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So this year I feel 'okay' with Christmas. Not great. But okay. I'll take okay. The previous 2-3 years were hard. And, yes, mom and dementia and being burned out from stress had a lot to do with the last 2 years but the year before those (circa 2013) I wasn't okay with Christmas and I had no clue what was coming at me related to my mom. Among the things I kept from my mom's was certain Christmas decorations. The tree, the ornaments I left all of those. The items I kept were made by my maternal grandmother between say the mid 1970's and maybe 1990. Every year she gave each of her kids the same ceramic piece at Christmas - so each family had one. Then each of the grandkids (specifically grand daughters because of the 14 of us, only 3 were boys) got same/similar ceramic pieces as well. Due to my crazy aunt dispersing things after my grandmother died in 1995 and her own moving much later I wound up with a couple of pieces that were duplicates/extras. As a result I have 2 sets of 2 different angels. I'm using the space on top of my kitchen cabinets to display some of these pieces year round now. The Spook does not go up there and I therefore consider it to be a fairly safe place for breakables. It also keeps me from being a bit too clumsy around things as well. In the above photo the angels at either end, I have learned as an adult, were referred to by my (Northern) Baptist Church attending Grandmother as 'dammed angels.' The bowls in the angels hands were hard to clean (in green ware state). So some have no bowl, some have one and some have 2. And yes, I know, I'm dealing with Grandma's trademark antique white with gold accents ceramic work against an ecru wall and almond appliances/cabinets with pickled wood. Welcome to the world of apartments where everything is some form of beige. This is the cabinet over my fridge. Grandma did the gold Mary/Joseph piece. Which has been broken and Mom (sigh) taped the ear back on the donkey. The angel to the right a neighbor gave my mom say 10 years ago (by the way, I like the coloring on it better - don't tell my grandmother) and the other angel is a tree topper of mine living up there for visual balance. Here we have a card one of my cousins gave me eons ago that I never put away (unless moving), a wooden candle holder that I redid (it had been my mom's from my childhood) with a red candle on it and a few more of Grandma's/Mom's ceramic piece. I pulled the worn ribbon and plastic holly off of the ornament this year, added garland (gold) of my choosing and tied a new ribbon to it. And, thank you Menards, I found LED tea lights so that is one of them inside the ornament lit (and I don't have to worry about forgetting it). My tree. I love this tree. A coworker gave it to me in 2010 or 2011. It is simply a wood square base, a square wood upriht and a wood star on top with lighted fake greenery around it. I added the ribbon (yes it matches the ribbon on the ceramic ornament). It takes me 5 minutes to pull out of a closet and put out. 5 minutes to put away. I also don't worry about the cat climbing it and I don't have to rearrange furniture. (yes, those are presents to myself that I will open later) Finally we have a bit that I've picked up from my mom. The annual festooning of ordinary house (or office) plants with fake poinsettias.
Last Saturday I stopped by for a visit with my mom. It was a really good visit. Or as good a visit as one can have when the person you are visiting is no longer the person you knew, has memory issues, mobility issues and the like. I finally tried something I had wanted to for some time. We colored together. Due to time constraints (mine) we didn't finish the project (and next time I would have us coloring on different pages). But we did some coloring with my trusty Crayola twistables after working a very large jigsaw puzzle. The purple, green, & orange butterflies at the left of the page are my work. I did the center of the orange/red one. the other two are all Mom. When I got there she said my hands were cold and insisted on warming it up. That's my right hand (photo taken left handed so I'm amazed it came out so well - this photo was a hit on Facebook among family & friends)
She texted me this picture, with a caption saying, "These colored pencils are delightful!" (She is using the Prismacolor scholar pencils.) This is her first page! This "copycat" book has half the page colored in already, and you are supposed to copy it on the other half. It might be good for some of our colorists who have mentioned they feel somewhat overwhelmed or stressed out by choosing color combos. She actually got the book for my sister (who has a developmental delay), as well as one for my grandmother (who has Alzheimers), because she thought it would be easier for them. She also got herself the Creative Owl book, but chose to do the first page of this one to show my sister. Soon, we'll be a family of colorists!
