This morning she said, “Let’s go some place and have some fun.”  Further interaction confirmed that she meant some sort of major trip this summer.  As we talked, she said, probably nowhere high [in elevation].  We had begun arranging through friends the use of a condo in the mountains of Colorado a couple of years ago.  After consulting with the Cardiologist, it seemed unwise to tackle a high elevation, putting stress on Mary Ann’s heart.

In the movies, a bucket list makes all the sense in the world.  Who could argue with doing anything and everything you have wanted to do before dying when death seems to be coming in the near term?  In the movies, whatever stands in the way can just be written out of the story line.

The dilemma in deciding what to do in response to the request for a major trip for fun, is that there are conflicting realities.  Each has validity.  One reality is Mary Ann’s view that is no longer reasoned through the executive function of her brain.  To her, the fainting, bathroom issues, problems with eating, falling, sleep problems, access to appropriate medical care, all are of little or no consequence.  She lives in a world in which she is constantly protected by those of us around her, taking care of whatever problems arise.  In that reality, there are no barriers to traveling wherever and whenever, just having fun doing all sorts of things.

There is validity in that view.  The various assessments of her physical/mental situation suggest that there may not be many years left to do all sorts of entertaining and enjoyable items on our wish list.  Assuming that is so, we need to get out and do anything and everything we can, as soon as possible.

The other reality is that we are on a roller coaster in which there is no telling if Mary Ann will be alert or completely out of it, whether she will be able to stay awake or will crash suddenly, whether she will be able to stand and transfer to the toilet stool or will crumple in a dead faint.  We don’t know if she will be able to eat or sleep or discern reality from hallucination/delusion/dream.  In the other reality, I am the one who has to figure out how to deal with whatever comes when it comes.  Not having the resources that are easily accessible here at home when problems come is a real issue.  This is not a movie.

The question is, how do we balance what is actually so in our little world with what we would like to be so.  My problem is determining how many of the barriers that I see are more my own concerns over what might happen rather than real barriers.  Now that we have made decisions associated with the transition to Hospice Care, the fear of not making it to a hospital in time may be unsettling, but it is no longer the primary issue.  We have already faced that demon and stolen its power.

I don’t want to stand in the way of Mary Ann having as good a quality of days as possible in these next months or years.  I also am not infinitely good and capable and strong and filled with limitless endurance for whatever may come.

In a recent thread of posts by members of the online group of Caregiving Spouses of those with forms of Lewy Body Dementia, there were some who talked about the struggle to do enough to provide adequate stimulation in their Loved Ones’ lives.  Some in that group have seen how others can draw the best out of their Loved Ones as they respond at a level referred to as “showtime.”  We have just come off three weeks of visits by friends and family.  Mary Ann has been at her best much of that time.  She has been engaged in conversation, she has laughed, she has connected and initiated interactions.  As Caregivers we want to provide that sort of quality all the time.

We can’t do it.  We can’t provide enough to compensate for their limitations.  Last night Mary Ann did not sleep well.  Today she made it through lunch, then crashed, fainting so much that she just had to lie down.  That was at about 12:30pm.  I tried to get her up two or three times, but it was 5:30pm or later before she got up.  We got some Dairy Queen, she came home and crashed again.  No matter how romantic it sounds to check off items on a bucket list, there are some parts of our reality that we can’t change.

For now, my intention is to think as creatively as possible about options for places that might be fun for Mary Ann.  I am willing to stretch beyond my comfort zone what we try to do.  She has mentioned the Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky as a possible destination in the past.

…I have just been “scared straight!”  My comments above about two realities have just ceased to be a balanced weighing of conflicting views.  I have spent the last hour (not sure, lost track of time) in an intense battle with active intestines, in a fainting, jerking stiff body, fighting against every move to try to keep what was coming out off clothes and into its designated receptacle.

Mary Ann is only 113.5 at last weigh-in, but it took every ounce of strength I have to try to manipulate her into position, hold her up while trying to clean her up, while she would stiffen in a sort of mild seizure, or go completely limp becoming dead weight, all happening while trying to take clothes off or put them on or wipe off her body where it had spread or the toilet seat so that it didn’t spread again when she fell back down on it in a faint.

