Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Our family has season passes to a new kind of roller coaster.  We wouldn't ever have purchased these tickets- but we weren't asked. They just came special delivery.  

It's the up and down of loving someone with dementia/Alzheimer's.  I felt a little guilty thinking about leaving town for the holiday.  We went by Thursday night and she seemed settled and almost happy in her new little home.  She was laughing with us.  So, I figured it might be good for us to get our minds on something else for a few days. We headed out of town and all was calm.

Getting back too late Monday night for a visit, we were anxious to see her so for Tuesday date night- she was our first stop.  We were totally unprepared for the scene. 

We found several of the ladies, my sweet momma in law included, busily searching through drawers and closets.  We watched for a minute, at first thinking they were socializing and thrilled she was hanging out with her friends. We soon realized they were on a mission.  There were too many house guests and they were trying to find beds for all of them.  Oh, and a car.  A get-a-way car.  They wanted to know if we needed a bed too, before we reminded them that we were just visiting and wouldn't need a bed for the night.  Then, she realized who we were.  We found her room and all giggled together about her "hat" which was really a pair of brown pants wrapped up like a scarf.  Rex returned them to their rightful owner. 

We had a few minutes with her before we lost her again.  Not physically, she was right there in front of us, but not with us.  We joined some of her friends in the living room since the chaos had settled  and after the caregiver turned the channel from a VH1 movie  to TV Land, we thought the ride had come to an end.

Not so fast. 

Just as we were got her settled down and okay that she was home, Mrs. E. marched back into the room and announced "everyone, please get into your cars and go home.  you should sleep in your own beds and not stay here any longer"  gee, thanks.  When asked why she was so upset- she announced there wasn't enough corn to go around. 
She left, overheard the rumblings about her demands and returned about five times when we decided maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.  As we got up to leave, she looked right at Rex and told him to give them all rides and was a bit miffed when he told her everyone was right where they belonged- no rides tonight. 

Except for our emotions.

We found the room with the purple Iris' on the door, and I got her settled and ready for bed.  I put on Old Dog, her favorite song and we danced a bit.

She looks up at me with those eyes... they're killing me.

I kissed her goodnight and hurried past the busy bee Mrs. E now going room to room with a new plan. 

That darn locked door meant the tears started before we could get out. I hate it when that happens.

As I was telling my sister-in-law about our unplanned ride, I literally got stuck between laughter and tears.  Trying to get out the funny and sad details all mixed together was more than I could do.  It was the same feeling you get when you're creeping up the long steep hill and just as your reach the top, the coaster hesitates for just a few seconds but it seems like forever- and you're all mixed up with anticipation and fear and excitement and dread. 

Then the drop.  WHEE-you know it's coming and you're flying fast but have no control, just going with where it takes you and holding on for dear life- thankful for the seat belt or metal bar that keeps you in place as everything zooms past you. 

This is a strange strange ride. 

And one that has me hungry for more.

I'm reading as much as I can, asking questions and learning from the Alzheimer's Association,

Do you know:
Alzheimer's is not a normal sign of aging. 
The earliest Alzheimer's changes can start 20 years or more before diagnosis. 
The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's

I think information may be the seat belt that holds us in place while we zoom up and down and round and round this strange ride. 

Happy Wednesday y'all! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stuff. Enough?

I like stuff. 

I collect stuff.  Mostly sunflowers and shoes.  Oh, and there's the purses and the roosters.  And the kids papers.  And coffee mugs.  And, oh so much more.
I thought I got control over my stuff when we moved off the mountain and we had to clean out the basement. Filled with stuff that people gave us.  After weeks of cleaning out, we figured out that sometimes people give you stuff as a polite way of you hauling it away so they don't have to. We just kept taking stuff, piece by piece because we MIGHT need it some day.

We teach our kids to like stuff, too.  What, you don't believe me? Count their books, happy meal toys, Nerf guns and footballs. 

There isn't really anything wrong with stuff, I guess.  But recently I've been struck with wonderment- why all the stuff?

We don't really need it, do we?  So why do we want it?

I think we want stuff because it reminds of something.  Either something we miss, or something we're longing for.  

We hang on to birthday cards and elementary report cards. We keep our baby's clothes.  Yes, I'm confessing I have Shayne's "home from the hospital outfit" and his first cowboy boots.  I have the shirts my babies wore when I picked them up from the social worker.  I have all of their pacifiers and favorite blankets. 

There is some stuff that is priceless.  Stuff we touch, smell or just look at and are immediately taken back to a time and place.  So, we hang on to the stuff afraid that getting rid of the stuff equals erasing the memories.  

As parents age and things change, we, adult kids find ourselves having to make decisions about their stuff.  It feels wrong not to grab it all up and move it into our own homes- where we can keep it safe.  We don't want strangers touching it.  But the truth is, the stuff can't live and breath.  If it isn't use able, most likely it will just collect dust in new spaces.  It can't bring comfort that we are desperately searching through boxes to find. 
So we pick through it carefully for what is special, important, use able and will bring memories to life for a few more years.  Favorite mugs, goofy pictures, magnets and furniture.   The rest, we'll have to let go even when tempted to hold on. 

So,  I'm thinking I'll go through some of my own stuff, and if I ain't a gonna wear it, use it, cook in it, see it everyday or put it in a scrapbook, I might just let go a little early so my kids don't feel obligated to pack it up one day and move it to their own place.

Stuff- got some?

Here's just a couple ideas how to purge through some of it:

Cards- anniversary, birthday, Christmas, etc.  -  A few years ago, after moving 3-4 boxes of cards from house to house I decided that I didn't need all of them.  I went through each one- and if there was a special or unique message in it, I kept it.  If not, I kept the last card received from my hubby, parents, best friends, etc. 
Memorabilia- trinkets that are really more trash than treasure but still conjure up fond memories- take a picture of them and make a scrapbook.  It's much easier to flip through the pages than to dig through boxes and boxes, and the memories fit nicely.

Kitchen gadgets- how many spatulas and 2 qt. baking dishes does one person really need?  Purge people, purge.

Baby/kids clothes- sports jerseys- etc?  Make a quilt with the pieces you can't bear to part with and wrap up in the memories.  Everything else- donate.  I guarantee somebody is looking for your used stuff. 
Happy Wednesday, and happy purging y'all!

Got an idea on purging stuff- I'm all ears, please leave me a comment and share!

Monday, May 21, 2012


We wear it on our necks and advertise it on our shelves.  We hang reminders to BELIEVE on our walls and sometimes toss it around in conversation like it's easy.    

But when life is coming at you too fast to think, it is what sustains. 

After the decision to accept Christ and become a believer is made (and sealed forever) we aren't done with it. 

We need it to walk into the strange place she now calls home and assure her everything is okay.

We need it when our parenting seems to be taking two steps backwards for every one step ahead.

We need it when we pray for healing and patience.  And we don't get the answer to either one, or at least not the answer we hoped for.

We need it when our babies are graduating and enlisting and planning weddings.

We need it to wake up tomorrow and do it all again. 

It has to be more than letters carved out pretty.  It has to be alive. And active.

Because God said.... but without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Oh, how I want to please Him with the mess I call my life.

But how can we believe when our souls are numb, our bodies exhausted and we can't see or understand what's ahead?  

Believing God, Beth Moore

Because He is.

1000 Gifts #801 - 810

the outlet of written word
notes from studies that ring true years later
warm breezes on a Friday outing
his questions, her answers
finally letting it out
signed contracts
Teri watching them so we can visit her
family is stronger
watching him ride without training wheels
9 days left in this school year

What 'ya thankful for? 

Happy Monday y'all!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When the Journey Takes a Different Path- Make Sure You've Got your Sensible PJ's on.

The last few weeks have brought big changes for the Allen's.  I've been overwhelmed with emotions and frankly, too exhausted to gather all that our family is feeling by putting fingers to keyboard in fear of completely falling apart.  It's time to let if flow so be warned, this one is a long one people.
The Monday morning phone call from home when you're on vacation is never a good thing.   We decided to stay, but our cell phone bill proved where our hearts and minds were.  Home.  Iris. Alzheimer's.  24/7 care.  Safety. Decisions. Change.  

We came home a day early so we could spend Sunday with her. We wondered how things could change that fast?  I spent that Sunday night with her- which prompted The Green Bathtub  post.  As the weeks followed and we spent more and more time together, it became clear that things would never be the same again. 

I had to be strong for her.  She didn't know I would sneak off to breathe in deep and let tears fall.  

I thought I understood Alzheimer's and dementia; after all I watch Grey's Anatomy.  I realize now, that this is one of those things you can't possibly understand, until you are living it.  Up close and personal.  And now that we are, I realize I've failed many of my friends who their own journey took them down this path before ours. 

Friday night became girls night  and even knowing I wouldn't get to sleep much, I quickly began looking forward to having her all to myself.  I'd curl up next to her in her bed and we'd chat.  As the weeks passed, so did her memories of our nights together.   I knew these times were precious, it didn't matter they were hard.

Our visits became more and more difficult for me to keep it together.  This strong, determined, independent and stubborn woman seemed to be MIA.  In her place a confused and seemingly lost frail person taking over.  I learned to read her eyes. 

The Sunday afternoon that she asked me if I knew Rex, and then proceeded to tell me about him and his family in great detail- that was the day I knew the hard decision recently made was the right decision.  Her life's journey was taking a different path.  

With the decision now made- she had to be told.  People have asked us why we (the daughter-in-laws) chose to tell her.  That's easy- because we adore her sons, and watching them bear the pain of what was to be, and what was no longer to be,  was too much for us to ask them to carry that memory.  It was a gift we could give them - allowing them to be her boys.  If she was to be angry- we wanted her to direct that anger to us, and not to her sons. 

We told her exactly one week before the move- and what a week that turned out to be. We repeated the what and the why and the when daily. We second guessed the decision and continued to search for another way, all the time knowing that this was the right option. 

We started her last weekend on Buena Vista around 5 am Saturday morning- when I realized she was packing.  I knew in her eyes, this trip "home" would be like none other.  Taking the advice we'd been given, I joined her on her journey.  We packed up plungers and curlers and empty picture frames so she could go "home". This is where the sensible pj's come in people, we were moving fast and trotting around town in lingerie wouldn't have worked too well.  I will not judge people in public sporting pajama bottoms again, they might just be taking somebody they love home.  I left her with my brother and sister-in-law and hurried to my car. I needed to talk to my best.  I needed to release all I'd been holding in. 

Hyperventilating 40+woman in PJ's driving through Hardees for Diet Coke early on a Saturday morning is not a pretty site.

Looking back on that morning, I know God was answering specific prayers- her willingness to leave the house gave us the chance to prepare for the move coming in three more days.  

Sunday, May 6 we celebrated her 90th birthday.  It was a good day for her filled with family and friends dropping by to show their love for her; but for us, it was a roller-coaster of emotions.  We smiled but inside we knew this would be the last time we'd celebrate with her in the house people had been gathering in for 50 years. 

Her life's journey was taking a different path - things will never be the same. 

Monday, we moved the things we had gathered on Saturday into her new place.  It was the first time I saw her room, her neighbors, the setting.   90 years of life now condensed into a few boxes. 

Alzheimer's is cruel.  I wept. 

Her three best girls stayed with her that night.  It was the sweetest, saddest 24 hours of my life.   We ate pizza at 9:30 pm, and told stories about our men.  We danced in the kitchen to Old Dog. 
YES, grandma danced and we each took a twirl with her.  We exchanged looks.  The look that said this is fun, and it sucks, and I'm here for you but I wish this wasn't happening look.  Just when we thought she was settling for the night, she opened up.  We talked until midnight, and we answered her difficult questions, again, and again, and again. 

I wouldn't trade that night with "the girls" for anything- except maybe for her to be her again. 

The morning came with an eery sense of dread.  It was as if nobody wanted to move knowing that would trigger the beginning of the worst day of our lives. 

We ate  Ona's omelets and drank coffee.  Grandma did the dishes.  And we cried. 
We sat on the couch and eye to eye and for the first time I cried with her.  No apologies, no holding back.  Just crying together. 

And then it was time to go.  Using the advice of my sweet friend, just put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time we left Buena Vista, together.  The day was long and hard and overwhelming.  And after spending several hours together getting her settled we left.
Without her. 

I wouldn't have thought this could be worse than death. We agreed, for us it is.

We left her with strangers who promise to care for her better than we can.  We left her with doctors, and nurses, and educators and homemakers, and teachers who, just like her no longer remember who they are, how old they are, and even where they are.  They may or may not know their own kids when they walk in, that they had birthday cake the night before or what day it is.   

Alzheimer's doesn't discriminate.  And in our family we're afraid if we can't find some humor, it might crush us under it's weight.  

So,  we chuckle when Mrs. A.D. asked us about 27 times where Elijah goes to school, and the other Mrs. A., when asked her age declares... "I don't know" or when Mr. B. tells me "you've got pretty legs" or when introducing ourselves as we normally do ask the beautiful piano player her name and she can't remember it, or when Isaiah comments after a minor altercation in the courtyard involving my camera - "that lady don't listen too good". 

We're walking a different path these days. 

But what matters most is that we are still walking it together.  We'll keep trusting God to handle the why.  I think I'll take Him at His word, and toss this burden back His way... it's too much for me.

I Peter 5:7
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.

Happy Wednesday y'all,

 Has your family walked the Alzheimer's journey?  I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Week's Worth of Thanks, in a Simple List.

1000 Gifts #781-800

decompressing on the brother Dale's front porch
watching her light up when she holds Delaney- 90 yrs her junior
her snoring... telling me she's sleeping and still
the graduate- Jeremy Naff- and watching friends and family rejoice with him
really good cupcakes 
Audrey and Elijah- cousins playing on the edge of love and dislike- mostly love
another Friday night gift of snuggling with her
sensible PJ's for our early am journey "home"
90 years of life- celebrated in her home
5 generations together on one couch
sister-in-laws whispering I Love You in  my ear, and the gift of loving them back
answered prayers
sharing tears in our sadness
together, putting one foot in front of the other
means to surprise a sister, Godmother,teacher, friend with a special gift
Baby Christian's safe arrival
Hope whispered in many ears - with my momma beside me

Happy Monday y'all!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Foster Care Prayer Vigil- Will you join us?

We're hosting a prayer vigil in our home, Monday 5/21/12 at 6:00 pm.  If you can't join in person, please consider a commitment to join virtually. 

As a foster mom, I know first hand the great needs in the foster care system and how everyone who is touched by it is affected and hurt. 

I also believe in prayer.

For more information on the vigil, watch the short video below or follow the link to 
Cry of the Orphan.

For more details on location, or to RSVP for the vigil, please email me at

Thanks for praying!

Five Minute Friday: Identity

It's Friday. It's another five minutes with thegypsymama.


Identity:  Robin & Iris Allen

Who am I? 
Besides my name what is my identity? 

I wonder, will it matter when I'm 90 and can't remember where I am or why I'm there, or who my kids are?

For now, I am the one whose name is called more times in a day than I can count.  I am the one my kids and family depend on to be strong on the outside when I am really crumbling into millions of pieces on the inside.  I am the one who calms my husband. I am the the "dip" lady.  I am the one my friend trusts.
I am the one who wipes clean noses, and bottoms, bloodied knees and kitchen counter tops. 

I am whoever my family needs me to be-  the nurse, the secretary, the carpool mom, the mechanic, the gardener, the shopper, the seamstress, the cook, the play mate, the bookkeeper, the advocate, the bank.  I am the maid.

I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a daughter-in-law. I am a friend. I am a wife. I am a sister. I am a sister-in-law. I am a neighbor. I am a co-worker. I am an aunt, great aunt, great-great aunt. 

Change it?  No way.
Confused?  Absolutely not.. I know exactly who I am. 

I am a daughter of the King, a princess, His bride.  I am nobody, unless I'm His somebody and I'm His everything.
And no, it won't matter when I no longer remember because He will never forget.

Happy Friday y'all!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Real

It's Friday. It's another five minutes with thegypsymama.

I've done fake.  Growing up I wasn't sure how else to do life.  When asked the question, how 'ya doing? my perfect response was always "I'm fine." 

I wasn't.

I was crushed inside- my heart broken as a result of divorce.  I was confused and scared and angry and felt alone.

But when asked, I was fine.

I married my man, and continued with my pat response when life threw disappointments. 
Infertility.  I'm fine.
Bankruptcy.  I'm fine.
Layoffs. I'm fine.
Bankruptcy again. I'm fine.
Death.  I'm fine.

But I wasn't and eventually, what was real reared its ugly head and demanded to be dealt with.
And in the midst of the dealing God landed me smack dab in the midst of women, lots of women as the Women's Ministry director at our church.

As I began to give real answers to the question, when asked, I learned that my real, is their real too.  Why is everyone afraid to share it?

It's ugly- breast cancer, depression, divorce. screaming kids.  laundry, lots of it.  Sometimes drug addiction, physical and sexual abuse.  Kid poop and kid puke.  broken dreams.  lost hope. disappointments.  Alzheimer's. 

I learned that when I gave real answers, so did they.  And in the midst of our ugly- we really can be fine- when we keep it real. 

I'm not leading women's ministry anymore- I'm more focused on the screaming kids and poop these days- but being real grows relationships and serving together bonds them.

Vanessa, Debbie, Edith, me, Dana, Renee, Karen & Julie
still serving and keeping it real at RFBC

Real alone is ugly. 
Real shared is beautiful relationships- with others and with God.

Happy Friday y'all!

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