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Saturday, March 16, 2013

We've Moved

Guess what?  I've moved my blog!  It's part of my new website.  Just click the link at the bottom of this post, and you'll be there in a blink.  Be sure to make a note of the new address:  www.colorsbylaurie.com

There's a brand new post waiting to be read, and a fun contest too.   Everything's been moved to the new location.


CLICK the link:   www.colorsbylaurie.com 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Thank you," he said.

This has been a hard week. In the midst of organizing Gary's medical records and browsing my notes from the "go-zillion" Dr. appts., lab reports and tests, some old feelings have been dredged up.  Again, I find myself tempted to despair.  It shouldn't come as a surprise, that these temptations sneak in when least expected.  You'd think, that since I've been so encouraged by the small, but measurable improvements in Gary's speech and balance recently, I'd be well defended against sadness but I must still guard against the Enemy's attacks on my joy.


Beginning in 2006, and for several years following, we were on a constant roller-coaster ride of emotions as we got devastating news, and experienced the steady falling-away of Gary's mind. On top of that were the secondary trials of finances, insurance changes, moving, changes in lifestyle, etc. There were many, many tears shed over those years.   Lately, most days, it has not been so bad, emotionally.  Acceptance has a lot to do with that.  This is who we are.  We have Alzheimer's Disease in our marriage. Proactively looking for blessings helps too.  Gary is not unhappy.  I actually think he is content as he lives "in the moment" and I enjoy my family, and my friends, and my painting.  I enjoy being with Gary.  We sit together on the sofa and watching Bull Riding, until he falls asleep.  I read the Bible to him sometimes, during the morning when he is alert.  Today I picked his apple up off the floor for him and he spoke to me.  "Thank you," he said. 

I am glad those extremely difficult days of testing, diagnosis, and fears of the unknowns are behind us, but I know there are likely to be extremely difficult days ahead.  We have been laid bare emotionally, and are being humbled under the hammer and chisel of Love.  With my whole heart I believe it is good for us.  It is getting easier to be joyful more of the time, but the last few days have been a good reminder to be on guard, and be aggressive about choosing thankfulness which results in joy. Sometimes saying "Thank You" to God is the furthest thing from my mind, especially when I don't like the gift He's given, and it's frightening, and dark.  But I know that He only gives good gifts.  He is a loving Father.  Choosing to have a thankful heart is sometimes a sacrifice, but it leads to the peace of God.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

"To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the LORD." Psalm 116:17

Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a wonderfully helpful book. It has become one of my favorites.  You can buy it  HERE on Amazon.com. 

“In those moments when I have found myself gasping for air, feeling that I was going under, I’ve discovered that gratitude truly is my life preserver.  Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions.  It buoys me on the grace of God and keeps me from drowning in what otherwise would be my natural bent toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety.”  DeMoss

"When prayer teams up with gratitude, when we open our eyes wide enough to see God's mercies even in the midst of our pain, and when we exercise faith and give Him thanks even when we can't see those mercies, He meets us with His indescribable peace.  It's a promise."  DeMoss

Here's a short video to help you in your search for the blessings all around you:  :)


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Practical Joking 101 - "Entry Level"



Gary's friend, Isaac visited us this week, and we had a great time remembering fun times.  He brought up one of Gary's jokes that I had forgotten.  It's an easy one, that anyone can do and it only costs 25 cents.


This is the front door of our old house.  At one of our yard sales probably around 2000, some coins got away from us, and rolled across the porch.  We all went scrambling to pick them up, but Gary, of course always on a different track, went for the epoxy.  He he came back and glued one of the quarters down to the porch right where he found it.  .

I wish I had a good photo of it, but believe me, there is a little speck there just to the left of the door, and it is a quarter.  It has been there forever, and for all I know, it still is.

I wish I HAD a quarter, (or even a dime, or a nickle) for every time someone tried to pick it up over the years. 

Many thanks to Isaac for making me smile. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Watercolor Journals - Abiding in the Vine

Right before Christmas, I had the privilege of painting this set of watercolors for returning clients.  They had asked if they could write a journal entry about their artwork for the blog.  Of course I said "YES"!  Their kind words are included below.


















