LET’S GET BACK TO FISHING!

A number of years ago, our District adopted the Fish! Philosophy: a technique to make happy individuals alert and active in the workplace. We were inspired by a documentary from a fish market in Seattle, Washington. This market included entertainment from employees throwing fish – sort of like the Harlem Globe Trotters with fish! The positive energy was electric. The fishmongers seemed to relish their work throwing themselves into it with energy, passion and enthusiasm. They made us laugh out loud!

The philosophy included 4 fundamental ideals:

Be There

This is all about being emotionally present for people and being in the moment – not always easy in such a busy reactive world with so many distractions. By being there we demonstrate respect as well as improving communication and strengthening relationships.

Play

Allowing people to tap into their natural creativity, enthusiasm and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind as in “Let’s play with that idea!” You can bring this mind-set to everything you do.

Make Their Day

Finding simple ways to serve and delight people in meaningful and memorable ways. It’s about contributing to someone else’s life – not because you want something, but because that’s the type of person you want to be like.

Choose Your Attitude

Taking responsibility for what life throws at you and recognizing that you have a choice of how you are each day and that the choice you make impacts others.

The Fish! Philosophy empowers employees to be more effective in any job. When a team lives the philosophy, they improve their culture and create better results. It improves teamwork, employee engagement, retention, recognition and leadership.

Over time, Professional Development with a focus on Standards & Proficiency Based reporting has become the priority and we have lost opportunities to discuss “minutia”, thus losing the opportunity to strengthen our community. Even grade level team time has strict guidelines, which has left staff feeling lonely.

I’ve been thinking about the evolution of education at over the past 28 years, and I feel strongly that returning to TEAMING and making PLAY a priority would strengthen relationships and create a working environment that encourages 2-way communication and togetherness.

In 1997, staff were encouraged to pair up. We had multi-age classrooms, looping, as well as teaming within grade levels and across grade levels. Teams were designed to help with planning, behavior challenges, and brainstorming- many chose their teammates and some were assigned.

I would like to suggest that schools return to the team philosophy. I would also like to suggest voluntary and involuntary transfers that include placing staff members together that would bring out the best in one another.

There was a time when one Wednesday Staff meeting a month was for 2-person teams to have common planning time. The second was for grade level teams, the third was for building meetings, and the fourth was for everyone.

I would like to recommend PLAY and relationship building to truly utilize the natural talents of all staff members, including support staff. We need an opportunity to get to know one another personally- to laugh and to “let our hair down”. I’d like to suggest game nights, and the type of team building that camps do for trust building. In order for us to BE THERE for one another, we need to get to know one another in an informal setting. Many of us didn’t grow up in “the hood”, and are not part of local gatherings in town. I wonder if a night of play that may or may not include families and spouses would initiate a wonderful bonding experience that would make happier staff. We could watch a movie and have popcorn, play spoons, run obstacle courses, and even go to a local camp to use the mud pits or zip-line.

A happier staff creates trust with one another. That, in conjunction with the encouragement and time dedicated to working with each other would indeed impact the school climate and spill down into our classrooms.

But what if the Fish! Philosophy isn’t enough?

I would suggest that schools return to a clear behavioral support system that takes the control away from the students and places it back into the hands of classroom teachers. We need to focus on holding children to high behavioral standards and have clear guidelines within a behavioral protocol. We worked really hard on that a few years ago, but we haven’t used it for years. We need a system in which staff are not feeling bullied and harassed by students. My sister’s school is using a “Quiet Room” run by a qualified staff member, where children who are having a tricky time can go and quiet down and/or complete unfinished work. They use soft light and soft music, with sensory opportunities and comfortable chairs to de-escalate children, allowing classroom teachers to continue teaching. We know that children do better with clear guidelines regarding behavior expectations with clear consequences. My daughter’s school uses demerits, office referrals, in-school suspensions, and an alternative school placement for extreme behaviors. At the alternate school, they use a “boot camp” mentality with the goal to remediate and return children to the regular education system. In our district, we rarely keep children in for recess, send children to the Process Room, or keep them after school for Detention.

Social/Emotional support with the Fish! Philosophy, Teaming, and clear Behavior Protocol would go a long way to improving moral and communication. I for one want to return to teaming, get to know my fellow coworkers personally, and bring FUN back into the school, while holding children behaviorally accountable.

Fun + Accountability = Happy Productive Staff & Students. Let’s do it!

