The Gift

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I received a gift some time ago that I just could not unwrap, I let it sit around, stared at it and knew it was there…but I just didn’t want to pick it up, unwrap it and peer into it’s contents.

In some ways, it was a gift I never wanted.

Sometimes….. I really just wanted to give it back or even throw it off my deck into the woods hoping it would roll down our hill into the creek and be washed away never to be seen again.

The more I stared at it, the more I despised it, but the more I thought about it, I slowly broached it and began to open it purposely and deliberately.  It was a slow, I began to peel away the layers of wrapping paper to slowly catch of glimpse of this Gift.

It’s been six LONG years since Curt was diagnosed at age 46 with Younger Onset Alzheimer’s.

It has taken me six years to just now begin to see the glory of The Gift we have been given.  It was not easy to see during those first few years.  There was some anger, bitterness, grief all piled together.

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But as the years have dragged on and I continued to plead with God for wisdom, healing, help, provision, financial stability, care, friendship, guidance….. I have finally come to realize He has provided us all those things on this journey. We have been able to look back and see how God has used our community, friends and family to bless us in big ways.  What a treasure it has been to see God’s hand moving to provide.

It’s been a Gift!

A true Gift… a gift few receive.

I have had a privilege of seeing the kindness of strangers, the provision provided to us by friends, our needs met in ways I never could imagine, sweet notes of encouraging words sent our way, surprises of kindness and care for our needs.

I remember that first Christmas after Curt was diagnosed, someone anonymously gave us this note:

Experiences…….it’s what our lives are made of……We would like you to accept this gift and experience something fun…..something relaxing and enjoyable away from your daily worries and duties…..we know how important this is and how seldom we make the time to do it.

Funny how many times we are not even aware of how many people we touch throughout our lives…..sometimes directly……..sometimes indirectly…….sometimes through actions……..sometimes through words…….sometimes by the smallest thing that we don’t even see…….So please accept this small  gift from people of lives both of you have touched…….some that you know……..some that you don’t……and each time you look at this angel…..know that someone is thinking of you and someone is praying for you………………

Enclosed was a check that pretty much covered our upcoming ski trip.  We had not told anyone about our trip.  But God knew….He orchestrated it all. He provided. He brought others to us at the right time.

One spring I was in need of a lawn mower.  A few days later a friend of a friend shows up at our door and says, “God told me to give my lawn mower to you!!”  What!?!!!!  Another example of our Gift.   I could go on and on, there have been many examples of seeing first hand God’s care provided to us through friends and our community.

People often look at me, and say they are sorry, sorry that bad things happen to good people.  They wonder how God could allow this.

But the Gift in all of this is seeing first hand the amazing way God has provided and blessed us IN the storm.  I would have never chosen this journey but I do have the choice on how I handle it.  And that choice involves truly seeing the Gift in all of it. My trust in the Lord to provide is forever changed, my faith, a fortress I cling to in this storm.  I have seen the hand of God provide for us in amazing ways financially, I have seen first hand people care for us and give us hope……do you see a glimpse of this Gift my friends?

Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

When you pass through the water, I will be with you.  When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned….

 

Yes when going through the trials of pain, heartache and heartbreak, discouragement and grief it is then that you too get to experience His Gift of seeing you through it and using others to bless you in it.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, at first my emotions did not want to see God seeing me through the storm, I just wanted the nightmare to GO AWAY.

But now as a seasoned sojourner blazing the trail of grief and heartache I do see how God has provided in amazing ways and I have come to see the true Gift of difficult trials.

If you are currently enduring a crisis, or living out the grief of a loss of a loved one, or experiencing the heartache of a broken relationship, or financial uncertainty, loss of a job, loss of something or someone dear to you or a serious health struggle………I do know this….  God may not take away your pain friends.  I am so sorry.  But…. He will see you through it all and maybe, just maybe someday you too will be able to truly see the Gift in all of it. Hang in there dear one.

It has taken me six years, but I see it now and am thankful. ❤

This Christmas, my favorite Gift is not one I will find wrapped under the tree.

After all as the song says, you must go Dashing Through the Snow in that one horse open sleigh, in order to be laughing ALL the way. 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays my friends!!

img_9122-1Thanksgiving 2016

 

 

P.S.  The picture of the gifts at the top of this page……the gift with the zip ties is the gift Madi gave Tyler last year at Christmas.  🙂  A fun sense of humor is another thing that has gotten us through all of this…..but that will have to be a post for another day. 

