Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Morning Walks

Low energy. Low mood. I know, as a mental health professional, that the first, best offense against depression is to get one's heart rate up over 120, at least 3x per week. But I really enjoy being sedentary. I've actually developed a bit of a reputation among family and friends as being particularly exercise-averse. Partly due to all the icky sweating involved. *shudder*

Anyway, the mental health advocate in my head somehow overcame the websurfer office-chair potato and I found myself donning sweatpants, one of Steve's old Buc's t-shirts and my sneakers, with the crazy notion that a little exercise might not do me any real harm and could perhaps do me a little good. Bella heard the sound of the velcro on my shoes and came trotting in to see if this might be a dog-walking opportunity. Why not, I thought. I prepared a Responsible Pet Owner Dog-Poop Pick-Up Kit (a plastic grocery bag and 4 paper towels) and we headed out.

Day 1 of Walking with The Dog: 4/10 miles to the park, 4/10 mile back, brisk walk. My walking mantra: "Come on, Bella!" I worked up a little sweat and Bella was puffing a little by the time we made it back to the house. And no poop to clean up! Hooray! Maybe she does that at night!

Day 2 of Walking with The Dog: This time I decide to take a little longer walk, around the block and along the Mobbly Bayou walking trail, probably about 1.4 miles total. Shortly after we leave the house, she wraps her leash around a tree, and when I try to pull her back around it, she puts her head down and slips out of the harness. I pick up the harness, and after only five commands  to "Sit!", I get the leash attached to her collar. Before we are halfway through the walk, dog poop happens. Darn it! That's ok, though - I have my RPODPPU Kit from yesterday. I quickly clean up after her, we're off again, and I'm able to deposit the bag in the trash can at the beginning of the walking trail. We make it back to the house as Steve is getting ready to leave for work. I get a hug and a kiss and an "Ew! You're all sweaty!" I love you, too, dear.

Day 3 of Walking with The Dog: I get dressed, and Bella comes running when she hears the velcro on my shoes. She is impatient and starts talking to me about how slow I'm being. It takes 3 tries to get the harness on because she won't sit still long enough for me to complete the process. Short walk again this morning, to the park and back. I've replenished supplies in the RPODPPU Kit, which is good because just as we turn around at the park, doggie nature calls. All four feet on the grass, but with her butt hanging over the sidewalk, I give her a swift nudge to change the target to the grass, and just totally interrupt her mojo. Now she's spooked, won't be still while I clean up after her, and has grass hanging out of her butt. I think/hope that on the walk back to the house, she will get the urge again, but no, it's gone, and once we get home, I get to exhaust paper towels in my RPODPPU Kit wiping her and pulling the rest of the grass out so I can let her go in the house. She does not seem to find this any more amusing than I do. And I think I'm getting shinsplints.

These walks have really not been the meditative experience I had hoped. Maybe we'll both get the hang of it soon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Travel Help Epiphany

I like to read. On long trips, I would like to read in the car. But until our most recent trip, I was never able to do so due to motion sickness. If the car is moving, I can't even look at the map for more than 30 seconds before getting queasy. As we were preparing for our recent Thanksgiving Trip To Texas, I remembered the medication I had gotten for a bout of vertigo several weeks ago.

Bonine is an antiemetic marketed to combat motion sickness. It worked beautfully. I was able to use my cushion-backed lapdesk for my daily journaling and also read almost all of The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging on the drive home. I may never get to drive the truck, but when Steve and I hit the road next spring pulling the new travel trailer, I'll have lots of time for reading.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Soaking Up A Little Culture

Last June, Steve and I joined the Tampa Bay History Center when we went to see a traveling exhibit about Spies In America. We were somewhat underwhelmed by the Spies exhibit, but we had time to see part of the permanent displays before closing time, and had a nice experience. 

Today, we returned to see their traveling exhibit about coffee:

As we entered the building, I started up the stairs ahead of Steve, and he noticed that I was exposing more than my thirst for culture and knowledge.

