Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Blessing of a Reoccuring Dream (and Downton Abbey, of course)

Even though they have the power to throw me to the ground, the waves in my dreams never look scary. They are just waves.

Even though they have the power to throw me to the ground, the waves in my dreams never look scary. They are just waves.

I’m putting an enormous contact lens into my eye. I have some doubt that it will fit, and though I know I’ve done it before, I’m a little confused as to how I should go about it.

I’m joyfully moving from room-to-room and no matter how small the house,  each room contains a door, a hatch, a staircase that leads to yet another room. The discovery of each new room is exhilerating.

Those are two of my most frequent reoccurring dreams.

For years, I shared them with no one and so I was certain that I was the only person who had them, but when I mentioned the contact lens dream to a colleague, she said, “Me, too. I have that dream all the time!”

Then, I told my sister about the dream in which I am discovering rooms endlessly, and she said, “That is the best dream. I love having that one.” She agreed that it is just a thrill that is impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t had it. It’s on the level of holding a newborn baby or winning the lottery. (Of course, I wouldn’t know about the latter, but it came to mind. So, I’ll use it.)

My other reoccurring dream themes are buildings wrapped in scaffolding and archaeology. I’m not sure how common those are. I suspect they have to do with both my personality type and my interests.

I can tell you what most dreams mean. Dream interpretation is one of my two parlor tricks. Handwriting analysis is the other and I’m pretty good at both.

It’s good to have a talent—or two, but they can get me in trouble. When I was about 17, a woman in her mid-thirties told me that she had a reoccurring dream that she was looking for small animals—rabbits, kittens, mice—in the forest. When she found them, they were all dead. Without thinking and perhaps without understanding the magnitude of some decisions we all eventually make, I blurted it out. “You think you want to have a baby, but you are afraid you will be a crappy mother.” She cried. Thankfully, most dream interpretation is not so dramatic—or even personal.

Last night, I dreamt I was walking along a deserted beach in the moonlight, and the waves kept sweeping me off my feet and slamming me into the sand. When this would happen, I would stand up, take a few steps, and get slammed by a wave again. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has had this dream. I’d even bet that it is a common one because the interpretation is easy, even obvious. The wave is life. We get slammed to the ground by life—repeatedly. I know that sounds incredibly gloomy and even violent. But is it? I’d say that there is good news in this dream because we pick ourselves up and we keep going. I find a lot of encouragement in that. Maybe if the waves washed me out to sea, I’d be concerned, but that has yet to happen.

Curiously, I don’t believe that the events of my own life brought on that particular dream—at least not last night. I think watching the third season of Downton Abbey did. For one thing, Highclere Castle was in the background, and I fell asleep thinking that it happens in all soap operas—just when everyone is sighing with great relief and patting themselves on the back saying, “Look how far we have come! The worst is behind us!” tragedy strikes. If that didn’t happen, they wouldn’t have much of a plot. They’d have an ending. “And they all lived happily ever after.”

As a child, I very much accepted that the characters of a story “lived happily ever after” once I closed the book or turned off the television, and that was, in my mind, a good thing. I was always eager to find my own “happily ever after.”

As an adult, however, I wonder if “living happily ever after” doesn’t really mean, “And nothing interesting ever happened to them again.” “And having learned this final lesson, they stopped learning and growing and discovering. Instead, they lived out the rest of their days smiling and yawning and napping because well, what else was there to do?” Now, see? That is a dismal ending! That’s worse than a dream of being swept out to sea, isn’t it?

I think I will meditate on this idea for a while, and just be thankful I haven’t come to a happily ever after in my own life. I’ll be thankful for every dream that tells me to keep going, pick myself up, brush off the sand and take another step forward. It’s not just a dream or an episode of Downton Abbey, but life.

 

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On the Cusp of Fat

I thought about taking a picture of my feet on my own scale, but I desperately need a pedicure.

I thought about taking a picture of my feet on my own scale, but I desperately need a pedicure.

