Author Archives: Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate

Unbuckling my Seat Belt

Oh hey they there blog, I know it’s been forever since I have written here.  Hold on a sec let me unbuckle my seat belt.  I have been buckled in for about 6 weeks now.  Buckled in for a pretty wild ride! 

I am just now slowly beginning to emerge from the crumbles and the chaos of it all.

So what has been going on you ask…..well where do I begin??

Let ‘s start with Memorial Day weekend………

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Madi had qualified for an all day National lacrosse tournament in Maryland that weekend. I had arranged for the wonderful agency we were using to care for Curt to be at our house at 5:30am on Sat.   All went well and we did the same thing again on Sunday.  It was a busy weekend for Curt, but he managed.  Then on Monday I drove 5 hours down to pick up Tyler at Liberty and 5 hours back with Curt along for the ride.

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It was after that crazy weekend that I began to see Curt unravel a bit.  The ride home from Liberty was long, and he was leaning over quite a bit and kept saying, “I need to get out of here.”  He had a rough week after that, the one saving grace was Tyler was home to provide some much needed comic relief and fun for him.

Later that week, Tyler and I ventured an hour away to see a sports spine specialist about his ongoing back problems that had significantly worsened. (He literally could not stand up straight, my normally 6’4 son was looking about 6ft tall, plus he had lost about 20lbs!) The Dr. pretty much said at this point surgery is his best option. Surgery was then scheduled for 2 weeks later on June 12th.

Somehow, I continued to limp through the last  few weeks of school.  I worked in a rather lame attempt to “give it my all”, but there wasn’t much left in the old tank to give.

Curt continued to decline and needed so much more help with even the simple things after that trip to Liberty.

 Then the day before Tyler was scheduled for surgery he texted me at school to let me know he woke up that morning with a bad headache and a fever!  That pretty much sent me over the cliff……..or at least right to the edge of  it!  Through a series of phone calls with the Dr and Physician’s assistant, we decided to proceed with surgery the next day.  He would be assessed again in the morning.

He was the first person scheduled for surgery that day which meant we had to leave the house at the beautiful hour of 3:45am.  (Which means I was up at 2am, wide awake and worrying….you know something us mothers can really do well when needed! :) )

T before surgery

My parents came to be with Curt that morning until his regular caregiver could be there.  All went well with surgery and they pumped Tyler full of antibiotics to help with the fever and what was probably a sinus infection . (I should mention that Tyler has NEVER, EVER had a sinus infection, so I guess the day before surgery is a good time to get your first sinus infection….NOT)  We arrived home late that afternoon.  The next day, June 13th  was my last day of school with my students.

Somewhere amidst all the back surgery fog, end of school fog and the Curt decline fog….I had sat down and talked with a local reporter about a short essay I had written for the “Chicken Soup for the Soul Alzheimer’s Edition” and about living with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s in our 40′s (ok, ok …. now officially in our 50′s).  I knew the article was going to be published the weekend of June 14th, but  honestly, with so much going on, I had forgotten about it until a friend texted me to tell me how surprised she was to open up her Sunday paper to find a pic of Curt and I on the front page of the Lifestyle section!!!!!  (At that point, picture in your mind a minor freak out by me, the front page??  What?!!?! Is it a good pic? Do I look fat? How is the article?)

But there I sat at a lacrosse tourney with Curt and Madi, about and hour away from home and unable to get the paper or read it.  I actually did not get to read the article until after the tournament finished later Sunday afternoon.  It was a very sweet article and well done.  And the accolades for Curt that came as a result of the article blessed my heart immensely.

( You can read the article here)

The hoopla that ensued from the article was endearing.  Several former students got together to start a fundraiser for Curt.  They are selling T-shirts to raise money for ongoing care for Curt. (Check here for info on the T-shirt fundraiser and if you go to the site you can also see a cool TV interview with myself and Curt’s former student) I also got several letters in the mail from students,  made new facebook connections with different people who read the article and once again saw the goodness, kindness, and amazing generosity of our community.  Donations were also sent to a local fund set up for Curt.  I was AMAZED one day when I went online to check the account so I could make a payment to a local provider for Curt and found a generous amount of money has been contributed to the account.  It truly was God’s perfect timing!!!

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Then on June 17th in the crazy month of June, Curt and I had our 25th anniversary.  It was a bittersweet day, he enjoyed the specialness of the day, but  he really does not grasp the fact that we are married anymore.  But he knows I am his honey and he loved knowing it was a special day for us….so that was good enough for me.  The day was also made so special for me just by the simple care of a few good friends who went the extra mile for us/me that day. :)

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Our honeymoon in Vt/Maine/NH 25 years ago!

 

So as Tyler was recovering well, and Madi continued with lacrosse tournaments every weekend,  I  struggled through the LONG 7 days teachers had to go to school for inservice days after the students left.  Somewhere in the chaos of it all we got word that there was an opening at the main care facility I was looking at for Curt.

So once again, I had some freak out issues, surely I was not emotionally ready for this, how do I tell Curt about moving, and on and on the issues and emotions went.  Moving Curt to a full time care facility was something I was not yet ready to do, yet I did in a practical sense feel  it was time.  But emotionally that is a whole other issue…………

So arrangements were made for him to move in July 2!  A week ago today he moved into a wonderful care facility.

And for now that is where I will leave you…..this post has already gotten VERY LONG!  Do know that it has been an adjustment for Curt and for all of us.  So continue to pray for peace for Curt during the transition from home to the memory care facility.  I will finish this and update more next week. 

C with Paisely

Curt at the memory care facility.  And yes they allow Paisely to visit!  He loves having her come along to visit.

But geez, I am exhausted just reading through this…..ha ha.  Usually when I finish a post I do try to add something God has been teaching me. 

 

But guess what folks……I got nothing. 

Not that God hasn’t been teaching me a TON.

  But for now, I am off to focus this week on the R’s of life.

Renewing

Refreshing

Relaxing

Reviving

Reading

Restoring

 

Thanks for walking the journey with us, each one of you makes this journey so much easier!

 

 

 

 

 

Running the Race

Back in the days of one flavor of Gatorade, I was a high school and college athlete.  Those were the days when orange Gatorade was the greatest thing out there, trainers at high school sports were non existent, college coaches wrote hand written letters to recruits, and we wore really cool polyester sweat pants to practice.

Yep I played soccer and ran track back in those days.  Actually for my elementary years I was the only girl in the boys soccer league.  Yep that was the 70′s before the days of Title IX.  I remember the thrill of getting to play on my first all girls soccer team in 9th grade!

But my main sport back in the day was track.  I ran the 100, 200 and 400 (ok back in the day it was the 100, 220, and 440).  And the race I remember the most was the grueling 400.  It was a sprint, one lap around the track.  But honestly how can you sprint one lap?  So you had to train and come up with a strategy on how to attack that race.  Go out hard, stride the back stretch, keep good form, and finish strong coming out of the last turn.   It was the finish strong part that was the hardest.  How can you finish strong when your legs felt like jello!

track team soph year

The biggest part to finishing strong was training hard.  Running 100 and 200s to work on speed and running 450′s and 600′s to work on that endurance piece.  I remember training so hard at times that I actually threw up once after a race and once during practice.

 

But the thing  I keep thinking about lately is in order to finish well, I had to train hard.

 

And train hard, and work hard……it wasn’t easy at times (um, remember the puking after practice!).  There were many times I didn’t feel like going to practice or running that 6th 200 of practice or 4 400′s then a break then 4 more.  I was dying out there…..but I kept pressing on, I kept working hard.

Over the years I qualified for the state track meet several times and I still vividly remember the finish line at that meet.  I remember coming out of that last turn with my eyes squarely  focused on THAT finish line.  It was at that moment with my eyes focused on the finish line, I would find out if all my hard work paid off….did I finish well?!?!

state ribbons 

I am drawn to the memory of that finish line a lot lately.

 

I am drawn to the memory of working hard to finish well

 

I am drawn to the memory of how hard it was at times, how I didn’t feel like working hard some days!

 

I am reminded about being weary and tired yet continuing to press on.

 

I am reminded of this bible verse, that I memorized in college shortly after I stopped running after tearing my ACL.


Hebrews 12:1-2

New International Version (NIV)

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I am not going to lie, it’s been a rough year!  A rough school year for this tired teacher, a long winter, and a year filled with many unexpected challenges and frustrations, along with Curt’s ongoing digression with Alzheimer’s.  Just this week, Curt asked me if I had a boyfriend?  He had no idea we were married.  He wants to “go home” at night, and gets so mad at me when I don’t take him home.  It’s hard.

But…….I am running the race, working hard, training hard and persevering.  I am fixing my eyes on Jesus. 

And my eyes are fixed on the finish line, because when all is said and done, how we run this race for Jesus is all that really matters.  The race may be hard, but may we all finish well!

Pressing on………..

family Easter

 

 

 

 

 

So where have you been?

Jesus Dark Chocolate – Well thanks Sandy for FINALLY sitting down to  chat with me.  You have totally deserted me the last month or so! Where have you been?

Sandy- Well thank for contacting me JDC, and setting up this interview.  I know I have been MIA the last month and  a half.  My goal is to update this great blog, once a month…..but yea that didn’t happen in February!

Jesus Dark Chocolate – Was February a real stressful month for you?

Sandy – Well no, not more than the average chaos and stress…..actually I pretty much call chaos and stress normal.  Let’s see….. a  water pipe burst in my garage, my heating unit in the house was down for a day and a half, I had a minor woman surgery with pre-op appointments and follow ups (fun times!), we found out Tyler has a herniated disc in his back and I shoveled the driveway a lot with all the crazy winter storms.  But really it seems the stresses of life don’t phase me as much anymore.  If I had a normal, stress free life I think I would get bored!  But I do miss having Curt along my side to help with running the household and the decisions of the day.  I miss his wisdom and insight.

C and I

Jesus Dark Chocolate – Well it does sound like February was an interesting month for you.  How is Curt doing these days?

Sandy – Well……… I have been slowly watching him slip away for 3 years now.  You would think it would get easier to handle when he continues to falter and struggle.  But it doesn’t.  Just the other day he asked me what my name was.  And last night when we got home fairly late from Madi’s lacrosse game, he wondered what “this place” is?  It was our house, our house that we have lived in for 19 years….and to him, it was just another unfamiliar place.  It’s an ongoing grieving process……Nancy Reagan said years ago when referring to the late President Reagan and his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, “it truly is the long goodbye.”

C enjoying HC

Jesus Dark Chocolate – Oh you are right, it is a slow, demoralizing good-by.  Well changing the subject a bit, What is up with Tyler’s back?

Sandy – When he was home for Christmas break we thought we were treating a hamstring injury.  But as the hammy started to heal, we realized what he was also feeling was nerve pain and tingling in the leg.  We figured it out and took him to our chiropractor.  But he had to return to school 5 days later.  The trainer and the staff at college treated him right away with PT, traction table, chiropractic care etc.  But one night, while simply brushing his teeth, everything went from bad to worse.  He is currently getting epidural steroid injections in his back.  He just received a second two weeks ago and is schedule for a third on Wednesday this week.

JDC – Well that is a total bummer for Tyler.  How is he handling it and how are you dealing?

Sandy – Tyler is bummed and really misses playing baseball, but he is a Morris and continues to stay positive and is truly seeking God’s wisdom and direction in this. Me, well that is another story.  I miss watching him play!  I feel like our normal life these days is stressful and emotional, and watching him play provides a moment of escape from the worries of the day.  Does that make sense???

JDC – Yes it does make sense.  Well all of this sounds pretty discouraging,  I mean just listening to you, things  sound pretty depressing!

Sandy – Well my friend (oh I mean my blog),  it has been pretty depressing!  But that is the beauty of it all!

JDC – Oh I missed that life lesson, there is beauty in discouragement??  I am not really with you on this one!!??

