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Update on Aud

I went up to see Mom last week to take care of some business. Charlie had to work, so I went up by myself.

I managed to do a bit of decluttering, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. What we did, however, was good: ridding her of piles of unread local weekly newspapers (that which we used to call The Citizen’s Outhouse when we were growing up) and Better Homes and Gardens.

We kids decided to go in together on a big gift for her birthday, figuring that a new flat screen television would be easier for her to see. Plus, the small footprint meant that I could rearrange her living room and put the TV closer to her chair. So that was almost another whole day, from buying the TV for dismantling the old one, moving furniture and setting up the new TV.

The business part of the trip was for a consultation with a trust attorney, to make sure the paperwork for her trust was okay. There were a couple of smallish problems, so it was well worth the time.

We also made a couple of lengthy trips to the bank, one to look in the safe deposit box that hadn’t been opened in five years or so. Did you know that when a box renter dies, it generally takes a court order to open it? This is true even if there’s a deputy listed on the box, or if there’s an executor, etc. A power of attorney isn’t valid for a safe deposit box, since the bank wouldn’t know if the document had been rescinded or changed at a later date. The bank manager told me, unofficially, of course, that if something happens to Mom, to come to the safe deposit box right away, before it becomes known that she’s passed. Once they’re aware of it, the box can’t be opened without legalities.

Another order of business was to see her financial advisor, another worthwhile visit. Thanks to her explanation, Aud agreed to look at an assisted living center. I had given her the same information, but this was one of those instances where a non-family member’s word had more import. We toured a really nice facility, and Mom liked it. When the time comes, she said, she’d like to live there. “When the time comes” is the part that will be the sticking point.

In the vein of decluttering, we got out her summer clothes. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say Mom has enough clothing to clothe a small town. She has more just summer clothes than I have total clothes, and I go out to work every day.

Our last order of business was going to her RA doctor’s office for her monthly infusion. Thankfully, I had my laptop with me, so the two hours passed relatively quickly while I waited for her. One good thing was that her doctor’s office is near Syracuse University, so we made a quick stop for some alumni swag and license plate frames for the new car.

It was a quick week, and even busier than usual. Which brings me to tonight. She called to tell me she was waiting outside for a friend to pick her up for bunco, and fell.

When will the time come? I tried to tell her that she needed to make the transition while she was still healthy and able, before she didn’t have a choice, and she needed to be safe so she could remain healthy. She turned 83 yesterday, and while she still gets around pretty well and is relatively healthy, she’s slipped a bit since I last saw her at Christmas.

While I was there she did finally agree to a home health aide to come in a couple of days a week, to help her shower, help with laundry, do a walk to keep her active, etc. I made some calls today to agencies to start finding someone. This will likely be a stop-gap measure, but for how long remains the question.

It’s hard being eight hours away sometimes.


Mini trip report – Philadelphia

I had a conference in Philadelphia, and we decided to tack on a few days beforehand to sight see. We’ve driven past Philadelphia all our lives, but haven’t even been to the city.

Since we were staying in the center city area and didn’t want to pay for parking, we opted for Amtrak. The train ride up was uneventful, though much of the sights in the various cities we traveled through were of a definitely unsavory variety. Why can’t some of the huge, boarded-up industrial buildings in cities be rehabbed to provide housing for the homeless? It would solve three problems at once: rescuing buildings that at one time had been grand; beautifying cities; and helping the homeless. But solving the world’s problems hasn’t fallen in my purview yet.

We arrived around noon, taxied to the Loew’s Philadelphia to drop our luggage off, and went across the street to Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Poor Charlie, there weren’t enough days for him to try all the meals he wanted! I made him try a pork sandwich at DiNic’s, which he proclaimed good, but not the best he’s every had.

