The MAD Life: Episode 1

I am Kim, and I have migraine disease. My mom is Jean, and she has Alzheimer’s disease. Together, our lives are both impacted by these diseases: Migraine and Alzheimer’s Disease. They make for a MAD life.

Mom and I do the best we can with what we have. Sometimes it is great! Most times we get by. Other times I feel like singing Miley Cyrus’ song “Wrecking Ball” at the top of my lungs … when I have breath to do so.

My diagnosis of migraine is 30 years old this year. Mom’s diagnosis is 2.5 months at this moment in time. We have more experience with mine, but mom’s dementia causes her to forget the reality of mine. That’s to be expected with hers, and it’s part of how we knew to get her checked out. To forget that my migraines usually include nausea, dizziness, fever, and severe sensitivity to light was an indicator to me that mom wasn’t herself.

This MAD life is a new exploration for us. I have a long history of trial and error in the process of learning what works for me. This random memory loss is a new venture, and it’s quite frightening, especially since the end result is not a solution, but the end of life. My migraines might feel like I’m losing the battle, but I have thus far come back each time. I am worse for wear, but not the likes of which that Alzheimer’s reeks on a life.

Alzheimer’s is not just forgetting names or places or dates. It’s forgetting how to order food in a restaurant, how to pay the bill with your credit card when it comes. It’s forgetting to brush your teeth and flush the toilet. Getting lost on streets you’ve known for 70 years. Mood swings in 5 seconds or less. Paying some bill’s twice and others not at all when your checkbook was once meticulous. Confusing things that you were just told:

Mom, I stopped at the grocery store and bought salmon and rice for dinner. I’ll fix it now. What vegetable did you want to go with it?

Five minutes later:

Mom, “What’s for dinner?”
Me, “Salmon, it’s in the oven.”

When it’s out of the oven:

Mom, “What’s this?”
Me, “Salmon, I made it for dinner.”
Mom, “Oh, I wish I knew you were going to do that, I’m not hungry.”

Asking the same questions over and over, not just in a single conversation, but from day to day:

Mom, “Why don’t I have insurance on my car?”
Me, “You do.”
Mom, “No, I haven’t paid it.”
Me, “Yes, you paid it last month, here is where you wrote it in your checkbook.”

An hour later, a day later, and the day after that … this exact conversation.

The hardest part is that she doesn’t want or understand the diagnosis. No one wants a terminal disease that slowly eats away at your mind and then your body. When she reads about it, she thinks she doesn’t have it because she doesn’t know that she asks the same questions over and over. She can’t remember conversations she forgot, and she remembers others that never happened. She no longer understands that calling the bank for her balance doesn’t include the checks written and not yet cashed out. She doesn’t relate the symptoms she reads about to what she doesn’t see happening in her life. That is ultra heartbreaking. That is painful to see.

I never dreamed my mom would get this horrific disease. She reads avidly. She worked on the farm, gardened, and stays active. Granted the active is not so much in recent years, but the reading is several hours daily. I always thought cancer would get us first, and with our family history, it was a toss up of me or her. But it is this.

This is Episode 1 of living with these diseases. There will be humor. There will be tears. Sometimes both every day.

Moral of this story: Do what you can with what you have where you are every day. Sometimes that is just getting out of bed, and that’s okay.

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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in Uncategorized


From Hell to Heaven in One Day

Last night didn’t go well. I got home after being away for four days to find that my youngest cat had been missing for four days. I was overwhelmed with grief and worry. I would have come home immediately if I’d known.

Last night involved searching the farm in the dark with a flashlight, walking through mud at moments, and crying while calling her name. This morning was more of the same after contacting some neighbors thru text and email. Today I went south and north of our home on the street. The neighbors I spoke with were all kind and said they’d keep an eye out.

One neighbor sent a text that there was a cat on the street in front of another neighbor’s home. I nearly fell over with hope when the neighbor with the cat by their driveway said that it wasn’t a color match. They had assumed it was one of my brother’s barn cats, but it wasn’t a match to them either.  I feel for whom ever loved that one.

