Spring cleaning, cleansing, planting….eternity

Spring

Today I read an article about Vitto Mortensen, the actor. (He was in The Lord of the Rings). He said that every morning, he wakes up thinking about death. He buried his mom last year (she had dementia) and he is at home, sitting with his dad as he prepares to pass away (and he also suffers from dementia). His vocabulary is peppered with lots of expletives, but one of the most interesting things about him is that he has pretty much not changed since he was a kid. He carries a flip-phone. He lives pretty isolated in Madrid most of the time. He goes home and eats at the local diner and no one bothers him. He drives a Ford rental car most of the time. He smokes like a chimney, and is planning to attend his 40-something high school reunion. And he carries a worn, leather journal with him wherever he goes, because he doesn’t want to miss anything. In the article the writer shared how he pulled over on the side of the road because he saw a gorgeous waterfall and wanted to stop and look at it. He’s a normal guy, and yet he is not. But I was drawn to his comments about aging and dying. He said, when he was a kid and realized he would die one day, “Who thought that up?” He does not want to die…ever. I don’t think any of us really want to die.

emojis
I took a class recently on emotional healing and our health. How our bodies are affected by our emotions. And I was given a health scan. It showed interesting results. Results I poo-poo’d until this week, when what I scanned for (an infection) showed up. In my stomach. And I have been giving myself gastric rest. What is that you may ask? Well, if you suffer from ulcers or gastritis, or even pancreatitis (which I have – twice), you learn that once in awhile our digestive process gets interrupted by bacteria and it attacks us. It has been proven that most ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. And I know my emotions heap the acidic environment with lots more activity as I worry over things, or react to things that have happened in my life. I am a woman – we take things in. We put our arms around people and we love them. We mother them. (Those of us who tend to be motherly). To combat this, I give my stomach/digestive system a rest. I don’t eat. Anything. I drink water. For days at a time. For the past three days I have eaten 2 bowls of rice, several liters of water, and I shared a banana today with my two dogs (they love bananas!). All to give my digestion time to slow down, to ease off, to help fight this bacteria invading my body. But the pain and the hunger make me a little cranky, not to mention I have not had coffee the past 3 days (the headache was gone day #1). So basically I am doing a cleanse but without feeding myself much besides a little starch and some water.

Leaveswater

I have been introduced to essential oils. A lot of poo-pooing is going on about them and I am fine with that. But our lives have dramatically changed since we started using them. We have incorporated the philosophy of using little to no chemicals in our home, on our bodies, or in our bodies. We have a long way to go. But, I can honestly say I have removed cleaners and detergents from my home and I am way happier about it. I have been feeling like a huge weight follows me around (sometimes I know it is just my rather robust backside) and through clearing out the junk in our lives, we are feeling better. And it really started with essential oils. We use them rather than other choices, for many things. Each morning I start my day by diffusing a wonderful scent into the house, inspiring me to get up and move. I add oils to my water for a nice change and to assist my digestive system to keep moving. I cook with them, using a drop or two at the most to flavor our foods. In the evenings, I diffuse with lavender for a restful sleep. I wash my clothes with essential oil soaps. I use 100% wool dryer balls, scented with lavender or perhaps the blend, “Purification,” if the load is really stinky (fishing, gardening, teenage workout clothes). I have stopped using bleach because the soap I use is so good, my whites are still knock-out white. I wash my home with natural cleaners I make up myself, using essential oils. I made my own deodorant and face/body scrub, and face lotion using essential oils. I brush my teeth with essential oil toothpaste; I wash my hair with essential oil-based products containing no chemicals. It has been a long journey, to be rid of the chemicals in our home. And purging takes its toll.