We wandered around the market for a couple of hours, and then headed to Macy’s, in the old Wannamaker department store building. What a beautiful, beautiful store! I was entranced with the architectural details, and we went up to inspect the pipe organ more closely. While we were there, a wedding party was being photographed on the mezzanine. Charlie got some gym shorts, since he had forgotten to pack any (though, as it turned out, we were so tired from sightseeing that he never actually got to the gym!).

Back to Loew’s, hoping the room would be ready since it was now 3 p.m. It wasn’t. They took my cell number and gave me two vouchers for free cocktails in the lounge. We waited there, but decided to not use the vouchers until later. An hour and a half later, with still no call about the room, I went back to the front desk, to discover that the room had been ready for 20 minutes. Grrr.

The Loew’s is in an older building, and I’d seen comments about things being run-down. I didn’t notice this. Our room was a luxury class room, in a corner with views from two walls, one toward the historic area and the other toward Chinatown. It was quite large, with a spacious bathroom. The worst thing about it was a periodic noise that I suspected was from a HVAC chute somewhere close by – it sounded like an airplane landing.

Overall, the experience at the Loew’s was very good. The doormen and concierge were very pleasant, as was the server in the lounge. The conference facility and conference food were also good, particularly breakfast. The only dark spot, other than the noise, was the housekeeping. It came very late every day, and was spotty. Several days the used towels were left on the hooks and new ones added, resulting in quite a surplus of towels. Some bathroom amenities weren’t replenished. Most egregious was the day when the decorative pillows from the chair and the bed were left on the floor.

One other point for short people like me: with the windows covering the whole wall the bed was against, it was difficult to pull the curtains closed at night. It was either stand on the bed to completely close them, or deal with a few inches of open curtain on an east-facing window. Luckily for me, I was up early most days, so the sunrise didn’t bother me.

Anyway, enough about the hotel.

Since this was Easter Saturday, I had previously scoped out information on the closest Catholic church, and we got ready for their Easter vigil service, deciding to skip dinner before mass, since we were still full from the market. The church was just around the corner, and the Vigil was nice and only about two hours.

We got back to the hotel around 10:30 p.m., and we headed for the lounge to use our vouchers. Since we were now hungry, we split a flatbread pizza from the bar menu (it was good),  then up  to the room.

The next day was Easter Sunday, and thankfully the historic sites were open.We had considered trying to find an Easter brunch somewhere, but decided it would take too much time. Besides, we weren’t in the mood for frou-frou food.

We headed down Market Street, stopping in Subway for a quick breakfast sandwich. Then we did the typical tourist things: the Independence Visitor Center, the tour of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, and the Liberty Bell. It was in the 80s that weekend, so we built in frequent relaxation breaks.

The Visitor’s Center was nice, thought it seems to have been designed to move you in and out fairly quickly, since noise just reverberated from one end to the other! The din when there were groups of kids in there was fairly obnoxious. We watched one of the movies, and it was sort of lame.

The tower on Independence Hall was under scaffolding, but with a printed screening of the tower. It was interesting to visit places that we’d heard about since elementary school. The Liberty Bell was smaller than I had imagined. Personally, I thought the exhibits in the Liberty Bell center were a bit too PC and went distinctly overboard with the slavery/civil rights issue, but it was still an enjoyable stop.

Outside the Liberty Bell center is a partial excavation of George Washington’s house, and his slave quarters. There’s a sparse framework of walls in this area, with several TVs showing . . . something. We couldn’t see any of them, since bright sunlight and flat screen TVs don’t mix. I hope those were privately donated, since it seems a rather stupid use of taxpayer  funds!

We continued down Market Street for lunch. We actually ran into a bit of a dilemma regarding food while we were there. Many of the places we wanted to go to were closed for Easter Sunday, and others are always closed on Mondays (many of the places in the Italian Market area, for instance).  Since  a South Philly cheese steak wasn’t in the cards for Charlie, I had googled to find the best cheese steak in center city, and that’s where we headed for lunch. It was Campo’s and it was, thankfully, open. Charlie gave his cheese steak a very enthusiastic thumb-up.