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~Also as an update on Curt, he is struggling a bit lately……all things we anticipated during End Stage Alzheimer’s and they are a typical sign of the long journey of a disease that offers no cure or positive treatment plan.  However, he does still maintain his contagious laugh and humor. Just yesterday I was showing him the pizza scene clip from Home Alone, he laughed so hard I had to remind him to breath! 🙂  We are thankful for that!!~

 

 

Good Grief

A few months ago I was at my annual Gynecologist appointment.  As I checked in the receptionist was going over my emergency contact info.  She asked, if my current address was the same, and what my cell number was.

She then told me she has my husband Curt listed as an emergency contact.

I didn’t say anything for a few awkward seconds.

She asked if I wanted to make a change to the emergency contact.

After a long pause again with a long sigh, and I said, “Yes I probably should”

It was at that point she proceeded to tell my how she was recently divorced and had to get her ex off of all her emergency contacts.  She said, “Look I can remove him easily, it’s no problem, then you are free of him!”

I said nothing

Just a simple, thanks and gave her the names of my kids to put in for the  emergency contact.

 

I wanted to tell her He is NOT my ex, he is my sweet husband who is struggling with the horrors of Alzheimer’s and can no longer dress himself, feed himself or use a bathroom with out help.  I wish so much that he was still my emergency contact, the one who can take care of me in an emergency!!!

But I just didn’t feel like getting into it on that particular day.  Heck I was just thinking lets get this stinkin annual evil deed over with, after all this is the gynecologist’s office.  I was not really in the mood for chit chat before hand!

That kind of thing happens frequently

It’s a constant reminder to me of loss and grief.

 

Just tonight as I wheeled Curt around his new skilled nursing facility exploring it a bit.  I found myself meandering down a long hallway.  We came to a door and several windows.  I looked through the window to get my bearings as to where I was.  It was then that it hit me…….

those batting cages are right across the street.

………We sat right across the street from the very batting cages Curt would take Tyler to constantly.   They would work on Tyler’s swing and hitting a fast ball.  Oh the contrast was almost paralyzing. 

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Another reminder to me of the depth of our loss.

 

That is how grief is, when it hits, it hits hard. 

Alzheimer’s is a weird disease in the sense  you are confronted with grief while the person is still here.

With school starting next week, I always grieve the loss of starting back to school with out Curt.  This is the 5th year of Curt not starting back to school with me.

I start alone.

This October will be 6 years since Curt was first diagnosed. 

6 years!

Madi was in 8th grade running cross country, she had not even started her lacrosse career.  She couldn’t drive yet and was still short (ha ha, for those who don’t know my tall girl stands at 5’10)

Tyler was in 10th grade just beginning to dream of a drivers license and was starting the recruiting process for baseball after a trip to the College World Series. He was anticipating the start of High School basketball season.

I of course was young, athletic, skinny, cooking gorgeous healthy meals for my family every night while working full time……ok ok, but you get the idea.

Here they are starting school a month before Curt was diagnosed.

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Here we are this summer….a lifetime of high school and college memories that Curt does not know

View More: http://bekahgracephotos.pass.us/bethany2016

 

Oh the life we have lived with out Curt understanding or realizing the significance of so many family events and milestones.

You see this grieving has been going on for 6 years.

We have grieved many losses;

The day Curt had to stop driving

The day he stopped teaching

The day he could not longer dress himself on his own

The day he could not longer pitch to Tyler

The day he needed help being fed

 

And I could go on and on.

 

Life has been a struggle.  This summer the wrath of the storm of the last almost 6 years finally caught up with me.  Early summer was hard as I was really coming to terms with the onslaught of the grieving process and all we have lost.

I have learned a lot on this journey and honestly that is one of the biggest things I have learned…that it is a journey.

Grief, struggles and difficulties are a journey. 

They don’t go away in an instant.

I often pleaded with God to just make this easier, send a magic Easy button down to me that I could push and everything would be okay.

But yea, that didn’t happen. 

You have to keep pressing on

Keep seeking

Keep pleading

Acknowledge that you can’t do this with out God, and realize God is not always the quick fix God. Struggles can last for a long time, but God is still in it. 

I am reading a book by Elizabeth Eliott, “The Path of Loneliness.” She shares a passage from her journal shortly after her husband was brutally murdered in the jungle of his mission field.

” Yet I find that events do not change souls.  It is our response to them which finally affects us”  and little farther down in the passage…”The power of the Cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering.”

 

Yes dear friends, those of you who are struggling with fears, worries, grief, weariness, loss. 

God will see you through it, it took a long time for me to understand this.  I wanted God to fix it, heal Curt, make this nightmare all go away, make life easier.

