Painted Pax on day 92 of 172 of giving up sweets

My newest wine bag, “Pax”, was painted from a picture I took of a very large painting on the wall of a local coffee shop. Fitting for a wine bag, did you know the first miracle recorded in scripture is Jesus turning water into wine at at wedding.

I must say a little about my diet: About a week ago I gave up bread and pasta in addition to the sweets. I plan to do that until I take off the pounds I need to lose. The sweets challenge I will continue until April 21. Then it will be interesting to see if my addiction to sweets is no more…I hope!

And an update on my husband’s dementia and visiting him at his assisted living… it’s very difficult to visit him though I do. It’s agony to see someone who was once an intellectual and a vibrant person in the condition he now is. While I know in my mind that it is the disease course, that provides my heart no relief from the pain it causes. But I realize that feeling pain is part of being human, so I feel it. Not numbing myself by overeating opens up the ability to feel… and give it to God. That brings me peace.

Fireplace Candle on day 90 of 172 days of Giving up Sweets

My sister sent me this candle for my birthday. Did you know that there is such a thing? A fireplace candle?

It crackles like a fireplace while it puts a good amount of scent in the air. I’m enjoying it with my sausage and mustard I’m eating for lunch. (I’m more than half way in my giving up sweets challenge! YAY!)

Since I got the giving up sweets thing DOWN, I decided two days ago to also cut out the bread and pasta. So, it’s meat and vegetables and fruit for me… Well, and oatmeal for breakfast. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love oatmeal!

The last I blogged, I mentioned I’d be painting some stones. Here are the ones I painted for my best friend:

They are all about an inch across. They are pretty quick to paint and enjoyable because holding the stones is so soothing. Why, I wonder?

Today I’m painting stones for my best friend who, a nurse, was hit in the head and is now laid up at home. A miserable time for her especially because it also involved an uncaring atmosphere that the workplace offered after the injury. So there was the injury and then the added insult that also hurt her heart.

The stones I bought at the dollar store. They are 1 and 2 inches in diameter. I plan to paint the little faces of her grandchildren and mail them to her. Here is an example of one I painted for my granddaughter.

On Being Capable on Day 80 of 172 of giving up sweets

On this day 80 of the giving up sweets challenge, I am feeling capable… but with a hint of worry. I am now feeling the need to think and plan my exit strategy I scheduled for April 21 so as to not ultimately fail in this challenge. And, at this almost halfway point, I think it important to reveal that it is well worth the investment of time and effort. It is paying off in:

Weight loss,

Clearer thinking,

Increased prayer and bible study, (because His Word is sweeter),

The knowledge that I am capable.

Giving up sweets successfully not only makes me capable… of giving up sweets, it makes me capable of doing anything I ought to do. Quite simply, I didn’t think I was capable of parting with the sweet fix.

It’s pretty funny to see the reactions of people when they learn I gave up sweets.: shock that anyone could do this, guilt because they know they should, and then, “I’d never be able to do that.”

I got to thinking, what is it that makes us feel equipped to do anything? Past experience? Knowing that we can learn something new? Strokes from others? I think the most important way to feel capable is to show that you can do it. That’s why when I first started this challenge I was amazed each day at my ability to just say no to sweets.

Surely, first day back, I won’t eat a whole chocolate cake.

Working on my people on day 74 of 172 of giving up sweets

I’m making such minute changes now that it’s a game of what’s different to see what changes are even there. Those people on the couch, I think, have tired from their portraits and need a rest. I may be needing to get this wrapped up and framed soon. I am donating it to the kind folks who took my husband in at Morning Star Memory Care In Fredericksburg, Texas. He’s been in good hands there.

I’ve included in my title where I am on the giving up sweets challenge because I am still doing it every day! Doing a challenging painting has been good for putting my hands to work and keeping on keeping them out of the cookie jar.

Pillows behind my people on day 70 of 172 of giving up sweets

My left couch ladies needed pillows behind them. They’d never be sitting straight backed or perched so they seemed stiff without some back support. So I painted in some pillows. Next I need to try and lengthen the far left enthralled lady’s legs. And I need to lengthen and define better my husband’s fingers.

My painting style is to keep layering up paint while working to the goal of the painting which for this one is to reveal gestures of personality. For though body and mind are frail, humanity is still there.

Painting on day 68 of 172 days giving up sweets

Over several days I’ve worked on this painting. I sometimes remember to take a picture! Not finished but sharing my progress… in the last picture you will see I decided a dark background was necessary to make the people what the eye is drawn to. Their white heads were blending too much into the background.

“Scheduling in Art” On day 67 of 172 days of giving up sweets

I’ve ruined art pieces. Good thing I took a picture of this one before I painted over it.

Art can take over my life. In the past I’ve given precious time and energy to whatever whimsical idea would come my way. I was what you might say, “out on a whim”. But, my desire is to master my art, reign in my talents, and focus on finishing.

Scheduling an appointment with myself for my art, like I would do any other important endeavor, is one of my plans for this new year.

To complete the writing process of my book as well as finish some specific paintings, I have chosen to block in time on my calendar and establish deadlines to accomplish these otherwise open ended tasks. Treating them as an appointment puts me in charge instead of the whimsical way I have approached my art.

I will blog about the results… which hopefully will be GOOD!

It will most likely be: writing after breakfast and painting after lunch.


Artists

Compelled, inspired,

So enraptured, we create!

We write, we carve, we build, we paint.

~Julie Robinson


But, the most important time of day comes first before I do anything else. Prayer, bible study, and scripture memorization. Most days I have a scripture in my pocket I’m working on memorizing. At odd times during the day I will pull it out and work on it and sometimes, forgetting to check my pockets, I send them through the wash.

I Must Make Art! on day 66 of 172 of giving up sweets

My pendant “I MUST MAKE ART” was photographed in front of one of my many water over rocks scenes, a painting hanging in my bedroom. I have many more like it stacked in my closet at various levels of completion. Some are signed but I don’t feel they are completed.

The deep desire to paint has come after days of pouring myself into writing. Writing is one thing… getting it to where someone will be able to relate to it is something else. Writers always say it is hard work and it is so true. When I write I feel like I’ve given my all.

For this week, I plan to block in painting and writing time on my calendar so that I will do both each day. I wonder if it will work that way…

By the way, both writing and painting make time zip by so fast. I might say that I’m painting and writing my life away! A timer is my friend to remind me to take a break.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that my daughter is homeschooling her high school years and “we” are in her Junior year now. So, my job is to keep her on task and to feed us healthy meals. I try to keep a step ahead of her desire to go get fast food. So, I will cook us slow meals here that are both healthier more delicious. Yesterday I cooked good old fashioned beans and cornbread to which I added the leftover ham from our New Year’s dinner. And, since I gave up sweets, my palate has changed. I’ve been wanting more vegetables. Recently as a side dish I cooked up some mustard greens. Surprisingly, I was kind of craving it. I don’t think I have ever craved greens in my life.

