There is an area in town where there are often birds on top of a telephone wire over the freeway. When Mom was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (and I believe she did this before her illness with my dad) she would see these birds on the wire and say, "LOOK!" Every time she saw them it was like the first time and she was always so excited. That little "LOOK!" has kind of become her trademark. You see, at her funeral, my husband said the eulogy and he told everyone the story. He asked them to think of Alice when they see birds on a wire. Friends and family have told me countless times that they have seen birds on a wire and thought of Alice. How wonderful is that?!
Tupperware was everywhere in our house. Mom was a Tupperware manager when we were growing up. The name of her sales team was Busy Bees. She was quite successful being a Tupperware manager. She traveled all over the Sacramento area having parties in every corner of the surrounding cities. As a young girl, I remember going with her when it was time for deliveries. I know that all that driving around helped me to get to know all the different neighborhoods - near and far. Those drives are fond memories for me.
Mom earned a new station wagon every two years. Boy, when that new car came it was always so exciting for us. Those wood paneled wagons were so cool!!
Alzheimer's disease is a dreadful disease. Watching a loved one transform into a person who is just a shell of him or her self is very sad. When I remember my mom, I try to remember all of the funny and happy times and discard the tough, hard times.
This pattern is called Cashews because my mom loved cashews. When she was living in the memory care facility at The Meadows, she was often one who would just browse the belongings of another person's room. She was sweet and innocent, but there were times when she would see something she wanted and yep - she would just take it. There was a fellow who lived there who wasn't as far into the disease as Mom and apparently he liked cashews, too. His family provided him with one of those mega jars that is available at Costco. Yes - huge, jumbo sized. Well one day I was out with Mom and she seemed to be not feeling great. She just was out of sorts. I noticed something was in her purse. I opened the purse and it was filled to the brim with cashews!! Apparently she found the jar in this man's room and just opened her purse and loaded up. In this picture she is wearing the purse that had all of the cashews. Also in this picture is her look she would give me from time to time as if to say, "Well - are you coming or not?!" She was spunky and a fun lady.
Mom had a wonderful talent for Counted Cross Stitch. She made many beautiful gifts for new babies. One item that stands out is something she made my son (her grandson), Scott, when he was two years old. It was a cross-stitched ornament with a little choo choo train and it had a little musical tune of Favorite Things that plays when you press the train. It has been more than 20 years since he received it and every year we hold our breath when we push the train and every year....it continues to work!
Scott, at 23, pushing his special ornament and happy that it continues to play beautifully.
All of Mom's life, she was a person of faith. She always carried a little blue paperback prayer book in her purse. I have it now and the worn cover is a reminder of how she lived her life and how important her faith was to her. She went to church daily once she retired and she was very involved with the local church. She had friends at church and also called many of the priests her friend. Throughout the years there were special people in her life, but Father Brendan was one of her favorites. She just liked his sense of humor and his silver white hair and Irish brogue made him that much more likeable. While Mom was ill, Father Brendan would stop in to see her at The Meadows. He would leave his business card and then I knew he was there and that was always so special to me.
On Sunday, May 29th, 2011 Mom was close to the end of her earthly journey. Father Brendan had said Mass in the morning and just sensed that he needed to get out to see Alice. He had other obligations, but told his secretary that he just sensed this was urgent. He called me on my cell and I told him that she was very close and he said he was on his way. Within 30 minutes he was there. I, my sister, Bets, and niece, Jill, were also with Mom. We sat around her bed. She was so frail at this time; barely 60 pounds. Father and I held her hands and we just prayed. We sat there for 20 minutes or so and prayed and talked softly to her and Father told her it was time for her to go. It was time for her to be reunited with loved ones who had gone before her and in that moment Mom passed on. I looked at Bets and she nodded. Even at this moment that I write this I get a lump in my throat. For a woman of faith who had no control over her life for many years, she had total control of her death. She waited for Father Brendan to send her on her way. Those few moments will be remembered by all of us forever as the most peaceful and jubilant passing. Thank you, Father Brendan for acting on your instincts and making it all happen so beautifully.
Gutsy might seem like a strange name for a pattern, but it's actually a perfect word to describe Mom. Take a good look at that picture of her on the motorbike. She just did what she wanted to do. As a young woman, she moved from South Dakota to California because she loved all of the beautiful trees. On a vacation to Acapulco she para-sailed. She always loved hot air balloons and actually enjoyed a balloon ride in Napa. Those were a few of the more adventurous things Mom did, but there were just little everyday things that made her gutsy. We have a family gathering once a month. She was one of the oldest people at our gatherings, but that never stopped her from having fun with the younger ones. We went bowling...she was right there bowling with all of us. We played a round-robin ping pong game and again, she was right there running around the table with the younger family members. We played bocce ball and there she was....ready and rarin' to go. Mom was a happy-go-lucky person and this type of gutsy behavior just came naturally to her. Just one more thing that made her such a special gal.
Please note: This pattern is not symmetrical. It has stockinette, the cable and then purls. I liked it like that because it is, in fact, GUTSY....especially since we all like things perfectly in order. If you are particular about wanting it to be symmetrical, then this pattern may not be the one to knit:-) Remember sometimes we need to color outside the lines!
Homemade Noodle days were such an event at our house growing up. We all looked so forward to those rare days. Well worn old embroidered cloths were placed all over the kitchen table and counters and the noodles were laying next to each other, row after row of deliciousness. We would sneak into the kitchen and quietly and carefully slip raw, drying noodles off the table and into our mouths. When we took one, we would always shift the other noodles on either side of it so it would go unnoticed by Mom. 'Stay out of that kitchen!' 'Stay away from those noodles!' We all heard Mom saying these things every single time we had a Homemade Noodle day. Every time! The dried, raw noodles was incredibly yummy, but when they cooked in their delicious broth they plumped up and were oh so heavenly. Lucky us to have experienced such a wonderful tradition.
Irresistible noodles drying on a vintage embroidered cloth.
Mom was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. She didn't talk much at this time. My brother, Mike, would visit her every other weekend. He was always good about taking her on drives or to church or even to a bakery for a goodie. Sometimes going out was just not possible. One afternoon my brother was watching TV with her. I think they were watching HGTV and he said to her, "Can you think of a word that begins with the letter H?" He figured if he got an answer, that would be exciting, and he also figured if she actually answered with an H - it would be "Hi" or "Hello." But what he got from our mom that afternoon was astounding. She did respond and her word was "Hopeful." She was always an optimistic person and a person of faith. That day will forever be engrained in my brother's memory and to me it is so wonderful because even though we thought we had lost her to the disease, there was a little bit of our sweet mother inside and she was still hopeful.
Mom with Mike on a beautiful day in San Francisco. By the looks of things in this picture she probably said or did something fun and she has a little smirk and Mike is just cracking up. This is one of my favorite pictures of all time!
Mom's journey was an eventful one. She was a creative and active little girl. Playing in the snow and putting on little skits for her family. In high school she was involved in many sports and clubs. It was always fun to look through her yearbooks. In every group picture we would search for her face....she loved participating in all sorts of programs. She moved from South Dakota to California when she was in her 20's. She just had that adventurous spirit. She was an elementary school teacher, a Tupperware manager, a room mom, an insurance agent, a church program coordinator and a hospital volunteer....showing parents-to-be everything they needed to know about the maternity wing. She was a loving and caring grandma. Most importantly she taught us children that even though she was unable to communicate verbally, she was still our mom and she loved each one of us unconditionally. We learned so much from her and we didn't even know it.....she really was a teacher until her journey ended.
This was a shadow box that I had put together and it was mounted outside her room at The Meadows. Just by looking at it you can see she lived a pretty incredible journey.
Mom was a kind and giving person. As far back as I can remember, she was always thinking of others. She was a brownie leader and a room mom when we were in elementary school.
She read news stories on the radio to the visually impaired. I remember her looking through the Grapevine (our local newspaper) for interesting articles to read to the blind. She just had that kind of voice that was soothing. For many years she comforted and even entertained many listeners performing that important task.
Mom lead tours at Kaiser Permanente Hospital for parents-to-be. She loved babies so this was the perfect volunteer opportunity for her. I believe she had over 800 hours of giving tours to lucky soon-to-be parents. I remember she used to tell them to have their babies on Tuesday so she could meet their new little one. Countless times babies were born on Tuesdays and she was so excited when the parents found her and told her about their new little bundle of joy. She loved that job!
In this picture she is with her granddaughter, Jill. Mom put on Jill's clothes and Jill put on Grandma Alice's Kaiser Permanente volunteer uniform.
Mom lived at The Meadows. It is an assisted living facility with memory care in another area of the building. In the spring of 2007 mom moved from the assisted living side to the memory care side. I remember that being such a tough decision. Mom made the transition fine. Yes, she had some difficult days, but she also had some happy-go-lucky days. There were many special caregivers at the facility, but Pushpa was just so sweet to Mom. She honestly treated her like her own mother. She talked gently to her and held her hand when she could tell Mom needed a little comforting. She just has a special, kind voice and gentle, caring eyes. I will be forever grateful to Pushpa for caring for Mom like she was family.
About six months after Mom passed away, I went to visit Pushpa. This was an emotional trip, but I needed to see Pushpa. I needed to tell her how special she was and give her a big hug. When she saw me walk in the big gathering room, she looked at me like she couldn't believe what she was seeing. She came up to me and kissed and kissed and kissed my cheek. It was one of the sweetest and most special days of my life. Thank you Pushpa for doing what you do and doing it so, so well!
Mom could raise her eyebrows one at a time without giving it much thought. She had the talent to raise either eyebrow and to her children this was something quite magical. Many people can raise one eyebrow at a time, but it's either the left or right eye...Mom could do either! Try it - it's not easy. We would often ask her to do it just for kicks.
In the Spring of 2010 Vera Bradley came out with a purse called Alice. Vera Bradley is a fabric handbag company. Well, they make more than handbags, but that is what they are known for. This bag was really a neat design and it was reminiscent of a bag from the 1950's and 60's. It had a kiss-lock closure and a great shape.
I knew that I wanted to get something special for all of the caregivers at The Meadows where Mom lived so I decided it would be the Vera Bradley Alice handbags. I started collecting them. I bought them online. I bought them in the stores. I bought them on eBay. I had a closet full of them in every different fabric possible. After Mom passed away I got all of the purses together and wrapped them up. Each caregiver was going to get a purse to always remember how thankful Alice and her family was for their kindness and care. Tucked into a pocket was a laminated card with Mom's picture on one side and the little poem (see below purses) on the other. I wrote it from my heart in about three minutes.
When I was a young girl, and even when I was not so young, I would just say to my mom, "Sing the Song." She knew exactly what I meant and what I needed to hear and she would just start singing. Mom learned this song from her college roommate. I always wished that I knew how to sing it, but I just never learned and she was so good at it - I loved hearing her voice sing it. I thought it was quite magical every time I heard her sing the song. It is the Hawaiian War Chant. Unfortunately, I never got my mom's singing recorded, but click the picture to the right to watch a video with this fun little tune.
A wonderful memory of Mom was her incredible ability to make homemade pies. It wasn't just that she could roll those out so quickly and make beautiful crusts, but it was the Sugar Pie that was made with the leftover dough. Sugar Pie is just a flattened blob of dough baked with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top and oh boy is it delicious! There is something special about this very pretty sample...it was knit by a woman named Alberta and she was called Sugar Pie as a little girl.
Fresh out of the oven. Betsy, my little sister, made this with leftover dough after making our Thanksgiving pies. It is absolutely perfect....just like Mom's Sugar Pie.
Something my mom always loved to do, was going on a car drive. Whether it was just a short jaunt to watch the boats dock at the Sacramento River or it was a longer trip to Jackson or Fort Bragg, going on a drive was something she used to really enjoy with my dad. They always found a special ice cream shop or bakery to stop in and enjoy a sweet treat.
I know the pattern is always related to Alice in someway so why is this called Ted's? Several years ago I made our dear friend, Ted, a prayer shawl. He is suffering from a dementia related illness. Ted is one distinguished gentleman. He is always so easy going and just very pleasant to be around.
During my mom's final months, his beautiful wife, Judi, came to visit my mom. Judi is like no one you will ever meet and if you are lucky enough to meet her, you will never forget her. She is a kind, warm and sincere person. She makes you feel like an old pal the minute you meet her. Judi had to meet my mom. She told me that she had to meet the person who gave birth to me and who raised me and who I loved so dearly. She visited with my mom at The Meadows and held her hands and talked so sweetly to her. I will remember that day for the rest of my life.
While Alzheimer's disease robbed Mom of many things, it did not (until the very end) rob her of her mobility. When she lived at The Meadows (the place she called home for the last 4 1/2 years of her life) she just loved to walk and walk and walk. She often stopped to look at pictures or people, but those moments of holding her hand and walkin' the halls with her will always be special to all of us.
Alice and her grandson, Scott.....walkin' the halls.
Mike, my husband, and I love Disneyland. On January 27, 2010 (about a year and a half before my mom passed away) Mike and I enjoyed a visit to The Happiest Place on Earth. This trip was an emotional trip for me. I was missing my mom; the mom I was so close to. I was very determined to find some sort of Alice in Wonderland keepsake. I remember searching all of the stores in Disneyland for this special item that I would bring home to treasure. Little did I know that it wouldn't be an "item" at all.
After a morning of going on rides and searching for the special item, we were walking in Fantasyland. We found ourselves walking right by Alice in Wonderland - the ride. We were standing by the exit when we saw that the line was quite long. We had had a long morning and just didn't know if we were up to waiting to ride it. All of a sudden this beautiful young woman (top picture) approached us from the exit area. She was dressed in her Disneyland uniform. She came right up to us and asked us if we had ridden Alice in Wonderland yet. We told her that we hadn't and that we didn't know if we were going to wait in line right now. She asked us if we would like to ride it right now. We said that we would. She had us follow her through the exit right to the front of the line. I cannot tell you how flabbergasted Mike and I both were. Why did this lovely young lady leave her post to come ask us if we'd ridden the ride? Why did she choose us? To this day we will never know. However, what I do know is that on that special day in Disneyland, I received my special "item" right then and there. It was nothing that I could hang on the wall, put on a shelf or hold in my hand, but it was something that will FOREVER be in my heart.
Three and a half years later Mike and I went back and searched for that young lady. As luck would have it, she still worked there. We found sweet Amber Noel and told her how much that day has meant to both of us. We told her all about Alice's Embrace. Amber is a kindhearted young woman and she will always be special for picking us on that day....as she said to us...."it must've been fate". The bottom picture is with the two of us. Here I am after a long morning at Disneyland and Amber looking the part of a wonderful Disneyland Lead Employee!!