After lunch we wandered around Christ Church and the cemetery, and made our way back to the hotel. Dinner that evening wound up being at Cosi’s, since we couldn’t find any other place that was open and that we agreed on. This was definitely a time when it would have been far better to have a plan, since we walked and walked and walked looking for a suitable restaurant.

The following morning, we discovered another holiday weekend dilemma: the Museum of Art was closed, many of the Italian Market shops were closed, quite a few vendors in Reading Market were closed – you get the picture.

Instead, we went to the U.S. Mint and took the self-guided tour. It was interesting, probably mainly because we’re tourist geeks. However, it was hotter than hades in there! Seriously, about half-way through I stopped caring and just wanted to get somewhere cooler. I joked to another tour-goer that you’d think they could afford air-conditioning with all that money hanging around. She was a local, and said that it’s always hot whenever she takes visitors there. It actually felt cooler outside in the shade than inside, and it was in the mid- to high-80s that day.

But first, in a genius marketing move, the tour exit is directly into the gift shop. Alas, I wasn’t to be parted with any of my money there, since I parked myself in front of an industrial fan they had running, and left once my core temp had lowered a bit.

We also went to Elfreth’s Alley, which was interesting to see, but I couldn’t understand why on earth anyone would pay for a tour of it.

We walked by the Constitution Center, and decided against visiting, since my conference later in the week included an evening reception there. This was the one regret of the trip, since Charlie would have really liked it, and also since I didn’t get a chance to see everything during the reception.

During our travels, we stopped at Capogiro for some gelato, and it was almost as good as the gel

We walked down to Rittenhouse Square, which was a bit of a disappointment. I had been expecting something much quainter and atmospheric, with the older row homes, but the Fan in Richmond has way more ambience.

One good thing in the Rittenhouse area, however, was a stand-alone Kiehl’s store (insert squeal of joy here). I can only get my Kiehl’s products at home in Nordstroms, so it was fun to wander in the store. I contributed a bit to the Philadelphia economy here, and Charlie very, very patiently waited outside for me.

Dinner was at Moriarty’s, an Irish restaurant on Walnut Street. Decent food: Charlie hadn’t filled his cheese steak need yet, so that’s what he had, and he declared it better than you’d expect, whatever that means. We stopped at Naked Chocolate on the way back to the hotel, and picked up a couple of treats for later in the evening.

The next morning was the start of my conference, so Charlie caught an early train back to Richmond while I buckled down to work.

Things I don’t understand

1. Why my cat needs to hurl on the carpet instead of in the kitchen, where it would be much easier to clean. He’s a regular hurler, so it gets old. When I’ve seen him doing it, I’ve even moved him quickly to the kitchen, but to no avail.

2. Why Charlie feels the need, after almost 23 years of fruitless training on my part, to put milk cartons and cereal boxes that are 99% empty back into the fridge and cupboards. I regularly have to cull the pantry for empty boxes. He’ll take the last Pop-tart or lemonade packet or whatever and just leave the box in place.

3. The level of narcissism necessary to park like your car is encrusted in gold. There was a guy in the work parking deck who would park smack in the middle of two parking spaces daily, even angling a little to make sure no one could squeeze in, on the first level of the deck. While I was out shopping yesterday, I counted three cars in prime parking spots who were brazenly taking up two spaces. I will cut some slack for those who are just morons who carelessly take up more than their space, but to be brazen about it? People, it’s just a car. It’s going to get dirty, it will likely even get dinged or scratched a little bit before you’re ready to get rid of it. Either deal with it, or park farther afield where you’re not taking up prime real estate.

4. Why my resistance to the common cold stinks now that I’m on Coumadin. Used to be, a cold barely slowed me down. It was nothing more than a nuisance. Now, however, I’m still battling a cold that started a week and a half ago. I missed 2 1/2 days of work last week because I was so tired; one day I slept 17 out of 24 hours. It’s 94 degrees outside right now, and I’m sniffling and coughing away.

