Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Dirty little "A" word

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? --Psalm 56:3-4

I know we are not supposed to hate, but I have a very strong dislike of Alzheimers.  Let me take a little bit of your time to allow you to see a little into the life of one of it's victims. 

In the last seven years, I have gradually watched my mom morph from an incredibly independent woman who could and would change her own vehicle's oil, repair her appliances, manage efficiently her finances and life, uber organized to the hilt, to a woman who can no longer recall how to use eating utensils, that she has children, to dress and bathe herself, remember who Jesus is, or recognize the house she spent more than 45 years living in. 

When we brought her to live with us almost two years ago, it was an agonizing struggle on whether we were doing the the right thing.  It is hard to be screamed at, blamed for her current situation, be accused of stealing her money, and even to be hit, knowing she is not in control.  It was terribly difficult for the kids to experience, seeing her like that.  She literally was not aware that the camper in our driveway was for our boys to sleep in, because we had to move her into their room.  That sometimes they had to sleep on the couch when it got really cold, and the reason she couldn't find any knives or scissors was due to our fear she would harm herself or one of us.  To see her live the terror of being so totally lost that reality was fading so quickly. 

This last Wednesday, while visiting Mom, I had to run out to the truck for something, and when I returned, she had no idea that I'd only been gone for a minute and reacted as if she had not seen me for quite a long time.  Today, we arrived to find she was in a state of pure stress.  A fire alarm has gone off during the night, at the nursing facility where she lives.  For safety, all the residents had to be awaken, and taken outside until it was determined safe to return to their rooms.  Each day is new for her, yet disheartening as I watch her decline. Some days she knows she should know me, some she eventually recognizes I'm family, and the ironic thing is she always ask where Honey is, though she doesn't recognize him when he is with me. It's hard not to leave in tears as she clings to me and begs me to help her or take her home.  That we cannot comfort her or eradicate  this horrible disease.  It steals independence and dignity. 

It was so incredibly difficult to bring her to live with us and separate her from the only home, church, the post office, her girlfriend lunches, her birds, seeing her sister, and town she lived in for most her life.  To know how she cries/cried for her sweet sister and something familiar. 
We have second guessed ourselves so many times, though we know it was the right thing to do.  See, Alzheimer's not only victimizes the individual, but ensnares the family and friends close to them. The spouse, children/grands, siblings, and close friends,  all slowly lose. To take her away from all she knew was so painful.  She missed her friends and family, her church, house, her town, and routines.  Somewhere along the time, she stopped asking why no one she knew visited and it was sad.  My mom has never been one to be happy relaxing.  She always has to be moving and doing something, and she still does this.  She doesn't know why, but she frets over not getting things done.  She literally cannot relax.  Can I stress to you how important it is to take time to allow yourself to relax and enjoy life a bit?   

I know, there are so many horrific things happening in the world daily, but in our corner of the world, this is our struggle and drama. We never thought it would touch or lives, but yet it has with my mom and Honey's dad.  A double gut punch.  Since Mom does not live with us anymore, the stress and horror of the disease is not so daily present. So, if you happen to see us and/or someone else who has a family member that is living in and through this, we never meant to retreat to our own little world, but it slowly engulfs you, surrounding, smothering, and suffocates.  It becomes your life.  I feel guilty if I let a few days pass before visiting her, but she has no concept of time, but yet I promise to always go back.  

Now before I leave you downhearted  and regretting you stopped by today, sometimes the only things we can do is laugh or smile, because if we don't, we become lost ourselves.  Now before you leave, let me confess that we do have times of laughter or smiles - it's at the silly and often childlike things that Mom says or does.  We're not making fun of her, but it doesn't help to be so glum around her all the time.  She needs a smile, dancing in the hallway, some Elvis music, and a hug.  We all do (minus the Elvis music). 

Blessed be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed by Your name

Blessed be Your Name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your Name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise 
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say... 

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

[Verse 2]
Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
      Matt Redman

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dog paddling during the storm

Sometimes it's hard to find the right words to express what one is feeling.  At times, it seems like it is easier to hold them than have to explain yourself over and over.  

I have seen it around me and have felt it.  Anxiousness.  Facing a room full of new kids at the beginning of the school year, a sick child, a loved one with Alzheimers, messy house, projects due, decisions about job or school, relationships...   It all seems a little messy when you think about it, but yet it seems insignificant.  Being anxious, full of fear and doubt won't save the day, solve any problems,  cure an illness, or catch me up on my sleep. 

I've been trying to work on memorizing some scripture.  Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks, but it is really slow going.  I'm only up to my third verse in two months, but I decided to look at scripture that has to do with fear. I should have started with something simple.  My brain analyzes them, mixes them up, and it's a wonder I made it through four six years of college.  I can't even tell someone how to get to my house without using only landmarks.  I'm so thankful for GPS on my phone or I would still be driving around in a panic. I know when I am anxious I turn to Him, but I would love to be the person that turns to Him in times of calm.  He needs to always be my GPS, not just when I'm doing a doggy paddle to keep my head above the storm.  

