“…I will restore you…”

There was a story told by an author I admire (Peter Kreeft) and to paraphrase that story, it goes something like this:

“In our hearts and minds, we need to envision a closet, or large box, and we need to label it, “God’s Box.” And in this box, imagine smaller shoe boxes, all with labels on them. Each smaller box is filled with the things in life we cannot handle alone. We need God to take the burden from us, because it cripples us. And once we hand these things over to God, we need to shut that shoebox, put it on its shelf, and close the closet, leaving it to God. The trick is to truly leave it there, door closed. We cannot open the door unless we are adding another box. We are not supposed to open the individual boxes and peek in at them. We have left them to God.”

And I have tried to live like this. I have a God Closet in my heart. There are many, many issues that I simply cannot handle without the help of God. And every, single, time…and I really mean every, single, time I think I can take one of those little boxes out of God’s Closet and handle it on my own, life explodes. Every, single, time. And today was no different. Ha-Ha-Ha. You would think, at my age, I would have learned better.

A little singeing of your fingers is one thing. I can recover from a slight burn. But once again, life blew up. Why is it that we cannot just allow the Lord His Provenance over us? Why do we humans, with our over-confident free will, continually think, “I got this?” Ha-Ha-Ha. I really and truly do not “got this” today.

As a child, we are impressed so deeply by simple things in life. My mom is continually reminding me about laying on the grass with her grandpa as a 6 year old little girl, looking at clouds. Every time she sees the clouds in the sky, she is talking about her grandpa. She marvels at the clouds and always talks about her grandpa, and she is 88 and suffering from Alzheimer’s. But she has not forgotten that moment in her life. I have moments like that. Some are great, some not so much. And today, when my emotional explosion occurred, I was thrown back into a not-so-good moment, even though my brother and I made it better than was intended.

I was about 8 years old, and my brother close to 6 years old. We had done something we were in trouble for. We had to sit in my room, next to my bed, on the floor, in silence. So I grabbed my troll dolls and my brother and I were hilariously playing with them, in total silence. We were waiting for my dad to get home in the typical 50s parenting style of, “You just wait until your father gets home”!!! And my dad was a talker. We preferred being disciplined by him because he just talked our ears off. My mom, on the other end of the spectrum, preferred slapping. Usually on the face. (That’s another worm hole). But she would slap and be done with it. When we were in real trouble, we got slapped and then the dad lecture later in the day. And this was one of those days. We screwed up badly. But I also recall that we hid the trolls from my dad, continuing to play silently with them while he droned on. Ha-Ha-Ha. To this day, when I see troll dolls, I remember that. And how Barbie gave them rides in her pink car, along with my brother’s GI Joe dolls. Ha-Ha. Memories!! My Barbie kicked butt with those GI Joe dolls out in the dirt in our yard, too!

The point of this is that today, when that God Closet was forced open and one of the boxes had its lid torn off, I was immediately thrown back to this memory of waiting for punishment and trying to make the best of it. I recall the dip in my stomach when my dad started lecturing us, and that is what I felt this morning. I was being lectured by someone who had snuck into my God Closet and torn the lid off their box, without my permission. Well, that is not true. I allowed them access by continuing to allow them a place at my table, in my life, so to speak. And I have been burned again.

And you know what? I am okay. I can pick myself up and move along the path. The Lord is with me, and He is allowing these things to happen to me, in order to strengthen me and help me grow. I am stronger. And each time I am burned, I get wiser (well, hopefully wisdom comes to me). I share this so others can peek over the fence and see how I handle it, perhaps helping them light their path. The Lord gives us the tools, and we only need to allow Him to rule our lives, and not go on like we are the supreme commanders of our lives. We are sorely mistaken if we think God is not needed or required. This world is getting worse and worse, because we are shutting God out of it. We kicked him off the TV, the radio, and out of our schools. Prayer not allowed. I know there are TV channels reserved to programs of faith, and the same holds true for the radio, but the mainstream channels most people watch or listen to are devoid of God. We see all sorts of things God does not approve of, nor which Scriptures support. We have allowed the minority of faithless dictate to those of faith. And there is social fallout. Today, I allowed my self-confidence to come and hit me square on the chin. And I deserve that, because I chose to take the reins, when God needs to be firmly in control.

And as I face another let-down, albeit not unexpected when I consider the source, I am clinging to my faith and resting in the promises of God. And I KNOW, with complete certainty, that God has got this. Ha-Ha-Ha. I just need to pile everything in that box, re-affix the lid, and close that closet. The trick is still to not allow the door to be re-opened. And that comes through subsuming our will to God’s will for our lives. It also means that we cannot take back our gift to God of our problems and our ultimate control of the things in life we simply cannot handle. It is trusting in God’s plans for us, and resting in those promises.

