Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Days


Based on my previous posts, it probably seems that everything about my Mom and her Alzheimer's is utterly depressing these days. Today I am here to tell you that it is not. There are good days, even great days, and since Alzheimer's is so hard most of the time, I want share two stories about Mom that are wonderful.

Funny how a day can change things. One day I went in to see Mom and she was sad and crying. We sat and talked, we walked and talked, and I tried to console her and make sense of her confusing world. That was hard. I stopped in the next day to see my Mom and to return her laundry and she was a new woman. As I rolled her laundry hamper in, she was dancing with Gordon, the activities director. Old hits from the 50's were playing. My Mom grew up in the 50’s. She was born in 1940, so these tunes were right from her teenage era and she just couldn't get enough.

I sat and watched. She had not seen me yet and I wanted to soak in her spirit, her joy. She was so happy to hear again the music she had first heard when she was young. I went and quickly put her laundry away. She was still unaware that I was there. This is an interesting position to be in. I think of it like this- do you ever have a time when you wish you could observe someone just to truly see who they are when you are not around? I get to do this with my Mom. I can sit in the same room and observe her- see her joy, her confusion, or her determination, depending on the day. This day was the same. 

So, for two or three songs I watched her dance around, still easily following the rhythm and trying to sing along to some of the songs. Then Gordon waved me over and she saw me. Today she knew who I was. With a, "Hey hon! How are you?", I wandered over, hugged her, and gave my introduction that I always do- "Hi Mom. It's me, Molly, your daughter." She responded, "Of course it is!" 

Then we danced. We scooted around to the old classics, smiling, singing the lyrics and just living in the moment...and what a magical moment it was. It was as if I almost had her back, only better. Sure we were in a locked down ward. Sure she was wearing pants that weren't hers, who knows where she got them. But we were laughing and dancing and loving life right then. I never remember my Mom being that carefree, even before Alzheimer's. Heaven. 

And then there was yesterday. I, Jason, and the kids attended a Christmas dinner at her facility. When we came in she brightened up, smiling, hugging the kids and me. Then she spotted Jason. Man, does she love Jason these days. During the hug, she lingered for a little longer and squeezed him a little tighter. I got her plate and we sat to eat. She talked incessantly about nothing. The thing that she would not stop talking about was Jason. "You are so young! You look so great!” Then I would get a, "Well, you do too, of course, but he looks so young! I can't believe it! You are so lucky!" 

Jason smiled and laughed and enjoyed all the attention. I told him that if he ever was having a bad day, he ought to stop over and talk with my Mom, because when he is around, it is all about him. All about how handsome he is. All about how young he looks. All about him. 

At one point she was getting a little restless. She wanted to get up and walk because that is what she does-walk. All the time. She stood up, but then I said, "Mom, you should really sit down. Santa is bringing around gifts. They are going to have one for you!" 

"Really?! For me?!" she said as her entire demeanor changed. The restlessness was replaced with child-like joy and anticipation. She could hardly stand to wait to get her gifts. When they came, she took a picture with Santa and dug in to the wrappings. Her chocolates, coffee table book, and camisoles could have been broccoli, dirty socks, and bills. She wouldn't have cared. She was aglow. 

When people talk about holding on to the good days, these days are what it is all about. They help wipe the slate a bit cleaner. They cancel out just a few of the times that hurt so deeply. Thank goodness for these days.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Land of Confusion

Ok, I have sat down to write a new blog post about 6 or 7 different times. I have gotten as far as actually having my Dad proof it, only not to post it. Today, I am simply writing. I am not going to have anyone else proof it, so I apologize right now for any mistakes, but I just have to get this out of my head. Lighten the load that holds heavy on my heart and clings to me and won't let me go. GET.IT.OUT.

This entry is again, about my mom.

My mom is now at the point in her disease that she has passed the stage of knowing that she is struggling and has a disease that is taking her away from us bit by bit. She has landed in a world where she talks incessantly about nothing. I am sure that it all means something to her, but most of the time I have no idea what she is talking about. It may seem easy to deal with a conversation like that. Just nod and agree or make some sort of notion that you are paying attention and she will be fine. You are probably right in saying that, but I can't seem to do that. I am still listening and hoping for a glimpse of who she is, for just a moment that what she says makes complete sense, stirs a memory, brings me my mom. I am lost in her world of confusion and nonsense that only makes sense to her and that world is exhausting.

Exhausting for many reasons, but one that keeps coming up for me is a lack of control. I understand that you can only really control yourself. But I have been, for years, trying to control tid-bits of my Mom's life. In essence it has been my job for years- drive her where she needs to go, shop for her, make  her doctors appointments, pay her bills, check her mail. These were simply a few of my duties. Each stage of Alzheimer's that she entered I would think, "It'll be better now. Now someone is helping watch after her." or "Now I won't have to worry about who is getting her mail." No matter how hard I try, I feel that I have failed my Mom in some way. Things fall through the cracks. Mail gets lost or misplaced. A bill gets missed. I don't visit enough. I am out of town just when she really needs me. I don't understand her anymore.

Even more so, it is that there is nothing we can do to bring her back. No cure. Nothing. There is no clear end in sight, especially with my Mom. She is 15 to 20 years younger than the people she lives with in the facility. I can sit there with her and look around at the others and see them in the stages where she has been and also see how much worse it is going to become.

And you see, the thing is, I can't get away from this. We all have stressors in our life. Some are easier to handle than others. Some we can forget about until after vacation. Some get solved with a quick answer. And I hate to call my own mother a stressor or problem, but I am simply not sure what else to call it right now. Don't get me wrong, I am so very glad that I can do what I can for her. I am glad that she lives near me, at least most of the time. The problem is that I can not let it go, ever.  Can't throw my hands and the arm and yell, "Forget this!" These days, I can not even get away from the situation in my dreams.

I know that I have heard that your subconscious mind is simply trying to resolve stress in your life and figure things out while you sleep. But I have to say, that dreaming about my mom is not restful at all. The past few nights I have dreamt about her. Not a sweet dream that leaves you at ease when you awake. No, it is as if I am living the stress out still while I sleep. Things that I had already dealt with. I dreamt about having to take her car away. I have dreamt about her throwing things away in the trash can that don't belong there. She didn't realize or even care what they were. I dreamt about where she lived and her care and how she felt about it. Reliving the horror and pain of her situation, my situation in my dreams. I wake up tired and even more stressed than the day before. I can't seem to get away.

And inevitably I frequently get the question, "How's your Mom doing?" Look, I know that you are asking out of concern for me or for her or because you are simply curious, but what I want to know is, how do actually expect me to answer that question? I can tell you exactly what is going through my brain when you ask. Usually it goes like this, "Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!! What the f&@$ do you want me to answer to that?! She is bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. She is not getting better, only worse." Here is what you will usually actually get, "She is ok. Doing about the same. She is happy most days." All of this is said holding back tears, wishing you wouldn't ask, especially in public because talking about it only makes me feel worse.

I can hear the , "But you need to talk about it to help with the pain" comments. This is why I write. This is why I work out. It helps me. Lifts the burden. Takes away bits and pieces of the pain.

People keep telling me to ease my burden a little by not doing her laundry anymore. But here is the honest truth, it keeps me going back to visit her on a regular basis. The days that I say I am going to visit, I do, because she needs her clothes cleaned. Then I go again because she needs her clothes back. It may seem cruel in another's eyes that it is hard to go visit my Mom. I have had the suggestion to just make a certain day that I always go visit her. Easier said then done. I used to try and do that, but things started getting in the way. Let me just finish this project at home. I'll go tomorrow. There are a million excuses. The guilt builds. The pain builds. And what is worse, I know my mom would be devastated if she knew the hardship that we have endured for her.

