Important Information about a Stroke

A tip for stroke survival

Image credit: Nemo on Pixabay

I have learned a lot since inviting my 78-year old aunt to live with us. Every time I learn something new, I think , I should write about this, I’m sure someone else could benefit from this information.

Although my aunt did not have a stroke, she was fighting a stomach virus that landed her in the hospital. When she was discharged, I learned something that might be life-saving or life-changing for someone who has a stroke.

Did you know that if you suspect that you or someone you know is having a stroke, you should note the time of the onset of symptoms? I never knew that and it turns out that it can make a big difference in protocol for medical intervention. Obviously, it isn’t always possible to know when a stroke is happening (for example if a person is sleeping) but if you’re able to give medical providers a time of onset of symptoms, there’s a window for certain treatment options that can make a difference in survival and recovery.

With all the PSAs and pharmaceutical commercials  publicizing the warning signs of stroke (droopiness of face, numbness or weakness in face, arms or legs, confusion, trouble speaking, trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, severe headache are just a few), I’ve never heard this critical piece of information, so I thought I’d pass it along.


Disclaimer: I am not a physicican, this  article is published for information purposes only. If you think you or someone you know may be having a stroke, dial 911.


Why I Care for My Elderly Aunt at Home

How to care for elderly relative

The only thing I expected from my (maybe impulsive) decision to invite my 78 year old aunt to live with my family was the unexpected.

The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t proceed without substantial amounts of Grace (as in from God). I also knew that I couldn’t possibly envision what changes it would bring. It might be the scariest thing I ever did willingly. I refused to focus on that, though and trusted that each day would be o.k. That’s how I continue to approach it.

This kind of move happens when you simply don’t want to see a person suffer.

I barely consulted my husband who has been incredibly supportive and trusted that I could make it work.

My mom and I flew by the seat of our pants and put a plan together in a matter of what seemed like minutes but in reality was about two weeks. That term “plan” is used in the loosest sense possible. I should give credit here to my cousin who, in the eye of the crisis, helped my mom formulate the plan to get my aunt admitted to the hospital then hopefully to therapy to give us time to get ready in Pittsburgh.

Truth is, you can’t plan for this.


Familiar Rosaries on a familiar table

You can only manage as you go.

You can only try make the best decisions possible… with the facts at hand… as they relate to the primary person(s) and go from there. The information can change daily or hourly and you adjust (as best you can).

Here are some of the facts:

1. I love my aunt and she needed help.

2. She was unable to care for herself (personally or financially). When she was admitted to the hospital (after a minor fall out of bed which only resulted in a lost big toenail), she was severely dehydrated, had a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, open raw sores on her belly and a heart situation likely related to her compromised health. In short, she was a hot mess and likely wouldn’t have survived more than a few days or a week without intervention. To be honest, we knew she had declined considerably over the winter but having been independent her entire life, navigating the intervention stage was tricky. How do you convince someone who feels fine that she really isn’t? The signs were there but it was a delicate matter broaching the subject and our concerns. That minor fall was what saved her. Proof positive that what seems terrible can be a blessing in disguise.

3. I have the space in my house because we recently rearranged things here to allow my getting-bigger family to spread out a little. This recent rearrangement repurposed a living room into a bedroom on the main floor…perfect for Aunt Linda-NO STEPS!

4. I don’t work outside the home which gives me the flexibility to make things work as best I can. It’s tricky but we’ve managed so far. Sure, my life has changed drastically (and I knew it would, I just wasn’t sure HOW). I’ve tried to make the transition as easy on Mark and the kids as possible. They all have been supportive and in spite of the sacrifices, are glad that she’s here and safe.

5. I love my aunt like a 2nd, (3rd, 4th) mother (I’ve been blessed with many women who have mothered me-including my own “Mummy”).

6. She deserves to be taken care of.

7. She still knows me (It would be hard to take care of her if she were scared of me and didn’t really know me or the family).

