Caregiving is stressful. There’s no way around that. Whether it is a parent, spouse, or child, it is emotionally and physically hard. When I’m stressed I turn to food. Sugar most often, but any kind of food will do. As a result, when I was caring for my mother, I gained a lot of weight. I had always identified with being slender, so the new reality was hard to adjust to. What better way to deal with it than denial?
But our sins catch up with us, whether we want to believe that or not. And my health has suffered. After Mom passed away, I had joined a weight loss group and lost some of the weight, and in my mind I only had about 15 pounds to go. Which stubbornly resisted. Then my focus went to my in-laws and while my weight didn’t go back up, I didn’t lose any pounds, either.
Fast forward to the end of last year when one health crisis after another hit. Diverticulitis, respiratory flu, high cholesterol, and a stabbing pain in my wrist that made me unable to even lift a pan out of a cupboard. A trip to the DenBoer clinic was in order and I really didn’t like what I heard. I didn’t need to lose 15 pounds, but 30. My half hearted effort at health care had to change. The first order of business was to get my gut back in good order.
Gluten free, dairy free, caffeine free, sugar free, supplements, and a walking program has done a lot for me in terms of energy, pain levels, and creativity. But the weight wouldn’t budge. Finally, I started keeping a food journal again and lo and behold - I’m eating too much. Just keeping a mental track of things was not enough. Writing down every mouthful gave me a reality check of what I need to change in my life.
I think that applies in all areas of our lives. Living with intention. Paying close attention to what we’re really doing instead of what we think we’re doing. The bible talks about that in the book of James. Chapter 1 verses 23-25 in the New American Standard says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
It is so easy to know the truth, but to practice it? Ah, that is the challenge, isn’t it?
One day this week I was able to teach a delightful young girl (and her grandma) some basic techniques in watercolor. We had a fun morning playing with paint, wax, and salt; creating lovely paintings of the cosmos.
When they left I went home, changed, and drove to another town nearby to attend a funeral of a long-time friend who will be dearly missed by his friends and family.
Life is a roller coaster. Highs and lows in one day - sometimes within one minute. When I shared that, a friend mused that life is terminal. So I’d better keep painting.
That is good advice.
Happy birthday, Mom.
She would have been eighty-eight today. Yesterday, we celebrated Dad’s 97th birthday. He didn’t remember it was his birthday, of course, but we celebrated anyway. No more presents since he has no need and really doesn’t know what to do with them. But cake and cards and a visit are always good. He was having a good day and we had a pretty good conversation, albeit repetitive. I sent photos to the rest of the family.
August is birthday month for us. The first is my birthday and Mike’s is at the end of the month. Throw in my grandmother and father and you can see why years ago my mother won a trifecta betting on a horse called Mr. August. August is our month.
The morning of my birthday, I got a beautiful text from a friend who’d just finished reading my book. With all the hustle and bustle of caregiving, doctor visits, and house maintenance, I’ve set the promotion of the book aside. But after receiving her message, I realize I need to get back at connecting with bookstores, libraries, and agencies on aging because that’s the reason I wrote it. To touch the hearts of people who need to hear about hope and forgiveness in the midst of the difficult times of caregiving.
If you’ve read the book, Forgive and Forgotten, please post a review on Amazon to help others find its message. And feel free to let others know I’m available to speak about rejection, forgiveness, and caregiving for a dementia patient.
Blessings on your August!
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.