email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cleaning Garden Tools, Part 1

Because we were forecast to have several days of drizzly rain, I thought of what I could usefully do in the house.  One thought was to move the stereo cabinet over to the TV and use the speakers to improve the TV sound quality (a cheap home theater).  The second was to do maintenance on my garden tools.  The garden tools seemed more timely.  Mainly, because I've never really done that before.

So I piled all the shovels, hoes, rakes, etc into the wheelbarrow and brought them all into the basement.  I brought everything that had unfinished wood handles, a blade, caked dirt, or rust (and that doesn't leave much - an aluminum soil rake, a plastic and aluminum leaf rake, and a big breaker bar).  Also, I'm leaving all the pruners for real sharpening "later".
There are 3 main things to do.  First clean all the tools of dirt and rust.  I know, we ALL clean the dirt off each time we are putting them away.  Right...  Second protect all the bare wood handles.  Third, sharpen all cutting edges and oil the metal.

So, today I cleaned all the tools.  I laid a few at a time on the workbench.
I was surprised to discover that a wire brush does not remove caked dirt very well.   A narrow metal putty knife works much better and is flexible enough to follow curves.  Below, I'm removing dirt from my poacher's shovel.
After all the dirt was scraped off, I took the wire brush to all the metal surfaces and then washed them with a wet rag.  And of course, dried them with another rag.

Tomorrow, protecting the bare wood...

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Small Dinner Party

"Ding-Dong"  Oh hello, thank you so much for coming!  For everyone's convenience, I have set the Einstein time-converter to 5:30 pm local time whenever you arrive and I think the Heisenberg stabilizer is on (but you can never really be sure about that).  It is so nice to meet you; please come in.  You are JUST on time.

The appetizer table is there on the right.  There are stuffed celeries, marinated mushrooms, several cheeses and crackers, and some lemony-dill cucumber slices. 

On the left, there are small glasses of various liqueurs (Pomegranate, Razzleberry, and Triple Sec), a pitcher of Bloody (well, V8) Marys, a pitcher of old-fashions, and bottled water (note the lime and lemon twists in the bowl there).  There is also green tea on the warmer and I have plenty steeping in the kitchen.  Choose a glass that suits your fancy.  It is seldom I get to put out all those odd glasses, so feel free to experiment.  Have some tea in a martini glass or liqueur in a teacup.  It's a relaxed event.

Dinner will start in about 30 minutes, so feel free to mingle, talk, toss cat treats or toys, etc.  It's OK to wander through the kitchen too.  I already have the herbed saffron rice and sauce and salad prepared, so I only have to saute the shrimp and asparagus.  I can even talk while doing that.

Please let me know if the music is too quiet.  I didn't want it to be too loud for talk or too quiet to enjoy.

Dear friends, dinner is SERVED... Now, who would like some wine?  And with THIS dish, it can be anything.  I have zinfandel and riesling, and Megan has brought an Australian wine!

For dessert, we have an assortment of Lindor chocolates and some Van Otis Swiss Fudge.  Plus Tina has brought a smoked Salmon Cheesecake!

There are also bowls of cat treats and toys for tossing to any of the Mews who venture out among us, and Iza is showing off her tummy and rolling skills...

[Oops, the smoked salmon cheesecake has been moved the the appetizer table]

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Good Day Outside

I love days where I alternate yardwork and relaxation on the deck!

I decided that the Spring Peepers were done with courtship for the year and removed the landscape cloth over the top of the small pond (3'x5').  I had covered it one year with clear plastic to keep the Peepers away, but the airtight conditions produced a horrible-looking purple algae and I had to take the entire thing apart and clean it.  I lost the 3 goldfish in it too.  So I'm careful about that now.  The landscape cover allows air movement.  The new goldfish have been doing fine for several years since.

And, as I am lucky about some things, the take-apart of the algaed pond was good.  The roots of the potted pond plants had nearly filled the pond and I spent hours cutting them apart in cold water.  Now I know to lift all the pots each Springs and cut the roots back to the pot confines.  Time to do that again soon.

So, after hanging the landscape fabric up to dry (after blasting it with high pressure hose water to remove accumulated plant material), carrying the 4"x4"x8' post it was draped over back to the woodshed, and stacking all the bricks I had used to keep the edges down (those Peepers will find any loose spot to crawl into the pond and croak all night), I leaned on the deck rails and looked around the backyard.

I found the next project right at my elbow!  There is a large container pot (2' square) that I planted 5 oriental lilies in 4 or 5 years ago, and they are exploding with shoots.  I'll have to give the container a lot of fertilizer with so many plants, but the first priority was to make a support for them.  Last year, they flopped all over the edges.  I went and picked out 4 3' stakes from the garden shed and set about tying twine arounfd them at 2 heights.  I will make sure to brush the growing stems inside the twine "fence" each few days until they are all above the height and can't fall over over.

The lily container is set about 6' upwind from where I usually stand on the deck.  At peak bloom, the scent can be almost overwhelming (but very appreciated).  This Fall, I really need to cut the stems short, tip the whole container out and try to separate the individual plants.  If that doesn't work, I will have to use the digger knife (think of something between a steak knife and a pruning saw) and cut the soil cube into a 4x4 grid.  Then I'll plant 4 back in the container to grow again and the rest in the sunniest parts of the yard.

So then a rested on the deck and had a beer.

Then I decided that the grass was long enough and dry enough to mow.  I keep the mower at 3.5 ".  That's the healthiest height for my fescue turfgrass.  High grass means deeper roots, which means less watering.  And higher grass height shades out most weeds.  And, by the way, leave the grass clippings on your lawn where they fall (unless you mow them all into the middle of the lawn where they will smother a patch of grass).  In THAT case you have to make a final mowing pass to spread the clippings out a bit.

So after mowing the yard, I went back up onto the deck for more downtime and another beer.  Don't worry, that beer was 2 hours later.  And since I had the Mews in the house while I mowed (I have a horror of very unlikely accidents) I let them out again.  Marley was especially anxious.  I think he would like to live outside in nice weather.  Iza ran out next (I left the screen door open a cat-width).  Ayla came out and in and out and in briefly.

