Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Art of Alzheimer's

Mom handed this to me after one of her walks down the driveway, saying "Here, this is for you." with a huge smile on her face. For the first time in my life, I understood the feeling all you parents out there got when your child gave you that bouquet of dandelions or other wildflowers that they had so proudly picked. It was all perfectly arranged, I just put it into the vase.

Everything in it would be considered "weeds" by most, and looks like a professional arrangement. There are varying heights of flowers, (dandelions and an unidentified yellow flower that I see growing in the ditches around here), different textures in the feathery grass seed head, the interesting flower seed pods, and all wrapped up in the ruffly-edged (cursed) burdock leaf.

It seems well thought-out and purposeful, not just a bunch of random weeds stuck together. She continually amazes me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Every so often during the summer, I'd look outside and see Stewie doing this.

I'd run outside, heart in my throat...and wake him up.

Yep, he was just napping and sunning himself. You'd think I'd learn, but it would about give me a heart attack every time.

When I found him like this this weekend though, I suspected the worst. It was too cold, not enough sun. Come on, Stewie, get up, shake yourself, and look at me like I just disturbed your nap. Please!


Saturday, January 26, 2008


Mom's X-ray quarter. I never found it, but all that matters is it isn't in her anymore.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Mysterious Sound in the Night

Don't let anybody tell you that living in the country is quiet. It isn't. It's not the cars, sirens, people sounds of the city though. During the days of summer, it's the cropdusters.

They are out spraying the vegetable fields across the road from me, so they fly right overhead as they are making their turn.

The sound doesn't really bother me though. The knowledge of how many times they spray those vegetables (peas, green beans, or sweet corn) just deepens my resolve to grow as many of my own vegetables as I can. I do have a recurring nightmare of the plane crashing into the house, but who hasn't had that nightmare since that horrifying day in September.

I don't have air conditioning, so summer nights the windows are flung wide, letting in the cacophony. The crickets, the locusts, the frogs, the occasional snarling disagreements of the local raccoon and opossum population, the crowing of a confused rooster (hello, it's 2 0'clock in the morning, give it a rest already!), the yip yip yip of the coyotes, the sit-me-straight-up-out-of-a-sound-sleep alpaca or llama alarm call, all come rushing in the open window.

Last summer, though, I kept hearing a sound I couldn't identify. In my seven years here, I had never heard it before. It sounded like a three way cross of the wail, yodel, and tremolo of a loon. Examples of each of them can be found here. I don't have loon habitat near me though, so I ruled that out. I couldn't tell if it was an animal, a bug, a frog, a bird, what was making this sound I was hearing? It kept me awake at night. Not that I was afraid or anything, but just out of curiosity. What the hell was it?

One night I happened to be on the phone with my sister when I heard it, and mentioned this mysterious sound I kept hearing. She said that she had been hearing the exact same thing at their place (70 miles away), and they couldn't identify it, and in their fifteen years on their place, had never heard it before either. ???

I kept hearing it throughout the summer and into the fall. It was never in the same area. One night it might be in the pine tree shelter belt to the north, the next in the maple trees to the south.

One day, I was in my home office working at my desk, and Mom was watching an episode of Texas Country Reporter on RFDTV. If you're not familiar with the show, it's like a Charles Kuralt (I just dated myself, didn't I?) type show celebrating the people and stories of Texas and area. I think most states have a show like that. We have Minnesota Bound and Venture North.

So there I was, sitting at my desk, when I hear it. It's the mysterious sound in the night. Except it was daytime. What? It was on the TV. They were doing a piece on a man who uses recordings to draw wildlife in so he can photograph them. Or something. Anyway, I was able to identify my mystery sound. A screech owl. Making the B call. (That makes sense if you click on the link.) I know that I've had them around, because I found a dead one once in the barn. Why had they never made a sound before?

One night in late fall we must have been having an abnormally warm night, because I had my bedroom window cracked. I heard the screech owl. Then a coyote. And the screech owl answered. They went back and forth for several minutes. It has to be one of the coolest things I've ever heard.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Winter Moon, Cold Moon, Moon of the Terrible, Wolf Moon, Ice Moon, Quiet Moon

Did you catch the moon rise yesterday? Whatever you want to call it, it was incredible. These shots don't do it justice, they're the best I could do without a tri-pod. It was -13F, so I may have been shaking a little.

