It seems as if I’ve been working on this tango dress forever. I’ve had a lot of personal distractions and had to put it aside for weeks at a time. When I make costumes, I don’t normally use a pattern, I drape it and make my own pattern. I do adjust the design as I go, but I never have the trouble I’m having with this dress. Maybe it’s part the personal distractions, but mostly I think it’s the fabric that I’m using. I’m using a 2-way stretch red sequin fabric which is somewhat sheer. 2 way stretch for costumes is not the ideal fabric, but I loved it and thought I could make it work. I cut it and sewed it so that it fit my body perfectly. I also lined it with red 4-way stretch spandex fabric so that it wasn’t sheer and it really made the red sequins pop.
My problem was the neckline, no matter what I did, I didn’t like what it looked like on me. It looked ok on my dress form but it just wasn’t right on me. It was just the neckline. It was bulky and didn’t move right on me. the dress was perfect everyplace other than the neck, even the back was ok.
I tried so many different versions of the neckline and nothing felt right…. then I realized, that between it being sequin fabric and only 2-way stretch, that was the problem. Lining it didn’t help either because it added more bulk. I actually liked everything on the dress form, but the dress form doesn’t move and once I tried them on me, the neck lines just didn’t look or feel right.
Today I realized that it’s the fabric… the 2-way stretch can work for the dress, but the neckline didn’t have a strong enough elasticity to lay flat and to move with me. The 4-way stretch lining that I added along with the sequins on the fabric added too much bulk… I tried adding elastic and that added even more bulk, so it just looked terrible.. this may work with a plain 2-way stretch that is not sequins, but this was not working. Maybe a very experienced seamstress would know what to do with it, but nothing I did was working.
So today I decided to scrap the dress and start over. I’ll use a 4-way stretch matte red spandex fabric that I have in my fabric stash and will embellish it with sequins. I put the white stretch fabric pattern that I made for the sequin dress back on my dress form and now I’m redoing the whole thing. I could keep the back and the bottom of the sequin dress and change the fabric for the neckline something that works, but honestly, I’m just tired of looking at it and I want to start fresh. I’ll save it and someday maybe pick it back up, but for now, I’m moving on and away from it.
So back to square one…
Here’s the pinned and marked draping for the new dress.. These are the pieces I will use to cut the new fabric for my dress. I’m using the same pieces I cut for the sequin dress but adding more and cutting in different places. It may look like piecemeal, but it’s all marked and pieces pinned together and it will work fine for cutting the pattern out of my new fabric.
These are the fabrics, all 4-way stretch. I have a matte red spandex and a beautiful sequin on 4-way mesh fabric that I will use for embellishments. I also have some red sequin appliqués that I may or may not use. The sequin mesh fabric will be used either as sheer panels or over the red matte fabric. I’ll figure that out after I cut the matte red fabric and pin it on the dress form.
This week I’ll start working on it, it should probably be finished in a week or two, depending upon how much time I have to work on it.
Thank you for reading this, I’ll post the updates on it as I go along.
This morning the doctor called around 8am with a status on Bentley. He’s been in the hospital again since early yesterday morning. His sugar spiked up to 700 from 600 earlier in the day and it wasn’t going down then overnight it stayed around 500. He was twitching from neurological problems, most likely caused by the sugar being so high for 3 or maybe even more days. His kidneys were starting to fail. They scheduled a sonogram for 9:30 to see what was going on with him. This hospital doesn’t have weekend hours, but their Dallas location does and his doctor will be working all weekend, so she was going to bring him with her this afternoon, just like they did last time he was there. She said that if things got worse then we would have to make a decision because his quality of life is going downhill, but the decision is ours.
I got a call from the hospital again, sometime around 10:30 to come and talk with the doctor. When I got there, they brought me in back and he was hooked up to all sorts of equipment, his little head resting on a pillow for comfort. His eyes were open but he didn’t see. I was stroking his head and he closed his eyes. His body was twitching every so often, which was due to the swelling of his brain. They were giving him insulin for sugar, steroids to reduce the brain swelling, pain medicine for the pain, fluids… and whatever else. He was non-responsive. The doctor said it was my choice as to what to do, he was going downhill quickly, but if I wanted, she would bring him to Dallas and monitor him there and of course, do whatever she could to help heal him or at least keep him comfortable. Tom is in Seattle on business and I had no cell service in the hospital, so I went outside to call him and to talk about everything. He knew he was in the hospital, but didn’t know the details from the night before and that morning. We decided to send him to Dallas and hope for the best.
While I was outside on the phone, the doctor came running out, Bentley took a turn for the worst. When I went in there they were trying to revive him, but his little heart gave out. He made the decision for me. It’s really hard to accept this, it was all so quick, or maybe it wasn’t. From the sonogram, the doctor found that his pancreas was a mess, she could do further testing because he wasn’t strong enough. Everything seemed to indicate an aggressive pancreatic tumor. She found a few other things too, but right now it’s all a blur to me. I’m glad I was there with him, but so sad that he’s gone. Rest in peace, our funny little boy Bentley. We will all miss you.
My little dog, Bentley, has been sick for a while now. He has something called non-erosive IMPA Which stands for immune mediated polyarthritis. It’s like a form of lupus in dogs. The erosive form of IMPA is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in humans, but he’s got the non-erosive version form of it. He’s had it for a while, he was officially diagnosed with it back in September. Since then we have been working with the doctor to get the medications right. This is a lifelong disease and will have to be on medication probably for the rest of his life. The medications he’s on are pretty heavy duty. He was on prednisone for a while and prednisone for long term is not good, It’s got an awful lot of bad side effects. So the doctor has been working with him trying to somehow reduce the dosage by adding other medications. One of the medications is used in cancer patients and it comes with purple plastic gloves. I panicked when I first saw this but now I’m OK with it. He’s also been on other medications to somehow try to reduce the dosage of prednisone then in January of this year (I think), the doctor changed the prednisone for another steroid, I’m not sure the name but we call it DEX. The dosages and timing of the medication was pretty complicated so I ended up making a spreadsheet so that I could keep track of everything and everything was going fine. He would have his off days but for the most part it was working.
A few weeks ago we noticed some changes in him, he wasn’t quite as playful as normal (and I have to say that with the different medications he has been on, he has been up and down with his playfulness, but this time it seemed a bit different).
This week things seem to be different. He was having trouble laying down, if I picked him up and touched his left side on his belly, he would scream. He was also panting a lot and drinking an awful lot of water, actually, an excessive amount of water. The steroids can make him very thirsty and they can affect him overall. It got to the point where he wouldn’t lay down, or he couldn’t lay down. He would just stand and stare into space. He was eating OK but I knew something was wrong. I took him to the doctor on Thursday and they prescribed gabapentin for him, which is a pain medication. They gave him the first dose by injection and I gave him a second dose in the afternoon, which he seem to have taken just fine. Then later I brought him outside, he was urinating a lot (this has been going on for awhile) which is another sign of side effects of the steroids. I couldn’t find him and then I found him laying under the holly bushes and panting. Somehow I managed to coax him out of there and then later on I had to give him the third dose of gabapentin. He wasn’t taking it easily so I gave it to him with turkey and he seemed to have taken it.
That night he woke me up about 1:30 in the morning and he was panting excessively. I took him outside to go potty, somehow I got him back inside and we just spent the night up. I decided to wait until 7:30 in the morning when the Vets’s office opens.
Bentley seemed to be deteriorating quickly, So I called the vet at 7 AM and left a voicemail to say that I’m coming in at 7:30 a.m. either to them or to emergency because something needs to be done. At 7:30 AM they called me and said to just bring him down. Trying to pick him up to go into the car was very painful for him and he was screaming but I had to do it. I brought him in and he was very lethargic. He looked as if he had a severe infection in his eye, I’m not sure what that was, but it seemed to be getting worse from the day before and then this morning it was just horrible. He looked as if he had mange.
So I left him at the doctor’s and I was on the phone all morning and afternoon with everyone that works there and also the doctor. I had the option to pick him up or leave him there overnight and pick them up in the emergency room, Or one of the staff members would drive him to their other location in Dallas so that he could be cared for over the weekend, which is what I chose to do.
So this morning Dr. Cook gave me a call from Dallas and Bentley was not doing well at all. She wanted to put him on intravenous to help hydrate him and run some tests but needed to check with me first and of course, yes, I agreed to further testing. Then Dr. Cook gave me a call and in her testing she found that he was in diabetic ketoacidosis and he needed insulin and to stay on intravenous. He will be there until at least Monday so they can regulate him. He also has the complication of IMPA, but Dr. Burney should be able to figure that out along with the insulin injections.
So since there’s nothing else I can do but sit and wait I just started decided to start working on my ladies tango costume. We are all going to wear red but we can all have our own style of dress. So today I started draping some Lycra to try and figure out exactly what I want to do with my dress.
I don’t use good fabric for draping, but for something that is going to be with a stretch fabric you have to drape with a stretch fabric so that the pattern will work with the stretch fabric when I make the dress out of the good fabric. Did that make sense? It does to me, anyway…
So this is what I came up with, so far.
First, I just drape the fabric on my dress form and then I stand back and look at it, this usually takes a few days to place it on the dress form and think about it (and actually I did start this last week). Then I take one of my fabric markers and I start marking the lines that I want to cut and sew on.
The hardest thing is to cut the fabric, but today that’s what I did. So far I’m happy with it.
