My own private saint is too busy for caregiver fatigue

This is Saint Nikolai Velimirovich; my saint Nikolay looks considerably younger, has no facial hair, and never wears vestments; from

This is Saint Nikolai Velimirovich; my saint Nikolay looks considerably younger, has no facial hair, and never wears vestments; from

I took it very, very easy this first post-surgical week at home. I did not do that first time around—I was more like Hey! bilateral partial mastectomy? of course I can do groceries!

This time, with Tessa, my primary caregiver for the last 15 months in Russia, my man has stayed with me around the clock since Wednesday night (seven days!), making all meals—not a single delivery car has darkened the driveway—bringing them to me, cleaning up afterward, as well as doing groceries, feeding and watering all four cats and the dog, driving Luka to gymnastics, and the bus terminal, and Graydon to the scooter store, and the convenience store and so much more. It makes me feel very special, particularly as I have come out from under the narcotics haze and realized what he really has done while I’ve been sleeping. I hope I never have to return the favour (because then he would be in massive pain, etc.), but will figure another way to return this fine treatment. ❤


I have my surgery date!


I received a call from my plastic surgeon’s secretary on Thursday with the date of my surgery: May 28. That had a few inconveniences attached to it—Tessa would be arriving back home from Russia the same evening; my boyfriend is planning to fly out May 29 to visit his sick father. But I don’t want to get caught in summer vacation roulette at the hospital, so it was a go. Pre-op on May 20.

I started the 27 Day Cleaning Countdown for the house. After this surgery I’ve been told there is no lifting, bending, raising arms, etc. With my current level of fatigue I achieve very little housecleaning, and the place has slid downhill. Anything that isn’t cleaned and sorted by May 27 will have to wait until mid-July, So Friday it was sort out the laundry room. 13 hours of sleep. Saturday was clean out front hall closet, sort, toss or Goodwill all footwear clear and wash front hall floor and baseboards, dust furniture.  3 hour nap; 13.5 hours of sleep. Sunday: 6 hours 15 minutes of sorting the garage, more laundry, cleaned out two kitchen cupboards. 3 hour nap; 2 hour nap, 9,5 hour sleep. Monday: Empty drawers in my room, pack some winter sweaters, reorganize upstairs linen closet, clean out and organize shelving unit in upper hall. 2 hour nap, 3.5 hour map, 9 hour sleep. I was channeling my anxiety over the surgery into cleaning, but it wasn’t doing anything about the fatigue. My house is looking better, and if I last three weeks, I’m sure the house would look houseguest-ready.

Then on Tuesday, the lovely secretary called with the offer to jump the surgery ahead two full weeks to May 14. Pros: My anxiety/dread/fear would be over two works earlier. Tessa will be spared having to be my personal support worker. My boyfriend will be here to take care of me. Cons: not enough time to clean house. No time to get the car fixed. Must have Luka’s birthday party this weekend. No travelling to Stratford for Mother’s Day. I’m still scared.


So it’s on for Thursday, stay over one night, home on Friday. Preop is Tuesday.

Now I really need meditation and inner resources as  I climb clean the walls!

Goodbye dishpan hands!



This was me, drowning in angst and ennui at the prospect of another two and a half hours of dishwashing. But now I know it’s easier to chunk big jobs into more manageable sizes, then I would look out the window and think to myself, “I only have eight 20-minute chunks of dishes to do. Yay!” Image is from

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How’s the family?

Warmth in the Cold, by Katie M. Berggren, says it all for me and my three kid lets up here in the frozen north (tomorrow morning it'll be -30°C again!). Her paintings are all about motherhood, and all are available as prints—her website is and this piece is here:

Warmth in the Cold, by Katie M. Berggren, says it all for me and my three kidlets up here in the frozen north (tomorrow morning it’ll be -30°C again!). Her paintings are all about motherhood, and all are available as prints—her website is and this piece is here:

How’s the family?

Enough about me. Tessa is carrying four university courses from Queens University while living here at home. She is down to just 13 hours a week at the health-food-vitamin-supplement-organic-produce store Healthy Planet because the school workload is 46 hours per week, and she puts in more than that because of her need to succeed and her drive for perfection (very tough in an arts program). She has been saving every spare dime for the next trip to Russia. The official invitation has arrived, she has purchased her tickets, and she leaves in seven days. She had wanted to be home for my next surgery and recovery, which we all thought was going to be in January, but is now looking like May. I will be very lonely for her company, but true love cannot be denied (it can and has been delayed a lot already!) The miracle of distance education—she’ll be sitting exams for Queens University with a proctor somewhere in Kostroma in mid-May.

