Before I Forget: Sharing my love for God, family, gardens and my sweet Momma
I love sharing about my barefoot gardening adventures, hence my blogger name. As I write, some of my other passions might spill out -- like fun with grandkids, baking and sewing endeavors, what I'm studying in Scripture, and the like. My readers will notice that one of the primary things I write about is Alzheimer's. May what I write be an encouragement to anyone who is a caregiver for someone they love with memory loss.
No matter where the winding path of life may lead, I am kept by God.
I’m new this year to the growing club of Americans age 65+ who qualify for Social Security and Medicare. With the help of my husband and a good Medicare Supplement insurance agent, I’m resting easy in knowing my Medicare Supplement plan has been chosen, my account on my government’s Social Security website is set up (and I sort of understand it), and my first Social Security check has deposited into my bank account (boy, am I glad I don’t have to live off of it!).
My wise hubby (financially and otherwise) has been so very helpful during the entire decision-making process. I’m very thankful for Wayne’s guidance in navigating what would have otherwise been a very confusing pathway. I learned something from him yesterday when he informed me that next year my Social Security check will be slightly larger because my Medicare premium will be slightly lower. Sounded like good news to me, but he told me that’s not the whole story. It seems that there have been second thoughts by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) related to providing coverage for Alzheimer’s related pharmaceuticals. I found an article on Forbes which explains this news a bit and am including a link to that article here. You might also find my husband’s blog to be chock-full of wisdom, financial and otherwise.
This news is a bit concerning for someone like me who is genetically at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s in my lifetime due to close family history. Thankfully, I know that I am always in God’s care. No matter what physical trials I may face in my future, He is the One who helps me and keeps me. Psalm 121 reminds me that I have nothing to fear.
Psalm 121 – My Help Comes from the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
This post is dedicated to my good friend Judy to honor her wishes for more photos of my Mandevilla plant. Judy is one of those friends everyone needs in life — an encouraging sister in Christ who is also my enthusiastic cheerleader to all of my gardening endeavors, and a friend who can see the beauty in my garden no matter what its state of weediness.
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” ~Proverbs 27:9
Wisconsin is gorgeous this time of year as trees put on their colorful robes of autumnal splendor. Sooner than we care to imagine, those beautiful leaves will be exchanged for a gorgeous dusting of snow. In fact, just today on this 14th day of October, we had a flurry of snowflakes and a brief but insistent windborne hailstorm–a wintry tease.
Houseplants that have spent the summer on my front porch are being transitioned indoors to my enclosed 3-season porch. Here they will slowly acclimate to being indoors while I inspect them for tagalong bugs and trim them up a bit. Each plant will get a shower before taking its place in the house proper.
This summer I grew a Pink Mandevilla Vine in a pot. I set it at the base of an arbor hoping that it would clamor up and create a lavish pink arched entrance to my backyard deck. It didn’t grow very tall, as you can see in the photo above, but it’s still beautiful. In hindsight, it probably needed a sunnier location. It’s perennial in warmer growing zones, but here in Wisconsin, it needs to come inside for the winter and be kept as a houseplant through the winter months if I want to keep it.
My hubby helped me lug a few pots into the enclosed 3-season porch when we first began experiencing overnight frost warnings a few weeks ago, including the Mandevilla. As pretty as it looks on that porch, it’ll need to make the transition into the house for the winter because the 3-season porch gets cold enough to serve as a second fridge.
I decided to go ahead and make the effort to overwinter this lovely plant (plus a few others). Hubby took me shopping to find a few new pots for my “bringing the outside in” endeavor. We purchased a roomier ceramic pot in a neutral color for the Mandevilla. I dug the plant out of its summer pot and inspected the roots for signs of disease and pests before replanting it in fresh potting soil in its new pottery abode. I gave the plant a thorough shower in the kitchen sink and then placed it in a bright spot on my family room window seat. According to one of my internet resources, I’m supposed to cut it back a bit, but want to enjoy the blossoms a little bit longer before giving it a haircut.
