Thursday, March 21, 2019

On the Other Side of the Wall: Kids and the Sandwich Generation Part 2

   Caring for a family member with Alzheimer's is a challenge. Insert your own children who are still growing up and life can suddenly feel like an avalanche. There are no easy answers and in American culture there is not a norm to follow for care-giving in the home. When I was a teenager and my grandmother came to live with us, I didn't know anyone else who was caring for a grandparent in their home. So how can you get along with kids and an Alzheimer's grandparent all under one roof?
Communication
   It is essential to talk to your kids A LOT from the start to finish of care-giving. As the adult, you make the decisions but your kids need you to talk with them about those decisions. Children and teenagers in the home need to feel valued in the process. Kids know that when something is important it gets hashed out. What to talk to them about? Change. Changes in schedules, routine, how the disease is presenting, how you all are feeling in relationship to Grandma who doesn't seem like Grandma anymore. Make a list to refer to every week and be sure you are talking to your kids about life with Grandma in your home.
Clear Responsibilities
   When my grandmother moved in with us, it took a while to figure out what the heck we were all doing with an Alzheimer's patient in the house. It would have been helpful if all responsibilities surrounding her care would have been spelled out. Lines were crossed that looking back should not have been, especially for my youngest sister who was a child at the time. Be the adult. Remind yourself and your kids what each person is responsible for. Think of what is ok and what may not be ok or appropriate for everybody. This can clarify, for you as parents, what you can be doing to ensure your kids aren't stuck feeling responsible for duties that if you took time to consider, qualify as adults only.  
Freedom to Be a Kid
   Care-giving is serious stuff. All that seriousness in your house can bring everybody down and make your kids grow up too fast. Take time to let your kids be kids. Ask them what they want to do for fun and get a grandma-sitter so you can go out and spend time enjoying your family. Have you forgotten the normal things you did as a family before all the care-giving began? I bet your kids remember what it was like to feel free to be kids.
Paid to Help
   I hated having Alzheimer's in our home. It's dark bony claws reached everywhere. One thing that helped me cope was getting paid to help with Grandma. That's sounds terrible but for a teenager it was an acknowledgment that it was work having her around. So when I was home with her while my parents were out I got paid for that time.
Gifts from Grandma
   One time for Christmas my mom splurged and got us beautiful plaid pajamas from Eddie Bauer. We knew she had used some of Grandma's money to get us something special. Mom created a positive element about Grandma: she could give us gifts. Telling your kids "Grandma wants to give you this or Grandma is treating us all to ice cream" might be the ticket to shifting the negative feelings your kids may have toward a grandparent with Alzheimer's.
No Pretending
   Is care-giving in your home fun for you as an adult? No, I don't think so. Don't try to put a positive spin on everything with your kids. It is OK for them to hate having Alzheimer's around. You don't want them to hate their own grandparent but it's ok to be mad about life dealing with a disease. Don't pretend that everything is just as it used to be but now we have Grandma here. Life is different. Disease is not fun. Be real with your kids. Will they learn to be compassionate, helpful, and more understanding of others? Yes. But you pretending this is all good will only make your kids feel like they can't show their own real feelings.
Counseling
   If dealing with disease is hard for you, just think of how your child may be feeling. Finding a counselor for yourself and one for your child might be a good idea. A tricky part of care-giving in your home is that your kids know it is good to care for someone however, caring for someone is not what they want. There are so many conflicting emotions for everyone involved and a counselor could help you and your kids find healthy solutions for maintaining emotional balance.
   Care-giving is an uphill battle most of the time. Just taking time to try to see life through your kids' eyes can go a long way. Try. You won't be perfect but that's ok. Trying counts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Thought for Today: Creating an Oasis

