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Monday, May 29, 2017

Stand By Me - Precious Memories 23

It all started with this post.

A year ago, Memorial Day weekend, I began sharing my personal experience with Alzheimer's.

Maybe you are here, right now reading through some of my posts as you stand by feeling helpless. Maybe you are watching friends or family members wear themselves out, as they cope with a diagnosis (dementia or otherwise).

Maybe you are the weary one.

Whether they care for a loved one at home, or have the help of a facility, they still need your support.

I was completely unprepared for the level of exhaustion that came with my mom's diagnosis. I was worn out mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Decisions had to be made daily, sometimes multiple times a day.  Care plans readjusted.  Doctors and staff meetings, bills paid.....all while my heart was shattering.

Time for me in a sense stopped.  I was still trying to maintain an emotional connection with her. I struggled to balance the chaotic details that came as part of this disease.  Stanford University once reported that 41% of Alzheimer's disease caregivers die from stress-related disorders, before the patient dies.

Caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers.   This is serious business.

There are all kinds of websites that show various statistics for caregivers, and most are startling.   They need someone to stand by them. It is a lonely road.  You not only lose your loved one, but you lose your sense of normal.  Your social life takes a hit, because you become so engrossed with care. It's easy to feel isolated and forgotten.

Receiving a "thinking of you" card or a quick email, letting me know that I was still in someone's prayers, or on their mind, was such an encouragement to me.  One of my sweet friends in another state, sent me a Starbucks gift card, just so I could grab a cup of coffee.  Having a little something out of the ordinary to look forward to, made a difference.

Because most days, what you are facing in the future is nothing to look forward to.

If you find yourself able and willing, please offer as much support as you can.  You would be amazed at how much a healthy, home cooked meal would be appreciated.  Families in a situation like this, tend to neglect their own needs. I barely had time to make a grocery list, much less cook a decent meal. All of my spare time and energy, was devoted to my mom and her well being. I was working full time, caring for a spouse who at that time wasn't yet properly diagnosed, and then there was Alzheimer's.

If you want to help but are short on ideas - I have a few for you.  Offer to clean the house, or pay for a trustworthy cleaning service. Offer to mow the lawn, pick up the mail or newspaper, shovel the snow, fill up a gas tank, take the car for an oil change. Walk the pets, take them to the groomer. If small children are a consideration, offer to shuttle them to school or activities. Take the kids to the park.

I'm not suggesting that you personally PAY for these errands - but just offer to run them. Pick up take out if you don't cook or give a gift card so the family can order in.

The point is, just offer.  Even if you get turned down, I assure you, the fact that you offered means a lot. There are so many little things that become big things for us, when we are spending every spare moment with our loved one.

Most of all, just love us and please remember to not be offended if we are no longer "fun".

We are grieving.

We are focused on saying goodbye.

We don't mean to be self-absorbed but we are living a nightmare.

We are processing and trying to wrap our brain around what is taking place.

We are tired and overwhelmed.  We are numb.

We are sad and angry at the same time.

We are hurting.

We simply need you to remember us.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thinking Back On Mother's Day -Precious Memories 22

“For we think back through our mothers 
if we are women.” 
                                                                                              Virginia Woolf 

I want to roll back the clock, and be a little girl again, running in and out of the sheets snapping and waving on the clothesline. Laying in my bed, I want to hear the Star Spangled Banner on her radio, as she starts her day. I want to smell fresh perked coffee and hear her clanking dishes in the sink. I want to smell roast in the slow cooker on Sunday.

I want to sit across from her at lunch, laughing and talking. I want her to hug me, and leave her soft clean scent swirling around me. I want her to eat her fair share of the cheesecake.

But if you’ve lived any length of time, you have learned the same as I have. Life doesn’t give us our wants most of the time.

My mom has been in Heaven for some time, and I am “the mother” my family focuses on now for Mother’s Day.

And yes, I’ve been a mom for awhile now but for so long, Mother’s Day (for me) was to focus on her. She was the matriarch of our family, and held the place of honor.

Celebrating Mother’s Day without a mom, has felt out of sorts for me. I am adapting, slowly. I have had to realize that I am for my son what my mom was for me - the focus of Mother’s Day. I have taken her place in the family line. It is sobering.

