Good-bye, Maggie

Margaret Choate: August 21, 1947 – December 31, 2018

As most will know by now, my mom, Maggie Choate, died yesterday in the late afternoon. I posted the information on her CaringBridge site and then on social media. For those left out of those venues, I have spent the day emailing and (as a last resort) calling with notifications.

I sat down just now with the intention of doing a formal obituary, but I am not sure I can do that today.

Instead, I think I will thank all the people who have been in contact over the last couple of months. Cards, social media, emails, and phone calls. It was nearly a hundred names that I could find, and I’m sure I missed some people.

  • Linda Aguirre
  • John & Margaret Albrect
  • Mike & Lori Anderson
  • Ruth Armitage
  • Linda Betts
  • Jaye Blackwood
  • Suzi Blaisdell
  • Connie Brauer
  • Harold & Connie Brauer
  • Vern & Velma Buttolph
  • Dorothy & Tom Carlson
  • Gayle Chestnut
  • Karen Childers
  • Sharon Chinn
  • Molly Choate
  • Robin & Darrel Choate
  • Pat Cunningham
  • Joanne Daschel
  • Jessica Dominic
  • Kathy & Dan Draper
  • Laurie & Ray Dunbar
  • Helen Eden
  • Denise Evans
  • Linda Feammelli
  • Dick & Marty Ferguson
  • Alana Ferrell
  • Carol Forncrook
  • Patricia Frost
  • Charlene Fugel
  • Kathy Furman
  • Janet Gifford
  • Shaun & Mary Beth Gilluly
  • Kelly Gilluly Weyd
  • Judy Hardy
  • Chad Harris
  • Collen & Jim Hartell
  • Becki Hesedahl
  • Mary Margaret Hite
  • Stevie Hoblitt
  • Dolly & Stephen Howe
  • Sue Iman
  • Colleen Jordan
  • Charlotte Kammer
  • Holly & Tom Larson
  • Sandee Margeson
  • Janalee McFadgen
  • Jamie Meckey
  • Marc & Diane Melone
  • Paula & Wayne Messmer
  • Jan Molnar-Fitzgerald
  • Ann Moore
  • Jane Myers
  • Stephen Nelson
  • Devon Nichols
  • The Nottis
  • Marjorie Pool Davis
  • Cheryl Ann Redfearn
  • Julia & Bob Richardson
  • Kristina Rinell
  • Bob & Phyllis Roberts Daniels
  • Dee Ann Rogue
  • Linda Romine
  • Marilyn Rosenfeld
  • Robin Shelby
  • Ann Skow
  • Janette Skow
  • Marty Sodorff-Ferguson
  • Thomas Straugh
  • Darrel, Sharon, & Brad Vallance
  • Mary Wallace
  • Lori Westling
  • Jan Wilson
  • Gina Wimsey
  • Bobbi Wolf
  • Amber & Ken Wood
  • Quynh Ane & Zack Wood
  • Don & Donna Wood
  • AJ & Kathy
  • Brad & Linda
  • Carmin
  • Connie & Harry
  • Dennis & Linda
  • Errol & Sally
  • Janette & Tom
  • John & Donna
  • Kem & Mistie Dog
  • Krystel, Rocky, Griffey, & Haden
  • Lynn, Steve, Maize, Zinc, & Valor
  • Melissa, Jacob, Madison & Hudson
  • Nancy
  • Penny & Arnie
  • Robin & Mike
  • The Coffee Group: Nancy, Carmin, Ann, Jan, Penny, Alana, Colleen

Thank you all for your support, and thank you to the ones I  missed from this list!

Third background technique

I had a blog post all planned about how staying home and taking care of Mom was turning out to be good painting time. And I was going to show you what I was working on and talk about it.

But the fact of the matter is, I’m just too blue tonight. It was a tough day that ended in harsh words.

Here are the paintings. I’m working on the “third background” technique, but it’s harder than it sounds.

Hit and Miss


Maiden in Braids

Stick the Landing

Tell someone you love them today.

Happy Art-a-Days

It’s been more than a month since I posted about anything art related. Sorry. It’s been busy and I think I have a pretty good excuse.

