“Oh, the weather outside is frightful…”

I know lots of my “warmer weather” friends think I am nuts, but I adore winter. I was so excited to get the snow we had yesterday. It turns even the ugliest places into a white oasis. So, so pretty. The snow started as almost a heavy rain. I was hoping the temps would drop because wet snow is a pain in the neck, and the colder it is, the drier the snow. We had a doctor’s appointment for my mom and when we went into the medical building, it was wet and annoying (we had to walk so very carefully). When we came out, the world was white and the snow was falling a little faster. We carefully made our way home, sliding here and there on the roads, as we did so. We had fire trucks, EMT vehicles, and ambulances race past us on more than one occasion. Not our first snow this year, but it was the first one that stuck. After we got home, the snowflakes began to fall, to waft gently to the ground, and they were coming straight down. I was so happy.

If you will look at the photo above, it is grainy looking because I have ice stuck to my windshield. But there are two little red dots in the photo. Those are stakes that are on either side of our driveway, that are supposed to guide us in snowy weather, to enter and leave the driveway. Imagine my surprise, when backing out of the garage on the morning of our first snow, when I almost ran over one. Yeah. White stakes with little, red, reflector dots on them are stupid. I mean really dumb. You cannot see them! Even with a back up camera! I had to pull forward and try again – twice. Of course, my family thinks this is hilarious. For whatever reason, as I have gotten older, backing up gives me grief. Even with a back-up camera! I avoid it if I can, well, except going into and out of the garage!

Sunrise today (above) was so beautiful. The white everywhere, and the freeze on top of that. It was a beautifully crisp 7-degrees outside this morning. I was reveling in the white backdrop and the cold. My mom was up and so I got her some coffee. I had her go look out the window and she was so surprised. She did not recall our snow experience yesterday. I almost wept. I had introduced her to the wonderful crunching sound of walking on fresh, cold, snow. We had laughed and she had made some funny jokes about her hair getting messed up, as we made our way to the car after her doctor’s appointment. We lost an entire day.

The sun has been shining into the house all day. And it is beautiful. My mom is still confusing light with warmth and I had to remind her that we were up to 10-degrees at lunchtime. She then said it was beautiful outside, but she would like to stay indoors! LOL! Can’t say as I blame her! But one of my favorite quotes goes something like, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Which basically means you can go outside in anything, if you are prepared for it and wear appropriate clothing – and that applies in either heat or cold.

As I sat down to complete the paperwork for mom’s next step in healthcare, because we had lost an entire day, it was all new to her. And I had to explain what was happening. She was shocked. And we spoke about our other visits to medical professionals over the past week, and it was news to her all over again. This morning, as I handed her a gourmet breakfast of a bowl of Life cereal, she told me she didn’t understand why I would be feeding her again. She swore she had already eaten. I had to remind her that no, it was just a cup of coffee. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, I trust you, so I will eat now.” And when I handed her another gourmet meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I added bar-b-que chips, which upped it to gourmet, dontcha know?!?) she said to me, “Oh, I guess it’s time to eat again!” But she complimented me over and over again about the “lovely” sandwich. Ha-Ha. Whenever we discuss what to eat, she ALWAYS suggests a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When we were watching a cooking show about Thanksgiving prep, she said, “I think we should all have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because it is so much easier.” Ha-Ha…yes, it is easier! But this whole morning made me sad. I had to leave the room and just weep for a little bit.

When you have a baby and choose to parent that child into adulthood, it is an organic sort of thing. Even when you adopt a child, you grow into your parenting role with that child. As they age, the role changes a little bit. Different ages call for different approaches. But when you take on the responsibility of a dependent parent, moving them into your home, all that responsibility for the life of another person sort of slams into you. There is no real time for an organic growth to happen; no time to grow into it. And when there is a dementing illness, combined with health issues, you become responsible in ways you could never imagine. We have all the issues of bathing, eating, dressing, sleeping. Add to that healthcare issues and you have the potential for a huge disaster. And the potential for caregiver meltdown! Ha-Ha!

