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 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.