Hello Monday!

A true sign of being out of the traditional work force is how happy you are when Monday rolls around!  The kids didn’t seem too excited about it.  The neighbors weren’t exactly dancing to their cars for work this morning.  The other parents in the car rider lines at school had their heads down and coffee mugs full to the brim!

Not me.  I was smiling, waving, enjoying Mike and Mike, laughing with CC, veritably skipping around my house as I made breakfast and started a load of laundry and fed my plants who went so neglected this weekend.

And now, I’m sitting down at my computer.  For the first time in nearly 3 days!

I spent my weekend in class.  2 days.  9 hours a day.  Pages and pages of notes.  Hand cramps.  4 Coke Zeros.  2 mega QT coffees.  1 Hershey bar.  About 3 gallons of water.  And a head cold!

Some of you may remember the day I posted about The Top 10 Things I’ve Neglected since becoming a full-time caregiver.  It really woke me up to a few things and, like most of us borderline OCD 50-somethings – I made a list!  I made a dentist appointment.  I scheduled a mammogram.  I updated my LinkedIn profile.  And I met with a financial planner.

My husband and I realized that we needed to get back to the business of saving for retirement even though I’m not working right now.  He doesn’t want to work until the day he dies and I don’t want to end up living in my daughter’s dining room.  So we gathered up all the documents.  Wrote the budget.  Made some decisions and got busy deciding on investments.  In the process I discovered a way that I could help people do the same thing.  But it meant going back to class.  Getting licensed in several things.  Finding a mentor/trainer/manager.  And so, I’m on a journey to get my securities and insurance licenses.

After sitting down (at my age) with a financial planner – I got to thinking about what a different life I would have right now if someone had done this for my mom.  Or even for me 20 years ago.  And I want to do that for others.  I want to tell them my story and ask them to just think about the future.  And I want to be able to help them realistically.  Practically.  Without pressure.  Or need of a big commission.  Just to be there for advice and counseling and to set them up with the investments that would make the most sense for their lives, where they are now and where they are 5, 10, or 20 years down the road.

I want to study so I can make the best decisions for my family.  For my kids.  To start them on a path of financial responsibility.  To make their lives easier than mine is right now.  Not happier or more blessed…just easier.  To be able to buy your kid the new shoes that they need without having to wait for payday.  Or to not have to think and plan and fret about Phase 2 of orthodontics.

So, I signed up for classes.  And I’ve been studying.  And I am going to schedule my first exam today…fingers crossed everybody.  Mom survived my absence as good as could be expected.  She is sound asleep on the couch across the room.  She stuck to me like glue last night and all morning this morning.  But it was important for me to do this.

I hope I end up proficient enough to help my friends and their families.  To make people’s lives closer to their dreams.  To make enough money to get us back on track.  And to be able to work on my schedule – whatever that is now that my life is a little bit nuts.

The technical side of this is completely outside my previous work life, but at the core – it’s what I’ve always done.  Training and mentoring and helping – especially younger people.  My true love in work has always been lifting up part time staff or kiddos who are in the very first job or people who just need someone to care about them and take some time with them and not let them fade into the background of the big, scary corporate world.

Just wanted to share – my brain is so full from Saturday and Sunday – I had to get some of it out there to make room for something else!!!  Keep me in your prayers as I try and make time for studying and learning and more studying.  And maybe a quick prayer that I don’t get eaten alive.  I know this can be a cut-throat business and I don’t even own that knife anymore…just pray that there is a place for someone who wants to do something helpful and positive for others.

Five Minute Friday – Because of Alzheimer’s

Hi everyone!  It’s Friday!  A bit of a dilemma – because Friday begins a little dance of deception at our house.  Mom (who has advanced-stage Alzheimer’s) can’t handle the weekends.  So we have to make Friday Friday ONLY until about 3:00pm.

Then Friday becomes Thursday, so Saturday can be Friday.  Until around lunch time – and then we decide if Saturday can be Saturday any more or if it’s time for Saturday to become Friday.  Because Sunday can never be Sunday for mom.  She can’t handle leaving the house, but she demands to go to church.

One of the few memories she still owns is the one where I pick her up for Sunday to go to church and then she would come to our home – where she now lives.  And she can’t wrap her mind around who I am, who she is, where she is and why her daughter (me) has abandoned her.  On Sundays.  So we never have Sunday.  We have 1 and a half Fridays and a couple of Saturdays and head right into Monday….it’s complicated if you’re not me!

