blessings

BLESSINGS FOR THE CAREGIVER

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BLESSINGS FOR BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY

blessings

Caregivers who go beyond the call of duty deserve extra blessings.

February 5, 2015 – In caring for anyone with a long term illness including Alzheimer’s, I believe extra blessings are in order for those caregivers who go beyond the routine and expected. They turn a tedious and tiresome duty into something filled with love and service.  Their attitude changes the degree of comfort into something special felt by all involved with the patient.  As the main caregiver for my husband Ken who passed on in October of 2014  I will always be appreciative of these special caregivers.

There is a vast store of helpful information out there for caregivers to rely on, no matter what the disease. Within the same publication I listed previously, I found Beatitudes for Care written by Pat Warner, RN, MSN, Roseburg, OR: Oregon Alzheimer’s Support Group. I enjoyed reading her thoughts. However, I find that her thoughts are not my thoughts, so I have borrowed her idea and will write my own blessings or beatitudes from my own perspective and experience. In all probability I won’t have as many as she has listed, but in my heart there may be more than listed. Continue reading

Originally posted 2016-02-07 00:40:30.

THOUGHTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

Or perhaps I’ll call it The Fourteen Days of Christmas.  Today, as I am writing, it is January 6, 2011, a little off my usual schedule because we’ve been celebrating a long Christmas, but now it’s over.  And you know what?  I really like Christmas spread  o  u  t,  taking as much of  December as it needs.

If you are among the generations of through-and-through Americans whose big days are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day your holiday ended at midnight, December 25th, just as ours did before this year.  Craming so many celebrations into such a small space of time, it would seem the date was more important than the day.  After weeks, and even months of preparation Christmas is over in a flash, and now it’s gone for another year. The jolly old elf, his reindeer, and all of his helpers are taking a well-deserved rest, and that includes moms and dads everywhere.

However, if you don’t live in the USA customs for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ can be different, and are actually more in keeping with the authentic event than all the frantic madness we impose upon ourselves. 

Don’t think I’m a Scrooge grumbling “Bah-Humbug” through this wonderful season of merriment and joy. I’m not.  I love Christmas, the carols, the cards, the parties, the well wishes and even the shopping.  And more; before AD, Ken and I so looked forward to driving through the neighborhoods seeing the decorated homes, malls and the beautiful displays on the grounds of churches everywhere, especially the live nativity scenes where we could let our imaginations go and become part of what occurred more than 2,000 years ago: the birth of a tiny baby whose life and teachings have changed the world.   Yes, Christmas is a beautiful and unique celebration – and different – as we all know elsewhere in the world.

My family and friends who have close ties to Mexico tell me that it is January 5, when the children leave their shoes out to be filled with gifts – not their stockings, but their shoes – and gifts not coming from our white-bearded friend – but from the Three Wise Men who arrive on January 6.  Think about it; isn’t the tradition of gift giving at Christmastime based on The Three Wise Men who traveled from afar bringing the Christ Child gold, frankincense and myrrh as they worshipped the New Born King?

Leading up to the 24th and 25th of December there are posadas and celebrations where loved ones reenact the blessed event, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being a more reverent time.  But no matter what the custom or tradition, it is a joyous celebration for Christians everywhere.

This year I have found wonderful flexibility in December.  Perhaps taking a bit of the customs from south of the border.  Singing The Twelve Days Of Christmas, while being a delightful carol, sounds a little much for me.  Who needs all of those maids amilking and noisy French horns?  But 14 days of Christmas with some light festivities, and then a few days of rest in between parties is perfect.  When Ken was well, it was tradition to spend Christmas Eve at daughter Julie’s house, Christmas morning at our house, and Christmas afternoon at grandson Sean’s house.  It seemed we spent as much time in the car as we did with family.

Ken no longer travels well, so I declined all invitations to leave our home.  “Then we’ll come to your house,” said Sean.  “What evening would be good?”  I gave him a date and beginning the Tuesday before Christmas we dined and relaxed with those who could attend, and then opened gifts with no rush in having to get the kids home and in bed, or dropping someone off at the next stop.  A few days later we did it all over again with other members of our family.