5. What possesses job seekers to use family members as references, or use an email address like hotbabeforyou@ Oh, and here’s another hint, job-seekers: an applicant or a resume isn’t the same medium as a text message. If you don’t use capital letters or full words, you’re going in the eliminated pile really quickly. I can’t tell you how many applications I see where they don’t even capitalize their names.

Good intentions

I had good intentions of posting Friday, I really did. However, a teeny, tiny piece of calcified goo intervened. I became a casualty of a kidney stone.

It’s not the first time I’ve had one. Four years ago, I spent about nine hours in utter and complete agony with one. I became very dehydrated very quickly, to the extent that they couldn’t get a vein to give me any pain meds, thus the nine pain-filled hours. X-rays and CT scans didn’t see a stone, but sure enough, that’s what it was, as became evident the following day when it passed.

Which brings me to Friday. I was at work, and having some intermittent pain that vaguely resembled the prior attack. I wasn’t sure, though, since it had come on like a freight train four years ago. I called the urologist’s office, and they set up an appointment for later in the day. Ten minutes later, I was back on the phone with them – the freight train had arrived!

Once again, x-rays and CT scans showed nothing. But again, like before, this too shall pass, and it did, late Friday night.

Here are some things I learned this time around:

  • I’m evidently among the 2% whose stones like to hide. I’m going to make sure I always have a narcotic pain reliever on me. If it happens again, I can get quick relief and just ride it out instead of rushing to the doctor and getting expensive tests that don’t show anything definitive.
  • It’s not a good idea to drive yourself anywhere when you’re in intense pain and have been sobbing incoherently for several hours straight.
  • It’s also not a good idea to be tough and forego the Torodol shot because at that moment, in whatever particular position you’re in, the pain’s “not too bad.”
  • It’s really okay to say something other than “I’m fine, thanks, and you?” when someone asks how you are. This is particularly true when you’re doubled over in pain in front of them, sobbing incoherently and panting like a woman in her sixth hour of labor.
  • When you’ve been sobbing incoherently, don’t shove all the used tissues into your purse to be discovered the next day when sanity returns. Trust me, it’s just gross.

Five things I love from Trader Joe’s

I’ll be the first to admit that my love is fickle. Not my overall love for TJ’s, but for specific items. Had I made this list last year, it likely would have contained their refrigerated pizza dough, Tuscan bread, and their version of Pirate’s Booty. During Christmas, I’d likely have a hard time choosing between my husband and their chocolate-covered shortbread star cookies with nonpareils. Next year, I’m sure there will be new items and perhaps some old favorites.

A caveat: as is obvious from the items listed below, our favorites will never be anything healthy! While we eat some healthy stuff because we have to, you’ll never catch Charlie or I saying, “My, I’m craving some edamame.” We’re just not wired that way. Nor are we into much ethnic food, unless you count Italian.

For now, though, here’s the list:

1. Frozen croissants – these things are sinfully good. Really, really, really good, both the plain, mini croissants and the chocolate croissants. Scuttlebutt is that TJ’s croissants are made by the same manufacturer that makes Williams-Sonoma’s frozen croissants, which cost a zillion times more. All you need to do is let them thaw and rise overnight, and you’ve got lovely, flaky, hot goodness in the morning. It’s a great way to impress your weekend guests.

2. Fully-baked frozen baguettes – in case you couldn’t tell, I love bread. These are new, and good. They’re mini baguettes, and come six in a package. You just thaw and stick in the toaster oven for a few minutes to crisp them up. The directions say that you don’t even need to heat them at all, but I’ll always choose warm bread over room temp. The best thing is that you can pull just one or two from the package.

3. Cheddar cheese crackers – these are very similar to John Wm. Macy’s cheddar and asiago crackers, but cost way less. Be forewarned: it’s far too easy to just keep eating these until the package is empty. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway. Not that it’s ever happened in my house, no.