But He didn’t

And after 5 years of struggling through all of that, I am now emerging from the cocoon of His provision.  I now see that His grace is sufficient, and God’s strength is what has sustained me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you My strength is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It has taken me 5 long years to understand that and believe it. I am only starting to understand the GAIN of LOSS.  What I have gained in relationship to the Giver far outweighs our loss.

Hang in there dear one if you are struggling, rough days may not go away but if you keep seeking and pleading, God will see you through it. The Gain of Loss is yours to find and cling to in the storm.  ❤

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Curt in his new facility!  The transition went really well….yes He is seeing us through it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walks of Life

IMG_6316Curt now spends a great deal of time in a “Broda” chair,  it’s a like a recliner on wheels. As of late he has not been content in the chair, he moves his legs in the chair constantly, sorta rocking it up and down in an attempt to get up.  The problem is, if he does get up and walk around, he gets tired easily and becomes a fall risk.  It’s one of those difficult situations, with no easy answer.  However, I have noticed he calms down immensely when I walk the hallways with him in his chair, his sporadic, uncoordinated movement begins to ease up and his eyelids grow heavy.

So lately I have been spending a lot of time walking the halls of the memory care facility with him.

During our walks, I often find my thoughts drifting back to another  big walk we  took together.  I remember walking the halls of our local hospital all through the night until the sun came up while in labor with Tyler.  We walked, we talked, we prayed and anticipated our future together as a family.

Now we walk the halls of a memory care facility, I can barely understand anything Curt says anymore, he is either awake, agitated and antsy or tired, calm and serene.  He still smiles and laughs, but not quite as frequently as he did.

Our dreams for our future at the hospital that night in December, have now faded into the black hole of Alzheimer’s.

And I guess that is why I have struggled as of late to update this blog…….I have been grieving.

I  had a rough winter….not horrible, but for me, and my usual optimistic self it has been difficult.

I am weary

I miss Curt and his wisdom, guidance, care and companionship

I miss the kids since they are both now at college

I am weary

I am tired of taking care of everything and making decisions with out Curt’s wisdom and insight.

I am tired of taking care of taxes and filling out the FAFSA (ha ha, ok that is just something Curt would thrive taking care of, I on the other hand DREAD it all)

I am just tired, stuff bothers me more, there is always this huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over my head.

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However, during all of my grief and calling out to God, I have found something.

Something I anticipated, but waiting for it was not in my plan.  I am a millennial generation baby boomer…..I don’t wait well. 🙂

A treasure, a gift, I have just begun to unpack…..

I am learning to embrace the promise of Romans 8:28

And we KNOW that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

It was a struggle for a long time, to think God is working this out for good…..like you’re kidding me right??  There is no good in having your husband diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 46, when your kids were 13 and 15?!  How can that be GOOD!?

But then I received a hand made prayer quilt in the mail recently from a prayer ministry in North Carolina.  As I pulled it out of the wrapped box, I was confused as to what it was.  The backside of the quilt was a busy mess, but when I turned it over, I saw the completed quilt and it’s full beauty.  If I only looked at the back of it, I would see an angry mess, in disorganized chaos.

If I just looked at my circumstances I see a deplorable, emotional MESS of chaos and loss.

But in the big picture of ALL that God is weaving together, the quilt of life comes together and I start to see how God is weaving all of this into His perfect plan.  If God leads you to it, He WILL see you through it……..it may not be easy, but He will see you through it. 

Not gonna lie, this has NOT been an easy journey, but as I look back on it the last 5 years, God has provided for us above and beyond.  He has met our big needs and little needs.

 

Okay now stick with me on this analogy……….You know how sometimes when you are out driving and you realize you are starving hungry…..Like seriously famished, I could eat a horse kind of hungry.  Then you eat some random granola bar you find in your glove compartment to hold you over until you can get real food.  You are satisfied for a bit, and you feel a little better and can press on until the big meal comes.

Well if you are still with me on this one, that is how God has been providing for us.  Sure I wish the big meal would come and make it all okay, but the little morsels of His truth, strength, and grace is what keeps me going on a daily basis. I feel a little better and can press on through the day.  His strength is what keeps me going, those little morsels of strength keep me, keeping on!

  It’s only when I look back do I see how many times He has given me that random granola bar when i needed it to get through the day.   A friend drops off a meal, someone volunteers to help with yard work at the right time, a friend stops by to see Curt, a card comes in the mail filled with kind words and encouragement, God meets our looming financial needs in BIG ways, a friend invites me out to dinner when I need it, God speaks in a big way to me through His word, I hear a song and I am brought to tears, yet ultimately encouraged through the words. 

