Monday, December 31, 2012

Remembering the Falls

Looking over the past year, the most prevalent activity in the Thompson household was falling. Dean got the ball rolling the summer of 2011 when he fell on a curb and fractured his foot in three places. A few months later he stubbed and broke his little toe, on the other foot. Then he fell and cracked a rib. Another time he cut his knee up pretty bad, when he tripped and fell. And those were only the falls that produced injuries!

I made my contribution when I fell last spring and fractured my foot. I'll never forget the terrifying feeling of wondering who would take care of BOTH of us. When they showed me the "walking boot" I was to wear, I really shuddered. I had to help Dean put his on for months. There was no way he could return the favor. It was such a relief to find I could do it myself.

The hard part for me was using the walker and not putting pressure on the fractured foot, which translated to hopping everywhere I went. I would be short of breath after each hop. It was slow going, and miserable for my poor lungs, but I survived.

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that, whatever it is, there is a God who will see us through. Just as He has this past year. We will survive all our falls, and God will take care of both of us.

New Year...bring it on!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Elephant

All I want for Christmas is not to have this cold! (as in the "sick" kind)

So many others have had it though, I shouldn't complain. After all, I've managed to dodge the bullets since last July, so guess it's my turn to cough my way into oblivion and fill the wastebasket by my bed with enough Kleenexes to sink a battleship.

I've seen a television commercial, one of "drug dealing" ones, that illustrated the feeling of having C.O.P.D. with having an elephant sit on your chest. That is such an apt description of what breathing feels like with my deformed chest cavity too, even without a cold.

Fortunately, my lungs are not diseased, but they are wimpy. So when I get a cold, it tends to visit me longer, because I haven't got the lung capacity to cough all that mucus out of there like most people. I don't count the length of my colds in terms of how many days, but how many weeks.

Until my weeks are up, I'll just keep using my nebulizer and hope I only go through one box of tissues. And isn't that all we can expect out of life. Using the tools God gives us for spiritual survival on this doomed planet and pray for the day when our "tissue days" are a thing of the past.

Revelation 21:4 says "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Place for a Chair

Dean had his Christmas today when they finally delivered his lift chair. Long before Thanksgiving, when the home health nurse first suggested we try to get him one, she said not to get excited because we might not get one till Christmas.

I didn't believe that it would ever take that long. Especially after the medical supply store said they could deliver one the same day, just as soon as they got the proper documentation for it. Little did I know, the emphasis that was placed on the word "proper".

After preparing the place in the living room for the chair, I've been playing phone tag with the medical supply store and his doctor's office for several weeks now. Towards the end, I HAD to be the mediator. I don't think they were on speaking terms from the sounds of agitation in their voices. But we finally got the "proper" coding for his chair approved by Medicare, and Dean got his best Christmas present just two days late. It was well worth the wait. It's a nice chair.

Many of us are looking for Christ's Second Coming with the same excitement as we had for the chair. The wait is hard, and many are losing hope that it will ever come. But, God is using us as His mediators, and soon everything in the universe will be "proper" and the long-looked-for event will take place. We had better have a place prepared for it in our hearts, just like I had a place prepared in my living room.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Old Man

What a nice Christmas Eve dinner we had with family last night. I actually added two leafs and brought the dining room table into the living room, so we could all sit at the table to eat for a change. Was worried that the encroachment on Dean's living space might upset him, but since it came with the hope of some good eating, he was fine with it.

Then the star family members were two hours late in getting here. Another worry that Dean might not be able to handle the frustration that brought. But once again, I fed him tidbits and promised much more just as soon as they arrived, so he stayed remarkably cool about the delay.

In setting the table, I made sure that no bowls that people needed help dishing up were in front of Dean. I was going to give him a fork like the rest of us from the set, but then thought I better ask him and sure enough he required his own special fork, which I hastily switched out for him. I set him on the end of the table with ample room to maneuver around his chair. Then I made sure that salt and butter were placed at both ends of the table, right near Dean's place setting, to forestall any discord about passing them.

Surprisingly, he asked for black pepper though, which we hastily got from the kitchen for him. When he was done seasoning, his plate resembled one big deviled egg. He choked on the first bite of "black" mashed potatoes, but to our amazement managed to devour all the food on his plate.

Opening gifts later was a cinch. There were just enough chocolates and candy gifts for Dean to open to keep him happily satisfied. We all tried to oblige him when he offered us chocolate covered cherries, as stuffed as we were. Just to prevent him from eating the whole box himself. At least we prevented a few of the pieces from getting to their victim.

From the sounds of my report, this whole event revolved around one old man. But maybe there's something instructive and symbolic about our family's involvement in taking care of this old man of ours. Christmas is about a Baby, but it's also about the Man we call our God. Shouldn't all our activities focus on Him too?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No Excuse

Dean has been asking several times if we could ride around and look at Christmas lights some evening, which was rather surprising. He's never been too interested in them other years. But tonight I set out to give him his wish. I had heard of an impressive light show at a house on the outskirts of town.

Even before we got to the first McDonald's on our prepared route though, Dean began hinting that a hamburger or a shake would be nice too, which confirmed my suspicions that he may have had another motive for his budding holiday spirit.

We got to the address I was given though, after a few detours, and the cars in front of us began slowing down and finally stopped in front of the light extravaganza. We were just beginning to see what we'd come for, when Dean started informing me that he needed to use the bathroom and we'd better head back home--quick. Remembering his recent bouts with diarrhea, I passed all the stopped vehicles and we barely got to see the light show, as we quickly sped home for his requested "pit stop".

As we almost reached our driveway, Dean, whose memory has been worse than usual lately, wondered why we were coming home so soon. I reminded him that he was needing to use the bathroom, but that we at least got out to the house with all the lights. He then chided me for not telling him the purpose of our ride and that he would have looked longer at the lights while we were out there had he known it was our destination and purpose.

I'm not sure how many emotions I was smothering about then, but I'm sure my hair has several more gray strands after our little outing.

I know God has been forthright to me about my destination and purpose in life too. It's all right there in the Bible. Jesus, the Light of the World, is there for all of us to see. There's really no excuse for not taking a long, unhurried look.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Spinning Tires

As always, with the first, fresh snow on our streets, I joined the many cars today who found themselves spinning their tires and not getting enough traction to make it out into the intersection after stopping. At least not with the first try. One is forced to rock back and forth, going from drive to reverse, turning the front tires different directions, in embarrassing attempts to grab onto something that allows you to move forward with the traffic.

That's kind of how my whole week has felt. The challenges of Dean's medicines, their side effects versus their benefits, getting his lift chair approved, searching the internet, playing phone tag with doctors, nurses, the pharmacist, the medical supply store, and not really getting anywhere. I feel like I just can't get any traction and get myself out of this slippery slide of caregiving.

But thankfully, tonight is the beginning of the Sabbath. A whole day designed to help me get some traction and move on with my life with a renewed sense of purpose and gratitude. When the Sabbath is done, I'll feel a sense of relief once again. Just like it felt when I finally got into the intersection today and started moving toward my destination. And it especially feels good when your destination is heaven.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow in the Morning

My life has slowed down considerably, as far as outside-the-home activities, since Dean's recent weight, sleep, and drug issues. To compound our isolated status, a blizzard is in the forecast for tonight. Everyone is making their final trips to the store, gearing up for the snow we've all been waiting for and dreading at the same time. The beauty of seeing new snow on the ground in the morning will make staying home worth it for awhile at least.

I look forward to another beautiful sight too. Seeing my loved ones on Resurrection Morning. Today, half out of boredom, I moved a bookcase from the living room into my bedroom. On it were pictures and mementos of my dear, departed parents. The caregiving for them was also marked with boredom and isolation--that time in their hospital room.

I'm tired of being isolated from loved ones, but especially from my Jesus. That will be the sweetest sight of all on Resurrection Morning. Jesus coming in the clouds to bring us all home with Him. And what a glorious, heavenly home that will be.

Minnie at her watchdog post--foot of my bed! She's such good company too!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Dean has bounced all over the map the last couple of weeks when it comes to his health. He's gone from getting almost no sleep to sleeping way too much, from having an appetite that asks for food almost as soon as he gets up from the table to sleeping through breakfast and lunch and not requiring much food in between.

