Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grieving My Mother While She's Still Here

I have spent many years wanting to write about my journey with my mother's Alzheimer's disease, but afraid to make it public. This has been, first and foremost, my mother's journey, and I never wanted to say anything that might betray her privacy. How do I write about my hurts and frustrations, knowing she could still read it? How could I share with my friends my pain, knowing that many of my friends were her friends as well? What if she didn't want people to know the details? How could I be the one to tell when she is the one effected most?

Yesterday Mom moved out of the home she built with my dad almost 40 years ago and into a memory care unit where she will live out her remaining days. She will never read these public words because she can no longer recognize letters, and she cannot understand many words or comprehend thoughts. She hasn't known my name for a long time. She doesn't know that I am her daughter, she does not know how many children I have or where I live. She knows my face and she knows she loves me, and at this stage, that is enough.

Mom still doesn't know that she moved. We were instructed not to tell her, and she may never actually realize that she has left her home. I have watched this slow decline in mental ability over the past 14 years, and I am still amazed that she no longer knows the home she has lived in for so long.

I have decided to start writing again. Honestly, I have been writing this whole time, but leaving heartache and tears in the drafts folder, anxiously hitting "save" after pouring my pain into words and hoping I don't accidentally hit "publish" instead.

This is my mother's journey, but it affects us all.

I was out with some friends today, pushing myself to stay busy so that the grief doesn't overwhelm. My friends, being caring souls, asked some questions that made my cry. "Would you say this is like a death? Are you grieving this like she died?"

Honestly, it is in a way. These last 14 years have been a slow, painful grieving of her life as pieces of who she is gradually ebb away. I went through a period of grieving about four years ago, and I described it as grieving her passing. I know that sounds morbid and horrible to someone who has never experienced a disease like this, but my mother is gone. The woman who raised me, the one with the quick wit and sharp intellect, who still holds the family record for skipping rocks across water (eleven skips, if you need to know) is gone. And we have grieved each piece as it goes, some immediately and some as we realize it months later.

I read something on social media a while back that said, "there was a time that your parents held you on their hip, set you down, and never picked you back up again." None if us really know when that was, it's a occasion that goes unmarked and unnoticed till years later when you are left with a memory of time past and a curiosity as to when it ended. When was the last time she called me by name? When was the last time I talked with her on the phone? When was the last time she spoke a full sentence that made sense?

Monday night we had a family dinner, and I brought along my sister-in-law (and incredibly gifted photographer) to capture this last dinner. It was the last time we all gathered at our family home, the only family home my brother and I have known. I teared up as I realized all these lasts were happening and I was fully aware. The last time I hugged my mother goodbye in the front foyer. The last time we walked in the backyard, watching the kids climb the fruit trees. The last time I saw her sitting in her familiar chair in the family room, which has been her spot for as long as I can remember. The last time she waved goodbye from the driveway.

Tears.

The dinner was wonderful. I had prayed for a long time that she would be in a good frame of mind, and she was incredibly joyful and cheery. She knew she loved us, and she showed us her love with bright smiles and cheerful words that didn't make any verbal sense but spoke clearly with her tone and the light in her eyes.

It was a perfect last.

I have spent a good deal of time in the last couple of days crying. I am mourning the loss of my mother. The woman she was is gone, but her body was still a familiar presence in her home and now we are mourning that part of her life as well. They say that Alzheimer's is called "the long goodbye", and I could not agree more. It really is a long, long process of slowly losing someone you love, and I would not wish it on anyone.


I love you, mom.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

We All Have Different Fantasies

For many years, I was a self-proclaimed Football Widow.

My husband has been a die-hard football fan since childhood. He was a Seahawks season-ticket holder for ten years or so, and even asked my dad for my hand in marriage at a Seahawks game. His family gave up the season tickets when the Hawks moved into their new stadium and prices went up accordingly, but he has been a Hawks fan for life.

My darling husband was, at one point, in four Fantasy Football leagues. If you are not familiar with Fantasy Football, it's an online game where you and some of your football-loving friends pick your own teams of real NFL players to make up an imaginary team, and play your imaginary team against other imaginary teams throughout the season, hoping that your best players don't get busted for illegal drugs, or deflating footballs, or child abuse. It's like Dungeons and Dragons where everything can end badly at any time and it's not in your control.  OK, I've never actually played Dungeons and Dragons, so I have no idea what the game consists of, so that example might not make any sense at all.

