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Archive for the ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’ Category

FOR TODAY

Outside my window…there’s a clear blue sky.  The pine trees are still after swaying back and forth last night during the thunderstorm.

I am thinking…about how nice the cool air felt this morning when I let the dogs out. After a heat index of over 100 degrees over the past couple of days, this is a welcome relief.

I am thankful…to have been able to spend part of my birthday with my sister.  We enjoyed a morning of strawberry picking with Sophia and Olivia, and then visiting a buffalo farm where we all enjoyed a nice lunch together. 

From the learning rooms…the girls and I had a fun week focusing doing the “Smart Summer Challenge.” This week’s theme was “Me on the Map” – so everything we did we looked at from a geography angle – whether it was embroidery, paper cutting, 4-H projects and demonstrations, or visiting different farms. 

In the kitchen…I have two flats of strawberries that will are being eaten fresh.  Later today, I’m going to try some new recipes – for strawberry-lemonade; a salad with strawberries, asparagus, and walnuts; and a strawberry pie.

I am wearing…a hooded sweatshirt and pajama pants.  It’s still early morning and no one is awake yet…except some of the cats.  The dogs went back to bed after going outside.

I am creating…items for The Summer of Color. I just found out about this ten-week blog party this morning, and am excited about it.  I’ve been doing more writing and less creating than last year, and want to get back into doing more of the visual arts/crafts again.  Having a weekly challenge focused on a particular color will be a good motivator to start creating again. 

I want to catch up and do the first three weeks (the colors for each week are blue, green, and pink); while working on the fourth week (July 4th-11th). Yellow is the focus for the fourth week.

I am going…to visit my mom and dad this morning.  Sophia, Olivia, and I will be going out to breakfast with them (they are both home-bound so it’s going out to eat is something they enjoy). We’re going to help weed their vegetable garden, clean the carpets in two rooms, and replace the batting in a quilt I made for my dad many years ago.

I am wondering…when I’m going to sit down and figure out the schedule for next year for homeschooling.  I want to use many of the books and resources I have on hand this year rather than buying as much new curricula as I have done in the past. 

As much as I like Sonlight (which I’ve used for the past few years), it is quite expensive. Perhaps picking and choosing from Sonlight and supplementing it with what I already have will be the best route to go during the 2011-12 school year.

I am readingTwisted Tree by Kent Meyers but didn’t like it. After 92 pages, I just couldn’t get into the book. I found it to be a rather grim book.  There was a review in a book for book clubs, and it sounded intriguing as did the discussion questions.  However, from the onset, the book was more on creepy than what I wanted to read.

The next book I’m going to start reading is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. According to O, The Oprah Magazine, “Year of Wonders is a vividly imagined and strangely consoling tale of hope in a time of despair.”

I am hoping…that the lawn mower comes back soon. It has been at the repair shop now for over a week and the grass is getting really long.     

I am looking forward to…bringing a couple of peonies and tiger lilies indoors today, and putting them in vases.  I’m going to help my dad (who has Alzheimer’s Disease) cut some flowers that are blooming at his home, and put them in vases as well. He use to cut flowers during the summer and bring them in for my mom and him to enjoy. 

I am hearing…the fan.  Not much of anything else.  It’s very quiet and peaceful at this time of the morning.

Around the house…I’m getting projects done that I’ve wanted to get done for some time now. I went through a basket of “to do” projects and did them as I went through the basket. No putting them aside to work on later. I either did them, helped the girls do their projects, or put them in the donation bag.

Yesterday, I did mending, sewing, and needlefelting. I helped Olivia with another embroidery project; and Sophia with sewing a dress and an embroidery project. 

I am pondering…how nice it was to see several friends during the past couple of weeks, and how I need to make time to stay connected with people. It’s so easy to get wrapped up with caregiving that other aspects of my life are put on hold.

One of my favorite things…seeing all the baby toads that the girls have been finding, observing, and then releasing.  It’s also been so nice to hear the wren singing every day, and watching the parents bring food to their babies.  There are three wren families here this year which is great. I saw a monarch yesterday in the butterfly garden yesterday (it always makes me happy to see butterflies).