My mom, when still lucid, constantly told my sister and I how thankful she was that she had us. How thankful she was that we have helped her so much, how understanding we have been. I have always known that I would help her. Whatever she needed until the day she dies. I have done things that people have said they couldn't believe that I would do. Well let me tell you, I never questioned it, not once. Because she is my mom. She took care of me for years. I will return the favor. I love her no matter what, Alzheimer's and all.

As I sit here writing, I dread the night. I used to hope for sleep. End the day. Begin a new one tomorrow. Wipe the slate clean. Tonight I hope my dreams bring me peace because tomorrow I go to visit her and I never know what that will bring.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Other "V" Card


Momma said there'd be days like this...I think. These days, it is hard to remember any words of wisdom that my Mom once passed along. Not only that, today is a day I am in a "funk." Actually, I have been in it for almost a week.

Today, I thought, "How did my life get to this point?" The point where I am doing my mother's laundry and labeling her items with a laundry marker. Like a mother sending her child off to camp...except that the roles are reversed. The child is taking care of the mother. I knew that this role reversal would eventually happen. It is just too soon.

And today, like almost every day before I go see her, I have a feeling in my stomach. That feeling of nervousness. Anxiety over what I am going to get with her. Who is she going to be? What is she going to say? Will it make any sense? All I know is that I will never have the Mom back that I so wish I could. The Mom that I once had.

I want the Mom who would go scour Marshall's with me looking for a deal. I want the Mom who would sing "All The Pretty Horses" with her soft voice to my children. I want the Mom who would look content sitting on the couch, feet up, truly engrossed in her next new book. I want the Mom who always had a soft and soothing voice whenever I talked with her. I want the Mom who baked gingerbread cookies every Christmas, for me during my childhood and then with me. Heck, I'd even take the Mom who had slight dementia and laughed with me because sometimes a conversation was a sort of charades game of words.

I look at other people with their mothers and I wish I had what they had. I listen to them complain about their mothers. How "She is so annoying. She is always talking to everyone, even if we don't know them!" Or "My Mom won't stop calling me!" Man, do I wish I could say that.

And I know a lot of people out there are thinking, "At least your Mom is still alive. My Mom didn't get to meet my baby." Trust me, I get that I am lucky to still have her around. I love the days that we laugh or that I walk through the garden with her, even if her mind has turned the blowing leaves into little scurrying animals. But today I am playing my victim card.

Today I am weepy and pissed and so utterly sad that I am sitting at home writing her name on her laundry so it doesn't get lost. I am pissed about punching in security codes in order to get into a new wing at her facility. I am tired of going to see her and hearing a story she has created that something is wrong and someone is misbehaving... and it certainly isn't her. I am tired of sweeping out dried leaves and ripped pages from books from her dresser drawers, where they have been safely stored away for no good reason. I am tired of the fact that she can't tell the difference between a doll and a real live baby. I am especially tired of the guilt. Feeling guilty that I am doing the wrong thing or not doing enough for my mother. The guilt, the sadness, and the anger are just sometimes too much to bear. They envelope my being. And I can't start crying because the feelings are so deep that I am not sure what it would take me to stop. I imagine sobs that are encompassing my soul, tearing my body. I can't go there today.

So instead, I will have my solitude. I made some homemade soup. I took a long hot shower. And I sat and did my Mom's laundry. Today I will play the victim card, for tomorrow I will be dealt a new hand.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spinning the Wheel


Being a caretaker to an Alzheimer's patient is a little like spinning the roulette wheel in the game of life. You never know what you're going to get. But today, I won. 


It's been a while since I've written about my mother and the disease that is taking her and some have asked for an update. In June, she was transferred to the locked down facility called Clare Bridge. She had been trying to leave the health center and, in fact, she did leave three times. People at the facility saw her leave and followed her to see where she would go and how she would react. The first time she got to a place where she was lost but she somehow found her way to the front desk, the main door of the entire facility. Let me explain. This place is huge. It is on 87 acres that consist of independent living, assisted living, a health center, and Clare Bridge- the locked down Alzheimer's unit. It also has ponds, walking trails, a historic cabin, and gardens. 
Imagine if you will, a resort for senior citizens.

All of this is sandwiched between two busy roads in Northern Indianapolis. There are many places she could go and get into trouble. In her defense, each time she strayed, she stayed on the sidewalks. The first time, as I said, she made it back to another door, the main door. She was flustered and confused, but Mildred, the keeper of the gates, knew my mom and made sure she got back to her living quarters okay. The second time she "took a walk, " she again was followed and did ok. The last time, she got completely turned around and made it to the end of a street to a stop sign connecting to a busy road. The staff following her immediately helped her. It was the last straw. She had to go to Clare Bridge and it had to be today. 


Today” was in June, and I happened to be in Colorado visiting friends. My wonderful husband, Jason, and my mother-in-law, Liz, took on the task of helping her move and making sure she was emotionally ok with what was transpiring. That evening Jason called me in Colorado to update me on the situation. He said that she was moved and the instant she moved, she didn't realize she had lived anywhere else. As depressing as that notion was, that she had no recollection of having lived anywhere else, it was actually a relief. It meant the transition would be a lot easier than we thought. 


June and July passed with few problems, but then things started to disintegrate. She was irritated. She still wanted to be able to walk outside, but on her own, which really she had not been able to do for years. She didn't want to participate in planned activities. Trying to explain to her that the activities would be fun and that she should participate was like telling a child that they should take those piano lessons they hate. She was having none of it. 


By the end of July, she was downright pissed. She was waking up at night. She was pacing. She was always agitated. I would get calls that she was mad, she wanted to leave and was getting aggressive. My mom who hardly ever raised her voice, never cursed, never raised a hand to anyone was fighting the staff. Literally fighting, yelling, pushing, hitting.


I remember one call in particular. The staff was right in the middle of a situation with her and was hoping that I could help. I was driving home from a visit to Virginia and Maryland and was in Ohio when I saw that a call was coming in from Clare Bridge. I always get a sinking feeling when I see the number pop up on the screen. The "oh, no. what’s wrong? kind of feeling." The nurse called and said, "Molly, I'm calling about your Mom. She's really mad and agitated."


"What's wrong? What set her off?" I ask. 


"Well, she says she wants to leave, she has to get out. She has her make-up, toothpaste and a roll of toilet paper and she won't leave the door. Gordon is trying to calm her down, but she is yelling and pushing him."


I laugh, "Well, sounds like she is in survival mode. At least she sort of knows what she would need." What could I say? It initially struck me as funny and there was not much I could do driving on 70 West a couple of hundred miles from home. The nurse laughed and then asked if I'd talk to her. Apparently she also was saying she was waiting for me. 


I hear her call my mom to the phone.


"Yes?!" I hear my Mom's voice so riddled with anger, it is scary. Like the voice of a stranger. A voice I have never heard come from my Mom's lips. 


"Mom, it's Molly, your daughter. What's wrong?" I ask.


"I have I get out of here. They are telling me I can't leave, but I am. I am waiting for you because there is no other choice. I am not staying here."


"Mom, I need you to calm down and listen. I can't be there right now. I'm not in town." I try to explain. I speak clearly and in a tone like I am speaking with a child. "I can come see you tomorrow, but I need you to listen to the nurse. You have to behave. You cannot leave. You live there now. Ok? I promise that I will be there tomorrow."


