Category Archives: Dementia/Alzheimer’s

Love With a Capital M

Maggie led the way for hiking in the snow, followed by Jim and our grandchildren.

Maggie was the snow hike leader, followed by Jim and our grandchildren.

 

 

She wasn't much for raking leaves, but rolling in them with the family was fun.

She wasn’t much for raking leaves, but she was always up for  rolling in them with the family.

She had the sweetest smile.

She had the sweetest smile.

 

 

 

 

Charles Schultz, author of Peanuts, wrote, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

For more than twelve years, happiness for our family has been a warm and amazing dog named Maggie. With a capital M. When our son-in-law was a policeman in the little town of Canton, KS., he found her abandoned in the back yard after the renters had moved out. He and our daughter already had two large male dogs, but they knew immediately the Colorado couple who would agree to rescue this dog.

When we adopted Maggie, we had no idea that in the big scheme of our lives, Maggie would actually rescue us and prove what writer Roger Caras said, “Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”

This was not the post I had planned to write today, but life had other plans. Yesterday afternoon, Maggie suddenly could not stand. Six weeks ago blood tests and a checkup showed everything was good, but in just a short time, a fast growing tumor formed between her ribs and against one kidney. Last night Jim and I sat with Maggie in the vet’s office, saying our good-byes and stroking her head until she quietly went to sleep.

My words are too sad to write, so I’ll borrow from Dean Koontz: “Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is diminished.” Our lives are diminished without Maggie, but we’re ever so grateful for the many years she was our trusted and loyal friend and a beloved member of our family.

She led the way, and we happily followed.

She led the way, and we happily followed.

 

Maggie was born a Kansas dog, but she was Jim's favorite Colorado hiking buddy.

Maggie was born a Kansas dog, but she was Jim’s favorite Colorado hiking buddy.

At my mom's recent 97th birthday, when things got too hectic, Mom closed her eyes, and Maggie when over to rest next to her.

At my mom’s recent 97th birthday, when things got too hectic, Mom closed her eyes, and Maggie when over to rest next to her.

 

 

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

THE CLARENCE REMINDER

mom & dad's engagement picture

During their 67 years of marriage—before Dad’s Alzheimer’s and Mom’s dementia—my parents had one major disagreement, and it happened on their honeymoon. The conflict was a disagreement over what to do and where to go, and it turned out to have a huge affect on the rest of their lives.

They were staying in a cabin near the Big Thompson Canyon in Colorado. After packing sack lunches, canteens of water and a blanket to spread out on the ground, they took off on a private hike. They had gone less than two miles and were in a meadow at the base of a mountain when a storm hit. It was a fast, hard-hitting August storm with wind, thunder, and the beginnings of hail.

Dad pointed to the only refuge in the meadow, a huge tree with thick branches loaded with leaves. His plan was for them to huddle at the base of the tree and cover themselves with the blanket.  But Mom, a Missouri farm girl who’d seen lightning set fire to an old barn, said they should use the blanket as cover and take their chances hurrying back to the cabin.

Long story short, they argued back and forth, holding the blanket over their heads and eyeing the building storm. In the end, Dad grabbed Mom’s hand and they ran in the direction of the cabin. Minutes later a bolt of lightning hit the tree and destroyed it.

One of my favorite college lectures was titled The Clarence Reminder. It was named for Clarence, the angel in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, whose job was to remind George Bailey that a world without him would have been a very different world.

The picture above is my parents’ engagement picture. It could have also been their last picture if they’d decided to huddle against the tree that day. The pictures below–with our parents holding me as a baby and my brother as a toddler, and then more than four decades later another picture of us as adults posing with them–would not exist. David’s sons, and my daughter and her children, also would not exist.

There’s a reason that lightning never strikes twice in the same place ~ it’s because no place is ever exactly the same after being struck by lighting. The same is true with people.  My mom said that after the close call with the lightning hitting the tree, she never forgot that every thing we do makes a profound difference in the lives and futures of ourselves and others. We can’t see all the dangers ahead or choose only the safe paths, but we can celebrate every day as precious.

