Tag Archive | Memories

How Much is To Much?

Harrods department store, Brompton Road, Knigh...

Harrods department store, Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last summer, while I was in London, I visited Harrods’s Department Store. Harrods is one of the largest and most luxurious department stores in the world. It’s a place you really need to “see to believe”. The opulence and extravagance are unlike anything I have ever seen. The ceilings are decked out with intricate colorful hand paintings, gilded sculptures, and brilliant fixtures.

The opulent clothing department at Harrods, London

Harrods only sells the very top designer brands or “couture” brands, like Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs. They have an amazing shellfish bar, and they sell any kind of food in the world that you could possibly dream of.

At one point, we were browsing in the “discount” room looking at woman’s clothes, where the least expensive clothing item I found was a DKNY sequenced shirt going for 50 pounds ($80 or so). Just down the rack from that shirt there was a intricately embroidered suede leather jacket “on sale” for $3500, reduced from the price of $15,000. I joke you not. The first thought I had was “Um, shouldn’t they have this locked up or something?” And then I thought, “How much do they actually mark this stuff up, if they decreased the price by that much?” It probably cost a couple hundred to make it. It was total madness to me.

There were people from all over the world shopping. I noticed a lot of Middle 

Eastern women with beautiful brightly colored luxurious silk scarves wrapped

around  them, which probably cost more than my Grand Caravan minivan. Many

had their “maids” trailing behind them carrying their plethora of stuffed, heavy

packages. The women’s husbands or boyfriends wore expensive looking Italian

 leather shoes, silk shoes, and linen slacks. I got to thinking about what these

these people do for a living that they can come here for a shopping spree. Are

they wives of dignitaries or diplomats or important oil sheiks from

Due Bai or Empire Eu?


I thought, “Do these people wake up in the morning and think, “You know, I

need to go pick up that Burberry scarf (regular price 550 pounds) to go with

my $15,ooo jacket. I really haven’t spent enough of my millions lately….”

No, I am guessing that prices do not even enter their brains. Perhaps money to

them, is plentiful and endless, so it is of no concern.


We ate lunch there, which was fun, as it is such a ridiculously “surreal” place. I

had an $8  latte and a $20 sandwich, which was the best sandwich I have ever

tasted. For me, it was a fun place to visit for a couple hours. I loved the food

departments. I could’ve stayed all day dreaming up exotic food recipes.

We didn’t even make it upstairs to the furniture and housewares department,

but I hear they have pieces worth millions of dollars. All around there were big

burly security guards carfully watching the large crowd for potential

“problems”. It was a little unnerving.


After walking around all of the exorbitantly priced blouses and dresses, I

began to feel claustrophobic an annoyed. It reminded me of those days when

my mom would come home from trips wearing her St. John Knit dresses, which is  a brand that Harrods carry. I always had mixed feelings of awe and confusion.

Like, “Wow, mom looks amazingly fantastic in that St. John Knit dress, and then

“Why does she spend that much money on one dress?” “Does it really make her

feel that much better about herself wearing a $5,ooo dress, verses a $50

dress?” I think it did make her feel better about herself for a while anyway.

But was it worth it?


I am most certainly not immune to the sinful forces of greed, just like everyone 

else. I love to shop for beautiful things, and I have been known to get “sucked

in” all of that tempting materialism, which can leave you feeling like “you just

have to have it”, in order to be a happier, more fulfilled person.But, luckily for

my husband, the frugal teacher in me still loves to mostly bargain shop. I

rarely,if ever, pay full price for anything.


Over time, I have come to realize that those fulfilled feelings fade. Money can

make you more comfortable and make your life run more efficiently. But alone,

it can never buy lasting happiness. And the thing about my mom was that she

could have had almost any material thing that her heart could’ve dreamed of,

but the illusion of happiness that it brought her would have never been enough.

And that is because she could never truly find that happiness within her.