We made a hasty entrance into the gift shop and bought something to remedy my overexposure.

With the tail of this "Ladies 2X" (that my shoulders barely fit into), I was able to recover some of my dignity as I covered my flanks.

We proceeded to the Columbia Cafe that is inside the History Center building, just outside the exhibits entrance, and had a nice lunch while we watched the cruise ships move along Channelside. 

The Coffee exhibit was small, but interesting. I had always thought coffee was a new world crop, but it is actually native to Ethiopia and was imported to South America as part of the triangle trade. We also learned how very labor intensive it is to bring a coffee crop to market. Coffee plants don't have a specific harvest period, with plants bearing flowers, green berries and ripened berries simultaneously, necessitating hand picking of ripened berries on a near-daily basis. The berries are then fermented to remove the fruit exterior, then dried, then shipped around the world to be roasted at destination. 

There's probably more to it than that, but I was already distracted by the next display, which was some kind of electronic scent module in coffee bags. When you squeezed the coffee bags, the scent of that particular kind of coffee was emitted. There were only two bags, but one was for Ethiopian coffee and one for coffee from some other part of the world. It seems that the soil and growing conditions play a great part in the flavors of the different coffees. I am afraid that that distinction would be lost on me in my normal coffee consumption, however, as I add flavored syrups and a lot of half-and-half to my coffee cup each morning.

On our way out, we stopped in the gift shop again and I bought a small bag of dark chocolate- covered espresso beans, at which point I found out that our membership allowed a 10% discount on gift shop and cafe purchases.

It was too late to get the 10% off our lunch, but the young woman kindly offered to refund and re-ring my emergency t-shirt purchase in order for me to get my discount. As members, we also get parking validation 3x per year, which saved us an additional $5 in parking.

As we were leaving the History Center, we decided to have a look at all the little vendor booths set up along the river walk. It turns out that today was the Third Annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest sponsored by Florida Voices for Animals. Several animal rescue organizations and groups promoting vegetarianism and veganism. We spoke to no one of the bacon-wrapped filets from Surf and Turf Market we had waiting at home for dinner. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dream Cogitation

As I was waking up Sunday morning, I found myself working on a comparison/contrast of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. I have no idea what I might have been dreaming, but it was enough to keep the thought process going even after I was fully awake.

Here's what I came up with:

Psychology is the study of individuals and how they have been shaped through their internal chemistries, their thoughts, and their interactions with others, with the goal of helping each to optimum functioning.

Sociology is the study of people in aggregate, their society, and how the individual effects and is affected by the social system, also with the idea of improving both the aggregate and the individual functioning to an optimal level.

Anthropology is the study of other societies, remote in time, distance, or social strata. It does not seek to "improve" the society being studied (which could be construed as a type of contamination, and which it would be unable to do in historical societies, anyway), but rather to understand to the point that what worked and what didn't work could be applied to optimize the observer's society of origin.

Maybe the next part of this comparison/contrast would be the metaphysical, which attempts to understand the impact of forces that do not originate within the physical self or society. This might include what Jung referred to as the collective unconscious, what people of Western religion call saints, angels, God, or Holy Spirit (or Satan or demons, if that impact is negative), and what New Thought calls Spirit or Higher Self (with the belief that the negative is physically based and not external to humanity), among others.

I still have no idea why this was important enough to make the transition from sleep to wakefulness, but after thinking about it off and on all that day, I thought I'd share.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manifestation Madness

A few nights ago at dinner, I asked Steve for a story of recent manifestation. (I read a lot of Wayne Dyer.) He said he couldn't think of anything specific, but in general the right things come at the right times all the time.