Saturday I had a hair appointment. Which means I stopped to see Mom since I was in the area. I'm a bit annoyed because just before I arrived they had started a Tinkerbelle movie and Mom did not want to move to talk to me. So I sat for a bit and watched her. She dozed off during the movie. She woke back up. She'd look over at me, smile. Go back to the movie. It's Saturday, who starts a movie on a day where people might have visitors. So now I have to decide if this is worth making a call to either the social worker or weekday nurse for the unit to discuss my frustration at essentially not being allowed to talk to my mother. They had been coloring. I'm not sure that this is Mom's but it was next to where she was watching the movie. I had brought a couple of books and supplies with me to attempt to initial coloring. But, well, movie so that was a lost opportunity. And I'm kicking myself because I made a stop on the way over to walk a labyrinth and pray before I went on to see Mom. And had I not done that, well, Maybe they wouldn't have put Tinkerbelle on. (and I'm not wild about Disney to begin with so you can imagine how this makes me feel). And just because I can - I bought shirts online. I got 4 shirts, The Spook got a new box.
I had a hair appointment Saturday. Which means (because I'm weird and set in my ways) I was in KC Saturday. And I combine my hair appointments and Mom visits. So I went to see her before my appointment. They changed her meds a bit last month. Reducing Trazodone (Sp?) - which she is on due to anxiety and an avid 'I want to go home' that was unrelenting - to see if it would make her more physically stable. They're concerned (finally) because she is shuffling. (when she walks). Something I noticed last fall along with her being so doped out of her gourd that she did a lot of sleeping when I went to visit. But they finally became concerned because of the potential to fall. She was awake and more or less lucid (for her present state in the disease) when I arrived. I don't do small talk well to begin with and conversations with Mom are just awkward now. The nurse set a binder of photos - landscapes and such - in front of her. So we looked at it together. And talked about what was in the photos. And - she said cloud. She pointed to the white puffy cloud and said 'clouds.' Yes, I got a bit excited and told her good job. Because cloud was a word she lost. Before I put her in the facility. She talks a lot bout it being gray (never mind that it could be bright, clear, sunny) and the word 'cloud' devolved into 'white puffies.' So to hear 'clouds' come out of her mouth unprompted made my day. Sure, she also mentioned going home later, twice. But it wasn't a beat the door down anxious. Some times, it is the little things.
I am attempting to (again) apply for medicaid for my mother. Really, such a joyous (read that with dripping, oozing sarcasm) experience. This is a very messed up online process involving the broke-ass state of Kansas. At the moment my conundrum is what the hell they mean with the Social Security Income questions. They ask for a social security benefit amount oh and for Supplemental Social Security. Ummmmm I don't know. She'll by 84 in a few weeks and she gets a check. One section, three or four questions and two boxes for amounts. And can I call a number - oh sure. Getting someone to pick up the phone and answer is a different issue. And my question answer person at Mom's facility isn't answering (day 2 on that front). I am a Degreed (!!!) Accountant and this is enough to make by scream or cry - or both at any given moment. I can only imagine what mere mortals (meaning the math phobic) go through with this stuff. I did finally find the super secret spot to put the fees for keeping mom in a facility. By the way - if you have an inkling of what they mean with the SSI stuff - please reply. (I need help, I'm confused - and it's a short trip, even with a boot on my foot)