Next, I draped the actual fabric onto the dress form. On the white test fabric I was putting some ruching. I played around with some different necklines and decided on the one shoulder neck line. On the test fabric I was liking the ruching around the hips. From the side lower bust bust down to where the ruching and the slit starts, there will be a nude insert.
So I cut the fabric for the pattern pieces and so far I’m liking it.
Then I put the red sequin fabric on it and I actually like the way it looks without any ruching. I will also put the decorative edge along the nude insert that goes from the bust down to the ruching. I think that the sparkly red fabric is enough and the ruching would just be overkill.
This was a good diversion from all of the problems with Bentley today. I also took Pippa for a long walk, I think she is lonely and she knows that something is going on with Bentley.
Today I was supposed to work at the Fort Worth Zoo for their spring break at MOLA, but as it turned out I was not able to do that because I had to be here to talk to the doctor for Bentley, and I was on the phone on and off for about five hours today discussing with the doctor what we were going to do. Tom is on his way home from the Cayman Islands, he’s been working there this whole week.
Right now I am sitting outside on the patio, it’s a beautiful day, and Pippa is sitting by the pool watching the squirrels.
I miss my little boy Bentley, but I am also happy that he is being taken care of medically, and soon he will be on the road to recovery.
Thanks for listening… somehow, writing all of this down is sort of cathartic.
Today was my second day volunteering at the Fort Worth Zoo. Schools were all off for President’s Day, the weather was in the 70’s with a prediction of rain, but if it rained at all, it was just sprinkles. My first day last week was very quiet, it was cold and cloudy, so there were very few visitors.
I’m working in MOLA (Museum of Living Arts). I got there at 10 and the only people there were employees. It was so nice and tranquil, soothing music, low lighting and fish, reptiles and amphibians all inside their glass walled rooms and aquariums. I’m stationed at the reptile encounter desk. A keeper had “Sandy”, a 12 year old Trans Pecos Rat Snake. They come from western Texas. They rotate keepers and their animals every hour between 10-2 pm, so there are 4 different animals over the course of the day. They don’t want the animals out any longer than an hour each.
The next one was another Trans Pecos Rat Snake. This one was much smaller and he was about two years old. They can’t tell the sex of a snake externally, they can only tell with a probe. Snakes live about 30 years, that surprised me, I didn’t realize that they lived so long. I don’t know much about snakes, but I’m learning. I found out that snakes are not poisonous, they are venomous. Venoms toxins are only harmful by injection, poison is harmful upon ingestion and sometimes by touch. As long as someone does not have internal bleeding, venom can be swallowed with no adverse effects (although I wouldn’t want to try it). I also found out that snakes have many rows of teeth. Venomous snakes also have fangs. I also found out that there is a spot where snakes excrete their waste (aka go potty). There’s an opening at the base of their tail where it meets their body, called the cloaca (in English it means sewer) and that’s where everything comes out, including eggs. That’s also where a probe would go to check for the sex of the snake. When you look at a snake, you can’t really see a definition of where the snake body ends and where the tail begins, I guess I never realized they were separate. Snakes smell through their tongues, which I also thought was interesting and that’s why they stick their tongue out so often.
The next snake to come out was a Thai Bamboo Rat Snake, I think he was about 16, but I’m not sure. He was a beautiful sort of translucent looking snake. He is much smaller than the others. The next and last one was a Black Milk Snake, he was huge! I was surprised at how soft and even kind of squishy they all are and also surprised at how unafraid I was of them.
The zoo opened at 10, and it’s a little bit of a walk from admission to MOLA, so it took about a half hour for visitors to come to MOLA. On the way to MOLA are the gorillas. They’re always fun to watch, especially when little Gus is out. The flamingos and other animals are are also on the way, so people stop along the way and take their time.
A few visitors trickled in every so often, then at about 11am people were pouring in and it was pretty much a steady stream until 2, which is when they stop bringing animals out for the reptile experience.
The snakes just stay with the keepers, they wiggle in and out of their hands and visitors are allowed to very very gently pet them. The keepers are very gentle with them. This exhibit is a big hit, everyone, and I mean everyone who came was happy abd enjoying the experience. Two young girls came running up to me so excited because they really love snakes, we had a long talk about snakes.
This one was the Thai Bamboo Rat Snake.
It was interesting to see the reactions of people to snakes. A few really loved snakes, most were curious and wanted to touch them and then others that stood way back, a few couldn’t even look. One lady was with her family, her children were all petting the snake, so was her husband, but no way in the world would she do it. At first she was standing back, then she came a bit closer and started talking to me. She is afraid of snakes and thought they were slimy. When her d]family finished they all went to another section and then they came back to pet the snake again, this one was different, it was the big Black Milk Snake. Their mother came a bit closer to the stanchions this time and we were talking. She seemed somewhat intrigued but very unsure. Well after a lot of talking, she eventually tried it. She was amazed at how soft he was and seemed to be happy that she tried it and her family couldn’t stop talking about her petting the snake.
One person came up to me and thanked me for what I do, (I sometimes get that when I volunteer at the Dallas Zoo too), another came up and was sure that there was a dead turtle, I went over with her to look and (thankfully) the turtle moved. Then another family came up to me to tell me that they thought a lizard was stuck in its cage on the ceiling, that too turned out ok (phew!).
My main job at MOLA is crowd control… making sure that the line moves and telling people how to pet the snake (or lizard or whatever they have out). I’m working in MOLA now to get ready for Spring Break. It gets really busy and they need help with the lines of people who want to come to the Reptile Experience. For now, it’s a good way to break in to get ready for their busy week. The flow of people was steady, but not enough for big lines, so I was able to stay by the keepers. This was about the size of the longest line, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping the line moving.
After Spring Break I will move onto other sections of the zoo by the elephants and giraffes. I must say though, that I am enjoying working in MOLA so much more than I ever thought I would.
After I was finished and signed out, I ran over to the elephants and saw that Colonel, one of the male elephants, was out in the big yard and Belle and Rasha were in the smaller yard, Bluebonnet and Angel were in the back, I’m not sure where Bowie was, maybe he was with Bluebonnet and Angel, I couldn’t tell.
The hippos, were out of the water and a keeper was spraying water at them, they seemed to love it. One hippo is Jonesy and the other is Daisy, but I don’t know yet who is who. I’ll find out when I start working over there.
Soon the hippos will be moved to their new habitat when the new savanna is finished. The savanna is coming along, there is a lot of construction going on now. The new changes will be very exciting and much needed!
I decided to run out to my car to get my good camera so I could get some good photos of the animals, so here are a few of them.
As it always is there, it was a great day at the zoo, and now it’s even more special because I’ve been waiting for over a year to hopefully work there… and now I’m a part of it. This is a brand new volunteer program for the zoo and I’m happy to be there from the beginning. It will be exciting to see all of the new changes at the zoo once the new savanna is completed.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,
For some reason I never finished this post back in 2016. I saw this rough draft when I was writing my blog just the other day, so I decided to finish it, a year and a half later.
Back in the winter of 2016, I was working on a tango dress, draping it and sewing it. This was to be a model dress for our group performance. As it turned out we never did use this (we were fortunate to have Celina Rotundo to design and sew all of our dresses. She did about 10 dresses in just about 2 wks! She is a beautiful designer, seamstress and dancer), but it was a great learning experience for me. I have draped and designed costumes before, so it’s not something out of the ordinary for me, but it was different because it wasn’t for me or my daughter this time and the plan was to do this dress for about 10 ladies in our group. I normally only sew for personal use.
It sometimes takes me awhile to figure everything out. I look at the dress form, think, draw, think, start draping fabric, think, think, think. The thinking process takes me the longest. I’ll put it together, stand back, figure it out and walk away from it and think. Then when I go back to it, I sometimes do something or other times, think about what to do. Once the pattern is finished and I lay it out on the fabric, there’s more thinking. I don’t want to cut without being sure. This process sometimes takes me a few days, but once I get it, then I have it. I can’t remember exactly, but this process took me about a month of working on it and thinking about it.
This was my stash of fabric that we could use. We selected the red spandex with a black spandex lining. The black spandex was a little thick for a lining but in the end, it worked. In retrospect, I would have liked a more intense black for the lining, but this was actually just a test dress for the performance group, so I went with what I had.Next I had to figure out the design and drape it on my dress form. Because it’s spandex (stretch) fabric, I had to use a stretch fabric for draping and I was using a 4-way stretch fabric. Spandex is pretty expensive but I did have an inexpensive white spandex that I could use for draping. Draping is the process of designing a pattern on a dress form. It’s pinned, cut and formed and then from that, the pattern is made.
So, first, I wrapped the fabric around the dress form, From there I started pinning, cutting and tucking .
Next, I removed the fabric from the dress form in pieces and layed it out on the real fabric to cut it. My next step was to sew portions of it and then pin it together on the dress form again to make sure that it fit and then to tweak what needed tweaking.
I was having some trouble with the front, which was overlapped and it wasn’t laying nicely, but with work and a lot of thinking, I got it to sit smooth.
I liked it (I am actually thinking about making something like this for myself one day, I still have the pattern), but my teacher wanted something a bit different, a straighter skirt and maybe a halter top. So back to the draping/cutting board. I disassembled the dress and made up a new top, and recut the skirt of the dress so that it was longer and straighter. I was having some problems because while attaching the skirt to the bodice, there was a lot of bulk around the whole upper hipline, and especially where the skirt fabric overlapped in front. It made a very unattractive line and nobody wants any extra bulk in that area.
