Category Archives: Christmas

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! 

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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!

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Merry Christmas friends!

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Dashing through the………

Dashing through the chaos

in a big blue mini van

Out to the activities we will go

Praying all the way

Oh…….Always on my cell, always on my cell, busy all the way.

Yes that is how I feel lately!  I really was hoping for more of a Silent Night type of Christmas  but for now I have the Jingle Bells chaos.

And that is what life is throwing at us right now.  As I write Madi has been sick with a bad cough and fever and was just diagnosed with the flu. I have not slept well listening to her cough all night and Curt snoring all night. :)  My big, just turned 18, young man, broke his ankle in a basketball scrimmage on the first day of December. The poor guy is SO disappointed to miss a big part of his senior basketball season!

ty crutches

And poor Curt really started falling apart the 2nd week of December.  He threw up one afternoon and for almost 4 days would barely eat anything and was so confused.  After consulting with his Dr.  we took him off his two Alzheimer’s meds, since they are also known to cause stomach issues.  And guess what…….he has starting eating again.  He is fully addicted to Snicker’s Ice Cream bars, eating 2-3 a day!   But I am thankful for that, compared to the NOTHING he was eating for about a week.  And since being off of the Alz meds, we have really seen NO difference at all in his Alzheimer’s symptoms.  The meds are made to stop the forgetfulness, and other Alz symptoms, but will do nothing to stop the onslaught/progression of the disease. 

Curt and I

So December has been ROUGH, I am not going to lie.  Throw in normal Christmas busyness and shopping, and activities, Tyler’s 18th birthday, Madi’s cookie party, indoor Lax games for Madi, basketball for Tyler, Dr. appointments for Tyler’s ankle and PT, our Fresh Air young man coming for Christmas, school stuff……  I was struggling……..

But as I ponder Christmas and the Christmas story I found myself thinking about Mary the other day.  Mary pregnant as can be, riding on some large, uncomfortable donkey to Bethlehem.  I can  imagine, that was ROUGH!!  Giving birth in a small, smelly stable, ROUGH.  No epidural, ROUGH!   Yet, as a result of those ROUGH times something really good, purposeful and life changing resulted. A tiny baby who could change the world!

And so in that moment I think to myself that our life may be a bit rough right now, but it is some how ALL part of God’s plan and purpose.  And in that I find such comfort and peace this December.  Even in the rough times we cling to a Hope born in a stable so long ago!  And the promise of the Hope in Jesus is truly what keeps us going!

Merry Christmas one and all from our house to yours!!!

50th Anniversary

My entire family gathering for my parents 50th Anniversary!

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Someone from our church got our wood stove working again……so thankful!

madi christmas

My sweet and lovely 15 year old! 

cookie party

10th annual cooking baking party!!!  Always fun!

Tyler07

One of his senior pictures!!

Curt and I #2

So long 2011

Well I can’t really say 2011  has been good to us…..but I can thank God for many of the blessings we have seen along the journey of living with Alzheimer’s.  There are many good things that have happened this year, and I am choosing to reflect upon them on this New Years Eve!  It is a choice to see the good in the storm of life, and I daily battle with that, but let me tell ya……choosing the positive over the negative sure makes things go a little easier!  Just sayin! :)

Family has been a huge blessing to us this year, and I am thankful for Curt’s family and my fam.  Their love and support is priceless!  This is a Christmas pic of my mom and I, she has always been a great support for me!

Our family ski trip last Jan. to Mt. Snow, Vt was an extra special blessing and was basically paid for by someone who has chosen to remain anonymous!  It was a great memory maker.  The kids and I were just reflecting fondly about the trip the other day!

FRIENDS are the greatest!!  It has been so sweet to see how many friends have called and wanted to get together with Curt and our family.  It has been so nice for Curt to reconnect with old friends and stay connected with current friends.  It has meant so much to Curt to get together for pizza, a ballgame or just anything with friends.  Let me tell ya, our friends have been good to us in 2011. THANK YOU!

My big 17 year old boy getting a baseball scholarship to Liberty Univ was another highlight of the year.  The recruiting process takes a great deal of time and effort, and it is nice to have that behind us.  With everything else to figure out, it’s great to have Tyler’s college plans taken care of.  And let me just tell you, I LOVE Liberty, the campus, the coaches,  the educational program and christian atmosphere, it just warms this mom’s heart! And I am thankful that Curt is still be able to fully understand the magnitude of Tyler’s accomplishment.  For the dad who spent ENDLESS hours pitching to his son and throwing with him, I am blessed to see the pride in his dad’s eyes as he knows his boy will be playing Division 1 College Baseball!