This was about as tough a time as we have had with that activity.  I describe out loud the difficulty I am having and my frustration with it as it is happening.  That is part of my getting out what would be tougher to handle if I tried to keep it in.  A couple of times when she happened to be conscious she told me to calm down. My most frustrating moments are the times her body is fighting against what I am trying to do to get her seated so it will go where it should go.  Once, she even said I should put her some place, to which I immediately responded, “I am not putting you anywhere!”

I have now rinsed the matter off Mary Ann’s pajama tops and bottoms in fresh toilet water, put them in and started the washer.  I have washed my hands fifteen times.  Cleaned the stuff from under her fingernails, gotten her in clean clothes and into bed.  There was one aftershock that included the fainting and all the rest except (gratefully) for the “stuff.”  She is again in bed.  I have taken a couple of Ibuprofen to take the edge off the back and muscle pain from the physical exertion.

You have just had a peak into something that is routine in the lives of many Caregivers.  Others in the online group have to do what I just did but with someone who outweighs them by a hundred pounds.  I have no idea how they do it.

Mary Ann will be fine; I will be fine.  It is just another day on our roller coaster ride.  This encounter with one of our realities has certainly suggested that traveling a long way may not be a very good idea.  It is hard to imagine doing what I just did, but in a motel bathroom.  At the moment, our bucket has no room for a list, it is full of poop.  Tomorrow is another day!

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She watched the director, knew the music, sang with her mouth open wide just as she should, and brought some joy to her Grandparents (and, of course, her parents).  This Grandpa loved every minute, since singing was in the center of my life during most of my first two decades of life, and has remained a love until now.

We drove a little over an hour to the church at which Chloe’s choir performed.  Her other Grandparents made a trip more than twice that length to come to the concert.  The choir is sponsored by the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC). Auditions are required to be able to sing with the choir.

Then logistics needed to accomplish the day’s activities were not always easy.  Churches try hard to be accessible for the handicapped, but old buildings often will simply not cooperate in the task of becoming welcoming.  We thought it wise to make a bathroom stop before the concert.  There was an accessible bathroom inside the ground floor doors near a handicapped parking spot.  The doors were locked to force the attendees to use a door that would allow entry to the room from the back.

Gratefully, we got the attention of then attendant who let us in and waited while we used the restroom.  The need to change the pad due to incontinence resulted in removing shoes that are difficult to get on and off.  We used an elevator to get to the floor on which the concert would be held.  As a result of the time spent in the bathroom, we barely made it in through a door in the front of the room, the same door through which the choirs entered.  We were directed to the indentation in the pews for wheel chairs, but all the seats around it were filled.  Gratefully, a family offered to split up with Dad moving the pew behind so that I could be right behind Mary Ann.

After the concert, to get to the reception area, we had to return the same way, take the elevator to the lower level, pass through the kitchen, and then arrive at the reception area.

Before the concert, we ate out together.  The handicapped parking spaces were a block from the restuarant.  To get to the booth, we had to go through the serving area.  Booths are always a bit of a challenge.  Ordering was pretty difficult, as it always is, since a compromised executive function of the brain is among the first of the problems to emerge with Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (Lewy Body Dementia).  She really struggled to track and then decide what to order.

Again, getting the food to her mouth, coordinating the straw so that she could drink did not go very well.  Then twice, she just fell to the side. [See an earlier post on leaning to the left.]  After the second time, I moved from sitting in the chair that had been added for me, to sitting right next to her on the booth bench, with my body supporting hers.  When we ate at BoBo’s earlier in the week, she had fallen to the right twice while sitting in the booth.

After the concert we had a nice time with the kids at their house, along with Daughter-in-Law Becky’s parents.  Mary Ann was sitting off to the side a bit since she needs a hard, straight-backed chair to keep from being trapped in the chair, unable to assist when she needs to get up.  I stood near her so that the conversation would include her, even though she said only a few words.

