Ode to Oatmeal on day 4 of 210 No Sweets

and

a Thank You to Morning Star Memory Care in Fredericksburg, Texas

Before I go on an oatmeal ode, let me first say…

Visiting my Husband at his Memory Care

goes better with Coloring Books…

I think part of my ability to go off sweets is that I am not under the continual distress of being a constant caregiver. The memory care, Morning Star Memory Care, is now my husband’s caregiver.  I visit him as often as I can.  Today I took along some markers and an adult Christmas coloring book I found at the dollar store.  We three, me, my husband, and our sixteen year old daughter,  sat and colored and then read the book.  It was a shortened story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  After we colored a little while we had fun doing the voice drama.  He just loved it.  We invited a new resident who was wandering around looking for her husband, to join us in the coloring.  She talked to us like she knew us and then asked if we all wanted to walk around outside with her.  So we enjoyed the beautiful Fall Fredericksburg day in the lovely back yard of the memory care.  Peaceful that whole place is, inside and out.  I highly suggest anyone who is going to visit a person in a nursing home or assisted living to bring some kind of thing to look at together.  If they can’t color, then pictures and a story are nice to share.

So thanks to Morning Star Memory Care!

A sweet place … isn’t that a cheap yet sweet segue into my …

It’s true, Sweets are Addictive, and I’m an Addict!

Now, on to how I’m doing giving up sweets.  Have you heard that it has been discovered that the link in the brain to sweets – and therefore a sweet addiction – is the same place in the brain as an addiction to cocaine.  I can believe that.  I went to bed last night with heart palpitations.  I believe it was my body reacting possibly to the few days thus far of not eating anything sweet!  If there was a place to go “dry out” from sweets, I’d go there.  I can picture it by a white sandy beach…. AHHH!

WHY DOES OATMEAL HELP?

Oatmeal with nuts and fruit and cinnamon fills me up for breakfast and it is naturally sweet.  It’s full of protein and “sticks to the ribs” well.  I think it evens out my blood sugar… but I’m no expert, just a practicing artist.

An important part of my giving up sweets is eating my morning bowl of oats.  I get the Quaker Oats original oatmeal, not steel cut, not quick cooking.  The oats cook in the microwave in 4 minutes anyhow.  I put that in and then put the coffee on so they are done about the same time.  And, I don’t add any sugar or sugar substitutes, of course.

Snacking today:  Same as yesterday, I ate a handful of salty nuts and prunes. It was helpful to keep from eating the sweets. I don’t think I mentioned before but I left the bowl of trick o treater candy by the front door right where it was on the fateful night of my “before binge” as an experiment. So far I haven’t wanted it.

Important note to reader:

(My Ode to Oats is below, but let me preface it by saying: CHOCOLATE CAKE… THE ULTIMATE, HANDS DOWN, SWEET THING I LOVE WHEN I’M NOT RAVENOUS FOR SWEETS. WHEN MY SWEET TOOTH IS CHILLED OUT AND I’M WANTING, NOT CRAVING, I GO FOR GOOD CHOCOLATE CAKE.)

What happened to me in previous occasions I have given up sweets is if I ever end up wanting something it would not be junky candy which is why having a bowl of it still isn’t at all causing me trouble but if I ever do want something it would be higher up like a slice of perfect homemade chocolate cake, not store bought, not box, not even Texas sheet cake, but the kind made by the lady who brought it to Baptist church potluck when I was eight years old, moist, with fudge icing with just the right amount of chew. It was The Lord’s Work she did, that delicious cake maker lady. In April after my 210 days are up, I am going to try to recreate that cake in my kitchen. By that time I will probably only desire a tiny slice. Right now because I have lost the ravenous crazy, I can wait ’til April. Hopefully…

So, I know you’ve been waiting for it… so here’s my Ode.  I wanted to do the ode because that way I can talk to an inanimate object that I really like and people won’t think I’m nuts. I think. Oh, and when I make that chocolate cake in April I will write an ode to it. That, I will put on my calendar so so as to not forget.

ODE on Oats

By your natural tendency,

And spiked by added raisins,

You soothe me in the morning

You’re exactly what I’m cravin’

When’d it start, this love of oats,

Not omelets, burritos or cinnamon rolls,

‘Twas what my mom cooked on a cold winter morn

When we’d all whine, “Not again!”

Now how’d it happen, a little older,

Eating breakfast much more sober,

You humbly greet me at my table

Cinnamon topped, fully able

Your gentle steam and quiet content

Your pleasing ways are solid, endure

And I’ve learned not love another

 Your pleasure, sweet and somehow pure

Slow but sure,

You stay all morn

All the way to lunch or after

Keeping me from eating sweets

~ Julie Robinson

Want to join me on this quest, want to cheer me on my way, like me, leave comments, tell me what you have to say!  If you aren’t a sweet junkie, what sweet do you enjoy in that more rational way? If you are but want to give up the junk, then join me! I’m only day 4 and not eating sweets til after Easter.  Already I feel more clear headed, and got a better spring in my step.

Come, like, comment, join me?

My current unfinished oil painting yet unnamed.  I think it looks like the forest is rolling out its blue carpet.  

The Moment of Know

Twas the moment of know

The curtains they blow

The window pushed high

The caregiver low

Out of his mind

He went real slow

Now he wants to go “home”

It’s ringing, the phone

Can you come get your husband,

Did you know he’s not there,

No, I’ve been asleep,

I sleepily stare.

Dark is the town

Out driving am I

At a time that I never

Out of my mind.

~Julie Robinson

This is a true story except I’m not, I hope, out of my mind. Couldn’t get this in the poem but I hardly ever go anywhere at night and it was very mysterious indeed.

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Colorful Puddles After a Rainstorm, Acrylic on Canvas

Besides the sweet smell in Texas when “It’s fixin’ to rain”, one of my favorite things is puddles after a good rainstorm with reflections of a now bright sky. I love to put those last touches of bright red in the fresh puddle that make the road rise up.

I express this feel of a scene often in my paintings because it says “Look up, the torrent is over and it’s a brand new brightness.”

Being a caregiver has been a bit like that rainstorm.  But, it has been helpful for me to find acceptance in who I am now. I don’t have a husband who is there for me to love and care for me.  Instead I’m left with a man who sometimes packs up because it’s time for him to go home.

But “The position has been filled”… as was succinctly stated to the dog standing outside the door in Mary Poppins.

…Filled by the One who makes a storm, knows fully about the puddles, the colorful brightness, and how to fill my artist’s heart with joy.

Me… and my ideas… and showing off my haircut. FYI in case anyone out there wonders… My hair went totally white and so I just… go with it. And now on to…

Respite Care Reform

Please read yesterday’s post where I describe respite care.

(Don’t get me wrong… I love the place and the people where I take my husband). But if I were asked…

I have been taking my husband to adult day care for a couple of years now, and I have some ideas for improvement…

What if there was/were

  1.  curb service drop in/pick up so that the person using a walker would not ever have to walk across a parking lot and the caregiver would not need to get out of the car. My husband is physically able but I see many that are not.
  2. a full service salon for haircut and nails during the times they are in care?  It isn’t easy for caregivers to do this.
  3. beds for nap time because having a rested person to pick up would be nice. For my husband the respite care is busy busy. Too busy.
  4. daily, all day care for working people.  Maybe employers would allow their employees a little allowance to assist with the expense of this.  Or, maybe there could be some tax remedy to allow people to afford it.  Our day care is five hours, three times a week which I am thankful for but it doesn’t allow me enough time to work.
  5. a calm schedule with activities for people who want to participate and movies or television for those who like to sit and watch.  It would be nice to keep the person from being worn out from the day.

Sometimes we people who give care forget about our own needs, independent from the ones who depend solely on our energy, our kindness, our patience. Respite allows us to recharge those finite resources. If you aren’t already seeking respite… go out there and find it.

I think I have mentioned that I have

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and walls of my paintings at my house. Granted, many are because I’ve been learning, practicing and developing my personal style over the past six years that I have been a caregiver.

And trying to stay sane.

And, sanity… brings me to how much I appreciate RESPITE CARE.

Before I begin to discuss respite care I feel for most people not close to the dementia world I should begin with giving my best definition:

Respite: a short break from engagement in something, anything really, that is especially difficult.

Remember respite during primary school days?

School recess is a respite we most of us can relate to. It was where we once so easily threw off the frustration of the strict classroom and climbed to the top of the monkey bars to hang by our knees.

