Friday, May 27, 2016

What's That Sound?

Every other Wednesday I help Mom call her sister Daisy, who lives in Chicago; she also has dementia. While I am on Mom's land line, I talk her through dialing Aunty Daisy's number on the cell phone. (She can't remember how to use the cell phone.) They both enjoy the phone contact. But this week Mom said her cell phone was not in her purse; she asked me to call it so she could find it by listening for the ringing. I called her cell phone 10 times but she did not answer, so I called the land line to find out if she was close to finding it. She said she heard it and wanted me to continue calling. So I tried 15 more times with no luck. Later I texted Curt to ask him to help her find it on the weekend. He texted me today, he found it! Mom's cell phone was in his car; I'm not sure what it was that she insisted she was hearing on Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


While I was in the NAACP meeting this evening I received a phone call from my real estate agent; she sold my house this evening! Yay! One more thing that can be crossed off the list. This was not the usual type of house sale, I went through someone who finds houses for people who buy them, remodel them, then sell them again. While some people think I should have sold it the usual way in order to get the highest price for it, what I liked about going this route was that I did not have to stage the house and we did not have a whole lot of strangers wandering through the house. I got the amount of money that I need for the next phase and that's what really matters to me.

So why did I put all that work in to the trellis? I got to meet the couple that bought my house. They intend to remodel it, then sell it to someone who wants to live in it. And they liked what I have done to the yard already, especially the fruit trees. Since it was not going to be torn down, I decided to complete the trellis and get the hardy kiwi up where it belongs. Here I am starting to place the vines on the wires.
(Photo by Bo)

And here is the final result. There are still a bunch of vines hanging below the level of the wires. I left those because they had a lot of flowers; perhaps having more flowers will provide a better set of fruit. Last year there were only a dozen flowers but no fruit.

When I called Mom this morning, I talked her through filling up her pill pack since my brother forgot to do it over the weekend. When I called her up this evening to remind her to take her pills she was surprised at how many pills she had to take! It was as if we had not spent nearly half an hour filling up her pill pack this morning.

Happy Birthday to Juan, Bill, and Holly!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Trellis Building 101

Today I finally started putting up the final parts of the trellis for the hardy kiwi, with help from my friend Bo. We only had 4 hours today but were able to get the cross arms installed. We only need to string the cable, then tie the kiwi on to the cables. Here's a before photo.

That's Mei Lee on the right by the Siberian iris; she's one of the people that works for my friend David who is helping me with the yard. Today Mei Lee and Michael were removing aged compost from the compost bins and spreading them around the plants. The posts were put in place a few years ago, I just never got around to adding the cross arms. Here's what the trellis looked like today when we had to stopped.

That bushy clump at about the middle of the center post is the one kiwi plant that I have. It is called Issai and is supposed to be self-fertile. Last year it had about a dozen blossoms but they all fell off. This year there are a lot more blossoms and there are a bunch of bumblebees to pollinate them! The instructions for it does say that it will set more fruit if you have another variety to act as a pollinator. But since everything I have read about kiwis says that they give A LOT of fruit (~150 lbs per plant), I figured having less fruit (~75 lbs) was not necessarily a bad thing.

The house sparrows were a little put out by us since we were working so close to the feeder. But the black-capped chickadees brought their babies to the feeder, there were 3 of them along with the parents. The hummingbirds were also not bothered by us; they kept buzzing around, driving off other hummingbirds. A male goldfinch and a rock pigeon also came to check things out but neither stuck around too long.

Had a great visit yesterday from the real estate agent and a couple that is interested in buying the house. I hope to know more about the outcome tomorrow or the next day.

Happy Birthday to Angie and Ruby!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Totoro Movie Night

At Mary Ellen's house last weekend there was a watering can that looked (to me) like a rabbit - cotton ball tail, long pointy ears sticking up. I was told, however, that it was Totoro. I noted that I had only seen a couple of pictures of Totoro and always thought he was more cat-like than rabbit-like. This prompted Mary Ellen to declare last night as Totoro Movie Night!

