The hallucinations/delusions/dreams mixed with reality finally calmed enough by about 3am this morning for her to get to sleep.  The good news is that she stayed asleep long enough so that I could get caught up.  I got up a little before 10am.  She slept on until almost noon.

While she slept this morning, I filled a couple of feeders and then sat inside watching the activity outside on the deck, at the bird feeders and in the waterfall area.  The experience reminded me of pictures of folks going through an aquarium that has an underwater tunnel allowing them to watch the fish from inside their environment.  I sat in my little box (made of ticky-tacky??) as an observer, while they were foraging out in the open.

It was better than watching a huge high definition television screen.  There was a new character who joined the cast this morning.  It took me a few minutes to be sure what that flash of color was.  It was a Baltimore Oriole in search of food.  I had hung a Hummingbird feeder, an Oriole feeder and I had put out a dish of grape jelly, with little hope of actually enticing an Oriole to come by and spend some time.

The Oriole seemed a little confused.  He fluttered back and forth toward the glass of the sun room.  He moved to one of bushes next to a side window in the dining room and flew at that for a little.  Then he fluttered over to the hummingbird feeder and hung pretty much upside down, apparently managing to get some of the sugar water.

Then he moved over to the rail just below the Oriole feeder and not far from the dish of jelly.  Surprisingly, he just did not manage to spot the jelly, just two feet from where he was standing.  He fluttered up to the Oriole feeder and did not drink any of the orange sugar water there, but found the little pockets of jelly around the edge of the feeder.  By the way, I am using the word “flutter” very intentionally.  It was not just flying he was doing, it was what looked like very haphazard fluttering of his wings, allowing him to fly in place while trying to figure out where and how to land.

After Mary Ann finally got up, she ate a normal breakfast (she had not eaten supper last evening).  She was very subdued — almost completely non-verbal.  After eating, she agreed to head out in the car to do a few things.

Of course the first stop was PT’s for a cup of coffee, a single origin Ethiopian this time.  Then we went to a grocery that has a large seasonal garden center set up on their parking lot.  There we found a favorite hanging plant with small deep blue blossoms (sorry, no tag on the plant with its name).  Rather than hanging the plant, I put it right outside the lower window next to the sliding glass door to the deck.  That is the spot the Robin used for staging his attacks on his reflection in that glass panel.  The two spots on the deck on either side of the sliding glass door have provided the bonus of serving as perfect display areas for enjoying flowering plants from inside and outside.

After getting the plant (for Mother’s Day), we went to the farm produce store north of town to get asparagus.  We usually get three or four pounds each time we go since the season is fairly short.  The only other item they had that was from their own fields was Rhubarb.  I couldn’t resist it.  Mary Ann’s Rhubarb pie is so good that given the choice between a piece of that pie and a Turtle Sundae from G’s, I would eat the pie.  Those of you who know me well understand just how good that pie must be. The problem with getting the Rhubarb is that there is a long way between a handful of Rhubarb stalks and a piece of that pie.  Whether that long way will be traversed any time soon remains to be seen.

By the time we were back in town, Mary Ann was ready to have lunch.  I had only had a banana for breakfast, so I was anxious to eat.  We went to her favorite, Bobo’s, for a cheeseburger and fries.  I had the more healthful fish sandwich, deep fried and slathered with tartar sauce. Mary Ann was able to handle the burger and fries with little help.

After lunch I stopped at the Wild Bird store to pick up a couple of things and get some lessons on Oriole and Hummingbird feeding.  The message was, throw out the old sugar water and make new.  That is what I did when we got home.

Mary Ann had started dozing in the car, so as soon as we got home, I got her in bed to nap.

While she was sleeping and after I finished redoing the feeders, I sat and watched the big screen nature channel provided by the sun room glass.  One thing that I had noted when doing the feeders was that something had been at the grape jelly.  After a time of watching, the Oriole returned and headed directly for the jelly.  I hope he brings friends.

Mary Ann has slept straight through supper (I tried getting her up, but it didn’t work).  At about 9pm I got her changed into her pajamas and and the nighttime pills taken.  She still did not want to eat.  She finally stirred a little about fifteen minutes ago (about 10:40pm).  I sat her up and asked if she wanted something to eat.  She chose a single serving container of applesauce.  It turned out to be a bit of a new experience.  As I put the second spoonful in her mouth, she seemed to resist.  I went a few feet to get a nearby napkin.  When I turned back around, she had fainted and was completely out, gratefully having fallen to the side, still on the bed.

I got her back up into a sitting position after she came around and continued to feed her the applesauce.  She fainted again.  This time I was sitting next to her on the downhill side, so I was able to hold her up.  After she came around again, I resumed feeding her the applesauce.  With only a spoonful left she went out again.  This time I got her down to the pillow, moved her around into a comfortable position, where she is at the moment.

