Family, Hope, Uncategorized

A Beautiful Woman

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my dad’s chair next to my mom. I looked over at this woman who I love so much and saw that she was watching me intently.  I didn’t know why and I couldn’t ask her. It was one of her bad days and she was struggling with her speech right then. My mom has dementia and is most affected by this disease in her ability to communicate especially when she has a UTI, which she had again that day.

I looked at her, wasn’t sure what I saw in her eyes beyond pain, and without thinking said, “Mom, you are such a beautiful woman.” And my mom smiled a small smile as she wiped a tear away. And I sat there pondering how truly beautiful she is.

Moms graduation picture

My mom had a tough childhood. Raised by an alcoholic stepfather who could also be abusive, life wasn’t easy. She spent summers at her mom’s parents, helping on their farm. Those summers were the best part of her childhood, according to my dad. She had uncles and aunts not much older than she was and they were her best friends along with cousins near her age.

She has told so many stories about the farm, about her Uncle Charlie and Aunt Dorothy, her cousin, Sonny.  She was able to ride horses, something she loved at the farm.  Her nickname with her family came from a treasured horse, Toots. She helped with all the chores, butchering, haying, whatever needed to be done. She was loved and protected by her grandparents.

She grew up in a loud and boisterous extended family that was also very reserved with affection. My mom didn’t get hugged as a child. No one told her they loved her.  It wasn’t that she wasn’t loved, she was. It was just their way not to express their love in this way. I believe this was part of her nationality.

As I grew up, I witnessed my mom loving her relatives, not through hugs and words, but through actions. She regularly took aunts to their medical appointments and shopping. She talked to them on the phone multiple times a day. She took her own mom to medical appointments. Raising six kids, she still made time to help family. And my dad worked two jobs most of the time I was growing up so that she could stay home and help us and others.

Mom loves flowers and had a beautiful flower garden for many years until it became too hard for her to maintain. Years later, many of those flowers still come up each year and bloom each summer. She also loved to go to thrift sales. She outfitted us throughout our childhood and into our young adult years with finds from these sales. She would search all over to find a particular item we wanted but couldn’t afford brand new.  I remember my excitement when she found me the tennis shoes I had been asking for that were so popular when I was in high school. She has so many talents, sewing, crocheting, decorating, collecting and more. She has crocheted afghans for all of us and made tie blankets for every child, spouse, grandchild, grandchild’s spouse, and great grandchild and even great great grandchildren.

She is a wonderful and caring grandma. To save she loves babies is an understatement. She adores them all. We have watched her love on our kids and our grandkids. When I graduated from college as a single mom, and found a job two hours away but couldn’t find housing right away, she took care of my three kids for several weeks until an apartment opened up for us. The bus dropped the kids off and she had treat bags ready for them to snack on every day. She was always looking for ways to make her grandchildren feel special.

mom and dad aug 2016

Mom and Dad have a special relationship. As kids, we saw them hug and kiss daily. We saw Dad pull her onto his lap quite regularly. They rarely fought in front of us. As kids, though, I think we wanted some of those hugs too. I know I did. Rarely were we hugged. Rarely did we hear we were loved. We were loved and Mom showed it in many ways every single day; just not with hugs or words. But I still wanted the words and the hugs. The first time I remember Mom telling me she loved me; I was seventeen years old, had just been in an accident in a city five hours away and was at the hospital. I marveled for days that she had said those three words to me, “I love you.”

As my siblings and I grew to adulthood, by silent agreement, we started working on Mom. She didn’t hug us and tell us she loved us because she didn’t learn that herself as a child. She repeated the pattern she was taught. We wanted more. We began hugging her even when she pushed us away. We joked and just hugged her more until she was comfortable being hugged. We told her we loved her. I never ended a phone conversation with her without telling her I loved her. Eventually, she said it back.