I wish I knew what scares Ayla about being outside these days lately.  She used to want to be outside (and up it trees).  She is twitchy outside all the time.  Well, interestingly, a hawk shot through the yard (first I've seem in years while I was watching the backyard from the deck.  Maybe she had a close call with one.  Whatever, I an willing to just give her attention in the relative safety of the deck when she is willing to come out.  I blame Iza and Marley a bit on this too,  They really do chase her like she is a squirrel when they are all outside.  But, on the other hand, Ayla runs for the fence top when she is out alone, so I'm not REALLY sure what she is thinking.

After the cats were out and running around (more on Marley later), I looked around more and thought "oh, I can put the rain gauge out again, no more freezing temperatures.  I couldn't find it.  I looked "everywhere".  Well, of course, not "everywhere" because I would have found it.  So then I looked in other places.  No luck.  I did the scanning search of the basement (looking every foot in sequence with an image of the item in mind,  No Luck.  I went out and searched the equipment shed.  I went and checked the garden shed.  I searched the basement 2 more times.

I did some more useful stuff and deliberately ignored the rain gauge.  You know how, when you stop thinking of the name of a person, it suddenly comes to you?  I suddenly had an image of the rain gauge sitting on the kitchen pantry floor along with other upright objects like the fire extinguisher, some thermoses, some bottle brushes, etc.  And there it was!  Memory is amazing.  It fails so badly and it works so well.

I decided that earned a 2nd beer and more time on the deck deciding what to do next.  Ans you know what I did?  I went out to remove that one small annoying fallen branch that has been intruding in my view of the backyard for weeks.  It looked reachable from the deck.  It wasn't.  So I found a stick I could break off into a hooked tip and started trying to pull it loose.  It wouldn't fall.   I felt a bit like a lab chimp trying to get a banana hanging from a string on the ceiling, LOL!

So I stopped and looked at the way the branch was hanging.  A 4" fork of the fallen branch was in the tree branch.  So I needed to LIFT the branch off the hook.  No sooner realized than done.

Wow, I'm smarter than a chimp.  LOL!

So I called the Mews inside.  They all ran in willingly.  Dinnertime always makes them respond to calling inside.  I gave them dinner (Wellness chicken, a favorite), I made my dinner (my rule, they eat before I do), and I played tossed treats and mousies while I ate.  Tonight's TV was Planet Earth.  I haven't watched that for a while.

It was a good day!


You ever have one of those days when you just can't seem to do ANYTHING right?  I sure had "that" day both Wednesday  AND Thursday, LOL!

First I posted my own post on the Mews's blog, and they really clawed up my ankles for it.  I had to give them extra treats to calm them down.

Then, I tried to move the post to MY blog, intending to delay it a day, but I managed to just hit "publish" without remembering that.  So I deleted it to reschedule it.

Then, somehow, I managed to put the re-do it ON THE MEWS' BLOG AGAIN!  Thankfully, they didn't see THAT (I would have had to break out the HAM in payment).  It's OK, they won't see THIS; they never read MY blog.

I finally got it all straightened out (I think).  All I can imagine is that the freedom from responsibility for Dad made me temporarily "hasty".  I trust I am over it now (or at least soon).

My apologies for all the confusion.  I know that some RSS feeds show all the posts even though they have been deleted.  Rebooting personal programming in 3... 2... 1...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Freedom, Redone 3

OK, first of all, I accidentally posted this on the Mews' blog and they raised a hissy-fit about it (even Marley), so I had to move it to MY blog (here).  In fact, high-level compensation negotiations resulted in the Mews getting a whole handful of treats this morning AND I had to skip breakfast.  Personally, I think they could have held out for HAM, but I didn't tell them I had some.  Second, These are events from yesterday, but I already had a post up for yesterday and didn't want to bury it.  Third, because some of my friends were kind enough to leave comments and they (the comments, not my friends) will disappear as I move this post, I am adding those comments to the end (blue).

My watch battery died just about on schedule.  And few things will get me to go RIGHT OUT like getting a replacement for that.  Having a non-working watch on my wrist drives me nuts.  So I go to this one jeweler all the time for it.  The guy always remarks that he hasn't seen one of "those" old watches in decades (Dad bought it for me when I was 15).  I never remind him that I have come in there for a new battery every year for 10 years.

They lost one of the pins and suggested I buy a new one.  No way.  They lost it, they replace it.  They do that almost every time.  I think they just want to sell watch pins.  You would think the floor should be covered in lost watch pins...

I have a velcro strap for the watch and it is most convenient for me that it connects in a particular direction.  Apparently, it is not the way most watchmakers naturally orient it.  I told the clerk not to reverse it, but they did anyway.  So I had to hand the watch back and tell them to reverse it. They grumbled as usual. 

It's a technical thing.  The velcro band has to go through a skinny rectangle loop.  Pushing at it on the far side of my wrist just doesn't work.  Pushing it against my body works well.  Yes, it is opposite the way other straps work.  But the jeweler ALWAYS reverses it.  I go through this every time.

Well, the watch is working again and oriented correctly for me.  I'm happy.

Sister emails that she is going nuts getting Dad the stuff he wants and talking to him at visits.   Well, "welcome to my (former) world".  No evil laughs, but some moderate chuckles...  She really didn't believe what I told her about Dad before.  I feel like a climate-warming advocate whose critics are suddenly shocked that their pet polar bear is suddenly walking through slush instead of solid ice...

But you know what I enjoyed about going out to get the watch battery?  I didn't have to tell anyone were I was going or when I would be back.

I skipped lunch today just because I COULD and made dinner at 8 pm just because I COULD.  Freedom is wonderful.  It's 5:30 am now  (just because I CAN stay up late again with music on loud) and I may just not go to bed tonight (just because I can) again or go to bed now and get up at 2 pm tomorrow if I want to..

Its just damn FREEDOM...

 Previous comments...

[Fuzzy Tales] I chuckled over this...Not because I've yet had to deal with having an aging parent live with me, but just because, when my ex and I divorced, the freedom to come and go as I pleased was so fantastic. Even now, 12+ years later and on my own still, I revel in it. Well, except I do work full time. But my "off" time is my own and it's something I still appreciate.  So enjoy it fully! :-)

[The Florida Furkids] Enjoy your freedom (and your watch!)

