Friday, November 30, 2007

baby steps

2 days ago i finally started to tackle making russ' bedroom back into an office/guest room. in actuality he had not been in there or able to sleep up there since last may. his ambulation became so difficult from the AD that he could no longer do stairs. yet the majority of his clothes and other few belongings were still there as i didn't have room downstairs where he spent all of his time.

our computer used to be in the guest room but was moved out when he came to live with us. somehow sitting down at the computer when he wanted to go to bed didn't seem fair to him. besides i also didn't want someone leaning over me and breathing down my neck as he would have done, especially early on.

tuesday evening the computer went back upstairs from our living room and yesterday my sister came over and we went through most of russ' clothes. did any of the men in our lives want any, which pants would i take to day care for backup use for them, and which would go to goodwill? we are going to have a stuffed animal (teddy bear) made for both of us and the 5 grandkids with russ' shirts so we had to pick out what shirts we wanted for those. the hospice i used for russ will make them for us as part of their services. my understanding is that their volunteers make them. i picked the shirt that russ is wearing in the picture on my blog. it was interesting to see what each of my boys picked. i had them look through his shirts when they were home over thanksgiving.

there were definitely moments when tears were shed as we looked through his belongings, triggering memories but i am glad we were able to get through a good chunk of his things. selfishly, i am also glad to have more space in my living room again. there are still some items i'm not sure what to do with but i'm hoping in time it will make sense to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

thanksgiving letdown

yesterday was a tough day for me. i had no energy to do things and for the most part didn't. both boys are back at school and the house is again pretty much empty. bob thought he had a lead for a new job but it didn't pan out. i sat around for most of the day either struggling to read my next book club book but also cried and prayed a lot.

fortunately bob came home and said he might have another possible lead. he knows he can always go get a job at either a hospital or retail store but after owning your own business for 18 years, that is not his desire. he wants to branch out more and maybe do some consulting for some type of outpatient health care operations. i totally agree and support him in this decision.

we watched dancing with the stars last night and had a quiet evening. this morning i awoke feeling much more refreshed and more positive. i know there will continue to be little bumps in the road ahead, i guess i just needed a little pity party yesterday. today is a new day and i'm ready for it with a new attitude.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

happy birthday matt!

(matt dressed up at thanksgiving this year)

today matt turned 22. unfortunately he is not at home to celebrate with us. he left yesterday with his girlfriend's family to go deer hunting in northern wisconsin.

he has never gone deer hunting but it is always something he has talked about. this summer he took the hunter's safety class and is using the rifle that was bob's dad. bob used to always hunt with his dad until matt was born. i'll never forget what my father-in-law told me when matt was born. "you couldn't have made me prouder than to give me my first grandson but you couldn't have picked a worse time to have him, in the middle of deer hunting season." i think bob was secretly glad as he mainly hunted with his father to spend time with him. over the years the attraction was no longer there for bob so staying home to celebrate matt's birthday was a good excuse. bob also said i wasn't real keen on the whole idea. but it is definitely popular if you live in wisconsin. unless matt gets one tomorrow morning he will be unsuccessful his first year.

i don't know where all the years have gone. certainly i'm not THAT much older than when i had matt. matt has always been an easy going kid. even at a young age, he slept through the night (8 hours) at 4 weeks and by 8 weeks he was sleeping 12 hours. i remember bob used to ask me to keep him awake so he could see him in the evening.

matt was my climber though. when i was pregnant with mark i had to put up gates to keep him out of the kitchen. as i had really bad morning sickness for a few months i spent a lot of time on the couch. if i didn't block off the kitchen matt (at about 17 months) would push chairs over to the counter, climb up on the chairs, then the counter tops and then try to climb up and into the kitchen cabinets. you can imagine my panic the first time i saw him doing this!

this is the first birthday he has not been with us and it seems so different. i'm sure he is just fine with it and so are bob and mark, it's just a mom thing. we will celebrate tomorrow when he gets home and before he takes off for school.