"This lovely duo was a very special Christmas present for me.  My husband and his mother conspired with Laurie to surprise me as part of our plans to redecorate our living room.  My husband knew of my desire to ‘upgrade’ our current wall decorations with something less pedestrian and more personal.  He commissioned Laurie to create a pair of paintings that would coordinate with our color scheme as well as reflect the heartbeat of our home. Laurie went to great lengths to ascertain our styles, colors and tastes.  She noted the color schemes found throughout the home and the specific colors planned for the living room where the finished art would reside; she even used pictures of our living room to help in her creative thinking.   I couldn’t be more pleased! Laurie’s careful planning and artistic ability resulted in a beautiful pair of paintings that truly echo our heart and soul!"  S.K.

"I looked through Laurie’s previous work to decide on a gift for Stacy.  Particularly striking were her illustrations of vine.  This reminded me of God’s metaphor: Jesus is the Vine and believers are the branches that must abide in the Vine in order to bear fruit. (John 15:5)  Laurie has painted an excellent work by merging the imagery and text of Scripture together that is not only beautiful but aptly illustrates the believers’ fruit found only through belief and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior." J.K.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Few Days Early - A Love Story


As I was leaving on my errands yesterday, Becky and Karl said..."We're going to let Gary rest up this morning, because we want him to be be wide awake for our outing today!"  "Oh, what are you guys going to do?" I asked.  "It's a surprise!" was the answer. 

So, I went on my way.  It was a super busy errand day, and took me 6 hours to get everything done.  I was pretty tired coming home with my car full of groceries.  Walking in, of course Karl unloaded the heavy bags for me as usual, and I gave a quick look at my napping husband, and put the cold things in the fridge.  I sat down to see the photos of the day, which Becky has ready for me when I get home.  She said, "Have you said 'Hi' to Gary yet?  He has something for you."

Back to the other end of the condo, I went, excited to see what on earth it was.  I couldn't imagine. 

Well, see for yourself:






Gary had a card for me, clenched in his hand.  He was asleep, but holding it tight.



It started with a shopping trip to Stater Brothers.  Gary hasn't been inside of a grocery store in over a couple of years, so this was a BIG deal.  (The last time was in Trader Joes.  It was crowded, loud music, the toy train going around, and he actually said to me..."This is hard for me."  I never took him in a grocery store again.)






A Love Story Lily for ME!




Karl picked out some red tulips for Becky and Gary enjoyed feeling the leaves while Karl picked out some corn on the cob.  




The candy by the check out line attracted his attention.  He was always one for the impulse items. 





Gary pushed the cart himself, navigating quite well, with little assistance.  Both Karl and Becky were surprised by this.  








 Then when they got home, Becky said she handed Gary a small tipped Sharpie and he very carefully and diligently wrote me a note and signed it 'deliberately'.  (If you could see what he normally does with a pencil, you would see how different and special this is.  He did not chew on it, scribble with it or use it as screwdriver.)  She used my name often throughout the whole morning, and she and Karl were convinced that Gary understood what he was doing, picking out a Valentines flower and card for me.  He was "taking it all in."
Someone recently said to me that it is clear that I truly love my husband.  Yes, it's true ant the last few years have increased that love. 

There was a movie from the 70's called "Love Story"  it had one of the stupidest lines I've ever heard.  "Love means never having to say you're sorry."  Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Love means "We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19.  Gary and I love each other because Jesus Christ is the dominating force in our lives.  I am so thankful today.  For Jesus, Gary, and our sweet friends and care givers, Karl and Becky, for making our 2013 Valentines Day so special...a few days early.

Love Story Lily - From my Valentine -  2013




Friday, January 25, 2013

A.B.C.'s

Karl and Becky at Friendly Valley
These are two very special people.  Karl and Becky come twice a week to help Gary while I run errands, shop, keep appointments, and help my parents.  Technically they are Gary's Care Givers, but more than that, they have become our friends.  We've been acquainted for a long time, but since July, they have been officially helping us in more ways than I can count.  I call them the Above and Beyond Caregivers!  They are my A.B.C.'s  Here's why:


 Karl reads to Gary.  Sometimes Gary's memory books, and sometimes the Bible.


















