Archive for the ‘Charlestown’ Category

Because I know that family and some friends are wondering how Ernie is doing now that I’m 3000 miles away from him, I’m blogging about Ernie.

Here’s Ernie with our friends Yemi and  Ara, the week before I left him there.

Yemi is in graduate school. Ara is a nurse with a bachelor’s degree and the intention of pursuing post-grad degrees.

To recap, Ernie started talking to me about me leaving Charlestown a year or so before the thought was thinkable to me. We had moved to Charlestown so that each of us would be cared for as needed until we died, without having to depend upon our children. Ernie began talking about me leaving Charlestown well before he moved to assisted living in RGT. He saw how sick I was, living there. He worried that I would relapse into ME/CFS. But then the talk was about me leaving when he died.

In 2010 he was thought to be dying. When he didn’t die, we realized that we might be in for a long, slow decline, that he could last a long time. Then in January 2011, he had to be moved to RGT; and I got sicker.

When son Geoff challenged me to think about leaving Charlestown, I told Ernie that I might not last as long at Charlestown as he might. He said I should go. He didn’t want me being sick. That was before I had any intention of acting upon the idea.

You all know what happened next–an excruciating separation with the consequences completely unknowable. It was indescribably difficult, and still is, sometimes. Mostly, however, I am happily settling in to a radically different life, despite occasional bouts of anxiety. My physical symptoms have significantly abated. I’m feeling much less sick. In fact, most of the time, I feel great.

Now, what about Ernie? Every day we talk by phone. We are having as much conversation daily as we had when I was going to be with him in RGT every afternoon–at about the same time (for him). Every evening I send him an e-mail message that is delivered to him the next day. Since his stamina for conversation is limited, he prefers to read; and this way I can tell him more about my life. Every week I send him a letter with lots of pictures, so he can see where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and what my place looks like as I get organized. I print and mail him my blog posts, so he reads what I write for you, just as he did when he could use his computer.

He assures me that he is okay and that he is very happy, knowing that I am doing well.

There have been events along the way. He has figured out how to deal with situations I would have taken care of had I been there. He arranged to have his laundry done. He found an aide who would trim his hair and beard. When his walker tray got separated from the walker, he got it fixed. He has bought toiletries at the RGT “store”, which is set up in the Activities Room on Tuesdays. When he reported to me that his  hip had begun causing him to limp, I told him to talk to the nurse, which he  did. When he was taken by wheelchair to the Medical Center and became sick and faint sitting in the chair, he told the receptionist who found a place for him to lie down. When his aide took his only blanket to be laundered, I told him to ask for another blanket. Instead, he decided to sleep in his thermal underwear and socks the one night he was without the blanket.

These are all things I would have attended to had I been there, and there have been other such incidents. I have asked him if he wanted me to act. In each case, Ernie has talked with me about it and dealt with it. He is doing more for himself than I was allowing him to do.

The staff have been wonderful. Because they know both of us and our story, and because Ernie is so pleasant and appreciative, he gets extra attention. Just as I did when I was living at Charlestown, I talk with the receptionists who print and deliver my e-mail and with the aides who are sometimes in his room when I call. I’m in touch with his nurses and his social worker. A few days ago, when I phoned him, he was in his doctor’s office for a routine check-up. He handed the phone to the doctor, who also knows me well, and he reported on Ernie’s status–nothing new.

Hearing from me audibly and in writing every day and knowing that I am glad to be here has kept Ernie in good spirits–according to him and the staff.

Of course we know that the status quo will not last. Frequently, Ernie tells me that he notices further signs of decline. He says he is weaker and less able to concentrate. He isn’t reading magazines anymore. It’s all he can do to get through The Washington Post over the course of a day. He still follows sports on TV. More and more of his time, however, is spent on the bed, resting and relieving his constant back pain. As his situation changes, I have no idea how we’ll deal with it.

At present, Ernie seems to be okay. Now it’s time for me to call him.