you have continued to be a real joy and blessing to raise and be around matt. i'm so proud of the young man you have turned into. i hope you have a happy birthday. i love you mitts!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

thankful blessings

overall, yesterday went very well. i think the total count was an even 60. it worked out so well celebrating thanksgiving in the church. the kitchen was huge and had everything we needed. i arrived at 7:30am with my cousin to unlock the church. other cousins arrived shortly thereafter and by 8:15 we had 3 turkeys and 2 turkey breasts in either the ovens or nesco roasters. not long after the potatoes and dressing were made, along with other hot dishes and the salads. there were at least 8-10 of us in the kitchen and nobody bumped into one another. only the deserts had to be made ahead of time. with the multiple ovens things could be prepared that morning eliminating a lot of work that preciously had been done the day before. also the table and chairs were already set up so no moving of furniture and hauling of the table and chairs back and forth.

the rest of the clan started dribbling in around 10:30 and we all were ready to eat at 12:15.

another new tradition we started this year was started by the husband of russ' great niece who was married 2 days after russ died. jordon is the associate pastor and youth minister at the church. he asked us all to make a big circle before we ate and hold hands. he said a brief opening prayer and stated we would go around the circle and if we wanted to we could state what we were thankful for. i would say only about 10-12 of us did, but those who did, spoke so meaningful from the heart. common threads were thankfulness for the food and family present, health, new lives and of course for those that are no longer with us. another was also for remembering family traditions yet realizing that new ones needed to be started.

(russ' sister, brother, and sister-in-law)

i was not able to speak at all as the tears were streaming down my face. they were not only sad tears though for missing both my parents. some were also thankful tears for being able to be with russ' family as it somehow made me feel closer to him. russ and my mom so loved and looked forward to spending thanksgiving in galesburg with his family so i know he would have been pleased and proud that we continued to go and spend it with family.

most years we also have a theme and this year was no different. we were asked to dress up as a title of a song and people had to guess. bob wore a mask on the back of his head (2 faces have i), matt dressed up like elvis did for jailhouse rock, mark dressed in all black with a paint brush (paint it black) and i just went as myself (nancy with the laughing face - russ and i danced to it at my wedding). other good ones were "material girl", "deck the halls", "leader of the pack(ers)".

we were also able to watch the packers win by watching a delayed tape of the game on a projection screen. everyone was told not to check text messages or let on if they knew the results.

now if i can only get through christmas as easily. i'm not convinced i will as i think that will be tougher. it was my mom's favorite holiday and the group is much smaller and intimate. christmas eve was spent just with my my parents and christmas day we always get together with my sister and her family as well as my parents. there will only be 10 of us on christmas vs. the 60. guess i'm going to have to talk to my niece kristen (and greg) about adding to those numbers! LOL.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

happy thanksgiving

tomorrow we will be leaving to go to galesburg, il for thanksgiving. it is where russ was born and raised and most of my relatives on russ' side still live.

ever since i can remember we have gone to galesburg for thanksgiving. initially my grandma used to cook the dinner. after she died, russ' older sister had the dinner. she is now 86 and about 10 years ago, the torch was passed to my cousins who live in town. the meal has been at either of 2 cousin's home's, depending upon who won (or lost) the coin toss.

this year we are anticipating over 60! as the numbers increase it is becoming more difficult to seat us all at one house, even with moving out all the living room furniture and filling it with tables from the church. each of us are assigned a dish to bring so the person hosting only does the turkey(s) and potatoes. all those living in town bring the rest of the hot dishes. this year we are going to gather at the church in town where my dad and his siblings grew up and many of my cousins were baptized if not married.

the church has a huge kitchen with multiple ovens. the chairs and tables are already there. there will be the nursery for those really young ones (4th generation) and the youth room (for the 3rd generation). the thing they are still working on is how to get a big screen TV there so we can watch the packers beat detroit!

hopefully it will work out just great. i would hate to see this tradition come to an end mainly because of the numbers.

it will be a bittersweet reunion but one i am looking forward to. it was 2 months ago today that russ died. i felt a little out of it all day but got through it. i stopped at the in-patient unit and had a nice visit with marlene and glenda - 2 of the nurses that took care of russ. i also left a voice message for his home hospice nurse janine and hope to get together with her after thanksgiving.

even though there has been so much grief and sadness in my life, i still believe i have much to be thankful for. i know russ is no longer suffering and is whole again with my mom. as much as i miss them both i cherish the wonderful memories i have and all of the extended family i will be surrounded by on thanksgiving. God is good.

to all of my "other" extended family, i wish you peace on thanksgiving and pray you have a good day.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

for stef

stef lost her dear nonna last evening after a long battle with alzheimer's. stef had to be closer than most people i have ever known to her grandmother. nonna helped raise stef and was there every step of stef's life. she was there to hold stef, hug stef and give her words of wisdom and encouragement along each and every stage in stef's life.

