Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Mom can't remember my name...

I am breaking a personal rule with this post. I have always, without exception, tried to keep my private life separate from my public life as a writer. To me, that is—and has been since my first book—of prime importance. Yet today, after returning from two weeks in balmy (er...hellishly hot) Florida, I am going to talk about something as personal as it gets.

My mom is closing in on her ninth decade. She's blessed with a wonderful suite of rooms in my sister's beautiful home. She is surrounded by fields, cows, horses, cats and family - not to mention Rudy the bull, all grown up into 1500 lbs of cuteness. It's idyllic and neither she nor I can imagine a better place to be at this stage of her life.

We're lucky in that we are a loving family, giving and sharing as best we can. So I gladly hopped a flight to spend two weeks with Mom when the family got the chance for a trip to England. It was a great vacation for them and a chance for me to get more than a brief few days with my last remaining parent.

I knew she was relatively healthy for her age, other than the usual assortment of medications - blood pressure, mild diabetes and blood thinners. Not unexpected at this stage of life. Another blessing for her...she has always been active, and I think that helps, as does the fact she can care for her own basic needs. It hasn't helped her memory, unfortunately. And it didn't take long for me to realize that the short term retention is gone.

She knows me - and remembers the names of my husband and son. Sometimes. At others she'd ask if I were planning on settling down? Or when did I have to go back to England and Ed? (My late aunt's husband). I would answer these questions with a smile the first time. And the second, and the third. Patience seemed to come easily because this was my Mum. She forgets so much now, but still recalls her childhood quite clearly.

Her routine helps. Keeping things consistent seem to give her a sense of balance, of knowing what she should be doing - if anything. Change upsets her, frightens her a little I think. She wants to be useful and not burden anyone, but making a cup of tea can result in a pan of water boiling on the cooktop for an hour because she's forgotten it's there.  I could not leave her for more than an hour or so.

This isn't a new experience for so many of you out there, including friends who have shared so much and helped so much as I walk into this mystery, this puzzle of why her short-term neural connections have failed so completely.  And yet she can recall the hymns she sang in Sunday school in Devon almost ninety years ago. You've told me of similar experiences, some lighter, some a great deal worse. And you've shared your emotions, for which I thank you all.

I thought of those conversations at the most difficult times...the ones where Mum would realize she was forgetting. That she had asked that question five minutes ago. Seeing the frustration and fear in her eyes was agony, because there is no way to help her with what she's experiencing. She has not been formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but the symptoms sound very similar.

Whatever the medical terms, I mourn the loss of those memories - my childhood in England, the friends we had there, our little house - she has forgotten my growing up. And at one point she looked at me and said "I can't believe I'm your mother." Yes, Mum, you are indeed my mother and I'm so proud of being your daughter. I'll try and remember things for you, and we'll be sad together about the things that are gone.  I send my love to everyone going through this with an aging parent. And I write this to tell you, as others have told me - you are not alone in the struggle and it is okay to cry.

God bless,


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to Have Great Sex with your Hair!

Some time ago, I was told that a woman's relationship with her hair should be just like great sex. I wasn't sure if the comment was legit or not, but I pursued it. I learned that in fact, it was quite correct. Everything you do with and to (and for) your hair, should be loving and with passionate committment. It can be tender and gentle, or occasionally demanding and breathtaking, but always fun, wonderfully satisfying and fulfilling.

Well, okay, that's pretty damn good sex!!! Now translating all that steam into hair care takes a bit of doing. But here goes. (And I'm not going point by point, just the overall theme so you don't get bored.)  Most of us gals have hair. You young 'uns have glorious tresses, while we ladies of what the French so gallantly call "une age certaine" need to cherish our now less-than-glorious locks. So the whole overall health know that. Eat right, exercise, die anyway. lol Sorry, but that's on one of hubby's t-shirts. Still laugh when I see it.  But I digress.

