Friday, February 10, 2017

Barry White's classic "You're the First, You're the Last, My Everything" a great love song

Barry White isn't known for subtlety when it comes to love songs. This is one of his best. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Circling the wagons: learning to prioritize as a caregiver

I've been a caregiver for several years now for my wife Ann. Just recently though, over the past few weeks, she has been basically bedridden. She has a desk chair which she keeps next to her recliner, so whenever she needs to use the bathroom, she stands up, turns around, and sits on the chair. Then she scoots it down the hall to the bathroom, where she stands up, walks two or three feet to the toilet and sits down. Then the whole process is repeated in reverse. Part of her challenge is a loss of stability on her feet. She is scared to do more because of it.
All of this has required me to do a lot of extra work. Before, she'd be folding laundry, doing some dishes, getting a lot of her own lunches and breakfasts, getting her own water when needed. Now, prior to leaving for work, I need to make sure she has extra underwear in the bathroom, bath towels stacked on the couch next to where she sits in her recliner, lunch in a small cooler, her water glass filled, and breakfast. Often when she used the bathoom, she needs my help, and when she gets brave enough to take showers (lately it has been once a week), she depends on me to help hold her up in the tub.
The time demand on me is huge. When in the past I was able to get out of the house for several hours every couple of weeks for much needed breaks, now I find myself chained to the house when I'm not at my job. I'm not complaining, just stating facts.
I've found that there are ways to deal with the extra load. I call it "circling the wagons" after the wagon train companies in the pioneer days who, when under attack, put their wagons in a circle and fought off their attackers from a less vulnerable position. To me, circling the wagons means reducing the things that need to be done to what needs to be done for survival.
The first thing on my list is my own health. If I go down, who is going to care for Ann? However, there were a few weeks there when even going to the gym was nearly impossible and it was beginning to take its toll on my health. Thankfully, for the past two weeks, I've been able to get to the gym three times each week, which is my bare minimum. During the time that I was relegated to one time per week to the gym, I did what I could to "circle the wagons" even further and I recognized that even if I couldn't make it to the gym, that didn't mean I had to stop eating healthy foods. I made it a point to keep eating my smoothies, or something else almost as healthy, such as oatmeal with blueberries, bananas, and Greek yogurt added each day. I have tried to avoid resorting to quick fixes like donuts or candy.
My own mental health is also a concern. Everyone who has been or is a caregiver, needs the occasional out. Skiing, hiking, a drive up the canyon, a picnic--anything to get away from a little of the stress. I've already had to cancel one ski trip for which I had already paid. During this extra stressful period, even going to church has been a luxury and I hadn't been able to go for weeks until last Sunday. It was such a relief to be able to go. I would like to be able to get to my discipleship group and associate with my friends there. In the old days, when the wagon trains were under attack, it became pretty stressful. They had to fight hard to survive and there was little reprieve until the attackers were defeated enough that they went away. Sometimes they came back, and sometimes they didn't. Honestly, I don't know what they did about the stress and the adrenaline rush they were having at the time. Probably just fought until it was over.
One thing I remember about the circled wagons was that it was always such a relief when the cavalry showed up. I'm still waiting for my personal cavalry.
Other ways I've found to circle the wagons have been to not fold the clothes. I hang the ones that need hanging, and fold the ones that need folding, but the ones that can go without folding, just go into the drawers unfolded, or stay in the baskets until needed. The floors are getting swept less often and the sinks, tub, and toilets are getting scrubbed less frequently. I am trying to make dinners that have leftovers.
And slowly, Ann is venturing with a few extra tentative steps. I caught her walking down the hall the other night, instead of rolling. Slow, and using a cane, she staggered along and made it back to the chair. I encourage her to do this, but sometimes it's just hard for her to take my advice.
Her rheumatologist has said that he doesn't want to provide any in-home physical therapy until after he sees her next (although he thinks it's a good idea), yet she's afraid to have to walk too far, like getting into a car, or a wheel chair, in order to make it in to see him. Her appointment is on the 23rd.
She has decided that she's not going to get the weight-reduction surgery. I personally think she's making a mistake in not seriously contemplating it, considering the amount of extra stress her weight is putting on her joints and lungs. But that's part of the battle too.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The trials continue

I posted in my other blog about what's happening with Ann and I. It can be found here:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What a week!