That is one of the things I love about living in the country. The night sky without the light pollution of the city. What a huge difference it makes. Living on the prairie means there is that much more sky to see, too.

Life is good. Worrying, but still good.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fiber as Therapy

I've been an emotional basketcase the past couple of weeks, sorry about that. Still no developments with respect to the coin, that has me worried. We'll go for an X-ray if we don't "hit the jackpot" by Thursday. Through it all, Mom has been her cheery, happy self. Thanks to all for your concern, prayers and thoughts.

Turning the crank on the drum carder and seeing the colors blend has been my therapy. I have an order for a pound of Airies (rose gray) overdyed to a dusty purple, like this.

The dyepot I use isn't big enough to hold one pound of alpaca, so I dyed it in three different batches, then am blending amongst the three on the carder.

I also dyed up some Peach Boy (white) and blended it into this.

I'm still working on the "hollyhock" roving. I have it dyed, but haven't gotten to the blending. I want to get the custom order done first.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Bizarre Series of Events

There are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason. Choose your saying, but it just may have saved Mom's life.

Event 1: Mom has a seizure. Could it have been caused by the antibiotic Mom was on due to a suspected UTI? Antibiotic is stopped. An EEG and neuro consult is scheduled, and a prescription for a sedative for the EEG is written.

Event 2: Mom has back pain. Is it the result of the seizure, where she arched her back and convulsed, or is there something else going on. Is the UTI now advanced to kidney infection, causing the back pain? Sedative medication notes to tell your doctor if you have kidney disease. Appt with primary care doctor is made, urine sample is successfully collected(!!!), we went to the doctor on Monday, EEG is scheduled for Tuesday at Mayo.

Event 3: Doctor rules out kidney infection, and UTI, sample is clean. During exam, Doctor palpates abdomen and finds a pulsing mass on her left side. Could be a cancerous mass, but is more likely her abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) has grown to dangerous levels. Position for it is unusual. CAT scan is ordered and scheduled for Thursday.

Event 4: EEG is completed successfully, although it took two of us to hold her down getting the electrodes in place. This is hard, she looks at me and asks me to help her. With AD, she has since forgotten this trauma. I still remember the fear and confusion in her eyes when she pleaded with me to help her.

Event 5: CAT scan yesterday reveals the AAA has grown about an inch both in length and in width, and is positioned right under the skin. Doctor is talking hospice. I can't let myself think about this right now, I will lose it.
Here is the bizarre part. CAT scan also reveals a quarter. Mom has swallowed a quarter. It was located just above the duodenum. That will be the test. If it can make it through the small bowel, it should have smooth sailing through the rest of her system. If not, we are talking small bowel obstruction/possible perforation and just all around a huge problem. We have to watch this carefully, and I now know the symptoms(vomiting, pain) to take her to the ER. Online sources say quarter will usually pass in an adult. If not, it could be retrieved with an endoscope. (Which would not entail major surgery.)

If all of the previous events hadn't happened, we wouldn't have known about the quarter, and I wouldn't have known about the dangers we currently face and what to look for.

I am on poop patrol. Please, please, please let it pass, and soon! I have never looked forward to playing with poop so much in my life! (Yes, I've played with a lot of poop, it's just that it has always been animal poop!)

I have collected every coin I can find in this house and hidden them. Mom has stashes everywhere, she likes to have them in her pocket. No more, sorry Mom.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with the doctor. She spoke to a GI specialist, and the specialist feels that if the quarter got past, uh, something (insert technical term which I have forgotten here) at the bottom of the stomach, which it did, it should make it through the rest of the way. Still need to watch for the symptoms, and get weekly x-rays until it passes, but I am feeling so much better. Everybody dance! Wait, maybe we should save the dancing until it passes. On second thought, hell no, everybody dance now! We can dance again later!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hello Sun!

Hello Sun.