A few years ago, I took a journey of "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp and the journey was very good and deep. I still continue to look for those gifts daily, though I don't track them here.  I know it is very important for me to actively look for and record them, as a reminder of His continued love and grace.  I never want to trivialize what He has done, but I'm sure He's up there, looking at my heart and life, waiting for me to finally really let go of this swirling storm.  Is that hard for you?  Do you struggle like I do?   

"yeah, so there's a whole bunch of us up right now in the dark, 
knowing things haven't really gone as planned, 
because we aren't what we would have planned, 
and we have failed and we have flailed 
and we have tasted a bit of the granular dark.
And right now in the dark, You come to us, Lord,
lift our chin so we look into You & hear all that matters:
"But all that matters?
Is that I have loved you at your darkest." (Ro.5:8)
*All that matters is that you are deeply loved
in the midst of your deepest dark.*

               Ann Voskamp

 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,   
  but of power and love and discipline.  
2 Timothy 1:7          

                                        When I am afraid,I will put my trust in You.In God, whose word I praise,In God I have put my trust;I shall not be afraid.What can mere man do to me?   Psalm 56:3-4  New American Standard Bible

If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,Your consolations delight my soul.   Psalm 94:18-19New American Standard Bible 
So for now, I will doggy paddle and know that He is holding me up when I'm emotionally and physically spent.  When the nights drag on to mornings and I stumble to bed after a few hours of reading and writing, searching...  I'm waiting for that sunrise and it will be glorious.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

Uh oh

You know that moment, when you open the water bill and suddenly realize that the large amount of water that has been standing in the backyard is not due to the recent and continuous rain, snow, and ice, but rather a 28,000 gallon water leak.

How could we NOT know???  It's not as if we loved watching the dogs play in the mud pit out our back door, but it is a low area.  Thankfully Honey is more than capable of fixing it, but finding the time was the issue.  After almost a week of keeping the water shut off, using water from buckets and pitchers, Honey was able to dig two lovely mud pits before he found the cracked pipes (yes, there were two leaks), a friend came over to help yesterday, and I'm thrilled to report that all we have left to do is pay the hefty water bill.    Anyone want to come over for a mud wrestling tournament?

On a lighter note,  Do not call Siri an "idgit" if she doesn't understand a spoken southern dialect,  especially in front of your children, because it will  translate it to a very bad word.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Honey with Only's Puppy
Last weekend, Valentines weekend, Only came down since Mr. Only had a weekend staff training retreat (I know, who in the world schedules something for Valentines weekend???).  I can't say I complained much.  Loved having her and their new puppy down!   Took time to go see Gma in the nursing home, then home to play Phase 10.

Mrs. Only getting her crafty on
Saturday, Only and I headed to Cross My Art Studio to get out crafty on.  For not knowing what we were doing, we had a fabulous time!  It was wonderful to have time to relax, paint, create, and just talk, and to take home our beautiful pieces of art!

Adding  beautiful Script

Adding some details
My  Completed project
Mrs. Only with her completed piece 

Pinterest about sums it up.  Sometimes it's the first place I look for an idea and there are so many wonderful projects I want to complete for our home.  One of those is a project called Two Little Lovers Sitting in a Tree.  The premise is to take "your song" and transform it into a personal and unique piece of art work.  Since I was having a foggy brain day and couldn't remember that ours was "Say Once More" by Amy Grant, I used "Just Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Vasser.  Honey ended up writing our wedding date under the hearts and it now has this cozy place in our kitchen. We both really like it and Mrs. Only ended up doing one for them as well! 

Honey was so sweet and surprised me with some beautiful colorful roses and tickets to see Christian singer, Michael W. Smith on Sunday.  I was so terribly excited till I woke up at 4 a.m. Sunday morning sick to my stomach with some horrible bug going around.  Needless to say, Youngest went in my place and I know that it was meant to be as he not only enjoyed it, but was moved greatly by many of his songs, especially This is Her Time.
my  new Handmade infinity scarf
Friend's daughter is raising funds to go on a mission trip to Belize,  by making some beautiful crocheted infinity scarves.   Isn't this one gorgeous???  I left the house this morning (it was a balmy 45*) without a coat, by the time we got out of church, the temps had dropped and two hours later, the most beautiful huge snowflakes were not just drifting down, they were intensely swirling, like some Disney movie snowstorm.  I was so thankful to have this scarf!  I'd love to just walk around the house with it on today - not sure I could be that inconspicuous.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Between the Pages

It's midnight and the house is quiet.  Outside, amidst the roaring of the cold winter wind, snow flakes swirl and twirl, like laughter, racing toward the ground.  I sit, still in my Sunday clothes, surrounded by memories, when I should be sleeping beside Honey, a dog warming our feet. 

When Only married 8 months ago, we transitioned Youngest to Only's old room with the loft bed.  Dreams of what the now empty spare room could be, swirled and built, till I shut the door.  Trying to quiet the beckoning it held on me, I avoided it.  Not because I was sad of the new changes, but because I didn't have a plan. 

