Mom’s Stay in the Hospital – Photo Story

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Photo Story By RuthAnn Hogue/Whiptail Publishing

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Cross Road or Sign Post?

By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

Mom woke up early Sunday morning with stories tumbling out nearly faster than her lips could handle.

“Oh, you’re there,” she said, spotting me in the living room on my recliner doing research on my laptop computer. “I’ve been telling you life stories all morning.”

Mom settled down on the opposite end of the sectional sofa before continuing. “Do you know what happened to your yellow dress?” she asked.

Expecting the usual stories set in her childhood and the 1940s and 1950s, such a query was a surprise.

“No, not really,” I said. “What yellow dress?”

RuthAnn Hogue as a Toddler

It’s not clear whether this is the yellow dress my mother remembers, as this photo was not taken in color. It is, however, from the same time period.

“You had the most beautiful pleated yellow dress when you were a toddler. You used to wear it with shiny black slippers. You would dance and sing, and you had the most beautiful big brown eyes. Your Grandpa Hesterman used to love to see you in that dress. He was the most special person.”

On most days, tales of my childhood escape her memory. She has trouble accessing much past 1970. It’s as if the entire experience of having raised me has been slowly erased by time. On this day, however, she spoke about the house high on a hill in Great Falls, MT, where she and my father lived with my two elder brothers when I was born. She reminisced how excited everyone was when I arrived.

“‘It’s a girl! It’s a girl!’” Mom said everyone had exclaimed, from hospital nurses to the doctor and–of course–my now late father.

In years past, the storyline suggested that it was actually my father who had made such a proud proclamation. There is even a poem he wrote titled just that. Maybe in this re-telling, my mother felt excited enough about the event to embellish a tad. Or maybe her memory was just so gleeful that she really felt as if even the walls were indeed singing “It’s a girl, it’s a girl. A sweet little girl.”

Wanting to make my mother comfortable, I brought in the small table she’d received just weeks before from two of her granddaughters. I told her how serendipitous her timing was in wanting to share stories considering I had been up late the night before working on launching this blog, I showed her the YouTube videos she’d recorded about six months after moving in and the photos of her trip to the hair salon. I also showed her the page devoted to the recent visit of granddaughters Jennifer and Jasmine and her daughter-in-law, Janethe.

They might as well have been photos of space women.

At first, I wasn’t overly concerned. This is the new normal for Mom. She remembers things for a short time. Then they are gone. It’s one of the reasons I have been taking so many photos of otherwise ordinary things–like going to the doctor or enjoying a Big Mac.

My desire was to turn on the videocam and capture some of Mom’s stories. The sun wasn’t yet up and I have yet to replace the blown fuse for the light in the living room. So that wasn’t really an option. Besides, Mom had just crawled out of bed and needed to at least comb her hair. I suggested that we get her prettied up so when it was light out that we could record family history.

“Why, are we going anywhere?” she asked.

“No, but I thought you might like to look pretty on camera,” I explained.

She didn’t seem interested or impressed.

So I let it go.

Besides, the stories were starting to get a bit jumbled. I wasn’t sure I wanted to record her saying things that were a mixture of truth and once strong memories stained by the color of time.

Instead, I turned on the television and changed it to the BYU Channel. General Conference was about to start and my mom did not want to miss a second. I surprised my mother with a cold slice of chicken and ham pizza I had ordered from Dominoes the night before. She seemed happy. Content, even.

As usual, my mom chit-chatted during the sermons. Every time someone spoke a word that triggered a memory she’d tell a story. Most of the stories were repeated numerous times throughout the session, as if each telling was the first.

Between sessions I decided I would take a nap. I hadn’t planned on being up and staying up so early. I was actually going to go to bed just before my mom came in so eager to visit.

But there was no nap. Instead, my mother peeked in my room and asked when I was going to take her home. She was wearing a sweater and had her cane.

“You’re already home,” I said, trying to turn over and go to sleep.

That’s when things got strange. Without going into detail, let’s just say my mom became extremely confused and became angrier by the minute each time I tried to assure her that she was indeed home, and that she had lived here for two years.

Calls from two of her grandchildren and a personal visit from a third would not convince her. She even asked our bishop, whom I invited over to offer comfort and support, could not convince her that this is where she belonged. She offered to give him gas money if he would drive her to 35th Avenue and Camelback Road so she could find the rest of the way home.

Our bishop asked if she would settle for a blessing instead and put off any trips until tomorrow. He blessed her with the ability to find peace and feel safe in her surroundings and assured her that she was loved by her Heavenly Father, her bishop and the daughter who has been taking care of her for some time now.

It was enough to get her to agree to go to bed.

