Thursday, August 9, 2018

It's Been a Year Already!-Holding on to Memories!

Thanks to my Facebook memories, I discovered it has been a year since I officially launched my blog.  As with any anniversary, it is a great time to stop and reflect on the past, think about the present, and plan for the future. It has been a wonderful thing for me to have this place to share memories of my mom, pictures of our family, and vent my feelings about this journey of which my mom and I are on.  It is definitely a long journey but one that I finally feel I am starting to come to terms with and able to proceed with grace.

I have been thinking a lot about the past year.  I really do feel that this blog helped me a lot, even when I didn't have time to write.  I also feel I will continue to write and share my story and my mom's story because it could help someone else on the same journey. It could also just help maintain the memories that I am hoping to hold onto.  Holding my mom's hand, as I did when I was a little girl, made me realized we need to hold on to our memories as long as we can.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Barbie and Her Furniture and Get to Know Your Mom Now While You Can!

My mom was frugal before it was 'in' thing to do.  My mom's mom, my grandma Julia, died when my mom was only 9 years old. When she died, my mom had two little brothers, one 6 and one 3. Mom used to tell me stories about taking care of her brothers and how much her grandfather helped them out because her dad was not a great dad to them. When my mom was 12, she went to live with her Uncle Joe (her dad's brother) and Aunt Ann.  The woman with the most influence in my mom's early life (before marrying my dad) was Aunt Ann. My mom always said she owed so much to her and wouldn't know what would have happened to her if Aunt Ann had not taken her in. Aunt Ann taught my mom how to can foods in their 'summer' kitchen on the farm.  She taught my mom how to clean and cook.  Aunt Ann was there to help my mom through things I am just not ready to write about (and maybe won't be ever).  I remember moving to MA and knowing that every time we would visit family in PA, it would always include a visit to 'the farm' to see Aunt Ann. 

So, how does this relate to Barbie?  Well, my mom didn't have Barbie's and whenever she did have a doll, she says her brothers would cut off their hair or take them apart.  When I became old enough for Barbies, my mom got me a one.  She knitted and sewed all the clothes for them because my mom and dad didn't have much money.  Probably because at that time, my mom was a stay at home mom.  She wasn't called that then as that was the thing moms did, but she stayed home with me so money was tight.  Unfortunately, I didn't appreciate her homemade clothes and always whined that I didn't get store bought ones or ones from the Sears Wish Book!  

When my daughter was born, my mom got right to work!  By then, 1986, my mom was well into a new crafting era!  My mom lived to make things out of plastic canvas and yarn. She began to make all of my children toys and play sets.  She lovingly worked hours and hours making Barbie Furniture sets for my daughter, her only granddaughter. At that time, I still didn't appreciate all the work she put into making these one of a kind gifts.  I am sad to know that I was not receptive even then. My daughter didn't really like the dolls either and I felt bad knowing that my mom was working so hard on these items. 
Aunt Eva (my husband's Aunt) and Jessica opening Barbie furniture from Ma

Just the other day, Jessica sent me a video explaining cousins and great aunts and grandparents etc.  As I was looking for a picture today, I stumbled upon this one with Barbie furniture and Aunt Eva.  The furniture is long gone.  I did save a play set my mom made my youngest son, called Firetown.  Ironically, Dan went on to become a firefighter.  This set my grandsons have played with.  For now I am going to put it away in case Dan has any children to one day play with it.  

I finally now understand about the reasons why my mom made her gifts when I was little and I know it was because she loved me and didn't have the money to buy things.  I understand why my mom made my children gifts.  It was because she did it out of love for them and for the crafts she loved to make.  I finally now understand, I missed out on many many years of appreciating my mom's dedication to making things for us. I am thinking that maybe my mom was so used to staying up late and sleeping in was because she couldn't make me these things during the day when I would see them.  

The first time I visit my mom this week, I am going to thank her for all the times she stayed up late making me things she couldn't buy.  I am going to thank her for the endless hours she spent making my children things to play with.  I am going to thank her for trying to be the best mom she could be, even though she didn't really have a mom for long.  

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!