Next was to trim the excess fabric off of the interior seam of the waist (the two spandex fabrics together, the lining and outer fabric, were too heavy for a seam especially where the front overlapped) with graduated cutting of the seams and fix the overlap by sewing it in place on the top portion of it, and then serging the hip line seam to reduce the bulk. After that then the hip line seam had to be sewn down flat, so that it would sit smooth on the hips.
This was the final dress and I was happy with it.
If I had done this for all of the ladies, I would have had to make multiple patterns for the different sizes, but once the main pattern is finished, it’s not as big of a job as the actual designing. I was extremely happy that Celina was here in the U.S. (she’s from Argentina) to do it. We used a completely different fabric and each lady had a different design with the same fabrics. This was her creation and the dresses were perfect! I never would have been able to do all of that in such a short period of time and I would not have had the insight and knowledge to make each dress different.
I did sew some costumes for that performance. All of the ladies that did the performance the previous year had a costume, so I had to make one for myself and one of the other ladies to match the others.
And then I and one of the other ladies in the group, put together these skirts for the ladies performance group.
That was my 2016 tango performance and costume designing year!
I also did a flamenco performance that same year and designed those costumes. This is the design, I did not sew them, I only designed them. We had them sewn by Alicia Harris, a flamenco costume designer in Spain.
Thank you for reading my blog!
Back in July, my dance studio put out a notice that they were looking to train new dance teachers. Teaching dance is something that I have considered, but thought that I was not qualified to teach, so I never pursued it. Besides that, I really didn’t know how to do it, and to do it right. I saw the notice and even though they were looking for people of all levels, I still didn’t think that I would be qualified. So as it turned out, I was at the studio for my Argentine Tango lessons and practicing with my tango partner. He mentioned that he was going to do the training, so, I thought, well, why not? It can’t hurt to try. So now here I am, almost 3 months later and in the last month of my training classes and loving every minute of it. The training classes consist of doing all of the beginner classes at the studio. We received a list of the five figures for ballroom and social dances. Each month we have a progress check at the end of the month to see how we are progressing. We have to learn both the lead and the follow for the figures.
So now we are into our third month of beginner training. For the final progress check we were asked to write about what motivated us to dance. For me, it started when I was very young with the movies, Cinderella and White Christmas…Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen dancing to “The Best Things happen When You’re Dancing” and Cinderella’s Waltz. To this day, I cannot see enough of those scenes and movies. I have since added Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s final dance scene in Dirty Dancing to my top 3 list of favorite dance scenes. It has always been my dream to dance like any one those characters in the movies, but I never had the opportunity or the confidence to do it.
I took my share of jazz, ballet and tap lessons while growing up but never felt comfortable in the role of being a a dancer. I felt clumsy and awkward, so I stopped. In my early adult years I tried belly dancing which I liked but there were no studios that I knew of and only private lessons which I couldn’t afford.
So later on, after marrying and then adopting our daughter, we explored dance lessons, ice skating, sports, for her. She fell in love with ballet, so I became a ballet mom. I was immersed in my daughter’s world of ballet, her teachers (mostly Russian), lessons, rehearsals, recitals and competitions and as she got older commuting to NYC for her ballet training. The ballet world is different and I guess in some ways isolated from the normal world, but we loved it. I learned to hand sew tutus for performances and other dance costumes. I never minded not doing ballet myself because my daughter was such a beautiful dancer and I was busy with her life. In 2004, she went to college at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas and after she graduated (summa cum laude) majoring in English, History and a minor in British History. After she graduated in 2008 we moved to Fort Worth from NJ. I would drive past the Arthur Murray Studio on my way home from wherever I was and I would see the dancers dancing in the window, not unlike Richard Gere in the movie, “Shall We Dance” and just kept thinking about it. I was taking tennis lessons a few days a week (I did that in New Jersey too) and two ladies in my group class were telling me that I moved like a dancer. I never thought of myself as being graceful, but with them telling me that many times, I thought that I would try Ballroom dancing, so I started looking around.
There were three ballroom studios in the Fort Worth area. I didn’t look at Arthur Murray because it was too much money, so I checked the other two and ended up at the The Fort Worth Dance Studio (which is now a Fred Astaire Studio). The lady that owned the studio heard my accent and asked where I was from, and it turned out that she too was from New Jersey. So that was the clincher for joining that studio. I took the trial classes with my husband, but he had no interest in dancing, so I ended up doing it on my own. The studio turned out to be much more expensive than we could afford, so I couldn’t stay there and I had to move on. I was so attached to my teacher, he was very first ballroom dance teacher, he made it fun and gave me a love for it. It was so hard to leave that studio, I was used to my teacher and the people, I was comfortable there, but I had to move on. I then started ballet, Flamenco, Argentine Tango and salsa lessons and I also kept up with some ballroom privates at the studio I’m at now, DanceMakers of Fort Worth. I also went to Dallas for some swing lessons. I was hooked, addicted to dancing. My husband traveled so it was easy for me and a good way to pass the time. Dance is also a great release from everyday problems, everything else disappears while dancing, just like the song from White Christmas.
I spent much of my dancing years doing salsa, then Argentine tango, but never completely left ballroom. My daughter doesn’t dance anymore other than the occasional ballet class. She was accepted at TCU as a Ballet Major, but she had an ankle injury which prevented her from going en pointe, so she had to change her major. She has excelled in a different direction and is now an editor for a magazine in Dallas. I am still dancing every day, much of it now is for teacher training but I also do Argentine tango for the performance groups and to keep learning. I will be getting back to ballet probably next month, but I have completely stopped Flamenco. My goal with dance is to keep improving and hopefully to inspire those who would like to learn to dance, including those who think they are too old or as many say “have two left feet”. Neither one of those are true, and I am the perfect example of that. If someone wants to do something and has the will to do it, it can be done.
Thank you for reading this as always!
Ok, so this morning I went to visit my mom in the nursing home. I moved her on election day (I only mention that because it’s an easy way to remember the day I moved her) from her old place, Trinity Healthcare, back to the Cityview Care Center where she first started out in a nursing home back in 2011.
In 2013 on Halloween, Cityview had me move her out because she was an escape risk. My mom has dementia/Alzheimers and at the time, Cityview did not have any secured units. So in one day, I had to find a new place for her, which ended up being Mira Vista. Mira Vista was brand new and I was assured that the reason they were moving her there was because it was a secured facility. They had keypads on all of the doors to enter and exit. Well… as it turned out, they didn’t want her either. So in June of 2015, Mira Vista wanted her out because, again, she was an escape risk. These places don’t give much notice. It’s state law that they have to give 30 days, unless, there’s some reason not to, and they always find a reason why there has to be a move.
I can’t even describe how I felt and how I was ever going to find a place for her in one day. This was a Thursday. I looked all over, and to make this short, I ended up at The Courtyards, in White Settlement. When I got there, I just broke down, how could I make this decision in just one day? They were so nice and so caring there, It was not a pretty place, but I liked the staff, so I chose to send her there. The next day they moved her. It was a locked unit, they kept the women in separate wings than the men. I left her husband, Bob, back at Mira Vista for the time being.
The Courtyards Nursing home was nice enough, the people, not the place. The first month that she was there, though, another resident pushed her out of her wheelchair and she fractured her hip. She had to go to the hospital and had a pin put in. After that, she was never the same. The dementia seemed to have progressed.
In January, The Courtyards sold out to Trinity Healthcare. Everything changed, the people were gone and new people came in. I was having a lot of problems with Medicaid and the billing department at Mira Vista, so to make a long story short, I moved Bob into Trinity Healthcare with my mom, but in a different wing, since he did not need lockdown (aka secured unit). As the year went on (2016), Trinity had about four different Administrators, the Billing Dept. had about 3-4 changes of people, the nurses and other staff from Courtyards that were so caring were moved out and new ones moved in. By October everything was so different, the staff was not caring the way they used to be and for the most part very inaccessible. There were so many problems, that I finally decided to move them again, something that I wished I wouldn’t have to do again.
Moving nursing home residents takes a toll on them, even if the place is not perfect. I found out that Cityview (the first place they were in), now has a secured Memory Care Unit. I went to visit and it was like going back home. The same staff that was there back in 2013 is still there. That spoke volumes to me. They also remembered my mom and Bob (and me) and were so happy they were returning. Thankfully, they had openings in both the Memory Care unit for my mom, and the regular wing for her husband.
So, on election day I moved them.
Cityview’s Memory Care Unit is brand new, only a few months old. It’s very pretty, bright, cheery, and they have a lot of activities to keep the residents busy and happy enough. Trinity Healthcare, was pretty much like the walking dead, they did nothing at all to keep the residents happy. The residents would stay in the main room, and the staff barely did anything with them. There were very few activities, the only activity I ever saw was Friday afternoon Karaoke. Other than that, they just existed. It took my mom a couple of days to return to her normal mood, but she seemed happy and content enough.
Then, two Sundays ago, I received a call that she fell and bruised her face, the call was about 6:30 am, and this happened about 1:30 am. They said that they checked her and there was no sign of any broken bones, just a bad bruise. So I went to see her that evening (I couldn’t get there during the day), and the bruise was very scary.
I went back the next day, Monday, and talked with the nurse again and they were going to check into it further. Well, by Tuesday, the bruise was very bad and her whole demeanor went downhill so quickly. I got there early on Tuesday afternoon and she wasn’t responsive at all. The doctor came in and said that she’s got to go for a CT scan at the hospital. What happened, was that she fell out of bed and that was the second fall out of bed that she had within a few days, and they have noticed a decline in her responsiveness.
