I think it was Friend Jack, whom I had told on Friday, who mentioned it to some of his students on the next Tuesday.  I am not sure about that.  Later the Principal accused me of spreading the news.  I didn’t, but I didn’t deny it.  Did he think this would all happen in secret with no one finding out  what had occurred?

Apparently, the news spread like wildfire.  I suspect  was something like: “Did you hear that they fired Pastor Pete?”  The first time I realized just how far the news had spread was the next morning, Wednesday.  It was my turn to do chapel. The bell rang, the kids all gathered in the bleachers.  I walked out to begin the service.

I won’t ever forget that moment.  As I walked out, the kids started clapping and gave me a long standing ovation — 800-900 kids can make a lot of noise.  I can’t begin to describe the impact of that experience.

I have no idea what I said that day, other than the message I sought to give every time I stood there, that they are loved deeply just the way they are.  They are forgiven, filled with the transforming power of His love, able to grow into more than they ever thought possible.

One thing I figured out quickly was that I did not want to become the excuse for some sort of rebellious behavior by the students.  Remember, this was the early 70’s.  The volatile 1960’s were fresh in our memories. I was very proud of the way the Kids responded.  The Student Council set up a table in the hallway outside the office.  They had paper, envelops and stamps along with a list of the School Board members. There were no sit-ins.

It was discovered quickly, that the Principal had acted unilaterally in making the decision.  He had not consulted the Personnel Committee.  He and one of the influential members of the Board had collaborated on the decision.  That member of the Board, oddly, had asked to come to my classroom one day to show some slides and make a presentation to a class of Seniors.  It was the first day of a semester.  The classroom had 39 students in it.  Since the classroom was remodeled for a seminar approach, the chairs were not in straight rows with each one sitting with hands folded.  While the approach had provided some stimulating learning experiences, I can only guess that the room was not orderly enough for him.  The school had actually been structured as an all male military academy when that School Board Member had gone through it many years before.

The Board finally met and invited me to come in.  There were questions of all sorts.  There was nothing said that indicated anything that I had said or done that was not acceptable.  The Board did ultimately vote to renew my contract.

Before the decision was made to renew my contract, the kids at school gathered names on a petition totaling 688 of the 800-900 students.  Six area Pastors came in to meet with the Principal and/or the Board asking that the decision be reconsidered.  Apparently one very elderly retired Pastor had heard about the Communion Service with the Passing of the Peace in it and decided that there had been “hugging and kissing and rolling on the floor.”  There certainly was some hugging, but I did not see any kissing or rolling on the floor.

All this while, Mary Ann was taking care of Lisa, dealing with a pregnancy, wondering what would happen to us when the salary stopped and I had no job.

I was offered a contract for the next year.  The Principal had a long list of conditions, such as having my lesson plans in advance for him to review.  The list contained nothing other than things that seemed intended to make teaching much more tedious in hopes that I would just leave.

In the mean time, a congregation sent me a letter asking me to come and interview for the position of Assistant Pastor with responsibilities primarily in the area of Youth and Education.

Do you remember that terribly unfair judgment the students made about Kansas and Nebraska when Call day came, when I had refused to take a Call?   The return address on the envelop said, “Prairie Village, Kansas.”  What popped in my mind was an arid, flat, virtual desert with a little old rural town in it.  That is not what I found.

I flew into the downtown Kansas City, Missouri airport in the spring of 1972.  The Senior Pastor picked me up and drove me down Ward Parkway to the church.  Ward Parkway in spring in Kansas City is one of the prettiest places to be found.  The crabapple trees and redbud trees were in full bloom.  There were blooming flowers filling the boulevard areas.  We had passed through the Spanish Architecture of the Plaza.  The trees and hills were so lush that they dominated the view.

Johnson County, Kansas, the county in which the church was located had been ranked the first or second most affluent county in the nation the two years before.  More than that.  When I met with a room of about 35 leaders of the congregation, the tone, the attitude and the words made clear that these people actually had caught sight of the heart of the message of the Gospel.  The were not just about the institution, but about making a difference in the lives of real people.  I was shocked and surprised after my last experience with the parish.

Now came the dilemma.  Do I leave the high school and abandon the Kids who had gone to bat for me?   What I was being Called to in Prairie Village seemed to be a perfect fit.  I had not been prepared to teach, but I had been prepared to be a Pastor in a church.  I decided that my presence at the high school would simply be a lightning rod, providing a distraction from the problems that needed work.  It seemed to me that I would be more effective in the parish.  I could deal with the Kids while also being able to know and minister to their parents.

I accepted the Call to Prairie Village.  Finishing out the year turned out to be quite an experience.  At Graduation, the Salutatorian’s speech was an affirmation of my ministry.  Jenny spoke in a way that must have irritated the Principal and those who wanted me gone.  Her words warmed my heart.  Then, Tom, the Valedictorian included remarks affirming the effectiveness of my ministry at the high school.  Those two had a great deal of courage to dare to speak so boldly.  I have never forgotten.

Those weeks the roller coaster moved down and up at breakneck speed.  I went from the low of being fired, deeply concerned about how Mary Ann and Lisa and the new baby would survive, feeling like a failure as a husband and father —  to being affirmed so powerfully, that I could hardly believe what I was hearing.  I have always felt grateful to those Kids for what they did.  They nurtured my personal faith and gave me much more than I had given them.

The next step bought us to some of the best years together.  It was not long before the volatile nature of some disagreements in our national church body intruded into the parish life.  Life was never boring in our years together.