8. She’s not mean. (I don’t know that I could bring a mean person into the house, even if the meanness was due to dementia).

9. She still knows and loves my children (in particular, she is smitten with my youngest, who’s only too happy to have the extra audience-God Help Us!-Sorry future wife). In spite of her short-term memory loss, she is very engaged and engaging (much improved since she’s been here) and is very interested in the kids’ comings and goings and enjoys their company.

10. My mom lives three houses away. (A big factor in my thought process), so does my cousin, the nurse.

11. My 4 brothers and 2 other cousins (who also love her like a mother) live in the same town or close by.

12. My mom couldn’t manage her sister’s care from 4 hours away. Believe me, she tried and it was exhausting-we made three or four trips in as many weeks and my mom ended up just staying for the duration of my aunt’s nursing home stay.

13. A nursing home wasn’t a good option when my home was available. My aunt was in one of the better ones and it was short-staffed. In 3 short weeks she became nighttime incontinent. Luckily I was able to convince her to wake me through the night to regain it but it was just one effect of understaffing. You always have the risk that a few employees can be rude or indifferent-even one of my aunt’s friends who volunteers there admitted that there were a few bad eggs. That’s intolerable in any situation but especially with a person as vulnerable as my aunt was.

14. This aunt should be canonized. (I tease her every time I cut her toenails or fingernails that I’m collecting relics- she laughs every time I say it-except when I draw blood then she tells me I’m making relics. Jokes never get old to a person with short- term memory loss).

So, those are the facts which led to the quick turn of events that resulted in moving my aunt into our home.

I didn’t anticipate how much I would worry about her minor health issues. When a kid gets a cold, the coughing might keep you awake at night, not necessarily the worry that it might lead to pneumonia.

I didn’t anticipate the resistance by some to a plan to place a never-married, 78 year old woman with no children of her own in a loving home surrounded by family that she still knows rather than a nursing home 4 hours away from that family.

The one person who I expected the most resistance from, a lifelong friend whose life would change the most drastically by the move and who is dealing with her own crisis was and continues to be so selfless and supportive, I am still humbled by it.

I find myself balancing options and outcomes often. A good life lesson.

I try to remember what I did expect when this plan began to formulate:

I thought there was a good possibility that my aunt would be bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound (thankfully she’s not).

I didn’t know whether removing her from her home would add to her confusion. We tried to minimize that by decorating her room with things from her own home. Even a few furniture pieces fit.

Since my aunt spent her days for the previous two to three years sitting at her table watching TV, reading spiritual books or praying for people, I thought she would be doing that here.

As it turns out, Aunt Linda spends very little time in her room, which I think is great but also adds an element of responsibility to keep her occupied and engaged.

Since my aunt spent no time outside, I didn’t expect that she would enjoy sitting on my back porch so much. Thankfully, the summer has been relatively temperate (even cool) and it’s her favorite place to be. She can see my mom’s place from there and she loves to see her white head bobbing down the walk toward our porch.

One challenge has been her need for companionship. I just didn’t expect it since she’s lived by herself her entire adult life. When someone isn’t visiting, I feel responsible to keep her company most days. The kids are also around and will visit with her. I know it isn’t absolutely necessary and she understands that I have things to do but I think it brings her a measure of security so I accept it and am grateful that I don’t have many obligations that take me away from the house for long periods of time. Also, when I think of the alternative (worrying and trying to visit her in a nursing home here or 4 hours away), I’d much rather have her here.

Overall, I’m happy to report that she is much more alert and lucid than she’s been for a couple of years. A few people have commented that they feel like she’s back to her old self (before any signs of dementia were apparent) and I agree. She’s witty, alert, engaged, thoughtful and I’m getting into the habit again of asking for her advice. When I run something by her, the answers have been thoughtful and spot-on.

The rythym of our days has added enough variety to hers that there’s something worth remembering. The relatively constant stream of visitors has also given her a life of her own that’s worth remembering. Where two or more are gathered…she thinks it’s a party and she enjoys it. It’s even more fun when she can look forward to it (like when we celebrated “Hugh Twyman Day” along with Mark’s and my mom’s birthday last week).

