Sunday, December 28, 2014

Wearing a New Hat For a New Year

We weren't visited by angels Christmas Eve, but it was close. Our two angelic granddaughters, accompanied by their mom and dad, came over to share a supper and gift-opening time with us. I love planning and preparing a meal for more than just Dean and I, so that was a special treat for me. Even if it was just "haystacks", or "walking tacos", as some call them.

Our entertaining schedule has been light for many years now since Dean's accident. Tight finances, coupled with Dean's low capacity for crowds and distractions, has put our hospitality ministry on hold. So, I was really excited about having family over that night. There weren't a whole lot of gifts to open, but enough to whet the kids' appetites for Santa's gifts the next day.

And speaking of appetites, Dean's been having a raging one recently. For Christmas he got some potato chips, two bags of M&Ms, and chewing gum from the granddaughters. We all (except me) thought he'd make them last, since I mostly try to keep him away from calorie-loaded treats. But they were all gone by the end of Christmas Day. (Except for the gum...because he couldn't remember where he stashed it.)

The one gift he got that night that will last was the new cowboy hat they gave him. It is a great improvement over the old battered one he was wearing.

Christmas, coming right before the New Year, is the perfect time for replacing the old with the new.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." II Corinthians 5:17

May we all look forward to a New Year in Christ.

He's still not ready to retire the old hat, however. Guess I can't blame him--looks like it's got some history!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Following His Directions

The light snow we got last night and this morning set my mood for some Christmas baking for the neighbors while Dean was gone to his day program. Actually, I had this baking scheduled anyway for today, but the snow just made it seem more appropriate to the season.

I ended up making three batches of fudge, only two of them were planned. They were very easy recipes with simple ingredients (my two criteria for baking and/or cooking these days). First some chocolate fudge (first time using the microwave method), and then I made some peanut butter fudge, using the stove. The peanut butter fudge set up so well, compared to the chocolate one, that I decided to do a makeover with the second bag of chocolate chips I had on hand, with much better results.

It was my own careless disregard of following the exact directions the first time that caused the first fudge failure. And although the second one wasn't as firm as the peanut butter variety, I was much more pleased with the final product.

This was a reminder to me of the wisdom of following God's exact directions when it comes to my life. The closer I follow His recipe, the more satisfying will be the outcome.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Birthday "Boy"

This has been an unusual birthday year for Dean. Number one, he admits that he doesn't know when he's looked forward to his birthday so much (on December 4). For months now, he has been counting the months, then days, then even hours, reminding all his family and friends that it was getting close. And it's not even a big-zero event yet (waiting for that one next year--the big 7-0).

Not surprisingly he woke up at three in the morning on the day of his birthday and I heard him softly singing "Happy Birthday" to himself! It certainly left me wondering what's come over this man. Is it just part of his dementia?

When I mentioned that perhaps he was experiencing a second childhood and reliving what a birthday felt like when he was a kid, he said that his birthday was recognized growing up, but as he looks back on it, it probably was rather combined with Christmas.

Sensing his enthusiasm now though I made sure I baked him a cake from scratch. One of his favorites, a carrot cake. I was glad his birthday came on a day he attended Easterday, his day program, so he was able to share the cake with the other clients there (almost like having a party).

The night before, I showed him my present. A new quilted flannel shirt that he was really needing to keep warm (a size larger than last year's, and it's almost impossible to get him to wear a coat these days.) I could tell he was anxious to show it off to his friends the next day.

After he came home from the day program on his birthday, I took him out to eat at a Mexican restaurant he's been wanting to try. My daughter and our two granddaughters topped his day off by surprising him when we got home with a visit that included a beautiful neck scarf, a candy bar, some M&Ms, and homemade cards and pictures.

To make the day even more special, my sister called him that night and he gave her a minute-by-minute account of his special birthday. I was amazed at the childlike nature of his birthday enjoyment.

Seeing the difference in his birthday enthusiasm this year made me stop and think about my looking forward to the Second Coming. Am I as anxious for that event as I should be? Wouldn't Jesus love to see a little more childlike excitement on my part in looking forward to it?

Christmas is nice for celebrating Christ's birth, but shouldn't the Second Coming be with the same holiday spirit? I wouldn't want God to feel shortchanged and not get the celebration that He deserves.

His new shirt (with hoodie)!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Meal Made in Heaven

So nice to be invited out for a Thanksgiving dinner with family this year. With Dean's raging appetite these days, I was hoping his holiday eating would not get too out of hand.

We timed it right to get there when it was about time to eat. He can make a meal out of appetizers, if you know what I mean. I dished up his first plate, since it was just easier in a small kitchen with buffet-style serving. This assured that his first helpings were sensibly sized and not mounded so high on his plate.

He got his own seconds of favorites after that, but I was glad when they started offering pie for dessert. I'm sure he would have just continued eating plate after plate of food until time for dessert. We made sure he had one of the first pie pieces cut.

We had just the right amount of visiting during and after all of this, but were the first ones to head for home. I understood others soon followed who had other family dinners to attend (in-laws).

It made for a real family treat, being with our daughter's in-laws. Just one big happy family gathering.

It reminded me of the type of family gatherings we will enjoy in heaven someday. But there will be no rush there, no accommodating service, no watching calories, sugar or gluten contents either. It will just all be good-for-us food, and especially tasty. (Almost like this one we enjoyed on Thanksgiving Day.) I can't wait!

in between bites

My understanding hostess Shari--on the left!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Broken Chair Fixes Man

I witnessed a small miracle this week. Dean resurrected some of his tools, dusted them off, and set about fixing a chair that broke down when he went to get up from it one day. It was an old chair we've had for years that had a lot of memories attached, so I can understand his motivation to get it fixed.

This is what my spare bedroom has looked like all week!
I've never seen him so enthusiastic about getting something done around here. (It took him almost a year to clean off his dresser. You can actually see the top of it now, so even with more clutter there than I'd like, it's a big improvement.)

