Friday, January 30, 2009

Money for Nothin"

today I received a totally unexpected email. Here is part of the text. Imagine, a fifty something college professor, mother of three, whose family has been in the U. S. since the late 1700s, all this time completely unaware that she has an inheritance of over ten million dollars from some long lost relative in Nigeria.


This Is An Official Advice From The FBI, Foreign Remittance/Telegraphic Dept. (FRTD), It Has Come To Our Notice That The ADB (African Development Bank) And C.B.N (Central Bank Of Nigeria) Africa Has Released Your Part Of Inheritance/Contract Payment Of 10,500,000.00 U.S Dollars Into Bank Of America In Your Name As The Beneficiary.

The Bank In Africa Knowing Fully Well That They Do Not Have Enough Facilities To Effect This Payment From Europe To Your Account, Used What We Know As A Secret Diplomatic Transit Payment S.T.D.P To Pay This Fund Through Wire Transfer.

They Are Still Waiting For Final Confirmation From You On The Already Transferred Funds, To Enable Them Crediting Into Your Account Accordingly. Secret Diplomatic Transfer Payment Are Normally Funds Related To Drug/Terrorist And Money Laundry System Of Payment, Why Must Your Payment Be Made In Such Secret Transfer, If Your Transaction Is Legitimate And Not Related To Drug/Terrorist And Money Laundry, Why Can't The Bank In Africa Via Europe Effect Direct Transfer Into Your Account Than Secret Diplomatic Payment Transfer.

Due To The Increased Difficulties And Unnecessary Scrutiny By The American Authorities When Funds Come From Through Such Payment Process From Europe, Africa And Middle East, Based On The Records We Had In The Past Always Identified Such Method Of Payment As Drug/ Terrorist/Money Laundry Funds, To Avoid Problem With The Us Government As Soon As These Funds Reflect In Your Account In The U.S.A, It Is Our Mandatory Obligations To Ascertain The Documentation And Certification Of This Funds Before The Final Crediting Into Your Account.

We Advice You Contact Us Immediately, As The Funds Have Been Stopped And Held In Our Custody Pending When You Were Able To Provide Us With A Diplomatic Immunity Seal Of Transfer (Dist) Within 3 Days From The United Nation International Fund Monitory Unit (UNIFMU) That Authorize The Transfer And Certified That The Funds Originated From Africa And Middle East Is Free From Terrorist/Drug And Money Laundry Or We Shall Confiscate The Payment. We Will Allow The Funds To Be Release Into Your Account Immediately You Make Provision The Required Document.

I KNOW this has to be from the FBI, as every noun, proper or common, is capitalized. Plus, this most definitely is a top secret transaction, as it didn't come from an FBI email address, but one which cannot be traced. However, I am just a bit concerned that Robert Mueller and/or his secretary cannot distinguish between the homonyms advice/advise, that they left the plural -s off of "United Nations", that they misspelled "monetary", and that "released" is missing a "d," not to mention the grammatical errors of that last sentence.


Sunday, January 18, 2009


I am in graduate school online, finishing my Ph.D. I have tried studying in our rec room in the basement, but EG follows me down there, asking me important household related questions like, "What did I do with the Applebee's gift card?" and, more importantly, "Do we have stamps?"

Then, on days when I am home and he goes to work, I stay in the next room from my children, who squabble. Yes, I know, all children squabble, but mine have it down to a fine art form. If only the schools offered squabbling as a sport where they could earn a letter, or better yet, if universities offered scholarships in this art.

Anyway, I have to read textbooks and articles relating to school. I cannot read this material at night, as I am too tired to concentrate. So I try to read throughout the day. Then I end up with scholarly material which sounds like this: "Malcolm Knowles was the father of I'm telling--you hit me. Another researcher, Stephen Brookfield, was probably Knowles's greatest that's mine--MOM, she's picking on me. Brookfield also was a theorist in his crush on Brad Rowe and you love him and want to kiss him on the lips. What? Now what? This computer is Sharan Merriam confined her research to why did you use my lip gloss? I'm telling..."

Sounds like dissertation material to me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Yesterday, I saw an ad for a Saturday special at a doggie day care: an all day play date for ten dollars. My female, Penny, is a high drive dog, and she has been cooped up in the house for the past week or two, so I thought I would sign her up and let her get out and burn off some energy.