I need to ask the kids to confirm, but today seemed to indicate that Mary Ann has lost ground in the recent past.  I am beginning to accept the possibility that this is just the way it is now — that we have moved to a new normal.

When we left their house, we headed down to see the Plaza Lights.  Kansas City is a beautiful place for the most part.  The Country Club Plaza, built in the 30’s with all the buildings done in Spanish Architecture, is a wonderful spot.  There is a huge fountain on one end.  There are parking garages built with the same architecture.  There are horse drawn carriages, people walking the sidewalks.  There are lots of exclusive stores, most having very expensive merchandise.  The lights outline all the buildings and have been put up from Thanksgiving through Christmas for many decades.

We lived in an area a mile or so south of the Plaza for fifteen years.  Our children grew up there.  It felt wonderful tonight to be driving those same streets that had become so familiar.  I realized how much I miss the feel of a metropolitan area that has people walking about, families, young people, folks out walking their dogs, local ethnic restaurants, curved streets, tall trees everywhere.  I guess we just fell in love with Kansas City during those years there.  As we drove, Mary Ann admitted that she would still like to move back to KC.  There are a number of reasons that pretty much eliminate that option, but this is not the first time she has said that.  One of the reasons moving back is unlilkely is that the house we bought for $22,500 in 1972 was on the market a couple of years ago, listed at $310.000.  What is it they say, “location, location, location.”

All in all, today was a good day.  While there were signs of Mary Ann’s apparent decline, the joy of getting out, hearing Chloe sing, enjoying conversation, and seeing beautiful Christmas lights more than compensated.

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Mary Ann liked the chili.  At first she could not negotiate the spoon well enough to get anything into her mouth.  For whatever reason, her compromised spatial awareness (from the stroke or the Lewy Body Dementia or both) makes it difficult for her to use the spoon as intended.  Most often it gets turned over so that all she gets is what sticks to the back of the spoon.  It works for ice cream and sticky foods, but not for liquids. Sometimes she can get the spoon turned upright, but she can’t keep it level enough for a liquid to stay in it long enough to make it into her mouth.

After I crumbled lots of saltine crackers into her chili, soaking up the liquid, she was able to get a portion of it eaten.  She tried to cut off a piece of the freshly baked, very tasty, cinnamon roll so that she could eat that.  I saw her struggling with it and used the spoon to divide it into a number of pieces that she could pick them with her fingers.

We were sitting at a round table eating with former parishioners who pretty much took for granted Mary Ann’s struggles with eating.  They knew not to pay too much attention or offer to help, thereby making Mary Ann more uncomfortable.  The family at that table with us had lost two members, the Daughter and Wife of one, and the Mother and Sister of the other, both at a comparatively young age to a form of Alzheimer’s Dementia.

I quietly offered to assist Mary Ann by feeding her, but as expected, she refused the help.  She was clearly getting very frustrated, more so than she has in the past.  Since this was a church dinner provided by the Junior Youth and their Parents, there was not a menu with various items to choose from.  There was no option of picking something that would be easy for her to eat.

It is clear that we will need to check the menu for the next dinners at church to be sure there is something there that Mary Ann will be able to eat without much help.  Tomorrow evening is the Parkinson’s Support Group dinner.  While that group has other members who are debilitated, at the meetings, Mary Ann is usually by far the most limited in physical ability.  I hope that she is able to handle the meal.

What is at stake here is the potential loss of one of our main activities outside of the house.  Mary Ann has done pretty well at not being deterred from going out by the difficulty she has eating.  Her frustration this evening was intense enough that it could negatively reinforce the experience of eating out to the extent that she will just refuse to go.  She has always wanted to go out to eat.  We would eat every meal out if I would acquiesce to her wishes on the matter. As eating in public becomes more of a problem for her, she is beginning to let go of the need to go out.  While I am glad for the money we save by eating at home, we need not to cloister ourselves in the house.