“How joyful it has been to spread out the Holiday,” I emailed our cousin, Penny, whose family has also multiplied over the years, living in various parts of Oregon.    She agreed, saying  they also spread the Holiday over several days, commenting on how well it has worked for their family.   Christmas Day can be any day we choose.

If any of these changes mattered to Ken it’s highly unlikely.   He no longer has any curiousity or interest in brightly wrapped gifts, decorations, or colorful lights, and has no understanding of the holiday.  But always a social person, he still seems to enjoy having people around him, and especially the little ones.  Our last Christmas celebration was Monday evening with daughter Julie, husband Tim; son John and wife Marisol, and their two little ones, Joaquin and Maya.  The eight of us represented four generations, and when Ken looked at four-year-old Maya, seeing her beautiful brown eyes and dark hair, he exclaimed, “What a little doll.”

With no memory of who she is or where she fits into this vast puzzle we call family, Alzheimer’s has not taken away his appreciation of the beauty of children, and for that I am grateful. 

So after all is said and done, the gifts opened, hugs and kisses for everyone, and the last guest drove out of sight what did we get for Christmas?  The best gift of all:  Family and friends – in and out of our home — bringing their presents and presence, giving us their gifts of time and themselves.  Who could ask or want for anything more?

Originally posted 2011-01-07 06:25:07.

PAY IT FORWARD

We were on a date, Ken and I, just getting to know one another.  We had been to the zoo in San Francisco.  While walking back to his car we noticed a man in the parking lot with a handful of tiny American Flags – paper – the size of a postage stamp – glued, possibly, to a tooth pick.  Wearing a military cap, and one of the picks stuck into the button hole of his lapel, he didn’t have to say he was a veteran.  We just knew.  It was also Memorial Day and the veteran was soliciting donations for the VFW or some other worthy veterans’ group.  Ken stopped, took out his wallet and handed the man a dollar bill.  In return my date accepted one of the tiny American flags and, with the accompanying straight pin, I placed it on his shirt collar.  Mind you, when we were dating, a dollar bill was worth a dollar – 100 pennies — and could have paid for both of us at the neighborhood movie.  I was impressed.  My boy friend was generous. 

My husband – who happens to be the same guy who took me to the zoo – has always been generous; not only with money, but with his time and energy.  If someone needed help he was the first to step forward.  Saturdays were often lost at home because Ken was helping a friend or a neighbor do some job that needed one more pair of hands.  So the chores I had lined up for “Honey” to do were postponed until another Saturday.  He had an insatiable desire to help others – to be of service – to “Pay It Forward” long before anyone ever heard of the book made into a movie.

 Several years ago, when Ken was better and we enjoyed life together, we saw the movie titled “Pay It Forward.”  If you didn’t see it the story was about a young boy who believed in doing good.  No one taught him, no one told him to be kind, to be caring, and to think of others.  The gift of charity came with his packaging – a spiritual gift.  It was one of those feel-good movies with a sad ending, which possibly sealed his message of paying it forward on the hearts of all who saw it.

          

The boy’s outline for doing good lay in three steps:  Watch for opportunities to help someone, do something nice for someone you don’t know, and spread the word.  When a surprised recipient asked “Why are you doing this?” the answer was to pay it forward, and the recipient could continue the good work by helping three other people — instantly making the world a better place – and then those three people could help three more people until everyone everywhere understood about paying it forward.

 

Surprisingly, I found on line that through the book and the movie a foundation was created to educate others about changing the world through good deeds, and November 17 is “Pay It Forward Day.”  I am also impressed at how contagious it becomes.

 

My friend Jack who is on Facebook wrote on his page, “I stopped by the grocery store and just staked out the people waiting in line.  I noticed an elderly lady, and as she neared the check out I politely asked if I could pay for her groceries?  ‘Yes!’ she answered, shedding a tear, as did I, and I paid.

 

“When she was through the line I explained how ‘Paying It Forward’ works.  Thrilled with the whole concept, she left saying that she was going home and bake cookies for the ladies at the bank.”

