Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Decorations

I keep a cardboard box of holiday decorations at Peggy's.  It's kind of a sad way to keep track of time because by doing so I can't help but wonder if I should put it back in the box for next year.  This makes me  realize that I have thought that same thing every year for the past few years.  So I ritually put the same old crumply paper indian corn back in the box with the witches broom, stuffed easter bunny, shamrocks, valentines hearts and search for the little nutcracker to take his annual place, hang him up and then gently close the door.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

This blog makes me think, express myself, and work out what's inside my head to give me the ability to do my best, take care of my Mom, my kids and me.  I feel much better today.  I made an apple pie with the kids, and I'm looking forward to giving my Mom a kiss today. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The Past feasting with the Present

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'm feeling guilty about spending another buffet dinner at the old folks home.  Thanksgiving is the time we all have memories based around home. Perhaps it's what our Aunt made, the special china used, leftovers, or the first time we sat at the adult table.  Whatever they may be, this is the holiday where the past feasts with the present.  Actually the whole darn thing is based on remembering that very first Thanksgiving meal. My memories of Thanksgiving are sweet and I especially remember my Mom (Peggy) rolling up the extra pie crust with cinnamon and sugar and letting me eat it right out of the oven, before dinner.

Suddenly I'm thinking, what about Thanksgiving are my girls going to remember?  Every year I am more focused on spending it with Peggy, trying to make it special for her even knowing she will not remember any of it. Instead of creating lovely, sweet memories for Sunny and Gidget, like my Mom did for me.   I know the importance and value of caring for family will be and is a very important part of our family traditions and memories. My brother is coming with his kids and it's going to be a good day, and we will make it fun, the kids will play, we'll be stuffed and the Packer game is on.

But, honestly I just want to make a pie at home with my daughters and roll up the extra dough with tons of cinnamon and sugar and show them that I care about their memories as much as I do about Peggy's.

I Believe

Here is an amazing video of Peggy hearing Sunny's new song she wrote for Reflections this year.  It's called I Believe, and it's an inspiring upbeat song that is so sweet that it cuts right through Alzheimer's and smashes it to the core.  You don't have to watch the whole thing, as I know it's kind of scary to see someone in the end stages of this rotten disease, but when you see how Peggy comes alive as she hears her granddaughters voice, you'll understand why I wanted to show it to you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NBC LA Connections and us

Before it aired I was nervous.  I knew they were going to put in the part when I said "jealous".  Thankfully it came across compassionately.  As you know from this blog, we all love Peggy so much and just simply want her at peace now.  It's not that I don't want this job anymore, it's that I want her to not be upset, or in pain, or for goodness sake, I don't want her to have to choke on her own saliva or food because her throat doesn't know what to do anymore.

 NBC LA Life Connected Video

So many people from near and far have personally taken the time to reach out and spread love and light, friendship, tears and strength.  It feels good, I don't feel nervous anymore, just a little raw.  Thank you for understanding and letting me share our story.  I sincerely hope none of you have this happen to you or anyone you love.

And for what it's worth, Gidget keeps making fun of my sincerity on screen.  I love her, she continues to make us laugh through all kind of sorrow.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Virtual Sundae

She's not eating, so I talk about food.  Is that cruel?  I think she likes it.  Last night I took her to The Crystal Palace in the Marshall Field's Department Store on Michigan Avenue and we had hot fudge sundae's.  I was little, and so my memory is foggy, but I remember it being special times between us.  Maybe that's how her mind is, a few colors, or feelings, tastes or smells.  I tried to remember too, and how we would spoon out the hot fudge from little silver cups with a long spoon in pink wire chairs. As I talked and tried to remember, she began to move her mouth and chew, she really enjoyed hers, and I mine was good too.