Today a lid was blown off a box, allowing me to peek inside. I remembered many things, after looking into the box. And it brought me home to the fact that there are many things in my life that I am not fit to handle by myself. Things that are not properly handled when I insist on doing it myself. And you would think that after 60+ years on this planet, that I would instinctively know that. Ha-Ha-Ha. Oh no, that darned old free will is inherently strong. And that is why, my friends, faith is a journey. It is a series of events, not just one event and then “BANG” your entire world falls into place. I wish. There is no magic wand that “makes it all better.” Nope. Every day we are faced with decisions we make. Each decision takes us a step closer to God, or a step away. And in those deeper moments when we realize we cannot do this on our own, that is when we get out the marker and label another box, fill it up, and place it in God’s Closet. He can totally handle it. And He wants to handle it. Let Him. I’m going to go close that closet door now. You should, too.

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Musings of a daughter on Mother’s Day…

Time is just racing by. Already it is May and here we are at Mother’s Day this weekend. And my mom is no longer visiting us (like the photo above) but rather, she lives with us. And I have been thinking about the whole mothering thing. Mom often comments to people that I am in charge now; that the roles have changed; that she is now the kid. And it is hard for us all to adjust to. We’ve had discussions the past few days about needing to further intervene and supervise, because she just cannot, any longer, function well without it. There are so many skills we all take for granted, that as we age, and especially with the added inclusion of Alzheimer’s, quickly rob us of our independence. I took another freedom from her yesterday. One less choice she is able to make. She balked, and complained, but only the first time. After doing it again today, she was in full acceptance. What did I do?

Well, we prepare her pills for her in a dispenser just like the one above. Mom can no longer determine which section to open next. She has been opening the AM sections in a row, or the PM sections in a row. And it is messing so badly with her brain functions. My brother suggested to just put out what pills she needs to take next to her water, and to remove the confusion of having to find the right lid to open. So he suggested we just put the pills in a cup! Mom was not happy. She was angry. And I felt bad that I had taken another choice away from her, or another opportunity to do something for herself. But when her medications are not given at the right time, the levels of the medication in her blood stream are affected, and it affects her ability to function. I mean, she is so off, she is in PJs for days, until her meds settle back in. I just cannot function when that happens. Seriously. It affects our entire family…down to our grandchildren.

This morning I set out her water and her pills in a cup…and she thanked me. She just took them, no questions, no comments. She then grabbed her coffee waiting on the countertop, and sat in her spot on the couch, happy as could be. Another weird thing? She brushed her teeth this morning – no prompting, no preparing of the toothbrush with the toothpaste. I am in shock! There are so many odd things like this with Alzheimer’s.

We have such good laughs. In amongst the difficulty, there is the joy of just being together. Yesterday mom got a manicure. She was so joyful and had the whole salon laughing. We then went to her favorite thrift shop to donate some clothes, and we picked up a top for her. They gave her a discount because of her donation and the shirt had a red tag and was 50% off. She paid $1.75 for it. And was so excited. We then went to Home Depot. Mom was chatting up people and then she just disappeared, while our heads were deep into which doorknob we needed! I panicked and found her in the patio furniture area, snoozing in a gliding chair. We then chose to go out to dinner at iHop, as it was on our way home. Mom wanted French Toast. She refused my help at cutting it for her, insisting she could do fine. And as we watched her, we knew she thought she had ordered just toast with a side of bacon. My husband silently tapped my thigh, asking me to let it go. She ate French Toast with her fingers, as it dripped in syrup. Ha-Ha-Ha. We ignored the entire thing, handing her extra napkins as we chatted. It was fine. When we got home around 7:00pm, she put on the new blouse, which she did not krecall she had purchased earlier, becoming concerned it would be too large. I reminded her we paid $1.75 for it and it was okay. She said, “Well, what a deal! I think I’ll keep it for summer.” And then she modeled it for us, telling us we had to wait for summertime to see her wear it all over town. LOL. We laughed!

The picture above is my favorite photo of the two of us. It was her first week here, last August. She was angry most of the time, but at this particular moment, she was enjoying all the attention. My stepsister and her husband had arrived. My son and daughter-in-law, and our grandchildren, were all over for a bar-be-que. It was a lot of fun. And I had no concerns about this journey, at all. (Naive that I was then!!).