When I made it back home, I created a missing cat flyer, contacted everyone recommended by Kalamazoo County Animal Services (KCAS), and followed all of the other posting recommendations.

I headed back out and went north this time. Two cousins/neighbors gave me permission to put boxes in their yards. I have the best of neighbors, some happen to be cousins, nephew/nieces, and siblings.

When I got home, I checked the garage for the umpteenth time, and I didn’t see her. but then I thought I should open it and put a cat box in there with food and water. I left and handed out missing kitty fliers to several veterinarian offices, the Shell gas station, the Library, a few on the counter at the Post Office, and to KCAS to make sure I’d filled out the online form correctly and to see their intakes. She was not there, and she was not in the garage when I got home.

Every half hour or so, after coming home, I went back to checking on those front and back yard crates. I’d also left the garage door open around three inches. About 9:30, when I turned on the backyard lights, a furry fanny that looks much like my kitty backed out and ran away from the crate! Oh, I was so hopeful. I turned off most of the lights, and stood there watching in the dark.

Soon I heard what could be her teeny, tiny mew, it’s more like a stuccato “ow”. But I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. That mew and I played Marco Polo with great success. I kept asking where Miss Poppy was, and she kept responding “ow”. Eventually, I found her cold, shaking, and wide eyed in a corner. She wanted me to touch her cheek, but to also not touch her. I moved things, and she kept moving away. So, we made sure the garage door was shut, opened the door to the house, and stood in the kitchen hoping she’d come in on her own.

A few minutes later, she came galloping into the house! It was a fantastic sight for sore eyes (really sore from worry and tears). We got a dish of food and water just for her, but she was too busy sniffing everything and being told off by her mom for scaring everyone. She was cold, damp, and stinky, and I couldn’t be more delighted to be her human.

She was born on the streets of downtown Kalamazoo, and I had feared her nine lives were long gone. Giving thanks to God, family, and friends for doing what they could to help, for offering to go hunting for her tomorrow, and for sharing her missing kitty flyer and posts. Based on her spunk, I hope she has a few more lives to go, because I think she could run through them more easily than most cats in my life. She and her mom are our youngest kitties, and we have fallen madly in love with these formally feral furry friends.

I have not had this experience before, and I prefer to never have it again. I’ve had cats disappear in my home for up to a day and a half, but never outside for more than a few minutes. My heart goes out to all missing a fur friend. I am so glad there are so many resources available in these situations. I am forever grateful for the kindness of everyone I met today, most of whom were strangers. Although I think I instantly bonded with the cashier at the Shell station, who is also a cat person, and said he’d be devastated if this happened with any of his kitties. He said he’d keep my kitty and I in prayer.

Now back to the business of letting people know to recycle the missing kitty flyers for Miss Poppy, aka Pop Pop or Pop Star.

Moral: Not everyone gets a happy ending. I have no idea why, and I wish it weren’t true. For now, I celebrate.

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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in Uncategorized


Pastor with a Sense of Humor

Normally when life feels like it’s only in the fast lane, and I can barely breath thinking of all there is to do for work, home, and volunteering, I take a Sunday off. Not the next two!

For four weeks, Pastor Matt is preaching the real deal about some of our Sunday School lessons. He’s done Noah’s Ark and Jonah and the Whale. These are serious and hilarious. It’s also a walk down memory lane to childhood in Sunday School. I can’t wait to see what he’s doing the next two Sundays!

So, I am tired, I am overwhelmed, but I thoroughly enjoy the humor that happens in worship. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Sunnyside UMC (Website)
2800 Gull Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49048

We’re the ones with the big garden between Nazareth Road and Borgess Hospital on Gull Road.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes laughter is the best medicine for any ailment.

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Posted by on August 23, 2019 in Uncategorized


No Visible Wound; Fascinating Pain

12 days ago while in Boston, I fell magnificently on my right knee getting on a trolley. Super embarrassed to do so in front of my colleagues, and grateful for a good man who let me use his thigh to push myself back up. There is near no mark and no bruise and no gaping wound. But that’s not what it feels like!

