A gift of words to my beloved olive shoot

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r-dayandafter210My arms reached down and pulled the orange-haired baby out of my body. Ten days late, I wanted to get this show on the road! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

That old song by Helen Reddy, “I am woman,” could have been my anthem cry. I felt like I could conquer the world by this one singular action. I still get rather uppity whenever I think about my hands being the first ones to touch my child and being the one to welcome him into the world personally. It was instant love and connection.

The delicious ginger boy I once cradled in my arms has now become a handsome 17-year-old man.

Today I honor him.

I praise the Lord for him.

My heart bursts to overflowing because of him and I’ll stop there or I’ll just start crying.

Sometimes it takes my breath away when I consider God’s goodness, how He knit that boy in my womb. I imagine most moms feel that way about their children, how blessed we are to hold vessels of love in our bodies, don’t you agree?

wh401Truly it is by grace that I am the mama to three awesome olive shoots. I know the person I was, I did not deserve such bounty. One day when I am before Jesus, I will tell Him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again into eternity.

Though I will never know what it’s like to have a daughter, I do know what it’s like to have a ginger.

Furthermore, I am an authority on raising an Isaac and could easily write a book on this journey.

These might be a few chapters –

Laughter – True to his name, Ike is the child who makes me reel with giggles. Once he gets going, there’s no stopping this kid. Often the Hubs will be driving and Ike will begin using one of his funny voices. Soon Ike and I are both competing each other for who can drive the Hubs the craziest with our silly antics and jokes. The Hubs will have to scream for us to stop because he lacks our jocularity. We rarely stop. 😉

Tenderness – As humorous as Ike is, he also has a gentle side. He is warmly affectionate to me even at this age and I have seen him deeply touched by the pain of others.  He recognizes others’ struggles and is on the side of the weak and impaired.

sc00305c8bLast year, I was sitting next to a boy during a basketball game. This young man attends our school and he has some disabilities. He beamed as he cheered Isaac on from the bleachers. This boy didn’t know I was Isaac’s mom and when I introduced myself to him, he said, “I love that guy.” I believed him, it was so obvious. When I asked Ike about him afterward, he smiled and said, “Tom’s (not his real name) the man.” Time and time again, I have noticed how my orange hair, freckle-face olive shoot has compassion for those who don’t really fit in with others. My heart bursts with joy each time I see the sincerity of his heart.

He’s the cool kid who is relaxed around people of different cultures and skin tones. He hopes to one day adopt and have a melanin-rich child in his family. I adore picturing Ike as a husband and a dad, he will be a wonderful leader and mentor.

Struggle – But it’s not like life has been easy for him. Ike had a speech problem when he was younger and it was only through hard work and perseverance that he was victorious over this.

Also having two high achieving older brothers can leave big shoes to fill. He often puts a lot of pressure on himself though we reassure him that we just want him to be the best ISAAC he can be. And at times, by his own admission, Ike can have a temper as red as his hair but because of what the Lord has done in his life, Ike usually (not always) can now control his anger and tongue. We rejoice in his accomplishments. God is good!

Humility – This is my precious OS who freely apologizes to me when he is a stinker. He desires to be in right relationship with the people he loves. Ike is able to speak into people’s lives because he knows what damage a prideful heart can cause. As a teenager, I cannot recall one single time when I genuinely apologized to the extent that my son does and trust me, like most of us, I should have done that with great regularity. Ike is the kind of kid you want as your friend because he will tell it to you straight and speak with a voice of experience and authority.

Suffering – This summer I sat Ike down and spoke honestly with him. Since he is the only boy living at home all year, I told him that I felt the Lord was calling Ike into a difficult time of suffering. He was going to get a front-row seat into Alzheimer’s and dementia that his brothers would not know. It would be a very painful time but one that the Lord would carry him through. His grandpa’s conditions were serious and there would be great sorrow. Although the situation has not mapped out exactly as I expected, my words have proven true. As much as I hate it (I will refrain myself about some other feelings I’m having…), Ike has been resilient and strong. His heart has been courageous beyond his years.

photoServant – Which leads me to the next part that I didn’t expect. Though Ike has faced great suffering, God has also recently blessed him with a super cool surprise!  A “little” brother! We are now hosting a Brazilian exchange student for the year! Instead of being the youngest brother, our ginger now shares his home with Chico, the 6’1″ dark-haired guy from the Sao Paolo area! The two are quite a pair and you can’t help but smile when Ike is helping him. He shows Chico how to mow the lawn, take out the trash and empty the dishwasher. Ike helps him with homework, the proper use of American slang and how deal with us as his foreign parents. My OS is a living example of how a teenager can live a Christian life and not be swept up by the world. Yes, it’s not always perfect but no one is and that’s ok. Ike truly pours himself out in joyful service to Chico in every way. There is a smile in our family with this new addition and in many ways, it’s because Ike takes the lead in caring for his new buddy/brother.

photoOctober 29th is a day which calls for great celebration! I am the mama to a strong, kind, talented, adorable, hilarious, gentle, super studly olive shoot! I love you, my Isaac.

