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This is where I explore, record, and share the life that is my legacy - mine.

While She Sleeps {Mama & Me}

While She Sleeps {Mama & Me}

It’s a morning with Mama. She’s tired today. This leaves me time to write, but I can’t help it. I watch her. Maybe it’s because she used to watch me. I know she taught me to watch where I was going, watch out for cars and strangers, to watch for details, and to watch over others.

Mama and I are watchers.

Something happens when she snoozes. Her Norwegian wrinkles (her description for them) are less noticeable. In the vulnerability and the innocence of sleep, she reminds me of the little girl I’ve only seen in pictures.

Watching her, I remember the way she watched me. When I was a teenager, the term “like a hawk” was perfect for Mama’s piercing and protective eyes. But today, it’s the tender watching that fills my mind. Mama watched her babies sleep. She also watched us as we got older – she’d tuck us in, but we knew she’d be back just before she went to bed herself. She used to tip-toe in (even on the carpet) to be sure we had our covers pulled up, and she’d stand there for a minute –watching. I know this because sometimes after a bad dream I’d still be awake and her presence was all it took to lull me back to sleep. I tried to breathe evenly so she wouldn’t know. My dreams upset both of us, and we needed our rest, so I usually kept them to myself. I couldn’t hide the ones that made me scream though. After she was sure I was okay, she’d step into my brother’s room for a minute. If she heard more than on a cough of a sneeze, she’d be back to check on us both.

She also watched us play when she could. In the way that Mamas do, she could tell our cries from the other children we played with. As we got older, she’d wait for us to come to her, but as little kids, our mama was a she-bear with mercy. You see; she watched other kids too and knew that if they were mean there was a reason – a sadness in them. Somehow she understood what they couldn’t say at first. She would get after them, but they’d be back on our porch the next day to play with us and confide in her.

The first time I drove away from home by myself in her car, I looked in the rearview mirror and there she was – quietly watching with a smile of triumph on her face – I’d done it. She watched me with my friends, with boys, and after I came to Christ. She watched me graduate, marry, and raise/release six raccoons. She watched me grieve not being able to have children and loving the children of others. She watched me dream of writing (that started with I was four) and watched me become a published author.

Today, it’s simply my turn. To watch over her while she sleeps. A time to remember, and thank God not only for what was, but also for what is.

Dementia is often a time of anxiety. We watch for symptoms she can’t tell us about. We watch for changes that mean we’ve turned yet another corner. We hope for positive changes that don’t come. But I have to tell you, God means what He says, and I trust Him. In this. In everything. Even now. Especially now.

In times like this, I am experiencing the peace of Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. John 14:27 (NIV)

Is it still hard? Yes. Very hard. But I have a peace that is not my own. And so does she.

She just woke up and told me a hot cup of coffee would be nice. She’s right. Have I mentioned lately I love my Mama and Me mornings?

Until Next Time,

Joy

(Note: When Mama was healthier, I asked her if I could record our journey and she said yes. She had only one request: that I wouldn’t show you any pictures of her in this stage of her life. I promised her I’d use pictures of nature that we both love. She thought that would be a very good idea. Unless otherwise noted, the photographs in these posts are mine, but because she taught me to love creation. they are hers too.)

In times like this, I am experiencing the peace of Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. John 14:27 (NIV)

I Love You So Much {Mama & Me}

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She’s always said, “I love you so much!” It’s one of her signature statements those of us who love her back count on hearing. She has always said each word carefully. There is nothing “on the surface” about Mama’s love.

Sometimes, on her bad days, when I say them to her, Mama’s only response is a nod. I see she is trying to remember what to say back, but the words seem to have been devoured by the dementia.

Other days, like yesterday, she says, “I love you, I love you, I love you so much!” There is a tender urgency in her voice letting me she wants me to know what she can’t say on other days.

I believe that to be true, because all of my life Mama was a planner. She baked extra cookies, “just in case.” Many mornings she made coffee in the big pot because it was possible a friend or three might stop in. She taught me to get out my clothes for school the night before. Mama also tucked away small amounts of money and small, but meaningful “just because” gifts or for rainy days. If I was lacking in a hug, she’d give me two – one for now and one for later in the day.