The head nurse came in and told me that I should consider hospice for her. Well, I just broke down, hospice to me, was just a death sentence. I had a talk with the hospice nurse and she made me understand a little more about it. Later on someone else came in to talk to me more about hospice and the three of us talked about what they do. I was feeling more comfortable with the idea of it. While we were talking the ambulance arrived to take my mom to the hospital.
Something I didn’t know is that hospice isn’t a death sentence, (although, I guess in a sense, life is ultimately a death sentence), but of course, it’s only for those that are seriously ill. They have more checks and balances than the nursing home and they work with them. She will stay at Cityview, it’s fully covered by Medicaid. Hospice will have their nurses and aides coming in to check in her, stay with her, develop a relationship with her, bathe her and just spend time with her. She will still also be under the care of the Cityview staff and they work together with hospice. Hospice sometimes brings in their own beds and other things they will bring In a better wheel chair that reclines, so if she falls asleep sitting, she can lay back.. They will not force her to take huge vitamins that she can’t swallow, some of the meds will be stopped … one is Aricept which is a drug to slow the progress of Alzheimer’s, it’s already there, so slowing it down at this point doesn’t matter. The other is Plavix, that is a blood thinner and can be part of the reason why her bruise is so bad. They also will take her off of synthroid, she’s on a very low dosage for her thyroid… I can put her back on that and Medicaid and the nursing home will cover that, if we feel she needs it. She will stay on all quality of life meds and if necessary they will increase the ativan (anti-anxiety medicine) if necessary.
They allow their patients to eat whatever they want, if they want something that’s not on their diet. They have people that have actually improved while being on hospice, of course that’s dependent upon the person and their medical condition. If they need it at the end, they will have someone with them 24 hrs a day at their bedside. She will stay at Cityview instead of another facility. If they need her to be transferred somewhere else, the same hospice nurses and aides that she is familiar with will stay with her.
So it’s all about quality of life. On Wednesday I went back to talk more with hospice. I signed the papers and it should start on Wednesday.
So at first, the suggestion of hospice to me was a death sentence and I questioned why, but now that I know more about it, it’s the way it should be. She will have twice the amount of care now because the nursing home has to answer to them and to me instead of just me. They also have a very good relationship with the Cityview staff which helps.
I did bring Bob in to tell him and he was ok with it… I wanted him to stay and talk with hospice too but he wasn’t interested. I felt the need though, to make sure that I asked him, even though I already made the decision.
The hospital kept her longer than I expected, it turned out that she has a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) which can be very serious and even fatal in dementia patients.
On Thursday, Tom (my husband) and I went to visit her at the hospital. To me she looked almost like my father did the day before he died (he died of sepsis which can be the result of a UTI). It’s the UTI that is making her sick and I guess it’s good, in a sense, that she fell because it made them check for the UTI. At the hospital, she didn’t know me at all, but she wouldn’t let go of my hand. Her face is all bruised but no actual damage.
When I left there, I just didn’t know if she would make it, maybe she would, but Thursday night, she had that look that my father had at the end. She’s scared, I can see it in her eyes. She has tears in her eyes. She was very shaky and scared to death.
I never realized how dangerous a UTI is with the aged and especially dementia patients.. I thought it was just a urinary infection, but that infection can poison your whole body.
I spent Friday with hospice and the nurse at the nursing home (Cityview). They made me feel so much better. Then on Saturday, I went to her room and decorated a small Christmas tree for when she returned. I spent about two hours in her room, it felt comfortable to me, as if I was in her home. I just wanted to hang out there. I would like to bring some music in for her, but not sure how yet. Radio really doesn’t exist anymore and she can’t change CD’s. While I was decorating the tree, a couple of residents would come in and chat, Stella came in (my good old friend…she thinks she knows me and I play along with her, she’s a nice lady), she told me that pink isn’t her color, but she was wearing the pink pants anyway, I told her they looked nice. She hugged me and told me that she loves me (she does this to everyone.. lol), she liked the tree, I asked her if she was ready for Christmas and she shook her head and had to go on her way… I anm not sure why she’s there, probably dementia, but she’s fun.
One man was singing and walking down the hall, he stuck his head in and we small chatted for a minute.
Then an aide came in, he seems very caring and loves his job. He told me that my mother tosses and turns a lot in bed so he checks in on her often. He wasn’t there the night that this happened, but he said that you can’t just leave someone like her alone for long without checking on them. It seems to me that the staff is all questioning how this happened, probably not abuse, but maybe they didn’t check her enough. Anyway, I love the staff here and for the most part, they really are on top of everything.
Sunday, I went to wait for my mother, she was supposed to return to Cityview. Stella didn’t know who I was this time, I guess that’s why she’s there, but she was still happy to see me and still had her pink pants on. I was cooking tomato sauce on the stove, so I couldn’t wait for too long, I had to get back home to finish cooking. I’m glad I went though because the low bed that they were supposed to bring for her, was not there and I had to make sure they had it there before she came. When I left it still wasn’t there, but they were working on it.
Bob called a little later, he said he saw her and he said she was doing better than the last time he saw her. The hospice nurse called (after we finished dinner) and she needed for me to sign something, she was on her way so I had to run over and meet her there. When I got there, two aides were trying to calm her down. She was very agitated and scared. She started crying out loud. She eventually would calm down and then get up and try to get away and off of the bed.. she couldn’t relax. She knew me… sort of. Thankfully, she was in the low bed, it came just before she arrived.
The hospice nurse, came and just stayed for a little bit. They are keeping my mother on the antibiotics and Ativan (anti-anxiety) meds. Hospice thought that she should get a dose of Ativan to calm her down and help her sleep. I made sure that they would keep the door open during the night and check on her. She’s on the 15 minute check schedule now, for the normal residents it’s every 2 hrs,
After seeing her, I felt that this was the end. She was not good at all. It’s odd, her left eye is clear blue, not brown anymore. I don’t know what that means but it’s odd. Hospice was going back again the next day (Sunday) and if she’s very agitated again they will give her 24 hr bedside. So I started thinking that hospice really is a death sentence.
If she stays agitated they will give her morphine for pain and her other symptoms. Once they start with morphine, that’s pretty much it. Of course there’s always a chance she could recover, but I seriously doubt it. So now I know how I will react when she dies… I’m sad and I cry a lot. I don’t want her to go, but I think she has to. I have done all I could for her and not all of it was good. I probably left her at Trinity too long, but I’m happy that she’s in a nice and caring place now.
So Sunday morning (this morning) I went back to visit her. She was sound asleep. I sat with her for about an hour and played some Christmas music, she just slept. I went back home and then returned again in the afternoon with Tom. This time she was awake, she seemed so much better, much more responsive, she had a little sparkle in her eye and she (sort of) understood and could respond to what I said. I played some Christmas music on my iPhone and that seemed to make her a little happier. She smiled a lot and seemed content.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I was happy for today. I don’t know how long she will last, I don’t want her to suffer. I will see how it goes with her for the next few days.
Most everything I do is on hold for now, it has to be.
Thanks for reading, this is, in a way, my little way of releasing what I’m going through with her.
NOTE: I made some corrections to this blog after my 10-16-16 trip to the zoo. Baby Ajabu was out, so see my Flickr gallery for photos until I am able to write another blog https://flic.kr/s/aHskJZXgX7
Today I decided to go to the Dallas zoo to see the new elephant baby, Ajabu. Ajabu is five months old and yesterday (10-12-16) was the first day he was introduced to the public. He is a baby who was born from one of the Swaziland elephants that came to the Dallas Zoo. When the elephants came to the zoo nobody knew that Mlilo, Ajabu’s mother, was pregnant.
So, the Dallas Zoo rescued some elephants that came from Swaziland, which is in a severe drought where there was not enough food and water for the elephants. It was a very controversial move, they moved 18 elephants from Swaziland to the U.S. and they were divided up into three zoos, one in Dallas, one in Nebraska and the other was in Kansas. Animal activists were not happy about it, but I feel that if they left the elephants there, they would have died, and baby Ajabu would not have been born or would not have survived since he was premature and his living conditions over there would have kept his weight down. The zoos that they selected for these elephants are all set up to allow them to live like they would in their natural habitats. Some animal activists do not agree with that, but without this move, they just would no have survived.
Today (10-13-16) I was excited to finally be able to go see little baby Ajabu. When I got there I was a little disappointed that baby Ajabu (pronounced. a-JAH-bu) wasn’t out. They had a leak in a pipe and workers had to fix it (you can see the worker in the yard, in the photo below). The leak was in the baby-proofed yard that Ajabu goes in with his mom Mlilo and another one of the African elephants from Swaziland, I think it’s Amahle (if not Amahle, then it’s Zola). It seems that the third elephant is very gentle so they are able to keep her with them so that they have a small family herd. They are very slowly integrating all of the elephants together, but it will take time, and will be on elephant time.
(NOTE: I talked with a zookeeper yesterday and they have not yet allowed another elephant in with Mlilo and her baby Ajabu. They probably will in the future, but they’re not ready for that yet. I got the info from a volunteer when I wrote this, but I may have misunderstood it.)
Over the past 5 months they have been babyproofing one of the public yards (they have two) so that Ajabu can go out there safely and not get hurt. He was born premature and they think that he will be on the small side even when he grows up because of the conditions that his mom lived in for 2 years in Swaziland.