Growing up living in Wisconsin, many of my summer vacation memories revolved around trips to West Virginia and Ohio to visit with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a bevy of cousins. I loved listening to my cousins (who spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl compared to my distinctly Midwestern dialect). I loved to hear their back and forth banter and all the family stories that unfolded. As much as I loved it, I recognized that my cousins had something I didn’t really have: first-hand stories to tell of times they had spent together with our grandparents.
Now that I have six kiddos who call me Grandma, I’m happy they live close enough for them to each have at least a story or two to tell about time they’ve spent together with me. My grandson Charlie has a few fresh stories to add to his collection because he took a little road-trip with me last summer. But, let me tell you a story about him first. I told this one on Facebook about eight years ago:
Conversation with my 4-year-old grandson, Charlie:
Charlie: Grandma, you smell.
Me: Ummm…do I smell bad, or smell good?
Charlie: You smell like my grandma!
Seeing that one come up as a Facebook memory made me wax all nostalgic and drove me to look through some of my older Facebook photos. Such joy this kiddo has brought to his grandma’s heart.
Charlie is now 13 and more of a young man than a boy. After last summer’s trip to Ohio, he now knows that his grandma sometimes snores and that she has a way of making the on-board navigation system say, “Make a legal U-turn at the next intersection” quite a lot.
With a short window of time for our trip, it was a lot of driving, snacking in the car on the way here or there, staying overnight in hotels without the greatest breakfasts (due to a world still reeling from Covid), listening to audiobooks, trying to figure out how to get motel televisions to play the shows WE wanted to watch, and such. Once we made it to Wintersville, Ohio it was a lot of meeting relatives he didn’t know he had (and that I haven’t seen in years), eating, driving, eating, and hanging out with (mostly) older folks who spoke with an unfamiliar twang.
The purpose of my last minute trip to Ohio was to attend the memorial service for a beloved uncle who went Home to heaven back in 2020. With Covid restrictions for large gatherings lifting, we could finally gather as a family to both mourn our loss and celebrate his homegoing. There is just something special about knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that you will see your loved one again in heaven. ‘Til we meet on heaven’s shore, Uncle Bobby.
Our trip to Ohio was over a long holiday weekend sandwiched between days I had to work. So, other than hotel pools along the way there and back, this wasn’t a trip filled with fun stops and great amusement. But it was certainly filled with family – it was so good to be together.
My family loved Charlie, as I knew they would — he’s an easy kid to love. And I love that Charlie had the privilege of meeting both my Aunt Linda and my Uncle Jim, my dad’s youngest sister and oldest brother. I am grateful that Charlie had the opportunity to hear what a godly influence and man of Christian character his great-great Uncle Bobby was as his children and grandchildren shared their stories about his life and legacy. Charlie got amply loved on by my cousins and second-cousins and even got to taste my Aunt Linda’s cooking.
One of my favorite candid photos from this trip is of my Uncle Jim chatting with Charlie (below). This warmed my heart more than you can possibly imagine. Uncle Jim reminds me so much of my dad–right down to the well appointed pocket protector. I loved hearing Uncle Jim tell Charlie some of the same stories of yesteryear that I had heard, and I my heart warmed as I watched him share a life lesson or two with Charlie and anyone else willing to listen.
My heart is a little sad today knowing my Uncle Jim joined the heavenly throng this morning and that I will not get to see him again on this side of Glory. Though my heart is heavy knowing the sorrow that his children and grandchildren are feeling right now, the sting of death is mingled with the confident joy of knowing my Uncle Jim is with his Lord and Savior. If there is a receiving line in heaven, I’m sure my Aunt Robbie was at the front of the line to see her beloved Jimmy again. Uncle Jim just celebrated his 97th birthday here on earth, so I’m sure there were a lot of loved ones who got there before him and were lined up to greet him, but I can well imagine that my dad was elbowing his way to the front of the line to be among the first to greet his brother when he showed up this morning. Jim was not only my dad’s older brother, but he was also someone who faithfully prayed that his little brother Jerry would come to know the Lord. I will forever be grateful for Uncle Jim’s faithful witness and God’s answer to his prayers.
