Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tangled Tee

A couple of weeks ago, one of my former co-workers invited me to a "Zentangle" workshop. She described it as sort of yoga for the brain. Knowing how much stress is in my life, she said it was a wonderful way to unwind and so I said I'd like to go.

I'd never heard of Zentangle so I looked it up ( and found that it's a form of art and is used in many places as therapy and is a great way to de-stress. The class was $35 and taught by a (one of only two) certified Zantangle teacher. She went through a training program in Rhode Island and is certified to teach others. It was a fun two hours and I came away very relaxed and with something that I can do while Ron is watching TV. It takes an ink pen (a marker), a pencil, and some paper. That's it. No big investment. No big things to lug around. There are a lot of books and patterns on the 'Net that you can buy but you don't have to.

Here is the "tangle" we created in class. We were all given four "tangles" that we learned and then told to pick three of them to make our own tile. Once we put them all together, it was pretty surprising to see how we all did something different with what we learned.

The next two I did on my own just looking for things and patterns online.

A friend sent me a link to the bottom picture and told me to try to re-create it. The original is much nicer but I was pleased with my results.

For this last one, I found a blog with a challenge list on it. I got there through some other links my friend sent me. The challenge for this week was to take the Moebius Syndrome symbol and "tangle" it. Even though I'm a total beginner, I decided to try my hand at the symbol.

This is my version:

 Purple is the official color for the Moebius Syndrome so I've incorporated some here. I've also added some glitter pen to add some pizazz.

I'll get better as I go but right now, it's definitely amateurish.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Healthy eating

I'm working on getting healthy and losing weight this year. With that in mind, I bought myself a Ninja food processor/blender for "Christmas." I'm not sure that this is the model that will work for us but I've been using it for a couple of weeks and it seems to be doing what I want it to do.

Here's a recipe that I got from my sister (she has a Blendtec) and modified it a bit for us.
“Faux” Chicken Tortilla Soup (this recipe a modified version of one from Blendtec blender). I imagine it would work in any blender that chops well.

Add the ingredients in this order:
2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
½ large carrot (I used 5-6 baby carrots)
1” slice red pepper (I didn’t have red; used green instead)
¼ avocado (again, modified to suit our tastes so I used the whole thing – plus it was kind of small and very ripe)
2 tbsp onion (I used about ½ half of a medium white onion)
1 ounce pepper jack cheese (I used a little bit more than that and had reduced fat cheese)
2 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 tsp no-salt herb seasoning (I left this out)
¾ tsp kosher salt (left this out, too)
¾ tsp garlic powder
2 c warm water

Blend these ingredients together until smooth (or the consistency you like). The original recipe said to add ½ c tortilla chips and “pulse” in 2-3 times. I did not add any chips.

Variations: The original recipe called for ½ cup black beans, corn kernels, more cheese, chicken, fresh tomato. I took rotisserie chicken from the store and shredded about 4 oz in each bowl. I also took an envelope of black beans that was designed for two servings and pulsed that in, along with a little bit more onion, some jalepeno slices, and a bit of garlic salt (just a little bit).

 After the soup was the consistency I liked, I heated it up and then poured it over the shredded chicken. Topped that with a bit of shredded cheddar and we practically FOUGHT over it! This is supposed to make four servings but Ron and I ate the whole thing in one night. Oh.My.Goodness delicious!

Nutritional information: (based on the basic recipe without any variations and four servings)

Serving size: 1 c
Calories: 60
Fat 3.5g
Saturated Fat 1.5g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 350mg
Carbohydrates 5g
Fiber 2g
Sugar 3g
Protein 2g

This is so good that I’m going to make it for dinner again tonight. Since Ron came home from the nursing home (i.e., rehab), I’ve been working on feeding him only healthy stuff. He’s doing pretty good (except for the fall on Sunday which scared the daylights out of me!). I took him to the doctor for a follow-up and he drew blood to check Ron’s kidney function and blood count as he’s very groggy (in fact, he’s slept most of the day, which is really a bit of a stressor for me as I don’t always know how to handle it).

He's loving the food, though! I do a healthy smoothie every morning for breakfast for the two of us. It's usually this with a few variations on the fruit:

5-6 carrots
1 stalk of celery
1 Roma tomato
1 c skim milk or 1/2 plain yogurt
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
3-4 ice cubes or some extra water to thin it down if too thick
handful of fresh spinach
Fruit of your choice (I pick two out of the list below) and use fresh or frozen

Fruit: apple (cored but not peeled), orange, banana, blueberries, blackberries, frozen tropical blend (pineapple, mango, etc.), mixed berry blend, strawberries, blueberries.