For decades now, Mom has been the one to reach out and hug us first. She is the one who will say the words, “I love you” first. We have always seen the love for us in her eyes. Now we feel the love in her arms and through her words. She has always been a beautiful woman and nothing will ever change that, not old age nor dementia. Her beauty is heart deep, not just skin deep and the love I have for her isn’t more because she now tells me she loves me and gives great hugs. I do treasure those moments of affection though and they are outstanding memories for me of the great Beauty that God has blessed my life with. I love you Mom.

 

Hope, Uncategorized

What I would tell you

If I were suffering from dementia, here is what I think I would tell you…

Don’t ignore me. I see you. I may not always understand your words or remember who you are but I see you. I already feel marginalized by my disease. Don’t make me feel more so by ignoring me. Don’t talk to the person right next to me but act as if I’m not there. All it takes is to look me in the eyes and smile. Now I know you see me.

Don’t talk loud to me. I hear just fine. I just don’t always understand.

Be patient with me. When I can’t get my words out, let me try unless I have indicated that I want your help finding the missing word/s. Watch my face for cues. Am I frustrated and looking at you like I need help? Then help me. Otherwise, it helps me to find the words myself as much as I can.

If I have told you this story already, just listen again. I’m sorry I can’t remember.

If you need me to do something, tell me in one step instructions. I can’t remember multiple steps anymore.

When I walk, I shuffle. That is normal for me. Don’t hurry me unless there is a bear after me. I walk slow. Part of the disease and part of aging.

Sometimes I pick at things, especially cords. I don’t know why. I just do. Just let me pick unless I will hurt myself or someone else. I love to look at things. Just let me look.

I still love to listen to people and when feeling accepted and comfortable will talk as well. Ask me questions and I will try to answer you as best I can. But when I get tired, my brain struggles more and then I will need extra patience.

I am still the same person I always was. I still have family I love very much who love me. My memories are there. I know a lot of people. Sometimes, I just can’t bring their names out. It’s not that I have completely forgotten you. Don’t feel bad. You are in my heart even if I can’t remember you or your name right this moment. I still love!

man wearing blue jacket holding a brown stick towards the heart drawn on sand
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The more normal people treat me, the more normal I feel.

Thank you for hearing me.

Family, Hope, Uncategorized

My Grandpa

I never met my dad’s father. He died the year before I was born. I have seen pictures of him with all his children and my grandma, with just my grandma, with my dad and my older brother, and alone as a young person. In all the pictures of him, I don’t recall seeing any joy. In fact, in some, there seems to be a deep sadness in his eyes.

I wish so much that I had had an opportunity to meet him. I wish I had grown up loving him like I did my other grandparents. Cousins who are older than I am may have had experiences with Grandpa that would result in a completely different story than mine. I can only write about what I know and feel.

My grandpa suffered great sorrow in his life. I was not the first generation in our family to go through the pain of divorce. His divorce was very hard on him and his family from what I’ve been told. But I wonder if harder still was what we learned after my Grandma died and we found a letter he wrote to her.

My grandpa was married three times. His first wife died in childbirth when he was only 18 years old. She delivered a son before she died, a son he didn’t know how to raise alone. Back then, somewhere around 1900, he made the hard decision to leave his son with his wife’s family in South Dakota and he returned to Wisconsin. He never saw his son again. I’m thinking there are many in my family who don’t know about this wife or son because it wasn’t talked about.

He married again and had four daughters and lost an infant son. He and his second wife eventually divorced with him retaining custody of his daughters. Years later he married my grandma who was fifteen years younger than he was. They had eight daughters and five sons. Three sons died in infancy. The fourth, Jerry, died when he was six years old. My dad was the only son from both marriages to survive to adulthood. Oddly enough, only males died. All female babies survived.

I didn’t know about Grandpa’s first wife until after my grandma died. Grandma had lived in an apartment in our house and when we cleaned it out, we found a letter that Grandpa had written to her when she and Jerry were staying in the hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, where Jerry died. The letter was found probably 45 years or more after it was written.

What I knew of Grandpa to that point was what my dad had shared through the years. Dad was special to his dad, being the only surviving son he knew. Grandpa called him his little prince and Dad sat next to him at meals. Grandpa was a tough man. He worked as a carpenter both in Wisconsin and in South Dakota. He also traveled the country buying fur. Dad’s large family grew up poor.

I’ve been told that Grandpa had a temper and sometimes it got out of control. He also sometimes drank more than he should have. My Grandma’s mom told my Dad that Grandpa was a hard worker and a good provider. Opinions vary within my relation on his strengths and weaknesses. What I’ve written so far is the extent of what I remember knowing about Grandpa until the letter was found.

I only read the letter once and I have no idea where it is today or if it even still exists. But I can clearly remember the pain in the words on that piece of paper. Grandma had taken Jerry to the hospital on Madison, hours away from family to be treated for an incurable brain tumor. (From a picture I have seen of Jerry, he was a beautiful towheaded little boy.)

In the tearstained letter Grandpa wrote to Grandma, Grandpa poured out his grief at losing yet another son. The torment of his guilt that Jerry was dying and it was his fault was in every word. He confessed that if he hadn’t deserted his first son, God wouldn’t be punishing him by taking the rest of his sons. What a burden to carry! He was only a child himself when his first son was born. What did he know? So sad.

He could have gone back and found him later, but I suspect he was too ravaged with guilt to do so. Instead it ate at him. And each son he lost was further ravaging of his aching heart. No wonder he turned to alcohol to numb the pain sometimes. No wonder his pain came out in anger sometimes. I’m not excusing his behavior at all but a burden of guilt like he carried can cause things to happen that shouldn’t.

I grew up wishing I had known Grandpa. There was always someone missing in my life as a child. I loved my other grandparents and I wanted to love him as well. It’s hard to love a face in a picture when that’s all you have. When I read that letter, love was born for the grandpa I met through his words. I hurt for his hurt. I cried reading the letter of the man who fathered my father.

I wish I could tell him that God didn’t take his boys. God wasn’t punishing him. Life happens. We make mistakes. There are consequences to our behavior and choices, but God would not punish anyone in such a devastating way. I wish Grandpa had known the God I know; my God is merciful and extends grace to anyone who confesses their sins, comforts anyone who lays down their pain to Him.

Romans 8:1 tells us there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That means we stand guiltless once we accept Christ as our Savior, no matter what we have done in our past. We don’t need to carry that burden of guilt because He has removed it. We can let it go. How I wish Grandpa had known that. Maybe sometime between writing that letter and his death twenty some years later, Grandpa learned about the grace of our loving God. I sure hope so. I hope he had a time of peace on earth and eternity in heaven.

Thinking about Grandpa carrying that guilt for so long; well, that’s a lesson to me, to let go of guilt I have carried for years for different mistakes I have made in my life. Those mistakes, sins, were covered by Jesus on the cross. That’s all I need to know. If you are still carrying guilt for something you have done in the past that you have asked forgiveness for, please let it go. Don’t let it steal your joy.

Grandpa, I didn’t get to tell you in life that I loved you so I’m telling you now. I love you.

Hope, Uncategorized

The Pantry

pantry 2

This past week I’ve been working on cleaning and organizing my pantry.  My pantry isn’t a cupboard in my kitchen, it’s a little room attached to it, about 5′ x 8′ or so. My husband has been getting very frustrated with all the junk crammed in it, stuff falling off the shelves every time he reaches for something in it. And I couldn’t find what I needed when I needed it.

There are no doors in my pantry. Just curtains to hide the packed and messy shelves. My pantry is a direct reflection of my life. Lots of junk hiding behind flimsy curtains, falling out all over. The pantry contains small appliances, bakeware I never use, but might someday, and lots of food. Most of the food is food I will never eat but have bought because of the latest health craze that I plan to get on but never do, like dried seaweed that is a “power food”. I detest fish. Why would I actually eat something that smells and tastes like fish? So, it sits on the shelf, adding clutter.