So now I’ve been ill over a week with this stomach thing. But I am persevering through it, because I know I am moving in the right direction. I am cleaning up my act. I am getting closer to the dirt, as they say. An article I read about PTSD the other day noted that most of our culture is far removed from what it takes to run this society. We do not interact with those who provide our basics – farmers, electricians, trash collectors, fishermen – we shop at stores and we use the internet. We don’t realize what goes into keeping our world turning, and how at times, people actually sacrifice their lives to ensure our little worlds in our quiet neighborhoods goes on, uninterrupted. Part of our using these oils and products made from them, helps us to get down to a more natural, closer-to-the-dirt existence. We simplify a lot when we eat organic and grow our own veggies. In the long run, I would rather skip that $5 latte and buy $5 organic eggs. I buy organic coffee beans, grind them myself, and make my own lattes. It just makes more sense. And life grinds down to the simpler components, which makes breathing so much easier, and stress far less.

seedling
This year, for our garden, we are planting seeds cultivated to grow in this climate. They are heirloom seeds. We already brought in nutrients to the soil in our raised beds. We started our seeds in the house, in biodegradable pods. It was so fun to plant them with our grandchildren. My grandson (4) walked over to the table about an hour afterwards, leaned on his elbows, and stared at the dirt. He then proclaimed, “I think they’re growing, grandma.”  What joy that gave me. We face-timed a few days later and he saw the little seedlings popping up and then told me he would come over with his shovel to help grandpa in the garden! We love that we can share this natural and simple way of growing our food, and eating it directly from our garden, with our grandchildren. We love that we can grow what we want to eat, and nurture it along until harvest. It feels good.

Bug Spray

Last night I made my own bug spray using essential oils, witch hazel, and water. Around here, the joke is that the mosquito is the state bird. And they have hatched! To work in the garden means we will get bitten…they seem to love me. So I am using my oils to combat a pest. I am doing it naturally. And that feels good (oh, and it works, too! Bonus!).

All of this goes to the beginning thoughts of dying. I am dying. We all are dying. As our birthdays climb, and the years pass us by, dying is much more of a reality. It gets closer with each day. Am I ready? Am I spring-cleaned? Cleansed? Have I planted seeds for my eternity? Am I getting closer to the dirt? All of these thoughts have assailed me this year, through getting healthier, developing better health habits both for my body, and for my soul. I have read some amazing books, participated in some incredible “Bible Studies” that have moved me, and have met some wonderful people. Have things gone well? Not particularly. I have had “bugs” assail me, trying to knock me off my course. “Bugs” come at us all the time. What natural repellent are we using? Prayer? Silence? Fasting? Cleansing?

God up to something

I think that the more we try to get to the nano-cellular-level in life, to get down to what we called the “nitty-gritty,” then the evil one assails us. Mightily. We fight on so many fronts. But our God has given us the power to vanquish these assaults. He tells us to “rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.…” (1Thess 5:16-18). God’s will is that we are victorious. That we stand with Him for eternity. Pesky things like illnesses, which cleaner to use, what food to eat, who to share our lives with, all play a part in our eternity. Listening to a periscope talk the other day, a woman said she had never just “given.” That she had helped people, was a good Christian woman, but that she had never just “given.” She tithed, she helped in her community, but she always took. She made sure she got what she needed, too. She never just shared Christ just to share. She felt blessed to have found Christ in her life, but she had never just shared, never just given, without expectation. And that struck me and stuck with me for the past couple of days. I realized that it is part of our personal Spring Cleaning, of cleansing ourselves, and planting for our eternity. We need to just give – of ourselves, of our God, of our time. We need to be present. We need to be simple. Get closer to the dirt of life. At least for me, it is essential to my bodily health, my emotional health, and my spiritual health to be simpler. To ease off the stressful, complicated part of life and get back to quiet, humble, simple. Make some sun tea on my back deck. Take time to plant. To play in the garden with my grandkids. To go fishing with my husband. To just sit in the sun and share my time with those I love. To spring clean my home, body, life, and soul. It is time.