His hunger seems to have returned somewhat, but I have tried earnestly to satisfy it today with anti-diarrhea foods. Need I say more. We think the diarrhea is a side effect of his new medicine. But it makes it even more challenging to come up with something for him to eat when there are certain foods he should avoid and others that he should eat. I had to make a trip to the grocery store to get stocked up on the right foods. Now, to convince him of my choices.

This old earth isn't so healthy either. I need to remember that there are certain activities that I should avoid if I want to stay away from the sins that are messing up our world so much. But there are also lots of activities that I can enjoy that will keep me from being sin-sick. Fortunately, a visit to my Bible tonight can help me stock up on what I need.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Last Kiss

Things just aren't working out too well today. I went to start my car this afternoon and evidently the battery is low. Am waiting for my on-call son-in-law mechanic to come by later on and give us a charge. Hope it's nothing major.

Of course, this entire situation is minor compared to a school shooting that happened in an elementary school today in Connecticut. It's all so tragic, losing that many young children all at once. The families involved must be suffering tremendous grief, and most will for a long time.

It helps to put our own lives' problems in perspective and see that they are nothing compared to what some are suffering.

When my caregiving seems more than I can handle, I try to look at it from the perspective of not having anyone to give care to. It gives me the strength to go on, to keep plugging away at our challenges. Those challenges are my purpose for living. I'll not complain, but thank God they are there.

I think a lot of us will give an extra kiss to our loved ones tonight. It could very well be our last.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That BIG Tractor

I almost hate to write about Dean's pills again, but it is the all-consuming thing in my life right now. Instead of being awake all night, now he's sleeping night and day. He slept through breakfast. But it blew me away when he wouldn't wake up when his Meal on Wheels arrived. It was time to try and reach his doctors and nurses on the phone again.

He got up an hour or so later though, ate lunch, and then I had him help sign some Christmas cards, just so he wouldn't go right back to bed. The notes he wrote on them were a bit undecipherable, but I got a laugh, hearing him read one out loud as he was writing it. He was reminding someone about the big tractor that ran over him. "I mean it was a big, Big, BIG tractor," he wrote. Just comical how he said it.

At least I did have two small accomplishments today, since I seemed to be a failure at trying to talk to anyone about his pills. I got some Christmas cards ready to mail, and I gave the dog a bath.

Jesus gives me small spiritual victories too, even while there's these big, Big, BIG ones out there waiting for me to tackle. I'm not in the battle alone, even though it feels like it some days when no one seems to return my calls. I'll just "make do".

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sleep at Last

Dean finally got a full night's sleep last night. But it wouldn't have happened had I not called the home health agency and had the on-call nurse come to check him out yesterday. Hated to do it on the weekend, but in addition to sleeplessness, he has been having a lot of mental confusion.

The nurse checked his vitals and after getting the doctor paged, we were instructed to reinstate the medicine that we were trying to get him off of. I know. None of it makes sense, but we will see him in his office this Friday, so perhaps we'll solve this dilemma by then. I'm just happy that he is finally getting some much needed sleep.

The nurse did have some good affirmation for me though. She said when she talked to our regular nurse on the phone before coming over, she was told that she'd better stop for a visit, because I wouldn't have called unless there was a good reason. It was nice to hear that I'm taken seriously when it comes to Dean's care.

I try to stay on top of things, but haven't always been successful in the past. That's why I know that God is really the one to get credit for anything good that comes from my decisions. God is the One we should all take seriously. When He says come, we should go.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sleepless Days and Sleepless Nights

Another sleepless night for Dean, even though we doubled one of his antidepressants. I have hidden or disguised as many foods in my kitchen as I can to prevent his foraging them in the middle of the night. So far, we have said good-bye to a box of chocolate-covered cherries, a pizza, and a gallon of ice cream. Nothing is safe from his nightly kitchen raids.

Not sure how we will address all of this, but I'm sure the doctors will get it figured out here before long. Thankfully, Dean's sleeplessness hasn't transferred to more grumpiness during the day. He has been able to doze a lot in his recliner.

I often have wondered whether it's right to keep Dean on so many medications, especially when they will undoubtedly end up shortening his life. But extraordinary conditions sometimes demand extraordinary solutions. And this is confirmed to me whenever we have to tweak his drugs, in order to tweak his behaviors. He is much more manageable to us and happy with himself with his pills.

It's a blur to me what behaviors are brain-injury/dementia-induced, and which ones are due to the powerful psychiatric medicines though. But regardless, I'm glad we have a good geriatric psychiatrist on his case. And our efforts are allowing Dean to have the best quality of life he could have for someone who had a tractor run over his head twelve years ago.

I recently found added confirmation to our treatment plan. This article suggests that many dementia patients can benefit from antipsychotic drugs. Hooray. I feel exonerated.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pill Plethora

Dean's medicine regimen has become somewhat of a nightmare lately. We saw his psychiatrist a few days ago and he is concerned about Dean's weight gain recently. Honestly, I'm getting tired of re-attaching his suspenders which keep popping off. Since we know which medicine is most to blame for his added girth, he thinks it wise to wean him off of it and try something else.

Unfortunately, this has been very upsetting to his sleep schedule. The second night he was up about every hour or so. Without medicines, Dean would never sleep, due to his brain injury, so in addition to decreasing his agitation and impulsiveness during the day, some of the medicines are there just to allow him to sleep at night.

But then we got a call from the home health nurse saying that due to his increased blood pressure readings this month, his primary care doctor wants to increase the blood pressure medicine he's currently taking. This is really throwing a monkey wrench in everything, because the blood pressure medicine can cause weight gain too, and even memory loss and disorientation. Do we really want him to have more of that?

So I am really waiting to hear what both doctors decide. I give them my input, but know that they will probably have the final word on what we end up doing. There are many options and I am just here to make sure they look at all of them.

In a way we have the final word on our salvation. God can present me with all the options, but it is up to me to decide my eternal destiny. Wow, it feels good to be on par with the doctors for once.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Gift Card

Last year we received a gift card for $100, and I held on to it until a really valid need came up. As a matter of fact, it's been so long since we got it, I have even forgotten who gave it to us. I finally decided that new eyeglasses would be my Christmas gift this year and went in to pick out the frames today. My old glasses have been held together with electrical tape for months now.

The price of each tri-focal lens was fifty dollars, so that helped me decide that the gift card was destined to be used for this purchase. That and the expiration date on the card being 2020.

God's gift card of salvation waits around til we choose to use it too. The expiration date on His offer is our own expiration date though. Maybe we shouldn't wait around too long!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Food Hide-and-seek

I have become an expert at food hide-and-seek lately. With Thanksgiving last week and Dean's birthday celebration this past weekend, there are sweet treats hidden all over my house. I have to hide them from Dean, and I'm sure he's been hiding them from me so I don't hide them from him.

As a matter of fact, there is a can of mixed nuts in such a good hiding place that neither of us will find them for quite awhile. Dean, because he doesn't remember that he has them, and me, because I can't remember where I put them. They must be in a very secure location. Either that, or Dean has found them and finished them off. Like he did with the box of chocolate-covered cherries the other day.

This impulsivity or lack of self-control is a typical symptom of someone who is brain-injured or has dementia. It has resulted in some weight gain for Dean lately, as you might imagine. I even threatened to send him to a "fat farm" today, when he was complaining about my tight restraints on the food pantry. But probably we'll just end up readjusting his medicines at some point.

Do I complain about God's restraints sometimes too? I'm sure I do. It seems like He's hiding all the good things in my life in very secure locations, and leaving me without any of the luxuries that make life sweet. I must stop complaining and remember that God is doing it all for my best eternal interest. He's a caregiver I can really trust.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flip-flops in December

It was with great pleasure that I turned Dean over to our daughter's care today for a few hours, in return for my watching the granddaughters last night, while their parents did some grocery shopping. It would give me a chance to get some shopping done as well.

I noticed when I took some trash out earlier that the weather was warm enough for my preferred footwear of flip-flops and the absence of coat, jacket, or sweater. Being the carefree soul that I am, I chose to wear the flip-flops while on my errands.What a great feeling to be so lightly attired, and in December, no less. I even left my hair down, just giving it a few strokes rather than twisting it up in my usual bun.

