A Metaphor Around the Corner

STPsPruiS7WSJ5OfxceGEA

This place down the road was once a haven for a family.  It was safe and secure, with a warm hearth and glass windows that let the sunlight in.

Something happened.  Most likely, it was a fire, although my husband and I could not spot any charred surfaces. The workers operating the big machines didn’t know what happened either.

%HgY+FsuThS2F6SkOE968g

I couldn’t help but make the comparison.  We humans, living our small lives in our towns and cities, imagined ourselves safe.  We thought we knew the dangers that threatened.  And then along came COVID-19.  An international conflagration that brutally woke up the entire world population, from China to Italy to the United States.

EyjCK5jES+usQfjpcId%Sg

Our safe house is gone, just like that of the unfortunate owners of this dwelling, who must now cope with homelessness as well as an insidious virus.  Where are they staying, I wondered?  Will they rebuild?

And so we must also rebuild, as best we can.  But this pandemic has certainly changed our world forever.  Can we resume our former activities without fear?  Do we hold hands when dancing?  Carry sanitizer and wipes wherever we go?  Screen company before they step through the door?

BMQcYEucSvqd54Tmjwy07g

And yet,  in the same neighborhood, we find hope and an extended hand.

YNNnXLpkTQWw4ZhJibpo2A

 

Wandering through Town

Since my husband and I are basically on lock-down, we try to walk at least once a day.  On one of our daily walks, we followed the Rail Trail, and then turned back along Huguenot Street.fullsizeoutput_2244

Historic Huguenot Street is a New Paltz landmark.  The website states:

At our 10-acre National Historic Landmark District, visitors experience over 300 years of history across seven historic stone-house museums, a reconstructed 1717 French Church, the Huguenot community’s original burying ground, and a replica Esopus Munsee wigwam. Period rooms and exhibits tell the stories of a French Huguenot settlement as it evolved over time, and also reveal the history of the area’s Native and enslaved African peoples and Dutch settlers.

Go to the site below for more info:

https://www.huguenotstreet.org/ 

 

These days, the houses on Huguenot Street are closed, of course, but it is  enjoyable to walk among them and speculate on what life was like so many years ago.

Excavations are still going on at Huguenot Street.  During the summer, college students intern on site, and younger kids attend site-based writing workshops.  Too bad the scheduled events have had to be postponed.  The 2020 calendar offered many juicy presentations, some commemorating one hundred years of women’s suffrage.  Specialists were engaged to talk about the settlers use of the bounteous land.

All that aside, a walk along Huguenot Street is pleasant and rich in scenery.

And the reward at the end?  A hot chai latte at Water Street Market (Photo below taken before everyone was seriously quarantined.)

fullsizeoutput_2240

My husband and I have loved to come to this spot and watch the people and dogs.  It’s the closest thing to a Spanish plaza that New Paltz has to offer.

Hopefully, we’ll be enjoying it again, sometime in the future.

Adjusting to Dementia

notebook

1.   Five years ago, I began using a notebook for medical documentation.  My husband went to an appointment with his neurologist.  When he returned, I asked, “So what did he say?”  “I don’t remember,” was the answer. I went to the next appointment and sat with him and the doctor in the treatment room.  The doctor, a man from the Middle East–Egypt, perhaps?–ignored me.  I was part of the chair.  The following visit, I brought a spiral notebook.  Not only did I ask pointed, intelligent questions about the medications  and my husband’s condition, I also took notes.  Surprise! Dr. Egypt’s attitude changed.

The notebook has been a huge help over the years, since my husband sees several doctors now: a different, more respectful neurologist, a psychiatrist, a G.P. and a geriatrician.  I keep track of blood pressure, weight, meds, and recommendations, since my memory can’t always pull up details, especially after five years of treatment.

2.  The next adjustment we made was the whiteboard.  My daughter gave us a small magnetic whiteboard to stick on the fridge.

e8ybEc7lRIuC0k9lwGjhlg

It helps me maintain my sanity.  I can refer him to the board instead of answering, “What’s on the agenda today?” multiple times in the morning.  The above date shows the impact of the corona virus.  You can see that we’re not doing much.  Still, the whiteboard has been a big help.

