Sunday, July 25, 2010

Catching Up

Well, I debated whether I should iron clothes, slice the cabbage to get ready for tomorrow’s barbecue or sit down to write my blog. After thinking about all I need to do tomorrow, I figured I’d better get to it now otherwise another week would slip by without my writing.

It has been a busy two weeks since we brought the boat up from Baltimore. Thierry started right in on preparing the boat for her journey north. I was busy with laundry, shopping and catching up on my paperwork.

I had thought about writing a couple of times but had a few dark days, thinking about illness and I think, dreading the thought of Thierry going away. These thoughts also made me a bit grouchy, but, I managed to put all that out of my mind and we had a busy and fun two weeks.

While we were occupied with our own things during the day, we went out at night; to see the movie, The Girl Who Played With Fire (based on Steig Larson’s book), and then the next night, to the Blarney Pub to hear our neighbor play. We had a big crowd and a lot of fun.

We had got it into our heads that since we are spending a lot more time at the condo we should have some plants; in particular, on our balcony. Many of our neighbors have planters, flower boxes, and furniture, making things look very homey. Our balcony gets sun in the morning and a lot of wind. Some time ago I had mentioned our thoughts to my friend, Judy, who lives in Maryland and is a huge plant person. She said she would be interested in helping me with this project and she spent a lot of time researching plants and planters that would require little care, withstand the elements and survive the winter on our balcony.

Judy came up on Friday (the 16th) and she and I went to the Barnes Foundation to see the remainder of the exhibit before it moves to its new location in the city. For those of you who are not familiar with the Barnes, the “museum houses the world’s largest collection of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings,” with a large number of paintings by C├ęzanne, Renoir, Matisse, Seurat, Modigliani and Picasso to name a few. The museum is known for its historically restrictive practices, one of which is that you can only go if you have a reservation, in addition to only being open four days a week in the summer, less in winter. We had to chuckle when we entered the property and had to search for the entrance as there were no signs directing you from the parking lot.

The next day we went shopping for soil, stones, peat moss and plants. We decided on a Oriental Fountain Grass for the main focal point, framed by Rex Begonias. The greens, silver and purple leaves look great against the silver frame of the balcony and provide a very peaceful, calming effect when gazing onto the balcony from the living room.

On Friday night we had a gathering on Curlew. There were 15 of us and we pretty near depleted Curlew’s wine locker in addition to the bottles our guests brought. A good time was had by all.

We spent Sunday and Monday supplying the boat, and Thierry took off on Tuesday morning along with his crew, Tom and Barry. Be sure to click on the link to Curlew’s log to get an update on his adventures.

Since Thierry left, I have kept busy with work and housework. After two weeks of no real physical activity I am back to my gym routine. I panicked a bit when I heard that the FDA took Avastin off its approved list for breast cancer treatment. I saw my oncologist on Thursday, and she told me not to worry. I am not sure what that means, but I am hoping that my insurance provider doesn’t take it off their approved list.

I also asked my doctor about the status of my tumor cells that are housed somewhere in the hospital. I had heard that many women ask for their cells in the event that they may be used by researchers in the future. I would like my cells to be used in research, and possibly to be used to develop a drug that may put my cancer into remission. My doctor, who did not answer my question directly, seemed to indicate that the research she is involved with would be looking at cancers like mine. She assured me she has my back, and my front. Mmmmm, I think I need to push her on this a bit.

Today has been a rather quiet day, five loads of laundry done and my in-box is cleaned out and my bills are all scheduled for payment (pretty productive I guess). It’s been a good couple of weeks, but I miss Thierry and I am counting the days until my plane takes off for Bangor!

Monday, July 12, 2010

When the Children Become Responsible for Their Parents

The weekend is just about over, and we are relaxing on Curlew and recovering from Holland’s loss of the World Cup to Spain; however, some of the folks in my family are very happy with this outcome!

Thierry came to the boat on Tuesday hoping to get some work done and to prepare for his trip to Maine, but the weather decided not to cooperate. It was extremely hot and humid and then the rain came; not conducive to varnish work. When I arrived yesterday (Saturday), the rain was sporadic, so we hunkered down below. Thierry was able to get a coat of varnish on the wood trim this morning, finishing just in time for us to meet my sister and her husband at a local sports bar to watch the game. We leave tomorrow for Philadelphia where Thierry will finish his preparations for his trip.

Due to my chemo schedule, I will not be sailing up with him. Two friends will help Thierry take the boat north. I will take a week off of treatment in August and join him for a few weeks.

As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, mom has been in the hospital and rehab twice in the last nine months; the first time with bronchitis and this last time, with a broken clavicle suffered after a fall she had in the kitchen at home. Since the winter, mom has been complaining that she doesn’t remember things and she has been in a lot of pain from a torn rotator cuff. The rotator cuff really requires surgery, but due to the difficult nature of this type of operation, it does not seem to be an option for mom at her age.

After mom’s fall, we all scurried to figure out how to make the home habitable for her as an extended stay in a rehab facility would ultimately be unaffordable for my parents. My sister went on Craig’s list and found a stair lift which my brother spent hours installing. A few years back, he had added bars to their bathtub/shower enclosure, along with a hand-held shower head. We asked for a portable toilet which can be placed over the bathroom toilet, providing support bars for the user. Fortunately mom had a hospital bed in a guest room that she acquired when her sister passed some years ago.