So I went dressed for the sixties, weather-wise. But didn't realize that the background music that played in the store while I shopped would be your classic oldie-goldies sixties variety also, with all the tunes I listened to as a teenager. I soon found myself mouthing the words, tapping and almost dancing to the music over the intercom, while I shopped for the items on my list.

Keep in mind that I was in no way a surfer girl or a hippie in my youth. But like most young people, I listened to the music of the times, and with such repetition that here I was, almost half a century later, remembering the words verbatim and enjoying the beat and rhythm of the tunes. They are embedded in my memory forever, even though I stopped listening to popular hits when I became a Christian in the seventies. What a scary thought that these songs are still with me.

With this in mind, I must be honest with myself. The only music worth listening to is the music that praises God and draws me closer to Him. Lord, help me avoid Satan's trap of worldly music whenever possible. Let me save my memory for you, Lord. For music that uplifts You and is fit for the ears of angelic choir members.

Party, Party

Yesterday was a stream of visitors, dropping by to wish Dean a happy birthday. The most we had in our living room was five or six, but that was just about right for my attention-deficit husband, for the amount of time they stayed. He handled the extra population quite well. I've always been a fan of "come-and-go". It's the best option for entertaining, when you have limited floor space in your home.

Equally well-behaved was our little dog Minnie. She's as friendly as Dean when it comes to strangers. And she can bark out her wishes almost as loud as Dean too, especially when people show up on our doorstep. But she performed her announcing and welcoming duties very graciously the whole afternoon.

Minnie even provided us with some entertainment when her attempts to get in someone's lap ended with her falling in a small trash can by their chair. She noticed too late that the visitor had a plate of birthday cake already in her lap. The poor dog's look of embarrassment at her predicament was humorous beyond words. I was torn between running for my camera or coming to her rescue and getting her out of the jaws of the trash can. The rescue option won out. I couldn't bear to see her struggle very long, even though we were all getting such a chuckle out of her awkward situation.

I am also thankful we have a God who approaches our mishaps and trials with the same attitude. He can hardly bear to see us struggle, and I'm sure doesn't allow it any longer than necessary to accomplish His all-encompassing will. Either for our own salvation purposes, for someone else's, or for unseen-to-us heavenly objectives. We find ourselves occasionally unable to extricate ourselves from places where only the power of God can rescue us. I'm also glad God doesn't have to rush to get His camera. He's got it all recorded.

So sweet of her to pose for this picture later. This is exactly where she landed, instead of a visitor's lap!
Thanks so much for the delicious cake, Cheryl! Made Dean feel extra special. It was half gone in no time. And would have been all gone, if I hadn't said no to the granddaughters so much.
Youth is fleeting...where do the years go?

Friday, November 30, 2012


This has been a super busy day for me. Rushing around getting ready for Dean's birthday party tomorrow afternoon. He was at his adult day program and that allowed me to get much more done. Keep in mind that with my shortness of breath, it takes me twice as long to do half as much. So I am just now winding down as the Sabbath hours begin.

One of the things I did today was bake some macaroon cookies, which have always been Dean's favorite. I saw a recipe in a magazine that had little Hershey's kisses in the center of them and it looked much easier than my own recipe, so thought I'd give them a try.

Dean was ravenously hungry when he came home, so I gave him a few of the coconut cookies that didn't look the best. Later, I was disappointed to find the little trash can by his recliner full of coconut that he had spit out. He said he couldn't chew them. Oh, great, I make coconut cookies and now discover that he can't chew coconut with his eight remaining teeth. I guess he can just enjoy the Hershey's kisses that were left over. At least they will melt in his mouth. But it just won't be the same.

God created a beautiful world for His children, including me. How disappointed He must have been when Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden because of sin. There is still a glorious creation of natural beauty to enjoy. But it just isn't the same. Sabbath is a great reminder of our Paradise lost and our Paradise regained. For now, we'll settle for a kiss from God, but later on we'll get the "whole cookie".

They really are tasty, if you like coconut!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Give Me Oil

I was taking a stroll down memory lane today, going through a box of photos that we were given after Dean's father passed away last year. It was so special to see these glimpses into Dean's past, because I had never seen most of them. They were buried in his parents' house somewhere. I had little idea what Dean looked like as a child, let alone as a baby.

My purpose in this activity was to have some of the photos on display when he has his birthday celebration this weekend. But the outcome for me was a melancholy feeling, as I was forced to acknowledge the changes that both Dean and I have been through over the years.

The most striking change was after his accident. Instantly, it seemed, I was married to a man far beyond his chronological years. And I, in turn, have aged much too quickly, due to the stresses of caregiving, and my own oxygen issues.

But there is some happiness in my heart when I remember that we are still the carefree little boy and girl, the shy teenagers, and the purposeful young adults that we once were. They're still inside us somewhere.

Why, just the other day Dean totally surprised me when he found himself under the hood of our car. Granted, it was just to check the oil and add a quart, before we made a short trip out of town. But to me it was noteworthy enough to get out of the car and take his picture doing it. It was so typical of him to do these kind of tasks for us before his accident.

Thank you, Lord, for these little reminders that our bodies may be failing, but You never fail us. You have given us what it takes to survive this aging planet of ours. Help us to be filled with the oil of your Spirit, so we will be ready, no matter what the exit from this world looks like for us.

Can't put on his socks, but can still add oil to a car!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Remember the Landmarks

I just happened to find myself downtown today, looking for a parking space somewhere near the State Office Building, so I could attend a coalition meeting for caregivers there. Having just changed purses before I left the house, I neglected to include in it any coins, so was hard-pressed how I was going to get parked and inside before the meeting started.

Finally, I saw a parking space close enough that offered easy access and room for the big Lincoln I drive (my dad's old car). The meter showed I had about a half hour left, so I planned on finding my meeting place inside and letting someone know that I would have to get a dollar changed and get my meter fed before I got a ticket. I'd just be a little late for the meeting.

Wearing a visitor tag fastened to my coat, those I was meeting with cautioned me to just act like I knew where I was going and I could get in and out of the building easy enough to take care of this business, without having to return and pick up another visitor tag.

No problem. I thought I indeed did know what I was doing and where I was going. But when I took one of the many the elevators back down to the first floor, and hurried outside to feed the meter, I suddenly found myself lost, which was preferable to my car being lost, heaven forbid. Although that thought did occur to me as I proceeded to walk frantically all around the block to the other side of the building, where I hoped my car would be obediently parked.

As I made my way back inside and up to the fifth floor, I consciously remembered landmarks this time, so I could truly know where I was going, instead of taking the wrong door out, when it was time to go home. I'm ashamed to admit that I was concentrating so hard on finding the correct way out later though, that I neglected to return my visitor tag.

Let's just say that at that point I knew where I was going, but didn't know what I was doing.

How easy it was for me to get lost in the small confines of a city block today. I pray I can do better on my trip to our heavenly home. It's obvious that my only chance is with Jesus Christ, my Divine Navigator and G.P.S. And how nice that at this heavenly destination, there won't be any visitor tags to worry about returning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pen Passion

Dean was at the height of his "caregiven" glory today when his bath aide, nurse, and chore provider all happened to have him on their schedules for the same time. Four pretty women in the room all at once, he said. Smart of him to include his wife in the count.

Most of the home health people know by now that Dean has a passion for ink pens. Every time they get him to sign something, which is at the end of each visit, he makes an effort to beg, borrow, or steal their pen. He has a thousand persuasion strategies, and he uses them regularly and systematically.

First, he tries to inadvertently lay their pen on top of his own ample stack after the signing, hoping they won't notice. Then he appeals to their pride by admiring their pen's qualities, but quickly shifts over to a pity plea by mentioning how much he needs it in his collection. Next, he lays a guilt trip on them by referring to the other nurses and doctors who have been generous in parting with their pens. Keep in mind there has been laughter, a strategy in itself, between each of his ploys, so by now many a nurse just throws in the towel and either sacrifices her own pen or promises to bring him one the next time she visits.

