Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What A Difference an "S" Makes

I have spent my entire life either trying to lose weight, actively losing weight, or wishing I was losing weight.  One of the things I will enjoy about Heaven is knowing I won’t have to think about my weight!  Seriously, though, healthy eating and exercise are a huge part of my everyday life.  My husband and I are very aware of everything we put in our body.  We expect our bodies to always be on active duty and fully prepared for the demands we make.  With that expectation comes the responsibility of caring for that body.  My recent book, If My Body Is A Temple, Why Am I Eating Doughnuts?, tells my story of losing one hundred pounds.  It is a Biblical journey yielding information on what is good for your body.  Today, though, I want to think about the difference one little letter can make.  I am always seeking ways to burn fat.  There are foods I can consume that are fat burning, and there are foods I can consume that are fast burning.  See the difference?  One little letter – s – changes the word “fat” to “fast”.  If I am consuming “fast” burning foods like pasta, white bread, bakery items, potatoes, chips, I am missing the chance to consume “fat” burning foods.  I make it a personal mission to keep a balance in the carbs, fat, proteins, and calories I consume.  I use www.myfitnesspal.com to help me achieve this goal.  I also use AdvoCare products.  Why go to all this effort?  I have great plans for the future.  Part of those plans includes being the best caregiver possible to my Momma as she travels the journey of dementia.  I need my body to carry me through the challenges I will face in accomplishing those plans.  When you make plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, be sure to think about the “s” in your diet.  Are you eating fat burning foods or fast burning foods?  Healthy eating!

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Been 20 Years

Twenty years ago life changed at The Howell House.  It was the last day of kindergarten for our daughter, Brandie, and she was dressed and ready for “water day” at McFeat Laboratory Schools.  The phone rang shortly after breakfast with the news of my husband’s emergency trip to the hospital after having fallen at work.  I was given no information as to the extent of his injuries.  I was only advised to meet him at University Memorial Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.  A few hours later, I began to realize Michael, my husband, had sustained a closed-head injury due to negligence of a fellow employee.  He had fallen on a spill of chemicals, damaged the brain stem and cerebellum regions of his brain, and was unconscious.  After regaining consciousness, I soon discovered Michael had lost four years of his memory.  He thought our 5 year old daughter was 18 months old.  He thought we lived on Ferndale Drive, but we lived on Crestdale Drive.  He thought we had an Irish Setter named Thor, but we had a cat named K.C.  He thought he was an engineer, but he was a programmer.  These were only a few of the changes with which he had to deal.  The physical damage to his brain caused amnesia, severe headaches (that lasted for 18 months non-stop), miscommunication between the brain and the eyes, severe lethargy, and depression.  After 18 months of physical therapy for his brain and 6 months of physical therapy for his eyes, Michael was allowed to return to his job.  Upon his return, he was placed in a position his employer was well aware he was no longer capable of doing.  This gave them the right to let him go because he was not “performing up to standard”!  Life was turned upside down for The Howells, so it would seem, but life was really just beginning to get good!  We have come through this tragedy as stronger and happier people.  While 95% of couples enduring a brain injury end in divorce, our marriage got stronger.  We are still happy and loving each other today.  As I am known to say, “My husband is the best thing on the planet, and he is too CUTE!” 

When I work with families traveling the journey of dementia, I can approach it from several angles.  I understand dementia.  I understand Alzheimer’s.  I understand brain injury.  I understand the need for support.  Don’t travel the journey alone.  It is much easier having someone as your guide.  Remember – Knowledge brings POWER.  Power brings HOPE.  Hope brings SMILES.  We all need more SMILES.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Different Kind Of Family

I am a Life Coach who specializes in dementia.  This means I work one-on-one with families as they travel this new journey that is often confusing, frustrating, scary, and tiring.  It is my hope to bring knowledge, and hope, and smiles to their lives.  One thing that I consistently hear is, “I do not want to place my Momma in one of THOSE facilities.”  I am aware that emotions are running on overdrive at this point, but I have a great desire to help people understand the benefit of group living for folks with dementia.  I speak about this from a place of experience.  My Momma, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s type dementia in August of 2006, made the decision to move to an assisted living in December of 2009.  The move took place in January of 2010.  She will tell you it was the best decision she ever made.  I will tell you it was the second best decision she ever made.  Her first, and best decision, was to purchase a long-term care insurance policy.  This policy allowed her to make the decision to move to a group home setting.  There is not a day that passes when I am not made aware of how blessed I am that Momma is happy living in an assisted living setting.  She called today saying how touched she was by a resident, who is a young 101 years old, which stopped and asked Momma how a sick loved one is doing.  It seems another resident had requested prayer for my brother-in-law (Momma’s son-in-law) during church service.  Momma was touched!  If Momma were living alone, she would not have experienced this feeling of being part of an extended family.  Another example of this “family” atmosphere occurred this week when Emmy, who sits next to Momma at mealtime, returned home after being hospitalized for several weeks.  The party, cheers, excitement, kisses, and cupcakes all came together to make the family members experience the joy of being part of a different type of family.  It is a “different type of family”, for sure, but it is a great family.  These folks take care of each other, look out for each other, laugh with and at each other, quarrel with each other, and love each other.  Sounds like a family to me.  I want everyone to understand how wonderful group living is for folks with dementia.  They are never lonely.  They have mental stimulation and physical care.  Don’t look at it as one of THOSE places.  Look at it as the best place for everyone involved.  For Momma, she is thrilled to be part of this new family in her life.

Monday, May 7, 2012

She Wanted To Dance

On Tuesday, I had the honor of leading one of my choirs in a performance before a group of a couple hundred people.  About seventeen of these great choir members were dressed, transported, lined up, appropriately adorned with matching scarves, and stood waiting to perform.  During this time, another group was performing.  One lady pointed for me to approach her.  I was happy to do so. She said, “Let’s dance.”  She wanted to dance while we stood in the audience of people who were NOT dancing.  For a moment I thought, “But no one is dancing.”  Then my brain clicked into action, and I thought, “Why not?”  So, dancing is just exactly what we did.  This lady smiled from one ear to the other, she laughed, and she danced.  I totally enjoyed doing this.  This event reminded me to be more spontaneous.  The more time I spend around folks with dementia, the more convinced I am of this.  They are the people on this earth who have life figured out.  No, they may not remember important events from the past or events that are planned for the future.  They may not recognize the faces of people they love, but they know how to seize the moment.  They don’t give one wit what other people think.  They just enjoy today.  While I know we can’t always maintain that sense of self-abandonment, it sure felt good for those few minutes this week.  Let me just say this, “Inus, my friend, I loved dancing with you.  You made me think.  You made me laugh.  You made me smile.  You are a gift!”