Thursday, August 26, 2021

The empty sound of school days

Thanks, Pixabay!

School's back in session, or about to be. So how are you doing, mama? Propping your feet up and letting out a big sigh or crying into your hankie in disbelief that time has gone so quickly? It does go quickly, believe me.

My second youngest grandchild started kindergarten today. I watched my daughter's video and choked back tears as I saw this little one boldly climbing the steps of the big yellow school bus. And then she was gone. It reminded me of when my own little ones went off to school for the first time. It's hard letting go of them as they venture out into the world... well, the world of elementary school. It's something those of you who are home schooling miss out on, but for the rest of us, there is a camaraderie, an understanding of how this first day tugs at our heart strings. Don't worry, though. You get over it. 

If you are a SAHM, there is a void at first. What do you do with your time?? You can clean. You can do laundry. You can lunch with friends. You can nap. You can watch adult television. Oh, the things you can do. But first, you have to dry your eyes and figure it out. Day by day. Hour by hour.

And then there are those of you who wish their kiddos were just starting kindergarten. Your kiddos aren't exactly kiddos anymore. They're adult teens (oh the horror!) and you've packed them up and settled them into a dorm room -- it's a bit scarier than the big yellow school bus. Really. It is. 

Again, you have to figure out what to do with your time. No more rushing out for ball games or track meets. No more watching the clock to see if they make it home before curfew. 

Time. It goes so quickly, yet often just crawls along. For those missing their kids at college, have you started a countdown already for Thanksgiving break? Or will they be back for homecoming? Or are they so far away, they won't be home until the end of the year? That's at least a two-hankie cry. 

Take comfort, mama, in the universality of this time in your life. Others have gone before you *and survived* and others will follow. 

In the meantime, for those of you with adult teens (at college or otherwise), I highly recommend checking out Deanne Persinger's blogpost: Nobody Talks About This Stage From Hell. Grab a cup of coffee or tea or a glass of wine and commiserate. It'll be worth it. I promise.

Whether it's just for several hours a day or long term, enjoy the empty nest while you can. Solitude can be good for the soul.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The light that shone in the darkness

One thing 2021 taught my husband and me is that people really are kind. And they care. And they bring light.

If you read my posts the past two days, you know that my husband and I faced a really rough year so far. There were times, I didn't know if he'd make it. There were times, I honestly didn't care if I made it or not. In the darkest of those times, people shone light into our home and our hearts. Kindness.

During our three-week nightmare with Covid-19, meals, medications, soup, violets, and even a bag of tangerines were placed in our front entryway. Some were from family members and neighbors. Some from church friends. Some from people we hardly knew. These gestures were light to us, my friends. Hope.

From that time and beyond, there were text messages and phone calls, cards and notes, flowers... concern, caring, and love. Light

Others shed tears for us/with us. Some made us laugh. Shelter.

After Covid, when it was safe to be together again, there were visits. People came and spent time with my husband so I could get a break. That probably meant the most to me, because as someone who values her alone time, their visits helped me to breathe again. Air.

When I'd share my heart on Facebook, so many responded. So many. And that, too, meant the world to me. It helped me to not feel as isolated. I read the messages to my husband. Sometimes he would cry. Other times he would smile. Every time, he felt a little less alone in his suffering. Community.

During the month of May, I started to lose hope. I vacillated in my faith. I could no longer pray. Life was a burden and I saw little sense in it all. My purpose, other than caring for my husband, was gone and my routine was drudgery. Despite all of the light, I chose to focus on the darkness. It was an awful time during which I no longer recognized myself. Not only was the husband I knew gone, but I was gone, too. I felt empty. I had nothing left to give. I simply went through the motions. Bitterness.

Coming out on the other side, I've learned many lessons. One of them was an old lesson I'd learned over 30 years ago after my first husband died. It seems that sometimes all that God requires of us is that we endure. In the book of James, Chapter 1, verses 2-4 (NASB), he writes, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have it's perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Endurance.

It's August now. Those awful months are behind us. Next week, we'll celebrate our anniversary and it will have new meaning. The bitterness is gone and we have so much to celebrate. For one thing, we endured. Others shone light for us through the tunneled darkness and we came out on the other side. To me, there's only one word for that: Miracle.

Thank you to all the light carriers out there. What you do means the world to someone, even if you don't know it. And sometimes that light comes disguised as a simple bag of tangerines.

