Now before you get all upset with me, let me explain. Being a dietitian for almost 20 years and on this planet for close to 42, I have seen diet fads come and go. I have seen research come out and then get debunked. So before you go and jump on the bacon and butter band wagon take a listen.
Bacon and butter won’t #saveyourmarbles. You know it, I know it, heck, we all know it. Deep, deep, deep down in the recesses of your mind, it is in there. You don’t want it to be true, but you know it. Stop kidding yourself. Bacon and butter won’t save you.
Now before you go and tune me out, I will say, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If having 2 slices of bacon crumbled into your salad gets you to have 5 or more servings of low calorie, micronutrient dense vegetables, then go for it! With that said, having 5-6 slices of bacon and eggs swimming in butter is not going to #saveyourmarbles, like ever. Become one with the plants and leave the bacon and butter to where it belongs, as a condiment or gone altogether from the meal. Let the gasps begin!
Getting through this telenovela life I have been living has never been easy. The one thing that I can constantly count on is the support and guidance from my tribe. You see, I didn’t grow up with a large family. It was usually just my mom, sister and myself since my folks split before I hit the age 10. Most of my father’s family lives in Cuba and my mother’s family lives in Florida. Over the years I have only maintained a close relationship with a handful of them (they all know who they are, and to you, I owe so much of sanity) 😉
Back to my tribe. What I have learned throughout the years, is I didn’t need a large family to survive. I just needed my nearest and dearest. My tribe is filled with a bunch of weirdos such as myself. Some related to me by blood, but the vast majority are around by choice. A choice both parties have made to be there through it all. Another way to #saveyourmarbles is to maintain great social and emotional networks. I think I may have that covered.
My tribe keeps me stable.
My tribe keeps me sane.
My tribe calls me out on my nonsense.
My tribe checks in on me.
My tribe doesn’t kick me when I am down, and they most definitely don’t jump down the rabbit hole with me.
So, as some of you following my journey already know, I first noticed my mother had the beginning of her cognitive decline a bit over 8 years ago. From that day forward, I have immersed myself in learning how to prevent it, if possible, so it doesn’t happen to me. Now, while I fear forgetting, what I fear most is my dear family and close friends having to watch me decline and ultimately care for me. A fear that keeps me up and disturbs my slumber.
As a dietitian I knew what I had to do, but the wife, mother, daughter, sister, coach, Girl Scout leader (and every other hat I wear) in me needed validation in the way of research. I know, it can still happen, but I am going down fighting.
So here, day 1, I begin describing how I am fighting and waging my personal battle. This is how I fight. Here is what is most important to me: Physical activity. Surprised I didn’t say my diet? While that is a part of the puzzle I will discuss, staying active is the core of my plan.
I wear my Apple Watch and track my steps, calories burned, and the hours standing every day. I run on my treadmill most days of the week. I ride my fit desk stationary bike when watching webinars and while on conference calls. FYI I hate running. I mean I loathe it. Despise it. What I do love is how I feel about 20 minutes in and when I get off 30-45 minutes later. That natural lift in my mood and change in my attitude. To quote the character “Elle Woods” from the Legally Blonde (yes, I am quoting this movie, and I do it all the time in my office):
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
I choose to be fit. I choose to be happy. I choose to fight to #savemymarbles. At least if it happens to me, I know it won’t be my fault.
The phrase “Lost My Marbles” and the many variations of it has become the way we allude to “losing it” or “going crazy” for quite some time.The origination of this phrase is less clear, but may have begun as far back as the late 19th century with “marbles” being things such as personal property, a man’s testicles (yes, you read that right), common sense, and lastly a person’s “wits”.Whenever this phrase began, it is clear that to “save your marbles” you are beginning to protect that which is important to you.I rather like the idea of “Save Your Marbles” being the act of protecting your brain as much as you possibly can, with acts that are completely within your control. When you work to save your marbles, you also may also save things such as your:
June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. Here at Nutrition Map and His and Her Crunchy, we will be spending all month long sharing ways to protect your marbles. What are you doing to “Save Your Marbles”? Remember to add #saveyourmarbles.
I didn’t think that there was actual proof of the pivotal turning point. Thanks to Facebook and the memories of the day to look back on, I have reminder of when it happened. When my eyes opened. “Xander taking care of his crying baby.” October 11, 2008. The day everything changed for me. See, this is the day I came to the realization that my mother may have the beginnings of cognitive decline, of some sort.
The evening started out simply. My husband and I were going out for a quiet dinner. An early celebration of our wedding anniversary and my mom would watch my 2 children. My daughter was only about 3 months old and still breastfeeding pretty often. I left 4 bottles of pumped breastmilk with 2 oz in each bottle for the 2 hours we may be out. Way more than she would eat in such a short window, but I felt it better for my mom to have more milk than less. We also left prepared food for our son Xander, about 2 1/2 years old at the time. My theory was grandparents should be able to enjoy their grandchildren and not have to cook, especially with 2 grandchildren so young.