   I love the idea of creating an oasis. Do you have an oasis? What do you do to refresh and replenish your soul with joy, satisfaction, or whatever makes you thankful to be alive? For most of us taking time to get alone requires effort and doing it on purpose not just waiting for the opportunity to magically appear. An oasis doesn't have to be perfect. At the coffee shop you find a cozy corner, a comfy chair, and order your favorite drink. Then all of a sudden there is that noisy guy talking on the phone right next to you. Don't worry. You are still at your oasis. It's not exactly perfect but it still counts.
   Why is it so hard to make time for doing what we love? Why do we feel guilty for taking time out for ourselves? There's one thing I've learned as a full time mother of three children: I have to pace myself. I have to make time for restoration regularly or before I know it I am irritated, dissatisfied, and even more tired than ever. Thankfully, my husband willingly cares for the kids so I can get away from the house and my daily responsibilities for a few hours every week. He needs time to be Dad to the kids on his own and I need that time away. Yes, I sometimes feel guilty but after an hour those negative thoughts fall away and I am once again reminded how much I need time to myself. In a snap, the time is gone and I am heading back home feeling more like myself, more at peace with myself. 
   How do you create an oasis? First, what is an oasis? In a very literal sense it is a source of water in the desert. Waterfalls cascade into pools surrounded by lush trees and plants right smack dab in the center of a dusty desert. Travelers can see this place of cooling refreshment from a distance and long to be there, to leave the dirty camels behind and jump into the bubbling pools, to wash the grime off, to splash, dive, and float, to drink the fresh cool water of the springs and spray it out like a Greek fountain. What is your oasis? What do you love to do that makes you feel free from the grime of your life? Do you love time alone or with friends? Do you need a massage or a walk? Do you have a hobby that has been waiting for your attention? Is there something you've been wanting to try or a favorite food that you would love to eat for lunch? 
   In January I had the privilege of coordinating a retreat for my favorite group of homeschooling moms. If I had a million dollars I would love to build a small retreat center on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, a place I visited in my twenties.
But hey, a retreat is a retreat. So, for a day a group of us ladies met together for our Rest and Refresh Retreat. We played some games, won some prizes, listened to inspiring stories of faith and rest, ate delicious food, talked, laughed, made a grapefruit scented sugar scrub and a bunch of eucalyptus lavender shower discs. For the recipes and more about our retreat check out my friend Krista's blog.
It was a blessed time of renewal and letting go of stress and the dailyness of life. It was an oasis on a cold gray January day. We were each other's waterfalls and sheltering trees in the dry tiring desert that winter sometimes feels like... only the arctic version. God brought us together and showered us with His favor. Was it a chance meeting? Did we just wing it and hope to get away for a while? No. We planned. We prepared. We prayed. We scheduled. We signed up.
   If you want more refreshment in your life you have to make it happen. You have to put. it. on. the. calendar. Get childcare. Think of what you want to do and figure out a plan for making your oasis a reality. If this is a new idea or it's just been a while start small. Create an oasis someplace in your own home. Maybe take a long hot shower while listening to music. You are worth it. You deserve it. You need it. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

