Thursday, June 14, 2012

Topsy-turvy week

by Julie Hyzy

My mother-in-law is staying with us while my husband's sister takes a well-deserved vacation -- and that has rendered my world topsy turvy. The idea of a mother-in-law coming to live with her daughter-in-law for ten days conjures up certain images, doesn't it? The evil eye, sharp criticisms, snide remarks. Well, there's none of that going on here. My 90 year old mother-in-law is sweet-natured and very easy to get along with. She used to be a little more strongly opinionated, but always pleasant. No complaints there. As mothers-in-law go, I got lucky.

But... beginning last week Thursday and running through Father's Day, she's living here and let me tell you -- she's none too happy about it. Being in a house that isn't hers causes her to be a bit disoriented from time to time and she constantly asks when we're going to take her home. As much as we would love for her to be able to stay in her own house this week -- with us stopping by every night with dinner or something -- she's been known to lose track of the days of the week and sets off for the senior center or church on days when there's no mass, or no senior events. She grabs her cane and heads out the door, walking to these places that are each about a half mile away. Neighbors have rescued her and brought her home, and my sister-in-law has caught her as she's been preparing to leave. We can't let her stay home these days. Not by herself.

So, she's here. And as I said, she's a wonderful person, very easy to get along with. So why is my life all topsy turvy? Couple of reasons, the number one being stairs. We have two long flights of stairs in our house. We can close the door to the ones to the basement, but the ones that lead up to the bedrooms are wide open and a necessary evil. Fortunately, my mother-in-law only needs to climb them once each day when it's time for bed, and descend once each day in the morning. But... it's still a major worry. She gets up several times during the night, and although we've put bells on her doorknob to wake us when she emerges from the room, and we even picked up a baby monitor at a garage sale so that we hear the bells even better now (we slept through them a couple of times), we're concerned that she'll take a wrong turn from the bathroom and topple down the stairs. Yikes.

Needless to say, our sleep patterns are a bit off. That's not that big of a deal. What is a big deal, at least for me, is that I can't write in my "cave" because that's on the first floor and I can't hear her when she gets up, even with the bells. She sleeps late - until about eleven - and I would love to be writing in the cave until then, but I can't risk not hearing her get up. Our house isn't nearly as big as that makes it sound. It's just the configuration. So this week I'm on my laptop (right now, in fact), but I don't find it as easy to write on this machine as I do on my desktop. It's too hot on my lap, and I have a writing routine - you understand, right? I'm off this week. Way off. I know it's just this week, and I'm doing my best to find little snippets of time to work on the fourth Grace mystery, but it's tough.

And, she likes to ask questions. Often the same question over and over. Mostly: "When am I going home?" She's really with it most of the time, but occasionally lapses into deep periods of forgetfulness. Because I'm on the laptop and nearby, I'm her company for the day, and that means I can't really concentrate on any writing.

Honestly I'm not complaining. It's only ten days. I know that if my mother were still here, my husband would be happy to do this for me, but this is a challenge, especially with all the promotional work that Grace Among Thieves (released last week) I still need to do. Plus, I'd been writing 1,000 - 2,000 words a day for the past few weeks, but now that momentum has ground to a complete halt. I hope I remember what I had planned for the next Grace scenes when I finally get back to it!

What happens to you when your routines are thrown off? Do you have any helpful hints you can suggest? I'd love to hear them!


PS - In other news - also rocking my world, but in a wonderful way - I found out that Buffalo West Wing, the fourth White House Chef mystery, was nominated for an Anthony Award!! Winners will be voted on and announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Conference. This year it's in Cleveland, OH. If you're a mystery fan, you may want to check it out!


Heather Blake Webber said...

Julie, congrats on the Anthony nomination! Woo-hoo!

As for your MIL, can you bring the baby monitor into your cave in the mornings? Might help hearing those bells...

Jeannie D. said...

Hey Julie, Congratulations on your Anthony Award! As for your Mother in Law, My Mom is 86 and they all seem to get that disorientation when they are not at home. My oldest daughter uses baby gates on her stairs when her Father-in-law comes over. Some of the moniters are pretty strong, you could move it to where you normally work and one in her room so you would definately hear her. She is a freelance architectual designer and works from home, she works around his naps. Good luck! and just keep thinking Sunday is not that far away!

