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Mother’s Day Tribute 2017 #6

12 May

I celebrate my heritage because of my mother. My mother is proud of her Jamaican heritage. My parents’ deep love and loyalty to the land of their birth was palpable. They grew up in a Jamaica that was still a colony of Great Britain. Becoming American citizens took nothing from their love of Jamaica.  To this day, Mom does not take kindly to any one speaking ill of the British Royal Family or Jamaica…especially if the person speaking is not Jamaican. Just hearing or seeing the word “Jamaica” makes her smile with great pride. She celebrated her heritage through her cooking, her clothing, her belief in hard work, her belief in strict discipline, her high standards of excellence, her British shaped grammatical rules, her beautiful accent, her dedication to help others, her love of the ocean, her traditional religious values and so much more. Jamaica was home…is home. We had an annual cookout at the house to celebrate Jamaican Independence Day. I cannot find the words to tell you how good the food was at this cookout. I would look up and see my friends from the neighborhood with a plate full of food. It was quite the event and EVERYONE was welcomed!  Fellow Jamaicans would come from near and far to join in the weekend long celebration..some even came in their RVs!  The weekend included LOTS of patois, sightseeing, rehearsals, cooking and eating, a cookout, so much laughter that my stomach would hurt, some serious dominoes matches and card games, stories of Jamaica and updates on friends and family still there, and a worship service on Sunday with many of the guests participating in the choir and other aspects of worship. It was held and the beginning of August and kicked off the family’s month long vacation for the month of August.  I didn’t matter how tight money was, this cookout happened year after year. It was a celebration of family, friends, history, culture, God, and Jamaica (the pearl of the West Indies)! I knew the words to the Jamaican National Anthem and Pledge as well as I knew the American National Anthem and Pledge. Want to win my heart? Bring me a platter from Pimento Grill, a milkshake made with Sangster’s Rum Cream and have some Bob Marley playing!

I was born in the US and I am proud of that but let’s be clear, there is nothing but Jamaican blood (with all the cultures and nations that come with it) running in my veins and I am equally proud of that.  I celebrate my mother for passing on her pride in her heritage.

The Jamaican National Anthem

Eternal Father bless our land,
Guard us with Thy Mighty Hand,
Keep us free from evil powers,
Be our light through countless hours.
To our Leaders, Great Defender,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, Truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, Land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Teach us true respect for all,
Stir response to duty’s call, strengthen us the weak to cherish,
Give us vision lest we perish.
Knowledge send us Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, Truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

The Jamaican National Pledge

Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigor of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

 

How Do You Keep The Music Playing…

4 Mar

I must ask you to stick with me on this one. It’s a bit of a winding road.

cropped-music-is-love

Music has always played a major role in my life and the life of my family. My memories of my childhood are full of music. Lately, I have been enjoying vivid memories of the songs my parents sang to me as lullabies. I am the youngest of 4 children. My older siblings were all involved in music. Someone was always learning a song, a solo, an audition piece, practicing for band rehearsal, choir rehearsal, ensemble rehearsal, piano lessons, or just jamming some 8-track, 45, LP, or tape. Mom was preparing music for Sunday morning worship. Dad was singing some hymn that was in his heart. I was just singing, singing, singing. I loved singing more than talking and that’s saying a lot because I LOVED to talk. I had a terrible stutter as a child. I had to attend speech therapy sessions in elementary school. I had to learn to slow my mind down so that my mouth could catch up. Singing is what my therapist and parents used to help me learn to slow my thoughts down. Stuttering never got in the way of singing. I could close my eyes, see the beautiful colors and patterns and just siiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggg my little heart out. Another trick was that my father would put his hand on my chest and tell me to breathe and then we’d sing together. Dad had a great big tenor voice. I learned to remember that feeling when I would get frustrated or stuck on a word. To this day, putting my hand on my chest forces me to breathe deeply. Dad would often have me read something to him, slowly. He had me convinced that I was reading slowly because he needed to hear it slowly. My mother would gently put one hand on my forehead and her other on my back. That would make me stop, breathe, think and try again. Mom’s trick was to have me read something from her medical journals. That forced me to slow down because I had to sound out all of those complicated medical words. Now I just put my hand on my forehead when I need to stop, breathe, think and try again. My brother, David, would hold me and sing to me or read to me when I got angry or upset. Music and reading were my safe places. My family made them so. My sister, Charmaine, who was my arch enemy in childhood, was also one of my favorite singers. My brother, Milton, my other childhood enemy, could sing like Stevie Wonder and I loved it. I tried not to let it show but I think they both knew that I LOVED to hear them sing.