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Mary Ann slept reasonably well after settling last night.  She got up and had breakfast, but afterward opted to remain in her pajamas.  After a time, she just started fainting in her chair.  We managed a trip to the bathroom once, but the second time she fainted in the transfer chair before I could get her on the stool.  She just needed to get back in bed.

While she slept, I did a bunch of simple household chores.  It struck me how much effort is necessary just to do the most basic tasks to maintain a household. That is hardly news to anyone who has had responsibility for those basic tasks.  Having grown up in a household in which Dad did outside stuff and Mom did inside stuff, it has taken a while for me to catch on.

I did manage some time watching the large screen nature show at the back of the house.  I need to correct the pronouns in my last post.  That Oriole is “she” not “he.”  I should have known since she was more yellow than I expected of a Baltimore Oriole.  Mr. Oriole appeared at the waterfall this morning.  He has not ventured to the jelly yet, at least when I have been watching.  Mrs. Oriole has spent a number of times there today.

Mary Ann got up in the early to mid-afternoon.  Given the choice of waiting an hour for me to make a bigger meal or having a sandwich then, she opted for ice cream. You will note that ice cream was not one of the options I suggested.  We both had some ice cream.  I put the baked potatoes in the oven, and after about an hour, I George Foremanned a couple of pieces of sirloin from Omaha Steaks I had marinating in the fridge and steamed a bunch of Asparagus. By the way, I absolutely HATE cleaning the George Foreman Grill!

After eating, Mary Ann watched some television.  Daughter Lisa phoned to wish Mary Ann a happy Mother’s Day and report that some items produced by our Granddaughters would be coming later.  Since we had eaten so late, it was not long before it was time to go to the Evening Service at church.  Mary Ann had forgotten that it was Sunday.  I got changed and we headed over to the Service.

Shortly after we got back, Mary Ann was ready to go to bed.  It is a very cool and gray evening.  I have stepped outside a few times just to take it in.  I prefer the days when Mary Ann is subdued and sleeps a lot to the ones when she is so intense and streaming hallucinations, delusions and dreams confused with reality.  At the same time, on occasion when she is sleeping, there are pensive moments during which I get a glimpse of what it might feel like to be alone.  There are lots and lots of people who have faced that challenge before me.  As any will testify, that there are others does not lessen the impact when it is you.

I choose not to remain long in the pensive times.  We live in a state of intentional denial.  We have enough to deal with in the present.  We will deal with future possibilities when they become the present.  For now, we have each other.  That is our reality.  It is enough.

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It seems odd that a simple day of getting up, doing stuff and going to bed could be so great.  We both had an appropriate number of hours of sleep.  We got up and a reasonable hour.  Mary Ann seemed to be connected to the realities of the day.

Not too long after breakfast, Hospice Aide Sonya came to do Mary Ann’s shower and hair.  It was almost comical to hear Sonya describe it.  Mary Ann had a couple of monumental deposits to make during Sonya’s time with her.  Sonya described in great detail the nature of the deposits.  Her description reminded me of the latest round of Subway commercials.  I will leave the rest to your imagination.  I was grateful on a couple of counts.  One, Sonya got to share the joy of waste management duty, sparing me the task.  Two, it was a much needed basic bodily function that will help Mary Ann function better and feel better.

After that, we watched television together for a while.  I made trips to the computer to read emails.  I also got started on a couple of loads of wash.  Mary Ann ate a pretty substantial lunch, then we headed out in the car.  The local Asparagus is coming on, so we headed to Meier’s market to pick up a few pounds.  I practically live on it when the locally grown crop is available.

After that we headed to Flowers by Bill.  Daughter-in-law Becky made a deal with me, trading the benefit of my cell phone on their account for me getting Mary Ann fresh flowers periodically.  This is the second time I have done it, and both times I have been surprised at the spectacular bouquets I have received.  I have gone in each time and told them what I am doing.  I have asked for whatever they can give me for ten dollars.  Each time they have come out with an arm load of beautiful flowers.  This time there are daisy mums of many different colors (20 open blossoms), carnations (9 open blossoms), alstermaria or peruvian lilies (3 stems each with multiple blossoms on each stem), and a huge yellow rose.  The bouquet has filled the living room with color.

We made an obligatory stop at Dairy Queen, since it is still buy one Blizzard and get the second one for 25 cents week.  I guess today could be designated Flower Day.  Shortly after we got back home, Volunteer Maureen drove up.  She delivered birthday presents for Mary Ann and me.  One is a vining geranium in a hanging basket, providing color just outside our kitchen window (where I now spend an inordinate amount of time each day).  The other is a Gerber Daisy sporting lots of large yellow blossoms.  Maureen remembered that yellow flowers are a favorite of Mary Ann.  That now sits on the deck just outside a glass panel in full view of Mary Ann from her chair.

At supper time I actually made a sort of normal meal – a rarity.  I browned cut up ring sausage in olive oil with lots of onions.  Then a ton of the fresh Asparagus went into a pan to be steamed.  At the market there were some small white potatoes that the owner had kept back for the family last fall.  They had some left and offered them for sale.  I steamed them with salt, dried onions and parsley, drained the water off and covered them with butter (margarine).  I was surprised at how much of the garden flavor they had retained.  Mary Ann apparently approved since she cleaned her plate of every speck of food I put there.  That almost never happens.

After finishing the couple of loads of wash and cleaning the pots and pans from supper, I decided that if there is some sort of certification as a domestic engineer to be had, I am now qualified.

I plan to spend a little time tonight with a newly obtained book on St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  Each chapter is a reflection on one of the phrases in the prayer.  YouTube will provide sung versions of the prayer to give it fuller expression.