As things have settled down, I have had to spend a lot more time at home. Getting out of the house takes a lot of planning. That means that I should have a lot of time for “arting”.

I have to admit, some evenings I have felt creative (or at least bored enough to try), but the flashes tend to be short lived. I have finally put the house back in order (for the first few weeks there were a lot of closed doors to conceal the evidence), and this weekend I was even able to set up corner of my office as a studio.

I’ve been thinking about goals for the coming year, which seems to be the only way I get things done. Among the first shows I would like to enter is the “Wild Women” show at River Gallery, but I think I have my piece(s) picked out for that

Next, I’d like to enter a piece in this year’s Salem Reads event. The book is “Good Morning, Midnight”. I was inspired by the first page of the book to create this non-objective piece.

“Page One”

Or maybe it’s this way?

“Page One”

Next, with a vague idea about trying to enter something in the American Academy of Equine Art Spring Online Showcase.

“Keenland Legs”

It’s okay for a study, but needs another attempt if it’s gonna be in a show.

Finally, I’ve been spending some time getting to know my “new” (year old) watercolor pens. I thought they might be portable enough to fill some of the short, quiet moments.


I might add some collage or other things to it. I have to admit the watercolor markers felt enjoyably like being a kid and playing with the art equipment, but I’m not sure I enjoy the effect enough to continue.

There is an official, art post. I wish everyone Happy Holidays!

Healthy Steps – Weeks 49 &50

I weighted in on Wednesday as was up 2.8 pounds. This is not shocking, but it does mean that I am yo-yoing a bit. Again, not shocking.

This week is Christmas, and I have a lot of time off (yeah!) but of course I’ll but spending it at home, which means more cooking. This is good.

Wednesday is a “dark” day at this weeks WW, so I’m saying right now that I’m just gonna accept it all and tell you I will catch up on this on January 2, which will be week 51.

Happy Holidays!


The last few days have been tough. Mom fell on Sunday morning and call for me for an hour before I heard her (it was early morning and I was sleeping.) When I finally woke up, we called the firemen for a “non-emergency lift” and later that day I got baby monitors so I could hear what was going on downstairs.

This morning, Mom couldn’t sleep, so I was awakened… early. I was too nervous to turn off the monitor, because then I was scared I wouldn’t hear her if she needed me, so I ended up getting up early.

Perhaps that is the reason that today felt hard. Or perhaps it was that my right knee, which has been hurting since all the activity necessary when Mom was in the hospital, seemed to be getting worse. It was so bad today that I went to urgent care. And got a shot of corticosteroid in my knee for arthritis.

There is such an element of shame in going to the doctor’s office as a fat person. You know it’s all your fault. That you have acerbated every normal aging process by abusing your body. Like a drug addict, your high is sugar and you obviously can’t stop.

As I sat there in the waiting room, wheeled in by wheelchair because of the pain, I had a thought: “I don’t deserve help. I did this to myself.”

I would like to report that I immediately gave myself a pep talk about the silliness of that viewpoint. That I shook it off and resolved that I could work harder on loosing weight.

But I didn’t. I’m still struggling.

After the doctor, I didn’t go back to work. I went to the local wildlife refuge and looked at birds for the last hour of sunlight. There were some tagged dusky geese, which felt special.

I came home the long way and stopped at a restaurant for dinner before returning some library books. I came home to a very talkative caregiver and a phone call by a friend of Mom’s who hadn’t been able to get in touch and was worried about her.

I started a site on CaringBridge to help people be more connected to Mom. I worry that by posting stuff here (a site that is about me) that my feelings may get confused with what is going on with her. 71 views in 3 days. I think it was a good decision.

Tomorrow is WW weight in day. And then I am going to really try to post an art piece. I have several deadlines coming up. That’s gonna be… interesting.

Random Notes about Hospice

  1. Morphine is not living up to the hype.

As a “Generation X”er, I am sure that most of my colleagues remember sitting in health class and being told terrible things about drugs. How they were so addictive and terrible. Of course, heroin was the most terrible of all. One dose and you would become a depraved addict, roaming the streets in your dirty clothes, mugging passerby for spare change for your next fix. Of course, the teacher would always tack on, opiods are a very good pain killer when prescribed. But ONLY if your doctor okay’s it.