Mom looked at me the other night, and I could tell it was a clear moment, and she said to me, “I am so glad you are taking care of me. We can laugh, can’t we? And we can share so much. You are strong, and I know you can do this.” And she is right. I am a lot like my mom. But I am also like other women who have mothered me in my life. My neighbor, Donna, who came into my life when I was 9 years old. I love her like another mother, but also like an older sister. And she has mentored me when my mom could not (due to the timing in our lives). I have friends who have mothered and mentored me. I have friends who are my life-lines and often an anchor; people I can turn to who will hold me up. My daughter-in-law literally held me up as I collapsed a couple of weeks ago, when I had to euthanize my 14-year-old cat. I could not have done it without her strength. My mother-in-law came and stayed with us when our middle son was born. I was so grateful she was a nurse because both our older son and I were sick. I remember waking up and she was putting my baby on my breast to nurse! What a blessing. She had the entire house running smoothly! I needed her strength, then, too. So many of us are blessed by the women in our lives. Some come to stay; others come when they are needed and leave when they are done. But these relationships with other women are a blessing in our lives. And I am so thankful for each woman who has touched me, as I have grown into the person I am now.

When my husband was ordained a deacon, he took the name of St. Joseph the Worker, because that really reflects who he is – a gentle man who works so hard for us all. At the same time, I took the name of Ruth, as I could identify with her. I felt that I was walking with my husband on this journey of life, and I would always be where and when he needed me. The Book of Ruth is an amazing book, filled with stories of incredible women. One of my favorite quotes is,  “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17).

My mom has been strong for much of my life. And when she is weak, it is just so hard to wrap my head around. It is one of the role-reversals that is hard to adapt to. Many of my friends and I are in the same or similar situations – we are having to learn to care for our aging parents. It’s funny, because we also shared the times in our lives of dating, and marrying, and having our children. But at this point in our lives, and in the world, Alzheimer’s and other dementing illnesses are becoming commonplace. Our senior population is growing. And we are learning to function in this “new normal.” However, in many ways, we are returning to our roots. Hundreds of years ago, families stayed connected. We lived next door to our parents, or on the next farmstead. We kept grandma with us when grandpa died. We sometimes had 2-3 generations under one roof. And you know what? Being around our elderly is good for all of us. We learn to be empathetic. We learn to adapt and put others’ needs before our own. We learn to give, first. Our children absorb stories of our family history and develop a strong sense of where they come from. They learn to serve others, and to be quiet and listen to the wisdom of our elders. We all become better people, better citizens, and better children of God.

And this Mother’s Day, I am thankful. There is so much to be grateful for. I had not lived with my mom since I was in my 20s. And in those more than forty years since we were last roommates, we both have changed a lot. She is still my mom, and I am still her daughter. I have born and lost children; my mom has buried a husband; we have both buried friends and extended family. We have made amazing friends, and have had some wonderful experiences. We don’t agree on politics, or faith, or clothes, or tattoos, or hair color,  or make up or…you get the idea. One thing we usually agree on is food! We both adore our pot roast and gravy, and a good cup of tea. And we do agree on how blessed this time together truly is – for both of us. We are engaged in sharing the best, and the worst, of what life has given us, and is still giving us. Mom is safe, housed, cared for, and loved. She is living out her days surrounded by people who love her. I can think of no better Mother’s Day gift than to be with family.

 

“…let her care for them…”

It was after 10:00 PM and I was spending a few minutes – alone. Ha-Ha. I know that sounds weird, but when you have someone with you 24/7, you need some space. I recall putting our kids to bed by 7:30pm. In the summertime it was so hard because it was still so light outside and they would complain. Up here in Alaska, it is light in the summertime until 3:00am, when it goes sort of dusk and the sun is fully up by 7 or 8 am anyway. It is why we have black out shades and curtains, just like we got for our kids when we lived in California. And we put our kids to bed early, because they needed sleep, and we needed grown up time. Last night, I was startled by my youngest son walking up to me and saying, “Mom, there is poop all over the bathroom.” Ugh. Did I mention it was 10:00pm? And off I went, to clean up after mom. Yeah; not a 3-year-old, but my 88-year-old, Alzheimer’s-ridden mom. Again.