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

 

 

Advertisements

The Long Goodbye….memories made and lost…

Kodiak Sunrise

Sometimes life gets away from you. Time is stolen in the moments of the day. And suddenly, months have passed and you wonder where it went. We cannot ever recover the moments we allow to slide past us. Life has a starting point, and it has an ending point. It’s how we spend the time in-between those moments that count. Each morning, as in the gorgeous sunrise above, we are given a new beginning, a fresh start, a new opportunity. Deep breaths…

alzheimerswords

Recently, with my mom suffering from Alzheimer’s (which is a form of dementia and has no cure and worsens over time) my sister and I had a rough “Alzheimer’s day.” Quite often, she will call and we will have a gab fest that lasts for a couple of hours. We laugh, we share, we usually cry together. I was blessed with this woman coming into my life as an adult, when our parents chose to marry. She is my stepsister, but I love her like she’s been my sister all of my life. She has been such a blessing for my mom. And for me. When my stepdad died a couple of years ago, she stepped in as the primary caregiver for our mom. She lives 5 minutes from the retirement community my mom lives in. I live thousands of miles away (more than 5 hours by plane!) and my sole brother lives about an hour away. She and I are the main decision-makers for my mom’s living and health concerns. And this week we had a particularly rough day, which has led me to think, non-stop, about where we go from here.

Pistons

Alzheimer’s can best be explained like this: “Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” There are many forms of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is just one of them: Huntington’s Disease, Stroke, Dementia with Lewy Bodies (Robin Williams had this type), Traumatic Brain Injury, Down Syndrome, Frontotemporal, etc. There are so many types of dementia. With Alzheimer’s there are several things happening, all at the same time. A neurologist once said it is like the pistons firing in an engine. Sometimes they all fire in the correct sequence, and the engine runs smoothly; sometimes they mis-fire and we have sluggish momentum; sometimes different pistons fire in random order, changing the order moment to moment. And the engine stalls. That is the frustrating thing with Alzheimer’s – the person can be chewing your head off and turn around and say, “And how is your day, sweetheart?” All without skipping a beat. We can have blow-outs and fights and then sit down to a beautiful meal together. My mom has always had what we all have called a “sharp tongue.” Even as a young girl, I was often on the receiving, hard end, of her barbed comments. As I grew into my teen years, it got worse, because I became adept at slinging them right back at her, to protect myself. And she slowly, with the love and help of my stepdad, developed a filter. Her comments were fewer and less sharp as she aged. And we were all hopeful she would become this lovely, sweet old lady. And then my stepdad died. I cannot tell you the difference his death has made in our family. He was a source of joy and laughter, stories that made your side ache with the laughing, and constant love. He never differentiated between his kids – the ones he made, and the ones he gained through marriage. He was a second dad, given to me as an adult, and someone I adored. For my kids, he was just grandpa. And, to his family, he was a walking saint! He loved my mom so much, he somehow made her a better person. And we did not realize the extent to which he ran interference with our mom. Now that he is gone, her filter has gone, too. Along with the development of this horrid disease, she is grieving the loss of the love of her life. And she is not able to handle her life and how things have gone, very well at all. And she is so alone. At night, she kisses the photo of my stepdad goodnight, repeating it with a good morning kiss when she wakes in the morning. She usually cries over his death at least once a day. She is so alone.

Older women

My sister and I shared, in our conversation the other day, that we both hoped our birth parents would somehow get remarried. I think it is the fantasy of all children of divorce, regardless of their age when the divorce happens. It is natural to want your family to be together; your parents to be married to each other. But we also love how my mom and her mom are friends. They bonded over the love for the same man. And they see one another, do lunch, shop; I think it’s great. But my mom is lonely. She is angry. She does not want to live in a retirement home. She wants to be with her husband. She said she really hates her life. She lives in a beautiful place and has people to hang out with. But because she has met them since this disease took over her life, she does not really know them. She often forgets who is who. It is beyond her capacity to make friends any longer. Companions, yes; friends, no. And she gets angry – a lot. (Have I mentioned that before???) So far, we have been able to keep her where she is, but not for much longer. Alzheimer’s is winning. It is taking my mom away from us, replacing her with this angry, confused, person who is not handling things, and is just not a happy person, deep down.

And my heart hurts. Because I am going to have to stand up to this formidable woman – even if she is only 4’11” on a good day. And trust me, she is formidable, even at 87 years of age. And I hate that I am going to have to take her freedom from her. I am going to have to take away her choices. Because she is no longer capable of making sound choices. She does not remember so many, many common things we all take for granted. Even how to use her phone message machine, a stove, an iron for her clothes, even how to do laundry. There are so many things she is forgetting. And every moment is a “crap shoot” in that we don’t know which pistons will be firing, and which will not fire ever again.

