Weeding the Heart

Anyone who knows me at all realizes that I love flowers. This time of year, my garden is brimming with them. But you only see what I post on Facebook…the loveliest of the lovely. But, there are things that are not so lovely.

Wayne and I appreciate my sister’s every-other-week caregiving visits and are learning to take advantage of time when mom is well cared for to spend time together. It was a blessing that a recent visit fell on our 41st wedding anniversary, allowing us to get away for a day at a nearby bed and breakfast.

Walking Iron B & B

Besides well-pampered time with my hubby, I appreciated the gardens at Walking Iron Bed & Breakfast. With one step out of our beautiful first floor room’s door, we could sit a spell in a comfy Adirondack gliding chair on the immense wrap-around porch and enjoy the cottage garden’s beauty. Of course, being a gardener myself, that wasn’t enough. I had to traipse around the whole garden touching, smelling, photographing and making mental notes. As I wandered, I sensed innkeeper Karissa’s gardening style was much like my own. Like my garden, Walking Iron’s gardens are not professionally planted or tended by a landscaping company. The owners of the B&B plant and care for the gardens themselves. In fact, when we arrived, our hostess was dressed in her grubbies and staining the garden arbor which graced the entrance to a very beautiful corner of the earth.

I loved Walking Iron B&B’s very beautiful sunny gardens brimming with beautiful daylilies, hardy hibiscus (some grown from seed), Asiatic lilies, coreopsis, zinnia and roses. The shady gardens included many gorgeous ferns, astillbe, a nice collection of hosta, and I loved the innkeeper’s use of a smattering of repetitive elements – a sort of eclectic order. But, you know what I loved most? On close inspection, Walking Iron’s garden had weeds. Lots of them. And many of the weeds were the very same type I had in my garden. In a twisted sort of way, I was encouraged and inspired by that.

Walking Iron Weeds…Just Like Mine
Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse

Seeing the weeds in someone else’s otherwise gorgeous garden spoke volumes to a heart that struggles with frustration over the number of weeds in my own. You might not believe it if you have only my Facebook garden pictures to look at, but not all of my garden is composed of lovely, healthy plants and well-mulched, dead-headed and weed-free spaces. Much of my gardening time is devoted to digging and pulling weeds, including attempting to get rid of plants with “weedy habits” which threaten to push other more favorable garden lovelies out of their respective beds. Wayne hauls a trailer filled with garden debris over to our city’s composting site nearly every other week during most of the summer. My friends rarely see me post photos of my weeds. Or my Japanese beetle infested roses. Or my phlox and honeysuckle plants ridden with powdery mildew. Or the nasty “stretchy weed” that is a menace in my flowerbeds. But weeds, disease, barren spots, insects, burrowing critters and other pests are all part of of the world of gardening. Gardens aren’t perfect. And people aren’t either. My pastor, Jeremy Scott put it well when he reminded me that, “Beauty is always marred by sin’s curse.”

Powdery Mildewed Phlox

Just as closer examination will reveal weeds in the most manicured of gardens, close examination of our lives reveals weeds – things in our lives we choose not to reveal. Sin, actually. We may try to hide it from others, and might even do a pretty good job of that. However, Scripture reminds me that I sometimes can’t see the weeds in my own life.

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; let them not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”  Psalm 19:12,13  (NIV)

Some of my sins are much more obvious than others. I can’t deny I have a problem with overeating. That particular problem is easy for the whole world to see. But there’s also that stinky attitude that crops up whenever I don’t get my way. And my more often than I care to admit struggle with redeeming time wisely; my Bible may sit in the same spot gathering dust for way too many days while Facebook gets checked religiously.

But, there are many more hidden things in the garden of my life, known only to my Master Gardener. God sees my weeds. He knows the condition of my heart. The mean words that slink their way into my thoughts – not spoken aloud, but spoken in the heart. The ungrateful spirit.  The judgmental attitude. The worry. The irritation I feel when my Alzheimer’s plagued mother disrupts my sleep. The wicked thoughts and imaginations of my heart.

The Psalmist teaches me that, no matter how beautiful our lives may seem, we all have those hidden weeds. Those things known only to God. How thankful I am that verses 12 and 13 of Psalm 19 are followed by the more well known verse 14; the prayer of David’s heart – and mine.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”  Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

 

 

Wisdom from the Lips of a Child

The grandkids had all gone home and I had completed my post-grandkid visit tidying up routine: making beds, putting art supplies away, cleaning fingerprints off the glass-top coffee table, sweeping up crumbs from under the table, and the like. Even though it is a lot of work, it was good to have four of my grandchildren keeping me company while my husband was away on a little trip helping our son get his new home’s interior repainted.
George being George

Sandwiched in between taking care of my sweet Momma, our day together was filled with coloring to our hearts’ content, painting with my oldest granddaughter, baking, building roads and castles with good old-fashioned blocks, vintage Lite Brite artistry, feeding marbles to toy dinosaurs, sorting through a jar of old buttons and playing “favorites,” and creating fun designs with Perler beads. And for the three grandsons…taking a bath in Grandma’s HUGE bathtub…with bubbles and dinosaurs, of course!