Graydon has started his second semester of a jewellery design course, specifically a casting course. He has a real design sense, and has mastered markers and airbrush and canvas and skateboards, so carving, modelling and casting is an excellent way to move into three-dimensional design. The fact he can wear his work is a major plus.

Luka continues in gymnastics, laying the foundation for a career in parkour. His instructor last week was a circus arts dude who makes his living at it, so that is inspiration. On the flip side, Luka survived his first week of exams in high school, and today he got the results and his first term marks. 86, 83 80 and 76, for an average of 81.25!!! This from a guy who for years despaired that he was “the stupidest one in the class.” Makes me wish that I had given in years sooner to medicating his diagnosed ADHD (Inattentive). It would have spared him years of feeling stupid. A case of mother is trying her best, not mother knows best.

How are the pets?

Clover is excellent. Princess and Dixie are excellent. Benny has back off running outside because of snow taller than he is and morning temps of -15 to -27. We all feel better when he stays in the house anyway. Angel, our 16-year-old Birman kitty, has had a visit to the vet and has early stage kidney failure. The vet says she’ll likely be manageable with a low-protein diet for six months or so, then she’ll show symptoms and go downhill. That’s very sad, and makes us all let her sit on us or our computers any time she wants, feed her butter off a spoon, get her fresh water ninety times a day. But she is in no pain and is still limber enough to leap onto the kitchen counter from the floor (in search of butter and fresher water). So we’ll buy her fancy food and pet her tons.

How is the car?

Wouldn’t turn over for 20 minutes after exercise class and an appointment at Princess Margaret. Graydon and his friend looked under the hood and found that my battery was missing all the caps that cover the openings to the fluid inside—battery acid or electrolyte or whatever that stuff is. I took the car to Canadian Tire. Dude came out in the parking lot, looked and said no way would they ever have removed those caps during my last oil change, and he’d never seen anything like that and they couldn’t fix it, but maybe I’d like to go back to the dealer and see if they could help.

Weird coincidence, I received a notice about a factory recall for my model and year of car for an airbag issue, so I got the factory recall and new battery, killing two trips to Mississauga with one drive.

How is the dishwasher?

Unusable. It’s as if someone pulled it out (it’s a built-in) and shoved it back in crooked, because the door wants to close half an inch to the left of where it is supposed to. It will close under great protest, so with the basement flood of January, I am NOT going to run the dishwasher and see what happens. It came with the house when we moved in back in 1992, and has worked for 23 years without even a service call, so it’s earned its retirement. We will now use it to hold the overflow of pasta pots and sauté pans that I’ve been stacking on the back burners of the stove for years.

Washing dishes by hand is not the best (read: is really bad) for my lymphedema, because it puts my hand in a forced down position (gravity pulls the fluid farther down my arm and fingers) and in hot water (it’s recommended to use water no hotter than 90°F or 32°C—that is blasphemy for washing dishes in my house, where the more scalding the water the cleaner the dishes). I’ve told the kids they’ll all be sharing the new joys of handwashing dishes, or they can do the arm and trunk massage on me to get rid of the extra pressure I’ll have if I do all the washing. We’ll see how that goes. Massaging mum’s arm, hand and fingers doesn’t sound so bad, but trunk??? That should flip them right out. I hope.

I’m throwing in the rake

It’s the day after Halloween. We had a blast (photos to follow, maybe, if they’re any good at all). But to get to Halloween decorating, I had to venture into the backyard to fetch the rake, to make piles of leaves, to stuff stray body parts and wigs into, to make part of the front lawn look like a zombie resting place.

Don’t misunderstand me. I see my backyard every day from on high, from the Romeo and Juliet deck that towers over the yard. From that vantage point the grass never looks really tall, and you just see the tops of weedsflowers and the odd dog toy. Sure, the raspberry bushes are overgrown, but whose raspberry bushes aren’t unruly shoots and brambles?

So to gain access to the backyard and the rake, I had to go down the path between the houses, and encountered this:

This passage sealed the fate of the zombie leaf pile on Halloween night, and led directly to my decision to abandon the backyard fall cleanup

A week and a half ago there was a phenomenal storm that ripped a huge branch from the front maple. It landed on the car, with one end on the front yard, over the car and the other end touching our neighbours’ tree in the centre of their yard. It took two strapping lads to drag it and stuff it between the houses, because the wind was so fierce we figured it would keep smacking things on its way down the street. I wrote a note to number 1 son and his friend to please cut the branch down and bag it for yard waste day removal. Fail.