"FINE" she screams and I hear the phone thrown down and bang onto the counter. Then she starts to rant. "I can't believe you called her! She is going to come here and kill me. What's the point?! I should just be killed!"


Wow. 


The nurse comes back on and tries to reassure me that they will take care of her and not to worry. She thanks me for talking to her. I tell her to call me as much as needed and that I'd be there tomorrow.


Not to worry? A stranger has possessed my mother. A mean, abusive, unruly woman is in place of the loving woman I always knew and I am not to worry? Right.

Tomorrow came and I headed into Clare Bridge with all sorts of stories swirling in my head. I was scared to go in knowing the state she was in yesterday. I hoped that it didn’t become an emotional or physical fiasco. I walk in, see her and say, "Hi Mom, it's Molly, your daughter. How are you doing today?"


"Great! It's so nice to see you."


No memory of yesterday's dramatics. None. A blank slate.


Within a week, she was transferred to a geriatric specialty program at a small community hospital. She ended up staying there for two weeks to regulate her medication and behavior. She had experimental medications, one-on-one attention, counseling and activities, and visits from me. The doctors and staff there were again saying what I am accustomed to hearing, "Your mom is so beautiful. She is the sweetest woman. We wish she could stay here with us."


It worked. She no longer tries to leave. She is the sweet soul she always has been. She participates in activities. And now she also "works" there at Clare Bridge.


She has been a caretaker her entire life- an older sister, a mom, a teacher, a counselor, a friend. She now believes that the other patients, the people she lives with, are babies and children. That's what her brain perceives. She oversees the patients, the “children.” She is there to take care of them, and just as being a caretaker for her can be overwhelming to me, it is to her as well. She worries about the "children". Why isn't anyone coming to get them? Where are their parents? She cries for them. She talks to the staff about them. She tucks them in and talks with them. She loves them as best as she can.

Her job is important to her. In her own way, she tells me about the people that are misbehaving. She takes me on a tour around the garden and tells me about how hard they've worked to get it like this- so lovely. She counsels them. In her reality, she must keep them safe. She must love them and care for them. 


She is in her her own world, her own reality, but to her it makes sense. It can be stressful at times, but she believes she is bettering these people's lives. She is helping them. And I believe she is. Her sweet and compassionate soul is a joy to have around again...finally. 


By the luck of the draw, the spin of the wheel, today was a good day. A day of disjointed conversations. A day of singing to music with the warmth of the sun beating in on us through the sun roof. Enjoying the beautiful weather and the turning leaves. A day of enjoying my Mom's peaceful soul. A perfect companion. 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Powerful Words


It happened. I wasn't sure the day would come, but it did. It may be fleeting, but today is the day my son realized and said that he is good enough. Not just good enough, but awesome.


And last week it happened. Except this time it was my daughter. Innocently showing me what she wrote in her school journal. She is loving and powerful and...weird. So she says, and I believe her.

Since my children were born, as most parents do, we wanted them not only to feel loved by their family, but also to love themselves. As a parent, many times a day, every day, I tell my two kids that I love them. My husband does the same. We do our best to reinforce in them why we believe they are such wonderful human beings. We share with them what others say about them as well.

The past few years with Jake, our son, have been tough. They have been riddled with tears and hard questions. "Why can't I learn like everyone else?" "Maybe I'm just not that smart." "Why would someone say/do that?" Jake is plenty “smart”, but his mind does not process information in the same way as most people. Just imagine a condition a lot like dyslexia, but not quite and with no defined treatment or teaching protocols, and you will be almost there. Frustrating? Oh, yeah.

Jason and I have been constant advocates for our son. For instance, we have helped him with his schoolwork, spent endless hours with educators to help them find ways to teach him, and we have tried to help him find a sport or activity he likes and honestly understands. We've explained at times that people aren't always kind. His mind takes it all in and you can almost see the gears turning, trying to process the information we have given him or the situations life has thrown at him. 


Well, fourth grade has been a great year so far. We have discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Jake loves it. The instructors are kind and patient and work with him in a very "hands on" manner, which is just what he needs. Jake is feeling stronger and more confident. He radiates coolness and pride when someone asks him about it. And school, which is still tough at times, at least seems manageable to him. He isn't crying everyday. That is a win. Folks that is a HUGE WIN!

So today Jake was working on some homework. He has been trying to catch up after being out sick all week. As he is working, I hear, "What?!...Mom, could you come here? This doesn't make sense to me." I go over and read the homework. It asks him to fill in the blanks and to tell the teacher what his ideal self would be. I can see that he is concerned about this question, and he is fretting over what seems simple to me.  I calmly say, "Well, she is asking you to fill in how you want others to know you. Do you want to be smart, funny, athletic, quiet, a good singer...stuff like that." Jake is still perplexed and I start understanding where his problem is with this statement. I said, "Jake, here, they want to know your name or what you want to be called. For instance, you could write Superman. And here, imagine what you would want your friends to yell out about you." He seems satisfied and I go back to my ironing. Soon, he walks over to me and says, "I did it. I answered the last question too. Could you check and make sure I did it right?" I take his page and read and fight back the tears of happiness. He thinks he is awesome just the way he is. I tell him it's great, just perfect.
And Reese, my daughter. She has been the outgoing one. She makes friends easily and is very smart. Things come easily to her. She has such an amazing spirit. A vibrant, kind, creative, yet full of energy kind of spirit. Jason and I have always said that we need to help her continue to grow that spirit without stifling it, yet make sure she has the correct discipline and support. There's a fine line with her. As confident as she is, she looks for validation. "Momma do you like this outfit? Is it pretty?" And "Don't help me! I will do it myself!" And "Do you think Daddy wants to see my work? Can you leave it out for him?" We have always taught both of our children that you can do or become whatever you choose. Reese did wrestling, her choice, for two years, even when she was the only girl. She has spunk and thank goodness she knows it, at seven years old. To describe herself as loving and powerful is amazing. To even have an idea of what that means, at her age, is truly wonderful. And weird...we all are in some way and she is proud of her own weird way. 

When I saw what she had written, I wanted to jump up and shout, "Yes!!!" And if I was at home I would have, but to do it randomly in the middle of my son's Jiu Jitsu class would have been a little strange. But I was glowing from the inside out! 

It's times like these that you realize you're a pretty good parent and that your children do listen to you. Sure they hear you yell out, "This door is a piece of crap!" and repeat that. But they also hear the good stuff. The stuff that you want them to soak up. The "I love you’s", the times you whisper to them when you think they are sleeping,"You are such a sweet boy". The "You have such a great spirit" and "How's my beautiful girl today?" The things that matter.

I took a lesson from my parents. Every night at dinner, when we are all sitting and focused, each one of us answers a question: "What's the best thing that happened to you today?" Because no matter how crappy (There's that word again) your day has been, there is always at least one good thing that happened. Now, I've taken the lead and added another thing. We also finish the statement, "I am awesome because..." Too many times we forget the good stuff, especially about ourselves. And sometimes it doesn't seem to matter if someone else tells you that you’re awesome, you've got to believe it yourself.

So maybe it was the kind words my husband and I passed along. Maybe it was the conversations and statements of awesomeness at dinner or maybe it is their inner being that just knows that they are awesome. Whatever the reason, they got it. They are awesome. They are loving and powerful. And yes, they are weird. Me, too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lucky 13


LUCKY 13 – THE STORY OF LOVE

Jason Thomas Godby is my husband. Today, September 25th, is our 13th Wedding Anniversary. I will attempt something that seems almost impossible to me. I will try to describe how much I love him. 