Mary Ann napped for a couple of hours this afternoon and went to bed fairly early also.  She commented on the fact that is was a long day, the Bath Aide at 9am this morning, the Service and dinner this evening. She slept fairly well last night, and at the moment, she seems to be settled in.  We will see what tomorrow brings.

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Maybe this will be our new Thanksgiving tradition, barbequed ribs, pork and brisket with stuffing on the side.  The meal was tasty, lots of food, great desserts, both pumpkin pie and Baskin & Robbins Grasshopper Pie for Granddaughter Chloe’s birthday treat.

Mary Ann seemed pretty tired today, especially in the morning before the kids came.  She did not talk much during the day, but Son, Micah, got her to laugh a few times. He has a way of connecting with her that is fun to watch.

Chloe is, of course, a breath of fresh air.  She is warm and engaging always making clear to both her Grandma and her Grandpa that we are loved.  She is such a sweety.

Becky brings a brightness and positive energy with her that lifts us up.  She treats us with love and respect, always thoughtful of our unique circumstances.  She always provides relief from the cleanup task by insisting on doing it for us.  That gift does not come from some automatic domestic role expectation, it is an intentional and thoughtful act of generosity, offering me some respite from the task.

Chloe and I did a little bird-feeding together.  Micah helped with a clean up of some of the Cypress needles that had fallen into the lower area of the pondless waterfall installed last summer.  I described to them plans for a possible remodel to the back of the house that would provide additional indoor space with lots of glass so that we could enjoy the waterfall and the birds more than we can now, since there is no easily accessible view of the water fall from inside the house.  No decision is made on the project, but the decision-making process is in motion.

Later in the afternoon, Micah shared something he had been thinking about.  He has plenty of access to information on my side of the family in terms of health history.  My siblings are all living, and over the years he has had a fair amount of contact given the geography with cousins.

Micah noted that he has very little knowledge of his Mom’s side of the family.  Only Mary Ann’s Mother was still living when Lisa and Micah were born.  Two of her three brothers died, one of Lung Cancer and the other of Acute Leukemia, when Micah was almost too young to remember.  The third brother chose to alienate himself completely from the family at the death of their Mother.  It is pretty much too painful for Mary Ann even to talk about.

As a result, Micah did not have a chance to get to know her family other than her Mother.  The same is so for Lisa, although, since she is three and a half years older than Micah, she probably has a few more memories of her Mom’s brothers.

What developed from the conversation was the idea of our traveling back to Northern Illinois to visit with Mary Ann’s two deceased brothers’ families to hear stories about them that will help fill in that void of knowledge.  The email has gone out to see if there is a possibility of having a family gathering to reminisce and share stories.

After a nice time on the phone with our Daughter Lisa, who shares her brother’s interest in connecting with their Mom’s family, Mary Ann has settled into bed, and I have been thinking about Mary Ann’s family connections.  She loves and is loved by her family.  The death of her Father, a few weeks after we were married, the deaths of her two brothers (each one at the age of 51), being hurt so deeply by her other brother as that relationship was severed, and finally the death of her Mother, left Mary Ann feeling very much alone.

Her Sisters-in-Law and her Nieces and Nephews seem to love and respect Aunt Mary very much.  She is not only separated from them by geography (a ten or twelve hour drive demanding two days of travel for us to get there).  She cannot talk audibly on the phone, or react quickly enough to maintain a conversation on the phone.  Sometimes she can’t get any words at all to come out.  She hasn’t been able to write legibly for the last few years.  She cannot negotiate a computer keyboard or control a computer mouse.  It is frustrating to her and to those who long to interact with her.

I hope something materializes that will allow our children a window into Mary Ann’s family, and a chance for Mary Ann to feel part of a family of her very own.

Tomorrow afternoon is the first meeting with our Cardiologist after the trip to the hospital for Congestive Heart Failure three weeks ago.  He was out of town at the time of the hospital stay.  I delivered to his office a letter and attachment requesting consideration of a change in meds that might help with the fainting while not raising her blood pressure when lying down.  I intend to report on that visit in tomorrow evening’s post.

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Finally!  Chocolate Wednesday!!

