Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Virginia Turns 99 Today

Sunday birthday cake with our church bunch
Some of her friends
We celebrated after church on Sunday at Grandmother's House Restaurant.

The seniors at church got
her a special cushion
for her wheel chair.


She has a great sense of humor. The birthday card I got her says that all our friends are jealous of how we look at our ages; that card opens and you hear music--perfect for her good hearing. She laughs at this.  Together we get along.  I tell her I don't hear well (I have hearing aids) and she doesn't see well. We make one person. We have both buried two husbands and have learned a lot about each other. 

Virginia visited by
Choir Director Bess. 

She sang in the choir for 60 years and when I visit her, we choose a hymn she knows by heart for the weekly Praise and Prayer Meeting held at the residence where she lives.  She used to cook dinner at her home for the Praise and Prayer Meeting. That whole prayer meeting moved to Huntsville Health and Rehab Center when she had to move there! 

She is a proper lady. She regularly gets out with a driver for her car. She goes to a church Bible study and Sunday services. She gets her hair and nails done.  December of 2015 when I first moved to Huntsville, we went to the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist. She stood for the Hallelujah Chorus pulling herself up with the bench in front of her. 

Through her I have learned to love old hymns and value taking time to pray for one another. We adopted each other.

Happy Birthday, Virginia!

I want to be like you when I am 99. 

How would the LORD get me to my church's prayer meeting? I broke my two feet and ended up there for three weeks (what my insurance covered).  Now I keep going. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What to Tell Someone Newly Diagnosed With Alzheimer's

Today would have been my late husband's 80th b.d. I recorded his illness and last days on this blog. He died from mixed dementia (Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's) in our Plant City home on June 23, 2014. He was told the news that he had this disease with the doctor's simple,

Mr. Johnson, you have dementia. 

No other instructions. Nada. So I, his wife and caregiver, had to come up with a plan. On retrospect, I wish he had been told these instructions.

  1. Mr. Johnson, live life for each day.
  2. Organize your finances. 
  3. You don't need to work forever. Plan to retire.
  4. Your mind will play tricks on you and you need to trust your wife to be your helpmate and help you to decide each day. She will give you a schedule so you know what is happening.
  5. Stop using guns and equipment that might not be safe for you or others. Eventually you will not be safe to drive. 
  6. You will eventually need help recognizing your surroundings because you do not feel at home. You want to "go home". But accept your wife and other caregivers judgments. 
  7. This life is not all. You as a Christian have heaven to look forward to. Your wife and others will be there for you. 

But we learned as we went along. 

Happy Birthday in Heaven,
I will always remember you.

Monday, September 25, 2017

September Alzheimer's Association Walks

Botanical Gardens
September 9th I walked in the Huntsville, Alabama Alzheimer's Association walk and appreciate the friends who contributed to this walk. Note that I made a skirt from previous walks. 

Since this blog has a Facebook "Like" page, I decided to boost the picture and also to use it as the header for that like page. I received so many likes on that page--236 to date. I reached 2,328 people before I stopped running the ad.  Good decision to make a skirt out of previous walk T-shirts and glad I ran the ad. Now to pay for it! 

There was to be another walk in Decatur, Alabama about 45 minutes away on September 23. I volunteered to help there also. 
Dianne Pierson leading the Decatur program
Me helping in the Decatur booth

Paisley's  master died, but the son carries on the tradition of walking.
Dogs grieve too as did my dog after my husband died from Mixed Dementia. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goals and Bucket List for 2017

Highlights of the 2016 year include putting two new raps on YouTube ("While You're Still One" and "Rocket City Ditty"); finishing the dissertation "Finishing Strong With Dementia Caregiving", except I have to defend it; and walking again after breaking both feet in August.

Cast and boot in August

So what are my new goals that 
you all can hold me accountable for?


