Saturday, January 18, 2014


It's been such a long, long time - please forgive my blogging break. I just needed the time to regroup. In the meantime, I've got some good news - Mima started attending adult daycare on January 2! This has been wonderful for both of us. She gets to get out of the house for companionship and activities, which has made her more alert. I get to have some solid hours for work, running errands, and getting the house organized, uninterrupted by caregiving duties.

I even took some time to finally think about changes I need to make in my life. I did not make any New Year's resolutions on January 1, but I've been thinking about it a lot.  I've decided I'll do some now as I move along building my 53rd year of life (my birthday was yesterday).

Noun: The quality of being warm-hearted and considerate and humane and sympathetic.
(WordNet Dictionary)

It seems the thing to do this year is to have a one-word goal for everything you do. So here's mine: Kindness. These are my broad-based goals for the year:

  • I will show myself kindness by eating and living more healthfully.
  • I will treat others with more kindness by being gentle and encouraging (this may just mean keeping my mouth shut sometimes).
  • I will treat my budget more kindly by building my business and cutting out "gotta have it now" spending.

I chose kindness because that is a quality I highly admire in others, and have lately seen lacking in myself. Especially when dealing with Mima.

We are just getting used to the new schedule (we have to coordinate rides for getting her to and from the daycare). Mornings are a little more rushed than normal. We had a rough few mornings last week. I have not responded kindly to some unexpected bathroom habits. ('nuff said for now). So, I'm practicing kindness.

Today has gone well, we've even laughed a bit. I also decided to resurrect one of the sweet things Mima used to do before Alzheimer's stole it away. Mima would call each of her kids and grandkids on their birthdays, and sing them happy birthday. Today is my niece's birthday, so I grabbed Mima's phone and we made the call. I'm sure we sounded like this Saturday Night Live skit, but we did it, and Mima smiled through it all.

I'm going to try my best to keep it up, piecing little bits of kindness together until it is habit.

Speaking of piecing things together, I've been working on a Riley Blake fabric challenge through the Modern Quilt Guild and the Fort Worth MQG. Here are the six fabrics I was given for the challenge:

At first glance I had no clue how to approach the design for this project (kind of like approaching each morning of caregiving a person with Alzheimer's). I decided both cases can benefit from a bit of fun and improvisation, so that's the route I took with the fabric challenge. Here is the result:

Front of Bed Runner
Back of Bed Runner
I love improvisational piecing for a couple of reasons - there is very little measuring, and the end results are always a surprise! The back of the runner was pieced in curvy waves, which I've been itching to do for a while. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
The final product is perfect for the guestroom/office-previously-known-as-my-son's-room.
Well, that's it for today. I'll post a tutorial for my take on improv piecing early next week. Until then remember:
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." Aesop

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Never Mind

There's nothing funny about this last week. In fact, there were many moments of heart-wrenching grief and anxiety. Now that it is over, though, the first thing that comes to mind is ... never mind.

If you watched Saturday Night Live in the late 70's, you would have seen the skits with Gilda Radner playing Emily Litella, going on and on about some melaproprism (I got that word from Wikipedia) until someone pointed out her error. My favorites were her diatribes on "violins on television," and "endangered feces." When she was corrected, she would turn to the camera and say, very meekly, "Never mind."

So, remember all that stuff I talked about in the last post? Never mind.

You see, we couldn't do it.

From the very first minutes of admitting Mima to the nursing home (let's call it what it really is), it felt wrong.

Her room was not ready. The only item of furniture was the hospital bed. The light in the bathroom did not work, and the door handle had to be turned a specific way to open, or it would feel as if you were locked in the bathroom.

All of the little things that would have made a difference in keeping her anxiety levels to a minimum were missing. None of the nurses or aids spoke Spanish, did not even attempt an "Hola!"

The first thing they wanted her to do was strip for a body check (and they sent a male nurse to do it). I insisted they find a female nurse, and asked for her to be introduced to a Spanish-speaking staff person. The nurse they sent was very kind, and abashed at the condition of the room. The staff person they found spent two minutes in the room and when she realized we did not need a translator (we just wanted someone to make Mima feel welcome) she asked to get back to her station.

Call us naïve, but somehow we thought there would be a smoother, softer admission process. We were not prepared for the fact that in this kind of facility Mima would be treated more like a patient than a resident.