Yes, it began with a breakfast sundae.  It was not quite as decadent as it sounds.  The first layer was yogurt with home made granola mixed in.  Then came the strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate drizzled over the top.

Next came the plate with herb roasted potatoes, sausage patties and a breakfast strudel, which is a pastry shell filled with an egg and veggie center.  Who would have imagined such a thing?  It was wonderful!

The highlight was the Innkeeper’s 4pm table of treats.  The wines are always well chosen, red and white each day.  There were Halloween cookies, crackers and three kinds of cheese —  then, of course, the chocolate covered strawberries.  The chocolate was unusually rich and tasty.  The Godiva Chocolate Liquor with a touch of caramel was too wonderful.  It is good that liquor glasses are tiny.

The timing was perfect, since we had enjoyed a light midday meal a couple of hours earlier from the new in-house menu.  A chicken salad sandwich on a toasted croissant for Mary Ann, and bowl of tomato basil soup and a salad of field greens with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for me.  It was served to us in the dining room where we could look out the windows and the gardens and the lake as we had a quiet meal.  The food here has yet to disappoint.

As we looked out the window, Mary Ann called my attention to the surface of the lake.  I have heard and used the word shimmering many times.  I now understand more fully what it means.  I guess it was the angle of the sun that combined with just the right movement of the water that produced almost blindingly bright sparkles on the water — as in diamonds, real ones.

Today was a spectacularly beautiful, warm and sunny day.  We sat for a while this afternoon on the patio by the fountain.  Mary Ann began reading a book she picked up at a Walgreen’s yesterday afternoon.  I read a bit from the Spirituality journal called Weavings.  Most of the time I just sat and soaked in the setting.

I had just a moment’s realization of the significance of our having this time sitting together.  There was a flash to a time that may come when sitting next to her will no longer be an option, when I may be sitting alone.  It was not a deep and sad feeling as much as it was an appreciation of what we are now able to enjoy.

As she read, I took some time to walk through the garden on the stone path that wound through the blooming Azaleas, going across stone bridges over the stream created by the fountain and waterfalls.  Some wonderfully colorful butterflies moved from blossom to blossom, a Monarch, a black Swallowtail of some sort, a yellow Sulfur butterfly.  There were lots of bees wandering in and out of the blossoms.  When I walked along the lake, there was a turtle  hovering at the wall.  It was just a very pleasant afternoon.

We have enjoyed meeting lots of folks.  One couple mentioned that their daughter’s wedding was just two weeks earlier.  She was married in South Carolina.  I asked where in South Car0lina she had been married.  They said something about Cliffs and Glassy, and we filled in the blanks.  Their daughter was married in the same beautiful little chapel in the mountains north of Greenville, South Carolina, in which our Daughter, Lisa, was married.

It has pretty much never failed that asking other residents at the B&B where they are from has initiated a conversation that produced some connection or commonality.  There are people here from a variety of places, some still working and attending conferences here in town, some retired.

If there was no other common ground, often the mention of being a retired pastor began the path leading to the discovery of something in common, or something of mutual interest.  Two are active pastors, another is the daughter of a pastor, another has a brother who is a Franciscan priest (just switched to Diocesan for the sake of getting a pension), one plays guitar at his large Cowboy Church in South Texas.  One shared a tragic story of the death of her Son-in-Law when her daughter was pregnant with their first child.  It is a reminder of the depth and breadth of the experiences that lie behind the faces of those we encounter.   It is good to be in a setting in which we are all moving slowly enough that we can take time to make some discoveries that allow us into each other’s lives if only for a moment.

Mary Ann is down for the night (I hope).  We will eat breakfast in the morning here, load the van and head for Eureka Springs to stay the night so that we won’t have too long a trip back.  There are storms predicted for the day both here and in Eureka Springs.  We will take our time and stop whenever we need to.

Again, we are grateful for some good days.  We can put them in the bank.  Tomorrow will bring whatever it will.

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Hooray, the we saw light from the shining ball of fire in the sky late this afternoon.  We did not see the ball, but discernible evidence of its presence.

