“…as long as I am living, my baby you will be…”

This is one of my favorite photos of me and my mom. It was taken my senior year in High School. They had this weekend full of events. This was an afternoon tea sort of thing. And we laughed because our dresses were much alike in style, but not in color. Mine was bright red and mom’s was all soft blues and tans! LOL! But it was just a joyous time…celebrating an achievement. My mom and I had some beautiful moments, but our relationship has always been a fractious one. We were never “shopping” buddies. I think the only time we shopped was when we would buy clothes for the upcoming school year. And we never went to lunch and shopped. We never window shopped together. We never did crafts – mom does not craft and consequently, neither did I. (Trust me – if you see me with a glue gun, slowly back away…lol). We certainly never hit book stores or museums or anything like that. If we went somewhere together, it was for a specific purpose. I’m sad we never had that sort of relationship. It was all business. LOL. Maybe we clashed so much because we are both strong-willed women. My dad has always said to me, “Just don’t grow up to be like your mother.” Of course, he left after 27 years (Yeah; slightly bitter even now). But you know what? I learned some amazing things from my mom. And I am still learning from her.

My mom has not kept up with technology, at all. She can no longer work a microwave, nor even make a pot of coffee in a drip coffee maker, let alone something like a Keurig machine. She does not understand how to change the channel, use a laptop, or what an essential oil diffuser is. One of the things I am learning from my mom is how to be content inside our own heads. Technology is everywhere in our lives, and my mom has learned to just ignore most of it. It has no place in her mind, because she truly did not use much of it. There will be the TV blaring, the teenager playing his music in his room (way too loud for me) while he is rushing around getting ready to leave, and I’ll be playing on my phone or reading on my laptop, and mom is quietly sitting, hands in her lap, content. She usually falls asleep. She sleeps a lot. In amongst the chaos that is a functioning family home. Last night, the dishwasher was going, my son and his girlfriend were at the dining room table gabbing, the winds were howling, the TV blaring, and I look over and mom is literally snoring. Calm in the chaos…stillness in the chaos….quiet in the chaos. We can all learn from that.

My mom taught me all the skills I needed to be a housewife. She taught me to iron when I was just in kindergarten. I used to stand on a stool to iron my dad’s undershirts, and pocket handkerchiefs. I couldn’t really hurt them! We used to iron our sheets and towels, shirts and pants. Pretty much everything. So I had lots of practice. Mom used to let me peel potatoes when I was in grade school. I have the scar on my index finger to this day. I learned how to brew the perfect cup of tea. And toast…I learned how to make proper, British toast.I learned how to make a wonderful pot roast. I learned how to scrub everything. I learned how to organize and be neat and to always put things away. Nowadays mom likes things put away, but she doesn’t care where they go, so long as she cannot see them. It makes for fun treasure hunts when we are looking for pillows or pajamas, shirts and sweaters. Her doctor told me to stop teaching. That everything my mom will know, she already knows. She cannot learn anything new. And to stop pointing out the mistakes, to just clean them up. And you know, I recall my mom just cleaning up my messes when I would knock over a glass of juice or milk or anything. She would not get mad. She would certainly make it clear she was not happy, but she would just clean it up. A good lesson for me, as a mom, and now, a caregiver.

One of the most memorable things my mom did was turn into this incredibly gentle and loving person, a true caregiver, whenever I was sick. As a 12-year-old, I fell very, very ill. I had a sinus infection that went into the fluid in my brain, and I ended up in the ICU. As the illness progressed, but before I was hospitalized, I remember my mom setting a fan up at the foot of my bed. bringing a bowl of water with floating ice cubes and a wet cloth to bath me in. Back in those days, we used to do more home care, without rushing to urgent care for the sniffles. My temperature was well over 102 degrees and my dad came to my room and told me to stop faking it, at one point. He accused me of wanting to get out of cleaning up the dog poop (which was my current daily chore – we had Great Danes, so it was sort of important) and pretending I was sick. I recall my mom standing up for me and telling him I was truly ill. After a couple of phone calls to the doctor, my mom drove me to the doctor. He immediately hospitalized me. My dad never left my side – I think he felt guilty for accusing me of faking an illness. Mom, well, mom stayed home to take care of my brother, and would come see me each evening. She would sit with me until I fell asleep, holding my hand.

Even to this day, I hate to throw up. I think it is the absolute worst thing ever. I will do whatever it takes to not throw up. In fact, my husband and I made a deal when we got married – he would clean all throw up from our kids and I would do any diaper or poopy mess they ever made. DEAL! My mom became the best mom ever when I would get sick as a kid. Her comfort during my stomach sicknesses has never left me. She would calmly talk to me, she would hold my hair and rub my back. She would put a cold cloth on my forehead, whispering that I would be fine soon. She was so gentle and loving and caring. Those moments have stayed with me, and seem like yesterday, even now.