I've missed you.

It seems you've been gone for weeks!

It appears your presence may be fleeting.

I'll welcome you back another day.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chow and Ollie

Once again, I am giving in to peer pressure.

A friend sent an e-mail suggesting that I call him ChowChow, because he looks like one (minus the blue tongue). She got all dramatic, "it will make my life to know I gave him something lasting". So, Chow it is. Plus, as you can see, he does like his chow!

The same friend was responsible for naming one of my llamas.

Ollie. Named after a musician accompanying Slaid Cleaves. Dobro? Bass? Keyboard? I don't remember. Apparently he is a good Backgammon player. Or was it Parcheesi? Hearts? Hmm, obviously only the name stuck in my memory.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Seed Catalogs as Inspiration

It's that time of year again. The deluge of seed catalogs. I don't mind, really. It is easy to get lost in the pages, imagining what this year's garden will look like. What new tomato to try. What new hot pepper to try. Inspiration!

But that's not really what I'm talking about. The pictures of flowers in all their glory, the color combinations provided by nature. All that color. Well, it turns a dyers head to the dyepots. It turns mine, anyway.

It has happened before. This hollyhock from my garden

inspired this yarn.

Another attempt to recreate the hollyhock in roving resulted in a happy accident. When you add a pink and a yellow to a dyepot not quite hot enough to strike, you end up with


which then turned into this

All that to say that I am back to trying to recreate some flowers in roving and yarn. I did some dyeing today, and they are drying. I am trying a different approach, blending on the drum carder rather than in the dyepot. I'll do the blending tomorrow.

This is the blending that I did today, using the roving referenced in this post.

All 100% polypay wool. I think it would look lovely all spun up and then used in a feather and fan or similar type shawl. This may go to the Etsy shop, I can't decide.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Won't you please help?

No, I can't look at you. I'm too embarrassed.

Please, no. It's just too much.

Ok, fine.

Yes, I am a cat with no name. She just calls me "that orange cat that figured out the dog door". Please, save me from toctfotdd. She can't even pronounce that. Please give her some suggestions.

Your contribution of just two cents a day will help feed.....uh, scratch that.

Please? Give me a name?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Summer Flashback

Even though it is only the beginning of January, I felt the need for a shot of summer. I took a bag of these out of the freezer last night.

It's very tempting to eat the whole crop of strawberries right out there in the garden, (is there anything better than freshly picked fruit, perfectly ripe, still warm from the sun? I don't think so. Well, strawberry sorbet is pretty good too.) but I try to control myself and freeze a bag or two just for this purpose.

Back, you winter blahs, back! For I have strawberries!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Cats of Maple Corners

When all else fails, post cat pictures!

This is Scarecrow. She showed up one day as a wee baby, meowing her head off. I was out watering the animals, when her head popped up from some scrap wood in the corn bin part of the granary. She has a slight film over her left eye, as you can see. She came with that.

This is Puddin'. She was actually born here, to another cat (that just showed up) that I didn't get spayed soon enough. I was lucky to find good homes among friends for all of them, but she stayed with me.

This is Freckle Face, aka Groucho Marx. She showed up a few years ago, a bag of bones and matts. When I took her to the vet, they wouldn't do any shots because she was so malnourished. I got her weight up and took her in to be spayed. When they shaved her for the surgery, they just kept going and shaved off all the matts. She looked like she had a mohawk, there was just a strip of fur down the top of her back, the rest on her sides had to be shaved off. She makes a lot of trills and odd sounds, and her meow is very kittenlike. She sleeps with Mom.

This is, well, he doesn't really have a name. He is a feral cat that hangs around. He figured out my dog door, and hangs out in the mudroom to warm up and eat. I guess I should call him semi-feral, because he will let me pet him in the mudroom. It's funny, he won't let me near him outside (this photo was taken through the glass patio door) or in the barn, but when he is in the house he will. I suppose he figures he has to endure the petting to get the food or be warm. I know he needs to be de-wormed, but I don't trust him enough to try to shove a pill down his throat.

I never intended to have indoor cats. They all figured out the dog door. I'm such a sucker.