The hard part about all of this is that it is like potty training a 3-year-old, only we are going backwards. I did not realize what taking in mom would encompass. I knew there would be issues around memory. I knew she would forget things. I just did not realize how pervasive this horrible disease is. Her doctor has told me several times, “Whatever your mom was meant to know, she knows. There is no more teaching. No more learning. It just is.” I did not realize how deep this would go. My mom has had bronchitis for the past three weeks, today, as a matter of fact. It has been three weeks of medications, coughing, more medication, and more coughing. And so many Depends. We added a second pillow to her bed to elevate her head and help during the night to ease her coughing. But during the day, every three or so minutes, she exclaims she has a tickle in her throat and has no idea why she is coughing. Let that sink in for a minute or two…or three. Ha-Ha. Three minutes is the generous turn around time for mom’s world.

One of the hardest parts in all of this, is that someone with a dementing illness focuses on a person and that person becomes their anchor. And when their anchor is missing, they flounder. For mom, her anchor is me. She has forgotten pretty much everyone else in her life, unless they make an appearance, aside from me. If I am not home, she is constantly walking around, looking for me. She will not settle down and relax until I am home. It is a lot like a toddler, always upset until mommy is home. I had one child I could not leave with anyone, for the longest time. He just was not happy unless I was in view or even holding him. Even as he got too big to carry around, he wanted to be carried. Or at least be touching me. It took so long to ease him away, into his own world, apart from me. And now mom is regressing to the point that I am the sole person who can feed her, help her bathe, clean up after her potty messes, etc. I am home for her. What a tremendous burden. And somehow, it is so very different than when I parented my kids. It seems far more onerous and burdensome. And I am not sure why.

The more I have thought about it, the more I am leaning towards introvert. LOL. Those who know me and know how much I love to gab and laugh and hang out, well, they may question this. But you know what? I think this is one of the reasons I have become so emotionally exhausted after hanging out. And I have really noticed it in recent years. I do love to be public, to be in public environments, and to share who I am with people. I can do that pretty easily. But on the flip side, after a day or two of being out and about in public, I am so raw. I am exhausted. My nerves are stretched so taut. And I discovered this about myself when I allowed myself some alone time. When we first moved onto a dairy farm in 1989, I learned something. I learned that I did not want to leave my isolated farm. And pretty soon, I had friends flocking to our house just to hang out. We would have a cup of tea and the windows would be open, and we would relish the sounds of crops being watered, cows lowing in the pens, horses neighing in the distance, or a tractor making its way across the acres. It was heavenly. The scents on a farm are just so relaxing – freshly hewn grasses, or the scent of the trucks arriving with fruit rinds or almonds for the cows. I loved it. The scent of a hay truck filled with green hay was pretty much the best smell I could imagine. I am instantly relaxed when I smell it, even to this day, almost 30 years later.

This morning, we had snow. Sigh. Last night, we had rain. Sigh. I want Spring and green and daylight. Mom has been coughing so much today, and she is sleeping deeply in between all this coughing. It is exhausting for both of us. I did not get too much alone time, and I am feeling emotionally exhausted. Which is something I am truly not used to feeling. I was thinking about fences all night. I know that sounds weird but we walked our property on Saturday (me for the first time since moving in here) and were planning what we were pulling out and what we wanted to plant, and where. We were also discussing what types of fencing we want (because we have no fences, at all) and were planning the exact type of fence to erect and where we wanted to put it. We also discovered we think very differently about fences. Ha-Ha! Even after 33 years of marriage. Who knew??? Ha-Ha-Ha! But when I was thinking and dreaming, my mom was not here any longer. It was weird. I had an empty nest, aside from my husband, in my dreams. We were doing what we wanted with our home, and we were so happy, alone. And so today, examining myself, I am overwhelmed with guilt. LOL.

“If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” 1 Timothy 5:16

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” Psalm 71:9

The Bible has so many instances wherein we are encouraged to care for our elderly. Reconciling that with reality is sometimes hard. Which is why I am blogging today. I am pondering and musing over my duty versus my wants. Ha-Ha. It is an eternal struggle. The Holy Writers of the Bible, we believe, were divinely inspired by God. When the Church, in Her Wisdom, compiled what would and would not be included in Holy Scripture, all of these verses about caring for our own were written and included. And so, in light of my belief that God directed all of this, how can I reconcile my selfish desires for alone time?

Well, I pray. I cling to my faith. And I keep getting back up. I keep caring for my mom. I am resigned to the fact that I am her sole caregiver. I know her days are numbered. She is fading. And it makes me sad that someday, and probably soon, I will have my alone time. I will have an empty nest (that youngest son is itching to be on his own) and probably have days where I am so very lonely. The hilarious juxtaposition of it all. Ha-Ha-Ha.