I mocked my husband relentlessly for this hypothetical game that he played with not one but four groups of friends who all had their own various fictional teams. This means my husband had four imaginary teams himself, each consisting of different players, and he would somehow remember not only who was on each team, but who was out for injuries and who was out for steroid use and so on. My brain is muddled by thoughts of which of the kids need new shoes and who was given the red marker last in order to know who to blame for the red marks on the carpet, so all this extra info was completely lost on me. Hubby would want to watch many of the week's football games as possible in order to see how his players were doing, since how they did in real life effected their scores in the imaginary-pretend-fantasy world. It was frustrating and stupid and annoying and I just wanted to have a life and not be tied to football scores each week. Was that too much to ask?

My brother took pity on me and invited me to join his fantasy football league of people who didn't know much about football and just played for funsies. I was a little unsure, as my football knowledge was limited to whatever slipped through my thoughts as I tuned out whatever my husband was telling me. "I have to remember to go get bread tomorrow, and how much grocery money do I have left this month? Oh, I don't think I've said anything in a while, better nod in agreement, 'Mmmmhmmm.' How many pairs of jeans do the kids each have stocked up for fall? 'Oh, totally.' Wait, what did I just agree with? Dang, better pay attention and see if I can figure out what he is saying. Oh, that Roethlesberger guy is still a total douche-canoe. I didn't miss anything new. Where IS that smell coming from?"

However, I was tempted by the promise that I could attend the draft without children in tow, and there would be smoked chicken and brisket. I can be swayed easily by smoked brisket and time with adult conversation and not wiping butts. I mean, I don't wipe anyone's butt but my own nowadays, but this was a few years ago.

I wasn't expecting it, but I found my tribe.

I showed up to the first draft and was informed that the "GB Packers" stood for Great Britain, and the "Cle Browns" were from Cle Elum. There were no bonus points for knowledge. We all just had fun, no one cared if you made a stupid mistake, and it was awesome. Oh, and the food was fantastic.

I snacked on brisket and chose my players based on uniform colors and how awesome their hair was, and I won the Super Bowl my first year. I was hooked. Then, the Seahawks started playing well, and football became a lot more interesting.

Now, I have been a Hawks fan forever, I just haven't always been a football fan. My first crush as a kid was none other than the amazingly beautiful Steve Largent, and I had the poster on my wall to prove it. I really didn't understand the game, though, and I think that makes it challenging to enjoy a sport when you have no idea what is going on half the time.

You know, like life. And why adulting is so hard.

Anywhoo.  Here I am, a few years down the road, and I'm already planning my fantasy draft at the end of August.  However, my planning is limited to pinning goal-post decorations on Pinterest and calculating if the tootsie-pop foul flags would actually cause injury if we threw them at each other when someone takes the player you wanted next. Who is playing this sport this year? I have no idea. OOH! Taco dip shaped like a football field? I'm IN!

Basically, the tables have turned. My darling husband is now completely annoyed by ME each and every football season.

Hubby: "Who is your backup running back?"
Me: "Huh? I don't remember. He has brown wavy hair and looks scary."
Hubby: "..."
me: *blinks innocently*
Hubby: "I just. I got nothing."

Hubby: "Do you have any Cardinals going this week?'
Me: "I dunno, why?"
Hubby: "Because they are playing tonight."
Me: "What? Why are they playing? It's not even the weekend!"
Hubby: "BECAUSE THE NFL PLAYS GAMES EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT. YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW. AND YOU HAVE THEIR RUNNING BACK."
Me: "Oh, today is Thursday? Whoops. Who is the running back? Wait, I won't remember names anyway, what does his hair look like?"
Hubby: "I hope you lose."

Hubby: "Did you start Julio Jones?"
Me: "No, I decided to start that other guy instead. I had a good feeling about, what's his name? Lemme look... OH! Larry Fitzgerald."
Hubby: "WHAT? He hasn't scored a touchdown in four weeks!!"
Me: "Yeah, but his hair looks fantastic."
Hubby: "You don't get to have good feelings when you have no idea what you are doing!! Oh my gosh, you are insane!"
--Later that week--
Hubby: "So you lost this week?"
Me: "No, I won. Fitzgerald scored two touchdowns and that other guy didn't get anything. I told you I had a good feeling!"
Hubby: "... I hate you."

Really, he loves me. And he just might be filled with a teensy bit of jealousy that I keep winning. I'm sure that's it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Catching Up Like Old Friends Where Only One Person Talks The Whole Time

It's time to start writing again.

I actually do write often, but most of what I write stays in the drafts folder and never gets published. Stuff about dealing with my mom as her Alzheimer's progresses isn't for the public eye, at least not yet.  Most of my funny stuff ends up on facebook. So here I am, nothing to put on my blog, and needing to breathe life into this poor, neglected dot on the internet.

Basically, I'm broke and I need to bring in some money. Really, I want a job where I can drink wine while working and those jobs are apparently very limited. I don't have the skills to be a wine tester (unless some company needs a tester for cheap wine or boxed wine or some other low-brow vintage) (think of it, "I think this wine has a slightly winey taste with a hint of, what is that? Ah, grapes.") and apparently my particular skill set does not mix with a nice (or cheap) glass of Moscato while maintaining a high level of quality work.  This blog has never really been considered a "high level of quality work" with all its poop stories and me being peed on in public places, so we're good.

Here we are. Let me catch you up, since I've been neglecting our relationship. This summer, my darling husband and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage. A great majority of that has been wedded bliss, but not all. Thankfully, our relationship has hovered more in the realm of "there's no one else I'd rather annoy for the rest of my life than you," and less in the category of "Honey, does this rag smell like chloroform?" I'm taking that as a win.

The kids' pictures on the sidebar are terribly out of date. I am the mother of a 12 year old, twin nine year olds, and a seven year old. This fall we will enter the realm of homeschooling all four children. We have homeschooled for the last two years, but never all of them at once. This is why I need wine while working. I had been so looking forward to the day the youngest went to kindergarten and I could have time to myself, but the year the youngest went to kinder I started homeschooling two others so I have never had that break I so desperately wanted. Well, that's not entirely true. The kids went to VBS last summer and I had a week where they were gone for 30 hours and let me tell you, I got more done that week than I have in the year since. VBS is coming again in 18 days. I am planning everything that week. Maybe I will come up with a new blog design.  I will accomplish it all. I will pray no one pukes.

Our family has expanded to include three cats and a dog, which are mildly entertaining but more in the annoying way where people want to show you eight hours of home video of their baby trying to crawl and it just isn't nearly as fun for everyone else. We have two kittens, and they are hysterical. Google "funny kitten videos" and what is there is pretty much what they do, with their little kitten paws in the air in surprise and all their kitten chasing and pouncing. Like the kid thing, they are so much cuter because they are ours, but they are pretty much just kittens to everyone else. I'll attach a five hour video of them sleeping. Watch it all. It's good.

Speaking of videos, did you know there were videos on youtube for you to play for your cats to watch? I had no idea, but then I stumbled across one one day and the kittens were riveted. I wasn't sure if that much screen time was good for their growing brains, but then I allowed it because I've had four kids so now I no longer care.

So, what's new with you guys? Is anyone still there?





Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anti-Diarrhea Medicine and Crying on the Floor. Again.

I never know when it will hit me, but it often does when life is busy and I am so focused on myself that I can't see past my own to-do list. December is especially hard that way, with its holidays and events and activities. Today, it happened again.

I was cleaning out the medicine cabinet, organizing the bins that have been mixed together over time so that instead of adult medicine, kids' medicine, first aid, etc., we had a jumbled mess of everything strewn all over. I began the process of checking expiration dates and tossing out expired allergy pills and grumbling over the fact that I somehow have three refills of Drew's asthma inhaler on hand and they just don't fit in the bin right and this is a mess and we have too much stuff.

I tossed out two packages of anti-diarrhea medicines. Add to that more kids' allergy medicines. I notice that the current box of allergy meds will expire in two months, so I make a mental note to buy another when I see a good sale. You know we always have to have that stuff on hand, just in case we need it, even though it rarely gets used.

I glanced at the growing pile in the garbage can, and suddenly faces started to fill my mind. Faces of sweet babies in Kenya, children whose parents can't afford life-saving medicines like I have the ability to just throw away. Faces of children who live in a place where the common cold can kill and asthma goes untreated.

And I started to cry.

I strongly believe that an abundance of wealth like we have here in the United States is not, in fact, the definition of a blessing. Yes, we are very blessed in that we have access to these drugs that can save our children's lives, but I think that we have so much that it becomes really easy to forget where it all comes from. It's not from my husband's paycheck, although he works very hard to support our family. It's not from the store, although we are blessed that we can just run to town and stock up on stuff just in case of a bee sting. But truly, it all comes from God. All of it. Every day. The fact that it is so easy for us to acquire makes us forget that all of our success is from God, not man.

Not a single one of my children would be alive today without our access to modern medicine. I don't take that blessing lightly, but I don't want to rely on modern medicine so much that I forget that it truly is a blessing from God.

And here I am, in my small-ish house that I complain about its size because it's filled with our possessions so tightly that we don't have places to put it all, and I whine and I grumble and I complain about this or that and I forget that all that I have is from God. I get so focused on my to-do list that mostly involves dealing with our over-abundance of stuff. Laundry, dishes, bathrooms, picking up papers and schoolwork and kids toys and dog hair and cat hair because we can afford to feed animals just to keep them around for fun and darn it, another lego on the floor!

I grumble and I grumble and I grumble and I forget to have joy and I forget to be thankful. I forget that I don't need all this stuff. I forget that most of the world doesn't have what we have. And suddenly, as I throw out another bottle of children's fever reducer, I cry on the floor and ask God to forgive me for being so selfish and materialistic and self-centered. I truly am thankful that I have the ability to have a fully stocked medicine cabinet on hand. I just wish I could remember to be thankful constantly.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Love Remembers

Well hello, old friend.  I've missed you.

It's interesting how life changes over time.  Stories that I want to tell about the children become abandoned in the drafts folder, as the kids are old enough now to have a choice in what gets shared publicly.  Things that can be shared get quickly forgotten as the pace of life moves so quickly at times that once bedtime comes, once all the children are sweetly and silently sleeping and the house is still intact, once the feet are propped up on the couch with the laptop in the lap, all the memories of the day are gone.  "What was that earlier that I wanted to write about?" I wonder to myself more often than not.  Sometimes I remember, and often times I don't.  Well intentioned plans to write things down as they happen are displayed by the large number of blank journals with fancy pens, covered in dust.

Day after day until the days become years.  And it all goes by so fast, memories lost in a blur of good intentions and blank journal pages.

I've never written about this part of my life before, as privacy and respect are very important to me.  I have permission to share with you today though.

My mother has Alzheimer's disease.

Many know this, she is not secretive about it.  However, there is a difference between talking to those closest to you about things such as this, and putting out there to all.

She was diagnosed ten or twelve years ago, after years of being told she had an amnesia disorder.  She is doing remarkably well, considering how long it has been.  But the decline is unavoidable.  Alzheimer's leaves no survivors.

As a teen, I watched my mother lovingly care for my grandpa after he was diagnosed with the same disease.  I watched him slowly slip away, pieces of him disappearing long before his body eventually failed.  They say that Alzheimer's is known as "the long goodbye," and the truth in that statement is something you never fully understand till you have lived it.  At the age of twelve, I remember visiting my grandpa in the group home where he lived, and he often thought I was his wife.  Grandma had died a few years earlier, but he would sit at the kitchen table, holding my hand, and patting it as he told me he loved me.  At the time, I was slightly creeped out ("he's not going to try to kiss me, is he?!?") but I obliged, knowing it would make him happy, and it did.

Now, I'm the daughter, watching my own parent go down the same path.  And there is a 50% chance that my own children will walk that path with me.  Genetics are a beast sometimes.

Our family is participating in the Walk To End Alzheimer's in September in Everett, WA.  I want to raise money to find a cure.  I never want to watch my own memories slip away, clouded behind a fog that can't be navigated.  I don't want my children to know about their younger years by only what makes it into the dusty journal or from a blog.  I want to be there to tell them, and I want to remember.

Will you join us?  Please consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association or joining our team.  Thanks.

Click here to go to the Walk To End Alzheimer's page, or copy and paste this: http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/WA-WesternandCentralWashingtonState?px=9386064&pg=personal&fr_id=5781

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Life or His Life?

(This post was originally published at whatislovely.com so I am moving it here. It's been a while since I blogged, so I'll have it here in case you wanna catch up on who I am now. Or, who I was when I wrote this.)

 Hi.

 Nice to meet ya. My name is Tiff, and I am so honored to be a part of this amazing group of women who have become my family. They are the sweetest, kindest, most loving and Godly women out there. And for some reason, they are allowing me to be a part of this, even though I tend to blog about poop.

 I had four kids in four and a half years. Potty training twin boys (and another boy who was born just two years later) involves a whole lot of bloggable moments about pee and poop. If I had a nickel for every time I have been peed on in a public bathroom, well, I would still only have less than a dollar, but at least I would have something to show for it, rather than just clothes that were wet with pee. 

Anywhoo. I am married to my wonderful husband Marty, and I stay home with the kiddos, mostly. Except for when I'm working as a wedding photographer. And except when I babysit extra kids, because really, six isn't much more crazy or loud than four. Oh, and when I'm working for an IT company doing administrative stuff. Really, I guess I'm a work at home mom. The kids are all potty trained now, so have no fear, there will be very few blog posts about children's bodily functions. It's no longer funny that I have to remind the boys "you may pee on a tree, but you may not try to poop on it. Now put your pants back on and come inside." I am so thankful we live in the country.

 I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where everything is green year round and umbrellas are for tourists. I love it here, we are in the middle of farm country, just a few miles from the bay and a couple hours from the mountains. You really can't beat that. I love my home, and I love my life, but a big part of my heart is in the beautiful continent of Africa. I went to Kenya and Tanzania two years ago on my first mission trip ever, and I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, and their kind hearts and open smiles. I fell in love with the children, with their pure joy and their laughter that doesn't stop. I fell in love with the red dirt and the mud huts and the slums and the garbage and the filth and the pure faith that shines through it all. I fell in love, and I can't wait to go back.

 Thankfully, Yah saw fit for me to go back, and I leave soon to return to my beloved Kenya for a two week trip. My best friend (who just so happens to be my husband) will be going with me this time, which will be a wonderfully different experience and I can't wait for him to meet my Africa family, and for him to experience what I did when God totally and completely wrecked my life and started the process of making it His life, the one He had chosen for me. I know it sounds horrible to smile at my beloved and say, "I hope God totally destroys you!" but that's what I want for both of us. I want Him to destroy us, destroy everything about us that is of this world and to make us more like Jesus. You can't get there without completely shattering what is of this world first.

 The kids are staying home, although they long to go with us at some point, it's not time yet. Some day, we dream of a family mission trip. We desire above all else to raise children who can see the big picture, who know that life is much more than the longings of the American dream filled with fancy cars and flat screen tv's and the latest tech gadgets. We want to raise kids who love to serve, and to honor God in all they do, and who put others first. We don't want to live in Americanized Christianity, where an hour a week on Sundays is good enough. We want to give. We want to serve. We want to put Him first in all we do and in all we say.

 I was listening to a wonderful speaker by the name of Ray Vander Laan recently. Google him. You will be blessed. One thing he said that so stuck with me is that many of us think that belief is enough. Now, I know that salvation is through faith alone, and belief and faith can sometimes be synonymous. However, we tend to think that belief is enough.

Think about this: do you believe that God created the heavens and the earth? So you believe that Jesus/Yeshua(his name in Hebrew) is the son of God, that He died on the cross to save us from our sins, and that he rose again on the third day? Do you believe that the only way to eternal life is through Him?

Yes?

Now, let me ask you this. Does Satan himself believe those exact same things? Of course he does, he was THERE! He saw it all, he watched it happen, he knows it better than we do. Knowing that an event happened doesn't save you, it is what you do after you know the Truth that does.

