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The MAD Life: Episode 13

One fun adventure in Alzheimer is accusing people of stealing. The books warn of it, the doctors too, and it’s so very true. Those closest to the loved one (LO) with Alzheimer will be accused of stealing things.

Every day, my mom thinks someone (usually me) stole something or other. Her underwear, a favorite pen or mirror, a single shoe, the milk from the fridge (that’s behind the juice), her remote control (wedged in the chair), the phone (in the fridge), her purse, the mail from the mailbox that’s in her hand, and the list goes on.

For us, unfortunately, she thinks a family member stole her tractor. Not only did that person not steal the tractor, it’s actually more heartbreaking: she doesn’t recognize it. The tractor is just fine, in the barn, being well cared for and still used to farm. She never learned how to drive it, but dad had bought it in her honor, thinking she’d be willing to learn. No deal, but she remembers that he loved her. It’s better she remember that than the tractor.

I should have figured it out sooner, because a few months before she had said I stole her adding machine. Umm… no, I use Excel on the computer or a calculator on my phone. She had it on the dining room table, had been using it for days, and a couple of days later, she brings it into the office I work in at home (a bonus for me with COVID, because I love working at home), and screams at me asking why I stole her adding machine and gave her this crappy one that she can’t use. Well, just like the tractor, she didn’t recognize it as the one she’d been using in the dining room for two days … and has owned and used about two decades.

Unlike the tractor and the adding machine, which are fairly painful subjects around our house because she still believes they were stolen, even though the issue is that she no longer recognizes them, and becomes instantly angry, there is good in this that is fun for her. Not everything is extreme in the bad.

She finds new clothes in her closet (that she’s had for decades, but so what). She finds a new toothpaste in her bathroom (half used by her these last few weeks, but she’s happy, so that’s good). She sees an article in the Parade magazine that’s really interesting (she’s read parts of it to me about a dozen times over the last two weeks). The picture on the wall must be new, and she really likes it (which is great because she picked it out a few years ago). She finds a stash of chocolate by her favorite chair (put there by her a few hours ago).

Other good things are that she sometimes knows people she hasn’t seen in years. She remembers where this or that Christmas tree ornament came from and when. She doesn’t remember having a certain food, but finds now that she loves it (she’s always loved it, and I get it for her on purpose). She wants to be active, go places, and do things. There is still joy in her. We will go to see more Christmas lights, and if she wants to see the lights in Bronson Park again for the first time every night the week of Christmas, that is what we will do.

The goal is to see the humor or joy in everything, while trying to ignore the sad, bad, or upsetting, because that serves no one. I am no good at ignoring the sad, bad, or upsetting yet, but I will keep trying. Our family and friends give us both strength. Everyday is a new day to both of us to try and try and try again. It’s no easy path, and I do not wish this disease on anyone. No. One. Ever.

Dad driving the tractor one summer decades ago.
The tractor in our driveway, no idea what year.
Dad using the tractor to bail hay. He passed in January 2014, and he had bailed hay the summer before.
He loved this farm, this family, and this life.
He has shared that joy with all of us, and his descendants remember him because of his joy in life.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The MAD Life: Episode 12

Ah, Alzheimer’s. There is so much to learn about you. I read, and I listen to caregivers (past and present), and I listen to doctors.

Aspects of this disease:

  • Cleaning the random glove drawer in the laundry room. Matching those that are alike together. Separating out the lonely gloves. Dumping them all back in the drawer much as they were before.
  • Delighted when a friend or family member calls and telling everyone about it for days. Everyone being me, and I may hear about it a dozen times, but she’s happy, so it’s okay.
  • Forgetting where to put away the clean dishes, even the ones you’ve had on the same shelves for decades.
  • Having the home health aide wash the dishes for her, and she is like a teenager getting out of a chore (even though she claims to love washing dishes), and telling everyone “the aide did the dishes”.
  • Looking at a piece of mail (junk, bill, etc.) for hours over and over. Asking the same questions about it. Writing notes all over it. Picking it up again days later and starting over. And if you cannot find it (I had hoped that hiding it would stop the cycle), freaking out because it is now missing. (Usually junk mail or a explanation of benefits for insurance – when no payment is yet due.)
  • Being delighted beyond measure that a favorite item in the grocery store is on sale.
  • Buying the same grocery items repeatedly (thank goodness for Loaves & Fishes taking donations of food items): mayonnaise, soups, canned vegetables, bread, tomatoes, and celery.
  • Thankful that her indulgences are small. She loves to go to the Discovery shop and buy clothes or household items on sale (they are already reduced since they are resale, but something is on sale every month too). We can’t try clothes on now due to COVID, so any that don’t fit are either donated back to the Discovery Shop or are donated to the Free Store. Somebody wins no matter what.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The MAD Life: Episode 11

Emotional Support Cookies

I am not a firm believer in Emotional Support Cookies. This is not just a figure of speech, but a reality that is helping my mental state.