CORRECTION: While talking yesterday with the zookeeper, I found out that Ajabu has gained weight and he is 330 lbs. as of 10-16-16. Also, he also was not born premature, he was just underweight because of the living conditions and lack of food in Swaziland. But now he is a very healthy little elephant calf.
This is the baby proofed yard and a worker fixing the leaky pipe:
You can see how they tied up a barrier so that the baby can’t get into the water and drown because he is so small. They also covered up a lot of little holes so that he can’t get stuck in them. For now, this smaller yard will only be for Mlilo, Amahle (or Zola) and the baby.
Then I went over to the bigger yard and was talking to the zoo volunteers, and at 11am, the zookeeper came out to talk with whoever was there, they do this every day at specified times.
People were disappointed that Ajabu wasn’t out. One mom, with a baby in a stroller and a little boy, walked up and said “well this was a wasted trip”, and her little boy said, “it’s not a waste, we will have fun anyway”. The mom responded back with “Yes, I made a bad choice of words”. Another small family had the same exact reaction with different words. I understand the parents, but how great is it that the kids knew enough to make the best of it!
I was a bit disappointed too, but it was still such a great day and I’m so happy that I went. I probably found out more about the Dallas Zoo elephants than I would have if he was there, and it’s more important for the baby to be safe and happy than to be out pleasing the public.
So in the bigger yard, there was Jenny, she’s the matriarch and the biggest elephant. She’s one of the 4 Golden Girls that have been there before the Swaziland elephants came.
This is Jenny
Then there was Gypsy. Gypsy has no tail, so she is easy to identify.
And then there’s is Nolwazi, one of the Swaziland elephants. I’m not sure why, but Nolwazi has a lot of big back lumps on her.
CORRECTION: I showed this photo to the zookeeper yesterday (10-16) and she said that there are only 2 lumps on Nolwazi’s back, which is normal for all African elephants. The other 3 that seem to appear in this photo are her ears and a lump of mud.
Gypsy weighs 8000 pounds and is 37 years old. Jenny is 9 and a hefty 10,000 pounds. Nolwazi is 10-15 years old, I’m not sure of her weight, but she is gaining weight now that she’s here and has food.
The Swaziland elephants were not part of the same herd, so they did not know each other, although, they suspect that Amahli may possibly be Mlilo’s mother (I think, or is it Zola and Amahli? I’ll find out more in my upcoming trips).
CORRECTION: Nolwazi is Amahli’s mother
When they came over to the U.S. they were all isolated in their own yards to get used to their new home. They didn’t want to put them together because they did not know how they would be with each other. They would let them get used to each other through barriers and very slowly integrate the Swaziland elephants and the golden girls together. Mlilo stayed on her own longer than the rest so that she could take care of her baby.
The Swaziland elephants seem to have some trauma for having to have lived with foraging for food. They tend to take food and hide it, with Zola (I think it was Zola) being the worst with that. She would take it and hide it and if one of the other elephants went near it, she would be somewhat aggressive towards them, not in a hurting way, but she was protective of her food. It will take them some time to realize that they are safe now and they have food. They don’t have to hide it anymore.
They have one bull from Swaziland, his name is Tendaji. I’m not sure if they have introduced him to the golden girls or the Swaziland elephants yet.
When the elephants came, the zoo suspected that Mlilo was pregnant, but all of their tests turned out negative, and then on May 14, the little baby arrived. He was underweight at only 175 Lbs… the normal weight is between 225 and 300 for babies (or around there).
So overall, even though I didn’t get to see little Ajabu, it was really such a great and informative visit and I’m happy that I went. I will now have to divide my zoo trips between the Fort Worth Zoo and the Dallas Zoo.
I am including a few more photos of my morning at the Dallas Zoo. I don’t know the names of most of the different animals there the way I do at the Fort Worth Zoo, but in time, I will.
Soon I will be able to post some photos of baby Ajabu with his mom. I hope you enjoy looking at the photos of the animals. All of what I wrote here, is from what I remember and wrote down from my conversations with the zoo volunteers and the zookeeper.
Thanks for reading my blog… until the next time
So my hands have recovered from removing the thousands of staples from my Queen Anne wing chair and now it’s time to start laying out the pieces.
To prepare for this, I bought two books, both excellent books about upholstering furniture, what one is missing, the other one has. Professional Upholstering by Frank T, Destro, Jr. and Spruce: A Step by Step Guide To Upholstery and Design by Amanda Brown, and there are also many YouTube videos to help along the way. But… for now I’m stuck on this pattern! It’s the elephants in the photo below.
Looking at it and laying it out, I think I may be in over my head. It’s not so much the pieces and putting it together, it’s the pattern and making sure that the repeat of the elephants and medallions are exactly where I want them and that they match up on every piece. This fabric is so me… The minute I saw it, I knew it would be so perfect for my special chair, even the colors work in the room.
So today, I unrolled the fabric on my dining room table and brought in the pieces I removed from the chair.
Yes it’s a mess.
And of course I can’t do this without my little Pippa by my side (laying on the dining room floor by my table).
She just hangs out and rests while I work, sometimes she likes to be picked up and carried around the house, but for now, she’s just resting. She sometimes moves around, but always near by.
I went through everything and organized the pieces and had to make more notes on many of the pieces. I have to find the center and on the main back chair piece, that was pretty easy. But the wings and arms, how do I find the center of that when it’s an irregular shape? Those, the chair cushion, the front and all of the rest of the pieces all have to line up to however I set it for the chair back. The chair back will be the main focus and I have to work off of that.
The Wings… it’s so hard to tell where the pattern should line up. I also noticed that I didn’t take the full wing apart, there is a seam where the arm meets the wing… but in a way it’s good that I didn’t take it apart yet, because now I see that I needed to add more notes and marks. The dark blue denim is how the fabric was extended to save money on the good fabric, I guess. I’m not sure if I’ll do it that way or if I should just make it all the good fabric. I’ll have to read up on it in the books. I think it would be easier to not have to piece together filler pieces even though it uses more fabric.
I did take a picture of the fabric folded on the chair… maybe that will help on how to layout the wings. The front of the wings have to match up to the back of the wings around the curve. I think I’ll lay it all out and pin it before I do any cutting at all, and even then, I wonder if I’ll get it right?
So as of right now, I’m in stall-mode… I need to look at this, think about it, look at it.. think… that’s pretty much how I do my costumes too. I’ll put the fabric on the dress form (I don’t use patterns, I do draping instead)… look at it, walk away, think… come back every so often and change something and eventually it gets done.
This chair wouldn’t be nearly as complicated with a solid fabric, a stripe or a small pattern… but no, I had to fall in love with this fabric.
So now… out to the pool with my books and I’ll see if they will give me any good tips on pattern matching. (I haven’t even thought yet about ordering the cotton batting and other put-together materials that I need… I’m just stuck in pattern-matching-mode)
Hopefully my next update on this will be more positive and I will have actually gotten something done.
Thanks for reading.
UPDATE: So far I’ve only read through one book on fabric layout and pattern matching… (“Professional Upholstering”) th4 information there is so clear and will help dramatically. I didn’t mark centers and lines on the fabric as I took it off the chair, but I will have to spend some time doing that before laying it out in the actual fabric. Between this book and the other (which I haven’t looked at yet) I should be ok with this. It will be time consuming, but I already knew that when I started it.
So today I finally finished removing all of the staples, fabric, kapok and foam from the Queen Anne Chair. I still have to take the chair cushion apart, but no more screwdrivers, tack pullers, needle-nose pliers or upholstery staple removers… just a seam ripper and it can be done inside, instead of out in the hot garage with the fan going. And I’m also happy that I will be able to put my car back in the garage instead of outside in the driveway.
This has been quite a project so far, so much more difficult than I imagined to remove what was probably thousands of staples holding the fabric and everything else together.
Before I started, I labeled every piece with a Sharpie and also wrote notes on the pieces and on paper along with photographing it with my iPhone for pretty much every step of the way.
Now I have the chair frame and a pile of pieces that I will use as a pattern for the new fabric. Thankfully, the springs on the chair are in very good condition, I am able to use the fiberglass backing that was originally on the chair, so I will not have to do any webbing. The covering over the springs (which is known as the deck) is also in good condition, so that will not have to be replaced.
The process of removing staples was a learning experience, five days of using a screwdriver and needle-nose pliers to remove staples, until I slipped and put a deep gash into my finger with a screwdriver. Thankfully, I had a tetanus shot about 8 years ago, so I was good there, I probably should have gotten stitches, but it was a Friday night and I had some butterfly closure bandaids and decided to use that. It was hard at first because the bleeding wouldn’t stop, it’s in the top part of my middle finger on the left hand and fingers do tend to bleed a lot, but it seems to be healing well now.
That little incident made me sign onto Amazon.com and with my Amazon Prime membership, I was able to order a tack puller and an uphostery staple remover to be delivered the next day on Saturday.
I took most of Saturday off (day 5 of the upholstery project) but I did try the new tools when they arrived around 1pm. They were amazing and I really wish I used them from the beginning. They are safer and pull the staples out so much easier, so my advice is to use the right tools for anyone who decides to do something like this.
On Sunday I decided that I was going to finish removing staples, padding and fabric. It took a lot of work, the dogs pretty much stayed by my side for moral support and Tom (my husband) came in to help a bit every so often. About 4pm the chair was now done, except for taking the chair cushion apart. That still needs to be done, but that will be nothing compared to everything else.