There is a great book, at least to me, that people either love or hate. I love it. It is called, “Love you Forever” by Robert Munsch. I read it to my kids. The story is so beautiful, and is about the love of a mother for her son, and eventually, how the son returns the love and cares for his mother, then passes it on to his own daughter. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”  This is the recurring phrase throughout the book. The story is how much a mother loves her son, and through the stages of his growing up and away from home. There are various scenes of her holding and rocking him, singing the above phrase to him, even into adulthood. The story comes full circle, when the son rocks his mother as she is old and dying, and then finally holding and rocking his daughter, singing that same phrase. It is about unconditional love. And about the full circle of love a mother has for her children, passing it on to them, so they in turn can pass that love onto their children. And today, as I sat watching my mom drift in and out of sleep, I thought of this story. No, I am not like my mom in many ways. But in some of the most important ways, I am exactly like my mom. I love hard, I love deep, and I love forever. I am a cuddling, hugging, and kissing mom, friend and grandma. And I am a cuddling, rocking caregiver to my mom. And if that is what I get from my mom, I am a blessed woman. I only pray my sons will want to rock me one day, as I journey into the Arms of a Loving God, who will rock me on His lap forever.

Me and Mom in August 2017

 

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“Memory eternal…” (Repost with note)

NOTE: I wanted to share this post again, because I wanted to explain what is meant when I post the phrase, “Memory Eternal ” when someone passes away. I just love this and I would love for others to find the comfort in these words, too. Please read…..
Joe smiling

This is my father-in-law, Joe. He passed into his eternal rest four years ago today. As Eastern Catholics, when we recall someone or remark upon their deaths, we say to others, “Memory Eternal.” One wonderful explanation comes from Scripture itself. As we read in St. Luke’s Gospel, the thief asked: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  And in answer, in satisfaction of his wish, his wish to be remembered, the Lord witnesses: “I say to you, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”  In other words, “to be remembered” by the Lord is the same thing as “to be in Paradise.”  “To be in Paradise” is to be in eternal memory and, consequently, to have eternal existence and therefore an eternal memory of God. (Orthodox Christianity.net). I love that explanation. But there are many others, too.

This is also posted on Orthodox Christianity.net: “The Jewish equivalent of “memory eternal” would be zikhrono/ah li-vrakha (“may his/her memory be unto blessing”). Heretics, apostates or evil doers are never mentioned by name after they are gone. If they are referred to, a mock name is used instead (I guess that explains why some call Our Lord “Yoshke”). Also, on Purim when the Scroll of Esther is read, noise is made to blot out the name of Haman, the enemy of Israel. With us, this happens when the Synodikon is read on Orthodoxy Sunday: people call out Memory Eternal thrice to acclaim Saints and righteous Emperors and thrice Anathema for heretics and enemies of the Church. When one really wanted to punish an enemy, they would kill everyone in his household, so that nobody would perpetrate his memory/pray for him. Cf. 1 Samuel 25:22 “So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.”

That explanation is a little extreme, but I love the ties to our Jewish roots in theology. And more is found in other scripture references, too.  Proverbs 10:7 “The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.” Psalm 112:6 “Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”  And from the book of Isaiah (Iz 49:13-15) “Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”Joe BryceIn the Eastern Churches, we don’t have a funeral “Mass.” We have a memorial service. And this is the last portion of that service:

The Dismissal

Priest: “Glory to You, O God, our hope, glory to You. May Christ our true God, who rose from the dead and as immortal King has authority over the living and the dead, have mercy on us and save us, through the intercessions of his spotless and holy Mother; of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles; of our venerable and God‑bearing Fathers; of the holy and glorious forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of his holy and righteous friend Lazaros, who lay in the grave four days; and of all the saints; establish the soul of His servant Joseph, departed from us, in the dwelling place of the saints; give rest to him in the bosom of Abraham and number him among the righteous.

People: Amen.

Priest: May your memory be eternal, dear brother, for you are worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory.”

I love how we are asking for a place among all the saints, a place of rest among the righteous. We are remembering the person who walked among us, and we are asking that God “remember” him, too. On that same site, Orthodox Christian.net, this is said,

To remember – to have memory of in the western world is to THINK and RECALL an individual.

To remember – to have memory of in the Eastern Church it is to RE-MEMBER – to pull that person, that part of the body, and RE-MEMBER – REJOIN that body part back into the Body of Christ.

So to say, Memory Eternal is saying “May he/she FOREVER be a MEMBER – A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.”

And I truly ask that whenever I say, “Memory Eternal.” May that person forever be with us. We have the Church in 3 states – the Church Militant, here on earth, the Church Triumphant in Heaven, and the Church Suffering or Waiting (that would be those in Purgatory, should you accept that teaching). But we are all One Body in Christ. It is why we feel we can confidently ask the Saints to pray for us – they are part of the Body of Christ in the Church Triumphant. And we can continue to pray for those who have gone before us, asking for their memories to be eternal, for them to reside with God in Paradise.

Joe Kyle Ron

And this leads to what I’ve been musing over. What would I like to be remembered for? My kindness to others? My temper? My sarcastic wit? My smile? My faith and love of God? I pray my children, and those who know me well, would have an amalgam of memories of me, that would form the whole person, imperfect as I am, for them to cling to after I am gone. But am I also that thief, hanging next to Our Lord, asking to be remembered? Well, yes I am. I have committed sins. I  have great need of forgiveness and repentance.