  • Get a Fire Tablet or borrow an iPad for the Skype defense of my dissertation
  • Learn self-checkout at Wal-Mart


  • My weight is on a plateau, but I do go to Weight Watchers so I didn't gain back the 40 pounds I have lost. Lose 10 to 15 pounds to add to weight I have kept off.
  • Use walker when ice outside so I do not fall again.
  • Use the gym at my apartment three times a week.


  • 2017 Bible Reading Plan

  • Consistent prayer life. Ask others how can I pray for you. Continue going to my church prayer meetings once a week.
  • Encourage others--give them warm fuzzies and only constructive criticism when asked or if wise.
  • Visit the residents at the nursing home where I stayed for three weeks. 
  • Join the church in Huntsville I am active in.


  • Defend dissertation successfully.
  • Read more books. 


  • Visit sights in Alabama and maybe elsewhere. 
  • Read novels.
  • Find TV shows to enjoy. I really didn't watch TV much as a caregiver for my late husband.
  • Wear hats to church often.
  • Enjoy Southern culture.

  • Paper decluttering
  • Clothes--get rid go them and only wear what looks good on me
  • Kitchen--only keep what I use


  • Consolidate four credit cards for a lower rate and pay off as much as I can this year. Used credit too much during my caregiving years.
  • Save
  • Use IRA withdrawal for dog Ziggy’s operation, etc.
  • No new credit cards

How about you?
Do you have similar goals?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Coming Home

My legs beyond the skirt
You can see Huntsville in the window. September 23 I waited for the doctor to enter, hoping he would say,

Carol, you can take the right boot off and drive! 

Instead when Dr. Franklin entered,  he said the X-rays were great and

You may take both boots off!

I was thrilled! I had to wait a few days for the pain opiate to get out of my system to drive, and I switched to Tylenol Eight Hour for pain. I used my families' bins to pack up my car. My brother drove behind me and unloaded the car since I use a walker now. 

I had seen dog Ziggy twice since the accident. Once Sandra (who graciously kept him over 45 days) brought him to the nursing home, and another time I saw him in a doggie park. 

After several days getting settled--things like figuring out how to take a shower safely, getting the handicapped permit for my car, getting groceries, starting vigorous physical therapy at home to unfreeze and mobilize my feet, I missed Ziggy.

I called Sandra and invited her to bring Ziggy back and have dinner with me. Now I cheated! I bought dinner in because I don't stand to cook too much yet. Sandra is such a great new friend from my new church here. Imagine doing that for someone--keeping their dog! Apparently Ziggy was fun for them and they had recently lost a dog. 

Ziggy and I love being together. He wants to walk farther than I am capable of walking, and he needs to adjust to short trips.

Today a Facebook friend suggested I just take him to a doggy park. Will do. I can sit and he can roam! 

Monday, September 5, 2016

I live in a nursing home for almost three weeks!

Huntsville Health and Rehabilitation 
Never had to put my late husband who had mixed dementia in a nursing home. Had the privilege of having him in our Plant City home all his days. However two years later I have recently had the nursing home experience--not in Plant City, Florida, but in Huntsville, Alabama where I moved a year after he died.

Prayer. Breaking both ankles will send you to ER and then in my case to Huntsville Health and Rehab right across the Parkway from my apartment. The LORD has such a sense of humor 'cause this is the very facility that my Huntsville church has a prayer meeting in! So now I have been to prayer meetings there and expanded my prayer opportunity for my church and for the residents and staff I have met.

Residents. I have been able to identify dementia patients there. The first night I sat in someone's spot in the dining room. She said, I have sat here all my life! Of course she hadn't, but I got up and moved. No use arguing with a dementia patient!

I met lonely residents, parked here with little interaction and no visitors. When I can walk and drive (when my two legs are healed), I will come back to visit them. These three weeks have changed me. 

Nursing Staff. My mother was a nurse. She advised,  Carol, become a teacher. I see why after living in this nursing home. The tasks and responsibilities are endless. Maybe thankless. The staff is expected to counteract the realities of old age and disability. Teaching is easier, but just maybe nursing is more rewarding than teaching. They were great, and when I complained they heard me. The administrator even gave me her personal cell number and let a new friend give me a new hairdo in the home beauty salon!