On the Other Side of the Wall: Kids and the Sandwich Generation Part One

   Do you know what the sandwich generation is? It's the slice of the population that is caring for their parents while at the same time still raising their children. This group is sandwiched in between children and aging parents. The number of elderly adults is rising as people live longer. With healthcare costs also rising and average long term care facilities becoming more problematic, families are facing the issue of providing care for the older generation. I experienced this lifestyle as a teenager at home when my grandmother came to live with us. Now, as a grown-up, I am on the cusp of my parents aging and needing more assistance in the coming years, and more of my friends are entering into the stage of caring for family members for the first time.
How are Your Children Affected?
   While there are many issues surrounding caring for an elderly family member in your own home, there is one that strikes an especially tender chord. How are your children affected? This is a serious question to ask yet may not even be considered while care-giving adults are consumed by the needs of their parents. Their kids are just along for the ride. This is frankly, not acceptable. No one said being a part of the sandwich generation was easy. As an adult, if you choose to care for a parent in your home or spend a majority of your time taking care of a relative's needs who still lives on their own, it is you who is making that choice not your children. Your children are an extension of you and WILL be affected. It is your job as the grown-up to evaluate and decide what that will look like for your kids.
Make a Plan
   Rushing into care-giving is not the best plan for your kids. You might be able to put out a few fires for your parents but in the long run what you need is a plan. What can you do to meet the needs of your kids and your parents at the same time? Making a schedule and sticking to it can be a huge help, possibly even a life-line to preserving your kids' childhood and teenage years. Scheduling time for younger children is essential. They need to know you are still going to care for them even if Grandma is moving in with your family.
Face Reality for Your Kids
   The truth of  bringing a grandparent with dementia to live with your family is that your children are not going to be happy about it. Your lives are not going to be the same and your children will be very aware of that. You need to face this harsh reality for them and take this burden on yourself. Don't sugar coat things. A quick way to get your kids to resent the situation more is to make it seem like everything is fine and that nothing has really changed. Yes, you want to try to be positive about life. As an adult you understand that for you this is no walk in the park; well it's not a breeze for your kids either. They are giving up space, time alone with just their own family, and energy from Mom who is now spending her energy as care-giver for someone other than them. The stability of  peace in their own home has been interrupted (most Alzheimer's patients are not quiet) along with the usual ebb and flow of what has been their home-life. They see the stress, feel the tension between Mom and Dad as they navigate new responsibilities, hear the noise. You have to face the reality of what you are choosing for your family. Your kids are not going to like the changes. It's ok. Be real with your kids and comfort them, schedule time with them, help them to feel ok with not being happy about this new reality for your family.
Adults Only
   There is a sort of trend in some groups of society who choose a multi-generational family lifestyle to make children a part of everything that goes on in the home. While this can be a healthy exchange of teaching and learning, when it comes to care-giving there needs to be a clear definition of what are adult responsibilities that children are not a part of. When my grandmother moved in with us we were told she was not our responsibility. However, the way our home operated did not convey that idea. There were not real boundaries. When it came to Grandma, we were all supposed to "help". Looking back, I wish that us kids especially my youngest sister who was only ten at the time would have been allowed to just be kids. I wish we would've been told, "This is not for you to worry about. We are the grown-ups and we are handling Grandma's care." If you don't establish an "adults only" guideline your children are going to be put in the position of providing care in ways that may even fly under your radar as a parent. Do you want your kids putting Grandma back in bed at night, changing her clothes for her, helping her go to the bathroom, checking to make sure her underpants are up once she comes out of the bathroom, or feeding her? Is it appropriate for a ten year old to be exposed to a grown adult's body in the guise of helping at home? How will this affect your children later in life? Do you want a child always feeling responsible for an adult? Maybe your answer is yes. Maybe you want your young children doing all of these things to lighten the load of care-giving in the home. That might help you. Consider carefully how that may affect your child.
Only Part One
   This is only part one of this topic. There are a few more thoughts I'd like to explore along these lines of children and the sandwich generation. If you know of anyone in this situation I encourage you to share this blog post with them or initiate a conversation to help them sort out how to handle the delicate issue of protecting and loving their children while caring for their parents.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Favorite Things

Here are a few of my latest top picks of favorite things. Take a look! You might get a few holiday gift ideas!

Gravenstein Apple Balsamic
This fall I took a solo trip to the Adirondack Mountains to visit my sister and her husband. I had to stop at the Saratoga Olive Oil store. This time I discovered an amazing flavorful balsamic. It has the sweetness of apples mixed with a mild tartness. Salad can get boring, but this balsamic was the perfect ingredient to entice me to fix more veggies. saratogaoliveoil.com

Road iD
I finally bit the bullet and got my own road id bracelet. If you are a runner, hiker, biker, walker, or any other kind of adventurer that ever goes it alone you should consider carrying some kind of identification in the event of an emergency. Picking out the color and content for my Road iD bracelet was fun and easy. Now I just clip it on and go! https://www.roadid.com