 

Jack later told me he went back to the store the morning after he had paid for the older woman’s groceries.  “The same cashier was working and said she could not stop telling people what I did, which inspired them to follow the example.  She, for instance, paid the dinner bill for an elderly couple at a Mexican restaurant.  The response from their waiter, the manager and the couple was unbelievable.”

 

Comments from other friends quickly filled Jack’s page, and with his permission, some posts are printed below:

 

“Wanted to follow up on the ‘Pay It Forward’ idea, but since I missed the actual day I decided to make it a quasi ‘random acts of kindness’ instead.  I was at IHOP w/my Mr. & son, and noticed there was a woman eating by herself.  When my waitress gave me my check, I asked for the gal’s also.  The waitress thought it was great.  I told her it was because of my friend Jack and paying it forward.  Jack, you are an absolute doll! Someone who understands true charity and practices it.  LOVE and admire your huge and expansive heart.  I am grateful to be your friend. You are amazing, Jack!  Now, that’s the Holiday spirit!”

 

 “Awwww Jack.  I love it. I’m going to do the same……”

 

“I try to do this on a regular basis!  It’s amazing how good it makes you feel to do something unexpected for others.”

 

“I’ve done that on the Bay Bridge – paid for the person behind me as I drive through.”

 

“You made me cry, Jack, you are too kind.  God bless you.”

 

“What a beautiful thing you did Jack.  Brought tears to my eyes.  I will certainly begin to pay it forward.”

 

“You topped me, Jack.  Near Halloween some bigger kids saw my ‘Trick or Treat’ candy in my cart and said, ‘I want to come to your house.’  They were buying a bag of cookies, and I grabbed their bag, handed it to the cashier for her to ring up on my bill, and tossed it back saying, ‘Happy Halloween.’  They were shocked and said, ‘Thank you, ma’am!’ Kidding, I said, ‘I’m going to take those back.  How about Miss.’ I love surprising people like that.”

 

“I give candy canes to the toll takers on the bridge.”

 

“Jack, I haven’t seen you or spoken with you in a decade or more.  When I read your post, memories of you came flooding back!  This is SO YOU!  I will put this on top of my TO DO list for tomorrow.  Thanks for reminding us to take the time to pay it forward.”

 

 If Alzheimer’s had not been in his way I know Ken would be doing good deeds for other people the year round not even remembering the movie.  After all, he was known to many as the nicest guy in the world. However, I know he is not the only one with that title, especially as we enter into this wonderful season of hoped-for peace and goodwill to all mankind.

 

It’s good to know that there are so many nice people out there doing thoughtful things for others, and many more who just need to be reminded. The only thing I will challenge about the November date is that it’s too close to Christmas. Christmas: when most everyone is kind-hearted and thinking of others.  Perhaps they should have made “Pay It Forward Day” sometime in mid-January – after the Holidays are over; when it’s cold and full of winter, when the lights are gone and the Christmas trees are waiting at the curb for the recycling truck, and our thoughts are about just getting home where it’s warm and inviting; when we might be inclined to fall back into thinking mostly of our own comfort — ourselves. January: when it can be dark and gloomy, and the storms of nature and life keep pounding at our door.  That’s when we need to do and say, “Pay It Forward and Keep It Going.”  Keep it going into the brightness of spring, the lazy days of summer, and into the colorful charm of autumn as Jack Frost reminds us once again of another winter, and a year filled with generosity. May we all strive to make the entire year glow with the Christ-like goodness we all have deep within our hearts.

 

Meanwhile, as you are finishing that last bit of Christmas shopping, don’t forget to pay a little something forward.

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Originally posted 2010-12-11 05:41:44.

THANKSGIVING MUSINGS

The day before the holiday I took a few minutes on Facebook to wish all of my friends a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Adding a short note of greeting I mentioned that even though we are all grateful for our blessings on a daily basis, Thanksgiving was a special day to review the year and once again be abundantly grateful.  Sounding redundant, I wrote that this day was the Super Bowl of gratitude.