I read a great blog today by Father Barnabas Powell over on Ancient Faith Blogs entitled, “We deceive ourselves – Faith Encouraged.” In it he says,

“If I am so blind to my need for forgiveness and repentance, I will continue to be at the mercy of my passions. I will continue to be ruled by my spiritual poverty and I will miss the healing power of the spiritual medicine offered to me by God in Christ. But, if I come to myself, as the Prodigal did when he was working feeding the hogs on a farm, and he remembered that the servants in his father’s house were well fed and cared for, I will begin the admittedly difficult journey back to the Father’s House.”

He goes on to say: “Once I see that I am only lying to myself and escape this delusion through honest confession, I am finally free to see myself as I really am: A person who needs God’s mercy and grace. How powerful the trick of the evil one is when he cons me into believing that God won’t accept me because of my mistakes! I allow shame and pride to build a wall of delusion between me and the very love that will set me free. God already knows me better than I know myself. He sees all my weaknesses and mistakes and He loves me still. He, like the Prodigal’s father, stands at the end of the road every day looking for me to return home to His warm embrace. He does not shame me. I shame myself by foolishly wallowing in my ego!”

And he then says, “Today, are you willing to abandon the lie that you are OK? Are you willing to look into your own heart, without shame, and be honest in your need for God’s mercy and grace? Are you finally willing to travel the Lenten wisdom of prayer, fasting, and repentance to see your loving Father throw His arms around your neck and welcome you home and forgive all? Such spiritual treasures await the honest and humble man. All the love and forgiveness you will ever need is as close as your willingness to abandon the delusion of your own heart and embrace the invitation to be Orthodox on Purpose!”

I take great comfort in that. I know that God forgives me and when it is my time to “be remembered” among the saints, I can take my place. But I need to be honest about who I am, and that this constant journey is a process of picking myself up and starting over – and over again. It is not being intimated into admitting I am far from perfect and that God has so much left to do in me; it is an acceptance of my true sinful self and a reconciliation with the real me and God. I also need to remember that we are not guaranteed our next breath. Am I ready to be remembered right now? Am I in that place that gives me comfort, knowing if today is my last, that I am ready for eternal remembrance? My father-in-law was a good man. He worked so hard and he loved his family fiercely. He and I butt heads quite a lot. I wish I was the woman I am today, back when he was breathing his last. I think we would have liked one another more (I think he would have enjoyed me more). His death came so rapidly that most of us were truly unprepared for it. It is a blessing in that he did not suffer for too long, but he did suffer. His entire family suffered along with him. The last moments he and I shared were awkward and deeply sad, but I can sincerely add my prayers to everyone who says, “Memory Eternal,” and I can beg for his repose among the righteous. God knows my heart and he knows the relationship I shared with Joe. Joe and I loved one another, in sometimes an argumentative way, but we wanted the same thing for our family. Disagreements in families are commonplace. But I also know that saying, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” is a wise saying. Time is not something we can count on – there is a finality to this life. Let us all strive to forgive one another and treat one another with loving kindness always and foremost.

Memory eternal, Joe; memory eternal. “…give rest to him in the bosom of Abraham and number him among the righteous.”

Joe Mary

“…Thou shalt not kill…”

NOTE: I decided to run with this. It will cause hurt feelings for some people I know. It will garnish rough comments from some people. But you know what? It is time for me to be honest about how I feel, in case you were not clear before this post. You  have been warned! Blessings!!!

I was reading an interesting article which was offering theories as to why people do not understand what is going on in our country. (And really, throughout the world). I enjoyed the article and one suggestion was that kids are not taught civics in school any longer. They call it, “Social Studies,” and it is more of a comparative course, rather than one specific to learning how our government operates. We have quite a variety of styles in the differing states with counties and boroughs, cities and townships, and other forms of government. Only a handful of our citizens are active in our government and know how our legislative process really works. And I think that keeps many people from being upset with what legislation is passed…right under our noses…which has slowly robbed us of our rights. I used to be so busy raising my kids, getting their whites really clean, and living the farm life with growing our own vegetables and participating in 4H and our Church family life. We dipped our toes into local School Board politics in the late 80s and that swore us off looking to be elected to any office. We have never forgotten those days. We paid attention and voted in every election, learning as we went. But we did not have TV in those days (on purpose) and only got news through the radio. In our current technologically-driven world, it would be near to impossible to not hear what is going on, unless you totally unplug.

I am not sure when all this political correct-ness began. I recall, back when our 33-year-old son was playing soccer, a particularly noteworthy season. I think he was about 8 years old at the time. We used to always take the kids for pizza at the end of the season. We would practically take over the local pizza restaurant and have our end-of-the-season party. The league would also provide trophies for the winning teams. And there would be this ridiculously tall trophy the coaches would get, for the whole team. Imagine a pizza parlor with rows of benches, each row filled by a different soccer team in their uniforms, all screaming and yelling, grabbing pizza slices and showing off tickets won on the games played there. One year, we got our boxes of trophies to hand out, and we saw that all the teams were handing out these little trophies. No wining team monstrosity (I did think they went a little overboard on them, considering these kids hadn’t even reached their teens, yet) was given for First Place. All the trophies for all the teams were the exact same size. Even the team that had won NO games. And all the kids were commenting: “How come everyone gets the same thing? We won. Why don’t we get the big trophies? Why does that team, who never won a single game, get the same trophies we get?” Yeah. That was a rough season. And it pretty much went like that from there on out. There was no recognition for success. Everyone was recognized for completing the season, but the winners did not stand out in any way. Which made the kids themselves question why they had to practice or try so hard if it did not mean anything. And that was over 25 years ago. And I think we have been going down this rabbit hole these past 25+ years.