Isn't this how persistent I should be in wanting the Holy Spirit in my life? How many strategies should I be using in order to win the victories and peace that only the Spirit can offer? I believe my prayer tonight will not be over until I have gotten either the prize or the promise from God, the Comforter, my Holy Caregiver. Where's the passion?

One of his many boxes of pens..look carefully--one might be yours!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The "Stranger"

As a rule, Dean is very friendly with strangers, but today when he began conversing with a young man who came into the doctor's waiting room, Dean talked to him as if they knew each other. To my knowledge, they had never met, and although the "stranger" was polite and responsive, it appeared that he really didn't know Dean. They both carried on a quite lively conversation though.

When we got to the examining room to see the doctor, Dean told me privately that he thought he knew the "stranger" somewhere. He was sure of it, but he didn't know where. To Dean, it didn't really matter. Almost everyone enjoys Dean's friendly banter, because he really doesn't know any strangers. Never has.

For Dean, the Bible admonition to beware, lest we find ourselves entertaining strangers unawares, hold no threat. How easy our witnessing would be if we could all be so friendly with those we meet.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Road Trip

As painful as road trips with Dean sometimes are, today's little jaunt to visit relatives in Council Bluffs wasn't bad at all. We listened to Prairie Home Companion on the radio on the way there. His comments about my driving took second place to his commentary on the trailer trucks and models of vehicles we saw on the highway. And on the way home, we were entertained by bluegrass music, rather than by Dean's limited musical repertoire.

As a matter of fact, he was on such a roll that when he started to read a church bulletin out loud on the way home, which I knew would be from cover to cover, I asked him politely if he could just read it to himself. His reply was "probably not", as he proceeded to read it out loud, just under the volume of the bluegrass music. I tried to keep my focus on the music instead of his bulletin monologue. I guess I could allow this one departure from the unexpected.

While there, we visited pleasantly with my cousins, even though I was worried that our cross conversations would send his behavior spiraling downward any minute. He does not do distractions well. But we kept him amply supplied with cookies and a soda, so he was able to overlook the fact that there was another conversation going on in the room besides his own. About the time I felt he might start repeating his stories, it was time for us to go.

Reflecting on our day, I see that I'm on a road trip to heaven. Am I focused on the right things as I whiz by others on life's highway, or am I criticizing the driving of others? Am I satisfied with the talents others have, or am I trying to outshine them with my own performance? Is my conversation with others always respectful and loving, or am I interested in drawing attention to myself?

When I think about it, Dean's struggles are really no different than my own.

Showing Your Thanks

I'm amazed and grateful for what different families bring to the Thanksgiving table and to the event itself. We are all brought up having holidays a certain way, but then we get married and find ourselves shocked that not everyone celebrates the same way.

For instance, when I was first married, I found out that not everyone had homemade noodles and ambrosia on their meal menu. But it was also a shock to discover how much more taste is packed into sweet potatoes, when they don't come out of a can. And the same for cranberries. I found out how easily you could make your own whole berry sauce and how actually divine it would taste with a small dollop of real whipped cream. These additions came from Dean's family, where we spent most of our holidays in the first years of our marriage.

Now that our daughter is married and we have been attending their larger festivities, I am learning other wonderful things about Thanksgiving. As much as a linen tablecloth, your best dishes, and even cloth napkins make it a special feast, the food tastes just as good, no matter what it's served on. As a matter of fact, it's rather nice to have the attention drawn to the people sitting at the table, rather than the table itself.

I can see from these observations that our church family will grow and get better, when we all bring our best to the table too and learn and adapt new and better ways to serve God. Let's keep that in mind as we approach His throne with thanksgiving this season. Show God your thanks by your offerings of service to Him.

whipped cream, cranberries sauce, and fruit salad (what a delicious combination!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Shirt

My usual practice isn't to be out shopping on Black Friday, but it just so happened that I found myself in a store today with my nephew, when I found a plaid flannel shirt that would be perfect for Dean. It is heavy enough, with its quilted lining, to keep him warm in the winter. And since he's been pretty coat-resistant these days, and yet saying he's cold in the house at times, this shirt seemed like the perfect answer for him.

When I brought it home, he liked it immediately with it's snaps for buttons. He put it on his T-shirt-bare frame, and even came up to me just before bedtime and said it might even make a nice nightshirt. Thankfully, he did take it off though before retiring. Had me worried.

God has offered me a special robe too. It will keep me warm in all kinds of weather. It's also a free gift. I can do nothing to earn it. He delights in seeing me so in love with His robe of righteousness that I will choose to wear it forever. It's a one-size-fits-all. Why would I ever want to take it off?

Notice his rolled-up sleeves. I don't know why I bother with tall sizes!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Remembering Me

We had a super good time with in-laws tonight. The Thanksgiving food was great and the visiting was lively. We met in a different venue--the community room of my daughter's apartment complex. So, the setup was a bit complex with multiple trips to transport food and other items.

As often happens, we vastly overestimated how much we would eat, so several families went home with leftovers. But that's alright. You kind of expect that with holiday meals. It just seemed more daunting, because of the work of transporting the food all over again.

I usually find myself taking pictures at family events like this, and consequently I am seldom in any of the shots, which is kind of nice, as I don't feel I'm very photogenic anyway. But today my husband asked to take a picture of me when my two granddaughters were sitting on my lap. It was just the kind of shot I would love to have, so I got up, went clear across the room and gave him the camera to get our picture. It didn't come out the best, but I was grateful for Dean, thinking of me not being in any of the pictures.

For a man with dementia, he remembers me. And I'm thankful for that.

That's me and the two girls, clear across the room. He just took it from his comfortable spot on the couch.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cinnamon Factory

I am not a crafty person. Oh, I have creative juices flowing, and I think I have an eye for beauty, but my hands are not my friends when I work with just about anything. I try not to blame it on being left-handed. I just don't have much patience for material objects of any kind.

Case in point. Earlier this week, I thought on a whim that my daughter could use a break from motherhood so she could get her house cleaned for the holiday coming up. So I offered to take my two granddaughters for a few hours in the afternoon and work with making some little gifts to give to those coming for Thanksgiving.

We did ornamental, scented cookies made with applesauce and cinnamon. Someone had told me about them and they sounded easy enough for my handicraft-challenged hands. Plus I saw on the internet how you could make a heart with two candy canes and pour melted chocolate in them, and just let them harden in the refrigerator. Keep in mind, I wasn't just thinking of keeping it simple for two eager toddlers. It had to be easy for me too.

To make a long story short, I've spent hours this week tying tiny ribbons on these cookies and assembling some gift boxes to put them in, filling bags with the candy cane hearts, writing on tags and putting them on the bags. Not to mention having my house smell like a cinnamon factory all week as the cookies dry out.

I've come to the conclusion that my gift of patience comes easier with people than it does with things. So, this evening, as I labored over the finishing touches of this project, I have been conjuring up images of the smiles on my granddaughters' faces as they distribute the little boxes to their guests tomorrow. That will be reward enough for my madness.

Grandma's lil' workshop table

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving a Care

With a board meeting over in Hastings this morning, I wasn't sure how I would find time to get ready myself and also help Dean get ready for his adult day program before I left. After helping him get his clothes and shoes on, I had to set out his clothes, medical folder, and towel for his bath aide and nurse who would come in the afternoon. Then make sure he had taken his pills, eyeglasses, cap, and cane, and had the day of the week changed where we post it prominently in the living room. I also had to remember to put an insulated bag out for the Meals on Wheels when it came. Then uncover and feed the bird, let the dog out, bring the trash can off the curb, and dress and try to get a bite to eat myself. But somehow it all fell into place and I arrived precisely at the scheduled time and place for my car pool ride to a Brain Injury Association meeting in Hastings.

All this activity reminded me how thankful I am that I don't have a regular daily job I have to go to. So many employed caregivers struggle with this additional activity every day. People don't have a clue what is involved in taking care of someone else, whether it's an adult or a child with special needs.

All caregivers need to feel supported and appreciated. November is the month to do it too. This is National Caregivers Month.

