Thursday, January 28, 2016

One Year Later

I never intended to go this long between posting on my blog but as John Lennon said "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."  And, sometimes when you're making those other plans and life is happening around you, you change focus on what is important.

My sister and I noticed a change in my dad's behavior after my mother passed away in 2013.  We were beginning to suspect that it was some sort of dementia and did some searches on the internet.  We would get middle of the night phone calls with bizarre stories of visitors knocking on the door, or else asking us where our mother had gone.  Sometimes they were irate calls filled with anger towards us for not understanding and sometimes we could hear the fear and confusion in his voice.

During this time, there were also several "incidents" and ER visits where the VNA and elder services got involved.  He flooded the basement, and set the oven on fire but he was at the time still very resistant to any kind of help or outside services that were offered and when I signed him up for meals on wheels, he called and cancelled the program.  We were told that it was no longer safe for him to live alone, so when I had a job offer nearby that allowed me to move in it seemed like a good solution.  For a while it worked and the middle-of-the-night calls stopped.

Then in mid-December 2014 when neither of us were there, my father's dementia required another ER visit and this time he was transferred from the ER to a geriatric hospital that specialized in dementia.  There the diagnosis was confirmed and over the course of several weeks they tried him on medications and dosages until they felt he was stabilized enough to be released home with 24-hour supervision and day care.  

That never worked out.  Shortly before his release, he acquired an acute viral infection that nearly killed him and left him weak and unable to walk without assistance.  I won't go into all the details but after he recovered, he spent time in nine different institutions and I watched my dad decline steadily with each move.

Dad passed away last September alone in a nursing home.  My sister got the call from the nursing home that morning but she got there just minutes too late to hold his hand and say goodbye.  I was away on my first real vacation in ten years.  And even now, my heart breaks when I think of him alone without me.  Though in my heart I know that it would have been what he wanted.

My father was not a very sentimental man.  I know he mourned the deaths of close friends and the three brothers who preceded him but he would also admonish my mother, sister and I when we were overly sentimental.  Maybe that came from growing up Irish and poor during the depression, or maybe because he was a Boston policeman or soldier in the Korean war whatever the reason, he was pragmatic about death and violence and saw more of it than most.

I do not think I really knew him well, the private man or his hopes and dreams.  I wish that was different and I wish now that I'd spent more time with him; knew his friends and talked with him more than I did, but my sister and I were our mother's girls and my father always seemed happy that we chose her to spend our visits with.  We relied on my father for his technical expertise--he was the most amazing handyman and mechanic and a reliable worker.  Self-taught, he could do anything from plumbing to carpentry.  One thing I have learned since from his many neighbors,  was that he was also generous with his skills and time.

I am grateful for those six months that I had with him during the summer of 2014.  I made dinner for us both on a broken stove while he shared stories about his family, youthful adventures and lost loves.  We watched  television and sometimes went out to eat at the "99" which he loved.  We took a few walks at a park he loved and admired his beautiful lawn while sitting outside one summer evening.  Looking back, I think he knew he would lose some of those memories and wanted to share them before he did. 

Good-bye Dad.  Thank you for being my dad.  I love you.

John Crowley
8/4/29 to 9/27/15

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday, November 29th

Tomorrow is the last day of the month.  There are only 25 days, nine hours and 15 minutes till Christmas as I write this!  I’m sure you wanted to know that, lol :)

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with much to be thankful for.  Our thanksgiving was a little cold and cloudy but at least three of us got to spend thanksgiving together even if it was a restaurant dinner and not home-cooked.   Not surprisingly, my dad did not come with us, making excuses at the last minute.  He does not enjoy eating out anymore and prefers to stay close to home.  Change in routine upsets him-these are all aspects of dementia. 

In NH it was a different story, the same pre-Thanksgiving storm that gave the south shore of Boston rain and slush, dumped 10 inches of heavy, wet snow on the southern part of the state and created a widespread power outage, Thursday.   I guess it was lucky that I wasn’t hosting a large crowd like last Thanksgiving.  What do you do with a partially cooked 18 lb turkey when there’s no power?  

I was scheduled to work Friday but after calling to confirm that my house was part of the outage and that power wasn’t expected to be restored till Monday, I decided to come home Friday morning,  it was a good thing I did too, because I had accidentally turned the furnace off the previous weekend . The good news is that we got our power on last night ahead of schedule.  

One casualty of the storm was my beloved Sargeant’s crabapple that was split in two by the ice laden snow.  It survived many storms including the ice storm of 2008.