So I picked my way around the tree and saw my backyard from ground level for what could be the first time since the end of summer. Great horny toads! What a disaster! I’ve been asking, suggesting, prodding, threatening, even the n-word that is forbidden in my home to describe anything I do (na**ing), but no one has done anything but pick raspberries and throw toys for the puppy for the last two months, and it looks it.

It all comes back to the mum. Read the ads, make the list, cook the meals, clean the meals, buy the clothes, wash the clothes—now not only would I be raking the leaves back here, but pruning and thinning and grass-cutting and then sawing and hacking these branches down to size too.

So this morning when I opened my mail and saw one of those deal emails for a fall yard cleanup, I said NO. Actually, I said YES, I will buy this, and NO I will not get stuck doing more work around the house than I already do. So, I paid $59 (regular charge for the service is $189) for someone else to rake, bag and drag the leaves away, trim and prune my lilacs, forsythia and raspberries, fertilize, de-weed and cut the lawn.

I have felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders, and back, and back of legs and triceps, biceps and deltoids too. I feel like a wealthy woman (the charge went through, so why not??), because for a few hours, I will have a yard man or woman. I have never had one of those. I’ll bet it feels great.

Til next time, or when I get Halloween pics from my phone.

Works for Me Wednesday: The solution to messy kids’ rooms.

wfmwbanner1.jpgI haven’t posted to Shannon’s blog carnival Works-for-me Wednesday in a few weeks, and man, there have been changes. 1) it is now hosted by Kristen at 2) We Are THAT Family (a blog I read regularly and love) and 3) today she is asking us to repost a WFMW post that we really liked. So, Here goes:

I’m relying on the wisdom of my mother again for this Works for Me Wednesday tip. She had four kids in five years, and our beds were made rugs straight and books on the shelves and toys in the toybox for years. She sewed my next youngest sister and me the most exquisite bedroom linens in a blue willow pattern, complete with fancy birds, pretty girls on swings, little men on ornate bridges. She made coverlets, bed skirts, shams with ruffles, even elaborate draperies in several tiers with fancy tie-backs. What little girls in their right minds wouldn’t want to keep that room company-ready??

Fast forward to today. The cute Laura Ashley Owl and the Pussycat border exists only Continue reading

Works for Me Wednesday: grocery shopping sorted!

This recession thing has finally gotten to me. My three kids and I (and the cat, puppy, two rabbits and 17 fishy things) have been weathering our own personal recession for the last three years, the last six months being the worst. Trendsetter that I am, the whole world seems to be following in my wake (no illusions of grandeur here, sir!). I started getting frugal ages ago, doing crazy things like stockpiling butter when I could find it half price and there was room in the freezer.

Once upon a time I shopped only at Loblaws. I bought every new thing they could throw at me. I did use a green grocer for some greens, but that was about it. Now, I’m shopping the way my mum shopped, glancing over the flyers, seeing who has what on sale and stopping by three or four grocery stores to get the specials. But that was in smalltownsville, where your four grocery stores are within a half mile radius and between a few of them there wasn’t even a stoplight.

Here, now, shopping for the loss leaders requires tactical manouevres, and I have them for you:

At this site ( you can access zillions of flyers, all by entering your postal code. You’ll get the regional one that is right for you and the one that is time-effective for now. You can choose flyers by category even—grocery, hardware, clothing.

Then open up this site ( and create an account for yourself—super easy, I did it. There are fields for the item, the price, the store, the neighbourhood, if you have a coupon for the item, even additional comments (because another feature lets you email the list to a spouse, friend, teen, and you might want to add some commentary like “get bell, not jalapeno, peppers”).

Go between your flyers and the list and enter what you need. The site will sort your grocery list by store so you, or any other lucky shopper you appoint, can march into the right store, get the right stuff and even have a list of which coupons need to be presented at the checkout. And you can create more than one list, or even set a default list of the basics that you can add to each time. Works for me!

This was passed on to me by Tessa, my 17 year old and a list maker from a way back. Makes a mother proud! Leave me a hello if you can, and then check out tons of other tips of all kinds on Shannon’s blog. Come back tomorrow for a fabulous contest giveaway: a copy of Desmond Morris’s stunningly beautiful new book, Amazing Baby, of which you can have just a taste of below.

See you tomorrow!