I will accept today as the gift of a kind of normal day that most would find boring, to be taken for granted.  To me it is a refreshing encounter with something to be cherished, never to be taken for granted but instead savored.

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Recently in the online Lewy Body Dementia Spouse Caregivers group, a short discussion began about differences in the way husband Caregivers and wife Caregivers deal with their role.  I have copied an article from the AARP website on the matter.  While all of us have common challenges irrelevant of gender, there are some different cultural patterns that seem to come into play for males and females.  The task is equally difficult.  I have to say that I identify with much of what is written below.  At the end I will include an update on a fairly uneventful day at our place.

The New Face of Caregiving: Male Caregivers

By: Cathie Gandel | Source: AARP Bulletin Today | – January 23, 2009// <![CDATA[

Photo by Blasius Erlinger/Getty ImagesPhoto by Blasius Erlinger/Getty Images

When his wife, Chris, was diagnosed with breast cancer on their 19th wedding anniversary, Dave Balch suddenly found himself with two full-time jobs: running his home-based software business and taking care of her. “I don’t know how I managed everything,” says the 60-year-old from Twin Peaks, Calif., whose wife continues to fight recurrences of the disease six years later. “But you do what you have to do.”

Each year, more Americans are finding themselves in a similar situation—and challenging preconceived ideas about men and caregiving.

“People think that male caregiving means that the guy calls home from the job and asks his wife how his mom is doing,” says Donna Wagner, professor of gerontology at Towson University in Towson, Md. “That’s not true at all.”

A 1997 survey conducted by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, a research and advocacy coalition, found that 27 percent of caregivers were men. By the 2004 update, that figure was almost 40 percent, with more male caregivers (60 percent) working full time than women caregivers (41 percent). Among the reasons for the increase: smaller families, longer life spans, more women working outside the home and greater geographic separation of family members.

While male caretakers face many of the same challenges as their female counterparts—including depression, stress, exhaustion and reduced personal time—they approach their caretaking role differently, say some experts.

“Men approach caregiving as a form of work, a series of tasks that needs to be accomplished,” says Edward H. Thompson, coeditor of Men as Caregivers and director of gerontology studies at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass. “I don’t mean that to sound harsh. It’s just the way they look at things.”

Because they are used to delegating, they are more comfortable seeking outside help when they need it, says Richard Russell, associate professor of social work at the State University of New York’s College at Brockport.

Donald Vaughan, a 51-year-old freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C., has an aide come in three times a week to bathe and shave his father. “It’s worth every penny I pay,” he says.

But despite feeling isolated, men tend not to seek help for themselves, at least not from traditional support groups. Instead, some forge their own connections. In Rochester, N.Y., some fellow caregivers meet once a week for breakfast. “The men talk about sports, politics and grandchildren,” Russell says. “They don’t mention caregiving. It’s as if they have made a pact that this is their time to be just regular guys.”

Men also try not to bring their caregiving situation into the workplace. They not only have been socialized to keep things close to the vest, they also perceive a stigma associated with taking time off for caregiving responsibilities—and sometimes a lack of understanding from employers.

John Young experienced that feeling firsthand. The 55-year-old nursed his late wife through Lewy body dementia, a disease that combines the mental deterioration of Alzheimer’s disease with the physical disability of Parkinson’s disease. When his wife became ill, Young was teaching in a police academy in a Houston suburb. At first she was able to stay on her own while he worked, but one day she called with an emergency and he had to rush home. “When I returned, my boss called me in and asked, ‘How much longer does she have?’ ” Young says. “I knew it was time to go.”

Even those who work at home have trouble juggling responsibilities. “Taking care of my dad has had such a dramatic impact on my life,” Vaughan says. “One part of my brain is always on my father. And my time is nickel-and-dimed throughout the day. It’s hard to get a long period when I can do my work.” He interrupts his writing intermittently to make sure his father drinks enough fluids and walks up and down the hallway for exercise.

“The worst part is the exhaustion,” says Gary Noble, 64, who cares for his wife, who has multiple sclerosis. He also works as a bus driver in Livermore, Calif., and often has split shifts. He may come home at 8:30 p.m. Before he goes to bed at 9:30, he has to cook, clean up and tend to his wife’s needs. He needs to be up again at 3 a.m. “I’d appreciate just a few hours off sometimes,” he says.

John Carlson, 57, of Woodbury, Minn., takes care of his 88-year-old father, who is in the early stages of Parkinson’s. “The most difficult part is having time away from home,” he says. “Dad covets my time, as most of his days are spent alone.”

While any relationship may suffer in the caregiving equation, the issues are particularly difficult for those caring for a spouse, says Donna Wagner. Richard Anderson, president of the Well Spouse Association, a nonprofit organization that provides peer support to those caring for a partner with chronic illness or disability, agrees. He took care of his late wife, who had an autoimmune disease, for 29 of their 31 years of marriage.

“Spousal caregivers are different because of the intimacy of the relationship,” he says. “It’s hard to have sexual feelings toward your partner if you have to deal with incontinence and other personal issues.”

Despite the difficulties these men face, there is some good news. “My wife and I spend a lot more time together,” says Ray Heron, 57, of Charlottesville, Va., who has been caring for his wife, who has MS, for 10 years.

The caregiving relationship has brought Chris and Dave Balch closer, too. “This can really put your love for each other to the test,” Chris says. “In our case, it made it stronger.”