I had an interesting discussion today. Someone disparaged my stance that I boycott Starbucks because I do not believe their CEO or their company represents my views at all. I was told it was being silly, not drinking their coffee because I disagreed with their viewpoints on things. I also said that I did not support any company who supports Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. A comment was made by a woman that, even though she thought abortion was not good, she went to PP annually for her physical exam, because she is broke but loves her body. (Oh the irony!!). Another couple of comments were made that we all just need to treat people the same and enjoy life and not be boycotting. Live and let live. Be kind – be happy – be loving. Don’t be so angry. Yes, because I boycott companies and express my opinion, I am an angry woman.

I am so tired of being told that taking a stand about something is wrong. That it is being angry. Am I protesting in the streets or setting things on fire? Am I shooting someone? Am I wearing pink hats that are supposed to represent a woman’s genitalia? Do I insist on my way or the highway? Am I rude? Do I insist on only allowing my viewpoint being shared in the public square??? I do none of those things. I boycott industries and corporations which support the things I am against. I choose to put my hard-earned dollars supporting wholesome, family-friendly-pro-life viewpoints. Boycotting Starbucks means my $5 latte is not supporting a company who believes abortion is good, does not support families, and thinks marriage is between whomever wants to be married. The CEO told me, in his press conference, to stay out of his stores if I did not agree with him (well, not me directly, but everyone who disagrees with him) and so I am taking him at his word. I was told it does not hurt the CEO, but the poor employees only trying to make a living (mean old me). I wanted to retort then, but instead am retorting now, that I would never work for a company that disparages my views on these important issues. I would never want my income to be generated by working for a company that believes in the very antithesis of what I believe. How could you work there? There are certainly many other coffee vendors you could work for, other than Starbucks. I think that is a cop-out. And so I choose to shop local, pro-life and pro-family coffee vendors. Take that.

The reason we are in the position in this country we are in is because we are far too PC – Politically Correct. Good heavens, the world is full of right and wrong. We make a choice about right and wrong every moment of every day. Are we walking towards God by doing this, or are we walking away from God? It even comes down to where you buy your coffee. Think about it. We are taught, by God in the Bible, and through Holy Tradition, that there are things which are right, and there are things which are wrong. There is a list! God made it easy. And there are only 10 things on the list! Only 10 things that we are supposed to know – by heart – and which we are supposed use, to operate in this world. Thou Shalt Not Kill. Pretty clear to me.

If we follow these Commandments, just 10 little rules from God, we should be doing the right thing at all times. Of course we stumble and fall and make mistakes. But the cool part is we are given free will and we are allowed the errors in judgment. If we acknowledge our errors and resolve to not repeat them, we have taken another step towards God, and not away from Him. We are not all promised the same ends for the same efforts. We are all promised the same opportunity to try. Opportunity, not results. If I squander an opportunity, that is on me. My bad, as they say. But the outcome should be up to the individual. Success is not guaranteed, just the opportunity to succeed.

I was raised by immigrant parents. You can laugh at it, and poo-poo it all you want. But if you really look at it, being different was different – and noticeable. My mother was told to come back to the butcher shop, the dairy, and the baker and farmer, when she could speak English. The funny part is that my parents immigrated from New Zealand. They were speaking English, but their accents were so thick, no one could understand them. We did not celebrate Thanksgiving with a Turkey Dinner. My parents had never eaten Turkey. LOL. We had roast lamb. I was not allowed to wear “dungarees” to school, only dresses. We had a strict curfew and hearing my mom call my name meant I was late home. (And all the kids on the block loved imitating the way my mom said my name…it sounded like J-O-N and all the kids would repeat my mom, with their copied accents). We lived in East Los Angeles when it was a lazy, bedroom community outside of Downtown LA in the late 50s and 60s. All the lawns were the same, separated by those driveways with 2 strips of cement or stone for the cars to enter the garages at the back of the property. We had sun and lots of fun. Sprinklers to run through and trees to climb. It slowly changed into a little Mexico, and then lots and lots of blacks moved in. I was so happy to be able to buy Mexican food from the local street vendors (the smells were heavenly) and eat the Chinese cookies my parent’s gardener would give us. My parent’s best friends were Greek and we loved hanging out there, too. The food, music, dancing, noise, and laughter is forever etched on my mind. My best friend was black and I used to love staying at her house because the food was amazing; she had lots of siblings and it was so loud and I loved it; and we got to sleep in a big pile of kids in one room! Going to their Southern Baptist Church was an experience I will never forget. I was the sole white person for miles. And a blonde, too. I stood out like you would not believe. And I felt so underdressed! The music, singing, and joy of Jesus was all around me. I ate it up. And being brought into the black community like I was, my friendships at school only expanded. I did not have tutors. I did not have different school books. I walked the same streets, shopped at the same stores, ate the same foods we bought locally. I was given the same opportunity as everyone around me. My friends and I worked at school, we played on teams together, and we struggled to make it through each school year. We were a melting pot and I am so blessed to have lived that way as a child.