During the process I was not able to save the kapok filling in full pieces, so I will have to buy that, the same with the foam. I guess it will be good to have all clean and fresh materials anyway.
I was kind of surprised at the mess of fabric and the way it was put together. I don’t know if all upholstery is put together that way, but it was kind of hard to make sense of it. It all also had to be done in the order of how it was probably put together, which sometimes was hard to figure out.
Now I have the job of researching how to upholster a Queen Anne Wing Back Chair, there is a lot written up about it and a lot of videos on youtube. I have to order some supplies (tack strips, foam, kapoc, staples and a good stapler). This week I will be reading up on how to do this and watching a lot of videos before I actually start cutting my fabric pieces. I have upholstered chair cushions, and done a lot of window treatments (swags, jabots, lined and pleated drapes) but they are nowhere near the scope of this project.
Oh before I go, this is my new fabric. I have been thinking for years about what fabric I would use for this, and a few times I almost got rid of the chair. But when I was in Dallas buying some fabric for dance costumes, I decided to go into the Dallas Home Fabric store on Perth St. (off of Harry Hines), and the minute I saw this fabric I knew it was it. I am a big supporter of elephants, I also recently redecorated my living room and this fabric was the perfect colors and design for me for a very special chair.
Thanks for reading and until the next time…. Laura
First of all, I noticed that I haven’t written anything for many many months! I have thought about it, but just haven’t had the chance to sit down and write.
As usual for this time of year, I am immersed in flamenco. I can’t say that I’m a flamenco dancer, I’m more of a stage flamenco performer. If someone asked me about any of the different flamenco palos, I would not be able to answer. I am familiar with them, but other than knowing some of their counts, I could never identify them. So I can’t say that I’m a real flamenco dancer, I just do flamenco choreography.
Right now we are getting ready for our Spring performance and our rehearsal schedule is at it’s max. The first performance is April 30, at Mayfest in Fort Worth. Our main performance will be on May 14 at the Scott Theater in Fort Worth. I am also doing an Argentine tango performance group and learning 3 and possibly 4 routines for that. I have had to put one of the tango routines, sort of on the back burner until flamenco is finished. I am trying to keep up with it (it’s a ladies tango routine), but right now flamenco has to take priority. I am hoping that I will be able to catch up with that once flamenco is finished. I am keeping up with the tango partnering routines. IN addition to the rehearsals and practice schedule, I am also working on costumes for flamenco and working on the remixing music (which seems to change every week, but I think it’s finalized now). I am also making the costumes for one of our tango routines. So my schedule has been hectic, to say the least. I’ve put most of my photography on hold for now. I am reconsidering what I’m doing with my photography, but that’s another blog for another time.
I have been very stressed about the flamenco choreography and getting it all done and right because I’ve been working on costumes and not spending as much time as I should be with practicing. This morning I went over the music for the other flamenco class with my instructor, she needed it slowed down in parts. She also needed her skirt to be repaired, The waist was too high on her, so the zipper needed to be removed and I needed to shorten the waist by about 4″. We went over some video so she could give me some corrections (the performance is in 2 days). My instructor left around 1and I needed to get away from everything, so last minute, I thought about taking a trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. The zoo is my stress free happy place, I go there and the minute I get through the gates, a calmness comes over me.
I headed over to the gorillas to see the new baby Gus, well, he’s almost 5 months old, but still a new baby. He and his parents weren’t out, so I thought that I’d go visit my elephants and then go back to see Gus and his family.
When I got to the elephants, Belle was in the back of the pool playing with water with her trunk and Rasha was in the front of the pool.. Bowie was somewhere in the back, I didn’t see him right away, he was in back. When he came out he was all muddy, so I’m assuming that he was swimming earlier and got wet. I have to say that it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve been able to visit them and they have grown dramatically! They are both very filled out now, Belle is still larger than Bowie, but from what I understand he will grow larger than her. Bowie’s little tusks are growing and he still has that cute little devilish look that he’s always had. Bowie started walking towards me and stayed with me for at least 20 minutes. Belle came over by him and so did Bluebonnet. I made a fun little video about my visit with them.
As usual, I spent at least an hour with the elephants, but I needed to get over to the gorillas to see baby Gus, but when I got there, he and his family were still not out.
I started talking to one of the zoo interpreters (Claire) that was standing there to answer questions, she said that they weren’t out all day today, there were only two gorillas outside while I was there. She pointed them out and identified them to me. Winifred was the one against the wall.She told me that Winifred (see some stats below of her, she was born in the Cincinnati Zoo, was the daughter of two other gorillas that are inside, Ramses and Amani). There are two sections for the gorillas and they are separated, Claire told me why, but I can’t remember the details, so I won’t put any suppositions in here. There’s Elmo’s troop (more about them below) and they are both inside and outside, but their inside part is behind the glass. The other two gorillas, Ramses and Amani, are inside in a man made mountain area under a large skylight roof.
The interpreter started telling me about Winifred and her parents. Winifred (aka Fred) is part of Elmo’s troop. The troop consists of Elmo and the females to simulate what it is like in the wild. There are about 4 or 5 females in Elmo’s troop and that is how they live in the wild, one male and a bunch of females that he will normally mate with. The only two that were outside yesterday when I was there were Jackie (female) and Winifred. Winifred (Fred) came from Cincinnati and she was born of Ramses and Amani. It seems that Amani didn’t know how to take care of a baby and she rejected her, so Fred was raised by humans. Even though Fred and her parents are all in the Fort Worth Zoo, she has no recollection or connection with her birth mother, so they didn’t put her with her parents when she came here, it was just a coincidence that she ended up in the same zoo. Her family (troop) is Elmo and his girls now and they are all a strong and close group.
The zoo controls pregnancies, I guess that’s something that’s understood, but I don’t think I ever really thought of it. The females are all on birth control (the same medications that people use) and they like it crushed up in their juice. The zoo didn’t want to mate Elmo with Jackie or Fred because they didn’t know their full genetic lineage. They brought Gracie here from the Oklahoma City Zoo for breeding with Elmo. They knew her genetics and that she would be a good match with Elmo for the species. It seems that Elmo was very shy and didn’t know how to approach Gracie, so Gracie took the initiative and eventually she became pregnant and birthed little baby Gus.
Elmo is a very attentive dad. The first time I was there, Gus (who had no name at the time, the Fort Worth Zoo held a contest to select his name) was only about a month old. Gracie just held him, fed him, she would lay down next to him and stroke his little head, it was all very tender and touching. Elmo would sit watch and when Gracie and Gus went into the caves, he would go in with them, and then come back out and keep watch. These photos are from March 4 of Gracie, Gus and Elmo.
It was all very interesting talking to Claire, she told me that they will be feeding Gus, Elmo and Gracie at 4:15 (it was about 4pm). After I was finished talking with Claire, I went inside and saw Ramses and Amani. I don’t have any photos of Amani (I’ll get them next time) but I do have some of Ramses.
I went inside to look for where Gus was going to be for their feeding, I saw Ramses and Amani in the middle, then decided to look down by glassed in area to see if Gus and his family would be there… Just when I got there, Gracie, Gus and Elmo all came out together… The minute they came out, one of the zookeepers came up behind me and told me that she saw me with the nice camera and let them out early for their feeding for me. That was so nice of her! They were behind glass and it was nice to watch how they interacted with each other close up.
That was my day at the zoo. It was a perfect escape from the stress of the past few weeks.
I hope you enjoy the photos and some of the information about the animals at the zoo. I am looking forward to watching little baby Gus grow up, the way I have watched Belle and Bowie.
Thank you for stopping by and reading this!
Info from Zoochat.com
Date of birth: Oct 17, 1990
Place of birth: Cincinnati
Location: Fort Worth Zoo
Parents: Ramses I and Amani
Siblings: Bawang, Muke, Ndume ½, M’Linzi, Unnamed ½, Rapunzel, Rumple’Skin ½, Rwanda ½, Penelope II½, Kubatiza, bo ½, Babuka
SIRE: Ramses I #0430 (1971- ), born at the Cincinnati Zoo, currently resides at the Fort Worth Zoo
DAM: Amani #0472 (1973- ), born at the Cincinnati Zoo, currently resides at the Fort Worth Zoo.
REARED BY: Hand
My mother has dementia. She was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, oh, maybe about 15 or 20 years ago.
My mother and I have always had a very rocky relationship. I was the only girl, the oldest of 4. The boys meant everything to her and I was, I guess, Daddy’s little girl. He was a terrible husband but a good father.
I moved to Texas with my husband and two dogs in September of 2008. Our daughter, Rachel, was already here because she went to school at TCU in Fort Worth. We were looking for a place to move to that was warmer and less expensive than New Jersey. The property taxes in NJ were outrageous and we were just tired of the winters. We thought of Arizona and maybe Austin, TX, but ass it turned out, we moved to Fort Worth, where Rachel spent her college years. The winters are not quite as warm as I expected, but still much better than the long, cold and snowy winters of NJ.
We left behind my father, who lived in Pennsylvania. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I have ever done. He wasn’t well and my last vision of him was him crying at his front porch as we drove away. We had plans to visit him for Easter in 2009. He was excited because we would be together for Easter dinner as we almost always were, with my brothers and their families. (My mother and father divorced when I was about 21, she remarried a man only 10 years older than me. That’s another story, maybe for another time, maybe not, but they are still together and as of this moment, they are both in nursing home faciliies, here in Fort Worth).