My mother received a variety of gifts for Mother’s Day, but mostly crumpled, crushed dandelions, freshly picked and delivered by the sweaty hand of a proud, smiling child. She exclaimed over those pitiful weeds as if I had brought her the finest bouquet. I fondly remember the yellow streaks they left on my hands. She would laugh and call it “butter.” She displayed them proudly in a glass, perched in the kitchen windowsill. She kept them long after they had wilted and dried, evidence of simple, child-like love. My colored pictures haphazardly torn out of the coloring book, with jagged edges, were treated like works of art rivaling Picasso and Monet. The homemade cards, made from thick construction paper, were lovingly stored away amongst her most treasured valuables.

Later, my gift to her was time and it was my favorite. Our lunch dates were where I really got to know my mom. Our conversations revealed what made her tick. I learned her likes, her worries, her fears, what she was like growing up. I learned what angered her and made her sad. I discovered the causes she championed and what a fierce advocate for the “underdog” she could be. She became more than an authority figure in my eyes. We became close friends.

I am carrying on this tradition with my son. Lunch dates to him right now are about fun and food, and we have a great time. But I know the deep foundation these conversations will lay. I try to pass along to him the lessons I have learned, and what my mother shared with me. We have decided to have a “Christmas in July” outing where we will splurge on ourselves, eat, talk, and shop. This will most likely result in browsing many sports related retail stores.

But I don’t mind.

He’s grown up now and I know that it is likely I won’t have these lunch dates for long. Another woman may steal his heart at some point, and I will let him go. I want him to be happy and like my mom did with me, I will encourage him to pursue his dreams. I will try not to interfere with his choices, but gently wait aside, quietly here if he needs me.

Just like she did with me.

"No one worries about you like your mother, and when she is gone, the world seems unsafe, things that happen unwieldy. You cannot turn to her anymore, and it changes your life forever. 
There is no one on earth who knew you from the day you were born; who knew why you cried, or when you'd had enough food; who knew exactly what to say when you were hurting; and who encouraged you to grow a good heart. 
When that layer goes, whatever is left of your childhood goes with her." 
―Adriana Trigiani, Big Stone Gap 

  *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Somebody's Hero - Precious Memories 21

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker.

At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty. Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

Cafe Lily's Review:

Prior to reading this, I knew nothing about Georgia Tann or the horrific acts she carried out.  I had never heard about this part of history, or the Tennessee Children's Home.  

In some ways, I wish I had kept my innocence, because this woman was one of the most evil, heartless, sinister characters I have ever read about.  I had to read this in small doses, because my heart hurt. I just ached, and had to put it down at times.

I felt sad and emotional, almost at times unable to digest and comprehend what these families and mothers were being put through.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and this book was very well written. Though the subject matter is hard and heartbreaking, the book flowed easily.  This book will stay with you, long after the last page is turned.  

I highly suggest you read this one when it releases in June!


Monday, May 1, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride - Judith Miller

About the Book:
Hope Irvine always sees the best in people. While traveling on the rails with her missionary father, she attracts the attention of a miner named Luke and a young mine manager. When Luke begins to suspect the manager is using Hope's missions of mercy as a cover for illegal activities, can he discover the truth without putting her in danger?

Cafe Lily's Review:

I had mixed feelings when I finished this book.  I have mentioned my love for historical fiction many times in other reviews I've posted here, but this book was kind of all over the place for me.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, but this book disappointed me.

I had a hard time becoming engaged with the characters.  While the book had a lot of potential, the writing seemed to graze the surface of many issues and involve too many plots all going at once. There was some slow build up and repetition which made the book feel like it was dragging. And then, all of a sudden, the ending of the book just felt abrupt and rushed to me.

I could not find a happy medium while reading this.  It was either too slow and drawn out, or suddenly over.  I did enjoy discovering some of the history of chapel cars, and prior to reading this, I didn't know much about them.  I thought the cover was beautiful and well done, it captured my interest and made me want to read this book.

I think in this case, each reader will have to decide for themselves.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Waiting Uncertain

Back in February, I posted about feeling a "nudge" regarding some possible changes in our future.

We are still waiting to learn exactly what this all means.

Waiting is hard.  And yet I am determined to wait for "Isaac", rather than take an Ishmael.

Oh, I'm tempted to question all right.  I battle daily, still out of control.

The mental warfare is tough.  Because in the natural?  This is impossible. 

I have a few choices:

1:  Continue to wait patiently, no matter what our circumstances look like.  Wait for Isaac.

2:  Give up, thinking we've heard wrong and somehow missed God in all of this.  

3:  Help God out a little, try to make this thing happen in my own strength, and make a big, fat, hairy mess of it all.  Birth an Ishmael.