My first Emotional Support Cookies in life came from my friend Stacy. Over the years, she has sent me cookies or granola or sweet bread when I needed it the most. I hadn’t thought to give the concept a name, but it worked then, and it works now.

More recently, my friend Nickey gave me two dozen Emotional Support Cookies. Times were very bad with the Alzheimer’s, and she was worried about me. She set about baking, and I was blessed with her delicious and moist chocolate chip cookies.

Now I am going to order my favorite cookies from Chris. Chris’s family goes on Mission trips, and she has sold baked goods to raise funds. She doesn’t have a fund raiser now, but I will see her next weekend. I reached out, and she’ll bring two dozen of her super thick, moist, sugar cookies with her soft and creamy frosting. They will arrive just in time, since I should run out of my ration of cookies from Nickey about then.

I know: sugar. Yep, I am indulging in a sweet treat and calling it Emotional Support. So be it. My weight is not fluctuating, and if anything, I’m losing weight. My blood sugar and triglycerides are good (or are they the same thing – I get that stuff confused). Furthermore, to help my mom’s mental capacity, we are eating more fruits and vegetables than ever before. The meats are lean. The veggies and fruit are usually fresh. A cookie or two a day is a mental boost that makes my world better.

These Emotional Support Cookies aren’t just a sweet treat. They are from friends who have been supportive, loving, and generous. When I enjoy their home-made baked goods, I know I am not alone in this world. There is support and love.

And it isn’t just cookies. Kerrie gave me butterfly twinkle lights when the Alzheimer’s was exceptionally bad and I was having migraines at the same time. Those are Emotional Support Twinkle Lights. Lynn had me to her home for crafting while her mom sat with my mom: Emotional Support Crafting. Betsie and Steffani send me meme’s from facebook to cheer me. Kathy N. sends me comics to make me laugh. And there are so many more people who I am blessed to have in my life.

Moral of the Story: You are loved. It may not feel like it every moment. But You Are Loved.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The MAD Life: Episode 10

Signs of a heart attack:

  • Pain, squeezing, fullness, burning, tightness, or uncomfortable pressure in the center of the chest
  • Pain, numbness, pinching, prickling, or other uncomfortable sensations in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Sudden nausea or vomiting or unexplained indigestion
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Sudden heat or flushing, or a cold sweat
  • Heaviness, weakness, or pain in one or both arms
  • Back pain
  • Racing or fluttering heart

When it comes to migraines, these are the items from the heart attack list above that I have NOT had with a migraine:

  • Chest pain
  • Back pain

Signs of a Stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden problem with walking, loss of balance, or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

When it comes to migraines, these are the items from the stroke list above that I haven’t had with a migraine:

  • Oops, I’ve had these all with migraines together and separately

Signs of COVID-19 (the newest Coronavirus) that may appear between 2 & 14 days after exposure to the virus (meaning you could have it for 14 days BEFORE you show ANY symptoms):

  • Body or muscle aches & pains
  • Chills
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing that can be severe enough to cause people to seek hospital care
  • Drycough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sore throat in some people
  • Tiredness

When it comes to migraines, these are the items from the Coronavirus list above that I haven’t had with a migraine:

  • Cough
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Severe difficulty breathing

This is why I can’t panic about these things: My migraines may cause me to misinterpret them. It’s exhausting going to the doctor when this occurs, so I rarely do anymore. I hope I’d know the difference, but there have been times I did not know the difference between a migraine and another illness for a day or three. These are a few examples:

  • Sinus infection
  • Kidney infection
  • Strep throat
  • H1N1
  • IBS attack

Resources:

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The MAD Life: Episode 9

Tonight I said to a cousin that I might be naughty and let my mom clean and organize her room and her guest room. Then I stopped and thought about it.

Is that my idea of naughty? Why, yes. Yes, indeed, my current idea of naughty is to let an elderly woman clean her own rooms.

It’s also my idea of fun! It’s amazing how messy one tiny, elderly woman can be. If she can do this, it’s one item off of my mile long to do list.

Moral of the story: The definition of naughty changes as we age.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The MAD Life: Episode 8

Saturday did not go as planned … at all. I had hoped to spend it doing much needed cleaning and organizing. But my nephew-in-law wanted to mow for my mom so he needed gas. Since we were going out, I offered to take mom to her happy place: The Discovery Shop (donation resale to support the American Cancer Society). Then she wanted to return all of our bottles at Meijer.