And sometimes what we want, it slams into us at the most inopportune times. Ha-Ha-Ha. The sun is peeking in and out of the clouds. Mom is coughing. Mom is sleeping. She woke suddenly, looked at me, and said, “I wonder why these men climb these tall towers. Makes no sense to me. Oh look, I like that Kelly and Ryan couple.” And right back to sleep. It is unnerving. It is frightening. This disease is ravaging her body and her mind. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. And I feel so guilty when I wish she would just be quiet or asleep, because some day soon, she is not waking up. Ever again. God, the guilt is bad.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  Romans 3:23

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” James 1:14

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

“And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:7

And I return again to the Rock of my Faith, the Words of God and His Prophets. They are my solace and wherein my peace lives. And I know I cannot do this without God. I am selfish some days, wanting alone time. I know I need to recharge. And I also know my days caring for my sick mother are not infinite, but will end. And my life will be forever changed, because I will not have my mom in my life. And that makes me so sad.

Living this life is what we all do. I have very few problems in comparison to some. Hawaii is literally melting under lava in some areas. There are people being blown up in the Middle East. There are people starving just miles away. Our government here is failing its citizens. The world is flailing in its own mess. But this is our here and now. It is our life. And so, it is what we all need to do, to get up and do it again and as the ad says to, “Just do it.” And I am. Again today. Cough, awake, weird comments, sleep – on and on it goes. There is sun shining at the moment and it makes me smile. Things are quiet and even the dog is snoring right now. On her back, legs in the air, not a care in the world. I think I will emulate the dog. Ha-Ha.

 

“When a door closes…”

A swirling vortex. There is so much going on all around me. And sometimes I just want to step out of this swirling vortex of crap and drama and just breathe. LOL. And one of the things that bothers me is how people treat one another, when they hide behind their computer screens. So much vitriol and anger. I have always been leery of this entire technological movement towards computers versus pencil and paper, or face to face communication.

I recall when I was working at a company on one of the very first studies on the HIV/Aides virus. We had an entire room devoted to our “Wang” computer system. And we got these amazing Xerox typewriters where you could see two lines you had typed at a time, so you could correct it as you went. We were thrilled when we saw the first desk top computer. I was just telling my mom that I have more computing on my iPhone than I used to have in my IBM desktop computer back in the day (well after those typewriters!). When we were working on that Aides project, we were so excited to have our own fax machine, wherein we had scheduled times to send information to our sister lab in the Netherlands. We would all stand around and watch the fax machine whir to life, and watch that paper coming out, with their reports and graphs actually printed on it. Through a phone line! So exciting!  Ha-Ha. We had to schedule our phone calls overseas. Amazing how far we have come since then. In some respects.

You know, it shows how silly this entire electronic communication has become when you realize, duh, you let it affect you. Most of the time, people are not who they say they are. I love some of the memes that say things like, “We are friends in real life. I know you do not look like that.” or “I know you and I know your life is not like that, stop lying on social media.” They crack me up. Ones that say, “Why don’t you post a current picture? That one is at least 20 years old” also make me laugh. Some people never change their photos and you can tell…unless you just communicate via social media and have never met in person. And that brings me to today, and my most recent musings…

Things change. We all change. We have interests and we follow them. Rarely do people keep at the same thing for years. In our family, one of our biggest fads was windsurfing. Oh my. I was at the breastfeeding stage with our middle son when my husband discovered windsurfing. (Eye rolling here). So, imagine wind, water, wind, sand, wind, breastfeeding, young children, water, sand, wind. Ugh. Did I mention wind? So glad that passed us by. Oh, let’s not forget kids, wind, sand, water, and sun burn. And we did this tent camping! LOL! I had a broom with me to try and corral the sand out of the tent and sleeping bags. Joyous vacations, great memories, but thrilled that is over. Ha-Ha. But my point is things change. And it is okay to make changes.