In the Bible, there's a lot of waiting going on.  There is due season and appointed time.  And we're told to be hopeful, courageous, strong, patient......   

All hard things, when you want (and need) something so much.

There's a big difference between a *want* and *need*.  

And this basic need?  Is a giant, scary mountain.

A long time ago, an older couple told us, "It is far better to be a little behind God, and have Him waiting on you to catch up, then to be way out ahead of Him, and hoping He will clean up the mess."

God help us to wait, patiently.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Somebody's Hero - Precious Memories 21

She's somebody's hero 
A hero to her daughter in her wedding dress 
She gave her wings to leave the nest 
It hurts to let her baby go down the aisle 
 She walks right by 
Looks back into her mother's eyes 
And that smile lets her know 
She's somebody's hero 
 Thirty years have flown right past 
Her daughters' starin' at all the photographs 
Of her mother, and she wishes she could be like that 
Oh, but she already is 
 She's somebody's hero 
A hero to her mother in a rockin' chair 
She runs a brush through her silver hair 
The envy of the nursing home 
She drops by every afternoon 
Feeds her mama with a spoon 
And that smile lets her know 
Her mother's smile lets her know 
She's somebody's hero 
 Somebody’s Hero – Jamie O’Neal 

My mother was what I consider a true hero, yet only a very few ever knew who she was.

She never marketed herself on social media. She never had a blog, vlog, or a YouTube channel. She didn’t seek out “likes” or the approval of others. She didn’t need a following to feel good about herself. She quietly ministered to her family at home, out of the public eye. No rewards or accolades. 

She never traveled the world, waving her “social justice” flag for all to see. She wasn’t the type to “humblebrag.” She didn’t talk about herself, under the guise of false modesty or humility. She was never interviewed by the media, nor invited to appear as a guest speaker anywhere. She just quietly lived, and served others. In a world where it seems like many are determined to outshine others, she simply glowed.

I never once heard my mom complain about what she didn’t have. She taught me that “the best things in life, aren’t the things.” She had her priorities straight and knew what was important. She knew what mattered. She didn’t keep up with the Joneses and always seemed content to me. She taught me to hold my head up high and be confident. Not proud or haughty, mind you, but not to feel ashamed of what I didn’t have. She was secure enough not to covet what her friends had. She also didn’t judge them for what they didn’t have. I look back and am so thankful for the fact that my mom was not materialistic.

Our home was a home, not a shrine. You could say she was a minimalist, I suppose. In high school I had a friend who loved coming to my house. At her house (which was actually a mansion) she couldn’t sit on the leather sofa or touch the pretty Fabrege' Eggs, locked in large, ornate glass cases. She couldn’t relax really, in a mansion that resembled a museum. Hired hands took care of the pool, the laundry, and the lawn.

My house? You could put your feet right up on the couch, stretch out, and get cozy. Just mind your manners and take off your shoes first. Feel free to grab a blanket if you’re chilly.

My mom was clean, but not a neat freak. She enjoyed her home, but didn’t worship it. We lived there, and by that I mean we shared our life there. We made memories there. She didn’t try to keep up with the latest trends, fads, or styles. She didn’t compete with other women or try to impress others. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t unkempt by any means.

She took care of herself but didn’t obsess over the latest who was wearing what. She was just herself. Instead of fancy expensive perfume she usually smelled like baby powder and Downy. A clean soft smell, that to me you could never bottle and put a price on.

What you saw was what you got, take it or leave it.   Most people who met her, chose to take it. 

She was funny, infectious and a bit mischevious at times. My mother was also fiercely loyal. She and her next door neighbor were the best of friends for over 30 something years. In all my years growing up, I never once heard my mother utter a negative comment about her friend. No backstabbing, no gossip. She demonstrated true friendship and loyalty, which is hard to come by these days. I try to be that kind of friend, based on her example. It’s one of the many things I loved about her.

She taught me that a quantity of friends doesn’t automatically equate to high quality friends. Growing up, I didn’t realize how little we had, because my mom never pointed it out or grumbled. I didn’t grow up feeling like I was poor or missing out. Our home was chock full of contentment. We had a roof over our head, enough food to feel satisfied, good books, and each other. I didn’t know to wish for more. I wasn’t aware that I was missing out on anything. I thought digging up potatoes fresh out of the garden, was fun! I loved walking up to our garden and pulling softball size tomatoes warmed by the sun for dinner. No fancy steakhouse for us. Fresh vegetable dinners were the highlight of my summers.