Monograms really seem to be a  big decorating trend this year and I’ve seen several Christmas wreaths on Pinterest that I liked.  I decided that I would revamp my berry wreath that I’ve had for eons.   I purchased a 7 1/2” letter “G” at Michaels and a can of red spray paint.  Applied several coats and then brushed on a coat of Mod Podge and sprinkled it with red micro-glitter.  Changed the bow from red-velvet to red & white check ribbon and I love how it looks.     Decided to hang it on the porch wall adjacent to the door because live greens would dry out too quickly on the closed in porch.

This berry wreath has served me well.  Some of the paper-mache berries crack, but it’s a quick touch up with nail polish. 

Well, I’m off to the attic to pull down some more decorations.   Have a good weekend!

Gail :)


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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quick Catch Up

Just catching up here.  Haven’t posted since July.   As I drink my second cup of coffee this morning, I look outside and there is frost on the deck, the BBQ grill and the lawn.  We’ve already had a dusting of snow and that’s gone now but next weeks is Thanksgiving and then it’s a short four weeks till Christmas. 

My family is scattered this year so I won’t be hosting Thanksgiving Dinner.   Instead four of us will be going to a restaurant and most likely it will end up being three of us (my father, who suffers from dementia has a habit of cancelling at the last minute).

Living back home and caring for my father  hasn’t been everything I thought it would be.  My father puts up obstacles to anyone helping him.  He fights to stay in control but is losing the battle with memory loss and rationality and this makes him fight harder.   I wish that he would recognize that he can accept help and still keep his dignity and most of his independence.  Being a former police officer, marine and athlete, he is very much a “macho man” even at 85.   It would make all of our lives much easier--if he would accept some help and social services and stop pretending that he is as capable as he was.  We are trying to make it possible for him to stay in his home environment as long as possible but neither my sister nor I can be there 24/7.  The state is suspending his license in mid-December because of three minor accidents where he was at fault.   He refuses to give it up voluntarily, insisting that he is a “good driver”.  We have tried rationalizing with him about his decreased reaction time and the amount of traffic where he lives to no avail.        

I have found it’s hard to reconnect or make new friends in a new place at this “age”.  Everyone is pre-occupied with their own lives, family,  work, etc.  It seems like people no longer make conversation.  They are self-absorbed by their phones, email, text messages and e-readers. 

I dressed up for Halloween and handed out the candy at my father’s house.  My dad did not participate.   It was nice meeting his neighbors & their children and grandchildren.  I heard so many “nice” stories of favors and kindnesses that my mother and father did for many of them.  My mother especially was much loved and remembered.  

On a funny note, when my father saw my costume he didn’t get that it WAS a costume and  thought I was dressing up to go out.IMG_0539 IMG_0546


I decorated my house for Halloween and Ernie put on a seasonal bow tie!

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I’m going to my daughter’s next weekend so I can bring Calvin’s advent calendar that I made from a panel last winter.  We won’t see each other for Thanksgiving because there is a family wedding on her father’s side that weekend.   I’ve finished purchasing all the “advent gifts” to go in the pockets.   Because I didn’t want to candy in all of the pockets, it ended up being quite expensive, even at the dollar store.   Some of the  gifts were too large and  will be wrapped up. I’ll put a card in that days pocket with a corresponding number on the gift.   


In hindsight, I wish I’d made an advent calendar that had ornaments to hang on buttons for each day.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I do think it’s a good tool for learning to count though.


Well that’s it for this post.   Thanks for stopping by.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Consider the bees

Haven’t been posting for a few weeks.  During that time, much has happened.  I got to spend a few wonderful weeks with my DD#2.  We spent most of our time visiting places in New England that were on both of our bucket lists before she left for a new life and career in Spain.  I also started a new job—closer to my dad’s so that I can stay with him during the week.   Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the internet at his house.

That’s partly been a good thing as I tend to be distracted by it.   Not having the internet has forced me  to turn to other activities like long walks after work and restoring some of the gardens at my dad’s house that are overgrown.   I also do most of the cooking and spend more time in conversation with my dad.  I’m catching up on books I’ve wanted to read and learning how to download books from the library onto the kindle my daughter gave me.

The weather has been wonderful.  My walking has taken me through neighborhoods where I grew up and I’ve rediscovered the pleasure and convenience of living in suburbia—a walk to the corner store for milk and a newspaper, a short drive to reach a major store, rubbish pick-up and mail delivery—all things I don’t have here.   Ernie, my cat travels back and forth with me and is adjusting well to living in two places.

As I mentioned above the gardens that once were a showplace of 100 year old peonies and roses have become overgrown.   The rich loamy soil that was once like wet coffee grinds is now dry and powdery and full of shallow tree roots,  due to my father letting trees grow everywhere.   He has several 2nd generation Norway maples that are the offspring of a larger tree in a neighbor’s yard.   He thought the trees would meant less mowing for him but the trees have sapped all of the nutrients out of the soil and the grass now has to be heavily fertilized and watered in order to maintain the “golf-course” look that my dad wants.