What my mom’s illness has taught me is that all of this “stuff” that we sometimes put to

much value and importance in will all very much pass away, and should not in any way

define our true selves. I think of my mom’s St. John Knit dresses collecting dust in her

closet now, and it makes me sad. All the glitz and glam can become methods and means

for appearing worthy or special. Sometimes material wealth can cause people to hide

behind their clothes and expensive shoes…..getting farther and farther from the truth of

who they are on the inside.


So, I guess my Harrods experience left my asking the questions,

“What really matters in life?” “How can I live a more authentic life, focusing more

on giving, than on getting?” “How can I best balance my time and money?”

“How much is TO much?”


She told him she’d rather fix her makeup
Than try to fix what’s going on
But the problem keeps on calling
Even with the cellphone gone
She told him that she believes in living
Bigger than she’s living now
But her world keeps spinning backwards
And upsidedown
Don’t say so long, and throw yourself wrong
Don’t spend today away
Cuz today will soon be Gone, like yesterday is gone,
Like history is
Gone, just trying to prove me wrong
And pretend like you’re immortal She said he said live like no tomorrow
Every day we borrow
Brings us one step closer to the edge (infinity)
Where’s your treasure, where’s your hope
If you get the world and lose your soul
She pretends like she pretends like she’s immortal
Don’t say so long
You’re not that far gone
This could be your big chance to makeup
Today will soon beGone, like yeterday is gone,
Like history is gone,
The world keeps spinning on,
Your going going gone,
Like summer break is gone,
Like saturday is gone
Just try to prove me wrong
You pretend like your immortal your immortal

We are not infinite
We are not permanent
Nothing is immediate
We’re so confident
In our accomplishments
Look at our decadence

Gone, like Frank Sinatra
Like Elvis and his mom
Like AL Pacino’s cash nothing lasts in this life
My highschool dreams are gone
My childhood sweets are gone
Life is a day that doesn’t last for long

Life is more than money
Time was never money
Time was never cash,
Life is still more than girls
Life is more than hundred dollar bills
And roto-tom fills
Life’s more than fame and rock and roll and thrills
All the riches of the kings
End up in wills we got information in the information age
But do we know what life is
Outside of our convenient Lexus cages

She said he said live like no tomorrow
Every moment that we borrow
Brings us closer to the God who’s not short of cash
Hey Bono i’m glad you asked
Life is still worth living, life is still worth living


How cleaver is my pride, how it deceives my mind

To think I am in control when I have really lost it all
How brilliant is my greed for what it says I need
And then I’ve come to find I’m empty on the inside

Real, my heart is aching to be real
So I am coming to You

All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness now I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out so what am I fighting You for
So what am I fighting You for

How quick is my doubt to leave my heart without
The presence of Your peace so that I scarce believe
How pardoned is my guilt to crush the life You built
And to keep me far away from any kind of shame

Real, my heart is aching to be real
So I am coming to You
All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness now I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out so what am I fighting You for

‘Cause only You can save me
And only You can change me
And only You can love me
Here I come, here I come
So I come to You

All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness ’cause I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out so what am I fighting You

All my broken motives, all my selfish dreams
All of my foolishness now I understand where it leads
I wanna be in Your love, I wanna be so much more
I know You’re reaching out I don’t wanna fight anymore

I don’t wanna fight anymore
I don’t wanna fight anymore
I don’t wanna fight anymore
I don’t wanna fight


Dear Tears

I wrote the poem “Dear Tears” about 15 years ago, while my grandma was suffering with vascular dementia. She had the same type of dementia that my mom has. My mom’s mom, whom we called “Nana”, had dementia for about seven years, until she passed away in 2000. My husband and I got married just a few months after she passed.  By the end of her illness, she did not recognize most of her family. Occasionally, she seemed to have fleeting glimpses of recognition. Sometimes she seemed to remember my mom, and bits and pieces from her old life.

I have vivid memories of visiting Nana at the Care Center, which was situated not far from my parents home. At the beginning of her stay, she would beg and beg me to take her home in my “red car”. It was heart wrenching to leave her there and witness her sad, forlorn, and confused eyes, with her never understanding why we were keeping her there. I would visit often with my mom, taking Nana for walks in her wheel chair around the property.

Many times Nana mistakenly believed that my mom was married to her first boyfriend, John, whom she had dated before my dad. She hadn’t seen or talked to John in over 30 years, but my grandma would often ask how he and his family were doing, and what he was up to. Mom and I would sometimes joke about that, and I would tease her for once throwing an engagement ring John had given her into the snow, when they had gotten into a fight one night. Nana also sometimes believed that her parents were still alive, and she wondered why they never visited her. It was painful explaining to her over and over again that they were in fact, dead and gone and now in heaven.

We would often go and visit the song birds down the hall from Nana’s room, where they nested and flitted about in their wall sized enclosure. Some days Nana didn’t mind going to sit with them and listen to the tiny bird’s sweet tweeting and chirping. As time went on though, she frequently rebelled at having to see those birds. On some level, I imagine that she understood that those tiny little things of beauty were stuck and trapped inside, just like she was.

Mom and I were at Nana’s bedside when she passed peacefully to her new life with God. I remember praying the Rosary, and my mom later told me that she had felt “a strong wind” blow across the room just after Nana died, even though there were no windows in the room, and the one and only door in the room was tightly closed. We both firmly believed that her angels took her, and that the gush of wind could’ve very well been them leading her on to her next life.

I remember having emotional conversations with my mom, where she would plead with me saying things like, “Mary, if I ever end up this way, you can not put me in a nursing home. I’m serious Mary, your father and I have enough money to get full time nursing care and that is what I would want. Promise me that.” I am sure that I promised her. I probably said something like, “OK, OK, OK mom, geez…do we really need to be talking about this right now?” Little did I know then, that less than 10 years later, I would be needing to do the very thing that she made me promise her I would not do. No wonder I had severe anxiety attacks while searching for a suitable care center for her to move into. I have since gotten help for that, thank God.

In many ways, caring for my mom feels so similar to how it felt caring for Nana. They both have the same witty humor, inquisitive natures, and stick to it stubbornness. My children call my mom Nana, just like I called her mom Nana. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, because I have such clear memories of being with Nana, and I get a sort of shock or “twilight zone” type of feeling when it sinks in that yep, it’s deja vu. I’m here again with dementia. Only it’s not Nana. It’s my mom. I am thankful for the kids in those moments. They are perfect for sucking me back into the now, and for helping me to appreciate the joy and innocence again, which they exude so well.

Dear Tears

Deep within,

my soul cries.


Tears and sadness

for the one,

who can not shed.


Tears for the one,

who knows not

what’s in her head.


Tears for the one,

who’s so alone,

in a world so

mangled and twisted.


Crying out my pain

for the precious and the dear,

who one day awake,

and know not

the face in the mirror.


These tears

which fall

will rest,

knowing that in the end,

His will

is what’s best.


This is a beautiful song written about the singer’s grandma, who had dementia. It is written and sung by the Dixie Chicks. (I don’t know the people in the photos)

This beautiful song, written and sung by Jon Foreman (lead singer of Swicthfoot) reminds me of my long journey of caring for my mom, and of all the years I spent trying to help her get better. It also helps me remember to unite my sufferings with Christ, who holds us close in our pain and deep fears.


Groundhog Day and My Mom’s Birthday

Last week was Groundhog Day, which always falls on the day before my mother’s birthday. Dealing with Dementia feels a lot like you have stepped into the movie,”Groundhog Day”, which is a funny movie about a guy who repeats the same day over and over again. Sometimes I try new lines in the old conversations with my mom just to mix things up a little. But most of the time I repeat the old lines, because I know familiarity brings comfort to her. I wanted to give you a glimpse into a day of what dealing with Dementia looks like. This was my visit with my mom today, and some of what we talked about are among the top 3 conversations that we have on a regular basis. The words in parentheses were things that I thought out in my head, and were not actually said. Although, believe me,I would like to say them at times!

Conversation # 1.

Mom:  “When am I going to get out of here?”

Me: “Well, mom, you know we need to wait until your legs get stronger so that you can walk on your own.”

Mom: “Well, I was doing physical therapy and now they don’t give me that anymore, do you know why?”

Me: “Well, they seem to think that if you would practice walking with the walker more often to meal times, that this could greatly improve your walking. So why don’t you give that a try more?” “Physical therapy is $100 a week (on top of the $8,000 a month that it costs for you to live here) and they don’t seem to think that it does anything positive to get you closer to being able to walk again.”

Mom: “Did you tell them to cancel that?” Because that was none of your business, and I want you to tell them to start it again because I want to walk again someday.”(I am strongly tempted here to tell her that, actually, IT IS MY BUSINESS BECAUSE I AM YOUR LEGAL GUARDIAN and YOUR DAUGHTER, WHO HAS LOVINGLY CARED FOR YOU FOR MOST OF YOUR ADULT LIFE)

Me: “OK, mom, I will talk with them, OK? (therapeutic fibbing here, which is a dementia term that means you tell them what they want to hear, so you can “meet them where they are at”)

Conversation #2

Mom: “Aren’t those flowers just gorgeous over there?”

Me: “Yes, they are! I gave them to you last week for your birthday!”

Mom: “Oh, that’s right, it was my birthday, wasn’t it? Those flowers are beautiful, and your brother gave me the most beautiful outfit that he said he picked out himself!” (yes, I know you have told me and shown it to me 5 times already!) I think that he is making up for his father’s behavior.”

Me: “Well, maybe, but I think that it’s just because that he loves you a lot.”

Conversation # 3

Mom: “Did you know that your father left me? Can you believe that?”

Me:. “Yes, mom, he left about 5 years ago now.”

Mom: “No….it hasn’t been that long, it’s only been about 2 years”

Me: “No, mom, actually it has been about 5 years or so since dad left. Do you know why he left?”

Mom: “If you say it is because of my drinking, then I am going to bop you one.” (well, then I guess you can bop me one then) (I am silent here, and just stare at her) Because, you know I remember the day that I decided to stop, and it was one day I was doing the dishes (interesting, I haven’t heard this one before), and I thought to myself, “I just don’t need to do that anymore, so I just won’t do it. It wasn’t because I went to AA (because you never actually did?) or Hazleton or anything, I just knew I didn’t need it anymore.” (UH HUH….and pigs can fly now?)

With this tired conversation, I usually switch the subject, because typically my kids around, and it’s just not “kid friendly conversation” you know what I mean?

Conversation # 4

Me: “So I have been thinking I want to surprise Eric and get a dog this spring.” (I tell her all about a breed I talked to a pet shop worker about and how much the kids want one)

Mom: “Oh, that would be so fun for the kids! We had Benny (our awesome St. Bernard) before you were born! And we loved having dogs with young kids!

(Here, we have a great conversation about the past with our old dog Benny, who was the best dog in the world.)

Mom (5 minutes later): “So, when are you going to get a dog?” (SIGH) (I pretty much repeat the whole last 5 minutes) (my experience with working with young kids comes in handy with this disease!)

Conversation #5

Me: “Well, mom, I need to get going…I have a therapist appointment (where we mostly talk about you over and over and over again)

Mom: “Oh…does that help you?” Tell your therapist that your dad left your mom and she would like to know what she can do about it.”

Me: “Well, She (me) TRIED to get you to go to Mass with me today, down your hall in the chapel, and you wouldn’t go…so she (me) is working on it!” (this is where I think, “God, you sure want me to persevere don’t you?….oh, and develop my patience!” I’m workin’ on it!)

Mom: “Oh…I know, I just didn’t want to, I just don’t feel good! But, thanks so much for coming…and next time bring the kids. You know, most grand parents don’t enjoy their young grand children as much as I do.”

Me: “I know, mom, you adore them, and they adore you, and so do I (I kiss her and give her a hug) “Good bye, love you, I will see you in a few days!” (Which will be on Sunday)

Memory Keeper

Summer holidays are bittersweet for me. My family has been celebrating summer holidays at my parents beautiful lake home for the past 20 years. This marks the third year in a row that my mom has not been present at the lake, as she now lives in a nursing home ten minutes away.  My parents split up 5 years ago due to fractions mostly caused by her disease of chemical addiction.

I still haven’t gotten used to the empty feeling that achingly persists in the house. All of her personal things are still around, and there is a gaping hole left in the middle of the living room, where her chair and one of the 2 couches used to be, as they are now in her tiny room at the nursing home with her.

Sometimes it feels like she is just on a trip or just “out”, but that heavy feeling still lurks in my heart, even as I try to mask it or cover it up with pleasant small talk, or feigned excitement. The pain aches more acutely at certain times…and I have no choice but to just ride it out. Grief comes in waves..so it helps to realize in those moments that a calmer wave is sure to follow. If not today, than perhaps tomorrow or the next day.  It’s hard to forget that she will probably never be able to come back to her amazing house on the lake with the breathtaking sunset views and her Iris, Peonies, and Geraniums.

We don’t talk much about her at those gatherings. Dad will ask how she is doing, if she is getting worse or not, and if the nurses and aides are taking good care of her. I will give an “update” on her care, and retell how her present status is. Yesterday I told dad that she does not remember the lake house, and does not remember living there. He said, “Well, that’s good, right? Then she doesn’t beg to go home does she?” And actually, in a sense, he is right. It does make it easier in that regard. She can’t get anxious or upset about going somewhere she has no recollection of. She can’t beg me incessantly to “get out of here and just go home”.

Tonight I remember for her. I am her memory keeper. I remember the love and joy that she brought to that home. I remember her bright and sunny spirit & her inquisitive nature. I remember her beautiful smile and her impeccable style and grace. I remember her laughter, her love of her flowers and interior decorating. I remember how she loved to sit out on the patio and watch our kids play in the water and in the grass. I remember how she and I would sit out on her porch on her cozy couches with the brightly colored patterns of flowers and birds on them, and read our books, and share what our stories were about. I remember how we loved to look out and admire all the beautiful sail boats that sailed by…especially when there was a regatta going on.

I choose to remember….because I can not forget.

We Shelter Each Other

A church in Mykonos, Greece

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (Constantinople) It was the largest Christian church in the world for nearly 1,000 years (500-1400)

Inside the Hagia Sophia (Church of Divine Wisdom)


A Greek Orthodox church in Mykonos, Greece
Ar Scath a Cheile a Mhaireas na Daoine are old Irish words that mean “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Within our faith community, we shelter each other, to care for one another and embody the love, peace, and hope promised by God and found in the Life of Jesus.(Jars of Clay, Shelter Album)   

My Daughter Anna's Baptism in 2008

A community is a unified body of individuals, who share a common bond and connection. Within my  Catholic community, we gather to share our stories; our joys, triumphs, and our sorrows. We gather together in joy and thanksgiving to receive God’s life and grace;  through His Word and his body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. Our church is our shelter and our harbor in times of difficulty, as is stated in Isaiah 4:6.. “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from storm and rain.” And we are brought together in Christ as stated in Ephesians 1:23…”The church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

I felt a very keen sense of shelter and love within my church community the other week,when I was able to take my mom to Ash Wednesday mass. It was a very momentous occasion for us, because I hadn’t been able to get my mom to mass at a church in four years. This was the first time since her illness begam that mom was well enough to be able to sit through a full mass. I have been able to occasionally take her to catholic services at the chapel in her care center, but it is not the same as attending a full Catholic mass in a church.  I had dreamed of going to mass with her again… especially an all school mass, where my kids attend catholic grade school. So, when I finally got her there, it was a very big deal for me!   

On Anna's Baptism day at the hospital

I can’t explain how emotional it was for me to sit next to her while listening to and singing “On Eagles Wings”, which has always been a favorite church song for both of us. It brought back memories of when I would play the song  on my flute as a young girl in our porch, with my mom standing in the kitchen listening (and probably secretly hoping I would get bored with it , as  I would get a little “obsessed” with my playing when I found a song that I loved to play !) Every so often during the mass, I would look over at her, and she would flash me a beaming smile…obviously thrilled to be sharing mass with me and my daughter Lauren. I choked up a few times when I heard her trying to sing, as she garbled out some of the verses of the song. It was a very healing experience for all of us, and a memory I will always hold dear.

Recently I heard a speaker at our parish faith formation night tell us, “We don’t “have” to go to church, we “get” to go to church!”  Sometimes I hear people talk of how they don’t “get” anything out of a particular church service. Ultimately, the real purpose of going to church should be to praise God and to show Him our great love and immense gratitude for all of the many blessings that he has given us! 

 I think of people in war torn or communist countries where there is no religious freedom.There are people in this world who don’t go to church, because they are not ALLOWED to go.  It is against the LAW to go and celebrate their faith with their community in public.   I can not even imagine what it must feel like to live in such an oppressive place.  I have heard of a group who lead a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Christian retreat in China, who had to memorize the whole entire curriculum, as they had to destroy any evidence of holding any sort of Christian event.  They needed to hold the weekend retreats while hidden out in the jungles, or in remote areas, where they could not be easily tracked. Talk about having dedication and a deep passion for spreading the Good News!

I think of how important it is to belong to a supportive and loving church community, especially during very difficult times in our lives, like when a loved one dies or is very ill.  Our church friends hold  us up, keep us afloat, and help carry us to shore when we feel so consumed and adrift with our intense pain and loss. I was very much reminded of this during the 6 funeral services that I attended during the last 10 months this past year. 

One of the funerals was for my dad’s best friend who had passed away after a long courageous battle with cancer. My father gave his friend’s eulogy, which was such an honor for him, as he was his friend  for nearly 40 years. I sat there feeling so very emotional and proud of my dad. I knew that it was very difficult for him, as his friend was not only his friend, but he had also become a father figure for my dad.  My dad’s friend was 15 years older than him, and as a result he became sort of a mentor for my dad throughout the years.  This was especially true since my dad lost his own father suddenly when my dad was only 19 years old. I was very inspired by the high level of deep respect, love, and admiration  my father shared with his friend.  I was so inspired by the deep faith of his friend, and the very loving support from his family and friends.  At no other type of service is it more apparent just how essential it is to have that kind of love and support in a faith community!                                  

I myself have been lifted up time and time again by the rosary prayer group that I am involved in at my parish church of St Odilia in Shoreview, Minnesota.We are a group of young moms, who usually gather once a week  to share our joys and struggles, and to  pray together. We pray for God’s grace and love to heal, protect, and strengthen others that we know who are hurting in our community and our world . We pray for each other and the various hurts that we ourselves battle through. We pray for the safety and well being of our families and our children. We then pray the holy rosary together, which involves contemplating on the sorrowful and joyful events of the lives of Our Lord and his Mother Mary. The rosary allows one to get a very personal sense for what Jesus went through for us…and it allows you to focus on and pray for specific virtues during each meditation throughout the prayer. It has been a very powerful prayer method for me and my group of friends!        

The home of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Turkey (it was later turned into a chapel)

I want to end this blog post with a passage from Max Lucado’s book “Fearless”. It is about the importance of  being a part of a loving Christian  church community!

Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many.  When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries…When we mix, mingle, confess, and pray, Christ speaks.” (reminds me of Romans 12:4-8 🙂 )                       

“The adhesiveness of the disciples instructs us. They stuck together. Even with ransacke hopes, they clustered in conversant community.They kept “going over all these things that had happened.”(Luke 24;14)                                                                                                                                  

Isn’t this a picture of the church–sharing notes, exchanging ideas, mulling over possibilities, lifting spirits? And as they did, Jesus showed up to teach them, proving “when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matthew 18:20)               

“And when He speaks, He shares his story.God’s go-to therapy for doubters is his own Word. “Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to (Romans 10:17).   So listen to it!”  

The rock on which St. Paul preached to the pagan Athenians in Athens, Greece

 The following is a beautiful song called “Shelter” by Jars of Clay (just click the Youtube icon at the bottom):