But Fridays get to stay Fridays until I am done joining in with Kate Motaung and Five Minute Friday.  It’s one of the best 5 minutes in the history of 5 minutes!  Check it out and join us.  Then browse around and read the powerful, funny, uplifting, honest, sometimes raw words of this wonderful group of writers…it always gives me that extra boost I need to get through the day (whatever day it is!)

Today’s prompt is…BECAUSE

GO:

BECAUSE – because I said so?  Nope – that was never the way in our home when I was growing up.  It’s not the way of my home now that I am a mom either.

Just BECAUSE – that’s more like it.  I’ll do that for you just because.  Because it’s a nice thing to do.  Because it would make you happy.  It might make your day or your week or your life easier.  Just BECAUSE.

BECAUSE I love you.  That’s exactly right.  I love deeply.  I can’t help it.  I may not always be completely aware of the details, but I feel all the way down to my toes and sometimes no questions have to be asked…just because I love you.

BECAUSE it’s the right thing to do.  That’s my life.  I am exhausted today.  To my soul exhausted.  I feel used up.  I feel tired.  I have a head cold.  I have guilt.  I have a lot of piled up resentment for my mom.  I have a lot of doubt about the choices we are living.  But it’s the right thing to do.

God whispers it in my ear.  He shouts it from the speakers in my car.  He shows me affirmation in moments of each and every day of this caregiving journey I am on.

And he is telling me right now…Rest.  Pray.  Smile.  Read.  Write.  Be gentle with yourself.  BECAUSE it’s the right thing to do.  Because I need you right now to care for your mom.  BECAUSE I need you to care for yourself so you can care for your family.  BECAUSE I’ve got you and the worry is unnecessary.  BECAUSE you can trust Me.

And I do.  I am weary, but less weary now that when I started to write.  To release all this to Him, to the universe.  To myself.  To look at mom with eyes of love and not responsibility.  BECAUSE it’s not her fault.  BECAUSE she is innocent.  BECAUSE she is completely dependent.  BECAUSE she is a victim of the most horrible disease.

So, with God’s help, I will “keep on keepin’ on” (as my daddy used to love to say)…BECAUSE it’s the right thing to do.

STOP

And there you have it…5 minutes.  Five minutes of free writing.  Five minutes of what’s on your mind wrapped up in one little word prompt.  So many different stories.  So many well-written testimonies.  Lots of creativity.  And some crazy, mad venting like me – but I take the ‘don’t overthink’ it part of FMF pretty seriously!!!

Happy Friday – hope you have a wonderful day – just BECAUSE!

#TBT (for ME, at least!)

We had some frantic searching in mom’s room the other day and I came upon a stack of pictures that we used to look through together.  But that was back when mom recognized the people in the photos.

She can usually recognize herself, but it is too upsetting to her if there is someone else in the picture and she has no idea who they are.  I used to be able to tell her and it would bring a smile and maybe a story or a question.  But these days, it brings tears or frustration or that very sad silence that I dread.

But it is Thursday and everywhere I look – someone’s sharing their #TBT photos.  So how could I resist this one?!…mom holding my little Peanut with Murph looking on.  Every summer, we drove back home for a 2 week visit so we could see all of our family and show off these beautiful babies!

I decided to continue my Throw Back Thursday into lunch.  I made egg salad.  It was always one of her favorites.  Sadly, I was the only one who would eat it with her.  We made it on white bread with the crusts cut off!   It wasn’t ever something I craved, but whenever it was just me and mom for dinner – we’d either make breakfast (mom made a mean sausage gravy!) or egg salad sandwiches.

I don’t think it’s still her favorite.  She ate her entire sandwich, but there was no nostalgia or yum-yum sounds.  I said “It’s egg salad mom.”  “Remember how we used to eat egg salad sandwiches for dinner when Daddy was gone in the evenings?”  Nothing. A mini smile once. I think.  But I remembered.  And I was happy to sit with her – just the two of us – and eat egg salad sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off!

You know, it’s funny.  Those egg salad sandwiches became a sort of comfort food for me when I was a young adult.  I can remember calling mom so she could remind me how to hard boil eggs at least once a year.  I was probably homesick.  I was an only child and found myself  missing my family lots of times.  Luckily, I finally committed mom’s hard boiled egg trick to memory – because I asked her today and she had no idea!

Write your recipes down.  Get your older family members to share the stuff that is important NOW – before it’s gone.

 

 

 

Finish This Linky – This and That

Another week to Finish This with Nicole and Lisa and Jen and Becky.  I think I like this because it’s not necessarily about Alzheimer’s.  It’s a chance to be a little bit “devil-may-care” and share something about me – you know, other than the fact that I’m a borderline bonkers caregiver!!!