Tonight we get to go to the airport, which is about 45 minutes away, to retrieve my youngest son. We will have dinner beforehand at my oldest son’s house. And even though my mom has no memory of her vanilla latte at a really fun restaurant, with some wonderful friends yesterday; even though she has no memory of her doctor’s visits and her diagnoses and future treatments; and even though she doesn’t remember crunching through the snow with me as we laughed and giggled, we will endeavor to make these days at least happy ones. She gets to wear her new coat (that she swears she has owned for years) and her new boots I got for her. And each day she gets to watch Harry Connick Jr. and Steve Harvey, and endless game shows, laughing through the day. She gets to make memories for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. And even if she doesn’t recall them, those memories are held tightly by those around her, who love her dearly.

 

 

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Craft Season and Santa’s knee….

 

Until moving to a far, (far, far, far) northern state, I did not know there were seasons for Craft Fairs. There are! Winter and Spring. For some reason, I love winter craft fairs. They are insanely crowded and parking is usually hard to find (although at our first one on Saturday, we got a spot directly across the street, on the street! Amazing!!) and once you are inside, they are hot. I mean so overly warm, you are carrying your coats, sweaters, and hats and fanning yourself. Ugh. Did I mention crowded? LOL.

We drove downtown on a blustery and cold day (little did we know the snow would start later in the night) and went to one of the largest craft fairs in the city. I was disappointed because it was about 1/2 the size as last year, but the sights, sounds, scents still excited me and pulled me in! “It’s so fluffy!” could be changed to, “It’s so shiny!” I love the glitter and glam of craft fairs, regardless of the size of the fair itself. One of the things I admire is our American creativity and how we find the ordinary and make it extraordinary. Some of the crafts are taking things you have lying around and making something you can sell out of it. Old silverware becomes jewelry and some pretty amazing wind chimes.  Or old CDs become necklaces and earrings (that one was a shocker). And I love how diligently and carefully people work on wood crafts and knitting, sewing quilts and making hats. I think I love it because I am so bad at it. I can appreciate their efforts, time, and creativity. When people ask me what I craft, I respond that I am an excellent reader and I dabble in writing. That is it. Done. Total. And being the mom of 3 boys, I am now blessed with daughters-in-law. So far I have 2 of them and both of them are ridiculously talented women. I mean ridiculously talented. Sewing, painting, putting up fences or dancing on their toes. I am so outclassed by them, I don’t even try to do what they do. But I appreciate and admire their skills and talents so much. I have watched them craft up close and sat, mesmerized, while they do their creative thing. So I get why so many crafted items are costly. It is a lot of work, it takes a lot of time, and it is born of a creative talent that I do not possess, so I am more than willing to pay for it!

This year is my mom’s first foray into craft fair season in a state where they take it very seriously. It is every weekend and it is everywhere, in season. This winter looks to be filled with craft fairs. I am so excited. But like I said, this is my mom’s first season. And she has Alzheimer’s and with that comes a loss of social filters. She basically says what she thinks, and because she is older and has trouble hearing, she says it very loudly. Even in a crowded craft fair. Oh my. I tried to explain to her that some of the artwork she was looking at was particular to our part of the country and particular to the native peoples who live here. In fact, much of what she was looking at is regulated so that only native peoples can sell it (or use the raw materials to make it). She says, “Oh my God! $45 for earrings? That’s insane!!” Or “They want $50 for hand made gloves? Are they made of gold?” “Where do they get this stuff?” “Now that is a beautiful photograph. Oh my! $250!! Is it mounted on metal? What kind of photo is that??” On and on she commented. I had to hush her and move her along. I was apologizing and explaining behind her back and let me tell you, after 2 hours, I was exhausted.