I met Jason in May of 1995 at Elk Mountain Ranch. We were both 20 years old and were excited to be working away from home in Colorado. Jason is from Indiana, and I am from Virginia. Staff at a guest ranch are pretty much instant family. They work together and play together, they are around each other all the time, so you have to get along! We did. I loved the people I worked with there, and some of them are still among my best friends.

I so clearly remember the very first time that I saw Jason. I was coming into the ranch on the 15 passenger van, after a long but beautiful ride from Denver International Airport. I can even tell you what was wearing. (Sweatshirt on inside out and jeans.) I saw him through the window where I sat on the left side of the van. There was something about this guy that radiated through my spirit, my soul. I fell in love with him almost instantly.  

I won’t write out our whole story in detailed fashion. I will simply do my best to describe my feelings about my husband, the man I love. 

Jason is my everything. I cannot imagine myself with anyone other than him. There are times I look at him, and he makes me lose my breath or makes me dizzy. I am still head over heels in love after knowing him for 17 years.

He has taught me to dream. Not just to dream, but to dream big. He has taught me that just because I do not have the means to have something right now does not mean that it won't happen, that the dream won’t come true. We have so many of the same goals and dreams. We want the same things for our family and for our children. We are proud of each others’ accomplishments and always, I mean always, help the other one to get there. Usually a successful venture ends with a high five and a shout out of "Team Godby".  Jason and Molly, always a team.

I have fun with him. He has taught me to take more risks and not to worry so much. Jason helps me think outside the box. He reminds me that a vision I have created and held on to for so long does not have to be the only way and that it might not be the best way.

I love all of his idiosyncrasies. He falls asleep on the couch the instant he sits down to watch a movie. But he must have stayed awake for some movies sometime in his life, because he quotes movie lines all the time and most of the time no one knows what he is talking about. His one liners- there are certain things he always says - don't get old to me. These and so many other little things that make him who he is are parts of the man I love, so I love them as I love him.

He has a thirst for knowledge. He is always reading a magazine article or checking out the latest stories in the newspaper, online, or on TV. He asks questions all the time to learn new things. And the guy seems to know everyone. Need something done for a particular trade, Jason is your man. Wonder who knows someone who is connected to something, ask Jason.

Not only does he know so many people, but he has a loyal group of friends, a following. This is because he is a loyal individual. If you gain his trust, he will always be your friend. He will stay true to you and be ready to help you however he can. He will not let you down.

I love his laugh. It makes me smile and laugh as well. I sometimes stare at him, trying to memorize every part of him because I don't want to miss the freckle on his back or the gray hair coming in that make him look so sexy.

I am knocked out by his knowledge of construction and how things work. This man knows everything and when I once asked, "How did you know how to put that steel support beam in?", his response was, "I just know how." This man was born to build things and fix things. And when he does do it, it will always be done right the first time.  Physics and geometry are permanently built into his brain, his hands, and his body. And he looks really good wearing jeans and a tool belt, too.

Jason is such a giving man. He rarely thinks of himself first. He genuinely wants to help people. If he knows someone who is having a rough time, Jason is the first one to find a way to give him a hand up rather than a handout. He sees the value in helping someone while at the same time teaching them to help themselves. 

JT is a hard worker. He doesn’t like to sit on the couch to watch a movie or a game in the middle of the day. Instead, he wants to be somewhere working on something. He has proved that he can reach goals with his hard work. He owns businesses that pride themselves on doing quality work and in employing great people who work together as a team.

He is one of the best Dads ever, anywhere. Jason always will find ways to support our son and our daughter. He goes to their practices. He reads with them at night. He shoots hoops with them outside. He answers their many questions. He supports whatever it is that they are interested in. He creates new adventures for us to try as a family. And he works so hard every day to support our family financially. He does whatever he can so that I can stay home and be with the kids. So I can volunteer at their school. So that I can be there to put them on the bus and be home when they jump off the bus and run to the front door.

What a lucky woman I am. So many times I have wondered, "How am I so lucky to be graced with this man?" I could go on and on about all the things I love about him, I really could. Every day I love him more. Every day he shows me that he loves me. He is a sensational father. He is a hard worker. He is a giver. Every day he makes me laugh, makes me think differently, or listens to my troubles. He helps make me a better person. Every day I am so very thankful that I have him to love. And I do love him. I love him more than I can say.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lessons Learned


Wow. It has been a long time since I have posted something. I will blame it on a busy, yet fun and rewarding summer. We had some nice trips and got to see family and friends. Honestly, it is mainly because I have made sure not to waste my time on a computer, as I once did. I have finally resigned myself to knowing that writing is cathartic to me and that matters. Surfing the web to see what celeb is in rehab this week doesn't. 

I have so many things that I could blog about, but I think that I am going to stick with lessons learned.

As you may know, I had a long battle with pneumonia and had other health problems, mother severe Alzheimer's, and I have a tendency to rush, rush, rush and stay busy, busy, busy.

This past year, and by past year I mean since September 2011 until now, I have learned, or rather re-learned some meaningful lessons. These lessons came from many situations in my life, trips that I took, or people that I shared my time with.

Here is what I have learned-Patience for others, patience for situations and certainly, patience for myself. Not only patience, but that term I use over and over, slowing down. Slowing down to create and be a part of real life experiences and getting to share them with truly wonderful people. In the last 11 months I have learned that I have been living a life where I want things to happen as fast as possible. We have been conditioned for instant gratification. Text me back right away. Push this button and rent a movie now. Take this pill or drink this shake and become skinny this week. It is a and confining mold to break out of. Now, now now!!

Well, pneumonia made me realize that I was going to have a long, tough hill to climb to get back to where I was. I would have to learn to be patient with myself instead of so critical of myself. At the end of June, I got the "all clear" from the pulmonologist. My lungs were healthy. They were healthy, but I certainly was not up to speed with my workouts. Getting the "all clear" did not mean I was instantly better. When it comes to working out, I am dedicated, I work hard. But when I was recovering, I lost a ton of strength. I had to take breaks because I literally could not breathe. There was one workout that I even had to quit, take a "DNF." This was tragic to me. You may think, what does she mean “tragic”? It is just a workout. The thing is, CrossFit taught me not to quit. Even if it was going to take me a long time to get through a workout, I finished it, no matter what. 

So here I was, after eight months of not feeling like me, like Molly, the woman who is strong and fast I was now the woman who used to be strong and fast. I had to have patience with myself. I had to remember that it was a process, a journey. I had to learn that just because cleaning 95 pounds for multiple reps was now an immense struggle, when it once had been a standard thing, didn't mean I was a failure. It didn't mean I wasn't ever going to be able to do it again. I learned that I shouldn't be embarrassed at my abilities or lack thereof. I had to have patience, put the work in and know that I would get there....again. I had to believe in the process and believe in myself. And so I still hit the gym I work every day on my strength, my speed and my mental game. I am nowhere near where I used to be. I sometimes feel like I am doing burpees in a tar pit and lifting elephants, not barbells, but I continue to come back for a beating, knowing that I will soon reap the rewards of my time spent- sweat dripping, muscles aching.