We stayed through lunch, and were able to seat Mima with the only other Spanish-speaking resident, a very nice gentleman recovering from a stroke. Mima perked up and we decided we could leave for a couple of hours to go pick up more items from home, to make her room more welcoming. Also for a sanity break.

When we called to see how she was doing, they said she was crying in her room. One of the nurses did walk her around a bit when they found her crying, but she was now back in the room.

We came back as soon as we could, and prettied up the room. Dinner was not as pleasant as lunch. Our nice gentleman was nowhere to be found, and Mima was already anxious and sad.

Thanks to a not-so-happy coincidence, some dear friends stopped by. The husband's mother had fallen and was being checked for injuries (she was OK, thank God). Our friends suggested I spend the night to get a feel for the place, and to give Mima some comfort. They moved a recliner from his mom's room, and stayed with Mima while I went home to gather some clothes to sleep in. They also brought me down from my high-level anxiety. They have had very good experiences with the facility, but their parents are English speakers, and until the father's death two months ago they had each other.

The night was awful. No one prepared us for the 3-day admission process which involves assessment of the individual's physical condition. That meant the door opening and light turned on at 2:30, 3:30, 5:30 and 6:00, for various blood-lettings and blood-pressure checks. Once again, all in English, and although no one was mean there was little attempt at communication with Mima. This assessment was done even though Mima's primary care physician had examined her the week before and sent in all the required reports.

I did not sleep. I cried. I imagined what it would be like for Mima to be here all day, every day, with only the visits of friends and family to break the communication wall. We knew the language would be an issue, but it did not become REAL until I put myself in her place, and saw how limited the facility was in being able to bridge the gap. By morning I knew we could not leave her there.

I felt very foolish, even embarrassed at first. I should have known they could not provide the kind of care she needs. I should have researched more facilities. I should have ...

Now that we are home and she is happy, I don't care. I had to bring my mommy home.

I've learned a lot from the experience, and in spite of how painful it was I was reminded of something very important. I love this woman very much, and she is incredibly precious to me. Some days I fail to treat her that way; I look at her as a burden. Those 24 hours at the nursing home reminded me that being able to care for her is a blessing.

Mima at her 75th Birthday Party

Your prayers and God's love saw us through this terrible day. Please continue to pray that we can find the right balance for our family. We will look more purposely into home-based care for Mima so that I can get on with my work, and so that we can have more flexibility for travel and respite.

So, never mind. God's got something else in store for us.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This post has been a long time in the making!

The past few months have gone by so quickly, it's hard to believe my last post was in April. Since then I've been to a couple of quilt retreats (yay), celebrated 29 years of marriage to the greatest guy ever (more yay!) and started thinking about long-term placement for Mima (not so yay).

Mima has been living with us since October of 2010. The first few months were really rough. We had to adapt to the new living arrangements while coping with the loss of loved ones (my brother and a dear friend) who both died much too young and much too quickly.

Things did go more smoothly in the second year. The biggest challenges came when my husband and I wanted to travel. Since we have no family living nearby, they had to fly in from Florida or Pennsylvania to care for Mima while we were away. Lots of scheduling details and dealing with the confusion that any change in routine causes for those with dementia. It got more difficult as Mima began forgetting family members.

By the end of 2012 I was pretty exhausted from juggling Mima's care, trying to build up a home business (since I gave up a full-time job to be home with Mima), and nurturing my personal relationships (hubby, kids, friends). We considered placing Mima in a care center at that point, but she was still so alert and the places I looked at were quite depressing - I kept putting it off. Then, out of the blue, one of my nieces called to ask if she could come stay with us. It would be an opportunity for her to do some body-and-spirit healing, and to help out with Mima. A perfect solution! We agreed to try it for six months and re-evaluate at that point.

My niece has been a godsend in many ways; now she too needs to move on with her life. She began a full-time job last week, so it's back to me being on Mima-duty for most of the day. While Mima is still in really good physical shape, her confusion is growing daily. We have made the difficult decision to place her in a center where she will be cared for 24 hours a day, and where there are plenty of activities to keep her engaged. We found a place where the residents are alert, the staff friendly and caring, the facilities clean and homey.

Move-in day is this Thursday, and I've been experiencing a myriad of emotions, ranging from dread of the transition and what anxiety it will cause Mima, to giddiness thinking about being FREE (and guilt for that last one). I will still be her caregiver; we plan to visit most days, and we will be taking her to church on Sundays. We have several friends who will also visit her, and I pray she will quickly feel at home in her new surroundings.