Granddaughter Marisol quickly wrote back saying she was going to use that.  Continuing she told me about talking with someone who was basically a TG-Day Scrooge.  He all but grumbled, “Bah-Humbug,” about the holiday.  She was pleased with the idea of a Super Bowl of gratitude, and together we wondered about the naysayers of Thanksgiving?  We can’t call them Scrooge, nor can we add the “Bah-Humbug,” that’s already in use for Christmas  grouches.  We agreed that they would become just plain Old Turkeys — Tough Old Turkeys.   Later, thinking further ahead, but I’ll run it by Mari, instead of “Bah-Humbug,” how about using, “Bah-giblets.”  It flows nicely and a lot of Thanksgiving fans would like that one, especially grandson Sean who despises giblets.  He cooks them and then unceremoniously gives them to the dog.  She is overjoyed.

Our daughter Julie surprised me by coming to our house in the morning with wonderful vegetables to cook.  I thought her last years effort was over the top, but this year her contribution was fabulous: sliced and roasted brussel sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, and green beans flavored with sage and butter.  (She believes roasting makes everything better.)   The day was half over when she finished with just enough time left to rush away picking up husband Tim for dinner with his parents.  “It’s all ready — just reheat and serve,” she instructed before leaving, and then she gave me a long, hard hug – half for me and half for Ken.  We’re never sure how receptive he is to hugs and didn’t want to change his good mood with an unwanted touch.  A wave and “Goodbye, Dad,” was sufficient.

Turkey day arrived at 12:01 p.m., November 25; an ordinary day, but being Thanksgiving it’s never ordinary especially when celebrating a holiday with a seriously ill family member.  Admittedly, it can be difficult.  However, the wonderful thing about our kids, their spouses and their kids is their acceptance of Ken, his Alzheimer’s and dealing with it in a matter-of-fact way.  Our grown progeny talk to Ken as if his mind understands their conversation, and that’s good – and appreciated – especially by me. It all feels so normal, and he feels involved even though his contribution to what is being said makes no sense to others.  They have learned to use some of my favorite key words and phrases such as: “Really?” “Is that right.”  “I didn’t know that.”  “I’m not sure,” in addition to a dozen other forms of reply to their father and/or grandfather who lives on another level of existence which doesn’t share our reality.

The afternoon and early evening was filled with good food, good company and lots of loving phone calls from those who couldn’t be with us.  Granddaughter Kristina, who lives here decided to spend the holiday with her mom and dad in Ogden.  She and significant other Chris drove the 800 miles, and then she called to wish us a happy holiday, as did other grandchildren and sons far away.

It was cold today.  I remember many years when we had the front door open because it was so warm, but not today.  After dinner Keith started a fire, we served pies and whipped cream and everyone helped themselves.  Most of the younger ones passed up the pies in favor of ice cream, and Ken felt tired preferring to go to bed rather than have even a dish of ice cream.  Tomorrow he can have his choice.

Have you ever noticed when company leaves it sounds like a swarm of bees?  They often leave in a mass – a tight group – making  buzzing sounds with everyone talking at once.  Adults are still finishing their conversation, saying goodbye, a frantic realization and quick search for a child’s missing shoe — it’s found — gathering coats, purses, dishes, hugs and kisses, waves from the porch, and then silence.

Pulling a rocking chair closer to the fire I put my feet up on the hearth and watch the flames dance in the grate.   A perfect time to reflect on the day, the year and count my blessings. It had been a good Thanksgiving and a good day for Ken. I am grateful.

We have come such a long way from those long-ago Thanksgiving days at the little farm of my parents in Sonoma County.  How the years have piled up bringing constant change to our lives; taking away our older dear ones and birthing new life for us to love and watch grow.  I sat there making a study of the dying embers feeling just a little melancholy, and then the phone rang; a bit late, but not for a holiday.  It was Debbie calling from Ogden.  “I just wanted to wish you and dad a Happy Thanksgiving,” she said.  The melancholy vanished with her hello.  I suppose I needed one more slice of family to complete the holiday.

We talked for a while comparing dinners and guests, our family here and most of her family there.  The debate over using the good dishes of our shared tradition or paper plates as some of the younger generation would prefer.  Makes life easier is their claim.  Deb and I laughed realizing that even the utensils we use for eating are part of someone’s tradition.  And as previously stated we must respect the traditions of others, especially the coming generations.  So we wonder as Thanksgiving 2010 fades into history, who, in the future, will be interested in or even want our good dinnerware and all of those bone china tea cups?