A few plans for the rest of the week…visit my parents (today), celebrate the Fourth of July (Monday), take Sophia to harp lessons (Tuesday), take my dad to his quarterly doctor appointment for Alzheimer’s Disease (Thursday), do fun/educational activities related to the theme of “government” with the girls, and start some creative projects this week focused on different colors (most likely doing quilting and embroidery).

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…this is an eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly that Sophia, Olivia, and I saw on Thursday morning. We stopped for a bit at a lake before Sophia’s harp lesson.  As we were walking back from the lake, this butterfly was drinking some water from the road and then was flying around us at eye level. It spent quite a while flying and landing around us.

It was a beautiful butterfly, and the photograph below doesn’t do it justice.  Nonetheless, it captures a few moments in time that were memorable to us.

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly that was
flying and landing right by the girls and me.

To see other people who are participating in the Simple Woman’s Daybook during June, please click HERE.
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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “L.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted  Letter L …is for Literature

Literature is written or spoken material that is the work of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Through the current curriculum I’m using with the girls (Sonlight), we’ve been introduced to wonderful literary works in each of the genres mentioned.

Girls Reading on Box Day
Sophia and Olivia on “Box Day” – when the books
for the upcoming school year are received.
They enjoy looking at all the books they’ll be
reading or listening to during the upcoming year.

In addition to using the books that are part of the Sonlight curriculum, I’m also using several lists of books to introduce the girls to a wide variety of literature (e.g., Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal). 

The Association for Library Service to Children has a website that has information about different awards that are given each year to children’s books that are of high quality.  Each award has a different focus.  The ones that we’re focusing on include:

(John) Newbery Medal – honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

(Randolph) Caldecott Medal – honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

(Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal – honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

(Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award – honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Reading is such an integral part of homeschooling for us.  Since the girls were young, I have read to them daily. Once Sophia began reading on her own, she spent more time being able to read independently which expanded the number of books she listened to/read each day. The girls both listen to books on CD as well.

In addition to reading inside, the girls enjoy reading outside – on blankets on the ground with the clouds and trees as the backdrop…or in one of the climbing trees in the backyard.

Reading Aloud Outside
Sophia reading outside on an early-fall afternoon.

Literature has introduced the girls to historical facts, given them insight into different cultures; and provides the inspiration to learn more about different times and traditions other than their own.

Some of our favorite homeschool memories center around literature-based unit studies.  The first series we did was the American Girl one that focuses on ten year old girls from a variety of ethnicities and time periods in the United States. 

We started with the Kaya series which was set in the 1700s with the Nez Perce and finished with the Julie series that was set in the 1970s and had a Chinese-American sub-theme (this was nice for the girls who are both Chinese-American).

Olivia Reading Outside
Olivia taking a look at one of the American Girl books
under the willow tree on the nature trail
in the back part of the farm.

The girls and I did crafts, cooked/baked food that tied into each series, and took field trips to places to bring alive what they were reading in the American Girl Series.

Field Trip to Fort Snelling - Food Rations
The girls learned about rations, the Victory pledge,
and Victory Gardens when we did the Molly unit study.
Here, at Fort Snelling, there was a homeschool day
focused on WWII (when the Molly series took place).
This display shows rations at the time (e.g., food, gasoline, shoes).

The other series that we enjoyed was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Starting with Little House in the Big Woods and ending nine books later with The First Four Years, we not only read the books but did hands-on activities and took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura spent the early part of her childhood).

We visited Pepin once when we started the series and were reading Little House in the Big Woods to see where Laura’s childhood home was located, saw the cemetary where some of the people mentioned in her book were buried, and visited a museum focused on the Ingalls family/Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

In 2010, we went back to Pepin with the girls’ grandparents; and stopped at the lake and went through town.

Lake Pepin
Sophia, Olivia, and Papa (the girls’ grandpa)
on the shores of Lake Pepin (Wisconsin).

Children’s literature also has opened up the girls’ imagination and fostered an enthusiam for learning about things that they normally wouldn’t have thought or known.  For example, I read to the girls a long time ago a book called Mailing May in which five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff begs to visit her grandmother, but her parents cannot afford to send her.