My dad isn’t alone,  all of the neighbors on his street seem to be in competition for the greenest and thickest turf and most mornings when I leave for work, I see at least one landscaping company trucks parked at a neighbor’s. The problem with this is that across the street from my dad’s house, the Plymouth River flows.   All of that nitrogen-rich fertilizer and pesticide is leaching through the soil into the river. 

Years ago a beautiful lawn was lush and green and full of white clover.   White clover is a legume, it pulls nitrogen from the air and fixes it to its roots.   The grass that grows in with the clover is dark green, healthy and lush.  

White clover is no longer added to grass seed mixtures.  I had a difficult time finding it and when I did the salesman told me that it was considered a “weed”.  Some of the other reasons are that it dies down in winter and creates temporary bare patches, which, btw, quickly fill in by the more desirable perennial grass rhizomes.   Clover also attracts honey and bumble bees which are docile and non-aggressive but sometimes get confused with wasps and hornets which are aggressive.  Clover also attracts wildlife like deer and rabbits because it is rich in nutrients and lastly there are the little white flowers which some lawn purists find objectionable.  They can be minimized by frequent mowing.   Clover also smells amazing when it is cut, even better than grass, and recovers very quickly from mowing or foot traffic.  Clover will quickly shade out weed seeds like crab grass and chickweed.

Lastly, all of us have in some part contributed to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) that is affecting the honey bee population.  Most experts agree that one of the  main contributors to CCD is the use of pesticides that are used in the lawn industry.   It’s been a long time since I’ve seen honeybees buzzing about in my garden or lawn and this year, I’ve seen less and less solitary bees.   I’m getting worried.    We need to make it right again and not be swayed into thinking that a weed-free/insect-free  lawn is the only alternative and only possible by using chemicals (there are organic alternatives available).  Water, ph levels and choosing the correct species of grass for the area are equally as important.

Benefits of Clover (excerpted from

  • White clover (Trifolium repens) is a rapid spreader that crowds out broadleaf weeds while it grows harmoniously with grass. It will thrive in areas that are poorly drained or too shady for a conventional lawn.
  • Being a legume, clover has the ability to convert nitrogen into fertilizer using bacteria in it's root system, practically eliminating the need for additional fertilization.
  • It is an extremely drought-resistant plant and will keep its cool-green color even during the hottest and driest parts of summer.
  • Left uncut, white clover grows 4-8 inches tall and produces small white flowers that are often tinged with pink. The flowers not only create a beautiful visual effect, but also bring in bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.
  • Honeybees rarely sting when they are away from their hive, but if they make you uncomfortable or you are allergic to bee stings, simply have the lawn mowed more often when clover is in bloom.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day - 2014!

memorial day_52614 Today is a day for parades, flags, barbecues and decorating the graves of loved ones.   I am always reminded of red geraniums on Memorial Day.  They were the flowers that my mother and grandmother placed at our family’s gravesites because of their patriotic red color, draught tolerance and because they bloom continuously till frost.   

These days, Geraniums seem to be underappreciated in home gardens, but if you have difficulty keeping up with watering, they work well for containers and window boxes, and now there are  so many more hybrid colors and forms available besides the traditional “fire engine red”. They also combine well with other popular annuals.  I planted some pale salmon bi-color geraniums and white Bacopa (Sutera) in my father’s window boxes this spring because I know that they will look good, even if he forgets to water them between my visits. 

Memorial Day is also the day for remembering our fallen heroes.  I saw this poem by Carl Sandburg on a paving stone in a public garden. It made me think of Memorial Day.  


By Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work—
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekend in DC

This past weekend, my daughter received her MBA from Georgetown University.   My sister, BIL, older daughter and and Carolyn’s dad and step mom were with us which gave the weekend a real vacation feel.  We were very fortunate that the weather was on the cool and dry side.  In fact, with the exception of down pours on Thursday night and a few sprinkles on Friday night, the weather was wonderful.