[Megan] It's good to stop and appreciate the little things in life! LOL

[Katie Isabella] I hear ya, Mark... 

[Sparkle] WHAT?! You don't tell the kitties where you are going or when you'll be back?! How will they know when to expect you?

[Shaggy and Scout] The kitties don't care which way the watch goes as long as the pettings aren't delayed.  You sound like a kid in his first year of college with new found freedom! It's hard not to say "I told you so" isn't it.

[Brian] Hey, us cats always have the freedom to not give a hoot about anything if we want! 

I had a personally awful experience with Canon Customer Service, so I would never buy their products again myself.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Informal Dinner Engagement

Megan left a comment last Thursday that included "The tribe of women who are planning to move in to enjoy your cooking now that you're Dad has moved have asked me to ask you what day next week it would suit you best for us all to arrive. Don't go to too much trouble - no need to re-decorate or anything. Just a thorough spring clean, vases of fresh flowers and a stock of chocolates will be enough. LOL".

Well, the new oven arrived last week and I have tested it out and Spring-cleaning will take a while, but I can do a decent general cleaning in a couple of days.  But for planning purposes, let's say Monday 29th.  I will still have some of the front yard fragrant daffodils to place in vases then.

Now as to the food:  I don't often make appetizers, but I think I can manage some peeled celery stuffed with chive cream cheese and some marinated mushrooms.  For the main dish, how about stir-fried shrimp and asparagus in a mild horseradish/wine sauce over herbed saffron rice, and a heart of buttercrunch lettuce salad with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with fresh Italian dressing?

For desserts, I have Tollhouse cookies, Lindor dark chocolate truffles, Lindor extra dark chocolate truffles, and Van Otis assorted Swiss fudge.  Which to choose... Wait, we will have one of each!  I hope Old Vine Zinfandel is satisfactory in the wine department.  If not, I always keep some semi-dry Riesling in the wine cooler too.  It off-sets the sweetness of chocolate well.

For background music, I suggest classical (Ravel, Debussy, and Prokofiev), but I also have 60s/70s Broadway musicals, Simon&Garfunkel, or Chariots of Fire and Tubular Bells if your tastes run in that direction.  There is some older jazz and swing music around too.

As it will be strictly an early evening social supper, casual (but appropriate) dress is suggested.  We are not formal here.  Attention to the Mews is not only permitted but encouraged and a bowl of cat treats will be available for tossing to them for mutual enjoyment.  Iza has offered to conduct personal Garden Tours for any guests who wish to arrive early for that purpose.

I had a personally awful experience with Canon Customer Service, so I would never buy their products again myself.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yesterday Yardwork

OK, the first thing I decided to do was get rid of the dandelions.  I have one of those forked dandelion diggers, but the height was uncomfortable and it is too small to get at the roots accurately.  But I also have a 2' handled mattock! 
It sure works better than those dandelion forks!  I spent an hour chopping deep to cut the roots.  Most will die from lack of leaves.  Some will survive, but I will just go around the yard and chop them deep again.  They will die eventually.  It was actually easier than spraying with herbicides.  Those would kill all the lawn crocuses anyway.
I set up the 4 way hose controller too.  The green hose reaches to the lawn around the back of the house, the black one connects to some drip irrigation hoses in the flowerbeds, the red one goes along the fence to the back gardens, and the jet nozzle is great for cleaning stuff.
The apples are flowering.  They will produce many apples.  I wont get any.  The squirrels will take most of them green.  I think I may just remove them. But I could put some boards across the top and drape chicken wire over them.  That would keep the squirrels out and still let the bees in to pollinate the flowers (I think).
One of the 3 pressure-treated posts on the 20 year old garden trellis broke last winter.  It rotted finally at ground level.  It was set in cement, so it would take hours to dig up.  I pounded in a metal pipe instead.  I intend to make a left-rotated "T" shape |-- wood construction and drill a hole through it to set over the pipe.  Don't worry if it doesn't make sense.  It does and I'll show a picture later.   I plan to take all the posts out in the fall and use pipes to support the trellis instead.
You see a lot of vines growing in at the beds.  They come from the neighbors yard.  I will HAVE to use herbicides to kill the ones in my yard and spray through the fence to beat them back a bit.  I've tried digging them up but they seem to have deep roots and are extremely invasive.  My neighbor won't notice; he doesn't actually live there anymore.  He lives with his girlfriend elsewhere (a sad tale of infidelity, suicide and a broken home).

The next project is replacing the rotting wood sides of my hauling trailer...

And I want to raise a complaint.  I bought a new Canon camera in February.  The battery has never lasted more then 3 days (about 50 shots) before needing recharging.  I merely asked them for a replacement battery.  They refuse.  After some extremely unsuccessful and unfriendly emails with Canon, I promised them I would mention their unfriendly customer relations on my blog.  So I will do that.  Often.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Dad at the "Home"

Well, it's been 4 days now since Dad left.  Brother has visited once and Sister a couple of times.  They say he is settling in well and talking to the other residents.

The Washington Post newspaper had a good series of articles about elder dementia.  Things like (paraphrased) my elderly mother said she saw giraffes in the yard and when we suggested maybe she saw some deer, said I know what giraffes look like.  Then they pointed out that asking detailed question sometimes helps the false memory fade quickly.  Like "which way were they going, what were they eating, etc".  Not "no. you didn't see any giraffes".  Which is what I was doing.  I sure wish I'd known that a few months ago. 

But one of the articles was about a lady visiting her elder mom and the Mom recognized her name and even introduced her to some other residents by full name and even nickname, whish reassured the daughter that she was recognized.  They went outside and were joined by another resident.  They talked awhile and the daughter got up to look at the flowers.  She overheard the other resident ask her mom who she (daughter) was.  The mom said "some lady from church".

That's when you know it really doesn't matter if you don't visit anymore...

The lady in the article mentioned that if your elder has a bad hip, the Dr hands you a pamphlet; if your elder needs a walker, they hand you a pamphlet; but if your elder is demented, they don't have a pamphlet.  She said she sure could have used a pamphlet!  I sure could have used a pamphlet too.  But you all helped, and there WAS the internet for some research.  Your help mattered more.

