The ABCs of Me

With all the emotional upheaval that’s been going on with me lately (my mom’s condition worsening, me having to come to terms with this new chapter, and all of us adjusting to a new normal), I figured I’d post something a little lighter and fun today. I saw this from Kris of Around the Corner (I’m linking to her post for reference), and I decided to do one of my own. So, a little something about me to correspond with each letter of the English alphabet.

Age – I am currently 32, but I will be turning 33 next month!

Bed Size – I currently sleep in a full size bed, which originally belonged to my maternal grandmother, and then it was my brother’s after she passed away. Once he moved out, it was unused for a couple of years, but then I decided to rid myself of an ancient twin mattress that had seen much better days and upgrade to the full. I like to say it’s my answer to the question, Do you sleep around? Why yes…I sleep on the left, on the right, and in the middle…all around my bed! 😂 When you’re a single woman like me, every side is your side of the bed. It’s gonna feel a little weird once I find a man to share a bed with.

Cat name – I’ve only had one official cat and a couple that kinda adopted us. The only cat we’ve had that was truly ours was named Prissy. That was the name she had when we adopted her as a kitten and just kept the name. She was a torbie floof (not a true calico) who hated being held but loved laps and soft blankets. We had her for 16 wonderful years, but her age eventually caught up with her and she was peacefully euthanized in October 2014. We haven’t adopted any cats since then (Roxy is territorial, but she actually didn’t mind Prissy, although Prissy didn’t care much for Roxy…I think Roxy just chases cats that she doesn’t recognize as “her” cats), but I think I could see myself adopting another cat or two in the future. In the meantime I fawn over them on Instagram.

Dog name – Roxy is the only dog I’ve ever had. I don’t really care much for dogs in general (visits to a family friend’s house usually resulted in one of their large dogs trying to tackle me, which traumatized me as a kid), but Roxy grew on me.

Essential start of your day – In a perfect world, my morning would consist of a fresh cup of coffee, checking my emails and news/social feeds, and spending an extended period of time by myself so I can get ready to face the world. These days, it’s usually coffee, The Golden Girls, checking on my mom to see if she’s awake and to get her ready for the day as well as preparing the materials we need to clean her and change her briefs.

Favorite color – I’m usually drawn to shades of red and blue, but I also love anything that is jewel-toned.

Ghosts exist – I’m one of those skeptics when it comes to anything “paranormal”. If anything, the “ghosts” that people experience are more or less projections of our own anxieties and fears.

Height – My ID says I’m 5 feet, 7 inches tall. That could be a slight exaggeration, but I am slightly taller than average…but I don’t have very long legs for my build. I’m built like a German, kinda stocky…the women on my dad’s side of the family have a similar build when they gain weight (and yes, there is German ancestry on his side of the family, although I think he has a larger percentage of British…but he is one-quarter Frisian through his maternal grandfather, whose parents were East Frisian immigrants; East Frisia is located on the northwestern coast of what is now Germany).

Instruments you played in school – I wasn’t in band or anything; I learned recorder in elementary school and for fun kept playing for several years. I used to be able to play quite a lot on a soprano recorder, but it’s been years. In high school I got a guitar as a Christmas present and was a decent strummer. Unfortunately, about 10 years ago the neck broke from the body when I went to pick it up to play it and I haven’t been able to replace it since. I miss playing guitar. I want to relearn it so badly, this time starting from the basics, not just chords.

Jokester or serious – My nickname in school was “Joke Killer”, I am terrible at telling jokes. However, I do like to embrace the sillier side of things, and usually my best received attempts at humor are corny puns, usually involving food. Like these…

Kind of day that’s your favorite – A day with few problems, and the ones that do occur get taken care of relatively quickly. Also, any day where I can sit outside and read in the sun while Roxy runs around is a good day. A perfect day for me, though, would be a day at the beach with a comfy beach chair, a good book, sunny skies, and maybe some friends for company. I don’t really swim in ocean water, so just wading into the waves for a bit would be good. I haven’t been to the beach in well over a decade, but I absolutely love the scent of seawater and the sound of the waves coming in.

Longest relationship – I’ve known me my whole life. Romantically, I’ve never been in a relationship, although it would be nice to be in one…I just haven’t had the time or opportunity to meet anyone who would be worth taking the plunge for. As for my friendships, the longest friendship that I’ve had that still exists to this day has lasted about 24 years (although there were extended periods where she and I were out of contact). The longest friendships I’ve had where I’ve maintained somewhat regular contact with the person has lasted about 20 years (I’ve known this friend since we were 13), and I’ve known The Lady Bryan for 17 years.