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Oh friends I do believe God is working this out for His glory, but for anyone who is struggling with the onslaught of rough times, do know it’s not always going to be easy, and at times it will downright suck.  But in the big picture of it all keep seeking, pleading, praying. Remember to snack on those random granola bars of provision that God sends your way to empower you to press on. Your life may look like one hot mess of grief and sorrow, but the Master quilter is bringing this mess all together for His Good.  Press on!

2 Chronicles 20:12 ……….We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you!

 

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

~Danny Gokey

“Tell Your Heart to Beat Again”

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~thanks for walking with us on this journey~

 

 

 

 

It’s a Wonderful Life

Yesterday while out doing a ton of Christmas type errands, I made a quick stop at our local credit union that has the Care For Curt account set up. Someone had graciously given us a $1,000 check last week and I wanted to deposit it.  I stepped up to the counter and went to hand the check to the teller ( who is one of Curt’s former students by the way) when panic set it.  I could not find it!  I checked my pockets, my wallet, went back out to the van, looked around the parking lot thinking I may have dropped it….the check was no where.

As I scoured the parking lot for the check I was having thoughts of the scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life” when Uncle Billy lost a HUGE bank deposit.

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If you are familiar with “It’s a Wonderful Life”, the lost money is a catalyst for the movie. Things begin to unravel pretty quickly for the kind hearted George Bailey after the money goes missing.  But in the end the movie reminds us, in the most dire of situations help arrives from friends, family and the town of Bedford Falls.

Do you see the parallel?

 

We have been at a turning point with Curt’s care and I honestly did not know what to do?!

I prayed

I prayed some more

I pleaded for direction from God

I even yelled at God and told Him I hate making these decisions, and well………. I did kind of mention in a fit of anger that I sure wish Curt was able to help with the decision making. It all just pretty much poured out………….

And I have come to learn, it’s ok to bring my grief, my anger, my frustrations, my worries, and my heartache to God.

For in those moments I have gained the strength to step out in faith, to Trust God completely with the unknown future.  It’s not always easy, and at times it’s down right H.A.R.D.

But it is in those deep valleys of life that we often see something that may have been missed in the normal chaos of a busy life.

We get to see God’s provision and blessing first hand on such a deep and personal level!

 

YES, we have been blessed!

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God has  provided for us through this Go Fund Me account that was set up to help with care expenses for Curt.  It is amazing to see all the donations to the account.  We now have 3 more months paid for, Curt was to run out of money in February!

 

It is a Wonderful Life, we are so thankful for the opportunity to see first hand the handiwork of God.  We have been blessed like in the movie by our friends, family and our town!

I have learned to take a moment and pause…..it’s hard in my task driven world to slow down.   However, when I do, it is then I see God and His goodness and provision first hand.

Do you see how even in the hard times, it is a wonderful life!

 

So back to my check…….I found it!   Unlike Uncle Billy I did not accidentally give it away to the town scrooge (aka Mr. Potter). My overworked and weary brain simply left it sitting on the kitchen table.

But the whole incident was a good reminder to me about the priorities of life.

I showed my students a video the other day of the classic story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

This endearing quote from the movie struck a chord with me this year:

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

 

Yes Christmas does mean SO much more than all those gifts under the tree, and our sweet family traditions.

It is about a dear baby born in  humble, destitute surroundings that came to change the world.

Lyrics from O’ Holy Night
Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

 

Christmas is so much more to us this year, our greatest Gift is Jesus and God’s ongoing provision for our family.  Thanks for lovin on our family!

Merry Christmas….. It is a Wonderful Life, may we all pause this Christmas to see it.

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P.S  Are you allowed to have a P.S on a blog? 🙂  This is 2 blog posts with in the last 2 months….that my friends truly is a Christmas miracle! ha ha

 

 

 

 

 

The Storm

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3 weeks ago just as I was settling in for the night, this random storm hit out of no where.  It had been a rainy day, but I had not anticipated anything like this as I am a bit of a self confessed weather geek.

I was upstairs, as I heard the winds pick up outside pretty quickly. I decided it was best to go to the main floor of the house, as soon as I got there I heard all kinds of debris hitting the house, i immediately  headed to the basement!

As I took refuge in the basement I could hear the chaos outside, I heard all kinds of “big things” hitting the house and I heard several trees fall in the woods.  And just as I was about to cower under the steps in the basement, the storm stopped! I emerged from the basement and made my way outside onto the deck.