Through the pages of Little House on the Prairie, Blaze and Billy, Little Critter, Sweet Potato Pie, Robert Frost, Lentil, Love You Forever, Napping House, Chicka-Chicka-Boom Boom, and more, I watched my kids learn to enjoy books, but also learn to read. It wasn't until about seven years ago, when I first packed these books up, but they protested over and over... "don't put THAT book away, it's my favorite!"  

Now I sit, dogs slumbering at the door, with my back against a Pack-n-Play crib, smiling.  I sort and pack sweet memories, until they make an appearance once again, to become favorites all over again with our kids reading to their kids, making the stories come to life, and we find our friends between the pages once again.  


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sing me to sleep

A little more than a year ago, we brought Momma here to live with us.  Though it was only five months, it seemed like much longer.  We learned so  much about not only ourselves, but Momma and Alzheimers.  To spare ya'll, I'll not go into it.  It wasn't all bad and it wasn't all great.  Please don't think I'm just an awesome daughter. Ha!  I'm far from getting the "Daughter of the Year" award. I've seen the ugly in myself and didn't like it one bit.  We're a family attempting to do the best we can, figuring it out along the way. We have much to learn.  

As Mom continues to decline, her anxiousness increases
and slowly she struggles to remember if I'm her daughter or sister.  She wants to know where her Mom and Daddy are, and can't remember what she is constantly worrying about, though we know.  She can no longer remember how to spell or write her name, what her friends' names are, or much else.  Reading is no longer. She believes she is still in her beloved state of KS, and that we drive hours each day to be with her. She claims she arranged Honey and my's marriage, and she loves to help out by wiping tables, picking up any trash and dusting the rails. We learn and grow as the disease progresses.  

Thankfully, the nursing care facility, we have her in is very close by and we visit her almost nightly.  It's not the largest in the area, nor is it the most state-of-the-art, but they have two special Alzheimer's Lock-down units. It is small and homelike.   If you've never been to a nursing home/ Health and Rehab facility as many are now called, they can be a bustle of activity and noises of regular residents wandering the hall, call alerts going off, the telephone ringing, someone's tv blaring, people coming and going... Something is ALWAYS going on, but if you were to walk through the Alzheimer's units, it's quiet and calm -   Something we really appreciate each time we are there.  It's not a perfect place, but it's the perfect place for Momma and we have learned to love it. God has His Hand there.  

Those who give:  We love to go in, greet the director and she knows us by name.  The nurses and aids recognize us and chat with us.  Letting us know how they interacted with Momma during the day when we can't be there.  We've learned to know them and appreciate what they do.  The nurse who is struggling with a rare form of breast cancer, or the single mom who is working and going to school for her degree, college students juggling work and classes, the director who is a huge Hog/Razorback fan, the CNA (certified nurses assistant)  who has such compassion and is so in-tune to the residents he cares, to the CNA that brings fingernail polish from home and treats the residents to weekly manicures.  They know their residents by name, give them love and hugs, know who likes to dance and sing, read books, play a game, play "kick ball" in the hall, do crafts, bake cookies, or even catch their favorite show Wheel of Fortune.  They give them hugs, kiss their cheecks, brush their hair, give them showers and tuck them into bed at night.  I can't tell you how many times we've visited and found them sharing their late dinner with a resident because they thought it looked yummy or wanted to try it.  That says love.  I cannot do the things they do.  I'm not even sure how they do it, but they do it with love.  

Residents:  We love to hug and greet the other residents, kid around with them and learn their stories, some of which are pretty fascinating.  One gentleman fought in the war and was a sniper for the US,  another a bank president, a mom, a business woman who fought to build up and save our little downtown and put it on the map.  We learn who likes chocolate ice cream or strawberry, some love to read and we gather their books and trade them for different ones at a local used book store.  Behind some of those grumpy faces, there are smiles and wonderful people locked away in their fading minds. when we take the dogs, they love it and thank us for bringing "their" dog to see them.  Sometimes, we let the dogs off their leashes and let them roam from resident to resident, gathering pats on the head, which are rewarded with many wags of the tail or a paw on their leg.  

Music     One thing that makes a difference to Momma lately is when I'm able to put her to bed at night (7 pm), music makes her less anxious about me leaving.  I'll pull up Pandora on my phone and play old church hymns.  It's pretty amazing to see this woman who cannot remember very much, suddenly start singing along, tapping her foot, and even smiling.  Tonight, after I placed a CD player in her room, and hit play, the CNA was getting her ready for bed and I  could see her lips moving. Softly singing along with old-time gospel hymns from Alan Jackson  and the Don Marsh Chorus.  She peacefully fell asleep, with her toe moving slowly to the beat, she sang:  
What a Friend we have in Jesus,all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear.... 

So, while Momma can really no long tell us who Jesus is, He is there and He knows her.  And I'm okay with that...

If you would like to read an all out, honest account of a wife struggling with her husband's Early Onset Alzheimers Disease, I'd recommend Missing Jim by Karen.