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Figuratively Speaking

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds. I am determined to grow flowers.

We’ve had a really great summer and Fall, a nice long stable stretch. As long as we keep my favorite man’s world predictable, quiet, and with enough projects to keep him busy, he remains happy as a pig in poop.

44284050_10216065718829808_8116275771711946752_nCoffee and candy make him as happy as a kid in a candy store and walks by the ocean keep him happy as a clam at high tide. It takes very little to make his day.

Nap time is most important for him, wrapped like a bug in a rug, he will saw logs for about three hours a day. This gives him enough of a second wind, to stay up until well past my bedtime. He seems to enjoy the quiet time. He thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

He continues to enjoy rewatching the last election from a variety of different networks and is thrilled with the surprise outcome every time. He also follows the local sports teams. He is still quite opinionated, so I say squat when he wants to fill me in about what he watches. Sometimes it takes a month of Sunday’s to get his point across, but if I remain cool as a cucumber when he is wound tighter than a three-day clock, he is happier than a pup with two tails. I remind myself to give eye contact, shut my mouth, nod my head, wait, and listen. That’s all he needs.

imagesMy problem is that I am generally busier than a one-armed paper hanger. I feel like I complete everything by the skin of my teeth and that nothing I do is done up to par. However, I’m learning the value of putting away technology and correcting, giving him my time. Nobody ever lays on their deathbed wishing they spent more time working. My undivided attention makes him happier than a butcher’s dog.

As we prepare for the third snow of the season, we are once again enjoying the pellet stove. Not only does it provide warmth, but it gives him something else to be responsible for. Everyone needs a job, and everyone needs to feel needed. It’s a good thing that he continues to be strong as an ox, and his rotator cuff is allowing him to carry the 40 pound pellets with ease. He really minds the cold, and so the stove is the cat’s meow.

We aren’t quite done winterizing. He still needs to put in the window inserts, the plastic, and the orange stakes out for our neighbors who plow for us. However, he is proud as a peacock that he is still able to do so much to care for our home. God knew that my favorite guy would need plenty of projects.

He can still write, although his handwriting isn’t what it once was and his speech, most of the time, is as plain as day. Sometimes he mixes up words or has a hard time getting his point across, but if we let him “warm up” he will generally make connections.

He putters and is often slower than molasses going uphill, but it makes no difference. There is no fire. Sometimes it is a day or two – and he needs to watch and rewatch YouTube to help him with a project snag, but soon the answer is as plain as day and the snaffoo is working slick as poop through a tin horn.

This year he decided that he didn’t want a vegetable garden or chickens. He has been determined to simplify, which started last summer when our goal was to go through everything we own and thin out. It was a challenge, but he tackled it like a champ, and was happier than a pig in a slop trough when he was able to make more room in the garage.

If he’s having “one of those days” and is meaner than a wet hen, we just remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If coffee, candy, and a nap doesn’t do it, we employ the toddler technique. Although our 22 month old granddaughter can run around like a tornado in a trailer park, she can take him from looking like something the cat dragged in, with a personality of a damp dishrag, to a a kid on Christmas morning. Nobody can melt his soul, like his grandbabies.

When the house lacks order and looks like a pig sty, I’m on it like white on rice. We will often clean and straighten together- especially on laundry day, since he has trouble separating the clothes.

If it’s too stimulating, we make like a banana and split, and head off like a herd of turtles to his get-a-way. His mood is never anything that a trip to the coast won’t cure, with a walk and to watch the boats . This makes him as happy as a fox in the hen-house and when he’s happy, I’m happy.

Although poor as church mice because nobody has found that blasted money tree yet, we know that we sow what we reap. Therefore, we want to be transparent, teaching others how to push through life’s challenges. We are not greater than thou. We are just normal humans going through challenges just like everyone else. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we try to meditate on life as a coffee cup, filled to the brim and enjoyed with friends. My husbands favorite reminder to others is that everybody has a story, we only need to listen and observe.

We miss people. Our world has become very small, but we’ve learned that life is like an elevator on its way up, sometimes we have to stop and let some people off. Instead of dwelling on who isn’t around, we are thankful for those that want to be part of our journey, and show us with their actions and prayers.

Life isn’t all peaches and cream. So, as long as we have air to breath, we will remind our family that, “They (you) are our (my) sunshine”, and when they ask if life’s challenges are over; We’ve hit our max; It’s someone else’s turn, we will tell them to dream on Alice, soon they’ll be in Wonderland.