MOLkeyKaR1ix4JU27vPxAA

 

3.  Me:  Did you take your pills?

Him:  I don’t remember.

Every morning, I set out our meds and supplements before breakfast.  Obviously, this was an important adjustment to make.

 

4. When we sold the house and moved into our apartment, I labeled cabinets and light switches.  These days, I’ll notice him searching the labels to find the cabinet with the storage containers, or the drawer with the foil.  A side benefit arose when my five-year-old granddaughter was visiting.  She said, “I can read this!  It says teas!”

full frame shot of multi colored clothes hanging

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

5. Within the last year or two, my husband’s sensing of temperature has altered. He seems unable to judge what clothing is appropriate for the weather. He also needs coaching about which jacket to wear.  I’ve reluctantly taken on the role of clothing police.  Unless I intervene, he’ll wear the same shirt and pants day after day.   Same issue for nighttime.  He’d sleep in his long underwear and pajamas, then sweat through them all.

Some other not-so-great memory lapses I let pass.  Just like with teenagers, you have to pick your battles.

My husband’s memory loss has impacted life in so many ways.  I used to become furious because he kept throwing recyclables into the trash bin, and I had to fish them out.  He still puts crumpled boxes and containers in the trash, and I still fish them out.  The only change is my attitude.  Now I’m resigned to the task.

It’s been tough to adjust to this reality.  I still have moments of rage, despair, sorrow, self-pity.  My caregivers’ group is a great support, and a good source of ideas for making life bearable, and sometimes even better.

 

 

 

Corona Virus:

Finding a Thin Silver Lining

Here we are, two seniors.  One with dementia, the other recovering from a respiratory infection.  I know I’m vulnerable to any sneeze-born disease.  My husband forgets to avoid touching doorknobs or shaking hands.

We haven’t gone to the gym, or to dancing, or to the library.  My anxiety is extreme.  But something good has come out of this: we’ve begun walking.  Tramping down the Rail Trail seems to be the only safe way to exercise and keep in touch with humanity.  The schools are closed, so a lot of folks are out on the trails.  One senior woman we passed stuck out her cane and said, “Six feet away!”

In our short wanderings, we’ve discovered nature and New Paltz anew.

9bhBAB8rQwy3M2ve4IL3SA

view off the bridge over the Wallkill River

We’ve encountered auditory splendor as well as visual delights.  The spring peepers are in full voice. Some other frogs with deeper voices (more of a clack than a peep) are also  in a mating frenzy.

peeper

This tiny frog, small  enough to sit on a quarter, has a big voice.

The birds are returning and claiming their territories.  Cardinals, robins, redwing blackbirds–we hear them all.  Even a pileated woodpecker banging on a tree.

fullsizeoutput_223f

For those not familiar with our area, the Wallkill River is a tributary of the Hudson River.  The Wallkill is unusual because it flows north, originating in Sussex County, New Jersey.

The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is 23.7 miles of linear park in Ulster County, New York.

So thanks, I suppose, to the corona virus, we’re getting to appreciate the outdoors.

 

Dog Gone By

IMG_E5271

There’s a man in our neighborhood who walks his two white huskies every day.  The dogs are fluffy and clean and lively.  When my husband sees them, or any dog, he says, “I’m glad we don’t have a dog.”

I say, “They’re good company.”  And I feel a bit sad.  Now we live in an apartment complex with a no pets rule.

We did have a dog a couple of years ago, when we still lived in the big house.

We got Saachi, a Jack Russell terrier, because my family, friends and I thought a dog would be good for my husband with dementia.  He could have a routine, go for walks, get some exercise, and enjoy a companion.  Dog therapy.  We chose a Jack Russell because my good friend has an Irish Jack who is a dream dog, cute and well-behaved, and small enough to carry.

Saachi arrived in the fall.  It fell to me to take the puppy out at midnight to do her business.  Of course she was lonely and she cried when we put her in the crate.  I made a nest of towels next to my bed, leashed her to the end table, and she slept there, where I could reach down and reassure her with a pat.