And right this minute…the house is quiet.  So very quiet.  Sophie is curled into the tiniest ball of dog on the big red sofa.  Mom is sound asleep in her chair.  I think yesterday wore us all out.  I would love to be sound asleep somewhere, but I’m enjoying this peace so completely, I don’t want to miss a minute of it.  So, instead, I will Finish This…

My Relationships Thrive Because…I think friendship is forever.  I don’t think absences matter that much.  I understand that life happens.  I am fully aware of how flawed and human I am, so I don’t hold anyone else to a higher standard.  I genuinely like people.  I can pick up right where we might have left off.  I also try and pay attention.  I pay attention on social media.  I pay attention on the phone.  I listen when others share.  I try and put myself in their shoes so even if I’m in a totally different place, I can understand or empathize with where they live right now.  As far as my family relationships go…I try and treat each day as a gift.  I think it’s my responsibility to be loving and forgiving, no matter the day I’ve had.  I believe in apologizing when I’m wrong or hormonal.  I try to be a teacher to my kids.  To tell them things with honesty and concern.  To show them how my husband and I will always be there for them.  To convince them that they can tell us anything.  Can ask us anything.  Can make mistakes.  I am trying my best not to hold on too tightly.  I want the world for them, but sometimes I want them to slow down a little bit so I can have them that much longer!

My Favorite Piece of Advice…when I was young, I worked for my parents.  Probably earlier than most kids today would ever dream of going to work.  My parents were self-made and hard workers.  My mom taught me how to serve.  How to create a loyal, satisfied customer.  How to go the extra mile.  How to pay attention to details.  How to wow someone.  My daddy taught me the joy and pride in serving.  Why it was important to go that extra mile.  Why paying attention to detail is the difference between success and failure.  And most importantly, how kindness in service can really make a person’s day.  Together, they gave me skills I have been able to use in every facet of my life.

My Worst Habit is…UGH!  I bite my cuticles when I am stressed.  I mean, I can even realize I’m about to cross a line that will leave me bleeding, but I bite anyway.  Or pick.  Or pull.  It’s awful.  I’ve never bitten my nails, but I can tear the heck out of my cuticles.  It’s so gross.  I also have some road rage issues…but that’s more of a personality trait than a bad habit, right?

Okay, your turn – pop over to Nicole’s and “Finish This”!  It’s fun little linky!

One Word Wednesday – Unexpected

Well, the plumber got here at 9:40 pm.  It really was a reality-check day for me yesterday!

Alzheimer’s can do that.  It’s not consistent.  It’s not predictable.  It does not follow any rules.  It can’t be reasoned with.  And it will remind you of what you are dealing with if you seem to be settling in too comfortably.

One Word WednesdayWhich brings me to another One Word Wednesday.  And today, since yesterday bulldozed right over my family, I’m not going to get to share a heart warming story of my kiddos pulling a word from the OWW jar.  NOPE!  I just pulled one right out of the  headlines of my day – and that word is UNEXPECTED.

Life is often unexpected.  Things can break.  Semis turn over and slow traffic and make you late.  Friends move away.  Jobs end.  Unpredicted rain delays games and picnics and reunions.  I get it!

But my life as a caregiver is so much more UNEXPECTED than I ever dreamed.  I am a planner.  I like to have an idea of what I’m getting into.  And I thought I did.

But no.  Not really.  And most of the UNEXPECTED things I have come up against – once I have some time to process them – make sense.  It’s Alzheimer’s, after all.  If the person creating the UNEXPECTED, speaking the UNEXPECTED and acting out the UNEXPECTED can’t expect it – how can we???

But sometimes – sometimes – things settle into a groove.  That which last week was UNEXPECTED is now just part of the day.  Many of the personality changes are permanent.  Many of mom’s new ‘realities’ stay with her – my new name and role in her world, the fact that she is now (most of the time) younger than her actual age, her love of only sweets.  What made them UNEXPECTED for me was the way they just appeared.  No easing into them.  Just BOOM!  Here we are.

And that’s the life I live.  With my mom.  With my husband.  With my kids.  With our Sophie dog.  And with Alzheimer’s.  And yesterday – which I will share a bit later on my Blogger site, A Little Bit of This and That – was the UNEXPECTED day to end all days.

Okay, that’s not quite true…it did end. And it ended with God’s fingerprints all over it. So many blessings in all the mess. So many tiny, hurried, quiet prayers answered. A fact which I got to discuss with both kids as we readied and rode to school this morning. My chance to teach them to look for Grace in the midst of the UNEXPECTED.