My mother made everything she sang sound sweet. She was THE alto….one of those people simply born to sing alto! Hearing her sing in the kitchen was one of my joys in life. Even way back then, we connected through music in ways that needed no words.

People would come to our house to practice their parts and solos with my mother during her years of directing the Sanctuary Choir and serving as the Minister of Music at church. Seeing my mother’s beautiful smile when they sang correctly was everyone’s goal (that arched eyebrow when the part wasn’t right was to be avoided at all costs). One thing she knew for sure. I was going to know my part and be able to tell her who was in my section and not singing correctly. As the youngest child, being a snitch was sort of an art form for me. LOL. My mother and I did a lot of talking. There was a lot to learn. She taught me how to cook…and especially how to cook for Dad. She taught me how to assist Dad and her in their careers and the work they did in partnership. She taught me how to be a lady and a woman. She taught me how to read, write, and edit with an eye for detail and thirst for depth. She taught me how to be a woman in a leadership role especially when I was the only woman and/or the only person of color in the room. She taught me about the power of words and the need to tread lightly at times…never as a sign of weakness but as a sign of strength, wisdom, maturity and submission to God.

Here we are at 2017 and my mother is slipping away from me and I’m grasping at straws to hold on to her.  The woman whose counsel I depended on heavily can no longer have a meaningful conversation with me. The woman whose dry wit could make me laugh hard is now difficult for me to understand. I find myself approaching conversations with her as I did with my nieces, nephews, and godchildren when they were little. My mother’s facial expressions let me know that in her mind she makes perfect sense, so I do my best to figure it out. She still makes me laugh. At times she gives me that look that lets me know that she no more understands what she is saying than I do. She also has her moments of clarity when she’ll hit me with one of her witty zingers. I give her the side-eye and we both giggle. My mother, a brilliant, deeply spiritual, witty woman with a vocabulary that often sent me running to the Oxford Dictionary (some of the words could not be found in Webster’s dictionary) is slipping away. That ferocious insatiable beast called Alzheimer’s is annihilating her beautiful mind. We are now 5 years into her diagnosis and the years are taking their toll. Since words are difficult for us, we share music…often. We especially share music in the still of the wee hours, when sleep escapes both of us and she calls out for her mother. We hum, listen to music, connect in ways that do not require either of us to try to understand the other. We simply share our love of the vibrations and power of music. I want to keep the music playing. I want to keep connecting. I need to keep the music playing. As a child I learned to turn to music when words were difficult for me to utter. Now I turn to music as an adult as words are becoming difficult for my mother to utter. Music…it’s been there for me my whole life and I pray that the music never ends.

This song is about two lovers but with the change of just a few words, it’s applicable to my relationship with my mother. This may seem weird to some, but it’s perfect for Mom and me.

How do you keep the music playing?

How do you make it last?
How do you keep the song from fading
too fast?

How do you lose yourself to someone
and never lose your way?
How do you not run out of new things
to say?

And since you know we’re always changing
How can it be the same?

And tell me how year after year
You’re sure your heart won’t fall apart
Each time you hear her name?

I know the way I feel for you is now or never
The more I love, the more that I’m afraid
That in your eyes I may not see forever, forever

If we can be the best of family 
Yet be the best of friends
If we can try with every day to make it better as it grows
With any luck than I suppose
The music never ends

Let’s Talk About TRUST, Part 2

17 Mar

Trust God

Are you brave enough to confess that you are afraid to trust God? Are you beat down enough to admit that you are afraid to trust God? Are you afraid to trust God? I confess that I have been, I am, and I am hoping to stop this cycle. Trust has been a major issue for me overall.  As I’ve stated before, my trust issues went into overdrive when my father died suddenly. I clung to the belief for YEARS that God had made an error and was simply too embarrassed to admit it. I can kinda laugh about that whole way of thinking now but there is still a part of me that is open to accept God’s apology for ruining my life! LOL  I let that pain fester and grow into a deep lack of trust for anything that made no sense to me, that could not be documented, or that materialized outside of what I found logical even if not my taste.  All along though I still acknowledged God, loved God, and kinda sorta served God (insert side-eye here).  There is no way to fully serve God without trusting God. There is actually no way to be engaged in a healthy loving relationship with ANYONE without trust.

