Janette From Two Sister’s and a Demented Mom On Christmas And A Cookie Shooter

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Voyageur, Dream Quester & their mom. Photo Credit: Two Sisters and a Demented Mom

Ever find yourself reading something and getting a good chuckle out of it, so much that you forget that what you read was also about a serious topic? Well that’s what you’ll get when you read the posts on the blog, Two Sister’s and a Demented Mom blog run by Janette Chisholm and her sister aka Voyageur and Dream Quester (don’t you just love those names?!)

Two Sisters is is a blog about their mom who has both Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. They blog about the things dementia professionals don’t tell you, as well as how they are coping with their mom’s disease. Aiming for touching, helpful and funny, please make sure to check them out!

From J. Voyageur:

Have yourself a wonky little Christmas, may your days be bright….”

The holiday adventures continue ~ oh my….

After work today I went to mom’s house to visit with her, but more importantly to give my sister a break from hanging with mom continuously…we needed some sister time anyway.

So we go to the same coffee shop unwinding in each others company over coffee and chocolate/peppermint bark – yummy.

During the conversation my sister tells me that mom wants to make Christmas cookies tonight and asks me to join them.  Sure!  How many of these opportunities do we have left, really?  Time to indulge and recreate fond Christmas memories.  Sure……  Our turn to bring the happy.

About two weeks ago mom bought a “cookie shooter” from the local Salvation Army Store.  She shops there to honor my dad who said that when he was young, they provided Christmas for his family once or twice.  That’s the sweet part.

*Giggling almost uncontrollably here*

The funny?  The “cookie shooter”.  She’s been jokingly threatening me with the cookie shooter since she bought it.  Cookie guns, high noon….gauntlet thrown.  CHALLENGE!

We go back to mom’s and declare our desire to make cookies with her AND decorate the house a bit.  Let’s just go full tilt for a moment shall we?! How many holidays will we have with her still…her?

I ask mom where the infamous cookie shooter is.  “In a box” she replies.  Oh dear gawd – “where’s the box mom?”  “Around somewhere” the comic shouts.  Thanksgiving redux…Gotta love her…..Found it somewhere weird – the family room by dad’s chair.  Made sense to her at the time I’m sure.

We decide to make the spritz cookie recipe that came with the directions thinking it SHOULD turn out well.
Dreamer, mom and I start gathering ingredients.  None of the baking ingredients are together in one spot.  So the scavenger hunt begins, all three of us in different cupboards.  Dreamer calls out “Flour” we all move things out of the way in search of the elusive flour.  “I’ve got it” mom calls out.  “Wait…no it’s confectioner sugar”.  She’s put dry goods in see through plastic containers, not all of them marked with a label.

And so it goes, call and comical response, one ingredient after another until we have all of them . By now, Dreamer and I are giggling and can’t stop, just punchy and falling into our natural sister roles in mom’s kitchen. Dreamer and mom start measuring and combining ingredients while I assemble the shooter.

Now I have to find batteries….but it’s just me looking for them, a tad easier…and I know where to look haha!

Mom and Dreamer are now teasing each other about how much of what to add.  Mom pulls Dreamer’s hair at the nape of her neck like she’s always done when she teases her.  We all bust out giggling.  This is the kind of holiday we know and love.

I notice something is missing from the cookie shooter – the rod that cranks the “pusher” to get the dough out and into the cool shapes.  This renders the shooter inoperable.  Poopy.  Now what?

Throw chocolate chips in the dough and call it good, chocolate fixes everything.  Mom reaches for a container that looks like it holds granola, it has nuts.  Dreamer exclaims “I don’t want nuts in my cookies!”  Mom had pulled out the chips already and had them on the counter, but forgot she did that.  When I pointed to the chocolate chips  you would have thought I found the monolith in “2001 A Space Odyssey”  – “Ohhhh!” we all gasped, and just dumped a big ol mess of them into the batter…which I noticed was thinner and runnier than I expected.  What the hell, we followed the recipe, Dreamer read it out loud, checked the measuring.

We spoon it onto cookie sheets, hoping they will turn out.  Mom sets the timer, Dreamer and I start decorating.  I’m running some poinsettia garland along the stair railing in the front hall, Dreamer’s putting Dad’s village on the mantle, setting up the lights for it too.  All of a sudden Dreamer says “Alright, I just have to say this – the cookies don’t smell good!”  They didn’t.

As caregivers one of the things we do is check the refrigerator for spoiled food.  Dry goods have expiration or use by dates too?  How about Crisco? The cookies did not smell right, but mom thought they were just fine.  Tomorrow she’ll wrap most of them up for me to take home, and I’ll throw them all out.

And we’ve had fun making our first weird batch of cookies.  It’s the time spent together and the fun we had that counts, cherishing each other and the love we share.

Oh, and I threw out the cookie shooter.

Charlotte From Charlotte-Emily On Alzheimer’s Awareness

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Charlotte Emily photo credit Charlotte-Emily.net

Another gem of a blogger and love-giver that I have met from across the pond in the UK, as they say, is Charlotte Murray known in the twitterverse and blogasphere as Charlotte Emily. Please read and follow what “Charlotte says” at Charlotte-Emily.net.