Most annoying job – I will admit, being a caregiver has its annoyances. All the paying jobs I’ve had were very temporary, so I haven’t been at one long enough to determine which was the most annoying.

Night Owl – I don’t mind staying up at night. Sometimes I drink coffee too late in the day and I end up staying wide awake until 3 in the morning. But I do enjoy going outside on a clear night and stargazing.

Overnight Hospital stay – I’ve never had to stay in a hospital; heck, I’ve never even had to visit the emergency room! However, I have had relatives who’ve stayed in hospitals overnight, and depending on the situation, it can be a stressful time for me. I’m a bit of an empath, and I think it’s because of that when I see people suffering, it always hits me harder than most people. Even seeing my dad having to stay overnight for observation (triggered by very high blood pressure and chest pains; luckily, stress tests the next day showed there wasn’t anything seriously wrong with his heart) left me a bundle of nerves.

Pet peeve – I have several. My biggest one is when people use a toilet and then they don’t flush, leaving nature’s offerings right there in the bowl for me to see. I always flush before I will use said toilet. I also get annoyed by people who yip while they yawn.

Quiet time hobby – I can knit at any noise level, but I tend to read best when I’ve got a mostly quiet room and some classical music playing (since it’s primarily instrumental and usually has no lyrics to distract me).

Right or Left handed – I do most things right handed; but I open soda cans (or any can with a tab pull), untwist bottle lids, turn book pages and play cards left-handed. (How does one play cards left-handed? Most people will hold a hand of playing cards in their left hand and play a card to the table with their right hand. I, however, have done the opposite for as long as as I can remember: I hold the hand of cards with my right hand and play a card to the table with my left.)

Siblings – I have just one, a younger brother (by around two and half years), who I just refer to by his first initial, “J”, to maintain his privacy. He’s married to my sister-in-law, “A”, and is the father of my nieces, “R” and “The Bambina” (they have the same first initial, so I started calling the younger one “The Bambina”, which comes from the Italian word meaning “little girl”).

TV shows you watch – I am TV aficionado, so I watch quite a bit of TV. Now, obviously The Golden Girls is in regular rotation, but there are many others. My current favorites include The Masked Singer (it’s a fluff show, but it’s so much fun to try and play along with it), Jeopardy! (I am a total Dorothy Zbornak when it comes to this show, although I don’t think I’d be as obnoxious as she was when she tried out for the show in the episode “Questions and Answers”, though; I’d love to try and apply for the show at some point when life isn’t so crazy), Survivor (which has always been a favorite in our family), and Eurovision (which, although it currently does not air on U.S. television, I follow pretty closely over the Internet, and this year will mark the second year in a row that all three shows of the Contest will be put up on Netflix in the U.S. following the Contest; I have previously written a couple of posts about my whole love affair with Eurovision if you’re interested in seeing why I’m so obsessed with it).

Underachiever or Overachiever? – I was a slacker among the brains of my school group; overall, I’d say I’m the textbook example of an underachiever, and basically a female version of Charlie Brown.

Voice of influence – As many differences as we’ve had, my dad is a pretty big influence on how to be both a dedicated worker and a good human being. As for people outside of my family and friends who’ve been influential on how I perceive and interact with the world around me, I’d include John F. Kennedy, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou, and Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut’s quote, “God damn it – you’ve got to be kind”, is my number one rule of life.

Worst day of the week – Sundays, because that’s when the week resets for us; it’s the first day of my dad’s work week, far from a day of rest for me. There are no days off in giving care to a family member, but knowing that my dad can help out a little more on his days off does give me a little relief on those days and I can take a little more time to rest and process what’s happened during the week. But then Sunday comes and we have to reset.

X-rays – I’ve only ever had to have dental X-rays done, and you have to wear a lead vest and stand real still. Thankfully, I’ve never broken any bones.

Yummy food you like – Here’s where the German and Italian parts of me really come out: I love cheese, sausages and all sorts of cured meats, lots of savory vegetables like zucchini (courgettes to my Commonwealth readers), eggplant (aubergines), all sorts of summer squash, just about any kind of fish or shellfish, and I’m always up for ice cream.

Zoo favorites – I haven’t been to any zoos since I was a kid. But as long as it isn’t a bug or gigantic spider, I’ll watch any animal. I like bird watching with binoculars sometimes, so something tells me I’d have fun in an aviary.

And that’s it! If you feel like playing along, go right ahead! This was fun.