Originally posted 2010-11-28 08:15:53.

TRADITION REVISITED

Is it Thanksgiving that kicks off the Holiday Season, or is it Halloween?  While the “they” forces are debating the question I’ll take a quick sentimental journey back to my own childhood remembering Christmas decorations lurking on the high shelves of our local “5 and 10 Cents” stores waiting for the Halloween masks and costumes to disappear.  No different from merchants of today, they couldn’t wait to push an early start for Santa’s helpers to swing into action.  My sister Janet and I used to ask one another, “What happened to Thanksgiving?”  Even at 9 and 12 we were aware that every holiday had its own tradition, and it wasn’t Christmas, but Turkey Day that arrived in November.   In school we had learned of the pilgrims sharing their harvest with the local Indians and giving thanks to the Almighty.  Nice beginning.   America’s first Thanksgiving has long since been tradition, and we continue to celebrate as the first gusts of cold air remind us that winter (and Christmas) is, indeed, on its way, but first let’s have our day of gratitude.

When we were children both Ken and I spent Thanksgiving day with family — not friends — family; unless the friends joined us for dinner.  As youngsters we were yet to meet, but family traditions were pretty much the same.  Dinner was either at home, or everyone gathered at some other relative’s house; that house belonging to anyone on the long list of the aunts and uncles.

After we were married we continued to share with one another the Thanksgiving traditions of our parents, aunts and uncles. It was a little more difficult because we now had his family and my family from which to choose.  It was also noticed that our cousins were growing up, getting married and having children, as were we.   With so many invitations and so many relatives, the older generation soon realized that traditions needed to change — not disappear — just become less rigid,  less cumbersome, evolving — even morphing — into a family solidarity of  love  and genuine affection for one another — which they did —  all the while respecting the new chosen Thanksgiving traditions of the younger generation.

We settled on Grandmother’s house – either one.  When Ken’s parents, Rose and Nick, began to have health problems we brought our brood, their brood and Rose and Nick, health permitting, to the home of my parents; a country setting located in Northern California’s Sonoma County.  For years my personal tradition was to arrive on Monday to help my mother prepare; making pies, cooking ahead and cleaning – getting ready for family on Turkey Day.

It was during dinner that last year when I noticed my mother seemed to be talking endlessly about not much of anything.  Her dinner plate was untouched as she droned on and on until my father said, “Irene will you stop talking and eat your dinner.”   She paused, took a few bites and began her filibuster once again.  I had noticed her being inattentive the previous three days, losing concentration and not listening.   Later, much later, we realized she was slipping away into Alzheimer’s.

Nick and Rose had already journeyed into the disease.  It was more than 35 years ago when doctors weren’t even certain what was wrong: “Just old age,” was the usual diagnosis, “or senility – maybe dementia.”  The medical community groped and we did too.  Uncertain about what to do, we did the best we knew finally placing them in full care facilities when we could no longer cope.

My parents moved back to the Bay Area to be near us so we could supervise and be a part of their care, and life continued.  So did tradition, but once again a new one:  Thanksgiving dinner was at our house just as I had promised Mama.

Years before when I could see my mother was growing tired, not so much because of the work involved with family gatherings, but more of the house being filled with company; the laughter and chatter of adults, the clamor and joyful sounds of children, the cry of a new baby seemed to tire her.  Interesting, no matter how much we might love family and parties there comes a time when a little peace and quiet is better.  My parents were ready for love and devotion to be served in small portions.  I suppose we can compare the often overwhelming joy of family to a lifetime of being stuffed with Thanksgiving dinners – some better than others – but appreciated none the less.  When age finally dictates after such a life-long feast, and we are filled to the brim, all that is wanted is a very thin slice of pumpkin pie.  I understood what she meant; enough was enough.

Nevertheless, she worried about letting go of the reins of her tradition, “If I don’t have the family come to our home, then where would they go?”  Smiling a sad smile I reassured her, “Then they will come to my house, and when I’m not able someone else will have the family Thanksgiving at their home.  There will always be someone to hold it together because family tradition is so precious.  Just let me know when you and dad are ready to let it go.  I’ll be there.”