More than anything we just keep reminding ourselves that love is like the wind, you can’t see it, but you can feel it and when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

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The Dementia World

I haven’t written about the world of Dementia for a while for a variety of reasons. One, is simply because there has been little to write about. Things have stayed rather stagnant for a while. Another, is because my children don’t like to read about it. It is our reality, but they try not have it be the focus of our existence, and I can appreciate that.

That being said, I share our story for two major purposes: to inform and to educate. I feel strongly that my responsibility is to be transparent in order to keep friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors updated so that they don’t have to ask. There are also followers who either have lived, are living, or will live through dementia in some capacity. The disease doesn’t show favoritism and you never know when it will come knocking at the door of a friend or family member.

A third reason, and the most important one for me, is for therapy. I process by communicating. When life’s circumstances bog me down, writing forces me to organize my thoughts. Strange as it might seem, it works as a sort of detox for my brain.

Today I wish to inform or educate, and at the very least, detox. So, here goes…

Five and a half years ago, I was angry. That was when my 47-year old husband was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, most likely caused by too many blows to the head. But if it were possible to go back and console my younger self, these are some things that I might say:

Dear Younger Me,

I know that you are running around like an idiot trying to get those 25 things that the support group gave you, completed. They are right, you need to do them and many things are time sensitive. However, you need to know more than anything, that you will have plenty of time to regroup and reset. Time is on your side.

Medical challenges will erupt, and every person’s dementia story sounds different. However, there will be many similarities. Listen and learn from those who have gone before you. I know that makes you angry. You want to know the timetable. You want to know what to expect and when to brace for another pothole, but there is no way to plan. Everyone’s journey is unique. Stop planning.

View his time home as a sweet blessing and his lost job as a gift from above. Call it “Early Retirement” and learn to graciously accept gifts from friends and family. Do not deny them of the blessings that come from being a helpmate to a friend, family, coworker, or neighbor. Choke back your pride. There will be a day when finances will adjust to a “new normal” but it will take time and patience. You will not always live on bread and peanut butter.

Notice the blessings. God knew that your favorite man would need more projects than he could keep up with, That is why he supplied the house on the mountain three years in advance. He also knew that you would need help from well-trained children, who are natural caregivers. He supplied a home that was too big for two, and just right for six, and filled a need for two families. Enjoy the gift of family that provides help and grandchildren that fill you up.

Believe it or not, your relationship will become sweeter than it has ever been. You will feel needed and appreciated because he relies on you so thoroughly. Walks are precious. That is the time that he will open up to you and talk to you about changes that he notices and fears that he has about the future. It is a blessed time to reassure him and provide him with comfort. It is a beautiful gift of time that the Lord has provided.

He knew you needed a small support system that you could call on at any time, knowing that they would be there to hold you up when you won’t have the strength on your own. Don’t dwell on who isn’t there when you feel lonely. Instead, feel thankful for those who have stepped in to help and encourage you.

610546228-612x612The dementia progression will go in steps like a staircase. He will be on one stair for quite some time, before moving to the next landing. It gives you time to recalculate and regroup. Relax. You will catch up.

Some days will be cloudy and some days will be clear. Most days are just fine. He won’t be able to differentiate between a cloudy and clear day, so you will have to do it for him. He will be tired, confused, frustrated because he can’t do something he knows he should know how to do, or angry because he “did something stupid”. Just reassure him, and keep things light. You are his person and if he sees you upset, he won’t know what to do about it and his agitation will increase. Save it for the closet or the shower.

He will be quieter. Be prepared to do projects and errands alone. You will have to keep him safe, take over the driving, manage the finances, and monitor the medications. However, the good news is that he will still be an active participant in the family. He will still cook, mow the lawn, do laundry (after someone else separates it), clean, and make minor renovations 5 1/2 years after the diagnosis. Regression isn’t immediate, so relax. Just watch from afar to be sure that he stays safe.

He will be tired, have a headache nearly every day, and will be sore from a torn rotator cuff and an arthritis filled body. He will lose his desire to eat most meals. However, he will be drawn to sweets. Foods will taste bland to him, so they won’t be as enjoyable. He will be thrilled with Dunkin Donut’s coffee, soda, and sweet treats like ice cream, candy, and cookies. It will make you so happy to see him content.