I am not sure when we started this splinter process, but I know it was working its sad way into society in the late 80s around soccer trophies and a misguided sense of what was fair, or what was right or wrong. We are now a fractured society. We have to call people by the correct moniker or we can lose our jobs, be sued, and ostracized. We cannot let anyone fail…oh no. Kids who cannot pass standardized tests? Oh no! Let’s change the standards so everyone can pass! I read a commentary today wherein a gentleman was expounding on his belief that our educational system is dumbing down students so badly that he was expressing fear for our future. If we keep dumbing it down so everyone can pass, who will our doctors be? Who will our scientists be? Have we reached our societal pinnacle and it is all downhill from here??? How will we function? Who will be our leaders in government? It should frighten everyone.

We can choose to bury our heads in the sand and let others “take care of it.” The people who are influencing our world, are profoundly in the minority. According to the NIHS survey taken in July 2014, the people who self-identified as LGBT were 0.7% of the population. That means that 99.3% of the population self-identifies as heterosexual. And yet, that small, small minority is now telling that huge majority, that we have to accept gender fluidity, or men in women’s restrooms, or that our children think they are gay (or whatever PC term you wish to use) by the age of 3 or 4, and that in certain states (read: California) you relinquish your parental rights when you allow your child to enter a public school and cannot opt your child out of the new “gender-bending” sexual education being forced on us. By 0.7% of the total population of this country. That means 2.2 million people are telling 323 billion people what to believe and how to act. That is mind-boggling. I wonder how many of them work in the media we have here in the USA? How many are actors, singers, producers, etc?? Think of our courts. The Supreme Court! Wow. Talk about strategy. Why do so few have so much power? I love statistics because you can pretty much screw around with them enough to make any point valid. But I still find it interesting.

How can you make a difference? How can you, one of the millions of people in this country, make a difference? What can you do today to make a change?

For me, I don’t shop at Starbucks. I call my local legislators. I download bills, read them, remark on them, and share my viewpoints with legislators and my community. I attend town hall meetings. I work behind the scenes for people running for office who I feel will honestly represent the world I want this country to be a part of. I call. I write. I blog. I share. And I do not back down. Why? Because the world of political correctness and participation trophies is destroying this country, and this world. There are inherent evils in this world, but we white wash them. If a woman loves her body, why would she go to a place like Planned Parenthood to keep herself healthy? They are NOT a healthcare provider. They provide abortions. It is the antithesis of life. There are all sorts of free clinics you can go to if you are low on funds, many of whom are run by pro-life organizations (since you “don’t like abortion.”). I am so tired for being put down for my pro-family, pro-life, fiscally-conservative, socially-conservative views and beliefs. I love our Lord. I love my family. I love this life. I love this country. And you know what? I am defending it. And it all starts with something as simple as where I buy by coffee….

(La Crema, Wasilla, Alaska)

 

Trust starts with truth and ends with truth…

I have been thinking about this post for a couple of days now. The subject is trust. Who do we trust in our lives? We can look at our world as concentric circles. As we look at the world-at-large, and the world stage, who do we trust? World leaders? The U.N.? Our President? Our elected officials? The worldwide media? What news source do you listen to? Because where and how, and from whom, you get your information colors that information, and it colors you. There is a quote from Winston Churchill that says, “History is written by the victors.” And that is pretty much true. This is our largest circle. The world. Certainly our faith and sense of self comes from an influence by the world on us, even if we eschew interacting with it most of the time – that act in itself is a reaction to the world around us, thus has an influence. And are we aware of what is going on in this circle? Because if we are not, we are “in for a world of hurt” when it all comes crashing down.

As we come closer, and enter the next smallest circle, we come to our country. So who do we trust? Again, our President, elected officials, government? I have been sorely disappointed in all of it. I made assumptions people had our best interests at heart. I made assumptions people would act in a way that put our country and its citizens first. And I trusted those in charge. Silly me. I still believed in character and ethics. That has been debunked. Thoroughly. Another quote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton) sort of sums up large-circle (and really, all) politics. There is rampant corruption in our government. It is on the news daily, regardless which camp you identify yourself as part of. Who speaks truth? Who champions our country before their own interest? Who puts America first, regardless of special interests or lobbyists? Who cares about the citizens, each and every one of them? Who, on the national stage, can we trust? I loved watching the interview of Mark Zuckerberg, live, answering questions by equally shady politicians. What a circus that was! Please. The FBI/CIA/IRS and the host of other alphabet agencies? LOL. Nope. Don’t trust any of them. Do you trust Facebook? The abilities of electronic media to follow us and record our movements, purchases, phone calls, friendships…that is frightening and we all need to rethink technology’s roles in our lives (as I type this on a laptop and post it on the internet. Ironic!). People commonly say that if you use any sort of electronic anything, any thoughts of privacy are gone. You have to still be using solely pencil and paper to avoid electronic tracking of some sort. Who even writes checks any longer? ATM cards – debit cards – credit cards. I rarely even touch cash anymore. And those cards can track you while they are still in your wallet/purse, without even making a purchase (RFID chips/technology). And at the bank yesterday, I overheard a man asking how he could have overlooked $8,000 leaving his account. He was standing there, going over all his automatic, electronic deductions. Hard to trust even those you have given access to your bank accounts. Privacy…almost a thing of the past. And now with Siri, or whatever home-control device you have, even our homes are no longer private oases for us to relax inside, eschewing the world. You can tell your TV what you want to watch by saying a line from a movie, or describing into your remote control and it finds the movie/program for you. From voice recognition. My 4-year-old granddaughter tells her Echo device from Amazon to be quiet all the time, shutting down music being played or programs being watched. How scary is that??? And she knows what she is doing.