Pressing the Reset Button

Before I get into this post, an update on my mom: we have gotten her settled into a hospital bed (and this one my dad literary referred to as the “Maybach of Hospital Beds”), and it’s one you’d typically find in an intensive care unit, with an air-operated mattress that also helps in rotating her when we have to change her briefs (and my dad and I have finally managed to get into a routine regarding that). The sore she has is still there, but slowly healing thanks to a change in briefs (we’ve gone from pull-up Depends to specially made briefs that they use in hospitals for patients who are in similar conditions to my mom’s (unable to care for or go to the toilet for themselves), and the material is much more breathable and absorbent, which not only keeps her cleaner in general, but also allows us to properly clean and dress the sore (Bactine has also been a huge help in this; it’s a spray-on antiseptic that helps keep the wound clean, and it’s usually what they apply to fresh tattoos to help heal them and prevent infection from setting in). We’re still trying to figure out what foods work for her, but I did manage to find a miniature Cuisinart food processor (fits on a countertop) that’s got enough volume for me to prepare solid food purées for her, and it’s allowing me to fix her a wider variety of food. I’ve found that she likes macaroni and cheese puréed with some ham and warm milk, and spaghetti with meat sauce and beef broth went over decently last night. She also quite enjoyed the strawberry Greek yogurt I fed to her for breakfast the last couple of days. It’s yogurt, but it’s thicker and has the consistency of pudding. Applesauce proved to be a hit with her as well. Chunkier fruits I can purée if I need to.

Getting her to drink liquids has been a challenge, and sadly, I’m starting to suspect that the reason why (and possibly also the reason why her decline started in the first place) is that she may have suffered a stroke. She can still move and wiggle her extremities, but the left side of her face (her left, the right if you’re looking at her) has noticeable drooping, especially on her mouth. We haven’t tried straws yet, but getting her to drink out of a cup has resulted in liquid dribbling out of that side of her mouth. Her speech has also slurred, although she can still get the occasional “What?!” or “No” to come out. We haven’t had a doctor come in yet (my dad is supposed to be handling that and he hasn’t informed me of when he’ll be able to get one to come and see her), but I wouldn’t be surprised. Alzheimer’s patients, among other things, are at greater risk of suffering strokes, and it’s likely that whenever it did happen, we wouldn’t have known as she wasn’t really in a condition to tell us anything was wrong (especially if she was suffering any headaches associated with it). Her current situation is a new normal for us. However long that will last, we don’t know. Some days she’s more alert, and then there’s days like today where she sleeps a lot. We’re doing all we can to keep her fed, hydrated, and comfortable, but we’re coming to terms with the fact that we can only do so much. Right now, I’m watching her sleep.

I’ve also been hiding a little something. My hair in recent months was in pretty bad shape and I decided to cut the whole thing off. The bulk of it was cut off a couple of weeks ago, but yesterday I decided to execute Phase Two of my plan. Now, what you’re gonna see is a bit shocking, but I decided to do this because: 1. I think that every woman who has the means to should do this at least once in her life, so no better time than the present, and 2. I felt like I needed to press the reset button on my hair, and my life, in the process.

You’re not seeing things…I did, in fact, shave my head.

So, to answer any questions you may have:

  • I am not sick or anything like that.
  • I also did not shave my head to make a statement on anything.
  • This was purely an aesthetic and therapeutic decision.
  • It feels pretty good to be free of all that thick, heavy hair on my head, but I don’t see myself staying this way for long. I miss having hair to whip around.
  • I shaved most of my head myself with some Wahl electric clippers, and the guard I used to get what you see here was a #3 (which leaves about 3/8 of an inch of hair behind). I only had my dad come in at the very end to touch up the back of my head and remove any semblance of a mullet.
  • Yes, it will be shampooed and conditioned. But I won’t have to use nearly as much.
  • I will likely just leave it alone for the next few months or so to grow out naturally. Given that my hair is thick, it will probably be pixie length by the summer and I’ll eventually have it touched up by a hairdresser when it’s long enough.
  • I’m gonna give myself a few days to get used to the look, then maybe doll myself up a bit and take some pictures so I can update my social media profile pics.
  • I’m a little nervous about going out in public for the first time with this, and I may take a head wrap with me for backup.

I know I have a bit of a masculine personality at times, but I still consider myself very much female (I always have), and I realize it’s gonna be a little tricky to find a style that works for me while trying to grow this out. But at least I have control over this. I’m interested to see how this experiment pans out…because hair (usually) does grow back. At least I have one less burden on me now. If you have any tips on makeup or styling, I’d appreciate them.

It’s still a lot going on, but we’re trying to figure things out.

Am I Being Selfish?

I wish I could say things have gotten better since my last post, but…they haven’t.