I am on the cusp of being fat. That’s a hard thing for me to admit because I have been thin—even downright skinny—for much of my life.

How do I know that I am almost fat? My weight oscillates between 148 and 150. When I calculate my BMI at 148, I get a 24.6. At 150, I get 25. Anything over 24.9 is considered overweight. Yeah, so I am always living one brownie away from officially being, um, plump.

I know that if you are reading this and you have seen me lately, you are probably thinking, “Oh, pleeeeease. You are not fat. You look fine to me.” Or maybe that is what you would say to me because you are a nice person, but you might be thinking, “Well, thank God! You are finally seeing that you have let yourself go. I’ve wanted to say something, but how?!?!?”

Well, thank you for either seeing me as thinner than I actually am or biting your tongue to spare my feelings, but really, this is not about how I look or about comparing myself to anyone else—not to the super-models in glossy magazines or other 40-somethings.

And if you are over-weight and thinking, “She thinks she’s fat? She must think I’m obese,” please know that my blog is about me and how I feel about me. I’m not commenting on anyone else’s weight and I’m never out to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I know weight is a hard subject for most women. The truth is people come in different shapes and sizes, and I see that as proof God likes variety. But for me, I would like me to be a little thinner. God loves me–and you–no matter what we weigh.

It’s not about the size I wear. Or that I weigh more than my husband. (Yeah, ladies, you cringed when you read that, didn’t you?) Or really even the number on the scale. This is about how I feel.

As a former thin person, I can tell you firsthand that everything feels better when sporting a slimmer bod! Sitting, standing, sleeping, moving, everything—even typing. And of course, the obvious: Shopping for clothes! Shopping for clothes feels so good when you can just pull something off the rack and know it will fit. God, how I miss tear-free swimsuit shopping!

Ten pounds ago, I slept better and I had more energy. Ten pounds was only a year ago and so I remember it well.

I can only explain the weight gain by saying I am a stress-eater. Not too long ago, I came home to a power outage and instead of investigating the cause, I sat down and ate a box of Cheez-its. That’s a pretty typical response for me, and considering that it has truly been the most difficult year of my adulthood, I’m lucky I’ve gained 10 pounds, and not 80.

And I’m physically lazy. I hate exercise.

The question is, what am I going to do about it—beyond finding a more constructive way to deal with challenging situations?

For the first time in my entire life, I want to get serious about not just weight loss, but about my health, in general. I’ve been reading Michael Mosley’s The Fast Diet, which is less about a diet and more about a major lifestyle change that involves fasting two days per week. On fast days, I can have 500 calories and on non-fast days, I just have to eat sensibly–so no downing a box of Cheez-its in the dark. Ideally, the benefits will include lower cholesterol, more energy, a stronger heart, and even an improved memory–in addition to the much wanted weight loss. I’m giving this a go! And that is why I’m sharing it here. Mosley recommends telling people so that I’ll feel accountable. I’m sure he would also like you to think, “Now, I’m curious. I think I will run out and buy his book.”

I’m going to find my way back to the gym, too. And I’m going to buy some kind of device that lets me download and listen to books to stave off boredom while on the treadmill or elliptical or some other torture device. Yeah, have I mentioned that I hate exercise?

So, there you have it—my confession that I am almost over-weight and unhappy about it AND I’m announced my plans for radical change.

And I’m pleased to report that while typing this blog-post, I have not been snacking. Yay me! This counts as a step in the right direction–and probably the only exercise I will get today. Well, unless you count lifting my mother-in-law. Hmmm…I should count that. I have biceps these days.

Writing About Expectations & Laundry

My favorite Oscar Wilde quote is "I never travel without my diary. One should have something sensational to read in the train." Clearly, he wasn't writing about laundry.

My favorite Oscar Wilde quote is “I never travel without my diary. One should have something sensational to read in the train.” Clearly, he wasn’t writing about laundry.