This evening after dark, I sat on the patio again by the waterfall/fountain/pond, looking at the bright moon and nearby planet.  Am I a wildlife magnet???  Maybe five feet away from me, a small possum just wandered by from the shrubs on one side of the water feature, across the cement patio at its edge, and headed on through the shrubs on the other side of the water feature, showing himself at various times as he lumbered along.  I guess the sound of the waterfall distracted him and it was dark enough that he just didn’ t notice me.

We had a good day.  It started out with the Lookout Blend of a really nice, medium roast coffee (clearly a certain percent of dark roast beans in the blend).  Next came the juice, again a blend — equal parts cranberry and orange juice.

That was followed by roasted plums with creme fraiche.  What a wonderfully sweet treat it was.  There were ribbons of caramel that cradled the plums before the creme fraiche was poured over them.  Both of us left those dishes ready for the next use — no washing needed since there was nothing left in them.  We refrained from putting the dishes to our mouths and licking them clean.  We didn’t want to give Kansas a bad name.

Following that came the plate with a large slice of warm veggie frittata with a very tasty salsa with which to add still more flavor.  There were sections of polish sausage sitting on the plate next to the frittata.  They were complemented by freshly baked hot biscuits with butter and three kinds of locally made jam to be slathered on.

It is just plain cruel to describe in such detail the lavish breakfast we had today, but then I never claimed to be perfect.  This is actually just an attempt at helping each of you understand the commandment about coveting so that you can do a better job of avoiding it.  Aren’t you grateful?

After relaxing for a time here, checking out together the library and reading room and sitting area in the large sun room, spending some time on the patio in spite of the chill of the cloudy day, we headed into Hot Springs.

As we neared the main part of town, it had been long enough since breakfast that we thought we might eat a little something.  Mary Ann remembered from our last trip a little European style deli that we had visited.  I had a vague memory of where it was, but she remembered the exact name of it, Cafe 1217 (its street address is 1217).  With a little help from our GPS unit (Helga) we found it.

There are glass cases there with the various food items in view.  There is a dessert case, a veggie section, salad section and entree section.  The ordering is done at the counter.  Names are called and patrons come to the counter to get a heavy ceramic plate with the food items on it.

We ordered one piece of Honey BBQ Salmon which we split.  We each picked a side to accompany it.  Mary Ann picked the Caramelized Apricot Sweet Potatoes, and I picked the Grilled Ratatouille Vegetable Salad.  The cases were filled with foods that were out of the ordinary.  Apparently, the menu changes each month.  There were autographed pictures of a number of famous folks who had eaten there.

Then we spent almost an hour in one of the better art galleries in the area.  Hot Springs is one of the top five communities in the nation known for the fine arts.  In describing all the various events, the owner talked about the film festival, drawing thousands.  Then he described the music festival, that brought people from all over the world.  A woodwind ensemble practiced in the gallery.  The acoustics are alive in that old building with a ceiling two stories high, hard surfaces everywhere throwing the sound back on itself.  Hearing him describe the experience stirred memories of singing in old cathedrals in Europe over forty years ago on a choir tour.

The art work was moderately priced for good art.  The prices for the same pieces would have been much higher in other places in the country, but they were still in the thousands of dollars.

One artist, Randall Good, has a close connection with the Blue Moon Gallery in Hot Springs.  His work is powerful.  He was commissioned about eight years ago to do fourteen large paintings of the Stations of the Cross.  The result of the years of work was impressive.  The folks at the gallery explained the process by which he made the medium on which the paintings would be done, with the medium becoming a part of the final piece.

After hearing descriptions of the process that has brought each piece to completion and his creative journey as it is unfolding, it is apparent just how complex a painting can be.  In years past, when I looked at art pieces, I saw them as pictures to be observed.  Hearing so much about the living dynamics of each piece gives me new eyes with which to see.

It has helped my ability to experience more when I view an art piece to have had a gifted friend named Milt Heinrich, who has served for many years as the head of the Art Department at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska.  He also served for many years as part of the Arts Council [may not be the correct designation] for the state of Nebraska.  He was commissioned to do the huge wall sculpture at one end of the Omaha Airport.