Many of you know of the struggles Ann was going through this week. I spent the night with her Wednesday night at the Emergency Room at the University of Utah Hospital after she went in to have the pain in her legs checked out and the doctor found out her oxygen level was very low. I ended up getting two hours of sleep that night.
Ann only had to spend one night in the hospital and got some plans for fixing her oxygen troubles, but nothing for the original leg pain. I spoke to the doctor as I was waiting in front of the hospital for the transport people to bring her out. He initially didn't want to prescribe any kind of pain killers, because most of them relax the lungs and make it harder to get the oxygen you need. He finally said that he could prescribe Prednisone, and that if her regular pain remedies of Ibuprofen and Tylenol didn't help, to call him back in a couple of days. This was after hours on Thursday evening.
Later, after we were home, I told Ann about the conversation and she said that I should have told him that she needed it now, not a couple of days from now.
She called the doctor's office on Friday morning, talking to the assistant, and got mixed up and the prescription wasn't called in. Now, of course, it's the weekend and it's not going to happen until they get back into the office tomorrow--that is provided that they aren't taking off MLK Day.
She has still been in a lot of pain, but actually this morning, after I encouraged her to walk more (she has been scooting around on her desk chair), she walked down the hall from the bathroom to her chair in the living room. I was glad to see it. One thing I've noticed with injuries in the past is that if you baby them too much, your muscles begin to atrophy and it's that much more painful to get back to good health.
I'm hoping that this is the beginning of her being healed. Certainly I and others have said enough prayers. I plead with God last night that he would heal her and get her back to normal. Today became a day of praise after she decided to walk instead of scoot the chair. Finally, I think we are seeing some improvement.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Fabulous snow yesterday for skiing!

I had the ticket voucher for several weeks as it's a better deal the further out they are purchased at Liftopia. Snowbird had a lot of pleasant memories for me from my youth as that was the place I actually learned how to ski. My first time skiing had been to Alta, and I had known nothing and had basically pointed my skis down the hill and gone. My second time skiing was with a group of friends from work, and one older girl had taken some of us newbies under her wing and had taught us the basics of snow plowing, stem christies, and how to fall without getting hurt (in other words, she taught us that if you get out of control, fall on purpose). And there was that other time I went to Snowbird when I was younger when the wind chill at the top where the Tram let us off was 50 below. Think about that for a minute.
It was with those thoughts in mind that I anticipated this return to Snowbird after about 40 years. This past week got to be real exciting as the snow storms kept piling up. Wednesday night, another storm rolled in dumping over a foot at the resort and several inches in the valley. Because of avalanche control, the canyon wasn't going to open until 8:00 Thursday morning, so, I thought I'd leave home at 8:00 to avoid the line up of cars. Boy, was that ever a mistake!
The snow storm that had happened the night before had left its effects on commuters and the trip across the valley that normally takes twenty minutes, took an hour and a half. Part way there, while stuck in a slow moving line of cars, I mentioned on Facebook that at this rate, I'd make it to the resort at 11:00. At the time, I didn't realize how prophetic I was.
Still, I was happy, but really anticipating getting up on the slopes.
Snowbird has three places of entry and I had no idea where to go, but both the first and second one had "tickets" on the signs (I needed to exchange my voucher for a ticket). I chose entry two, found a parking place and began getting dressed. I basically had to add layers, and put on my ski boots. When it came time to putting on the boots, I had a hard time with the right one, and the left one was nearly impossible. I began to wonder if my feet had grown a size or two. I had worn some thinner socks, but they weren't really all that slinky, and I just couldn't get that left one to go in. After about five minutes of working on it, I was beginning to think I would have to find the ski shop and rent some equipment. I remembered that I had another pair of socks in my 4runner. They were thicker, but slicker. I put one of them on my left foot and was finally able to get the boot on, though not without a lot of strain. I added "ski socks" to my list of things to buy in the near future, and when I got home, read a bunch of tips on how to get your stubborn boots on.
With my boots finally on, I began hiking up the hill to the ticket office the sign had directed me to. There was a shuttle, but it never came by when I was hiking and it was probably a quarter mile hike to the ticket office from there. Once there, I had the opportunity to look at the map of the resort and decide where I was going to start. I decided to spend my time on the easier runs at first, until I got adjusted to the conditions. Frankly, during all of my recent times skiing, I hadn't ever skied on this much new snow and I remembered how grooves are easily cut in the snow by other skiers and boarders and how I tend to catch an edge of my own skis on these grooves from time to time, and go toppling down the slope.
I exchanged my voucher for a ticket and asked how to get to the lift I wanted to ride up. The easy area was back where I had parked. I had to hike over a bridge and up a hill before putting on my skis and going down. Wow that new snow was affecting me more than I realized! I was all wobbly, just like a newbie. I got to the lift and rode it up (I was on the lift at 11) and my first run was a crazy run of wobbliness.
Halfway down my second run, I figured out that I had failed to buckle my boots. Just try skiing with boots that aren't secured and you'll see how tough it is. The thing is, this is the second  time I have done that. It's easy to do if I'm not thinking because I don't like to walk very far with them tightened, so I loosen them (or in this case, since I was walking a long distance to the ticket office, never did them up in the first place) and then forget to tighten them.
It was cold, and the goggles I had acquired from a yard sale in the summer got ice on them too easily, so I just wore them on my forehead for the rest of the day.
The weather let up for a while and the peaks looked amazing