I sincerely hope this passes. But my mom is very confused right now and as of this morning was still asking to be taken home. Her first words to me this morning were, “When do I get out of this joint?”

I am concerned for her safety and will be speaking with her medical providers about what can and should be done. I am home on leave related to the stress this situation causes me personally and am working on making arrangements in both of our best interests.

At the very least, this is a significant sign post along my mother’s journey. If things don’t get better, it could become a cross road as we move on to the next phase of her life.

Please pray for her. It’s what she would want.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Mom Has Visitors

Jennifer and Jasmine Hesterman, along with their mother, Janethe, visit with Naomi Hesterman Sept. 15, 2013.

Jennifer and Jasmine Hesterman, along with their mother, Janethe, visit with Naomi Hesterman.

By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

Jenny and Jazzy have always liked to visit their grandmother. On Sept. 15, the sisters and their mother, Janethe Hesterman, made the drive to do just that.

The girls listened to my mom as she shared her trademark stories. Jazzy commented on my mother’s outfit saying she thought her pink jacket looked cute with her dress. Jenny sat close to my mom, whose arm was around her for most of the visit.

The girls, who hadn’t seen her in a while, wanted to bring a gift, Janethe said, as she reminded her daughters to get it from the car. It turned out to be two gifts: some lotion to ease the dryness of diabetic skin and a small table suitable for use when snacking while watching television in the living room.

Mom was thrilled.

Her guests appeared to be, as well.

Thanks, Jenny, Jazzy and Janethe. She loves the attention.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Mom Gets a New Do

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Photo Story By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Mothers Day Means Honoring Our Moms

By RuthAnn Hogue/Whiptail Publishing

Naomi Hesterman and RuthAnn Hogue at a book signing in Barnes & Noble.

Naomi Hesterman supports her daughter, RuthAnn Hogue, at a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Surprise.

Mothers Day used to mean making macaroni necklaces and hand prints in clay for my Mom. I was also known for handmade cards created with plain white paper more often than construction paper because my marker drawings of love birds or rose buds tended to show up better. And I preferred markers to crayons.

What’s amazing to me is that my own mother has managed to save giant envelopes stuffed with such things, along with graduation programs, newspaper clippings and other evidences of my activities from childhood until, well, probably even now.

I had no idea she’d so carefully tucked every piece of paper into a two folders where she could relive my little successes and reread my childish attempts at wishing her a happy birthday, Mothers Day or other “just because” moments.

I recently sat in awe as I sifted through evidence of a lifetime of mother’s love spread across her bed as she watched from the comfort of her recliner. It turns out that she’s carefully stored away similar collections representing each of her children’s lives.

I’d always known my father was proud. He was much more vocal about such things. Meanwhile, Mom was quietly creating an archive of evidence for future generations that her children, including me, had indeed lived and perhaps even mattered to the world. At the very least, her efforts have shown me that my tiny triumphs mattered to her.

She’s an inspiration. I know I have lots of things my own children have given me, and some they just happened to leave behind upon graduating to adulthood. They are in boxes in various places and tucked into nooks and maybe hiding in a cranny here or there. Finding them all would certainly take significant effort.

In honor of her, and in honor of my own offspring, I’m committing to do a little spring cleaning and organizing to sift the pearls from the rest of the random things crammed in my garage. It’s a great way to get started, and will make the inevitable project more an adventure than the grueling task it often appears.

I’d also like to help my Mom take the envelope collections she adores and turn them into scrapbooks of a more permanent nature. It could give her something to do while I am at work, and a chance to relive so many positive memories created over many decades.

Perhaps your mother has a secret collection of her own. I urge you to seek it out and let her know how much it means to you that she took the time and care to preserve such things–even if they are only still alive in her heart and memory. In that case, perhaps a little encouragement to journal about them would be a gift to each of you.

Of course, each family will archive their successes in ways appropriate for their own personalities and experience. However you do it, just do it.

Your children–and your mom–will thank you.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Sibling Reactions Rival Common Sense

By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

It’s a quiet Sunday evening, and I’m spending a little time with three dogs by my side and a computer on my lap. It’s a welcome respite from months of stress and harassment I could never have possibly anticipated, especially considering the source.

Screen shot 2013-10-05 at 7.09.02 PMI never would have guessed, for example, that siblings becoming enemies over disagreements on how to care for an aging parent is not only an all-to-common phenomenon in America, but that it could happen to me.

But it has. And the potential for permanent, irreversible damage to all parties involved is immense. It breaks family bonds which were meant to be eternal. It grinds brotherly or sisterly trust into bleak nothingness darker than any hole in our grand universe.

Most importantly, it breaks the heart of their mothers.

And it’s all done in the name of “protecting” the very women these misguided adults wind up terrorizing, along with their caregivers.