Blend until the consistency you like (add more ice, more water, whatever) and pour into two tall glasses. This will easily make two 20 oz servings. Enjoy!

I've also made the above without the vegetables or fruit and add in 2T peanut butter, 2T sugar-free chocolate pudding mix, and 1T sugar-free butterscotch pudding mix. It tasted just like a shake from Sonic - only much better for us!

Ron home

I brought Ron home from rehab last Friday and it's been a challenge. There have been nights in the last week where I felt like I was living with a newborn. Every little move he makes, I'm instantly awake. I'm worried that he's going to fall when trying to get out of the bed or get into the bathroom. The door from our room to the bathroom is too narrow for his walker, so he has to go out into the hall and then into the bathroom. He fell Sunday morning (lost his balance) and landed on his LEFT hip and that scared the daylights out of me. Luckily, he hit the wall behind him first and then down or he might have ended up back in the hospital. He did put a hole in the wall that I'm going to have to have someone fix. Oh well... better the wall than another hip! I had to call Rex at 8:00 in the morning to have him come down to pick Ron up off the floor.

I've had many conversations with Ron over the past week about his habits, his medications, and how he sleeps in between conversations and such. He scared me so much Sunday morning that I went ape-sh** on him when I found out he'd gotten into some medication that I had HID from him so he wouldn't take too much of it - and he took it anyway! I know that it slows down his response time and he can't afford to be any slower than he already is. Because he took this, I'm sure that it is the reason he fell because he couldn't catch his balance again. I threatened him with nursing home residency if he didn't straighten up. He has a lot of short-term memory problems, but he KNEW that I had this medicine hidden and he KNEW that I didn't want him taking any extra, and he hid the fact from me that he took it until the next day. So, he has enough memory to know when he's doing something that he's not supposed to do.

In all honesty, I'm not sure realistically how much longer he'll be able to stay home. I know I've said this before, but things have really changed with the hip replacement.

Speaking of... oh my - the bills (and insurance claims) are rolling in. His hospital bill was over $32,000, the surgeon and his PA each charged $2900 for the surgery, the ambulance was $650, the rehab was $9600 (that's just for the December portion; not received the claim for the first 11 days of January), the primary care doctor bill was $450 for the hospital, the PA and doctor for the nursing home (rehab) was $90 or $135 every day they saw him and "supposedly" one of them came in every day of the week. Insurance picked up the entire tab for the hospital and the December portion of the nursing home. They also paid all but $453 of the surgeon and all but $105 of the ambulance. I'm not sure how much of the various other doctor bills or the January nursing home bill will be paid by them or owed by me. At the very least, I'll owe $1750 (his deductible) and then possibly 20% of the rest (reasonable and customary) until the maximum out-of-pocket ($3500) for him has been met.  I'm hoping with the addition of Humana Medicare that most of the extra expenses will be picked up by them. We shall see...

In the meantime, we also have a visiting nurse (twice weekly), physical therapy (twice weekly), occupational therapy (twice weekly), and home health attendant (once per week to help him shower). Those are "extra" charges that I haven't got calculated into the above charge. I'm so glad to have the help that I'm just not going to worry about the financial aspect because I know they'll all take payments.

Payment plans are definitely in my future!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ron Update

Ron has had a rough time recuperating from his broken hip. He fell on 12/4 and had a partial hip replacement on 12/5. On 12/8, he was transferred to a "rehab" facility (nursing home) where he has had physical therapy every day since then, except for Christmas Day. Other than that, he's had some type of therapy. A lot of days, he's not able to walk any but he's had upper body strengthening exercises and is working very hard.

He had been in mild kidney failure while in the hospital so it was a few days before everything settled down and he lost the confusion that accompanies kidney failure. Once that happened, he was more ready to begin the arduous task of "rehab."

Last weekend, Ron started complaining of severe pain in his hip and couldn't even put weight on the leg without being in serious discomfort. Sunday, they discovered that he had an infection in the incision so he was started on an antibiotic. His blood pressure has been very high so they've put him on a new blood pressure medication. It's still not doing the trick so the doctor is adding back one of his previous medications. We're hopeful that the combination will do the trick.

On the good news side, with the antibiotic in his system and resting the last two days (he was in too much pain to try and walk), Ron was able to walk 150+ feet today! That is an amazing bit of progress. I know that "150 feet" doesn't sound like a lot, but when you've been walking 10-20 and having to stop, that is a big accomplishment.

