Monday, January 30, 2017

Florida and Back Again

In a system where the cost of care is hidden by taxes levied on your income, property, and business activities, it is no wonder why so many Americans rely on Medicaid to pay their long term care.
-Michael Burgess

My husband's mother is not recuperating as well as we had hoped. She has been so weak that taking ten steps with a walker was her very best two weeks ago and it was the most she had walked since she was taken into the hospital the second time due to the infection. She walked up to about forty steps with a walker at least once this week, but there are other health concerns that has developed since this last incident of which we are now aware that require she have more care than we thought she would need and she cannot yet dress herself.

My daughter and I, taking Mishka along, packed up and met my husband flying in to Atlanta from Connecticut on Thursday morning over a week ago. For some reason I only was able to sleep two hours the night before, so I gladly surrendered the driver's seat to him and slept most of the way to Florida. We had planned that I would drive back on Monday, but my husband asked for me to stay with him one more day, so I drove us all back on the following Tuesday...all but my husband, that is. He was working on the west side of Florida in Tampa on Wednesday and Friday, but was able to talk with an elderly care law attorney on Tuesday and Thursday when he went back to the east side.

While there this time, we began to think that his mother may be past the point where living with us would be sensible; we have not yet given up on that completely, but it is more likely that she will need assisted living, at least. If she does not improve in her evaluations, she may be staying in the nursing home/rehab center. We really cannot make any plans until we see how far she does recuperate, but we are taking over her finances and rerouting her mail, at least for the time being, and she seems completely agreeable and resigned to that. In fact, we noticed that she just had not seem very motivated to try harder, as if she really does not want to leave there...and yet I am sure there are some things she does not like about staying there also as she complains about such things to us. However, once we explained that we were thinking that buying a house together with at least three bedrooms and three full bathrooms with the master suite on the main floor for her, she seemed to begin to warm up to the idea. At the time, we thought that giving her something to look forward to might help motivate her to work harder, but then we began to see that another problem she had not had before might mean that is not feasible at all.

And then something else....

My husband talked to an attorney to make sure of certain financial arrangements and to understand our options should his mother continue needing care. It turns out that she is entitled to veteran's benefits since her husband served in the Korean War that we had not considered, but they pay more if she is in assisted living and not a nursing home. While it can take months after filing the paperwork, they will pay retroactively once she is approved, so between Medicare and her VA benefit, she will be doing well enough financially with just a bit left over if in assisted living.

If she needs more care as in a nursing home, then she is on Medicaid and that gets more complicated. Medicaid looks back five years, so if certain assets are transferred or gifted or even sold they can penalize the person that amount. Basically, you need to be destitute to qualify.

Currently there is a legal reason that it would be better for her to stay in Florida. Although we know it would be too complicated and not good for her health to move her right now anyway, we do not like the idea of leaving her without any family near by. Plus, if all goes as we have been told, then there is no urgent need to sell her house. Since we will likely have to make several trips to Florida to see her and be sure that she is getting good care, we can stay in her house until such time as we can move her to Georgia, closer to us, if that is a possibility.

Also, her house is in an area where property values are expected to increase sharply because of a major project just a few miles west. They are building a new city apparently, therefore waiting to sell later should be advantageous. So, while I am anxious to get everything settled, it may be that we are to be patient because God has a better plan for all of us....I do hope that is so, because we have usually miss out with financial timing in the past.

My Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You and hear only Your voice throughout all of this.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Best of Date Nights...Well, So Far

Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold. ~Judith Olney

My husband and I went out for sushi at our favorite local sushi bar to which we had not been for some time. They had renovated and it was quite lovely, a more sophisticated and simple, contemporary Japanese design with a strong presence of white and black that was quite appealing. We sat that the sushi bar as we used to do before the child and watched the artistic preparations of the colorful sushi. Maybe it was because it had been so long since I had it, but the sushi seemed to taste taste better than ever as well.

Before we ordered, I asked if we would be going for ice cream afterward, as that is also something we used to do and it would make a difference in how much sushi we should order. My husband was ready to order more at the end of our meal, but later confessed that he was glad we did not.

