Have you heard of this Icelandic tradition? As if I needed another reason to want to take a cruise to Iceland!! This is their tradition of gifting books for Christmas. It was started during World War II when the imports from outside Iceland were severely restricted. But get these statistics: 93% of the population reads at least 1 book per year! And they are rated the third most literate country in the world (behind Finland and Norway). One in ten Icelandic people will publish a book in their lifetime. The Christmas season in Iceland is kicked off by the reception, in every home, of a list of the top published books in Iceland. It is called the Bokatindindi – the catalog the Icelandic Publishers Association delivers to EVERY home. Wow. And Icelanders go nuts over it. The tradition is to exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading. They add chocolate to the gift  – and, personally, what better way to enhance the love of reading, than by adding chocolate to it???

So, this year we took the plunge – books for everyone. Everyone. And chocolate!! It is hard to compete, especially as grandparents, with all the myriad of toys out there. And frankly, it is hard to keep up with what is cool and what is stupid, what is okay to gift a 6-year-old, and what is too babyish. The parents know better what clothes and toys their kids want. We may continue to gift toys and clothes for birthdays, but this year, we decided to be the “Book Grandparents” from here on out. Books and chocolate.

Starting in early December, we spent hours researching books for our grandchildren. And our kids. And then we spent a glorious evening traveling the nooks and crannies of Barnes and Noble, searching the books out. We found some, while we discovered others. My husband and I are avid readers. Some of our kids are, too. Some prefer the movie over the book, or the video game over the book. I get that; I truly understand it. And one of my sons abhors his Nook, but loves the scent of a good book, and turning those pages. My Kindle was so full, I had to learn how to move the books off my device and onto my Amazon Kindle account, to make room for more books I could load onto my device! I literally had over 700 books on my Kindle. And I have read pretty much all of them.  I want this joy of reading for my grandchildren. The love of escaping to another world where you can see and smell another place, while sitting on your bed. The adventures you can have saving other worlds or climbing mountains, while in your jammies and under the covers. It is wonderful.

I know a couple of my kids will not be thrilled, nor expecting their gifts this year. But I truly hope they come to love them. I think we are spinning out of control and need more quiet time in our lives. Reading can give us that. And genres?? Oh my goodness – there are as many genres as you can imagine. As many worlds as you would like to explore, and characters you would like to come to know. It is a wonderful way to escape this crazy world and learn a whole other way to live.

One of the things we are not incorporating is the entire gifting experience on Christmas Eve. The Icelandic tradition is to give all your gifts of books and chocolate on Christmas Eve and to settle your nerves about Christmas Day by reading through the night. Then you spend Christmas Day celebrating with Church and then feasting with family. I wish we could move in that direction! But this year is huge. A big shift for this set of grandparents and parents. We will see how it goes!!!

Let the “Yule Book Flood” begin!!! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!!!



“…by saving what you love…”

Today is a forgetting day. I took the day off yesterday and it was nice. My husband, God bless him, spent the day alone with my mom while I went to a craft fair and Joanne’s with my daughter-in-law, and then I met a friend for dinner and the new Star Wars movie. While I was gone my mom panicked, asking for my stepsister (not me) and thought she had a doctor’s appointment to go to. When you become the main caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, you become their anchor. (The photo above is an anchor with Forget-Me-Not flowers on it, the flower of Alzheimer’s disease). Their world revolves around you, their anchor, and when you are not there, they panic and their world tilts.

In addition to her world tilting, she is cranky today. After having her live with us for the past 4 months, I now recognize the signs and know what is going on (yay for me!). I realized that a few days ago, she completely missed taking her Alzheimer’s medication. As soon as I realized it, I gave it to her. But it is so hard to keep her medication levels steady. And there is fallout when the medication cycle is messed with. So we have a mess today (two days out) until her blood levels even out, or settle into her new “normal.” I decided to let her choose her clothes and get herself cleaned up for the day. And today, my mom’s clothing is inappropriate for our climate and the time of day, and she has more make up on her face than I even own. And it makes me sad, because I know she would not like how she looks if she clearly saw her reflection. She is now sitting, and fiddling with the bracelets she chose to wear…and the top she has on. She told me she’s been wearing it for years and always found it so itchy, so she thought she would see if it still bothers her; that and the earrings she has on she hasn’t worn for years. *sigh.* The shirt is new (this is her 2nd time wearing it) and the earrings she wore the other day. Yeah; a forgetting day.


