Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Easter Isn't The Same Without My Mom's Rice Krispie Bunnies!

Two or three years ago now, I lost a treasured part of my favorite memories from Easters celebrated with my mom.  My mom made Rice Krispie Bunnies every year.  I am not sure if my kids looked forward to them as much as I, but I do know that they became a distinct part of my memories I will never forget.  I spent many days literally crying over those molds.  I tore things apart around here looking for them.  They have to be in my house somewhere but I have yet to locate them.
Today while cleaning out a closet that I use as a pantry to store kitchen supplies because I have very little kitchen storage, I stumbled across this paper with the recipe stapled to it.  Unfortunately, I did not find the bunny molds.  
I am going to throw this out to the cyber world and social media.  Perhaps someone, somewhere knows where I can get these or has one they are willing to part with.  I would be forever grateful to get one of these molds so that my mom's bunnies can remain part of our family Easter traditions.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

If This Suitcase Could Talk....

Summer vacations are great times to catch up with family, get a few chores done around the house, and take some time to recharge before embarking back into the chaos of the real world. I was fortunate to spend the 4th of July with David's family once again at his sister's pool and to enjoy having my three grandchildren for an overnight visit.  Family time puts a lot of things into perspective and really recharges my battery, reminding me of the true importance in my life. To end the week, David and I took a little trip to get away before returning to life's chaos. 

You may be wondering how this all relates to my mom and a suitcase.  It does, don't worry! As I was unpacking yesterday, I started thinking about this little green suitcase. This little green suitcase was one of the first ones that was produced with wheels and a handle. 
My mom needed to have the newest things as soon as they were available. This tattered and torn bag has seen it's better days and the wheels are a bit uneven and clunky now.  At times it is hard to pull and hard to push. We have talked about replacing it. After all, there are so many to choose from now.  Some have harder cases, some have more compartments, and some have 360 degree spinning wheels.  

As I was putting it away yesterday, I realized that this suitcase has been all over this country!  After my dad died in 1992, it became my mom's traveling companion. This little green suitcase traveled with her on her first trip with a friend to Fort Lauderdale, where she locked her keys in the rental car and some "bikers" helped her get them out! (Yup, only my mom and her friend would go during Bike Week!) This suitcase made thousands of trips to Wilkes-Barre or Scranton.  This little green suitcase made numerous trips to Foxwoods with my mom, because that was her favorite overnight place to go with her best friend Lois! This suitcase has traveled to many states, many trips to Vegas or Reno. This was the suitcase I packed for her on her last bowling trip to El Paso that she unpacked when I was not looking. With tears in my eyes, it traveled June 5, 2013 to the nursing home where my mom is now. It took refuge in her closet for almost a year until my head told my heart it was time to take it home with me because it was not going to travel any longer with my mom.  So...I brought it home and it began to travel with me!

We have taken it many times to Foxwoods too, also to Maine, and even a few times to Vermont.  Yesterday, as I put it away, I looked at it again and although I thought about the fact we need to replace it, I just can't.  I can't yet. In the afternoon yesterday, I grabbed my knitting and went to have coffee with my mom. Of course that means I had coffee and I tried to keep the cup away from her so she would not burn herself.  I needed to ask her if it was ok that I get her a new suitcase.  Of course, she won't need a suitcase again, but I felt that I needed her permission. I just can't let go of this little green suitcase because if I do, I let go of my mom.  

My mom, who likes bit duplo size legos or holding baby Shelley.  My mom who loves ice cream and who sometimes I can see a smile in her eyes when I sit down with my coffee and my knitting. My mom whose smile still lights up the room. Until my mom says it is ok, then the little green suitcase will go back downstairs and wait for it's next journey. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Recovery and Rejuventation

It certainly has been a long, long time since I have allowed myself the time to write.  The original reason I started writing was to help myself journey through my chaotic life with grace and gratitude.  It seems I have forgotten that it was through this writing, I am able to keep my sanity and my stress levels at a decent low level.  To say the past four months have flown by would be both true and false.  This past school year, my work life was extremely stressful and I am not seeing that changing with the new school year coming.  Four of us at my school came down with Shingles and if you know anything about Shingles, they are brought out by stress. Luckily, the Shingles are gone and summer is here.  It is time to recover from the school year and rejuvenate with the things and people I love.