Does anyone else remember that place?  I found this fun blog that did.
That could be me and Peggy in 1974

Friday, October 18, 2013

Point of View

Gidget's Drawing of Peggy

I see Peggy more clearly now.  I was over a couple times last week and she's been responsive in the first few moments I arrive.  When I give her a kiss and tell her that "it's Lois" she leans towards me.  It's acknowledgement, it's her way of... a hug?  Then she goes back.  Is that what I needed?  A hug from her.  Such a small gesture helped me realize that I'm here, that I matter and that she still matters.  I now feel that I can see Peggy the way Gidget does.  Standing tall on earth with lots of life still all around her.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Story

We shared.  Colleen Williams from NBC Los Angeles News came over yesterday with her amazing producer Mary Harris and camera guy Sergio.  They are doing a story on us and how we use art to deal with Peggy's Alzheimer's.  They were wonderful, the kids were wonderful.  Sunny sang her ukulele song and Gidget drew the most beautiful picture of her Nana.  Gidget doesn't draw Nana sick in bed.  She draws her standing with pants and shoes, outside with flowers, bees, and butterflies all around her.  I learned so much from that drawing yesterday.  When they asked her to describe her Nana, Alzheimer's wasn't even part of the answer.

We had a pretty intense interview and I said very honest things, especially about the end stages, where she is now.  It also made me realize that my Mother doesn't really have a voice in this story.  It's just us on the outside looking in.  And now the audience will be on the outside looking in on me, looking in.  I went over to her house last night and brought her flowers, and kissed her.  I hope I'm doing right by her.  I know she wouldn't want people to think of her like this, or remember her like this, or looking "awful".  I hope they see her the way Gidget does.

I love you Mom

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Adjusting Altitudes and Attitudes

"Dawn" gouache on paper, Lois Keller

From those last depressing posts you can see what our life is like with Alzheimer's.  It's up and down, sunup and sundown.  I have a wonderful life, I have a wonderful mother.  She is still here, and she wouldn't want me moping about and worrying and complaining. She would want me busy, so I am busy, and I am happy, and walked the dogs with my little girl this morning, the way she used to walk with me when I was little.   Alzheimer's Disease does something strange to time,  it becomes no longer linear, but all surrounding.  So today I have a new attitude of positivity, of love, and hope.  I wear my #endalz shirt when I'm busy and not with Peggy, so I can remember that having Alzheimer's in my family is special, and that we have a role to play in finding a cure.

Me, working in the kitchen sporting my #endalz T-shirt!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A busy life

My life is so busy right now.  We are starting our own business.  Nary Dairy, it's crazy, it's all the time, it's fun, exciting, scary... its consuming.   I fell asleep exhausted, but only for a little while and then I woke up and I realized that I didn't see Peggy today, or yesterday.  In the darkness my memories of her intermix with where she is now, and I keep finding things there that weigh heavy on my heart. What she would of loved, what I missed.  I start to see time backwards.  It was my 15th wedding anniversary yesterday.  A slideshow starts as I go back and remember 15 years ago. There were signs of ALZ then.  But it's now, and she's here, even though it seems as if she's not, she's just a few miles away in a bed.  Everything is happening so fast and so slowly.  I feel badly that I want it to be over, and now I realize that what I really want is not for it to be over, but a DO OVER.  I want this disease to have never happened to us, and what I really want is it not to happen to anybody else. I think about the other people dealing with this in much more difficult situations.  And my mind just continues to roll around in it, back and forth in time and memory.  So much that I have to get up to stop thinking about it.

So, now I will watch Stephen Hawking, or NOVA and fall asleep, listening to something that takes me out of my mind, so I can stop thinking about what happened to hers.

Monday, September 16, 2013


So Peggy has calmed down a little, and so have I.  Every time we take another step down this ALZ staircase it takes an adjustment for her and for me.  I was talking to Ruby about what is happening and what exactly this stage entails.   I was upset that Peggy seemed very uncomfortable because of her swallowing and coughing, and she said with kindness.  "If it bothers you to visit, don't come as often."  She was worried about me and caregiver burn out, because she has seen it many times before.  But, that's not what  I was worried about, I was worried about Peggy.  I know this disease is just as hard on the caregiver, but Peggy is the one that is slowly dying. Whether it's for weeks or months or years. That's what it is now, dying, not living.  How can I NOT be there for her at this time?  We've made it this far together.  So, I visit, just as often or maybe even a little more because I have accepted where we are now, and if she's sleeping and doesn't know I was there, I do. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Blow out the candles