4. Trader Giuseppe’s spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage – it’s good even when I don’t do any doctoring to it.

5. The final thing isn’t a singular thing, but rather TJ staples that are good quality at great prices: olive oil, cut flowers, most any kind of nut, and cheese of any variety.

Charlie’s list of favorites would be vastly different, and include frozen mini-tacos. What can I say, we’re simple people and we like simple things.

The reason for the dearth of photos lately

It’s Aud’s fault.

Unlike today, when there are pictures of every first day of school, every Halloween, every school play or concert, she just didn’t take many photos back then. Which may be just as well, since she’s very apt to cut people’s heads off in photos.

I don’t know whether it was the expense of buying film and flashbulbs and developing the photos, or whether it was just the norm back then, but there aren’t  a lot of photos from back then. There are a handful of baby photos for each of us (fewer for me, since I was the seventh and honestly, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish my baby pics from my sister’s). There are some vacation photos, pictures when we had out-of-town guests, and a few scattered Christmas trees captured on film. Other than these occasions, it wasn’t often that the camera got pulled out.

Of course, there’s also the matter of not labeling the photos that were taken. When I went through the family photo albums recently and scanned them, I did a lot of guessing as to who people were and when the photos were taken. Let that be a lesson to you: go label your photos!

That’s the reason there are no photos of Willy The Goat, or Herbie. Valentine, however, rated camera time. This is when Valentine joined our family. Oh, she wass so small and so cute! And my hair looked so much better then than it does now!

Unusual pets Part Two

Though we were primarily a one-pet family (that pet being dear Valentine), in addition to Herbie the mouse, there was one other time when we had a second pet. He came into the family after Dad bought the land next to the house, stretching down to the county road. It was a field, full of tall grasses and weeds.

One day, Dad came home with a goat. His idea was to put the goat house in a certain spot and the goat would eat all the field grasses in that area, and then the goat house could be moved to another area for the same treatment.

Which is how it worked – except that we kids, of course, adopted the goat as our pet. He was named William T. Goat (the T. being for The), and we called him Willy Goat.

We would get home from school and run out to his goat house to say hello. In response, he would rub the little nub of his horns against our hands and bleat. We loved Willy, and I think he loved us, too.

But here’s the strange part of the Willy story, stranger than having a pet goat when you don’t have a farm (you knew there had to be a weird part, didn’t you?):

We three girls all played instruments throughout all of our school years: one the clarinet, another the trumpet, and me the saxophone.  During the time Willy was with us, we would regularly take our music, our music stands and our instruments out to the field and practice. We’d give al fresco concerts out in the side yard, with Willy as our appreciative audience. I’m sure the neighbors driving by thought the whole lot of us were nuts.

We would visit Willy in the morning while waiting for the school bus, and run like the dickens from the field to the end of the driveway when Mrs. Warner squealed to a stop. We were the only kids on the bus route that had a pet goat.

One morning (I seem to remember it was Good Friday or some time around Easter), we woke up to find that Willy was gone. Maybe he was just inside the goat house, sleeping late, we thought, but when we ran out to check, he was definitely gone. Even worse, he hadn’t gotten loose, he had been stolen, his collar removed. We alerted everyone we could. Over the next couple of weeks, we got a few lead about white goat sightings, and Dad even drove us out to Brewerton and Hastings to scope out a few places where people reported Willy might be.

Alas, we never found sweet Willy. Dad was certain that someone stole him for their Easter dinner, a thought that horrified me.  Dad didn’t get another goat, and finished clearing the field himself.

We moved the goat house to the back yard for Valentine, thinking she could use it in bad weather. But she never, ever went in it. Even during torrential rains or blizzards, she would stand next to it, probably remembering when she had to share our love with a goat.

Mom and a home health aide

We’ve slowly been getting Mom used to the idea that she’s going to need a home health aide at some point. Actually, for our peace of mind, that time is pretty much here. It’s getting her to agree that’s the hard part!