So when Sister visited Dad yesterday and she mentioned how I had provided his favorite snacks and such, and he couldn't remember being here, I wasn't completely caught by surprise.  I thought it might be a month before he forgot being here, but 4 days?  Wow.

I don't think there is any need for me to visit Dad in the future.  I don't mean it as annoyed that he doesn't remember me, I just recognize that his memory of his time here (and me) is out of his memory now and that it is a natural progression of his dementia.  His life will be moment-to-moment from here on out to his end.  I accept that and it does not make me feel badly about him or myself.  I am just glad that we got him into professional care at literally the Exact Right Day.  There is something to be said for the random events in the universe acting in your favor occasionally.

OK, well, with all that past, I had a good day in the yard!  But I think I will save that for tomorrow.  I'll just end this with pictures of Dad...

His place in FL, completely forgotten after a few months.
Dad when he first arrived here. Moderately sensible.
He even allowed Iza up on his lap.  But he stopped allowing that very suddenly.
He mostly dozed through the days after that.  And, no, not a stroke.
Became less aware of his surroundings...
He always did love bread for some reason.  He admired this perfectly-cooked loaf and wanted to show it off.  He often spoke of his Mom baking bread, so I'm sure it was a good memory.  He liked that the bread was warm too.
He began to complain about Iza liking to get too close to him (as she does all people) in Winter. That's where he really began to fall apart mentally.
And, again, Dad going into Sister's car to go the the assisted living facility...
After a year of wearing thin shirts that were too light for the house temperature (74F), he suddenly began wearing clothes that were too warm for the temperature (76F and humid).

I guess I'm pretty much saying goodbye to him now.  If I visited him now, he would probably think I was "some guy from the hardware store" and I probably don't need to drive 90 miles to hear that.  I will love him as he was years ago, and with the best parts of the last year when his memory temporarily worked, and the memory that I did my part in his final year or so.  I have formally passed Dad off to the care of Sister and the assisted living care facility.

Sister will let me know how his days go and when his final days approach.  I will be there at the end if there is at least 2 hours notice.  I expect that, one of these days, he simply won't wake up.  That's sure not the worst way to go.

Tomorrow, I get back to reporting on yard and house projects, and I'm already on my way!  I got some good things done today and will report on them tomorrow.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Some Improvements

I had a "Noon to 4" appointment for the new oven to be delivered.  Would you believe they called at 10:30 am and said they would arrive in 30 minutes?  No?  Well they did!  They came in, measured the space (better to know if there was an error before they brought the new one in, I suppose), took the old one out, and brought in the new one.

They set it in place, but it was an inch below the countertop, so I insisted they pull it back out and raise the levelers at the bottom.  I understand that their only desire is to get in and out as fast as possible, but I'll be living with the thing another 15 years, LOL!  So they did that.  Then I slapped a spirit level on the top and it was a bit high in the back.  So they raised the front a bit more.  Then, I pulled on the back and it seemed to wobble just a little.  They pulled on the bottom and it didn't.  We realized it the the hinged stovetop that was moving slightly so they tightened it a bit.

It's worth being a bit fussy sometimes!

So now I have a working oven again.

Wow, when they said it was "black" I didn't realize HOW black!  My old one was "black" too, but it had a white top.
Isn't it nice to have an oven looking so clean?
BTW, you notice that the bottom rack looks a bit thick and complicated?  It pulls out on rollers!  Is that neat or what?  Tomorrow, I'll see how accurate the temperature setting is using my good oven thermometers.  The old one was 20F off and I always had to keep that in mind.  I hope one is really accurate.

The other nice change is the new integrated stereo amplifier (from my POV, it means it controls whether you are listening to CDs or radio).  The old one had a volume control problem.  You had to really fuss with it to get both speakers working, it would suddenly change on its own, and the speakers sounded fuzzy.  So I searched on for a replacement and couldn't figure out what to replace it with.

Do you remember that old commercial where a guy sits back in his recliner and turns on his fancy superstereo and his hair blows back from the volume?  I'm not that guy.  I bought a modest bundled system in a cabinet 35 years ago.  I did add a CD player a decade ago, but I really don't understand the components.  I want to just press a CD or tuner button and hear something clearly.

So I took a trip to Best Buy so I could actually talk to someone.  And yes, if I go to a store and get good advice, that's where I purchase.  So I explained that the volume control was broken, that the speakers might be bad AND I wanted to combine the stereo system with the cable TV.  The guy there recommended that I get a new amp that could process the cable TV, and see if the speakers were good through that.  Good honest person!

There were 2 Pioneer amps he showed me.  One at $349 and one at $499.  When I asked him what the difference was, he said the expensive one was the newer year model and the difference was "entirely cosmetic".  Wow...  I'm surprised he can keep his job.  I'll have to go back and fill out one of those "good employee cards".

So I got the amp and spent an hour installing it.  Not the amp's fault, I had to rearrange the holding racks in the cabinet (and I pulled out that useless cassette deck).  One thing I DON'T like about it is that the component control is a dial that offers everything from the usual stereo choices to DVD to internet radio settings (and I don't even KNOW what "BD" means, except I'm pretty sure it is NOT that guy in Doonesbury).  I'd rather have dedicated buttons like on the old one.  But since this thing does a dozen things, that would start to be a lot of buttons.

Still, this new component may pull me (not exactly kicking and screaming) into the 21st century.  I have the HDTV,  the amp is internet-ready, etc.  If I connect the TV to the stereo and put a wireless connection on it with a wireless keyboard, I could do a lot of surfing right there at the TV.  I might even look into streaming TV.

But mainly, it was nice to discover that my old DCM speakers are just fine.  I put on Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky).  It sounded great!  My hair even blew back just a little... ;)

I think I'll try Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida later, followed by Jesus Christ:  Superstar.  It's been a year since I could listen to stuff like that.

UPDATE:  It occurs to me I should mention brands and model numbers, just in case anyone wants to know.  The oven is a GE JBS35 30" electric coil model, the top rated one by Consumer Reports and sure not the priciest one listed. (wow look at those smoothtop and induction ones!)  And since I have not the remotest connection to GE, I hope Consumer Reports won't mind me mentioning that.  If they do, I'll edit it to say that "a highly regarding CONSUMER magazine REPORTS that it was top rated in its category", LOL!  I am very dedicated to Consumer Reports ratings.  They and Angie's List have never failed me yet.