One day, while there were hymns playing Becky noticed that Gary was mouthing the words to "How Great Thou Art," so she started a list of the songs that Gary was responding to, so she could tell me when I got home.  I add these to his ipod playlist that he listens to when falling asleep at night.

Add caption
  
Our community has a pool room, which makes for a nice outing for Gary.  Becky knows how Gary loves patterns, shapes and colors and arranges the balls in the triangles for him to see and feel.


Karl shoots some pool for Gary to watch.  The sound of the balls and the movement is stimulating and enjoyable for him. 








Simple text in large letters on a book cover, found in the Pool Room, and placed in front of Gary for him to read gives Gary the opportunity to keep using his eyes, and mind to read. 



This is one of their countless walks around Friendly Valley using the wheelchair, which is necessary once Gary gets tired and his legs get too wobbly.  Karl is so good at pointing things out to Gary and I'm sure Gary enjoys a male voice in his life, since so much of care giving is done by women.




On this particular day, Gary found a feather and
brought it back home.







 


Becky and I laugh about how many times Gary and Karl are looking over a wall in the photos.  This time, Gary was inspecting the rock work.  Karl appreciates a well-built wall as well and patiently waits for Gary to finish checking it out.  Details are so important to someone with dementia.  You never know what is going to catch their eye, and it takes a patient person to give them time to think about it.





This is the Valencia Car Wash.  Karl and Becky have taken Gary here several times.  Gary really enjoys going through the wash, and is fascinated with the water and equipment.  They buy gas too, and this is interesting to him.  It's the "guy" things he used to do on his own, and riding along with Karl is satisfying to him. 




 



He likes to try and put CD's into the player of their car, so they gave him a blank one that says "Gary's" on it.  He brings it when they get out of the car and inserts it into rock walls, and other places. 






 



At the nearby mall, there's plenty to do and during a weekday morning, it's uncrowded and easier to navigate with Gary. 



Always ready for a bite of Cinnabon!













Shooting practice in the Arcade













Becky having fun too!  (Don't you just love people that like to have fun regardless...)




A second childhood, perhaps???









video






Lombardi Ranch
 
When they get back from one of their "Adventures with Gary" he's tired, and ready for lunch. Karl and Gary usually watch some Discovery Channel, or Classic Car Restoration programs while Becky gives Gary lunch.  Today it was "Monster Trucks" which Gary watched intently.  When I show up toward the end of the day, Karl meets me at the car to unload the groceries and keeps the trash cans emptied.  To top it all off, Becky has photos ready to show me from the day's outing if there was one.  
It is not easy loading Gary in and out of the car, helping him walk in a straight line, standing up/sitting down, or feeding him lunch.  It would be easier to let Gary sit in a chair and do nothing.  But Karl and Becky CARE about us and are making many of Gary's days full and interesting, and I love them for that!



 
 
 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Last Three Weeks

Three weeks into the new year I have a few random newsy items for you.

Jason is a HUGE blessing.  Gary has adjusted beautifully to Jason's help throughout the week.  My back is feeling better and I'm able to run across the street and do things with/for my parents more often, now that Gary is not alone.  An added benefit, I didn't anticipate, is that with Jason here there is more going on, and more conversation to listen to. 

Gary and Jason
Enjoying The Master's College campus 

More news.  Gary's been talking (and trying to talk) more.  He has said a few short sentences in the last few weeks.  They are in context, if you consider his wit.  Sometimes, when asked a question, he looks into my eyes and moves his mouth/lips.  I don't know what he's saying but he's trying to speak.  It's hard to explain, but I can see the twinkle in his eye and we make a connection.  It lets me know that he's ok. Sometimes he says "That's Right."  or "Yep" when I'm talking with someone else or on the phone, like he's trying to participate in the conversation.  Becky and Karl got Gary a root beer the other day, and when they asked him if he liked it he said, "Always!"  I don't know the reason, but several things may be making a difference...We've cut back a bit on some of his medications for various reasons, and maybe he's feeling better over all, or more alert.
A visit from our good friends, John and Stacy
At Christmas our friends John and Stacy paid us a wonderful visit.  We see them so rarely, but Gary and John have been such good friends for so long, that I KNOW he enjoys hearing John's voice and we really had fun this year, as John was telling fun stories of all the practical jokes he and Gary played on each other during the "Gary Price Electric" days.  Gary watched John and was listening as he told the stories, and it was a true joy to see. 