We spent much of the summer traveling in our van! From Columbus Ohio to Atlanta Ga, we conquered a big portion of the highways of the US.  And despite the busy schedule, we did have a lot of fun!!  Lots of great memories were made this summer!

Madi grew 3 inches this year and has transformed into quite a lovely young lady.  Her kindness and helpful spirit continue to bless me!  The first picture is of her with her science fair project in March, the 2nd is fall homecoming. Can you see the difference?! :)

Those are just a FEW of the blessings of the year 2011.  The years go by fast and I am learning to cherish the moments.  The days may be long, the frustrations constant, but the special moments that come along remind me to slow down, and cherish.  They can bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart in the middle of a long journey.

  I am going to end with how we ended our year with  a few pics from our Christmas Fun!

Happy New Year…….may we all find those special moments and blessings on the journey of 2012!

Silent Night

When I was a kid my all time favorite Christmas carol was, “Silent Night.”  I loved the magic of singing it on Christmas Eve as I carefully lifted my just lit candle during the Christmas Eve candlelight service. 

But as I grew up, I realized I cherished the “moment”, but had really never “listened” to the lyrics and captured their true meaning.  Recently I have been focusing on those words penned back in the 1800’s by Joseph Mohr.  The man was born in 1792, yet his words still speak to my heart today!

My thoughts have been all over the place as of late, I may break down crying randomly while shopping at Target when I hear a dad talking to his son about buying a baseball bat.  Or when watching Curt play drums at church for the last time. Also when I hear Curt all excited about wanting to see Tyler play college baseball…..I just wonder if he will be able to.   Those tears seem to well up pretty easily as of late.

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.

Then, thankfully, there are some things that warm my heart lately, like I said my mind is all over the place.  Tyler got a baseball scholarship to Liberty University in Va…..that soothes my overworked brain and blesses this momma’s heart!  Tyler also just celebrated his 17th birthday with being “Player of the Week” in basketball and scoring 14 pts and grabbing 8 rebounds in a winning effort last week.  Those kind of things are such a welcome distraction!

  My girl Madi continues to get straight A’s as a ninth grader, she is so independent and organized, it brings me such relief to not have to worry about her grades and work ethic!  We also had a blast at Madi’s 9th annual cookie party a few weeks ago.

Ummmm, yes the girls have frosting on their faces.  Who knew it was a new trend!! :)

The kids lives do provide a welcome distraction from the stress of living daily with a monster named Alzheimer’s.  For that distraction I am so thankful!

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Some days I get so overwhelmed with all the cares of life I just curl up on the couch and want to do nothing.  I have so many things to tend to, I don’t know what to do first…. so sometimes I just do nothing.  Where do I even begin I ponder all the time.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.

I seem to fear the future the most……I just don’t know how it’s all going work out for us.  Curt will require long term care, my kids may be in college at the time, they might not be….who knows how long this disease will take on it’s unruly course of demise.  I am a planner, the future is so unknown.  Curt now struggles daily with his reasoning ability…oh how I miss his wisdom!

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Oh but then there is that song again………it continues to replay in my thoughts frequently.

All is calm all is bright……………..

Christ the Savior is born!……………………

………….With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus Lord at Thy birth!

In the chaos of the day, Jesus was born in a simple stable, on a peaceful night with so little fan fare.   Somehow, the thought of the Almighty coming to earth in such a simple manner, calms my weary heart and mind. There in the storm of life at that time, Jesus steps onto the scene…..in a barn of all places.

All was calm, and suddenly the future got real bright for all of mankind! Our future is bright, not thanks to Alzheimer’s and my worries, but thanks to the redeeming grace of that precious baby born oh so long ago.  Yes our future my be tough at times, but it is bright.  The message is so simple that sometimes I can overlook it!  Jesus Lord, at Thy birth! 

And that Hope brings a calming smile to my face. :)

Yes ALL is calm, and ALL is bright at our household this Christmas!

Merry Christmas dear friends!

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.

Christmas…….

Ah yes Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the celebration of several days off of school for this weary teacher!

I must confess that I was pretty darn excited to win 2nd place in the “who can sleep in the longest”  family contest on Sunday the day after Christmas.  Yep this mom slept in until 10:15, Tyler won it all and slept until 11:05, but I was pretty content with 2nd place.

