Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Alzheimer's Gift

Until Mom’s diagnosis, I understood Alzheimer’s as a memory problem associated with aging. Over-the-hill Alzheimer’s jokes seemed hilarious. After the diagnosis, I devoured book after book about the disease. It was not just about memory loss. It was about a slow, crippling, terminal descent caused by loss of brain function that begins with memory. The jokes lost their humor. Today, I become offended by any attempt at humor at the expense of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Travel Girl | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Train selfie during our California trip.
Ella loves to travel. She's never met a stranger.

As a caretaker, I not only read the books that shed light on what were facing, but also joined a support group. I signed up for e-newsletters and followed Alzheimer’s organizations on social media. Much of it was and still is tough to take. I don’t open those emails or click on those links without bracing myself for more grim facts. 

Also since the diagnosis, I began noticing the regression as a systematic process. It mimicked much of brain development research with which I became acquainted during my 20-year early childhood career; only in reverse. This revelation helped to greatly shape my ability to handle the changes in my mother’s abilities and behaviors. 

But the greatest revelation hit me more recently. It evolved after I finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It was a tough read. I cried. A lot. There were too many parallels to my mother’s experience. But I read it. Soon after, I began to realize my perspective on the situation was wrong. 
Doll Artist | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Ella is a soft doll artist. She loves to create
with fabric, thread, and her imagination.

I was not, in fact, watching my mother lose herself and slip away. She was not becoming anything different than who she has always been. She was Ella when she was born, long before she could talk or walk. She was Ella when she was discovering who her family members were and learning about the world around her. She was Ella when she struggled through puberty, became a woman, landed her first job, married my father, and raised her children. She is Ella now. 

And she will be Ella when she can no longer understand how to use a remote control for the television. She will be Ella when she no longer recognizes me as her daughter. She will be Ella when I have to bathe and dress her. She will be Ella when she can no longer talk or walk. She has always been and will always be Ella, a unique and beautiful individual. 

And while the progression of the disease will cause her to lose abilities in reverse of what she gained as an infant and young child, it provides me the precious and unique gift of getting to know the original Ella. As her daughter, I was not there and could not know what she was like when the world was new to her. But as we walk this path together, I am provided miraculous glimpses into the personality of a fun-loving, sometimes mischievous, kind-hearted, generous, wide-eyed young Ella who did not necessarily understand every aspect of the world around her. There is an innocence that is recaptured as the disease progresses. In a world that is so stressful and confusing for the able-minded, a dose of innocence and bewilderment can be viewed as a gift. 

Creative on Canvas | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
Ella loves the challenge of a blank canvas.
I learned long ago that people hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see, despite physical evidence and regardless of circumstances. Now is the time to use that quirk of human nature to my advantage. I don't want to hear about the horrors of the disease. I don't want to focus on the negative aspects of such a challenging journey. 

Raising my children was challenging at times. It was physically and mentally demanding, required great patience, and occupied much of my time and attention. But encouraging them as they developed and grew was an honor, a pleasure, and greatly rewarding. I cherish the memories and will carry the experiences with me for the rest of my life.

Taking care of my mother is challenging at times. It is physically and mentally demanding, requires great patience, and occupies much of my time and attention. But helping to navigate her through each day, helping her understand, helping her live life to the fullest is an honor, a pleasure, and greatly rewarding. I know I will cherish the memories and carry these experiences with me for the rest of my life.
Picture Perfect Always Ella | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
It was, is, and always will be beautiful,
unique, fun-loving Ella in the mirror.
Nothing can take that away.

Fellow caretakers; spouses, siblings, children, and friends of those suffering from Alzheimer’s; when the negativity surrounding the clinical realities of the disease tear at your soul, when the challenges of day-to-day caretaker responsibilities as you witness the digression firsthand weighs heavier than twenty grand pianos on your head, remember always that your wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother, friend—your loved one—will always be who they are, despite the effects of the disease. As long as their hearts beat, they are them. And spending time with them is a gift. A beautiful gift to be cherished always.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare
Copyright 2015 Michele Bare 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cheap & Easy Snack Mix

My family loves a good snack mix. So when I happened upon a modestly priced bag of snack mix, I began buying and dividing it up into lunch baggies for my youngest to enjoy in his lunch box. Before long, I had to start purchasing an extra bag for himand everyone elseto enjoy at home. 
Cheap Easy Snack Mix | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My family loves our cheap and easy snack mix.

Then one day, I went to the store to stock up on lunch box items in preparation for the end of a lengthy school break. Unfortunately, the modestly priced snack mix was not in stock. But its place on the shelf was not empty. Rather, a new flavor of chips was stocked there instead. 

I panicked. What if they didn't carry the snack mix anymore? I shrugged off the silly thought, realizing I could simply go to the super center down the road and get their brand of snack mix. So off I went to battle the crowds at the super center.

Not only did the super center not have a generic brand of snack mix, the name brand cost more than twice that of the mix I used to buy. As I stared in anguish at the high-priced bag of cereal mixed with pretzels and other snack items, it dawned on me; I could mix up my own snack combination and save tons of money. 

Armed with the name-brand snack mix shamelessly in my cart as a reference, I wandered through the cracker, chip, and cereal aisles in search of everything that was pictured on the bag of pre-mixed snack. Then, when I was confident I'd found comparable ingredients, I put the name-brand bag back and headed home to mix up my own tub of savory mix. 

I did not coat the cereal or any other snack items in butter, sugar, and spices. I did not bake it in the oven.  Rather, I just mixed up what I purchased in a big tub. Then I divvied up some of it into baggies for several weeks of school lunches. The rest was placed in the dining room with a ladle for anyone in the house who needed to satisfy a munchie craving. 