THE CLARENCE REMINDER is a good lesson for all of us.

family_photo_1949        Mom, Dad, me, David

Dead End 15 mph

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons for great-grandchildren, life questions, Spiritual connections

KNOWING WHEN–AND HOW–TO RELAX

Eyeballs"--colored by Hillari Dowdie

Eyeballs”–colored by Hillari Dowdie–came from POSH ADULT COLORING BOOK: SOOTHING DESIGNS FOR FUN & RELAXATION.

 

 

 

"Secret Garden"--published by Laurence King--is one of the downloadable coloring pages.

“Secret Garden”–published by Laurence King –is one of the downloadable coloring pages.

Author Barbara Taylor Bradford once said that success is often a matter of knowing when to relax.   Lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho wrote, “It’s a good idea to always do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.”  And Ray Bradbury’s advice was four words: “Work. Don’t think. Relax.”

This summer’s hottest trend would fit right in with all three suggestions, and it’s as simple as turning to the right book. The right coloring book.   Boston psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., says coloring offers complete absorption…and keeps you in the moment. It engages “both sides of your brain…creative and tactical…and brings you back to a simpler time.”  Coloring (with pens, colored pencils, markers, even crayons) is this summer’s hottest trend, and it’s just getting started. Rumors have it that in addition to the many adult coloring books already available, Game of Thrones also has a coloring book in the works.

My mother was into her own form of  “adult coloring” long before it was popular.   She used to carry a small double-sided notebook (lines on one side, blank pages on the other) so that wherever she was, if she had an idea for a poem or article or story, she could jot it down. But before she began writing, she doodled an illustration on the blank side of the page.  By the time she had colored the illustration, she had a fuller, more vivid picture in mind and was ready to write.   Or sometimes she drew a picture, and later she wrote about it.

The July 12 issue of PARADE MAGAZINE calls coloring a way to “cheer up, chill out, and get your creative juices flowing.” It lists titles of successful coloring books with everything from whimsical animals and flowers, to Hindu and Buddhist mandelas (symbols that represent wholeness). PARADE also invites us to get started by going to parade.com/coloring for free downloadable coloring pages.   All the coloring page examples on this post come from that site, and there are many more choices.

To stop over-thinking and start relaxing, try the joy of coloring.   Or like my mother used to do before the dementia, illustrate a thought and move it from color to words.

birds design from POSH Coloring book

Fish design, and bird design in next picture, are from POSH Coloring Book; both pages are downloadable

Fish design, and bird design in picture above, are from POSH Coloring Book; both pages are downloadable.

 

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, experiments, just doing the best we can, kindergarten lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations

You Can Sell A Book By Its Cover

still stripping - title

 

 

(Look closer; the cowboy is knitting!)

(Look closer; the cowboy is knitting!)

Yard sales often offer books for sale. This week at a community yard sale, one little paperback diet book had everyone laughing, and also had several people wanting to buy it just for the novelty of the title: NEVER EAT MORE THAN YOU CAN LIFT.

The two book covers pictured above are also interesting. If you just read the title of Eleanor Burms’ book—STILL STRIPPING AFTER 25 YEARS—your first thought might not be that the book is about knitting and crocheting with strips of fabric. And the cover of Dave Tougner’s book, THE MANLY ART OF KNITTING, speaks for itself. Both books would at least make you look twice.

In a competitive book-selling market, stunning or clever book covers and compelling, surprising, humorous or outrageous titles might be just the nudge that makes someone buy a book rather than put it back on the shelf.

Judge Judy Sheindlin, of the popular  court television program, gave her book this successful title: DON’T PEE ON MY LEG AND TELL ME IT’S RAINING: America’s Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out.

Many successful books have one-word titles: IT, JAWS, MIDDLESEX, DIVERGENT, FRANKENSTEIN, and DUNE are just a few examples.   And some VERY LONG titles pretty much summarize the book’s content.   Here are two of my favorites: Christina Tompson’s COME ON SHORE AND WE WILL KILL YOU AND EAT YOU ALL: A New Zealand Story, and David Rakoff’s DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE: THE INDIGNITIES OF COACH CLASS, THE TORMENTS OF LOW THREAD COUNT, THE NEVER-ENDING QUEST FOR ARTISANAL OLIVE OIL, AND OTHER FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

I love libraries, book stores and yard sales that offer books. I also love surprising and interesting titles and book covers, but what really counts in the long run for me is the quality of the content between the covers.  I love to get lost in good books.