We got brave about 9 years ago and relocated from Southern California to Washington State, to Maple Valley. It was our first move out of state since our marriage. It was dramatic and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was green everywhere. The rain was glorious. The sunshine so very different. And the flowers. The vegetables. NO SMOG! It was heaven. And then our eldest son invited us to move to Alaska. Deep breaths. Lots of prayers. And five years ago last month, we leapt. I mean, why not? The Last Frontier has been fraught with changes for us. We have learned to leave our things behind and be less encumbered by “stuff” because there is only so much you can cram into a 25-foot u-haul. We have learned to deal with some pretty drastic encounters with wildlife. (Reference husband and fishing, bear, and running – Kodiak Island). We have become increasingly comfortable with cold weather, snow, and living and driving in a snow state. We have come to love Alaskan foods and culture, the clean air and wide open spaces. We have also made friends, which is difficult as adults with pretty much all grown children. We made friends easily when our kids were small, because we were involved with like activities. We got together for kids’ activities and had bar-b-ques and camping trips. As parents of grown children, and grandparents, we have had to slowly make our way up here, finding friends as we go about our daily lives. Friends have not come as easily as when our children were small. And it is always hard for the new guys (which we still pretty much are) to feel a part of the local scene, especially when people they meet have lived here all their lives, or more than 20 years. We are slowly finding our way into groups who most resemble the people we are. We relocated further north almost a year ago, and I still get lost! LOL! But we are making ourselves part of a community, and it feels good. But still, things can change.

As we have grown older, we seem to prefer quieter activities on a daily basis. Things like working in the yard, or having dinner with friends, watching movies with mom and having the fire going, reading a good book, or like my husband is now, sitting at the table, cleaning our weapons. When we get adventurous, we go shooting. LOL. We love learning about new weapons and gaining confidence on the range or at local shoots. It is a lot of fun. We have found a gun club we are thinking of joining. They have skeet and trap shooting, and we have always loved that. We are really looking at our new yard and planning fencing and raised bed gardens. We are looking at constructing things inside our home (bookcases!!!) and making our last home truly our home. But what we do not need is more drama. Sigh. We have my mom living with us, so we have a lot of responsibility in caring for her. Sometimes the days with her are not good days. I do not need extra stress or drama. Some days the best I can do is get dressed and provide three meals for everyone. And add posts on my blog, like this one.

One of the best things I did was to unfollow almost everyone except for friends I know in person, see pretty regularly, and my family, on Facebook. It is amazing how your newsfeed changes. Another thing I am doing is leaving groups. Today, I left a group I had come to see as friends. But the drama, well, it was hurtful and over-the-top, and the people posting were pissed…I mean really mad. So, I left. It was hard, but now I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my back. I have wanted to leave for some time. Whew. Today I was pushed beyond what I think is kindness and helpfulness, which I was under the impression was the point of the group, into bitterness. And, along the way, I found people I thought were friends had “unfriended me” anyway, so to me, no worries. LOL.

I can do this. I can simplify and make changes. Even though some of the changes are hard, it can be an opportunity to grow as a person. I am slowly leaving a lot of groups, and am working up to unfriending people who are really not my friends. We have had things in common, causes we felt strongly about, but we no longer do. We used to hang out and participate in activities together, but we no longer do that. And the button to unfriend and trim down my friends’ list is calling me. Some “friends” only call you when they need something. Some only contact you when they are broke and think you can pay their way. Some only like you when you can help them. Some people friend you because it is a way of garnering perceived power. There are very, very few real friends in our lives – lots of acquaintances. And the people who “friend” us on social media, most of them are not really friends. We gather together in like-minded groups to feel safe and to uplift ourselves and our concerns. But, sometimes that is no longer a pressing concern in our lives…it is time to move on. And so, I am moving on and I am weirdly excited. LOL.

“There will be sunshine…”

Today has been a weird day. It has been dark most of the day, with rain since before I was up at 6:30am. At about 2:00pm, the clouds cleared out and we had blazing sun. And then there is mom. LOL She has had bronchitis for a week. She has not gotten dressed since last Friday. So for most of today, she sat and watched the Game Show Network, or whatever it is called. Perfectly content to have her breakfast and lunch brought to her lap on the couch. Then, she all of a sudden says, “Well, I guess I had better get ready for the day.” Now mind you, this was at 2:00pm. It is now almost 5:00 and that task has still not been completed.

I have been doing laundry most of the day, slowly completing our loads. I had mom’s laundry ready to hang up and put away. I walked into her room and she was looking out onto the front yard through her window, drapes all the way open. I asked her what she was doing, since she was still in PJs. She turned, and started to yell at me. I saw she had her magnifying mirror in her hand, and her eyeliner in the other hand. (About 10 minutes prior to this, she had walked out of the bathroom, completely made up like she was heading to the theater for the evening performance of the Bolshoi Ballet). She then proceeds to yell at me and tell me it was quite obvious she was putting on her makeup (another layer). I noticed she had brought all of it from the bathroom into her room, including deodorant and razor. Sigh. I quit talking. I put her clothes into the closet and laid her other folded clothing on her bed, and I walked out.