That’s always been her way, and it still is.

Tucked inside the beauty of her words, she is still being herself; determined to give me the gift of her love – one for now and two for the other days she can’t.

Although I hate dementia, I am as determined as Mama. Every day I ask God to help me see the real woman she is. And he does, but first I have to shake off my self-pity, and look for His answer. When I do, (with His help), I see it in the way she looks at my dad or teases him, the way she says my name, the tone in her voice when she says, “my son” when she’s talking about my brother, or in the way she reverently closes her eyes as I read a favorite Psalm to her and see her lips moving as she recites the words to Him in a whisper only He can hear.

Maybe someday dementia will take her completely. She knows that and is concerned about it. I know this because yesterday she said, “Joy, I hate what’s happening to my brain.” I told her I did too. We both had tears in our eyes, and she said it again, “I love you, I love you, I love you so much.”

I’m storing them up in my heart to cherish because there are rainy days ahead when I will need them to comfort me.

In times like this, we will say . . . Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! Psalm 63:3 (NLT)

This one of Mama’s favorite Psalms and when we get to this verse, she always nods her head in agreement with the words. It is then that I am aware of the priceless faith legacy Mama is giving us.

You might be wondering what I say back to her when she tells me how much she loves me.

“I love you too, Mama.”

She gets the last word in (because of the lump in my throat) when she says, “I know you do, honey.”

Until Next Time,

Joy

Remembered by Her ~ Bits & Pieces of Me

A Touch of Summer

It was yet another cold, blowy, snowy day. Sick of winter, I yearned for a touch of summer. A touch of something lovely and warm. I asked God for it. I had no idea He’d send a lovely and warm someone.

It happened in the Ladies Room at Perkins Restaurant.

I was ready to leave when the door opened. I stepped back to make room, and the first woman through the door said, “Oh! Hello – I remember you and I miss you!” She took me gently in her arms and patted my back. The woman with her said, “Do you know her?” The woman hugging me said, “Yes, I do. From when I worked here.” Her voice was quietly sure.

Her mental and physical challenges were written on her face, across her bent shoulders, and in the way she spoke. If I had left it there, I’d have missed the recognition in her eyes, the glad certainty in her voice, and her tender embrace that revealed her power to love.

Years ago, she and a team of others, worked at Perkins clearing off and washing tables. I loved talking with each one, but especially her. Sometimes, when they were waiting for their ride at the end of their shift, I’d sit on the bench with them or squeeze an out-stretched hand (or six!) as I left.

I am one of many she served quietly and with dignity. At first glance, some might have seen her job as menial. To her, it seemed to matter as much as oxygen. She literally loved her work.

Watching her work was pure joy, but others walked by her and others on the team with their heads down. They missed so much! And the team? Well, in spite of their challenges most of them knew that they made some people uncomfortable. She’d shake her head, a wistful longing in her eyes – she wanted to know everyone and to share the goodness of her heart with them, but they didn’t give her the chance.

In her kind way, she sometimes comforted the others who didn’t understand the rejection as well as she did.

Yes, sometimes people with these kinds of challenges look messy to those of us whose challenges are sometimes more easily hidden. Twisted bodies, twitches, guttural sounds that escape suddenly, almond-shaped eyes, and so on. But if we turn away we miss. . .

. . .the gentle beauty in her face now framed by salt and pepper-colored hair, and behind her glasses that are always slightly askew; eyes that recognize love and shine with a deep desire to serve literally for goodness sake.

I walked to the car deeply touched by God’s grace and the pureness in her heart. I savored the memory of the sincerity in her voice when she said, “I remember you and I miss you.” On the way home, I thanked God for her example, her servant’s heart, and the great privilege of being remembered by her. The feeling of being touched by God’s goodness through her has not left. I pray it never does.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

Until Next Time,

Joy

JAM Walk [A Mile or More in My Shoes]

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Things haven’t gone so well on the health front since I wrote my first A Mile or More in My Shoes post.