A healthier diet means a healthier appetite. But, not right away. Join me and find out. I would love to have others come along!

Gingerbread Results on day 64 of 172 of giving up sweets

Of course you can see we are not professionals But we make gingerbread houses every year. There should be a gingerbread house school. I’d attend.

My daughter did a very neat house with a first time try in candy baked into a tree. The tree below left was made with a Christmas tree cutter with a triangle cutout and peppermint candy inserted inside and melted while baking the dough.

My house sports a thatch roof using shredded wheat cereal was frosting glued on for a most cozy gingerbread log home/ island retreat.

Mostly we just had fun. I served sloppy joes and bottled water to help keep the kids from getting too sugared up. Normally I’d wish I could sample a little candy but this year on day 64… don’t even want it!!!

Writing my book on day 63 of 172 of giving up sweets

New Years is bringing about my desire to:

FINISH MY CAREGIVING BOOK

I’ve got to get my caregiving book finished. I have been working on it off and on for the past couple of years. How many times I’ve rewritten its chapters. And, now that my husband has needed to go to assisted living, I am needing to give myself some writing and editing deadlines.

So, currently I am adding, subtracting, and editing my caregiving book. I’m finally able to see what it actually is. This writing process has been throwing a bunch of clay on a table and molding it and then carving it out, totally demolishing some parts and then building it back up.

While editing, I notice I tend to say “just” a lot. Just just just. Like this:

“I just wanted a break.” So I was thinking about that. What do I mean by “just”? Maybe what I really mean is “only”. I only wanted a break. But, do I say “just” because it has a little whiny capability to it? a little more oomph to it?

Maybe I also say “little” a lot. So I could say:

“I just wanted a little break.”

But the TRUTH is: I wanted a break. No just or little. I wanted a very long break.

I wanted it to be over.

As many of you know who are slogging through caregiving days, if you ever do get some respite, it is very difficult to relax if you “just” get a few hours.

Sometimes writing can get me to truth. Telling the truth in my writing means I have to revisit old information and ways of thinking and ask hard questions. Am I saying what I think people want to hear? Am I revealing nothing but saying something? That’s what makes writing soooooo difficult but also so cleansing.

And, then there’s my overused “so”.

Hosting a gingerbread house party today and gluing together some gingerbread houses ahead of time gives me great respect for people who make great gingerbread mansions. A few of the houses I purchased from an after Christmas sale. The others I made the old fashioned way, rolling out gingerbread and cutting them out…

Pretty sure you can figure out which one is the store bought. Mine I’m calling a “fixer upper”.

I ran to get some soup cans to help prop the walls together when I was gluing it together last night. They were all nicely together and then I heard them plop, plop, plop… as I was in the pantry. Next time (if there is) I get the soup cans out before gluing. The base I made the night before to dry thoroughly.

This morning was roof day. I saw a cool tutorial about gluing together the roof and letting it dry first before putting it on. It seemed dry but when I put the roof on it went sliding down. Anyhow, all the houses are together now.

It’ll be fun having our friends come over and gluing the decorations on. After they are all completed those fixer uppers will be fixed. I’m sure I will choose to do this one because it will be a challenge.

Do you wonder how I can make gingerbread houses without eating any? I have no desire for sweets! What!!!??? If you’ve been reading my blog since day one of giving up sweets you will know I was eating cookies by the bag and I couldn’t open candy quick enough to eat it.

Giving up sweets has been instrumental to me in not desiring them.

If you want to do it and If you think you can’t do it, think again. Give it a go. I’m on day 62!

30 minute clean out on day 60 of 172 of no sweets

30 minutes was all it took to a better baking cabinet. There were about three problems I was having with it: I couldn’t fit the raisins on the middle shelf standing up so they were on their side with the lid on the end so I was having to stretch and reach that shelf so I’d barely get ahold of the lid and down they’d fall spilling out which really began bugging me. Then there was the lazy susan spice rack that wouldn’t turn, and finally, the bottom of the shelves needed cleaning.

These simple goals in mind, to make the contents better accessible and to make cooking and baking more pleasant, this small clean out was a quick success.

First I took everything out of my baking cabinet. I threw out a couple of items and some others I consolidated.
Then I wiped the shelves with a warm sudsy cloth. To line the shelves I found some pretty craft paper and scotch taped it in.

At the end I reorganized the contents so that the most used items are now on the lower shelf. That lazy susan spins nicely now which was my major goal and the raisins are in front of the oatmeal On the lower more reachable shelf. (Oatmeal lover that I am)

Happy New Year’s Eve, a great day for a clean out. I will be looking for other fun and rewardingly quick clean outs as I plow ahead into this new year.

Organizing on day 59 of 172 of giving up sweets

I must admit that I am a cleaner outer. I’m always cleaning something out.

It’s really because at my heart I’m a messy person. Unfortunately.

Recently I cleaned out drawers in my kitchen and next I plan to clean out my baking ingredients cupboard because the lazy Susan I keep my spices in is not spinning around right. Like most messy areas of my home I find that there end up being things that are “misfiled”. Everything is a filing system, be it clothes, dishes, garage items, or baking spices. Not everything has to be perfectly orderly but small areas like my baking cabinet can get out of control and so need to be rethought. I like making things work smoothly and efficiently.

Like my mom always said, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

The new year makes me conscious of the need to make my life more orderly. What things used to work smoothly but are needing rethinking? What needs to be made right? What things do I wish I would just go ahead and bravely do?

I feel that in my past I always had weight loss or eat better on the top of my list. Well, since I’m already doing those things on my 172 day plan, that leaves me room to move some other plans and goals up to the top of my list.

Recently I heard someone give advice not to share your goals because if you do you will have expended some important emotional energy on the sharing of the goals and that it will pull that surge of energy push needed to get you going on the goal. I don’t know if that’s right or not.

So, just in case, I will not share my goals; but what I will share is my accomplishments as I simplify and minimize all I can. And, furthermore, I plan to take inventory of my talents and abilities to see if I am best applying the gifts I have.

So in this new year I will share

  • Simplifying my life,
  • my sweets challenge,
  • my paintings in progress,
  • poetry and other writings,
  • experiences homeschooling my daughter as we begin the process of getting her ready to take the SAT.
  • And, of course information pertaining to visiting my husband in assisted living and the application for veteran’s benefits.
  • That’s a lot… but it’s what I’m doing
  • Morning Star Meeting on day 58 of 172 of giving up sweets

    I’m enjoying bringing my “painting people” here to life. The process has involved many layers of paint. Since I brought these folks together from a few different photos I’ve had to figure out how they’d be sitting on this couch together. I have some problems to sort out like the woman on the far left needs to scoot back and sit farther in… or I need to make her appear to be perched a little better on the cushion’s edge. Expressions are coming along as I dabble paint here and there – what a way to do it, huh? I just keep putting more shadow, color, rosey up this and put a wrinkle there until I start seeing the person.