I’m especially thankful this week for the beauty of my garden, bountifully brimming with daylilies. The riot of color brings my husband Wayne and I joy as we sit on our deck recovering from the Covid that finally caught up with us. I find that if I stay on the deck and squint a little, I don’t notice the weeds so much. Last night I ventured into one flowerbed armed with an empty 5-gallon bucket, emerging only minutes later when my bucket was full of weeds and my body said “enough!”
I have often been asked what colors I enjoy in my garden. Honestly, I would have to say ALL of them, but will admit that I seem to gravitate toward a lot of pink, purple and yellow. Over the past few years I have added lots of orange (or shades thereof) and splashes of vibrant red. Much of it is in garden splendor right now, so I thought I’d dedicate this post to photos of the sunny oranges in my end-of-July garden.
Well, friendly readers, that’s all for now. Thanks for joining me in admiring the color orange in its many luscious and sunshine-filled shades. I hope it brought a sunny smile to your face too. I tried, but just couldn’t whittle the orange-y beauty down to only six photos for Six on Saturday, the all things gardening meme hosted by The Propagator.
A conversation with a caregiver yesterday brought this previous blog post to mind. I’m reposting it here just in case someone else can learn by my example and my own life-lessons. God bless all of you dementia caregivers out there.
Lest anyone who regularly visits ‘Barefoot Lily Lady’ think that I’m living in an Alzheimer’s caregiving utopia where we are always sweet to one another and I always execute Pinterest-worthy caregiving ideas at every opportunity, let me share a slice of reality.
If you had a little window into our world, yesterday wasn’t pretty. And today I wasn’t exactly setting the best example either.
The fact is, I make mistakes in caring for her daily.
Let me confess that I am sometimes not very kind and respectful in my dealings with her – especially in the wee hours of the morning or after a night (or several nights) with little to no sleep.
Right now, as I am composing this post, I am viewing her via the camera in her room and she is ripping her blanket off the bed. I don’t think I have fingers and toes left to…
“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for I trust in you. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
“Prove me, O Lord, and try me, test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.”
“But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.”
“O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.”
“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”
“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me….”
Psalm 86:12, 13a
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the work of your hands I sing for joy.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
“For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.”
“When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
“For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Our curbside mailbox is surrounded by a cute little flowerbed. It somehow survives the piles of snow heaped upon it by the snowplows every winter, shrugging off the melting snow’s road salt and sand.
It started as a little circle cutout around the mailbox, but this sliver of a garden expands a wee bit every five or six years to accommodate the flowers that always seem to find their way into my shopping cart at garden centers.
Tulips and daffodils usher in the first hint of spring, followed by petite ‘Blue Denim’ irises playing with grape hyacinth muscari at the garden’s edges.
A clematis scrambles up the back and over the top of the mailbox. Some years, by summer’s end, its purplicious beauty threatens to swallow the mailbox whole.
There are so many gorgeous flowers tucked into that tiny mailbox bed which cause those passing by to pause and enjoy. This time of year, however, Peony ‘Gold Standard’ is the hands-down show-stopper of the front yard. My hubby captured a few photos in morning’s light.
Mid-summer’s splendored thing will be the daylily. Well, daylilies plural. They’re a favorite flower of mine that always seem to make themselves at home in all but the shadiest flowerbeds.
Someone recently asked me how I decided when it was time for my mom to be cared for in a nursing home or assisted living memory care. I’ve written about that decision a time or two, but decided I should write about it again.
Before I share my personal “Top 3” list, I invite you to grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage) and listen to this video by Dr. Natali Edmonds — someone who has been a virtual mentor for me as I’ve learned about being a caregiver.
Now, here are my Top 3 Reasons
Reason #1: Sleep
Not mom’s sleep. My sleep. I wasn’t getting enough of it and it was beginning to affect everything. Long-term sleep deprivation is brutal. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, it was creating “excessive caregiver stress” and it was showing up in all of the areas of my life that mattered the most to me. It was harming my closest relationships — my time in God’s Word, my marriage, my opportunities to spend quality time with my grandchildren, my friendships. I was a tired and distracted employee and my job performance suffered. I loved teaching Sunday School, but I knew in my heart I wasn’t able to focus on preparation for my ministry and wasn’t as creative in my teaching as I once was. Those in my circle of friends were beginning to comment about how tired I looked.
