Thursday, November 02, 2017

For All the Saints . . .


Yesterday was All Saints Day, and as has become a custom in our church, we commemorated those people who had been buried from the parish in the last year.  In past years we may not have been familiar with any of them, sometimes we knew one or two. This year in addition to the few whose names we recognized or whose faces we knew, there were five close friends and family members whose funerals we attended here at St. Ambrose. The families of the deceased were invited to light candles from the Easter candle and place them on the altar. We were also invited to place candles for those others who were buried in other parts of the city or country. As we added them up, we realized we had lost five other relatives and friends in the last twelve months.

I suppose this is a pattern that will only increase as we age and one of these days there will be candles placed on the altar for us. But in the meantime, farewell to our friends and relatives Dan, Bob, Barbara, Beverly, Leona, Lynne, Betty, Earl, Jim and Vickie.

"Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Frugality

Frugalness. The quality of being economical with money or food.

A while ago I came across an English blog with the word “Frugal” in it. I found it interesting and inspiring and linked from it to several others, all touting frugality. The writers practice frugality for varying reasons: some because they are hard up for money in varying degrees, some because they live frugally in some aspects of their lives while saving up for cars or vacations, some because of the principle of not spending excessively on themselves or their possessions. I learned a lot about contemporary British life (boot sales,  charity shops, yellow stickers) and found some cost saving recipes to try.  I note in passing that I linked to one of these blogs earlier today and found a whole entry on the quality of frugality, differentiating it from being cheap and explaining why paying more to get good quality is actually frugality. Naturally I can’t find it now.

Reading such blogs has given me cause to sit back and examine my spending habits. I have a long way to go before I could consider myself frugal.  I do not plan a weeks worth of errands in such a way that I will save gas by tackling the places visited in order of proximity one to the next. I do not avoid cooking with meat as much as I could. I use way too much paper towel— but I justify it in that I consider it a huge help in cleaning. I remember that after my son lived in Chad for two years he told us of the delight of the villagers in his part of the country with the discovery of a plastic coffee can and all the uses they had for it. I throw them away. Most of us do.

We spend way more on books, paper and things like ink cartridges than any elderly couple should. On the plus side we neither spend much on clothes and I try to watch the on-line sites for sales and fluctuations in price. The fact is that for so many years we had to watch pennies very carefully and now the pressure is off, it is often confusing to adapt practices of economy suitable for us in our present situation. I recently read a brief article about Eleven Madison Park, a Michelin starred dining spot in New York, that just began offering a $24 cup of joe. Actually that’s if two people share the 10 ounces of Wush Wush coffee they sell for $48. At least is not kopi luwak. Remember that?


Your (usually) diligent shopper is pleased to bring you an example of what not to sacrifice (money) in the interests of saving time. These two photographs were taken on the same day at my local grocery store. It is like a question on the exam they usually give to high school students: “Which is the better buy—2 hard boiled (and peeled) eggs for 99¢ or 18 large eggs for $1.19?”

Give some of the frugal blogs a try (and forget the Wush Wush.)



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It Shouldn’t Be . . .But It Is

Nothing short of a miracle. After weeks and months dealing with the company we wanted to put an iron railing round the front porch—they still didn’t come out to look at it. And the electrician who wandered all over our house looking at all the work which needed to be done—he never sent a quote. There’s the guy who claims there is not a hole in our roof, but we know there is because of water collected in a tub in the attic and the peeling of the ceiling in one of our bedrooms, well he said he would return with his crew, but so far no sign of him.

There there is this. A couple of months ago this bath-room sink was running slowly and the amateur plumber of the household took out the trap and removed a huge mess of black greasy gunk. But he could tell there was more gunk adhering to the pipe going straight down. We couldn’t figure what it was. There was certainly hair, but I denied washing my hair in the sink—it is just not big enough. The sink was working adequately until a day or so ago when it totally refused to drain. So this morning I phoned the plumber who has worked for us before. We always looked forward to his visits, because he brings along his father, a fine old Italian workman who carefully “supervises” his son’s work, all the while telling the corniest of jokes. But not today: at the age of ninety he has finally decided to retire. I called the son just before ten and he said he would be out either late this afternoon or early tomorrow. Miracle dictu, he turned up a couple of hours later and used his magic machine to clear out our pipe. Again it was hair.

It can’t be. . .  but it was.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

October 7, Again.



Today is Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day and once again I want to join in raising awareness of this condition. Even if you are familiar with the medical aspects of TN, please read this article which was taken from the Living with Facial Pain website. It is long, but it puts a human face on the suffering. The book referred to in the article was written by my own neurosurgeon.