We took photos after dinner that year: family photos, group photos, candid photos, couples photos and Mom and Dad photos.  With everyone being in a jovial mood, Dad made the announcement, “This is the last Thanksgiving here at the farm.  Mama just isn’t up to it any longer.”  The invisible baton of tradition was handed to me and for all of these years I have held it close.  It has changed, been reshaped, gotten smaller – and larger – depending on the number of guests.  The door of Ken’s and my home swings wide, and there was/is always  room for one more.

Since Ken’s AD Thanksgiving is always the holiday which hangs precariously in limbo until November.  By then I know whether we can do it one more time — or not.  In October we had a small family gathering.  Ken was very good.  Somewhere in his damaged mind there remains a spark of social.  He did so well that evening I decided yes; we would have Thankgiving dinner at our house once again.  Our daughter Julie and her daughter-in-law Marisol did the cooking last year, and what a wonderful gift it was.  This year I will have Ben to help when he isn’t watching Ken, and those coming will all bring a dish of something fabulous for the table, as usual.  What a bounty of blessings abides in my home.  I am forever filled with gratitude.

Last Thanksgiving I wrote about “Fiddler On The Roof,” Tevya and his ever-changing tradition and reluctantly accepting what he could not change when his daughters began their own traditions.  I see my battered baton fragmenting as did Tevya’s; bits and pieces scattering in many directions as members of our family move to various locations throughout our great land, but that’s okay even though we will miss them.   I think of tradition as a lighted candle –  like love.  It’s by sharing, giving it away,  allowing it to spread that it becomes bigger, better and brighter.

Following the “tradition” of Tevya and his humble friends I decided last year to place a metaphoric fiddler on my roof as a reminder that in spite of the adversities we all have, life is good.  As far as I know my fiddler remains.  Listen, once again I do believe I hear the lilting strains of music.

Originally posted 2010-11-20 21:38:29.

FRIENDS IN CYBERSPACE

Early on with Ken’s Alzheimer’s I joined a support group sponsored by our HMO.  My friend Madalyn, whose husband was also an AD victim, picked me up for my first meeting, and for a time it was a good thing.  I would hate to use the term “Misery loves company,” but I’m going to use it anyway.  Perhaps it was the motivating force for going — at least in the beginning.   Finding others who share the same burdens, the same dilemmas, and the same problems is often comforting as well as educational and helpful.  After all, it is this miserable disease in common that links us together.

However, circumstances change: Madalyn’s husband passed on, the timing no longer fit into my schedule, and eventually Ken couldn’t be left alone for such a long period of time.  No matter how beneficial the guidance and help had been, plus the medical information obtained, attendance for me became impossible, yet I needed something.

Other sources:  Books for starters, Madalyn gave me her copy of “The 36 Hour Day.”  Another friend began sending me scientific updates on the disease, and I continued searching the internet for any new developments.  Johns Hopkins puts out a weekly newsletter covering many facets of many illnesses, including Alzheimer’s.  I subscribed and it arrives quite often in my inbox.  Printed under the headings of any one of the issues are diseases of interest.  Each mini article allows the reader a glimpse of what’s contained in the full paper.  For more solid information you must download the rest of the paper or book for a fee. It’s good to know an abundance of helpful information is available if and when needed.

After reading and more reading plus watching PBS’s specials on Alzheimer’s I found I wasn’t necessarily looking for any further brain scans or definitive breakdowns on the disease.  I felt thoroughly informed as to what was happening to Ken’s brain.  Okay, I understand what it is – now what?  It was hands-on information I needed:  like an in-house support group where I could glean and share tips on how-to skills, in polishing up my own acceptance, increasing my strengths, my endurance, coping methods and picking up on dozens of ideas not even thought of.  Back to the internet – and what a wealth of support group information exists — mostly from people just like me.

The first post of my Blog, nearly two years ago, had an immediate response from Dr. David, a middle-aged psychiatrist who appeared to be much too young for any of this, but was stricken with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD).  I know next to nothing about LBD (which is no doubt lumped under the Dementia Umbrella and is a close relative of Alzheimer’s) Despite my LBD ignorance David was warm and welcoming, inviting me to join his link.  That evening I read several entries from his blog as well as entries from others as far away as Australia, all of them coping with LBD.  I ached for where they were – physically and emotionally — and what they were going through: the victims as well as the caregivers.