Romans 15:1 says "We then who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves". Who among us are fulfilling this Christian mandate more than caregivers?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Focus on the Volunteers

For three days this week there is a Center for People in Need in our community that dispenses holiday food and goods to needy families. I went there today to see what kind of holiday cheer they could offer two old, disabled seniors on a pencil-thin budget. Fiscal difficulties are definitely one of the major problems reported by caregivers. This one included.

The first thing you notice, as you drive into the parking lot, is how many hundreds of low-income people are looking for something special to offer their families this Thanksgiving and Christmas. The parking spaces were filling up fast, and the place was overflowing with vehicles. Then, the lines of people inside and the waiting required because of the streams of people pouring in convinced me that there are more low-income people than I had realized in our town.

I didn't just notice the people there getting things though. There were also many smiling volunteers, who were valiantly and tirelessly distributing the items. I tried to focus on them, because it's so easy to become judgmental when you are sitting there "people-watching" in a place like that.

I was tempted to think that some of the "needies" there certainly didn't appear to be lacking in material goods. Take that young mother with the expensive looking cell phone, whose child was in an obviously top-of-the-line stroller. But you know, she may have downgraded from her internet connection at home and is reduced to the cell-phone kind only now. And I've seen nice strollers at garage sales too, so I suppose I can overlook that expenditure too. Personally knowing a young mother who fits this description exactly helped me overcome my temporary lapse into judgmentalism.

From now on, I'll definitely focus on the volunteers instead. ;-)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Remembering the Best

For a man who can't remember if he just had dinner five minutes before, my husband has remembered all week that we discussed going to church today. So I couldn't deny him the opportunity to attend the early service at the large college church this morning. I purposely only mentioned it that one time and waited to see if he would remember our conversation.

He mentioned it last night again for the first time in many days since we first discussed it, so I knew we would be going. I just couldn't deny him something that he has missed so much. Church attendance with him has proven very stressful for me in the recent past, and he has basically stopped attending our home church because of it.

But he wore his dress pants, street shoes, even tucked his shirt in today, like I requested. As a matter of fact, he was on his best behavior the whole time. We got there just as the service started, and left immediately afterward in order to meet the bath aide who was to arrive at the house at eleven o'clock. I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled back into our driveway at home. All potential disasters averted.

What thrilled me the most though was the fact that he remembered that we talked about attending church today. For a man who forgets almost everything, even important things like food, it shows where his priorities lie. There is a portion of Dean's brain that isn't damaged or showing signs of old age. And that is his desire to worship God.

Oh, that we all had that priority straight in our lives. Forgetting all else, let's all remember God.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Missing Eyeglasses

Yesterday my daughter called and asked if her eyeglasses were still on the dining room table where she left them earlier in the day, when she was visiting here. I remember her distinctly putting them there, so we were both mystified when they showed up missing again from the table.

The first place I looked this time was on Dean's face. (See August 2012 "Connecting the Dots".) He was sporting thin-wired glasses, but they were bifocals, so we deemed him innocent this time. Then I checked the floor under the table and by the computer, but all were empty of anyone's glasses. By now, I was feeling innocent myself. The eyeglasses were evidently somewhere besides my house.

Then this morning as my nephew and I were about to walk out the door by the dining room table to leave for his work, he almost stepped on a pair of wire-framed glasses on the floor. They were invisible, lying on my dark-patterned carpet. It was fortunate that they didn't get crushed underfoot. Somehow they must have gotten knocked off the table and onto the floor, which proved to be a perfect hiding place for them.

God has promised to be a hiding place for us. When we get knocked around by life's trials, when trouble is looking for us, and when the pressures of life are about to crush us, God conceals us protectively amidst the pattern of His will. Seek His will and it will sustain you and lift you up in the end.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Unused Gifts

I was dreading this  morning's dentist visit with Dean. The receptionist called me last week and said, after talking with the university dentists that his regular dentist would like Dean and I to come in for a consultation about his teeth. She said it appeared he may have to have his lower teeth pulled.

I mentally gasped at this possibility, since Dean only has eight bottom teeth left in his whole mouth. His main pleasure in living is to eat. How he is able to gum his food enough with no teeth on top is beyond me already. And with no teeth at all, I was picturing crock pot soups being on our menu almost every day and having to cook the life out of our vegetables even more than I already am, so he can chew them easier.

Thankfully, the outlook was modified some after speaking with the dentist herself today. They were only going to take out two teeth for now and provide him with a partial to take their place. Dean was not entirely satisfied with this prospect either, but he seems at least to have accepted his fate and agree to the procedure.

He didn't promise he'd wear the partial though. I could have predicted that. We have two sets of dentures at home somewhere collecting dust, because he refuses to wear them. And they are keeping company with state-of-the-art hearing aids on his dresser and two leg braces in the closet, just waiting for the man they were fitted for to wear them. Change is not his friend. I give the partial only partial odds, maybe 20% or so, of being in his mouth more than twice.

I wonder how many of God's gifts I have just laying around, waiting for me to use them. Are they becoming dust magnets, while I struggle along with my infirmities, ignoring the fact that help is practically at my fingertips? God's blessings and gifts are right under my nose. I just have to decide to use them. I rather think the change they would bring to my life would be of the positive variety. The odds are good for that. Like 100%.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Wolverton Mountain"

Dean seems to be doing more repetitive singing these days. He gets stuck on one song and sings it night and day. And with much gusto, I might add.

I was getting pretty tired of one song on his repertoire of late. It's called "Wolverton Mountain", an old country song that some of you might remember was popular several decades ago. It's about a beautiful, young girl who lived on Wolverton Mountain, secure from all suitors by an overprotective father. Dean has taken the liberty of substituting the father's name for MY father's name, and so it dawned on me that I was the "pretty, young girl". Instead of being annoyed and irritable about hearing the same song over and over, I began listening to it with more interested ears. It was nice to be the object of his affectionate singing.

Then I realized that God must enjoy our songs about Him too, no matter how frequently and in-eloquently performed. So, when Dean changes his singing to one of his hymns, I can understand God's enjoyment, and allow Him the same "I am loved" feeling I have when Dean sings about me.

If God loves Dean's singing, then who am I to not enjoy it too. Sing on, ol' man!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Another Foot Injury

Last night I managed to get a rather long glass shard stuck in the bottom of my foot. It came out easy enough, bled for a bit, but despite all my first aid cleansing and bandaging, hurts pretty bad every time I take a step today. I have to walk on the heel of my foot, so once again I find myself hobbling around the house--reminiscent of last spring's foot fracture fiasco.

I've tried to use my injury as an excuse to get Dean out of his chair more often today, telling him he should be waiting on me, instead of the other way around. But it's a lost cause. He's staying pretty immobile these days, either in bed or in his recliner, except for the two days he goes to his adult day program or the few times I take him to the library, the bread store, our monthly support group, or our weekly Bible study.

So at least for today, Dean and I are both trying to stay in a reclining position. But he has obviously found more success than I have. He's had more practice.

Practice does seem to lead to more success. Even in our spiritual lives. The more I do to feed my faith, the stronger I feel in my Christian walk. Use it or lose it, as the exercise buffs tell us. Bible study, prayer, and witnessing are exercise for the soul.

Hopefully tomorrow my foot will also enable me to just walk around the house without pain. My whole body does feel better with exercise. And so does my soul.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our Shelter in the Storm

Today has been one of the most gorgeously warm days of fall. Sunshiny, in the 70s. Just couldn't ask for better weather. It's difficult to believe that forecasters are warning us of a cold front moving in tonight, making the temperature switch digits around entirely, from a high of 73 to a high of 37 tomorrow. It will come about with high winds and thunderstorms this evening, even threatening power outages in some areas.

Having just finished a sweet, afternoon nap, I hear the wind picking up outside. So the forecasters knew what they were talking about. Our beautiful sunshine is even gone.

I'm sure this is how end time events will hit us. Suddenly and severe. But the Bible is our forecaster, and more than that, God is our Shelter in the Storm. He has promised to be with us to the end. And that's a promise that's sweeter than any nap. Let the winds blow!

Walking the Talk

After what is usually an exhausting day for Dean at his adult day program, our chore provider called about coming over yesterday and going for a walk with him in the afternoon, since the weather was so nice. She can get him to walk longer and farther than I or any of our family members. They ended up going all the way around the block. His only comment after she left was, "She's got more stories to tell than I do!" That's saying a lot for our family storytelling guru named "Dean or Idaho".