And then there was the neighbor lady across the street. When a tree was hit by lightning a year ago (see my September 16, 2013 post) and ended up in her backyard, Dean offered to cut it up for her so she could have it hauled away. Dean, who made a living at logging, was thrilled at the chance of powering up his chain saw, even though Alberta and I were trembling at the thought of him falling and/or getting hurt in the process of such a physically demanding job. Unfortunately, his success was denied because the big chain saw, which had been sitting idle in our garage for years, just wouldn't come back to life for him.

After these rare attempts at handyman work, it really looks like he has reached a milestone in the furniture repair field. If his "glue" work holds, it will serve him many more years of happy TV watching in another room. (It helps the cabin fever to have two comfy places in the house for relaxation. We can actually "get away from each other" without leaving the house, if you know what I mean.)

If only he had lost 30-50 pounds while working, I'd be more confident in the lasting quality of this repair job. But at least he's still in the handyman game and I'm glad for that.

Isn't it great how God keeps us useful, even though we feel all used up? I pray that God uses me for every ounce of service He can squeeze out of my old body too.

The finished product!

Friday, November 7, 2014

I Am Tired of Me

Most of my posts on this blog are about Dean, who's mainly the caregivEE in the family. But being November, I think it only fair that I write about myself, the caregivER, because this is National Caregivers Month in our country, state, and heh, even our city recognizes it now.

So often people want to know how Dean is doing these days. And once in a while they include me in their inquiry. I think it safe to say that I have my health challenges too. Very seldom are caregiver lines that clear, especially when it involves spouses.

We both have our ups and downs. But as we age, the meaning of the term changes. In other words, it's harder to get up, and mighty easy to fall down. Physically, that is.

Mentally is the same though. For us, it's still easy when you're up in spirits, and hard when you are down. Just the opposite from the physical. We seniors are more likely to think of the physical first, that's all. Which is understandable, since aging forces us to listen to our body more.

What my body is telling me every waking moment of every day is, "You are tired." I know this is mostly my pulmonary system talking. Shortness of breath is a byword around here with my restricted lung capacity. I find myself saying it out loud all too often, between audible huffing and puffing. It's my mantra. "I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired." I even get tired of hearing it myself!

Well, I must say this has been one of the hardest blogposts for me to write. I'm tired of writing about myself already. So next time you will undoubtedly be treated to another colorful episode in the life of Dean. As he was quick to remind me as he was reading my eBook (which is still available on Amazon, by the way), "Without me, you wouldn't have anything to write about!" I'm seeing firsthand today how true his statement was.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Wasted Silent Treatment

This past week Dean and I just happened to get in a tiff right before bedtime. Therefore he told me to shut up and I, being the normal wife, told him I'd be happy to, thinking that a good, long silent treatment would surely teach him a lesson. Tomorrow morning he would wonder why I still wasn't speaking to him.

But tomorrow came and Dean woke up as if nothing was amiss. Even with my quiet demeanor, it dawned on me that with his memory loss, my desire for revenge was doomed from the start. He would never be able to make the connection between my silence and any of his rude behaviors. So I determined that I would play dumb about our previous annoyance and all would be good.

I wondered why this scenario didn't happen more often. Why do I seldom have ammunition I want to throw at him over an extended period of time? Then I remembered that we failed to say our usual good-night to each other that night. More often than not it comes with a blanket apology from both of us, but usually initiated by Dean, for any wrongs we may have done to each other during the day.

This nightly apologizing has been an essential element of our marriage, especially since the dementia, but how necessary it is in any marriage.  It's why Paul advises us to "let not the sun go down upon your wrath" (Ephesians 4:26). Yep, it's best to take care of it the night before. Not with angry vengeance in our heart, but with apologies.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Power of Prayer

Nothing is more aggravating than to be ready to walk out the door to go someplace and not be able to find your car keys. I'm usually pretty careful about putting them in the same place, because Dean doesn't like to see them just lying around. He's worried someone might steal them.

When I have forgotten his "rule" in the past, and left the keys in sight somewhere, he tends to put them "somewhere safe" for me. I thought I had him trained to put them in just one or two places in the spare bedroom, because he's been known to hide them a little too well, and with his short term memory deficits...well, you can just imagine the chaos that results from that situation.

Once again, chaos erupted the other day though when my keys turned up missing. I knew it must have been my in-house key thief, aka Dean, because I remembered opening the front door with the keys just the night before and laying them on the dining room table while I put my typical armloads of items away.

Dean half-remembered putting the keys somewhere again, and I was getting more and more anxious about his hiding place the longer we searched for them. My granddaughters and I were getting ready to go out on some errand--not an urgent one, mind you, but I knew later I would need to take these girls home or watch them multiple hours longer till their mom got off work, if we didn't find them.

After looking in every conceivable place in the house both Dean and I could think of, I went to my granddaughters and told them to say a prayer to find them and to keep an eye out for the runaway keys. They both prayed and helped us look for awhile, but after a short time they went back to their dolls, and I went into the kitchen to put some clean dishes away.

As I was putting the dishes away, the thought came into my head to look myself on top of the refrigerator. I saw Dean looking there as we were searching earlier. I have to get a stepstool in order to see up there myself, but as soon as I pulled the stool over and looked, there were the keys! They were just a little behind something, but certainly not out of sight. I don't know why Dean didn't see them when he looked earlier.

But then the answer came to me and I hurried to tell the girls that their prayers had been answered! And I'm sure it was. God obviously put that thought in my head, didn't He? And it was perfect timing for us all to have an object lesson about how God answers prayer.

What prayers has He answered for you today?

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Book Has Arrived!

My eBook is here! Please purchase it for a whopping 99 cents and review it as soon as possible. (15 pages of my best blogposts)

I'm so thankful for you, my faithful readers, these past few years. I know you will be happy to help me spread the word of how God can be found working in even the most difficult circumstances.