Tips for Male Caregivers
“There is no manual on this,” says Vaughan, the freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C., who cares for his father. “You learn day by day.” But here are seven tips passed on by men on the front lines of caregiving.
1. If someone asks what they can do to help, have a list in the back of your mind and tell that person.
2. Have something to look forward to—whether it’s a big trip or just a rental movie to watch at home. Remind yourself that you will get through this.
3. Acknowledge your emotions. You’re human, not a robot.
4. Set up a group e-mail to keep family and friends in the loop.
5. If you’re a spousal caregiver, don’t put off shared pleasures. If you and your wife always dreamed of going to the Caribbean and the trip is still feasible, do it now.
6. Remember that most of the little issues don’t count. Discuss them and find what works for both you and your patient.

7. Learn as much as you can about your patient’s disease, even though it might be scary.

As I mentioned earlier, today was a fairly uneventful day.  The night went reasonably well.  We both slept later than usual.  Hospice Aide Sonya came to get Mary Ann showered and dressed.  We ate here at the house, then headed out for a short ride in mid-afternoon.  Mary Ann napped when we got back.
I used the nap time for deck therapy.  Today I received the new issue of Weavings, a Spirituality Journal that I find very helpful.  That and the setting combined to provide a refreshing respite.  The respite time included some forays into the forest of sunflower seedlings in and around the waterfall – a consequence of spreading seed over the snow to keep the winter birds healthy and well fed. I pulled up mounds of them.
As I sat on the deck, the annual visit by a pair of Mallard ducks brought them through for a quick bath and a drink in the waterfall.    They and the rest of the birds seemed to be pretty relaxed about my presence on the deck.
Mary Ann had a reasonable quantity of food for supper (a hamburger, sweet potato fries plus a big bowl of strawberries and ice cream).  Mary Ann has gone to bed and so far seems settled.  We will see how the night goes.

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She liked it!  She actually liked it.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I struggle to provide tasty meals for Mary Ann.  I will eat almost anything (except Okra, Oklahoma friends may remember).  Mary Ann, however has a discriminating palate.  That is a classy way of saying she is an annoyingly picky eater! She has been a phenomenal cook when she still used the kitchen.

I can hardly claim the high road here.  I am a hopelessly unskilled and lazy cook.  Give me a four gallon pot and a refrigerator of odds and ends, a few cans of beans and tomatoes and I can make a pot of soup that is nourishing and filling, if not tasty.  I am pretty much the only person who will eat the soup that I make.

People keep telling me that all I need to do is follow a recipe.  They forget to mention that there need to be ingredients purchased, seasonings on hand and enough experience to understand what the heck the recipes mean.  They tend to leave out instructions for things “everybody” knows how to do.  Then there is the issue of getting things for the meal all done at the same time, so there aren’t cold mashed potatoes with a hot roast.

Anyway, she liked it.  She had wanted a pork roast.  She usually doesn’t suggest meals, especially now that words are very few.  She picked out the roast. at the store.  Of course the choices did nto include a pork roast like the ones we used to have, the ones with the bone, lots of fat, and the tenderloin still attached.

I browned the roast in a pan with some olive oil.  Then put it in a large rectangular glass baking dish.  I surrounded it with large hunks of cut onions, red potatoes cut in half, and a half cabbage cut into quarters.  I put salt on all of it since so many veggies would need it.  I sprinkled a little garlic powder on all of it.  I covered the roast with dried thyme.  I deglazed the browning pan with some beef broth.  (Are you impressed yet – “deglazed” — am I cool or what?)  Then I poured that over everyihing, added a little more olive oil on top of the veggies and cooked the heck out of in the oven for a couple of hours.

It was good!!!  She liked it. I liked it.

We also had a windfall.  Don and Edie brought over a meal from the Baptism dinner.  Today, Shari who stayed with Mary Ann this evening brought over tonight’s supper.

Gratefully, our Daughter, Lisa, has made a number of items for the freezer that I only have to thaw and heat.  What a blessing.  She did that while she was here with Mary Ann when I headed to Oklahoma for the three day retreat.

There are lots of people who find themselves in the position of lacking certain skill sets to fulfill all the needs that emerge because of the circumstances that they are in.  When a household has a couple of adults and some children in it, the tasks get either divided or shared, depending on the skills each adult has.  Even in households with two or more adults, there still may not be some skills needed to sustain the household.  In that case, the people in the household earn money to pay someone who does have the skill set that is missing.  Plumbers and electricians come to mind as those who might be paid (now or later, if an unskilled household member tries to fix whatever it is).

People whose life circumstances change may find themselves lacking needed skill sets.  It happens when there has been a divorce.  It happens when a spouse dies.  It happens when  a key member of the household becoms disabled.  It comes with the territory for anyone who happens to be the only one living in the household.

There is inside maintenance, outside maintenance, accounting and money management, automobile maintenance (what and when and whom do you trust).  I am sure you could add lots to that list.  For Caregivers, the task is often complicated by the sheer wieght of dealing with all the personal needs of someone else as well as his/her own.

I have to admt that in my case, many of the missing skill sets are not ones that couldn’t be gained with a little effort.  Therein lies the rub.  Effort is in short supply.  Yes, a lot of it is just laziness.  I have not always been adventurous in learning how to do new things.  I am a procrastinator, and as a reault, I often just don’t get the learning process started on a new skill in time to do what needs to be done.