i am actually envious of the relationship stef had with her nonna. i was especially close to one of my grandmother's growing up, yet nothing to the extent that stef has described.

stef is a wonderful young woman with insight and tenderness and wisdom well beyond her tender young age of 20. i'm sure some of it is just her nature but a lot of that must be due to the influence and close relationship she had with her nonna.

i know the days, weeks, months and even years ahead will be tough for you stef to face without your nonna physically there. but nonna will always be with you in your heart stef. you will always have those precious memories and lessons that nonna taught you to pass on to your children and grandchildren some day.

you see stef, nonna is not really gone. she lives within you and your beautiful soul. as nonna taught you, hold your head up high and do not be afraid. your nonna is with you with every step you take and every breath you breathe. she is so proud of you and loves you as much as you love her.

may God hold you close as you grieve for your nonna. thank you for sharing your nonna with me and teaching all of us the meaning of unconditional love.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

a nice weekend

besides the weather being fairly nice and warm, it was a pretty good weekend. on friday i met and spent the day with my best friend from college. she lives in the chicago area so we drove and met 1/2way. we did a little shopping but mostly sat in one of our cars and talked and took an exceptional long lunch so that we could talk as well. linda is a minister and helped marry bob and i. she has been such a strength to me over the years as we have shared our lives with one another. we have been there for each other through good times and bad. there is a third friend ann, but unfortunately she lives in dallas so we don't get to see her as often. both ann and linda did come up for russ' funeral which was so special.

we talked a lot about how i was doing since russ has died. linda's mom lived with her for about 5 years before she died 10 years ago of cancer so she was also a caregiver and knew first hand some of the feelings i have. she was especially glad that i have continued to blog and keep up with all my fellow bloggers on a daily basis. she also was able to give me some specific psalms to read that she felt would be helpful and comforting. but most importantly she gave me the reassurance that God is with me and will continue to help me get through my grief.

saturday bob and i went to madison to see mark. he has been struggling somewhat this year so it was nice to go and just hang out with him. matt came too so that made it extra nice, we watched wisconsin beat michigan in football on tv, went out to eat and then went and watched the wisconin hockey team play north dakota. unfortunately they lost but it was a fun game to watch.

today has just been a lazy day. the packers played and beat minnesota (sorry robyn), and continue to amaze everyone how well they are playing this season. brett favre is just so much fun to watch. congrats to betsy and joanne as the steelers won today too!

i also wanted to take this time to express my appreciation to all veterans, both past and present who have served our country to protect us and our freedoms. lori, terry and janine i mean you in addition to terry's dad, betsy's and chris's dad, and of course russ. for those of you i have forgotten, thank you as well!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

moving in the right direction

(we picked this thank you card as it looks so much like the beach in door county in front of my parents place that russ so loved to walk)

chris' post inspired me to finally stop procrastinating and sit down today to write those thank you notes to people who had done something special for us after russ died like sending food, flowers or donations. it has been 7 weeks since russ died and i know they are long overdue yet the thought of sitting down and writing them just exhausted me. it was definitely something i was dreading.

my sister and i had split the list and i knew she finished her's early last week so that was also a motivator.

it wasn't busy at work today so i stayed at home. i set up a tray on my lap with the list and note cards and it took several hours but i finished. i had a few shows i had taped on tv so i half-watched and half-listened to them as i wrote the cards out.

to be honest some of the notes were pretty standard thank you's but there were also quite a few that i wanted to write something more personal. those were the ones that i really had been putting off. i think the fear of it becoming too emotional was why i was procrastinating. but once i started i got into a rhythm so i kept plodding along and got through them all with only a few tears.

i must say it is a good feeling to be done. my mom had always been a stickler for writing thank you notes so i didn't want to disappoint her. another major hurdle done, now on to the next, what ever that might be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

i'm tired

the last week has been spent clearing and sorting out medical supplies and records, office supplies, furniture and anything else you can pretty well think of.

i mentioned a few weeks ago that in addition to adjusting to life without russ, bob's and mine business will be closing. we downsized once early this spring when the boys were home but i finally persuaded bob it was time to do it again. the rent we have been paying for the basement space below our office was much too expensive for just a storage area compared to renting a storage unit.