Therapists. I had Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists. I thought I would have time to polish my dissertation and read--not so. Therapists would find me and the sessions would begin. I was very glad I had been using the gym at my apartment house because it gave me a "leg up" (pun intended). Sessions included hopping on the better leg for use with a walker. I was happy about my upper arm muscles being toned because of my old lady wings. Occupational therapists prepared me for when I would leave the facility and would have to dress and cook.

Now the speech therapist sessions were optional for me, but I elected to take the training. I had haunting thoughts about my own memory from all I have been studying. It turns out the memory enhancing skills I learned help with normal aging and some studies (such as The Nun Study) suggest that mentally, socially and physically active seniors are less likely to get Alzheimer's. The cognitive therapy that I was given is very interesting and useful to me.

I am now staying with my family and having home health care several days a week after Labor Day. They put in this railing so I can get in the house from their garage and have been most hospitable; the nursing home physical therapists trained me how to walk up steps with the aid of my brother and a gait belt. You put your best foot up first on the way up; on the way down you put your worst foot down first.

But there are a group of residents that are my new friends. I had many visitors in my 19 days in this nursing home, and I can never repay them, not to mention Sandra and Richard who are taking care of dog Ziggy. I am going to "pay it forward" by visiting my new friends. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Becoming a Care Receiver

The place where I fell--added later.

Wednesday night, Aug. 10, I took my dog on a long walk. On the way home I fell in the street. It was dark and as best I can tell I started slipping into a drain. I fell on my rear and the top of the concrete would not give way. My feet crunched! I yelled for help in the street and people came. I called for my neighbor on my cell phone to come get my dog while an ambulance came to get me. The pain was excruciating and I rapped while on the way to the hospital to effectively block my mind from the pain. 

Thursday morning I had surgery. I asked for anesthesia that doesn't promote Alzheimer's since I know about that--don't think I have AD however.  In surgery I had a cast put on my left foot for a tib/bit fracture and other metal pinnings and a boot put on my right foot for a simple break at the button of my feet. Gradually I am hopping on the right foot to use the port-a-potty in the hospital but it is not easy.

Left foot cast; right foot only to hop on with the boot
Monday morning I was transferred to a rehab place not far from where I live. My brother drove me with my own car which was the right height for my late husband and now for me to get into and out of. Sandra from my church had taken my dog for a month on that Thursday  or maybe longer.

Ziggy had obvious help from Sandra to write:

"Hi mommy I slept well last night. I got a bath today I wanted you to see how pretty I am. I was a good boy when I got my bath and it really felt good. I ran and I ran and I ran and played ball after my bath. I made everybody laugh! I hope you're feeling better. I love you, Ziggy"

I have had to cancel substitute teaching which I will miss until I can literally get back on my feet. I rap at the end of good classes and have gotten quite a reputation as a rapper here in Huntsville--MC AC The Rap Lady on YouTube. The man who took my blood in the middle of the night in the hospital is a bus driver during the day and the high schoolers all talk about me on the bus he says. 

Now the staff here at the rehabilitation place are learning about my rapping. The first day was VERY hard for me, but I am adjusting. 

Thanks for your prayers, folks. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dating As a Widow

The world has changed. Dating has changed. Betty Friedan changed the male/female in the work place over forty years ago and women have become more bold. Many women do not believe in enduring relationships and even forego marriage. For the Christian woman, however, cohabitation is unacceptable. Contemplating dating may help the widow realize she has come far in her grieving, or dating can be a disaster for her. Here are lessons I think are important.

Lesson one. TIME. Give yourself time to heal from the loss of your husband. If you date too soon, you will be both comparing and grieving. Some aspect of the person will be different from your late husband and that will bother you. Or if something reminds you of your late husband it can be a grief moment. I dated too soon with the death of my first husband and counseling for a year helped me pick up the pieces. I had heartbreak on top of grief to deal with.