As we come ever closer to ourselves, we inhabit a finite space and time. As we move closer in from the borders of our country, we come to our State (which is how we divide the country, here in the USA). We happen to live in the “Last Frontier.” Even though Alaska is geographically the largest of the 50 states in this fragile union, we have one of the smallest populations. This state is not for everyone. Weather is certainly a factor (“I could never live in so much cold; so much darkness” is something I am always hearing) as is the fact that we are isolated from the rest of the “lower 48,” as we fondly refer to them. It costs me more to fly to Los Angeles than it does to Reykjavik, Iceland. ($1400 RT to LA versus $1080 RT to Reykjavik, as of this morning). We are isolated in our food sources. We are isolated in goods and materials. We are isolated, except when tourists arrive. LOL. Only 30% of our roads are even paved. It is a harder place to live than most. I have lived in California, and in Washington State, and neither one had the neighborliness of Alaska. And when it comes to politics, the politicians here shop at the same grocery stores, and live in my neighborhood. I can see a politician at Church, deeply in prayer, surrounded by their family. I have met and had coffee with many of them. How many state politicians do you know who, when meeting you, give you their personal cell numbers and ask you to please keep in touch? I was floored when that happened to me – more than once! And now that I do know many State-level politicians, it has made my State seem smaller. I can watch them on TV and text them at the same time. Surreal, in comparison to past experiences with politicians in smaller states with larger populations. And I have friends in local politics, as well. Here we have Boroughs; some states have Counties. We have friends at the Borough and city level in political positions. To me, it seems as if there is a true sense of trying to work to make our State, and our community, a better place. Are there corrupt politicians here? You bet there are. I am slowly learning who is trustworthy, and who is just positioning themselves for re-election and a firm hold on their power base. I pray for all of them.

And in these circles of our lives, quite often things inter-connect and cross-over, creating a patchwork life experience. Some of these people I know who are a part of my State legislature, or a part of my community, are also my friends…which for me, often equate to family and home, my smallest circle. That small and special circle is getting closer and closer to who I am. In my inner circle of family and home, I also have those whom I can trust and those I keep more at arm’s length. People are people, even if they happen to be related to you. (And sometimes it is wiser to keep them further from you…maybe into that circle that contains the country! LOL!) Those close to you influence who you are, and how you react to the stimulation in your life. We modify our lives based on reaction and influence. Sometimes I have walked away from relationships that had become very intense and very close, because it was not healthy for me. They were altering my world view and it was not good. My family is precious to me and I guard those relationships with the attitude of a mother bear – no one gets between me and mine! And if I can help it, no one hurts the people I love and hold dear.

And we arrive at the inner circle. In that circle I have my husband, kids, and grandkids. I also have my mom, because she lives with us. I count a very select few friends as part of this inner circle. Those I call when good happens, but also during those times in life that are painful, and I know they are there for me. (As I am for them). And of those people, family and close friends, can I trust them all? Sometimes I question choices and decisions loved ones make. Sometimes I wonder what influences are in their lives that make them choose what they do. Because if my friends and community can influence me and my perception of the world, it will most definitely affect my children. And they are married, so their wives are also a part of my family (as are their wives’ families). My husband is the primary person in my life, as are the spouses of my sons for their lives. I also claim my daughters-in-law as my own children, so they are part of my circle. My extended family is peopled with relatives I rarely see and to be honest, most of the time, it is fine with me. There are dear friends I miss much more than some of my relatives! LOL! If we are honest, we all have family members we do better with just occasionally visiting.

And finally I am at my innermost self. All these layers, all these circles, come down to me. In Orthodoxy, there is a place where God resides, and we call it the “nous.” It is where our common sense resides, where our intellect resides, but also where we encounter God in ourselves. It is where the Holy Spirit lives within us. I love that description of our innermost selves. And can I trust myself, with myself, to make the right decisions, select the right path, interact in an “orthodox” (as in “right thinking”) way? If I am healthy, yes I can. If I am unhealthy, either spiritually or physically, it changes absolutely everything. Because if our core, our innermost self, is sick in any way, it affects all those circles we have journeyed through to be here. Like ripples in a pond. And if we cannot trust ourselves, because we are not right with God, or our health and minds are not their best, how can we trust anyone else? What does this mean?