Did I mention we did this foray into craft season as a family? Great-grandma, grandma (me), son, daughter-in-law, grandkids, her parents, sister and niece. Yeah. Group event. Yes, we got separated. Yes, we got lost. Yes, there were tons of people. Yes, I was so, so, so hot. My daughter-in-law and I can go to 5-7 of these in a day, and I believe our record was 6 of them in one day, hauling a 2-year-old!!! But we looked at each other, and when we were standing at the last booth in the last aisle, we were so done. And it was only 1/2 the size as last year. And it was just one craft fair! LOL! And, it hadn’t even snowed, yet! LOL! Did I mention we did this as an extended family? LOL! By the time we were standing in the foyer, we were all starving, over-heated, and over-peopled.

One of the highlights, though, was that Santa was there and we got photos for free! Our last thing to do as we exited the building. My mom was laughing at the grandkids scampering towards his lap, and the fact that the 4-year old could barely tolerate standing next to Santa, that she turned to me and said, “Maybe I should go see Santa, too.” And so I asked and Santa’s helper said she thought it would be great! And so we closed out our first craft fair, with a visit with Santa! Mom was giggling and having a ball. Poor Santa. No social filters, remember? LOL.

This week’s schedule is a little full, but I think there is time in there for some baking of Christmas recipes (I always do a couple of run-throughs, making sure I get it right before gifting recipes to people) and maybe a craft fair or two this weekend. I am hoping Mom comes to enjoy being out and seeing all these amazing crafts and meeting so many talented artisans as much as I do. As we move further into winter, we get to add snow and moving around in winter weather to the experience! LOL! All that being said, I am still excited and hope we have as much fun this year as last year, and the other years before. Let’s celebrate American ingenuity and talents! Bring on the craft fairs!

 

 

Cinnamon rolls, ice, and forgetting…

Today is cold. There is ice on everything. It makes things look sort of magical. The sun is out, shining through the white, icy branches of the naked trees. I know it is weird to think about, but I truly love winter. It is a time when we descend into more peace, more quiet, more time for soups, fireplaces, and board games around the kitchen table. I love it. My house still smells glorious from my foray into baking what I called a ginormous cinnamon roll. I have to tell you, kneading dough is so cathartic. I love it. And the scent of yeasty, rising bread is one of my absolute favorite scents. Add in cinnamon and butter and brown sugar…yeah; pretty much a heavenly scent.

And guess what? It is good for breakfast again the next day!! We did “breakfast for dinner” last night, with a cup of tea and a disappointing but fun World Series. I thought I would share. (If you know me, you know that is a slab of butter on the side…lol).

So, as I was saying, it is an icy morning. And today is a forgetting day. I’m not sure if I have shared what this is before or not (I forgot – lol) but it is when you reach another stage of Alzheimer’s. Mom is having so much trouble today. As the disease continues to rampage its way through her brain, more and more of her abilities are lost. And they are lost forever. The brain is one of our organs that does not regenerate itself. Once the tissue dies, it is always dead. Which is one of the reasons traumatic brain injury is a lifelong sentence for those who play percussive sports (football) or are in the military. Our veterans have so much TBI, we are truly unprepared to handle all of the issues that accompany these injuries. Dementing illnesses cause irreversible brain damage, and often progress enough to cause death. Which means that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is something to grapple with. As I was taking an online course in caregiving, the leader said, “Make no mistake, Alzheimer’s is a fatal diagnosis. But we all will die. It is the way in which we die that makes the difference.” I cried. I had not thought of Alzheimer’s as a fatal illness before. But it is. It slowly robs the loved one of themselves. They forget how to use utensils like knives; they forget why they are getting into the shower; they ask you the same questions every couple of minutes. You have to repeat, constantly, the plans for the day. White boards are wonderful, if you can get them to look at them. My mom was looking at her white board and her calendar every day, crossing off days and events. She does not do that, except on accident.