I know her being here is divinely orchestrated and an incredible gift to our family. The hard parts (getting up through the night, the extra laundry, feeling responsible for her engagement and worrying about her health issues) haven’t really been that hard. I’m surprised that I’m not dead tired all day but I’m not. I have an incredible support system and really feel that I can ask for ANYTHING I need. I promised everyone close to me that I would do that.

I’m learning so much about the dynamics and logistics of elder care that I hope to pass on some strategies and tips.


Happy Hugh Twyman Day!


Hugh and family with Pittsburgh City Council

No, really.

Today is Hugh Twyman Day in Pittsburgh. My brother received a proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council to recognize his 10 years blogging about and supporting local music through his photography and art work.

I really admire his persistence and dedication to the musicians. Pittsburgh has a lot of great talent and Hugh’s been tireless in recognizing that talent.

As a way to mark 10 years of Hughshows, he began a free family-friendly concert series the 2nd Saturday of every month at a local record (yes records) store in the Strip District. Since I don’t like to go out late at night, especially during the week, it’s given me a chance to see some of his favorite bands live.

As it turns out, Hugh has great taste in music. I was able to catch Cold Weather, Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, Western Pennsylvania, featuring Jeff Benton who nominated Hugh for the proclamation in a beautifully written letter to Hugh’s local councilwoman. I missed the Harlan Twins but my other brother, John was so impressed with them that I’ve been listening to the CD he bought and it’s great.

I was especially impressed by “Meeting of Important People” (MOIP), whose front man, Josh Verbanets is hugely talented and entertaining.

I have missed some of the other bands like Triggers, Molly Alphabet, The Hawkeyes, The Wheals, Brooke Annibale, Host Skull, The Lopez, Arlo Aldo, Dan Getkin & The Masters of American Music, among others.

If you live near Pittsburgh, there are 5 more HughShows X events at Eide’s. It’s a casual and inexpensive way to be exposed to and #SupportPGHMusic! The show on Saturday, August 9 features Balloon Ride Fantasy, Several Conclusions Action Camp and Essential Machine.

One surprise for me is how cool Hugh is behind the mic. He emcees these events, introduces each band member and includes some factoid about their musical career, preferences or feelings about Pittsburgh. Hugh’s intros are as entertaining as the bands themselves, partly because he knows them so well and has been following most of them (or as he says, “sticking a camera in their faces”) for years.

Today is also my mom’s birthday! She turns 74. Happy Birthday, Mummy, I love you.



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.



An Unforgettable and Wonderful Mother’s Day

Bringing Aunt Linda Home

Mom, Aunt Linda, Me

For the past month, my mom and I have been involved in the details of bringing her oldest sister to live with me. It has been an odyssey, to say the least, and a journey filled with grace, love and also some unexpected trials.

My mom and I didn’t do all the work. This was an effort that required many helping hands, including my cousin, Linda’s, who helped me pack, purge and organize 78 years of a full and blessed life into a minivan and a couple of cars in less than 48 hours and helped me get Aunt Linda’s car serviced to make the 4 hour trip safely so my mom didn’t have to try to deal with it. Linda also relieved me to stay overnight in the nursing home to reassure Aunt Linda when she couldn’t remember why or how long she would be there. My mom couldn’t have done it and by the time my mom returned for the duration of the rehab stay, my aunt was able to make it through the nights unafraid (as long as my mom was returning in the morning).

My brothers were ready to bring Aunt Linda home at a moment’s notice. Including my youngest brother, John, who ended up making the round trip with my youngest son, Mark, and my mom’s roommate to help my mom on the 4 hour drive.

I have been blessed by many mothers in my life. My own mom has always been a model of strength, courage, patience and unconditional love. She only confirmed that these past few weeks and it’s been so nice to make this happen together. This transition has the mark of divine orchestration all over it. Most notably in Aunt Linda’s acceptance of the move in spite of the sudden life change and having to leave behind her lifelong friend who is facing her own crisis from a fall.

