Caregiver Log: Big Wave Surfing

NOTE: This blog post contains graphic descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. It is written with express permission from the person whose situation is described.

I have been a caregiver on and off for almost 24 years and have watched over three different people. It’s a big word ‘caregiver’ because it encompasses so may different circumstances of care. For one thing, I am referred to as a ‘Family Caregiver’ as opposed to professional caregivers like aides and nurses. But as Merriam-Webster defines it, we are “a person who provides direct care (as for children, elderly people, or the chronically ill).” The differences between those three groups of people are where the details of caregiving gets complicated.

I recently attended a 4-hour caregiver training, my first in all of these years as a member of a group of fellow caregivers. What a boost to be among people who really understand. The last hour was supposed to be about caregiver self-care but they ran short- how typical. Most of the people in that training were older parents of adult children with developmentally disabilities. Some were younger parents of minor children with physical disabilities. And then there was me. We all care for people with different conditions and face different challenges, but share the same risks: isolation, burnout, lack of professional resources, financial strain, and lack of personal support.

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P.S. 2022

This post is the annual update of my writing career, such as it is.

I am exhausted. After a couple years of waiting in limbo, the doors of opportunity opened. 2022 was the year of small business development, poetry, travel, and caregiving. Throw in my day job and there’s my whole life.

Poetry

I attended the Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference at Bemidji State University on June 20-26, 2022. This is an excellent writing retreat on the shores of beautiful Lake Bemidji. As an attendee of one of the writing workshops, it was full immersion in the craft from 7am to 9pm for a full week. I never wanted to come home.

I was honored to emcee the League of Minnesota Poets Fall Conference awards gala at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, MN on November 4-6, 2022. My balcony faced Lake Darling and I watched a flock of ducks lift off in the lake in the thin colors before sunrise my last morning there.

Four of my poems were published before life got ahold of me and I paused submissions:

4/10/22- 1st grade report card note: “Too much daydreaming” with Lyricality.org

04/27/22- Let Us Consider was one of six winners of the Environmental (In)justice in Mni Sóta Maḳoce Storytelling Contest, sponsored by Saint Paul Almanac and University of St. Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership.

6/28/22 Lace & Half-Naked in the Depths of Winter with Spring Thaw, Itasca Community College

You can say that I should make time, make submitting my work for publication a priority and you’d be right. But it turns out traveling, running a small business, being a caregiver, having a career, and actually writing takes a whole lot of time.

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P.S. 2021

This post is the annual update of my writing career, such as it is.

2021 was a lost year: COVID-19, political strife, shipping crisis, etc. It was one of the roughest for me personally, mostly due to helping two loved ones- my friend Jenny and my brother Steve-  through major medical issues that nearly claimed their lives. They are both disabled persons and I serve as caregiver with power of attorney for both. I recently became certified as a PCA because why the hell not.

But even though 2021 was ‘lost’, much like 2020, I still managed to accomplish a lot.

Blogging

My last blog post was on March 21, 2021, shortly after Jenny went through another series of abdominal surgeries which she survived but with such extreme complications that her quality of life is greatly diminished. I have used my blog to keep friends and family updated on the status of these medical crises, but I just stopped abruptly.

These blog posts take a lot of effort to put together and the strain of my life made it not reasonable anymore. Maybe I should have kept it up for posterity or because I had blogged weekly for years, but I just was no longer able to devote the time. It’s all recorded in my journals.

Still, I made nine blog posts and had about 914 views, for whatever that’s worth. Personal blogs with meandering topics are not popular. Continue reading

Caregiver Log: Such, Such Agony

NOTE: This blog post contains graphic descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. It is written with express permission from the person whose situation is described.

It’s been almost a week since Jenny went under the knife, three times, to try to repair damage to her intestines. This is just the next chapter in a long history of medical problems and procedures. For more information, see my last blog post.

On Monday, they performed the initial exploratory surgery to see what was going on inside. The surgeons worked for nine hours- patching holes, releasing adhesions, and cutting away a twist in her small intestines. When I found her Monday night, she was on a respirator and sedated, resting peacefully.

On Tuesday, they installed the mesh to support her abdomen in a four-hour surgery but didn’t close the incision due to all the swelling and massive inflammation of her bowels. They had to wait for conditions to improve. They had to wait to see if they had found everything. When I visited Tuesday night, she was still asleep on the respirator, but looking less well, more ‘beaten up’ as you would expect.

On Wednesday, we waited. She was still sedated and on the respirator, but opened her eyes for a moment when I called her name. I monitor her vitals on these visits. Things were happening- liquids were becoming clear (good) but her heart rate and blood pressure were going down (bad), and her color was very pale (bad). Keeping her abdomen open was a risk they had to take but the rest of her body was reacting.

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Events: What is Your White Whale?

Mixing Melville’s “Moby Dick” w/ contemporary politics, Loren Niemi asks “What is Your White Whale?” at this FREE Spoken Word Cafe event.

March 20, 2021 ~ 7pm CDT ~ FREE event

Loren Niemi will tell a blended story using Melville’s Moby Dick classic as a crucible to examine our current situation in American Culture as obsession and fantasy rein powerful and dangerous. He will ask:

“What is your White Whale?”