Me and my mom June 2018
For the first time in a long time I was able to go away without worrying about my mom.  She is in a good place physically and mentally.  If there is any good point in this terrible disease it seems that this may be it.  She is happy.  She is well cared for and she is happy.  What more can I ask for other than to have her Alzheimer's free and taking part in our daily lives like a Great-Grandma should.  Since that isn't reality, then at least right now she is ok.

Since it is time for recovery and rejuvenation, I am not going to dwell on anything from the past months that was stressful.  I am only going to think of now and the future.  I am lucky my mom is still with me and I am going to try and enjoy all the time together we can share while balancing my daily life as a wife, mom, grandma, teacher, and individual person.

Get ready, you might be hearing from me quite a bit over this summer!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It's Going to be Ok

It's been a very long time since I have written because sometimes life just gets in the way.  I guess this is a catch 22 since I started this blog to help me with the stress of my everyday life, but it seems that stress has been keeping me from writing when writing would have been helping.

The past two months have been rough.  Between work stresses and life stresses, it's been crazy. Recently our family lost a very important person, my dad's oldest sister, my Aunt Barbara. My dad's two sisters have been the glue that held me together since my mom was diagnosed with AD. After losing Aunt Karen two 1/2 years ago, now losing my Aunt Barbara, I feel the strongest Hogan family connections are gone.  I want so much to pick up the phone and call her, but all I can do is talk to her in my head.  It makes me happy at these times to know that my mom has no idea what is going on.  She would be so hurt and upset to know that her sister in law passed away.

To the outside world, losing my aunt seems to be just what happens when people get older.  It didn't matter that she lived in PA.  It didn't matter that she just turned 85.  My aunts both seemed to fill that void in my heart when my mom stopped knowing me. It's a hard thing to describe to anyone who has not been through it. When your own mom doesn't know who you are, it's like getting punched in the stomach.  The feeling makes you want to double over and cry.

This past week when I went to visit my mom, she greeted me with the biggest smile I have ever seen in perhaps years.  She was silly and giggling as she played with blocks.  She must have remembered I liked the color blue because she handed me a blue block and told me it was for me and it was blue! then she laughed and laughed. It's hard to remember a time when she and I laughed so much.  I would bet it has been years....many years before her disease at least.  How ironic that right when I was feeling at my lowest and saddest point, knowing that as I looked at her, she would be missing my aunt if she knew had passed away, she comforted me!  My mom comforted me by making me laugh.

My mom seems happy and content now.  She's in a place in her disease where she doesn't seen to be 'lost' and sad. While I wish that she didn't have this horrible disease, I can at least feel grateful she seems to be ok.

The smile on my mom's face tell me that everything will be ok.  I will be ok.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Finding Joy in the Journey Turns into Gratitude

I tend to read a lot of knitting or happy living blogs.  Last year I read a few where the tendency was to adopt a motto or a mantra for the year with each year being different.  For 2017 I adopted the mantra, "Find Joy in the Journey".  I tried to enjoy every second and I took a million pictures of real life moments.  I didn't stage them and I didn't edit them. I made Facebook Albums with them and shared them so family could see them but mostly so I could go back and look at them.  There were a few pictures with my mom but not as many as there should have been.  This coming year I will take more with my mom when I visit her.  I am thinking of making an album of just the visits when I visit her and try to take selfies of the two of us!  Here's a start from my mom's family Christmas party at her facility on 12/02/17!  She was confused by the phone and what I was doing with the camera on the phone.
This was also the first time that I got to see her in her new chair that she seems to really like.  I was both happy and sad. It was sad to see her in this new chair because it means another transition deeper into this terrible disease.  However, I am happy because she seems to be doing much better since she received this chair.  She is even eating more again.  There is still no rhyme or reason to how she will respond when I visit her.  There never will be.  For now, I am just finding joy whenever I can visit with her and finding gratitude for everyone who takes care of her.  She is after all my mom and I love her and want her to be happy and safe.  I also can't thank her enough for everything she has done for me. At the same time, I know she wants me to be happy and safe too and she thanks me for all I am doing for her.
I have chosen Gratitude for 2018 for many reasons.  This past year, I spent many times both sad and angry with the fact that I am now her sole connection with her past.  No one visits her but me and at first I found that difficult.  I was also angry many days when I realized that I am the only one who goes to see my mom. There are still a few people who will ask me about her but not many. After all, there isn't much to say.  It isn't like she just needs time to get well from what she has....she isn't going to get better.  It's a tough thing when someone says, "How is your mom?".  As long as she is taken care of, then she is good or as good as she can be. 