Remember being a new parent? (Or business owner… I think anything that is truly your “baby” would compare to the feeling…). As a new parent I remember feeling at a loss when I went out without my baby for the first time.

It was a similar experience when I took my husband to the adult day care. I sat in my car with no plan. Now what? Who am I even?

A couple years down the road I now know what to do.

Respite care is never long enough. If I choose to paint I lose track of time which is why I don’t usually paint. I don’t mind at all painting when he’s home. So even if I have a compelling artistic venture I choose not to paint during my respite time. Instead I…

  • run errands
  • have coffee or lunch out with friends
  • make a great grocery list and shop carefully for as long as I want
  • do a household task that’s hard to be in the middle of with him here
  • pay bills
  • make important phone calls
  • study my bible and memorize scripture
  • read a book
  • clean out a closet, a drawer
  • make plans, lists for things I need to do but am putting off… like tackle the garage. (The garage is last on my list (always). Does anyone else have the problem that the garage feels… foreign and full of spiders. I need to take the space over and make it work. Well I will be inducing a little self therapy on that very soon… like next Spring… I kid, really.)

Respite ought to leave a person refreshed. Cleaning out the garage during my respite time might do that in the end.

Tomorrow I will discuss a few small Respite Care Reform ideas I have that would help me. And, since respite is for me, the caregiver, I don’t mind divulging my ideas.

And, look for a future post with the great garage clean out. I think.

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At the beginning of Water Street… I stopped to take this picture in order to paint it someday.

”See that building up there on that hill,” starts in my husband, who has dementia.

“It belonged to my father when we started this town.”  I allow him to say things like this without any correction.  We have only lived here six years and most of them have been living with dementia.

He enjoys telling these stories, so who cares if they’re true.

He tells stories about everything now.

I enjoy just looking:  the trees, the people standing waiting for the walk signal on the street paralleling the river.  Where is everyone headed?  What are they thinking?

I like going this way because it is off the Main Street in our little town and on this quaint old street lined with… old memories.

My Granny used to bring my older brother and I “to town” and we would go to the 5 and dime store so she could “spoil us” which meant we got to pick out a toy.  Seems everyone knew my Granny and she liked to show us off, I think, more than anything.

My parents grew up in this town and tell stories of how different life was. Now that I’m older I pay more attention.

My mom tells of how she and her brother got to wander around town back in the 50’s when kids could do such a thing on a Saturday and they would shortcut through the tiny space between the buildings to get to the movie theater partly to sit in air conditioning.

If I had the money I would buy a space on Water Street and open a museum with exhibits that change out.  This town needs a history museum.  But, my very first exhibit would be “Water Street through time”.  I’m always imagining “ghost images” of people who have inhabited it.  What were they wearing, doing, hoping, riding in (or on), seeing?

I know my mom went to see Tarzan and went right home to jump out of a tree with a rope around her neck… now that was a story!!!

When we are driving down Water Street to the adult day care, he asks me several times (or a dozen…) if I am picking him up at 3:00.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Don’t worry.  That’s what I wrote on his yellow sticky note on the front of The Yellow Book he takes with him.

Being keyed up is part of his dementia.

Repetition is part of the dementia.

But then so is the reassurance I know he needs.

And so we drive along.

Pumpkins I painted over my old Peaches Sign

Eating with Dementia

We made homemade tortillas and smoked up the kitchen in the process (the pan I think was too hot?) requiring that we open all the windows though there was not a breath of air in this Texas Hill Country post lots of rain evening.

To complete the eventful dinner time , my husband, who has dementia, built his own taco but he did it completely upside down. He put all of the ingredients in layers on his plate starting with the sour cream, the cheese, and the chunks of chicken and then topped it with a tortilla.

I just watched (more like an artist, less like a caregiver) to see what would happen next as he turned his plate upside down and it all fell off to the table, disgustingly. I could’ve helped him but he seemed determined.

He scraped it all off with the tortilla and ate it. I figured it was just a matter of a quick wipe up when he was done. I’ve seen worse being a mom of three.

But the chicken tacos with the fresh tortillas were just delicious.

And then we ate ice cream. And who could argue with that?

I’ve been working on this a little each day… added another tree and widened the river.