To me, this means I am responsible. I am responsible for me and how I affect each of these circles, because even I can create a ripple effect, one that has world-wide (if you follow my logic) effects. And if I operate from a sick perspective, because my faith is askew or non-existent, or my health has been affected, or my morals or character are not formed well, then the ripples I cause to go out from me, well, they are sick and ill-formed, too. In my family I can be calmer or at ease when I am off, or out of sync, because they know and love me regardless of my soul’s state, or the fact that I am ill. In caregiving, especially with Alzheimer’s, we love our family member regardless, and in spite of, this ugly disease. And we try to control the ripples they put out into the world, by helping them in their daily life, and the interactions they have. And we have to guard ourselves against their “warped” affects on us, so we don’t perpetuate the illness out into the world at large. Sounds weird, I know. But if you think about this, it is so true. So when we look at each of these circles in our lives, and we think about each person in each circle having their own set of circles, the ripples they are putting out and what affects that has on the rest of the world, we can envision total chaos…the crazy waves of everyone’s affects on everyone else. And we wonder why our world is in such chaos! Well, what does it mean, to you? To me? To us?

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15). It all comes down to being centered in what matters, and then reaching out. For me, if I am sick, I try not to go out into the world and spread it, like germs! LOL! And my sickness can be emotional and spiritual, as well as physical. Our world is messed up because people, in my opinion, are askew in their nous, their center, and they are making a mess of this world. I am not in the best shape. My spirituality is dented and banged up; I have a cold and am sick. I am in no position to cause ripples anywhere. (Which is why I am cocooning at home). And I acknowledge it and am working on it. But if we look at the news, even on mainstream TV, the majority of it revolves around moral issues – people sleeping around on their spouses; others cheating businesses or the government; people shooting people; stealing, robbing, killing. It is enough to make you want to bury your head under the covers and not get out of bed. And seriously, how are we going to get out of this? Most Protestants I know believe we are in the “end times.” They are patiently, and excitedly, waiting for Christ to come again and claim this world for Himself. I keep thinking we need to center ourselves, get right with God and get our bodies under control and in better overall health, and those positive ripples we put out from ourselves will move out, further and further, until we affect this crazy world. And it may even calm this storm. Whew. Enough pondering and musing for this sick mamma. I need a cup of tea. My head hurts. I hope you survived my “verbal vomiting” and perhaps, over-thinking, this entire idea of concentric circles. Here’s to better health and calmer circles….tea, where is my tea?

 

“…roses in December…”

My mom’s doctor explained Alzheimer’s to me in a different way. She said it is like slowly “falling asleep.” She said you know how you sort of fall asleep and take a nap? And when you wake up you are groggy? That grogginess takes quite a while to shake off, and you slowly wake up. With Alzheimer’s, the grogginess remains. And each day the grogginess is more pronounced, until you eventually do not wake up. Rather sobering.

We had a terrible day yesterday with my mom. It is the worst day she and I have had, since this journey of her living with us began. In fact, it took me back to our kitchen in Huntington Park, California, on Grand Avenue, when I was 13 years old. In one instant, we were transported back to that exact moment. The problem was, yesterday, I think that is where my mom truly was. Huntington Park, kitchen, in 1970. Only I was in 2018, 61 years old and standing in my bathroom with an 88-year-old mom who was totally off in Alzheimer’s World, in Wasilla, Alaska. And that is pretty much what Alzheimer’s is all about. Not being in the same place, at the same time.

I got a reprieve from my oldest son. His wife and I went to a gardening class and he kept my mom with him and his kids. She loved it and was totally wonderful, and exhausted from the great-grandkids loving on her. So I went and got a haircut. (Funnily enough, no one has noticed, even though I cut off more than 2″…lol…another blog post!) But as I was getting my haircut, the stylist told me her mom was an Alzheimer’s nurse. She grew up around dementia and Alzheimer’s her entire life. And she was so aware, and so understanding. She said something that made me stop and think. She said, “We are who we are because of the journey we have taken and the memories we have made. When we lose our memories, it really affects who we are and how we behave.” Wow.

Mom rarely mentions her dead husband (Memory Eternal, Frank) or her stepchildren by marriage. She rarely remembers my childhood, my brother or father, or her life before 1953. When she meets people and they ask where she moved to Alaska from, her answer is “New Zealand,” even though she left NZ in 1953 and moved to California. She does not know much about her parents, either. She cannot recall her aunts, uncles, or cousins. Nor much of what towns she lived in. But she always talks about her maternal grandparents and the times at their house, and most especially her grandfather. She has started deeply sleeping, a lot of her days away, complete with snoring and body twitching. Sigh. When called upon, she is quite social. But she mostly sits and stares. She is not interested in dressing. She is not interested in showering – yesterday’s debacle was about cleansing. Her teeth. She was obsessed with brushing her teeth. It was amazing how obsessed she was at finding her toothpaste and brushing her teeth. Somehow I think she knew on some level that she had not dressed nor brushed her teeth in the past two days. LOL. But she still would not shower. It has now been 5 days since she has bathed. She insists she is just not doing it. (Another sigh). And in the moments when she wakes up, she is overly animated, trying to brush off the fact the past 1/2 hour was spent snoring. Her comments are so out of context. It is amazing. The brain and this disease operate together so interestingly. And her medications have become critical – and not up for debate. She has to take them. And take them when they are due – lesson learned. Again.