Sometimes it also takes a totally new person to reach others for Christ. What may not be working for us in witnessing may work just fine if someone else were to say the same things. It must be because our different personalities complement each other. And that's why a whole church is a better witness for a community than just an individual here and there.

I plan on going to church this morning. Help me, Lord, to find a way to serve, as well as a way to praise you, while I'm there. Because others need a "walk around the block" with You too.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Donut Overdose

One of our church pastors visited us today. It was so special that he remembered Dean's request of some donuts the last time he was here. The last time he was here he was telling us about his wife's cake decorating class and said he'd bring some cake the next time he came. But Dean let him know that he was especially fond of fresh glazed donuts. So that's what he brought today--some cake, but also some donuts. There were six of them, boxed up neatly, straight from the bakery. They looked and smelled so delicious. A very special treat for us.

As you guessed, Dean proceeded to eat four of them while we sat and visited. It was a good thing he only brought half a dozen, instead of a dozen. After the pastor left, I talked Dean into giving me half of the next donut to prevent him from having five in a row. And I quickly ate the last one too, just to remove the temptation.

I'm thankful for a God who hears my requests too, no matter how silly, or inconsequential, they may be. God wants to please us. We just have to look at the beautiful and fantastic world He created for our enjoyment to know that. Help me, Lord, to use your gifts as you intended.

(I doubt the pastor intended for Dean to overdose on donuts today. But not to worry. I think his stomach is made of iron.)

Hearing the Ocean

Every other Wednesday night, I get a bit of respite from caregiving. I so enjoy doing a storytime for the youngest ones at our church youth night (called Pathfinders, by some of you). These littlest ones have their own name, Lil' Lambs, and their own matching T-shirts too. I just read them a book before the meeting starts to give the adult leaders a few more minutes to prepare for the official activities.

Last night the book I read was about the ocean and besides all the little seashells I had to show them, I borrowed a big conch shell from a friend, after noticing it laying on her front porch. They all got to take turns trying to listen to the sound of the ocean in the shell.

One little boy was quite surprised when I told him I had borrowed the shell from his grandparents' porch. He didn't seem to remember that it was there, even though I have seen it every time I go to their house.

What goodies am I missing when I study my Bible? I'm sure I overlook treasures that are just laying there, ready for me to discover. that the sound of heaven I hear coming from that verse?

Here are the shells I had them pick up from a beach towel, spread out on the floor, er beach.
 Some of them were trying to hear the ocean, even from these smaller shells!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winners AND Losers

I can't wait for the news coverage of the election tonight. I really enjoy the suspense of the outcome. We are definitely focused on the winner in this presidential contest. What is really sad to think about though is that someone will be a loser. You only have a 50-50% chance, especially with an election this close. And what will that be like for the one who doesn't win the election? After all the effort and money that goes into a campaign, it must be excruciatingly disappointing when the other side wins.

As a caregiver, I have grown accustomed to feeling the losses of someone who has lost a great deal of normalcy in his life. People with disabilities of any kind can easily fall into the category of loser, without someone by their side assisting and encouraging them to keep trying.

Our main purpose as Christians should also be to reach out to people who are losing out on eternal life. Because there is no greater loss than missing out on heaven. Introducing people to the greatest campaign manager of all time, Jesus Christ, is not that difficult a task. He will take over their life, just like real campaign managers do, and success is guaranteed. None of us have to be losers of heaven. We elect, or choose, to be.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dean, the Talker

Tonight Dean and I went to a potluck supper, hosted by the Alzheimer's Association local chapters. There was an assortment of persons, caregivers, staff and volunteers, and those with dementia or Alzheimer's there, but I was nervous about taking Dean to a group that I was unfamiliar with. Taking him somewhere and not knowing the size of the crowd, the location of the church, or where the dinner would be held was an act of real bravery on my part, I must say.

I had an idea that Dean would probably refuse to put his Levis and street shoes on for the event, so he came in lounge pants, bedroom slippers, and  the T-shirt/bib, he'd been sporting all day. The "Elmer Fudd" style hat and plaid flannel shirt he's worn all week completed his ensemble.

I knew I'd have to draw some attention from his outfit, so I chose to wear my very bright red dressy blouse with shiny sequins. I've gotten compliments on it, so knew it was an attention-getter too. Besides, no sense in him getting all the limelight.

There were people our age and older, seated at some of the tables when we arrived. But Dean chose to sit at the table of the youngest-looking people there. The oldest turned out to be 26. Yes, before long Dean had asked them each their names and ages, if they were related, what they knew about Alzheimer's, if they drove, had boyfriends-girlfriends, what their dad did, and how many siblings they had. He continued to keep them entertained the whole evening. He kept trying to remember their names and guess their ages. Causing a chuckle at each failed attempt.

I was pleased that it was going so well, because the girls told us that their mother had passed away with Alzheimer's just last December. I hope Dean brought some sunshine into the evening for them. Dean's presence surely gave them some comic relief, in what must be a difficult stage of their lives, missing their mom.

Dean worries about not having a ministry, not realizing that he ministers every day to everyone he meets.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Time Confusion

Today we gained an hour in our day by turning the clocks back an hour. Some people actually got to sleep an hour longer, or at least it felt that way. But people with dementia already have enough trouble keeping track of time. It's a shame we do this to confuse them even more, let alone the rest of us who are willing to admit that it just doesn't make any sense to go through the ritual of changing all our clocks twice a year.

So many people are disgruntled with the system of daylight savings time. When man fools with time reckonings it often leads to confusion though, doesn't it? For instance, for decades and even centuries, man has been confused about the Sabbath and Sunday, which has come to be called the Lord's Day. It hasn't been that long ago when people actually referred to Sunday as the Sabbath. Now people are openly aware that they are not keeping the seventh-day Sabbath by worshiping on Sunday, but they feel that church tradition has sanctified the practice.

Whatever day you choose to worship on, keep in mind that when man, through tradition or legislation, intervenes with God-ordained time systems, it results in confusion. Just like the way we confuse ourselves twice a year with daylight savings time.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Holiday Fever

Yesterday I was home alone, with Dean away at his adult day program. I was suddenly aware that it was the second of November. I was getting in the Christmas mood a bit and decided to check out the closet that houses our decorations.

I know most people put up all their decorations at once and probably a lot closer to December than this, but with Dean so resistant to change, I decided maybe just the nativity scene would quiet my decorating cravings for now and not unnerve him too much. Besides, our first thoughts of Christmas should be about baby Jesus anyway, right?

I'm glad the Thanksgiving holiday comes before Christmas. It should ideally put us in a thankful state of mind, before the giving season in December begins. Sadly, many are teaching children that Christmas is mostly about them and getting lots of gifts.

So with that off my mind, here are my two decorating attempts this week. I hope they help our family keep their perspective about what and who these two winter holidays are really about.

I've had this particular nativity scene for years. My sister sent it up to me from Florida several years ago. It's probably not an expensive one, but it is so realistic looking that I just love it. And she knew I would!

I needed to clean off my dining room table anyway, so I decided a Thanksgiving-looking centerpiece for it would be nice. Dean made the cornucopia one year at his adult program, I made the ceramic dish that says "Give us this day our daily bread" many years ago, and my sister-in-law made the cloth that says the same thing. The lace underneath was my mother's. So, all in all, it's about family!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Miss Copycat

Today my granddaughters were over to visit for awhile. Jenna, 4, took out some crayons and a book and laid on the floor of the living room to color. Julia, 2, matched her sister's actions by lying on her stomach with another coloring book and some crayons. Everything Jenna said, Julia said, like an little echo. Jenna asked her to stop copying her, and told me she was tired of it. I tried to commiserate by saying I was tired of repeating everything for Grandpa too, because he doesn't hear very well.

We tell Jenna to be patient with her sister. She won't always be a copy cat. Hopefully, some day the copying will stop and they will be good friends.

I wish the same could be said about their grandpa. I must be patient with him too, but he will never stop asking me to repeat things. At least not in his or my lifetime here on earth. It does seem that I'm expected to have a heartier variety of patience than she does.

But this is obviously how our character grows. Jenna's learning to be patient now, because she will have bigger reasons to have patience in the future. By the time she's my age, she will have the patience to be married to a grandpa of her own.

There's still some justice in the world.

Miss Copycat and Miss Patience

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Candy Night for Dean

Finally some people have been coming to our door tonight to trick-or-treat. I debated whether or not to invite trick-or-treaters to the house this year by leaving the porch light on. But so far, the only problem is keeping Dean out of the candy. Having the dog in the bedroom, so her yapping along with the doorbell doesn't drive him to distraction, has helped.

I went earlier to our church to help with the Halloween event they had there called Light up the Dark, but let them know I would have to be home by dark, in case trick-or-treaters came to our house. Didn't want Dean going to the door on his own. I'm not big on celebrating Halloween, you understand. (See my blogpost on Halloween last year.) But the event at our church tonight was pretty special. It was a chance for children to hear Bible stories, and I'm sure some of them in the community don't get to hear them very often.

I'm glad I arranged for Dean to partake in Halloween at home though. He loves children and doesn't get to be around them much lately. The logistics were hard though. I had to hide the candy all week. And then make sure he was clothed properly when the kids showed up. And figure out what to do about the dog. But it has come together pretty nicely. After the one bag of candy is gone, I'll just turn out the light. Certainly don't want a lot of leftover candy sitting around. Not that it would sit long with Dean on the prowl for it.

Dean has often quoted the Bible where it says we must become like little children. And he says he's working full-time on that. Just hoping next year, Dean won't want to be going out trick-or-treating himself! I think I'll work on a list of friends with candy we can "visit" that night, just in case. Any takers?

King Nebuchanezzar, about to order the 3 Hebrews thrown into the fiery furnace. This young man, dressed up like a king, did an excellent job telling that story tonight!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Warm and Toasty

My daughter felt really bad about leaving her husband with a broken clothes dryer before we left for women's retreat this past weekend. The day we left she discovered that it wasn't drying things right. But he found out the problem and fixed it while we were gone, good handyman that he is.

On her return, after he left for work the next morning, she was feeling bad about having to inform him that the toaster wasn't working either. It was a recently-bought, four-piece toaster, but the bread would just not go down like it should.

Then she noticed that it was unplugged. Here was something even she could fix. She just plugged it in and voila! The bread not only went down, but it started to heat up and toast. Prior to that, she was thinking that even if it wasn't plugged in, at least the bread would go down when you pushed on the lever. But evidently, toasters are mere counter decorations if you don't plug them in. They won't do a thing but look pretty.

And we are just here for decoration too, if we aren't plugged in to the Power of the Universe. Without God, we literally can't do anything. At least not anything of a useful nature. I hope I can remember to stay plugged in, so God can use me. And if He allows me to be pushed down, He will also let me heat up and warm someone else. We'll be warm and toasty together.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dental Chair Humor

While the rest of the world is seriously consumed with a presidential election and a late-season hurricane, I was entertained today by taking my husband to the university dental school for an evaluation.

It wasn't long before the nurse called me back to his examination room to answer questions about medications and any changes in his health. She did ask Dean if his mouth had been sore. He reported, "Yes, but I keep it filled with candy." I silently laughed at his playful, but sadly truthful, retort, while the two dental students began to lecture him about the harm of eating candy.

After the specialist asked some more questions, she told Dean she'd just like to look in his mouth. He politely replied, "Sure, if that's what you're getting paid for."

When she found the area of his mouth that's been sore, she instructed a dental student to get the camera, and asked Dean if they could take a photo. Trying to keep his mouth open while the student focused the camera, Dean asked them, "Are you going to frame it?" By now, I had a really hard time holding my composure and not shaking with laughter, but didn't want to stand in the way of science, so I kept my mirth to a minimum.

As you can see, there is something to laugh about, even in the midst of a storm. Didn't the Bible say that laughter is good medicine? Nothing like a good dose of laughter to make me glad to be home by the side of my lighthearted, loving husband again, after an equally joyful and relaxing time at Women's Retreat.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Born Again--Daily

My daughter and I returned from Women's Retreat this afternoon. It seems both husbands were happy to see us home. And it is good to be home. We both feel recharged and renewed, spiritually and physically. Hopefully our families will see such a difference in us that they will be glad to see us go next year as well!

Noticing the amount of food that was consumed by Dean while I was gone, he wasn't missing any meals. Besides all the microwaveable freezer food I left him and several pounds of fresh grapes, he helped eat a whole crock pot of chilli that my nephew made. Dean admitted he had six bowls of it himself. His appetite was not waning while I was gone. But one of the first things he asked me when I walked in the door was what could I fix him to eat. Maybe eating reminds him of me. Or I remind him of eating?

Right now my appetite for God is right on par with Dean's appetite for food. We learned from the main speaker just today that to be born again, we need to admit to God we need to change, ask Him to fix it, and then hold onto Him to keep us from doing it again. No matter how long we've been a Christian, we need to do this on a continual basis. If Paul said he died daily, then he must surely mean that he would be born again daily too.

I need food daily, at set intervals. I needed the reminder this weekend that I need God just as often. May my appetite for Him never languish.

Kayla and I at breakfast--Women's Retreat 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daughter's Humor

The presentation about caregiving that I have been looking forward to giving for the last year is over now. It was gratifying to see over twenty women at our church's Kansas-Nebraska Women's Retreat attend, the majority of them caregivers themselves.

The one caregiver woman that I was most interested in this weekend was my daughter. This is the first women's retreat we have attended together.

Last night I was rehearsing my seminar presentation alone in our motel room with Kayla as my practice audience. My nervousness was seriously reduced by one of her comments, because it brought about such a good laugh for both of us. At one place in the PowerPoint I ask what a highly mobile society means to caregiving today. She quipped "We are on the phone all the time?"

All I can say is, she has her daddy's sense of humor. And when I needed it the most. She also had prayer for me just before the seminar began. Just when I needed it most.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dean's Memory

I have a list and a thousand things to remember and do tomorrow to get ready for Women's Retreat this weekend. In addition to remembering my oxygen equipment, the Bi-pap machine, tubing, and portable container, I will have my laptop and notes for conducting a seminar on Sabbath/Saturday about caregiving.

Then there are things to remember for Dean while I'm gone. Even though he won't be totally alone in the house, my nephew is here, I'm sure Dean will feel alone with me gone. I will be making frequent phone calls, so he won't feel so lost. I really am his "memory" these days.

I just pray that God will use me in this seminar. Non-caregivers don't have a clue about what it's like to be a caregiver. I will probably mostly have caregivers come to my "break-out" session, but I'm hoping the information will spread out, even from the few who will attend.

I will report back next week. Keep me in your prayers.

Getting a Lift

I was wondering what the physical therapist would be recommending for Dean today. Last year when he was here he didn't get much accomplished because of Dean's foot fracture.

After he went through some exercises with him today, I began telling him of Dean's lack of activity and how I end up waiting on him, probably too much. But when I said it was mostly because it was so hard for Dean to get out of his recliner these days, he said he might qualify for a lift chair.

That would really be nice. Hopefully it would mean that he would get up more often, which would be good for him. And it would be less wear and tear on my old body by grabbing his hand and pulling him up all the time, or just waiting on him hand and foot. So it would be good for me too.

God can grab our hand too to help us up. Or He can give us a "lift chair" to help us up. Even though it feels like we are getting up on our own, God is still doing the work. Let's not forget the source of all our efforts and activities. Whether we are pulled from the front or pushed from the back, God is doing the pushing and pulling. It is God, all the way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Salting the Table

I was noticing tonight at supper how fast condiments have been disappearing in our house. After seeing how much soy sauce Dean poured on his rice and stir-fry vegetables, it wasn't hard to know who the culprit is. He saturates almost all his food with Tabasco, Frank's Red Hot Sauce, ketchup, or steak sauce. Either that or he salts and peppers it to death.