It was a small group; Mary Ellen, Michael, Jim, Vivian, Margaret, Mary, Kai and I. And Louie. During most of "My Neighbor Totoro" Louie slept on the recliner next to Michael. However, when Mei first meets Totoro he is asleep and snoring. Louie was instantly awake and quietly growling, he jumped off the recliner to find the intruder. Finding no one, he returned to his sleeping place. Good boy, Louie!
Mei meeting Totoro

We decided the food theme was Japanese, so we started with gyoza, yakitori, and grilled asparagus. Afterwards we had several types of sushi and a brownie cake with fruit topping.

Amelia was unable to be there. But she left instructions that I was to wear her Totoro outfit during the movie. There is a slight height between us, so there was an excess of Totoro! I would be the small Totoro of the movie...

After watching the movie, I think Totoro has the body shape and feet of an owl, the head and tail of a cat, claws of a bear, and human lips and teeth. Totoro also appears to play a type of ocarina. Totoro makes noises but doesn't really speak.

The Nekobasu (Catbus) in the movie reminded me of a tardigrade. Later I discovered that there is a creature named after Totoro because it reminded the German scientists that discovered it of the Nekobasu when it moves. Eoperipatus totoro, aka velvet worm, is about 2&1/2 inches long and is seldom seen because it lives in the soil and under logs and rocks.

We were originally going to watch Princess Mononoke after eating. But it was so late we decided we needed to have another Studio Ghibli Movie Night instead! Date to be determined.

Happy Birthday to Clancy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

It's Now Real

I packed my bike tonight. This one action has made moving back to Hawai'i real for me. Up till now it just seemed like something way in the future. When I moved to Washington, I also packed my bike and brought it here with me. It was both my transportation and my exercise, as well as recreation. That bike was stolen about 20 years ago, so it is a different bike that will be returning to Hawai'i with me. Here's the box my bike is traveling in, I thought it was quite appropriate!

I am now having Dad take probiotics to repopulate his gut with "good" bacteria. After you complete a round of antibiotics it is a good idea to take probiotics so that the "good" bacteria get a stronger start so that they can help to keep the "bad" bacteria under control. He seems to be doing better, he sounds less confused.

I also talked with a real estate agent today. Mary does commercial properties and has 2 buyers who are interested in my house. I will meet with her again tomorrow to finalize the details.

Happy Birthday to Robert, Mark, Neal, Susan, and Danny! And Happy 36th Anniversary of the (most recent) eruption of Mount St. Helens!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Last Day for Dad's Antibiotics

Dad took the last amoxicillin capsule at dinner tonight; he finished the acetaminophen with codeine yesterday. He goes back to see the dentist tomorrow for a check up. If there are more medications he needs Curt will let me know tomorrow.

Because of the many interactions I needed to do with each call, I had Mom put the phone on speaker so that if she got distracted during a task I could remind her to stay on task. It also helped when she forgot where the phone was, I could hear her asking where she put the phone and could call out to her to help her find it! I will continue this even after she no longer has to deal with Dad's medications.

I read an article about a new study on dementia that suggests, "that the neurological decline common to these diseases is caused by 'auto-inflammation', where the body's own immune system develops a persistent inflammatory response and causes brain cells to die." I will have to keep an eye on this and see where this leads.

Happy Birthday to Allison!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hello, Mom?

Had a somewhat frustrating day. I called Mom 11 times today. She would put the phone down, walk away to look for her pills, forget that's what she was doing and start on something else! In the meanwhile I am on the phone yelling to get her attention! On the 5th call this morning I had her put the phone on speaker so that she would be more likely to hear me yelling if she put the phone down and started doing something else. It worked surprisingly well! (Two calls were to her cell phone which she did not answer.) We did the same thing at lunch and at dinner after a couple of distractions again. I think I will have her routinely put the phone on speaker mode since that seems to work better now that she is getting more distracted.