Reason #2: Personal hygiene needs
Mom’s resistance to help with personal hygiene, to put it politely; bowel incontinence, to be specific. When my mom’s brain could no longer register the “urge to go” with the need to do something about that, life got a lot messier. Literally. Between multiple clothing and bedding changes, multiple loads of laundry, and floor and bathroom cleanup, daily life was getting too hard for one or two people to handle. Mom needed more hands on care and a bathroom that was designed with disabilities in mind.
Reason #3: Safety & Mobility issues
In the later stages of dementia, mom was beginning to forget how to walk. There were days when she needed coaching to put one foot in front of the other. Her legs were growing weak, making her a greater risk for falls. Using a walker helped, but not always. Sometimes she’d forget the walker in another room. Other times, she’d drag it behind her. On a few occasions, she couldn’t figure out what it was, so stuck it outside of her room so it wouldn’t be in the way. My house wasn’t designed for using a walker or a wheelchair. All of the bedrooms and full bathrooms were inaccessible to mom since they were located on the second floor.
We made the best possible use of this half-bath space to accommodate mom’s growing needs, including taking the door off the hinges so we could have more room to maneuver and help her.
The more of a problem “Reason #2” became for us, the more I knew she needed a safer place to live.
I applaud and encourage the many who have made “at home until the end” work. You are amazing caregivers! Please understand, however, that you will still be an amazing caregiver if you make the hard choice to reach out for help in caring for your loved one. You do not cease to be a caregiver by changing the location of where that care is given or who helps you provide that care.
I’d like to leave you with a little slideshow with just a few photos depicting how happy and content my mom was in this abode where opportunities were many, friendships were sweet, and help was always on hand.
I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think winter is finally losing its grip and spring has sprung.
I took a barefoot stroll around a few of my flowerbeds this afternoon. The stroll was brief because the grass beneath my feet was wet and very cold. Even so, a warm feeling of peace washed over me. I could almost feel my winter-weary heart filling with the joy of spring as I meandered from one flowerbed to another inspecting the colorful spring blossoms.
One of the first signs of spring in my Wisconsin garden is the very early blossoms of Pulmonaria, whose very unfortunate common name is lungwort. If it were not a tad bit prone to powdery mildew, I would say I love everything about this plant. It grows in the shadier areas of my garden, thriving well on the north or east side of my house, but blooms best if it gets at least a splash of sun and plenty of moisture. The leaves can’t seem to make up their mind as to whether they will be lance or heart-shaped, but each fuzzy leaf sports sweet silvery spots. To me, the leaves are incredibly cool, but it is said that the common name of ‘lungwort’ came about because their appearance reminded some botanist of a diseased lung. It has a habit of reseeding itself in the garden, but does so very politely. I have several cultivar in my garden, but the one pictured is a pass-along from another gardener, so I’m unsure as to its cultivar name. Based upon its beautiful blue, pink and lavender bells, it’s likely ‘Mrs. Moon’.
Winter has been slow in releasing its grip, and May is off to a chilly and rainy start, but the promise of warmer weather is in the forecast for the weekend. In previous years, the daffodils and some tulips were finishing their spring engagement in the garden; this year, they are just getting started. While it would be nice to have more sunshine, we need the rain. Another ‘upside’ is that the chillier temps will keep the daffs and tulips strutting their stuff a little while longer.
These beautiful tulips have charmed me out of a writing slump. My friend Wendy aptly described them as a “pretty sunshiny yellow,” although they take on a soft, orange-sherbet glow in certain light. Either way, they are incredibly sweet.
Well that’s my “Six on Saturday” – thanks for joining me on a little photographic spring tour of my early floral arrivals. And a special thanks to “The Propagator” for hosting “Six on Saturday” each week. If you check out Jon’s “comments” section, you can visit a whole bunch of lovely gardens, gather ideas and suggestions for your own, or have a go at posting your own six.
Even as my sweet mother’s memory slowly fades, one thing remains strongly present. Her faith in Jesus. Many times during the day (and night), I will hear her pray, “Jesus, help me.” She prays it as she walks from her bed to the bathroom, or as she tries to get her knees to cooperate with her as she travels from the kitchen back to her bed.