The social worker at Mom's facility called this week. She always starts conversations by stating, before who is calling, that everything is fine. Personally, if everything were fine I wouldn't being getting a call. And, Mom wouldn't be in a facility. But, okay, I translate this to she's not dead and she's not hurt. They concerned because she's shuffling. Ummm, okay but she was doing that before I brought her to you and she's been there since June of last year and you're just getting around to this? And the nurse on her unit had called a month ago about it and thought it was her shoes. (oh they're too big... uhuh - because she has a bunions and have YOU gone shopping with an 82 year old woman with dementia to buy anything? Because a trip to the local, small grocery store was bad enough). So I bought new shoes but Mom wouldn't wear them (which, quite frankly, amused me). And they found her different shoes that someone donated and all is right. But apparently (SHOCK! - but not from me) that has not stopped the shuffling. Which I noticed that last weekend in January when I stopped by. Yup, new shoes. Yup, still shuffling. So this call is not really a surprise. I gave permission (yes, they need my consent, I am court appointed guardian and conservator. Meaning I am in charge. And I've let it be known in the past that I do notice things and have asked a few questions - such as 'is there a reason my mom's partial plate (lower teeth in front) isn't in? (that one annoyed me because Mom mentioned it in her own odd way and if she noticed it in her current state then it is something that really bothers her and hello) - where was I? Oh yes, permission. I gave permission for physical therapy to work with her. And as long as social worker was on the phone the subject of paying for this came up (medicare/insurance) which led to medicaid. I did drop the sentence (or something like it) 'you all recommended filing for medicaid early, however the state of Kansas won't deal with you until you have under two k of assets.' An apology sort of followed. Don't think I haven't forgotten SHE was the person who recommended filing. Because I haven't. I did find out that they have moved all of the medicaid stuff in the state to Topeka and got another phone number for whatever agency it is now under (because hey, changing things around is SUCH a good idea). Medicaid is on my March to do list. I'll deal with it after I pay the bills at the end of February to keep Mom in the facility for another month and wipe out the remaining assets, get her under the magic number. A thought that sort of exhausts me mentally.
So, I've sold Mom's car! Yay! For less than it's value. Not concerned. This might have been an easier and more profitable adventure had the car been where Mom lives or where I live. However that last adventure Mom took in the car landed the car in Springfield, MO. About 3 hours from me. And Three (!!!!!!!) from Mom (and actually she finally stopped in Mansfield, MO I believe). I have cousins in SE Kansas where Mom is originally from. I love my cousins. They totally bailed me out on this front and took the car back to their farm where it remains. Long story short, I've been rather overwhelmed. And busy. So the car sat. I'm at a point where they car had to go because I have to dispose of all assets and she has to have less the $2k before medicaid will even look at it. I'm down to dealing with the stock certificates (yes, actual certificates from employee stock purchase back in the 80's. What the actual heck, Mom?) and the car. My cousin's daughter and her husband (so first cousin once removed) has three daughters (first cousins, twice removed) one of whom is driving age. They made an offer on the car and I, being lazy, stressed and busy said sold! We met in a parking lot in Overland Park KS (they had shopping to do, it was convenient for me) and traded paperwork/money. I sent a copy of the court letter with them. I mention this because that turned to be a wise move because they got some grief over the title until they remembered the letter which of course made all things right. When in doubt, send a copy of that letter with stuff. Carry it with you. I have 3 originals. I don't carry them with me any more. I carry a copy in an envelope with a copy of a DNR (Do not Resuscitate Order) & living will from my mom in my purse all the time now. I'm working on the stock thing. 1 set of certificates was missing (imagine!) and has been replaced (cost money to do that which I paid because I have to divest of assets). The others have been sent with a tracking number via US mail and the appropriate paperwork (which may or may not be forged on my end as I might have played Mom yet again). By the way, the USPS can do electronic certification now - which costs less. I checked it a few minutes ago to see where in the system my package was (not delivered yet but I didn't drop it at the post office until Wednesday evening - it would have been Tuesday during the day but we had snow then). Once they have the certificates, they will convert to digital and I can sell. So the adventures in stock certificates may also soon be over.
