Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Brother Mike's Geriatric Community

My brother, Mike, is an extraordinary man. Not only does he work full-time (shiftwork, no less), but he takes care of our dad, our uncle, our neighbor Lois, and of course Shasta, his dog.

My brother lives with our dad who is 83 and has Parkinson's Disease. He also has quite a bit of the dementia that goes along with it. He is very even tempered and pleasant to be around, but it is still quite a job taking care of him. My brother does this without complaint. I help when I can, but living 170 or so miles away makes it challenging.

Mike does all the cooking and cleaning. He makes sure dad has taken his pills (which he crushes and puts into applesauce), prepares his prunes daily and makes sure he eats them. He fixes food ahead of time and always has a couple of plates ready for dad should he get hungry while Mike is sleeping or working. He cleans dad's false teeth and glues them in for him, washes his glasses and puts compresses on his eyes every day. The list goes on and on.

Uncle John, my mom's youngest brother, is 78. Aside from a bad hip, he's in pretty good shape. He was never married, so we are his closest relatives. My brother helps him out by cutting and splitting all the wood he needs to keep his house warm. Once again, I help out when I can, but Mike is the one that does the lion's share of the work.

Mike also makes sure John has all of the amenities he needs. This year we went together and bought him a new air conditioner and a recliner. Last year we bought him a dvd player and television set. This Christmas we refurbished his bed and bedding.

Our neighbor Lois is kind and sweet. She is a beloved member of the family. Lois is 82 years young and quite spry, however, her memory isn't what it used to be and she is fairly unsteady on her feet. Mike hauls her garbage for her, brings in loads of wood, shovels her walks and mows her lawn. He serves her coffee and cookies everytime she comes over and always makes sure drinks her milk at the meals she shares with us. He usually walks her home after she comes to visit, to make certain she doesn't fall.

Mike's dog Shasta is the light of his life. Whatever Shasta wants, Shasta gets. She has a special bark for when she's hungry, when she wants her special dog treats and for when she desires to have salmon spread on top of her dinner, thank you very much. He knows what each and every bark means and dutifully provides whatever her heart desires. He loves her like she was his own child and I really love that about him.

Mike has helped my son with college tuition costs, with car repairs and most recently by helping to finance the new SUV. He fully supports my son in everything he does and bursts with pride when he hears of his accomplishments.

My brother has been of great assistance to me as well. He has helped me move more times than I can count. Nothing says "I'm there for you" like moving heavy furniture, not once, but twice in a year's time. He has given emotional and financial assistance to me whenever I have needed it.

The giving doesn't stop there. Mike donates time and money to many other charitable causes. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he donated money to help the pets that were stranded and in need of assistance. He has generously supported the Beartooth Nature Center, where Helen the Mountain Lion (pictured above) resides, for decades, donating time and money to this important local cause. Whenever a collection is being taken up for something worthy, Mike gets out the checkbook.

In short, my brother Mike is an incredible human being, and today, February 1, 2007, he is an incredible 53 year old human being.

Happy Birthday Mike.

We love you!


Because my hair is naturally curly (or maybe it's just a series of unruly, uncontrollable cowlicks), whenever the weather is damp and the temperature cools down enough to require heat from an outside source my hair gets “interesting”.
(By the way, this is SO not me)

Because the weather has been downright cold and miserable, outside heat sources have been an essential part of everyday life for quite some time.

(This is not me either--my hardhat is yellow)

Because I am a resourceful woman and at my wits end, I tried something I’ve never done before.

(This is not my dryer either, mine is blue--but isn't it a nice color?)

Because I'm tired of my co-workers smart-ass comments, I won't be doing THAT again.

(Okay, that isn't me either, but you get the idea, right?)

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Bad Day Gone Good

As strange as it may sound, I don't particularly care for shopping. Yes, I know, women are supposed to love that stuff, but I don't. When I can't shop online; I'm a "make a list, check it off as I pick it up, and then get out the door", kind of gal. So when HWDDD emailed me a shopping list this morning, I was none too thrilled.

In addition to dreading the shopping, I was sad to leave my dad's house. He was up this morning and none too happy to see me go. We hugged for a long time and when I finally left, I was in tears. I looked back at the house as I pulled out of the driveway and both Shasta and dad were standing at the window looking sad. (I know, I know, how can you tell a dog is sad--I just can, and it's my darned story)

I really wish I could help dad and Mike out more.

Anyway, my plan was to go to Walmart first (which I hate) and then Pet Smart (which I love) on the way out of town. I like to do the worst chore first, and save the fun for last.