If any of you have suggestions on how to make this transition as smooth as possible for Mima (and us!) please let me know.

In the next couple of weeks I will post photos of quilts that Mima and I created as joint ventures. I found ways to take her not-so-well-pieced blocks and turn them into pretty quilts.

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos of Mima from mother's day. Both my sisters were able to come for a visit. As you can see, she's still got attitude. :-)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Putting Things in Perspective.

Just when I start feeling sorry for myself, something happens to remind me that I have much to be grateful for.

It's been a tough week, because BooBoo (my niece - see prevous posts) is out of town and we've had stuff to do every evening. Plus taxes (and quilts) to complete. So, I've been a wee bit stressed. Here's what the week looked like:

  • Friday - Get ready for garage sale (really cleared out a lot of stuff from the attic!). Thankful that daughter-in-law is safe following an auto accident. Wishing she and son lived closer so we could hug her.
  • Saturday - Garage sale (only made a few bucks, but that stuff IS NOT COMING BACK IN THE HOUSE!)
  • Sunday - Teach adult Sunday School, go to church, lunch with friend who's been out of town. Work on tax return. Worry about son who is studying in Egypt, hoping he's safe and not too lonely.
  • Monday - Work on taxes. Don't finish, give up and file extension. Then work on customer quilt. Hubby has evening meeting at church that goes past 10:00.
  • Tuesday - Work on customer quilt, then go to Fort Worth Quilt Guild meeting. Take Mima with me because hubby has a Boy Scout Council banquet. Worry about daughter who posts on facebook about how overwhelmed she is with college schedule.
  • Wednesday - Get up extra early to get stuff ready for all-day workshop (which was great - photos coming soon). Did not have to take Mima. Thankfully her caregiver was available.
  • Thursday - catching up on paperwork, going to piece some quilts this afternoon, then Fort Worth Modern Quilt Guild meeting tonight.
All of this, of course, in addition to making sure Mima is clean, safe and fed, and engaged in some activity at least part of the day. Plus the usual household bits.

So, I started to feel a little overwhelmed, maybe even a bit "oh, woe is me."

The bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon, and then last night the explosions and devastation in West, Texas, put everything in perspective.

None of the things from our busy week are bad (well, except filing taxes). In fact, they are evidence that hubby and I are healthy and active, that we have a home and family. We have faith in a God whose love is boundless. I pray the people involved in this week's tragedies, and all who are facing illness, grief, pain, and life's difficult moments, will feel that love.

Perspective is good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

& BooBoo Too!

Wow. I can't believe it's been almost six months since my last post.

The holidays were filled with comings and goings, including a trip to Florida for Mima. I flew down with her and she stayed to visit with my sister while I flew back home, where we hosted all our kids and my husband's folks. Then it was back to Florida for me to fly back with Mima. It was a whirlwind, but we really enjoyed being able to focus on our kids and my in-laws.

The clan at Christmastime

Since then, things have changed around here. A LOT.

We are thrilled to have my niece, BooBoo (aka Annette) living with us. She arrived in January, specifically to spend time with her Abuela and give me and my husband a bit of respite. This means we can spend some much-needed couple time without hiring a "mommy sitter." We are looking forward to our a weekend getaway that doesn't involve flying in a family member, and the stress it puts on Mima to have "strangers" in and out of the house.

I recently cooked one of BooBoo's favorite meals - Caldo Gallego. It was the perfect dish for a rainy, cold February evening. Mima made this while I was growing up, and the neighbors would show up out of nowhere! It's best served with fresh Cuban bread, but lacking that, I made some cheddar biscuits instead.

Caldo Gallego

2 cups white navy beans, rinsed (soften however you prefer - I use a pressure cooker)
1 ham bone (with some meat still on it) or some salt pork
2-3 chorizo sausages (the dry, Cuban style)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 large potatoes, diced
3 cups shredded collard greens

Place softened beans in dutch oven (or in pressure cooker). Add enough water to cover by one inch, then add ham bone or salt pork, onion, spices and bell pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for one hour. Add more water as needed to maintain a "stew" consistency.

Add chorizo, potatoes and collards. Simmer over low heat about 30 minutes. Remove ham bone and sausage; cut meat from ham bone and return to pot. Slice chorizo and return to pot. (Remove and discard salt pork).

Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh hot Cuban bread if you are fortunate to live where you can get it! Enjoy.