We went over to Cold Stone, a rather high priced ice cream place were they mix your chosen ice cream concoction on cold marble. We chose something different to share that we have not ordered before: The Pie Who Loved Me. It was wonderful! We selected the regular size chocolate dipped waffle and watched the hand mixing of cheesecake ice cream with Oreo cookies, graham cracker pie crust, and fudge. The only thing I would change next time is replace the cookies with brownies. Brownies are just always better!

We decided to sit outside as it was still warm and I had a warm sweater to offset the expected chill from the ice cream. We had just sat down to enjoy two delicious bites each and then a man approached us. I did not recognize him at first due to a partial beard, but my husband was already up to meet a good friend of ours that we have not seen much for the last couple of years, although we used to spend many weekends and meals together for a couple of years when we all went the same church. Then we saw his daughter, who is six years younger than mine, and now in "double-digits" as her mother put it, since she has turned ten years old.

The rest of their group, his wife, her sister, and her sister's husband, emerged from Starbucks and I immediately grabbed our ice cream and to sit with them. Her sister's family was looking to move here from New York, last we knew, and they had settled in since, so this was the first time we had met them. It turned out that they were considering homeschooling their youngest daughter, who is thirteen.

We had lots to chat about as we had just looked at a house that morning that was more than what we needed, it was that huge. In fact it was 4,231 square feet of the finished livable spaces, which did not include the basement or the bonus room above the two-car garage. Oh, I loved it, but it was in all honesty more house than I would want to clean, even with the central vacuuming system. The kitchen, though, was perfection once the main sink faucet was updated. The upstairs had one bedroom en suite as large as our present one and two smaller bedrooms with a Jack and Jill bathroom between them. Then there was two rooms on opposite ends of the hallway that were quite large; one was being used as an office and the other a sitting room. I could see us using one as an office and sitting room for us my husband and I, while the other would be our daughter's hangout room with her digital piano and artwork and friends. The master on the main was perfect for my mother-in-law. However, it looked like the owners planned to do some of the finishing as they lived there, yet they had been there for fifteen years....perhaps their situation changed and they were unable to complete it. Upstairs were several unfinished touches that needed done, like the wood work was not painted, the stairs dry walls had not been painted, vents were missing, and little things mostly cosmetic like that. The downstairs looked finished but the painting was not professional looking with the edges not being straight and such. The painting that was done was just enough to drive me crazy, but then not being as fond of blue as they were, I was planning to have to paint anyway. Then the basement was framed for rooms, but that was all. Nothing was completed there even the very basic full bathroom. However, it was almost the size of my entire house on each floor and the basement as well. Then there was that upcoming road widening to consider, so maybe if we had another $100,000, or even $50,000, to work with or the other five acres behind it that is cleared? I can see that property if finished and after the road construction is done and we placed some fast going evergreens lined up along the road front and fences, that property would probably be worth nearly twice it is now, but as it is, the sellers are hoping for the very limit of what we can afford and at that price we were hoping for move-in ready...not move from one room to a another to finish it, which we could do because it is big enough.

We had not had the chance to tell our friends all what had been happening as to why we were looking for a new house so we all updated each other on our lives. Lots of changes to discuss and it was a highly pleasant conversation. This made our date was even better than if we had planned it. I so needed to actually have a conversation with people as my anxiety levels have been rising steadily. You know, I just think my Father loves me so much that He provides what I do not even know I need without me needing to ask.

When we finally said our good-byes as they needed to get to a store before it closed, my husband and I went home to spend the rest of the night together alone to talk and just be with each other. Then I had the best sleep I have had in weeks and woke up with a much brighter attitude than I have for about the same amount of time, but I think I dreamed of that house and I cannot get it out of my mind. So much potential....

Thank you, my Lord, for sweetening up my outlook on life and reminding me I am not taking this journey alone and without guidance. You are here with me, watching out for me with a loving heart.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January in Georgia

Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. ~Hugh Macmillan, "Rejuvenescence," The Ministry of Nature, 1871

Weather is always crazy everywhere. I know it is a conversation starter when meeting strangers, but I rarely use it. However, I have lived some years in three different states and by far winters in Georgia are the most surprising and wildly unpredictable.

Friday January 6th, we were preparing for a winter storm, which in my area was mostly sleet so we were iced in for the entire weekend. Although some of the ice melted on the main roads because of the sunshine on Saturday, temperatures remained mostly in the 20's and our driveway is on the north side of the house...well, whatever somewhat melted refroze and made it even slicker the next morning. Sunday we were promised the temperature would go above freezing. Did not happen, of course! So finally on Tuesday the temperatures were in the 50's and now for the last two days, it has been nearly 70° F, just a week later.

