Monthly Archives: September 2012

Alzheimer’s Disease is a mind thief, and when your loved one has been diagnosed with it, you find yourself thinking often of all that they have lost. You have to remind yourself to look at what they still have, which is hard sometimes. My mother-in-law is really a shell of what she used to be, and even though she seems happy with her life, I remember the things she used to do, such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, cake decorating, canning, baking, and raising her family. In her lifetime she made many people happy with the various things she made, and it is sad to think that she won’t be making those things anymore, even though she thinks she still does.

One thing that I have had to look back on, even though she will never do that again either, is her horses. My mother-in-law would have lived on a horse if she could have figured out a way. If she could have figured out a way to never get off, she would have done it. She owned horses with names like Molly and her colt Pie Face, Danny, and Twinkles. I don’t know who named the horses, but my guess is that it was her. There are a number of pictures of her with and on horses. And of course, her favorite shows are Westerns. I’m quite sure she can picture herself on the horses they are riding, galloping across the prairie. I don’t think she ever liked driving a car much, and she only did it when she absolutely had to, but a horse, she would had taken everywhere, if only she could have.

I agree with the research I have done concerning Alzheimer’s patients, in the you need to forget what they can no longer do, and focus on what they can, but I also think that sometimes it helps in their care, to remember what they used to be, because in so many ways, they think they still are that person from the past and they still do the things they used to do. They don’t know that they no longer do those things. I wish she could still be that person from the past, but since she can’t, I’ll just remind her of the days when she was a horsewoman…and a very good one.

When kids go outside to play a lot, you will find them climbing the trees eventually. This might be more common with boys than girls, but I don’t really think so. Every kid I have ever come across loved climbing  the trees. Whether it is in a tree house, or just pretending to be a bird, it just gives a sense of freedom that can’t be found anywhere else.

Bob was one of those kids that loved climbing the trees. With 4 sisters, and no brother until he was 14 years old, I have to wonder if he climbed trees to be alone, of course, if you look at this picture closely, you will see that one of his sisters was in the tree too…in a dress!! Still, Bob was higher up, so that would make him the better climber…right. I’m sure that is what he thought anyway. As I said, Bob always loved to climb trees, but I can’t say that it was always the best idea. There was the time that he fell out of the tree, and tried to break his fall by landing on his arm. Needless to say the arm was broken. I don’t know if he ever fell out of a tree again, but he never landed on his arm again…too painful I guess.

I never fell out of a tree, although I did climb them as a kid. I don’t think I was very adventurous when it came to heights, so even though I climbed, it wasn’t that high and I stayed pretty close to the trunk. I did have a cousin that I was climbing a tree with the fell out when we were climbing. Terry was just below me and when he stepped on a dead branch, it broke and down he went. That made me nervous about climbing after that. I don’t know how he felt about it.

Nevertheless, most kids have a great time in a tree. Their imaginations can run wild, as the breeze blows through their hair. No wonder kids love tree houses. It is like a place of their own, away from the rules of parents, teachers, and such…at least for a little while. If you ask me, there is no better place for a kid to be than up a tree.

Many people think that the elderly have nothing left to give to this world. They are pretty much done, and maybe even waiting to die, right? I couldn’t disagree more. I have been a caregiver since 2005, and while there have been challenges and sadness, the overall experience has been very rewarding. While there have been times when they are irritable, or even downright grouchy, I have found that if you will just walk a mile in their shoes, you will walk away with a new understanding of what they are going through and why they might have mood swings.

I have also found that if you take the time to listen to things they have to say, you can learn a lot about their lives while you are caring for them. These people have live in times that we have no idea about, and listening can teach you a lot about the past…a past that is your heritage. So many of my stories have come from just such talks about days gone by, and I will be forever grateful for having been given the opportunity to hear about it. All too soon, these people could be gone, and with them go all the stories they have stored in their heads. If you have that opportunity, I strongly recommend you have a talk with your parents or other aging loved one so that you can see what it would have been like to walk in their shoes.