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The “year of living on the edge” continues. While I’m dealing with Ernie’s “transition” (Charlestown-speak) to the care center (and breaking down in the process), I had an occasion to celebrate.

A few weeks ago I received this invitation:

Ara, you may remember,  is my Nigerian friend. She’s been in America as long as we have lived at Charlestown, and she works here. In 2009, we both participated in the Charlestown mini-triathlon.

In January 2010 Ara, her boyfriend, and two sisters took me to a movie theater to see Avatar. It was my first time in a movie theater in 20 years. And to see Avatar in 3-D! What an experience. In fact, when I said the experience had been too overwhelming and I wanted to see the film again, they took  me a second time. Since Ara and Yemi had already seen Avatar twice, this gave 12-year-old sister Ebun a chance to see the film a second time, too. Ara and Yemi saw another film. So much fun doing that with Ebun.

Last spring Ara and I were teammates in the mini-triathlon, and Ara won the gold medal as fastest runner.

The invitation was to celebrate three special events–Ara’s graduation from nursing school, her 23rd birthday, and her sister Ola’s 21st birthday. Ara already has a baccalaureate degree, and she aims for a doctorate in nursing. Last week she became licensed as an R.N. so we were celebrating that, too.

As soon as I saw the invitation, I began thinking of what I could make for Ara and Ola. I blogged about that but can’t link to it.(Why?)

How to make a fabric card the hard way

Here’s the finished card.

Of course, I signed it. And I added the edging after this scan.

Here’s Ola’s card.

I finished it at 3:30 Saturday afternoon–just in time!

Not only am I not good at piecing. I am even worse at edging. I have repeatedly put heavy stitching or beads too close to the edge, making it very difficult to finish. For Ara’s card, which was too stiff and resistant for me to stitch through, I added three rows of gold Raj cord.

I used Tacky glue and this tool

to painstakingly apply narrow strips of glue to the edge of the card. It took three hours.

For the edge of Ola’s card, which had lighter backing, I thought I might be able to do machine stitching. I made myself a practice piece with the same materials and tried it.

With more practice, I might have been able to do it. I also tested hand stitching at the bottom and I could do that. But I couldn’t use the sewing machine because after I cut the card to size, there were beads too close to the edge. This is how I buttonhole stitched the edge.

It took four hours. I have friends who can machine-stitch the edge of a fabric card in a minute or two. If there’s a quick, easy, simple way to do something, I am incapable of it. If it’s slow, hard, tedious, and time-consuming, I go for it.

Here are some details of Ara’s card. A grid made using waste canvas.

Raised chain stitch

Some details from Ola’s card. A seam treatment

Beads, beads, and more beads

While I was working on these cards, Ernie had two brain attacks and admission to the care center became urgent. I was a wreck, and by Friday I was very sick with severe cold/flu symptoms. On Saturday I had laryngitis and couldn’t speak. But I was determined to show up at the gala and present the cards to Ara and Ola.

Of course I was going to go. This was my first opportunity to wear my black jacket and the earrings Nina made for me to wear with it.

Never mind the black eye. More stress, I guess. Doesn’t hurt.

I arrived early for the party. Ara and Ola with some other early guests.

This was definitely a party for their friends. No other 73-year-old great-grandmothers there! Me with Ara and Ola.

I managed to stay long enough to dance a little, then home to bed. Sorry I missed the real partying.

I feel honored to have been included among Ara’s and Ola’s friends.

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Running and dancing

As promised, I’m writing more about my Big Day, October 16th, when I was running at 8:30 in the morning and dancing at 8:30 in the evening.

The evening before the race, the school hosted a pasta dinner for the runners in the FUNd Run, our fund-raising team that was part of the Baltimore Running Festival—a marathon, a half-marathon, a relay, the 5K, and a kids run. I went to the dinner, not for the pasta, but for information. Never having done this before, I had lots of questions. What should I wear? What do I do with my wallet and camera? Which way do I go when I get off the train? After a pep talk, during which it was announced that I had BY FAR the greatest number of donors, I raised my hand and asked for another 5K runner to talk with. An experienced woman runner came up to me.