You will have to worry about highly stimulating situations. He will no longer want to go to church, or crowded places, especially where people might know him, and he doesn’t know them. Even familiar places like the family farm will be a scary place. He will be happiest at home, riding in the car, or down by the water. The ocean brings him peace. He will love to watch the boats and the tide slapping on the rocks.

After 5 1/2 years, he will still be able to read, and retain what he reads if it is highly interesting. He will still be interested in politics, history, and the most recent election. It will bring him great joy to re-watch the surprise ending! He will enjoy watching Big Brother, Survivor, and 48 hours with your middle child via FaceTime and Messenger every Saturday night.

His children and grandchildren will continue to bring him the most joy. Although highly stimulating when all together, there will be nothing that makes him happier. Plan to have him respond much the way an autistic child would when he’s had enough. He will shake his hands, stare, shiver, rock, yell out, or bolt. Occasionally he might surprise you and rise to the occasion, and crash later. Most importantly, he will be looking for you. You are his person. Be there. Hold his hand, whisper in his ear, let him rub your arm raw, and take him for a walk. He needs you and it will make you feel so good to be his lifeline.

More than anything, live for the day. Stop planning. Don’t plan anything for more than 4-6 weeks out. Think back to when the children were little. Make tentative plans based on how he is doing at that moment on that particular day. Dementia makes no sense. Some days are good. Some days are not so good. Some things are forgotten forever. Some things come back after a period of time.

Celebrate each day as a gift. Stop worrying about the future. When it’s time, God will reveal what the next steps are. It sounds trite, but you really have to just live in the moment. Most importantly, stop holding your breath. Don’t waste one precious moment. You don’t want any regrets in the end.

Don’t doubt yourself. Your journey is your journey. It isn’t going to look like everyone else’s. You and the kids are going to be alright. He has taught you everything you need to know to keep going. When the time comes, and the Lord takes him home, be assured that you will one day be reunited. A physical death is not the end of your story. So relax. Enjoy the moment, seek joy, find strength and peace. You will be okay.

With love,

Older, Wiser Me.

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The Biggest Jerk

I used to take life for granted. I said that I didn’t, but I did. Not any longer.

I have been married to my one and only for 31 years, and over time, we have suffered some agonizing times- ones that quite frankly, many could not hang on through. So, what has been the secret?

Faithfulness. I have been absolutely determined to carry through with a promise before God and our closest friends.

On May 23, 1987 we were joined together as one, promising that we would let any ONE or any THING separate us. We were determined to make a lifelong commitment. To be honest, there have many times when I have tried a lot harder than he has. There have been times when I have felt neglected and taken advantage of. Sometimes he hasn’t been very nice, and there have been times when I have felt like a single parent. There was even a time when I considered asking him to find somewhere else to stay. However, I was stubborn and determined not to give up on what God ordained. I knew that my husband was facing some difficult physical and psychological challenges, and that it was my duty to be his number one support system: to lift him up when he didn’t feel strong enough to lift himself up. I made it my mission to pray him through each day and to encourage him even when I was angry, frustrated, and disappointed.

I figured that if he wasn’t going to take care of himself on his own, I was going to help. One of the first things I did was to take over his medications. In his state of mind, he often didn’t know what day it was, and either forgot to take his meds or accidentally took them two or three times in a day. I started by encouraging him to eat more balanced meals, and drink less soda and coffee. I encouraged exercise by walking with him. Since he wasn’t reading his bible or attending church regularly, I upped the ante for myself and made it my mission to stay prayed up for the both of us. During our quiet walks, with nothing else to interrupt us, I shared what I was learning and what was on my heart. When he didn’t talk, I talked enough for the both of us.

Shockingly, what happened was that MY attitude started changing. What was once meant for HIS benefit, began to benefit ME. I wrote him encouraging notes and left them in his lunch bag. I met him for lunch during my time off, determined to shut my mouth and be a better listener. Gradually, I started to see a change in him, because I was so determined to pour myself and my time into him. I loved on him even when I got nothing in return. I made his favorite meals, watched his favorite movies, and listened to his favorite music. I involved him in decision-making for the children and family finances.

We sought counseling that sometimes made our situation worse. It brought up painful topics that had been suppressed for a long time. If he slipped back into bad practices, it was often with others from his support group. The situation did not repair itself quickly, and I would push through the discouragement, and up my game or continue making my husband’s health and our union my top priority. I was determined not to allow Satan any more opportunities to break down our marriage and our family.

I prayed over and anointed the windows and door jams in my house. We burned and prayed over materials from the Masons. I monitored music, movies, phone, and internet that came into our home closely. I regularly prayed over my sleeping husband and my babies.

Most importantly, I took care of ME, because I was determined to stay as healthy as I possibly could, so that I could take extra care of HIM. I walked, watched what I ate, read the Word, looked for encouragement and wisdom from friends and family, and I lived in secret Hell while I remained focused and faithful to my husband.

Just when things began to get better, our family took more hits. Satan continued to take his best shots. We dealt with deaths, rebellious teenagers, financial hardships, the loss of two jobs, and the challenge of a terminal illness that will eventually take my one and only.

Through it all, I continued to take my marriage vows seriously. I never left him. In my heart of hearts, I could not give up on him because I feared that he would then give up on himself and I couldn’t bear that. I knew that I was his lifeline and I was determined to reconstruct our family on a foundation of faith.

I believe with everything I have, that God will reward me for my faithfulness during a time when I had every reason to walk away. As I look at where we are now, I would not be the person that I am today had I done the easy thing. Instead, I remained faithful to my promises, and am so glad to say that I love my husband today more than ever.  The strange thing is that the tough times made my commitment even stronger.

Dementia may take my husband, but it has also provided me with the opportunity to show my faithfulness and not simply “talk the talk”. The disease that was meant for destruction, has taken my faith to a whole new level and I am a living testimony to all who watch.

My advice: don’t give up when the going get’s tough. Take it as an opportunity to practice “walking the walk” and show God, your family, and friends that you mean what you say. Practice what you preach when life seems impossible and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It’s easy to be joy-filled when all is going well, but how about when the heat is turned up and you are dealing with great loss and destruction?

So what do you do in the meantime? Participate in intense practice sessions, because no one is exempt from the great manure pile of life. If you are lucky enough to be going through a time of smooth sailing, thank your lucky stars, because you will have your turn for turmoil. Get and stay healthy mind, spirit, and soul. Generate a list of reasons why you love your one and only, so that when the time comes, you can refer to it. Build a list of things that you enjoy doing and eating, because you will need to find your joy without becoming unhealthy when your loved one is. Surround yourself with a group of good friends who you are like, or who you want to be like. Determine yourself to be joy-filled and healthy, because you are the only one you have control over.

More than anything: don’t give up. It’s what Satan wants. Don’t let him find even a crack. He is a liar and a jerk and there is nothing that brings him more pleasure than to destroy marriages and families.

 

 

 

Poppins and a Servant’s Heart

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Ever feel like something exciting and terrifying is in the wind?

This year I have been challenging myself to live a “palms up”, take my hands off the wheel, and see where each day takes me kind of life. Those that know me intimately, know that this is a real challenge. I genuinely love to plan, organize, and sort. I’ve joked that in Heaven I’d like to have a label-maker at my disposal so that I can spend eternity helping my Maker to organize. If I were honest, it brings me more joy than it should.

For vacations, I research and schedule “must-do’s” and “must-sees”. I carry an agenda for my agenda. Honestly, two of my favorite times of the year are “nearly January” when I can start to plug-in important personal dates on the new calendar and “nearly the first day of school” when I get to plug-in important professional dates and events into my school planner. I brew a large pot of coffee, surround myself with snacks, and listen to my favorite musicals while I color code and break in my crisp new calendars. While you may be wondering what kind of medication I need to be prescribed, I sit here with a huge smile on my face. It’s true. All true.

However, as I anticipate the new planner in my mailbox for the fall, I have found myself wondering whether it was time for a CHANGE, which has been terrifying and exciting at the same time. It has dawned on me that I have about thirteen more years before I can dream of retirement. My children are all grown into independent young adults. My husband is stable and enjoying the sweet joys of summer weather and planting projects. Now just might be the time.

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It’s easy to become complacent and believe that life is what it is and that it’s too late to make a change. At 52, change is scary business. In my current profession, I can practically fly on autopilot. Most everything is familiar. I know the expectations and I feel like part of the furniture. But what if there is a blessing that is just waiting to happen if only I took a leap of faith? I have found myself wondering whether the Lord needs to see that I mean what I say?

Twenty years ago, I made a huge decision with my children as my main focus. This Spring I have been thinking that maybe it’s time to make a decision with ME being the priority.