At dinner, when I asked her to get a piece of banana for Dad to eat before he took the antibiotic, she said they were out of bananas. She started telling me what fruits they had and was stumped by one of the fruits she found. She said, "It's red and big with lots of seeds." I guessed pomegranate and was wrong. Turns out it was watermelon!

I have noticed that she is at a loss for words for more things and concepts than she was a year ago. But she can still describe it so that we get in to a guessing game. Sometimes it is hilarious! (She thought the pomegranate was pretty funny!)

Happy Birthday to Anank, Candice, Francis, Myrtle, and Sarah!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alzheimer's Is Not Normal Aging

Mom has been diagnosed with dementia, which is "a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning." (Mayo Clinic website) The cause of her dementia has not yet been identified. Since the most common cause is Alzheimer's disease, it is very likely that Mom has Alzheimer's disease. I found an interesting TED Talk video; the presenter, an Alzheimer's disease researcher, says that it is curable. Here is a link to Alzheimer's Is Not Normal Aging - And We Can Cure It; I have also placed it on the Resources page.

If you have been forgetting a lot more lately and you are concerned that you have dementia or Alzheimer's, here's a quick, non-scientific way to sort things out. Did you forget where you put your keys? Or did you forget what a key is or what it does? If you forgot where you put them, that's normal. If you forgot what it is or what it does, that's not normal; see your doctor.

Things went a lot better this morning. When I called Dad was awake! That's a good sign that the antibiotic is helping fight off the infection. He had already eaten a little so he was able to take the amoxicillin immediately; he was also a lot more coherent this morning. He turned the phone over to Mom, who took her alendronate without a fuss. Finally, when I asked Mom to give Momo his pill, she said he already got it because he was following her around in the kitchen meowing to remind her about his pill! Total elapsed time: 3 min 20 sec! Winner!

Dad was awake all 3 times that I called today to remind him to take his antibiotic. This is a very good sign. An undiagnosed infection can cause dementia as well as lethargy, it was one of the things we checked with Mom when she was first diagnosed with dementia. Frequently the infection turns out to be a urinary tract infection; once treated the dementia goes away if the infection was the cause. Because the immune response in elders can be slow in responding (Dad is 91 years old), elevated levels of white blood cells may not show up in a urine sample even though there is an infection. This rapid improvement in Dad's confusion and lethargy is pointing in that direction. We'll have to watch for this in the future.

Happy Birthday to Kathleen!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 1 of Meds for Mom & Dad

This morning it took 19 minutes to talk them through taking their meds. Mom has her alendronate, Dad has his amoxicillin and acetaminophen with codeine, and Momo has his thyroid pill. Part of what is taking longer is that Dad needs to have a little food in his stomach before he takes the antibiotic. Tonight it took 31 minutes to do Mom's pills, Momo's pill, and Dad's amoxicillin; when they are tired things take longer. It is also taking longer because the infection has made Dad more confused; I hope the confusion disappears once the infection is gone. I called 6 times today to make sure they got all their medications at the right time. This would be a whole lot easier if I was there. I hope I survive this next week.

Monday, May 9, 2016

More Oral Surgery!

When I called Mom to remind her to take her evening pills, my brother Curt answered. On Sunday his wife Lori texted me to find out who Dad's dentist was because he was complaining that his tooth was sore and neither Mom nor Dad could remember the dentist's name. I sent her the info and this afternoon Curt took Dad to the dentist. It turns out he had an infection in the root of his tooth and needed to see the oral surgeon to have it removed (there was no crown on the tooth); the oral surgeon also prescribed an antibiotic for the infection. As they were leaving Dad started shaking violently from a high fever. The oral surgeon said the infection in his tooth was not bad enough to cause the high fever, he thinks perhaps Dad has another infection somewhere else; the antibiotic should take care of that, too.