When she sold the house, Mom moved into an apartment in the village. It’s not a seniors complex, but there are quite a few senior citizens living there. (In a village the size of Central Square, there’s not many complexes to choose from!) She has a ground-floor unit, with no steps getting into the building.  She could conceivably stay there forever – if, that is, she gets a little bit of help.

Safety-wise, the main concern is showering, since her mobility is so limited and she needs to step high over the bathtub to get in the shower. And there’s lots of other things Mom can do, but it would be nice to have someone help her sometime: laundry, getting dressed, taking out the trash, etc.

When I first broached the subject a year or so ago, she soundly dismissed me. I knew she would, but that didn’t stop me from mentioning it every once in awhile. When we went to Alaska, I had the chance to really get her used to the idea. She’s now agreed that yes, it would be helpful, but “not just yet.”

First she mentioned calling  someone who helped a friend’s mother. I explained that she really should go through a home health agency to get someone who’s insured and bonded. At first she poo-poohed the idea, then I gave her some tough talk: What if the aide hurt her back helping Mom into the shower? She could sue her. And what if the person stole something? Mom would have no recourse.

Then I had to assuage her concerns about having a stranger in the apartment. Mom was worried about someone rummaging through the apartment while she was in the shower. I told her the aide should never be anywhere Mom wasn’t, since she’d be paid to take care of her.

She’s given up on the private aide. However, that doesn’t mean that she’s still ready to take the next step. She lost the phone number. She hasn’t been home to call. She wants to wait until she goes to the doctor to see if Medicare will cover it.

I gotta say, the woman has a lot of excuses designed to shut me up. But I’m like a dog with a bone. Every other phone call, I ask if she’s called an agency yet. Every once in awhile, I give her the zinger: It’s what Dad would have wanted, it’s the reason he worked so hard to make sure she would be taken care of. Soon I’ll wear her down. No matter how much she equivocates, she won’t wear me down!

Chili update

Our prep day wasn’t too bad: we made all the chili and brownies at my church’s kitchen, and prepped the individual containers of sour cream, chopped onion and grated cheese. The worst part was cutting and bagging the brownies – boring! I brought home 80 servings of beef chili and it filled my fridge until Monday morning.

Bright and early Monday morning, the crock pots were started, 10 in all. Setting up the conference/serving room went smoothly: we had individual boxes into which we put a bottled water, a bagged brownie, a bagged piece of cornbread, a spoon and napkins, and my skin cancer prevention tips. We set all of them up ahead of time, and were ready to serve up the chili as people arrived!

All told, we served about 110 lunches, and raised almost $600. Next year, we’re going to raise the price, since we’re way below market price around here for a complete lunch. We had counted on getting additional donations with a low price, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen as much as we had hoped it would.

Bad kitty

Does Nicholas look at all contrite? Does he look guilty? Or ashamed? Or anything other than disinterested?

No? Well, he should:

This is what I found in the living room this morning. (Ignore the mess of newspapers.) This poor plant was one of three on the ledge directly above here. When I first put the plants there, little fur-face would occasionally stand his back legs on this end table and stretch up to nibble on the leaves. I would yell at him and push him away. Like many things in his four-legged world, he soon lost interest in the fronds, and they’ve been safe from tuna breath for some time now.

Until last night. Not only did the whiskered one decide he wanted a midnight snack of greenery, he pulled the entire plant off the ledge, breaking the pot in the process. Oh, and of course dumping soil all over everything.

Charlie and I must have been sleeping like the dead to have slept through it.

When I confronted little pointy-ears this morning upon discovering the destruction, this is the look he gave me:

“Yeah, so what? What do you want? Get that camera away from me. You bore me.”

Thankfully, the soil was dry (I tend to either ignore my plants or drown them in attention). I had to get to work, so the evidence will remain all day, for Nicholas to ponder and feel sorry for his bad ways.Perhaps some wailing and beating of chest would be in order as an act of contrition.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen.