ALZ and the Work of Women

ALZ and the Work of Women

When I ask her whether she wants me to pick her up some brown or yellow mustard, she asks me to explain the difference. I forget that the simplest of questions aren’t all that simple anymore.

I come home and make up a batch of homemade pudding.

I held the realities womanhood close to my chest as I folded laundry, as I stood at the sink for nearly an hour, my hands submerged in greasy, lukewarm water. I made up Mamaw’s bed as the snow whirled about outside, thinking about the weight of all that is on my shoulders—the weight on so many other women’s shoulders.

I thought of Mamaw. How she lost a daughter in a car accident. How she lost her own mother to Alzheimer’s, lost her sister to ALS. How she now sits in her chair, losing herself, her independence, to the same monster who took her mother. We know that ALZ affects women more often than men. 65% of those living with the disease are women. She knew it was coming. We found the articles she clipped, the mail-order memory pills with one or two taken, the rest discarded.

I didn’t know how it would affect me.

60% of those caring for those with ALZ in their home environment are also women. When you delve deeper into the statistics, women take huge blows in both their work and personal life. 22% of women caregivers take a leave of absence while 16% quit their job. I am a statistic.

When you take into account the fact that today’s women caregivers are part of the Sandwich Generation, both raising their children and caring for their parents (or, for us, their grandparents), it’s not surprising that the depression rates in caregivers is also higher than that of the average population. Trying to shuttle the boys to and from their activities and attempting to bond with them as best as a parent can with tweens while also providing care and worrying about the health of Mamaw is… difficult. At best. Though articles and statistics on the Sandwich Generation are still only quoting information about Baby Boomers, not yet acknowledging those of us in Generation X who have been shoved quickly and unexpectedly into these roles.


I always like to be on the forefront, forging a way where there was no way. Just kidding. Constantly doing everything in this way is really exhausting and isolating, but forward is the only option.

I ask her questions she can’t always answer. We’ve lost some of her history, our history. She can tell me about her parents, but her grandparents’ names are gone. She sat and told my husband all about the watch she got many years ago, but she doesn’t know what she ate for dinner yesterday. Gramps struggles to understand what it all means while balancing things he never had to care for before; she was the woman and she did it all.

I do what I can when I can for her, for him, for these members of my family. Family takes care of family. Always.

A year ago at this time, I didn’t know I’d be here, a part of these statistics. I didn’t know how quickly she was slipping away from us, that she would soon fall. I had no clue what awaited us. And however exhausted I am in dealing with this, in supporting this slow process of dying, I feel honored to be here.

I kiss her head as we get ready to leave, our jobs done for the day. Thanks to the hospice aide and nurse, her hair smells clean and fresh, and I give thanks for their dedication and work, their heart for care. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to usher a soul home.



As a reminder, I’m running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in honor of Mamaw. I’m raising funds for the Pittsburgh ALZ All Stars. If you can donate something, I’d be honored.


Daily Boutique Deals



I sent my first grader to school the day after Sandy Hook. My six year old, my oldest son, my child who was the same age as those in that classroom whose parents couldn’t have fathomed such an atrocity taking place in their kid’s school.


Oh, did I love school as a child. I couldn’t sleep on that night before the first day, butterflies dancing in my stomach. I’m sure some of those butterflies were caused by nerves; I’ve been anxious my whole life. But mostly those butterflies fluttered around with thoughts of new teachers, the smell of books, friends, recess, and so much more.

My sons feel similarly. Oh, they have some grumpy mornings. There have been a few issues with other children not being nice. However, these two boys love school. Moreover, they love their school. They love their teachers and the staff. They love their experiences and their friends. I love that they love school.

When I put my son on the bus the very next morning after the murder of innocent children and their teachers in Newtown, I felt sick to my stomach.

On Valentine’s Day, we were out shopping when my watch dinged.

“Oh no,” escaped from my lips.
“Another school shooting.”



They didn’t even ask where. They didn’t ask anything. This is their reality. This is the reality for our children. Children go to school and are murdered by other children. Our kids know this, and yet they go to school every single day.