Mary Poppins was originally released the year before I was born, and my mother, an avid Julie Andrews fan was just a year younger than the main character. Mom would serve us medicine singing, “just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down!” and would occasionally tell us to head to our rooms, “spit spot” after watching the musical together on the VCR. I can safely say that we have grown up together.

bb5e255f0f9819a61245e3d859cfb120As a teacher, I have often compared myself to Mary Poppins. I teach with a whole lot of no-nonsense, but there is always an element of fun. I don’t always show all my emotions, but my students know that they are loved, and that together, we will accomplish great things. Over the last 28 years, I have taught over 800 children. That’s a whole lot of lives impacted by my influence and a whole lot of responsibility. I figure that if I teach another 13 years to retirement, I will have taught well over 1000 young people. I’m so glad that while I focus on what needs to be accomplished, I work some good times in.

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So, as I have contemplated the pro’ and con’s of a great change, truly living a “palms-up” life, I have wondered what is best for me, my family, and my future students. What if I close my eyes and jump? What if I walk away from all that I know, can plan on, and what is easy, and take a leap of faith that something might be even better? I would desperately miss those left behind: friendships, long-lasting relationships, familiar families, but as Mary reminds me, it shouldn’t muddle my thinking.

Overall, I know that “all things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to his purpose” and in the end, I showed God faithfulness and He showed me that I am right where I need to be. Today I thank God for answered prayers and passing the test, because for the record, I would have jumped.

 

 

 

 

 

The First Time Again

It’s been 5 years since the dementia diagnosis and at this time, he is doing amazingly well. He has shown regression, but it is slow and mostly unrecognizable to the ones he sees regularly. We thank God every day that he is mobile and still has his language skills. He is mostly happy as long as we keep him on a schedule and don’t ask too much of him all at once. We generally learn by failure, since even the best laid plans don’t cooperate with dementia.

Over the past few days, he has crossed paths with people he has known for a very long time, but clearly didn’t recognize. One was his cousin and one was a coworker that he worked with for 17 years.

This is the best advice that I can give anyone who bumps into us:

  1. Introduce yourself. It feels funny to you, but it takes a whole lot of pressure off him. Then, don’t ask him questions. Just tell him about yourself and how you know him. When you hug him or shake his hand, bells and whistles are going off in his head, “Yikes! This person knows me and I don’t know him!” Take the pressure off, by just talking about how you know him and share YOUR memories. Often times, if you keep talking, he will make a connection. Sometimes it is after you walk away.
  2. My husband often talks about past coworkers, friends, or family, but doesn’t recognize them when he sees them. From what I have read, it is because he is looking for a younger you. For example, in the end, he may not recognize my brother, but will recognize his son and call him my brother’s name. My grandmother used to do that with my father and brother.
  3. Don’t correct him. Just go with it. When dementia patients are corrected, it shakes them up and they will stop talking and begin to stutter, stare, shake, or rock. Don’t be alarmed if this happens. It is how they self stimulate and it is a calming technique.
  4. Stick to conversations that you know they can respond to. Think about what you know they like to do. For my husband, safe subjects that he can always contribute to are: walking by the water, gardening, mowing, chickens, baking, coffee, and the baby. These are things that are on his mind and in his bubble constantly.
  5. He is the same old guy. The same things that bothered him before, bother him now. The same things that brought him joy before, bring him joy now. It’s just heightened, and he’s quirkier, but he’s the same old guy.
  6. Too much stimulation and not enough breaks are a deadly combination that isn’t going to end well so we stick pretty closely to a schedule.
  7. He rarely hears from or sees people and it hurts his feelings. He feels forgotton. People really need to come to see him. Since home is his safe place, they need to come when he isn’t napping and not stay long because he tires quickly.
  8. Sleep is very important because his brain has to work so much harder than the average brain to do regular things. It exhausts him, so calling ahead and giving us a chance to prep him for your arrival will set him up for a successful visit with you. His clearest time are between 10:00 am -noon and after 4:00 pm.

So, if you have the pleasure of spending time with someone with dementia, the most important thing to remember is that you are most likely meeting for the first time again. Introduce yourself, tell him about yourself and the connection you have with him, and enjoy. You will be blessed.

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Live.Laugh.Love.

This has been a sorrow-filled week. People that I care about very much have been in pain for good reason. It has been difficult to find JOY through suffering. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be an encouragement as I fight with my own inner feelings, which has left me thinking about people in my life who have risen above very challenging circumstances. What did they do? How can I learn from them?