Today, her increased forgetfulness made me especially sad, for some unknown reason. I wish I could throw an anchor into her mind, and hold on to all the memories and skills she still has. But I can’t. I have to allow her to let go of some things, and do them for her. I am cutting up her food; I am helping her shower and dress. I am explaining that, although the sun is glorious today, she has to dress warmly. It is only 23 degrees outside. I point out the frost. She says it will warm up by the time we go to her doctor’s appointment later on. I try to explain that, no, it won’t. We are in winter. And it hits me, as I watch her look out the window, that she is in winter, too. And her mind is slowly being covered in frost. That it will not warm up again. And that is what Alzheimer’s is all about – accepting that winter is here and it is not going anywhere. I am hoping I can make it happier with fun lights and decorations; that we can ease into this next phase with joy and laughter and warm coats. My only hope is that no one is too nice to me today – because I know I will weep.

“Trick or treat”!!!

Today it was Halloween. Our first one in this house. The first Halloween I have shared with my mom in absolutely decades upon decades. And I realized, my mom forgot how Halloween works. She hasn’t had anyone trick or treat in probably 25+ years where she was living. She has lived on a sailboat, a master planned community for the 55 and older, and even a retirement center. She hasn’t had anyone come to her door in all those years. And she was never one to really celebrate it by dressing up. She was teasing me about my pumpkin-decorated sweatpants and black t-shirt. About 2 weeks ago we put up my gel clings on the windows, proclaiming “Trick or Treat” with pumpkins and other fall things. And I have out my pumpkins and gourds in a bowl by the door, as well as my cute Turkey on the dining room table. But, she now has Alzheimer’s. And this year, I am home alone with mom on Halloween. Alone. Yeah; It has been interesting, to say the least.

Last year we had something like 5 people come and ring our doorbell. We had so much candy left over, we gave it away! We took bags to our church for them to give out during Coffee Hour. And of course, this year, the doorbell was constantly ringing. I went through 2 bags that were 5 pounds each. Our dog, Poca, was vigilant and kept me company each trip to the front door. Each time the doorbell rang, it scared my mom. I hadn’t thought about the holidays and how each of these separate holidays might be for someone whose day starts over every 5-10 minutes. Tonight, I tried to prepare her by cutting open this huge bag of candy, setting out a bowl next to the door, and having her watch me fill it with the candy. I told mom the doorbell should start ringing soon, as we had just finished dinner and it was about that time. The first time the doorbell rung, my mom jumped about a foot off the couch. And afterwards, she was shivering with cold because I had opened the front door. She asked why someone rang the doorbell and who it was. I explained it was Halloween and the neighbor kids were trick or treating. She settled back into watching her TV program on the couch, but I don’t think she really listened to what I had said to her; she was far more interested in watching Wheel of Fortune. The bell rang again; she jumped again; the dog barked again and walked to the front door with me. Mom asked me why people were ringing the doorbell. Each time it rang, she asked why. And this went on for at least 3 hours. I explained that children were trick or treating. She looked confused, so I explained that it was Halloween and kids dressed up and rang your doorbell, asking for candy. She recalled, or said she did, that she used to do that, but she also said it was so long ago, it was sort of “murky.” The doorbell rang again, and again, and she asked why again and again, and jumped in shock and was cold again and again… and the dog was barking again…each time the doorbell rang. I was thrilled when I ran out of candy! Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun seeing all the cute little ones. Some of the costumes were stellar! And I would give mom a piece of candy now and then, and she loved that. But she was confused by the entire process. I think she was happy when I turned the front lights out and we settled in to watch my TVR’d episodes of Bull.

The dark, foggy, wet, and cold night of Halloween has come to an end. Mom is in bed. She was actually sleeping on the couch. She rarely does that and usually won’t admit it. Tonight she said she felt herself sleeping on the couch! I coaxed her into bed and she happily went. She was giggling at her slippers, calling one a “silly twit” because she could not get it off. She climbed into bed and gave me her loving hug, telling me how much she loves me. It was a sweet end to a weird day. during which the sun never shone through the windows.