Playing Clue With Dementia. Yes We Can!

First of all, I’m considering making my own worksheets for the game of Clue. We ran out about six months ago and each time we play we write out all of the categories before we start playing. Yes, we have played it a lot over the years. And, he used to be the one to win. I’ve always been pretty bad at it. Now, my game is Scrabble!

But our daughter likes to play Clue. And, she still doesn’t mind inviting him to join us, though we figured out a way to play with just 2 players.

So, I have created – on my new IPAD Pro – a new Clue worksheet.

I first perused Etsy to see if anyone has made any. None. So, maybe I am the first?

I am going to print them and get them laminated so they can be reusable with Expo marker.

Dementia Clue Works!

We play dementia Clue which means we let him do whatever he wants. We let him have some of the cards and don’t make a big deal out of it if he says the card out loud. If you are familiar with the game, a player quietly shows their card to the person whose turn it is. It makes the game shorter which is good for playing with him. He gets joy from choosing to be for instance in the kitchen or the bedroom. We tell him he is the winner. Some of his playing and antics are funny but the last time we played I noticed I lost a bit of my game playing funny bone.

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Caregiver Painting Poetry

Sometimes I write stories or poetry to go with my paintings. I’m absolutely taken in by the subject matter and get absorbed in my paintings. The picture I took of this one in my Pathways series is a little dark… but I decided to leave it that way because I thought it a mysterious path.

The writing/painting combo keeps away the dangerous caregiver stress.  (See my previous post.)

Above the painting… below the poem.

The Dusty Road

The dusty road,

After a squall,

Whispers, “Come and walk awhile”,

Needing nothing,

It wants your all.

You listen to

The dusty road

And consider its promise,

Breathing in its sweet grasses,

Seems like heaven’s abode.

Bunnies race

And deer eyes gleam.

The dusty road

‘Tis steep it seems;

And the road becomes your dreams.

The river racing

And Crickets chirp,

And you plod on and on and on and on

The dusty road

It’s mighty work.

At last, a rock’s your friend,

Long nuff you’ve strode.

The singers, the music, the song,

And to sleep you’ve gone on

The dusty road.

~ Julie Robinson

It’s Fall in my cart!!!

Caregiver Stress… My Take

Have you seen the statistics related to how badly caregivers fare? Not so good! I’ll leave it to you to google this.

Lots of research has apparently said that I’m toast.

So since I’ve been doing this for 6 years now I thought it would be a good idea since it’s almost Fall to take an almost change of season stock of myself:

do I have stress?

I had to think hard about this one.

Well, I do have stressors. That’s for sure. But I don’t think I’m stressed. Here is how I consider measuring this for myself:

1. Do I keep myself and my home clean and as neat as possible? Yes. Probably better than ever since I’m here most the time in “forced retirement”.

But I’m no perfectionist. Last Spring I planted a vegetable garden and forgot to water it often enough that it just flat gave out. I felt like a gardener failure. But right now I’m making plans to try it again next Spring and setting an iPhone watering reminder

2. Am I angry? Or do I cry a lot? No

3. Do I get breaks? Yes. I take my husband to adult daycare a few times a week.

4. Do I maintain friendships? The best I can. I run a weekly bible study out of my home. We are a crazy mix of Catholics and Baptists. Today we joked that we are the Batholics. As well, am starting back up with a ladies bible study at our church.

5. Do I have outside interests besides caregiving? Yes. I paint and, of course, blog, and am writing a book. And I read. I have a wide range of reading interests. And I oversee my daughter who’s homeschooling 11th grade.

6. Do I feel depressed or discouraged? Earlier on It was harder for me. I was ready for it to be over and not knowing how long used to just “eat my lunch”. But as time has passed I have gotten more peace about it.

I pray. And I memorize scripture.

7. Do I overeat or use alcohol/drugs to cope. Well no on the 2 latters. But the overeating I was guilty of. Right now I’m on day 5 of no sweets because I was overeating them. I should try overeating broccoli sometime.

These are the criteria in my mind for whether I’m over stressed. You might do your own inventory and with your own criteria. I suggest you do, especially after you check out the scary reports on what caregiver stress can do to a person.

Now I will sip the cranberry tea I just brewed and light me a pumpkin candle. Fall… come quick!