When we started to train her, we hired a special dog whisperer who was quite costly.  He gave the three of us lessons, but my husband couldn’t remember the lessons, and I already felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities.

We considered fencing in part of the yard so we didn’t have to take her out as often.  That was a really expensive proposition: $2000+.  And we still had to worry about the red tail hawks living in the woods, who might fly down and snatch up a little puppy for dinner.

While all this was happening, I was recovering from a foot operation.  When I was resting on the day bed with my foot up, Saachi would lie next to me.  I enjoyed her company.  Sometimes I’d throw toys for her to chase around the bedroom.

fullsizeoutput_1cf7

Once I was hobbling around, we tried puppy school.  Saachi behaved horribly.  The trainer put barriers around her, to block her view of the other dogs.  It didn’t help.  Saachi barked like a maniac the entire time.  I was flustered and embarrassed.

She was just as bad in public.  We took her into PetSmart and she went crazy when she saw another dog.  The same thing happened when we walked her in town.  We took her to doggy day care, so she could run around with other dogs.

After another two disastrous puppy school sessions, the trainer suggested that she give Saachi private lessons.  The first day the trainer arrived, we all sat in the living room.  “I’ve been thinking a lot about you,” she said.  “Saachi is not a good fit for your life style,” she told us.  “She needs lots of exercise and intense training.”

We knew this was true.

The trainer continued.  “I know a family whose Jack Russell just died.  They have two boys and a fenced in yard.  They’d be interested in taking Saachi.”

Yes.  We let her go.

And when she left the house with the trainer, we fell on each other and cried.    We really loved that dog.

IMG_5394

Lesson learned, but my heart still aches when I remember Saachi.

 

 

 

Keeping Sane, Part II

selkie2

male selkie

I have another world where I go, a world I created almost ten years ago.  The kingdom of Karakesh grew from a small book I wrote for my twin godchildren. Writing about  Karakesh and the characters that inhabit it can absorb me for hours.  At 4:00 AM, when my restless mind is worrying, I often focus my thoughts on the story instead of my concerns.

Most of the main characters are middle school age, as that is the audience for the books I write.  All of them, males and females, seek answers to the universal  questions: Who am I?  What is my purpose?

TIM cover1           In Book I, Tangled in Magic, Agatha’s focus is on family.  Left without parents, her goal is to find her brother.

GBMCoverBeeKim copy  Rami pursues her art and vocation as a weaver in Book II.  Miela chooses a solitary life to forge metal jewelry and utensils.

Awakening Magic cover2    In Book III,  Prince Emric’s passion is music, but he’s expected to assume the throne.

All these characters contain parts of me, but they are also unique personalities.  They speak, and I listen and record their words.

Writing is the most diverting, fascinating escape for me since my independence has been curtailed by caregiving.  It is enormously important and satisfying to see the work come to fruition.  It also lets me be more than a full-time carer.

My editors at Handersen Publishing and I are putting the finishing touches on Book IV,  Ripples of Magic.  The protagonist in this story is Demara, a girl who is half Traveler, half selkie.  The selkies, or Seal People, are faeries who can shapeshift from seal to human by removing their sealskin. Demara longs to be a selkie like her father.

All three books are available on Amazon.  www.amazon.com/author/ellisk

 

 

Keeping Sane

I’m a maker of art.  I always have been.  Excluding folkdancing, I’m most happy when I’m working on a project.  Since the onset of my husband’s dementia, I’ve found escape and solace in quilting and writing, with occasional forays into drawing.

Sometimes I coerce my husband into sewing a quilt project with me.  fullsizeoutput_2234

We made this quilt for dear friends in California.

After mailing that off, I took a couple of days to make placemats for a beekeeper we know.

And today I’ve returned to my big project, a king size quilt for our bedroom.  I should ultimately have 94 fan blocks.  I’m about halfway there.  My workspace looks chaotic, but it’s really quite organized.

fullsizeoutput_2230

More quilter’s tools:

These projects keep me feeling productive and give me focus and satisfaction, rather than wallowing in a caregiver’s emotional stew.

And it’s so much fun to surprise someone with a quilt.