I always look forward to my annual trip to Colorado. One of the things I love about it is that I feel that the people I chose to spend time with have a different mentality than most. We went out to Elk Mountain Ranch, which happens to be where I once worked and where I met my husband. Tom and Sue, the owners, and their kids Hunter and Ty some of my most favorite people in the world. Tom and Sue are our kid's Godparents and for good reason. I cannot imagine anyone not liking these people. They among the kindest, and most loving, honest, hard working, and truly giving individuals that I know. They love you simply for yourself. They have never cared much about material things. They live their summer days working with people and horses and making each day better than the day before. 

The ranch is situated at over 9,600 ft in the mountains of Colorado. They generate their own power there. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been view during the day consists of the 14,000 ft Collegiate peaks, aspens for miles, evergreens and Indian Paint brush galore. At night, the most amazing display of stars that you have ever seen. When we take walks at night we say, "One more shooting star and then we will turn around and go home."

There's no TV, limited cell service, and I think t this is wonderful. The entire week is not spent constantly checking emails or facebook. It is not watching TV shows that really do not matter. Instead, you are running down a dirt road with Mt. Princeton to look at. You are riding horses through a sea of quaking Aspens. You are playing board games with the others staying there. Having conversations and sharing laughter with people that two days ago were strangers. You are taking the time to fish with your kids and showing them how to clean that fish. You are sitting down to read that book you've been meaning to read forever. Loving that your husband feels like he is 20 years old again and working there as a wrangler, just as he once did. Or taking that nap that you never get to take at home because you are too busy. It is all about real experiences, real people, and slowing down to truly enjoy life.

While in Colorado, I also stayed at a friend's house in Colorado Springs, a dear friend named Kristen. We met when our kids were in Gymboree class together about 8 years ago. This wonderful lady has such a grace about her. She is that person that is ever positive. Her smile and laugh are infectious. She has been through some tough times lately, but somehow managed to come out of it still the happy, fun and super positive person that she has always been. She also is someone who is beautiful on the inside and out, yet has a hard time believing this about herself. Kristen loves each person for who they are, not by the car they drive or the clothes they wear. I so often wish that we didn't live so far away from each other because I would love to spend more time with her. 

Being around Kristen, Tom, and Sue and their children is always a treat. They are the kind of people that you feel make you a better person just by being with them. Real people and real experiences, that is what it is all about. Loving and accepting yourself for who you are at that moment and then using each day to create a better day and a better you than the one before.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Heavy

Yesterday was a strange day. Things have been super busy around here, but something yesterday made me stop, think, and reflect. Yesterday I had a visit with my mom. My mom is in the severe stages of Alzheimer's Disease at only 71 years old.

Whenever I go to see my Mom, one of the things that is usually required is some reorganization of her room. She tends to take everything she has and put them in different spots. Tuesday, I found clothes in the trash, shoes in the drawer, books under the bed, pillows in the closet and so on. Some times I choose to leave things just the way that they are, knowing that if I left, the next day they would be a mess anyway. This time, I decided to straighten things. She wasn't in her room, instead out on a walk with one of the nurses, so it gave me time to do it without her around.

So, I straightened her room and got together all of her dirty clothes to take with me. I refolded and reorganized all of her clean clothes and put them in drawers. I picked up all of her books and replaced them on her book shelves. I found the three photos that she has of my sister, myself and our kids and placed them on the shelf. She has very few possessions at this point, so going through and doing this does not take a lot of time. I did notice that I could not find the necklace that my son had made her and she used to wear all of the time. This was a warning. Clothes in the trash and a necklace missing meant that the necklace that she once held dear was gone. Probably tossed in the trash, no longer knowing how proud my son was that he made it and she loved it so much. This was a warning to see if there was anything else that needed to be taken. Anything of any value.

She returned from her walk and we sat on the bed. She was hungry and was "trying" to eat an apple. I say "trying" because even to take a bite of it as a laborious and confusing situation for her. I sat and we talked. This meant that I listened to her talk. She spouted random sentences, mostly none of them making much sense. We had a nice visit, but then I had to go. I explained that I would be back tomorrow. I knew that this meant nothing to her as she would forget soon after the words left my mouth.

I showed up yesterday, Wednesday, thinking that the Mother's Tea was at 2 pm. I got there a bit early in order to unload her laundry and to make sure she recognized me. I saw right away that something was amiss. I asked and found out that the Tea was at 3 pm. I wanted to go, but it didn't matter much, because my Mom really had no idea that it was even happening. I wasn't going to be able to stay. I had to pick up my daughter by 3pm.

On to her room,and I saw her sitting on her bed looking at a book. She was once an avid reader, but now can not read anymore, so she instead looks at "coffee table" type books. She was looking at an art book...upside down. I greeted her happily, unloaded her laundry, rearranged her drawers again, and then sat with her to talk about the book.

She went into, what she thought was, great detail about the "book." I began to realize that she was somewhere in between knowing that this was a book and thinking that this was also some sort of album about her life. Stuck in a sort of limbo. She gave me reasons why this guy put this book together, the story about it and how she fit in to mix. Honestly, most of it was jibberish. Nonsense. I sat there nodding, agreeing, and trying to interject a comment that would let her know that I was enjoying her discussion.

Then suddenly she looks down and starts talking really softly, in order for no one else to hear but me. She says, in a low and annoyed tone, something like, "There are all these families that live here and this is my space, but these people are always here, just trying to be in my business." It was not even that coherent, but I responded, "Well, Ruth (her roommate) is sleeping on her bed." She says, "No," as her eyes "point" to something behind me. She whispers, "That lady standing right over there and that crazy guy. They are just staring at us." Creepy? Yes. I knew there was no one there, but still felt inclined to turn around and look. Was anyone there? I say no. She would say yes. Her hallucinations tell her there are people in her room all of the time. That was such an eerie feeling.

We finished looking at that book and she moved onto another. Again, caught in her world, almost a purgatory of sorts. Definitely not heaven, certainly closer to hell, but a world in between. Finally, I asked to see her hand and took her rings. I told her that I was going to have them cleaned, slipped them on my own hand, as not to lose them. By the time the rings were transferred, the thought was lost. She had moved on to something else. Almost the last thing of value was being taken. The only thing remaining of value is my Mom.

We soon said goodbye, I gave her a kiss and a hug and said that I would be back on Sunday, Mother's Day, to take her to breakfast. A quick glimmer of child-like excitement flashes across her face and fades as I walk out the door. The reality that I am now her mother and she, my child has hit me again.

I was telling my sister, Morgan, about the experience. We both described it as trying to talk with a person who was mentally ill...which I guess, at this point, she is. She absolutely has her own reality. It consists of a world that we are rarely part of. There are people that play parts that only she knows, that only she sees.

This was one of the days that I left very upset. I wanted to talk with someone. Someone who knew what I was going through. The three people I called, my husband, my sister, and a friend were all unavailable. Suddenly I felt so lonely. As if I had been totally encompassed by these emotions. I can only describe it as being left in a dark room, surrounded by nothing. Isolated with my feelings and realizing that no one really "gets" how it feels. No one to rescue you, to help get you out. Heavy. Heavy on my heart, on my entire body. No one to help bear the load.

Even those, like my sister, who are also going through this, do not have the same experience as me...do not deal with my Mom on a regular basis. Again alone. I had no one to talk to and had to somehow hold it together because I had to go get my daughter from school. Hold it together for hours. She was having a play date at our house. No way to release the pain.

I know that I have friends. I have an amazing family that is and always has been supportive. But yesterday, none of that mattered. Yesterday I felt totally and completely alone. Desperate for connection, yet realizing the connection I would get wouldn't suffice. Not today.