Her story:

Alzheimer’s Awareness – My Story.

Some of you may not know this but my beloved Grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease and has had for many years. Watching him deteriorate before my very eyes has been a real learning experience for me and one I’m so very grateful for.

Before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I knew nothing of the disease other than that it caused memory loss and was often the point of many comical jokes. I also associated Alzheimer’s disease with insanity and it was something that scared me.

I remember as a child my Great Auntie – My Grandfather’s sister – developed Alzheimer’s. Well I don’t remember her developing it as I could have been no older than 7 but I remember going to visit her in the nursing home she was in and being terrified.

From what I remember of my Auntie she was just sat in the chair mute and didn’t speak or even acknowledge any of us but that’s a faint memory compared to the rest of that experience. I still remember to this day and if I’m honest it still frightens the child within me a lady who I now know also had Alzheimer’s sitting in a chair shrieking continuously in a high pitched tone that I can still hear echoing through my mind and another lady who had taken a shine to me. I was a shy child so having a lady I didn’t know being very in my face and trying to hug me constantly and play with my hair despite my protests scared me.

I carried that fear and impression of Alzheimer’s with me right up until the day my Grandfather was diagnosed.

My world fell apart the day they told me he had Alzheimer’s. How could it be that the man that had been almost a father to me my entire life was one day not going to remember me? How could it be that he was going to end up like those women I just told you about?

I was terrified. But when I returned home I sat in front of my computer for hours reading every bit of information I could find on Alzheimer’s. I wanted to know if there was a cure, how long would it be until he forgot me, was he in pain, most importantly I wanted to know if he was going to be okay.

I still continue to read all I can about Alzheimer’s because I believe you can never know too much about things like this. Information really is key.

With the information that I had I was then able to help my Grandmother and talk it through with her. I found it really helpful knowing everything that I did. I understood the phases he was going through. I had a certain amount of knowledge about what was and indeed still is happening to his brain. I was really grateful for the information.

A few years on and my Grandfather is in a care home and to me that care home has become a home away from home for me due to the amount of time I’ve spent there, the friendliness of the staff and also the other lovely residents.

Often when we enter the Alzheimer’s wing there is a lady stood near the door. This lady has the disease but is always friendly and always offers a hug as you walk in and greets you like an old friend. I find that over time it’s become easy for me to get on and communicate with all of the residents. Without fear or confusion. I’ve learnt the importance of just agreeing with them and just going along with whatever they say. I’ve learnt that they aren’t scary people or even insane.

These are regular people who just got sick. It happens. All of the faces in that home have stories behind them, families, amazing life experiences. These are people’s Mothers and Fathers, Grandparents, Sisters, Brothers.

My Grandfather travelled the world with the merchant Navy, he’s been happily married for 56 years and has a son and three loving grandchildren. He’s the kindest most generous man I know. He’s not somebody to be feared. None of them are.

They’re not something to be ignored either.

I don’t believe enough awareness is raised about Alzheimer’s and consequently I don’t think that enough is being done to find a cure or adequate methods of preventing it.

I’m not an expert and it’s not for me to tell you all what to do but I urge you all to do some research, learn more about the disease, maybe together with a better understanding of the disease we can all raise awareness and maybe one day they’ll find a cure. Just something to think about.

© Charlotte Emily Murray and Charlotte-Emily.net, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Charlotte Emily Murray and Charlotte-Emily.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Kai From Days with My Father On Love And Death

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Wei Hsuang Chu, Jan 11, 1935 to Oct 22, 2013, photo credit Kai, Days with My Father
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Kai & her dad, photo credit Days with My Father

As I’ve said time and time again, social media has been such a blessing to me, especially when it comes to the wonderful people I’ve met in my Alzheimer’s and Caregiving community. Kai is one of those people. She blogs at Days with My Father. Here is a post she graciously shared about her feelings and reflection on her dad who she sadly lost on Oct. 22, 2013. Please read her blog and her wonderful stories of her dad.

In remembrance of Wei Hsuang Chu, Jan 11, 1935 to Oct 22, 2013.

From Days with My Father; Nov. 9, 2013

Love and Death

It has been a blurry 3 weeks, since the tail end of my trip away and leading up to my father’s funeral this Thursday.

Father’s body is now in the wait for cremation and soon his remains will reside on my home until his birthday come January, where my sister and I will scatter his ashes into the Pacific Ocean… The last few days leading up to the funeral and post, have been surreal to say the least.

I had hosted a casual funeral, a viewing without ceremony and formality. My father was almost always happy for company and very casual and laid back, so it was fitting. I had wanted it to be a cozy, loving, environment, for those who knew him to remember the man he was, and for those who didn’t – came out to support me – to feel comfortable in sharing this life experience with me and my family.