It was dark out but I could tell there was damage to my deck and the yard, but I could not see the woods.

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So I anticipated sunrise the next morning so I could get a better idea of the damage.  As soon as there was enough light I was out checking things out.

Now please keep in mind, I did have damage, but in the big scheme of things, it really wasn’t that bad.

So I was surprised at my reaction.  As I surveyed the woods…….. my beloved woods, I got a little emotional and overwhelmed by the damage.  In the 20 years we have lived here I have never seen it this bad.  There were some 10-12 trees down between our house and the neighbors and I  had some minor damage to our deck, some siding and the gutters.  But just looking at the carnage of it all really got to me.  I survived the storm fine, but it was seeing the wrath of it all laid out before me that really got to me.

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The aftermath of the storm got me thinking……that is kind of how my life has been the last 5 years…….a STORM!  It has been chaotic on so many different levels,  working full time and raising two busy, sports minded teens and taking care of dear hubs has been a storm.  I can not even begin to describe the constant chaos and surging emotions that we have dealt with the last 5 years.  But alas, both kids are off to college and Curt is well cared for at a memory care facility…..and I am left home to survey  the “storm damage” from the last five years.

When your life is crazy you focus on the big picture and learn to leave some of the details behind.  You learn to look beyond the giant clothes pile on the floor and focus on the fact that you have clothes to wear to your job/school each day,  you let the garage go and just throw junk in there that you are too busy to think about what to do with it, your landscaping over grows, you have dog pee on your carpets and you don’t care,  you don’t follow up with routine household maintenance, you miss your dentist appointments and the dog doesn’t see the vet for 2 years….you get the picture…..and you know what,  it’s ALL OK…..you are too busy to deal with the details, you surviving each day.

But now, I am slowly picking up the pieces of the chaos.  People often ask me what I am doing now that I am an “empty nester”

Well let me assure you sipping tea and reading a book isn’t in picture quite yet.  There is still much to take care of,  catch up on, and slowly start to return some degree of normalacy to our very not normal life.  It is like I am slowly re-entering the world again.

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It’s a real weird place to be right now, I miss Curt terribly.  The Curt I visit every day is sweet, cute and so endearing.  While I am happy he is that way… Curt  was not a cute, endearing guy.  He was man’s man, he hated to shave, he sweated up a storm while playing drums, he watched football with a passion and yelled loudly at the TV during a game, he ranted about politics and trash talked anyone about his Eagles,  he loved to pitch baseball endless hours to Tyler and had a goofy engaging sense of humor.    That was my honey!  🙂  And I miss that guy.

 

But through all of this the ONE thing that remains constant with  Curt is his passion for the Lord!  He loves when I pray with him, he verbally eeks out those amens as we pray together.  He still cries every time I play the Chris Tomlin song, “I Will Rise” and he sits so calmly when I read the bible to him.

Yes it’s been a STORM, But God reminds me constantly of Job 2:10, when Job speaks to his wife and says:

..You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from  God, and shall we not receive evil?……

And the words of Philippians 4:11 frequently echo in my mind:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, FOR I HAVE LEARNED IN WHATEVER SITUATION I AM TO BE CONTENT.

It’s hard, honestly it sucks at times…….. but do you see the word learned?  It’s a reminder to me that I am learning, it’s a process.  Some days are really harder than others….but I am learning to be content and TRUST God’s plan in the storm.

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~And our crazy journey continues, as I met with an elder care attorney today to make plans for the future and will probably have to move Curt to a new facility.  Things get kind of complicated as we run out of money to private pay in March, so I am checking into Medicaid funding for Curt.  Prayers are appreciated as we move forward, there are no real easy answers in terms of funding with this disease.

 

Curt on the other hand is actually doing pretty well.  He was recently taken OFF of hospice care since his weight remains stable and he has not had as many falls.   He has been stable for the last 6-8 months or so.  He laughs a lot, eats well, is tired frequently, his face lights up when he sees me and still knows the kids and his friends and family.  He loves to listen to music, and  will often say with clarity when listening to music when a cool drum part is coming up….”wait for it” He rocks out to that 80’s rock, stuff he played in his teen years.  His speech is hard to understand, I only know about 10% of what he says.  But he smiles a lot and that makes a hard pill a bit easier to swallow. 🙂

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The kids and I at Liberty Univ. about 3 weeks ago on a lovely fall weekend.  Pressing on and making new memories. Trusting the Lord and His Plan.

Dearest friends, thanks for being there for us IMG_4527

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

 

 

 

 

 

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! 🙂

college roomates

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

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! 

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

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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!