I don't say this lightly, or because I'm tired, or don't want to continue to fight this disease.  I say this because I'm worried that she is suffering now.  One of the saving graces about Alzheimer's is that everyone tells you that "they"(the patient) don't know what's going on.  They are not suffering.  Her recent step into yet another end stage makes me feel that this is not the case.  She is now having trouble swallowing, and her brain is not telling her throat what is air and what is food.  So she chokes, a lot.  This makes her upset and red in the face and scared.  Which makes me upset and red in the face and scared.  She has a patch that helps reduce her saliva, yet it had to be reduced to half because it was making her agitated (what doesn't?).  What I'm trying to say, is this is not a peaceful death.  And that's why I wish the candles would quickly blow out in an instant and end another one of these "end stages."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Grape Juice to fight Alzheimer's

Purple is for Alzheimer's, so we sold purple grape juice at our garage sale and donated the money to Alzheimer's Research.  I feel it's the only left we can do to help Peggy.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

No sense

This is a difficult feeling to place into words, but what I really want to say is this...

There have been very special people in this world who's lives have been cut short, way too short, while alzheimer's just lingers on and on and on.  If I could, I would ask to please take Peggy instead. 
Life doesn't make sense.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Yesterday was awful

She was agitated, fearful, infant like, and scared.    

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Family Relief

Our whole family was together.  My brothers flew in, as well as my Dad.  It was a big relief for me.  It's heavy on my shoulders being the only person Peggy recognizes (in her own way.)  When they tell me at her home that she responds best to me, that doesn't make me feel better, or special.  It makes me feel guilty for not being with her all the time.  So the boys went to visit and be with her, while me and my kids got some great and special Grandpa time.  Even though my brothers support us as best they can from a distance, physically being here made me feel not so alone when I am with her now, because they too experienced the depth of her stare. The same one that I am with week after week and that keeps getting further away.  Peggy might not remember that they were here, but I sure do.  Thanks guys, I needed that and I love you.
A classic backyard family portrait.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Porcelain Mind

Check out these guys film about caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's on

They are making a film and need our support.  I truly believe that the grandkids are the key to a cure.  They are able to tell our story, because we are too busy and caught up in the caregiving to be able to.  Every dollar shows we care.  Good luck guys!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Her last potato chip

I brought Peggy a snack, her favorite, potato chips!  We used to always open the bag of Jay's in the car on the way home from the grocery store. Heck we used to even have them delivered.  Sharing things with her always makes me feel better.   There is so very little I can do for her anymore, she doesn't respond to anything at all.  She stares into a weird space and I'm not sure what she can and cannot see.  So, I wanted to give her something that would get her attention, something salty and crispy and loud!  She smiled and she chewed it forever and I think she even liked it.

Then they told me that we now must grind up her food because she is having trouble swallowing.  So I gave her another, because we know that you can never eat just one.  

Me feeding my Mom, I'm wearing her bracelet and my Alzheimer's Association band.

Happy Mother's Day

a picture from her granddaughter

flowers from her son

I think they mean more to us than her these days...

Do you know the way to San Jose?

We sure do, because we drove up there for Sunny to get her award from the California PTA for her song "I Remember" that she wrote about her Nana.  Expenses were paid, and we had a great time.  She brought her ukulele just in case they wanted her to sing.  She's a natural performer.  They announced the National winners, and Sunny's song didn't win, and she felt slightly dissapointed.  But, when she got up on stage, she brought the house down without a dry eye.  Making that connection, being able to share her song meant more to her than the award as people from all over gave her a hug, and told her how wonderful her song was and that it had such meaning for them, because they also have people in their lives with Alzheimer's. She's awesome.

Here is a video of her singing it there.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Not knowing

Peggy doesn't  know about Newtown, or now the Boston Marathon bombing.  I visited with her yesterday, sometimes I just end up there when I should be doing something else, especially on days when the news is so heavy and painful and sad.  She doesn't have to add these events onto her shoulders that are beginning to weigh heavily on to mine.  So, in a weird sense, she gives me a tiny respite, where I can push the rewind button, and just be with her in a place
where bad things don't happen anymore.   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thank You Marshalls!