    My husband is beginning to look like himself – but it’s like one of those creepy pictures that looks like the person is staring at you.

    I have the painting propped so I can see it during the day as I always do when I’m working on a painting so that I can figure out what it needs. I had painted more detail in the background but then decided it needed toning down. There was a Christmas wreath and some branches that could be seen through the windows from the beautiful backyard trees that are actually there but they were interfering with the main idea of the painting. So after I painted them in, I painted them out. It is a work in progress. I am using acrylic paints so you can block out easily and paint over.

    I keep my paint palette tightly sealed so that it won’t dry out so I can just work on a painting any time and it doesn’t take a whole lot of setup.

    Preparing to Paint on day 57 of 172 of giving up sweets

    My beginning painting process doesn’t always include doing a sketch ahead of time. But since I am portraying people and placement and expressions I decided I’d best try it out. After the initial sketch, I decided a little different placement was needed to allow the woman on the far left a little more room since she is animatedly clasping her hands together. Her portrait was initially what I planned to paint because she seemed enraptured by the pianist serenading her with Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” at the Morning Star Memory Care Christmas party.

    Considering the painting’s composition, the anchor on the left will be the serenaded woman. It is important in the painting placement because the woman on the far right is wearing a bright red jacket making that end heavy. In the middle I am wanting to capture the expressions in the sitting styles of those two people and when I begin layering paint I can give all of them life. I always learn something when I paint because I am forced to study a subject. Something as simple as sitting style became an interesting study. I’m no body language expert but I believe people communicate who they are without talking. Two of these people have lost their ability to talk, and even though they are all in various levels of dementia, they are all still bodily communicating. They are probably sitting the way they always have which I am guessing because I captured my husband sitting the way he always has.

    I’m looking forward to painting this one.

    Beginning rough charcoal sketch for a painting of some residents at Morningstar Memory Care

    Sketching on day 56 of 172 of no sweets

    As a painter, I don’t do people generally. So, this will be a challenge. I so want to get the expressions right. Third from the left is my husband and problem is right now it doesn’t look at all like him which is kind of strange because the others have more of a resemblance to the actual people than my husband. You’d think I could paint him. I’ll be working on it. I think I will do it in oils on canvas. I can’t wait to dive into my oil paints.

    As I worked on the preliminary sketches I was thinking of those special people there. Like my husband, they once lived a full life on the outside but now are being protected and every need cared for. I pieced them together as if they were sitting together on the couch.

    Maybe I’ll paint and post my progress.

    A Gift on this Merry Christmas!

    The star above the manger cradle was studied scientifically and followed faithfully by wise men to witness the greatest Star of all.

    Fittingly, the story starts with fruit on a tree… and sliced “the opposite way” will find a star at its core.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!

    In the Texas hill country, snow is usually nonexistent and that’s the way I like it having moved from Colorado, my snowy home for 20 years. I don’t miss driving in it or shoveling it or slipping down on it.

    But I do miss the tranquility of large flakes flitting, blanketing neighborhoods in cool blues. Then there’s that Gilmore Girl breathable cold sweetness right before a snow. Or red cheeked returning sledders, huddling hot chocolate.

    So I wanted to try painting snow. Oh what fun on a sunny 70 degree Texas day.

    Merry Christmas Eve from the Texas Hill Country!!!

    Christmas, the “sweetest” time in memory of old.

    Angel I painted on a 4″ canvas sitting on a table with sunlight filtering through

    Christmas on day 52 of 172 of Giving up sweets

    Though the melody sings for all to hear “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, Christmas time can be the loneliest.

    Recently we were eating at Cracker Barrel, a homey chain restaurant with an enormous wood fireplace serving southern home cooking and a large gift shop selling nostalgic toys and gift items. As we were, my daughter and I, sitting and chatting, I notice a man eating by himself and am reminded of the loneliness many people face. No wonder a person would pick a homey place like Cracker Barrel to have a lone meal.

    But then I notice another table with an elderly couple who seem to be having a sad conversation and she has her hands in his. And, yet another family has four little children all zapped into their electronics. Then there are a couple of good-looking cowboys with their hats on talking on their cellular phones.

    And I am glad that my daughter and I instituted a no cell phones dining practice.

    What I look forward to the most on Christmas is spending it with our family and friends who we love all year long. We will attend a candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church to sing Christmas carols and remember the Spirit of Christmas. And then on Christmas Day we will celebrate with gifts and a Happy Birthday to Jesus cake, a tradition my mother started.

    And then we will take my husband a slice of that cake to where he now resides at Morning Star Memory Care since he hasn’t forgotten he likes cake. And there we will light the candle on top and sing with him Happy Birthday to Jesus as we do every year.

    And I plan to partake in a small sliver.

    Merry Christmas!

    May all the wishings of Merry Christmas ring the good news of Christ “who came to seek and to save those who are lost”. Luke 19:10

    Electronic Fire and Morning Star on Day 51 of giving up sweets

    Keeping the home fires burning is always on my mind. And if I don’t stoke the fire, who’s going to? (Admitting here I don’t have a fireplace). So what is better than pulling out a technology fire that also plays Michael Bublè Christmas. On YouTube there are lots of fireplace scenes to choose from to crackle and “warm up” a space. I also like to set it up on my smart TV.

    So by my “fire” I baked cookies (and Not eating them) for the Morning Star Memory Care Christmas party. My Husband was quite unwell and wanted to be tucked into his bed so we left early. A memorable moment was the pianist singing Patsy Cline “Crazy” to this sweet resident who deeply enjoyed the serenade. Music reaches people.

    Day 50 of 172 of giving up sweets

    Day 50 is nearly a third of the way through my giving up sweets challenge and I am glad I have done it. What a gift I give myself each day as I pass by whatever treat of the moment might sparkle a little extra this holiday season. But, it doesn’t sparkle anything near the joy of not partaking in it.

    And, if I weren’t in the throes of the 172 day challenge I’d probably be eating chocolate cake right now as I feel sorry for myself with back pain that has got me. I went to the chiropractor yesterday and he did an adjustment. It’s better, but I’m still having spasms in my middle back. And, he’s away now for a Christmas break. The first available appointment just in case I need it is January 8. So I booked it. I felt bad for doing that because I wanted to just go on faith that this spasm would leave me way long before then and no follow up needed. But the receptionist convinced me otherwise.