As I went to the kitchen to put my baking things (flour, sugar, yeast) away in their new, glass mason jars, I happened to notice mom’s pills. She had taken Sunday night’s dosage this morning, instead of her Tuesday morning pills. That could certainly explain her confusion over Halloween and trick-or-treating. And it would also explain her day-long lethargy. So, I guess I am going to have to be more vigilant when she takes her meds!

And I am going to plan ahead as to how we will be approaching the upcoming Holiday Season. I am thinking when we all sit around the table and eat, it will probably just be a meal, and may not bring about Thanksgiving to her mind (she is from New Zealand and increasingly refers to life there, prior to living here, so I am not sure she will recall the traditions of Thanksgiving, since it was not a part of her life as a young woman). But when the snow starts and I pull out all my Christmas decor, I am hoping the clues all over the house will remind her of what we are celebrating, like the big tree in the middle of the living room, pretty lights, etc. I cannot wait for the lights on the house to go up! Christmas and snow and the season are just so wonderful, I am prayerful she will just get caught up in all of it and go along for the ride, as they say!

“He hath made everything beautiful in His time…”

It’s raining. Buckets. Raining. I am so ready for the slush and mush of what seems like break-up to be over – bring on the snow! The irony? As I am typing this, the rain is becoming a mix of snow and rain – more of that graupel stuff again! LOL!

And once again, I am moved by the rhythm of the seasons. When we lived in Southern California, we barely noticed. When we were searching for a home before we got married, some friends’ parents owned a rental. They offered it to us for very little money, to help us get started. We went to see it and were so impressed by the view of the local mountains, feeling like we were living closer to nature. Well, it was in November. The smog had backed off due to rain and things were gloriously green. Little did we know we would not see those mountains again until the following November! Why?? Smog. And the heat of Southern California. We had some feeling of season, but not like what I have come to experience as I have grown older, and moved further north.

One of the amazing things about living in a state where you truly experience the movement of the seasons, is the slowing down of the world as winter approaches. We first experienced a true fall in the glorious northwest of Washington state. It was the first time in my life I had to pull over in order to disengage my windshield wipers from the myriad-colored fall leaves that had clogged them up! I could not see where I was going because the leaves were falling as fast as the rain drops. Wow. And the colors!! I fell in love with Autumn in Washington state. I had never understood fall in SoCal, but in the Pacific Northwest, it all made sense.

And since moving to Alaska, I can share that fall here is amazing. Short. But amazing. The colors astound me. The drop in temperature is so wonderful. Truly. When I go to this particular store up here, I always end up taking off as many layers as I can (coats, sweaters, scarfs, gloves) because it gets so warm inside. And when I step outside into the cool air, I take a deep breath and I just relax. It is amazing!!! And the skies here are glorious. My mom loves to tell us (over and over again) how her grandfather and she would lay on the grass and look at the clouds, labeling this or that. And she is constantly pointing to the sky, calling out shapes to us. It is wonderful to share it with her.

And now is the time we await the stillness, the peace, of winter. So many people I know fear the cold. They say they would not be able to live where it snows. It makes me sad for them, denying themselves the experience of a deep winter. I look forward to it every year. We hunker down; we stay together as families; we venture out into the fun of playing in the snow; we see vistas that remind us of our God. The stillness and quiet of a snowy day is something that has been proven by science. But for me, it is a moment where my heart, mind, and soul become still. Where I gather myself and repair myself in the stillness of the snow season. We enjoy all the many activities of winter. Christmas is glorious amongst all the snow. Decorations look that much more amazing. We don’t hang plastic, fake icicles…we have the real ones hanging off our roof. We don’t need to spray on “flocking” because all the trees are white with snow. The love of winter is something I wish I could truly share with those who fear it, or who fear the cold. One year, some friends had a New Year’s Eve party. It was one of the best New Year’s of my life. We enjoyed great food and good company. And then we trudged through the snow to a local peak, where they shot off fireworks in the cold, snowy evening. Yes, I was cold because I did not know fireworks were a part of the celebration – my feet were wet and the shoes I wore permanently squeaked from that night until they fell apart. But I trudged through and I watched those snowy fireworks and enjoyed every moment of it. I wish I could post my little video of it for you!!

And now we wait. The rain turned back into that slushy mess again. My grandson is down with the flu. It’s birthday weekend, but it’s on hold for sickness. The hubby is getting ready for a marathon travel of almost 3 weeks, starting on Monday. And the seasons are moving forward. I got these amazing Weather Tech liners for my car, preparing for winter. (So excited to not have wet carpet in the car any more!! It’s the little things). And I look at my gel clings of Autumn and cannot wait to change them out for winter decor.

Our lives move like this. Spring is when life is celebrated. New life; regenerated life (Easter). We then go to those long, hot days of summer and enjoy the sunshine and water and being outdoors (sound like your teenagers??). And we slow down as school goes back in session, the leaves start falling and we calm down (I think of it as middle age). And as we prepare for winter, I am reminded we all head into our own personal winter. We slow way down and we spend more time thinking about life and preparing ourselves for our winter, our slow down, our ending. But it can be beautiful. It can be peaceful and quiet, and so lovely. I am prayerful I will gleefully walk towards my own winter, my own ending, knowing that Our Lord awaits me. And as I type now, little white flakes are falling again. Winter is trying to be here. I am ready; I think. Are each of us prepared for our own, personal winter? Do not be afraid of the seasons of life, including the cold and snow of winter.

For some reason, a little Douay Rheims’ version of Ecclesiastes (V3) just fits. I hope you agree.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.  He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.  That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.  And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.  I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.  I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

Winter and snow – bring it on! It is time.

 

Frozen hair, graupel, howling winds, and aching bones….

We had snow. It is gone, now. In its place we have howling winds and icy rain that is pelting our windows. For whatever reason I am the sole occupant who was woken by the sounds. And at 5:30 am, I am up and awake. My bones ache, in a deep sort of way. I swear I can feel every one of the many bones in my feet and ankles. I did water aerobics for the first time in weeks on Tuesday night. And so now I ache…it is always 2 days later. In time to be expected to return to a cold pool and do it all over again; in time to ache for my busy Saturday schedule. I am not sure why I do this. Except I know that for my psyche, it is a good thing. I wish they would warm the pool temps just a tad, though!

We do have fun while trying to move our bodies in a healthy way. We cackle. The jokes fly. The youngest is about 32 and the oldest is late 60s. So there is a range. And occasionally, a husband will join us. Which makes it even better. Poor guy! LOL! We are normally surrounded by literally dozens upon dozens of little kids taking swimming lessons. We joke that the pool is much warmer when the kids are there because they all pee in it. LOL. The locker room is crazy hysteria…moms running around trying to shower off their little ones; us older ladies waddling (so we don’t slip on the wet floors) to the showers and then to the lockers. Some kids are running around naked. Others are hiding behind moms and their towels. Some of the older ladies bare it all for us to see, others of us are just like the hiding kiddos, trying to make towels stretch to cover it all. We joked that instead of loosing weight so the towels cover us, we have to buy bigger towels! A discussion was had over where to find them for the best prices. In the meantime, we are dripping water everywhere and are still laughing at jokes from pool time…and over new ones. This past session was pretty funny. Even more was the locker time afterwards. There are some things you cannot unsee. I will leave it there. LOL.

One of the weirdest things to experience, especially for someone who grew up in SoCal, is frozen hair. As we left the HS gym on Tuesday night, it was about 30 degrees outside. No new snow had fallen, but we did get some graupel, which is like frozen rain pellets. (Picture to follow). Anyway, out I stepped and bam! Frozen hair! It is so weird. Your head gets all stiff and it is hard to turn your head to the side. LOL. The second you get into your car, it starts to drip. LOL. And yes, I had towel dried it before I stepped outside. Duh. Funniest thing is looking at, and not touching it, because it will seriously break off!!

Graupel is technically when water droplets come into contact with snow flakes. It all has to do with temperature fluctuations, causing conflict between icy rain and snowfall. They sort of intertwine and you get graupel. It is chunkier than hail and harder, too. And you can see these perfect little balls everywhere. It is kind of cool looking. And weirdly enough, graupel is very dry. So we had graupel all over the ground and on our car. It looks like candy or something, and is so perfectly round. This was my public service part of my post. LOL. If you have ever gone to a state fair and had dipping’ dots, that is pretty much what graupel looks like, only white and not sugary! LOL!

So I am psyching up to go to water aerobics tonight. I have been awake since 5 am due to the crazy winds and blowing, icy rain – along with my aching bones – and then I recalled my gym bag, with my wet suit and towel, are in the trunk of my car. Yeah. That will be fun. I am sure they are frozen solid. I will get them clean and dry in time to get them all wet again. But I am getting out. And I am mixing with people. And I am enjoying the camaraderie of some crazy, and fun, and wonderful ladies. And by Saturday, I will be aching all over again. But I think it is worth it. Frozen hair and achey bones, and all.

 

 

“Let’s just have a PB and J…”

Despondency does no one any good. Depression doesn’t help. However, sometimes things get hairy and you just need a time out. Unfortunately, when you are a caregiver, there are very few ways to get a time out for yourself. All the literature tells us we need to make sure we take care of ourselves. And then there are the books that people recommend we read. Who has time to read books? Ha-Ha-Ha.

One of the hardest things they talk about when caregiving is the loss of your own life. Friends try, but fade away. It’s hard to always have to share your friend with their loved one…we understand. It’s like group dating! Activities wan, because there is no time, or someone to help watch your loved one, while you participate. Family members start having things to do, that do not include you or the loved one you are caring for. And I can say, from where I sit, until you are living with this 24/7, you truly do not understand what this is. To top it off, when the person you are caring for has Alzheimer’s, it is only going to get worse as the disease progresses.

They call us the “sandwiched generation.” We have children at home (although my baby is 18) that we are responsible for, and now we have an elderly parent we are caring for, who is also living with us. Sandwiched between the needs of a teenager (or younger child) and an elderly person. Sandwiched between the couple that you are, and the needs of those you are caring for. And it is hard to find common ground. Tensions run high and if your loved one cannot communicate well, or is easily confused, they can still decipher those tense moments and know something is not quite right. And then they react however they need to (or are able to) and it can help spiral things out of control. Tempers flare and the day seems ruined. I have never had months like this, where each day is a roller coaster and you have no idea what you will awaken to, nor how it will progress from there. And it can wear on your own psyche, and sense of well-being. Always on edge wears on you. It is like we adopted a stubborn 3-year-old with an 87-year-old’s sense of self, coupled with changing roles in life of mother/daughter to caregiver/mother. Stir in outside pressures and you have a cauldron of emotions. Today, tonight, I am drained. Empty. And so tired.

Up here, in the far north, our daylight hours are shrinking. Sundowner’s syndrome becomes a real thing. We go to bed in the dark and we wake up in the dark. It can be disorienting for us “normal” people, but for Alzheimer’s patients, it presents an additional issue we get to deal with. In order to take a break from it all, I decided we would go shopping, and we got my mom a hair cut. Trust me, that exhausted us both. But there were smiles and laughter and lots of girl time, and there were 7 pairs of jeans, in all different colors! Jeans! For my British, proper mom!! Miracle! We bought light green, raspberry, pale blue, tan, brown, and brown/black combo in pants, alone. And we found 8 sweaters in varying degrees of color combinations. We spent 5 hours, between the hair cut and shopping, bringing home a veritable bounty, and a big smile on mom’s face. Years ago, my mom worked at a local Thrift Shop and she loved it. So when I suggested we shop at one, she was all for it. The coup was finding a gorgeous dusty rose, ankle length, down coat for just $20. Her 5 year-old, great-grandson, two days later as she wore it, said to her, “Great grandma, you look like a princess in that coat.” It made her day! He got lots of hugs, too!