While the essence of the story has always been “Man fights whale, whale wins,” Loren has used the elements of a young man’s search for adventure, whaling as an industry, our obsessions and grievances, and homo eroticism which are all present in the novel as a metaphor (or if you would prefer, a Rorschach) for understanding American Culture/ This performance will touch on in our current situation, the creation and pursuit of any number of “white whales.”

Loren Niemi has been telling personal and reconfigured traditional stoires for over four decades now. His work combines vivid imagery with touches of poetry and a sur;prising intimacy. Loren’s recent collection of stories, “What Haunts Us” won a Midwest West Book Award for “Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Hoirror / Paranormal” fiction in 2020

Caregiver Log: Enmesh

NOTE: This blog post contains graphic descriptions of medical conditions and procedures. It is written with express permission from the person whose situation is described.

Dear Friends,

On June 16,2016, I read a cryptic message on Facebook from my friend Jenny. She had checked herself into the emergency room due to unexplained excruciating pain. For most people, this would be cause for alarm and while it was concerning, it was not unusual.

You see, Jenny had her first surgery in 1983 and 45+ surgeries since: 4 back surgeries between 1984-1989; first tonsillectomy in 1986, second in 2002 (they can grow back); breast cancer and bilateral mastectomy in 2004; emergency gal bladder removal that was scheduled for outpatient and ended up as 3 weeks in the hospital in 2005; neck fusion and breast reconstruction in 2011; knee surgery in 2016.

I have known Jenny since 1999 and have been present for most of her surgeries for the past 22 years. I am her primary care giver and medical power of attorney. So, I didn’t call her to see what was going on that night, I just showed up.

Her knee surgery in May 2016 had been big trouble because she was allergic to the substance that they injected to replace her cartilage and they had to remove it. I guess I assumed this visit to the hospital was related. But when I walked into the ER, I found her in a condition worse than I have ever seen.

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To Blog or Not to Blog

It’s been a busy semester. I am enrolled in a poetry class that has taken up more of my time than expected. How soon we forget how tough college really is!

I normally spend Sunday writing my blog but now I spend it doing homework for class. This is a good thing because I am learning how to analyze poetry in depth which in turn helps me to critique my own work.

But it’s not so great for fans of my blog… all ten of you…

“Personal blogs are ongoing online diary or commentary written by an individual, rather than a corporation or organization. The vast majority of personal blogs attract very few readers, other than the blogger’s immediate family and friends.”

Well shit.

In all seriousness, I am still here and still writing. But I once again find myself with too many irons in the fire. I will blog when I can, at least once a month, until my poetry class ends in May.

Until next time…

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, March 2021

B-list Holidays

February is considered the least favorite month by many people. It’s easy for me to understand why. I live in Minnesota and the forecast high temperature this week is a negative number four of the next seven days. We in the Great White North are stuck indoors for both COVID-19 and the weather. But February is mid-winter. People have been restless this time of year for millennia.

In the United States, we celebrate a few February holidays. Groundhog Day is based on ancient European celebrations that involve weather divination used to predict the end of winter. Modern Valentine’s Day is associated with romantic love and sex, but it was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 in honor of Saint Valentine of Rome, who died in AD 269 due to Roman persecution of Christians.

In February, two things have been traditionally on our minds: when is winter going to end and the fertility of livestock. Food, basically. Do we have enough stored food to last us to the end of winter and will the animals produce offspring for more food in the future? Continue reading

Groundhog standing in grass

February Worst

Tomorrow is February 1st.

What is your favorite month of the year? Only 2% of Americans will answer February, probably those who have a birthday that falls in the month or a strong affinity to Lunar New Year or Mardi Gras. I believe that February gets such a bad rap because it is the middle of winter. January has the residue of Christmas and New Year, March contains the first day of spring, but February is deep, cold, endless winter.

Enter the mid-winter festival.

In America, we call this Groundhog Day, Catholics refer to it as Candlemas, and for the ancient Celts, it was Imbolc. All celebrations for one reason or another but if we are honest, the fact that February 4th falls midway between the first day of winter (winter solstice) and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) is reason enough to celebrate. Astronomical winter in the Northern Hemisphere is half over!

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Back to School

August is a time of great anticipation and apprehension as summer comes to an end. Parents are excited and children who are young enough not to know better are excited too. I must admit that August still has the refreshing feel of new beginnings for me- new books, new supplies, new teachers. It was ever green hope that the new school year would somehow be better, be different.

New Year’s Day has this same quality, a ritual celebration to compartmentalize last year’s events and memories, to put it away in favor of new beginnings. By the way, how are those resolutions coming along? I consider it a time to adjust and recommit to goals I was already working on, not make new ones. And one of those goals is to become a better writer.

January is also ‘back to school’ time, though most students are still reeling from the fall semester. For many, the spring semester is just the continuation of the academic year that they have to slog through to get to summer break. But consider that there are freshmen who start college late or high school seniors who start early. For them it is new and exciting. Consider the so-called ‘non-traditional’ student who is over age 40, who might be living up to that New Year’s resolution to finish their education or start a new career.

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