Gifts In A Hell Hole

Gaining perspective is hard when you live with your mother in a hell hole (her phrase, not mine).  It is hard for the one WITH Alzheimer’s and it is hard for the one who is the caregiver.  But on a bad day (one that involves a broken hip and rehab), gaining perspective can be near impossible.  Below is an excerpt from my journal.  You will learn about a VERY unfortunate perspective my mother and I got sucked into, and a saint named Angie who gave us hope and saved our lives.

April 21, 2013

A woman named Angie hobbled into my mother’s rehab room today. She’s been a short-term resident in the unit for about a month. Slightly disabled since birth, with arms and hands very different from my own, she has a keen mind and big heart, both brighter and bigger than most I have experienced. This heart is what led her to visit my ailing mother most every day.

In this visit we came to learn

Simply Black Beans

The recipes that will make it on this blog are ones mostly created by my personal chef.  He rarely “cheats”.  I cheat all the time.  And honestly, neither one of us call using canned anything cheating.  But hey, technically I cheated.  I was throwing together a meal after the end of a long work day.  L-O-N-G!  It was an Old El Paso tacos kind of night.  TexMex all the way.  We are proud to say that we love taco shell tacos – the kind made with taco seasoning in a packet.  But, what can you serve with them?

I sauntered out to the garden and grabbed a couple serrano peppers and a handful of chives.  And voila!  Simply Black Beans!  If you don’t have a garden, then just add WHATEVER pepper that is hanging out in your fridge (but do blister it) and throw in some chopped up onions (that you have sautéed a tad).

Read on for the recipe (and some great pictures of blistering peppers). 

The Lone Caregiver

It is certainly not easy being a lone caregiver.  On many a day I feel like hope is slipping.  But when I say that I am a lone caregiver for my mother, it is not entirely true. There is a large community of people doing what I am doing and they are far more a lone caregiver than me.

When I say that I am a lone caregiver, I am speaking about me and my siblings and the roles each of us play.  Because I am the only local family member who is able to consistently “take care of things” I say “I am a lone caregiver”.  In other words, I am the only family member that is local and able to do the day-in-and-day-out grunt work.  Not that my mother is “grunt work”, but wouldn’t one call medical paperwork (and other such tasks) exactly that?

Basically I manage my mother’s entire life, but I don’t do EVERYTHING.  I  have called on several professionals to help me with the day-in-and-day-out grunt work.  My siblings are simply not able to be a part of this. Yet, my siblings each play an important role, they each bring something very important to the table.  No one has “fled the scene”, so to speak.

Yet, most days I feel alone in this.  I feel abandoned even though technically I am not.  This loneliness is part of this journey.  It just is what it is.  I’ve talked to other lone caregivers, who also have wonderful siblings who are there not here.  They tell me that this loneliness leads to days when hopelessness sets in.  I get this.  I’ve had my days when I can’t stop crying.  So, when the loneliness comes, I give myself permission to feel it but I also order myself to not get sucked into its pit.  Instead, I pull myself up by my bootstraps and choose  to peer long and hard at each of my siblings, working to identify the gift each of them brings to the table.  This is one way I consider Jesus (Hebrews 12:3) so that I do not grow weary and lose heart.  Here is what I have discovered. 

Alzheimers Can Be Nice

Alzheimers can be nice.  Or maybe I should say it has many gifts, which is nice.  My mother is so good at finding these gifts.  And, if I work to dialogue with her, I learn her way of overlooking the crap and finding the gift.  This is how she finds hope.  She looks for the gifts, for the love.  Dare I say she that labors to do this?

Below is an excerpt from our journal, one my mother wrote.  Learn from her.  Learn how she finds hope.  If you are younger than my mother, you might want to ask yourself, “What do I need to do right now so that when I am old I can find gifts like this?”  If you yourself have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (and some who have are still reading and engaging well), perhaps you will see that you can still teach during this time in your life.  You can give gifts to those you love until the day you die.  You will see how my mother still teaches me.

Since this is her first entry on this blog, I do need to say the following and I really beg you to read it.  Then keep scrolling to read her entry: 

Freezing Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Freezing sage, rosemary and thyme is about as easy as it gets.  It is even easier than freezing basil and oregano.

And before I go any further, yes, I’m very aware that the title of the post may cause a certain song to start looping in your brain [cue song: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme].  You’re welcome.

Yet alas, I don’t have any parsley to pick today so I am not going to include that in this post.  And thus, there will be no humming that Simon and Garfunkle tune.  Wait!  Am I showing my age?  Oh who cares, THAT album/song is one of the greatest of all time.

But I digress.

It truly is easy to freeze these herbs because they are hard herbs, opposed to the softer herbs like basil and oregano.  All you do is wash them, thoroughly dry them and place them on a cookie sheet (stems and all).  Place the cookie sheet in the freezer.  Once frozen, stick the stems and leaves in a baggie (or a glass jar) and place back in the freezer to use throughout the winter months.  With thyme you can shake the frozen stems once they are inside the bag, causing all the leaves to fall to the bottom of the bag, remove the stems and throw away.  I’ve frozen sage both on the stem and just the leaf.  You choose.

Add them to your bubbling pot of goodness this winter.  Yum.

Side note: If you like to cook with fresh herbs and you don’t garden and want to try your hand at in in a small way, I would start with herbs.  I have to say that I do save money by growing my own herbs.  I’ll post more about growing herbs later on.  In the meantime, you can buy them cheaper now from farmers markets than what you’d pay in the grocery this winter.  So you could freeze herbs that you have purchased.  Always keep that in mind if you are not a gardener.

Yes, I Am A Murderer

Yes, I am a murderer.  And if you want to be one too, then here’s a gardening quick tip to get rid of those stinkers in your garden.

I find it necessary to get rid of a few dirty devils in my garden.  And since I want to be organic sensitive, I use this.  Buy a premixed bottle of this.  Buy a bottle of concentrate.  When your premixed bottle runs out, add more.  Do follow the directions on your bottle.  Mine says to add 3 teaspoons to a 24 oz bottle and fill the rest of it up with water. If you find something chewing on a plant, insecticidal soap has to be used every other day (if not every day) until the problem is over with.  My friend Patricia, who lives on the beautiful Island of Kauai tells me she needs to use it about every day.  If you don’t use organic, those insecticidal products last much longer.  But I’d prefer to stay as organic as possible, so I go for the soap.  You can also make your own soap using household products.  I’ll share that later.

Here’s a picture of what I recently had to use this on.  I killed him.  Yes, I am a murderer.

When Hope Waned

It is important to me that you know that there have been many days when hope waned.  Days when I thought I would never feel hope or joy again.  Here is an excerpt from my journal, one I wrote when Mom was still living on her own and I was working full time AND going over there 3-4 times a day (a 30 minute round trip drive).  I was the only human person my mother would see.  It was so very hard.  Oh yes, my hope was waning.  Big time waning.


This Too Shall Pass

“This too shall pass,” she groaned as she tried to move from one location in her apartment to another.  It had been two weeks of back pain.  It was pain that was real at the start, but by now her injury had healed.  Yet, the Alzheimer’s  made it difficult for my mother to let go of the memory of the pain.  The geriatric neurologist called this perseveration; a manifestation of Alzheimer’s in which the patient repeats tasks, phrases and worries.  In order to stop the repetition, they need someone to distract them.  When real pain comes upon them, when a stomach ache, sore throat, or even nausea is experienced, then the brain makes it such that “this too shall pass” is a lessened reality.   At a time when the short term memory is failing my mother, what she is often forgetting is