One of the things I have come to grips with, is that Alzheimer’s is a degenerative, neurological disease. It is degenerative. You do not come back from this. Once you step down into that next level, there is no regaining lost ground. That grogginess is stronger. And more pervasive. And I do believe she has journeyed down another stage into Alzheimer’s. It affects how your entire body functions. It is not just about memory loss – it affects all neurological functions. And that is how Alzheimer’s can kill you, whereas dementia will not. It is sobering. It causes you to re-think how you re-act to this disease when your loved one is fully enveloped by it. It is not taking the bait for those arguments, or allowing the disease to run your days. It is keeping sane and on pace with an insane disease. Also recognizing it for what it is – a degenerative disease. And it is ugly. And it is here. And it is working its way through my mom’s entire body. And there is nothing I can do about it, except to keep loving her, even more-so because of it.

“Come to me, all of you who are wearied and burdened…”

I’ve written, and saved, and edited, and written a few posts. But I just never get them to the point where I can post them. Life is moving so quickly. My Mom is progressing further into Alzheimer’s and it breaks my heart.

 

When we went to Easter Vigil, she had no memory of ever going to Church. She had no idea of the story of Christ and His sacrifice. The Church was packed and people had gone outside to process in with the lit Easter Candle. They had scrunched by us, excusing themselves as they went. Less than a minute later, Mom looks around and says, “Boy, there sure aren’t very many people here, are there?” Sigh. We did not last the entire Vigil. Mom was so confused; it was a parish we had never been to; some of their traditions stymied us; and it was 11:00pm and they obviously had a long way to go. It was a sad evening. Our youngest son was working as a fire fighter and was not home, and he had no idea where his “Fireman Boot” basket was, either. It was the first year we did not do Easter baskets and gifts for our kids. It was a weird Lent, and a rather depressing Easter.

Mom did not do well on Easter Sunday. She woke up at 6:30am, even though she did not get into bed until well after 11:30pm. One of the many things I have learned through this caregiving process is that schedules work. Mom needs to be in bed by the same time each night. If not, it takes days to recover. We went to our oldest son’s place for Easter and the great-grandkids wore Mom out. We came home in the early evening, and she fell asleep on the couch. When it was time for  bed, I tried to wake her. I called her name, I shook her shoulders – nothing. Finally I really shook her and she had a hard time opening her eyes. When they opened, one eye was looking left and the other was looking right, and her jaw was sort of stuck. I called her name and she shook her head from side to side, and opened and closed her eyes. When she looked again, she was herself. She got up and said, “Time to take my pills and go to bed.” It was as if nothing had happened. The next day, she slept off and on all day. She has been confused ever since. And even today, she has slept most of the day. One time, her eyelids were open and it was sort of scary. This week, in fact, she has been less herself than she ever has, since moving in with us.

The descent into the stages of Alzheimer’s is frightening to those around their loved one. If someone isn’t visited or spoken to by friends and family, they are forgotten. And that creates hurt feeling by those forgotten. But it is not the fault or intent of the person who is forgetting. Their neural synapsis are shutting down. Sometimes they will get a clear signal and know all sorts of fun things you had no idea they would recall. And then there are days with those same synapsis are getting no signals, at all. I have looked into my mom’s eyes and have seen the blank, white-walled mind where there is absolutely no thought taking place. I tried, in vain, to explain something to her when she was like that and realized she was not understanding anything I was saying. *sigh*

I think I am saddest in that we are finding it more and more difficult to communicate. I know soon, we will not communicate much at all, and she eventually will not know who I am. And it seems to be happening quickly.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Caring for someone who is slowly slipping away is so draining. But it is also is an opportunity to learn, and to grow into a better person. And Mom is sharpening my caregiving skills. The ability to not be angry when she will lash out irrationally; when she has no clue what day it was or even where she is; when she accuses me of the stupidest things…all these things are making me a better person. We all know those people, whose presence can bring us peace and calm and joy. Some day, I want that to be me. I want people to think that of me. A safe harbor for others, regardless of their journey. The Lord definitely is working on me. And some days I just want to escape. But caregivers are here for the long haul. We are determined to help our loved ones, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness,faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confessionin the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12

“Fight the good fight” means many things to many people. I cannot flee from all of this, because it is my chosen allotment, but I can dig in and work for my Mom’s health and happiness as best I can, keeping our eternities in perspective. I think we all know our moments are limited on this earth, and our lives do not go on forever. Mom knows she is dying. And that it is happening sooner, rather than later. Today she said, “I am so tired of this. I hate my brain. I hate living like this. I am just tired and I am ready to go.” And I recall my great-grandfather saying the same thing, and dying soon thereafter. I know it is coming. Mom knows it is coming. We are just working on the between then and now part. Stay your post; “fight the good fight; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Mom is heading there. We all are. Mom is just ahead of us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29