R.E.S.T is what I needed, and I am thankful that is what I got!

You know you must be a mom when you get very excited about a rare moment to sleep in AND I may add,  you get excited about getting a new toaster for Christmas!

I have found that through this entire ordeal with my dear hubs that I tend to be much more tired than normal!  I guess that is how I handle the stress of it all, I frequently ponder when I will be able to get my next nap and how soon ’til bedtime!

But alas Christmas day was a nice, NORMAL, relaxing day for us!  We opened presents together as a family Sat. morning then headed to my parent’s house for the day.  And Tyler with a newly earned learner’s permit in hand got to drive some of the trip!

Christmas Day really drove home to me the importance of taking time to relax and revive!  Days like that are going to be important to all of us.   It will be while relaxing and reviving our hearts we will find strength to press on in this journey.

Curt apparently took the R & R to heart,  I noticed he had dozed off during the present opening!  (And for those of you who are wondering if this couch has ever been entered in the “Ugliest Couch Contest”, Yes I believe it already has! :))

Tyler also took the R & R thing to heart……..found him sprawled on the kitchen floor like this after dinner.  Such a proud mom moment!!!


Christmas Day also emphasized to me the importance of family during tough times.  Both Curt’s family and my family have really supported us during this unexpected detour in life!  It’s good to gather together and be there for each other!  I have always emphasized the importance of family, now it’s nice to see it all in action.  After all you only have one family, love them and support them……..and we are thankful to now be on the receiving end of that!  I know it also means a lot to Madi……shown here with her wonderful, supportive cousins!

We are thankful for this Christmas, and we are thankful for each of you who have supported us.  I have lots to tell of the many special blessings we have received………God’s timing is perfect.  We continue to press on by the prayers of God’s people, friends and family support, coffee, naps, encouragement from God’s word, sweet cards sent in snail mail, and encouraging emails, lots of hugs, kind and gentle words spoken to us, and sweet gifts given to us!


Please continue to pray for us, we were disappointed that Johns Hopkins called last Friday to cancel Curt’s appointment for today.  He was to have an initial evaluation by a specialist there.  We were hoping they could answer lots of questions, find a good med for him, give us a more defined diagnosis and prognosis.  He is now rescheduled for Jan. 14th.

 

Also pray for Curt to keep busy during the day, he tends to become a bit depressed at times.  Not horribly depressed, just down ( and who wouldn’t be!).

 

Pray for the kids as they continue to adjust to their Dad not really being the Dad they have grown used to.  They need to make adjustments to their expectations, which can sometimes be hard for teenagers!

 

Pray for wisdom for all the decisions that need to be made…..especially for me in this area.  I have learned a ton about medicaid, medicare, health care, wills, durable power of attorney etc…but I still feel clueless!

 

~Thanks!!

 



How did you know……..

Well it has been a good week at our house…..YES we are adjusting to the new normal.  It is hard at times…….I see glimpses of the difficulties that Curt will have down the road.  He has such difficulty spelling, and he was always the best speller in the house!! Typing has also become an difficult process for him.   Things like that drive home the reality of what is to come.  But for now we are focusing on the present.


I heard this quote the other day;

“Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it’s called the Present.

That really seems to fit our attitude!

This verse also seems to capture our hope for an unknown future;

Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV)

We are making the choice to not focus on the worries of tomorrow, sure we are planning for them, but not focusing on them.  And as any woman over 40 with wacky hormones and emotions knows that can be difficult at times.  :)

So back to my story of how did we know something was wrong with Curt.  I had started it in this post in case you missed the first post.

After the chaos of a busy baseball season for Tyler, a track season for Madi and the end of the school year for Curt and I….. the dust began to settle and the slower pace of summer evolved!  It was a welcome reprieve for us.  But it was during the dog days of summer that Curt’s deficiencies became more evident.

We took a memory making trip to Omaha, NE where Tyler played baseball in a tournament and we were able to attend the College World Series Championship games both nights.  It was a great trip for Tyler since he aspires to play college baseball!

But as we headed through security at a busy Baltimore airport on the morning of the trip, Curt had trouble.  He didn’t take off his belt, didn’t take off his shoes, or take out his money clip.  It was like he just didn’t get what to do.  He held up the line, made people mad and didn’t really seem to notice the commotion he had caused.  But I did.  Also on that trip I ended up driving a great deal since he was unfamiliar with the highways in Nebraska and driving proved to be a challenge for him.