Somehow, from all this, I thought that morphine would be administered and BAM! No more pain.

Let me assure you, that is not the way it works.

2. My expectations of privacy have shifted… dramatically!

I’ve always had an iffy relationship with privacy. Again, as a “Generation X”er, I came of age in the time of Alanis Morissette:

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah
I, recommend walking around naked in your living room, yeah

“You Learn” by Alanis Morissette

If the shades weren’t all the way down when I needed to change my shirt, I always felt (to my mom’s dismay) that if someone wanted to see me in my bra for a half a second… well, no one was going to die.

Still, I have to admit to more consternation that I counted on when I came downstairs Wednesday morning to find the day’s caregiver here and me with no pants on (they were in the dryer, which was my next stop. I swear!)

3. The amount and variety of drugs is… amazing.

So, when Mom first went on hospice, they made a big deal about “reducing her pill load.” She ended up with 10 pills a day. Then 12. And then there are the “bad days” and there are just so many pills then.

4. The number and diversity of humans in this process is… astonishing.

My dog, Key, has always been a little weird around people. One of my concerns about Mom coming here was that I knew that more people would be coming into the house and I wasn’t sure how Key would take that.

After just under a month, Key has proven to be just as weird as ever, but now when people come in, after barking to announce that they are here, he just goes back to his spot on the couch (unless it’s one of the people who give him treats; those people, he pesters endlessly).

All this is to say that an average day is a caretaker, hospice person (there are a variety of those), and 1-2 visitors. Some days an additional caretaker. And some days, even more visitors.

I feel like my house has become Grand Central Station.

5. I am weirder than I thought I was (by a lot!)

I remember my mom and aunt talking one afternoon about how having their parents visiting was hard. “She takes my towel sets and refolds them into piles of the same size. But I want them as sets!” my aunt wailed.

I remember thinking that was weird.

I now am completely on my aunt’s side.

Because Mom has a variety of caregivers, and those caregivers make food, wash clothes, and do other light housekeeping, I can no longer find anything. My “measuring” drawer is filled with non-measuring items. My pot and pan drawer has tupperware in it.

I could go on… but you get the idea.

6. I say, “I love you” a lot

Mom will occasionally tell the story that her mother would never say, “I love you,” until Mom started using it as a sign off on their telephone calls. “I guess it’s just a generational thing,” she would conclude.

I think about that as I leave the house for work every morning and say, “I love you.”

“I love you” as I make sure Mom’s comfortable in bed before I head to my own room.

“I love you” as I leave to walk to the dog.

Because the last thing I want Mom to know is that I do love her.

Healthy Steps – Week 48

This week I weighed in at my normal at work meeting. It is so wonderful to type the word “normal” and to really feel like something close to that is approaching my life.

Excitingly, I was down 2 pounds. As my goal right now is just to stay on an even keel, that felt good.

WW has new “Success Story” journals. Of course, they are gearing up for the new year and all those new members that will be flooding in. But they are nice, and we had a good talk about setting goals.

First… what’s my why?

  • My knees hurt
  • My feet hurt
  • I want to go to Paris in 1-2 years
  • Mom’s health problems are freaking me out

Not a bad list to be going on with.

Then we progressed to what are my goals. As I said, I’m not really looking to go into full “weigh loss mode” right now. I have a lot of other things to focus on. On the other hand, I need to take care of myself. So my goals are:

  • Sunday – Prep food for the Week
  • Every day – Eat my preparred food
  • Every day – Limit myself to 2 Frappachinos

As for exercise, for this week, I’m going to try to take it a little easy and get my knees and feet to stop screaming at me.

Healthy Steps – Weeks 46 & 47

So, in all this drama, what am I doing about my goal of taking healthy steps.

Well, actually, I’d like to report some progress. It’s all non-scale victories.

I’m back to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As such, my blood sugar seems to have stabilized, which in turn makes me feel better.

I have been hitting activity levels out of the park; the down side of this is that my knees and feet are really hurting. On Tuesday evening I was able to go back and start swimming again, so that should help some.

And I went into a WW workshop today and I’m proud to report that I had no gain from the last time we could find records which was almost a month ago.