In the words of my mother, Naomi Hesterman, who recognizes that her own children mean well when they intrude in her daily life to the point of making her feel “like a puppet being pulled in opposite directions,” it’s still hurtful and it’s still destructive.

Consider, for example, the position he’s putting his mother in when a trusted adult son works tirelessly to convince her that her caregiver, a trusted daughter, is mishandling her finances. Faced with stories of “dwindling” savings and general malfeasance, what mother wouldn’t sign papers revoking her caregiver’s legal ability to assist her, and turn it over to him?

But what if those accusations are based in supposition, with no basis in fact? What if this mom is horrified and surprised to discover that the only withdrawal from her savings account was $25,000 removed with her signature under the direction of that very son, in stark contrast to regular deposits her daughter had set up on her behalf?

True, he’d created a new bank account in his name with her money. But he did include her as a secondary owner of the account. And surely it was done with the best of intentions.

“People with good intentions ought to be shot,” she said, as we exited my car on a recent visit to our local bank to sort out what my oldest brother had done. “Everything is a mass of confusion.”

My job was to get her there. I briefly explained the situation and handed things over to a professional.

I  chose to sit in the lobby to avoid influencing her in any way.

A while later, with the help of a kind personal banker, my mother was able to understand the paperwork she’d signed and its implications. From there, she was able to come up with a solution to correct the situation to her satisfaction. It was a relief from being expected to dance like a puppet to please a son who, by this and other actions, appears to desperately need to control her daily life.

“I hope Bryce doesn’t have a cow,” she said, worried that he might not respect her decision to close the account he’d opened with her money in his name. “I wonder if I should answer the phone if he calls.”

“You can’t please everyone, Mom,” I remember saying on the way to our next errand, to see her doctor. “You’ve got to please yourself.”

Just then, the chorus of “Garden Party,” an old familiar tune, came tumbling out.

All right, now. I learned my lesson well,” I sang, turning to smile at my mom. “You see you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

For a moment, just a small moment, I felt warm inside. It felt good empowering my mom to not only make her own decisions, but to stand tough.

No mother should feel so pressured that they are afraid to answer the phone for fear of being chastised by an adult child who thinks he knows better than she does regarding what’s in her best interest.

In stark contrast, my mother was in rare form that stressful day. On Most days, no pedestal is tall enough, no white bright enough to convey the perception of perfection she has always associated with her oldest offspring.

It’s always been that way. It’s something my fellow siblings and I have just learned to accept. She does love us. But it has always seemed as if she loved Bryce more. It explains why when he says things which do not match her personal knowledge of reality that she will often take them at face value, simply  because “Bryce said.”

It’s why she was concerned about dwindling finances, she said. It’s why she believed she needed to be protected from the very daughter who has been protecting her from:

  • A son who tried to put her in a nursing home or assisted living facility
  • A daughter who unsuccessfully pressured her to move back into a 50-year-old house in disrepair rather than live with me in my nearly new home
  • A daughter who stripped the home she once shared with her (rent free for three years, including paid utilities all on my mother’s dime for her and her six children) in an apparent attempt to prevent it from being sold
  •  A son who after weeks of unsuccessfully trying to extort thousands of dollars from her declared both her and me “dead to him”
  •  A son and daughter who spied on her long distance by calling on several church leaders and neighbors to check into supposed suspicious activity and poor living conditions
  • Four children who took her to an attorney they wanted her to hire for her own protection, although she felt no such need for protection–then expected her to keep the entire experience a secret
  • A son who called Arizona’s Adult Protective Services to investigate her living conditions, which she considers comfortable and desirable, needlessly subjecting her to an investigation she found to be humiliating and intrusive
  • A son who tried to bribe me into moving my mother out of my home by promising to withdraw all financial assistance on her behalf as long as she lives with me

On that day, and on many others since then, my mother has found the courage to speak up about how she really feels.

“I love you dearly, RuthAnn,” my mother said. “I want to live with you. You always see to my needs.”

Gossip about the caregiver. Secret alliances between siblings ganging up on the caregiver. Distrust and vicious attacks on her caregiver, based on supposition, even when their mother reports being happy.

Sadly, these types of scenarios play out daily in families across the nation. It’s what the bankers told us. It’s what my mother’s doctor and nurses told us. It’s what social workers have told us, and it’s a sad tale other caregivers have confided in me as having happened to them, too.

“I lost my entire family over it,” a woman told me who happened upon my mother and I one afternoon when my mother and I were getting mani-pedis, courtesy of this year’s tax refund. Her mother had died almost a year ago to the day. She said she’d noticed the two of us having a girls day out and that it reminded her of when she and her late mom had done the same.