One last thing...Ever since we moved into our condo, I wanted to change the paint and put some plants in our Atrium.  It is a little patio within the walls of our condo, which is open to the sky.  It has been a very ugly "institutional" green.  Between Christmas and New Years I finished painting it and added some of our Cymbidium orchids which we brought from Sunland.  The fountain was a present from Jon and April for my birthday.  I want to do more out there, but for now, every time I walk by the opening, it makes me smile.
Before
After



















HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Better Than I Deserve"

Big Sur 1974 - Our Honeymoon road trip
Things I repeatedly hear:  "It doesn't seem fair what you and Gary are going through."  "Gary doesn't deserve this."  "Why did this happen to you?"  Let me tell you, if Gary could speak, and you ask him "How are you doing?"...this is what he'd say.  "I'm doing better than I deserve."  In fact, he'd tell you that it's better to be living with "difficulty" than living "the easy life."  Wise Solomon said "It's better to go to a house of mourning, than a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart...The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7)  Thinking deeply about mortality, is a good thing to do.


September 2012
As Gary's wife and "caregiver" I am regularly reminded to "take care of myself, because I deserve it."  It's a common belief.  "Everyone deserves to be happy."  "We deserve to be safe."  "I don't deserve to be treated like ..."  But do I, or you, or anyone REALLY deserve to have a good, easy, or prosperous life with no worries or troubles?  Even though we are in the midst of this horrendous illness, Alzheimer's Disease, Gary and I are at peace. We are content.  I want to explain why.

Did you know that I'm a sinner?  Did you know that you are too?  Did you know that sin and evil are real and not just a mistake, mishap or oversight?   "Sin", though not a term that is used much any more,  is anything that men and women do (or don't do) that causes them to fall short of the standard of perfection set by the One who created them, regardless of how our culture tries to explain it away.   In fact, every person born on this planet is capable of doing evil things. When people continually reject God and pursue living for themselves, they can eventually be completely given over to horrible behaviors which are motivated by Satan, who, by the way, is real, and he's not a character in a red suit with horns, and a pitch fork.  The Bible says he "prowls around the earth like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour."  We see evidence of his activities in the news, but we also see in every human being, myself included, a selfish, sinful heart.

One of our fruit trees
Why?  It goes way back to the beginning of things when God made the world and everything in it.  He put man and woman in The Garden and gave them everything they could ever need including a relationship with Him.  I don't know how long their life of bliss lasted but one day, The Enemy, Satan, started putting seeds of doubt in their minds.  Just like me and just like you, they were tempted to think that maybe God was limiting them in some way, that they "deserved" more.  Maybe they knew better than their Creator.  You know the story.  Adam and Eve took things into their own hands, ate the forbidden fruit, and rejected God's way.  They didn't think God was going to satisfy them any more.  That is known as 'The Fall' and what a fall it was.  If we're honest with ourselves, we'd admit that every single one of us, would have done the same thing.  Even as a young person, I can remember choosing to do what I wanted, even though I knew it was not right. I often had prideful thoughts thinking I was better than others, and many times I didn't trust God and what He said.  Most people say pride is a good thing.  God says it is a sin.