"Caring for someone with Trigeminal Neuralgia

This article is written for the benefit of those people who are caring for a sufferer of TN. It describes the very worst circumstances because it is at those times that your help and understanding are most needed. Fear not, it is by no means all doom and gloom! Thankfully, there should be long periods of remission, new drugs are coming onto the market with fewer side effects, and many TN sufferers obtain complete and long-lasting or permanent relief from surgery. But if your partner or loved one is having a rough time just now, we hope the following may be of help.

It is sometimes very difficult to be sympathetic or understanding when a person has a long-standing illness or pain, particularly - as the case of a TN sufferer - they may look perfectly well and healthy. A vicious wound or a broken or disjointed limb has a visual impact and elicits more sympathy than does a hidden pain, but the suffering can be as bad, if not worse. At least with a severe cut or a broken arm, the sufferer (and the carer) knows that, given time and the right treatment, the injury will heal and life will get back to normal again. TN is an invisible disability and, sadly, the prognosis for TN is not so good. Often the outlook is that it will get worse, not better.

TN is unpredictable. It can sometimes be triggered, for example, by a facial movement, such as smiling or chewing, or by the lightest touch or even a cold wind or a draught. On other occasions, though, the same “trigger” will have no affect at all. It’s therefore easy to believe the sufferer is “putting it on”, making a fuss or deliberately avoiding a situation. This is not the case.

There may be times of complete remission, possibly even for years, but these are likely to lessen with time. TN is a progressive disease that requires surgical intervention or treatment with powerful drugs. The drugs can have unpleasant side effects and often the dosage needs to be increased. The surgical procedures can be a frightening prospect. This adds another spectrum to the illness – that of fear and very often of depression.

It is hard enough coping with someone in pain, but even more difficult if that person is fearful and possibly depressed. You may think the sufferer is becoming “paranoid” that the pain might return. The pain is quite literally unbearable and debilitating – like a jolt of lightening – and can be quite terrifying. As you have probably heard or read, it is described as possibly the world’s worst pain. It can be fleeting and so sudden that it’s almost over before it’s begun, leaving the person momentarily frozen with shock. But the jolts can be “zapzapzap” continuously, which is totally incapacitating. The aftermath of what feels like several thousand volts jazzing through your face or head can leave you weak and petrified to move for fear of triggering another attack. Yes, the sufferer is quite likely to be paranoid that the pain might return. TN does that to you!

The person you care for may have difficulty in talking, eating, smiling and laughing. They may suffer facial twitching and/or involuntary head jerks. Additionally, high doses of medication may make them mentally slow, forgetful and confused. They may be exhausted and depressed. Not good company all round really!

You might find you have to sacrifice activities that you both once enjoyed together. If the TN sufferer is badly affected by movement of the mouth, they may not be able to talk and can often be unwilling to join in a social occasion. (They are even seemingly unresponsive to their nearest and dearest, but not through choice.) If they have difficulty eating and drinking, they will be reluctant to go out for a drink or a meal. If their TN is triggered by cold or wind on the face, they may avoid going outside, and so become reclusive.

This makes life harder for all concerned and it is important that the carer does not also become isolated and uncommunicative. Both of you need the friendship and company of others. Unlike, for example, migraines or MS, TN is a little-known disease and will require explanations. You will need to make sure your wider family and friends are aware of the situation and ensure they are supportive too.

If you are looking after or even just visiting someone who is affected in this way, remember that your care and attention is invaluable. They may not be able to express their gratitude, but it will be immense, you can be sure of that. At times when their pain is severe, try not to engage them in long conversations (you may only get a grunt by way of a response!), but just your presence and kind words will do much to alleviate their distress. Try not to make them feel as if they are a burden (even if they are!). Little acts of kindness and words of encouragement mean so much.

Try to accept the fact that they will have good and bad days, and do your utmost to be there for them on the bad days as well, even if it isn’t much fun! It also helps if you can learn as much as possible about their problems so that you can explain the situation to others, hopefully eliciting their sympathy and help – thereby lightening your own load. Also, the interest you have shown by taking the trouble to broaden your knowledge will be greatly appreciated.

To be in the company of a fellow sufferer is comforting beyond belief, but better still is to be with a loved one who has done everything possible to really understand the problem and is patient and sympathetic.

The more you read up on the subject, the better will be your understanding of what the sufferer is going through and the more you will be able to help and advise them. The best starting point would be the book, Striking Back – The Trigeminal Neuralgia and Face Pain Handbook, written by an American neurosurgeon and a journalist and former sufferer, which is available direct from the TNA-UK at £16.50 including p&p.