My bed is high. When I forget about it and use that knee to get into bed, it feels like I’m ripping open a 2 inch gash. When I put that knee down to get off the floor, it feels like I’m crushing the knee cap. Super tender to the touch.

Then yesterday in church I knelt on that knee for prayer far too quickly. Owe!!!! My intended prayer became “Dear God, please help me get back to my seat without cussing and screaming in pain!”

I just keep checking, and there is only a teeny, tiny mark. How is it possible for so much pain to be so invisible? I guess it’s just like migraines. Very little outward sign, but inward misery.

Moral of the story: The body is a cruel and hilarious mystery to me!

My knee, so little bruising or scraps, lily white

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Posted by on August 13, 2019 in Uncategorized


Two Good Men, One Lesson to Learn


Our church had two funerals in the last five days for two very different men. Or were they so different? Both men impacted the life of our church and the lives of the people of the church. Both cared for us in their own ways. Both are blessings to have known.

Last week we held a funeral for Frank. I guessed his age between 45 and 70. He was right about in the middle. He was a man who had a number of mental health and physical issues. To me, he appeared homeless, but he wasn’t. He had little to live on, but he made the most of it. He could be rude, but his heart was in the right place. He asked a million questions and then asked them all over again and again, but he was listening. He listened more than he spoke, but I didn’t know it until now that he’s gone.

Frank knew us. He knew who we spent the most time with. He knew what we liked to eat and activities we liked to do. He knew our health concerns. This man often came across as confused because he would mix up our names and repeated his questions countless times, but he was paying attention.

So far as I know, Frank never rode the elevator. I saw him put items on it to go down to the Free Store, but he would go around and take the stairs. We found out the hard way that if we push the help button on the elevator and help comes, it’s a huge bill for the church. If we can find help in another way, we’d prefer to do so. So far, the button has only been pushed when other options were available or on accident. At last year’s church Bazaar, Frank came running to me and said, “some lady just pushed that button we’re never supposed to touch on the elevator!” Because he got help right away, we were able to divert the emergency assistance that was not needed because the button was pushed on accident. Yet Frank didn’t use the elevator … he knew because he was listening to us.

Frank was at the church daily. Sometimes it seemed he was under foot. Yet he often offered to help carry things for us. He loved coffee first thing in the morning, and many people made sure he had access to those first few cups of that morning elixir. He brought chocolates and doughnuts for birthdays and after worship gatherings. He badgered many for rides to purchase and turn in lottery tickets. He would bring hot dogs and pizza for meetings and activities. He gave us things he thought we’d like because he was listening to our likes and dislikes. He had little, and he shared much.

Frank started coming to Sunnyside about five or six years ago. At first, he stayed out doors on the bench and smoked his cigarettes. Over time, he came in to shop at the Free Store or to use the Loaves & Fishes food pantry. Eventually he was a volunteer at the Free Store. In the last couple of years, he would sometimes join us in worship on a Sunday morning. He found that we welcomed him, even when we didn’t want to. He found that he had a place, and we knew his name. He found that when he was away, we asked where he’d been. We have come to miss him when he’s not present.

I don’t know more about Frank because he was always asking us 100’s of questions about us or the activities of the church, and it was so exhausting that we didn’t get around to asking about Frank. Sometimes, we’d be honored with a story about him. Only in the last few months did I learn he was once married, and he didn’t often have kind words for her. But recently he shared some kind words about his ex-wife and a story or two. He opened up. Frank had become one of us.

Then there’s Vern. Vern was in his late 80’s and had surpassed his expiration date several times. He and his family have had ties to the church for decades. He was a well respected elder, and there remains much love for this kindest of men. Vern made it easy to respect him with his constant joy no matter his pains or difficulty breathing. The only thing that annoyed me about Vern was that he could find the good in any situation. You couldn’t complain to him for long, because he’d find a way to make you smile and even laugh.