The integrated stereo amplifier is a Pioneer VSX-42, for whatever that is worth.  Evidently, stereo systems are so antiquated that Consumer Reports doesn't even rate them anymore.  I couldn't even find any in the last 3 years of their buying guide.  But it seems to be a good one even though the newer 2013 one is the old one with a fancier digital display.  

And I couldn't get my old tuner to work with the new amp.  It seems to have a tuner built in, but I LOVE the old one with its dedicated preset buttons.  Well, I unplugged the old tuner and plugged in the FM antenna that came with the new amp.  Voila!  Music!  I still want to figure out how to use the old tuner though. 

Bye Bye Dadio


Well, my sister and BIL picked up Dad and all his stuff today. I had all his stuff packed.
Dad put on a warm shirt "because its cold out there".  It was 76 and humid...
BIL secures all the stuff.  We had to redo it because of Dad's rollercart.
Dad leaves the house ad Sister escorts Dad along the sidewalk.
Dad inspects the packing job and makes suggestions.
Dad finally gets in the car...
And then they all wave goodbye.  Dad waved behind the back window, but you can't see him.
And away they went...

I'm sad that that Dad is going to the final assisted living place.  So is he.  But he beat the odds, you know?  Not everyone reaches 91. He is proud of that, and I understand.  If I live another 28 years, I'll be his age.  I see my future in his stay with me.

Dad and I hugged before he got in the car.  We cried a bit.  Well, it was a serious year he stayed here, and I will never forget it.  But he knows what his future is, and so do I.

He is suffering dementia, but he's not stupid.  He KNOWS he doesn't understand things well anymore.  He KNOWS he forgets things.  Deep in his mind, he knows that things he thinks happen aren't accurate.  He's said so, he's talked of it.  As crazy and frustrating our discussions were at times, I understand how desperately he was trying to hang on to reality.  And I know that he appreciates that I was trying to help him there.  He said so, and I'm going to believe it.  For the rest of my life...

The last moments we were together alone, he thanked me for taking such good care of him the past "couple months".  Well, it was 11 months, but it wasn't a time to quibble.  I know he meant "a long time".  Sons and Fathers sometimes get awkward speaking to each other.

The assisted living facility is where he won't be challenged about time and accuracy of memories (which I did far too often).  They will know how to speak to him in only the present tense and avoid all the inconvenient discussions of the past that I could not avoid at times.

In the past year, I learned some things about his life that I never really knew before.  He did more civilian stuff in WWII than I realized.  Like building ships.  He had a patent on a gadget once.  He was a real mechanical engineer.  I knew some of that vaguely. but in our times, Dads didn't really bother to explain their careers to the kids.  That is precious.  He may have learned a few things about me, too.  Like I "know science stuff", that I'm a (sort of) writer (he read a couple short stories I got published in a semi-vanity press and said "your mother said you wrote good stuff, but I had never read them before (meaning that he didn't care for it himself, but was impressed I wrote it) and that was good enough for me.  He has admired all the daffodils he saw this last month that I planted in past years.  He was never here at this time of year before.  He said, "you care about beauty, like your Mom".

And he said he was surprised I like Escher prints (4 hanging on the walls the whole year).  Very "engineerish" he said.

I think it was all a final compliment as he left.  Things he never said to me before.  At 62, I don't really need validation. But I don't mind it either.  You probably can't ever not like validation from your Dad.

He will be a "resident", not a parent, at the assisted living facility.  Someone they will care for and not challenge sometimes in frustration as I sometimes did.  They will not care about (or know about) the parent/child dynamics.  And that will be good for him.  Dad will end his days only around people  like him to talk to and a staff dedicated to just taking care of him. 

And now I have to figure out what to do with this blog...

Vote for the best thing...

1.  Keep talking about Dad (what little I learn).
2.  Get back to the pre-Dad yardwork and house projects.
3.  Get WAY back and become a liberal political pest.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Moving Day Minus One

 Oops, this was supposed to be posted yesterday.  So pretend it was and I'll put up today's post tomorrow...

It felt strange packing up Dad's stuff today.  It wasn't that there was all that much (there wasn't - he came up here with what fit in a sedan and he is leaving with less), it was the act of preparing to have him leave tomorrow.

I'm a bit torn about the whole thing.  Sometimes he refers to me "kicking him out", which is not very nice.  But I understand that he would very much prefer to remain in a regular house with a family member.  Moving in with a bunch of strangers has to be scary.

At the same time, he generally understands that he needs more professional care (if not today, then soon).  Sometimes I too wish that I could take care of him for longer (to delay this inevitable final move).  But I can tell that I can't take care of him much longer without turning myself into a full time nurse and I don't have the training or experience to do it much longer anyway.  Heck, I can't even simply pick him up when he falls.

I'm not feeling exactly guilty.  Indeed, I will be relieved to be free of the responsibility.  I will be relieved to not have to be around the house as much as possible, to not have to explain why I am leaving it and for how long and why.  I will enjoy being able to just go outside without worrying he will fall and hurt himself while I'm out.

I am relieved that he is taking this change in his life as well as he is.  When I first talked to him about assisted-care living, he said he didn't think I could make him leave.  I envisioned having to nearly carry him to the car and driving him away screaming he was being kidnapped (as he nearly did when my brother and I moved him from FL to here).  At least now, he seems quietly resigned to the necessity of the move.  He also understands that this move will eventually end in hospice care at the "end".

But it will feel odd not to have him here.  I'll have to re-learn my old habits.  I'll be eating WHEN I feel like it, eating WHAT I feel like, going out WHEN I want, staying up as LATE as I feel like, getting up WHEN I feel like, etc.  I may even start playing golf and going fishing again.  I didn't do those last things the year before he arrived, but for the last year I felt like I couldn't, which is a big difference.

I will focus on the thoughts that he will have better personal care and more companionship.  I will focus on the thought that, after a couple of weeks, he will actually be happier in assisted care (something I have been told by many to be "almost universally" true.  I will focus on the thought that, after a month or so, he will forget he was ever here (his memory of his place in FL was gone after only 3 months and his memory is much worse now).  Very soon, his memories will be only day-to-day and of events decades ago.  His recent past will just be absent.