Grand-cleaner Violet

Even cleaning was fun when my granddaughter Violet pitched in to help me clean her Papa’s office. Grandson Charlie even earned a little pocket change by dodging mosquitoes to help me pick raspberries and blueberries.

Though my Momma looks forward to the visits of her great-grandkids, the change in the level of activity always brings a certain level of stress to her Alzheimer’s plagued mind. She worried about a lot of things while they were here. Everything from whether or not they should be outside playing, to wondering what dangers lurk behind the basement door (it’s a playroom for the children). When I had put the boys to bed, she wandered around the house looking out of the windows counting and wondering if everyone was inside yet. But, even with all the stress (exacerbated by her usual sundowning), it was good for her too with coloring projects, crafts, meal-time chatter, and conversations with her great-grands providing a temporary distraction from her own problems.
Artist Henry

It was also good for the great-grandchildren. In ways big and small, they contributed to caring for their great-grandmother; from speaking up so that GGma could hear them, to answering the same question five or more times (and not looking annoyed). Great-granddaughter Violet has developed a very keen ability to discern what her GGma needs or wants. On this visit, her great-grandma was in a circular worrisome thought pattern, fretting about what still might need to be accomplished on a to-do list she found on the kitchen table (it was actually MY to-do list). Violet brought out a photo album and placed it in front of her great-grandma, then sat next to her and began to help her page through the book. As GGma talked about the pages, Violet discreetly slipped the to-do list away. A more graceful (and thoughtful) act of redirection could not have been accomplished by someone two or three times Violet’s age.

Unfortunately, Momma’s battle with Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point we can no longer leave her alone (and I don’t have room for all 6 of us in our car – and, even if I did have room, Momma resists leaving the house). For some reason, even though we have fun together, I feel really bad when the grandkids come and we can’t “go” anywhere. But our oldest grandson set me straight when he candidly told me,
“Grandma, I love coming to your house so much. I love it more than all my toys and video games stacked on top of each other!”
My Charlie

My daughter assures me that stacked up against video games, this is a VERY high compliment.

Well, that heart-melting comment from my 8-year-old little love reminded me that, with a little bit of effort, I can still create some memory-making moments with my grandchildren while caring for my sweet mother. Of course root-beer floats for an after-supper treat and pancakes for breakfast didn’t hurt a bit in the ratings department.

Church at the Kitchen Table

Sometimes “church” doesn’t just take place on Sunday morning seated in a pew in a sanctuary.

Last night Momma sat at her end of our kitchen table smiling. Seated around our table were some pretty special dinner guests: my girlhood pastor and his wife, Ed and Diane Fuller, and their son and daughter-in-law, Scott and Dianne Fuller.

I told Momma about the visit shortly after she awoke in the morning. It’s funny how certain future events linger in the mind of a person experiencing significant short-term memory loss, yet other things slip right through like sand through a chicken wire sieve. Continue reading “Church at the Kitchen Table”

Beautiful Forgetfulness

It’s amazing how living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s changes the way I view the world around me.

There is a lovely park within walking distance of our home. In the eighteen years we’ve lived in this neighborhood, I’ve spent many hours at this park walking its paths, playing with my grandchildren, thrilling at the occasional firework display, and enjoying the park’s quietude and simple beauty. Today, I stumbled upon something beautiful along one of its meandering pathways. It’s a wild rose, a beauty hidden from the view of the casual observer as it scrambles up the trunk of a somewhat scraggly pine tree. I “discover” it there every year without fail, yet it always seems to momentarily surprise me when I spy it for the first time each summer. Continue reading “Beautiful Forgetfulness”

We all need an Advocate

An advocate is someone who can help you speak up so that your needs are heard, your rights are understood and your problems are resolved.

Momma and I took an ambulance ride to the hospital on April 30. Momma was in a lot of pain. A LOT of pain. She had a fever and she could not support her weight on her legs. In retrospect, there were a few signs I should have paid closer attention to, but the acute pain came on suddenly. She went from being able to use her walker, to needing assistance to get out of bed, to not being able to get out of her chair (or “off the throne”) in the course of just a few hours.

I must confess that there was a twinge of relief when I was told she was going to be admitted. It meant that someone else was going to help me care for her during this medical crisis. It meant that someone was going to help me make decisions. Continue reading “We all need an Advocate”

Big Changes

Transforming a tree stump into a succulent garden

I had a little fun playing in the dirt today. It felt good to feel the warm earth between my toes. I had to dodge a few raindrops, but was able to work on a special project. I planted a little succulent garden in the top of a stump left behind when our ash tree was cut down. I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day knowing that tomorrow will bring some big changes at my house.