 Are you believing in God, yet refusing to do what He is calling you to do to further His Kingdom? I don't want to live in comfortable Americanized Christianity. To be honest, I lived like that for many years, claiming the promise of salvation and then doing whatever I wanted to do with my life, paying no regard to God or anyone else. I would call out to Him when I was in trouble, begging Him to save me from whatever I had gotten myself into; and ignore Him when times were good, but be pleased at all I had done for myself.

 Anyone else been there?

 Just me?

 I am not fully there yet, but the information has been trickling slowly from he head to my heart, changing the way I see life and the world we live in. I want to see it through the eyes of Yeshua, who walked on this earth to show us how to live our lives. I know that Yahweh is God, I know that Yeshua is His son, and that He died for me. For ME! And because I know that, I know that He lives and I know that He loves and I know that He has a plan for my life, and I would be a fool to think my plans would be better than His because I'm an ignorant human and He is God. Sometimes when you rock the boat, when you go out on a limb, when you do any of those other Christian clich├ęs that basically tell people that you are different and weird, people question. And that's fine.

People can question our decisions to go to Africa, to give up pork and shellfish and eat Biblically clean, to follow Torah and celebrate the Feasts just like Jesus did. But we are ok with it. We are much more concerned with what God thinks of us that what those around us think. Yes, we fail him daily, and we are so thankful for grace. But we want to walk like Yeshua, talk like Yeshua, eat like Yeshua, feast like Yeshua, and live like Yeshua, from the inmost part of our souls. More than anything in the world, I want to be like Jesus. I am nothing but a messed up sinner, saved by grace, who yells at her kids too much and sometimes smells of pee, but thankfully, God can change the world, and He is using me as a part of His great and mighty plan. I don't know why, but I'm honored to be a part of it. I invite you to come and join in. Ask Him how He desires to use you, how He wants to bless others through you. I promise you, whatever He desires for you is so much better than you could ever think up on your own.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Life in 3D

It's amazing where this blogging journey has taken me.  I know, I don't blog much anymore, and I know that I keep saying I plan to do better but I never end up consistently posting.  Well, for the three of you who are left, thank you.  Thanks for sticking it out, and thanks for reading.

Almost three years ago, I posted this story about a dream I had about the author of a blog I just love, Sarah Valente.  It was crazy, and rather than just messaging her saying, "Hey I know you don't know me, but I had this crazy dream about you," (which would sound rather stalker-y,) I decided to blog about it publicly (because clearly, that is the much less stalker-y option.  Clearly.)  Well, she wanted to see where the traffic was coming from and read my post and (thankfully) thought it was hilarious.  Bloggers can appreciate the public posting of private matters, and she wasn't offended (or freaked out)in the least.  A bloggy-friendship was born, which turned into a facebook friendship, which turned into a secret corner of the Internet where a little group of bloggy and facebook friends gathered to lift each other up, to pray together, to study His word together, and to giggle and just be us.  I know it sounds nuts, but I developed some of the most incredible and meaningful friendships with these women whom I had never met in person through the Internet.

Yeah, I'd say it was crazy, too.

The thing is, when you build a relationship based on Christ, it's real.  It's meaningful.  And it's awesome.

So where is this going, you ask?

Well, last weekend it went to Colorado Springs.


From left to right:  Beth, myself, Cindy of Over Koffee, Christi, Renee of Mi Querida Familia, and of course, Sarah of Kingdom Twindom, shiny hair and all.

We were missing a few, including Ellyn of Profoundly Seth and Ashley of Adventures in Twinderland, who couldn't make the trip.

Yes, I might be shamelessly name-dropping.  But these are my peeps, yo.  And I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this group.  

We sat in Renee's house, and we chatted and laughed and drank wine (but not too much) and studies the Bible and worshiped the One who created us and brought us all together.  It was fantastic.  I loved every minute and I can't wait to see these amazing ladies again.  It has been said that "if you show me who your friends are, I'll tell you who you are."  Well, I really feel like I am totally unworthy of being included in this amazing group of women, but I'll take it.  Go ahead, read their blogs.  They are awesome.  And besides, it'll fill the time till I blog again. ;)