris is the official errand runner and chef to the troops.
In retrospect, the last move went easier than expected. I hope to be able to look back 6 months from now and say the same thing about this move. I will let you know when the Moss's have their "shuffle ball change" routines down and are ready to debut their prime-time tap dance extravaganza.
When my neice told me months ago that she wanted to come and visit Angie because she wanted her to meet her great grand-daughter, I had some hesitation. Angie doesn't get around like she used to. She also has trouble remembering things and changes in routine can throw her off a bit. Krissy persisted though. She told me she knew it wasn't logical but she still wanted to do it.
I am only sharing this story so the next time you are tempted to be logical you will reconsider. I can't remember when I have seen mom so completely engrossed and happy. Four generations together made for some good times and great photos. It was something special. Thank goodness for smart nieces.
There was some good stuff to be had for breakfast Saturday morning at the Roost.
We took a vote on it. All the people in the restaurant agreed. Katharine Ray came in first place... everyone wanted to eat her right up.
Angie met Katharine Ray Watson today for the first time.
Angie turned 85 this week so we had a little party in her honor. Dinner planning included a salad with greens from the farmers market. Nothing better than that.
Pumpkins, gourds and mums made the perfect centerpiece for the party table.
Angie and Dottie and Chris and I were the only invited guests at the party. We like to keep it all in the family. Just in case we want to tell stories that we wouldn't want anyone else to hear.
Dottie happened to stop and pick up some Bob's 47 for us to have before dinner. Just a little liquid refreshement to get the appetitie stimulated.
Because the most important thing about the dinner was Chris's famous "Shrimp Pasta". Shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, a bit of cream, salt, pepper, linguine... simple and absolutely divine.
Angie could not be bothered to respond verbally when I asked her how it was. But she did give me the thumbs up.
There was ice box cheesecake for dessert and coffee. Angie told me I made it too strong. She always makes a funny face when she tastes my coffee and tells me "Carol, it's so strong!" I tell her to put more cream in and stop complaining or I won't send any left-overs home with her. She says "this cheesecake is the best you have ever made." She didn't get to be 85 without learning something along the way.