Kate and me

You can see me frantically asking my questions.

Before dinner we were given our team t-shirts. Kate, to whom I was talking, suggested that I put my name on my t-shirt so that spectators could cheer me on by my name. Okay, how could I do that so that people would pronounce it correctly? Here’s how:


First I wrote it with a permanent marker, but then I couldn’t resist stitching it. Of course. In chain stitch.

And here I am with my 5th grade partner, Queron. He had his mother bring him to the dinner, even though it meant skipping football practice, so that he could see me before the race.

Queron and me

It’s for Queron and the other kids at Baltimore Christian School that I was running.

Having found my way to the nearest Light Rail stop the previous Saturday, and learned how to buy a ticket and board the train, I had no trouble doing that on race day. What about clothes and wallet? I wore what I expected to run in, locked my wallet in my car, put keys and a $5.00 bill in my pocket, and carried change for the round-trip ticket. It was supposed to be cold and windy, so I wore one of Ernie’s thermal undershirts under my FUNd Run t-shirt, crops, and a wind-breaker, with gloves and bandana in the pocket.

Here I am at the starting point. This is a thumbnail of the official race photographer’s shot that I copied from their website but can’t enlarge.


Didn’t need the wind-breaker after all.

A church member who was not a runner walked the whole route with me so that she could take pictures of our team members. I was running. I ran the whole way, while Crystal walked beside me, occasionally dashing off to take pictures. (She’s an ex-Marine with much longer legs than mine.) My nephew took this shot with his phone. He and my brother saw me start.


The route was uphill for the first mile and a half, then back downhill.

And here we are, crossing the finish line. This is another official photograph that I can’t enlarge. I’d have to buy it. You can see it here, though.


It’s the only picture I have because my brother Don and his son Greg were running the half-marathon. It was Don who started the FUNd Run for the school four years ago. Having decided to enter the half-marathon, he then had the idea of using it to raise funds—just himself. When he saw the amount he had raised, he decided to recruit others to run the next year. Each year since, more runners have joined the team. This year there were 60 of us.

Greg and Don_edited-1

Although I look happy in the pictures, it was an awful experience for me. Nerve-wracking. The running was no problem, but the whole mob scene, the noise, the newness, being forced to make conversation as I ran, having difficulty making my way back to the train stop, all that was too much for my central nervous system. I felt under assault. The whole time until I got back home I felt disoriented and confused. I was a wreck.

But by 4:30 an the afternoon, I was dressed for the gala.


I wore the same ensemble I wore last year with the addition of the mask.

I had it on at 4:30 because I had promised the care center residents whom I visit three days a week that I would come show them how I looked for the gala. Then I took it off until 7:15, when it was time to go there.

The theme was Masquerade Ball and the decor of the lobby through which we entered was that of an elegant ballroom, complete with several couples elegantly doing formal ballroom dancing.


I took pictures of some of the masked guests.



And unmasked partyers.


And here’s one of me with my mother’s cousin, who also lives at Charlestown.


The vegetable station was the only food that interested me, It was beautiful, with roasted as well as raw vegetables, and pomegranate seeds, probably never seen at Charlestown before.


All night the dance floors were packed with dancers. The band played lots of 1950s songs—rock and roll and soul—age-appropriate music to which the 80-year-olds (and younger folks) responded with enthusiasm.

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Tanked with vodka, I too, danced all night.

Then said good night to my good friend and mini-triathlon teammate, Ara.


The evening was a lot more fun than the morning.

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In the 1960s Andy Warhol told an interviewer, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” From whence came the common cliché, “15 minutes of fame.”

At present, I am having my 15 minutes of fame. The Erickson Tribune, the house organ, marketing organ, of the company that developed and manages Charlestown, published a story about me because I have a blog.