In amongst that two day synopsis are the parts of Alzheimer’s that are rough. After being out and shopping for more than 5 hours, my mom did not recall that we had done any of it, after walking inside. She did not remember we had arms and bags full of clothing to bring into the house. She went to put her purse away and when she walked back out to the living room, she asked where I got all the clothes I had laid out on the kitchen table. I told her they were hers. She was shocked. I showed her each piece and it was like she discovered it again, for the first time. At least I know she really liked each piece, because she liked each one all over again. I reminded her of her hair cut and she felt her head and looked so confused, so I showed her, in a mirror, how lovely she looked. Then she tried on her “princess” coat and was smiling because she loved it, all over again. The next morning, I had her go through each piece again, as we removed the tags, so I could wash it all. As the day progressed, it was me, reminding her over and over again of all her new clothes, and her haircut. That is Alzheimer’s.

We got our first snow. My mom has lived in snow states before, but they were typically desert states – Utah and Arizona. Their snow came and went. Here, it stays for 6 months or more. Only one person asked me what her reaction was. Only one. She saw the snow and looked at it, and suddenly she was shivering and her teeth were chattering. Literally. As she stood in the warm house, in her flannel PJ’s, robe, socks, and slippers. But she saw snow, and it made her cold, in her mind. She is acclimatizing slowly, even though as the sun rose in the sky, she did not understand why it was inappropriate to wear peep-toed, sling back shoes with socks in 2″ of snow and 23-degree temperatures. I need to hide those shoes until spring. LOL. She is learning that sunlight does not equate to warmth, it is just light. And for someone her age, in her condition, it is hard to learn anything new.

When we chat about what we are going to eat, regardless of which meal, mom always suggests, “Let’s just have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” It can be any meal; simple is easier for her. Meals with Alzheimer’s patients are interesting. Mom can no longer cut her own meats or other foods, and so she won’t eat what she cannot cut. Now, when I serve something that requires a knife, I present it to her already cut. We tell her it is because we know how her arthritis in her thumb hurts her, and it is that. It is. But it is also her confusion on how to hold them both, and then use them they way they were intended. So many things have gone that way. I am hoping we can phase out make-up soon. LOL.

Each week brings it own surprises and disappointments, and each day is something new. Some days are stellar, like our day of shopping. Other days completely do me in, when she refuses to participate in this life, insisting on living like she is on a South Pacific Island somewhere. I am prayerful that the future will be easier and easier, as we all settle into our new lives together; as her medications are evened out and she becomes accustomed to their affects. Every morning, I try to wake with anticipatory joy, rather than dread. I push the negative away, applying hope to my moments in the early, dark mornings. Each day is a gift; each moment I get with my mom is precious. And I endeavor to appreciate each of them. Some days I am a rock star; some days I fail miserably and it undoes me.

Today we get to venture out and run some errands. We get to see her doctor, among other things! Even though there is snow on the ground and it is all cloudy, mom is okay because she thinks it will get warmer as the day progresses. Still working on the concept of sun as light, and not warmth. I am hopeful she will learn that up here, snow hangs out for months, which means it is cold for months. She threatens going back to CA, but she knows on some level she is staying here. She gives me the most amazing hugs every night. Even if the day has totally sucked, we get hugs at night. I live for those moments. And today, I think we’ll do PB & J for breakfast…on toast.