Craft Storm Tights
Looking for the perfect tights to keep you warm on a run, cross country ski trail or ice skating? Check out these super comfy tights with fleece on the inside and a waterproof outer layer. I wear these as a single layer on 25F-40F days. https://www.craftsports.us

Grove Collaborative
I joined Grove this year and received a free gift of Mrs. Myers soaps. I LOVE these hand soaps! The fragrances are light as if they are fresh from nature. My favorites so far are Orange Clove and Apple Cider. Really, all of Mrs. Myers hand soaps are great! Check out Grove Collaborative...you might get a free gift and then you can subscribe and get your favorite soaps and nature friendly products in the mail.  mrs. myers hand soap.

Happier Podcast
I have become a little obsessed with this podcast. I love the practical suggestions Gretchin Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft offer for encountering every day happiness. Their connection as sisters also strikes a chord with me as one of four girls in my own family. I can't wait to dive into the topic of habits in Gretchin's book Better Than Before to kick off the new year! (gretchin rubin) If you are looking for a fun way to add some positive action into your life try out this podcast on iTunes.

Holiday Scents
This time of year is an especially aromatic one. When I think of Christmas, the fragrances of gingerbread and the clove-covered oranges I made with my mom when I was a little girl come to mind. While I don't love all the essential oil types of products out there, I have come across a few that make my home smell refreshing and Christmassy. Check out Merry and Bright drops to add to a special ornament that you can hang anywhere (mine is in the bathroom)merry and bright essentail oil. I received a fun Christmas gift last week! A DIY room spray that smells like a hint of pine with cloves and oranges. Check out Krista's amazing site for that room spray recipe as well as lots of essential oils info and tips: under the myrtle tree.

Sleek and Shine Serum
Struggle with thick frizzy hair? Don't want to pay $40.00 for the special oil from the salon? We've been using Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine on my daughter's coarse curly hair and it's been a God-send. Her hair is smoother and much easier to blow dry after applying this citrus-scented serum we found at Target for $4.99.target.com

These are just a few of the favorite things that are making my life easier and happier.

What are your favorite things lately? Share a few in the comments below!!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Julie and Julia

   Over the past few months I've written a couple of book reviews and now it's time I guess for a movie review. I love the movie Julie and Julia. It just came out on Netflix and although I've seen it a few times already I began re-watching it. There are so many elements that strike a chord with me. Not bottom on the list is the fact that the modern day Julie began writing a blog and later it was turned into a book and then a movie. Wow! I love how she began her journey of writing and doing what she loved and was passionate about. She wasn't great at really anything at all and was doing an average job at the average workplace while living in a small apartment with her husband. Then all of a sudden she decided to try cooking all the recipes in an entire cookbook and blogging about it. After that, her life began to take on more sparkle and meaning.
   The movie flips back and forth from Julie to Julia Child who was seeking her next venture in life during the post WWII era. She and her husband were living in Paris and she needed something to occupy her time and took up French cooking at a local cooking school. She threw herself into the class and mastered the art of cooking. Now she is famous for her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking which she co-authored with Simone Beck and Loiusette Bertholle. One small step to try something new and interesting eventually turned into a true passion that made Julia Child a household name. (to find the two volume set: www.amazon.com/books/cooking)
   There is just something so powerful about doing what you are passionate about and seeing it flourish. All too easily we get stuck in the every day sorts of things that take up our time. It's all about perspective. What is keeping you from doing what you love? Most of us won't achieve world wide fame but we can enjoy the aspects of life that make us the happiest. It's the accumulation of the little joys in life that create a spark of the magical. I am passionate about being the one (together with my husband) to raise my children. But parenting is not always easy or satisfying. I need a change in my perspective at the end of nearly every day it seems like. However, if I remember to appreciate those little joys, my passion and vision are restored. Today my son crept quietly into my bedroom while I was trying to will myself out of bed on a dark and freezing morning. He said he was scared in the night and hopped into bed with me. We snuggled and whispered and soaked in the comfort of our Mama and little boy connection. There it was! The spark of love that keeps me going and fills me with gratitude and reminds me of my true passion in life. 
   What are YOU passionate about? Are you taking time to live out a passion you have? Post a comment!! I'd LOVE to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