Friday, May 4, 2012

I Am Not Normal, Thank Goodness

Another day, another test. I finally got into a pulmonologist and once again, I seem to be passing their tests with flying colors. "Your chest x-ray is normal and your lungs really sound pretty good," says the doctor. My usually response is, "Well, I am not able to breath normally, so what now?" Off to get a CT Scan and a PFT (Pulmonary Function Test). These will be checking for lung scarring, a possible pulmonary embolism, or a fungal infection.

Today I arrived at St. Vincent's Hospital at 6:45am where a friend of mine awaited my arrival. She volunteered to come with me for support and another ear, in case we were told another bunch of medical mumbo jumbo...two sets of ears are better then one.

Registration was quick, since I had been there recently for my stress test. Then I was shuffled off to Radiology, which was right next to outpatient registration. The lady checking me in was completely annoyed that they did not give me an extra sheet that I needed to have to take to my PFT. Poor thing had to walk 10 feet to the copier and make a copy for me. My friend and I were laughing that with one facial gesture and roll of the eyes, we could hear the conversation in her head. "Of course they didn't give you that sheet. They never do. Now I have to walk all the way over here and make a copy."

Despite the disgruntled lady at the desk, everything else ran super smoothly. The hospital was actually completely on time, and I went right into the back. Here, I had to get an IV and was told what actually was going to happen during the CT Scan.

Needles do not bother me, so even when she warned that they would have to use a larger needle than usual, in order to inject the dye, it didn't phase me. IV in and we walk back to the room where the scan actual goes down. The nurse warns me, "When the dye is injected you may feel really warm and like you peed your pants, but that is normal." I laugh, make a comment like, "Awesome, can't wait for that sensation." I am given the instructions that I will hear directions overhead on when to hold my breath, open my mouth and breath normally in order to do the scan. Then out the room they scoot.


I am lying there on the bed, arms up over my head, as instructed, and wait. Just then, the machine turns on and it sounds like an airplane is taking off in the room. In my head I am thinking, "Just like I am going on vacation!" The dye has yet to be injected, but then her voice tells me from above, "We are injecting the dye. Here is where you may feel the effects that we talked about." I was thinking, "Sure, maybe some older women will feel like they are peeing their pants, but not me." Man, was I ever wrong. I could feel the dye spreading throughout my body, into each extremity, into my finger tips and yes, down "there." And I will admit, yes it TOTALLY feels like you are peeing your pants....luckily, I assure you, you are not. Not only did I feel like I was suddenly in need of new pants, but it made me feel like I was on fire, from the inside out. What a strange feeling. Like nothing I have ever felt. Aside from the weirdness of now feeling incontinent and on fire, it was quick and easy. The plane once again landed, as the machine was shutting down.  IV was unhooked, I hopped off the table and was off.

Out the door, my friend was saying, "What? You're done already?" I was and we were off weaving through the maze of hallways in order to find the Pulmonary Function Lab. (Link explains in more scientific detail what I went through.) There it was. This little room with a weird machine and an odd technician. I waited briefly as I was told, "You are early. I have to finish getting the machine ready." Once the machine and the technician were ready, I came in, got weighed, my height measured and was told to sit down. In all essence, this machine was very interesting. It uses Boyle's Law in order to calculate my airflow volume, lung pressure, and flow, as calculated for a "normal" person my height and weight.

This test basically consisted of me breathing into a "snorkle-like" tube over and over. I had to pant, give deep breaths and bursts of air, and breathe normally into this tube while I had nose clips on. Then I was given an albuterol breathing treatment. This made me so jittery, which she warned me about. The technician said, "This may make you feel like you drank too much coffee." I responded, "I don't drink coffee or anything else with caffeine." She says, "How about an energy drink?" Before I respond, I am thinking, "Isn't there a TON of caffeine in energy drinks? Genius." I simply state, "Nope, haven't had one of those either." Then the jitters set in. My entire body is shaking and I feel dizzy from the medicine, but guess what? We are not done, more breathing tests. Mind you, the entire time I am taking these tests, the obese technician is trying to tell me that maybe I have acid reflux. *Insert, in my brain, a major eye roll and the conversation and judgment that makes me think, "Yes, it must be acid reflux. Must be all of that McDonald's that I have not been eating and all of that Coke I have not been drinking.* More huffing and puffing into that tube and more comments that the reason I am coughing is not mucus or fluid being extracted from my lungs, but again, acid reflux. I could not wait to get out of there.


My friend and I leave, laughing and discussing my "acid reflux." Now, this is where I get frustrated and somewhat pissed. Supposedly, by the expert acid reflux technician, my breathing was fairly "normal." Here is what I want to know, what is "normal" to a pulmonologist? Is normal the guy in the wheelchair with oxygen and a pack of Marlboros in his pocket? Because if that is normal, I am so above normal it is not even funny.

I have said this over and over. I have never had trouble breathing until I got pneumonia. From the reactions of all the doctors I have seen since, it sounds like someone dropped the ball and I should have been hospitalized in November, when instead I was sitting on the couch for weeks. No blame, I am staying in the present. But since then, I have not been able to breathe normally. That means normally for me. For a 5'3" female that is in super shape. A woman who is strong. A mom that can CrossFit and run while feeling that I am breathing through a cheesecloth. Someone who has had her blood work taken--normal. Had a stress test--heart is "more than perfect." A woman who now can walk across a room and be out of breath and have physical pain in her lungs, but will still complete a WOD for the day. Someone who eats better, works out more than most people. Someone who has, literally, NEVER, and I mean NEVER smoked in her entire life. So tell me, am I wrong to think that what is normal for the typical obese, fast food eating American is not normal for me?

In a couple of weeks I will go in for my followup and get the results of my tests. I will admit that I am feeling somewhat better. I don't feel like I can't catch a deep breath all of the time. But as I sit here, having done the breathing tests and a WOD today, my right lung hurts. It physically hurts. So, all I ask is that we figure this out and that the doctors consider that what is "normal" for others, may not be "normal" for little ole me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

That Gut Feeling

So...back to my health saga. I have stumped the doctor over and over, yet I think that I have been right from the beginning. Although I do have anxiety, I mean who doesn't, that was not the reason that I can't breathe. They even had me take Xanax for a couple of nights to see if it would help my breathing. The flat out answer was--NO! I still felt like I couldn't get a deep breath. I still could barely get through a two mile run and not only that, it made me feel hungover until about two in the afternoon. Also, it made me feel like I had no taste buds...and I like food.

Next was a stress test. This test was done to make sure that I hadn't received any heart damage when I had pneumonia. Also, it was done because I was still sometimes experiencing chest pains. I was to head to St. V's hospital and onto their treadmill. The nurse explained that I was going to have to walk on the treadmill in order to get my heart rate up to 150. They took an ultrasound of my heart both before and right after the treadmill test to see how my heart was looking. My first response is, "Walk?! That is all I am going to do? That's not going to cut it." She responds, "Do you work out a lot?" I say, "Yeah, you could say that."

In my heart, no pun intended, I have known that my heart was OK, but was doing this anyway. If nothing else, it gives me a baseline of knowing where I truly stand. While the nurse is trying to give me the ultrasound, she says, "Wow. You are really lungy. I can hear you wheezing just laying here." My response, "Yep, and they say it can't be my lungs. Go figure."

