Alien Rocks during Social Distancing

LKwXTqSHQ2OVpq+53n45EQAs we slog into week four of staying home, we borrowed an idea from my daughter’s neighborhood in Maryland.  We painted twelve alien rocks and placed them along a street behind the apartment complex.  We left a notice for the residents:

Hello, Kids of the Neighborhood  (and parents, too)

You are invited to  Find the Alien Rocks

It’s a kind of scavenger hunt game, but you don’t keep the rocks. There are 12 alien rocks hidden outside on Cicero Ave. Each one has a number on the bottom.

There is one important rule:

  1. Leave the rocks where you find them.

(Take a picture if you want to keep a record of your finds.)

This venture into rock-painting led us into more ambitious artwork:

And more elaborate:

Now we’ve put the paints away for a while as I’m engaged in sewing masks.  Lots of masks.

It’s still fun to spot the alien rocks when we take our daily walk.

The Irony of COVID-19

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Before COVID-19, I complained about the impact of caregiving on my freedom of movement and solitude.  I imagine you can guess where I’m going with this.

Back in the old days, before my husband’s memory loss forced him to retire, I could count on evenings alone at home.  He saw most of his clients after their workday, so I had time to recharge and to enjoy the solitude that I need as an introvert.

Then I became the caregiver.  Added to the responsibility of managing and remembering for two, I now lost alone time.  Eventually I pulled out of my funk and organized our lives to include social activities for both of us.  Though they didn’t offer me more solitude, these events eased the one-on-one at home.

Along came the corona virus.  No more social activities, at least not outside the house or in person.  Now I have a full-time audience along with commentator.  He remarks on the smallest things I do.

So, you get it, right?  I was frustrated and impatient before the social isolation.  Now, it’s so much harder.

But–I have to say that my husband, to his credit, is the most patient and kind person to live with.  He’s always willing to help, and doesn’t complain about the forced isolation.  Always expresses gratitude.  Never–I mean never–snaps back at me when I snap.

It could be worse, much worse, I tell myself.  Be grateful.

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Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary: A Virtual Visit

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Tucked between Huguenot Street and the Wallkill River is the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary.

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fullsizeoutput_2255What flower is this?  Does anyone know?

fullsizeoutput_2256From the entrance on Huguenot Street, we cross a bridge.  Turtles are sunning on the little islands.

Boards are placed to cross the muddy parts.

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fullsizeoutput_2258 Places for birds to reside, and people to rest.

 

 

This is a beautiful, quiet place where we will wander–until the mosquitoes turn out in force.

Strange Fruit

The Peculiar Benefits of Staying at Home

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It occurred to me today that I was sleeping a lot better since being forced into self-isolation.  My moods are more even.  I’m not waking up at 4 a.m. with free-flowing anxiety.

The pressure is off.  Why?

I know for sure that our daily walks outdoors have helped.  The crisp air, the transportation of my own feet, the very CLOSENESS of everything, have changed my outlook.

But the cause goes deeper than just being outside. It involves a revolving cycle of anger, guilt and reparation.

A year ago last winter, I was so enraged by my situation as caregiver that I began taking an anti-depressant.  As the therapists say, depression is anger turned inward.  I was stuffing my anger and becoming depressed. All that boiling fury had nowhere to go except inside.  To friends, I would say, half-joking, that God wasn’t following my life script.  My husband and I were supposed to travel, to live abroad, to do good work.  Dementia changed all those plans.

Spring came, and I got busy. Until the corona virus stopped me, I turned into a frenetic organizer. I channeled the feelings of guilt about my anger into reparation.  I would be the model caregiver.  I packed my husband’s and my schedule with activities.  That’s what he needed, right?  Socialization, exercise, mental stimulation, lots of interaction with the world.

It was exhausting.  For an introvert like me, all that running around was depleting my small reserves.  I needed to recharge with solitude. Yes, I did enjoy the activities, but I lacked an equal amount of time to renew my energies.

Then along came COVID-19.  No more gym visits.  No more adult education classes.  No more clay studio.  No more meals out with friends.  Life. Slowed. Down.

Now I don’t have to feel guilty because there’s nothing to do about the situation.  I wake up early and think of all the delicious choices to make: do I write? work on a video? cut some more quilt pieces?

And my husband?  He seems fairly content to watch the news, read, and do his crossword puzzles.  We meet up for meditation, cooking and eating, and sewing the quilt we’re making together.  And for walks.

Strange fruit in strange times.

 

 

A Metaphor Around the Corner

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

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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.)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.