Penny was thrilled to ride to the facility, and greeted the handler enthusiastically. The handler took Penny into the playroom on a leash, keeping her close. Penny was greeted by two huge Great Danes, an Italian greyhound, a black Labrador retriever, a Visla, and five or six other mixed breed dogs. Penny wagged gamely, but one of the Danes growled at her. The sniffing continued for five minutes, and the Lab finally got a bit too personal. Penny snarled.

I would have, too.

Then the Lab, a member of a breed who does not get the subtleties in life, approached again, and Penny lashed out again. Now she was mad. The handler brought her out and handed her back to me. "I can't trust her around the other dogs, especially the little ones," she said. Penny wagged delightedly--she was glad to see me.

How humiliating--expelled from day care.

Penny took it all quite philosophically. She went with me to the grocery store, waiting in the seat while I shopped, and then went with me to the bank. I came to the realization that, while some humans prefer dogs over people, Penny prefers people over dogs.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blah Blah ROCKY Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah ROCKY

Years ago, there was a Far Side cartoon with a split frame. The first frame is entitled "What We Say to Dogs." In this, the owner is saying, "Okay, Ginger! I've had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger?" and so on.

The second frame says, "What Dogs Hear." In this frame, the owner is saying, "blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah . . ."

Here is a link to the cartoon.

Anyway, this led me to thinking about Rocky in the morning. He has a simple routine, one which we have written out and posted on the back of his bedroom door. It reads.

--Get up, go to the bathroom, and wash.
--Get dressed, including shoes and socks. (His clothes are picked out the night before.)
--Take your pill.
--Sit at the table and read until breakfast is served.

Notice this does not include things like "make your bed" or "brush your teeth." Those are assigned later.

Here is our regular morning routine. Rocky gets up and comes into kitchen in his pajamas. He looks at the stove to see if there is a chance of eggs. I say, "What should you be doing?"

"Getting dressed," he says. He goes into his room.

Five minutes later, there is crashing and banging coming from his room I say, "What are you DOING in there?"

"Getting dressed," he says, reasonably, squeezing through the door, still in his PJs.

"Not unless you are wearing fur," I reply. "Leave the dog ALONE and finish getting dressed."

"Yes, Mom." Off he trots. Five more minutes go by.

"Rocky," I announce, "you have ONE MORE MINUTE to get dressed before I come in there and dress you myself."

"Yes, Mom." He appears at 59.5 seconds. Invariably, he is wearing something completely different than we originally planned. On a school day in November, he will come out in cordouroy pants and a tank top with a nice sweater vest over it. For church, he will be modeling a too small uniform shirt with holes in it, one which was rescued from the rag bag. Today, a Saturday, we have about eight inches of snow which fell overnight, with several more inches predicted, and we are going nowhere today. Rocky shows up wearing black dress pants and a dress shirt.

"What is that," I ask. "What are you wearing? Why do you have dress pants, Rocky? Honestly, what happened to the clothes we picked out? Rocky! What are we doing today?"

He replies correctly.

"So, Rocky," I say slowly and reasonably and dangerously, "Why? are? you? wearing? dress? pants? and? a? dress? shirt?!"

"I am?" he says.

"GO BACK AND CHANGE!" I yell. "And hang those clothes back up!"

He trots off again. More banging and crashing. More threats of maternal assistance. He comes back in appropriate pants and shirt. However, he is missing shoes and socks.

I used to ask him, "What did you forget?" Now I know better, as he will go in his room and make his bed or get his backpack or brush his teeth.

Now I say, "Rocky: SHOES! SOCKS!"

"Oh," he says, "yes, Mom." Off he goes. By now, there should be a groove in the floor. After much thumping ("I have to find my other shoe!") he comes out and stands and stares at me.

"What do you do next?" He looks blank. "Rocky! Pill." I say. He brings me the pill bottle. "Water?" I ask. "Oh. Yes, Mom." I give him the pill, which he takes. I hand him the pill bottle, which he puts away. He comes back and stares at me. I say, "Rocky! What are you supposed to do now?"

"Sit at the table and read." I look expectantly at him. "Oh," he says. He goes to the table and sits down, gazing at me. I stare back. After a minutes, I say, "Rocky! What are you supposed to be doing now?" He looks blank. Aha! The light dawns. He goes into the living room and rattles around for a minute, eventually appearing with one of his father's astronomy texts. I say, "That's not yours. Try again." Eventually he comes back with a book which he's already read. I let it go.