So I went to NJ to visit my family on April 9, 2009. My dad was in the hospital, I spoke with him when I arrived in Newark Airport, and I was going to stop and visit my aunt on Friday, then Saturday to my Dad’s and then Easter dinner on Sunday. I visited with some friends Thursday night when I arrived. My dad sounded fine on the phone, complaining about being in the hospital, but he didn’t sound any different from any other time he was there. He was wearing down though, he’s been in and out of the hospital for years, he was on dialysis, had infections and multiple other health problems. My brother, Jackie had to drive him around because he couldn’t drive anymore with his health problems. I knew he was very sick, and not only sick, but tired of being sick.
So Friday morning, I was at breakfast with my friend, Ginnie, and Jackie (my brother) called and said that Daddy has taken a turn for the worst. They didn’t think he would make it. He had a Living Will and I was the Power of Attorney to make decisions. I have been through this many times with him and always decided to keep him alive, but this time was different. He wasn’t responding at all and I knew he was tired of being sick and in pain. I talked with the doctor and Jackie on a conference call and we decided to keep him off of life support. I went straight up to the hospital in Pennsylvania (about a 2 hr. ride from where I was in New Jersey) and saw my dad. He could barely breathe or move. I think knew I was there but he was just laying there in pain and the look in his face was kind of a look of fear. I knew he wanted it to be over with. My brothers were all there and the doctor said that he should be moved to hospice.
On Saturday he was moved into a beautiful peaceful room in the hospice facility. He was in pain and they were giving him pain medications. He couldn’t talk, he was trying, he was scared. Jackie and I had to go back to the house, which was about an hour north of the facility to get the living will and power of attorney paperwork. On the way back, we got a call that my father passed away. I never really got to see him again since my move to Texas. He did have us all together again for Easter, but not how it was planned.
So… sorry for the distraction, I’m not sure how I got there, but this is about my mother, not my father. We were somehow very close but always at odds with each other. My mother grew up in an abusive home, so maybe she really just didn’t know how to be a good mother. I sometimes wonder how different things would have been if she had a normal childhood.
When we moved to Texas, my mother still lived in NJ, just a few blocks away from my brother, Jamie, the oldest of her sons. Jamie, to her, was like a young Walt (my dad). She adored Jamie. Glenn and Jackie lived in Pennsylvania, in the Poconos, about a 2 hour ride from the Emerson/Westwood area.
My mother and Bob lived in an apartment in Washington Twp., a basement apartment. She drove everywhere and was still somewhat capable and independent but she was getting more and more forgetful. The details are escaping me now, but my brothers all decided to move her down here in Fort Worth. From what I remember, her landlord wanted the apartment for family members and they had to move .. or maybe my brothers just wanted her to move. So I had to find a place for them here in Texas, a senior apartment complex for people over age 55 and they provided transportation to Wal-Mart every week. They no longer had a car, Jamie gave her car to his stepdaughter just before they moved.
So in May of 2010, my brothers moved her here and now she was mine to take care of. The move to her was traumatic. She didn’t want to move, she loved NJ and she loved the idea of being close to my brothers even though she hardly saw them. Now she was in a place that she didn’t want to be. Her dementia seemed to get a bit worse. She lost the bridge for her teeth, somewhere during the move. So when she moved here, I took her to a dentist and her teeth were so bad that she needed teeth pulled and dentures, which really did not help her mood or situation, but it had to be done. It seems that the reason her bridge fell out was because there was nothing left for it to hold on to. This whole thing was also traumatic to her. She fought with me and Bob for months because she hated it here so much. She was threatening suicide, so I mentioned it to the doctor and they put her on anti-depressants. I always took them to the doctor’s, they couldn’t drive and they also needed someone to help communicate with the doctor because neither one of them could think clearly enough. The anti-depressants helped and they were happy enough in their little apartment.
I was their transportation for the most part but they did live a somewhat independent life in their apartment complex. They had friends, and they went food shopping on their own on the bus provided by their complex with their friends that lived there. They had a nice balcony in their apartment and loved sitting out there for cocktails.
So then in August of 2011, our daughter was getting married. There was so much to do, as there always is with weddings, and the Monday before her wedding, I got a call from Bob that he’s in bed and can’t move. (A little background on Bob, I’m not sure what year, but in his early 50’s he had a stroke. He lost use of his right side, he can walk with a cane, but his right arm is atrophied and he has little use of his right leg, other than to sort of balance for walking. Something also happened to his brain and he could not longer think or speak clearly). So I told him to call 911 and I would be there as soon as I could. The medics came and brought him to the hospital. He ended up in the hospital for about a month. My mother couldn’t function, she was depressed about Bob not being around. She stayed with us during the week of the wedding, but then she wanted to go home. I couldn’t allow her to go there alone, so I tried to hire an aide to be there for her when she woke up and when she went to bed and to make sure that she took here medications. I would go over during the days to help her and bring here to my house so she wasn’t alone all day, but she slept in her apartment.
The aide was very expensive and we wouldn’t keep it up. My mother would sleep in her apartment with the door wide open hoping that Bob would come home. I would get over there first thing in the morning to help her. After awhile I realized that she could no longer live alone. I talked with the doctor about this and Bob needed to be in a nursing facility also, he could no longer take care of himself and my mother surely couldn’t take care of him. Her was in a rehab facility which could have taken both of them, but I wanted to find someplace nicer, something a little more homey for them. Neither one of them could care for themselves anymore. The doctor made some recommendations, they had to go on Medicaid because they didn’t have a lot of money, but I did find a nice enough place, the Cityview Care Center in Fort Worth. I set everything up and told her that she would be moving back with Bob but into a new apartment. She was excited… it was something new, and she would be back with Bob.
She was excited, kind of like a little kid moving onto something new. Their room was big and had a full bathroom. She liked it in the beginning, but then she started to want to go back to her apartment. They were at Cityview for about 3 years. They liked the people, it was not a lockdown facility so they were able to come and go as they pleased around the building, as long as someone knew where they were.. Around September 2014, the administrators at Cityview were starting to feel uncomfortable with my mother going outside. She liked to go out, she has always liked being outside, but there was a new administration in the building and they were very uncomfortable with her going outside. I had many talks with them over the next two months and told them that a move would set her back dramatically. I thought my talk worked and they were going to try to work with me on it, but then the day before Halloween, 2014, I received a phone call from the social worker that they wanted my mother out because she was a flight risk and they found her outside in the parking lot. I went to the facility and spoke with the social worker, trying to see if there was some way to keep them there but there wasn’t. She set up a meeting with the admissions director at a brand new place (just recently built), called Mira Vista Court for 9am the following morning. Doris took me on a tour of the facility. Supposedly Mira Vista was a secured unit, not lockdown. it was explained to me that secured was not as secure as lockdown, but the entry and exit doors were all locked so she could not get out. The building was very nice and I liked the people. They had a nice courtyard with a gazebo and pretty landscaping in the center of the building where my mother could go outside and not be an escape risk. It was very well-known that she would try to go out, sometimes the reason was that she wanted to go back to New Jersey to live.
I approved the new facility, and as it turned out, Cityview wanted them out and in the new facility that day. I really had no say in the matter, so I had to move both of them into the new place that afternoon, they were there and moved in by 1:30pm. I had to lie to my mother again, to tell her that she was moving into a nice new apartment. She was excited until she got there and realized that she wasn’t going back home. At this point, she didn’t even know where home was anymore. Bob knew what was going on and he was sad to leave Cityview too, but he understood and he wanted to move with her.
I bought some nice new bedding for them and a stuffed animal for my mom and some crayons, paper and coloring book. Over the next few weeks my mother was miserable. She hated it here, she wanted to go home, but again, she really didn’t even know where home was anymore, she just knew that she wanted to go back there. She slowly became acclimated to her new place and would ride around there in her wheelchair the same way she did at Cityview.
My husband, Tom and I would bring them over to out house every week for dinner, or sometimes go out to dinner. My mother was getting worse though, she no longer knew if I was her daughter, her mother, her sister, or someone who owned the building she was in. She did know though, that I was somehow connected to her. She sometimes forgot my name, but if I asked her my name, she would sometimes sing the song, Laura (my father named me after the theme song,for the old movie, Laura. The story was that one night they went to see Mel Torme in Fort Lee, NJ and he sang the song Laura for them at my father’s request before I was born.)
She would go in and out of moods and sometimes hate the people at Mira Vista and think that they were all against her, but for the most part she was always pleasant to them. I never had bad reports on her though, she was always well liked there, her complaints were really only to me and Bob.
I guess it was around a month or more ago, the social worker at Mira Vista emailed me and told me that my mother was becoming a problem. She was trying to get out and would not be easily redirected. They would help me find a place… I didn’t understand any of this because I have gotten only good reports from everyone there. I talked with one of the weekend nurses and told her what was going on and she had no idea that they were trying to get my mother out. She said that they even had a meeting two days before about residents that were a problem and my mother’s name never came up. She said that my mother was very easily redirected.
I was communicating with the social worker for days now, and I tried to explain that another move would set her back. The social worker went on to say that she needs to be in a lockdown facility because of her trying to escape. She really is not trying to escape, she does go to the door but she’s never created a problem that anyone has ever told me. I do know that she gave Bob a hard time, and sometimes she even forgot who he was, but like me, she knew he was connected to her. Bob did get the brunt of most of her moods, but she was pleasant to everyone else.