Here's the link to make it as easy as possible for you. Also be sure to forward by email, and share with your Facebook friends. I'm not worried about getting rich, but it will enrich my soul to know that my story may help someone else who is struggling.

You can be a part of that by reading and sharing this book. I hope (now that I know how) to have more books in the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My eBook Coming!

I have a request for my faithful blog readers. In the next day or two, Amazon will be coming out with my first eBook. Please look for it under the title "Lessons of Faith in the Life of a Caregiver" and purchase it if you can. (It's only $.99--due to its length!)

It will be a compilation of my favorite blogposts, so many of you will find the lessons familiar. But I need the immediate sales to increase my availability on Amazon, and it would also be beneficial to get some reviews of my book. So feel free to express your opinions and make comments.

I would be so grateful if you could help me circulate these stories that I pray will bless others in similar places in their life, who are looking for God to reveal Himself during trying times.

Thank you for your attentive reading of this blog, and I know you will help me spread the message of what caregivers and their loved ones face every day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Perishable Items

Much to my dismay, I've discovered that nothing is safe for disposal in our trash. At least not when my hubby is around. My daughter, unbeknownst to me, threw a desktop calendar, the kind that covers your whole desk, in our outdoor trash bin the other day. Dean rescued it and now has it on our dining room table for doodling purposes. Sigh...

But this behavior doesn't surprise me. I've been "hiding" our trash for some time now. It started with our empty toilet paper rolls. Anything cardboard, if it's dry, is salvageable to him. Then it moved to plastic  containers (any size, shape will do). Including the containers that come every day with his "meal on wheels". These items are taking up the space of a whole cupboard now. And at times I hardly have room in my refrigerator, because of all his bottles which he fills up with water. Making them look useful, I guess.

I've found some devious ways to fight this, because reasoning with him about it always falls on "deaf ears". Gradually removing some of the items secretly, leaving some prominently displayed, so it looks like some of his treasures remain, is my best option. Otherwise I have learned to "bury" trash pretty well. I've even been known to dispose of items in the middle of the night, before the trash company picks it up on the curb.

As I think about Dean's tendency to save things these days, I'm reminded of God, who thankfully also has this problem. God evidently is passionate about saving people. It says in II Peter 3:9 that He is "...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." I'm sorry, Satan, you can't change this about God either. God consistently is in the business of pulling people out of the garbage so they won't perish. That's just who He is. He doesn't make disposable people.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pills Again

After a quick search, I see that I've already written nine times about Dean's pills since I began this blog. Our life seems to revolve around these little critters, so here's one more story about a "pill scare".

Last Friday night Dean hollered to me from the kitchen that he'd forgotten to take his pills that morning. He could see that pills were still in their morning slot in the weekly pill organizer he uses.

This happens occasionally, and usually it's nothing to worry about. But seconds later, he reports that he didn't take them the night before either! Now that would be something to worry about, so I dropped what I was doing and raced to the kitchen to verify what he was telling me.

We discovered that he was thinking it was the next night, Saturday night, so naturally there were pills in Saturday morning and Friday night that he hadn't taken yet. Whew, what a relief to see that although we had made a mistake in what day it was, it was not a mistake with great consequences, like not taking his pills would have been.

We've all made multiple mistakes during our lifetimes, but our merciful God races to our rescue to help oversee the situation, just as I raced to the kitchen. We can be sure in His capable Caregiver hands, our lives will make sense in eternity, if we've turned our lives over to Him and simply make the call for His help.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Remembering to Be a Husband

I was rather disgruntled when I woke up to find that Dean had forgotten to take his pills. Today was one of the three weekly days that he goes by medical van to an adult day structure, and normally the only thing I do physically to help him get ready is put on his socks.

This morning was one of the few times I was lazy and went back to sleep after putting his socks on, thinking that for once he'd make it out the door on his own alright. But alas, it seems about 90% of the time I don't remind him to take his pills, he forgets. This meant I had to drive all the way to the rec center, a couple of miles away, to give him the pills myself.

Just last night I was marveling though at something Dean always manages to remember. He never neglects to lock the front door of our house at night. I always check, just to make sure, but invariably he gets it done. It must be some manly, protective activity that he has held on to all these years. It's so sweet that he has honed in on that important duty. Well, I guess he does remember to put the trash can out to the curb once a week too. Very seldom does he forget that husbandly chore either.

God appears this way to me sometimes too. When it seems He's forgotten about taking care of me and I'm left in charge of getting it all done, I know in my heart there are some vital protections He still provides, including taking away my sin/trash. Lord, help me accept your never-failing love and mercies, and know that they are of far more value than my mere "busyness" of life.

I've always liked this picture. Is he leaning on me or protecting me? Maybe a bit of both!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Unplug for a Day" Challenge

This has been the summer of the ice bucket challenge fundraiser for ALS. All month I've seen friends douse themselves with ice water to raise awareness of this neurodegenerative disease that eventually results in total paralysis. The ice water is apparently to remind them of the nerve-shocking effects of ALS. What a successful fundraiser this has been for their organization!

I wonder, what kind of fundraiser would be useful in making others more aware of symptoms of dementia and brain injury? Short term memory loss, in and of itself, doesn't sound too frightening, but I'm sure there must be something that would allow one to experience the life changing event that it is.

Perhaps the activity that would most closely simulate what it's like with dementia would be to "unplug" for a day. No electricity, no technology, for a whole day.