The pain may strike when talking, so be aware that conversation may be halting or may cease altogether for a while. If it strikes during mealtimes, eating may be slow or hesitant. If you are in company when this happens, you should be aware that your partner may have “seized up” and it would be helpful if you could take over the conversation until he/she recovers or explain to friends why your nearest and dearest has stopped “mid chew”, so to speak. Eye contact messages between you, or hand gestures, will become more important. You may even spot the flinch or hear the intake of breath. Try to pick up on these signals quickly and take appropriate steps to prevent your partner having to suffer embarrassment or further unnecessary pain in trying to explain why they cannot talk or why they are taking so long over their meals.

The sufferer may find it almost unbearable to wash their face or clean their teeth properly. You might have to put up with someone who has bad breath and whose personal hygiene leaves something to be desired. It isn’t their fault and this situation will be temporary!

In the case of couples, the disease may also have an affect on the intimate side of the relationship since the sufferer will not want to kiss or be kissed, have their face or head stroked or, sometimes, risk a hug. This loss of intimacy may appear to be a form of rejection. Please don’t misconstrue it as such. The sufferer may yearn for physical or intimate contact but be frightened that it may trigger a jolt of intense pain. It can almost seem like a form of aversion therapy to have an electric shock when partaking of a pleasurable pastime!

Because the anti-epileptic drugs are designed to suppress electrical impulses firing in the brain, they also have the same deadening effect on other brain functions, such as memory and thought processes. If the TN sufferer is on high doses of medication, their memory could be badly affected. They may have trouble with word recall, they may repeat themselves, forget important dates or arrangements, appear confused or muddled. To some this is a great source of embarrassment and it can make them very self-conscious, as well as being unimaginably frustrating! You may need to be their memory, their prompt and their organiser. Try not to take over the organisation of their lives, but if you are able to “catch them when they fall” and not get irritated at their forgetfulness or temporary stupidity, it would be a great help. The medication may also make them extremely tired and sleepy. The more sleep they are able to get, the better, so try to be understanding about this, too. They may be struggling to achieve simple daily needs while experiencing overwhelming fatigue.

In an emergency, it is possible to get immediate (but, of course, temporary) relief from a “nerve block”. It is always a good idea to write or type out notes about the patient’s TN medical history to take along to a hospital or pain clinic because this is invaluable and even the best carer cannot be expected to remember it all.

The sufferer may have visited several practitioners over many years, been disbelieved and patronised, they may have tried dozens of treatments and therapies, been nauseated and debilitated by the medication, they may have lost their quality of life, suffered desperation and disillusionment.

As a carer, you will need to be protective and supportive. You will need a positive attitude and perseverance. You will need compassion, patience and sensitivity. Doctors, neurologists, neurosurgeons and fellow sufferers are all looking for ways to find a cure."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

I mean, it’s like learning how to fold a fitted sheet. I can't make a fitted sheet look neat even though lately there have been all kinds of helpful videos showing how to do it. It is too late for me to learn. I tend to read a lot of recipes and kitchen hints, as opposed to actually cooking, and although I now know I am supposed to crack a hard boiled egg at the sharp end (or is it the rounded end?) in order to peel it neatly, and that cutting the stem (non-stem?) end of a cucumber gives you bitter slices, I have been peeling eggs and slicing cucumbers with a reasonable amount of success for over sixty years without needing to know such esoterica.

This leads me to my eyes. The two cataract surgeries were clinically a great success. I can now drive or sit and watch television all evening without any glasses, I can now, with the aid of reading glasses, sit all day with a book and see all the words. I replaced the cheap reading glasses with ones that enable me to see the computer screen also, so I should be OK, right? Wrong. No-one just sits and watches TV—I am always reading or checking documents or using my hands at the same time. This means taking the glasses hanging round my neck and constantly putting them on or removing them. Frequently I forget to remove them and gaze fuzzily into the distance and think the surgery has come unglued. No-one reads for any period of time without occasionally looking up at people or staring out the window. Eating is weird: my food is too far to use the readers but too near to be able to use my new eyes. (I have even been known to spill soup on my dangling glasses.) Anyone who has tried this will know what I mean.

It is not just my eyes that misbehave. My arms automatically reach out to the bedside table to grab the glasses without which my brain still tells me I won’t be able to see when I get out of bed. It is like phantom pain from an amputated limb. After sixty odd years of wearing glasses they have become a source of comfort.