Last night and this morning, I found out what it really is like to walk a mile in their shoes, when I experienced a headache that just would not go away, and would not allow me to even think much. My neck was out of place, and after my Chiropractic appointment, I felt much better. Still, it was an eye opener for me, because the one thing a caregiver can’t do, is feel the pain of their patient. For days now, I have been and probably will continue to try to minimize the back pain my mother-in-law feels in an effort to get her to continue to walk. She experiences pain in the low back and would love to get out of walking, which is something I can’t allow, hence the need to minimise. I doubt if she will believe me when I say the it is not so bad, but with Alzheimer’s disease, she will also not remember it later….a very good thing. Nevertheless, I will do whatever I can to minimize it, because after the horrible headache I had last night, I can honestly say that I have walked a mile, or maybe two, in their shoes.

Years ago, my sister, Caryl read a book called “The Middle Sister”. She felt like the book was almost written for her, because she was the middle sister in our family. And the funny thing was that the girl on the book looked a lot like Caryl. They were both blond and wore braids a lot, and the facial features weren’t even too far off. It seemed like Caryl talked about being the middle sister for the rest of her pre-teenaged years.

The book was about a German family with 3 girls, which was it’s only flaw, since we had 5 girls. The middle sister was afraid of lots of things, and thought that if she had the lion’s tooth belonging to her uncle, she could be brave. Her uncle agreed to give her his lion’s tooth when she made him an apple dumpling from the sapling in their yard. That all seemed simple until her parents said they had to move from Ohio to Minnesota. Sarah Samantha, the middle sister was devastated, until her parents told the girls they could each pick one thing to take along. Of course Sarah Samantha picked the apple tree, which was transported and grew well in Minnesota…until Grasshopper Summer threatens the tree, but Sarah Samantha bravely fights off the grasshoppers to save the tree.

When the crop and Uncle Romeo finally come and her family heads to the train station to pick up Uncle Romeo, Sarah Samantha stays behind to make his apple dumpling, but two Indians, a man and a boy come to the house and eat most of the apples. She is too mad to be afraid, and she tells the Indians off, and makes them help with the apple dumpling. There are just enough apples for one small dumpling, which she trades for the lion’s tooth to make her feel brave…not realizing that she already is brave.

I don’t know if the book’s draw was the middle sister or the apple dumpling, but Caryl became obsessed with making them after that. I’m sure she made some, but the funny thing is that I don’t remember eating any of them. Nevertheless, the apple dumpling stayed in the back of my mind from that day forward, as an interesting dessert. Maybe it was because of all Sarah Samantha went through to make it, or maybe because of Caryl’s interest in them. The other day, as I was shopping for groceries at Walmart, I saw, in the frozen dessert section, none other than apple dumplings, and it took me back to the story of the middle sister and Caryl’s love of that book.

Seventeen years ago today, we gave our youngest daughter in marriage. I am always amazed at the passage of time. It just doesn’t seem possible that they could be celebrating their 17th anniversary already…at least not in numbers. As a couple, they are a perfect match. Oh, they have their little fights, like any married couple does, but they just compliment each other so well. They both have a great sense of humor, and in their house is much laughter…something that truly is essential in a home if you ask me. I have heard all of the marriage tips there are out there in my own 37 years of marriage, but to me laughter is one of the most important ones. A home without joy is a very gloomy place to be.

Every parent wants the man their daughter marries to take good care of her and above all to love her with all his heart, and Travis has never let us down in that area. When they got married, Travis, who is a year younger than Amy, was just out of high school. Many people would have never expected it to last, but they fooled the naysayers. Sometimes, you know who you want to spend the rest of your life with immediately and that is exactly what happened. Amy and Travis worked together at Target in high school, and Amy had noticed Travis before their actual meeting, and thought he was cute. They actually met in person at a dance club for teenagers in Casper. From that moment on, they were destined to be together.

They dated for about a year, and then decided to get married. I could say that the rest is history, but there is no typical love story, really. Every love story is as unique as the people who are a part of it. Their lives have taken many twists and turns…from babies to career changes. I am very proud of how they have handled each and every turn in the road. Seventeen years is a big achievement these days, and I’m so happy for you both. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a wonderful day!!

My grand niece, Siara is going to college in Great Falls, Montana. She is a cheerleader with at the University of Great Falls. It is her first experience at being one her own, and more importantly, the first time away from her family. Most high school kids don’t understand how hard that is. They are so excited about being grown up and on their own…being their own boss, but that is not all that it is cracked up to be. As Siara can tell you, there are moments that life is great in college, followed by moments when you just really miss your family…especially your mom, if you are as close as Siara is to her mom, my niece Chantel. Those are the moments when you have to put a smile on your face and keep going, when what you really want to do is sit down and have a good cry.