Our old fig tree
So even though God placed Adam and Eve into the perfect world, they messed up.  Now, the earth, and people, had a curse to live with.  God's curse.  Things would not be easy.  Now there would be sickness, weeds, difficulty, and death.  "Not fair" you say?  That's because we don't really grasp the perfect holiness of God.  He is not like us.  He is not lacking anything.  He has complete knowledge and wisdom.  Everything He does is completely just AND he is completely merciful at the same time.  Like it or not, there's a price to be paid for human willfulness, that boldly shakes it's fist at God and says, "I don't need you!"  OR the more subtle "God fits into MY own idea of who He is, and I'll run my own life."  But, even though this is a hard truth, God's perfect justice demands punishment for anyone who would be so bold as to think they know better than Him. Eternal punishment for sinners.
   "The wages of sin is death..."  Romans 6:23

2008
As soon as they ate the fruit, knowing they had chosen to disobey God,  they felt guilty, ashamed and hid themselves with fig leaves.  We are just like them.  For thousands of years people have been trying to come up with a solution for their guilty feelings.  You know...that "yucky" feeling you have when you know you did something "wrong."  We try to ignore it, or justify it, or keep busy so there's no time to think about it, but every person on the planet knows they are fallible, and something's just not right.  There is a never ending search for peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, balance or even "religious" activities.  But sadly, most of the world's religions only lead to a deceptive sense of security, based on doing enough good things to please God and win His favor.  But no one can be good enough.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

Christmas 2012
We are sinful people living in a broken world, with no way to make things right or avoid eternal punishment.  But, God had a plan based on his great love for mankind. He would provide the perfect substitute, His son, to be punished in place of sinful people, IF they would admit their sin and throw themselves on His mercy and ask for forgiveness.  A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Christmas, The Advent (the awaited arrival).  Baby Jesus was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, but that was only the beginning.  He lived 33 years without any sin, ever.  Only God could do this.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  He was born so he could die on the cross and bear the punishment FOR US.  That's what we really deserve!  Eternal punishment.  That would be justice.  But instead God offers us a gracious gift.  He offers salvation.

"For by grace you have been saved, through faith: 
 and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  
Ephesians 2:8-9

Basically, God does it all the saving work.  He offers salvation to the spiritually blind, bankrupt, imprisoned, and oppressed.  (Luke 4:18)  People bring nothing to the table.  That's Love.  That's Grace. Jesus bore His Father's punishment for the sins of all those who would believe/trust Him, when he was crucified.  Admitting our need for this great substitution  is the key to Salvation and being "right with God".  When a person turns from sinning (repents), and believes God (faith), takes Him at His word, he is a new person.  His soul is washed clean.  God no longer sees his sin.  The Bible says God removes that sin as far away as the East is from the West. The debt is forgiven. 

"He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, 
so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21

2011
Gary and I just celebrated our 38th Anniversary on December 28th.  We are experiencing the love and care of God in very personal ways and even though Gary and I are suffering the loss of memories, communication, and companionship, God is helping us to loosen our hold on this earthly life, which is just a blink, in light of eternity.  It will be over before we know it, and, just like all of you, we will stand before the Creator in all His majesty.  For the first time ever we will be in the presence of the absolute perfection and blazing glory of God.  Jesus Christ will be there, seated next to His Father.  He will either say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."  OR "This one is mine. Their life is hidden in Me. Enter in to the joy of my rest." All people will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.





Gary began to follow Jesus Christ when he was 21.  I was a little younger, but it is never too late for anyone.  The license plate was on Gary's work truck for many years.  He loved to tell others about Jesus, and how to know Him.  I am positive that my husband would be pleased that God is causing others to consider the condition of their souls because of our trial of Alzheimer's Disease.  Soon after getting the diagnosis, he prayed, "Lord, please use my life and illness to further Your Kingdom and bring glory to Yourself."  So, please, please consider your soul.  Do you trust Jesus?  Do you live for Him?   Are you saved?

This is why Gary and I at peace, and content in the midst of advanced stage Alzheimer's.

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith 
into this grace in which we stand 
and we exult in hope of the glory of God."   
Romans 5:1-2


2008 - Several months after learning he had A.D.
I feel honored that you would read this very long post about life and death, time and eternity.  If reading about our "troubles" helps anyone think about their own mortality, and what lies ahead for every soul, that's a very good thing.  If you would like to talk to me about any of these things, please comment, or send a private email by clicking HERE.  I would be privileged to respond to you or answer any questions I can.