I started to explain all this to my surgeon when I went back for a check-up.  He immediately whipped off his glasses and put them on me. Eureka. He wears progressive lenses with plain glass at the top. As soon as my eyes heal he will give me a prescription for new glasses with the same properties and I will joyfully revert to wearing glasses. Basically progressive reading glasses. As he smilingly said, “Very expensive reading glasses."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cyclops

The Cyclops by Redon
This is rather an adorable depiction of Polyphemus. (Or, as Veronica loved to say, Totes Adorbs.) The colors pop and he looks like a toy small children would enjoy. (If you want to encourage nightmares, try googling “Cyclops” and see some of the monsters who are lurking on the Internet.)

So why am I writing about about the Cyclops? I feel like one these days. I knew last year that I needed cataracts removed, but since I was already lined up for inter cranial surgery, I didn’t want too many people messing around with my head. When I finally got around to calling for an appointment, I had to wait nearly five months—which either means my eye doctor is fantastically skilled and in demand or there are a lot of people walking around with cataracts. I waited patiently and was most encouraged by the account of a fellow blogger on her surgery and the wonderful results that were achieved.

When I was asked after a thorough examination if I wanted to go ahead with the surgery and if so, when, I replied, “As soon as possible.” I had the cataract removed from my left eye on August 11 and I am scheduled to have the right eye taken care of this Thursday. Like Maggie May I had a new lens implanted which has given me back my distance sight: unlike her I can function with the left lens popped out of my glasses. After the next surgery I will be legally able to drive without glasses, though I am going to have to pick up cheap reading glasses at the drug store. How my vision will be for using the computer I don’t yet know.

I can only concur that the world is brighter and that I am so happy I finally took this step. The one-day check-up, the one-week check-up and soon the three-week check-up are pretty tedious. I will be using steroid eye drops for a while. It is just about impossible for me to get the drops in my eye and I tend to land up with the expensive liquid running down my nose.

So the lens still in my glasses would have needed a new prescription without surgery and my view though the empty side of my glasses is great for distance, lousy for close up. My brain is coping, but I can’t wait for Thursday. Being a Cyclops is not much fun.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Days Dwindle Down . . .

The co-inhabitant of this house complained yesterday that the Solar Eclipse had snuck up on him.  I have forewarned him that the next solar eclipse is April 8, 2024 and to start preparing now. It’s even coming through Detroit. But events do have a habit of sneaking up, don’t they?

The last major visit of the summer is over and I am still working on washing sheets and towels. Andrew and Marcie and their six children arrived from Maryland last Saturday, stopping off to spend Friday night with Liz and Jeff in Canton. That gave them eleven kids to find sleeping accommodations for. I didn’t ask. We were short one bed the first night, but the customary arrangements of cousin mix-and-match sleepovers took care of our problem.

Aristotle was discussed.
How much easier it is when the children are older. I didn’t have to decipher breakfast requests or figure out what everyone wanted to do. “When do we get to see our cousins?” was the most uttered question. The first day was Josephine’s eighth birthday, so we celebrated with a large cake and some of the cousins came over to share it. (Sorry, Josephine, I can’t find the photos.) Three of the “local” cousins have jobs, so there was often someone missing, but for the most part everyone was able to join us.

On Sunday we managed to get together at our park. We had four children and their husbands/wives with us and seventeen grandchildren. Fortunately it was beautiful weather, so all the children swam and then played volleyball. When I walked over to watch them, I discovered they were actually burying each other in the sand.

Is this legal?
After abusing the volleyball equipment, they went on to abuse the park’s wheelbarrows meant to transport coolers etc. to the tables.
Charlie gives Veronica, Joe and Lydia a ride



















It never takes long when we have guests for patterns to develop. However early I got up Andrew had already taken a drive along the lake and visited Starbucks (just like his older brother did when he was here.) Marcie slipped out in the early hours to run long distances as part of her training for the Marine Corps Marathon in the Fall. The children were all eager to discuss the classes they would take in the Fall and the boys were anxious to get back to their swimming team.

Before long it was time to say goodbye.

So far I have only found four forgotten  items to be packed up and sent off.  Wonderful visitors: I miss them all.

The days of summer are gradually dwindling down. I suspect there will be another monsoon or heat wave—this is Michigan after all. But I am thinking about buying some new chrysanthemum plants and some new sweaters. Soup sounded pretty attractive today in the cool of the morning. One grandson is already back at college and out practicing on the soccer field, the other is leaving at the end of the week.

All in all, summer is coming to an end. But I suspect it is not the dwindling summer days I miss, but the days of visiting children and grandchildren, the days of heavily laden cars backing out of the driveway. Of being together.