I said that on the way home that night, I remembered telling him a few weeks ago that I wanted to live in a house where the toilet didn't gurgle when we did laundry. (The cut-rate plumber our landlord usually calls had assured us when it started making that noise after one of his snake-out-the-clogged-drain visits that it was making that noise because the drainage pipes were small and it was actually a good sign and that they were finally venting properly.) Shortly after my wish for a house with a non-conversational toilet, the drains in the entire house stopped up. The cut-rate plumber was not returning the landlord's calls, so he told Steve to make whatever arrangements were necessary and send him the bill. We called James of JHRooter in Oldsmar (727-420-1941). He arrived within the hour, brought along his very nice teenaged son as a helper, made everything ALL better, and after he left, we realized that now that the drain pipes for the house had been snaked properly, the toilet no longer talks on laundry day. Hooray!

The morning after our manifesting conversation, Steve came into the office to tell me that he now had a story for me. He was totally out of his fat-free salad dressing packets that he orders on-line. He was packing his lunch, resigned to the fact that he would not be having his preferred fat-free caesar dressing on his salad that day, when the FedEx truck appeared, bringing his latest order.

And that's how we roll at our house.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yesterday morning, I realized that it was August 1st and the first day of camp. Woohoo!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Art by Mother

Three mornings per week, a van or car comes to our house and picks Mother up to take her to the Dunedin Day Center. They sing songs, read the paper, play Bingo (sometimes Mother brings me the packages of cookies she's won), and lots of other activities, including breakfast, lunch, and a mid-afternoon snack before she comes back home in the afternoon.

Sometimes she brings home artwork that she's done. Some projects are more impressive than others. Below is one of the first things she brought home and taped to the living room wall.

Soon after, this appeared below it.

Later, this painting appeared, and I was actually quite impressed.

Then came Christmas arts and crafts. (She won the candy jar by being the most accurate guesser of the number of candy canes it held.)

Several more paintings came home, and I was getting quite excited about Mother's previously hidden artistic talent until she told me that the canvases had pencil drawings they then painted.  Still, she seemed to have a good sense of color and blending, and I've purchased inexpensive frames to showcase the growing art collection. When they're all framed, I'll be able to replace the Easter basket she's taped up in the dining room.

Time Traveling Part 2: Sunflowers 2011

Last summer, I took some of the edgers that were stacked on the side of the house and blocked off a little garden area.  I decided to plant sunflowers. I started the seeds in little plastic pots on the lanai, alternately overwatering and ignoring them.  The survivors made it into the flower bed.

They grew pretty quickly, benefitting from the fact that Steve kept reminding me to water the tomato plants .

We got some nice blooms on them and even some bees visiting!

It soon became evident, however, that the extreme rockiness of the soil did not allow them to get a good root system going.  Even though Steve tried staking and tying them to help them stand upright, they never got strong enough stems to support or nourish themselves. Not one of the flower heads set seeds.

I did enjoy watching them grow, even if they didn't do as well as I had hoped.

This year, I've planted mint.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Time Traveling: Part 1 or Wow! I Just Found My Camera!

Late last summer (growing season in Florida begins in the fall), we made do-it-yourself earth boxes out of some surplus storage bins in order to grow tomatoes. It was quite exciting when our tomato plants grew taller that us! Bella, however, was not so easily impressed.

We stumbled out in the early mornings to make sure the water reservoirs stayed full, braving hungry mosquitoes and the chance that our neighbors would see us in various states of (un)dress. When the tomatoes started ripening, our excitement increased, and we eagerly awaited the first of our harvest.

We finally had a couple that were fully ripened (and not caterpillar abused), so we brought them in and gloried in their home-grown flavor.

When we realized that caterpillars were enjoying more of the ripening tomatoes than we were, we decided to head them off at the pass.  Fried green tomatoes!

Chef Steve carefully selected and sliced several tomatoes of goodly size, and with equal care prepared the cooking line for maximum efficiency.

Don't they look wonderful?  Chef Steve thinks so!

Bella remains unimpressed.