Another eye opener to a medical problem was when Curt took my sports minded son to the Dr. to see if he had truly broken his finger while diving for a ball in centerfield during a baseball game.  Curt returned from the Dr with the good news that the finger was not broken.  Only to find out later that is was broken!


But come August I became increasingly concerned….I attended an in-service with Curt and saw how he had trouble keeping up with what we were learning.  I also noticed his once proficient typing skills deteriorating rapidly.  He seemed more apathetic and could not accomplish as much around the house as previously.  He kept messing up setting his clock radio alarm and had difficulty using the computer.  He also had great difficulty learning anything new.    Most people would not have been aware of anything, but a wife sees these changes.  I then decided to email his Dr. to express my concerns, Curt had an annual physical in late August and I wanted the Dr. to know what I was seeing.


I became more worried, concerned and anxious about him.  Soon I began to have great difficulty sleeping at night, and  with in 2 weeks time lost 10 lbs, just like that!  (So if you are looking for a good weight loss program, anxiety and worry seemed to work pretty well for me!)

So when he talked with his family Dr. in late August and he ordered an array of tests, I was not surprised when his MRI came back fine, and his blood work also came back fine.  I just had a sinking feeling all along that dementia/alzheimer’s was what we were dealing with, even with NO family history of it!

When a neuropsychologist confirmed a diagnosis of dementia I was emotionless, I had already come to grips with what was happening to my dear husband!  I really thought I would throw up when they told me, but when the moment came,  I just thought to myself, ” I knew it, I knew it!”

And on that day Oct. 1st began the first day of living with our new normal.

 

I will write more later, I have one amazing story to tell of God really providing for us last week!!  But alas, I am getting ready to head off to Tyler’s basketball game, and finish some last minute Christmas shopping……yes life with two teens at home….life does go on!


Friday Fave Five

For those of you who are new to reading Jesus and Dark Chocolate, most Fridays I write a Friday Fave Five post.  This is a time to reflect upon my favorite big or little things of the past week.  And as I sit in my comfy chair listening to Christmas music, with my softly lit Christmas tree glowing nearby.   I am thinking it will be good for me to continue writing a Friday Fave Five.

Yes my current circumstances are not real fun and are probably not a favorite for anyone…..BUT there are still plenty of good, special and endearing things that come my way each week and I am choosing to focus on them.  Imagine if I wrote a post called “Five Depressing Downers” for the week.   Focusing on those downers for the week really won’t carry me too far in this ordeal.

So with out further adieu…..my Faves of the week!

My dear 13 year old daughter had her 8th annual cookie baking party last Sat.  Imagine the chaos of nine 8th graders baking cookies, eating cookies & cookie dough, throwing flour at each other, and decorating and making 8 different YUMMY types of cookies!  It was a great day,and a great distraction for me and FUN for all.  Oh and did I mention our family enjoyed cookies for dinner that night and for breakfast the next morning!

This simple message scrawled on my husbands classroom chalkboard brought joy to my heart during our storm of life right now.  Such a sweet message from public high school students!!

I got a facebook message from dear friends who are missionaries in Thailand……here are her words.  God used them to encourage me all week long!!

Our staff gathered on a mountain with streams of running water beside… It’s still warm here, so don’t picture us freezing :-)… Our ministry team is made up of Chinese/Singaporeans, Canadian, British, Thais and American ( a glimpse of the Body!). We were gathered for a morning of prayer, to just sit as His feet as a ministry team. We stopped and prayed specifically for you Curt and your whole family. I wished you could have heard the various languages, accents, heart cries going before the Lord, prayer being lifted for you in different languages, it was beautiful. I hope that is an encouragement to you to know your brothers and sisters from all over the world, are lifting you up in prayer, and we know our Father heard…

Yes it is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ!  Thanks Lori!


Our chiropractor just got the greatest massage chairs in their office, wow during my appointment this week I practically fell asleep in that glorious chair.  The worst thing I heard all week was when someone told me my time was up in that chair!! :)


Curt has really been embraced by dear friends since he stopped working.  He has gotten so many emails, phone calls and offers to get together.  It has really helped make a tough adjustment to not working somewhat easier.  But please do continue to pray for him, after teaching for 25 years, it has been hard for him to not be working.  It has been met with an array of emotions!

Thanks again dear friends for your prayers and notes of encouragement…..it really helps ME to PRESS On!

For more Friday Fave Five please visit Susanne at Living to Tell the Story