It’s bad enough I almost didn’t write this one. I never thought I’d end up this way. Honestly, it’s just plain sad. I’ve dieted and grown fatter. I’ve walked and grown weaker. And, at times, I’ve lost hope.

However, something kind of cool is happening. . .on Saturday I’ll be at the Mall of America walking with some of my family to raise awareness, and money, to stop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. (RA)

Because this matters so much to me, I’ve been doing some training. A month ago, I couldn’t walk more than five minutes on my treadmill with it set on the lowest setting. Now, I can walk forty-five minutes at a little higher setting. Not great, but better. I’m choosing to measure my progress in inches. It beats not measure it at all. Another part of my preparation has been the addition of a standing desk to my daily writing routine. I’m able to stand 45 minutes straight now too before breaking into a sweat. Who knew standing could be so hard?

Standing Desk

This means that, after the walk on March 1, 2014, I can choose to quit – sort of a mission accomplished thing – or I can choose to keep going because the mission is just getting started. My personal goal is to walk 60 minutes a day and stand for at least an hour. I’m close, and I like how this feels.

Weight-wise the doctor says I’m broken. It’s  called Metabolic Syndrome with type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammation.  This combination can make weight-loss nearly impossible. The only hopeful thing I’ve read is this thing called the Venus eating program. It’s a really big change – mostly single ingredient foods with very little gluten. The last part is easy – I’ve been eating mostly gluten free for over a year. Now I’m eating small amounts of protein with fruits and vegetables, tiny portions of rice or pasta, and a few nuts. Except for Saturday morning and all day Sunday. It’s not as hard as it sounds. I’m also trying some natural products. If all of this works, I’ll share the links.

The supplement that does work is called Alleviate. It doesn’t work for everyone, but has helped my bone on bone knee pain a great deal. I’m able to walk with less pain, and I take fewer doses of Advil.

In a few days, I’ll let you know how the walk goes. If you think about it, we could use your prayers. Grace has RA in many of her 12 year old joints. It’s a heart-breaking disease.

Bits & Pieces of Me,

Joy

Mama & Me {The Strength of Our Hearts}

Dad & Mom hug

This is one of my favorite pictures of my parents – in the kitchen sometime in the 1980s.

In ignorance I used to think people afflicted with dementia just slipped away in their minds – sort of like an endless daydream.

I was terribly wrong.

Watching Mama, I’ve seen suffering I never expected she’d encounter. On her good days, she knows she has bad days. On her bad days, we watch her slip helplessly into a black hole in her mind. She tries so hard to stop what she knows is coming then the disease mercilessly gives her shove.

The other day she was trying to tell me something important to her. She got several sentences out before looking at me with fear-filled eyes. “Here it comes. I can’t stop it. I’m sorry.”

I told her it was okay, and just before the mental shove came she said, “No, Joy – it is not.”

In moments like this I have to choose whether I will cry or go with the flow. “Mama, you are so right!” I said after I prayed the words wouldn’t sound like they’d traveled around a huge lump in my throat.

She smiled and agreed although the question in her eyes told me she had no idea what she was right about, because within a couple of seconds, the previous conversation was completely gone.

There are days she is angry, others terribly sad, and sometimes she is frightened because she knows she’s going, and worries she won’t get to come back. I’m as afraid as she is.

She’ll say, “I hate this!” Other times she looks at me with eyes begging and asks, “Can you help me?” I’ll ask her with what and she points to her head and says, “With this.” We both know I can’t, but for a second, she hopes. Or she’ll shrug her shoulders and say, “Here I go.” She’s not at the point of total vacancy yet, but for a few minutes now and then she feels so very gone.

One day not long ago I asked her, “It’s hard isn’t it, Mama?” She said, “It’s horrible.” Then she said, “It’s bad, but not as bad as I thought it would be.” Then she patted my hand and said, “But, it is bad.” Her loving touch and her honesty made me smile because that’s my Mama.

In Times Like This We Will Say. . .

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:26 (NLT)

Because without faith in God – without knowing He is ours forever, we would be hopeless. With Him, He truly is the strength of our hearts – even now in the valley of dementia.