I figure, 365 days in a year, times seven more years until he is eighteen.... 2555 more times around the mulberry bush. I am thinking of just doing the "Blah blah ROCKY blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ROCKY" each morning instead. It would most likely be just as effective.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Well, at least she doesn't

We had a staffing for Mom this week. At our request, hospice staff was there as well, and my sister articulated our concerns about the lack of supervision Mom receives (see previous post) and also the low number of aides on the zone. At lunch time, one aide is supposed to feed three residents, which means someone is eating cold food. When you add in the fact that this is cold pureed food, it seems also cruel. My sister mentioned that many times the nurse is also working in another wing, too, and not all nurses pay a lot of attention to the residents, but do just enough to get the job done. She backed these concerns up with a written copy, presented to the facility and to hospice.

As my mother has progressed through the dementia, I have looked around her at the other residents, and I have thought, "Well at least she doesn't..." At least she doesn't babble; that would make me so nervous; at least she isn't combative; that would make it so hard to work with her; at least she isn't distraught all the time; that would make it hard for me to relax if she were so discontented...

And after a short time after I consoled myself with a thought like this, Mom would start to exhibit whatever behavior it was I had consoled myself she didn't have. And I would adjust. Lately, though, Mom has been having what the staff called "tremors", but which were more like spasms. I would go in, she would grab my hand, she would stare into my eyes for a couple seconds, and she would start to flail violently. She holds her head periodically and babbles to herself. It terrifies my children and makes me feel helpless. When Mom starts with this behavior, the staff follows an anxiety protocol: removing her from the situation, talking gently to her, going through some other steps, and eventually giving her medication to help. It does take the symptoms down to a manageable level, but they do not ever completely go away until the next morning.

Many of the staff on Mom's zone truly do "get it," and one nurse had been talking to the hospice nurse about this manifestation of the illness. The nurse, T, really focuses on each individual and said that she noticed that Mom was fine in the morning, but she started with the tremors after lunch each day. She suggested giving Mom her anti-anxiety medication every day right before the nap to see if this helped with the anxiety. We could try this on a trial basis to see if that helped.

So my sister, the hospice nurse, and the facility nurse who gets it agree this is a good plan. The next day, my sister gets a call from another nurse at the facility, one who is a concern to us, and the nurse tells my sister, "The doctor's office called me and asked for more information, and I told them I don't see this every day." (No, because you are on other zones, also, and you don't pay enough attention when you ARE with Mom). "So we decided to do away with the anxiety protocol, but wait to give her the medication until she shows symptoms."

"Oh, okay," my sister said. Then she called me after work and told me.

So I called hospice and talked to the case worker. She knew we had the staffing, and she had a copy of the list of concerns my sister and I had presented about my mom's care. She knew that Nurse T had come up with this plan, but the doctor's office had called this second nurse, and based on what the second nurse said, the doctor didn't want to change the orders so drastically.

I then told her, "First, this nurse you called is one of the nurses we spoke about in our concerns. When she is on the zone, she is watching TV or doing crafts or sitting at her laptop--she is not attuned to the residents. She does what the job describes, but she doesn't go anywhere beyond that. Plus, she is not just in the same zone with Mom, as she is most days working two zones. I do not put much value in her insight or input. Second, these 'tremors' are more like spasms, violent flailing, and I believe they are caused by anxiety or fear."

The case worker said, "So you want to go back to the anxiety protocol?"

"No," I said. "I believe Mom doesn't know where she is from moment to moment. I have spoken to the overnight aides, and she is fine in the morning. But as the day progresses, and she gets more stimuli, she gets overwhelmed, and I believe she is terrified."

The case worker said, "I agree. So what do you want to do?"

I told her I wanted to try the meds before nap on a trial basis to see if that helped with the anxiety.

"Fine," the case worker told me, "okay," and got off the phone in a hurry.

"Huh," I thought, and called my sister and told her what had transpired. She said, "She was a bit abrupt with you." We hung up.

Not ten minutes later, the second nurse from the facility called my sister and said, "The doctor's office called. They are changing the orders so your mom will get the medication before each nap."

"That works," my sister told her, and cheerfully hung up.

Even though we have a good working relationship with the doctor, whom I respect, and her nurse practitioner, I am so glad to have hospice with us on our journey. We have tried to conduct ourselves with grace and dignity, and hospice allows us to do that, giving us support when we need it. They are not just about dying--they are truly about living: giving the patient and the family what they need to take this journey, even if is as simple as being heard or not feeling quite so alone.