Curt is spending the night there so that he can monitor Dad's progress as the fever subsides. It was up to 103F. Right now it has gone down to about 100F. And starting tomorrow I will be calling 3 times a day to remind Dad to take his antibiotic over the next week; it's a good thing I can program a lot of alarms on my phone. (I have 14 right now!) Dad also has Tylenol with codeine for the pain; when I call about the antibiotic I will find out if he also needs the pain reliever. Hopefully, the antibiotic will get him back on his feet; we were both noticing that he has been sleeping a lot more than usual.

What this incident taught me was that a list of service providers that is easily accessible by all of us that are providing care for Mom and Dad is important. The only reason I know about their dentist is because I just happened to be there when they had to go in for their annual cleaning last year. Since I knew I was moving I took a business card so I could have my records transferred to their dentist. Neither Curt nor Lori had been to the dentist with them (Dad was still driving during the day) so they did not have a clue as to who their dentist was.

We also talked about my permanent return. I was checking flights today and it looks like June 15th is a good date. I am also getting quotes from movers. I was originally going to load a PODS container myself here at the house then have it dropped off at the house in Kohala and unload it there. Unfortunately, they won't take it to the house except on O'ahu; I would have to rent a truck and hire a bunch of people to move things out of the container at the harbor and into the truck, then out of the truck and in to the house! So I decided to hire a company to move it from door-to-door so it is less stressful for me.

Happy Birthday to John! 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Last Day for Ibuprofen

Yay! I took the last 600 mg ibuprofen yesterday. There is still a little swelling, about the size of a lima bean by the tooth with the deepest pocket. And I took the last doxycycline this morning. And I also started on a probiotic with 16 live bacteria strains to repopulate my gut.

When I called Mom on Friday morning, she kept saying it was Thursday. Apparently, she took Wednesday's pills the day before yesterday. I think I got her straightened out but now I don't know what day's pills she missed. I think it is most likely Tuesday's pills since I was at a doctor's appointment when I should have been calling and by the time I was done she had gone to mahjong.

We spent most of the day on Camano Island. We started with a potluck brunch at Bobbye's house, where Darla, Karen and Denny joined us. By the time we got on the road to check out the studios on the Camano Artist's Association Mother's Day tour it was mid-afternoon. It used to be on Mother's Day only, but now it starts on the Friday of the weekend before Mother's Day and runs for 2 weekends. The weather was beautiful!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Congratulations, Mark!

Had a good first post-op check-up this morning. The surgical dressing was removed (the whitish stuff that looked like silly putty in last week's photo). Healing is going fine, the remaining sutures should dissolve in the next few days. Only have a tiny bit of swelling at the really deep pocket that Dr. Gold did a lot of work on. I have a 2nd post-op check-up in 2 weeks.

Had my first real meal since the bone graft at lunch with my former co-workers; we met at Terracotta Red. I started with Chicken & Coconut Milk Soup, followed by the Lohan Delight. The soup was much more manageable than I anticipated, the chicken had been minced so I could handle it easily. It tastes much better than it looks; in fact, it is the best soup that I have had over the last week! The oil floating on top is from the coconut milk, which makes it nice and creamy. The minced chicken and Asian herbs and spices give it a great flavor!

The Lohan Delight did not have as much cellophane noodles and five spice tofu as I thought it would, it had a lot more lightly sauteed vegetables in large chunks. I probably should have gone more with something like the Thai Rice Noodle. The flavor was good, when I can chew on both sides of my mouth I will order it again.

We were celebrating Mark's wedding on Saturday. After lunch he was presented with a present from the group, a nice platter with a crab motif. Mark and Gina will be honeymooning on the Big Island, at "a place with black sand between Hilo and Kona". Sounds like Gina made the reservations! Congratulations, Mark!

When I called Mom to remind her to take her morning pills, she was busy talking with some people who come to the door usually asking for donations. Fortunately, these are people whom she has known for a while, so they no longer ask her for donations, they just come to talk to her to see how she's doing. My main problem is that they have an uncanny knack for showing up at meal times. Usually it is lunch or dinner, but today it was breakfast! I'm not sure why they do that, but once I move there I will be asking them to please avoid interrupting our meals.