I am concerned that the daytime sleeping a third day in a row is fueling a switch between day and night for her, sleeping in the daytime and agitated at night with hallucinations, delusions and dreams confused with reality.  I am not sure what to do about it, since when she sleeps during the day, it is not just a light sleep from which she can be kept awake by urging activity.  She just shuts off.  She can’t stay awake.  The converse is also true.  When she is awake at night, she just can’t make herself sleep and not dream or hallucinate or have delusional thoughts.

I am very grateful for the pleasure and the calming that comes with sitting and watching the activity outside those panels of glass in the sunroom.  It does not seem to get boring since there is always the hope of some new cast member joining the regulars, the Mallards, Mourning Doves, Grackles, Robins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, House Sparrows, House Finches, Cowbirds and Fox Squirrels.  The Possum only comes at night, so I have not enjoyed watching him, just dumping the Possum pellets out of the ground feeder in the morning.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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Danger! Danger!  Alien attacks again.  This Alien presence from planet Pedometer Prime has had his way with me again.  I was out and walking some time before 7:30am.  I had no idea there was a 7am on Monday.  I didn’t think they started measuring time until at least 9am.

The Alien and Mary Ann were in collusion.  As suspected, sleep did not go quite as well last night after a daytime nap yesterday and earlier to bed than usual.  The consequence was that she woke up at 6:45am in need of food and ready to get up.  Do you see how this played into the Alien’s hands?  After eating a single serving snack of apple sauce, she was willing to lie down again while I went out to walk for twenty minutes or so.  It seemed best not to start meds too early, since the two hour increments of medicine would end to early in the afternoon.  I put the Lifeline pendant around her neck, got water for her, the television remote for the bedroom TV and headed out.

Now, of course, I am feeling energized and positive.  You see how this Alien presence weaves his subversive plot?  Here I am writing this post and, again, it is morning — Monday morning!  I guess to be honest for those of us who are retired, there isn’t a Monday.  In fact we bought a clock from Radio Shack that shows the day of the week so that we would know what day we are in.

As I thought about Mary Ann’s increased ability to walk and the better nights, the domino effect popped into my mind.  The better nights have encouraged a change in my pattern of activity.  It seems more possible to do an exercise walk.  I am more rested and, as a result, more willing to get up in the morning to get in the walk. The walk perks up my metabolism, providing the stamina to write the post earlier in the day.

In addition, by getting up earlier, I am more ready and able to get to bed earlier.  Since I am writing the post earlier in the day, I can use the time in the evening after Mary Ann goes to bed for listening to music, or engaging in a Taizé devotion, following a reading by Fr. Ed Hayes.  The latest readings have come from his book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

All of the above has been about me, the Caregiver.  For Mary Ann, the good news is that she has seen little of Grumpy Caregiver and more of the patient and helpful Caregiver.  My confidence in her ability to walk has freed her from my constant presence, in her face, asking her to sit back down.  She has fallen on occasion, but still not often by comparison to the past. My confidence in her ability to walk has given me the feeling of being untethered.  That has felt  remarkably freeing.

It fascinates me just how interrelated all these circumstances are.  One domino falls, touches the next.  That one hits another, that one bumps one more.  Sometimes one small change can grow into something far more substantial.

I have no illusions.  Just as the dominoes can fall for good, they can fall for bad.  The hallucinations have begun to return.  Yesterday morning, there was a Raccoon in her bed.  When we drove into the garage after church last evening, Mary Ann in a matter of fact tone, noted that they hadn’t thrown away the quills.  I asked to what she was referring.  She answered, the Porcupine quills.  She saw them distinctly.  When I got out of the car, turned on the lights in the garage and helped her out of the car, she saw that they were gone.  She was, however sure there were some in the house.  When we got in, she went into the bedroom and looked around.  She didn’t comment further on the matter. Hallucinations, of course, can interfere with her sleep and keep her up for hours.

Since she got up early this morning, she may get tired and need a nap.  A nap might impact her ability to sleep.  The domino effect could take us back to more troublesome times.

To try to avoid that path, we have made a commitment to pick up a friend, head out for lunch and a ride.  My hope is that we can keep active until Oprah.  Once that time comes, she generally stays awake until bedtime.

We live on a very narrow margin of functionality.  We can do very well one hour or day or week, and very badly just as easily.  Right now we are on a side of that margin that has been very enjoyable.  Here is hoping for more time on this side!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Tonight I am anticipating a three day retreat from Caregiving.  It will begin as soon as the car is loaded and on the road in the morning.  I will travel between five and six hours on the Interstate to get to a place that has provided respite and renewal to me off and on for almost twenty years.  

