Friday, April 19, 2013

Blog 68: A Special Thank You

My blog has given me an outlet for my pain and despair.  It’s allowed me to openly express my feelings, to vent, to reflect, to remember, to share, to hope, and to help others on this journey.   I've helped myself, too.  Just the simple fact that the thought processes that go into writing a post, have enabled me to sort through my feelings and dump it out of my head, so to speak.  It’s therapeutic.

There’s no doubt that this ugly disease has changed my family.  We are no longer the same.  Seeing our mom suffer like this has been the greatest suffering my sisters and I have endured.  The residual affect is the way we have chosen to press forward.   We are separated.  It’s not the right way, but it is the way we are doing it, for now.  

I pray that my sisters are finding comfort for their pain and despair, too.  It hurts me to know that I can't be there for them.

There are so many people to thank for being there for me, for supporting me, encouraging me, and loving me along the way.  Without them I wouldn’t be able to go on.  My biggest thanks goes to my children and grandchildren, who have been my saving grace.  They are my reason for being able to live happily, in spite of everything, and that happy place is safe in my heart.  I have a wonderful future with them no matter what.

I would like to thank those few special people I have elected to share my blog with.  At first I didn’t want to share it with my friends because I write with such raw emotions and I didn’t want it to affect how I write, knowing they are reading.  But I have come to realize that I really needed to have some support from those who know and care about me.  There’s nothing for me to be ashamed of or try to hide.  

To those people, thank you for reading, and for your words of encouragement and advice. I’m sorry I’ve made you cry, but I know you only do that because you care about my family and me.   I appreciate you for standing by me, and for your love of my family, and for your prayers for better days.

Thank you to my faithful blog followers, the people who don’t know me personally, but who share a common interest and want to know how our story unfolds.  Your encouraging words, emails, comments, and stories you share with me, only reinforces my reasons for doing this blog.  You have touched me in ways I never thought possible, and you have no idea how much I appreciate you.  We are like family because we are in this together. 

Also, I have a special thanks to the Remember for Alzheimer’s community for highlighting my blog on their Facebook page.  That simple act did wonders for me, and made my blog visible to others who would have no way of knowing about it otherwise.  I received over 3,300 views in one day!  Now I have more people following my blog, and people who have reached out to me to share their stories with me.  That’s what every blogger wants.  So, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Recently I was contacted by a reporter, who came across my blog while doing research on Alzheimer’s, and asked for my participation in an article for publication.   I was happy to help out in any way I could. 

My blog matters to people.  So many people are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia in one way or another.   I will continue on, and hope that my efforts to share our journey will help others and also bring me comfort along the way.   We all want love, answers, encouragement, advice, help and understanding, when it comes to living a life with Alzheimer’s.  Thank you all for what you’ve given me.  I only hope that I can return the favor.  

Please stay tuned to my next blog post, that I promise will be heartfelt.  Until then, may God bless each and every one of you!  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blog 67: The Other Part of Life | Keeping Life in Balance

My blog has been written with so much emotion and heartache.  I can be such an emotional wreck when it comes to my mom and what's happened with my sisters.  I’ve not spent much time writing about happy things.  It’s the nature of the subject, Alzheimer’s.  Seeing my mom suffer with this disease has been the worst thing I’ve ever had to endure.  But as I have said before, we all have to live our lives and find enjoyment and happiness, because we only have one shot at life.  We have to maintain that healthy balance in order to have any quality of life.  My mom would want that for me, and for all of her daughters.  I try my best to continue to live a life that my mom would be proud of because she was always so proud of me before.   She wants me to be happy, and that is the greatest gift I can give her.

"When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile."

Let me take you away from Alzheimer’s and dementia in this blog post and tell you a little bit about me and the other part of my life…

I am first and foremost a mom.  That is my primary role, and what I feel has been my purpose in this life.  Even though my kids are now adults, they are still and always will be my world.  I would do anything for them, and I learned how to love that way from my mom.  I am very much a family oriented person.  My life is not one of fame and fortune, or of making a huge difference in the world.  It’s about making a difference in the lives of the small group of people I have the privilege of sharing my life with.  