Taking our half-grown puppy out was quite challenging. Finding a safe path to the rabbits was as well. The cats both took one step onto the icy driveway decided that staying cooped up in the warmer garage was not such a bad idea after all. Midnight did not even scratch at the basement door as she usually does when she wants out or just attention.

A few things are bringing smiles to my face:

The full bright moon on a cloudless night and Venus giving her all against the black of the southwestern sky just after sunset.

I thought I had lost these sweet greens in the drought, but my little cyclamen plants announced their survival peeking out of the leaves even after being iced.

The the best one was my husband is home for the weekend and we are having a date night, because our daughter is staying over night with a friend. We are talking about Sushi for dinner and just being together alone for the first time in months.

My Lord, thank you for taking care of us every day and in every way through all kinds of hardships.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

For What Have I Been Waiting?

Existence rightly considered is a fair compromise between two instincts—the instinct of hoping one day to live, and the instinct to live here and now. ~Arnold Bennett

I read this quote looking for the one in my last post and it stuck with me. I have had a tendency all my life of hoping one day to live the life I would like rather than making the "here and now" that life...if that makes any sense to you. In part, I think it was a coping mechanism I used through my abused childhood that became so ingrained in me that at times in my life I have had to take a few moments to realize I am living my life right now.

I get swept up in workings within my mind, so much so that I have this habit of forgetting where I put something that I just had in my hands five minutes ago—or even just seconds ago if I am going to be completely honest—or I cannot remember why I began walking toward a particular room because my mind has thoughts of so many unrelated things between where I started and where I was going (but I never get lost like that when I am driving). It is not that my memory is failing; I have always been this way, but it is worse when I am under stress and have time to think too much. I quite focused and practical in a crisis, but make it just urgent or anything less with more time to think and my mind is racing in several directions at once.

The reason I am mentioning this is that I do not shut down easily. I have enough things going on in my brain that I often wish I could escape from my own self. Add outside influences, I get overwhelmed easily and end up not really doing anything spending time to complain on my blog.

When I think over where my daughter was a year ago and see where she is now, I am delighted, like I was delighted by her when she was quite younger. She is still a teenager with mood swings but we are close again. We talk to each other about everything and anything and even nothing. We laugh together. She defends me with her friends. She hugs me when I am having a bad day and even just because—I thank her hug-loving, never-say-no-to-hug, hugs-are-healing-believing youth pastor, who is really into hugs (in case you missed it), for part of that as she has been spending most Thursday afternoons with my daughter. Simple things that were completely absent a year ago. After working on rebuilding trust on both sides throughout the last year, my daughter and I presently have the relationship I really wanted for us both. But...I wonder if I changed more than she did.

Before I was stressing to her and stressing out about her education. I was steering our homeschool exactly where I never meant for it to go—stressful. She was not fitting my expectations and worse she could see through me to that. I was not even fitting my own expectations as to guiding her home education. I was as unhappy as she was, but I believed we were on a track going the right way so we would arrive at the right destination eventually. When it all fell apart for the Princess a year ago, I had to jump off that track and take a good look at the reality of our surroundings, which way off from where I had hoped to be, and remember my purpose for homeschooling so I could get on the right track with my daughter.

Then I relaxed, probably for the first time since the Princess was a tween.

Homeschooling became far less important than my daughter's emotional and spiritual health. Devotions, some days, took up a couple of hours and often spurred long talks. I did not push her away, stressing she had to get her lessons done as I had done in the past. I stopped looking at those talks as a time to lecture her or that she was using them as a stall tactic. I began working at helping her to realize that she was shaping her life: not my rules or my expectations. It took months but we are where I wanted for us to be and a funny thing happened: The more I eased up on controlling her education, the more the Princess became determined to take serious initiative and personal responsibility for her education...with a good attitude.

The past year's events seem like a bad dream and this was always our reality, but in truth I know it was not. I know we both learned to change and to trust each other. My home life is peaceful and stable because my daughter became my highest priority, but unfortunately that had an one adverse effect: I pushed everything I wanted for just myself aside...again.