On the Other Side of the Wall: Remember Me

   Grandma's Alzheimer's was a long process. The end stages lasted approximately eight years. Our whole extended family was confronted with the strange sadness that while Grandma sat in the chair she no longer knew us and the lady she had always been was long gone. For the younger members of our family there was no other grandma than the one with Alzheimer's. My youngest sister never knew her as anyone different than the one with the blank stare behind the eyes who shouted at the bathroom mirror. That's the thing about disease. We have the before disease period of time when life is status quo or normal and later we realize how precious that time was. Then once a disease sets in we have the disease phase of life. In the case of Alzheimer's the disease phase brings a forever change. If  Grandma had known what was happening to her, she would probably have told us to hold tightly to the memory of the lady she was before dementia's cruel dark fingers took hold of her.
   So who was Grandma? Who was she before Alzheimer's? How has the essence of Grandma lived on in us? She was happy, warm, friendly, and generous. She always seemed to be smiling and in the kitchen either cooking or cleaning up from our large family gatherings on birthdays and holidays. She wore bright red lipstick and always had her short hair fixed nicely and curled under. One of her favorite hobbies was writing; poetry in particular. I always thought I would find a diary of hers tucked away someplace in their house of the days when she was a girl like me. I don't know how, but she was aware that I liked to write and often asked me what I had been writing lately. She always asked what I wanted for my birthday and lists were scattered on the kitchen counter top, her slanted lines of cursive on the backs of letter-sized white envelopes spelling out the wishes of us grandchildren. Once we walked down the street to a small shop that sold toys and she bought me a small doll for a present. Grandma kept several bird feeders outside the dining room window where she could admire the birds while she ate a soft boiled egg for breakfast from a chintz egg cup with a spoon and drank coffee from a tea cup. When we stayed overnight at Grandma and Grandpa's house she made small round pancakes and Grandpa made a blueberry sauce to pour on top. Music was one of Grandma's favorite things. She loved playing the piano. After every concert or recital she attended she kept the program as a special memento of her family's many musical talents. If her children or grandchildren were performing, then she was there in the audience. Grandma loved flowers and enjoyed taking us around her gardens and showing us the latest blooms. My favorites were her bleeding heart plants, pink peonies, and the exotic venus fly trap she had growing by the front porch. She loved jewelry and had various jewelry boxes filled with costume jewelry that was so popular back in the day. Her house was filled with her collections of beauty: carnival glass, shells, rocks, and butterflies. Nature was important to her and deserved admiration. Grandma's faith was solid and the center of her life. She lead in prayer before meals and was active in ladies groups at church.
   Grandma's attributes live on in all of her grandchildren. Even her great grandchildren who never met her are like her in so many ways. What do my kids love most? Butterflies, rocks, shells, music, church, birthdays, baking, flowers. She must smile from heaven on all of us, happy to see us doing what she loved so much, keeping alive the loves of her life. How she would marvel at her transplanted peonies blooming in front of my house over eighty years since she first planted her own garden. Her love of  music, nature, and family gatherings continues to thrive in everyone of us in our extended family. The memory of Grandma is a powerful one and has triumphed over the changes Alzheimer's brought about in her.
   How will my children remember me? I hope that they will think of all the fun times splashing in the lake, laughing around the table after dinner, snuggling on the couch, going out for ice cream, and hearing my voice cheering them on at soccer and races. The future is unpredictable but we can take comfort in the fact that even when horrible diseases like Alzheimer's strike, the amazing power of memory will carry us to live on in those we have loved.