The skills that are necessary to full time caregiving include food preparation (unfortunately — especially for Mary Ann), managing a household, managing finances, good decison-making (lots to be made on your own), medical diagnosis, communicating effectively with medical professionals (both listening and talking), basic CNA skills in assisting in toileting, showering, dressing, feeding, washing hair, basic household duties such as washing clothes, making beds, cleaing the bedside commode, cleaning up after meals.  Those of you who are Caregivers can, I am sure, add at least as many more tasks that come with the territory.

So, as do each of us who have total responsibility for keeping a household functioning, I do what I can do, find others to do the things that I am currently not equipped to do well, and ignore the rest.  Just don’t look to carefully if you come to visit.

Actually, I have decided only to have very low maintenance pets in the house to keep us company.  At the moment, we have only Dust Bunnies as pets.

Today went reasonably well for Mary Ann, but there was a lot of sleeping, in spite of very loud sawing and banging on the outside walls soon to be removed.  I hope she sleeps tonight.

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Hallucinations ruled until about 1am or so last night.  Then she slept through with only one or two commode trips until around 11:15am this morning.  I didn’t get up unitl 9:30am.  Nothing ever stays the same.  Yesterday that was not a good thing.  Today it was a good thing.  She gave very little indication of having hallucinations.  She was awake most of the day until she went to bed tonight at about 8pm.  I will not presume to guess what tonight will have to offer.

After Mary Ann got up and took pills with some yogurt, we began talking about lunch already.  I suggested the possibility of going out, listing a few of her favorite spots.  She did not really seem interested.  I am wondering if the need for me to help her eat is beginning to diminish her interest in eating in public.  Some point at which she seems especially sharp, I will ask her about that issue.

I offered to make scrambled eggs and bacon.  She took me up on that offer.  As I was getting the eggs out, I noticed the untouched left over baked potato from a couple of days ago. I realized that would make great fried potatoes.  About a thousand dirty pans, dishes, pieces of silverware, cooking utensils, and bowls later, I delivered Mary Ann, two scrambled eggs, seasoned with parsley flakes, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper, covered with shredded cheese that had melted on top, home made bread (Maureen’s) toasted and buttered, fried potatoes and onions, two slices of thick bacon, all served on a warm plate.

Have I gone crazy???  It all started with sighting that potato.  Then I fried some eggs for myself, which I covered with the wonderful Peach Salsa that I order by the case from Texas.  From the time I started cooking to the end of cleaning the thousand dirty items or putting them into the dishwasher, wiping off the stove and counter, must have been close to two hours.  This cooking business with all the accompanying cleaning up duties remains on the outer edge of my domestic capabilities.

Gratefully, Maureen had brought for the freezer some very tasty vegetable beef soup to go with the home made bread.  That was supper.  Mary Ann needed help with that, as well as some help with the two scoops of ice cream from B&R that we had picked up from there on the way home from the late afternoon doctor’s appointment.

While our visits are usually with the Cardiologisit himself, today we met with Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner [ARNP] Angela .  She had seen Mary Ann once when she was in the hospital last fall.  She knows her case well. It was especially comforting to hear from her that they (she and the Cardiologist) often talk about our situation.  They appreciate that we are traveling a very narrow road of functionality, playing meds that do opposite things against one another to get a result that allows us to survive.

It was scary today when three blood pressure readings at different times in the appointment all were in the mid-200’s over the low 100’s, even when she was standing.  Because of her Orthostatic Hypotension (low BP when standing up), normally the standing reading is much lower. Not so today.  The fear, of course, is a massive stroke, as well as long term damage to her heart and kidneys.  We all know that.  At home the readings have been in the 160 to 180 over 90 to 100.  If we reduce the Midodrine that Mary Ann takes to raise her BP, she starts fainting.

I am going to reduce the dosage of Midodrine a little (cut the noon pill in half) to see if we can do so without resuming the fainting.  One irony is that the Seroquel we have been raising to reduce the hallucinations, has the side effect of increasing the likelihood of fainting. Another irony is that Mary Ann is taking a heart medication after her heart attacks a few years ago.  That medicine’s purpose is to reduce heart pain by lowering blood pressure.  Another of Mary Ann’s Parkinson’s meds (to reduce the dyskinetic movements caused by another Parkinson’s med, the main one) can cause hallucinations and fainting.  The main Parkinson’s med can cause hallucinations, fainting as well as the dyskinetic movements.  Without that med, Mary Ann cannot move at all.

As the primary Caregiver, it is my job to observe and help inform the doctors prescribing these medicines, since I am with her 24/7.  I have been given permission to adjust the Midodrine and the Sinamet (the main Parkinson’s med) within certain limits as seems appropriate.

The doctors have no clear insight into how much of the problem with hallucinations is caused by medicine and how much by the disease process (Lewy Bodies on brain cells).  They don’t know how much of the fainting problem is the disease process and how much the meds. Both the disease process and the medications produce the constipation, as well as other non-motor symptoms.

My head starts to swim when I try to think through the effects of all the meds with the goal of suggesting a workable balance of all of them.  The truth is, the doctors and pharmacists are no better equipped to find that balance, since they don’t see the effects on a day to day, hour to hour basis.  When we have raised or lowered dosages of meds, Mary Ann has not always reacted the same way in adapting to the change.  Sometimes, as with the Seroquel, the change comes, and then leaves quickly, leaving no clue as to how to proceed.

For whatever reasons, the last part of last night and this morning have included sleep; today Mary Ann was lucid and did not seem to have strong hallucinations; she ate tolerably well and has been sleeping fairly calmly for the last couple of hours.  I have no idea what will come between now and the morning, nor can I even begin to guess what tomorrow will bring.