Here's a sad fact. Your hair is dead. RIP. Sorry, but it's DEAD proteiny-keratin stuff. Your scalp, however is vibrantly alive and you want to keep it that way. thing that I've found to be a delight and also a benefit is a little something called a scalp brush. (Pics scattered throughout and they link to the appropriate item on Amazon, because...well, you know...Amazon).

Scalp Brush

This little puppy fits into the palm of your hand quite securely and once up against your scalp you can rub gently for a massage or a little more firmly for a stimulating scalp scrub. (Yes, there are sexual parallels here. LOL)  I use this when I have a good shampoo lather and it feels awesome. Plus I've found that I get less oily buildup at the roots and can occasionally skip an extra day between shampoos. For a few bucks I think this was a good investment. It works on long hair, something I wasn't sure about. So for shorter hair...instant spa for your scalp.

A word about shampoo here. The "sulfate-free" or "no-poo" movement is gaining steam. I am TOTALLY on board with NO SULFATES. Have been for quite a few years now, since I first indulged in a pot of WEN cleansing conditioner   [Have someone buy you a trial size of this stuff. It's worth trying and smells terrific. Strange at first though and bloody expensive.] Sulfates function as surfactants...which foam up. They're in a whole buttload of products from cleansers to shaving cream. While they're certainly a "safe" chemical addition, when it comes to hair their cleaning process can very easily strip away the things you want to keep along with the things you don't. If you color your hair, you should be especially aware of this - ask your stylist or try sulfate free shampoos after each color to keep it fresher longer. Thankfully there are tons of new sulfate-free shampoos appearing daily. I'm surprised Pantene hasn't jumped on the bandwagon, along with some other major brand names, but one of the best, IMHO, is this one.

L'Oreal EverSleek Shampoo
L'Oreal got it right...the shampoo/conditioner are separate for people who are used to using both and have a hard time using only one product. Plus this comes in assorted varieties (Sleek, Pure, Strength, Color Care, Dry and so on.) They smell lovely, work very well and my own results? Very very nice indeed.

Now you've shampooed, conditioned (or both at once) and you're ready to go to the final phase - drying it all off.  So...going back to sex for a minute (Hey. Look what I write. don't judge me.) DO NOT RUB LIKE YOU'RE DRYING A WET DOG.  Rubbing your wet hair is cruel. Your hair - if it were alive - would be screaming. Wrap it in a towel. Blot it. Better still, wrap it in an old tshirt, squeeze it gently, then just put a towel around your shoulders to catch the drips while you dry the rest of you. It's entirely up to you whether you use an appliance here. If you blow dry (see? Sex again. This blog title is spot on! LOL) or use a flat iron/curling iron or ANY heat...please protect your tender clean strands? Again, L'Oreal has a lovely leave-in spray conditioner. Lightweight and non-damaging, it'll help you comb through your damp locks and also add a little shine. I use it along with some Moroccan Argan oil which I rub between my palms and then stroke over the lower half of my hair as I'm detangling it. Yes, you can mix products...try a styling cream and a glossing serum...a little of each, or my favorite - a keratin spray and a dollop of pure Argan oil. Whatever works for YOU!!! It's your hair.
Oil-infusing Flat Iron

For dedicated flat iron users, I'll throw this one out - I have one of infuses oil into your hair via a steam system, fed by an oil-filled tank on one arm. Very clever and softens the hair while smoothing it. Hubs got me one for Christmas (I sent him the link lol) and I am very happy with it.

The take away from all this? Your hair is a precious commodity. It may be dead stuff, but it's still part of who you are. Look at it as fine silk or cashmere and treat it as you would a valued and delicate piece of fabric. Explore new products, research your hair and what others recommend, and always keep in mind that you are an individual. You are allowed to choose your own path. time you reach for that shampoo - ask yourself if it's time to move on from the missionary position and try something new and adventurous.  In other words, it's time to have great sex with your hair!!!!
Happy Hairgasms!!!