Tomorrow Momma comes home to live with us. She’ll move into the dining room turned bedroom and call it “home” for the foreseeable future. Our just-the-two-of-us house will become home to three of us. Life as we know it will change significantly.

Momma’s roommate in the nursing home shared, “I really like your Momma, and I especially like you. But, I’m glad your mom is going home because I will be able to get some sleep again. How are you going to do it? Your mom stays up all night!”

I told Angie that I’m hoping that being busy and engaged during the day will help her rest better at night. I’m hoping that having the security of family will help her rest more securely. But, I know my sleep will not be the same. From now on, we’ll be keeping overnight tabs on mom via a video baby monitor. Her noises and movements will undoubtedly change my sleep habits.

It’s not going to be easy providing home care. It will inconvenience me. It will probably make me tired. It will stretch me in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. I will not have enough strength and resources to go around. I see that already.

But, I know God has lead me to do this for my mother. He will provide everything I need.

Everything.

A Gift for Momma

I know it has been quiet on the “Barefoot Lily Lady” blog. A surprise ambulance ride with Momma on April 30 brought about a whirlwind of activity and change. I will undoubtedly write about that in the future, but wanted to share the next big thing on our horizon.

We have been preparing a special Mother’s Day gift for my mother over the past few days at my house. Our dining room is being transformed into a special place for my sweet Momma. It will be her new bedroom starting this Tuesday.

For more than seven years now, I have been spending extra time with my mother, trying to help her navigate life with advancing Alzheimer’s. Up until last year, Momma was able to live in her home in Milwaukee, with me commuting back and forth at increasingly shorter intervals (and for lengthier stays) as the years and the wicked disease progressed. By late fall of 2015, it became apparent that it was time for her to move to Madison to be closer to me.

We moved Momma into a nearby senior apartment in March of 2016. It is a lovely 1-bedroom place that suited her needs just fine. We would drop in often, eat with her every evening, do her grocery shopping, and help her get wherever she needed to go. Because her mobility was tenuous, we decided to install WiFi cameras so we could keep an eye on her when we weren’t there, making sure she hadn’t fallen. Momma settled into her new place nicely; however, by September, the combination of her frantic phone calls and rapidly declining cognitive abilities, made it abundantly clear that a new change was necessary. I moved in with her full-time because it was no longer safe for her to live alone. With the help of family, paid caregivers, and a few friends, this worked well.

Until April 30th.

God has a special way of shedding light on the next step I need to take. This time it was an ambulance ride and subsequent hospitalization. God has used Mom’s recent hospitalization and short-term nursing home stay to help us make another important decision. God was making it clear that now is the time to move her in with us.

Moving day cannot come fast enough for my mother, who is in short-term rehabilitation in a nursing home following a brief hospital stay. I visit her twice a day and always find her with her bags packed and ready to go. She pleads under her breath, “Get me out of here!”

Moving an aging parent in with you is not always an option, and may not always even be the most loving thing to do. We recognize not every one makes that choice when it comes time for their parent to receive extra care, but, Wayne and I both believe it is the right decision for my mom’s well-being at this time. I am very grateful for a supportive husband who allows me to follow my heart in providing home-based care for my mom.

We are in this together. I suspect this is somewhere tucked in the “for better or for worse” part of our marriage vows.

Together we have discovered there is an amazing amount of stuff you need when preparing to live with a loved one experiencing Alzheimer’s. For us, it means, two baby gates, a door alarm, a special lock for the basement door, a hospital bed, special bedding, grab bars in the bathroom, a video baby monitor and WiFi camera, to name just a few.

We’ve made some other important discoveries too.

Together we have discovered what an incredible family we have – those related by blood, and those related by heart. Our daughter, in particular, has taken the bull by the horns and worked tirelessly to get her grandmother’s apartment cleared out. Our friends have also found numerous ways to show they care.

Together we have discovered what an awesome, prayer answering God we have. He has provided everything we need in so many gracious, only-God-can-do-this ways. Here’s my Facebook post from May 11 with just one example:

moms room
Dining room to bedroom transformation in progress

 

God’s answer to prayer. Almost paid nearly $1,000 for a refurbished hospital bed. But God connected me with a sweet elderly lady whose husband was admitted to a nursing home. She had just sold their home and needed to get rid of this 1-year-old bed. The same bed I was going to buy…but, He answered our prayers and put a blessing on top…the bed was only $50.

And, together, we will give my mother an awesome Mother’s Day gift. A loving place to call her home, God willing, until her next move to heaven.