Of course, not every moment is that sad. There have been some wonderful experiences already. While 6:00am is not exactly the time anyone in their right mind wants to be up and at cheerleading practice, that is exactly where Siara is every day that she has practice. You see, Siara is a dedicated athlete, and anyone who doesn’t think cheerleading is a sport, simply has not seen the bruises she has had or watched her cheer through sore muscles, because that is her job. And Siara is a National Champion. Her high school cheer team took 1st place is The American Grand National Championship Cheerleading competition, so she knows all about the hard work and dedication it takes to be a great cheerleader.

Not every moment of Siara’s college life is such hard work either. She has made so many new friends, and that may be the very thing that has made life there bearable. Being away from home still hurts deeply sometimes, and will continue to do so, but having friends around you who miss their familes too, and understand what you are going through goes a long way toward healing a hurting heart. This is a group of friends sharing the good times, and being brave together in the bad times. No, it isn’t all crying and being brave. These new college students, of which my grand niece is one, are learning about moving forward, while remembering the past…growing up while still keeping a little bit of the child they were…learning while still enjoying campus life…and yes, being brave when they feel like crying because of homesickness. As I told Siara when she first started college and was feeling like she wanted to come home…it will be hard sometimes, but you will never be sorry you took the journey…and I don’t think she has been…sorry that is. Keep on being brave Siara, the future is yours.

My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim lived in the Casper area for a time before moving to Reno, NV and later California and finally Washington state. We used to spend time at their place in Dempsey Acres when they lived here. All of us kids had a great time out there. They had a great garden that took up 3/4 of an acre, and 100 chickens. They raised most of their own food, and added wild game to the mixed as supplement to their own animals. I remember how good that stuff tasted. You can’t get that in a store, so I will just have to supplement my store bought with the farmer’s market, I guess.

After their move, we didn’t get to see them as much, and I always wished that hadn’t been the case. When they did visit, we always had such a great time. Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim were really fun people to be around. Whenever they came to visit, I remember thinking how different…sophisticated they were now, but then I would be reminded that my Aunt Ruth always wore moccasins, the kind with beads and such on them. That reminded me that you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. That very much proved to be correct because after a number of years in the cities in Nevada and California, Aunt Ruth, Uncle Jim, and their entire family moved to Washington state and bought land in the mountains. Finally she would feel at home again.

Aunt Ruth passed away in 1992 and Uncle Jim is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease. It makes me sad that I can’t talk with them again on this Earth, because they always had such interesting stories to tell about all their travels and life in the places they lived. I know I’ll see them again in Heaven, but right now that time seems so far away, even though it could come at any moment.

We have watched with great sadness as our beloved mountain burns. The burned area has grown to 18,000 acres and 37 lost structures. The fire crews have done an awesome job of fighting this fire. The winds in our area and the lack of rain could have made this fire a much more catastrophic event than it has been, in that at one point they thought the winds could possibly shift and the fire come back down the face of the mountain heading West. Prior to that point of concern, it had been mostly on top and headed East. Many people do not fully understand the gravity of 18,000 burned acres. Until you see all those dead trees standing where lush green trees used to be, you just can’t fully picture it. Looking through the burned areas that suddenly have far too much light for a forest, I get an extreme sense of sadness…even a sense of dread…because it will take so long to regrow that forest, and there is no quick and easy solution that could change that fact.

I was looking through some old pictures and came across one of Bob’s family having a picnic up on Casper Mountain in May of 1960. The picnic table was made of wood, of course, and I don’t think any of them are now. Even though the picture is in black and white, you can see the green trees in the background, and you know that everyone was having a wonderful time, as is normal on Casper Mountain. I don’t know of one person who has ever lived in Casper, who did not love the mountain. Whether you preferred to go to the lake or the mountain, you loved the beautiful backdrop it created. And truly, I don’t know of anyone who didn’t love going up there…even just for a picnic. The peacefulness and quiet are so relaxing and the birds, especially the hummingbirds that most people are thrilled to watch, always put me at ease. I feel especially sad for all the animals and birds whose homes and food have been lost to them. Yes they can migrate into other areas, but the food source will take a definite hit.