Mom has been sick for 8 days with bronchitis. She has been on antibiotics and cough medication. I administered her cough medicine using the same dosage as children, and she slept through entire days, when she was really sick. Gradually she has not been as affected by the medication. Today, it seems like she woke up. Really woke up. And for whatever reason, she is pissed off at the world. And lucky me, I am her world. Alzheimer’s affects people in so many weird ways. Common concerns are bathing and toileting issues. Mom has spent the better part of two hours today perfecting her makeup, but hasn’t brushed her teeth in over 3 days. When I remind her, she yells at me. Sigh. She cannot get her clothing on and off without holding onto something, or even sitting down. She used to be so limber and agile. She is slowly having trouble making enough of a fist to hold a fork or to not spill at every meal. All her shirts and sweaters are stained and the dog loves where she sits, constantly licking up her spills. She would be so embarrassed if she knew. She is also getting to the point where soft foods are easier. She has trouble chewing and she cannot cut her food herself. So I cut all her food into bitesize pieces and keep our diet to pretty soft stuff. She cannot be bothered with crackers or chips, cookies or hard shelled tacos. Tacos, hard or soft, are pretty much out of the question anymore. They are too hard to hold all the ingredients inside of, in order to get them to her mouth. She cannot hold shampoo or conditioner in her hands when I squeeze it out for her (she cannot squeeze the shampoo bottle) and most of it ends up on the shower floor and not in her hair. If she gets her hair wet, she thinks she has showered. I have to hand her shampoo, conditioner, and then in turn, soap on a wash cloth. Otherwise, she will just get wet and be done. And I have to verbally tell her where to wash next. I have to remind her to rinse her hair, or wash off the soap. The other day she thought the water was too hot and turned it all the way to cold. In Alaska, cold water is like ice water in the lower 48. It caused quite a reaction!! LOL!

I am describing this because people think Alzheimer’s means they can’t remember. It is more than that, so much more. Their brains are not getting the signals they need to function. It is like pouring grease down a sink…it slowly clogs the drain, until just a trickle of water gets through, and until finally nothing gets through. Alzheimer’s causes the entire neurological system to slowly shut down. That affects their entire body. Everything that is neurologically controlled is affected. Their ability to speak, swallow, chew, sit, stand up, walk, get into and out of vehicles, feed themselves, watch TV, read, cook, hold a conversation, write their name, know the day/date/time. My mom does not know where she is. She commented on a fishing show which showed Alaska and her comment was, “They have good fishing way up there.” She does not know the time of year. She does not know who lives with us, aside from the two of us. My husband travels a lot for his job and when he gets home, I have to address him a few times as who he is and then she settles in. Once he is here a day or two, she knows who he is. Alzheimer’s is slowly taking away my mom from herself, and for those around her. She does not know who my kids or grandkids are. When they took her for a few hours last week, she was so confused, because I was not there. She cannot keep up with our conversations and thinks everyone is too loud. She is happy when Steve Harvey is on TV. She does not understand the games, but they make her happy. Eventually, her neurological system will slow down and get so clogged up, she will not be able to breathe or swallow and she will fall asleep and never wake up. And it is coming faster and faster.

And today was not a good day. We have sun again, after a brief but heavy random snowfall that lasted about 10 minutes. Ha-Ha. And I am trying so hard to let my attitude reflect the weather. There might be rain, clouds, even snow, but the sun always comes out. Sigh. Alzheimer’s sucks. It really does.

“Don’t worry, be happy…”

I’m on a roll today. Been discussing the use of our DNA by the government. In case you are unaware, the government accessed a DNA testing company’s site and was able to connect a killer to a series of crimes by using his relative’s DNA profiles…with no permission needed by anyone. No court order. When you submit your DNA for testing to a company, you have choices. You can agree to allow public access, wherein your information is out there. They encourage this option, saying you will find more relatives around the world this way. According to them, it gives you more information to complete your background and your search for your family roots. There is another option, to remain anonymous and to keep your account private. If you do that, court orders are required to access your account if you do not give prior approval. In this case, no one whose DNA was accessed had to be asked, because they had chosen the public option (per the news stories posted) and the government could swoop in and get all the information they wanted. They were able to connect a man, who seemed like a normal sort of guy in many ways, to a series of horrific murders, rapes, and torture. All from his relative’s DNA.