There is most of the family nearby where he is moving.  I will probably visit every month.  The day he doesn't remember who I am, I will stop visiting.  I won't be visiting for my benefit. I don't have to see him to love him as my Dad.

He will eventually forget being here and who I am.  But I will remember this past year...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I brought Dad to the geriatric Dr for a brief exam and getting the assisted living place medical evaluation form filled out.  He says Dad is care level 1 (least care).  The TB test results won't be known til Weds.  If he has a lump a the site of the shot, it's positive.  Extremely unlikely though. 

Dad's blood pressure is 130/70.  Might be better than mine.  But his heart skips occasionally.  Dr says Dad is in really good "condition for his condition".  Well, yeah, he's 91 this month.  You can't escape old age.  He could maybe take an 81mg aspirin daily.  But it was barely recommended.  Almost 50-50.

So Dad has had a Dr exam, an eye exam, and a some slight dental work.  He has some new clothes that fit him, new socks, and I am getting his prescriptions filled fully for another month and some new underwear.  I got him to try on an old pair of my suspenders last evening, and he LOVES them!  Well I have had them for 20 years because I love them.  Neither of us have a real waist, and Dad has been pulling up his pants for  month now.  He showed the first "plumbers butt" yesterday, so the timing is perfect.  Suspenders are great.

Sister and Hubby are coming down Thursday.  Their pickup has a cover and tie downs and space behind the front seats inside for loose items.  That relieves some of my concerns about tying small boxes down in the back.  The move will go wonderfully.

I can't wait for the new stove to be delivered.  I made pork stew and it took hours in the microwave.  Cooked the pork last night, but the potatoes, carrots, celery, beans, and bell peppers tonight.  The hardest part was making the "sauce" (cornstarch slurry, chicken buillion paste, herbs).  The M/W is faster for what fits in it, but an oven is better for large amounts.  I was a bit nervous about how it was all coming out.  I have never made a stew in the M/V.  But it turned out rather good.  Not "best" but OK.  One thing I have learned about chicken thighs and pork shoulders; they don't overcook easily.

I did learn that my personal dry rub for pork misses something without the meat being smoked.  It was a bit on the too-sweet side.

Thinking about packing Dad's stuff...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Busy, But Relaxed

Its gardening time.  There are things I need to get done.  First is getting a couple bucketloads of compost in my trailer to add the the garden.  And then I need to add that stuff in the beds and turn the soil to mix it in.

I spread corn gluten around the lawn and flowerbeds today.  One bag in the old toolshed had gotten wet and wouldn't spread.  Big  clumps.  But there is always SOMETHING to do with anything.  There was one removed tree that I had the tree team grind up the roots (they were exposed).  And you know what breaks down shredded tree bits?  Nitrogen.  And you know what the corn gluten is?  Nitrogen.  So I put the unspreadable corn gluten on the pile of shredded tree roots!  Raked them in well.

I had pelletized corn gluten in the basement, and spread that around.  It stops seeds from growing.  Actually, it stops that one initial seed root from growing.  Corn gluten is a dipepside and causes that.  I have no idea why.  But it works. 

Later today, I have to get Dad to a Dr evaluation for the assisted care facility test.  The eye Dr says his glasses are good.    Great.  I am buying him some new clothes too.  The pants he has are SO tight around his waist he can't clasp them and he thinks that is normal.  What he NEEDS is a looser waist and suspenders, but he cant manage the suspenders.  Dressing Dad is like trying to put clothes on a cat. At least the new pants I got fit around his waist and the shortened ones fit his legs.  So he has 3 pairs that fit him well.

3 days till Dad leaves...  It feels odd.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

When It Rains It Pours.

Dad's move the assisted care house is still on track. Let me get that out of the way fast.  But you would think it was the first Monday after a vacation the way the rest of things poured down. 

First, the electric oven decided to burn itself up.   I turned it on a 4 pm to slow-roast a pork shoulder (aka Boston Butt).  I noticed a bright light inside and when I opened the door to look, I discovered the "W" shaped coil at the bottom was...  melting.  I you have ever seen arc-welding on TV, that's how it looked.  And the hot spot was slowly moving along the coil

After a minute, I decided to shoot it with the all-purpose fire-extinguisher and close the oven door to smother it.  I tried it once, twice, three times and the hot arc melting wouldn't stop!  So I called the fire department for advice.  They said they were on their way.  I told them it was a single story residence, the house wasn't on fire, etc, I just needed to know what to DO about this odd problem. 

I tossed Iza and Marley and Dad out into the back yard and locked Ayla in the computer room (because that's where she ran and hid). then opened the doors and windows.  Well, there was smoke from the burning heater coil and I didn't know what was in the fumes

They arrived in just minutes.  With a hook and ladder truck and a hose truck (really?).  I had asked for an advisor in a car, but I guess its fun to pull out all the heavy equipment and drive the stuff around with the lights flashing and the horns blaring and the 27 8x10 colored glossy photographs (oh wait, that's a different story).  But I wasn't going to let them in the house with a fire house (very messy PLUS it was an electrical problem).

Three guys came in (full gear) to look at the oven.  One had an infrared thermometer and said the insides were 650 F.  I had turned the oven off, of course, but we tripped the circuit breaker too, to be safe.  They pulled the oven out from the wall and examined it.  I mentioned the possible toxic fumes, but none of the guys had the slightest idea what the heater coil was made of.  Since it hadn't killed me, I decided to ignore it.

Their advice was to let the oven cool down and then replace it.  I don't mean to be sarcastic about guys that DO risk their lives, but I couldn't help an "Ooh, you think?" moment.

It took about 1 1/2 hours to clean that damn fire extinguisher powder from the kitchen.  I regret using it, but like the guy who jumped onto the cactus said "It seemed like a good idea at the time".  I mopped the floor, I cleaned behind the pulled-out oven, I washed everything exposed on the counters, then I washed the counters.

You know what Dad said?  "The floor is wet" and "When's dinner"?