Dr. David’s wife Pam is his caregiver, and I’ve noticed, now, when I go to his site and read his entries I find his battlefield has become strewn with his many losses, but he struggles forward enduring as the valiant fighter he has proven to be.  His posts are dotted with what we all feel: anger, frustration, humor, incredible sorrow, and acceptance, but also with lots of information, hope for a breakthrough and some positive signs for more research funding from Congress.  A breakthrough in any of these mind deterioration diseases will benefit us all.

I also find encouragement from writing my blog when I receive comments from people I don’t even know.  Most, if not all, have had experience as caregivers for AD or other related diseases.  For many their battle is over, but for some it’s just beginning such as one woman who was caring for her AD mother and had just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s herself.  She was pleased to find my posts are driven by my faith and my personal relationship with God, and took comfort in my writings about what we shared.

From as far away as South Africa I was advised that there is life after Alzheimer’s.

Another message stated simply, “Thank you for sharing your journey with us.”

Writing to me about my post a young woman wrote, “How sweet, and how sad at the same time.  Whenever I read your blog I am blessed.”

“Best of luck to you.  I know how difficult it is.”

From another who wrote, “The hardest thing to deal with is feeling alone, but you are not alone.  We are here and through this blog we can share in your very difficult battle.”

There are many out there who believe the internet is a bad thing filled with perverts, child molesters and ugliness.  It can be.  We do hear, see and read stories of its abuse, and lives ruined because of misguided and inappropriate use.  Simply put, it’s a tool.  Any tool can be used for evil – or for good.

Writing about my journey has brought me peace and has kept me focused.  I often refer to my computer – especially the far-reaching internet — as my electronic therapist, which I may have stated in previous posts.  Not only can I tell my readers of the good moments in our battle against AD, I can vent.  And during the tough times if I need some encouragement all I have to do is go to my pages of comments and read all of the supportive words from those of you who have taken the time to leave me your loving, caring messages.   I know that I am not alone in this frightful journey.  Thank you.

Originally posted 2010-11-14 03:40:53.

CHOOSING HAPPINESS OVER DESPAIR AND ALZHEIMER’S

For Charlie Brown’s group happiness is a warm puppy.  For many kids it’s Santa Claus in the mall, Christmas morning and a new bike.  For lovers it’s their next meeting; a bride and groom their wedding day; students – graduation; for the unemployed it’s finding a job, and to a billionaire watching his stocks double is cause to gleefully celebrate.  For a young couple happiness comes with a new baby, and baby’s first smile brings immeasurable joy to its mother.   Happiness can be as constant as the surf splashing against the sand, elusive as shadows on a moonless night, and as fragile as a dandelion puff.  Happiness is many things to many people, but for me happiness is a choice.

I used to be a pouter.  Not recently, but when I was a young teen I somehow came to the belief that if I looked sad there would be a vast number of boys and girls who would want to be my friend if only to cheer me.  Illogical conclusion: sad had more appeal than happy. 

Our group of girls often went to local teen dances on Friday and Saturday nights.  The adorable bouncy girls with smiling faces were soon asked to dance while I sat against the wall, arms folded across my chest looking glum, hoping a cute guy, or not so cute, would take pity and ask me to dance.  I was the absolute archetype of a wall flower, and I didn’t know why, nor did any of my friends tell me to put a smile on my face and look happy.  Maybe my girl friends didn’t see me as a sad-looking dance dunce, but I was and I didn’t like it

Eventually I figured it all out.  It was more of a growing process, a maturing process when realization cleared the mystery concerning adorable girls.  It wasn’t about adorable, but more about bouncy and smiling faces.  My friends looked happy and I didn’t.  No one, even the kindest of cute guys, or not so cute, wanted to be stuck for any amount of time with Saddie Sad Sack.  So it was that I began my long journey in choosing to be happy.  Happiness didn’t come from without, it came from within.