So, I was highly excited about this coming year. I bought the Princess lots of art supplies and had this plan that we both be motivated to create a creative space and do art together. She would still get the attention she needed and I would get the time to be creative that I needed. I was looking forward to it so much and mother-in-law fell.

The point is that all my life I have been waiting to really live my life. A series of things happened during my life, so I did not get back into doing artwork. In fact, every time I started back into art something happened that took priority, including homeschooling. I feel like here I am again....

I really have no idea what going to be happening in the next week: Are we going to Florida or not? What will we be doing there when we do go? Will my mother-in-law still be in rehab or will she be going home? How will we do her move? Will she really need assisted living or will it be good living with us with home care assistance two to three times a week?

Too many questions with no answers yet.

I do not make New Year's resolutions. My philosophy is if it is something I am resolved to do, I should just do it. Why wait until the New Year? However, it seems I am always waiting for some other thing in my life that is taking priority...maybe I really do not know what it is that I really want, but then why do I feel like I am giving up a part of myself again?

My Lord, help me to want what You want. I know You can make it all work out. I know you hear the unspoken words in my heart and count the tears that I will not allow myself to cry. I will be waiting on You.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I Wish I Could Say...

I think I've discovered the secret of life — you just hang around until you get used to it. ~Charles Schulz

I wish I could say that I am not missing my husband so much that I am not sleeping in his comfy top, but in the last four weeks I have only seen him for three days.

I wish I could say that today's ice storm missed us, but we are still in it. I can hear the sleet hitting the window of my bedroom. I am hoping we will not lose power and I will not be driving for at least a day. I was hoping for fluffy snow rather than a wintry mix of most sleet, but the night is not over yet. Trying to get a 50-pound puppy to take it slow and careful on the steps so we do not break our necks is like trying to stop a race car with an oil slick. However, I salted the steps so they were more slushy than icy. My husband suggested the only flat entrance, the garage door onto the driveway, but the driveway was actually even more slippery and we have to walk on it farther to get to the grass.

I wish I could say that my 20-something frost-free refrigerator did not need the freezer to be defrosted again, but it did this week. This time I went for an overnight thawing out in hopes that whatever ice in the door or walls that I cannot see completely melted as I could feel the cold when I touched them. Even with the new gasket, I felt the seal when shutting the door was soft lacking good negative pressure to keep it completely sealed. This time it feels as if it is sealing better. We shall see.

I wish I could say that my mother-in-law recovering quickly, but she is not really. She still has not had the strength to get out of the bed and walk. Today is supposed to be her last on the strong antibiotics, but we have not heard what her blood count is yet to know if the infection is truly over. She is doing therapy every morning for a week, but we have not heard much about her progress. In fact, we do not hear much from her at all as she does not answer her phone. Right after my husband left there, we were not able to talk with her for three days.

Oh, yes. I can say that after the second day of settling his mother in the rehabilitation center, my husband did come and spend the weekend with us. We opened our Christmas presents on New Year's Eve...kind of a rip and bang day. I was so excited because I had bought the Princess a lot of art supplies for really great prices. Beginners quality most of it, but it was an impressive haul. I am hoping she will share with me...but then I doubt if I will have much time for doing artwork in the next months.

I wish I could say that my online search for a home that will work for us has given us so many good choices that I can hardly pick one, but no. I have learned that "designer home" actually translates to meaning "quirky layout" or "funky, clunky features." I found beautiful home that is in an ideal location because it is closer to our church, but being further east it about the same distance to the health food store and piano lessons. Of the few houses that fit our criteria, I really like the layout and it has a master suite on the main floor, which is a must for my mother-in-law. It has about five acres cleared in the middle but thickly surrounded by trees for privacy. It probably is at the top of what we can afford with the sale of our houses combined, but it is also priced a bit lower than it should be because of one is on a two lane highway that will be in the process of being made into a four lane divided highway. Phase Four of this project, which is the one that will affect the property the most is scheduled to take two years and I think they are nearing the finish of Phase One. The house has been on the market for six months and we are in a hot market for homes now. If it is still available when we are ready to buy and we can put up with the road construction, the property will be worth more on the backside of all that.

I wish I could say that I have a clue about the future, but I do not. There is some question now as to how much mobility my mother-in-law will regain so she may need more care, but we have looked into home care services and it seems far more afford than assisted living.

My Lord, thank you for letting me lean on You.