We enjoyed a wonderful quiet dinner together celebrating 7 years of marriage. Nothing prepared me for what happened next. We walked in the door to my daughter’s blood curdling screams. Never before had I heard her cry in this manner, and never since. We were darn lucky to have 2 kids that were, for the most part, happy all the time. Hungry? Feed them and they are fine. Soiled diaper and/or undergarments? Quick change and they were good to go (you get the idea). This was bizarre. My son commented “Mima, no more snacks. Real food please.” Mom hadn’t fed him? Nope. The food and the 4 bottles, still in the fridge where I left everything. I immediately put her to the breast which immediately settled her down while my husband fed our son.
I asked mom what happened and she had no idea what was wrong. “I fed her, bathed her, changed her, played with her. She is just too attached to you!” When my daughter finished nursing, my husband took both kids upstairs to the guest room for bed while I went to investigate for myself. There they were. All 4 bottles I had pumped. Now you may be thinking, could I have been off with the count? When you are breastfeeding and pumping, usually, you remember exactly how much you worked your butt off to produce. When I brought this to mom’s attention, she remarked “you must have brought more than 4.” Being the ridiculously logical of the bunch I asked “then where is the empty bottle?” She got up and said “I must have thrown it out by accident with all the crying!” She promptly took out the garbage in a hurry and left me there dumbfounded.
Mom often complained to various friends and family members that I had only used her as a babysitter and didn’t just come to just visit. This despite the fact that I lived over an hour away and had paid sitters and friends that I trusted more. A serious coping mechanism I guess. My husband and I made a difficult decision that infamous night. From that pivotal night on October 11, 2008, my mother did not watch my children, alone, ever again. That was the day my serious health journey began to defend myself to what could happen to me. That was the day I began the transition to becoming plant based. From that day, I waited for the inevitable, whatever it may be, and how I would handle it. That is the day I began to grieve the loss of my mother, real or perceived. A process that will probably never end, even after she is completely gone.
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that takes prisoners while annihilating the victim. We embarked on this seemingly foreign battle officially almost 2 years ago, but I feel like it has been an eternity since I first noticed the signs in 2008.
Some days are really hard for mom and I. Our relationship has completely changed, and deep down I know she knows it. I really don’t know how to label it. It is beyond “the child is now the caregiver” thing. Now I spend my time making sure I can lay my head on the pillow at night knowing I did my best for her, even though others may disagree.
Yesterday, on the fly, I decided to take my mom out to breakfast, just the two of us. Like I said, some days are really hard for us but this morning was completely calm. When she looked at me, she saw me, her daughter, not a stranger. Talked about everything and nothing in particular and that was just fine. I will take that as a win.
First I will say the title of this post is so not what you may think it is about. Stay with me until the end and you will see where I am going with it.
So much has happened since my mother was diagnosed almost 15 months ago with Alzheimer’s disease. Another year of firsts, too many to count. But so far this has been the year:
My mother didn’t recognize me, like at all. Total blank. She looked at me with the pensive look like “this young lady looks so sweet and kind waving at me from across the room” kind of look. Luckily she came back to me when I called out “Mima.”
My mother forgot my birthday. Sounds so totally selfish on my part, but a necessary bump in the road I was meant to experience and handle.
Today, my mother forgot my kids entirely. She actually jumped back in horror when my 7 year old daughter ran to her screaming “Abuela Happy Birthday!” Thank goodness my daughter is so resilient and happy. Let her brightness shine on.
Today I took mom out to celebrate another year on this planet. Another year of changes in our relationship. Another year I will survive, because she needs me to. Another year I will treasure the art and gift of remembering.
After dinner we crossed the street and went for dessert at Strawberry Fields in Morristown. For so long I felt like a fighter in life, and now I am learning I am a survivor. “War is Over, If You Want It.” This is the year I commit to finding peace in it all.
December begins to signal a time that gets many of us geared up for the new year to come. Many of us feel the push to change our lives for the better. For each of us, the objective or goals are quite unique and often personal.
I have to admit I totally get wrapped up in setting goals for myself and over the years, my approach has evolved. Believe it or not, my goals don’t revolve around food or even health anymore, well at least not directly. Let me explain.
As I mentioned in my previous post “Alzheimer’s Disease: The Year After” the latter part of 2014 and much of 2015 was spent clearing out my mother’s home and sorting through massive amounts of her belongings. She held on to so much. Receipts, catalogs, magazines, newspapers, cookbooks, you name it, she kept it. She had shelves of pots and pans yet rarely cooked. We sorted through multiple bags of clothes. At the end of the day, it all amounted to nothing.