Lesson two. COMMONALITY. Ask yourself if you have anything in common with your date. What commonalities are important to you? For me, the Christian faith and theology are important. Life will continually throw fast balls and without a faith to navigate life's trials a relationship or even marriage will not work in my humble opinion. You have to rise above the loneliness and embrace wisdom. Does the gentleman value Scripture and worship of our LORD? Intelligence and emotional maturity are also important to me. Age, looks and money are not so important to me, but commitment to health might be.

Lesson three. TRANSPARENCY and TRUST. Are you able to be yourself with the date? Do they expect you to act a certain way? My brother advised me to not rap on the date, but his married daughter told me,

"Aunt Carol, just be yourself."

Trust must be earned. Often a divorced person will be very skeptical of a relationship possibility. I married and was widowed by two divorced men, and I think that our common Christian faith helped us be transparent and gain the trust of each other.

Lesson four. SOCIAL MEDIA.  What do they use? How do they wish to be contacted or not be contacted? It has all changed. This is not the olden days when women sat by the phone at home and waited to get a phone call. Today there are so many avenues of communication. Our girlfriends like to be contacted on social media, but men don't -- they often need to be in their "man cave". If they are truly shy, you may need to initiate I think if you would really like to get to know them. I like country singer Luke Bryan's song "Crash My Party" and maybe this song is so popular because the apparent extrovert Bryan easily lets his special woman into his life.

A caution is Facebook messaging. Do not accept someone as a Facebook friend who wants to sweet talk you and has no other friends but you. There is no way you can check them out. They may have seen on your profile that you are widowed. Oh well! They haven't even joined E-Harmony or some other site. Messaging you has cost them nothing and could turn out to be a scam.

Lesson five. FRIENDSHIP. Some old-fashioned men like to do the chasing. You walk a fine line between friendship and something more. Probably it is confusing for both of you. At least I think so. The age old advise of going slow applies. It doesn't hurt to just decide on a friendship at first and in the end.

Lesson six. FORGE A NEW LIFE. You don't have to date. You are forging a new life as a widow and it is okay to venture out with new friends both male and female and new experiences. Exercise some caution when you do venture out where men are involved. I took up line dancing when my first husband died and a married gentleman I met at line dancing lessons thought I would enjoy spending the night with him. I shot back,

"Why would I want a temporary fix! 
I am the kind you marry. 
Go home and love your wife, sir."

Lesson seven. LEARN FROM YOUTH. One high school student told me he would want to go on the first dates his widowed grandmother has to check out the gentleman! One young girl summed it up: "I want a guy to write me snail mail and just hang out with me!" Many young people are so wise.

Above all, widows, let the LORD be your husband. He will never let you down.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Sale of My Plant City Home

Back yard

It was about a year ago that the house went on the market after yard sales as I noted on this blog. The first week there was a buyer, who quickly got out. I moved to Alabama and the negotiations for the house included another buyer. Just when we were about to close, the buyers couldn't get insurance because the roof was too old and there were outlets that my late husband put into his workshop without a permit. Sale off. 

When the economy was better before his dementia my late husband and I had gotten a second mortgage, on advice from a financial consultant. That second mortgage would help us maintain the house he explained because we had less income. Surely the house would be worth more when it came time to sell it. We did use some of that money for improvements. The roof had been fixed in two places, but we never thought of replacing it. 

However the house didn't increase in value. When it came time to sell, it was "underwater".Short of foreclosure, the only other option was a cash buyer. 

The place looked occupied as I let neighbors put animals in the second back yard after I moved to Huntsville, Alabama. 

Cash Buyer Needed or Foreclosure

Enter Leroy  who lives in this neighborhood along with his wife. They recently celebrated their 60th anniversary! She has Parkinson's and I met them at my yard sales. I sold Leroy handicapped items for a dollar each--you know--port-a-potties, wheel chair, etc., and we became friends. He even gave me a chair.