In Idaho in 1914, the train is the only way to make the 75-mile trip over the mountains. The Pierstorffs come up with an unusual solution – mailing May. Sending her as a package is a third of the cost, and since her mother’s cousin Leonard handles the railroad mail car, she does not have to travel alone.

So, we were on a trip up north a few years ago, and visited a train museum.  There happened to be an old, restored mail car at the Duluth train museum. This brought to life this book which the girls clearly remembered and made the connection to; making the visit such a fun experience for the girls.

Old-Fashioned Mail Car in a Train
The girls in a restored mail car a train museum
in Duluth, Minnesota.

Another way that literature has been a part of homeschooling is by sharing the gift of reading and quality books with others.  We have donated many books to the local second-hand shop.  All the proceeds from the sale of the books help fund programs that serve those in need in the community.

The girls also donated some books to Books For Africa through the 52 Weeks of Giving program that we’re doing this year. 

And, perhaps, most meaningful (on a personal level) is seeing the gift of reading and literature shared between generations.  One of my father’s favorite books that his mother read to him when he was a boy was The Story of Ferdinand.

The story, written in 1936, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading Papa one of his favorite childhood books.
At the time (August 2010), he was able to still read the book.
Now (June 2011), with Alzheimer’s Disease,
he struggles with reading,
but enjoys being read to and listening.
Literature has been and will continue to be an important and central focus of homeschooling for us. 

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FOR TODAY

Outside my window…it’s still dark.  However, the first hint of morning is showing to the east where the sky is a lighter shade of indigo.

I am thinking…about the male goldfinch who kept trying to get into the house yesterday.  He kept flying to and grabbing onto the ledges by the living room and kitchen, and visited the family room and dining room windows as well.  The cats were fascinated by this bird who seemed equally as interested in them.  Wonder if he’ll be back today.

I am thankful…that a respite worker is coming today for three hours. I need to have a few hours to get some things done; and I like knowing that Sophia and Olivia are having fun with Mary.  She’s taught them how to play croquet; and they enjoy playing board games and being outside with her.

From the learning rooms…the girls are getting ready for the county fair and showing some projects they’ve been doing for 4-H.  They’re also practicing their demonstrations (this will be the first year for both of them). Went to the zoo the other day and learned a lot about different animals and Japanese gardens/tea ceremonies (the zoo has a conseratory and Japanese garden which are both beautiful).

In the kitchen…we’re going to be making fresh strawberry pie on Saturday which we’re excited about.  Fresh strawberries are finally ready to be picked.  Making a few salads this week using lettuce and herbs from the garden; and trying some more beverages using fresh seasonal fruit (rhubarb and strawberries) combined with homemade lemonade.

I am wearing…a hooded sweatshirt and pajama shorts.  It’s still early morning and no one is awake yet…except some of the cats.  The dogs went back to bed after going outside and having breakfast.

I am creating…a window star for a customer later on today.  Have been helping Sophia and Olivia with embroidery projects.  This year I haven’t done as much embroidery and quilting as I did last year.  I want to start doing that again.

I am going…to the grocery store today to get some ingredients for food I’ll be making for friends and family who will be visiting during the upcoming week.  Have 3 visits scheduled for the next week – two of which are with people I haven’t seen for a long time.  Saw a friend who I’ve known since the late-1980s on Monday.  It’s been nice re-connecting with people again.  Seems like a lot of time has been focused on caregiving and homeschooling recently.

I am wondering…how I’m going to get the yard and gardens looking more presentable before Saturday’s guests and Monday’s 4-H club tour (with one of the stops here).  Between cleaning the house and the rain, I haven’t had as much time as I’d hoped to work on the gardens. 

I am readingAnother Place at the TableA Story of Shattered Childhoods Redeemed by Love by Kathy Harrison which is an incredibly good book about a woman who was a foster parent to more than one hundred children.  Read 14 chapters yesterday morning…couldn’t put the book down.  Will be starting another book this morning – All That Matters by Jan Goldstein.

I am hoping…that my back pain goes away today…or at least diminishes a bit.   

I am looking forward to…looking at pictures I took earlier this week.  I enjoy looking at pictures and remembering what I saw or experienced. 