The funeral viewing went smoothly, minus one or two bizarre comments from family directed at me. Unfortunately these still stand out in my memory, as I process the feelings and thoughts that had resulted in what was said. Its inappropriateness shocked me, but then I realized post event that these people sadly have not let their ego guards down, and are still living in their fear and guilt driven worlds and the wrong attitude on what Love vs. Burdens mean. Little do they realize that I have all the family I need around me, I kept ones who were openly loving and grounded with me through my dad’s difficult journey with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Transient Ischemic Attacks (mini strokes), Atrial Fibrilations, and later diagnosed, congenital heart failure, which were the cause of swellings, weakness, and hard of breathing. Yes, sometimes I felt alone in the journey, from the supporting role, but I wasn’t because my dad was there… maybe not in spirit or the same physical self, but he was a being that still lived.

Being told “You are the one who loses”, to the one(s) who thought that, you are wrong. I gained, so much that I get emotional when I think about what I have gained through the last 4 years. I gained deeper unconditional love for my father and sister, it gave me strength to be there for them, even when I wasn’t feeling so strong. I gained deeper empathy and resolve to advocate for those in need, and coach those in need where I can. I’ve come to understand the meaning of life, the true depth of it, and gained a stronger mind in the process. I am more at peace than ever before, I am a better listener and communicator with those around me, more freedom speak from the heart and mind. I’m even better at letting people go, especially those who are no longer a fit, instead of wanting to help or please everyone.

Some people think that I am in mourning for the death of a parent, but in actuality, I’m grieving the four years of emotional hardships when I couldn’t afford the time to process and grieve then, I chose battles carefully and tried not to burn myself out. I had four years of slow grieving for the slow loss of my father, and now that the journey has ended, I’m am at peace with his death, it is a blessing, he is free. He has given the ultimate legacy to his family far and wide, everyone has reminded of his quiet and kind nature, as well as his humble and giving nature, all due to his death. This is the silver lining that death of a loved one brings, reminders to the living, a wake up call, to live your life out of love and authenticity.

Thank you to the friends who could come out, thank you for showing me love and support when I needed it greatly. It is a surreal experience made better by love and support, special thank you’s go out to those who went the extra mile and making sure I ate well and came to just keep me company, even when I wasn’t sure what I needed.

For those who are still in the journey with their parents or beginning it, do it out of love and not responsibility. For the love will permeate and be returned to you in unexpected ways.

Best Wishes,
Kai

Leeza Gibbons On Caregivers Sanity Sanctuaries

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I am honored to have Leeza Gibbons as my first guest post.

I reached out to Leeza and was so appreciative to receive an email from Gibbons who is a TV/Radio Host, Author, Wife/Mother, Alzheimer’s advocate, Entrepreneur and the list goes on and on. Here are her word of encouragement those in the caregiving and Alzheimer’s community. First her words to me.

How are you? Thanks so much for your advocacy in the Alzheimer’s community (and for your Twitter support!)….I thought maybe I would provide this little tidbit…for your blog. Again, we are all appreciative of your voice! Thanks Pamela!

“Especially during the busy holidays when stressors are maxed out, caregivers need to find their “sanity sanctuaries”. These are the places, people or things that bring you back to calmness and control. They are non-negotiable. For me it’s a five minute walk, a cup of coffee away from the phone and computer, my bath at night. Come up with your list and protect if fiercely. Figure out what you can do to mitigate that dreaded sense of overwhelm that you know is coming and plan for it. Remember that you can change your psychology by changing your energy through purposeful breathing. So slow things down with 10 deep breaths which can lower your heart rate, pump some oxygen to your brain, lower your blood pressure and put you back in control of your thoughts. THAT is the only thing we can control anyway, right? Why not release the rest? Show up, do your best, let go of the rest! Know that even if you get off track, your Sanity Sanctuaries are always there for you to reclaim yourself and move forward”

Ever Forward,

Leeza

From her website:

Leeza Gibbons is one of the best‐known and most well‐loved pop‐culture icons on the air and at the top of her game. She’s also a wife, mother, businesswoman, New York Times bestselling author of TAKE 2, and champion for family caregivers.

The spectrum of Leeza’s career in entertainment and news media— combined with her stunning hands on advocacy for health care, wellness, and caregivers—is diverse and impressive. Her on‐camera hosting dominance in entertainment‐news and talk‐show arenas ranges from the most popular entertainment news show in history, Entertainment Tonight; to her award‐winning daytime talk show, Leeza; to, currently, the syndicated TV news magazine show America Now and the weekly TV news show My Generation on PBS. Recognized as a social entrepreneur, Leeza has become one of the leading voices for issues facing family caregivers. After her family’s experience with her mother’s and grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease, Leeza took action. Her training as a journalist united with her compassion and business savvy when she created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, a 501 (c)(3); and its signature programs, Leeza’s Place and Leeza’s Care Connection, which offer free services for family caregivers. Over the years, Leeza has become known as a trusted girlfriend, valued confidante, and source of inspiration and information to empower women to show up for their lives with confidence and pride. Whether it’s her scrapbook line honoring the value of memories, her jewelry collection to symbolize transformation, or her beauty products to reveal inner and outer beauty, Leeza develops programs and products to help women claim their strength and rewrite the story of their lives.

Websites: www.leezagibbons.com and www.leezasplace.org.