It turns out Leroy buys houses to rent--for cash. Who would have thought? I called him when that second buy fell through. He made an offer for the short sale and it took from October 16, 2015 until this week for the negotiations to finish. Thank you, LORD.

Now Leroy is a fine Christian gentleman. When I rapped for him, he sang me this song.

Some people save their money
For the hard times that's to come
Planning for the future
For their daughters and their sons
But when life down here on earth is through
And we face the judgment throne
The only thing that matters
Is if to Him your soul belongs.

The only thing that matters
Is if you've been born again
Has the blood been applied?
Have you been forgiven of your sins?
'Cause when He opens up the book of life
And into your heart he stares
The only thing that matters
Is if your name is written there.

Thank you, Leroy, for this song and your testimony. It doesn't matter that the house didn't turn a profit. The only thing that matters is that I have real estate in heaven.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Love of a Caregiver Daughter

I had the privilege of interviewing an outstanding caregiver whom I had been corresponding with. My dog Ziggy and I were privileged to stay overnight with this couple. Over a breakfast of homemade biscuits Patricia said about her mother:

I was blessed with a great mother 
and I can do no less than care for her. 
She always tried to care 
for others in her family, 
selflessly giving even after she was disabled with leg fractures.

Her mother broke her hip and leg at age 84 requiring metal rods. Then 2 years later she broke the other leg in two places requiring rods and pins. Her resilience was amazing, but due to issues with blood pressure she began to lose her sight and have small TIAs. Then the dementia began as it often does in the 80s. Finally at 87 she had a stroke that paralyzed her left side and throat causing aspiration issues. Due to the extreme physical issues she was placed in a skilled nursing facility hoping for rehabilitation. Unfortunately a second stroke in rehab greatly reduced her ability to respond to therapy and today’s healthcare system discontinued the therapy due to lack of progress. 

This was a very stressful time for Patricia because she felt so helpless. She knew her mother didn’t qualify for therapy,  but without it she would just lose the existing strength and rapidly cycle downward. How do you watch a loved one lose their dignity and connection to reality? Her mother had good days where she was alert and realized that she was not getting therapy and therefore she had little hope of regaining function of her body and returning to her home. It is difficult to see a loved one lose their spirit and will to live. The 88-year-old mother also had a son, but he was not in a position to help. 

So for four years Patricia worked four days with the schools and then drove 3 and 1/2 hours to stay with her mother Friday through Sunday—so her mother could stretch her finances needed to pay around the clock caregivers allowing her to remain in her own home. Patricia said it overtook her life for those four years, greatly impacting the quality of her other family relationships especially the special time to share activities with her husband during their golden years together. She said that she always felt guilty trying to meet everyone’s needs at the same time and never doing a good job anywhere. Her mother had to pay $35,000 a year for Monday to Thursday caregivers when Patricia was not there during those four years. After the first major stroke her mother’s needs increased but Patricia was exhausted also. She had also developed physical ailments from helping to lift her mother over the last 2 years and now her mother would not be able to assist with any position transfers to prevent bed sores.

Something had to give. She was moved to live closer to the couple. They decided to have her dentist husband  hook up oxygen to create a sort of  SUV ambulance to move the mother to a nursing facility in their home town. The original plan was to receive therapy until she improved and could then assist with transfers and limited caretaking within Patricia’s home. Unfortunately, her health continued to degenerate and she was unable to make any physical progress. Now Patricia is able to visit her several hours a day and still have a life with her very understanding, caring husband.
I asked Patricia how she was able to sustain this selfless care giving for four years and even now going to the nursing home every day. She said,

I just do it.
I stay in the moment.
Then I’ve also let go of some 
other moments or expectations for my life.
I don’t look at it as an intrusion.
I know that once she is really gone
 I can’t touch her again, 
so for now it is all worth it.