Sandy – Well trust me, I was really missing it too.  But then one, FRIGID night when I was out walking the dog, and  praying.  The tears rolled down my cheeks and nearly turned to ice and  God spoke to my heart about Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  In ALL your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (NIV)

I have heard those verses probably thousands of times over the years and had become rather numb to it’s meaning.  But on that night it was the part Lean Not on Your Own Understanding, that really punctured my soul and spoke to my heart.  In my own understanding Curt having Alzhiemer’s, Tyler having a herniated disc in his back his freshman year of college on a baseball scholarship…… make NO SENSE!  You can’t help but ask, Why does this stuff happen to us. 

But the verse says, Lean Not on Your Own Understanding, it may not make sense to us.  But the Bible still tells us to trust.  And let me tell you THAT is hard!  Real hard for this mom.   But in these discouraging, depressing times, I am truly surviving on God’s strength alone and in that I am learning to trust.  To trust that He has a plan in all of this, and I don’t have to like it! 

Yes, Trust, God is in charge, He never said I will see how this is all working for some good, but I TRUST that it will.  Yes I trust, despite my tendency to kind of think I have a better plan than God’s plan…….  :)

I am learning to try to stop carrying the burdens alone and to Trust the Lord for them.  Madi had the flu  this past week and was  down and out for the past SIX days! But once again I am reminded to trust the Lord with the burden/worries of the day!  It’s not always easy…….

JDC – Oh that Trust thing can be tough, Trust me I really don’t get it! :)

Sandy – Well JDC I am just starting to get it, I have a feeling it’s a process.  But I am thankful to be at this place on this crazy journey!

JDC- So how can friends pray for your family?

Sandy – Well do pray for WISDOM with decisions as we move forward with Curt.  I need to start deciding on how to proceed with care for him.  I am good through the rest of the school year, but it’s next school year and even this summer I am worried about. Our wonderful community help to raise almost $10,000 for our family through Alzheimer’s Awareness nights at our high school basketball game.  This money has allowed me to contact an agency to help provide much needed personal care for Curt.  I am so thankful for the support from our community.  But I just need some direction as we move forward.

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Also pray for Tyler’s back, the kid breaks 2 different ankles last year during basketball season and a mere year later he is dealing with a large herniated disc in his back.  He gets one more epidural steroid injection, if it does nothing we will have to consider surgery.  So please pray for wisdom and healing for him!

Athletics Headshots portraits. December 4, 2013. (photo by Les Schofer)

And it’s spring sports season.  That means life gets a little busier for Curt.  We will be sitting outside at Madi’s lacrosse games.  Those kind of outings are just getting harder for Curt to endure.

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And just pray for me……….

JDC – Well thanks for getting back in touch with me your favorite blog!! Now go enjoy some dark chocolate and a cup of coffee!  Stay in touch!

 

State of the Union, Alzhiemer’s update

Trust me I am not feeling very Presidential at the moment, but the President always addresses the country each January on the current state of affairs so I figured I would do the same!  Many of you ask how Curt is doing these days…..so be prepared for lots of details.

I have hesitated many times to post so many details on how he is doing.  I want people to remember Curt as a strong, confident, humorous man with strong Godly convictions.  A fun, engaging conversationalist who could talk sports and drums for hours. Not the passive, struggling man that Alzheimer’s has engulfed and transformed.  I feel by giving so many details that I am exposing his struggles and leaving his dignity behind.

C with a big smile

However, I also want people to understand that Alzheimer’s can grab you and knock you down even in your 40′s! It slowly steals away your personality and being.  The Curt we see now is a reflection of a disease that is holding him captive. And so many of the things we think of that relate to Alzheimer’s is not really what Curt is dealing with.  It really looks different in everyone.

I know I have mentioned this before but it continues to be the spatial issues of life that are causing such digression for Curt.  He really can’t even get into his own bed at night on his own.  He needs guidance as to where his side of the bed is, then I guide him toward the top of the bed and tell him to get in.  He starts the process but can’t finish it, so I need to pull his arm from under him, to get him onto his back and then position him in bed each night.  I then put all the covers on him since spatially he can’t pull them up over him anymore.  He then usually falls asleep pretty quickly and stays in that same position all night!  If he needs to get up at night to use the bathroom, he can’t get out from under those covers with out help and no longer understands the concept of going pee.  He will tell me, “the water” or “the pressure is killing me.”  But when I say, “do you need to go pee?” He will now tell me he doesn’t know what that is.

Each morning when I get him out from under those never ending sea of covers (as he sees it).  We head to the bathroom for his morning routine. With out going into too many details, I will tell ya I need to help with all aspects of the morning routine, going to the bathroom, shaving, brushing teeth, spraying the man with some nice cologne and getting him dressed.

As soon as he is dressed, I tell him everyday, “Now you are ready to go and conquer your day for Jesus!”  That usually brings a smile to his face.  I then help him down the stairs ( this is a new problem, the steps) and have him sit down in “his seat” and pour him a bowl of cereal, pour plenty of sugar on it for him ( really he might as well live on the edge and enjoy his cereal with lots of sugar!) and turn on his beloved Sports Center.  He sits in his chair using a TV tray to eat his cereal. But when he is done, he can’t always move the TV tray to get up from the chair……that is another spatial issue that leaves him so disabled.  But as I get ready to head out the door for school each morning he ALWAYS tells me he loves me and reminds me to have a good day.

He still knows people every where we go, he will see old friends when we are out and he always initiates greeting them.  He loves to watch old movies, and enjoys listening to people read to him.  He can no longer read since he spatially can’t follow a sentences to the next line.  He can’t play drums, but can still play a simple beat on the snare and bangs out beats on his legs all day long! :)

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Visit from Curt’s college roommates!

One of the most frustrating things is his declining use of language.  He knows what he wants to say, but it does not come out the way he wants it to.  His words are broken, and he often stutters, or mumbles the words together.  It may take him up to 10 minutes to simply convey the thought he wants to. He has lost the meaning of simple words and does not know how to use them in the right context anymore. 

Things like, “going to our place” will mean he wants to go to bed.  Or, “go to that place down there” usually means he needs to go to the bathroom.  Or sometimes he may give a slang name for an object, TV became boob tube the other day and shower became watering hole. 

He has also started getting more lost in our house.  I used to be able to say “go upstairs to get ready for bed.”  Now if I say that to him he has no idea where upstairs is. 

So many changes as he continues his fall into the grasps of  a monster called Alzheimer’s.  I savor those moments when we do catch a glimpse of the old Curt, and allow myself a chance to take take it in and reflect on the Godly, fun loving hubs I married.

So, that is Alzheimer’s a disease, it continues to take hold of people of all ages.  An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. This includes an estimated 5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.  In 2013, Alzheimer’s will cost the nation $203 billion. This number is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050.

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States overall and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. It is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression!!!!!!!!  Yes it’s not a pretty picture is it???  But that is the state of Alzheimer’s in our house and in many houses across the United States.

C and T before college

Taken right before Tyler left to return to college

So while our situation can look rather grim and depressing at times, I seem to cling to this quote (borrowed from the blog of a dear woman who has had unbelievable struggles in the last several years, from her hubs with constant reoccurring benign brain tumors and seizures to her dear daughter (one of their 6 kids) who was just seriously injured after being hit by a car while walking on a sidewalk outside her school!)

In the darkness we have a choice that is not really there in better times. We can choose to serve God just because he is God. In the darkest moments we feel we are getting absolutely nothing out of God or out of our relationship to him. But what if THEN-when it does not seem to be paying or benefiting you at all-you continue to obey, pray to, and seek God, as well as continue to do your duties of love to others? If we do that-we are finally learning to love God for himself, and not for his benefits.
And when the darkness lifts or lessens, we will find that our dependence on other things besides God for our happiness has shrunk, and that we have new strength and contentment in God himself. We’ll find a new fortitude, unflappability, poise, and peace in the face of difficulty. 

~Tim Keller from the book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering~

C at pretzel hut

Enjoying a milkshake at one of his fave places

Yes, we all have a choice in good times and hard times……it is our choice, and our decision on how we choose to handle things, with despair and discouragement or with our eyes focused on the big picture of a life lived to honor God.

~Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!~  II Corinthians 4 16-18

Thanks friends for walking this journey WITH us!

christmas family pic

How do you do it?

People frequently ask me how I stay so strong and positive?  How do I deal with all the crazy emotions of watching my sweet husband slip into the deep, deep black hole of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease? How do I get it ALL done?  I often jokingly say, “lots of coffee!”

snow pic 1

But in reality…….I don’t always stay so positive and strong, I hate the emotions of watching Curt fall prey to the grips of a demoralizing disease, and I forget things all the time and simply don’t get it all done. I hate the chaos of a life filled with trials, unexpected calamities, and hardships of taking care of everything.

I guess people think I get it all done since I show up to school each day with matching clothes and a smile on my face.  And to me that alone is an accomplishment!

And maybe just showing up with a smile is half the battle……ok matching, clean clothes is a battle too.  But when you are walking a tough path, you learn to celebrate the little things….like matching socks and clean clothes that were actually on a hanger and not at the bottom of the laundry basket! :)

Yes you celebrate the little things, the 10 minutes of a quiet walk on a still night with the dog, a few moments with a hot cup of coffee sitting by the Christmas tree in the morning before the family wakes up.  Those little moments you cling to them, they sustain you. 

I no longer think about the things I wish we could do and go to.  Or get consumed with the thought process of “if Curt didn’t have Alzheimer’s we could………..” Or even the pangs of yearning for a normal life, that is simply futile and gets me NO WHERE….except depressed! 

snow pic 2

So I cherish those moments, those little things, and it’s in those moments I find that Peace that does surpass all understanding in this storm of life. 

Yes those little joys that we often miss in a busy life, those moments…….Yes those precious moments I cling to them, embrace them and welcome them!!! 

The other day with all the snow on the ground, Tyler noticed the footprints in the snow indicating  someone had walked around back in our woods.  He said to me with a smile, “Mom I know those tracks in the woods are from you, you probably walked back there and took some pictures of the pretty snow!” 

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Yes he was right I did!  That was ONE of those precious moments, walking in the peaceful woods as the snow seemed to embrace each tree with such beauty. 

Oh, don’t we all need those moments!

Yes it’s Christmas, a chaotic time of year, the struggle to get it all done.

But I am learning more and more, the perfectly wrapped presents, the perfected Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, the yummy Christmas feast, the cute Christmas outfits are not what it is all about.  Sure, they are fun traditions and truly bring a family together. 

But deep down what I have learned is the importance of those moments, a pause in the chaos to reflect upon a simple truth of a Savior born to redeem a sinful world. 

Yes it’s in those moments of reflection, that is where I find my true strength!

Light and life to ALL He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!

Yes Glory to the Newborn King! 

Enjoy a few moments of reflecting upon the Glory of the Newborn King this Christmas, trust me when I say, that is where your strength for each day comes from!

christmas 2

Merry Christmas friends!

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Alzheimer’s and Thanksgiving

It has been a long time since I have updated my blog…….life got a little busier than I anticipated.  Honestly, I really thought once Tyler left for college things would get a bit easier.  Maybe it was wishful thinking, but I am quickly finding out it’s not reality. I am realizing it’s harder for me to leave home, I always had Tyler OR Madi who could stay with Curt and it made it pretty easy to leave. Now with just Madi,  and with Curt’s skills diminishing I am reluctant to leave him as much.  I miss having another driver around the house, I am back driving Madi everywhere and have no one to run a few errands for me. There are several other factors lending itself to my continual feeling of being overwhelmed….but yes, not something I want to talk about on a public blog.

But I have digressed……..the title of this post is Alzheimer’s and THANKSGIVING.  And despite all that Curt continues to loose in terms of skills and a digression in activities of daily living, I have found that three things still remain.

C at Liberty baseball

Curt continues to have a passion and a love for the things of Christ.  Christian/Worship music continues to bring tears to his eyes every time he hears it.  We can be driving somewhere and I will be playing a song (Like Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise” Jeremy Camp “Overcome” or “Where I Belong” Building 429) and I look back and the man has tears streaming down his cheeks every time.  He loves going to church on Sunday and enjoys having the bible being read to him.  The word of God still speaks with an undying force to his heart and soul.

football game

A love of Music is another thing that still remains.  As most of you know Curt was an awesome and talented drummer, he really can no longer play drums.  However, his passion for music pops up everywhere!  It is the funniest thing, we can be at a store shopping and there will be music playing in the background and he will start humming along and asking me if I know what song it is?  I think to myself every time….. do I know what song it is?????  What song are you even talking about Curt I can barely even hear it!  But he hears it every time and is banging out the beat on his legs and humming along.  He is so tuned into music. He can be watching a football game and gasp, sometimes is enjoying the music in the background more than the game!  We were watching an old Journey DVD the other night and he was banging out the beat on his legs NON STOP!!  Yes music is still alive and well his Curt’s mind!

C at Liberty game

An enduring sense of humor!  Every morning when I get him up and ready before I leave for school, I say, “time to get up…rise and shine!”   He the proceeds to give me this devilish laugh and says “NO!” and then laughs again.  He loves to watch old movies, just the other day he was laughing to the depths of what seemed to be his inner soul during “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  He would go around the house for days afterwards, going, “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller…anybody”  When humor is inserted into a sermon at church, he picks up on it right away and often leans over to me and says, “that’s hilarious!”  He loves to have a good laugh.  This current ad from K-mart had him practically rolling on the floor recently!  If you knew Curt, you would  know he always had a playful and fun sense of humor, it’s nice to see a part of that still remains.

Liberty family pic

A passion for Jesus, and a passion for music were two things Curt always felt so strong about…..As this horrid disease continues to steal so much of Curt, it’s endearing to see that it can’t steal his love for the Lord and his passion for music!

So on this Thanksgiving weekend, we are thankful for the glimpses we continue to see of the old Curt.  Yes some things are lasting, despite a horrible disease that can take so much…..3 things remain!  And today we celebrate those things!

*Update, I had written this post a few days ago, but didn’t get it finished until today.  In the mean time….Madi passed her driver’s test yesterday!!  Woooohooo….celebrating that milestone with her.  Yes this mom can still teach her teens to parallel park! :)

M license

Thank you gift!

Well friends, I am finally starting to cook and bake again!  I know that may not seem significant to you………but to me this is huge!  I have always enjoyed baking and generally liked to cook a healthy, yummy meal for my family.  But last spring………I could not muster the wisdom to plan a meal, or the strength to carry it out.  Life was so crazy busy……with both kids playing a varsity spring sport, taking care of Curt, working full time, planning and attending all the graduation and senior awards ceremonies, Madi’s 16th birthday, laundry, paying the bills, taking care of the financial planning for college, yard work…you get the idea.  I just could not even manage to think of what to make, my brain was total mush.  I know it seems hard to understand how that can be, but you are going to have to trust me on this one. :)

So that is where  dear friends stepped up and made meals for us. Our Sunday school class brought dinner once  a week, a dear friend has faithfully brought us dinner twice a month for the last TWO YEARS and other thoughtful friends who saw the need and just called at the right time to say they were bringing us dinner.   OH it was SO HELPFUL!

Really it wasn’t until Mid August did I slowly start to emerge from the chaos of late spring and June, and start to cook again.  When your life is in an upheaval there is something so comforting about a good home cooked meal.  Thank you dear friends for giving that to us!

It’s also nice to be able to cook a little again.  When you are daily dealing with the onslaught of a terminal disease and the ramifications of all that accompanies that you crave a normal routine. And cooking seems to give us some degree of normalcy.  So I wanted to share with all of you one of my all time favorite fall recipes.  I have made these DELICIOUS cookies twice this fall.  They are always gone in a day.  So as a way of saying THANK YOU to everyone, enjoy this recipe this fall…..really go ahead and make them.  Trust me they will be gone in a day :)

cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

 I usually throw a little whole wheat flour in also, but you can use white flour. The whole wheat is used to try and convince me that they are healthy, so then I can eat more of them!! :) Remember to make the frosting as listed, it is what makes the cookies so good…….and it tastes yummy on it’s own also!!

1 cup of pumpkin

1/2 c. of butter ( softened)

1 1/2 c of sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. of white flour

3/4 c. whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. of raisins ( to soften, boil 1/2 c. of water and add raisins, and let sit about 5 min., drain, and add to mixture)

Frosting

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

1/4 c. butter

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar

1 to 2 tbsp. half & half

1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 375. Grease cookie sheets. In a large bowl combine, granulated sugar, pumpkin, 1/2 c. butter, egg and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Beat at low speed, until soft dough forms. Gently stir raisins into mixture. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookie is set. Cool completely.

Frosting – In a 1 qt. saucepan, combine brown sugar, 1/4c. butter. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture can be stirred smooth. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until smooth. Spread frosting evenly on cookies and ENJOY!!!

Also I just had to sneak these pictures of Madi’s Homecoming into this post.  Poor Curt had to endure what no man should have to do……he  had to shop with Madi  and I for a homecoming dress for almost 3 hours and then had to endure round 2 when we looked for shoes.  So after all of that he was happy to pose with his daughter for a picture before the big dance.

homecoming 1

homecoming 2

homecoming 3

And so it begins…..

Every year at this time I get a bit sentimental………This makes my third year of starting back to school with out Curt.  Last week I brought Curt along with me while I was going to work in my classroom.  As I was finishing up I asked Curt if he wanted to walk down and see his old classroom.  He said, “not really, I don’t know where it is.”  I suggested we just walk down his old hallway, just for the heck of it.  He complied and as we walked together, he turned to me with this little glimmer of familiarity and said, “this is my place” and then as we continued down the hallway he walked right up to the door of his old classroom.   HIS old classroom, the place where he spent 15 years teaching HS students. 

c-at-school-1

Curt loved his job!  He would always be so excited as the lazy days of summer began to wane and the leaves in our woods began to fall, knowing the first day of school would soon be here!  I on the other hand would shudder and complain about going back, he would smile and remind me, that we should be thankful for the jobs God has given us! :)  I still complained……….

He would get up early that first week of school and be there by 6 am each day.  He wanted to have time to get work done when there were no students around.  He would say, “after school time is not time to get work done, that is time to help students.”  He would often come home late from school after hanging out after school talking to students, helping with assignments, or just giving advice.  I would often have to call him at school and say, “DINNER IS READY can you please come home!!”  I would get so mad…….now I would give anything for him to arrive home late for dinner.

c-the-cheerleader

Curt being a cheerleader and a trooper on a Father/Daughter night for the cheerleaders, this girl’s dad couldn’t be there so she asked her fav teacher to fill in.

He cared for his students, he worked hard to get them involved in each class, he engaged students with his witty sense of humor, and taught with a passion. 

He was diagnosed with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Oct. 1st 2010, I remember I was making a quick stop at a local store for some much needed school clothes the next day.  The clerk who checked me out noticed my last name and asked if my husband taught at our local high school.  When I said I was his wife, she gushed on and on about how he was her favorite teacher, and even though she didn’t like World History she loved his class!

  I didn’t have the heart to tell her about his diagnosis and thanked her and went in the car and cried!

Yes this time of year I reflect so much upon Curt’s teaching days.  Just the other day we were out at a local restaurant and when the waitress brought our check, she smiled at us and said, “A former student paid for your check tonight!”  That was not the first time that has happened, it happened another time at a local Applebee’s restaurant. 

1998 Yearbook pic

1998 Yearbook Picture of this nice married couple that taught at the same high school :)

One man’s life does matter, and it does impact others.  I know, it sounds like a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. :)

Curt was always a fan of Oswald Chambers, I found this quote in one of Curt’s books recently

“We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life – those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength.” ~Oswald Chambers

Yes Curt lived in the ordinary things of everyday life and in those ordinary, daily moments he worked hard to live a life that would always honor God, and reflect a life lived with passion and integrity. 

I am thankful for the model he served to me to live that life. 

It is with that inspiration that I start my school year this year! 

Alzheimer’s and life with Teens

I  said to Curt while getting out of the car in the 90 degree heat at a lacrosse tourney, “Well honey you win the award for being the most active guy with Alzheimer’s!”  He got up 2 days in a row at 6am, I got him dressed and we headed out the door for an early 8am game in the heat.  He hung out in the heat watching two games on Sat., used the nasty outhouses, (which provided a nice challenge for me since he needs a bit of help these days…… and then I was so paranoid he would somehow lock himself in the outhouse, oh can you imagine the horror of being locked in one of those!.) And he reeled in the commotion of the two games close together.  He would get so confused as to what was going on, but would continue to go along with whatever I told him.  Sunday,  Madi had an 8am game and then not again until 3pm.  We had time to kill between games, including a long chilling out time at IHOP!  And then some shopping, which we know how much Curt loves! And then a short 1/2 hour nap in the hot van for him and then back to the last game. More time in the heat and then the 5 hour drive home.

Madi lax

Really, it’s a lot for a guy in the late moderate stages of Alzheimer’s to deal with.  But He is a trooper, he sits patiently in the heat, and really doesn’t complain.

morning walk on the beach

People often ask me how he does with these kind of things…..overall he does well.  He would keep getting confused with when Madi is playing and how long the game lasts etc.  But he would hang tough and sit out in the sun drinking lots of water and seemed pretty content.

C pool

He also LOVED our family vacation!  He wanted to be part of everything.  Really once again he was a trooper!! Got up early, stayed up late, enjoyed chatting with my extended family.  We rented a beach house with my family, it was a ton of fun.  Curt had always enjoyed the ocean.  He and the kids would be out there for hours………..now when he wanted to go out in ocean we were all nervous!

Curt in ocean

But he was pretty insistent about wanting to go in.  So Tyler was the first to get him out there, and we all quickly joined him out there.  Due to the spatial issues, he had trouble judging when the wave would break, and at one point Tyler literally picked him up to carry him out so the wave would not break on him.  So,Tyler, Madi and I, and my two surfer, boogie board riding brothers, kept a careful watch over Curt while he was in the ocean.  But as it is in the ocean, inevitably the “big wave” came, and despite our efforts, we all got toppled.  We all quickly pop out of the what feels like the wash cycle of the washing machine, all looking for Curt.  For that brief second no one sees him, and then suddenly his head pops up and he loudly proclaims, “That was AWESOME!!” And that expression seemed to capture our entire vacation for Curt.  He really enjoyed the long conversation with family, the pool, the beach and just some time away.

curt beach

hanging on the front porch

But the lazy days of summer are beginning to wane as we take Tyler to college to start his freshman year TOMORROW!  And I have some back to school commitments coming up as well as looking for people to stay with Curt in the fall.  Honestly I am not looking forward to the busy, crazy, stressful life again.  I  find myself getting a little battle weary…..maybe I am just getting older, maybe it’s that fun woman hormone craziness, maybe it’s Tyler leaving……….it’s probably all of it combined.

Assateague

But I have also come to understand Matthew 11:28 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Jesus gives the invitation to Come, but it is us who must get up and GO!!  We must Go the Lord, and give him these burdens.  Trying to carry them on our own just doesn’t seem to work real well! :)  So I am working more on Going to the Lord with the burdens of the day, I often try to carry them on my own. Working on that more for this Fall….Going to the Lord and LEAVING those burdens of the day there.

Going………….

Thanks again for your ongoing LOVE and prayers for our family!!

Morris fam

Looks Like We Made It!!!!

Yipee!!!  Yahoo!!

I am celebrating the end of a crazy, hectic, yet heartwarming school year! 

What a crazy June it for this mom.  Tyler graduated, he left for a week at the beach, we threw a big family party for Tyler and for Madi’s big 16th birthday.  We also went to a lacrosse tournament and some how I limped my way through the last few days of school.

I am just saying….. lots of vitamin supplements and coffee seem to be my mainstay to keep me going these days!

But I made it!!!  Made it through the school year!!!  This post is about celebrating making it through it all!

It’s a crazy journey, and sometimes when I have down time, I almost don’t know what to do with it.  I am so used to going, doing, working, helping etc.

There were many EMM’s (Emotional Mom Moments) along the way. The kind we all go through when our kids suddenly grow into young adults and you try to savor those last moments of their senior year.  This is Tyler’s senior night at his baseball game….a true EMM.

baseball senior night

Another one of this EMM’s was when Tyler won our school’s Grosh Award/Scholarship.  It is the highest athletic honor/award the school gives and Tyler was the recipient this year.  You can read more about it here.  It was a great honor for him, and we could all savor that moment together at an athletic dessert social in early June.

grosh award

Madi turned sweet 16 and had a big party at a friend’s pond.  It was a fun pond party with food to plan, cake pops to make, prayers for good weather and a ton of other stressors along the way.  Really what was I thinking planning this party 5 days before graduation!!!  But it all went well, the sun came out 5 min. before the party started and it made for a beautiful late afternoon  pond party.

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And Madi ended up making these cool cake pops all by herself, boy were they delicious!

Madi 16th party

And then there was this moment…………

graduation 1

grad 4

And a special hug from one of my students who Tyler walked with at graduation.

grad 5 hug from cm

And all that happened the first 3 weeks of June!

But as I said I made it!

And most important Curt made it though it all.

He just went along with what ever I told him was happening.  With so much going on he really depended on me to keep things consistent for him.  I was really thankful Margo the dear lady who stayed with him during the time I was at school was able to come consistently during those last 2 weeks.  She was a source of stability for Curt amidst the chaos.

Curt was able to understand the fact that Tyler won several scholarships and other awards and that he graduated, but it was like someone who gets it, but is very apathetic and unemotional about it.  He kept saying it was awesome, but I don’t think he totally reeled in the emotions of it all.

He has been same the last 2 months or so, the anger issues pop in now and then and are not pretty, but don’t last as long as they did a year ago.  Thank goodness!  He is eating a lot more and hopefully gaining back some of that weight he lost.  He struggles with HOW to get the food to his mouth, but is quite happy to eat his favorites. Although his repertoire of the food he likes is very limited, but that is ok, just so he eats.  He has lost lots of that muscle mass, he used to be one solid dude, now he is mushy. :(  Two minor things I have noticed get worse are his inability to get himself a glass of water, he confuses how to work the faucet.  He also can no longer take off his shoes with out help.  It’s the slow demise of those daily tasks that are so sad to watch slip away. He can no longer shave or take care of those daily personal hygiene skills that we all take for granted.  He walks slower than molasses pouring from a jar, and shuffles and kind of bends over some as he walks.  He almost looks robotic in his gait.  But he still retains a fun sense of humor and tells me all the time that he  loves me so much!  So we press on and cherish those glimpses of the old Curt!

Also, I must once again thank SO MANY of you that helped to get me through the spring, there have been SO MANY of you that helped out in big and small ways.  Friends who cleaned out my disgusting fridge, brought meals, prayed for us continually, gave gift cards, let me borrow a lawn mower when ours needed repair etc.  Spring was just overwhelming and so busy, really, I know I am repeating myself, but I just couldn’t keep up with everything at times, and became a bit forgetful and I am sure I did not thank many of you.

And a special Thanks to person who made us dinner the week of Graduation!  It was a really delicious spaghetti casserole!! The timing was PERFECT, but Curt had no idea who dropped off the meal.  I believe it was the night of baccalaureate, and the way that night was going we would have never had dinner. :) So thank you to the mystery person who has blonde hair.  That is all I could get out of Curt. 

Tyler leaves for 3 weeks of summer classes at Liberty this week……Ahhhhhhhhhh, minor freak out, but I got this.  We appreciate your prayers as we all adjust to him being gone.  Also Madi has several lacrosse tournaments with traveling to Va. and Maryland, do pray for the logistics of that.  And pray that we can all just savor some family time.

Thanks!

A few pics from our big family graduation/birthday party

grad party fun

IMG_4394

Curt with his brother!

curt and nate

The Rock? Sometimes it seems way out there somewhere.  It’s bumpy and hard, right at the water’s edge.  It even hurts when we fall on it.

The Rock! But it sure makes a great foundation when the storms hit!

Life goes on……

“The thing Margo told me about, is that here now?”

“What thing?”

“The thing, you like it”

“Oh you mean the weekend?”

“Yes when does that start? We never had weekends when I grew up in Ohio so this is new”

“Yes it starts TODAY!!!”  :)

So went the conversation between Curt and I this afternoon.

It reminded me of the good and bad of life these days.  The good being the weekend, the bad the reminder of Curt’s progression with Alzheimer’s.

I feel like this school year has been a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs, good and bad.  The bad is the daily reminder of the progression of Alzheimer’s in Curt.  He is having trouble finding certain rooms in the house now.  He will say he is ready for bed and be so tired, but then ask, “where should I go?”  He gets confused on where the bathroom is frequently.  The anger of last spring is starting to rear it’s ugly head a bit also.  In the last month or so, he would suddenly become so angry at me for random things.  He was getting mad when I told him to take his shoes off so we could get his pajamas on for bed, he saw no reason to take his shoes off and thought I was being pushy telling him to take off his shoes first. 

And the spatial concepts of life are totally gone, he is even having trouble being able to place himself in a chair with out assistance. Just today while out at a yard sale, Curt was saying he was losing his water. (He had been walking around yard sales with a water bottle).  I looked over and he had been holding his water bottle at this angle not upright. He had NO idea that this was not the best way to hold a water bottle.   It happens frequently….. darn spatial concepts!

photo[7]

  Alzheimer’s is so much more then losing memories I am painfully finding out!

But there is some good in amidst the misery.

Tyler has been writing these beats on the computer with garage band, he and Curt are enjoying sharing some music time together just like they did in days gone by.

Madi turned 16….finally!! She got her driver’s permit and we enjoyed a nice morning together while a friend stayed with Curt on her birthday.

photo[6]

Tyler had a great baseball season….he won All League honors and ended the season with a .520 batting average, hitting 8 doubles, 5 triples and 3 home runs.  It made for a fun season watching him play his senior year of high school baseball! It was such a joy especially after his broken ankle frustrations of basketball season.

ty at bat senior yeat

I survived the spring sports season, there were moments when I questioned my sanity and ability to persevere.  But I made it!! :)

Tyler and his sweet girlfriend enjoyed a nice night at Prom, and they looked so nice.  Just another moment for this sentimental mom to cherish of a special time for my soon to be grad.

prom

I started this post sometime in mid may and got caught up in the whirlwind of life and never finished it until today June 1st!  Tyler’s baseball team made it into the post season so that kept  baseball season going until late May, there were awards ceremonies, baseball banquets, laundry, (ok, the laundry never really gets done anymore, we just wash what we need for the week ahead,  we all wear non matching socks these days.  And we totally rock the look!), lacrosse practices for a team Madi is playing for this summer, a special 4 day visit from Curt’s parents.  May just got so busy……and then there are those emotional mom moments when I ponder the fact that Tyler’ is graduating!!

Curt REALLY enjoyed his visit with his parents, they live deep in the depths of southern Texas and don’t get this way too often so it was indeed a wonderful time!

M and D M visit

So alas I am finishing this post……I survived SPRING!!!  Actually I am pretty happy to have gotten through all that craziness still intact, sure a few tears were shed in the process, but I pressed on! :)  And I must give a big shout out to all the friends who continually walk this journey with us.  Truly I would be lost with out all the help!  Forgive me for not always thanking you personally or not at all, I feel certain that I forget to thank people at times….really I want to, intend to, but it all gets lost in that constant brain fog!  But you are cherished and appreciated…….and really needed!

Friends just finished up Tyler’s senior collage for me…..just another example of the help we have gotten.  And let me assure you, not in a million years could this craft/scrapbooking disabled mom ever have made anything look this good.  Thanks to my sweet crafty and talented friends Cindi and Sherry!

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Tyler graduates in 12 days, a big milestone.  I am thankful for each of the milestones Curt can enjoy with us.  And thankful that summer vacation starts for this weary mom on June 14th!

Thanks for your prayers friends!

The A’s of life!

I remember about 8 years ago or so, our church was having all it’s members take part in this “spiritual gifts survey.”  As part of the program we were to meet with one of the pastors to discuss our “results.”  I specifically recall the pastor  asking me, “so you have had no major traumatic life changing events?”  I replied, “not really, my grandpa died in 8th grade and my other grand mother died that year, that was rough….but it was 8th grade.”  I remember telling him how my life has been good, so blessed in many ways and not any big traumas or drama!

Well lately I am feeling the trauma and drama of life. It seems to have all hit with a vengeance lately! I feel as if I have become a drama trauma momma!  Really we used to be a real low maintenance family! :)

C and I hoops banquet

All our trauma drama seems to to start with  the letter A.

Alzheimer‘s  – It’s been 2 and half years since a Dr. first told us Curt has Alzheimer’s.  The disease continues to reek havoc in his brain.  He is really having trouble communicating what he wants.  If he wants some milk to drink, he may say something like, “it goes good…………can i have………..um…..please be patient with me I will get it.”  Then he looks at me so sweetly and ask, ” can you get that for me?”  So many times I don’t know what he wants, I feel so bad.  Just today, as we were heading to a Lax game and I had Curt all layered up with jackets to embrace the changing weather conditions.  He tells me he may have to shag some later?!?!?
Mmmm, well being a baseball mom, I figured he was talking about shagging baseballs for Tyler in the outfield (quick baseball lesson, shagging balls simply means picking up or catching baseballs in the outfield after batting practice).  So I say, “you are going shag balls for Ty today?”
He replies, “what the heck are you talking about??”
When he says that it is usually a sign, that I need to do a little detective work to figure out what he really meant.  Finally after some tricky detective skills that I have become accustomed to, I realize he was saying that, he may have the shed some of his jacket layers later.

So now you get the picture of how this communication thing can be tough at times!

Ankles – As most of you already know, Tyler broke 2 different ankles during basketball games of his senior hoops season.  He is healing well and enjoying a good senior season of baseball!!

ty at bat senior season

Appendix – Madi ended up in the emergency room two Sundays ago at 3 am.  She awoke suddenly in pain in the middle of the night.  After a few moments of prayer, I decided our best option was to take her to the emergency room.  We arrived at 3:30am, she was diagnosed by 5:45am and in surgery by 8am.  It all moved so fast…….but it did just about send me over the cliff of chaos.  I was exhausted and emotionally drained from the whole thing.  But, I am thankful for the friends who came to our rescue and helped with Curt and provided me a much needed crutch to  limp through the whole thing! :)

M hospital

Thanks goodness 2 and half weeks later she is back playing lacrosse and sporting a cool new scar.

Accident

Well this “A”, I really don’t want to talk about.  Yep I did this to our beloved van!

Van

It was the result of the perfect storm of everyone, including the dog, yelling for me to help them at the same time.  It was just one of those chaotic moments, and I forgot a small detail (detect sarcasm), I got out of the van to get the dog, while the van was still in reverse.  And with in seconds I put on my Wonder Woman suit and jumped back into the moving van and guided it out the garage.  Tyler who was behind me in the driveway, gets out of his car to see the ensuing damage, and simply says, “what just happened?”  I think the worst part of it was the realization I would be with out the van for 4 days and all the paperwork that ensued.

But today is Saturday and I am FINALLY finding a moment to update my blog…..today feels like a normal Saturday.  We went to Madi’s Lax game this morning, I am heading out to run some errands with Curt, and Tyler went to baseball practice.  A NORMAL day…… there is such comfort and peace in these kind of days.  I am praying for more normal days, and special moments to cherish in these wanning moments of a fleeting life. So I have today, and today is good…..and as the saying goes, take it ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Yes we are thankful for TODAY!  And I am working real hard not to worry about tomorrow! :)

Matthew 6:34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.