I will attempt to relate this to Dean's present life:
  • Without proper lighting, our senses would change...Dean has this challenge with vision in only one eye and with little periphery vision in the other. He falls a lot, just like we might in the dark. His other senses suffer too. Limited hearing in just one ear and having no sense of smell are what he lives with every day.
  • No electricity would make our daily tasks more challenging...Dean has difficulty with many chores we take for granted. Taking a shower, for instance, is a major undertaking.
  • No technology means no cell phone or computer. For us, this would be very limiting, especially if all our contact info is on our phone...Dean misses every day the enhanced communication and socialization that these gadgets bring into our lives. But not having a cell phone or Blackberry for some might be like having part of their memories erased. Say hello to Dean's world.
  • No television or entertainment...Dean's greatest desire is to interact socially with his friends, and this has become more and more difficult as dementia takes over his life. He misses this activity as much as people would miss their television programs.
Yes, Dean misses out on a lot in life: his senses, ability to perform simple tasks, being able to remember what he did just a short time ago, and just interacting normally with others. In a sense, he has become "unplugged".

But God has not left him powerless. Many times angels have kept him from falling. He has a faithful wife caregiver who is able to perform the work he can no longer do, and most of all, he has retained his desire and ability to worship God. Human relationships may have suffered, but his spiritual relationship with God has never been better.

If caregiving for Dean has taught me anything about life, it's the meaning and value of being "plugged" into God.

P.S. Remember to donate to

Saturday, August 9, 2014

This Battered Life

A few blogposts ago, I reported my long-due visit to the dentist. Well, this has turned out to be a sinus problem rather than a dental one. I am taking a daily antihistamine and using a sinus rinse quite frequently and the facial pain I have experienced all these months has wondrously disappeared. Being on oxygen for nine years must be very drying on the nasal passages.

But now there's this sore on the bridge of my nose (been there for weeks) and it just keeps getting worse. It couldn't be in a worse place--right where my nasal mask hits. The doctor suggested not using the bi-pap for awhile or changing masks (which I will be able to do this coming week, when Medicare will pay for another type of mask).

But doing without the bi-pap is just not an option for me. I have tried cutting down on its use and napping during the day without it, with just the oxygen feed, and for a couple of hours at night. But it feels like going into a boxing match without gloves or any protection. I wake up feeling pretty battered.

This has reminded me of waking up at the Resurrection when Jesus comes. We won't feel battered then. We'll wake up as refreshed as the day we were born. But even better. For gone will be all our human frailties, our petty health grievances. The Master Physician has a whole new body to give us--one that won't wear out or grow old. No more birth defects (like my scoliosis) or brain injuries from having tractors run over us (like my husband). Now that's one kind of waking up I won't mind a bit!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Babysitting, Old and Young

Two big events this past week added to my already exhausted body. But I wouldn't have missed them for the world.

Vacation Bible School with my two granddaughters was wonderful. Watching them do the motions and singing the celebration songs, learning about how to trust God through the story of Moses, seeing their eyes light up with a new craft each night. These were priceless moments I was privileged to share with them.

Then yesterday was Jenna's big 6-year-old birthday bash. The kids went swimming in their apartment complex pool, enjoyed a bouncy house, and of course, the traditional ice cream and cake. I loved every minute of it. And so did Dean. Although I was beginning to worry about his third helpings on the eats, and how many times we had to refill his soda and chips.

But we made it through the week. I have made up for lost time with more sleep this weekend. Bracing up for another week of babysitting my three charges (I include Dean in the count.)

Babysitting for the young and the old certainly has its challenges, but it has also taught me about the human condition. When I am weak, He makes me strong. Some days I'm weak on patience, but strong on perseverance. Then sometimes I stumble with my physical ailments, but He gives me strength to get through it. I'm constantly reminded of my humanity, but also of my need for divinity to step in. Thank you, God, for getting me through one more week.

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." II Corinthians 12:10

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our Father Knows Best

This past week has been a repeat of something that has happened to my car for the last six months to a year. Every month or so I go to the garage to go somewhere and the car won't start. Even my totally expert mechanic son-in-law couldn't solve the mysterious car behavior.

There have been times when after several tries it will start for us. Or it may start as they are backing it out of the driveway for the tow truck to pick up. Once they got it towed all the way to the garage and before they could get their diagnostic equipment to locate the problem, it would start again.

But this week we actually solved the dilemma. It was a leak in the crank sensor. Don't ask me any more than that, but we got it replaced and now I'm hoping our worrisome non-starter has kept me home for the last time.

As my son-in-law related the problem to me, he was also relieved that this refusal to start only happened in my own garage at home. We both felt the hand of God in the situation. I could be tempted to wonder why God was not able to just make the car start when we needed it to. We did pray for it many times to start and it didn't.

This seems to be a pattern for God. He doesn't promise everything will work out as we would like. But that doesn't mean He isn't in our lives working things out as He sees best. We won't know this side of heaven all the times He has intervened for us, keeping our way safe, in ways we hadn't imagined. Surely, our Father knows best!

My dad's '96 Lincoln Town Car

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Our Tame Holiday

As with most people, I still look forward to holidays and celebrations of important events. Problem is the older we get, coupled with Dean's dementia issues, our holidays are getting more and more tame.

For the Fourth of July we casually watched the neighbors' fireworks from the safety of several blocks away. This wasn't always necessary before our new next-door neighbors moved in. Even last year we could serenely take in the festivities right from our own front yard swing.

These new younger families are the firecracker-light-'em-yourself type though, so things got really noisy and festive on our street last night. (Besides, I was afraid the air would get too smoke-filled. Being on oxygen, I'm sensitive to that. Learned my lesson with that a few years back.)

Finances what they are and keeping the food diet trimmed down with the healthiest foods we can afford, we didn't exactly splurge on holiday treats either. But I relented and got some vanilla ice cream to go with our frozen strawberries and blueberries, presenting a patriotic red, white, and blue dessert to eat while we watched the colorful displays in the sky.

I can totally relate to soldiers suffering with brain injuries and P.T.S.D. though. They must not have looked forward to hearing the pop-pops all through the night. What terrible memories these fireworks must hold for them. Or anyone who comes from a war-torn country.

Not having had their experiences though, I try to focus on the glorious appearing of Jesus in the clouds someday. That event will make all our attempts to beautify the sky on the Fourth seem like nothing. But there will be people then who will also dread it and others who rejoice that it's finally happening.