Happy Birthday to Mary!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Good Bye, Bob!

As I am getting ready to leave, one of the things I want to do is spend time saying "Good Bye" to some special people. So I started making a list of those people. One of them is my friend Ruth's husband, Bob. I used to work with Ruth, she hosted a Christmas party at her house every year. (Which just so happened to be attended by many, though not all, from work; so she called it a Christmas party because it was her party at her house.) I remember taking Kai there when he was an infant. After she retired, I would stop by 1 or 2 times a year to say, Hi!, when I was passing through the neighborhood during a break. About 10 years ago Ruth passed away, she and Bob had been married for 53 years. I stopped in to see Bob for a few years after that, until my job changed and my field area no longer had me passing through their neighborhood. I kept thinking, I'll stop in on the weekend, but their house was outside of the usual area that I would be running around on the weekend. So on Sunday, I got on the Internet to see if Bob was still at their old house and found out he had passed away on April 14th; the service was this afternoon. It wasn't quite the way I had planned to say good bye to Bob, but I am glad I was able to be there.

One of the coolest things about Bob's service (I think) was towards the end, while the pastor was speaking. A pileated woodpecker was in the trees to the north calling, then it flew south across the area where the service was being held. Pileated woodpeckers have a very distinctive bright red crest; Bob's nickname in his youth was "Red" because of his red hair.

This morning I was finally able to get out of bed feeling somewhat alive. And went to a doctor's appointment, but that was okay, too; it was an acupuncture appointment that had been arranged before the oral surgery. I also took a look around the yard at what the plants have been doing while I have been sleeping. The Siberian irises and rhododendron Vulcan are just starting to bloom. Next week they should look spectacular!
Iris sibirica

Rhododendron 'Vulcan'

And I took some photos of the bees for identification. Here is what I was seeing when I thought they were honey bees and I was moving away to avoid being stung. But after talking with Jan, looking at them more closely (since the are not honey bees and thus less likely to sting), and looking at them from different angles, I could see a distinctive orange band. Stay tuned as I compare the other photos I took with the bumble bee identification information I found on-line.

Soup du jour: Tomato Basil.

Other things on the menu today. The good thing about the cashew milk is that it has 50% more calcium than cow's milk; the not-so-good thing would be the carbon footprint of shipping cashews to the plant to make the milk, then shipping the milk here; with cows the source is generally closer to the market. (I have not looked at the water use yet, that is one of the not-so-good things about almonds.)

When I called Mom this evening to remind her to take her pills she was very confused. She thought it was morning. Apparently she dozed off and thought it was tomorrow already, even though they have not had dinner yet. I have found that she is more confused later in the day than she is when it is earlier.

Tomorrow is my first post-op check-up. If all goes well they will remove the surgical dressing (the thing in my mouth that looks like silly putty). If all the dissolvable sutures haven't, they will be removing those also. Hopefully, I will be doing well enough I can start eating easily chewable things on that side again.

Happy Birthday to Aunty Judy, Mary Ellen, Aletha, and Mary Danielle! Today was also Grandma's birthday.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Underwear Wars

When I called Mom to remind her to take her morning meds I apparently interrupted a discussion about underwear. Dad answered and I could hear her in the background saying he had to tell me something, but couldn't make out what the something was. When she got on the phone she said I needed to tell Dad he needed to wear one pair of underwear a day. She said he had 14 pairs, including some brand new ones, but she had to wash his underwear by hand every evening. It didn't make any sense to me since she was the one choosing to wash the underwear he had worn that day instead of just leaving it in the dirty laundry. I let her vent her frustrations; I could not think of a workable solution. If I told her to stop washing the pair every night it would upset her routine; and I have found any suggestion that will upset her routine makes her very agitated. In these cases I tend to just be neutral in my statements and hope that she will forget about it in a short while. I'm sure Dad gets an earful every night when she thinks about it.