I parked my car at the far edge of the Walmart parking lot. I sit on my tush too much at work, so I try to get in as much walking as possible, even if it is only from the car to the store. I also find that I get fewer door dings out in the nose bleed section.

I took a cart from the incredibly kind greeter and went into the store. This was going to be easy, I thought to myself. The store was hardly crowded at all, so I set about my task. Milk, cat litter, cat box deoderizer, more cat litter and deoderizer, onions--red and white, green pepper, roma tomatoes, progresso soups, candles for the warmer (some really yummy smelling ones this time) and a few impulse items I won't mention here.

By this time, it was a somewhat busier in the store. There were lines in front of most of the registers, so I prepared to wait. I looked around and there was an older gentleman in line behind me. He was leaning heavily on his cart and was carrying an oxygen bottle. I smiled at him and asked if he would like to go in front of me as I was next in line. He smiled, said "yes", and then looked straight at me and said "You are beautiful".

My first reaction (my usual response when someone hints that I am the slightest bit attractive) was to ask him how long he'd been legally blind. I DID NOT say that because he was such a sweet guy and I think that in his myopic, catarac ridden eyes, I probably was.

So I blushed. A deep, red, I could crawl under the counter kind of blush that could probably be seen from the Hubble Space Telescope. That seemed to tickle him and he grinned even more, saying "she blushes like a school girl, isn't she adorable". By then I was glancing about desperately looking for somewhere to hide. Fortunately the check out person was quick and efficient and after just a few more minutes he was on his way, chuckling to himself.

I couldn't even look the salesperson in the eye. He was smiling broadly, inviting conversation, but I wrote my check and walked quickly to the parking lot to put my purchases away. After I unloaded my cart, I saw an older woman struggling to put her groceries in the trunk of her car. It looked like she was about spent, so I offered to take her cart to the rack. She told me "that is undoubtedly the nicest thing that will happen to me today." I smiled and told her that I thought the day would bring much better things for her than that and put the cart away.

I was pretty happy, despite the complete and utter embarrassment I had suffered in Walmart and headed for Pet Smart where I was greeted by not one, but two adorable border collies. Their owners were kind enough to let me dote on them for quite awhile, so my doggie fix was taken care of. I walked right over to the glucosamine chondroitin doggy treats I buy by the gross for the neighbor dog and the Science Diet cat food my cats love was on sale! The stars were certainly with me in Pet Smart.

As I drove out of town, it occurred to me that my shopping expedition wasn't nearly as unpleasant as I had expected it to be. I guess you never really know how a day will turn out.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Dream of Something Else

Life doesn't always play out as expected. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's not.

No matter what though, life is what we make of it.

A very wise man told me, "No one is limited by anything. I don't know the laws of the universe, or what happened before or what's going to happen now, for anyone or anything. But I know that a woman as intense and passionate about what she wants and needs as you -- and who is maybe starting to realize she isn't getting that now -- deserves and is going to get that if the universe unfolds as it should".

Heady stuff, right?

There are so many decisions to be made in life. Some decisions seem to make themselves. They are so logical and come so easily; you know they are right. Others seem right when you make them, but as time passes you realize that they were the safe choice, but probably not the right choice. Sometimes the choice was the easy way out, then becomes anything but easy to live with.

I am in the midst of a dilema. I have a pretty good idea what needs to be done, but it remains to be seen whether or not I have the intestinal fortitude to carry it out.

I need your thoughts and prayers, friends. Now, more than ever.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Bright and Shiny Weekend

I am spending another (long) weekend in Absarokee with my dad, brother and of course, Shasta the Wonder Dog.

(Shasta is a big help in the driving department)

Our mission:

1. Take Shasta on an adventure

2. Clean Uncle John's chimney

3. Gather enough wood for John to heat his house for at least a month

(As you can see, my brother does all the work while I take pictures)

We filled this truck up too, but by then I was so tired from lugging the wood around, I didn't get my camera out to document it.

Tomorrow we unload, split and stack wood.

To be continued...

Thursday, January 25, 2007


My son’s first word was “Moon”, closely followed by “Man in Moon”. I just thought you’d like to know that.

The photo (above) was taken from the back deck of my dad's house. I’ve come to spend another weekend with my dad and brother. As some of you know, I have attempted to post from Absarokee in the past, but was hamstrung by slow dial-up internet and a shared computer. All of that is a thing of the past now because we have…drum roll please...WIRELESS HIGH SPEED INTERNET!! Yes folks, we are out of the dark ages and into the light! No more painting the kitchen (as if) while the page downloads. No more driving to the store, doing the weekly shopping and returning only to find that the picture you are posting is still, for lack of a better word, posting. Yup, we’ve stepped it up a notch here in the big city and we are very happy and excited about it. As a matter of fact, my brother is right this very minute Yahoo messaging me blog links from two rooms away. Aint technology grand?