I remember throughout the years of my childhood, when our family would go up on the mountain, even if just for the day, and just hang out enjoying the beauty of it, the quiet, and the birds. Then in the evening, we would sit around the campfire roasting marshmellows and dodging the smoke that always seemed to be coming right into your eyes. We almost made it a game…laughing at the person who was getting bombarged with the smoke at any given moment. That always seemed so funny to us, but in the face of the current fire, it takes on a different meaning. The amount of smoke and ash that has been rolling off of our mountain is simply dangerous to be breathing. When I think about the firefighters who have worked tirelessly to try our beloved mountain, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. Our mountain will never be quite the same, but it will come back eventually to some degree. Insurance policies will help pay for repairs and rebuilding of structures, but, our minds will probably never forget those horrible pictures of the fire on the mountain.

My husband, Bob and his sister, Marlyce were born 4 years and 1 day apart, on July 9, 1950 and July 10, 1954. Birthdays were always a shared event, and they both seemed to like that. Marlyce always thought a lot of her little brother, a fact that could have come from those shared birthdays, or the fact that Bob is a funny guy much of the time. He was the first boy born in the family, and took it upon himself to regularly tease his older sisters…and later on, his younger sisters and brother too. That is pretty much the kind of guy he is. He loves to laugh, and joke around with people. I suppose that was a lot of his charm when I first started dating him, and what has kept our marriage going strong after 37 years. The ability to laugh when so much in life is tough all around you is a great asset.

Bob and Marlyce usually thought many of the same things were quite funny, so the little antics they used to pull usually involved both of them. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, so I have a feeling that Bob played the lead in a lot of the fun, but Marlyce could probably come in a close second. And what one thought was funny, the other would very likely agree with, so they were always laughing. I have noticed that in pictures, these two are often doing the same or very similar things, like wearing their dad’s shoes, or pretending to smoke a pipe. Everyone else in the picture might look perfectly normal, and then you notice the goofy kids doing something totally odd.

I have always thought it was a special thing that their birthdays were so close together. They had such great fun at those celebrations. Of course, Bob has a way of making a girl feel special…even when he is picking on them, so sharing the spotlight with him is usually a very good thing. Marlyce loved her brother very much, and especially loved his teasing, and I suppose that is also why she liked to do so many of the same things he did, or maybe he just did cool stuff. They were just a goofy pair.

As we all know, today is the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in United States history. September 11, 2001 was as horrible as it gets, but while it was designed to destroy us, the terrorists did not understand the strength of this country and it’s people. The people of this nation are survivors. When we are attacked, we fight back. We do not give up. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2977 innocent victims, and 19 hijackers…who I like to think of as executed. These misguided men thought they were doing something great, but they had a rude awakening when they hit eternity. The fires from the planes were nothing compared to the fires of hell.

What followed the attacks was some of the greatest displays of heroics known to mankind. Rescue workers, from police, firemen, and port authority, to ordinary people sprang into action. They were the ones not running from the building, they were running into the building, or staying in the building instead of running to escape. These people valued the life of others over and above their own…knowing that their actions would most likely bring their own death. What kind of person is so selfless? Their actions went so against the normal reaction to this kind of situation. Normally your reaction is to save yourself…run…survive, but not these people. They chose to save others…to go into the buildings…to rescue, to sacrifice themselves so that others would survive. That is the greatest gift, as the Bible says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And many of these people didn’t even know the people that they were laying down their lives for. In the face of hate, these heroes loved their fellow man, and did everything in their power to save them.

Everyday, rescue workers and ordinary people make the choice to put others ahead of themselves. Sometimes it is life threatening situations, and sometimes it is saving structures and forests, but the actions are the same. Without regard for their own lives these heroes rush in to save. Today, we remember all those who were lost in the horrible attacks of September 11, 2001, rescue workers and innocent victims alike. It doesn’t matter how their lives were lost. What matters is that their lives were precious and taken from them far too soon. What matters is that they stood bravely in the face of hate, and showed the world that love wins in the end. Those people, those innocent victims and rescue workers deserve to be remembered forever. Their attackers don’t. They chose their fate. They embodied the face of hate that brought out the love…the very best in the people of this country. In the face of hate, our people showed love to one another. There is no greater love on this earth.