When I was a young woman, at 18 years of age, I married my high school sweetheart.  We had three absolutely wonderful children.  I stayed home and raised them until the youngest was in school.  I took a part-time job and eventually worked full-time when the kids were older.  Our kids were very involved in sports, dance, music, and drama, and we met ourselves coming and going with all of their activities, and our jobs.  We also designed and built (by ourselves) a log home in the country. 

The marriage lasted 25 years and we parted ways once we realized we grew up and grew apart.   My ex and I get along well with each other and make it a point to keep our family unit intact.  Our kids said that they had the best childhood, and a parent couldn’t ask for anything better than that.  I feel proud to have been a part of the reason for them feeling that way.

My oldest daughter is married, and has two little girls.   They live less than a mile away from me in Arizona, and are the reason why I moved here.  I wanted to be near my grandchildren, who are now 3 and 4 years old.  It’s wonderful to have these little ones around to make me smile, laugh, and feel young again.  Nothing feels as good as my little grand kids running into my arms, excited to see their Nana.

My son is my middle child, and he and his wife live in California.  They have an adorable little boy who is three years old.   When I made the decision to leave Iowa, I couldn’t afford to buy a house in Marin County, where my son lives.  Hence, I didn’t move there.  At least I am in closer proximity now and it’s easier to travel there from here.  It’s important for me to have a close relationship with all of my grandchildren, so between visits with my grandson, I keep in touch with him by phone and skype.  It's wonderful that we have the technology that allows us to see and interact with each other like this.  I am going to see them in person next weekend and I can’t wait!
My youngest daughter lives in Chicago and is engaged to be married next year.  I'm thrilled to have all of my kids married to wonderful people, who I consider my kids now, too.  I’m still working on trying to get them to move here but my daughter is not ready to leave yet.  I get to see her often since I go back to Chicago to visit my mom.   All of my children have grown up to be caring, compassionate, smart, successful, and loving individuals, and I couldn’t be prouder.   

Family is so important to me and I just wish all of my family could live near each other.  If Iowa would have had the job opportunities for my kids’ in their chosen careers, they wouldn’t have left Iowa and I’m pretty certain we would all still be living there.   Like many families, though, we are spread out across the country. 

I worked for many years in the social service field for not-for-profit organizations, then for a law firm, and lastly a financial planning firm.  I am 56 years old and retired.   My days are now spent working in my yard, blogging, volunteering, assisting my daughter with her photography business, traveling to see my family, working out at the gym, jogging, hiking, spending time with my friends, and planning.  I’ve also taken up painting as a hobby and have set a goal to do two paintings a month.  I’m also big into organizing and I know exactly where everything is in my house.  I should have become a professional organizer.  :)

I love to travel and try to go someplace new every year.  Last year I went to Alaska for the first time.  I lived in Europe for one year in high school and went back to Europe for a month of traveling four years ago.  I’m adventurous and passionate for life, and always up for something fun to do.  I am enjoying this part of my life right now.  My friends are awesome and have been there for me so many times when I just needed to talk to someone.  They've filled the void where my sisters once were.  I have a man in my life, who is so supportive and wonderful to me.  I feel healthy, in shape, still look young (so I’ve been told), and am so grateful for many, many things.   I thank God for His blessings.

Is everything perfect in my life...(the life outside of Alzheimer's)?  No, not at all.  I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I know that that's just part of being human.  I just choose to be happy.  It's a choice. 

Those of you who are reading this and are living with someone with Alzheimer’s, please remember to take care of YOU.  Find a way.  Your loved one would want that for you.  Keep a healthy balance in your life.  It can’t all be bad.  Believe me, I know it can be hard at times.  Try to have fun and do something that makes you happy.  Life is short, and life can be taken away from us at any moment.   There’s a time and a place for living your life, and it is NOW.