Now stay tuned next week and beyond for news and tips and giveaways! Green Grandma's back and she couldn't be happier!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

And the 2021 story continues...

Thanks for coming back to read the rest of the story. Click here to read the first part.

On May 12th, my husband went into the hospital for outpatient inguinal hernia surgery. As I said yesterday, this was the good ol' fashioned cut-him-open type. The surgeon found a congenital hernia larger than expected. Subsequently, my husband bled more than expected. They finished, closed him up, and 3 hours later, sent him on his way with instructions to have someone (me) with him for the next 24 to 48 hours. They didn't issue any warnings about dehydration or being light-headed. They didn't tell me not to leave his side. As it was, he was feeling good by the time we got home. We had lunch and then, since it had been an early day, I went upstairs to take a quick nap after he settled onto the couch to watch some TV. A couple of hours later (my nap took longer than planned), I awoke to hear a horrible crash. I jumped up and ran to the top of the stairs, yelling his name. No answer. I bolted down the steps and turned left. That's when I discovered my husband sprawled across the ceramic bathroom floor. His eyes were wide-open and he was completely unresponsive. I screamed his name over and over and then ran for the phone. The voice on the other end of the 911 call let me know they were experiencing higher than normal call volume. No! No, no no! I continued to try to rouse my husband to no avail. Let's face it. At this point I thought... no, I knew, he was dead. After about 3 minutes or so, the operator came on the phone and said, "911. What is your emergency?" 

At the same time, my husband did something... I don't remember what it was exactly... that let me know he was still alive. I was almost incoherent as I practically yelled into the receiver, "My husband's had a massive stroke." After all, if he wasn't dead, a stroke was the only answer. His eyes were still wide open and he still wasn't moving. Those moments were right up there with the worst moments of my life. The absolute worse. The PTSD over my first husband's death in 1989 washed over me and I was hysterical. The 911 operator kept trying to calm me down so she could understand what I was saying. 

Finally, my husband started to come to. He asked me who I was talking to and wondered why I would call 911. He did not want an ambulance. Too bad. It was on its way. 

By the time the EMTs arrived, my husband was sitting up. They helped him to his feet and walked him to a dining room chair where he sat and answered questions. Despite his resistance, we were able to talk him into heading back to the hospital, where he stayed for two nights. Of course, my thoughts were that if they'd admitted him to begin with, none of this would have happened, right? Tests revealed he was not only anemic from the loss of blood, but he was also dehydrated. Dehydrated! Again, my thoughts were that they never should have sent him home without hydrating him after surgery. He is in his 70s and has a heart condition. Plus he was suffering from post-Covid. He should have been admitted for observation following the surgery. Thank you, insurance companies.

Naturally, when he collapsed, he did damage to the surgical site. While the bleeding didn't start right away, it did start a couple of weeks later and lasted 7 weeks! That's right. We dealt with 7 weeks of dressing changes, trips to the ER, another overnight hospital stay, and multiple visits with the surgeon. A CT scan revealed that the bleeding was deeper than they thought. 

In the midst of this, his PMR (polymyalgia rheumatica), brought on by Covid-19 in February, continued to worsen. No one had answers for us. By the time we saw the rheumatologist in June, my husband had lost the ability to care for himself and I became a full-time caregiver. I went from running a team of caregivers for Dignity Home Care Professionals to being a care provider. And let me tell you, I do a much better job of being the boss than actually doing the dirty work. At times, my husband was so bad, he couldn't even feed himself. His dignity was gone. My hope was gone. We both were served a major dose of depression. 

One day, I remember looking at his frail body (he'd lost a lot of weight and his muscle tone was nearly gone) as he sat in the recliner, his too-large sweatshirt crooked on his shoulders, and I thought, "When did my husband turn into a 90-year-old man?" I wept with the realization that my marriage, as I'd known it, was over. It was despair as I'd never experienced... the darkest of times.

Fast forward to today. Light came again, first from a doctor who had a diagnosis and treatment plan. Then from the eventual healing of the surgical wound. I have my husband back again.