Symptoms. My pantry is a symptom of my bigger problems. Trying to find an easy solution to bad health. More, more, more, needing more to fill that hole in me. Messy and chaotic, the state of my anxious mind.

So, I spent a week cleaning, throwing, washing, sorting, and contemplating my life. When I got done with my work, I had an amazingly clean, well organized pantry with products I will actually use and enjoy. Most of the weird health kick products are gone because, quite honestly, most were expired anyway. Our chickens ate some strange food this past week.

I put what I kept in labeled glass canning jars so I can see what is there and use it. I removed bakeware I won’t use as well as some small appliances. I moved what I need from the high top shelf to the lower shelves to be more accessible. I moved appliances I use but not all the time off the counter to give myself work room. And I permanently removed the curtains.

Open shelves. Open life. Organized shelves. Well, somewhat organized life. We can’t have everything. Chaos turned into peace is how I feel when I enter my pantry now. It’s a good start. Stillness. Simplify. My surroundings as well as my life. I’ve always known chaos. Most of it my own fault. Now to concentrate instead on simplicity and stillness because they calm my racing heart and change my focus to what is important, my faith, family and writing, instead of all that is cramming up my life.

While cleaning, I lived my favorite verse, Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth, Psalm 46:10. Being still is what I was while cleaning. Just being still, not in body, but in mind. No worries. No wants. Just being still with the Lord who loves me. Praising Him and thanking Him for all He has blessed me with and blessed our world with. That’s where my peace comes from. That’s what stills my anxious heart. And He is what fills that hole in me.

Who knew cleaning out a pantry could have such a profound effect on an anxious heart?

 

Uncategorized

Warrior Queen

Warrior: an experienced fighter, engages in warfare, shows great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness.

Queen: Of a particular activity, it means she is very good at it, preeminent.

I saw the following on facebook, not sure where, or who posted it so I can’t give credit to anyone, but I loved this quote:

The devil whispered in my ear, “you’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.” Today I whispered in the devil’s ear, “I am a child of God, a woman of faith, a warrior of Christ. I AM THE STORM.”

This quote speaks to me, it reminds me that in Christ, I am a warrior. I don’t have to be afraid of any storms. I can engage in warfare with the devil because Christ lives in me. My family is in a storm right now. But we are warriors. We fight fiercely with vigor and courage. We are NOT giving up.

We all fight so many battles in our daily life. We fight battles with our health, our relationships, our finances, and our emotional and spiritual lives. Giving in to worry is easy to do. I know because I do it all the time. Look at a battle and say, “Oh no, not again. I am powerless to fight another battle. I am worn out.” That is my temptation, give in and go under because, face it, life is hard.

We get sick. We are rejected, abused, betrayed, overworked and underappreciated. The list of bad things that can happen is about as long as there are people.

When we are given the worst diagnosis, we fight our battle in our body and in our mind. Our physical strength is sapped by our disease. Our mind is overwhelmed with fear and sorrow. That is exactly when we want to put on our spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6:13-18:

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

pexels-photo-226746.jpegBelt of Truth: God’s truth. The truth found in the Word of God, the Bible. The truth, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you are a child of God. You get your identity from Him. As a daughter of the King, satan cannot defeat you if you live in the truth of who you are and who God is. Lysa Terkeurst said the following: “God is good, God is good to me, God is good at being God.” That is our truth.

Breastplate of Righteousness: Right living, being grown into Christ-likeness.

Shoes of the gospel of peace: The good news of Christ’s gospel. Be ready to share it and stand firm in it.

Shield of Faith: Your shield protects you from the arrows of lies being shot at you from the devil. Your faith in the one true God, your belief that He loves you, all protect you. With faith, the lies fizzle out.

Helmet of Salvation: We have to put on our helmet of salvation. Knowing we belong to the Lord, knowing we have Him inside us, knowing he will never leave us, that is where we will get our strength from. Knowing we are His protects our thoughts from the lies. The helmet of salvation guards our minds.