Before the dementia, my mother loved the same things. She still likes to be read to, especially books of poems and prayers for children. But when I was growing up, she had shelves of good books, and two were her special favorites.   Jessamyn West’s EXCEPT FOR ME AND THEE, companion book to THE FRIENDLY PERSUASION, and Helen Doss’ nonfiction book, THE FAMILY NOBODY WANTED.  She bought spare copies of both books.  That way she could  always have her own copies, but still lend the books to others to enjoy, and tell them to pass the books on to others when they were finished.

Yes, you can sell a book by its cover. But it’s what’s between the covers that will make you cherish the book.

The profound, touching and wise story of a couple  in the 1950s who just wanted a child of their own, but had hearts big enough for many that no one wanted.

The profound, touching and wise story of a couple in the 1950s who just wanted a child of their own, but had hearts big enough for many that no one wanted.

A Quaker family practices what they believe with honesty, humor and charm.

A Quaker family practices what they believe with honesty, humor and charm, even during the Civil War.

 

 

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Filed under art, Books and book titles, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life

…PANTS ON FIRE!

"Eat the last cupcake?  Who, me?  Let me think..."

“Eat the last cupcake? Who, me? Let me think…”

 

 

 

HOW BIG was the one that got away?  Hmm... really?

HOW BIG was the one that got away? Hmm… really?

Okay, let’s see a show of hands. (Work with me here.) When you read the title, how many of you immediately thought of the two-word lead in? Here’s a hint: it’s not about calling the fire department, but is about the burning effects of perjury. You know: “Liar, liar…pants on fire!”

Tuesday, July 7th, is “Tell the Truth Day.” It should last longer than just one day–maybe a month or an entire year—as the purpose of this day is to live with no lies, to give up half-truths, fibs and even white lies—and in fact, to say nothing unless it is the truth, for an entire day. Hmm…next Tuesday could be interesting—and fairly quiet, too—if all the politicians running for office followed the day’s rules.

This is a day that would confuse my mom more than her usual confusions from dementia. She would approve of the concept, but I’m pretty sure she would also wonder why it’s a ONE DAY activity instead of a FULL LIFE practice. If she’d ask why July 7th is Tell The Truth Day, the only thing I could say is that at least it’s better than no day at all.

There are numerous books and movies about the techniques of lying, the successes and failures, the humorous and tragic outcomes. The movie that comes to my mind is THE INVENTION OF LYING. In a very brief summary, it’s about a world where everyone can tell only the truth, except for one man who is able to lie.

Author Stephen King said this in his book ON WRITING: “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” In Tom Wolfe’s ADVICE TO WRITERS, he says “The problem with fiction is it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.” And in ANIMAL DREAMS, author Barbara Kingsolver says this: “The truth needs so little rehearsal,” which works well with Mark Twain’s reminder that “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

“Tell The Truth Day” is July 7th. If you get discouraged, remember that July 8th is SCUD Day, which means savor the comic, unplug the drama, so if you have funny stories about trying to tell the truth on Tuesday, you can share them on Wednesday. And if you survive both days, July 9th is a day to reward yourself: Sugar Cookie Day.

Forrest Gump:  "My Mama always said you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on."  In that spirit, put lying behind you and move on this Tuesday, July 7th.  (Wickipedia picture)

Forrest Gump: “My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” In that spirit, put lying behind you and move on this Tuesday, July 7th. (Wickipedia picture)

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Filed under celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life

A CLUB YOU DO NOT WANT TO JOIN

Molly wishes her grandmother a happy birthday.

Molly wishes her grandmother a happy birthday.

    

Molly made a birthday wall wreath of flip-flops.

Molly brightened the room by making a birthday wall wreath of flip-flops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Friday evening dinner, Maggie and my mom were a great team. sleeping through most of the fun.

At the Friday evening dinner, Maggie and my mom were a great team; Maggie slept through most of the fun beside Mom’s recliner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrated my mother’s 97th birthday last week. It was almost a month early, but this was the only time when her children and spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could all get together. Especially her youngest grandchild, who flew all the way from China for the reunion and was swamped with hugs.