And that brings me back to that “moment” thing. You know, we are not guaranteed our next breath. No one is immune. Everyone dies. There are no immortals (even though in my paranormal literature there are all sorts of them). Our lifetimes are finite. We are given just this one shot at it. And each moment is a singular occurrence in our lives. Each moment, each breath, is unique and sole, and each one departs, leaving us better or worse for that experience. With Alzheimer’s, those precious, lucid, loving moments become fewer and fewer.

clocks

Every moment I have on this earth can never be repeated. My memories are mine. There are things I have – objects – that mean something to me because they are associated with a memory that is precious to me. For example, I used to collect tea sets – cups/saucers/dessert plates. I have them in boxes. Yes, that is box with an “es” at the end. I have lots of them. Each and every one is precious to me because it was part of a family member’s collection, or I found it on an antique hunt one weekend, or came upon a set unexpectedly, or it was even a gift. But I have all sons (boys!!!). None of them particularly care about dainty, little tea sets. It is sort of a girlie thing to collect. What am I going to do with them? My plan is to gift my daughters-in-law, granddaughters, and special friends with them, with an attached story of where it came from and why it is special to me. And I will get around to it…ha-ha! I will. And I was thinking of all my mom’s things. When I take her choices away from her and place her in a memory home, it is basically reducing her home down to a room. What do we bring with her? What do we do with what we don’t bring? What is important to her, to her wellbeing and contentedness, her sense of safety and “home” when we do relocate her? Will any of us appreciate her things the way she has? We will understand why she has what she does?  What are the things she is particularly attached to? In addition, I also ask myself, should I bring my mom home with me? With my husband and son? Is that fair to them? To me? To her? Is it doable? And so I cry…I am looking at my tea cups and remembering my grandma and my mom…God, how many wasted moments have there been when I could have said, “I love you” and given them hugs?

Antique tea sets

What memories am I making today that will resonate tomorrow? How am I sharing myself with those who mean the most to me? Because this could happen to me someday, and I want my family to have really known me. What did I do today that will make a difference on my tomorrow? Am I doing all I can do for myself, my family, my friends? “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns — and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan?” (Matthew 6:25-26)  I try to trust, to not worry, because it does not add to my life…not a single hour. I try to face things as soon as I realize they are weighing on me, as I have found reality is usually much easier than what we conjure up in our minds. (And stress can be eased by just dealing with things head-on, facing our fears). But I do worry about my mom, and her limited, and getting narrower by the moment, future. I know she doesn’t worry about anything, because thinking like that no longer happens. Her pistons don’t fire like that. She doesn’t concern herself about anything but the moment she is currently living in…and the next moment is a guess. Some of the beauty (in a really warped way) of Alzheimer’s is the ability to only concern yourself with the here and now. It is also something that makes dealing with this disease so difficult. They call it the “long goodbye.” I’ve quoted it before. And I have used it before in blog posts. But as this disease progresses, I see the reality of it; I am living the reality of it. My mom rarely remembers when I call her. She thinks I don’t. That is fine. I know she won’t remember our chats after 4 or 5 minutes. “How is your day, sweetheart?” is said over and over in our conversations. The more often that sentence crops up, I know the conversation is over and I usually just say goodbye. This week, she was happy and getting ready for dinner (she’s old school and changes her outfit for dinner every day) when we were chatting on the phone. I had sent her flowers for Mother’s Day and she was joyful and happy, and grateful. The next day was hell day. Alzheimer’s won another round. Her pistons were firing all over the place. Unfortunately, those sorts of Alzheimer days wipe away the good days, because they are getting to be more and more severe. And so, it’s back to decision-making. A deep sigh, lots of tears, and research on my computer for places, benefits available, options for tomorrow. Lots of prayers about these upcoming choices and decisions. I know in my heart there are not many more tomorrows. I just wish I was 17 again wearing that red dress we both loved, and we were dressing for my graduation party from high school, and that I had taken that moment to tell her how much I loved her, when she would have really heard me, and remembered.

cab066148658377a39f399dfde2d7c68