I write—albeit I don’t always write well, but I write.  When people tell me they don’t write, it’s almost like saying, “I don’t breathe,” because I think, “How is that possible?” Writing is that important to my well-being.

Typically, I go through a 70-page, spiral-bound, college-rule notebook every month, and I’ve done so for at least twenty-five years. I store them in sealed plastic crates in the barn.

And while my complete collection contains a scandal or two or eight, most of it is pretty dry stuff. I can imagine future historians using my journal to calculate how often laundry was done in the 21st century because so many pages read like a to-do list. “I need to do the laundry, but first I have to run to the grocery store.” Yeah, exciting stuff like that.

Of course, if I’m completely honest, I almost never read anything I write.  I finish writing in a notebook and just stack it with others under my bed or in my closet until I have collected several volumes. Then, it’s time to archive them by dumping them with the rest. I really could not guess what percentage is mundane or entertaining.

This morning, however, I found a genuine use for September 2012. My husband and I were trying to figure out when we first hired help for my mother-in-law. We had two dates on file. I felt reasonably sure that I would have written about it, and since September 2012 was still handy, I took a look.

Yep, I found the start dates of our first two employees right away, but now that it was open and on my lap, I read it—or at least skimmed it—from cover-to-cover. September 2012 was a time of great change. Not only did we hire, but my mother-in-law moved in with us, and she did so at the end of the month. So, what I wrote was mostly anticipatory.

A few reoccurring themes within the month really struck me:

  • Even though my mother-in-law had been staying with my sister-in-law, she was already a dominate figure in our lives. We had been dealing with her care, in one form or another, since March. I was already very tired before we unpacked her first bag.

 

  • We started moving furniture out of her home in September, too, and I was only beginning to see what a huge job it would be to pack and store–and in some cases, dispose of—her stuff. I did not yet have an inkling that doing so would take over my life in the way that it has for months on end. I could not have known that ten months later, we’d still be working on it.

 

  • Quickly, I went from excitement over hiring help to acknowledging that finding and keeping the right person would be a challenge. I had envisioned hiring someone like Alice from the Brady Bunch. She would cook, clean, sew, shop, babysit, and provide elder-care as needed while becoming a member of our family. Oh, wait, Mr. Brady’s mom never moved in with them. Nevermind. Things just haven’t worked out that way.

 

  • I was incredibly optimistic about the quality of life my mother-in-law would enjoy. I knew it would be difficult, but still, I imagined she would be well enough to assume a social life and Alice, or whomever I hired, would dress her and drive her to her ladies’ club meetings and luncheons. She would just be another member of a very busy household.

 

  • I over-estimated what I would be willing to do for her. I thought I would make her well-being a priority. I would get her to a physical therapist, I would help her exercise, I would read up on diabetic cooking, I would learn Spanish. As it turns out, I was pretty darn busy before she arrived. I was doing well just to raise two children, keep house, preside over a club, volunteer at church, and pick up occasional contract work. Gradually, I gave up a lot of what I was doing–for myself and for others, and having done so, I still haven’t accommodated her well, but I feel no guilt in admitting I do what I can. Period.

 

  • I believed having her under my roof would make our family closer. I had imagined extended members of our family calling and visiting. That hasn’t happened either.

Yeah, I got all of that from reading one notebook. I should go back and just read what I wrote yesterday to see how it all compares, but right now, it would be too exhausting. A lot of energy goes into my writing. And a lot of energy is expended in reading it. At this moment, I can tell you just this much: Living with a person and living with a person with dementia are two very different experiences. I’ve learned that much.

Perhaps, when I am very, very old, I will read the entire body of my work. I’ll cringe over my grammar. I’ll wonder why I felt the need to write about laundry.

 

 

Defining “Better.”

I did a google search to find a picture of God. This was the best one.

I did a google search to find a picture of God. This was the best one.

My mother-in-law had a doctor’s appointment on Monday. Until now, I haven’t been terribly involved in the medical aspects of her care, beyond monitoring her vitals and administering her meds daily. Okay, that’s pretty darn involved, isn’t it? So, let me start again, please.