after 18 years in business, we have accumulated a lot of stuff! it doesn't help that both bob and i are pack rats. we also have to store all patient records as well as financial records for 7 years before they can be confidentially shredded. we have made numerous trips to the dump and the recycling center. i have also become quite proficient at posting things on craig's list and have been very pleased and somewhat surprised to learn that what is one's garbage can be another's treasure (and be willing to pay for it to take it off your hands!)

last thursday "2 men and a truck" arrived early in the morning to load up the big and heavy stuff and transport it to the storage unit. in about 3 hours they were finished and about 3 days later bob and i were finished clearing out the basement and transporting the rest of the smaller stuff over.

bob has kidded me that it has been good physical exercise to distract me from thinking about all that has happened. i have been mentioning to him that i needed a distraction, but i'm glad we're done with this. i'd like to think i can think of something more exciting to occupy my mind and time. now i just have to wonder where all the rest of the stuff will go when we close down for good. our 10x24' locker is pretty full....

here's hoping for some restful nights sleep. i just wonder where i put my ben gay?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

for betsy

2 days ago betsy's mom passed away peacefully in her sleep. i met betsy a few month's ago through our blogs and have always felt a connection to her. it seems hard to realize it was only relatively a short time ago. our lives were fairly similar. her dad passed away in december of 2005 suddenly and unexpectedly. her mother had AD and was unable to live by herself so betsy moved her in with her and her family. betsy has 2 children (a daughter in college and planning a wedding and a very active high school son) and a wonderfully supportive husband. she also has 1 sibling. betsy also attempted to try to work out of her home for the business she and her husband own. she became a 24/7 caregiver. some days were easier than others but most were frustrating as she watched the mother she knew and loved loose a little more of herself every day and betsy was helpless to do anything about it. yet betsy hung in there and loved and cared for and supported her mother.

there must be many conflicting emotions running through betsy's mind and heart. to loose both parents in a relatively short time frame is extremely difficult yet she had already lost her mom some time ago for the most part. i know she takes comfort in knowing that her mom is now whole again and with her dad. betsy, you will have difficult days ahead of you as you now have time to grieve the loss of both of your parents. take your time, be gentle with yourself, and take baby steps in doing so. these have been the words of advice given to me by yourself and others. now it is your turn to listen and try the same.

please know i am here for you as are many of the other friends you have met and made on the internet. it is hard to comprehend that the first 3 real blogging friends i made back in the summer, lori, flinty and betsy; we have all lost our LO's to AD. i have met many more along the way who have also suffered losses and will continue to be here for those still caring for their LO's. we are family.

may God watch over you and your family betsy as you endure the next few days, weeks and months adjusting to your new life. please know every time i see an angel ornament i will think of your mother. God bless us all.

on a happy note, my niece kimi, who did a wonderful job reading all our personal memories at russ' funeral is celebrating a special day today. happy birthday kimi and cheer those packers on to a victory! have a great day today and always. i love you!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

rabbit rabbit

i am a superstitious person and i think most people who really know me would agree. i always have been. i guess i inherited that from my mom, who inherited it from her mom. there are definite things and rituals i must do.

today is the first of the month and so i said "rabbit rabbit" this morning. don't ask me where this originated from as i'm not really sure. someone in high school once told me that one is suppose to say rabbit rabbit the first thing every morning of a new month. if you do you will have good luck for the month. so.... every month i do and make sure bob and the boys do as well. now that the boys are in college, i text them to remind them.

i have many other superstitions that i follow. being of german descent, pork and sauerkraut must be eaten on new year's day along with burning a bayberry candle to bring good luck for the new year.

being that i was born in october and so was my mom, opals are our birthstone. all of her opals were automatically passed down to me in that it is bad luck to wear opals if it is not your birthstone. if i see people wearing them i will ask them if they were born in october. if they say no, i bite my tongue but secretly think to myself that they have no business wearing them and say a silent prayer that they will not have bad luck.

some other silly things i do that were instilled in me are, never put new shoes on a table, never cross someone on the stairs in a home, always lift your feet going over railroad tracks (i have become very talented doing this while driving). i also will not fall asleep in a car with my feet on the ground for fear we might cross some tracks.

these are just a few. many people have told me how weird i am or give me strange looks as i describe this fetish i have. one of these days i plan to look into the origins of some of my specific superstitions. but now a part of me just likes remembering to do these things as it continues to remind me of my mom.

so rabbit rabbit everyone! it's not to late to start!!