For several years, my sisters and I have been worried about how my parents are going to continue living by themselves in their two-story house (with a basement). Dad has some difficulty seeing and has a very bad knee. Mom tends to fall – she just kind of keels over. Their laundry is in the basement as is their food storage area (cantina, or condine as Thierry and I call it). When mom was in the hospital during the winter I talked with them about getting an alert system, one that requires them to wear a device that can be activated if they need emergency assistance. Dad immediately rejected the idea, but now mom is okay about having one. Dad says he takes a telephone with him when he goes out into the garden, but I don’t think he has it with him all the time, like when he is in the basement.

Trying to get them to talk about moving is an impossible discussion, primarily because my dad absolutely does not want to move. Also, the cost of a senior facility can be prohibitive – but only if they both live another 5 years. They will both be 90 in September. Due to my mother’s illness, they finally gave up the idea of my mother continuing to drive – but for a long time, that also was a discussion we couldn’t have. We have been talking about cleaning out their basement which is cluttered with stuff collected over 50 years and is now old, broken, dirty and unused. Dad won’t hear of it!

I’ve heard experts on the radio talk about how we children should have discussions with our parents about their well-being and how “we” can make decisions together in order to help them maintain a safe and healthy life-style. These experts haven’t dealt with my parents. At what point do they (our parents) - or we for that matter (when we reach their age) - shut out the noise and suggestions from those around us and insist that the status quo is the right decision? Good grief this sounds like me at 17! But aren’t adults supposed to know better?

It seems that at some point, when we reach a certain age, we become almost incorrigible, cranky and more determined to have our own way. A friend said that our parents don’t consider the impact these types of decisions have on their children. True, and they really don’t care. Perhaps they make these decisions to reinforce the fact that they are still in control of their lives and of their own minds. And how much should we push our parents to make these decisions. Like a child, experience is the best teacher, but falling at 89 is a lot more serious than falling when you are 17 – there is a good chance you won’t get up. But then, even if mom was in a senior community, she could still fall and dad would be in the same position of having to send for help.

I am rambling. I am concerned and I feel a bit guilty that my parents can’t live with me (and wouldn’t want to), and feel guilty that I am not there more for them. But maybe elder-proofing their home and enabling them to stay there longer is the nicest thing we can do for them.

I’d welcome any input to this writing from all readers, especially my senior readers. If you have trouble posting, email me at and I will post your comments to the blog with your permission.

Who knows what the future holds. It’s been a good day and a great week.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Good Life

Last Friday I was thinking of writing a blog about things that piss me off. Perhaps this all came to mind on Thursday when the nurse tried to give me a drug which I was not scheduled to receive according to the last conversation I had with my doctor a week prior. My nurse patiently tried to make some sense out of my file, and was finally able to get things clarified with the doctor. Then there followed a series of minor things that got me thinking the subject would make a good blog topic.

Luckily it was a busy weekend and my writing was delayed. Over the weekend I spent time with friends and yesterday and today received several emails that made me smile and left me feeling very grateful for the life I have and the people I know. This pushed all the sour thoughts out of my mind.

The weekend started on an up note when we went with friends to “First Friday”. In our neighborhood, all the art galleries and some of the small shops open their doors and display new artwork, with many offering snacks, soft drinks and wine on the first Friday of the month. The streets are filled with young artists displaying their wares (some good, some not so) and occasionally there are street performers doing magic tricks, walking on stilts or singing and playing instruments.

A group of us ventured out and visited some of our favorite galleries. The girls naturally were drawn to the jewelry vendors, among others. I had declared that I was looking for big earrings as someone had suggested that they might look good with my dramatically short and white hairdo. I was coaxed into a pair of dangling metal orbs which I modeled on Saturday and they were a great success.

Saturday was the first day of the 4th of July weekend, a big day of celebration in the US. The city puts on a terrific fireworks display which we can view from our condo, so we invited friends and family to join us for an evening of food, drink and celebration. The fireworks were wonderful and the food was good, but nothing compared to the spontaneous concert that we were given by two of my neighbors (and friends). Barry walked in with his guitar around 9:00 p.m. and immediately changed the tempo of the party. Tom was coerced into bringing up his fiddle and mandolin. The two of them started to jam and the party rocked. Tom actually plays with a band at a local bar – we all are planning to go see him play in a few weeks. Be sure to check out the video Thierry posted on YouTube

Sunday was a slow day, but we did go for a walk in the 98 degree heat to have a beer with friends at a little pub and later had Chinese take-out for dinner. Today, Monday, we celebrated Mike’s birthday (long overdue, it was the 25th of June) and had everyone over at mom and dad’s house for stuffed shells – one of Mike’s favorites – and chicken cutlets. Oh, and an amazing yellow-cake with chocolate icing.

Occasionally Lauren and I will go on a negative rant about something (or someone) that annoys us. Whenever one of us starts this type of diatribe, the listener will remind the complainer to focus on the good things. Letting off steam is necessary and sometimes what you need to do in the moment, but focusing on the fun things that you do and the friends that you have is the best medicine in the long run.

It has been a great week.