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 The Graduation was held indoors and followed by a reception for grads and families at the university.  It was great to meet some of my daughter’s friends.  Later our family group had a fabulous dinner at La Chaumiere Restaurant in Georgetown, where most of us ordered the soft-shelled crab special.   After dinner we had drinks at small boutique hotel’s rooftop bar that had some pretty neat views of Georgetown and DC.  We also made it to the rooftop bar at the W Hotel, just down the street from the white house.  This bar has amazing views of the Washington Monument.  DSC02960 DSC02968 IMG_0250

Saturday morning we had our long-awaited white house tour which, aside from seeing my sweet girl receive her degree, was the highlight of the weekend.  After waiting four months for the tickets to come through, I just wanted to linger and take everything in.  Unfortunately, picture taking is not allowed inside but my sister and I both wished there was a garden tour because what we could see of the gardens through the windows was enchanting.  There are small seating areas and planting that you never see in pictures.  Each of the rooms we toured had a beautiful flower arrangement that complimented the room’s color scheme and decor. We were told that the white house employs 35 florists that create these amazing arrangements based on the seasons .   The arrangements we saw contained many different rose colors and varieties, as well as peonies, ranunculus, foliage and some exotic lily species, but there was also some spirea and hydrangea blossoms that probably came right from the white house shrubbery.   Several tall vases in the dining room were covered with English ivy leaves just overlapped in a spiral fashion.   IMG_0266

After the white house tour on Saturday morning, we walked all of the major monuments until we couldn’t walk anymore then it was a cab ride to BSF in Foggy Bottom for delicious burgers, shakes and sweet potato fries, and a trip to the National Cathedral which was cut short when my sister realized that she had left her iPhone in the cab we’d taken earlier.   Fortunately, we did get the phone back later that night thanks to a very kind cab driver. 

  Sunday morning we were up early to get tickets for the newly re-opened Washington Monument.  The views from the top give you a true perspective of the scale of Washington DC and how the city is laid out.   We spotted a few things from up there that we missed on the ground but the best view was of the white house and Capital.  On the elevator ride down the lights are turned off so that you can see the construction details of the tower and the dedication plaques on the inside walls.   Eventually the stairwell will be opened in the 755 ft. obelisk for guided walking tours.  The monument had been closed for repairs since 2009 or 2010, after an earthquake caused structural damage.  It’s only been reopened since April of this year.




Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Do you put up a hummingbird feeder?   Do you put it up on a certain date or do you just wait till you see them in your area?. I’ve always sort of timed putting mine up with the flowering of my Sargeants crabapple tree which is just outside my kitchen window, but this year it seems that a lot of the flowering shrubs and trees are behind schedule so I checked the hummingbird migration map and they are already active in my area.  This map also covers the eastern provinces of Canada.  You can check out the species of hummingbirds that have been seen in your state on this website too.
In the northeast we have only one species of hummingbird that visits feeders regularly and that is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  However, that being said, a few sightings of Rufous and Calliope hummingbirds have been made in New Hampshire in the last couple of years.  This could possibly be due to global warming expanding their ranges, or the little guys just got bored and decided to take a road trip.
My feeder attaches to my kitchen window with suction cups and has a perch.  I like it because I can get a good view of the birds from my breakfast counter and at the sink.  They don’t seem to mind me standing close by while they are feeding.    DSC02896
Hang your feeder about 4 ft off the ground so that it is away from predators (like kitties).  Hummingbirds for their size are very territorial and will not tolerate attitude from other hummers or small birds.  I once saw one chase off a larger goldfinch that was too close to a feeder!  The suggested spacing for feeders is to place them out of sight of each other to prevent one bird from monopolizing all of them. 
You don’t have to purchase the “nectar” that’s sold in the stores.  They get most of their protein and nutrients from eating small flies and spiders, so they really don’t need any of the “extra” ingredients.   I make up my own sugar solution of 1/4 cup granulated white sugar to 2 cups of boiled well water.  This is not as sweet as some recipes that call for more sugar, but it is still attractive to the birds without attracting bees.  I don’t add red food dye either, since the red feeder will attract their attention. I store any extra food in the fridge but get rid of it after a week if I haven’t used it.  If you have chlorinated water, you might want to use bottled water instead.   DSC02895 DSC02898

My feeder was purchased from Wild Bird’s unlimited.  It has a lifetime warrantee.  There are many different models. though that hang on feeder poles  or even hanging baskets and window boxes. 
I know some people are concerned about ants and bees. My feeder has a well in the center that you fill with water to discourage ants and I can buy tiny bee cages that fit into the openings on the feeder and prevent bees and hornets from getting to the nectar.  I’m also very careful when filling and replacing it.  I don’t overfill my feeder and I use a wet paper towel to wipe up any drips right away.
In my experience, the heaviest feeding times are between late June and August, after that it dwindles off.  Most of the birds start their migration south in mid-August.  The older ones leave first,  followed by the current year’s nestlings.
I’ve given hummingbird feeders as gifts to family and friends who tell me later how much enjoyment they get out of watching the little birds.  I like to hear that because the more we enjoy something, the more vested we are in preserving it.