My mother-in-law had a doctor’s appointment on Monday, and although I have been very involved in her care, this was the first appointment I had attended. I did so with ambivalence. On one hand, I felt it necessary that I be present because I wanted to be an extra set of ears. My husband, a well-meaning optimist with taciturn habits, doesn’t always hear bad news and mostly conveys no news. If I want to be in the loop, I need to assert myself into every conversation, including doctor’s appointments.

And on the other hand, I really just don’t want to know. I don’t want to be involved. I want to stick my head in the sand and wish away the hardship associated with her care. Daily, I think, “Oh, if I could just go to sleep and wake up once she is dead and buried.” It’s not that I dislike my mother-in-law so much that I wish her dead. It’s that I don’t like being a care-giver. I don’t. It’s not in my nature.

Still, there I was in the tiny examination room looking at his diploma and using it to calculate his age. I guessed 42, maybe 43. Of course, that doesn’t matter, but isn’t it always an interesting moment when you discover you are seeking expert professional advice from someone younger than you are?

The young doctor was certainly educated enough and experienced enough, and nothing about our time with him stands out as wrong, but I’ve been in a bad mood since seeing him. I think it comes down to this: We don’t share the same definition of better and yet, I suspect that better in the truest sense doesn’t exist for either of us when referring to my mother-in-law’s condition.

She was conscious, but not talkative during the appointment. When she spoke it was in Spanish, to my husband. We—the doctor, my husband and I—conversed about her in English as if she wasn’t there because she was, um, out-of-it. Mentally, she wasn’t there. Still, it felt awkward to me.

He listened to us describe how she has been in the time since he last saw her. Then, he recommended that we cut out one medication entirely and lower the dosage of another. He ordered lab work—he wanted “a complete work up.” And of course, I was thinking, “But why? Because she might die if we don’t monitor her cholesterol more closely? Would that really be such a tragedy?” but I didn’t say that because I was sure it would come across as callused. Later, when I asked my husband, he said that I did sound rather un-caring. Well, THAT was not my intention. It’s my intention to be practical. Forgive me, please.

Then, the doctor suggested that he prescribe something to liven her up a bit, make her more energetic, more alert. Deep sigh. When she isn’t in a fog, she is pissed. And who can blame her? She’s lost her husband. She’s lost her friends, her home, and what was left of her independence. Frankly, that would make me want to yell, scream, and shout profanities, too. So, I asserted myself here. I told the doctor that when she’s lucid, she is really very angry, and frankly, with two small children in the house—one of whom she has already physically attacked—I prefer to have her a little incoherent over fighting mad.

Really, which is better? Foggy, but somewhat agreeable or agitated and yelling at children? I’m not just a daughter-in-law. I’m a mother.

Much later, I realized that “better” is the problem. So, the doctor can give her drugs to fix physical problems such as diabetes, and then, she will be better, but better will never, ever mean good enough not to require constant care or to substantially improve her quality of life, so, what’s the point? We can subject her to test after test, we can alter her diet, we can provide her with endless stimulation, and we can fill her with every imaginable drug, and devote our every waking moment to her recovery, but in the end, it’s not really going to change much. When I voice this aloud, I’m treated as if I am being a real meanie.

Is it really mean of me to want my life back? To do normal things, like take my kids to swimming lessons? Is it mean of me not to want my mother-in-law to have to choose between semi-consciousness and an awareness of all that she has lost?

Better, in her case, is dead. I am convinced of that.

Last year, shortly before my father-in-law passed away, my daughter—then only four-year-old—had a spiritual crisis. We were on a playground and she was surrounded by her friends when suddenly she began crying uncontrollably. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “Mom, I keep praying that God will make Grandma and Grandpa better, but He doesn’t. He’s not listening to me. He’s not answering my prayers.”