I am learning myself that there isn't an easy answer for that question so maybe it is hard to ask. I debated on even writing about it at all because I do not want to hurt any feelings.  However, I started this blog to be real, to be honest, to help anyone else going through this, and to help heal myself for how much this hurts to go through.  I have come to the realization that she would want everyone to remember her as she was, not as she is now.  Everyone deals with things in different ways. The memories that she has left in her families hearts will definitely remain etched  there without her family having to see her slipping away.  

When searching for my mantra for 2018, I discovered Gratitude was perfect because it covers the past, today, and the future.  It made me realize that I am thankful for the fact that my mom's grandchildren will always remember their "Ma" as she was and not as she is now.  Her "son in law" will remember her as she was and not as she is now. The extended family will also remember her as she was and not as she is now.  And with gratitude I can say that I am ok with all of this. 

Life is a journey and everyone needs to find their joy without forgetting to be grateful for everything.  The message on this sign my daughter took a picture of a few weeks ago has resonated with me.  What a perfect end for this year of joy as I move into gratitude.  Good things happen.  Love is real. We will be okay. 

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thankful For Small Moments

It's been a rough fall this year with many new demands at school.  Not only has it been taking so much of my time to accomplish so little with my students but it has taken away from spending quantity time with my loved ones.  I've begun to set the retirement clock in my head and am actually wondering if I can hang on until my goal date.  Truth be told, I love teaching and I love working with my students.  I consider my students my own children for the year.  However, this year, the joy that I once felt seems to be gone.  Too many demands on teachers' time that have nothing to do with actually teaching.  These demands are more hoops for us to jump through because someone is saying jump!  They do not make me a better teacher, nor do they help my students.

One thing that I can be though is a good daughter to my mom.  Three weeks ago, we were blessed with the most exciting news parents can receive.  Our oldest son asked his girlfriend of six years to marry him.   It made my heart so happy.  We think she is wonderful for him and we love her already as our own.  I took this exciting news with me to visit my mom.  I shared it with the nurses and the aides.  I wanted to tell everyone I saw.

As I sat down with my mom, I knew I was going to tell her.  However, I never expected her to actually have a small conversation with me about it.  Her words were few but they definitely meant she understood.....at least for that moment!  She put her head on my forehead and smiled.  She also let me put my head on her shoulder.  I took a short video of us and I will treasure it for the rest of my days....

There are days when she doesn't want me to touch her or hug her.  This was a good day where she welcomed my hugs and she actually seemed to 'mother' me back!  I will take any moment I can with my mom.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Two Posts in October is Sad but the Story of my Chaotic Life Right Now

I bought a pomegranate.  Yes, I bought a pomegranate.  I was in the store and walked by the display.  My first thoughts were of my mom.  My mom would always buy me a pomegranate.  When I was a little girl, spending money on one was a very big deal. Long before they were considered healthy, they were a huge treat for me.  I would spend hours pulling it apart to suck on the little seeds inside.  Everything I touched would turn red!  I bought a pomegranate because my mother can no longer buy one for me!

The month of October was not a great month for me.  Between dealing with a questionable rash my mom developed  and ultimately a change of doctors for her, I also had to deal with added stresses at work causing a tremendous amount of changes.

Ironically I do not like change.  However, my mom has been changing before my eyes every day I visit.  Gone is the vibrant, smiling, dancing, woman I called my mom. Every once in a while she will give me a smile but it is like with a baby.  I don't know if she is smiling at me, because of me, or smiling due to other reasons.

November is now upon us and winter is around the corner.  Pomegranates are in season.  Just looking at my pomegranate brings back all of my wonderful memories of my mom buying them for me.  How lucky was I that my mom would spend so much money on one for me every November.

I bought a pomegranate.  I am not sure if I will cut it and eat it. I might just look at it.