It eventually became too much to take care of both of their homes leading to the sale of the family home. In the process, she said, each of her siblings turned on her. Even a year after her death, she said those once-strong family ties remain severed.

wise contemporary theologian advises those caught up in such mischief to “Stop it.”

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t need anything else. No apology or gift or any amount of cash would ever make things better. I just want the abuse to stop.

No, I’ll never have a white pedestal in my mother’s eyes, nor do I want one–even one pretty in pink. But I have the love and respect of my mother, along with the opportunity to continue to see to her needs.

In a perfect world, I would like to do so in peace. Sadly, siblings bent on whipping up one disaster after another, will never allow it. So, I will dutifully accept the great burdens they impose on us, regardless of whatever vitriolic bomb they plan to launch at us next.

Whatever they can dream up, I know that my mother and I will be able to endure, with a little help from the Lord above.

And in the end, that’s all I need.

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.

Trading Places With Mom

Naomi Hesterman By RuthAnn Hogue/ Whiptail Publishing

Mom is quietly reading in her room. She’s lived in there since late September in what she now refers to as her apartment.

Never mind that it’s one of three bedrooms in my house. To her, it’s more comfortable to confine herself to the east wing of our home, leaving the heart of the home and the west wing to me. And why not? She has a kitchenette of sorts, a comfortable recliner where she can watch her favorite DVDs and a large boom box, probably left over from the early 1990s, so she can play CD recordings of her late husband crooning love songs or recordings of one of his live or radio performances.

With a restroom down the hall, and a doggie gate creating a barrier between the west hallway and the main living areas, it gives her a feeling of separation. Of independence. Of not needing to rely on her adult daughter in her golden years.

Granted, there is no doorbell. But the handcrafted wood sign, which hung for years over a front porch on West Orange Drive announcing to the world that those who passed under were about to enter the “Hesterman’s” home, now hangs in the hall above he entrance to what was once the bedroom of Michael, my youngest son. A closet full of handmade dresses, an iron, well-worn shoes and ladies slippers have replaced wheels, bearings, wax and a large collection of skater-themed T-shirts. A few pairs of popular branded skinny jeans that seemed to whisper memories of years spent perfecting jumps, grinding and ollies recently found a new home at Buffalo Exchange. By now, they are probably in the closets of another generation of skaters, ready for new tricks and adventures.

Meanwhile, a few steps down the hall, my mother, Naomi, now enjoys a private bathroom–complete with two sinks and a bathtub outfitted with special hand rails and a hand-held shower head on a hose she can reach from her chair. Baby powder, pain relievers and muscle relaxers have replaced Michael’s drawers full of Axe products and men’s razors.

It’s odd trading the familiar sight of well-worn skate shoes for a bookcase filled with combination of knick knacks and well-worn hard cover books. An indigo blue velvet valance Mom designed and sewed herself more than 40 years ago with matching baby blue sheer panels now covers the majority of white wooden blinds, however, and it’s clear that this is no longer the room of a growing young man.

A quick glance between the door frame and Mom’s signature blue bookcase, however, reveals that the new occupant owns a cane. It’s not really hers. It belonged to her late husband, Lenny. Until recently, she’d avoided even talk of using any form of assistance walking beyond a helping hand or a rolling cart at the store. Now, at her request, it stands at her door–ready and waiting–for a time when it might come in handy.

For someone who’s always loved to go on long walks, it seems appropriate that she be prepared. Just in case. For now, when attempting to walk on a grade or step down from a curb she prefers to reach out to put her hand in mine.

Oddly enough, it seems appropriate. I’m sure there was once a time when her strong hands steadied my uncertain steps. I guess that’s why life is referred to as circular. I just hadn’t anticipated becoming a caretaker again so soon after my youngest child left home for college. My Mom certainly hadn’t anticipated needing my help so soon, either. We’re both strong willed and fiercely independent. Maybe being on our own isn’t what God intends for either of us.

At least not today.

So, as Mom continues to read a few feet, a hallway and a closed door away, I am online blogging. Earlier today I hung some family portraits in her room along with a couple of wind chimes. We also reorganized her electrical outlet usage making it possible to place both of her phones in the same room. One is now within reach of her recliner; the other is within reach of her bed. This should make it easier for her to reach out to the outside world. That, and her stash of envelopes and forever stamps, that is. My Mom is among a dying generation of folks with snail mail pen pals. Good for her. And for those whose mailboxes she fills with stories and tales of what’s new in her life.

As for me, it’s time to get back to working on business projects. Yes, I’m trying to re-launch a business while entering a new era in life. In a way, this is a time of new beginnings for each of us–in more ways than one for both my Mom and me.

Until next time…

RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publishing’s and She is an award-winning author and journalist with an Internet Marketing Master of Science and a B.A. in Journalism/Political Science.