I took her aside and explained that sometimes, God heals people by letting them die. Once they are dead, they are no longer sick and while that is very sad for us because we will miss them, it’s an answer to a prayer. I had no problem explaining that to her because that is what I truly believe. She seemed genuinely comforted by my explanation.

See? Better can mean dead.

Of course, the other part of believing in an afterlife that ends all suffering is that I have to accept that God is calling the shots, not me. It doesn’t matter that my definition of better when applied to my mother-in-law’s condition is “no longer breathing.” God must still have some sort of purpose for her since He has chosen not to make her better by calling her home yet.

So, in the afterlife, will there be a Q and A session? Since all of human-kind has the same question: Why do we suffer so? Why doesn’t God just make us better?

Yeah, ‘cuz God owes us an explanation. Eye-roll.

(You might not want to stand too close to me while in church. Lightning might strike.)

Seriously, I know that Faith doesn’t give us the answers. It just makes us more comfortable with not having answers. That needs to be my focus—finding enough Faith to accept that better—my definition or the doctor’s—is irrelevant.

British Accents in My Head and Other Effects of Watching Too Much Downton Abbey

Violet Crawley has her faults. She's a snob and change frightens her, but she comes with her own staff and a cottage. Isn't that what we all want in a mother-in-law?

Violet Crawley has her faults. She’s a snob and change frightens her, but she comes with her own staff and a cottage. Isn’t that what we all want in a mother-in-law?

As you are reading this blog, I hope that you realize that it is written with an upper-crust British accent even though I speak in a slightly southern, very American one.

You see, I have become addicted to Downton Abbey after avoiding it—quite successfully, thank you—for the first three seasons that it aired. As everyone around me raved about it, I resisted watching. I just didn’t care for yet another reason to be so attached to my telly. (Telly? See? That’s me getting all British on you.)

My darling sister—a brilliant woman—kept imploring me to watch. She knew I’d fancy it and she really wanted to discuss it with me. “I need your opinion,” she would say. “I so want to discuss this with you.” Flattering, isn’t it? To have someone need my opinion and to want to discuss it with me? Of course, it is.

So, midway through season three, I tried. I watched one episode and told her, that yes, the costumes were exquisite, the house and its furnishing perfect, but no, I could get into it. I couldn’t follow the plot. I didn’t know the back-story on any of the characters. I would not be watching it again though I was certain it was well-written and beautifully acted.

I thought that would be the end of it, but no, she insisted. She bought the first three seasons and gave them to me. Now, I could watch from the beginning at my leisure and I would have no excuses. Very well then.

Two weeks later, I have watched the first two seasons. I haven’t read my book club book. This is the first blog entry I have posted in a week. So, yes, you could say that Downton Abbey has taken over the spare moments of my life. How can one not love a series that manages to mention Sir Christopher Wren in the first episode?

So, yes, now, thanks to my sister, I am a self-described Downton Devotee, and considering my background—I have a master’s degree in Historic Preservation, I spent a summer studying landscape architecture in England, I worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I’m a bit of a “big house” aficionada—albeit the big houses of the United States—it’s no surprise that I am in love with this show. The characters. The setting. The costumes. The writing. The wit. The drama. The romances. The history. The architecture. The landscape. The decorative arts. Have I left anything out? I love it all.

Two things stand out for me. Silly things. Things grown-up people shouldn’t be learning from a soap opera. (Yes, let’s call it what it is. A soap.  A classy one, but still a soap.)

First, I am amazed at the depth of the characters. No one—not even the villains—are completely evil. And no one is ever completely good. Upstairs and downstairs, the characters feel like real people to me. For example, it’s easy to hate Mrs. O’Brien, the lady’s maid. She plots, she gossips, she causes her mistress to miscarry—there’s nothing likable about her. Then, she reaches out in compassion to the shell-shocked footman explaining her brother suffered from the same malady. What? O’Brien has a brother? Whom she cares for? She’s capable of defending someone she knows is hurting? And in a moment, I see her in a new light.