How about you?  How is your life UNEXPECTED?  As a caregiver?  As a mom?  As a blogger?  I’d love it if you could link up and share a story today.  Unless something UNEXPECTED comes up – I totally get that!!!

 

A Joyful Top Ten!

Twelve and a half hours ago, I started this post.  And 3 hours ago, I went back and forth between deleting it and finishing it.  I decided to finish it – because, regardless of what today brought – yesterday was still pretty darned amazing!  And 45 minutes ago…I called a plumber for an emergency….more on that tomorrow once it’s all fixed, I’ve had my coffee and I can look back on this past hour (and probably the next) with a better attitude….prayers would be appreciated.

Yesterday was a ME day!  Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I had a ME day?  WAY too long!  But I got a chance to get away and I took it!  Grabbed it with both hands and used it all up.

My dear sweet friends from my past life had a special event yesterday morning at 10:00.  Took me totally out of my comfort zone to go.  Not the drive or the event or the celebration or even the hair and makeup…it was seeing people who had treated me like garbage, like something of little or no value for the first time in almost 2 years.  Luckily, they were in the minority – the majority of people were colleagues and friends who I admire and miss terribly.

It was by chance that I had some extra time, thanks to something that started out as inconvenient, with our Easter Seals angel, Mina.  And I took advantage of that too and had lunch with 2 of my favorite women on the planet AND had coffee (that I couldn’t afford, but splurged on anyway!) with another friend that I adore from her head to her toes!

And THEN, my daughter cheered for the very first time at a home football game.  And she was beautiful and brilliant and brave and strong and I was over-the-moon proud of her.

My husband watched mom in the morning, our ES angel was with mom from 1-4 and my son was with mom in the evening.  I took the morning routine through breakfast, the in-between parts and let my son go watch the last half of the game and I took the ice cream, bedtime shift.  And I was completely full of energy and joy and freedom.

So – in the spirit of yesterday – my top 10 things that make all the planning it takes for me to get away totally worth it!

10.  The serenity of driving through open country (love the Longhorns and the “replacement heifers for sale HERE!” sign!)

9.  A reason to put on a cute outfit that has nothing to do with jury duty or a job interview

8.  The smell of a good coffee shop in the afternoon

7.  A Coke Zero in the cup holder, One Republic in the CD player and a stuffed pink monkey in the passenger seat (Bubbles thinks everything I say is brilliant and never needs to stop for a bathroom break!…OH, and she loves my singing!!!)

6.  Driving on the freeway after and before rush hour traffic – look at me go!

5.  The very strange feeling that no one needed me for anything…I must admit, it was a pretty wonderful feeling.  I wouldn’t like it all the time, but I liked it for an afternoon!

4.  That big western sky…they say ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’- and although a bit of an exaggeration – we seemed to have the biggest, brightest blue sky yesterday!

3.  Spending time with friends.  Talking.  Laughing.  Catching up.  Laughing some more.

2.  The patience I had with mom because it wasn’t an endless day of Alzheimer’s.  It was a morning with Alzheimer’s.  Then an afternoon with Alzheimer’s.  Then an evening (and ice cream) with Alzheimer’s.  It was easier.

1.  HUGS!  I got lots of hugs and smiles and hugs and smiles and “oh, we miss you’s” and “it’s just not the same without you’s” and then a few more hugs.  I’m a hugger.  And good friend hugs just can’t be beat!

I did not proof this…but it’s been that kind of day…be kind to a weary caregiver and overlook all misspelled, misused words and all missing punctuation!  Thanks!

Saturdays With Sophie – Ballet Turns

Busy, busy Saturday for the family.  I think maybe Sophie felt left out.  Once we were all back home, she followed us everywhere.  Couldn’t settle down.  One minute, she was in with me and mom.  Next minute, she was laying down with a very tired baseball player.  Then she was in the family room making sure Peanut didn’t make any mistakes on her homework.

I thought she was going to end her day on the foot of mom’s bed (where I was sitting) watching a movie.  But my daughter went to a dance master class this morning and decided to come in and show off her turns.  Sophie just couldn’t pass that up!

Notice how she is watching at first.  Then watching a bit more closely.  And finally, up and chasing her tail…the Sophie version of a ballet turn, I guess!  She is the most interesting dog ever!

Sophie Spins w. Peanut

Five Minute Friday – Hold

Another Friday morning…this one’s moving slow.  Mom said “please don’t make me get up early in the morning” and she meant it.  Today’s been all jacked up with subtle differences in our routine.  And one of those is mom’s very deliberate, very slow, very relaxed pace.

