Dealing with Dementia: Don’t Forget Fun

potatoes fun knife fork

Photo by Pixabay on

For Labor Day, we were invited to some friends’ house for a barbecue — they are new friends from church, a young couple and their adorable ten-month-old. If those cherubic cheeks didn’t seal the deal, the fact that she asked me to make my potato salad and favorite frozen dessert gave me warm fuzzies. This kind of casual hospitality is wonderful because it (a) lets me contribute and (b) is so low-pressure: just sit out on the covered deck, sip wine and feast on burgers and sides … and if someone misbehaves, no one cares. They even invited the dogs to come and romp in their spacious back yard.

The best part was watching mom’s eyes light up as I sang silly songs to the baby … the same silly songs, I’m sure, that she once sang to me. “You look just like a grandma,” she said to me. And the thing was, I kind of reveled in it. My own teenagers sat with their faces in their phones, until Chris got bored and started playing with his dog … our eleven-year-old Aussie shepherd who chased a ball, pulled something, shrieked, and fell down.

That was when life set in again. Mom urgently needed a rest room, Craig stood to leave because two hours was the most he could spare away from his desk right now (he’s been working nonstop for the last month), and Sarah launched into a never-ending monologue about her birth family, who she would be spending Christmas with this year.

Reluctantly I got up and started clearing the dishes. It was nice while it lasted.

We all got home and went to our respective quiet places … and the next thing I  knew, three hours had passed. I had NAPPED for THREE HOURS! Probably would have kept on napping, too, if my daughter’s tumbly hadn’t started rumbling. “What’s for dinner, mom?”  I was struck by the heaviness of the quiet. I could feel the stress closing in again, like a suffocating cloud.

Craig was still at his desk. Mom needed her meds and a bath, but she was still passed out on her bed, fully clothed, having been exhausted from our excursion. Chris was perched by the dog crate, plaintively wondering aloud if Maddy needed to go to the vet. (We spent three hours that night at the animal ER.) Sarah was alternately blasting her music and screaming at us to get dinner NOW.

I whipped up a sheet of Super Nachos, heated up some leftovers for mom’s dinner … and then I dug a Buster Bar out of the fridge (half a bar is my go-to indulgence), closed my eyes, and thought about the day. I could still see my mother’s happy smile and hear the infant’s delighted chortle as I blew a loud raspberry on her tummy. My tastebuds still danced from that glass of pino grigio, juicy burgers, and my friend’s delicious green bean almond salad. Tomorrow would come — the caregivers, the workday, the chauffeuring kids hither and yon. Yes, we were likely looking at thousands of dollars if the dog needs surgery.  But today … today we made a memory.

If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one (or younger ones with special needs, or whatever your particular situation entails), it can be easy to get caught up on the frazzle dazzle. But try not to. Try to find one thing … anything, really, to enjoy. To remember and treasure as a memory. Those bright spots are golden when the rains come, as they inevitably do.

Moms are the heart of the home, the keeper of secrets and memories. If we find a reason for joy, the rest of the family tends to follow suit. And when we give in to the dark side, home becomes a dark place indeed. So … hold on to those wine-sipping, baby giggling memories. Find something to laugh about. It matters more than you know.


31 Days of De-Stressed Living, Day 14: Jiggle a Little

If you’ve been following along, you’ll notice that we skipped “I.”*

In retrospect, it was probably naïve of me to type “jiggle” into my web browser and expect to find some ideas about mature body image. Instead of what I did get: a lot of smut. How embarrassing.

Turns out “jiggling” is a dirty word, not just in the self-conscious post-forty sense. Of course, I don’t mind so much when my daughter enthusiastically tackles me for a hug, declaring, “You’re not fat, Mommy … you jiggle! You’re squishy!”


Or when I catch a glimpse of my husband jiggling with her at the July 4th celebration at the Grand Hotel.


We all need a little more jiggling in our lives, tossing back our heads and heels and dancing “like no one’s watching.” And if someone is watching, instead of dancing, well . . . they deserve what they get.

If dancing isn’t your thing, pick something else that will get the blood flowing. Climb a hill. Swim a lap. Go rollerblading. Take a zumba class. Do something that will tire you out, and burn a few calories.

Of course you may not feel like it, if you’re feeling stressed out. Sitting in front of the television sipping grown-up drinks is much easier. But you won’t feel as good the next day, promise.

So what are you going to do today? Go out and jiggle. Extra points if you do it with your family, and make a memory. Be sure to take pictures. You’ll be glad you did.

How do you like to jiggle?

*Note: It’s not that I couldn’t think of a word: imagination, inspiration, individuality. On the other hand, so much stress stems from either a hyper-awareness of self (“What will people say if I don’t ___?”) or inattentiveness (another “i”) to legitimate needs, it required this whole series to address. So let’s just move along to “J,” shall we?

31 Days to De-Stessed Living, Day 7: Be Thankful

vegetable lasagneWhen was the last time you were thankful for the body God gave you? Now that I’m staring fifty squarely in the path ahead, I can see the wisdom of teen fiction author Melody Carlson, who laments:

Instead of thanking God for my two strong legs that are able to run and jump and climb, I whined about my ‘thunder thighs’ and ‘thick’ ankles. Instead of rejoicing that I have two capable arms that can lift and carry and balance my body, I complained about the flab that hung beneath them.

I have been totally and unbelievably ungrateful for everything. Like a completely spoiled brat, I took my healthy body for granted. I criticized it and despised it. With crystal clarity, I know that I do not deserve the good health that God has mysteriously blessed me with. Not only have I been unappreciative of my body and its amazing working parts, I tortured it by over-exercising, and I put my entire health at serious risk by starving myself.

What on earth was wrong with me? As I watch these kids with their less-than-perfect bodies, I feel so thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, how could I have been so stupid and shallow and self-centered?

Melody Carlson in Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped

Okay, so if the truth were known, I tend toward the opposite end of the “starve myself and over-exercise” spectrum. Stress eating and vegging in front of the television at night, when I’m feeling depleted from the day (with a Supersized glass of wine for good measure) is one of my guiltiest pleasures. (Especially when I watch the physically-fit au pair head to the basement for a session with the treadmill.)

So starting today, I choose thankfulness. Thank you, God, for my strong body and active mind. Thank you even for the flab and puckers, the treadmarks of the soul that remind me of the goodness you have poured into my life every single day. Amen.

Photo: “Veggie Lasagna,” which I make for our vegetarian au pair. This year I’ve eaten more vegetables, thanks to her, than in the previous fifty years of my life. Sadly, this does not impress the love handles, who stay firmly entrenched.

Prevent Child Abuse: Tips to Help Parents Cope

carriecraftCarrie Craft at has lots of great information for parents looking for tips on a particular aspect of foster or adoptive parenting. Today she sent this link to an article to help parents cope with stress, especially when kids seem to be doing all they can to push your buttons.

Children who have been exposed to physical or emotional abuse will sometimes push the boundaries of reasonable behavior, often (but not always) to test your resolve to parent him or her. By responding with self-control, we teach them valuable lessons about love … and responsible adult behavior. Check it out!