Julie Hyzy said...

Thanks Heather and Jeannie! You're both absolutely right. This baby monitor is a little wacky - it works by use of a motion detector that doesn't always pick up her movements, or even sometimes the bells. It's "new and improved" with video. Yikes. Whatever happened to the baby monitors from years ago that worked like little always-on walkie talkies? That would be perfect. I do have the monitor in here for the first hour or so that I wake up because I think she's unlikely to get up that early. But then I just feel better staying where I know I can hear her with my own ears.

Thanks for the support, though. I managed a little writing yesterday afternoon. Fingers crossed for a repeat today!

Kelly McClymer said...


I wish I had a suggestion for you. When I was young (in my 20s!) my husband and I were staying with family for Thanksgiving and I got up in the night to go to the bathroom...and fell down their stairs. My younger sisters and cousins were sleeping on the floor in the living room and one sister woke up and said. "What are you doing?" I said, "Nothing. I fell down the stairs, go back to sleep." Then I went back upstairs and tried to go back to sleep. Unfortunately, I had broken my tailbone, and was in pain if I moved. The family had a huge laugh about it in the morning (because I was okay, except for the tailbone, which did eventually heal).

Is there any way you can leave a light on, just while she's visiting? Even a dim night light by the stairs should help her orient herself. I could have turned on the hall light at my aunt's, but I didn't want to wake anyone. Never make that mistake anymore!

Julie Hyzy said...

Oh no, Kelly! How terrible! Even bumping a tailbone hurts, I could only imagine the pain you had to be in. Bathroom and hallway lights are ON here!! Wow. Thanks for the warning.

Kristin A. said...

Congratulations on the nomination! I was going to say that same as Heather about moving the baby monitor, but I guess with the style you have that won't work the same.

As far as how I get when my routine is disrupted, well, cranky and then the realization that I just need to go with the flow. It sounds like you are doing your best in that department already. Hang in there! It's already Thursday. You'll have your routing back soon.

Aurian said...

I hate having my own routine disrupted, and it makes me grumpy and out of my concentration.
I was also going to suggest those stair / baby gates, but well, an adult can fall over those as well. Hang in there, and I hope you get back into your writing groove when the weekend is over.

Julie Hyzy said...

Thanks, Kristin A. and Aurian! - I'm hanging. Today was a bit interesting because the morning started earlier than I'd expected. Looks like it's going to be an extra-busy day!

I'm doing my best not to be grumpy or cranky, and I have to tell you, being able to chitchat here with all you lovely people is helping a lot!

Yummers! said...

I wish I had some wonderful 'words of wisdom' to pass along... but I don't. I just wanted to give you a hug from a friend and let you know you're in my prayers. I wish I lived closer, I'd come and granny-sit with her to give you your much needed time.

Applause again for your Anthony nomination. I loved that book!

Debra said...

Can you plan activities for the remaining days, like a movie one day,lunch out the next, manicure,etc. Is your MIL bored?

Julie Hyzy said...

Aww...thanks, Joni. That's so sweet of you! And thanks for the congrats. I'm still flying high.

Debra - I'm sure she's bored. She acts like she's reading, but I can tell she really isn't digesting the words in front of her. I gave her my new book, but I think she's re-read the first ten pages about six times already. We suggested a few outings (including a movie), but she doesn't really want to leave the house. Even on the cooler days, when I wanted to take her outside to show her my (limited) garden, she said she didn't feel up to it. Great ideas though! Going out for lunch is *always* a great idea in my book!

I feel so badly for her. I know if she was back in her own home, she'd feel so much more comfortable. My heart goes out to her. She's so pleasant, but I know she wants nothing more than to get home again.

Helen Magid said...

Congrats! Love all your books. Just finished Grace Among Thieves! Can't wait for next Ollie and Grace books! Good luck on your writing. Do you ever get back to the Heartland ? Helen

Dru said...

Congrats on your nomination!

Julie Hyzy said...

Hey, Helen!! Great to see you here! Haven't been back to Heartland since we met you, but I'd love to schedule a visit there again one of these days. Hope you're enjoying retirement - thanks so much for the congrats and for reading all the books!

Hi, Dru!! Thanks! See you in Cleveland!!