So, I’m going to go ahead and join up with hundreds of other writers for Five Minute Friday with our lovely host Kate Motaung.  Today’s prompt is HOLD.  So, we gather our thoughts, set our timers and write like the wind for 5 minutes.  No editing, no overthinking, no holding back.  Just pure, joyful, abandoned writing in a community of other writers.  It’s pretty fabulous!

So, in the time it will take mom to put on one tennis shoes….HOLD

GO:

I’m not sure what I thought when we decided to move mom into our dining room to live, but like so many other decisions in my life that are for the good of my family – I probably didn’t think it all the way through.  It would have done no good.  I was going to do it anyway!

So, we are at the 18 month mark of living up-close and personal with Alzheimer’s and what I find myself saying is “my life is kind of ‘on hold'”.

On Hold (2)

I’m still living.  I still participate in things.  I still get to my kiddo’s activities.  I stay in touch with my friends.  I am even trying to study for a new license that will provide me with an exciting “chapter 2″ career when the time is right.

But I’m also tethered.  To my home.  To my mom and her health.  To the constant changes that are a daily part of Alzheimer’s care.  To a much tighter budget (which tethers me to the kitchen and a jar of peanut butter more often than I’d care to admit!).  To pills and prescription refills and doctor’s appointments and home health aids and nurses and a constant battle with the Medicare system.

And the balance I am finding between the two is where I do my day to day living.  I may not be able to run and grab coffee with a friend at the drop of a hat, but I get to pick my kids up from school every day.  I may not be able to afford to “grab something for dinner” when things get hectic, but I can answer the questions that my kids have about their homework while I’m making sandwiches.  I may not be able to learn more about my mom’s childhood or to try and heal the wounds of a non-traditional mother-daughter relationship, but I can tuck her into bed each night and know that she is safe and happy.

It’s a balance.  My life as it would have been if mom weren’t sick and helpless and fragile and living with us is on HOLD.  Luckily, the background music is pretty darned fabulous!

Full of laughter and stories and struggles and strength and bonding.  MUCH better than being on hold with the folks at Medicare for the 3rd time in 6 weeks!!!

STOP

Whew, that was fast…considering as soon as mom realized I was doing something other than pestering her to speed it up a bit – she went to warp speed!!

 

Finish This Linky (an escape from Alzheimer’s world!)

So, last week I discovered through my friend Paula at Smidgens, Snippets & Bits a linky called Finish This.  There were several reasons I felt compelled to join in – Kentucky, another Lisa, Fort Worth, TX – but really – I liked the “fun” element.  The prompts can be as serious or silly as you want.  They are designed (I think) so those who join in can get to know a little more about each other.  And, I have no idea how everyone else approaches this, but I am going to take a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach and have some fun with this.  A little escape from Alzheimer’s!

So, here we go…let’s FINISH THIS!

1.  I am the type of person who…

Is empathetic off the charts.  I feel pain when I watch a football game on tv.  I cry for the other team even when my team wins (unless it’s the Steelers…and even then, I feel bad, I just mask it with sarcasm!).  I hold my breath when I watch any kind of competition show – especially American Ninja Warriors (my mom’s current fave show – how about that?!)  I get so caught up in the characters of books and movies, I find myself worrying about them (and yes, I know it’s not real) after I’ve finished the book or watched the movie.  I find it so easy to see all sides of any story.  I always give the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and ‘a second chance’.  Now, I am cynical as well, so I may give the benefit of the doubt because it’s the right thing to do and my deepest soul tells me to, I will still roll my eyes and be totally aware of all the things that could have really happened.  Can’t help it!  I put myself in other’s situations far too often, but I don’t know any other way.  It’s like I can sense what my friends are going through.  I can also be quite tactless…but I think that is a product of how I was raised.  I’m from the North, living in the South – so what is considered tactless here is just normal conversation where I come from.  It also comes from being a bit afraid of lying – I would never be able to keep it all straight, so I just come out with it…and can sometimes be tactless!  Luckily, most people can tell that I would never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings and it is very rare that I am mean…and when I am, I have incredible guilt…the circle of empathy, I guess!

2.  My favorite joke or riddle or funny is…

HaHaHaI know, I know…it’s so pitiful, but it makes me laugh!  And as someone creeped-out by clowns, I have no moral dilemma with this one (because I refuse to think too much about it!)

3.  All that really matters is…

My family.  My faith.  My humanity

 

And there you have it!  I’m amazed that my daddy told funny stories for a living – I know just one joke!  Thank goodness, after 15 or so years, it still cracks me up!!!  I can tell a story with the best of them, but jokes have always been just outside my skill set!

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