BooBoo says she doesn't sew, but we'll see if we can't get a needle in her hand ...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yoyos (and Yayas)

The adventure continues ...

Mima went for a walk today with our dog Miley. I was busy doing paperwork and it took me a while to realize she was gone for a little longer than usual. She normally just walks around our house.

I went out to look for her and she was waaaay up the road, heading back. She told me she got a little lost. Thank goodness we live in a very small gated community (only about 40 homes, there's only one way in/out).  I'll have to be more alert next time. She was only gone 20 minutes, but it was still scary.

On a happier note ...

Doug and I had a lovely time in Florida the last two weeks. We spent the first four days at a church conference on Evangelism and Church Growth. The conference just happened to be on St. Petersburg Beach ...

Not bad, huh? We also had the next week to spend with family and friends. A great way to end the trip, and we skipped out on a couple of 100-degree plus weeks in Texas.

The Yayas:

Anyway, while we were gone my sister Lydia and her daugher Livie took care of Mima. They are a little wild and crazy (and I wouldn't have it any other way!). Since neither one could take the whole two weeks off, they had to do a kind of relay thing, with one leaving just after the other arrived. I am so thankful for them! If my family were not willing to share in the caretaking, there's no way we could keep Mima at home for as long as we have.

The Yoyos:

All through these comings and goings, Mima kept on making her yoyos. It's what she knows.

Lydia with Mima, working on more yoyos:

And here's the (sort of) finished product, soon to be a throw for Lydia's couch:

There are so many things you can make with yoyos - and it all starts with a little scrap of fabric. When I was growing up (hey - it was NOT that long ago!), we had to cut a template out of cardboard or a cereal box. Then, we traced the circle onto bits of fabric and cut them out. Then, we basted all along the edge of the circle, leaving a little thread at the beginning and end ... when you pulled both ends of the thread tight and tied them together, they made the cute little ruffly circle yoyos.

Now you can buy a nifty gadget by Clover that makes the process so much easier. I got one for Mima about three years ago, and she's still able to use it. No tracing or cutting out circles - just pop a square of fabric in the plastic guide, trim, sew around the edges, and tada - a yoyo! Pretty cool. The hardest part is threading the needle.

Next time around (and I don't make any promises on how soon that will be) I will show you my version of a hand-work project that involves small bits of fabric.

Until then, may God bless you and keep you.

Friday, June 29, 2012


My baby girl turned 21 last week. I thought it would be a difficult milestone for me - that it would make me feel old, or long for the days of the pitter patter of little feet. It turned out to be a day of joyful gratitude, for having three kids who have grown to be incredibly intelligent, talented and quite diverse in their approaches to life.

I was my mother's baby. An "oopsie" child, coming six years after my closest sibling. Mima had her first child at sixteen, and three more in the next three years (life in rural Cuba in the early 1950's offered little opportunity for education, so marriage and kids came early). I came along when Mima was the ripe old age of 25.
Here's Mima with our pastor's
little boy. Isn't he a cutie?
In my last post I listed some personality traits that Mima and I have in common. Thinking about my baby, and about being my mom's baby, made me remember one more: we like babies. Not that I WANT a baby, but I love to hold them, play with them ... and then give them back to their mommies.

I love baby quilts too. They're made with bright, colorful fabrics, go together pretty quickly, and are made to be used (and abused!).

When Mima first moved in more than a year and a half ago, she was still a dynamo with the scissors and sewing machine.  She was my personal assistant, cutting apart t-shirts for my T-shirt quilt business. Mima took all the leftover pieces of t-shirts and went at them - she was quite imaginative in cutting out squares and rectangles and pieceing them together into lap-size quilts.

One of Mima's t-shirt creations.

Eventually the lure of pretty fabrics took over. We bought fat quarters and packets of precuts. One project involved charm squares (for those of you who are non-quilters, those are pre-cut 5" squares of fabric that come packaged in coordinated sets). Mima pieced them together into rows.

The rows turned out ... not exactly straight.
I cut them into strips, and had Mima sew the strips end-to-end (like the Jelly Roll Race quilts)

I finished up piecing the rows together and added a border. Looks pretty good!

Lately Mima has not wanted to do much machine sewing. Instead, she's been busy making fabric yo-yos. I'll show those on my next post along with photos of more baby quilts.

Mima does not remember any of the quilts she's made ... but as long as she continues to enjoy fabrics and sewing, we'll keep making them.