It makes my whole being hurt.

I graduated months after Columbine. I thought I had left the fear that penetrated our souls that April afternoon in 1999 in the last century. No. It followed us. It followed Gen X and then mutated, morphed into something we couldn’t have conjured up in our wildest nightmares—and we watched Stephen King movies at sleepovers that haunted us for nights and weeks afterward.

No, the slaughtering of our children in their classrooms even supersedes the scariest workings of one of the best horror authors of our time.

My watch dinged again as we drove home in the dark. 17. 17 dead. I told them. They nodded. Their reality. We’ve allowed this to become their reality. I hate that for them. I hate that, for us as parents who send them off on buses, watch them walk in the doors after we drop them off, just hoping we see them again at the end of the day.

I want my boys to keep loving their school experience. I hope they continue to find teachers they click with, who challenge them to reach their potential. They’ve already been so lucky in this regard. I want them to be involved in their school experience, whether via sports or the band or other extra-curricular activities. I want them to look back at the entirety of their schooling experience with a fondness, not a gut-sucking fear.

I asked each boy if anyone mentioned Parkland at school the next day. Our older son stated that no teachers mentioned it, but a friend talked about it during an open period. Our younger son explained that his teacher brought it up and then went on to say that she made him feel safe by the things she said.

Listen, there’s a lot of work ahead for us as a country. We can’t keep letting our kids be murdered in schools. We can’t. It will require a multi-faceted approach that overhauls just about every aspect of the issue; it’s the only way we’re gonna get through this one. Until then, I will try to take solace in the fact that somehow my children still feel safe at school. I don’t feel safe sending them, but as long as they aren’t sitting in class and panicking all day long, I will give thanks.

There’s a lot of work ahead. There’s a lot of voting and changing in America’s future. I will hold on to hope that the change will happen before my sons leave the school system, that they might truly be safe at school—that their teachers won’t have to convince them they are safe at school, that they may someday just be safe at school.

The Best Valentine’s Day (So Far)

Nothing says romance quite like taking a tween boy shopping for new pants because he’s grown 2.5 inches since Christmas Day.


We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators. That’s true. But taking a tween shopping felt like maybe the antithesis of love. Tween parenting is odd in and of itself. One day we’re the coolest, the next we’re the worst. I remember that, but being on the flip side feels like someone poking at the soft parts of my heart.

But the kid needed pants. Our schedules have been a little bit crazy as of late, so getting out of town and to an actual shopping plaza has been more of a challenge than usual. I couldn’t just order him clothing online either as I legit had no idea what size to order the quickly growing kid. I needed him to try pieces on and provide actual feedback for fit and length.

While I’m on the topic: Clothing boys is the worst. Not only is it all ugly and virtually impossible to find, but the sizing across brands is RI.DIC.U.LOUS. RIDICULOUS. Old Navy XL is too short. Nike L is too tight but long enough. Kohls’ tech brand L fits length wise but falls off his waist. Brands, please get your act together. It would be great if one size matched across all brands. Not only would it be life-changing for parents but it would result in more money in brands’ pockets as I could easily log on and buy, buy, buy.


Anyway, hanging out in the boys’ department on Valentine’s Day wasn’t all that bad.

I got some really great deals, even though we had to visit a total of three stores. While I felt aggravated at the lack of overall selection, I found some things we all liked. Additionally, I was greeted with a very grateful man-child who thanked me a number of times over the night.

Afterward, we hit up the new IHOP, stopped in at GameStop to let them spend some of their money, and finished it off with evening coffees for the grownups at Starbucks. Maybe someday my husband and I will go out again—alone—on Valentine’s Day like that first date after our youngest son was born. I consumed my first alcoholic drink since prior to getting pregnant and that margarita nearly put me under the table. In the meantime, an evening of laughs and waffles and smiling boys feels like a good deal to me.

Quite honestly, this ranks as the best Valentine’s Day in a long time. Winning.