She just doesn't know what she missed!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gradual Rewind

A few mornings ago, I walked into the kitchen for my second cup of coffee.  Mother was sitting on the couch in the living room, saw me walk in and hollered "peep-eye!"  Since then, she's said it a few more times as she's come around the corner to see me in the office, or when she's sitting in the living room or den and I walk into her view.  I mentioned it to Steve, and then had to explain to him that this is a southern or maybe just a family version of "peek-a-boo".

Mother has always had a great sense of playfulness and whimsy.  This new exclamation could stem from nothing more than thinking that it was a funny thing to say at the time, and continuing because our reactions are amusing.  Or it could be another indication of the Alzheimer's Rewind.

Steve asked me when she was last evaluated.  It's only been a few months.  I told him that unless she begins starting fires or wandering the neighborhood, we'd stay with the annual neuro work ups.

It's weird watching your mother grow younger as she grows older.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stages of Alzheimers

The Alzheimers Association lists 7 stages of the disease.

Stage 1: No impairment
Stage 2: Very mild decline
Stage 3: Mild decline
Stage 4: Moderate decline
Stage 5: Moderately severe decline
Stage 6: Severe decline
Stage 7: Very severe decline

Mom seems to be mostly in Stage 4:

Stage 4:
Moderate cognitive decline
(Mild or early-stage Alzheimer's disease)

At this point, a careful medical interview should be able to detect clear-cut symptoms in several areas:
  • Forgetfulness of recent events
  • Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s
  • Greater difficulty performing complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills or managing finances
  • Forgetfulness about one's own personal history
  • Becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations 

but perhaps moving into the beginnings of Stage 5:

  Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline
(Moderate or mid-stage Alzheimer's disease)

Gaps in memory and thinking are noticeable, and individuals begin to need help with day-to-day activities. At this stage, those with Alzheimer's may:
  • Be unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated
  • Become confused about where they are or what day it is
  • Have trouble with less challenging mental arithmetic; such as counting backward from 40 by subtracting 4s or from 20 by 2s
  • Need help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
  • Still remember significant details about themselves and their family
  • Still require no assistance with eating or using the toilet 

Most of the time, it's not a big deal.  She goes to the Dunedin Day Center three times a week, which she just loves.  Edna, her home health aide, comes on Thursdays for her shower.  We go to Felix's Hair We Are every 6-7 weeks for our haircuts, grocery shopping every other week, to the drugstore monthly.  She's always cheerful and pleasant and easy-going.

But every once in awhile, something comes up that reinforces for me that even though the decline is very gradual, it is still there.

We went to a local restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner and had to park one small parking lot over  due to the crowd.  When we left, the walk from inside the restaurant, around the line of people still waiting outside, and maybe 40 yards on to our car had Mother so winded that she had to lean heavy on my arm the last few feet, and she huffed and wheezed half the way home.  It has nothing to do with her lung function, and everything to do with the fact that she not only watches TV every waking moment she's not at the senior center, but that she lies down on the couch to do it.  She is so very sedentary that any amount of walking seriously tires her.

After going out to dinner for her birthday, we stopped at the drugstore to pick up one of her medications that was waiting.  Since the pharmacy is in the rear of the store, she has to walk more than she would like and more than she is used to.  After picking up her meds and returning to the front of the store, we had to wait a moment for Steve to check out at the front register.  Since Mom was tired, she wanted to sit down, but there was no chair or bench.  So, she sat down on a stack of cases of plastic water bottles in a display at the front of the store, with no idea that this was not good plan or a safety issue.  I told her she couldn't sit there, and she couldn't understand why not, and I had to insist that she stand while she was insisting that she was tired and needed to sit.  And, since Mom is very hard of hearing, this conversation was carried out at a volume to allow everyone in the store to listen in.

When we got home, I talked to her about it again, and explained that the water bottles could have fallen, then she would have fallen, then they would have fallen on top of her, and she needed to agree that in the future she would only sit on things that were chairs or benches.  She agreed, but she seemed amused by it and I don't think she really understood my concern or why I was making such a big deal about it.