My husband is what is known as a Volga River Russian, or “Germans from Russia.” And he is Volga German on both sides. There is a national organization and they keep meticulous records. So he has no doubt who his family is, nor is there doubt who he descends from. In my family, we are British, on both sides. We have, on my dad’s side, a genealogist, who created complete records back before the year 1099. On my mom’s side, I know my family tree back through my mom’s great-grandparents. All of this being said, neither my husband nor I have any real need to know who our families are, nor who we descend from. So for us, we are not even tempted by those cute commercials with the leaf every time you make a “connection,” or the ones where the guy changes from lederhosen to kilts (or is it the other way?). But our country is one of diversity and movement. People move away from family and lose contact. In a generation or two, people have no idea where they came from. I get the idea you might like to know. And for those who have immigrated to the USA from other countries and have no clue where their families came from, I can understand the urge or even the need, to know your roots.

This rant or roll I am on is not about that, not at all. People who choose to use those services are free to do so, and millions have. The issue I have is that the government just decided to grab some DNA, with no permissions or consents required, to do some research. Now there are those who argue it has brought a criminal to justice. I am all for that. I have worked in the “industry” and law enforcement needs all the help they can get. I do get it. However, it is my concern for the shreds of privacy we have left in this country. We cannot expect, once we have ventured into anything electronic, to have any sort of locked-down information. When you buy a house, you sign all sorts of paperwork. They file your deed. Your deed has so much information on you…and they post it; every deed is posted online. Property records are public information. There is so much information online about people, you would not believe it. So to assume things about us are private if we lock down our internet or our social media accounts, well, it is naive. Do a search under your name. I did. It had my maiden name and most of the places I have lived over my entire LIFE. There was information about my schools, jobs, all my kids’ names, etc. It was sobering. So add to that my DNA and my government knows everything about me.

There are movements in legislation that people are unaware of and pretty much ignore. One of the things that annoys me is with our children. Legislation was approved that allows our government far more information than I think is required for educational/governmental purposes. They can now track our children’s SSN, along with medical information (like inoculations, any doctor’s notes and comments – think IEPs you may have for your kids based on psychological testing and diagnoses they may have), grades, teacher’s notes, income of parents, and all sorts of family information, which can be gained through simple things like the census (think about what you share in the census, including if you go to church and where, etc). Here in Alaska, we receive an annual payment called the “Permanent Fund Dividend,” or PFD. In Alaska, PFD information (which includes information on the family receiving it, because the children are minors) is attached to the child’s educational records. It is all a part of PK-12 here, and Common Core tracking the legislature thought was a good idea. They track all that information about you and your children starting in Pre-School through aged 20. Gotta love it.

So when you add it all together, there is a lot of information out there on us all. Some of it we are okay with and approve, other pieces of information most people are unaware even exist. And if we truly understood what was known, I am pretty sure we would be very, very upset. Add to that our DNA and our government knows literally all about us. Even now, medical records are being linked to our SSN’s, so there isn’t too much of a stretch to add our DNA. And so, I ask you, how much are you willing to share with the world?

When that much information is contained in one area about any of us, what can it be used for? Well, in the case that started this rant, a criminal was brought to justice. Yay! But I ask you, what if it is used to deny you medical coverage because you have the gene for some sort of cancer? What if your genetics show a propensity for weak lungs, or asthma, or heart disease, or obesity, and the government does not want to approve any sort of maternity coverage, because they do not want you to have children, passing on that weakness? Or they insist that you be sterilized? What if they deny you medical care, because your genetic make up shows a history of a blood disease? Doesn’t government health care in light of all these questions, and in light of the little baby in England this week, scare you just a little bit? (Rest in peace, little Alfie Evans +, victim of socialized medicine). Imagine all the information found in medical, financial, and educational records, all combined in one place, and what it possibly could be used for. Thinking of the Scarlett Letter placed on a woman for the crime of Adultery (and it still makes me mad the man didn’t get one on his shirts) and in light of all I have said above, it does not take too much of a stretch to see how the “Yellow Star” was imposed on the Jewish population in Nazi Germany.

I do not consider myself a wigged-out, right-wing, conspiracy theorist. I don’t. But I can see all sorts of things that do not sit right with me about this DNA thing, and many others. I feel like 1984 and other prognostications are happening, and we are too glued to the most recent reality show or social media posting, we don’t even notice. Our rights are being stolen and pretty much the majority of this country hasn’t a clue. So long as their lifestyle is not interrupted, their cable is not turned off, or their cell phones don’t die, they are happy enough. But I sure wish people would pay attention to some of this stuff. Because it is like we are all the frogs in a pot, and they are slowly turning up the flames, and we are not even noticing.

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

(Lyrics by Bobby McFerrin)

“…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