There is one note I would like to add.  It may change tomorrow.  It is likely to change soon.  Since Sunday morning’s powerful experience, I have not felt angry with Mary Ann at behaviors that frustrated me in the past.  I have been far more accepting of the challenges in caring for her.  The feelings of irritation may return soon, but for the moment, caring for her has been less draining emotionally since I haven’t spent so much time feeling angry and frustrated.

That observation makes me wonder how much of the irritability emerged from simple grief over what the disese has been taking from her and from us for twenty-three years.  Again, there is no predicting how I will feel tomorrow or the next day about behaviors that have been frustrating to me in the past.  For the moment, there is a peace and a calm that has been missing for a long time.

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Have aliens come and stolen my Mary Ann, replacing her with with a look alike imposter???  She ate the whole thing!  Mary Ann ate the chicken salad that I made from scratch with my own culinary-challenged hands. 

On three or four different occasions in the last few days, I put a couple of spoonfuls of that home-made chicken salad on her plate.  It is shredded chicken (from the freezer, prepared by our Daughter Lisa when she was here), grapes, pecans, celery, Miracle Whip, some fresh dill and a little onion powder mixed together.   She ate every bit of it every time I put it on her plate.  Potato chips and Pepsi rounded out the meal each time. 

If that is not enough, when I listed the options for supper tonight, she chose the beef, potatoes and carrots I had cooked in the crock pot the other day — and she ate it!!!  Now do you understand why I have posited the alien imposter theory?

On another matter, last night I asked three questions of the people in the online Caregiver Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia: 

The first question was about Mary Ann’s hair.  It seemed as if there was more hair than usual coming out on the brush when washing and combing her hair recently.  I asked if others’ Loved Ones had experienced hair loss.  Some Loved Ones have lost their hair, with no explanation from their doctors.  Group members mentioned the dry air at this time of the year, stress, too much washing, thyroid problems, and Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE).  Since the problem seems to have subsided, I suspect it was just a natural occurance with no long term implications.  Needless to say, I will pursue it if there is more evidence warranting it.   Mary Ann’s hair is thick and dark with some gray mixed in.  She routinely gets compliments on how nice it looks. 

The second question had to do with disinfecting items in need of washing.  At the risk of being indelicate (I have been painfully explicit many times before), when there is need for cleaning matter (euphemism) off clothing before putting it in with other wash, I use Clorox in the water in a downstair sink we had put in for such things.  The last time I used the Clorox to disinfect some clothing, it was new red plaid pajama bottoms from LLBean.  I moved very quickly in the task of putting the pj bottoms in the water, swishing them around to get all the matter off, then rinsing and squeezing a number of times to get the Clorox water out of them.  Needless to say, they magically turned from red plaid to pink plaid pajama bottoms.  The suggestions from the group included OxiClean and Vinegar.  After some checking, it appears that OxiClean may and Vinegar certainly does disinfect pretty well.  I will probably substitute a 5% vinegar solution for the Clorox water when this need arises again. 

The third question had to do with disposable underwear.  The latest marketing tool is to replace unisex disposables with disposables specifically for men and for women.  The problem is that the women’s are made to be more comfortable for daytime use by enlarging the leg holes.  The net result is that  while they may be fine when up and walking, they leak badly if there happens to be a daytime nap.  Daytime naps are routine for many who need disposables.  I asked the group for suggestions of disposables that work for them.  I have had no responses to that one yet.  I suspect one reason is that the vast majority of those in the online group are women caring for their husbands.  The needs in this area are gender specific. 

One other note concerns a member of the congregation that I served before retiring.  He has had Parkinson’s longer than Mary Ann, over thirty years.  He fell and ended up in the hospital.  He has a strep infection that is interfereing with the healing of the arm on which the skin was broken when he fell.  In Emailing back and forth with his Daughter, I noted that people in her Dad’s and Mary Ann’s circumstances live in a narrow margin of functionality.  This fall and infection are taking Norm to the Rehab Unit of a local nursing home for a while.  He has been declining for the past few weeks.  Apparently, the treatment for the infection is helping him regain much of what he has lost in the last six months.   

In a sense, we are living on the edge.  In reality, all of us are living on the edge.  Anything can happen at any time.  Those who are in circumstances like Norm’s and Mary Ann’s are just more aware of it.  We can choose to live in terror of what might happen, or we can just choose to live. 

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On Sunday it was a real joy to have all nine of us in this small immediate family together to eat and talk and open presents.  Each of us will incorporate corporate worship in the our celebration later in the week.  For that day our time was spent celebrating what the Lord has done in our little family. 

I am sure Mary Ann enjoyed the day, even though she headed in for a nap right when our Children and Grandchildren arrived.  After a couple of hours of preparation for the meal, Mary Ann got up to join us for a late lunch.

We now have a spotlessly clean oven!  We were able to reheat the Prime Rib that was “smoked” two days before in the oven that had Honey Crunch Pecan Pie deposits on the bottom to flavor the smoke.  This time there was no smoke!!!  That is especially good since our Son and Daughter-in-Law brought the ingredients for the Triple Fudge Cake they often make for family gatherings.  Yes, they brought ice cream to eat with it.

The directions for the self-cleaning oven made it absolutely clear that all the pools and puddles and burnt patties of stuff on the bottom of the oven needed to be removed before using the self-cleaning function.  I had, of course, figured that out before reading the directions, after having smoked both a pie and a Prime Rib.