I’ll write more about Aunt Linda another time as I really don’t want to forget some parts of this journey (like the selflessness of the above-mentioned friend).

One treasure Linda (the cousin) and I stumbled upon were decades worth of letters, notes, report cards, school photos, drawings and the like that anyone sent her over the years. I have a stack from my immediate family (and children). They’re adorable, hilarious, genuine and sometimes heart-breaking (like a couple from my brothers on the back of collection letters).

Although Aunt Linda lived away from us our entire lives, she loved us well. We’re all so happy to return that love by caring for her since she’s unable to manage on her own any longer.

Happy Mother’s Day! I know mine is!


Congratulations to Luke!

Luke Phillips WPIAL

Luke (right) with his coach after winning his match

I’ve written about Luke’s tennis before. After 2 months off for an undiagnosed stress fracture that had been dogging him for more than 18 months, Luke was released just in time for his high school tennis season.

Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania has an equal access law which allows homeschooled students to participate in interscholastic athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Luke will be representing the school district when he competes in the PIAA State Championship tennis tournament for boys at the end of May.

He’s disappointed that he didn’t win the district title but qualified for the state tournament by beating a senior (also homeschooled) to place 3rd.

In case you’re interested, here are 2 articles written about him. One in the Post Gazette and another in the Tribune Review. (He has a cute quote at the end of the Post Gazette article). So far, he’s pretty good at interviews. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since he’s been listening to radio broadcasts of the Pirates and Panther basketball almost as long as he’s been playing tennis.

Thanks for indulging my shameless brag and good luck, Luke!

DIY Slipcover Repair + Joy for teens!

I realized after last week’s major slipcover catastrophe that I never posted photos of the finished slipcovers. Without further adieu……………………


DIY slipcover "after"


Here’s another view of both pieces of the couch….

DIY slipcover "after"

I was able to make a few minor repairs and the covers look pretty much the way they did before the washing machine chewed them up. There are some spots by the zippers that could use some attention, but since they aren’t visible, I’m not worrying about it now.

I actually shot video of almost the entire process of making the slipcover. I still intend to publish the video in a series of steps but boy is it time-intensive to edit and upload. Mark was my cameraman and makes a few cameos. He’s far more natural in front of the camera and I actually considered using him as a stand in for the entire series.

So, you’re probably wondering how the white’s working out? To be honest, the main part of the cover could use a bath but I’m a little hesitant to throw it in the machine. I will try gentle. I might try to secure the edges before I toss it in. No matter what, I’ll use less bleach on the gentle cycle. I’ll report back on that.

In case you were wondering, the couch is in our recently remodeled basement room. That remodel was the first step in my plan to repurpose my house to accommodate our growing (in size not number) family.

The plan is just one element of my intention to “MOVE” in 2014 and so far, things are progressing.

A joy plan for teens

I wrote last week about “40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life” by Tommy Newberry. I ordered the teen version for one of my children and we sat down last night to begin the study. I can tell that it’s going to be a productive read for both of us. As impressed as I’ve been by the action plan for adults, I’m just as convinced that the plan for teens will be just as effective.

The first day’s lesson talked a little about the power to choose thoughts and their effect. The drill suggests identifying thoughts which are opposite of  the person you expect to be and the person God intends for you to become. Then, Newberry suggests preparing a joy-producing thought to replace it and sharing it with someone. We decided that we would text each other our joy-producing thoughts. It’s just a proactive plan to push negative thoughts out of the thought loop.

Our plan is to go through the book during lent but I’ll be recycling these exercises forever.

Linking up to Elizabeth Foss‘ blog:

needle and thREAD

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much. Even if you don’t use these links…..these books are GREAT!

Best pepperoni roll ever

Best Pepperoni Roll (It’s easy, too!)