Soup du jour: creamy butternut squash.

I think I am starting to heal up. There is even less swelling today, with much less pain, but I am very tired. Which I am taking as a sign that my body is hard at work, regrowing new bone into the matrix Dr. Gold put in and my gums are patching themselves up. Glad my caloric intake is almost up to normal, same for the protein intake; both thanks to the egg salad from Anne! (And it even helped me sleep better last night since I was not awakened by hunger in the middle of the night.)

My purple irises are in full bloom! I spotted the pale yellow ones but they're not visible in the photo since they are shorter than the top rail of the fence so are hidden by the foliage of the purple one. My other irises are on the other side of the house where I can't see them easily from inside so I don't know how they are doing. I am guessing they are not blooming yet since, they are in a shadier area. Bearded irises generally need a winter dormancy period to bloom, but I have heard that there are now types called reblooming irises that do not need a dormancy period so I might be able to grow them in Hawai'i. I shall have to research this further since Mom likes the color purple and once an iris bed is established I have found them to be fairly low maintenance.

Momo is apparently getting to know that the combination of the phone ringing and Mom's pill case rattling means he will be getting a treat! I called this evening to remind Mom to take her evening pills. When we moved on to her giving Momo his pill she said he had already started coming in to the kitchen without her calling him. He followed her to the center of the room and waited for her to return with his pill! I am glad he is being so helpful.

Happy Birthday to Bobbye!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Anne to the Rescue!

Since Wednesday evening I have been subsisting primarily on soup due to the oral surgery. And even though some of the soups, like the creamy butternut squash, are very thick, I was still getting ravenously hungry a couple of hours after I had eaten. I looked over my food diary and found I was only getting 500 to 600 calories each day with only about 10 g of protein; about half the calories and a quarter of the protein that I should be eating. No wonder I would wake up hungry in the middle of the night!

Kai was going to buy me some egg salad last night, but was too tired. He was going to get it this morning, but had insomnia last night so was not feeling it was safe to drive. And this evening he was zonked out, so I called my friend Anne and asked her if she could get me some egg salad at QFC. Well it turns out their egg salad also has chunks of potato in it, so she went home and made me some egg salad! Love you, Anne! You are worth your weight in gold! She also brought me non-dairy chocolate pudding and chocolate cashew milk. Here's the bowl of warm egg salad that I ate as soon as she arrived.

So the plan for when I have to do this after I move in with Mom and Dad is to have a couple of boxed soups for the first 24 to 48 hours, a big batch of egg salad, non-dairy yogurt and pudding, and non-dairy milk substitutes. And I also have to remember to take the ibuprofen every 6 hours even though I might want to space it out to every 8 hours - the swelling is starting to go down. Now only about half the area Dr. Gold worked on is swollen, the rest has subsided.

Happy Birthday to Xander! He is 14 years old today! We got him from Erica, who is a friend of our friend Amelia. She had rescued him from someone who really should not have been allowed to have companion animals. Xander spent a year or so with Erica's mom who was confined to her bed; which is why he takes so well to watching Korean soap operas with Mom! Xander had enjoyed being in a single-cat household, he had a little trouble adjusting when he first moved in with us. I'm sure when he moved in with Mom and Dad he was extremely happy since he was the only cat and had 2 humans to wait on him! (Including one who could not remember whether he had been fed!) After 18 months, his little paradise was upset when Chibi showed up last summer, then The Boys arrived at Thanksgiving.
On top of the freezer near the bird-viewing spot, 2007

Checking out the white stuff with Shiro, 2007

In the small cat tree, looking out the back door, 2011

Cleaning Momo's head, 2011
At the top of the cat tree, 2013

New sleeping spot in Hawai'i, 2014

Oh, no! Where did she come from? 2015
What's that trouble maker Momo doing here? 2015