Happy is an easy choice when the fates smile, when Mr. Right comes along, when babies arrive in addition to promotions and salary increases, when a new house is acquired and the lawn gets cut.   Just as in the story books:  “And they lived happily ever after.”

Time for a reality check:  Snow White’s babies had colic and threw up all over her favorite dress (actually her only dress), Cinderella’s prince was a lazy oaf who expected her to run the entire kingdom by herself, and Beauty’s beast, after all was said and done, turned out to be a grumbling turkey, but still decked out in the clothing and skin of a handsome fairy-tale prince. 

In spite of it all Snow, Cinder and Beau decided to work through life’s problems with their men, Charming, Charming and Charming, seeking help if needed setting happiness, once again, as their goal.   The babies grew into delightful children; the lazy oaf, threatened by Cinder’s Fairy Godmother who arrived with a pumpkin and a bunch of rats, fully accepted his responsibilities.  Under the prince’s guidance the kingdom flourished even without the touch of Godmother’s magic wand.  The doctor assigned to our snarling, growling beast removed several irritating rose thorns from Charming’s bottomside, which had been hidden under his very tight tights, returning him immediately to the prince of Beauty’s dreams.   

Life does ebb and flow.  While we would all like to remain in the flow, it just doesn’t work that way.  Adversity is a part of everyone’s life no matter what their rank or station.

If we are smart, during the good times when choosing to be happy is easy, we need to recognize our bounty of blessings and place them in a memory bank for future reference.  It’s during the ebb, the tough times, getting caught in the under current of misery when it’s difficult to say, “I’m happy.”  Yes, life can be miserable, and at times we all walk through the Valley of Doom and Gloom.  Interesting place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there.  Remaining in misery unless there is a clinical problem is also a choice.

It is not my intention to be a Pollyanna, constantly in denial, never acknowledging that things may go wrong, did go wrong, are wrong, or that life can become an overwhelming challenge, or that life is, at times, the absolute pits.  However, it is my intention to advise all the Snow Whites,  Cinderells,  Beautys, and their Princes Charming to recognize that life does have a mean left hook and when you get whacked it’s best to meet it head on.  Dodging, denying, and hiding under the covers won’t make adversity go away.

When Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it was a tragic blow even though we were not surprised.  Knowing it was deeply entrenched in the family we had  thought we could somehow sidestep it if he ate right, exercised, and continued to live a clean, wholesome life.  We were wrong.  “Your husband has Alzheimer’s.”  That’s what the doctor said and that’s how he said it.

Did we go home happy, smiling, clicking our heels about his disease?  Of course not!  No matter how well prepared we were, the news was devastating.  We were sad.  We cried and finally we accepted the diagnosis, and then we took a road trip, planning to squeeze everything we could into a limited amount of time before the disease robbed Ken of his ability to be Ken.

I have long understood about the link between acceptance and happy before I listened to Michael J. Fox as he was interviewed for his book, “Adventures Of An Incurable Optimist – Always Looking Up,” but it was good to hear him verbalize what he too had discovered.  It was accepting his disease that finally brought him to happiness after making peace with Parkinson’s and then moving forward with his life.  Fox also emphasized how awful it would be to live in despair, but on the plus side mentioned how this adversity had led to so many amazing people and places.  I couldn’t agree more for I too have rediscovered the goodness, compassion, love and concern which is found in good people everywhere.

So I choose to be happy.  I answer the phone with a cheerful voice and keep the “Woe is me” off limits. Do I have sad times?  Do I cry?  Certainly, but I don’t remain in the negative because I choose to be happy.  There is not room for both.  My new answer to, “How are things going?” is “Smoothly.”  My grandson, Brain, tells me a better word is “Swimmingly,” whatever that means.  But then again “Swimmingly” might be a good response if it means going against the current and making it?  Perhaps I will change “Smoothly” to “Swimmingly.” 

Looking way down from where I perch in the sunlight I see the dark pit of despair, but using my right to choose I choose to not go there.  Being happy while coping with any of the Devil’s diseases is something one must choose to be on a daily basis.  That’s why each and every morning I remind myself, “Today, I choose to be happy.”

Originally posted 2010-09-12 04:16:57.

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