I’m a long way from being willing to restart this journey, but I also need to work on making sure I stay as healthy as possible. As such, here are my goals this week.

  • Eating my prepared food
  • Take the dog for a walk every day (Hit 10,000, taking at least one break/lunch walk is a too big)
  • Tracking breakfast
  • 2 Frappuccino per day


Where’s a saber tooth tiger when you need one?

Today it has become clear to me that humans were not meant to live a long time. We were meant to be killed and eaten in our prime by a saber tooth tiger.

As Thomas Hobbes put it, “Life is nasty, brutish, and short.”

I wish!

Mom had a bad pain day today. I’m not 100% sure what happened, but it started off that she didn’t take her normal pain medicine “on time.” In the week I have been done this, I already know this is the start of a disaster.

About 11:00, Mom called and left this message (I was in a meeting and had forgotten my phone at my desk):

“Hi, Tara, it’s Mom. My side is hurting pretty bad and I don’t seem to be able to get it to stop. But I don’t remember what else I can take. Would you check with hospice and then let me know what I can take. Thanks. Bye.”

I came home and placed a call to hospice and ended up giving Mom morphine for the second time.

When I got home for the evening, she took some more and when that didn’t work, we called hospice again and did a second stronger dose.

As near as I can tell, the (lung) cancer in her liver is making her liver swell. That, in turn, aggravates nerves that were never intended to be aggravated. The result seems to be pretty excruciating.

While I know this is awful for Mom, the thing that’s hardest for me is that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I can do. There is no action I can take. I desperately want to do something, and there is NOTHING to be done. This is the epitome of mindfulness; I can only only be around to offer my presence.

Other than tracking down that saber tooth tiger…

The ‘Ove’ Glove Meltdown

Right now, if you take any 15 minute segment of my time at home, there is at least one instance of me trying desperately to remember, within about 6 feet, where the most likely place for any given item might be.






The dog (probably near the food…)

I consider myself a pretty organized person. I’ve written occasionally about how my studio got chaotic, but if I needed an art supply, there was pretty much one room in the house it was likely to be. And most other rooms were similarly contained.  As proof of this, my mom called me today at work and asked, “Where do you keep your batteries?” My answer: “In the cookie jar on the counter next to the dog biscuits.” And I was right.

When Mom moved in, she got the studio, which was cleaned out to make room for her hospital bed, chair, TV, desk, and other various items; about half of the studio items went to live in the upstairs extra bedroom; the other half went into my office. I have vague intentions of doing some organizing on the part that lives in my office, but for right now a closed door is enough to keep me sane (or as sane as I am likely to get in the circumstances.) The rest of  the house (as long as certain doors are shut) is reasonably clean and clutter-free.

Here’s the problem. Mom is a “spreader”. My solution to mail is to put in a basket and then once a week go through and deal with it. Mom’s solution is to peruse each item, arrange the various items into piles, arrange the piles on some flat surface, and leave them. And leave them. And then by the end of the week it’s not just a few piles, it’s a whole army of piles. And they never really go away. They just sort of shuffle around. Some items may go, but some piles never seem to leave. In her house I have seen magazine articles live in certain piles for six months or more.

There have been many inner discussions over the last week about how this is my mom, the only one I have, and I should treasure this time with her, not fuss about organization. And usually, I am able to just grind my teeth, and wait until she goes to bed to put whatever item that has spread out back into its designated area.

But there is a part two of this “spreader” problem. Mom is a gadgeter. It’s not enough to have a can opener, she wants several for various sizes of cans. And today, a set of “Ove” Gloves came into the house.

I have no idea how they arrived. Mom can’t drive. My working theory is that a visiting friend brought them. But is the mere fact of their existence on my counter that sent me over the edge.


Why aren’t the potholders and oven mitts enough? Why has someone spent $20 (technically, $20 twice) to bring this insane item into my home for a woman who cannot cook?

Who on earth is sticking their hand into something that is 540 degrees? And flames?

In a very adult manner, I packed up my gym bag, told my mom and the evening caregiver I was going to run some errands, and went to the gym for my swim class.

I will admit to some talking (yelling) to myself in the car. But after an hour of aqua Zumba, I am over it. I have bigger problems.

Like where did I leave that brochure for the psychiatric ward?

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