Saturday’s preparations for the family gathering and meal on Sunday went reasonably well.  Putting together the grape salad (extremely good), and the cheesy potatoes was not difficult.  The combination of Mary Ann’s napping and a long lunch out in the mid-afternoon pushed the preparations very late in the day.  There were some other household chores.  As a result the present wrapping ended up going until 1:30am, long after Mary Ann had gone to bed.  It is at times like this that I really respect single parents who take care of everything themselves, including all the needs of their children.  It is surprising to discover how fast small and seemingly insignificant tasks can add up to proportions almost impossible for one person to manage.

Again, this is a sexist observation, but nonetheless true for me.  As a male Caregiver, tasks that my Mom did when I was growing up, tasks that Mary Ann did, enjoyed doing and did well, I have found to be very difficult.  They are not necessarily difficult tasks by themselves.  It is the comfort level with doing them that is the problem.  Shopping for Christmas presents, wrapping them, getting and sending Christmas cards, putting out Christmas decorations, as well as food preparation don’t come naturally to me.  They are just uncomfortable enough for me that I come up with all sorts of reasons to postpone dealing with them.  The Christmas cards are still in the unopened boxes sitting in a bag on the floor.  I should be working on that instead of writing this post!

Mary Ann enjoyed the day Sunday, but got very tired late in the afternoon.  There was a much anticipated Choral Eucharist at church last evening at the time we usually worship on Sundays.  It was clear that Mary Ann would not be able to manage the Service.  She was in bed for the night not too long after 6pm, the same time the Service started.

This time there was no option of my leaving Mary Ann at home with the family.  Our Daughter had surgery two weeks ago and could not help Mary Ann physically, Our Son could have helped with her, but he had to take our Daughter-in-Law home since she is having Gall Bladder surgery on Tuesday.  She was also very tired.  As a result, there was no one at the house other than me who could take care of Mary Ann’s personal needs.  I missed the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful worship, our choir and soloists, instrumentalists, bell choir, our Organist-Choirmaster, all of whom are outstanding.   The quality has always been far beyond what would be expected for Volunteers.  It always sounds very professional as well and meaningful Spiritually.  The Christmas celebration has a completely different feel as a retired pastor.  While we will attend church on Christmas Eve, the services with full choir and soloists come too late in the evening for Mary Ann.

Gratefully, what the celebration is about transcends any specific event in that celebration.

The Christmas celebration meal was okay, but the Prime Rib did not go over as well as I had hoped.  The rare look of a good piece of Prime Rib is not appetizing to everyone, especially little ones.  Thank goodness for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Actually, our Son, Micah, and Granddaughter, Chloe, would probably not be alive today if it were not for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Our Daughter, Lisa, found the microwave to be what was needed to get the red out.  She admits to having an aversion to meat that provides any visual evidence that it was ever part of a living animal. 

Today has been a sort of recoup day, with minimal activity.  Mary Ann again needed to crash for a about two and a half hours mid-day today, even though she slept well last night. 

Mary Ann continues to seem less functional and engaged, and more tired than in the recent past.  I am not sure about that since I am with her all the time.  One particularly bright spot was an email from Marlene, one of the Kansas City Crew, who took a picture of us on Friday.  Mary Ann was smiling.  It seems as if it has been an eternity since Mary Ann was caught smiling in a picture.  If I can figure out how to do it, that picture may make in on my FaceBook page. 

It is a very good thing to have our two little Granddaughters here at the house for a few days.  There have been plenty of Grandma and Grandpa hugs to brighten our days.  Our Daughter, Lisa, is deeply caring and her love for her Mom is apparent in everything she syas and does.  She is also a tremendous support to me.  Our Son-in-Law, Denis (yes, spelled with one “n”), is a man of great character, who is willing to do anything he can to help us. 

Whatever our challenges, our Children, their spouses and our Grandchildren provide us with joy beyond measure.

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What terrible thing have I done to anger the gods of cooking so??  Here is a quote from last night’s post: “As I have said far too often, I am out of my comfort zone when trying to cook.  That is why the Anniversary Dinner tomorrow is a carry-out special.  It does demand cooking the Prime Rib for an hour, and reheating the side dishes that came with it.  I should be able to handle that much, but who knows how it will come out.”  The last clause was prophetic.

Last night’s post also noted that the Honey Crunch Pecan Pie had sloshed a couple of times leaving pools of surgary filling on the bottom of the stove.  Why do I suspect that everyone reading this who has ever cooked already knows what happened this morning.  Here is the what I brought home from the Brick Oven Restaurant for our Anniversary Celebation dinner with three couples who drove over from Kansas City:  five pounds of Prime Rib, Baby Red Potato Cheese Bake, Tasso Corn Bake (a signature dish), Au Jus, Creamy Horse Radish & Dinner Rolls.

All I had to do was finish cooking the Prime Rib for an hour in the oven and reheat the side dishes in the microwave.  You know what happened when I turned the oven on to preheat it to 275 degrees.  Yes, the smoke started pouring out of the oven vent.  It wasn’t just a little bit of smoke, but thick smoke as in burning sugar.  Again, I had to pull out the sheet entitled “How to Cancel a False Alarm” just in case the smoke detector went off.

It is good that it was not seven degrees with a wind chill outside since I had to open every window in the kitchen, the front door, open the door to the garage (and open the garage door itself).  Of course, I had no choice but to put the Prime Rib into the smoking oven, since there would soon be eight of us sitting at the table intent on eating an Anniversary Dinner. One of the side dishes managed to bubble over in the microwave to add insult to injury.