We're not sure how much longer he'll be in rehab but I'll have a big surprise for him when he comes home. I had planned on getting him a new television for Christmas and he kind of changed those plans. I went shopping Monday and found a "return" at Sears for less than 1/2 of the original price, with all of the same manufacturer's warranty still intact. I also bought a 3-year "in home" warranty that will also allow us to have it serviced and checked out each year for no charge. That (plus the price) made the TV selection a no-brainer. It will be set up and ready for him to enjoy as soon as he gets home. Now, I just have to get him to quit focusing on a new television while he's cooped up so he doesn't do something silly - like trying to buy one himself! LOL, that would be just like him to try!

I got him a 60" Samsung Smart LED flat screen for $850. The regular retail is $1799 for this same TV; "on sale" price would still be $1299 for it. I was stoked! It doesn't have built-in Web browsing but it does have Wi-Fi and he can (if I get a cordless keyboard) access his Facebook there. The biggest selling feature is a big, red NETFLIX button right in the middle of the remote that even he can operate (with cataracts it's hard for him to see the buttons but it has the Netflix red so will be easy). I sold our existing 52" Toshiba television for $200 so I only have a $650 investment. I'm a happy camper and he will be, too.

But... mum's the word! He can't know until I bring him back home.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another Chapter Ends

When my dad passed away in 2005, I don’t think any of us thought much past his death. We were just glad to still have our mom. She was still living in the house they’d owned since late-1986. Naively, I am not sure any of us thought past her living there.

As her health declined, it became more and more apparent that she needed to look into moving to a smaller place. She fought that with every fiber of her being. I can relate – I hated the thought of down-sizing to move to where we are now, and I didn’t have the 50+ years of memories to sort through (my parents were married in 1949). With a three-bedroom, 2-car garage house, with full finished basement (including storage area), there was a lot of stuff for her to worry about. One of my nephews lived with her for a couple of years, which had mixed rewards and challenges. It kept her out of assisted/independent living but it was a financial challenge on her as well. He kept to himself in the basement more than staying upstairs with her but she was happy with that arrangement and that is all that mattered to me.

Eventually, my nephew moved on and mom’s health concerns took on a whole new dimension. She spent most of December 2011 in and out of the hospital and then was transferred to a “rehabilitation center” (i.e., nursing home) for several months. Once she was discharged from the nursing home, she moved straight into an independent living center. Even though she didn’t use most of her house (she slept in her recliner in the living room due to back problems), that space was still “there” and she had access to it when she wanted it. In the new place, she had one big room and a tiny kitchen. She felt constricted and closed in but knew that the time had finally come for to recognize she could no longer live on her own.

Her new digs – the “villa” – was a very nice apartment building where meals were served in a central dining room, restaurant-style, or were delivered to the residents’ rooms if they were unable to go to the dining room. She made a few friends but mostly kept to herself. Days she went to dialysis became days that she had her meals delivered as those trips exhausted her. Her outlet became visits to the local casino (when someone could and would take her) where she could forget how bad she felt.

During this time, we all pitched in (some more than others) and helped Mom sort through things and divide up into piles for selling, donating, trash, and to give to each of us kids. That was quite a chore. Once that was done, we went about getting things set up for a massive garage sale. I’m very thankful that Mom got to choose who would get some things and whether or not to sell some items. We sold and sold and still had tons of stuff to donate to local charities. There was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t worth donating so those items went to the trash. I know it was hard on her to see so many years worth of memories going out the door, one piece at a time. But, she got to visit with some of the people who shopped and shared stories about where some items had come from. That was nice.

After the sale, my younger brother set about getting her house cleaned up, carpets removed (there were very nice hardwood floors under the carpets), walls painted, and some basic maintenance taken care of. The result was astonishing. Mom got to go back in and see how nice the house looked before it was put on the market to sell. She still wasn’t happy at her new place but she was adjusting.

Then, on September 8, tragedy struck when she had a stroke. She knew that even independent living was out of the question and she made the conscious decision to discontinue dialysis treatment. She passed away on September 29, 2012, and my life – and the lives of all of my family members – changed forever. While we still have the memories, and the physical items that she wanted each of us to have, there is an emptiness that will never be filled. There will be more good memories that will surface and the pain will (hopefully) diminish over time, but the hollow spot that was her presence will always be there.

Friday, December 28, 2013, another chapter closed with the selling of the house. No more will it be “Mom and Dad’s” or “Mom’s” (or “Grandma’s”) house. It has become someone else’s house. The new owners will make their own memories there – holidays, birthdays, daily activities, etc. The ghosts of our past celebrations will slowly fade away to be replaced with new ones. Pictures adorning the walls will be of someone else’s choice – not of Mom’s. While it’s a very sad time for us, it will be happy times for someone else.

“Our” chapter there has ended but theirs has just begun