It was a wonderful combination of family, food, and fun, but the early-birthday girl slept though almost all of it. She sometimes smiled at the flowers, cards, hugs and kisses, but she didn’t realize who we were or what was happening. That’s how it is with her advanced dementia—and how it was with my dad’s Alzheimer’s–but we still do the best we can to celebrate our parents’ lives and show our love.

June is ALZHEIMER’S & BRAIN AWARENESS MONTH. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and a similar population percentage is found in countries all over the world. Alzheimer’s is a non-exclusive club that is open to everyone, and it charges very high dues.

Here are the latest research suggestions to promote brain health and prevent or postpone Alzheimer’s. Basically, heart healthy and brain healthy guidelines are very compatible:

~ the more you eat of the richer, deeper colors of vegetables and fresh fruits (especially berries), the better; ~ limit the amount of meats and processed meats you eat; ~ do NOT smoke; ~ monitor and control your blood pressure and cholesterol; ~ walk daily and/or exercise for 30 min. 3-4 times a week; ~ participate in games, classes, and activities with others; ~ brush and floss daily, and see a dentist regularly. 1-2 cups of morning coffee each day is still a plus against Alzheimer’s, but isn’t specifically listed for heart health.

My parents lived by everything on the list above—except the coffee; they drank tea—but Dad still died of Alzheimer’s at 89, and Mom’s symptoms began when she was 91. There are certainly other variables to be identified and studied, but for overall health the suggestions above—especially eating healthy foods—are a good start.

I read this advice on a poster with a picture of a huge garden with children picking baskets of vegetables: When it comes to food and labels of ingredients, here’s the plan: If you can’t pronounce it, do not eat it.   And I think Doug Larson was both correct and funny (humor is good medicine, after all) when he wrote, “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”

Here’s to fun, family, friends, and food (especially if it smells like bacon)…and doing our best to stay out of the Alzheimer’s Club.

Her great-grandchildren made a 2'x3' poster board card for her living room.

Her great-grandchildren made a 2’x3′ poster board card for her living room.

Flowers for Mom's early 97th birthday celebration.

Flowers for Mom’s early 97th birthday celebration.

Five million w: Alzheimers

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

NON-TRADITIONAL CREATIVITY

our two anniv

 

 

Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Closeup of the chair feet, in Keene walking sandals and hiking boots.

Giving special gifts on specific anniversaries isn’t a new concept. It dates back to the Middle Ages, where underlying superstitions and beliefs corresponded with giving gifts to welcome good luck or ward off the bad.

When my brother once asked our dad what was the best decision he ever made, Dad said, “I married your mother.” Our parents were married for sixty-four years before his Alzheimer’s and her dementia set in, and their anniversary celebrations were usually low key and private. They enjoyed going out for dinner, usually with family, and holding hands as they read their anniversary cards and talked about favorite memories.

This summer Jim and I celebrate our 30th anniversary, and traditionally the gift for the 30th is the pearl. Our daughter—a wonderful independently creative gift maker—gave us a unique set of anniversary chairs this year. Full-heart, headless chairs.

anniversary Picasso chairs

Last year she painted Picasso-type art chairs with Picasso quotes for us.

This year’s chairs wear tee-shirts, jeans, Keene walking sandals (for me) and hiking boots (for Jim), and are stuffed with multiple pillows that make these the most comfortable, form-fitting chairs ever.

For us, it’s not expensive gifts, fancy dinners out or celebrations that make an anniversary special. It’s being with each other and the family we love dearly, seeing their smiling faces around the table, and hearing everyone share favorite memories. Like my parents, we would title these celebrations by borrowing another title: “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Tucked among greeting card-type romantic verses, we’ve found a sentiment by writer and comedian Rita Rudner that makes us laugh. “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.”   And a favorite toast for weddings and anniversaries is by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein: “May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.”

Today our hearts are full, grateful for love, marriage, family, friends, and wonderful dads. And anniversaries with traditional pearls or non-traditional headless chairs.

 

Browning- grow old along w:meSimplify tee-shirt

 

 

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Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, Special days in June, special quotations, Things to be thankful for