Peggy Lu and I buying new shirts for Peggy
Thanks to Marshalls,  Peggy Lu and I went shopping and bought Peggy some very much needed new shirts in bright colors, and fun styles.  Fashion and looking good was always a huge part of my Mom's life, and she looks so pretty in her new shirts.  Marshalls helped raise awareness and funds in their stores in March as well as it's multi-year million dollar pledge. I love shopping there even more! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love Through Music

I know my daughter Sunny's music is special.  The girls and I were visiting Peggy, one of Sunny's songs she wrote came on the ipod.  When the song ended we saw this moving underneath the covers.  It was Peggy, she was clapping.  She was clapping!  I held my daughter and told her how special her music is, and that it can reach people, even her Nana.  The next day we found out her song she wrote for the Reflections program, "The Magic of the Moment" won the  state level and she will be representing California in the music composition category.  Her Nana knows, and even though she won't be able to be there at the special awards luncheon in San Jose, I know she will be clapping.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Connecting to Combat Alzheimer's

The day I wrote the previous post, this showed up on facebook.  An organization to help connect alzheimer's patients and caregivers with research opportunities. I'm going to look into it further.

Connecting to Combat Alzheimer's Info click here

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Her brain, my brain, our brains.

Peggy had been shouting out, alot.  Agitated?  Not really, just a big "Hiiiiiiiiirgh" out of nowhere.   And not just when moving or touching her.  "Hiiiiiirgghh" It would startle the heck out of you.  It reminded me of Tourettes Syndrome.  So, I mentioned this to her doctor.  Now she is on Haldol a drug used to treat Tourettes.  Of course we had to experiment with the dosage, but she is reacting really well, and not as agitated or vocal.  Here's the thing.  I don't know anything about Tourette's (like how to even spell it) or Alzheimer's, and if I can make a suggestion that works, don't you think we need a little more research about the whole damn disease.  I wish Peggy was in a lab, under a microscope in an MRI machine all day and night to see exactly what her brain is doing, how it is dying, how and what drugs do to her brain activity.  She wouldn't know, she would be the same, but the world wouldn't.  I've signed her up at USC, but she only goes once a year, and they just kind of look at her and take a few notes.  This year it was over the phone, because it is so difficult to move her.  We could learn a lot from Peggy, and she wouldn't be lying there for no reason.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Obama's Brain Map Proposal

As I said earlier in these musings.  The number one reason I voted for Obama was his attention to Alzheimer's.  He's not kidding around.   I'm very excited about this, and hope that American's see the need to map the brain, just like the human genome project, this could lead to incredible discoveries that will help cure, treat and prevent diseases like our dreaded Alzheimer's.  You can read more about it in the New York Times here.  Human Brain Map
The Tissue is the Issue

Monday, February 11, 2013

10 years

I know it's been at least 10 years, because Sunny my oldest daughter turns 10 today.  Peggy had been repeating herself a lot, we would find notes she made for herself and she just seemed... distant.
Then she didn't come to visit me after Sunny was born. Personality change, that was listed as a symptom on the Alzheimer's Association website, and I knew now not to take it personally and it was time to act upon our hunches that maybe Mom has Alzheimer's Disease.

Ten years ago, I had no idea we would be still be here, and that the disease would still be progressing.  I didn't know I would have two wonderful daughters that would remind me of what a great Mom Peggy was.  As I watched Sunny blow out her candles, I remembered how she helped me plan my 10th birthday party, ice skating and hot chocolate.   I was a brand new Mom ten years ago when I first took my Mom to the doctor, then gently encouraged her to move into an independent living facility, told her she couldn't drive anymore, moved her things into an assistant living center and eventually out here to California with me.  I'm not a new Mom anymore, and have learned how to talk to caregivers and neurologists, exchanged baby diapers for adult ones, learned how to maneuver wheelchairs and still keep her hairdresser appointments.

Peggy, Me and Sunny 2004
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fool, and don't see that what I've learned along the way are due compensation for this rotten, mind destroying disease.  It's just, that on this happy birthday, I can reflect on the past 10 years and see past her diagnosis, and into the person and mother she is.  This comes  through when I hear Sunny's beautiful song and in the words Gidget said to me on Saturday. We were having a special  "Mom and Gidget" day together and I asked her what she wanted to do next, and she said.  "Let's go visit Nana"
Gidget and Nana

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Super Heros

Super heros, Sunny and Gidget not only save the day
They cheer up Nana

Along the way!