Ultrasound of my heart done and onto the treadmill. They had to put it on the highest incline and have me run in order to get my heart rate where it needed to be. Score! The treadmill stops abruptly and I have to jump back on the table in the exact same position. The nurse says, "Dang it. I knew your heart rate would drop like a rock." In the end, the cardiologist says that I have a "more than perfect heart."

So what is next, three unreturned phone calls to the doctor's office. (They are soon to be fired.) I am on my own, apparently, to find a pulmonologist and get my lungs checked out. That is on my "to do" list for next week.

One always says to listen to your heart, trust your instincts and that gut feeling. From the beginning, I have known that the problem was with my lungs. I have never ever had trouble breathing until I had pneumonia and I haven't been the same since. I understand that the doctors were trying to rule out some of the obvious things first, but it will also be an expensive diagnostic process. I am going on six months now of working on getting back to "normal." Thank goodness I started out as a very healthy individual. It is scary to think how this may have turned out, had I been a junk food eating couch potato.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"A Fight to Remember" and An Overwhelming Day

Wow, wow, wow. Yesterday The CrossFit Journal posted my article, "A Fight to Remember." Here is the link. It is about my mom's struggle with Alzheimer's Disease, and why I changed my lifestyle in order to keep Alzheimer's at bay. It was also posted on The CrossFit Journal's facebook page and their Twitter account. (I must admit right now that I have never been on Twitter, but that a friend of mine let me know that piece of info.) I did not even know that it was posted on any of these sights until a friend of mine had told me. Immediately, I checked the sights, including trying to figure out Twitter, although unsuccessfully, and was immediately overcome with emotion. I somehow reposted my friend's post of my article, my head in a complete whirl. I frantically try to call my husband, but it goes straight to voicemail. I am in a tizzy.

Comment after comment on facebook. E-mails from friends and family. Recognition from the local Alzheimer's Association. Comments on The CrossFit Journal. Private messages on facebook. Posts on my facebook wall. Phone calls. It is all so very overwhelming.

I decided over a year ago that I was going to write an article and submit it to The CrossFit Journal. It was on my goal list. When I made the goal, I wasn't sure what I was going to write about. I only knew the immense positive impact that CrossFit had had on my life. The idea came to me while I was taking a shower. Over and over people tell their stories. They tell how CrossFit has changed their lives. There are many stories about people who continue to do CrossFit through cancer, losing limbs, and fighting their own battle with obesity. There were no articles about how one uses CrossFit to fight through a mental challenge, a disease such as Alzheimer's.

There it was, I had my idea. Now I had to write it. It took me over a year to get this article to where it is today. You see, it has been painful to write. I had to constantly relive the things that I hated so much. Losing my mom as I knew her, the stories that she created, the daily grief that I endure. It is all very exhausting. So, I would write, ask my friend and my Dad to look over and edit it, and then I had to put it away. Sometimes for months, sometimes just days. Then I would be back at it. I would be adding stories and trying to dig deeper into the story and my emotions. I had to be totally prepared, every time that I sat down to write, to cry, be angry, yet find inspiration.

Now here it is, in all its glory. And it seems almost surreal. It is still powerful, even to me, and I have read it hundreds of times. What is even more powerful is the feedback that I have received. I do not have words for that. Family, friends, and even strangers have taken the time to read my article and then respond to it. People have posted and reposted it in order to share it on facebook. And the comments...wow. I guess it is hard for me to realize how I have impacted others. The things that people said about me are overwhelming. They are overwhelmingly kind.

So, what I am trying to say is, thank you. Thank you to everyone. Those who helped along the way. Those who have offered support in my everyday life. Thank you to those who inspire me. Thank you to those who have taught me what not to do. And thank you for all of the feedback. Without any of these people, this article never would have been created. Not only that, this experience has helped me to see how I have impacted others.

I am really trying to accept all of this kindness and support with grace. Inevitably, I end up in tears. Tears of pain, from reliving my own words. Tears of sorrow for all of the others that have also had to deal with this awful disease. Tears of thankfulness, to my Dad and my friend Jennifer for all of their help. Tears of humility, from the pure love that I have felt. And tears of pride because I did it, I finally did it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slowing Down

So the doctors think that my problem is anxiety. Chronic anxiety taking a major toll on my body. That is what I get for pushing "it" all aside and pressing on. And without going into a big victim fest about all the toils of my life, I can pretty much sum it up in one sentence: My mom has Alzheimer's. There, done.

I was told just yesterday, by a friend, that maybe I should start taking some of my own advice. I laughed, but deep down I knew that this person was right. What happened to to the smart woman who learned how to deal with her own stress? She got too busy and probably a little too scared to stop and deal with it.

Scared? Yes, it is scary to sometimes to deal with emotion. You have to truly let yourself feel that emotion, totally and completely. And if that means I am sad, that would inevitably lead to crying...at least with me. Tears would flow in abundance. And that was something I just did not have time for. It was inconvenient with whatever was going on in the rest of my life. I have kids to take care of, bills to pay, people to train, a house to clean, groceries to get, and whatever else came up each day. I was stressed to the max and didn't even know it. So my mom's stress on top of everyday stress, just became too much.

I believe that the stress mostly all has to do with my Mom. Losing her to Alzheimer's. Seeing someone else have a close tender moment with their mom and me knowing that I can't, and won't, have that type of connection with her anymore. Or seeing or hearing someone be so mad at their mom about something and me, thinking in my head, "At least you have a Mom that you can be mad at, even for a brief moment." Because, trust me, I get mad these days, but never at her. I get mad at "the situation."

"The situation" has many facets to it. There is the fact that she had to get this disease. The historical "Why her?!" and then it turns in to the "Why us?!" and then the "Why me?!" I used to say that the fact that I am the main person in town that cares for her, although she is at a nursing home now, was the main reason. I am the everyday contact, and that has taken a major toll on me. My poor sister, who lives across the country has her own emotions and guilt to deal with. I honestly don't think that one of us has it any easier. And to be honest, there are many days that I wish it would just all stop.

I wish that I could take a remote button and pause that part of my life, just for a while. The entire part that deals with my mom--the worrying, the caretaking, the guilt, the anger, the sadness, the incessant questions of, "How is your mom doing?" I just want to make it stop, just for some time to catch up. Time to process those feelings and be done with them. To be able to enjoy life, just one day without the worry and stress that comes along with my Mom right now. My dream would be to press that pause button, get on a plane, and fly to a warm beach. Then enjoy that beach and vacation for about a week. Soak in the sun, smell the salt air. No schedule. Good food. Good drinks. And not one thought about how my mom is doing, adjusting, being taken care of, feeling guilty that I am not there, that her laundry would have to wait, is she eating enough... Then come home, hit the button to unease, and go on and deal with life.


A girl can dream, right? In all seriousness, I really do need to listen to my own advice. The "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time" kind of advice. Because I can only do so much and obviously my body can only handle so much.

The other day I watched a video on TED about slowing down. This video explained the importance of not being in a rush all of the time. The benefits are tremendous and I, in fact, know this. I know that when I take my time getting things done, I actually get more accomplished than when I am running around in a frenzy trying to get tasks completed.

So, somehow I need to hit that pause button and slow down a bit more. I need to once again truly experience each day, each moment that is thrown at me, no matter what it is. I will cry, scream, smile, laugh...whatever the moment entails.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Just Breathe

It's back...or maybe it never left. Trouble with my lungs again. Last week I headed back into the doctor. My allergies were horrible and so I thought maybe, just maybe, it felt like I was breathing through a cheese cloth because of them. It certainly couldn't be helping the situation.