When we were packing my mom to move her up here, we went through all her “valuables” and sorted all her jewelry. We pared down all the junk stuff and tried to keep it down to a small box. We bought her a new jewelry box when she moved up here. I sorted through all her silver and gold, and we put it all into little sections. Untangling the chains took literally hours and hours. Today, when I went to see what she was up to (she had been gone for over an hour, between “putting on her face” and choosing her outfit), she was hiding her jewelry in little bags and boxes in her drawers. When I walked in, she tried to hide what she was doing. Her jewelry box is now a total disaster area, and pretty empty. She was also angry when I asked what she was doing. Yes, it is a forgetting day. One of many days of forgetting.

Alzheimer’s is an ugly disease. It is a slow slide out of our “normal” world and into “Alzheimer’s World.” I have little slips of paper I can pass out to people that tell them my “companion” has Alzheimer’s and it asks for their patience and understanding. I need to make more of them. There is no cure for this. There is nothing I can do. I watch her nutrition (she has lost 13 pounds since moving in with us) and try to get her to bed early each night, to be sure gets the rest she needs. I help her bathe. I pick out her clothes and make her bed every day. I do what I can to ensure she gets all the medical care she needs. But even with this amazing team of medical professionals caring for my mom, and all the care my family and I provide for her, we are all pretty helpless. Each moment is what we can choose to make good. There is not much more than that. And I am sad today.

Mom can no longer follow story lines. She cannot read books, or even follow the news. We play music. We watch Hallmark Movies (they leave her feeling so joyful). We watch endless sports. Any sport. We watch Steve Harvey whenever he is on, whatever it is he is in (she loves the guy). We do what we can, a day, a moment at a time. The hard part is this is a losing battle; a war against time and a disease. No matter what we bring to the war, we rarely win even a battle. Today is a test of my patience. I am working on ignoring what she is doing (she changed and came back out in a completely different set of clothes) and going into my own little world. Because my mom is firmly ensconced in her “Alzheimer’s World” …and today is another forgetting day.

To paraphrase from a movie I saw last night,

“You can only win by saving what you love.”

“There is an appointed time for everything…”

Every weekday, we venture to the local cancer center for my mom’s daily radiation treatments. We get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. And weekends. Yeah. The photo above is from the door of the cancer center, looking south. Because it is winter, that is the sunset, at about 3:30pm. We enter when the sun is lowering, and when we leave, it is just about down.

Right now, she is making her way through getting dressed. The sighs and loud breaths overshadow “The Chew” and their discussion of “Grandma slices” of pizza. She resents having to get dressed and get out of the house. On the other hand, her radiologist is her “boyfriend” and she invited him over for beers, once her treatment plan is complete. They love her there. And she enjoys all the attention, every day. They are so very kind and loving. They do treat her extraordinarily well.

Yesterday, the skies were angry and it was so very windy, as we left the center. Every time we go out in these wintry days, mom tells me about her grandpa, and how he used to help her see the shapes in the clouds. Every time we go out. Every time. And the really weird part is that when she tells me, it is like I hit the rewind button. The tone, the inflection, the words – EXACTLY the same. Exactly. My world has shrunk to doctor’s offices, cancer treatments at the local cancer center, Walgreens for the myriad of medications she is on, and the grocery store. I see very few people outside that routine. And trust me, those people are my world right now. And I am blessed, my mom is blessed, to have some amazing people caring for her. For that, I am so happy.

But you know, this Alzheimer’s thing is so isolating. I don’t blame people. You talk about what the biggest thing is in your life when you socialize. And who wants to hear about all the dozens of issues involved in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s??? I am not a varied conversationalist these days. I bore myself. And mom is hard for a lot of people to be around. It is like taking your 3-year-old with you on “Moms Night Out” events, or a date with your husband. Mom cannot be left alone. And so, she is with me 24/7. I did not think that part through. Moving to the far north was hugely traumatic, for all the friends I lost along the way. And we have tried to make some new friends here. And connections were made. Some seem super important to me. And now, now I am alone so much of the time, and it is starting to weigh on me. Trust me – even though my mom is with me, she is dazed much of the time, and sits in silence, making pyramids with her fingers. So it is not like I can converse with her. If anyone read my Facebook post last night, you would understand our conversations. We spent about 20 minutes discussing her sore knee, applying a pain patch, and discussing why her knee is fine and what the patch was for. Over and over again we went. I went to bed, exhausted and with my head spinning and pounding. All I wanted to do was sleep. And then the caffeine from the iced tea I drank at 4:00pm kicked in. It was an ugly night.

I am whining. I know I am. I am in the dumps. And I am so very tired. The sun is out there today, and I may have to wear sunglasses in December in winter in Alaska. Yep. Not even a White Christmas! LOL! I have to get out of my recliner and get mom to move out the door. Off to the cancer center again today. Yippee. I needed to vent. And then I find perspective. God is good, my friends. God is good.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear 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 throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-9