That happens in real life, too, doesn’t it? You think you know someone and then, in a moment, something about their character is revealed, and suddenly, you see them in a different light? Well, it happens to me frequently enough even when I am making every effort not to judge.

My second astonishing realization is that this series is set in the not-so-distant past, and yet, it feels so long ago. At the start of the second series, I saw “1919” flash across the screen announcing the year and telling me that a bit of time has lapsed since season one.  1919? My grandparents were already born. My husband’s grandparents were already adults! Not that any of these people are still living—thank God—but my lifetime does connect with and touch that lifetime.

Because I had the same realization as a child watching the Waltons, it’s almost comical to me that I need such reminders at this point in my life. I remember watching the opening credits, thinking about how my mother was born just as the Depression ended. Did she ever walk to school in her bare feet like Elizabeth Walton? Probably not, but then, it has as much to do with place as time. My mother grew up in the city. Elizabeth Walton was a country girl.

The twentieth century moved quickly. The twenty-first is moving even quicker. Matthew and Lavinia received a Victrola as a wedding gift, and today, I shopped for an iPod Nano.  That’s amazing to me since Crawley sisters would have been born around the same time as my husband’s grandparents, people he remembers so vividly.

I'd happily live in the Dowager Cottage. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Does it get better than that? I should think not!

I’d happily live in the Dowager Cottage. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Does it get better than that? I should think not!

Now hooked, I will keep watching. It’s a good escape, and my writing just sounds so much better in my head with Maggie Smith’s voice reading it.

 

 

If Fifty is the New Thirty, Frumpy is the New Chic

It looks like a shoe to you, but to me, it looks like a form of torture.

It looks like a shoe to you, but to me, it looks like a form of torture.

I went to the library to get The Fasting Diet after seeing the author on PBS and hearing him on NPR. I am intrigued by this idea that periodic fasting can improve one’s over-all health and slow the aging of the mind.

While I was there, I also borrowed a couple of cookbooks. I’m planning to torture myself by looking at all those glossy pictures of food while I’m fasting.

I also picked up a book titled How to Look Ten Years Younger. I have to admit that when I first read the title, I thought to myself, “Want people to think you are ten years younger? Have a baby.”

Yes, that’s been my experience. Because I have young children, people assume I am in my thirties, not my forties. I’m not vain enough to believe that it’s my youthful good-looks, but at the same time, no one—so far—has asked me if my children are my grandchildren. And believe me, that is something every old mom fears–“Your grandchildren are adorable. Do you get to see them often?” Cringe.

Still, I couldn’t resist. I checked out How To Look Ten Years Younger, too, and it was the first book I opened when I got home. I didn’t read the whole thing, but I skimmed it enough to know that I am doing two things that make me appear older and therefore, frumpy.

  1. I always wear flats. According to this book, I should wear heels and instantly, I will look younger, thinner, and sexier. Eye-roll. Even as a much younger woman, I couldn’t wear heels without suffering some pretty horrific foot-pain. During the bridesmaid years–you know, those years in which you are in a wedding almost every weekend–I stood at many-a altar in a satiny dress and dyed-to-match heels visibly weeping. Those tears had nothing to do with joy and everything to do with foot-pain. I couldn’t wear them at 20. I can’t wear them now.

 

  1. I wear my reading glasses either on my head or around my neck when they aren’t on my
    I love my reading glasses. You won't find a more versatile accessory. Sometimes, they are a headband. Sometimes, they are a necklace. And sometimes, they are glasses.

    I love my reading glasses. You won’t find a more versatile accessory. Sometimes, they are a headband. Sometimes, they are a necklace. And sometimes, they are glasses.

    face. According to the author, if I’m not reading, I shouldn’t be wearing them anywhere on my body. Again, that is great in theory, but I’m very dependent on my reading glasses. I can’t see without them and so I need to have them with me—and where I can find them. I can usually find my head and my neck.