I am hearing…Gretel (the dog) taking a deep breath. The fan. Quiet. Complete peacefulness. Birds singing outside…the wren already singing away at 5:20 a.m.

Around the house…everything is off the carpeted floors since I spent the majority of yesterday vacuuming all the floors and then deep-cleaning them with the carpet cleaner.  They look so much better this morning.  Almost don’t want to put anything back down.

I am pondering…the impact that Alzheimer’s has had on my dad over the past year.  I looked at some pictures yesterday from last summer and it’s amazing the effect the disease has had on him in just one year.  I am so thankful that he still knew who I was on Father’s Day…but there were some times when he looked at me with blank stares (which I’ve never seen him do until Sunday) that were quite sobering and sad.

One of my favorite things…watching the wildlife here.  Enjoyed watching the goldfinish yesterday; listening to the baby wrens chirp whenever one of the parent wrens brings in food; seeing the woodpecker at the hummingbird feeder; watching a robin take a bath in a big puddle in the driveway; and seeing a huge rabbit jump in the backyard and hop to the hostas under the apple tree.

A few plans for the rest of the week…getting ready for guests on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (each day are different people/groups of people).  Going to an event that celebrates summer at a local historical museum.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…of one of the peonies that are blooming.  These are ones that have been here for well over 15 years.  The Chinese peonies (that I planted a few years ago) just started blooming this year.  They’re a beautiful shade of red with yellow centers.

Pink Peony
To see other people who are participating in the Simple Woman’s Daybook during June, please click HERE.

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Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter —
to all these music gives voice,
but in such a way that we are
transported from the world of unrest
to a world of peace, and
see reality in a new way,
as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and
contemplating hills and woods and
clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water.
~ Albert Schweitzer

For the 23rd week of the 52 Weeks of Giving, the girls played music for their grandparents for their 47th wedding anniversary which is on June 13th.  The girls played music on the harp and piano before we took them out.  (After listening to music for a short time, we drove them to diferent areas of the city with which they were familiar and brought back lot of memories; went out to eat and enjoyed being outdoors for a meal; and visited Minnehaha Falls.)

Sophia playing music for her grandparents.
Olivia was holding music when Sophia
didn’t yet know it from memory.

As Albert Schweitzer noted above, music has many benefits.  After listening to Sophia play the harp, Nana (Sophia’s grandma) said that the music was “beautiful” and that it was “so relaxing to listen to.” She said she could listen to the music all day. 

In doing a quick search on the internet about the benefits of live harp music, some benefits were noted repeatedly on different sites.  Harp music can:

– lower blood pressure,
– decrease the heart rate, and
– increase the oxygenation levels.

Seniors, specifically, benefit greatly from harp music.  Listening to live harp music can:
– Bring about better awareness and concentration
– Enhance interest levels and social interaction
– Improve memory and recall
– Help create a better outlook on life and higher self-esteem
– Increase mobility and coordination
– Diminish pain and improve recovery time
– Reduce tension and promote relaxation

After Sophia was done playing, her grandma said her favorite part was when all the strings were played in a row (this is called a glissando).  So, Sophia brought over the harp to Nana and said, “Would you like to play it?” 

“I don’t know how to,” she said.

“Here…put your fingers here and then do this,” Sophia held her grandma’s fingers as she slid them down the strings.  After that, she continued playing the harp by pulling at some of the strings and moving her hands along the strings. 

“I could just listen to the harp all day long,” she said.

Then it was Papa’s turn (Sophia’s and Olivia’s grandfather).  “You want to try, Papa?”  Having Alzheimer’s Disease affected his ability to comprehend what she was asking and hoping for. 

“Dad, put your fingers on the strings here,” I said. He grabbed the longest string with his entire hand.  I loosened his grip and gently placed his fingers on the strings.  “Like this…” I showed him.

“Just gentle, Papa,” Sophia said as I pulled his fingers along the strings.  I let go of his fingers and he continued playing for a bit longer.

“I use to do this,” he said.  Knowing that he never played the harp, but he did play the piano and organ, I realized it had brought back memories of him playing an instrument when he was younger and before he had Alzheimer’s Disease.