Best pepperoni roll ever

Photo credit: Hannah Phillips

Remember I posted a recipe for easy homemade french bread? I use the french bread recipe to make the best pepperoni roll. If you don’t feel like making the dough from scratch, you can use Pillsbury French Bread refrigerated dough in a can. My way is cheaper and probably healthier.

In addition to your dough, all you need is SANDWICH pepperoni and provolone cheese. You can use any meat, veggie and cheese combo you like. I found that the provolone was less gooey than mozzarella, but I substitute or mix them depending on what I have on hand.

Once the dough is kneaded and divided in half, roll one at a time into a rectangle that isn’t longer than your cookie sheet.

Layer 3-4 slices of cheese, then 8-10 slices of pepperoni. I generally do 3 layers of cheese and 2 layers of pepperoni. Cheese first and last.

Next pull the broad sides together and pinch together being careful not to rip. Pinch the ends closed and flip seam side down onto the lightly oiled (I use olive oil) cookie sheet.

Make 3-4 slices across the top of the dough to vent steam. Then repeat the whole process with your second half of dough.

Preheat the oven to 450°. While the oven is preheating, the dough rises slightly. You can let it rise a little longer but I wouldn’t go more than 30 minutes. This just gives you a puffier roll out of the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes. At about the 10 minute mark, I spread the top of each loaf with butter for a nice golden brown color then return to the oven for 5 minutes. It also makes the crust a little less dry but this step is optional.

This is an easy meal for a busy night or a quick lunch for a big crowd of kids. Start to finish, I can bang these out pretty quickly because I’m so used to making the bread dough. If you use the refrigerated dough, I think you unroll it from the can and it’s already the shape of a rectangle. Naturally, this would be quicker with less cleanup.


How NOT to wash a slipcover

How NOT to Wash a Slipcover! (And a book recommendation for lent)

How NOT to wash a slipcover

This is what happens when you throw your DIY slipcover into the washing machine


Shame on me for NOT getting around to taking a photo of the slipcovers I made by myself. I will post a photo after I repair them. I still hope to publish a slipcover tutorial because I learned by reading and watching other tutorials on the internet and I want to encourage you to do it, too.

One reason I chose white instead of gray was so that I could wash them with bleach if necessary. I was surprised that they were beginning to get very dingy (in spite of the winter season and the kids not playing outside much). Maybe it’s a clue as to how dirty our house is….blech!

I put the cushion covers into the washing machine on the soak setting. This machine is new to me (but used) because our fancy, schmancy Fisher and Paykel washing machine needed yet another motherboard and I wasn’t having any parts of that. I wasn’t aware that the soak cycle was manual and maybe it’s not supposed to be. Like I said, this machine is used.

The slipcover was soaking in bleach water over night. That ain’t good. I ran it through the spin cycle to drain the water. They were in pretty decent condition after that and I decided to just run them through a normal cycle. As you can see by the mangled, frayed, hot mess above, I should have taken a few precautions.

If you took the time to make your own slipcovers, you might want to follow these steps in order to minimize damage during the laundering process

#1 Zip your slipcovers closed

I’m pretty sure this one simple step would have minimized the fraying and protected the zippers. Instead, nearly every edge frayed into a tangled pile of string. The underside of one cushion completely came apart in the middle. Boo.

#2 If you’re planning to use bleach, minimize the soak time

Bleach is pretty potent stuff. It can be brutal on fabric, thread and seams. Have you ever accidentally spilled it on something? I have and it burns holes through fabric.

I know, I should have used a chemical-free, natural whitener. Honestly, I haven’t found any that work as well as diluted bleach. I know I’m weird, but the smell also makes me think it’s really clean.

#3 When you’re making your slipcovers, serge or bind the edges if possible.

I don’t have a serger (they kind of scare me) but I know you can protect edges manually by using a zig-zag stitch. This would have minimized the fraying and the piles of thread and fabric I ended up cutting off the covers.