We got all of that done plus some groceries, and I got a sweet deal on two bee mugs at the Discovery Shop. I already had the lighter middle one that I purchased at Bee School Day at KVCC earlier this year. Thanks to resale, the two new ones cost less total (plus honey and tea) than the middle mug. Then, that nephew-in-law also wanted me to take a lot of photos of the garden he and others grow. It is stunning, so I spent a long time taking 100’s of photos. I’ll have to try again in a week or so, since his sunflowers aren’t open yet.

Three yellow mugs with the honeycomb imprint and an embossed bee near the top.

I would love to spend a whole week (or 2 or 3) just at home, but little things come up all the time. I love being home with no place to go for days at a time, even if I’m working. I cannot keep my activities organized. Part of that is the stress of living with Alzheimer’s and her medical appointments. If we’re out, we just run errands because we’re out.

Her memory issues came into play at the Discovery Shop. Mom only wanted a mug marked $1. She looked at her $10 bill and a $20 and didn’t understand that they can make change for either bill. The awesome volunteer behind the counter said she had enough change to cover it. I tried to pay, but she wouldn’t take my money and said she understood. All without making mom feel bad. She did fine shopping at Meijer. I just never know, so I must be vigilant all the time.

Tonight, we already scheduled time for my brother to come over for dinner so we could work in the last two of the sessions for his cider making class. Making dinner meant that cleaning has still barely happened. We made it through one session, but the last one will be 2 hours plus the quiz, so we’ll finish another day.

Now I’m wiped out. I should have time Sunday for cleaning, but I was hoping to just relax and maybe only tweak things. Yet we accomplished good things today.

Moral of the story: Plans.change, but it can be for the good. 

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The MAD Life: Episode 7

Alzheimer’s sucks: Not so clean dishes.

One of the things mom has always done quite well is washing dishes. She says she enjoys it. She often feels cold, so the hot water feels good.

A policy that has always been in our home is that dishes must be scrubbed practically clean before they go in the pile to wash. She can’t stand anything caked on a dish and to then try to get it out. We’re allowed to soak them and then scrub clean, but they still must be scrubbed before going on the “to wash” side of the sink.

Well, that’s now a problem.

Today, I was getting lunch, and mom was preparing to wash dishes. She was taking dishes from the dirty pile and putting them away. Drying if need be, but putting them where they belong. She was even putting them in the right places. (She is starting to forget where they go or where to get them from.)

Ummm…, “Mom, what are you doing with those dishes?”

Mom, “Someone is putting clean dishes in the dirty dish pile.”

Me, “Anything on that side of the sink is dirty.”

Mom, “No, see how clean they are?”

Well, yes, they do appear clean. But they’ve appeared clean for decades per her own requirement. Although she herself is skimping on this part, so I’ve been sure her dishes were clean too so I didn’t get hollered at.

A few weeks ago she hollered at me for taking out perfectly clean dishes from the cupboard and putting them where the dirty ones go next to the sink. Well, no, they were dirty. Just scrubbed so they “looked” clean, per her strictly enforced policy. And … ummm … I cannot even begin to tell you how much I loathe doing dishes. I use as few as possible even knowing I won’t be washing them, because I don’t want to burden another with a job I abhor.

Note: Can you tell we do not have an automatic dish washer? Many have offered, and my dad was glad to install them, but mom always refuses because she says she loves to wash dishes. So my dad said we did have a dishwasher … its name is “arm strong”.

For future reference, I’m thinking it’s better to get hollered at for having small items caked onto dishes or leaving crumbs. I’d rather she be upset with me for that than to find I’m eating from/with dishes, pots, pans, and utensils that have not had a thorough washing.

I’ve no idea how long this has been happening. I’m NOT going to think about it. No one has gotten sick … but I may pretend to use as many of the dishes and utensils that I think we may have used over the last month or two and put them – with the appearance of dirty – into the “to wash” pile. Yikes!

Moral of the Story: Every day is a new adventure. It’s not always clean living.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Missing Dad on Father’s Day

This is so frustrating. My dear dad departed this earth 19 years and 5 months ago. But this year, any mention of Father’s Day in my emails, social media, ads in the paper, etc. maked me instantly angry and sad that my dad isn’t here to celebrate in the flesh. 


Grief knows no bounds. It’s random like trying to untangle jumbled up Christmas tree lights. The steps can occur at any moment in time in all the years after they pass: 1, 10, or 50. I know this because my mom misses her parents, and they passed 50 and 30+ years ago. 