The mix was a hit. I know this, because my son went out of his way to say, "Mom, you rocked the snack mix." That has to be one of the highest teen compliments known to mankind. 

My mix was much cheaper than the pre-mixed version. It was much quicker to put together than the recipes that mimic the name-brand snack and party mixes. And my family loves it just the same. If you want to save money and time, here's how it's done:

1 box of cereal (rice or corn squares work great, but if your family likes honey nut oat O's, use them)
1 bag small-sized pretzels 
1 box cheddar cheese cracker squares or fish-shaped crackers
1 bag cheddar-fries snacks (or something comparable)
1 bag or box of bagel chips 

Empty all the bags and boxes into a big container. Toss gently with a big spoon. Place a ladle and some paper cups or bowls next to the container for your family to use when they want to snack. 

If you prefer a healthier snack mix, change it up and use organic, whole grain snacks instead. Have allergy considerations? Use snacks that are allergen free. You have all the power. It is time to harness that power and start saving money while meeting your family's snacking needs.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare
Copyright 2015 Michele Bare 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Keep Your Poisons, I Want to Travel in Pretty Clothes

Four months ago, my doctor had a serious talk with me. My cholesterol and triglyceride numbers were too high. At my forty-something age, this was going to become a problem if I did not take action to get the numbers down. I was devastated. I did not want to take any of the prescription medications routinely offered. I feared some of the potentialprobable, considering my family historyside effects. Medicines also cost money. I'd much rather spend my money on travel, clothes, and girls' night out with my friends. There had to be another way.
Yoga & A Walk Everyday | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My yoga sun salutations and a 3-mile
walk, whether outside or on my
machine, are always on my to-do list. 

My doctor reviewed my overall health while I sat bewildered at the numbersI did, after all, introduce flax seed into my family's diet some time agopromising to make drastic lifestyle changes. My blood pressure was good. My blood sugars were good. She also found that several years ago, I had some success reducing my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers after visiting with a dietician. After thoughtful consideration, my doctor gave me four months. If I could significantly change my numbers through diet and exercise, she would not need to write any prescriptions. She then noted the challenge I faced considering Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and my birthdayall food-centered holidaysstanding between me and my retest. I promised her I could and would do it. I had to do it. I had to remain healthy for my family, especially my mom. 

My doctor stopped cold, looked into my eyes, put her hand on my shoulder, and declared, "You have to do it for you." Then she walked out of the room to get a nurse who would schedule my follow-up appointments for February.

Me. Yes. Of course! I needed to do this for me.

I started out on fire. Immediately ripped from my diet were white grains. No white rice or white bread. Also eliminated were white potatoes, butter, and most fruits, except for apples and the occasional banana. Olive oil became a cooking staple in my home. Brown rice and whole wheat pasta were stocked in my pantry. My only "sandwich" breads were whole grain, flax seed, and nut loaves, freshly baked in my kitchen. No more processed foods, either. But the biggest change of all was the elimination of refined sugar. No sweets. No cookies or desserts. No cakes or pies. No chocolate.

Although, I did make a few exceptions. There was the cannoli (homemade) on Mom's birthday, a piece of cake on my birthday, and a chocolate-covered mousse truffle torte dessert concoction served on the Napa Valley Wine Train. It was the Napa Valley Wine Train! An exception had to be made.
Sweet Rule Exception | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
The once in great while allowable exception
to my new no-sweets rule. But it was Napa.
We were on the Wine Train. It had to be done.

My exercise routine began with yoga every morning and two miles of walking every day. After a couple of months, my walk became three miles. Four months later, I was settled into a relatively regular routine of yoga five to six mornings a week and a three-mile walk three to four times a week. Yoga and a walk are on my to-do list every day, which keeps me from going more than two days in a row without exercise. 

What I did not give up were my red wine and olives. I did not let go of seared tuna or pecans. I always pass on the bread basket and dessert when we go out to eat. And I choose wisely from the menus. In my mind, white grains, processed food, and sugar are poison. They are the enemy. Hubby, while supportive, has grown tired of hearing about the enemy, especially when he's trying to enjoy a brownie or yeast rolls from a complimentary basket.

Finally, it was time to visit my doctor and review my retest results. Before I arrived at the doctor's office for my personal mid-life moment of truth, I already knew some important facts:
1. I lost some weight.
2. I felt better than I did four months ago.
3. I no longer craved or even missed sweets.
Homemade Healthy Bread | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
My homemade whole grain, flax seed
and nut bread. I use pecans.

Before the doctor walked in, I already knew from the nurse that I'd lost 9 pounds and my blood pressure, which was already good, had gone down. But it was my doctor who delivered the really great news. 
1. Triglyceride number reduced by 55 percent.
2. Total cholesterol number reduced by 11 percent.
3. Good cholesterol number increased by 20 percent.
4. Bad cholesterol number reduced by 19 percent.
5. Cholesterol/HDL Risk Ration dropped into target range.

If I keep my numbers where they are or if they decrease more, my future can remain medication free. Folks, you can have your white grains, white potatoes, refined sugars, processed foods, and most of your chocolateI might have a taste again on my birthday. As for me, I'll be saving all that money that would have been budgeted for medications and putting it toward little getaways for Hubby and me. And some pretty clothes to wear while traveling. 

To my dearest friends, I believe my results are cause for celebration. It's time for a girls' night out!

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at)
Connect with Micki on Google+
Like Thurston T. Turtle on Facebook
Follow Micki on Twitter: @TurtleAuthor
View Micki's pics on Instagram @mickibare
Copyright 2015 Michele Bare