It looks like whatever affected my mother when we all got sick last month has in fact started another decline in her condition. She can no longer stand or walk on her own and even getting her to eat has been a challenge. She doesn’t really have the energy to bite into anything, but we seem to have been able to figure out what we can spoon feed to her, and she can still chew at the moment. I’m planning on getting a food processor the next time I go to the store so I can start making puréed food (that way it’s easier to feed her and I can also feed her a wider variety of food as well). I’ve been looking online for recipes that will work well as purées, but the process is ongoing.

My dad’s been in the process of looking for a hospital bed that she can lie in, but will also make it easier for us to change and clean her. She’s been dealing with a pretty nasty sore that arose from a diaper rash, and although we’ve found an ointment that is supposed to help create a barrier to allow it to heal, the constant sitting as well as my dad’s work schedule has made it hard for us to change her as often as we need to in order for it to heal properly. If I had had any say in this, this (keeping her at home) is probably not the option I would have chosen for her, but my dad usually handles the decisions and the pocketbook, so I don’t really feel I have a right to say anything in all of this.

As for my post title…this situation has made me think…a lot. Realizing that she may now be in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and that my time with her won’t be for much longer (she’s not imminently close to death or anything like that, but I’m talking about relative to where I am in my lifetime) has been a lot to process. I’ll be frank, this whole experience sucks. It royally sucks. I would never wish this on my worst enemy. It’s been a rough month trying to come to terms with this, and there have been times where I’ve felt the depression and the fear of the unknown creeping up on me. Things that I cared about, felt passionate about just seem to feel moot and that nothing matters anymore. I try so hard to just get through the days, and there are days when I just feel spent.

On top of that, I’m also dealing with the feeling that I’m low on the family totem pole and I don’t feel like I’m being listened to. I’ve always hated that feeling, whether it was at school and being the geeky shy girl that hardly anyone noticed (or having the ones who did point out everything they thought was wrong with me), or trying my absolute hardest to babysit a child and having it turn into complete bedlam. Sometimes I feel like the universe is punishing me for not making normal life choices. Sometimes I think the universe is laughing at me for having failed at almost every venture I’ve tried to take. Is this what Charles Schulz was feeling before he finally created Peanuts? Sometimes I wonder what my dad would have done regarding my mom if I had moved out in my 20s and started my life as an independent woman. Is the universe punishing me for being single and still living with my parents? Why do I always feel like I’m getting everything wrong?

One of the biggest sacrifices I’ve made during this whole experience is that I’ve basically given up any sort of a social life. I don’t go out, most of my friends that I’ve known for years all live away from me and have their own lives and families anyway, and the dating pool in my hometown seems so limited anyway that it just isn’t really worth it right now to go out and meet men even if I wasn’t so caught up in caring for my mother. I have no physical support system, at least not the one I’m looking for. Yes, my dad is here, but as long as my mom needs us for her care I’m always gonna be second on his list of priorities. My brother has his own family and his own issues to worry about, I don’t want to burden him. As I’ve said, my friends have their own lives to worry about.

Being single in this kind of situation sucks. Is it selfish of me to want some sort of support system (friend, significant other, I don’t really care…) who’d put me first? The closest I have to this is my online community, the bloggers and people I’ve connected with over social media, but they can only do so much. A DM isn’t a hug, a comment isn’t a pat on the shoulder. The encouraging words do help at times, and I’m very appreciative of that. We’ve gone it alone for so long, I’ve gone it alone for so long…it’s been so hard for me to invite others in. I’m still not sure if I do. Writing has been my therapy thus far, and so far it’s the only thing that’s really worked for me. It may be what gets me through this more than anything else.

I hate this entire situation, just absolutely hate it. My mother did nothing wrong other than get dealt one of the worst hands in the genetic card game of life before she was even an embryo. Why should a woman like her have to waste away like this? She was the best mother a girl like me could have…now she can’t even remember my name or ever having given birth to me. I don’t believe in God, so I have nothing to be angry at other than nature itself. Why is nature so cruel sometimes? Why does it deal shitty hands to people like my mother (and her father and her aunt before her), yet allow the cruelest of the cruel to thrive and revel in their cruelness? Nobody is perfect, but my mother was pretty damn close. She was my rock and my shoulder to cry on for so much of my youth. She was the gentle heart to soothe my pain at some of my worst moments. It hurts me so badly to see her like this. She did nothing to deserve the fate she faces. And I’m the one who’s feeling all the pain now.

I seriously hope none of you ever have to go through what I’m facing right now. I wish we lived in a world where seeing loved ones fall to dementia has become a distant memory.