    There was no fall or injury I can think of. But I did carry a heavy bed frame down the stairs. I don’t remember injuring it then. However, I was at my wits end trying to take that metal bed apart. The screws were stripping and they were round so no wrench could pry those screws loose enough to twist them out. I was on the floor contorted (aha! That’s when it happened!) trying to hacksaw across the screw heads to allow me to us a flathead screwdriver. A friend’s husband suggested that. I couldn’t get all the screws out but I was able to disassemble it enough to carry it, with help from my daughter, downstairs.

    It was me vs those stripped screws that now has me in agony. And, I want to blame it on those cheap soft aluminum screws. They left nice piles of shavings on the floor.

    So, wind knocked out of me, sitting against my heating pad I pop some Alleve and listen to Josh Groban work up majesty and excitement in Christmas carols. “O Come Let Us Adore Him!” And for a moment the pain leaves.

    My Best Friend on day 49 of 172 of giving up sweets

    My oldest daughter puts my grandchildren on FaceTime to talk with me, aka Mamaw, so she can get dinner cooked. So, we are all entertained with whatever we get into together. The cutest thing is when my toddler granddaughter carries me around and my viewpoint is her forehead or her chubby cheeks and front of her shirt as she walks around with me in her hands. My favorite so far is she with her sippy cup and I with my water bottle drinking together and saying AHHH after each in between fits of giggles.

    My best friend and I scheduled a FaceTime to open our gifts we mailed to each other together. My favorite part of our best friend’s FaceTime gift exchange was getting a tour of her house where she and her husband looked every bit Mr. and Mrs. Claus with their heartfelt gifts, preparations for a trip to visit grandchildren, and their beautiful decorations.

    Before our call I was trying to remember how long we had been friends. We met in high school 38 years ago and she was a year ahead of me. She taught me to drive, how to dress, and how to put on makeup. But, what she has mostly taught me is how to stay in touch with a friend and make them feel special. She has always been the leader in that and I am so thankful.

    Merry Christmas, Valerie!

    I love you so much!

    Your BFF, Julie

    My viewpoint from most FaceTimes with my granddaughter

    Gold Coated Dessert Videos on day 48 of 172 of Giving up sweets

    We like to watch Buzzfeed’s “Worth It”. It’s where these guys go to three different restaurants and eat and compare expensive and inexpensive foods. Usually they like the less expensive versions.

    Them biting into a gold covered donut made me cringe. But they said that it melted away in their mouth.

    The guys are just a riot.

    I mention watching the show because I thought it an interesting test as to how I might feel watching the sweet stuff since I am giving up sweets. And you know I didn’t even want any.

    But, I can imagine myself now rationally enjoying a sweet treat after my 172 days are up. And, I’ve mentioned it before: I will be on the search at that time for the perfect chocolate cake.

    But, no, I didn’t even want any, and I didn’t even want any when I made my gingerbread manger scene. And let me tell you, I had no idea that these jelly beans were so strange. Had to read on the bag… there were buttery popcorn flavored jelly beans in there. Yuck. They ruined the whole bag. Usually when I make a gingerbread house I am eating loads of candy and frosting.

    In order to get my manger roof to stay up I had to cut holes and support with candy canes. Problem was I cut the holes a little large so the holes around the candy canes had to be reinforced with lots of frosting. This is my first gingerbread manger scene. I used the wall cutout from our usual houses and cut two walls and glued them together with frosting. The hay is shredded wheat cereal. On top is my attempt at an angel.

    Below, here is my daughter’s gingerbread house.

    She cut the tree out and then cut the triangle middle out and cleverly put peppermints in and baked in the oven (on parchment paper). Last year we left out the parchment paper and couldn’t peel our candy windows off the cookie sheets. I think the little gingerbread boy looks like he’s ready to go out and play in the snow.

    Feverishly pounding the keys on day 47 of 172 giving up sweets

    I had a latte yesterday and the foam swirled a little birdlike so of course I helped give it a few feathers. This has nothing to do with my topic today but it was so cute I wanted to share.

    So pardon me while I turn my gears…

    REMINISCING WRITING

    I learned to type in high school on the old style typewriter with keys which must be struck hard unlike the soft touch of today’s iPad or computer keyboard. Our hands were up at carpal tunnel level before anyone knew the damage it could cause. Today I get numbness in my fingers if I do any task too long like crochet which I like to do. But if I keep my keyboard low enough I can type for hours.

    Which is good because presently I’m feverishly typing my Art of Caregiving that I had in my laptop before it went blue screen. Fortunately I had printed stacks of paper so I didn’t lose my work. And I like the process of reinventing my writing while retyping it. It’s forced editing.

    I like the sound of my fingers hitting the iPad keyboard. Sounds like rain to me. My favorite sound though had to be the IBM selectric. Oh the clickety clicks. I did college before computers. What a shame. I want a do over on that one!!! But Who knew the wonders of word processing at that time. We were our own word processors.

    I do type fast. Where were those auto edits long ago when we typists had to be painstakingly perfect?

    WORD/INFORMATION PROCESSING

    So much of life changes with invention and discovery and of course for my blog right now I have researched giving up sugar. Make sure to look up Dr Robert Lustig on YouTube if you still think “a calorie is a calorie”.

    We should be our own information processors. We have a wealth of information in our hands.

    This is my 47th day of giving up sweets and I am my own scientific experiment. Yes. It can be done!!! Oh and were you wondering about the latte? Non sweet with no artificial sweeteners either. I never had to give that up because I prefer a non sweet coffee.

    Day 8 of 210 no sweets

    A Joke, a Riddle, and a Poem – day 8 of 210 no sweets

    You might say that I’m writing my way out of eating sweets… Instead of munching, I’m punching… the keyboard.

    A Joke

    My children have all told me this clever joke. I must pass it along here. It’s clean and clever, and so appropriate for day 8 of 210 no sweets. Of course, kids hear a joke for the first time and figure mom or dad don’t know it. Sorry to my third child who with all the shiniest best of her first grade self asked me…

    “Why is six afraid of seven?

    And I forgot all parental protocol and answered…

    “Because seven eight nine.”

    Even though I knew the answer I could have pretended not to. I could have allowed her the pleasure. We could have both been happy then. And why did I follow with “You are my third child, you know,” with a wink that was all about me. We moms must forgive ourselves. Stop the mom guilt! (Please don’t get me wrong: all’s fair in… teens or adults to answer right off)

    A Riddle

    A little about my youngest daughter: she has baby status, yet first child status, and oldest child status. How can that be?

    Ok, here’s the answer to the riddle: She is the third and last child of mine and the only child of her father’s and the other two are my children from a previous marriage and there are a dozen years between. I know, who wants to do all that math? I’m sure all of you got that riddle first off anyhow.

    Now that I am an older and wiser mother, I can’t help but raise her differently. First, we are doing homeschool high school. And, she 11th grade has a year and a half to go. Second, until a month ago we were caregiving her father with advanced dementia at our home, and third, her brother and sister left home when she was about eight.

    A Poem

    Before I wrote this poem today I had looked up the word enthuse “to cause to become enthusiastic”. As I was thinking about that… is it possible to have contagious enthusiasm – an enthusiastic crowd, for example.

    Then I was considering how I’ve maybe heard the term used more often in the negative as in “over-enthusiastic”.

    And, what must happen to cause a person to be enthused in the first place is something within themselves if it is actual enthusiasm, because people can seem enthusiastic but it wanes with mood. I think we see it in American politics, but even more so in a basketball game.

    Actual enthusiasm is a thing to hold on to but it is a really difficult thing to transfer, because what gets transferred is a feeling, a mood. And as I show in my poem, over-enthusiastic people can be killers of enthusiasm, really, though they don’t even know they are doing it. The worst possible dose of other people’s enthusiasm is if someone is enthusiastic FOR another to do something and keep reminding them of it and “encouraging” them. Anyhow, for me that’s the way it is…

    ENTHUSED, MUCH?

    Enthusiastic came, early, shining, ready

    Attracting others needing extra

    Feeding the fire, going steady

    Hearts full, wills ready

    But, over-enthusiastic burst right in

    And as usual, over-doing,

    Pushing, burning, maddening, stewing

    Bites off more than it is chewing

    And with this terrific tragedy

    Of misplaced motivation,

    Mood walks out

    Depressed, Deflated

    ~Julie Robinson

    Michael’s Morning Star

    Old tunes played on a keyboard with singing

    By a man who knows how to do it, bringing

    Clapping and smiles under hill country trees

    Serving hope love and kidding

    A big family are these.

    Tired from activity

    And the big Texas lunch

    Of brats beans and burgers

    Swigging beer with no liquor ‘cause happy is quicker

    And joy found in more ways than munch

    It’s now nap time so staff

    Spring to usual day to day tasks

    Of wheeling and walking and tending to those

    Whose minds may have faltered but not their hearts,

    Peace there’s found in these here parts.

    All back home the pictures we share

    With far away family feeling part of it there

    ‘Cause seeing the smiles, happy we look

    Can’t argue with a good photo took

    At Michael’s Morning Star Memory Care

    ~Julie Robinson

    I put my husband in memory care last week and I left there feeling a little sad for him because of who I know he used to be. I saw a spark of his old personality and that made me consider the past 6 years I have been taking care of him in relation also to how long I’ve been raising children and it all made me feel grateful for the chance to take care of and love the people I have in my life.

    They No Longer Living Here

    It takes a lifetime raising children

    Infant babe to driving teens

    All the feeding, and the bleeding

    Knees and hearts and hopes and dreams

    It takes a lifeline helping old ones

    through stages in senility

    Never sure just how to do it

    Stumbling through the years it seems

    Raising caring loving praying

    Over those you know are growing

    Difficulties they are knowing

    On them all your heart bestowing

    The lives you touch when helping those

    Who need a lift to help them through

    Doesn’t matter young or old

    It only matters that you do

    But in the end you’re left a room

    At the table, empty chair

    The nest swept clean; so what’s it mean

    That they’re no longer living there

    ~Julie Robinson

    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.

    All Colors Brightly Gleaming

    It brightens a color

    But, color, it’s not

    When it’s cold it’s ice

    When it’s angry it’s hot.

    It once was a poison,

    ‘‘Twas all the rage

    Of painted up faces

    In the Victorian age.

    An empty blank canvas,

    Peace flags flying grace,

    The hope of a Bride,

    In Cotton and lace.

    Full moon rising

    And carved concrete fountains,

    Pillowy clouds puffing

    Up snow capped mountains.

    From rocks finely made,

    To glittering beaches stored,

    All high and foamy cresting waves

    Must crash their lives against your shore.

    “What? Radiance in the making!

    Why must you come to such an end?”

    “Because”, says he, “I get mixed up

    When I get brushed on, my friend.”

    White

    ~Julie Robinson

    I just love this month long poetry writing challenge. I’m stuck on colors right now… I think I may do brown tomorrow.

    The poetry writing has come at a good time for me. I’ve been sick with a bad cold and it’s got my poetry lights turned on. And it’s giving me something to think of as I go about my usual day of caregiving.

    6B64D5A7-C53B-4DEE-A28E-D330833A1606
    iPhone art. If you look closely in the lower left hand corner you will see the paper holes. I had taken a picture of some smears on my piece of paper and then doodled around with the iPad pencil. Sometimes I write a poem to go with my paintings.  (See Adrift Haiku below story)

    Have you seen Adrift?

    My daughter and I watched the movie Adrift last night on Amazon Prime.  If you haven’t seen it yet I promise I won’t spoil the story.

    We sat together on the couch watching it and nearly hit each other over the grief when they showed the thing … that happened, the thing that was revealed was so surprising.  It’s a true story.

    What is it called when the author knows the thing that happens and keeps it a secret?  It makes me kinda mad, like they were keeping a secret and holding it back from you to punch you in the face with it for effect.  It was strangely satisfying though because I think it made us feel a little like the character felt when it happened.

    What happens in the movie (except the thing I can’t tell you that happened), is no surprise.  And, that there would be a rescue was no surprise since it is based on a true story.

    The way the director weaves in the days prior, during, and after the storm of a couple who fall in love not long before they set sail to the time of a great storm that changes their course, leaves us all adrift with them.  We were on that sailboat… what a cinematic accomplishment.  And, we always kept in the back of our mind that there of course would be a rescue.

    But, the surprise:  it cut deep.

    See the movie and tell me what you think.

    Adrift Haiku

    Adrift is not lost

    A storm can n’er be conquered

    But peace can be found.

    ~Julie Robinson

    I couldn’t help comparing Adrift to being a caregiver to my spouse who has dementia.  Not everything can be equally compared.  But sometimes I am Adrift.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Visiting a Colorful Muddy Road, Acrylic on Canvas

    My husband was cranky so when I mentioned his going to the adult day care he told me in a tone that I knew was going to be a “brick wall” conversation… that I needed to be the one to go.

    Sometimes I run through phrases in my head that fortunately I don’t speak. All those years of my mom’s teaching me (and my big teenager mouth) to let those thoughts rattle around awhile before deciding to let them shoot out the chute… pays off time and again.

    So I told him he’d maybe feel better if he lay down awhile. The sound of my voice was so soothing I surprised myself. Thanks mom! I know it was hard work raising me.

    So today we stayed home and I made chicken flautas. Everyone’s favorite. Here’s the recipe. I don’t do exact amounts but I will try to here. I’ve been cooking these up for perhaps 20 years and the amounts don’t have to be exact. Trick is to use leftover chicken and soften the tortillas before you stuff them or they will crack.

    I’ve had these in a restaurant… but always deep fried. Never like mine… so GOOD!

    Julie’s Chicken Flautas

    1 cup of cooked chicken, shredded or diced up small

    1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

    1/2 can green chilis

    1 tsp cumin

    8 flour tortillas, warmed

    Roll up cooked chicken, grated cheese, green chilies and cumin in each flour tortilla. Seal each one good and tight with a wooden toothpick. They resemble little flutes – where they get their name flautas, Spanish for flute. Brown then them in a little oil in a skillet. Serve over shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes and top with sour cream and salsa. They are a pretty presentation. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top to make them appear so extra tasty. Don’t forget to remove the wooden toothpick before serving.

    So, I decided as I was serving the delicious meal that sometimes it is better to stay home and invite people over. I invited my parents, who I was intending to meet out for lunch, and asked them to bring cupcakes from our favorite cupcake shop: The Sweeter Side of Rails. We like the tuxedo and the peanut butter cup. That made it all the more sweet.

    And after they left, I painted over the above painting which I had painted last year when I was doing clouds differently than I am doing now. And what did I do, of course you know if you’ve been reading my blog….

    …but add a very wet reflecty muddy road that is in itself a weird kind of respite for me..

    If Clouds Could Talk, Acrylic on Canvas … with poem at the end of this post.

    We went for the Psych evaluation.

    First off, the psychologist had at least 4″ high purple shag wall to wall carpeting in her office. I haven’t ever seen anything like it and I’m a child of the 70’s.

    And her office was in an old building that didn’t have a “trust factor” for me.

    As in the above painting of mine, clouds talk, and apparently, psychologists performing a psych eval do too. After the evaluation the psychologist gave her opinion that my husband probably wouldn’t get the disability because she didn’t think dementia is caused by PTSD and that he didn’t have any PTSD symptoms.

    But the paperwork from the VA had said the psychologist evaluator only does the evaluation and won’t give an answer. I thought it a bit strange she’d give an opinion.

    In my own reading on the matter I’ve learned that it does happen that a person can have a very stressful event happen such as my husband did in Vietnam that can cause dementia later in life.

    Well, I am not worried about any of it. And I remind myself that I’m just carrying through on the application for disability that the VFW near us had helped my husband apply for a few years ago after he was no longer able to work, but had not as yet been diagnosed with dementia.

    A little tiny bit of history on him case you were wondering…

    He was a practicing attorney until 2012 when he wasn’t able any longer to concentrate or to properly function in his job.

    Then in 2014 after he had been going to visit with the veterans at our local VFW, they helped him apply.

    Then in 2015 he finally got a diagnosis of dementia.

    Then… a few weeks ago (9/2018) I was looking for something in the file cabinet and I came across the PTSD disability application which he had filed. So I took it up to the VFW and they refiled it with the information they had said they were lacking. In about a week the psych eval had been ordered by the VA.

    I don’t know how any of it will go. But that purple shag carpeting was very very strange. Just about as strange as clouds communicating.

    If Clouds Could Talk

    If clouds could talk

    in puffed up words

    Or heavy purple phrases

    Misty morning melodies

    To tornado laden crazies

    They’d loftily quote

    Or drastically deluge

    If clouds could talk.

    ~Julie Robinson

    6ABFFE4D-DFDB-4FC4-AF4C-B8C5558FAE3C
    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.

    img_4216-1“Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Owlright” is a canvas bag I painted. Such a cutie!!

    Dementia is progressive.  It does not get better.  There is no cure. And we who care for someone with dementia are at risk ourselves due to the ongoing stress of it all.

    That brings me to a question I saw posed online, I think it was a writing prompt.

    Wife, or Caregiver?

    I think the question could be expanded to…

    Husband, or Caregiver,

    Daughter, Son, Granddaughter… or caregiver... and on and on.

    I will speak to the spouse/caregiver because it is what I know and live.

    An answer to the question is found where the lines got blurred between my husband as spouse and me as fully caregiver.

    I am so glad to be able to share this information because I believe it is so helpful for the mental health of the caregiver.  And, for those of you who read my blog, you know I am an artist so forgive me, a non scientist, as I get “all scientific” with my seven stages…

    First I ought to say… My considering myself to be a caregiver and no longer a wife happened incrementally over the course of several years.  Here are the stages we have been and are still going through:

    The seven stages of my becoming a caregiver.

    Stage Zero:  (All spouses take care of each other throughout their marriage – sometimes one spouse needs more care… and it can’t ever be seen as equal as the spousal role is to love the other – so this stage is a reminder of that…)

    Stage One.  Unnoticible to those outside the husband/wife relationship:  husband has small changes in his personality, husband apologizes, difficult time is covered over by husband/wife relationship. (+/- 1 years)

    Stage Two.  Wife confronts husband on his now more apparent personal changes, gets angry pushback.  The relationship suffers. (+/- 1 years)

    Stage Three.  Husband is unable to concentrate on work and otherwise is acting in outlandish and inappropriate ways in his business, but, thankfully, wife is able to talk him into retiring.   Still, he is able to hold a conversation, be excited about politics, and he still reads.  He still drives.  The family still plays games together and he can fully participate.  Wife is able to talk her husband into retiring and moving out of state. (+/- 1 years)

    Stage Four.  Husband is acting in inappropriate ways socially and wife talks him into letting her come along to his next doctor’s appointment where he is diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.  Husband no longer reads yet spends all of his waking hours watching cable news.  (+/- 1 years)

    Stage Five.  Husband gets confused with bill paying and has trouble concentrating, begins to have problems working his television.  Wife takes over all finances. (+/- 1 year)

    Stage Six.  Wife has husband evaluated for driving the automobile.  He loses his license. Husband begins believing he is running a business and also begins thinking “he needs to go home” and will pack his bags.  Wife sees that the business ideas are being stoked by his constant web surfing so wife takes away all electronic devices.  Wife is able to verbally talk him out of leaving.  Husband is unable to stay home alone.  (+/- 6  months)

    Stage Seven.  Wife has now crossed over into full caregiver because husband has become incapable of understanding most things.  Wife is able to manage his television viewing habits so as to have him watch for the most part, good movies and reruns of shows like I Love Lucy.  Husband is now completely unable to play a family game.  Husband has times of psychotic type behavior where he, in agitation, tries to escape.  Will walk down the street and not want to come back.  Wife has needed to call the police to come help with this problem.  Husband does not wash himself even if he is in the shower and will put on the same dirty clothes afterward.  Husband sleeps in his clothing.  Husband cannot at times find the bathroom though there is a label on the door.  Cannot find where his bedroom is.  Husband will want to eat though he just ate a full meal.  (3 years… and counting).

    So, for me it was not wife OR caregiver.  It is wife has BECOME caregiver.