I’ve gone to this church since I was a small child. Vern was there long before me. He was one of the many people at Sunnyside I looked up to and have attempted to emulate. This was true for many who knew him. He was a polio survivor and strongly encouraged parents to immunize their children. If he didn’t feel well, and you asked after his health, he would say, “I’m vertical.” He wanted a better world for everyone in his life, and he made it better with his constant and genuine positive outlook.

For decades he was a member of the church choir. Music brought him comfort and joy. Our church is blessed with numerous musicians who share their talents in the form of music therapy. Vern was glad to share their company and sing with them in these last few years. He even enjoyed not only the old, standard hymns, but also the newer music our younger musicians are bringing to the church. He knew beauty when he heard it, saw it, and lived it … and he made this world a beautiful place.

Vern was a staple at Sunnyside. When he wasn’t there, people asked after him. And in these last few years, he missed much. Yet the man bounced back from needing hospice care at least twice. He was a genuine survivor throughout his life on numerous occasions. Each time, he believed that God needed him still to share Christ’s amazing grace. And that he did without fail.

He found love twice, and we were blessed by the presence of these women at Sunnyside. He was married to his first wife for over four decades, and they brought each other much delight. She was sick in the end, and he cared for her with ceaseless kindness. A few years after her passing, he fell for his second wife. When they married, it was a ceremony during worship and they danced down the isle after their nuptials and provided a reception for all that included a disco ball and special lighting. She is now surrounded by our love as she grieves.

Vern was vital to our longevity as a longstanding member who helped to keep Sunnyside moving forward through the decades. Frank was vital to our longevity because he taught us to find kindness in unexpected places. Both men taught us to love as Christ loved. Both believed in us when we may not have believed in ourselves. Both men cared for us whether we noticed it or not. Both are now in the loving hands of God with no more pain in any way. We on earth grieve the loss of this remarkable men.

Moral of the Story: God gives us love in the form of people we meet in our journey. Sometimes those people vary greatly from one another, but the message is the same. Love One Another!

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Posted by on June 25, 2019 in Uncategorized


The Greening of Spring

Before Christmas, we “Green the Church” with Christmas things and pine branches and boughs. Yet today, I saw the beauty of the greening of Spring.

Just a couple of weeks ago the trees were still naked and gray. Everything looked gray.

But today the trees were fluffy and green! The leaves fill out the hollow spots. They take shape and make the trees appear if they’ve grown in height and width within just a few days.

I’ve never been one to love the spring, but today I may be a convert. The scents and colors of Autumn are my preference.  I used to only think of the mud and having to plant a garden in the Spring. However, today I saw the flowers blooming, the trees budding, and the sky shining with sunlight. The air is fresh with rain and sunshine.

Moral: Sometimes we see things we’ve missed seeing for decades, but it was right in front of us the entire time.

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Uncategorized


God’s Country is All of the World

I was listening to the radio on my lunch hour today. Normally I listen to an audio book when I drive, but I forgot to take my phone with me. The first song I heard had language something like this: I live here in God’s Country, this is God’s Country. Maybe I misunderstood, but it sounded like the singer believed that one piece of the earth is God’s Country. So far as I can tell, all of the world is God’s Country.

Be it the dumps where we put our trash to the gardens where we grow our flowers, or from the earthworm to the killer whale, or from the homeless encampment to the mansions of the wealthy, or from the small family farm to the castles in the mountains and everything in between, it is all God’s Country. From the ugly to the beautiful, from the sad to the happy, from the silent to the screaming, this is God’s Country.

And when I say “God”, I mean whatever source you believe formed the earth, no matter if you are a person of faith, agnostic, or atheist, this place is home to us all. There is room for us all. We are all of equal value. Our wealth or poverty, our positivity or negativity, our level of happiness or sadness … we were all created in love, by love, and for love.

May we not limit the world to small patches of places that are treasured. May we treasure all of the earth. It takes all of us with all of our abilities to make the world spin on it’s axis.

Moral of the Story: I hope I misunderstood the song. I hope they meant the world as a whole is God’s Country … because it is.


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Posted by on May 10, 2019 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


The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World