"...and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30

Let's all be ready!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Don't Wait

When I took Dean to the dentist the other day, I just had to ask the receptionist how much teeth cleaning and an exam would cost. I've been having mouth and jaw pain myself now for months and been worrying about whether it might be a dental problem, the start of gum disease or something.

At first I thought the pain might be teeth grinding or jaw clenching--a response to stress. Especially since it seems to come and go. I even changed from a full facial mask at night back to my nasal one for my bi-pap. But even that didn't help for long. Just trying to find my own solution. Something that won't cost me much, since my insurance doesn't cover dental, and only partial medical.

Well, the dental exam she finally gave me just revealed that I do have a lot of plaque, but only one small cavity to fill. Not bad for not seeing a dentist for seven years, I thought! She thought getting my teeth cleaned would relieve my facial pain, so I'll get them cleaned and the cavity filled this coming week. I have my doubts that it will solve anything, but will see. Thinking now it might be a sinus problem. There is a tenderness higher up on my cheeks now when it does hurt.

What does all this have to do with caregiving for Dean? Nothing, really. Except it does reveal my tendency to work things out on my own. To shy away from things that cost something (understandable though, when finances are so tight--not uncommon for caregivers, by the way).

But all this is informing my faith life as well. I need to turn things over to the professionals more. And my professional Spiritual Advisor would be God. Counting the cost has to go too. Sin, no matter how painful or intermittent it may be, has to be resolved. Jesus already paid the price. Life is too short to be figuring things out on my own.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's a Miracle!

It's been awhile since I posted on this blog for caregivers. I've made a grand start a couple of times, but just never could grab onto the right train of thought. I guess my thoughts had actually all left their stations and were going in all directions and it was hard to track a traveler down for his particular destination.

But now that I've lost my voice with a cold virus and life is moving at a slower pace, I have an urge to get some of my thoughts out to somebody. They may not be worth anything, but they will serve to relieve my guilt of silence.

First of all, I thought the world would end if I became sick with a cold again, and certainly it would be in God's interest to keep me healthy and strong. This was my prayer at least as one after another of my loved ones got sick. It's true that it's been hard to find substitute babysitters for my granddaughters, and Dean has had to do more for himself since I got sick. But hey, life moves on. With or without my services.

I was a bit upset with God, but only for a few seconds. I had prayed for a miracle to happen and for me not to succumb to the pestilence that surrounded me, but it was not to be. Instead God has performed another kind of miracle though in helping me survive this new onslaught of sickness.

God knows what He's doing. I am content to be His instrument, as long as He gives me breath. Even if that breath is aided by a nebulizer, a bi-pap machine and oxygen concentrator every night. So there, cold virus, do your stuff.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pancake Pride

We just got through with a sleepover for our two young granddaughters last night. They look forward to pancakes in the morning, usually prepared for them by "Gwampa".

The oldest granddaughter requested that I make the pancakes this time though. She said her last one by Grandpa had "black spots" on it--referring to one of his burnt ones, of course. He understood and allowed me to make them this time.

I ended up cooking a black-sided one too, but made sure it ended up on Grandpa's plate. Then I accidentally invented a "cat pancake" when the batter spread into the shape of cat ears when I turned it over. Naturally, I had to try to duplicate my accidental invention with the next one!

Isn't this how it is in life too? All of us can make mistakes--Grandpas AND Grandmas. And sometimes our best results are arrived at totally by accident. Remembering this can certainly check any pride in our own achievements. It helps me give God the praise and glory for everything that happens in my life.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Our Last Minute Church

My days have been so full, juggling caregiving for Dean and babysitting my granddaughters, that I was determined to make this weekend the most relaxing I could for myself. I really needed to soak up some stress-free hours to relieve my never-ending fatigue. (My oxygen issues contribute greatly to this. I'm not just getting old, I'm flying through it double-time, fighting for every breath!)

At the last minute yesterday, trying to think of every contingent in Dean's care, I discovered that there was one Adventist church in town that we hadn't attended in quite awhile. I knew it would be a small congregation, so when I found out the service started at 11:30, I knew I might have a winner, just in case Dean insisted on going somewhere for church.

I didn't dare mention the possibility of going to church or the magic spell of peace would be broken. But when he finally did ask about going to church, as he usually does, I had the answer. "Let's go to the one that starts at 11:30." That was only an hour away, but plenty of time for us to get ready . I had enjoyed most of the morning in relative peace and quiet, so felt strong enough to tackle this new experience.

The Capitol View S.D.A. Church was perfect for Dean. Besides having a traditional agenda, there was plenty of friendliness to go around. Just enough people for Dean to socialize, without getting swallowed up in the crowd. They didn't seem at all uncomfortable in his presence. The space was confined to a small sanctuary, so I didn't have to worry about him wandering off and Dean could hear all the speakers well.

The sermon ended right on time, and there was a dinner at someone's house, which we felt more than welcome to attend. One of the songs they sang during song service was "Jesus Loves Me", one of Dean's favorites. And surprise, surprise, I found out there were no children's classes, so there were few children for me to worry about being frightened by Dean.

As we were descending a wide staircase outside the sanctuary following the service, two young boys were curling up in a ball and repeatedly rolling down the carpeted stairs, as if it was a grassy hill outside, and no one seemed to mind. The adults were even encouraging them with comments like, "I wish I was young enough to do that!"

Yes, a church that fits someone with dementia. What a blessing this Sabbath has been! Small churches, large churches, and those in-between. There's a reason for them all. They can all be lighthouses to reach people of all kinds. Even wild, scary-looking ones, like my loving husband.


Friday, April 18, 2014

A "Safe Place"

Yesterday I spent a goodly sum on some Tylenol for Dean's pain he's been having lately. I was going to be gone for awhile in the afternoon, and was going to set the bottle of pills in a prominent place that he would see when he came home from his adult day program. (A medical-van brings him home the three days a week that he goes.)

But then I thought it wouldn't be wise to just leave him with a whole bottle of pills. I knew I'd come home and ask him if he took two of them and what time was it when he took them, and he wouldn't have a clue.

So I took out two pills, his recommended dosage, wrote a note next to them so that he would know what they were for, even telling him to write down the time that he took them on my note. Such a wonderful caregiver I was, I thought. The bottle of pills, as many things I must seclude in safe keeping around here, even got put in a "safe place".

Well, that place was so safe, I spent all evening trying to remember where I put them. The next morning, when I was hoping my head would be in a better place, I retraced my steps and suddenly remembered which casserole dish I had tucked them in, so they'd be totally out of his sight.

Guess Dean's not the only one with memory loss around here. I succumb to it every now and then too. It reminds me what it must feel like for him.

Isn't it that way with sin? We think there are lots of worse sinners out there than we are. But the truth of the matter is, none of us are beyond its reach. It catches us at the most embarrassing times, and it always has the ability to grow and take over our lives, just as it has with so many others. Thank you, Dean, for this painful, but necessary reminder of my humanity today.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Birthday "Girl"

Wondering if I should talk about my birthday tomorrow on a blog such as this. Yesterday I received some very nice cards from people at my church. And I'm sure I'll get a phone call or two as the day gets closer. My daughter has been given the hint of what I'd like as a present...a certain color of lip gloss. And I have a feeling she'll bake me something too--another hint to her when she reads this.

Yes, everything in my life right now, challenging as it is, is also very rewarding. I couldn't ask for anything more. Taking care of my husband and even part time care of my granddaughters gives me purpose and much joy.

Dean is attending his day program and I think they are doing an Easter craft today. So no doubt, his project will end up as my birthday gift. I'm looking forward to seeing his creation when he gets home this afternoon.

I have crocuses and daffodils blooming in the front yard at last. So that is my present from God. Yes, what more could a birthday "girl" ask for?

That's me--first girl on the left.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Growing Up

What a wild week it's been for caregiving Dean and babysitting grandchildren. A new baby cousin has caused my babysitting to kick in double time for awhile, so I've watched them every day this week, instead of just two.

That in itself keeps me reeling, but add that to the fact that the two darlings have had the flu all week, and you can readily see why my life activities have stepped up a notch. One adjustment is for me to take a morning nap, instead of afternoon, since their mom's working second shift now. But that hasn't been too hard. Hey, I'd take one in the morning AND the afternoon if I could. I call it my oxygen-energy snooze (it really is a recharge--I love my bi-pap!)

There is one bright spot for me though. My youngest granddaughter, the three-year-old, has mastered fastening her own seatbelt now in the car. I won't have to breathlessly lean over her every time, trying to click up for safety.

One time this week though, Dean was in the car with us going somewhere. I was just rejoicing to hear two clicks coming from the backseat area, when Dean pipes up, "Can you help me with this?" You guessed it. He was holding up his seatbelt latch. I wanted to cry, laugh, and strangle him with it at the same time. But I tried to remain calm and forget that my beloved husband will never grow up.

Can we Christians sometimes be accused of never growing up? God forbid I would ever disappoint God that way. We are babes to Him til the day we die, but at least we can be changing and growing the whole time here. Lord, help me to please you with my childlike desire to "grow up". And you are just the One to help me do it.

P.S. He really did need help with his seatbelt, by the way. Let's just hope it won't be habitual.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

One Brain Injury

This past Thursday and Friday Dean and I were fortunate enough to attend our eighth annual state brain injury conference in Nebraska. We look forward to it every spring. It's the only time we get to spend in a motel and are treated to gourmet-style foods for a couple of days.

The motel staff there seems to look forward to Dean's flamboyant presence every year. This year they gave us Room 222 on the 2nd floor, and I had to wonder if it wasn't to make it easier for him to remember his room number.

One of Dean's hangouts, I'm sure, was the motel lobby where the desk clerks were a captive audience to his thrilling stories and joking comments. I was constantly checking with them to see if they'd seen someone in a cowboy hat, only to find that I'd just missed him. So off I'd head for the conference center welcome desk or the vendor exhibit area to ask the same question. Have you seen Dean? Everyone always seemed to know who he is.

I got a lot of walking exercise those two days! We only lost his cane once (it ended up being right in our room). According to him, he kept losing me though, and I always claimed to have lost him. It got to be rather comical.

[My fears of his getting lost were not unfounded. As we were getting back on the Interstate, leaving Kearney to go home, Dean kept insisting that we needed I-80 West, and after I kept on taking I-80 East, he finally admitted he was thinking we were in Omaha...I rest my case.]

On a serious side, the conference, attended by almost 300 people every year, half professionals and half brain injury survivors and their families, is a learning experience, as well as a place to connect with old friends.

Why do we go back every year? For me, I just want to help others understand what brain injury really looks like. And I bring my own personal illustration in the form of my husband. All brain injuries are different, however, so the professionals need to see as many of us as they can.

One of the presenters understood this when she said, "When you've seen one brain injury, you've seen one brain injury."

I'm so glad God never fails to see our individuality too. We are all unique and valuable in His eyes. The world would be a much better place if we could remember this.

A bowling fundraiser 3 years ago at the conference!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stunned on a Monday

Mondays are always busy, but yesterday's Monday really kept me hopping. It was the day before our monthly brain injury support group meeting, and I have the pleasure of making reminder phone calls to those who come to the group. So phone conversations were interspersed all day with housekeeping chores and family matters.

I was down to the last person to call though, so things were looking pretty bright for a relaxing evening at least. But then came the shock.

The spouse, a caregiver wife about my age, told me, as gently as she could, that her husband had passed away a week ago from a virus. I was stunned to hear of it. Just stunned. They had been coming to our meetings for about a year. We've lost several people over the years, but who would have thought it would be Fred? He seemed so healthy and vibrant, despite the cognitive and emotional challenges he'd faced since his brain injury. I just grieved so much for this wife who'd already been through so much.

We caregivers can't wait for our caregiving to end sometimes. But when you stop and think what that end will actually entail, it doesn't look so inviting after all. I complain about my hard life with Dean, but life without him seems pretty bleak too.

I, and other caregivers, not only look forward to the Resurrection Morning, when Christ comes to redeem us all. We, more than anyone, look forward to our new bodies AND our new brains in those bodies. It's hard to picture. But really, it's our only hope.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Phone Call

There was a voice message on my phone I finally saw and listened to yesterday. Dean had already given me the number to call someone back the day before, but I had no idea how much labor went into the process of getting that number.

The recorded message told it all. Dean was so slow in answering the phone that it went to voicemail and recorded their conversation. The poor phone operator was so patient with him. It took him forever to get the pen and paper to write down her number. And she had to repeat it numerous times for him to get it right. He kept reversing digits, reading it back to her wrong, and she had to correct him. It was almost comical--I kept holding back laughter while listening to it. Why she didn't just hang up and try to contact someone else, I'll never know.

It seems to me that God must have just as hard a time getting through to us sometimes. We drag our feet about answering His call, about getting the message, and even mess up getting it right. But He's a patient operator. He wants us to succeed, no matter how sin has disabled us. I hope I can be a better listener from here on out.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Strange Strangers

Dean and I have been church-hopping for the last three years. Not that we aren't sure of our beliefs, but I'm just not sure how Dean's going to behave in a church setting these days. He's not always appropriate at our house, so why would it be any different at God's house, right?

Fortunately, our city is large enough to support several Adventist churches, so we can find somewhere to worship on those weeks that Dean just insists that he has to have the fellowship of other believers. And I can't blame him for that. It's one of the main reasons for corporate worship, isn't it?

Yesterday we took the chance of staying for a meal at the end of the church service. A really risky environment. I made him promise to be a gentleman, and then we took the plunge to the church basement with many other visitors, mostly local college students. You could tell the meal was tailored for them--haystacks (or Adventist buffet-style tacos).

Naturally these young people were being reticent of being too friendly with the likes of the "big kid" at my side. Not that any were not polite, but it was obvious that Dean was not going to be their choice of table partner. They had their girlfriends and boyfriends to focus on.

There was one lady who sat close enough to us for conversation though. She looked young, but we found out she was in her thirties. She welcomed and encouraged Dean's conversation, and I could see him getting warmed up for some of his famous "stories". She hung on his words, and I was so impressed that she would engage him in the one activity that he craves so much--socializing during a meal.

How many times have I neglected to reach out to strangers--especially the "strange" ones? What would it have meant to someone had I ignored my shyness and just done something as simple as starting a conversation? For some, that's all it takes. With the Lord's help, I want to do better in this area.

The very ones who look least approachable may be the ones who need it the most. Those are the ones I want to connect with. Because those are the ones Jesus would have looked for. He was searching the crowd when He found Zacchaeus up in a tree. How hard have I been looking for someone to invite myself to be in their company?

Before his accident, Dean was the one who looked for someone he felt needed companionship. And now he's the one on the other end. I'm so glad he got noticed yesterday. Jamie (I try to remember names, since Dean can't), you were truly an angel in disguise for an old man yesterday. I wish I could give you a thousand hugs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Healing Thumbs

Dean's thumb has been a target of his for quite awhile now. At times, his nervous picking at this thumb with the fingers of that hand has led to open sores. Nobody, even Dean, pays much attention to this "thumb picking" until it gets to this stage. When Dean asks for the Bandaids, I know it's time to build his thumb fortress again to help minimize the damage and give the sores time to heal.

The day after his bath aide successfully built a mighty fortress on his thumb (he could hardly bend it, let alone pick at it), our granddaughter walked in with a similar injury from a paper cut. Unknowingly, her mom had fortified her thumb with a similar bandage.

They were quite a pair, both of them sporting white thumbs.

This thumb can be an example of how sin is in our life. We don't pay it much attention until it gets to the "open sore" stage. Then Jesus graciously covers us, ready to keep those nasty fingernails of temptation from penetrating His white robe of righteousness. If we'd only learn to keep this covering on all the time, the healing underneath would be complete.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Not-So-Super Bowl

This is the first time I have felt driven to write a blogpost right after writing another one on It's called "My Soapbox" there. But the topic is so pertinent and timely, I just can't help myself.

It pertains to the Superbowl game last night. Like everyone else, I get fired up about the game, but from a whole different perspective than most people. My readers here understand all too well the challenges of my life as a caregiver, so I don't have to describe to you what it's like to live with someone with a brain injury and its resulting dementia.

My problem with football is that we are being entertained by watching men, and unfortunately our youth, getting battered in ways that will affect them for the rest of their lives. The most insidious injury though to me is that of brain or head injury, concussions.

They used to call it "getting your bell rung". You can imagine how the sound of that makes me cringe, because it illustrates the lighthearted attitude of past years, before we knew much about the workings of the brain. I heard a TV commentator say recently that we have learned more about the brain in the last five years than we knew for centuries before that.

So the stark reality is that with football players retiring or leaving the game for various reasons, we have seen symptoms of a disorder that has been identified as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It has been undeniably linked with repeated concussions that some of these players sustain over their careers in the league. It was previously thought to occur only with professional boxers, but has now been linked with the sport of football as well.

Young people are particularly in danger, and that is the sad part about us dragging our feet about doing something about the problem. We are putting their delicate brains in jeopardy, and all for the sake of the game. I realize sports are good for kids. But there has to be safer methods to foster team spirit and boost self-esteem, without the competitiveness and injuries to their bodies that we are encouraging.

OK, I'll get off my second soapbox today. Read the book "The League of Denial" for more information!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Getting Over the Sleepover

Last night we kept our granddaughters for a "sleepover". It worked quite well until the sleep was over--about 3 a.m. Even though they obediently tried to go back to their makeshift bed of sofa cushions out in the living room and go back to sleep, it just didn't happen. They stayed in the living room, but it seems little sister was a jabbering fool, not allowing sleep to come for her five-year-old sister.

Grandpa couldn't wait to fix their Sunday morning pancakes though, so he went out at 4:30 to start their breakfast. I, of course, went out as needed for my mediation services. There were only a couple of outbursts (by Grandpa, of course), but none of us got any more sleep after that. (Good thing we had all retired shortly after nine the previous night.)

My daughter called to tell me she was coming to pick them up and offered to take Grandpa for an outing, just her and the girls, to give me a break this morning.

Just before they headed out the door, I mentioned that they hadn't had any sleep since 3 a.m. A temporary look of fear swept over her face, but she was locked in. So I have the house to myself. And she has, well, let's just say I hope she survives.

God gives mothers and grandmothers the patience of saints. Heaven knows we need it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Whose Child Is This?

The evidence is mounting that my granddaughter has dementia. It is evidently of a very early-onset variety, but she certainly mirrors her grandpa's symptoms, the more I'm around the two.

For instance, when my three-year-old granddaughter came in the house the other morning (my turn to babysit that day), she was toting a small pearl necklace with a cardboard toilet paper roll threaded on it. Beaming with pride at her own creation, she offered me her new customized jewelry, a string of pearls with a toilet paper roll dangling daintily in front.

I was only slightly saddened to discover that it was too small to fit around my neck, but she quickly thought that our little dog would undoubtedly love to wear it, so we had to try it on her. I must say it was a perfect fit, even though the string broke within an hour, and we had to retrieve all the scattered pearls and of course, the toilet paper roll before they got lost.

This incident involving the toilet paper roll reminded me of something Dean has been doing for awhile now. I have to bury or hide anything of a disposable nature like cardboard paper rolls or plastic bottles, because he wants to find a place for them somewhere in our house. Not quite the decorative effect I desire, and besides our storage space is pretty limited.

Then he gets in the mood to leave love notes for me all over the house. Very sweet, but somewhat a waste of good notepad paper. And this is something he's always telling the granddaughters not to do. They get in "scribbling moods" too.

I'm not getting too worried about who has dementia and who doesn't around here though. There are days when I'm forgetful, easily frustrated, and generally in a cranky senior mood, or maybe it's a toddler mood, come to think of it. I suppose we are all just human after all. And God loves us just the way we are, with all our quirky, juvenile behaviors. We're ALL God's children!

bought this mug for Dean awhile back and was surprised to find out how much he liked it!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sweet Respite

Yesterday was an unusual day. No Dean--he was at his day structure program. No babysitting for granddaughter. No pressing blogposts to write or phone calls to make. My housekeeping was up to snuff--no laundry or dishes to wash. The dog had even had a bath and the bird cage cleaned. And there was no shopping or errands to run.

I ended up taking a leisurely shower, watching a few Andy Griffith shows, and calling an old friend. After that I took a nap. Yes, I took a nap. Felt like I'd been on a short vacation.

I'm on a caregiver respite advisory board for southeast Nebraska, and have been "talking" about respite for months now. But yesterday I actually "felt" respite. This is what we're trying to give caregivers, isn't it?

Time to do nothing is really nice. But in most cases it's just respite to get away from direct caregiving to the care receiver. There is such a mountain of things that caregivers do that it's almost impossible to get away from them entirely.

I'm glad I got to experience true respite even ever-so-briefly yesterday. It reminded me of heaven. God can give us a form of rest while we're here on earth (the weekly Sabbath rest), but only when we get to heaven can we feel true rest from sin and cares of the world that we crave so much. That's why I look forward to the Second Coming and that glorious rest we'll enjoy with Him.

Jesus--our sweetest Respite Provider

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gnashing of Teeth

 My experience has brought a whole new meaning to the verse that says in the end times there shall be "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 24:51

Insomnia and teeth grinding...who would connect the two with stress. But I can't ignore them any longer. How do you avoid stress when it is under your nose 24 hours a day? Obviously the only thing I can change is my response to it.

But how does one change such an unconscious response as teeth grinding. Especially when it's happening during sleep. Maybe it's a good thing I'm having insomnia, or my mouth would be hurting even more often than it does!

The reason I think these symptoms are stress related is because they are so sporadic. I can go for a few days and not have my mouth hurt at all; then I have several days when I find myself slathering ora-gel and holding hot washcloths to my face all day for relief. I can also sleep almost nine hours one night and the next night only be able to squeeze out three or four.

There doesn't seem to be a pattern with these symptoms. Maybe because as much as I try to schedule and keep to a tight program around here, it just seems impossible to create a pattern for what goes on in my busy caregiving life. That in itself can be stressful.

Plus my to-do lists seem to have a life of their own. The responsibilities and cares of life just keep pouring in. For instance, about a week ago my microwave quit working. Can't blame the thing, it was probably over two decades old anyway. The light and alarm had stopped working a few years back. It was so old it didn't even have a turntable, but at least it heated up our food.

That wouldn't be such a tragedy to most folks. But most folks don't have a family member who forgets to turn the stove off 75% of the time. Having a microwave is the only way I feel comfortable leaving him by himself, so he doesn't have to use a stove.

After looking into many options, I just decided to wait until our social security checks came in and then buy the cheapest one I could find. In the meantime, my daughter and son-in-law brought one over from a neighbor of theirs, and it didn't cost us a thing!

Countless times, God has provided for us that way. It reminded me that trust in God is my greatest tool in fighting off stress. Only when I turn my burdens over to Him can I have peaceful, non-grinding sleep. He has everything under control.

the "new" microwave--compliments of God