    It is not just a war of words, though. Tomorrow I plan to discuss how defining myself as caregiver has helped me.

    Is every little thing gonna be owlright? What do you think?

    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

    S

    T

    A

    C

    K

    S

    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.

    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.

    Going With The Flow

    A “Navy Brat”, I spent my childhood at the beach. I think it’s why I’m magnetically drawn to paint it now.

    I race through cleaning up the breakfast mess and make sure my husband has plenty of coffee and “reading” material because I’ve got an ocean scene calling my artist’s imagination. Have I mentioned I’ve painted stacks of paintings, many of them ocean scenes. Not all good. Some ok. All still in a learning stage for me.

    As I paint, my husband and I usually chat about what he’s looking at in the paper. He thinks he knows the people in the pictures, he’s been in business with them, his mind is delusionally entertwined with them. Mostly I say “Oh, is that right,” and “Wow I didn’t know that”, faking a tone to allow him to continue there. I know he just likes the talking and the time.

    I put a live ocean scene on YouTube loud enough so I can feel like I’m there and so I can study the light hitting all the places light hits, glowing, refracting, being deflected and diffused, causing shadows.

    Sometimes when I paint, I wax a little poetic… I didn’t want to title this one because it would mess up the tip of the wave… so it is

    An

    Ode

    to the

    Ocean:

    a melody

    and a dance.

    Waves prance,

    in lacy edge dress,

    seagulls squawk soprano,

    starkly accompanying the sea.

    And there am I, a party to the scene,

    only in my mind through the power of TV.

    ~ Julie Robinson

    As all of this “excitement” is raging, my husband gets up to return to his second love, Turner Classic Movies. First he looks at my painting and says, as always, “Another ocean”. I try not to be deflated by the flat dementia tone that I know he has entirely no control over.

    And he leaves me at my painting to go watch Turner Classic Movies.

    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!

    Caregiving Vignettes “Reading with Dementia”

    My husband’s Alzheimer’s and bvFTD dementia doesn’t keep him from reading, but it does keep him from understanding. He will pour over the morning paper. This morning, being Sunday, we are reading yesterday’s paper, with no complaint from him, since he cannot remember reading it yesterday. He maintains the posture and the seemingly interested voracious reader he once was when he would read encyclopedic books of world history… for fun.

    His former self, smart guy, lawyer, he’d stay up late at night reading, reading… I used to put my knuckle in one ear and push my other hard into the pillow with the sheet over my head so I could block out the book light and sound of the pages swishing across the front of his chest.

    So now he reads really just anything. He can still read out loud and you’d think he knew what he could comprehend because he can read it. Yesterday he was reading a local phone book that came in the mail. The pages he was reading was full of names and phone numbers. But, if you didn’t know what it was you might think it was a law book.

    The “reading” keeps him mesmerized. He loves the pictures of little children and babies our local small town paper always highlights. He usually shows them to me with a sloppy grin on his face. In his previous life he wasn’t so interested in the sweet things. Pretty soon he will get up and ask me to help him turn his television on.

    In the above image foreground sits my portable table easel and it speaks for itself.

    Today I plan to launch my Patreon account where I will show my current paintings, poems, and short stories. Because in the midst of the dementia care, I art.

    cropped-img_1663.jpg

    The little blue clay owl I made is thinking about whether he ought to jump into the hole I drew.  I used to make these little clay owls and for awhile I was interested in anamorphic art.  So, I drew this little hole just to try it out.  Faked that owl right out didn’t I?

    Caregiving Vignettes “On our Toes”

    Like the little owl, I sometimes am on edge.  Maybe because I have to “stay on my toes”, alert, at the ready.  That’s why it is good we can get some time off, the thing that in caregiving lingo they call “respite”.

    Respite Care for him

    We get respite care at our neighborhood adult day care center three times a week. Most of the attendees there are in their 80’s and 90’s.  But, then there’s my husband who is just 70 years old.  They play games, make seasonal crafts, sing songs (which is his favorite), and listen to music.  He begins getting excited about going there but not necessarily in a nice way.  It’s more in a keyed up way.  And, when he’s there he’s keyed up about when I’m picking him up.  So, He’s keyed up all the way there and then worn out and frustrated from having been there on the way home.  But, it is respite for us.  It means my daughter and I can get lunch out.

    The Spa … for me?

    Sometimes I think it would be nice to have him go to respite care and for me to go to the spa with massage hot tub and facial.  I really ought to book myself such an adventure.

    But, what I normally do is run around and do the errands I can’t do when I have him with me (and did I mention I cannot leave him home alone and neither can I leave him with our daughter). I enjoy grocery shopping by myself.  I will spend an hour in the grocery store.  It takes that long to be a smart shopper.  But, possibly I just like it there.  They play the best music and there are all those possibilities of me being a budding gourmet chef right in my own kitchen.

    Then I come home and paint or right now fiddle with the Patreon account I am creating where I will upload videos of my creative process involved in my paintings.  I like being at home with him gone.  It seems so peaceful.  Sometimes I almost forget to pick him up.

    I count my blessings about the respite center and I tell that little shiny blue owl to step away from the edge.  That hole might be deep.

    Caregiver: “A Morning in the Life of a Caregiver”

    I’m painting and my husband is reading the paper. He can still read. He will read out loud to me as I am painting which is good for me. I have gotten so used to his dementia. Only, with his dementia, he has no ability to know what he is reading. But he reads with feeling as I am in the middle of painting this imagined pathway that I have worked on off and on for awhile.

    He has asked about five times what we are doing today. I just say, well, I’m painting and you are reading the paper. He’s ok with that. We have our morning rhythm.

    The Pathway I’m on

    Then, I walk down this pathway as I often do in my paintings. I love the experience of doing that and wonder if other artists do that too or am I just getting a little “teched”. While I am “in” the painting, I decide there have to be shadows along the white dusty road but I do like how it is reflecting the light from the after storm clouds and the clouds are wanting some smoothing. I love the feel and look in the just after the storm passed time. I want to put that feeling here.

    I was given this high need to paint not too long after my husband was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. The desire to paint was a gift just at the right time which I know was sent by God.

    Selling my paintings?

    The painting of beach scenes and pathways soothes me and right now I don’t really care about selling them yet. I’m looking to make my paintings right in my own estimation.

    I will be making my Patreon account public that I have been working on creating. I’ve been working on it each day. Patreon is a place for artists who share their art with patrons who support that artist. I intend to provide videos of myself painting and talking about my life and my painting process. And, eventually I plan to provide prints of my paintings for my patrons who support me. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to do a good video. I want the videos to be artistic and enjoyable to watch.

    The storm is passing

    After I snapped the above picture of my painting before I added additional rocks and let the water spill over the front right rock formation. I often will put water in my paintings as if it has just collected in a place after a big storm has passed over. It is a peaceful feeling with sweetness in the air.