Anyway, the whole purpose of this post (yes there is one, so pthhhhh) is to say a great big THANK YOU to tech support (my son) for hooking us up.

You RAWK son!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Final Super Secret Christmas Present (I promise)

In anticipation of our belated Christmas celebration, I spent many, many weeks preparing special gifts for my family members. The original plan was to compile simple photo albums for my dad (and brother), my son and my uncle John. Since I have over 8,000 photos on my computer, it seemed an easy enough task to sort through them, find the best shots, print them off and add them to the albums.

About a quarter of the way in, I decided that the albums should be individualized. I began working in earnest on the project, spending my free time sorting and printing.

About half way through I decided to scan old pictures and add them to the mix. I wanted the albums to be a surprise, so borrowing the photos from my dad’s house involved covert activity. I went through the pictures while dad was sleeping in his lounge chair and Mike was at work. I snuck into my dad's room to root around in his dresser drawers while he was in the shower. I considered buying night vision goggles so I could do my deed while everyone was sleeping but I didn't think the turn around time on would be fast enough for me to finish by "Christmas".

About three quarters of the way into the project, I realized that there was no way I could finish in time. I started staying up until the wee hours, sorting, scanning, printing...printing, sorting, scanning...sprinting, scorting, panning. On the rare occasions that I did sleep, my dreams were filled with paper jams and empty ink cartridges.

My entire family was starting to worry about me. The cats were tired of the incessant noise of the printer and my brother was suspicious because I kept calling him at work to chat at 2 am. My co-workers made more than a few comments about the satchels under my eyes and HWDDD shook his head every morning when he saw me with my mega-tanker coffee cup staggering to the shower.

Finally, the night before my son flew in, I finished. I was tired and crabby, but the albums were done. I wrapped them and loaded them in the car.

Was it all worth it? You bet.

My dad went through each and every one of the pages. One at a time. Then later that night, he went through them again.

My son had the world’s biggest smile on his face when he opened the package. He also went through every page, at least once.

My uncle was thrilled too. He kept touching the pages as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing.

It’s funny. I had no idea how much it would mean to them, I just knew that I wanted to do it. I also had no idea how much it would mean to me. Not only the giving of the gift, but the process of making it. By sorting through all of the photos, and organizing them, I was reminded of the circumstances under which they were taken. The wonderful walks at Buck Creek, the Woodbine adventure, the time Uncle John, Mike, Shasta and I went out to survey damage from the Derby Fire, the priceless photos of my mom and son, the river trips, and the visits to Denver.

Before, they were just pictures, images on a screen or sheet of paper. Afterward, they were our lives.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Second Super Secret Christmas Surprise

Those of you who regularly read my blog know that Christmas 2006 was cancelled due to factors beyond our control. You also know that we were finally able to celebrate this past weekend and that a wonderful time was had by all, including my son who was surprised with a new SUV.

What you don’t know is that I too, was surprised. I was given a gift that meant more to me than any thing I’ve ever received. What was this amazing gift you ask? It was a gift to me, straight from my son's heart.

This is a digital picture frame. It displays a slide show of photos (all taken by me and lovingly compiled by my son). There are nearly a hundred of my photos installed and it can hold many, many more. It is capable of showing videos and comes with a remote. He spent a very large amount of his hard earned money to buy it for me and then spent countless hours setting it up.

It also plays music. The song my son picked for me was “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler. As you can imagine, I cried.

The best Christmas gift. Ever.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The First of the Super Secret Christmas Surprises

The plane was a bit early and we had just gotten to the airport as my son was coming down the escalator.

Here we are leaving the airport terminal. My son said he felt like a movie star because I was taking so many pictures.

We had planned to look for a new car for my son during our Christmas break. His dream vehicle was a sunset orange Honda Element. The plan was to go to the dealership and try to make a deal. The photo above was taken at the moment he figured out that the Element in the parking lot was his.

Happy boy, happy mom

Life IS good

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Heading Home for Our Christmas

As you may know, Christmas 2006 was cancelled due to the bad storm that settled over Denver. My son was unable to fly out, so we decided to wait until he could come home to celebrate the holiday.

I drove up the night before my son was due to fly in. I needed to put up the mini-tree and do a bit of last minute preparation for the big event. This is the sky that greeted me as I neared home.

More to come...