For my parents (the girls’ grandparents…Papa and Nana), this short time with music touched several senses:  the sense of hearing, touch, and sight, with the first two having the greatest impact. 

This is something that the girls and I plan to continue doing – not each time we visit them, but frequently enough so that the benefits of listening to live music can be shared with them.

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In my life this week….

The girls and I finished planting the flower garden in the backyard.  The vegetable garden is doing well and all the vegetable seeds and onion sets are now up and a few inches tall.

I’ve been helping my Mom and Dad both by helping at their home as well as making lots of phone calls for my dad’s medical issues and Alzheimer’s Disease-related challenges.  Updated my Dad’s CaringBridge site so family, friends, and others struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease know what’s happening.

Have been taking Olivia to special ed at the local school to help with reading (she has a couple of learning disabilities that affect how she can process sounds and words) and speech.  She enjoys going there, and has made some new friends both in special ed as well as in the second grade classroom where she spends about 45 minutes doing various activity centers with other students.

Worked on a couple of orders for Harvest Moon by Hand.  Made some more window stars to give as gifts.  Made one just like this star that I did during the winter: 

Purple and Blue Star
Window star in a pattern I created.

My favorite thing this week was…

Listening to harp music in the home.  Sophia is learning to play the harp, and her teacher assigned her a piece called “The Purple Bamboo.”  It’s a pretty piece with glissandos.

She asked me to help with the piece since there are a couple sections she wants to make sure she’s playing correctly.  I told her that I never learned how to play the harp so I’m not the best person to ask.  “It’s okay…you know how to play the piano.  You’ll know how to help me.” 

I need to remember how much confidence she has in me now as a ten year old…especially when she’s a teenager and may see things a different way.

Places I’m going…

No major trips are scheduled for the upcoming week.  The girls have piano lessons about 45 minutes from here on Thursday, so I’m going to look at places that are near there that may be good for a field trip.  On Tuesday, Sophia has harp lessons about 40 minutes from here.  There are a few places along the way (including a county park) that would be nice to visit.

Things I’m working on…

Outside, I’m trying to finish planting one more vegetable garden, and then try to work on several smaller flower gardens.  The goal is to have everything done by June 27th when the girls’ 4-H club comes for a visit.

I need to rent a log splitter and chipper to get six trees that were sawed down out of the pastures.  The trees were either damaged by insects (ash borer), lightening, or wind.  I’ve never used either of these pieces of equipment, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Both the girls are in 4-H, so I’m helping them with their first demonstrations as well as providing guidance with some of their projects.  This, along with doing projects for the county fair (in the open class division), is a major focus of the summer.  It gives the girls opportunities to learn about new subjects that are different than what they learn during the “formal” school year (September-May).  The focus during June-August is learning new skills and doing activities that they may not have time to do during the balance of the year.

Books I’m reading…

I’m reading Calico Bush to Sophia. It won a Newberry Medal and is a book that we’re both enjoying.  Olivia listened to it for a bit, but it didn’t interest her as much as some of the other books I’ve read to the girls. 

During the upcoming year, one of my homeschooling goals for the girls is to read a significant number of Newberry Medal winning books to them, with the eventual goal of reading all the books.  We also are going to read all the Caldecott books (we’ve read over 30 so far). 

A quote, a video, a link, or picture to share…

I’ve been enjoying the flowers this year, and am so happy to see some of the perennials already blooming.  The irises just started blooming this week.  The girls and I transplanted them last year and they didn’t bloom.  I was worried that they wouldn’t fare well moving from a shade to sunny garden.  This year, there are many blooms…all beautiful shades of purple (one of my favorite colors).

Here’s a flower from one of the big containers that I helped my dad plant in May.  I think it’s such a pretty flower.

Yellow Flower

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Last Thursday, across the United States, the real estate company Keller Williams sponsored RED Day.  Each office has its own projects and activities that aim to renew and energize aspects of the neighborhoods in which they serve.  RED Day initiatives can include refurbishing local parks, giving to food shelters, rebuilding homes, hosting blood drives, or any other project based on a need they see within their community.
I was contacted by Laurie from Keller Williams (in Maple Grove, Minnesota) after she called my parents’ church and asked if there may be a family who needs some assistance.  In talking with Laurie, I shared with her some of the ways they have shared their time, talents, and gifts with others.  
My dad used to be the Deacon of his church.  He and my mom were one of the original families who founded the church in the mid-1970s. 
My dad when he was in the seminary to become a priest.
He changed his mind, and later went through training with my mom
to become a Deacon in his church.
Since that time, they both started and led activities and trips with the Gad-Abouts – a senior group at their church.  They stopped leading the group a few years ago due to my mom’s mobility issues.
My mom co-started and continues to host the Angel Quilters at her home bi-weekly.  The ladies made quilts that are donated to people who are homeless, been through a natural disaster, or who were in domestic violence situations and are starting thier lives over.
My dad with my brother (right side) and
neighbor/my brother’s friend (left side). 
They both became Eagle Scouts while my dad was their Boy Scout leader.
For his career, my dad was a school social worker at two different schools (senior and junior high).  He was a Boy Scout leader, and helped guide many boys to becoming Eagle Scouts.  He led many trips to northern Minnesota as well as throughout the U.S. to help boys learn how to camp, fish, and gain outdooor skills.
He was a Big Brother (as part of the Big Brother/Little Brother program) to many boys who are now men in their 50s-60s. 
My mom led Girl Scout troops, a 4-H club, and has volunteered in many ways through her church. 
Currently, they are both facing health challenges – my dad with Alzheimer’s Disease, and mom with mobility issues, diabetes, and vision problems.  They would like to stay in their home, but the upkeep as well as several features make it challenging. 
Keller Williams stepped in and made many improvements to their home to make it safer for them plus help with outdoor maintenance which had been done as well as in the past due to my father having Alzheimer’s Disease, and the impact it has had on his skills and abilities.

I was there for the entire day while work was being done by over 30 volunteers.  It was with great joy that I was able to see members from the community give back to my parents – two people who have given of themselves throughout their entire lives.  It was one of most inspiring and meaningful days that I have ever experienced.
My dad is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and was having a difficult day initially.  He was very confused and concerned when the volunteers began arriving.  However, when he had the opportunity to walk outside and talk with the volunteers from Keller Williams, he was put at ease by their care and compassion. 
Several volunteers talked with him one-on-one, and provided assurance to him that what was important to him in the garden and yard would stay right there so he could continue to enjoy it.  They affirmed who he is…and acknowledged all the work that he had done through the years.  This was incredibly meaningful, and helped him be more comfortable with and enjoy what was happening that day.
Keller Williams asked several contractors to help address some of the safety issues in the home.  Different individuals worked on various projects, depending on their specialty.  During the day, handrails were installed on the staircases, grab bars were intalled in the shower, a gate added to the vegetable garden for safer access (so my dad wouldn’t step over the existing fence and fall like he did last summer), and the dock repaired.  Having these items addressed provides a tremendous amount of comfort and peace of mind to my sister, brother, and me. 
Two new grab bars were placed in my dad’s shower
to make it safer as he ages and
deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

My parents hope to stay in their home (rather than go to a nursing home), and these improvements to their home and yard will make it much safer for them to stay there.  The double handrails on the staircases also will allow my mom (who has a lot of difficulty walking) to be able to access both floors of the home which was challenging…at best…before the new handrails were installed.

New handrails in my parents’ home to make it
safer and more accessible.
A company that Keller Williams contacted donated its time to cleaning my parents’ windows. My mom is still talking about the windows and how clear and beautiful they are, now that they are washed.  What a tremendous difference clean windows can make! 
Volunteers also created a bird watching area for my dad which has already brought him a lot happiness. He loves to see them eat and drink water.  As his disease has progressed, he has been spending more time sitting in the chair by the window. 

Now, having all the bird feeders and bird bath set up close to the window so he can see the birds is wonderful, and gives him something to talk about with us as well as his friends at Open Circle (the adult day care program he attends in Hopkins)!

My dad by his new birdwatching area.
Volunteers also made meals at Let’s Dish for my parents so my mom could simply bake meals when her energy is low or she’s in pain. Having these dinners will be invaluable to making sure that she and my dad are eating nutritious food. 
Out of curiosity, I looked up RED Day and learned it was an acronym for Renew, Energize, and Donate.  (I thought it simply reflected the color of the Keller Williams’ logo.)  When I read that, I felt like that truly was the perfect description of what happened this past Thursday. 
Collectively, everyone who donated their time and skills on RED Day at my parents’ home renewed their spirit.  My mom, who is my dad’s primary caregiver, has many days that are filled with challenges, disappointments, and grief as she’s watching her husband – the man who she has loved for almost 47 years – progressively lose more skills almost on a weekly basis. 
Volunteers Helping My Parents
Volunteers working in the rain on the flower gardens
and backyard at my parents’ home on RED Day.

That being said, for her to see so many people from Keller Williams have such positive and uplifting spirits – to be literally singing in the pouring rain – to be so focused and hard-working – to be dedicated to finishing the job despite their clothing being soaked with rain – these are the things that will continue to inspire and motivate her on even her most difficult days.

From left to right: Laurie (from Keller Williams), my dad, my mom
me, and Belidna (from Keller Williams).

As my mom looks at the flowers blooming, and the hostas and perennials growing; as she’s enjoying fresh vegetables from their garden; as she’s watching her grandchildren dip their feet and hands in the lake from the dock…she will always remember and see the many people who came forward to make a difference in their lives. 

By providing well over 100+ hours of time with this project, the volunteers have energized our entire family.  As my father’s health and skills continuing to decline, his ability to maintain the yard has decreased considerably – even from last season to this one.  The outdoor work would have fallen on my sister, brother, and me…in addition to trying to help with other critical responsibilities when we visit.
RED Day also has given a very important long-term gift to our family:  the ability to create memories while we can.  By freeing our time from raking, weeding, and planting, volunteers from Keller Williams are giving us an opportunity to take my parents out this spring and summer to different places as a way to keep them both active and engaged; and as a way to build memories between parents and children; and grandparents and grandchildren. 

Taking my parents to various places during the coming months would not be possible if volunteers from Keller Williams had not done as much as they did.  Our time with our parents would be spent trying to do yard work rather than spending quality and meaningful time with them. 

RED Day has truly given our family the gift of time…and of memories that I know we will cherish in the future.  For this, I am truly thankful and feel incredibly blessed.

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Each month, the Unique Women in Business team does a Blog Hop focused on a different theme.  For April, the focus is on celebrating womanhood.

Each woman has many roles in her lifetime.  At some stage in her life, a woman may only have a couple of roles (perhaps a daughter and niece, for example). 

My Niece's Hand
One of my niece’s hand. Her fingers are saying
“I love you”
in American Sign Language (ASL).

At another stage in her life, a woman could have many roles such as: daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, wife or partner, mother, grandmother, worker, volunteer, leader, follower, nurturer, caregiver, peacemaker, teacher, artist, or more. 

Nana and the Girls
My mom with two of her grandchildren:
Sophia and Olivia (my daughters).

Some of these roles are not of one’s choice – they are made by others…while other ones are clearly personal choices. 

Two of the roles that I have chosen are: stay-at-home mother and homeschool educator.  When I was younger, I did not even envision my life as having children in it…much less being a mother who homeschools her two daughters.  Yet, being a mother and homeschool teacher have been two of the most challenging and rewarding roles in my life!

Girls in Awe as Monarch Flies Away
The girls watching a a monarch
that they raised from a caterpillar
fly in front of them. 
This particular monarch stayed around them
for quite a while before flying to the pasture. 
It was such a memorable and amazing moment for us all!

Prior to adopting Sophia in 2000, I was content with running a non-profit organization that I founded that offered art and farm camps to children; a teen mentorship program; and volunteer program for individuals, families, corporate teams, and individuals required to do court-ordered community service.  A good percentage of my year was spent writing proposals and seeking funding to do the camp program; and writing curricula for each of the camp weeks. 

Once Sophia and Olivia were adopted from orphanages in China, and their special needs were diagnosed in the United States (both came with referrals as “healthy” children), life took a very different…and unexpected…turn. 

With Olivia requiring in-home therapy multiple days per week from an occupational therapist, physical therapist, and special education instructor combined with therapy that I needed to do with her multiple times per day, my decision to end my outside-of-the-home career was necessary.

Playing in the Body Sack
Sophia and Olivia playing in the Body Sack I made.
It was designed so that they could go into the tube of fabric
and move, crawl, and stand up
(they were small enough to do that at the time this picture was taken).
It helped both of them with their sensory issues
(sensory integration dysfunction); and
helped them identify where their bodies started and ended
(a proprioceptive issue).

I have learned a tremendous amount over the past 11 years in terms of special needs; health/medical issues; developmental delays; learning disabilities; educational philosophies and methods; and a variety of subjects that I have taught the girls….just to name a few areas of growth.

Womanhood, though, isn’t limited to child rearing. While this is certainly an important role and is central to many women’s lives, there is so much more that we (as women) are called to do.

One of the things that I believe celebrates being a woman (and that I try to make a central focus of my life) is is of helping and serving others – whether people are struggling financially, emotionally, or physically.  Women can help individuals outside their family or they can choose to focus on providing support and care for their own family or aging parents.

Looking at the Sensory and Memory Quilt
My dad looking at the sensory and memory quilt
that I made for him (he has Alzheimer’s Disease). 
I gave him the quilt for Christmas 2009.

As the Washington Post reported in its June 16, 2009 issue, “Assistance for frail elders comes, the majority of the time, from a single individual. More specifically, from a woman: Seven of every 10 adult children who help frail parents are daughters.”

Another way in which women can celebrate their gifts is by working with their hands and sharing their creativity with others.  I believe that creativity can inspire, encourage, and even provide comfort to others. With only one lifetime given to us, it’s important to use our time wisely to make things that are wholesome, beautiful, nourishing, and inspiring. 

Mary Mom Me Sophia Olivia
From left to right:  My sister, my mom, me,
Sophia, and Olivia on my mom’s 80th birthday (April 24, 2010).
I made the quilt she’s holding. 
It has the handprints of each family member on white squares. 
On the blue squares, I hand-embroidered words that
were qualities her family used to describe her.

As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” It’s worth taking some time to think about how you can make a difference with your gifts and skills.

The poem, Beauty of a Woman, was written by the late eduactor-humorist Sam Levinson for his grandchild and read by Audrey Hepburn on Christmas Eve, 1992.  I think it is a wonderful poem that celebrates womanhood:

For attractive lips,
speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes,
seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure,
share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair,
let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise,
walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things,
have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,

you’ll find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,

one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in

the clothes she wears,
the figure she carries,
or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman
must be seen from her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart,
the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman
is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman
is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring that she lovingly gives,
the beauty of a woman
with passing years—only grows.

Harvest Moon by Hand celebrates womanhood with the following products:

Set of three fabric bags that can hold gifts for a special woman in your life.
A peaceful image of a swan to hang in your window
made from hand-poured beeswax.
A set of upcycled notecards made from wallpaper samples.
Wonderful for sending a beautiful greeting or thank you letter to
a woman who has made a difference in your life.
A hand-embroidered needlebook made with all-natural wool felt.
If you sew and share your skills with others,
a needlebook is a good way to keep your needles and pins handy.
A four-color window star to beautify one’s home.
Window stars are lovely gifts for birthdays and Mother’s Day.
The UWIB team has many inspiring and creative women who are participating in this month’s Blog Hop.  Please take some time to visit these women and see how they are celebrating womanhood:

Audrey Fetterhoff http://audreygardenlady.blogspot.com/
Linda Stranger http://capecodjewel.blogspot.com/
Judy Woodley http://wellspringcreations.blogspot.com/
Janet Bocciardi http://www.honeyfromthebee.com/
Ann Rinkenberger http://harvestmoonbyhand.blogspot.com/ (you are here right now)
Celeste Bocchicchio-Chaudhri http://elephunkstrunk.blogspot.com/
Wendy Kelly http://blog.vintageday.com/
Cory Trusty http://aquarianbath.blogspot.com/
Karen Terry http://jmjcreations.blogspot.com/

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