My mother’s mother is one of the first people in my memory, who persevered through devastating circumstances. As a young child, she would tell me stories of living through multiple house fires, one time running to the neighbor’s house after losing a shoe in the snow. The most traumatic tale was when my mother and her family endured the wrath of the ’47 Fires. My mother tells of the wildfire that they watched from afar, trying to figure out which side of the road it would come. Once they realized that the fire was headed for their home, store, and lumber mill, a decision had to be made as to which building would be saved. They chose the mill since it was their biggest source of income for the family. The girls were sent into their home to pick one thing, and they teased my aunt unmercifully because she chose a book on etiquette. Neighbors and friends pulled up to the house and loaded household items such as bikes and the treasured piano, but some items were never returned. As a result, my grandmother had a nervous breakdown. The horror of watching the fire was just too much, and as a result, she spent some time recovering in the local mental hospital. My grandfather made light of it for the sake of the girls and my mother recalls that they even laughed about it. From the stories, he was a man we will thoroughly enjoy meeting in Heaven. He had a great sense of humor and loved to hear his girls giggle. My grandfather died while Mom, the baby of four girls, was in college. He was an unhealthy baby who grew up to be an adult with a weak heart. Yet, my grandmother persevered. She mourned the loss of her true love, but she lived on. My grandmother’s famous words were, “I’ve got —- years to live, and I’m going to live them!” … and she did. My grandmother passed away with Alzheimer’s while I was pregnant with my first-born and I miss her to this day.

I come from a long line of strong independent women on my mother’s side. Most were teacher’s by trade, with a gift of caregiving. They pushed through hard, long, days, where they felt unappreciated, and lonely. Caregiving is a lonely calling, and those in the daily trenches give up their own needs and desires to care for others who are generally unappreciative. I noticed. I noticed then, and I recall it now. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were grooming me for what was to come.

My father’s mother was equally as strong. She and my grandfather started a little farm and raised 5 children during WWII and the Depression. They weren’t as fortunate as my mother’s family, who owned a convenience store and were able to eat expired meat that had been pulled from the shelf. It was either feast or famine in my father’s world. My grandmother would recount dumpster picking, and peeling the rot off the outside of vegetables to feed the family. The most traumatic time of my father’s life, was the early death of my uncle. As the story goes, he fell off a horse, and was later diagnosed with cancer. My grandparents would load up the family, and take them all to Boston in the back of the pick-up for appointments for my brilliant uncle, who had an unusual spiritual connection to God. He lost the battle and died in the arms of my grandmother at the family homestead, and my grandfather cursed God for the remainder of his days. When my mother was pregnant with me, my father found my grandfather on the floor still holding the mail. My grandmother had taken a trip north to spend some time with my aunt and her young family, and he had a heart attack while she was away. She never forgave herself for not being there in his final moments. My grandmother was a tough old bird though, and she continued to thrive by pouring her heart into her church ministry (sending lightly used clothes to countries in need), and babysitting for local families. She lived to a ripe old age, despite being diagnosed with Dementia and losing much of her eyesight. She was a special lady and I miss her very much.

What can I learn from these brilliant and strong women, of whom similar blood runs through my veins? They were women of great faith. They had a strong family commitment beyond their own needs and desires. They were teachers, and hard workers who never gave up no matter how hard life got. They were kind-hearted, had great character, and did the right thing even when nobody was looking. They were responsible citizens who voted, were dedicated to being life long learners, and enjoyed every great gift the Lord provided. They had beautiful homes and properties that they cared about very much. They took care of their possessions and cultivated their passions. They invested themselves into the lives of the next generation and took the time to teach and to guide.

There were times when these strong women could have given up. They had every reason to walk away, but they didn’t. They made a commitment. They made a promise. They planned, they regrouped, and planned again. They clung to their faith, their family, and their friends. They knew that this life here on earth was just temporary and that there is a much greater life yet to come. They ate ice cream and popcorn because it made them happy. They read for pleasure, and to enhance their knowledge. They worked the land, and didn’t resist the opportunity to snitch a fresh vegetable or piece of fruit from a plant that they had cultivated. They canned, froze, and raised what they could. They were thrifty and wise with their spending. They sat in their bathrobes and watched the birds. They knitted, and sewed homemade items for holiday’s and thought of us the entire time. Together, we visited the Farmer’s Market and the local Fair, and they even filled our pockets with candy when our parents weren’t looking.

They lived. They laughed. They loved.

…and I will too.

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