Thirty years ago, the two of us eloped. We were blending families and found it easier to just skip a wedding and go off and get married. But after all we'd been this year, we decided to go ahead and have that wedding this month, surrounded by friends and family. The plans were in action, the invitations sent. And then the Delta variant started taking over and infecting so.many.people -- vaccinated and unvaccinated. So, realizing it would be selfish on our part to gather a bunch of people together to celebrate with us, we canceled the wedding. Another blow. Another reason for tears. 

On August 18th, the two of us will celebrate the miracle of thirty years together anyway. And that weekend, our kids and grandkids will join us for a small garden party to celebrate as a family. 

And Green Grandma is committed to not using any disposables for the party. As you can see, some things never change. 

Thank you for reading and caring. Tomorrow, I'll share some lessons we've gleaned from this dark, dark time in our lives. Lessons about where to find the light.

P.S. The photo above is of the place my husband collapsed. Two things saved him from breaking his nose, losing some teeth, and/or having a serious head injury. One, based on the HUGE bruise that developed on his side, he obviously hit the doorknob of the bathroom door on his way down, slowing the momentum. It took us a few days to figure that one out. And two, see that rounded shelf in the corner? He must have hit the bottom shelf with his face before it hit the floor. The bruises on the left side of his face confirmed that. Placement of furniture is everything, right? Well, maybe not, but I sure am thankful for that little white shelf!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

I'm back! And do I have a story to tell you...


Hello again.

It's been a long time since I've posted anything. But I'm hoping that will change and I'll be providing you with lots of helpful info, great giveaways, and pieces of my heart. The latter is what I want to address today.

What a year it's been. Last I "spoke" with you, I was running a senior in-home care company and was simply too busy to blog on a regular basis. Well, that changed. In December of 2020, the owner and I decided it was time to close our business for good. Let's just say the pandemic wore us out. It wasn't that we didn't have clients... we did. We just couldn't find employees to fill the shifts. By the time we were done, we had an 85% no-show rate for interviews. It was beyond discouraging. 

January rolled around and, honestly, it was a really good month. I was enjoying having time off and not being on call 24/7, as I had been for the previous 4 years. Life was good. 

And then... Covid. My husband started getting sick on February 1st. I kept telling him it wasn't Covid. Then my eyes began to burn. And my glutes ached big-time. He had chills and couldn't get warm. His head hurt. Five days later, he woke up with no sense of smell or taste. We knew then, and a rapid test confirmed our self-diagnosis. For 3 weeks, we suffered. Covid morphs into something new nearly every day when you're in the midst of it. Anyone else out there know what I'm talking about? For me, I experienced the gastrointestinal version over everything else. For a good 10 days or so, I felt like I was in labor, yet no delivery of a baby came along as relief. It.was.hell.

Even though I'm asthmatic and diabetic, the virus never took root in my lungs, so I was able to stay out of the hospital. I credit that with the 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D I was taking for months, hoping to ward off this insidious disease. It didn't prevent me from getting Covid, but I do believe it kept it out of my lungs. I coughed from time to time and I watched my pulse ox readings faithfully, but like I said, I was never hospitalized. 

Eating was something I forced myself to do. It's hard to want to put food in your body when you can't even taste it and you know it's going to send you right back into the bathroom for another round of "let's pretend we're having a baby." I lost 20 pounds that month. Unfortunately, once the appetite returned, so did the weight. It was nice while it lasted. By the end of February, it was over... for the most part. Today, I'm still feeling the effects of the brain fog it brought my way. I search for words, say the wrong ones, and lose my train of thought in an instant. And I suffer from night sweats, so my sleep is always disturbed. But at least I can breathe and I don't seem to have any other symptoms many of the long-haulers have.

My husband, on the other hand, did not fare so well. A couple of weeks after our "recovery," he started to experience some pretty brutal pain. It started in his shoulders, then his hips, his thighs, down his arms, and eventually attacked his hands... so much so that he lost the use of them at times. This continued until the beginning of June when we finally found a doctor with answers. Up until then, we simply heard the same thing: "It's post-Covid and we really don't know what to do about it." That day, we had a name for his pain: polymyalgia rheumatica or PMR for short. And there was hope. But there was another issue to deal with.

As if the pain wasn't enough, he also had to go into the hospital for a scheduled inguinal hernia operation. Since he is a heart patient, he couldn't have laparoscopic surgery. Nope. They had to cut him open. And that's when the new problem began. 

Stop on back tomorrow for part 2 of story of 2021. It gets worse before it gets better. But it does get better.

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