Access to Randall Good’s web site can be found by Googling the Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  There can be found is a link to his site.

It is so odd that I have come to enjoy the visual arts.  I know virtually nothing about great art.  I am one of five children.  Three of us are gifted in the ability to draw beautifully.  Two of us are Pastors.  Oh well — same gene pool.  I guess Dick and I just stayed in the shallow end.

After the art galleries (we visited a second one for a time), we headed back to the B&B.  There we were, of course, greeted by freshly baked coffee cake and cookies, red wine, white wine, cheese and crackers — the Innkeepers daily 4pm offering.

Mary Ann is settled in bed, hopefully sleeping soundly.  While we don’t have specific plans for tomorrow, it is Chocolate Wednesday!  Wait till I tell you about the breakfast sundaes!

That is for tomorrow.

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I am at the computer in the upper lobby of Lookout Point – Lakeside Inn in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  We made it!  As always the last hour or two includes lots of winding two lane roads, but we are here and settled in.  Mary Ann is sleeping soundly.  At least she was when I left the room.  The television show “The Closer,” which is pretty much her favorite at the moment, is on the television, so if she does wake, she should be content.

While we ended up here past the time of the afternoon wine, cheese and freshly baked sweets, it was still out.  We both enjoyed a glass of wine, some cheese and a homemade Macadamia nut cookie.

After bringing in all our clothes and paraphernalia, getting Mary Ann changed for bed and settled in bed, I headed out to forage for some snacks.  There are endless goodies available in an area off the downstairs lobby.  I wandered through the library and glanced at some of the books.  There is a great section on Spiritual Formation.  Mary Ann and I will check out the videos together some time tomorrow.

After a trip through the small reading room which is an area with comfortable chairs and a fireplace, I looked around the large sitting area that includes lots of games as well as space to just sit and look out of the windows at the bird feeders, the garden and the lake.

Then I headed out to the patio to sit under the overhang to avoid the rain, while listening to the fountain/waterfall and look at the lake framed by the lights on the other side.  Numbers of Canada geese squawked loudly periodically as I sat soaking it all in.

The trip from the motel in Shawnee, Oklahoma went reasonably well.  The first two and a half hours was on Interstate 40.  In spite of construction at various times, the traffic was light and we made great time.  The weather was overcast but dry for most of that first half of the trip.

From Fort Smith to Hot Springs is a little more challenging and at the same time more interesting.  It was raining lightly throughout the rest of the trip.  There was never enough rain coming down to create any problems in driving.  What the weather did provide were some spectacular views of clouds covering the tops of some of the taller Ozark hills and spilling down the sides among the trees.

There were times when we looked at thick white clouds just about even with us in elevation.  Some were close to the road as we passed.  The cloudy weather muted the fall colors, but sometimes the colors were visible, contrasting with the white of the brightest clouds.

The trees close to the road as we traveled were very colorful.  What was most striking to me what the contrast between the colors of the deciduous trees and the deep green of the conifers.  The green was darker and more vibrant because of the contrast with the palette of colors interspersed between them by the changing leaves of so many different species of deciduous trees.

One treat that will be appreciated by those of you who are Caregivers.  At one point, we stopped for a break after a long time driving.  I can’t really remember the last time we stopped at a Pilot Truck stop, but that is what seemed most promising when we needed to stop.  The treat was that as we were checking the restroom situation, a staff person happened to be nearby.  He asked if he could help us find anything.  I explained what we were doing.  He responded by offering to get a key to one of the showers for us to use.

What a Godsend!  The little shower room had a toilet stool in it and just enough room to maneuver the transfer chair and get Mary Ann’s needs met.  I will now keep the Pilot Truck stops at the top of the list of places to take a break.  There was also a Wendy’s attached to the building, so we were able to get a snack to keep us going for the rest of the trip.

All in all, we seem to be off to a good start.  As always, anything can happen, good or bad.  We will hope for the good and deal with the bad!

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