    And, my husband folds up his paper, puts on his Bluetooth earphones, and says, “Now I exit stage left”.

    3E5B04FC-CF32-4AE8-8E7F-00610231D958Sometimes the caregiving goes haywire… but my kitchen coffee station (above) always stays cute!

    Caregiving Vignettes – “The Art of Perfection”

    Within minutes of posting my previous blog, where I explain how I found a nice little solution to a relatively minor problem with my husband, who has dementia, being unable to find the coffee creamer.  And what happens next?  It’s always something around here that will rise up and call me out. Call it, “the cream”.

    After  I literally push the “publish” button,  and after I verbally walk him through, again, that the coffee creamer has a big red lid and is emblazoned with “coffee creamer” on the top…  as if I totally know what I’m doing…

    What does he do?

    He pours JUST a big mug of the creamer and starts chugging it down.

    Today is Monday, the beginning our our school week. I go against the grain of everyone I meet because I like Monday. I like Mondays, the beginning of school, and the beginning of a new year. I’m sure you have solved a not so difficult mystery about me here… I like new beginnings. What’s tough on me is there was no apparent begin to the dementia. It’s like dementia on my nice neat “perfect” life schedule is something that jumped in and the door closed with fire shooting in after it.

    Today I have plans to take one of my beach scene or path scene paintings, not sure which one, and do those important final strokes… I say “strokes” – sometimes I end up painting completely over… anyhow, I will try to keep my cool… and sign each one. I was watching a YouTube painter who talked about how he finally gets done with a painting and then he signs it, the last time he touches the brush to the canvas.

    Me, I’ve painted over my signature even. I will try to be less ruthless, but I cut myself a break because I do paint as therapy. So, if I do I will realize just how less expensive the paint is than an actual therapist. I have stacks and stacks of paintings. And, stacks.

    Today is a new day. We get a new one every day.

    Thank You Coffee Mate for the Nice Big Top Surface

    Caregiving Vignettes: “Helping Himself”

    In his dementia progression, he went from being able to help his clients as an attorney out of all kinds of life messes, and he went from being able to do household projects like build a window seat in our kitchen with hinges that open for storage, he went from being able to plan a road trip better than anyone, creating, no less, a binder of sites to see along the way and information about the area. If I were the one driving, he’d read it out loud to me as we drove along. He went from being able to care for me and the family.  He would take my car to get gas for me. He’d always get up before anyone and put on the coffee.  He’d cook steaks on the grill for the family.  He’d do all the snow removal (we lived in a very snowy state at that time) while we all were inside in the warm house.

    With dementia comes a progression of the inability to care for others, then the inability to care for oneself.

    Now, he not only cannot do any of those things but but cannot even find the coffee creamer. It’s the little details that have to be adjusted, and adjusted for the need of the moment.

    A pretty nice solution, I think: I wrote in nice black permanent marker on the top of the lid “Coffee Creamer”. (If the surface is sweaty after you pull it out of the nice cold fridge then make sure to wipe it dry first or the permanent marker will not adhere.)

    I learned early on for my husband that labels attached to things helped him… and me. It saves us both frustration and time. I keep the coffee creamer in the refrigerator door and before I thought to label it, he would pull out the ketchup, the butter, the mayo, and call out each one. And, I would say, (while trying to get in my newspaper reading for the morning), it’s the one with the red lid… the one all the way to the right on the top shelf… but he’d be pulling out the things you don’t want to put in your coffee. Now, the angel on my shoulder had the idea of labeling it. The other shoulder had other ideas… like “let him try the Dijon mustard in his coffee… that might be interesting”. Good thing for him the good guys are winning.

    I was so excited to see this morning how when I could see him pulling out the wrong thing I said, “The creamer is the one labeled on top…” and he grabbed it right away and said, “Oh, Coffee Mate.”

    Other things I have labeled: The bathroom door. (At least once or twice a day he can’t find it). Previously in his decline I labeled other things but unless I am right there to help him sort it out it, this doesn’t work any longer. Now, the label on the coffee creamer and the label on the bathroom door help me… help him.

    It keeps us all happy and I can read my morning paper.

    (Above) The frog is my sponge holder and the kitty is my spoon rest.  I was just about done doing the dishes and I notice just how it appeared that the frog was looking big eyed at the bathing kitty.  So of course I snapped the picture, sudsy hands and all.

    …and now to..

    Caregiving Vignettes  “Something Stinks”

    Getting to the bottom of what stinks in a person’s bedroom is something I don’t want to be good at until I need to do it. Mike came out of his room stinking last night so much so that I asked him to take a shower and get all new clothes on.  Easier said than done!

    Before each shower I’ve been having to go over the importance washing well and the most important part: with soap. I could hear myself having said the same words to each of my three children as I am standing there reminding him where the shower is and where the soap sits. And, I flashback to having to send the teenagers back to do it again when the first time didn’t work. They were mystified how I knew they didn’t use soap. Then as they reach a certain teen age you can’t impress enough that there is a water shortage.

    He always comes to show me that he is all clean. The shower seemed to work and had tired him out so I suggested, although it was only 6 PM, that he get in bed and we’d see him tomorrow. 

    This morning I realized that whatever was stinkin’ was something that was rotten and or dead. And it was located in his room.  I did a search but couldn’t readily find anything so I loaded up a laundry basket with a trash bag, a bucket of sudsy warm water, some rags and some rubber gloves so that I could do a 360 degree quick cleaning. Loading up with trash and dirty socks, dirty underwear in his beside drawer and fleshing out all the dirty laundry he had rehung in his closet and towels and blankets he had carefully hung up on clothes hangers. I didn’t trust anything if it didn’t look pristine and I warily sniffed stuff to see what it could possibly be.

    Has anyone invented a stink detector/locator? Maybe it could run off an app and pinpoint just where the odorant originates. Maybe nothing as good as a mom nose.

    I carefully checked pockets of his clothing thinking there must be something there, under the bed and last, the bathroom. I scrubbed the tub and the sink and the toilet, the floor.

    But it was almost the last place I looked – a plastic bag full of something I will never know what because I just wanted to dispose of the grossness. He had carefully placed it under his toothbrush and toothpaste right next to his sink. That was the source of the smell. I kind of wondered if he had brushed his teeth with it? But I didn’t really need to imagine much more because the problem is now solved. 

    It was helpful that several months ago I simplified his bedroom, closet, and bathroom … not to make him our family’s first minimalist … but so he would have less to confuse him, and less for me to have to sort through.

    The “buzzer” which is a little tune that plays on our new dryer just melodically sounded his last laundry load. Things are now sweet smelling.

    Caregiving is an art, a career, a science. Don’t you think?