The social worker at Mira Vista explained that Mira Vista is not a secured unit and they can’t take the chance of her getting out. I told them that I was told on admittance between both Cityview and Mira Vista that this place was secured, I was fully aware from them that it was not a lockdown unit. They accepted my mother, fully knowing that she liked to go out of the doors, but again, here in Mira Vista, the doors are locked and only opened with a code, going both inside and outside.
I contacted their Medicaid attorney to see what I could do, and I found out that they cannot move her out of a facility without official notification (which I did not get) and then after the notification letter, there is a 30 day time period for her to move out…. UNLESS… there is problem and then they can move her immediately.
Well, I was beside myself for the few weeks that this was going on, I cried and cried, I just could not move her again. It’s cruel and so wrong to do to a human being, let alone my mother! Even though she was not a good mother to me, I could not do the same to her. I was depressed and really had no idea what to do or who to turn to. Finally when I called the lawyer they did help me to start looking around at places. This way when it happened, I would be prepared and they would be someplace that I selected, not just thrown into another facility because they just couldn’t handle her. It was explained to me that lockdown is a term that’s never used anymore, they call it secured. I was a mess over all of this, I don’t ever want my life in someone else’s hands! I had no choice in the decisions I was making, but I just thought it was so unfair and how could I do this to my mother!
On June 18, I started looking at places, the attorney’s Medicaid specialist gave me a list of places to visit where both my mother and Bob could go together. But with it being lockdown, Bob would probably not be in the same room, but the same facility.
I set up appointments in 4 facilities June 18th. I went to the first one in Keller (too far for me, but if it was nice, I would send them there), and while I was there I received a call from the nurse at Mira Vista that my mother was hitting Bob with rocks from the courtyard, and then when a nurse tried to intervene, my mother threw a glass at her. Well, this was the exception that would allow them to move my mother out immediately. I didn’t know what to do, I talked to Bob and he confirmed that this was true. Mira Vista told me that they had a place they could send her to tomorrow, June 19th. I just about lost it on the phone, how can I do this? I told them that I was looking at places and how can I tell her that she has to be out tomorrow! I just couldn’t do this to her again. I talked to Bob again, he wanted to stay, he didn’t want to move. Mira Vista was ok with that, so now it was just a place for my mother. Now, how could I tell her that she was moving without Bob? This was all just a nightmare to me! My insides were a mess from all of this, my life just was not my own anymore. I hated having to do what I had to do to my mother, no matter how she was to me as a mother. She was like a child now…. she doesn’t remember anything, she feels at one with the clouds and trees, she doesn’t remember family members, she only remembers my brothers if I say their names, sometimes she doesn’t know if she has any children. She gets confused, she doesn’t know how to use a fork or knife or sometimes even how to eat food. She wears about maybe 6 or more shirts and sweaters, a few pairs of pants, shoes not he wrong feet… she just doesn’t know. She goes to bed in those clothes, she doesn’t understand why she has to wear pajamas to sleep. She has become a bit of a kleptomaniac, she takes anything she sees, whether it’s her s or not, whether she needs it or not, or even if she doesn’t know what it is, and she keeps them. She would lift medical reports from the nurses and keep them, but Bob would take them and return them. She takes dishes and flatware and puts them on the seat of her wheelchair and sits on them, not knowing that she’s sitting on them. She doesn’t know where she is or why she’s there, but she does know that she doesn’t want to be there, she wants to go home.
So back to June 18th, while I was talking with the nurse at Mira Vista, I took the address of the place that they recommended. First I visited the rest on my list. One of them was like a visit to Gravestone in the 1950’s… there was no way I could send her there. It was very old, cold looking and just people wandering all over the place. The administration seemed very nice, but I just could not put her there. I finally went to the last one, which was the one that Mira Vista recommended. When I got there and told the receptionist that I had an appointment, I just broke down crying. They didn’t know what to do with me, but they were all very nice. I managed it compose myself and toured the building. It looked like a hospital, but they all did. There was nothing homey about any of them and I had to make a choice, they were moving my mother out the next day. So I decided on this one, The Courtyards of Fort Worth. I really like the people here.
So I told Mira Vista what I selected and the next morning I had to visit my mom and tell her she was moving. I had to tell her more lies… I told her she was moving and she was very excited. I also told her that Bob could not move with her because he had medical treatments he had to get done… another lie, but how else could I tell her that he wasn’t going? I spent the morning with her, wheeling her around in her wheelchair, we sang “The People In The Bus Go Up and Down” because she was going to be leaving in a van for her new home. We had fun being silly, we don’t have normal conversations anymore, we just do silly talk. There was a pile of big boxes from a delivery in the hall, she asked me to stop by them so she should take them and put them in her lap. I asked her why, and she said they were for me. I told her that I don’t need them, and we just moved on. Mira Vista was sending her in their van with an aide which made it so much easier on me. I wasn’t there when she left and I didn’t go visit her until Monday. I wanted her to get a little bit used to the new place.
Bob stayed at Mira Vista and they promised that they wouldn’t put someone in his room for about a week or so so he could get used to his new life. Now I have two places to take care of instead of them being together, I need to divide myself and my time between them.
When I visited my mother the first day, she was clean and she was only wearing one set of clothes. I brought her some new clothes, some new shoes, some colorful things to hang on her wall and some other things that she needed. She wanted to know how she got there and why can’t she go back home. She wanted to know where she was. I left there so torn up inside, how could I have done this to her? I had no choice. She wanted to come with me and stay with me, but she can’t. It wouldn’t be safe for her in my house, and I would also be afraid of her opening the doors and letting the dogs out in the front and then I’d never see them again, I was afraid that she would go out back and fall in the pool… or when I’m not home, she would just wander off. Staying with me was not an option, but it was something that was making me feel horrible about.
She has been there now for about a month. She’s not happy, she wants to leave but she can’t. She goes in and out of being like a child and being angry. It’s kind of funny, because when she’s angry, she knows my name, when she’s childlike, she just knows that I’m connected to her. She’s not settling in, as time goes on, she seems to want to get out even more. I would like to take her out for an outing, but I’m also afraid that I won’t be able to get her back in. When I visit we sit outside and the conversation consists of, “how can I get out of here?”. That’s pretty much it. I don’t know what will happen. Bob is in Mira Vista and he misses her but he also knows how she is. I took him once to visit her and she was in heaven, but then after he left, she got angry and wanted to get out even more.
I used to go every single day to see her, but I just can’t keep up that pace anymore, so I’m slowly making less visits. She doesn’t really understand time anymore anyway.
I’m not sure if she has Alzheimer’s or if it’s just dementia, but it really doesn’t matter. She’s not herself anymore. She’s not happy and that makes me very sad. I’ll just keep going and I’m going to wean myself down to once or twice a week. I have to take care of both her and Bob, so I have two facilities to visit and Bob likes to go out every so often. Bob’s right side is paralyzed from a stroke, so he’s not very mobile, but he can get around (although last night he fell and we spent 4 hours int he emergency room, he has a sprained shoulder and pinkie finger, and he had to get 12 stitches in his hand). I just want to get away but I can’t.
Anyway, thanks for any of you who may read this… this is what my life has been for the past couple of months and what it will be in the coming months. Dementia is a horrible disease and any of you that have witnessed it can probably relate to some of this.
Yesterday, July 7, was Belle’s birthday. Belle is the first baby elephant born in 2013 at the Fort Worth Zoo, the other one is Bowie. I just got back from a short vacation in San Francisco on Monday night, so I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to find the time to visit with Belle. Last year, the zoo made hers and Bowie’s birthday very special for them, it was a big celebration, but for some reason, I didn’t see anything anywhere about them celebrating Belle’s or Bowie’s birthdays this year.
At about 2:30 pm, I decided to take a ride over to the zoo, it’s only about 15 minutes from my house, to see Belle and the others. When I got there, I noticed that the adult females (Rasha, Angel and Bluebonnet) and the two little ones (Belle and Bowie) were in the big yard. That’s not unusual, but what was unusual was that the gate to the small yard was closed. It’s normally only closed if Colonel or Casey are out in the big yard to keep them away from the babies, but it’s never closed (not when I have been there, anyway) when the girls and babies are in the yard.
I have been there to visit the elephants so often that I am sure they recognize me. It may sound crazy, but it’s ok, I still think they notice me.
The 3 adults were standing by the closed gate and the two little ones were playing along the back fence, not too far from the adults, they never wander away from them.
So Bluebonnet saw me, she looked at me and then did a trunk wave! She and Rasha do that to me a lot!
Then I noticed that the zookeepers were all standing by the fence where the visitors normally stand and they were recording something in the small yard with their phones. The elephants started walking into the small yard, (someone must have opened the gate) and they were all surprised with a bamboo party for Belle! They were having so much fun, breaking bamboo, chewing it and playing with it and the zookeepers seemed to be having just as much fun, watching them with the bamboo.
I was talking with one of the zookeepers and he said that the zoo decided not to celebrate individual birthdays this year because so many of the animals had babies (3 giraffes, 3 baby lion cubs, a bonobo, last year a waterbuck and a jaguar, two years ago a baby one horned rhino… and I’m sure I’m missing a few), but the elephant zookeepers couldn’t just let Belle’s birthday go without a celebration. So they closeed the gate and put bamboo all over the ground and put some for fun in the round balls with holes and when they were finsihed “decorating” they opened the gate so they could all celebrate. My timing for going was perfect and I was so happy that I snuck a couple of hours out of my day to visit.
Here’s a very short video
As always, thank you for reading this!