Snow Day!

The big news is that Izzy is coming to town. Over the past few days we’ve heard we’d get a dusting of snow, 3 – 6 inches, 12 – 18 inches, or even 24 inches. That’s a pretty wide range. It honestly doesn’t matter. Regardless of how much we get, things will essentially shut down. And I’m kind of looking forward to it.

There’s something magical about a snow day. About waking up, looking outside, and seeing everything transformed, covered in a blanket of white. Quiet. As if the covering of snow dampens sounds, a hush encompassing the world.

Snow days as a child were an adventure. We didn’t have many, but the ones that we had were doozies. We often lost power during snow storms. When I was maybe seven or eight, there was one storm where the power was out for a week. And I loved it. We huddled in our den, the room closed off to the rest of the house to conserve heat, wood stove burning. We each had multiple quilts and blankets that we snuggled under, the weight of the blankets providing comfort. We cooked our meals in a dutch oven in the wood burning stove. Soup and bread. With snow cream for dessert. Snow, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk. And the belief that snow could be transformed into the most delicious treat ever with a few stirs. We read during the day and talked at night or played board games by candlelight. I was sad when the electricity returned. I loved being together in our cocoon.

We’re ready as we can be for the weather this weekend. The pantry is stocked, there are flashlights (with new batteries) and candles in each room, the gas fireplace is working, blankets are easily accessible, all devices are charged.

And there’s a large bowl ready to put out on the back deck, ready to catch a fresh bowl of snow for snow cream, if we should be so lucky.

An Ideal Day

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What does your ideal day look like?

The day starts by waking up naturally and well-rested. I love having visitors, so the house will be full of friends. We’ll drink tea and coffee in our pajamas and talk, lounging about. Someone suggests breakfast (though by this time it’s likely brunch), and several of us will head to the kitchen to make waffles, eggs, bacon, toast, and a fruit salad with fresh mint from the herb garden. We’ll eat on the deck, warmed by the sun, conversation flowing easily and lots of laughter. So much laughter. Afterwards, we’ll get ourselves together, and head to the mountains for a hike, marveling at the blue in the Blue Ridge Mountains and enjoying a waterfall or two. We’ll come back home, order in some barbecue (likely Luella’s), share a nice bottle of wine, then sit on the front porch, chatting and watching the fireflies light up. We’ll stay there til we can’t keep our eyes open, then head to bed, ready to enjoy another perfect day in the morning.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What are 5 things you’re grateful for today?

  1. The first paperwhite bloom. I bought 5 paperwhite bulbs as an impulse purchase in the checkout line at Ace Hardware. They were piled in a cardboard box and I thought, “how difficult could it be to grow these?” I brought them home and placed them in a shallow dish of water. A week later I transferred them to a pot with rocks and dirt. Each day the stems grew a little bit taller, a little bit wider. And today the first blooms opened. I inhaled deeply, intoxicated by the sweet scent.
  2. Laughter. Mom and I held hands as she prepared to say the blessing. “Oh, lawd,” she began. We both giggled, which turned into all out laughter before she continued, “Lord, it’s a good day. That’s all.”
  3. Radiant heat. The weather has been hovering around freezing the past few days. Our house has radiators as the heating source. When I first saw them during the house tour, I thought, “Oh, noooo….” The only experience I had previously had with radiators were in old apartment buildings in San Francisco. Radiators were either on, clanking loudly and emitting extraordinary heat, or off. These radiators are different. They’re silent. They quietly heat the house, emitting a cozy, encompassing heat.
  4. A welcoming kitchen. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. Especially preparing meals for others. I love the counter space in my current kitchen to prep all the ingredients, and a gas stove to cook on. And a spice drawer where I can keep ALL my spices organized alphabetically. Heaven.
  5. Friends. My goodness I’ve been blessed in this category. I’m not quite so sure how I got so lucky, but I am surrounded by incredible people, near and far.

And bonus – the USPS. I love mail, sending and receiving. I’m amazed at how efficient the service is; I can send a package from a small town in North Carolina and it reaches its destination in two days. Such a way to spread joy!

The Highs

In addition to the lowest of lows of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, there are also some pretty great highs. Like these:

  • I wake her in the morning, gently running my hand over her back. Her eyelids flutter, eventually opening, and she gives me a bug hug. “Today’s going to be a great day!” I exclaim. “Yes!” she replies enthusiastically.
  • We take turns saying the blessing before meals. Actually, I ask her to say the blessing until she says, “It’s your turn!” which is about 1 in every 8 or 9 asks. She says that she’s grateful for the good, and the bad, and then names something amazingly specific (sometimes imagined) which is a great reminder to remember the little things.
  • We listen to classical music while she “journals” (cuts up the newspaper and tapes it into a notebook) and I read or work. Every so often, she’ll look up and say, “This music is just so beautiful.”
  • On our daily walks, she’ll stop and examine a dropped flower or a leaf, turning it over in her hands, then carrying it home, to tape into a notebook and color around it. The flowers and leaves are usually dead, ones I wouldn’t have given a second glance. A reminder to look for the beauty in everything.
  • She hides candy throughout the house. Every so often, she’ll sneak into my office while I’m working and pass me a Hershey’s Nugget or Kiss, with a mischievous grin.
  • In the evening, I’ll ask her if she’d like to go to bed, or watch an episode of The Golden Girls. “Oh, the girls! The girls! I just love them.”
  • I sneeze. She laughs hysterically. Over, and over, and over.
  • She asks me for a dish of ice cream (usually right after she’s finished one). I go into the kitchen, fix a bowl, and when I return and hand it to her, she says with surprise, “Oh! Ice cream! Thank you so much!”

These are the highs I relish.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Bloganuary prompt (using last week’s prompt that I skipped):

Write about the last time you left your comfort zone.