So, as part of being court appointed guardian and conservator of my mother, I have to fill out a report each year. Actually, two because there is a guardianship report and a conservator report. The guardianship isn't that bad, answer a series of questions about how she is and when you last saw her, where she is living and such. Then sign. The conservatorship report is another story. I am grateful I am an accountant. Because my excel and technical skills allow me to, within limits, be able to crunch the numbers quickly. Well, when Mom's small town bank's online site cooperates. Sometime in 2015, I am guessing in May, they changed their online site. I should have had the foresight to say, hey you're going to have trouble downloading the full year of mom's finances from the bank site like you did for 2014. You'd better go download it. Only I didn't. Thankfully, I did figure out how to get the full year of data that appeared on my screen but did not have a print/download feature on it to go into excel. But we're dealing with my intermediate to advanced excel skills here. I can't fathom how a mere non-accounting mortal would ever figure this out. (By the way it involved copying and pasting as values/text only to keep the web formatting from tagging along for the ride). After I leaped that little hurdle I was a matter of classifying mom's expenses for the year and doing a sort and sum (yes we're back to my excel skills again). Then it is fill out the form with the 'see attached spreadsheet printed out' wording in it. And signing. The task is done for another year now that it is mailed off. Due to size this did require a trip to the post office. In good news of a sort, the daughter of Cousin S and her husband (therefore my first cousin once removed) made an offer on Mom's car. I said 'sold.' I need to make a trip to SE Kansas after I survive year end closing and audit stuff here at work later this month to take care of paperwork. This is a relief. I need to sell a small amount of stock purchased through employee stock options (and didn't realized she had until sometime this year). She is missing some certificates (yes! there are actual certificates for this which freaked me out because they were stuffed in the drawer with everything else. There was a lot of WTFing over that because apparently at one point in time companies issues these things for real. My mother apparently didn't realize the nature of the document or its importance. After that I will have to do battle with the state of Kansas (again) for medicaid. But for now, I'm riding the yay the car is taken care of happy.
At the end of December, 2014, I was forced out of my little duplex and sent scrambling for a place to live. My own mother had decided that she would take my son in, but would not take me in. This was not for any good reason that I could discern. I am not a user of drugs or alcohol, nor a gambler. I have always maintained employment. I do not abuse anyone and I get along great with my mom. She had just decided that she would rather I be homeless than help me. It hurt very badly, because we had always been close, like best friends, and now she was basically dumping me onto the streets if I did not find somewhere to live. A friend started a youcaring fundraiser to help me with moving and storage costs, but I knew I was skating a thin line between having a place, and living in my car or on the streets. On the day after Christmas, a friend offered me a place to stay in the nick of time. I would be able to live in her mom's house while the mom was in the hospital. When the mom came home, I would be her nighttime caregiver in exchange for room and board. I was incredibly grateful and knew how lucky I was. Going from a two bedroom, one bath duplex with lots of storage to one bedroom with no storage was my challenge. I had managed to get rid of a huge debris bin (dumpster) full of stuff the previous May (therein lies a whole other story), but still had years of accumulated stuff to go through. I was, of course, short on time, so I wasn't able to be thorough, but I paid to store what I ended up keeping. I budgeted $500 per month; it ended up costing me $319 (which I'm still paying). I came to the new place with my bed, my desk, a dresser, and my computer, and a few boxes of clothes and minimal other items. I used the kitchen and jacuzzi occasionally and otherwise stayed in my room. I saw my boyfriend daily and went to work daily and otherwise I basically avoided people. I worked swing shift and spent many morning and weekend hours ensconced in my room, curled up in bed crying and depressed. The depression crushed me so badly I felt like I couldn't get out of bed even if I wanted to. I had my daughter with me on alternate weekends and even on those mornings with her I could barely get myself out of bed, which distressed her and worried my mom. At some point... And I can't even pinpoint when it was... I came to the realization that I needed to see things differently. Living by myself, away from my kids, really sucked. But I had a boyfriend, friends and family members who loved me. I had a job. I was in relatively good health. I don't know how it happened, but I started thinking differently, making the best of my situation. My boyfriend and I cooked interesting new dishes that we found online, in the beautiful kitchen we had at our disposal. I started spending more time out of the house when I had my daughter over for visits. I went to the library. I made an effort. I don't know why I turned that corner, but I am convinced that doing so saved my life.