Mom update: We had a really good, fun night last night. She was cracking jokes and one liners right and left. She was trying to (well, acting like she was going to) put the handle of a craft paint brush up my nose, and when I asked her to stop, and suggested that maybe she should put it up her nose, she sort of shook her head and said, "Oh, I'll get a different one. "

Then, she was calling the cat, saying here kitty, kitty, kitty. One came running, and she rolled her eyes, groaned, and said, "Ach, me and my big mouth!"

At various times throughout the night, she also used a dish towel as a grass skirt and did the hula, and did her best Red Skelton (drunk) and High Society Lady impressions.

It was good having my Mom back.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Recipe Box

Kay and Ann over at Mason-Dixon Knitting (sorry, don't have the energy to link) are having a show your recipe box contest. Here's mine.

And open.

Yeah, it's not organized. The little dividers are sitting in the back, unused, still in their plastic packaging, even.

Mom got this for me 10-15 years ago, I think. * Unfortunately, it doesn't fold, so you can't do the magic fold technique that every kid in MN knows. (For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, look at her knees. Now imagine what they might look like if you folded it so that the knees end up in the chest area. )

Now, for a recipe from that box.

This recipe, in Mom's handwriting,(notice how she personalized the mouse) embodies the taste of summer to me. Very refreshing!

And, for some reason, this one is the taste of fall.

Talk about retro. Who cooks with candy orange slices anymore?

Me. Now I have to make a town run to buy candy orange slices and dates. I have a hankering for some comfort food.

Mom update: We had a very rough night, she was restless and not much sleep was had. Then, yesterday morning, all of a sudden she started hanging her head, walking with a shuffle, and her arms were loose. She tried to sit down on the window sill, then leaned against me and was saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I got her to the couch, and by the time I got blankets tucked around her, she was fast asleep. At first I had thought she was having another seizure, or something, but I think that she just all of a sudden got tired. She slept for a few hours.

We were worried about her speech, because Wed night when we got home from the ER she wasn't really talking, just doing her little singing, why oh why oh why song. Last night she sang along to "She'll be coming round the Mountain" with me, so I think she is ok. Another night with not a lot of sleep though.

We will go to Mayo for an EEG and neurologist consult. I guess that is a benefit to living close to Rochester.

* Being from MN, it pains me to say I can't (refuse to) use their products anymore. Not after this. Warning, this site contains graphic photos of many dead alpacas, caused by tainted LOL feed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I spent the afternoon in the ER with Mom today.

She is back home and resting comfortably, but I thought I had lost her.

Started out screaming in pain and arching her back, convulsed several times, and then seemed to have difficulty breathing.

She has an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and I thought it had blown. I held her, told her to go see Dad and Fritz if she wanted to, and that I loved her. I called for an ambulance, and while on the phone with them noticed that she was holding/squeezing my hand, and looking at me. Not a blank stare, but actually looking at me.

By the time the ambulance arrived, she was coming around more, moving both arms and legs, and holding on to my hand for dear life.

When I got to the ER (nearest hospital is about 20 miles away), she was fighting the nurses trying to get a pulse ox and her blood pressure. Now that was the Mom I knew! Back to being combative.

CAT scan and blood levels are all normal. Apparently she suffered a seizure, with no visible effects. She was singing when we walked out of the ER tonight!

Looking at the Cipro leaflet tonight when we got home, convulsive seizures is listed as one of the adverse reactions. On the advice of the Patient Advisory Nurse at the hospital, I withheld tonight's dose until I speak with her doctor.

I'm an emotional wreck. Rejoicing, of course. But completely full of self-doubt. I don't think I'm strong enough to do this.

I'll stop there.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Art of Alzheimer's-New Year's Edition

Not even the dogs are safe from Mom's art "installations". I found this yesterday afternoon, and ran for the camera, hoping the dog would stay still. Then I was laughing so hard I could hardly take the picture. Poor Ursa.

Happy New Year, everybody. I hope you didn't wake up with a stuffed llama on your head this morning, wondering what the hell did I do last night. (Or if you did, I hope you had fun doing it! )