“C’mon, Mom, it’s time for dinner!”

She wandered around, looking lost. “Should I go upstairs?”

“No, we’ll eat in the dining room.”

“But what about him? He needs to eat.”

“I think he’ll be fine” (no idea who he is).

“My husband will be hungry! I’m going to get him!”

I try not to allow looks of pity and sometimes my face betrays me. My heart was breaking.

Her bottom lip started quivering. “He’s gone, isn’t he?”

“Yes, Mom, he is. I’m so sorry.”

Sobs erupted. She screams, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Oh, Mom.” I hugged her. “It’s so hard without him, isn’t it?” I held her for several minutes as she sobbed.

She sniffled then said she’d be alright, so I sat in my seat opposite her at the dining room table. We joined hands across the table.

Right before we said the blessing, she looked up and asked, “How long has he been gone?”

“Almost three years, Mom. We were so lucky to be with him as long as we were. He was a great husband and Dad, wasn’t he? This is what I loved about him…”

This is what I’ve been advised to do by her doctors, and my goodness, this is so far out of my comfort zone. Constantly trying to divert the conversation away from Dad’s death, which is one of the very few things she remembers, to other subjects, which she can’t remember. She can’t recall any memories of Dad, other than his death, and when I share memories, the majority of the time she’ll say, “Hm. I don’t remember that.”

Alzheimer’s is such a heartbreaking disease. I’m watching my Mom’s brain die, day by day. It feels like she’s declining so quickly, and her doctors advise me that the disease is progressing slowly. I’m constantly calling on my meditation practice, reminding myself of equanimity, and anicca, and appreciating the moment for what it is, knowing it too, will pass.

Inspiration All Around

Today’s prompt:

Who is someone that inspires you and why?

My goodness. There are so many. The memory of my father. I think about how he endlessly worked to build bridges and create understanding. And how he was so kind and compassionate to everyone he met.

And my mother. Who inspires me to practice patience and understanding. I often don’t understand the world she’s living in, but I try to meet her where she is. She also inspires me to not take things so seriously. She “helps” me clean the house by throwing trash in front of me when I’m vacuuming, so that it’s easier for me to see. I am so entertained by this.

And my teammates. Who encourage me to consider different perspectives, inspire compassion, and provide so many laughs throughout the day.

And friends, who have followed their passions, and inspire me to do the same.

Winter Beauties

Yesterday we were walking without jackets, enjoying 70° F weather. I took down all of our outside Christmas lights and drug the Christmas trees to the curb for recycling. I worked in the garden, planting tulip bulbs (I can’t remember where I’ve planted things, so spring will be the ultimate surprise!), and clipping back dead plants. I marveled at our camellia bush, full of beautiful pink blossoms. I know it’s hardy, and I wondered if it would survive the cold front supposedly coming through.

I had my doubts. Could the temperature really drop 50° overnight and bring snow?

It could.

I awoke this morning to howling wind, freezing temps, and a dusting of snow. It was just enough to make everything appear magical.

Camellias enjoying 70° weather
Camellias enjoying the first snowfall

I Would Walk 500 Miles

Today’s Bloganuary prompt is:

What is a road trip you would love to take?

Going anywhere with good friends is a treasure. But road trips aren’t my favorite. Mainly because I don’t enjoy driving (that’s what living in a city for 25 years with no car will do to you) and riding as a passenger lulls me to sleep immediately.

Walking, however, is another story. I love walking. I love the rhythm of walking, the ability to take so much in. You move slowly enough that the details don’t escape you. My favorite manner of walking is walking without a schedule. Meandering and allowing the day to unfold. There are a couple of walks in the United Kingdom that have piqued my interest – the Coast to Coast, the walk along Hadrian’s Wall. And once there, I’m sure I would discover many more.

For now, though, I’m happy walking the trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains when I can sneak away, or walking through Asheville neighborhoods and the Arboretum with Mom when I can’t.

Me vs The Voles

Voles have overtaken my yard. I’m generally a “live and let live” type of gal. And, these voles have more or less recreated the Sierras in my yard (front and back) so that walking through the yard is a hazard. Something had to be done.

A neighbor told me that voles don’t like castor oil. So I bought four bottles of castor oil from the drugstore, mixed them with water in a spray bottle, and coated our lawn.

I was severely underwhelmed by the results.

What I expected: Voles, overwhelmed by the scent of castor oil, exiting my yard en masse. Kind of like the reaction of the Wicked Witch of the West when she was doused with water. Or Moses, parting the Red Sea. An immediate, grand, response.

What actually happened: Nothing.

No voles left my yard. If anything, they created more tunnels. So I bought castor oil granules, which you spread over the lawn and in the tunnels, and methodically move the voles one direction or the other. I don’t love this option, because this simply means moving the voles to another spot. ie, to one of my neighbors’ yards. So I’m trying to move them towards the street, to the very wide swatch of grass between the sidewalk and the road.

I’ll report back in a week.

Night Visitor

You crack the door and shuffle in

Crying hysterically

Ugly crying

Face swollen with red blotches

You crawl into my bed

And snuggle hard, grabbing my hand to your face

Through tears, you sob

He’s dead, isn’t he?

I inhale then whisper

Yes.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

We were there with him, Mom

We held his hand and told him we loved him

More sobbing.

More sobbing.

More sobbing.

I think you are asleep when

You stumble out of my bed

I’m going back to my room

I see you turn towards the guest bedroom and

Gently guide you back to your room

Where are you taking me?

You yell

Back to your room, Mom

It’s time for bed

A tight hug and you sob

What is wrong with my head? 

Why don’t I know anything?

I tell you it’s okay, tuck you in, return to my room,

and

ugly cry.