I was interviewed by e-mail, then two wonderfully interesting young women from The Tribune—an editor and graphic designer/photographer, came to my apartment. An editor who also writes and a graphic designer who also makes art. Oh how I enjoyed their visit! (And Sara, I love the design of the word “stitches’.)

Okay. The approach to me by the writer was that they wanted a story about a resident who blogs, and there is something about my blog in the story; but the comments made to me by residents who’ve seen the story have all been about my stitching. “Look,” they say, “there’s the stitcher.” Not “there’s the blogger.”

When I mentioned this reaction to my neighbor, fellow-stitcher, and Internet-savvy friend, she said, “They probably don’t know what a blog is.” So said my neighbor across the hall, too.


After photographing lots of my work, they published a shot of my crazy recovery patchwork improvisation. If you look closely, you’ll see the website of this blog, Parkview 616, on my computer screen.  But what people here got is not that I work at a computer, but that I work with needle and thread.

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More snow

Here’s the current weather report from UMBC at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday:

Blizzard warning in effect until 10 PM est this evening… Moderate to occasionally heavy snow can be expected across northeast Maryland including the immediate Baltimore area through the rest of this afternoon. Additional snow accumulations of 2 to 3 inches will occur through 6 PM. With strong northwest winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 mph…this will produce considerable blowing and drifting of snow. Visibilities from falling snow and blowing snow will be reduced to one quarter mile or less. Be prepared for near white-out conditions at times.

And here’s what it looks like here. Looking at the trees you can see at the top of this blog.


Looking down from my window into the courtyard at about 4:00 p.m.


This is actually how it looked—white-out.

The police announced that driving was a violation subject to fine. No one is allowed to drive on the roads.

This is actually what I saw, looking at the Aquatic Center.


At the Care Center, where I visit every Wednesday, staff had made a snowman, but by the time I got there, the snowman had gained quite a lot of girth. And quite a lot of snow had collected on the windows.


Here’s another view from the Care Center.


The pictures look blurry because of the snow falling.

On my way to the Care Center I passed this entrance where the automatic doors were stuck open and snow was being blown inside.


The parking lot you saw on Sunday looked like this today.


But Charlestown staff were up to the challenge. All over campus, dormitories were set up in vacant apartments, in guest apartments, in meeting rooms, in offices, wherever there was space. And the staff were moving in with us.

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Meanwhile, staff were also outside, even after dark, moving snow.


Finally, after dinner tonight, I looked out my window and saw this.



I asked the young women in the dormitory (recently vacated apartment) down the hall from us whether they’d like to see the videos I made of them last night. “Not now. Too tired. Maybe tomorrow.”

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After the storm



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Maryland is in a state of emergency, with over two feet of snow in Baltimore and three feet elsewhere; and the snow is still coming down, hard and fast. No public transportation is operating. Only single lanes of major roads are open. Most roads are deep in snow. Already early this morning, 150,000 plus customers were without electricity.

Here at Charlestown, many staffers spent the night and will be here again tonight. Others managed to get here somehow, but of course many could not. There was a memorial service this morning. The minister, the soloist, family members, and friends could not get here. Fortunately, the organist is the daughter of a resident and she is spending the weekend in her mother’s apartment.

It’s a dangerous, disastrous storm. At the same time, it is magnificently beautiful. I shot lots of pictures, walking through our whole community indoors.

At the top of this blog is a photograph I took from my window. Here’s the same view today. You can barely see the trees because of heavily falling snow, and that’s snow piled up outside my window.


Our windows as seen from the building opposite. Our windows are the two at the top with the snow-covered awnings beneath them.


More views of our campus in snow.


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Parking lot


An entrance walkway.


The stream that meanders through our woods.


The covered bridge that spans the stream.



Our courtyard with the Aquatic Center where I swim every morning.



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Our lake and the Baltimore Harbor skyline that we see on clear days and nights.


Truly awesome beauty. Truly awful event for many.

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