It doesn’t help that my dad was awesome. He loved, he lived, he swore, he prayed, he protested, he worked, he read, he wrote, he shared, he educated, he failed, he won, he cared, he voted, he farmed, he gave, he laughed, he cried, he screamed, he smiled, he joked, he valued all life – human and animal alike, he believed in the rights for all people to be in control of their own bodies, he acted to make that possible, he was a rare gem of a human being. 


I think it’s all that is going on in the world. Or it could just be because I have choices to make, and no one helped me more than my dad with big decisions. Or it could be because grief is random. Whatever it is, I miss him. Hard. I cannot contain my tears or emotions. They are immediate and potent when they hit. 


He set the example for my life, and I try to live up to. I never will, but I still work toward the high bar that he set. Praying he’s having a good Father’s Day in Heaven with his own parents, my sisters Barb and Cheri, and my niece Erin. I love and miss them all. Now to concentrate on loving those still in the world today. 

Dad with a car outside in a Sunday Suit
Dad I. Front of the Christmas tree with his usual flannel plaid
Dad sitting in a chair, half smile
Dad sweeping Hay for the Cows that surround him to eat
Kim and Dad iin the driveway of Sunnyside UMC
 
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Posted by on June 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Day 0051: Working from Home

I finally found my beaded wrist rest for my computer. I’d misplaced it when I started working from home. It’s working out great! Just not for me.

The Cat Boss Life:

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Day 0046: Working from Home

Oye! It’s been a ride! I do enjoy working at home. Work itself is ever changing and faster than usual.

Swamp in Fog at Sunrise

Government contracting generally does not involve a race track. It’s more of a meandering, one step at a time waiting game through the swamp bog in “The Princess Bride”. COVID-19 changed that. Information is now at the speed of light, or so it feels. Solicitations worth over a billion dollars that normally takes 2-3 years to write are being put out to the public for proposals after only 2 months and due in a week. Opportunities for loans and grants increase daily and where never seen before.

Bid Proposal

After two months of mostly helping clients with bids for Personal Protective Equipment, parts for ventilators, and other urgent government needs specific to COVID-19, clients are back to asking for help with traditional government contracting: parts and pieces for vehicles, boxes and packaging, IT services, etc. A hint of normalcy.

Getting the news out about opportunities has been urgent and constant. Helping clients write Capability Statements has kept us busy. Adding new clients into our database hasn’t slowed down. Our days are varied, and we never know what will be next. We learn as we go.

Rainbow Lollipop on Wood Background

Today, however, was frustrating. Monday three clients called for help. We were able to walk each client through their request with GoToMeeting. Today we tried to help three clients, and each needed to head in another direction to solve a problem. We didn’t get them through the subject matter they called about. Granted, this happens from time to time. But three in a row? Frustrating. This was the majority of our day, if not talking directly with the client, then contacting government agencies to figure it out. It’s rarely rainbows and lollipops to contact any government agency, but this was a bit much for a single day for us.

There’s a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day when you’ve helped someone move forward in their business or helped guide them to resources that will ease their burden. Most days, that is what happens for us, at least a little. We were created to help, and we do so as able.

Fire Inside of a Circle

Government contracting is frustrating enough with all of the flaming hoops, red tape (sticky on both sides), and instructions seemingly written with invisible ink. Then to find that another layer of requirements has been added, or a step was missed so it takes 3 steps back to fix it, it is easily disheartening.

Sometimes our job is to be cheerleaders and jump for joy every time they move forward a half inch. Give them the courage and energy to move on to the next step. Entice them with our joy for their small successes to keep going up the steep incline that is the mountain of learning the skill of government contracting.

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime
Penguins

I’m grateful to be employed. I’m grateful for all of those working more than full time in Michigan Works with unemployment claims, grocery store clerks, transportation folks, medical community, janitorial services, and more. These are the front line, most needed folks in the world now – worldwide – all continents. Except Antarctica. (Even though many of the residents in Antarctica are uncooperative about social distancing. Good thing they aren’t heavy on the human species there.)

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for Halloween

Today was a Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Shapes snack day. Tomorrow may be snow peas and grapes instead of sweets because all is running smooth as butter. I was disheartened at Noon to learn it was only Wednesday. I was for sure certain it was Thursday at 4 p.m., which meant I needed another Reese’s. I’m excited for the weekend to turn my mind off and my need for snacks.

Up and down, all around. It’s quite the ride! Glad to take it with my fellow PTACers nationwide.

(The Reese’s Candy image is by Kim. All other images from www.storyblocks.com.)

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 
 
Write With Joy

Freelance writer, editor, hobby photographer, and administrative assistant

Ex-Mana Book Group

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx