Thanks to the loving support and infinite patience and sacrifice of my husband and children, I have been able to redirect all of my energy and brainpower into my studies for the past 8 months. And it's paying off.
I've faced some of my greatest fears and discovered that I can learn, that my brain, like any other "muscle" simply needs to be exercised in order to grow stronger.
I was scared to go back to school...afraid that my mind was no longer young and agile enough to absorb and synthesize all the information these courses would throw at me.
When I wrote my first exam in the first semester I was panic-stricken. My heart raced as the results were handed back. I stared in disbelief at the "A+" staring back at me. Now, not every mark has been an A+...but one day, much to my pleasant surprise, I realized that I was driving to my exam without a hint of panic. And then, I noticed that my heart wasn't racing as I waited to received my grades.
Not only do I stand to benefit professionally from my educational pursuits, but my brain is forming new synaptic connections every day - something that is recommended in middle age: you need to challenge your brain and learn new things if you want to maintain brain health. And I have made new friends - real, face-to-face friends - another important factor in staving off dementia (maintaining social connections). And with such a busy life, my social media consumption has declined - and I feel so much better for it...
The only cons of working full time while going to school full time are the lack of free time to be with my family and friends during "school season," and missing the simple things that I loved in my "former life" - grocery shopping, cooking and baking, and the sheer satisfaction of a spic and span house after a 7 hour cleaning marathon.
With my 3 week school vacation, I actually resumed my grocery shopping duties and started preparing meals again! Crazy as it sounds, I felt decadent as I leisurely wandered the aisles of Superstore. These activities are time consuming and eat into my study time.
I've also been able to pack in 2 dance competition trips with Becca and 2 university road trips with Sara...all the while marvelling at how beautiful, self-assured and special my not-so-little girls are. On the last competition weekend I actually cooked and prepared a picnic lunch like the old days! My Jewish mother instincts kicked right in as I offered pasta salad, roasted chickpeas, turkey sandwiches and veggies & dip to anyone who was hungry. Old habits die hard!
Yesterday Becca and I went to visit Mom. I wondered aloud whether it was appropriate to take a picture of the 3 of us - Becca, Mom and me - to mark Mother's Day 2015. Becca asked why not and took a selfie of us. Later that evening I discovered she'd posted it online with a loving tribute to Mom. I was so moved I shared her post.
I struggle with posting current photos of Mom...on the one hand I tell myself that this is not the way I want people to remember my mother - I would prefer that they remember her as the beautiful, glamorous and graceful woman she was. On the other hand, this is how my mother is now...and I am still proud of her...she is an Alzheimer's warrior and braver than anyone else I know...facing endless days trapped in a body ravaged by a disease for which there is no cure. Her appearance is her battle scar. The same way my parents taught me never to hide my fingers, never to be ashamed of who I am and how I look, I believe that the effects of Alzheimer's are not something we need to hide or be ashamed of.
The photo made some of our family sad, so I took it down...out of respect to them and their feelings....not out of shame or to hide anything...I am so proud of my mother. I think of how she handled being diagnosed with EOAD and slowly losing herself in the disease, as though being swallowed by quicksand. She did so with love, courage and grace. And I can only hope that if it is my fate to follow in her footsteps, that I will be able to be as strong, courageous and supportive of my family as I embark on my own journey as my mother was in hers. Anyways, I've decided to pepper this post with my favourite photos of Mom, from Once Upon a Time...isn't she beautiful?
I hope that I will be able to squeeze in some baking and cooking time to try new recipes over the summer, so please stay tuned. Until next time, I wish you all a belated Happy Mother's Day and a wonderful week filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food. B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!