Then there was the award-winning Honey Crunch Pecan Pie for dessert.  After all the challenges getting it cooked last night, it actually looked pretty good.  And, it would have been perfect if it were called Honey Crunch Pecan Upside Down Cobbler!!! It looked like it was done.  It didn’t jiggle when I moved it.  When I cut it and tried to get a piece out to put on the dessert plate, what ended up on the plate was a dark brown heap of goo with nuts in it and pieces of crust trailing through it. That piece and every one after it came out the same way.

We squirted Redi-Whip (the one that is cream, not oil) on each piece and ate our dessert.  There was some sympathy applause in the form of verbal commnets on how good it was.

I will admit publicly here that twice in the course of getting the rolls heated and in the basket, some of them fell on the floor.  I had just cleaned that floor with my Swiffer Wetjet mop shortly before the Kansas City Crew arrived.  I am sure it was completely sterile.  There were two different witnesses, one to each drop.  They each promised secrecy, each unaware of the other.  Needless to say they were both guys.  We grew up eating dirt on occasion — so what’s the deal?

The good news was that the Prime Rib was spectacular, the side dishes were each distinctive and wonderful tasting.  We had a great conversation, and in spite of looking less than appetizing, the Honey Crunch Pecan Upside Down Cobbler really tasted as good as would be expected for an award-winner.

Will I ever do such a thing again, invite people over for a meal at our house? Unless I can figure out what I did to anger the gods of cooking and atone for my sins, I think not.  Hold it!!! Our Son and Daughter, their Spouses and our Grandchildren will be arriving at our home Sunday late in the morning so that we can have Christmas Dinner together.  There will be nine people!  I am preparing that dinner!  Maybe they won’t read this post before Sunday.  Who knows what I can do to ham steaks, cheesy potatoes, grape salad, garden corn — and half of a Prime Rib roast left over from today (it was huge).

No, I will not be making Rosalie’s Honey Crunch Pecan Pie!!!! (I may, however have a large glass of the secret ingredient in that pie — check last night’s post.)

Mary Ann was quite subdued today.  She seemed very tired.  It was hard for her to get to sleep last night.  She seemed excited about today.  I am not sure if she engaged in conversation when I was out of the room, but it did not appear to me that she was very responsive and communicative.  She went to bed at 6:30pm after napping with her head on the table in front of her transfer chair for an hour or so before then.  I hope she perks up by Sunday when the kids are all here.

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I think it was around 3am that Mary Ann finally settled.  Then, we were up pretty early again in anticipation of the Bath Aide.  Mary Ann has done no napping today, and she did not go to bed early.  Some days she can sleep well at night, then have a couple of two or three hour naps during the day.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when there is lots of sleeping and when there is very little.

When there has been little sleep, I appreciate that I am retired and have no major public responsibilities that would be impacted by my sleep deprivation.  I guess driving is a public responsibility.  If you see a dark colored Honda van coming down the street, give it wide berth.  The driver may be dozing.

Today has turn into a domestic duty day.  It was not planned that way, a couple of things just converged on the day. Both the medication that thin her blood (aspirin and Plavix) and the mucous production increase on account of the Autonomic Nervous System being impacted by the Parkinson’ s and Parkinson’s Dementia, combine to create the need often to change the bedding.  Today was not the usual day to change bedding, but I noticed that even the mattress pad that is protected by two chux had some stains on it.

I got out a new mattress pad and put the dirty one in the downstairs utility sink along with stained bedding, and a two or three ladles of Oxyclean.  After soaking a few hours,  and then running it through the washing machine, it is all in the dryer at the moment.

Then the weather for today and tomorrow allowed working on a much dreaded task. The Ceramic tile floor in the bathroom is a dangerous weapon in a household with someone who has both balance and fainting problems.   After a nasty fall and subequent trip to the Emergency Room, followed by a couple of hours with the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist trying to get the bleeding stopped, I realized that the tile floor needed something to soften a fall.

I found something called Snaplock, twelve inch squares of mesh made of a strong and supple plastic mesh.  The squares snap together.  The colors were nice and the squares were easy to put together.  The squares are impregnated with something to reduce the mold.  Of course the squares must be taken up and cleaned a few times a year.  The weather is important, since the tiles get washed in the driveway, and dried in the sun.  I scrub them with an old broom after spraying them liberally with spray cleaners that kill mold as well as cleaning the tiles.  They then air dry.  They are on the driveway tonight.  I will leave them there and bring them in after the sun has done its work.

The hardest cleaning task actually is cleaning the ceramic tile that has been covered by the mesh squares.  Mold eventually grows under the tiles.  There is lots of spraying (Tilex and Clorox Cleaner), scrubbing with the broom, and rinsing that has to be done.  It is certainly worth the effort to have the protection on the ceramic floor.  Any Caregiver whose Loved One is subject to falling needs to be sure and cover ceramic tile with something safer.  Gratefully, the Snaplock tiles come in very nice colors, so the result after putting them down is not unappealing.

Blood Pressure update:  Now that I have reduced in half the Midodrine in preparation for starting the new medicine, Mestinon, I am trying to track her BP more closely.  Sitting down at the table earlier in the day, her BP was 107/65.  Tonight while lying down I tried taking it with the electonic meter.  It would not read her BP but gave an error message.  That usually means it is too high for the machine to measure.  When I took her BP by hand, it was 240/120.  There was no doubt about when the beat started and stopped while listening with the stethoscope since the beat was so strong.

That is another example of just how dramatically her BP jumps between high and  low.  Tomorrow morning I plan to add the generic Mestinon.  I hope it works.  I don’t know how long it takes to reach the therapeutic dosage. We will just wait and see what effect, if any, the new medicine has.

As always, we will see what tomorrow brings.

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