So I set about making dinner.  With no stove...  I set about cooking some Italian sausage, corn, kale, and a potato.  Do you have any idea how long that takes using a microwave oven?  I had to cook EVERYTHING separately (its a very small M/V).  THEN I had to reheat everything on Dad's plate, THEN reheat everything on mine.  Dad complained that dinner was late.  I'm not sure he remembers that the oven burned up.  And I'm not going to ask; I just won't have to worry about his memory in 5 days! 

I have my Consumer Reports 2013 Guide out on the dining table to get a new oven...

I got a call from Dad's tax preparers.  They filed an extension for Dad, but he needs to sent a $3,000+ check by their best estimate.

Then Brother called to arrange to pick up Dad Thursday.  The idea he needed to transport Dad's bed and "stuff" was a complete surprise to him (he said).  Sister told me later she had discussed all those details with him.  But the highlight of the telephone call was that he needed $10K for his daughters wedding.  Oops, sorry, I'll help out with medical problems and college and taxes, but celebrations are his problem.  So he asked if Dad would help and I promised to give it my best sales pitch.

So I should mention that the unofficial stepdad of another of Dad's grandkids was looking for help with college tuition for a grandkid last week.  I had said that Dad is too confused these days, but decided to bring up both requests.  I consider college a lot more valuable than wedding ceremonies featuring lobster tails.  But I know that weddings matter too.

I spent 2 hours this evening squatting by Dad's chair and talking to him about the requests.  My knees STILL hurt.  I went in endless circles about who his grandkids were, what they needed, and how much help he felt comfortable providing.  Dad has such a hard time making decisions and keeping track of details.  I try to help (endlessly endlessly, endlessly), but when it comes to checks, he still has to agree to sign them, so he has to agree.  I tell him the requests, I tell him the situations, and offer him simple choices.  

He decided that equal help to both grand-daughters was best.  $2700 to each.  So then I had to call the Dead Sister's SO who is taking care of her kids (not his) AND Brother who is looking for wedding money for his dearest eldest daughter. 

I've sure had better days...  And, BTW, Dead Sister's SO said "Oh thank your Dad SO much for helping out"  Brother declined the check for his daughter's wedding saying he would "work on Dad
on the drive to the assisted care house...

Guess who I like better?

Its not about me.  Yeah, the past year feels like to push string all the time, but I can handle that.  It's almost just like another day at my old office.  Problems to solve, difficult people to talk into doing what is needed, etc. 

I know some other people have worse days; cancer, divorce, death, etc.

But I sure will be happy Thursday!

Friday, April 12, 2013


I am gonna say that H&R Block tax software is GREAT.  Others might be great too.  But H&R tells you what the next questions are going to be, them asks them.  Its pretty much impossible to get the questions wrong.  Geez, they even tell you on THIS form, put the number in 1A here and 1B there, etc. 

It only took an hour and a half and I had investments to include.  Adding up all the columns on the investment report (most of which have nothing to do with earnings) took 15 minutes.  Can you believe an investment company that basically sends you a printed spreadsheet and DOESNT have the sense to put totals at the bottom!  But I filed electronically so that saved some time.  That sure was better than standing in line at the PO for an hour...

Confirmed and Planned

Brother arrives here Thursday, takes Dad and bed and clothes away.  It's a day Brother isn't scheduled to work.  Brother brings Dad to Sister's house and she brings Dad to assisted living house.

The place sounds great.  Corner room, flowering trees out the windows, some fancy bedroom furniture left behind (better than here), all the meals and snacks he wants, fancy screened porch with meals out there on nice days), talking with people his own age, TV, friends, care, etc.  And for less than his monthly retirement annuity.  He was worried about losing money staying there.  He won't (he has a better retirement annuity than I do).

Sister and I have pretty much locked down Dad's assets.  POA and all that and he can't cheated out of of it.  Anyone so much as gets a suspicious check and its all frozen at once.

We've done what we can.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Place For Dad

Well, I got word today that the assisted living facility (ALF) will have a room for Dad April 18th.  I don't plan to think of "why" so suddenly; sad things happen.

I'm suddenly busy with making plans for next week.  And Dr appointments...  I'm glad I got Dad to a dentist this week; one thing out of the way.  And I got Dad to the eye Dr today; it turns out his cheap drugstore glasses are just fine for his needs and he has no other vision problems.

I need to get Dad to his geriatric internist Dr ASAP for the ALF medical evaluation and will call for an appointment tomorrow.  They can usually arrange an appointment in 2-3 days, so that's OK.

The difficult plans are getting Dad, his personal stuff, and bed to the ALF (near the rest of the family and about 90 miles from here.  I suggested 4 plans to my sister and am waiting for her thoughts on them.  All plans involve a family member driving down here and only one doesn't involve me driving up there.  I hope she likes the one where I don't do any driving.  LOL!

It is all a bit more sudden than I expected.  But if it all works out, I will sure be relieved.  I know that doesn't sound very kind, but I'm a bit worn out.  Even Dad says he feels bad about how much work I do to take care of him.

I won't say I'm "happy" to do it all, but I'm "willing".  I'm sure you understand the difference. 

When I retired from office work in 2006, I came home and told the cats "I'm here, forever, and I'm yours".  I felt complete freedom to just live "my way".

When Dad leaves here in bout a week, I will feel much the same way.  It's been a hard year, and it was an important experience in my life.  I would have gladly skipped the experience, but I'm sure you know what I mean. 

I'm going to speak some truth here.  I won't miss his daily presence.  He has been a demanding "guest" for 11 months.  I was perfectly happy with him living down in FL, and I will be perfectly happy with him living in the ALF for the rest of his days.  I don't have to see my family every day in order to love and care about them.

If Dad had been 10 years younger when he moved in with me, things would have been different.  We could have talked, shared some experiences, etc.  But that was not the case (and he wouldn't have moved in with me 10 years ago).  Every time for the past 4 months, I have regretted each conversation beyond "its dinnertime, go to the table".  His mental confusion has driven me nearly crazy.  Any accidental reference I made for months has caused a long, confused explanation that left me mentally exhausted.  It's not his fault, it's mine.  I should have learned what to talk to Dad about.  Meals, weather, golf channel, etc.  I talk too much when someone else is around.