Sword of the Spirit: the Bible is our offensive weapon. With the Word of God, we defeat satan and his lies. Satan cannot stay where the Word of God is being spoken. Evil cannot stay where GOOD abounds. Shout Scripture as your battle cry. Pray verses over your fear and pain. Pray in the Spirit, because He prays in ways we can’t even imagine. Romans 8:26 says: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

little-girls-walking-summer-outdoors-pretty.jpgMy sister and I have given each other nicknames. She is the Warrior Queen and I am the Warrior Sister. My sister has fought so many battles with her health that she is really good at fighting. She exhibits a WARRIOR attitude even when not feeling good. She stays positive and she puts on her armor and fights. I fight my battles in my mind. PTSD, depression, anxiety, they are my enemies. I stand in my armor, with my God, fighting those battles.

Put on your armor and fight your battle. Be a warrior. Fight with vigor, strength, and courage because you don’t fight alone. The Triune God: Father God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all fight with you and for you. Have faith knowing your truth is that no matter how your battle turns out, you will be with Jesus, either here on this earth or in heaven. Either way, as Paul said, you win. Fight your battle knowing that Jesus won the war. You are His prize and He covets you. Fight, Warrior Queen.

Uncategorized

Seeing and Ripples

Do you ever despair at the events in the world we live in? Do you wonder where kindness and love have gone? I don’t watch the nightly news anymore. The negativity and hopelessness portrayed daily just increases my anxiety and depression.

But in the last few weeks, I have had my eyes opened to what I can do to better the world I am a part of. I can’t make the entire world better. But I can help improve the world I touch.

Improvement comes by seeing people again. We rush in our busy lives past hurting people desperate for someone to see them, to notice their pain, to acknowledge their existence. We might say a quick prayer as we rush by, and that’s good, but we keep going and move on to the next busy thing on our list.

pexels-photo-268283.jpeg

Recently, I had a conversation with my sister who is gifted at seeing people. She was in the hospital after a tremendously difficult and painful surgery, barely able to walk due to weakness and pain. I asked her how the staff was treating her. She responded in her fragile voice that she felt bad for the nurses. The hospital was short staffed, and they were having to work double shifts. She could see their frustration and exhaustion on their faces and in their voices. While they helped her, she was trying to bring some joy to their lives by how she treated them. She was kind, made jokes so they could at least smile, and thanked them for their help. And she did it consistently for her week’s stay.

I am sure she left that hospital ward with nurses appreciating her as a patient and a person. She brought some sunshine into a hurting place.

I used to be like my sister. I used to see people and go out of my way to help them have a better day in some way. Life got in the way, as it does when we get too busy and too stressed, when we don’t intentionally take the time to see. I rush from place to place. It’s not that I live in my own world all the time. I help family. I help friends. I help at church. But in my busyness, and in my stress, I don’t see the pain in people’s faces anymore. I’m so focused on my next thing and on my own pain and stress that I’m missing life around me.

I read recently in a book about seeing people. And shortly after that, I listened to my sister talk about the nurses. I started taking stock of how I had seen people in the past. I used to send cards almost weekly to different people who were hurting in some way. I used to take a meal to someone who needed one. I used to call and encourage people who needed encouragement.

Seeing people helped me and it helped them. Somewhere along the way, I lost that seeing and the acting out of the seeing.

I can’t solve everyone’s problems. I probably can’t solve anyone’s problem, really. I can’t take away a friend’s cancer. I can’t bring back a lost loved one. I can’t make a hurting child’s world perfect. I can’t undo a car accident or the injuries that came from it. I can’t undo a school shooting.

I can do something for each of these though. I can reach out. I can listen. I can hear and see their pain. I can acknowledge that life isn’t good for them right now. I can let them know they don’t have to go through this trial alone. It might be a simple card from a stranger. Or a phone call to a friend. Or a financial gift to help with a burial. Even a simple smile, eye contact, and “thank you” can go a long way toward improving someone’s day.  I can offer hope in a hurting world. I can offer a bit of myself by seeing pain in someone else’s eyes and choosing to offer comfort instead of ignoring it.