A dozen things YOU can (and should) do to help people dealing with Alzheimer’s

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When this card arrived in the mail, I was so blessed!

When this card arrived in the mail, I was so blessed!

If you aren’t directly involved with someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia, you will be soon enough. Since becoming a very reluctant member of this community, I have been accruing thoughts, advice and opinions on lessons our family is learning along the way.

This is my partial list of observations and I imagine these tips are useful for anyone in a care partner role. If you are a long-distance family member and not involved in the daily care of an impaired person, you will avoid much strife by heeding these simple recommendations.

1. Do not add to the stress level. We realize you have your own life and struggles but if you grouse and complain about how busy you are, we want to throttle you. Ease tensions by remaining calm and kind, that’s what we are trying to do while fighting against a terminal illness.

2. Do not make idle excuses about why you can’t help. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If you are a hindrance to the care of a person with dementia, then you have become a burden. Sorry, but that’s the truth. Deal.

3. Reply to emails. If the care partner took the time to give you an update, the courtesy of a response is much appreciated. At the risk of being too demanding, may I also suggest something more than a one line reply? Tensions are high enough. You sacrificing your time to write a paragraph of communication will bless those in the midst of trouble.

4. If you don’t believe them, come find out yourself. Yes, it’s hard to even imagine a loved one having such tremendous difficulty with the simplest tasks. True, it is physically painful to hear of the almost hourly decline but suck it up. Second guessing people is useless and if you are suspicious, then spend time with the person and pay attention to the signs and clues that there really is a problem.

A message from a superbaby/ministry-minded olive shoot.

A message from a superbaby/ministry-minded olive shoot.

5. Encourage – I can’t tell you how much it has meant to me to receive frequent text messages from my OS saying, “You’re doing a great job, Mama!” It’s like a cookie to my soul and I gobble it right up. I know it has meant a lot to the Hubs to hear me inquire if he needs me with him to do something.

6. Don’t make suggestions on additional things they could do. For example, the Hubs and I have spent over 10 hours a day individually attending to our loved one’s needs. Even the mere suggestion that we might just run over and give this person daily medication is asking too much.

7. Listen. If a family member opens up to you and invites you into their hurt and pain, find the time to empathize. If you don’t have time to listen at that moment, offer another time when you can talk. I have noticed that care partners need to talk and unload. Once I get started, it’s hard for me to stop.

8. Contact the care partners. Appreciate their help. If you are unable to be there, then think of things you can do to acknowledge the enormity of the task. We are weary and thirsty and rarely get any appreciation from the person we are assisting. Usually we get just the opposite, quite honestly.

9. Contact the brain-diseased individual. Make all efforts to be in that person’s life. It’s kinda not about you, btw.

10. Educate yourself. Please don’t tell me you don’t like getting on the computer or reading or any such nonsense. I was reading other things before my life necessitated more education about this disease as well.

I am blessed with loving and caring friends. Here's just one example of the sweet people I know.

I am blessed with loving and caring friends. Here’s just one example of the sweet people I know.

11. Pray. Yes, pray. Lift these people up to the Lord. They are deep in the trenches. A friend sent me this Scripture the other day. Another cookie to my soul.

12. Send cards, be creative. When my grandma had Alzheimer’s, my sister arranged frequent Skype dates with Grandma. I felt reassured when Lorri gave us a virtual tour of my grandma’s assisted living center. The pang of knowing my grandma would never return to her home was lessened when I saw her new dwellings.

Which one of these suggestions resonates the most with you? What would you add to the list?

Rhymes with “witch” – a daughter-in-law’s journey

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A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

Under his breath, he muttered the word that rhymes with witch but starts with a “B.”

Only one person heard it

My youngest son

We were going to a wedding in Indiana

I was in the passenger seat, clueless, in a celebration dress

Quite honestly, I was being silly

It had been a stressful day.

But after the nuptials, on the way back to the hotel,

My youngest olive shoot says he’s in massive pain

Really sick, violently ill

We go to urgent care because Ike’s abdomen is cramping

And that’s when I learn the burden he had been carrying

Of course he felt sick to his stomach!

I mean what do you say or do when your grandpa calls your mom a cuss word and you’re the only one who hears it???

That incident happened three years ago and I’d be lying if I told you this didn’t create a rift between him (not my son, of course!) and me. I knew we couldn’t confront him about disrespecting me and putting our teenage son in a very awkward position. So we have sucked it up.

But I have kept my distance not to be hurt again. Plus I haven’t wanted my sons to feel that kind of slicing pain.

"Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering."

“Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering.”

But now here we are

The man has a brain disease

And he needs me.

So does my husband.

I can only do this because of Jesus.

Left to my own selfish abilities, I would have given up. I bruise easily.

But through Christ and with some distance and education behind me, I think that moment was just another sign that there has been a growing problem.

And that man who called me the word that rhymes with witch but starts with the letter “B.”

Guess what I’m calling him now more than I ever have done in my over 25 years of marriage?

I’m calling him

Dad ❤