The best things she gave me, weren’t the “things” at all. It was more a sense of being thankful and having gratitude. Satisfied with the simple. Secure in who I was. She made our time count. She also taught me that money doesn’t buy class or contentment. 

My mother worked for several multi-millionaires and would often come home, shaking her head about how they complained, bickered, and argued over nothing. “Big homes and fancy cars don’t make for happy.” she’d tell me.

I grew up in a home that wasn’t fancy at all. It wasn’t the nicest or the newest on the street. We only had one car, while many families had two.

And yet I still never heard her complain. 

We didn’t take fancy vacations. I never saw Disney World until I was 21 and went with a friend. I didn’t think to pout or whine over what we didn’t have, because I honestly had a pretty satisfying childhood. We spent the summers with my grandma, miserably hot and sticky, deep in the heat of the south.

I relished those trips. As a result of this meager, simple upbringing, I am somewhat of a minimalist today. I don’t need the newest, latest, or most expensive. I’m content to shop at the thrift store, and the finest of yard sales. I don’t yearn for stuff, or follow the fads and trends.

Oh don’t get me wrong, even with that strong foundation, I still grumble and complain sometimes. I have my days. There are things about my current situation that would greatly improve with more money coming in.

But what my mother gave me in the way of life lessons, has more value to me than any bank account I could ever own.

  *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Name Calling - Precious Memories 20

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Name Calling - Precious Memories 20

You can't lose me
Bet your life

I am here and I will always be
Just a wish away
Wherever you go
No matter how far
My love is where you are
You won't be lost if you believe
You can't lose me

Momma use to say "Girl it won't be long
'Til it's time to go out on your own
Chase your dreams find your place in life
I know you'll do just fine"
When that day finally came
There were things she needed to 
But could not say
So I whispered softly as I wiped
The tears from Momma's eyes      
You Can’t Lose Me – Faith Hill

*Real names have been changed

I was crushed when she didn’t remember me.

I was in denial for the longest time, thinking it wouldn’t happen to me. The staff had gently tried to prepare me, but I brushed it off, thinking our bond was too strong for that. Science after all has proven it.

Based on a study from The Journal of Neuroscience, the relationship between daughters and their mothers is more profound than any other. "This association was significantly greater than mother-son, father-daughter, and father-son associations," said the researchers, who performed MRI scans on members of 35 healthy families.

Scientists found that women share a structure of the brain that regulates emotions, meaning mothers and daughters are more likely to relate to and understand one another's feelings than anyone else's.

Mom and I?   We had that.

I know everyone doesn’t experience this, though I wish they could. It always broke my heart a little, when facility staff would stop me in the hall and say, “I wish my mom and I were close like you two.”

Though our hearts were knit together, Alzheimer’s snuck in and unraveled the connections in her mind.  The first day I walked in, and realized she had no idea who I was, it felt like a deep searing knife driven straight through my middle.

I just stopped in my tracks. 

How can you forget your babies?  It was something I could not process.

The first time it happened, I walked in and said, “Hi Mom!”   She turned around and yelled loudly at me, “I’m Mabel!”   

Taken aback, it was then I realized, I had offended her by saying “Mom”

In her mind, she wasn’t a mom.  

She was Mabel.      And I was a complete stranger.

I crouched down in front of her wheelchair and gently said, “Hi Mabel.  I’m Stacy.  Nice to meet you.”  

I stared deeply into her eyes, willing her to remember.  She looked at me as if she had never seen me, a little puzzled, a bit hesitant. Clearly offended that I would be so dense, to not know her name.  It took her a bit to warm up to me.

I was dying inside.

I could not believe it.  We were here.  

We were right here, though I had hoped and prayed this part wouldn’t happen.  So now I had to navigate interactions with someone who looked and sounded like my mom, but I couldn’t just walk up and hug her or touch her. 

I cannot put into words a pain so deep.  The cord was being severed between us.

I didn’t want to scare her, so I began introducing myself to her from this visit onward.   It was awful.  I cried all the way home, every single time. 

I was losing her little by little, though physically she was with me.  I had never felt so alone.  I missed my mom so very much.

Growing up, I knew I was in trouble when all three of my names were called out….  “Stacy Renee Burgess, get in here!”  

If all three names were called in succession, there was usually a good chance that I was about to get scolded. 

What I wouldn’t have given just then to be in trouble one more time, so I could hear her call out my name.

  *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother who battled Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story, and some things I learned along the way.  

You can start reading our story from the beginning here:
Precious Memories 1 

You can read my last Precious Memories post here:
Remember - Precious Memories 19