#4 Use the gentle cycle

Again, I’m not sure this would have prevented fraying and tearing altogether but I think it would have helped. Had I zipped the covers first and washed them on the gentle cycle, I don’t think I would be forced to repair the covers.

So, I learned my lesson. Of all the slipcover tutorials and tips I’ve read, none has ever warned about the dark side of laundering them. I did read one post about PREWASHING the fabric to prevent shrinkage after the slipcover is made. I hope these tips will help you avoid the same mistakes I made and preserve your handmade slipcovers.

Although I wasn’t planning to sew this week, I’ll be getting the machine out to try to salvage the cushion covers until I can spend more time replacing some of the parts that lost too much.

Now for the book recommendation….

40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life

If you’re looking for a lenten devotional, this book might be perfect

I’m currently reading a great actionable study of Philippian’s 4:8. “40 Days To a Joy-Filled Life” by Tommy Newberry is kind of the workbook to his first book called “The 4:8 Principle“. The first book explains and makes the case for taking Paul’s advice to set your mind on what is true, noble, praiseworthy and excellent. The companion book breaks it down and suggests daily “drills” to help you practice joy-producing thoughts.

I’m about half way through the book and it has helped me maintain peace and even joy in spite of some challenging circumstances. It’s definitely a book that I’ll refer to repeatedly but it’s been great to help me identify joy-reducing thoughts and practices during my days and replace them with joy-producing thoughts.

Newberry has worked as a life coach for years and has such a clear way of explaining and supporting his ideas scripturally, spiritually, practically and physiologically. Not only does he effectively convince the reader that joy is a choice regardless of your circumstances or environment, but he gives you a plan to experience joy as a habit by controlling your thought patterns.

I highly recommend both books and even got the teen version, “Think 4:8“, for one of my daughters. We plan to make our way through it together during lent.

On that note, I think these books are excellent devotionals for lent. You can start “40 Days” without having read the first book, but if you’re not convinced that joy is a choice, you might want to take the time to read “The 4:8 Principle” first.

Linking up to Elizabeth Foss’ blog. If you’re looking for inspiration for sewing or something to read, head on over there.
needle and thREAD

Also linking up here:

The Shabby Nest



Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.


Nikon D3100 on Clearance!

Nikon D3100 on clearance at Target stores!*

If you’re in the market for a great entry-level digital SLR, Target has an incredible deal on the Nikon D3100. It’s available in stores only for $299.00! I’ve been pricing this model for a couple of years and it’s never been this low. In the past year or so, it’s been hovering around the $450 range (depending on the lens package).

I’m guessing Nikon is discontinuing the model. I checked other sites to compare. Amazon is selling the same kit (18-55mm DX VR zoom lens) for $409. B&H Photo is currently selling this package for $389 (B&H always has the best deals, a great warranty program and typically has a few extra accessories with their products-like SD cards and/or cases). Target’s website is selling it for $429. So, $299 is really a steal.

My daughter has used this camera for almost 4 years and loves it. Don’t get me wrong, she’d love to have a more expensive camera but this one has served her well. She’s taken tens of thousands of photos and has even produced some finished videos with it. It’s held up great with a lot of use.

The D3100 has a light-weight, easy-to-handle body compared to other DSLR’s

There are more expensive Nikon models with higher megapixels, to be sure. Unless you’re a professional, though,  14.2 mp is plenty. As you can see by the shot below, the D3100 takes professional quality photos:

Rafa Cincy Tennis

Western & Southern Open Champ

This would be a great entry level camera for a kid who’s considering photography as a hobby.

If you end up picking one up, let me know. I haven’t been this excited about a bargain for a while.


*You might want to call your local Target stores to check if they still have any left. Also, the card in front of the display model indicated a price of $429 for the kit to match the price online. The display camera, itself, had a “clearance” sticker on it with the $299 price, which is why I originally thought the price was for the floor model. I have not called other Target stores to confirm that they also have this model for the “clearance” price but I don’t see why they wouldn’t if they have it in stock.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.