I went into the doctor last Thursday. If you haven't read my posts from before, you may not realize that last November, I suffered form pneumonia. I have never had any trouble breathing before. I grew up suffering from horrible spring allergies, which would swell my eyes shut, but never had trouble breathing. I played sports my entire life and still, no trouble breathing. The doctor, she asked me questions like, "Is it only when you exercise?" No. "Is it worse when it is hot out?" No. "Could it be just anxiety?" No. (Although my life has been rather stressful lately.) She heard my lungs only weeks ago, and she was the one who described them as "wheezy." I said to her, "Look, I realize that I can do more with my breathing like this than most can do on a normal day. I ran 2.5 miles yesterday feeling like this, but this is not normal. I have only had this since last November when I got pneumonia. Do I think it is worse because of my allergies? Yes. But, I feel like this on days, like today, when my allergies seem to be fine." I described that it feels like I always need to get a deep breath. Even when I am able to get that deep breath, minutes later it is back to that same feeling.

Anyone that knows me even remotely well, knows how healthy I am. I work out 5-6 days a week. I eat very "clean." I have never smoked a day in my life. Even with my lungs feeling like this, I still work out. I also let myself rest more now since the problems with my breathing. I take vitamins. I drink water. I rarely drink alcohol. There, you see? I am pretty dang healthy.

Anyway, back to the doctor... I was then given a breathing test called a spirometry test. Basically I had to breathe really hard into a tube that was connected to a machine for six seconds, three times. Problem was that I couldn't do it for six seconds. I almost passed out on the first attempt as well. The nurse held onto me the next two rounds and I got it done...barely. Then, as the results were printing, I was given a breathing treatment. This was given to me in hopes that it would open up my lungs and give me some immediate relief. Afterwards I felt dizzy and jittery, which they said was normal. Although eventually, when those side effects wore off, I felt better for the night. Before I could leave the doctor's office, I also had to get a large steroid shot in my backside. This was to alleviate the allergy symptoms. This, of all things, has been a wonder drug. I have not had problems with them since! The next day, I had to have a chest x-ray.

She came back in the room to show me the results of my breathing test. I guess I can use the "top part" of my lungs really well. That is why I was able to blow out a lot of air right away. But then, the lower part of my lungs are failing me. Those small bronchioles aren't working. I honestly don't know why...yet. That is why I am heading back to the doctor tomorrow. She told me that if I wasn't feeling 100% better on Monday, which is today, that I needed to come back in. She reassured me that she had a plan. That she wasn't throwing a shot and an inhaler at me and sending me on my way. Well, it is Monday and things are not better. In fact, I feel worse. I still can't breathe well, plus now I am having chest or lung pain and sometimes there is a tingling sensation in my hands. Tomorrow, I will also get the results of my chest x-ray. A nurse over the phone said that they looked normal, but I want to hear it from my doctor. They sure as heck don't feel normal.

At least I know that there is a plan. That helps take some of the scariness away. I know that she will take care of me and that this will be figured out.   will continue to live my healthy lifestyle and rest more, as that seems to be what my body is asking for.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Path

Imagine that you are in a forest. See the trees, smell the smells, and listen. What do you hear?

Now walk into that forest. There is no path. Simply start walking. Listen as the leaves and pine needles crunch underneath your feet. Smell the wet air and the pine sap from the trees. Keep walking. What is ahead of you? Do you even know?

Imagine that you have come upon a thick brush. There is nowhere to go but through it. You fight to get through it. It keeps fighting you back, not wanting to let you. You break away branches and step through small openings, all the while using your hands to part the ways and protect yourself.

You have scratches from the branches and leaves in your hair. You have made it through. It was tough. It was hard, but you found a way to get through it.

Now you are enjoying yourself. It was a brief struggle. One that you tackled. Your head is held high. You are relaxed. You are strolling along and notice a patch of flowers. They seem to be touched by the sunlight that is peeking through the canopy from above. You bend down to touch them, to smell them. They smell heavenly. Right now you are filled with joy at the small blessings that you are experiencing. The warm air, the soft breeze at your back, and the fragrance of the flowers lingering in your nose. You are thinking, "If only they were there to share this with me."

You decide to keep walking, and in your path are sticks and rocks. You are enjoying your walk so much that you barely notice them, and all of a sudden you are shaken from your peace.

You trip and just as you are about to stumble, you reach your hand out. Low and behold, something is there. You feel the support of a tree that keeps you from falling. That rough bark under your hands ends up being something that you can count on. You never much thought about it before, yet now it is there, to help you. You take a deep breath, thank the tree for its unexpected support.

You gather yourself and press on. Just a quick stumble. Nothing that you couldn't handle, and just as you get your groundings...boom. You fall into a hole. A deep, dark hole that seems impossible to get out of. How did you get there and how will you get out?

You are there for a while. It is tough to conquer. It wants to envelope you, take you into it and not let go. But you must. You must get out of that hole. You have friends and family waiting for you. People that need you. Things that must be done. Things that you said that you would do. You are not sure that you can do it on your own. But you will have to, there is no one there to help you out. You will have to find the strength and move on. You try to get a grip on something, but lose it. How about here...no.

Finally, now your foot has now found a support, if only you can hold onto something to pull yourself out of that hole. You search, dig, poke, prod. There has to be a place that fits your hand perfectly. You find it. Success. It seems to be rock solid, and you do it. Sweating, grunting, crying, and pulling. You pull yourself out.

Dirty, wet, sweaty and tired, you stop to asses the situation. You are out, down on your knees trying to ground yourself once again. Feeling the soil, the leaves. You have to know what you are standing on. You take a deep breath, brush yourself off, and move on.

You continue to walk without much happening. You see the leaves, smell the trees. This time you see the rock before you stumble. You catch the branch just before it comes back to hit you in the face.

You are strolling along, enjoying your walk through the woods, when a storm hits. It is loud, and it is pouring. Your clothes and your feet are sodden, and you can't seem to find shelter, but you press on. You are being pummeled by the raindrops and the leaves being knocked from the trees.

As you trudge through the wet leaves and the muddy terrain, you strain to remember that after a storm comes sunshine. It is only a matter of time. If only you can make it through. Just keep moving.

Finally, the storm breaks and the sun peaks through the trees. It warms your wet face, dripping from the storm. Its warmth seeps into your body, and you remember how it feels to be warmed from within. It seems to touch you deeply, down to your soul. You smile. You can see the beauty that still lingers from the storm. The sun reflecting off of the wet ferns. The worms wriggling to get back into the earth that feeds them.

You have a renewed spirit. You continue to walk and you start to think about what you have encountered during your walk through the forest. You question whether you should have even gone, for it has been hard. You think about what you may have missed out on while you were making that path through the woods. Maybe you should not have gone on your own. Maybe you wouldn't have fallen in that hole.

But then you think...I fell in that hole, but I pulled myself out. I tripped and almost fell, but had something to support me. I found beauty, when others may have found anger and pain.

And you realize all those people that you love, and that love you, are still there. They are waiting to hear about your adventure. Want to comfort you for feeling lost and scared and lonely.

And you realized that you have learned, you have created that path all by yourself. The path with sunshine and flowers, and the path with thick brush and rocks. That your path is not done. With each step, you continue down your path. With each step, you create a new situation, a new beginning, a chance at something new.

At times your path will merge with others, but it is still your path. Your path is wonderful. Enjoy all that your path has to offer. All of its surprises, its comforts, and its visitors. And remember that you decide which way your path may wind, and that way is always the right way.