I will tell you some of things I look for in a Retreat, some of the things I do, but what is more important is for each of you who serves as a Caregiver to find a place that renews your spirit.   What provides you with respite and renewal is likely to be much different from what does it for me.

The place I will go is called St. Francis of the Woods Spiritual Renewal Center.  To go there requires no particular Spirituality.   There I will find complete solitude.  The cottages are very comfortable and very few.  That there are very few cottages is the reason for my expectation of solitude.  There will be no agenda to follow, no meal times to honor.  It will be in complete contrast to the Caregiving Role that is done entirely in response to someone else’s needs. 

There is a beautiful, ornate, Orthodox chapel there for those who appreciate that environment.  There is a library filled with books intended for those seeking renewal.  St. Francis includes a five hundred acre working farm.  There are pastures and woods, a chicken house filled with clucking hens and crowing roosters.  Fresh eggs can be purchased — the honor system – get a dozen from the fridge and leave the money in the basket.  There are paths carved out in the woods, with the occasional bench.  There are areas with no paths, filled with wildlife to be surprised as you come into sight.  There is a small remote field a decent hike’s distance across a trickle of a creek, maybe a mile and a half’s walk away from any of the cottages.  It is surrounded by woods with only one path for a tractor to reach it for any planting or cutting of hay.  That is the spot that touches my spirit and renews me. 

The drive there is a vital part of the experience.  The music CD’s are carefully chosen to help me transition from activities and attitudes that fill my days at home (and at work when I was still working full time).  That time allows me to be prepared for the hoped for renewal time on the Retreat.   The return trip is often a powerful time, since, with an uncluttered and rested mind, solutions to problems often emerge, decisions can be made with clarity.  For me,  a two night stay with travel there on the first day and travel back on the third day is the most effective pattern for renewal.

On the Retreat itself I will carry with me a couple of books that provide me with the spiritual tools I need to stay grounded and grow in learning how to quiet myself so that I am receptive to renewal.  I will bring a couple of books on Quantum Physics, since, while I know very little and struggle to understand them, I find them to enlarge my perspective in a way that excites my spirit.   I will take with me some good binoculars and a spotting scope given to me by my Son.  I will engage to the fullest extent my senses will allow, every dimension of that holy space. 

I will do some journaling periodically as I sit on the three legged stool that I strap to my backpack, or one of the benches if it happens to be in the right place at the right time.  The journaling tends to take me to a place of perspective on my life’s journey.  When I am on retreat, I have a chance to move out of reactive mode.   I can rediscover my center of being as a single individual in a magnificently huge universe.  I can look from a distance at my relationship with Mary Ann, with the caregiving that is a part of our relationship.  Without fail, my love and commitment to her has been renewed on those retreats, the spiritual strength that sustains me has been renewed and enlarged. 

Self-care is not simply an optional task among the many that come with life’s challenges, especially for those charged with the care of another human being.  Self-care is what allows the possibility of being of any use to anyone else, especially the One for whom you care. 

I suspect the question that first comes to mind for many Caregivers is how on earth it is possible to find time to go on a retreat.  Who will care for my Loved One while I am gone?   How will I afford it?  It will only happen if you accept that your self-care has priority.  If something is needed badly enough, we find a way to do it.  We need to eat.   We find a way to do it. 

I went on these retreats when I was working full time and caring for Mary Ann full time when not away from the house at work.  There were some Volunteers who developed the confidence to be a part of the crew who stayed with her when I was gone.  Our daughter and her family chose to move to town to help us out for a couple of years.  During that time, she took one or both of the nights I was gone.  My daughter and her family have driven ten hours to visit this week, encouraging me to take this three day Retreat during part of their stay.

There  are some local organizations that for a charge (one charges $150) will come overnight for a twelve hour shift.  There is a local facility that will provide residential care for an overnight, again, for a charge.  When I began going to St. Francis, the suggested donation was $6.00 per night.  Now it is up to almost half the cost of a night in a motel — a bargain to say the least. 

Your task is to determine what it is that would allow you to disengage for a time from the stream of demands coming your way, what activity would be renewing to you.  It is not impossible to do.  It may is terribly difficult, but it will never happen unless  you decide it needs to happen, it is worth doing.  Do it once or twice and you will understand why it needs to happen.  Take each obstacle to doing whatever renewal activity would be meaningful one at a time.  Do not allow one of the obstacles to sabotage the whole idea.  Reframe the nature of the retreat if need be.  That may mean finding a B&B an hour away instead, or a friend’s vacation home, or the farm still owned by a family member. 

Self-care is not one option among many for a Caregiver.  It is precisely what is needed to do the very task you are called to do.  Love the One for whom you are caring enough to take care of yourself.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.