So, I guess I am just going to go on being frumpy, and if I really feel the need to look ten years younger, I’ll just have another baby.

Just joking. Not happening. I hope not anyway. Never use age or fatigue as birth control…

Thank You!

Today, as I was about to leave, Deborah, my mother-in-law’s caregiver rolled her into the dining room for breakfast. As I said good-bye, my mother-in-law pursed her lips and pulled her eyebrows together. She raised her hand and gave me a gesture that I have come to understand as the Ecuadorean equivalent of flipping the bird. “YOU!” she said in a stern, low voice.

Clearly, she was pissed—at me. At me? Really? Me? Of all the people on the planet, me?

“Yes, ME! You want to talk about ME? Let’s!” I snapped.  “In the past week, I have brushed your teeth, combed your hair, washed your hands and wiped your butt—countless times. I have taken your vitals and administered your meds, including giving you insulin injections while you tried to swipe my hand away. I have made soup and spoon-fed you. I’ve driven across town to pick up your prescription. I have loaded my car with your crap and unloaded it four times in an attempt to empty your house and ready it to lease.  I have lifted you from your bed to your chair and from your chair to the toilet—repeatedly. I have swept and mopped the floor around your spot in the dining room daily. I’ve yelled at my husband because he forgot to call in a refill for your insulin. I’ve cancelled play-dates and forgone a pool membership for you. If you are going to be pissed off at anyone on God’s green earth, it should be someone else! Anyone else! As I see it, I am the only person willing to strain her body, bank account, and marriage for you!” Then, I slammed the door and stomped out in a fury, huffing and puffing as I muttered under my breath.

No, that’s not what I did. That’s not what I said.

Instead, I said, “Okay, then. The kids and I will be back by 2:30. You have a good day,” and I left quietly while mouthing “thank you” to Deborah on the way out the door.

Where were we going? Over to my mother-in-law’s house. I had decided that instead of going to the library for the summer reading program, we would go to her house and pick up another load. I’ve only been working on this house since September so you can imagine how eager I am to finish this project and get on with my life. I had even devised a game for the kids. I decided I would give them each a bag to fill with the random pieces of paper, plastic, and other recyclables. It would be a contest, and both would win a Frosty from Wendy’s–mostly because I wanted a Frosty.

As I drove towards the beltway, I thought about her misplaced anger and how her care has completely dominated my life since she moved in with us ten months ago. The only breaks have been the result of her being hospitalized twice in May, and those weren’t vacations. No, either my husband or I were with her the entire time. Instead of flipping me off, she should be thanking me. I have rearranged my entire life for her. So, where is the love?

It was a fleeting thought—my angry response to her ire. I know dementia steals a person’s ability to be gracious, to appreciate what others do. I can’t really hold that against her. And I do imagine that most people in her position would be angry. She’s lost her husband, her home, her friends, and her ability to do for herself. She isn’t angry at me. She’s angry at a situation that just engulfs us both.

I don’t have dementia—yet. I have the ability to appreciate, to praise, to thank, to be gracious—but do I do any of those things enough? Have I told people I value them and all they do for me? I mean, I thanked my children for their hard work and good behavior today by buying them a Frosty, but do they know how much I appreciate them not making a difficult situation even harder?

What about my neighbor who listens to me and offers genuinely useful advice? What about all the friends who offer their prayers and kind words of support when I’ve commandeered our book club meeting with my sandwich tales? What about my sister and my brother-in-law and my cousin who helped move furniture? Really, really heavy furniture? Are pizza and beer ever enough when thanking people who help you move heavy furniture? I feel like I owe them a kidney.

I’m going to make a point to be more gracious and more generous while I still can. No one ever knows when she will be robbed of the chance or the ability to simply say, “Thank you.”

So, if you have been reading my blog, thank you! Please know that I get a rush of humility and gratitude thinking that people are interested, informed, or entertained by anything I have to say. And if you are praying for me, GOD BLESS YOU! I live on prayer. Thanks!