That is how we can all improve the part of the world that we touch. We can show our love to the hurting and to the unseen in the city we live in. Face it, every single one of us has pain we are living with. Every single one of us could use hope. The cashier at Wal-Mart, the person next to you on the bus, the student who sits by you in class, we all can touch someone in our world for good.

Look around. Can you see at least one person who is not smiling, who has lost hope, who is obviously hurting, and can you brighten their day today? And can you see someone tomorrow and brighten their day? Be a ray of sunshine in a very dark world. Be the good. It will help you and it will help them and it will help your part of the world. Ripples in the tide start with one rock. Be the rock. Throw yourself into life by seeing people if you are not already doing so. I am going to.

Family

Sandwiched

Mom and Dad

Sandwich Generation.

What is the sandwich generation? I have heard it explained like this: someone helping both their parents and their children/grandchildren. I am in the sandwich generation. On Monday and Tuesday mornings this week, I helped care for my twin infant grandsons and their three-year old sister. Wednesday evening, I took care of another granddaughter and made sure her siblings got to church. I worked my job. Then on Saturday, I headed two hours away to spend five days helping my parents who are 84 and 83 years old.

On the one hand, deep joy taking care of babies and toddlers in their new life phase. On the other hand, deep sadness going with my parents to the funeral home and Elder Law attorney to help plan their funerals and find ways to protect enough assets that both aren’t stripped of all assets they will need for miscellaneous things like hearing aids and dentures by a system set in place to help care for them should they need it.

I am so thankful I could spend those days helping my parents figure out some things for their future care. But it came with an emotional price tag. Watching my dad’s lower lip quiver in the discussion with the attorney, watching my mom try to decide whether to be cremated or buried, so painful for me. I haven’t slept well in days thinking over all we discussed and all these two people had to say and decisions they have to make.

To hear my mom say she wants to die in her home when we know that if my dad goes first, she is not safe alone in her home, breaks my heart. To know my dad wants to die in the home he was raised in but is willing to leave it so Mom is better able to move about, again, heart breaking. Knowing they can’t afford to hire full time care long-term in the future and we all have jobs we need right now so can’t give the care they need. So hard. My dad worked two to three jobs at a time much of the time I was growing up and until his retirement. Life sucks up that saved money so fast even when you are careful as he is.

At the funeral home, I looked at these two people I love so much, and I remembered them as young people having children, raising us all, and now looking at the end of their lives. How does that happen? One minute, you are raising children, the next, you are looking death in the face as a senior citizen while your senior citizen children are trying to help you navigate a painful path with as much dignity as possible.

My parents have done so well in their senior years. They don’t complain. They don’t moan about their lost youth. They live the life they have in the moment. They give us joy, we give them joy.

I think about my own life. Our children are raised. We have 12 grandchildren. Someday, not that far down the road, we are going to have to downsize, sell our home where every access point has stairs and not all doorways will allow a walker through comfortably, and move to a more accessible apartment. Helping my parents, I am learning about decisions I can make now that will make our lives somewhat easier then. I asked my mom what she would have done differently at my age to help her at her age. She said she would have moved more. She meant taken more walks, making sure her body was strong, that kind of thing. She struggles to walk at all now. I can see her point. I am exercising more, heeding her advice. My daughter has asked me several times if I am writing all this stuff down. I need to do that so I remember there is a reason for each change; making lives easier being number one.

In the meantime, I will enjoy those babies and grandchildren. I will help our children where I can. And I will help my parents where I can. I will take each day I have with all of them as the gift it is, treasuring the moments we have together, whether joyful or painful. I will plan for the future but live in the present. I will give love to the fullest degree I can. That’s all I can do. It will be enough. And someday, when I enter the presence of my Savior, I will embrace Him and family who arrived before me. Life will have been worth it, all of it.