I had a few really nice runs after that. I had decided that I was going to stick to the easy runs for about ten runs, then move on to the intermediates, but on about my fifth run, I got whacked pretty good in the back of my calf with the chair lift as I was getting on. My very next run, the same thing happened only worse. My leg was hurting like I had a bad charley horse in it. After the 7th run I took a short break to eat the sandwich I had brought for lunch, I had no water with me and it was quite a time consuming hike back to my vehicle for the water, so I went without.
After lunch I put my skis back on and promptly fell. Other people were standing around there, and thankfully pretended not to notice. It was the only spill I took all day.
The skiing was great for the next few runs, though my leg still hurt, and the sun even came out for a few minutes. I made it a point to ask the lift operator where I should stand, because I wasn't sure if I was standing in the right place after getting hit by the lift twice. I guess I had gotten myself a little too far forward. I didn't get hit again for the rest of the day.
It snowed heavily periodically, lightly periodically, and then the fog rolled in. I could look down and see my skis easily, so I knew my glasses weren't fogged up, but seeing down the slope was nearly impossible. There were still other skiers zooming around me, and I had no idea how they could go that fast in the fog. I guess it's the same reasoning of people driving to fast for conditions in fog. I had completed 13 runs, my thighs were burning, and my calf hurt. I wanted to reach my goal of at least twenty, but I had no idea if the fog was going to lift, and I wasn't having fun at that point skiing where I couldn't see.
In the half hour it took me to get to my vehicle and get my stuff off, the fog lifted. I was worried that would be what would happen, but I wasn't going to try and put the boots back on again. I had had a lot of fun, despite all the interesting things that happened. I had learned a little about where things are at Snowbird, in case I get the chance to go there again, and I had been up in my beloved mountains in the fresh snow, feeling gravity pulling at me in a far different way than I had felt in the night before when I had been rock climbing. And that, is what adventure is all about. I can't wait for the next one.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

John Denver: How can I leave you again?

How Can I Leave You Again? by John Denver is an awesome song. Denver was in his prime at the time this song was performed and you can tell. If you keep watching you get even more great songs by him. Enjoy!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Goals, not resolutions

Years ago I started a family tradition in my household of a meeting in which we decided what we wanted to accomplish, both as a family, and as individuals. And one thing I stressed is that you can never accomplish anything if you only resolve to do it. Accomplishment takes action. If you have goals toward accomplishment, the only way to achieve them is through action.
One way to make sure that action occurs is to write down what needs to be done to achieve the goal. For example, if your goal is becoming a better guitar player, one way to achieve this is to actually practice. Set reasonable goals for the number of minutes you'd like to practice each day, or each week, then make a chart with boxes you can check off. Let's say my goal was to practice thirty minutes a day, every day of the year. In its simplest form, you could use an already printed calendar and just write down how much you practiced on each date. If you want to have a chart dedicated to guitar practice, you can design your own with any number of spread sheets, word processors, etc. You can make it as elaborate as you want, but continue to keep in mind the original goal, to become a better guitar player.
When you keep in mind the original goal, whether it be guitar playing, fitness, or any other goal you might have, it's best to focus on the long-term. This allows for occasional lapses, such as, in our guitar playing example, missing a day. We may have goals, but sometimes life gets in the way and we miss a day or two. That isn't a time to throw our hands in the air and exclaim "I'll never achieve this goal", but a time to reassess and/or recommit. Often we can make up things like practice time by doing double the next day, or adding ten minutes for several days, but that's not even really crucial. What's crucial is that when we miss a day, we get back on the path and practice the day after that and keep going. Your ultimate goal is to become better, and you will. A few years ago, due to the large amount of donut buying that occurred at my place of employment, I made the goal to not eat any more of them. At the time, it was more of a New Year's resolution, although taking it one day at a time is what helped me keep that resolve until July. I mentioned to a friend of mine that I had failed at my goal, and he told me that no I hadn't, because I had succeeded in not eating any donuts for seven months. Till this day, I have had more control over what I eat, and likely, because I found out it was possible.
Actually, it rarely matters whether you set such goals for the new year or whether you start them at some other time. However, the new year does provide a natural break psychologically and that can be a great time to initiate new approaches, new goals, and new ways to accomplish your desires.
The key thing is to forget about the resolutions and make a plan to accomplish all you wish to do.