I don't know if he really intends to get that much flavorings and seasonings on his food. Maybe he's just slow about knowing when to stop pouring, or he doesn't see well enough to know when he's got enough on the food. I have noticed that the whole dining room table looks like it's been salted when he's done. But the main reason seems to be that he wants his food to taste the way he's trying to season it.

In the same vein, we can think of all kinds of reasons why we sin. But the main reason is most likely that we just want to. We like the pleasure it gives us. Let's not forget the price we pay for that pleasure though. Someone is paying for our indulgences, just like I'm having to buy more condiments and clean the whole table of spilled salt. And ultimately Dean will pay with loss of health. But more importantly, he's losing out on the real taste of the food. Life is just so much better, without our attempts to spice it up on our own.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My One-year Journey

It's been one year today since I started this blog. I have obviously taken some vacation days here and there, but I'm getting close to the 365 blogposts that was my goal. This is # 327. Thank you, readers, for joining me on this spiritual journey.

It's been a big faith builder for me to see how all the little things I experience in my day relate in some way to a bigger picture, which includes the whole universe. So many things can teach us lessons of faith. Whether you are a caregiver, a teacher, a parent, or anyone concerned about someone other than yourself, you too have the opportunity to learn about God from the daily events of your life.

I have some ideas for the future of my blog. Perhaps taking Bible stories and seeing how they point to the life and death of Jesus. Or exploring the inside of the temple and seeing how it illustrates the ministry of Jesus as well. These longer stories might be less frequent, but I hope someone will gain a blessing by my sharing of them too. I welcome your ideas.

I promise to keep everyone up to date on Dean's health too though. I'm sure his antics and quips are what keep some of you coming back to my blog from time to time. Dean has always had the ability to make me laugh. That's one of the qualities I married him for. It's what has helped keep both of us going through even the roughest times.

Thank you again for spending time with this blog, my thoughts and ideas openly expressed.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wasting the Day

A little while ago Dean asked me to walk with him to deliver a child's Bible story magazine from church to a little girl who lives across the street. He's been giving her one almost every week for over a year now. Her grandma says she looks forward to Dean and the stories every weekend.

It was the first time I had stepped outside all day, except for our short drive to the library, and as we stopped and sat in our front yard swing for awhile on the way back, I couldn't help but lament that I hadn't spent more time outdoors today. I had really wasted some beautiful fall weather. Who knows how many days this nice are left till winter.

And who knows how many days we have left before Jesus comes. Have I done all I could in the Master's service today? Or have I wasted valuable time just thinking of and taking care of myself? Lord, help me not waste another day, another moment of life, by not declaring your love strongly to all who will hear. The time is perfect for sharing the Word. It is just something we have to do, and it should be as enjoyable as sitting on the front yard swing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Scrambled Eggs on the Floor

I was getting ready for church this morning when Dean asked me what I was fixing him for breakfast. When I said steel-cut oatmeal (which just needed heated up), he said he wanted to fix himself some scrambled eggs instead. Knowing I wouldn't be leaving for a little while, I said for him to go ahead then and do the eggs himself.

That's when disaster struck. As he was taking the eggs out of the refrigerator, the carton, almost full of eggs, made a nosedive out of his hands and onto the floor. What a mess! I don't know what he would have done, if I hadn't been there to clean up the gooey remains. I managed to salvage five or six cracked eggs, which I broke into a frying pan for him to start scrambling for us both to eat. Then I threw out or mopped up the rest of the eggs.

He felt bad enough already, so I refrained from yelling at him for his carelessness. (Wish I had that much patience when I was a young mother.) But then Dean, halfway serious, told me it was really MY fault, since I had told him to fix his own breakfast.

When trials come, do I tend to point my finger at God, even a little too? Even though God has given me freedom to choose, and all the basic necessities of life, I still want to throw the blame onto Him, because He's supposed to be in charge. I hope I can remember that it's our loving, patient God, after all, who cleans up the messes I've pretty much made on my own. Even the accidental ones.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Breaking Bread

I'm so glad we have a small gathering to go to on most Friday nights, the beginning of the Sabbath. A place for Dean to be with some of his church friends and a time to share the study of God's Word. Dean has been missing that at church the last few months due to his dementia issues, so I'm thankful he still gets a small taste of church life at our friends' house most weeks. They are so special for providing us with that, for being supportive of Dean's needs, and for letting us both have a taste of Christian social life again. Some nights we even share a meal together, usually something simple like soup or "haystacks", and that is extra special.

The book of Acts tells of the early Christians "breaking bread from house to house" (Acts 2:46). And they did it "with gladness and singleness of heart."

I would encourage all church members to not be shy about inviting people into your homes. Your house doesn't have to qualify for a Better Homes and Gardens photo op. And your cooking doesn't have to match the chef of a quality high-class restaurant. Your guests will feel special just because you invited them.

I know we do.

Dad's Desk

A much overdue "to-do list" task got completed yesterday. I totally cleaned my dad's desk area. It was surprising all the office supplies I discovered I had available. When my dad, who passed away two years ago, went to the office store, he purchased enough to last, well, for more than his lifetime.

I keep the top of his desk for mementos of my dad. So many memories came rushing back as I rearranged and dusted the items. He spent many happy hours at his desk, getting to know his computer, but more importantly, keeping in touch with friends and family. Eventually their dining room turned into his computer room, much to my mom's dismay. But she was willing to sacrifice it for the worthy cause of keeping dad happy.

No matter how hard I try, I will never think of it as anything other than "dad's desk". In my mind, it will always belong to him. And shouldn't I likewise view all my possessions as belonging to God? It makes me pause to thank God for entrusting me with so much. And that's why I try to have "mementos" of God in every room too. Pictures of Jesus or books about Him on every shelf, even a framed poem about Him in my bathroom, to remind me of the real owner. I don't want my earthly father's influence forgotten, and the same goes for God's, the Giver of it all.

Dad's corner

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting Dressed

This morning as I was helping Dean get dressed, I thought of my granddaughters. Especially the two-year-old, who is at the age when she can do most of the dressing, but still needs some help. Just like Dean.

The difference between them is the dialogue that takes place during the process. Julia is always saying, "Me do it, me do it." But Dean says, "You do it, you do it." You get the idea. It's rather humorous when you think about it.

But isn't that how we are when we are young? Striving for independence, wanting to do everything for ourselves. As we get older, we are more likely to recognize our limitations and appreciate help from others.

I hope my spiritual striving follows this logic. The older I get, the more dependent I hope to be on God. After all, didn't God dress Adam and Eve with animal skins after they sinned? And isn't He the one who covers us with His robe of righteousness? When it comes to getting dressed for heaven, we'd better be saying to God, "You do it, you do it." Or we aren't going anywhere.

Her mom reports it took 45 minutes to get this outfit get the picture.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debating my Father

I'm getting excited about the presidential debate coming up this evening. All this political talk reminds me of my dad. He was so patriotic and encouraged me to stay on top of the issues and to get out and vote intelligently every year. As a World War II veteran, he felt it was his American duty to know the candidates and to keep democracy alive by participating in the election process, as much as possible.

It was a source of amusement to me though that we always ended up supporting different candidates. He tried so hard to convince me of his party's merits and just couldn't understand how a daughter of his could think so opposite of him politically. I really wish it hadn't ended up that way. I would have loved sharing his views and opinions. But after all, part of the democratic ideal is the freedom to choose our leaders.

I'm glad for my heavenly Father too and the freedom He gives us to choose whom we will follow. It must pain Him when we choose the enemy's side, but His love is still there for the sinner. And, just like my dad, God will continue to persuade us to His way of thinking, right up to the very end.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Key to Peace

When we got back to the car after a dental appointment today, Dean had to go down some steps and almost stumbled. He caught himself by grabbing onto the car just as our car horn went off for seemingly no reason, except maybe it didn't like being pounded on by a 240-lb. man.

 I hurriedly put the key in the ignition, thinking that would turn off the anti-theft system. After trying several other things to stop the honking and start the car, I finally thought to put the key into the door lock, and thankfully that solved the problem. Whew...peace and quiet again. I just wasn't putting the key in the right place.

I am always happy to find peace and quiet in my tumultuous life. I just have to remember to put my key in the right place.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27

I can put my "key" in the world or in Jesus. I'll take Jesus' peace any day.