But the move is about set.  I could make a joke about "the long national nightmare is over" (Ford about Nixon), but that's not really true.  I know how frustrated Dad is about is inabilities.  I know how angry he feels at himself when he can't find words (and I try to comfort him about that).  I know how frustrated he is when he can't walk easily.  I have learned how much he struggles to maintain his personal life and do what he needs to do on his own.

When I watch Dad, I see my own future.  I understand that a day will come in a future decade when I am in his shoes.  While I have a vague plan to "check out" just before I get to Dad's condition, I also realize I might not remember those plans at the right time.  Life is complicated and death is more complicated.

I will miss Dad, in a way.  This has been an intensely "togetherness" year.  But I will be gladder to get my life back.  And it will start in about a week.  I'm not doing cartwheels though the yard, but I will be relieved.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Bump On The Road

Sometimes it seems the universe wants to throw boards onto the bike path.  The room that we were told would become available, will not be.  We didn't know the details, of course, but it seems the family got VA benefits to keep their elder at the assisted living house.

Now, the next room available will probably be from someone who is at hospice care level.  Hospice care is not long-term, of course, and the room might even come available sooner.

None of us want to see any elder taken out of assisted living care from lack of funds, and we sure don't want someone's loved one to die conveniently just to make a room available.  We will simply wait for the wheel of life to turn naturally and offer space for OUR Dad.  Meanwhile, I will "keep on keeping on" and hope Dad has good days until space at this good place is available.

I am going to decline the respite care available locally if I can.  I don't want Dad to have to move twice.  Once will be hard enough.  I can keep answering the same questions each day, the new weird questions, and the daily food difficulties (while at the same time hoping he does not get suddenly worse).

Tonight, Dad suddenly couldn't cut his chicken thigh (a favorite food).  Well, all meat has been becoming a problem.  He wiggles his knife 1/16th" and the meat moves that far too, so no cutting occurs.  He blames the meat or the knife of course.  I asked if he wanted help and he said that I couldn't possibly cut it either because it was so tough.

Well, he can't make full cutting strokes, but he was trying to cut through the bone!  I took care of it, "zip, zip, zip" and he was amazed.  I just said "Long knife-strokes, Dad" (as I've said almost every night for months).  I will take of that for all future meals.  I can get de-boned chicken thighs and serve more meals that don't require knife-work.

He does better with pork stew (roasted Boston Butt cubed up with diced potato/carrots/beans/onion and a flour-thickened herb sauce), peeled shrimp, Italian sausage smothered is slow-cooked red and green bell peppers or spaghetti with commercial meatballs (simmer crushed canned tomatoes with crushed garlic, italian seasoning, and minced onions with the meatballs for 30 minutes.  Commercial sauce has way too much sugar and salt).  No bones, and the meat is either pre-cut or easy to cut (like the sausage).  I slit the sausage down the side and remove the casing.  I've learned to make chicken breast strips (called "chicken fingers" locally) here with dipping sauces too (but Dad thinks he is supposed to eat the sauces with a spoon.

A smile:  Dad is so used to being "cheap" that a drop of sauce is all he wants...  I am so used to making grand meals ("Sunday Dinner" every day) that I hardly think twice about the effort.  That part of Dad's support is nearly invisible to me.  It really doesn't take much effort to make a sauce for two as for one.  I eat spaghetti for the tomato sauce*; Dad wants just a spoonful of ANY sauce.  Cooking for someone else is weird,

But I've learned to stop worrying HOW he eats his food (which used to drive me nuts).  If he thinks the pork stew is soup, that's fine.  If he thinks the dipping sauces are "side dishes", that's fine.  If he wants to scrape the wine/horseradish topping off his beef and put it in his salad, that's fine (as long as he eats the salad).  But I don't want to watch, LOL!  The important thing is that it all gets inside him.  But he eats his meals at a dining table (very traditionally) and I eat on a TV tray while watching science/nature DVDs (about my only TV viewing). 

OK, this has gone from Dad moving out to food.  That's OK, I love food (and at 5'7" and 163 pounds, I'm not too worried about it.  What I DO demand of my food is that it be varied and healthy.  Without ever intending to follow a diet, I find that I am close to "Paleo Diet".  Some meat, lots of non-grain veggies, not much sugar, and plenty of fruit.  I can actually eat "one potato chip" and I have one small piece of chocolate after a meal.  Good quality chocolate, though, LOL!

To connect this back to Dad though, he has to have a standard dessert, and large.  Big bowl of ice cream, a few chocolate chip cookies, I don't worry about it.  I try to get him to eat fresh fruit, buts that's actually more for the water (he avoids water).

We'll get by for the next month or so until there is a room at the assisted living facility that seems best-suited for him.  Waiting an extra month for "the best place he will spent the rest of his life" is survivable with an end to his time here in sight.

Do I want him to be out of here?  Yes.  Do I want my regular life back?  Yes.  Who wouldn't?  But I can keep going for now, and that's the important thing.  It's duty, responsibility, and respect for now.

Would I talk to him often if he was just my next-door neighbor?  Probably not.  He was an obnoxious pain decades ago.  His golf partners used to roll their eyes at the things he said.  At times, he could make Rush Limbaugh seem liberal.  But now is not the time to try to teach him anything.

My job now is to manage his "end of life" issues.

*  I once dated an ethnically Italian girl and at my first dinner there, they offered me the sauce first. I botched it by pouring a load of sauce on my pasta.  The relationship didn't last (for other reasons).  Interestingly,  a co-worker told me about HER first meal with an Italian family and SHE knew not to use much tomato sauce.  I would blame my parents for not teaching me such fine details, but they came from big sauce families.  ;)

"Laugh at the world; it won't care".


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One Month

And so much to do.  Dr appointment for TB test and filling out the medical evaluation form for the assisted living house, dentist appointment for 2 bad teeth (that I didn't know about before a  month ago), eye doctor appointment for "real" reading glasses to replace those drug store magnifiers I discovered he has.  Clothes that fit.  He has been wearing 34/30 and he NEEDS 36 or 38/26.  And he really needs suspenders; belts are too complicated for him.

Its my fault, I let Dad decide what he needed  It seemed right at the time.  But I am correcting some mistakes as he moves out of my life.  I just wish I had been more forceful months ago...