It was from this experience, and bit of help from my studies of Buddhism, I began to learn the process of letting go. Objects are just that, objects. They have a hold on you only if you let them. I vowed to never let the material keep a grip on me. My way may not work for everyone, but if it helps one of you, then sweet, I’m happy!
3 Steps that worked for me in 2015:
Set professional and/or personal goals.
Look at what is sustainable and achievable.
For 2015, my professional as well as my personal goal was to let go of what no longer mattered in my life. Pretty vague, no? Rather than saying I would get through all of my professional and personal belongings, I focused on only a few tasks at a time which meant I would have to revaluate often as I went. I only required myself 1 file and 1 bin per week. If I got through more, great, if not, no biggie.
How far did I get? I downsized as much paperwork as possible. I went through 3 packed file cabinets, 8 full drawers in all. Scanned, archived, sorted and recycled. My husband and I looked through all of the bins that remained in the basement from when we moved in about 13 years ago. Yup, 13 years! We moved about 1-2 bins per month and had donation trucks scheduled each month to force us to do it. It took the entire year, but I got through my share of mom’s belongings, by sorting and donating what she couldn’t use. I really hope many were helped by the 35 coats she held on to, most of which still had tags still on them.
What are my goals for 2016? Not quite sure of that just yet. The downsizing will surely continue. I think I am moving to scanning pictures and converting to computer scrapbooking, actually putting some fish in my office fish tank and finishing the next book. 😉
I am, generally speaking, an incredibly optimistic person. I can find the good in pretty much anything that comes my way. Everything, everyone and every experience has some beauty, some “magic” that ultimately has some divine plan, or at least I like to think so.
Another jam packed holiday season is upon us. It is around this time, every year, that I try to get my home and family in order for the festivities. Part of this yearly ritual for me is to look back to see where I have come. I am grateful for so many things, but what I am most thankful for? My mind and the gift of my memories. This year I learned first hand about the disease that no one wants. A disease that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. This crippling disease that no one dare speak of? Alzheimer’s disease.
My mother was diagnosed officially December 3, 2014 with what the doctor reported as “Moderate Alzheimer’s” disease at the age of 65. You read that correctly, 65. She had no concept of what year, day, season, or month she was in. She couldn’t recall 3 simple words (Yellow, Tulip, Cadillac) after several attempts. I don’t think I will ever forget those 3 words. The list goes on. I knew this was coming after several experiences with her throughout the last 7 plus years. She closed the door on our relationship when I tried to get her help, something I am learning, can be very common for family members to experience. This disease has destroyed my mother as I knew her, revealed facts about her I probably should have never known, and wrecked many relationships, some beyond repair.
There is so much I learned in the past year that I am sure I could write a book about, but for now I will focus on what changed since my mother’s diagnosis.
I started the practice of living, I mean really living. This is still a practice and I am still learning. No longer a prisoner of the past, which I never really was, but now I also let go of what I can’t control: the future. Yoga has been a life saver.
It all became enough: My entire life my mother focused on bigger and better things. When my sister and I cleared out my mother’s house and storage shed we encountered countless, what I will call, “vision” lists about all the things she would attain when she was wealthy. She even wanted a car she could never fit in quite right to drive at barely 4’10”. She never realized all she had. Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t strive to do better, it means that I have learned that what I have is always enough. The material doesn’t define me or my happiness.
I started loving me. I love this body I live in. For the last 10 years especially the first 5 of those 10 years, it has been a working body. This body grew 2 beautiful children and fed them each for 1.5+ years each, and at times, exclusively. This body plays with her children and takes them on wild adventures with its partner in crime, Mr. Syto. This body is a warrior.
I learned to take many pictures and to be in as many pictures as possible no matter how my hair, skin or body is performing that day.
I became fearful. I am a dietitian. I know what that pound of bacon will do to my arteries especially the ones in my brain.
From fear I became plant based. I dislike it immensely when someone labels their eating patterns, but the plant based moniker, I love. It leaves it open ended. My choices are plant based. I like the saying: “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want it to be my fault.” You don’t have to agree with my food choices. Living this was keeps me happy, and it gives me hope.
I learned to practice forgiveness. My life has been one wild soap opera. I think we all have these types of experiences throughout our lives. I learned not to ever forget all the trials, to learn from them, forgive (even if it is a silent forgiveness in my own heart), and to move on.
Finally, the most important lesson I learned? First, when you mother doesn’t recognize you, it shatters your world, even when she remembers a moment later. That initial “who are you look” is forever imprinted in my brain. My final lesson? I am a survivor.