Trusting God requires passion and commitment. I’m not just trusting God to hold my hand as I cross the street. I’m trusting God to BE THE PATH. I’m trusting God to reveal my future and guide me as I do what God says do. I’m trusting God to be my everything. The trick though is that I have to give up all of my notions of who and how I should be. THAT’S MAJOR! This must be why God sent His Son, Jesus, to be our example. This trusting God thing takes sacrifice and not just giving up Ben and Jerry’s for Lent. It requires giving up your life so that you can live. It requires seeing God in everyone. It requires knowing the will and Word of God. It requires embracing a love that is not always cuddly, but a love that disciplines, that corrects, that cuts to the bone, that sheds blood, that comes with HIGH accountability. That kind of love demands and breeds passion and commitment.  Now that I think about it, the question is not just will I TRUST God, it’s also do I LOVE God. Do I love God enough to TRULY surrender all of me to all of Him?

I Surrender All  – Judson W. Van DeVenter 1896

  1. All to Jesus I surrender,
    All to Him I freely give;
    I will ever love and trust Him,
    In His presence daily live.

    • Refrain:
      I surrender all,
      I surrender all;
      All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
      I surrender all.
  2. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Humbly at His feet I bow;
    Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
    Take me, Jesus, take me now.
  3. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
    Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
    Truly know that Thou art mine.
  4. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Lord, I give myself to Thee;
    Fill me with Thy love and power,
    Let Thy blessing fall on me.
  5. All to Jesus I surrender,
    Now I feel the sacred flame;
    Oh, the joy of full salvation!
    Glory, glory, to His Name!

Those are some POWERFUL lyrics! In my heart I want these words to be more than a plea. I want them to be a testimony. I want my love for and trust in God to be a complete surrender.  Let’s just marinate there for now

Let’s Talk about TRUST

16 Mar

Trust me

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. There are many reasons for that but we can discuss those later. Today I just wanna talk and hopefully hear back from you.

This whole exploration of trust started here. There is a note in my mother’s medical file that states: “Failure to thrive”…3 little words…just 3 little words. Her doctor mentioned the possibility of cancer being the reason she is failing to thrive. If I didn’t have a tight budget I would have SMASHED my phone to make her and her words disappear. PLEASE NOTE: To those of you reading this who know my mother this is not a confirmed diagnosis. At this point it’s just an exploration of what is causing her “failure to thrive.” The tears came quickly…tears of anger, confusion and fear all at the same time. Have you ever been there? It’s a painful place to be. It’s a lonely place to be. It’s also an easy place to get off track in every way possible. This question quickly came to mind, “Who and what will I trust?” I am a Christian so that question more specifically for me is will I trust God to be God?

THAT IS A HUGE QUESTION!!!

I knew that I needed to run to God but it was more like confront God. I was angry. I wanted to let God know a thing or two about the way my journey is playing out. My prayer time was not focused on miraculous healing for my mother. I have laid her at the altar before God and I am caring for her to the best of my abilities. There is nothing more that I can do than that. God is a healer and that remains true no matter what. I heard or read this recently, “Everyone who God heals also eventually dies!” With that in mind, I was ready to let God have it. Unexpectedly though, my prayer time was not focused on my anger or my list of grievances against God. My prayer time was focused on trust.

The question I wrestled and am wrestling with is will I trust God no matter what? This is not some undefined trust. I’m talking about a trust that shows up as an unconditional yes to whatever God asks of me. A trust that shows up as unconditional and full surrender to God over what I want. A trust that shows up as obedience to God. A trust that shows up as complete, irrevocable, absolute submission to God. I am clear that I’m using words that many like to steer clear of these days. I’m in my 50’s now. My need for popularity and to be one of the cool kids ended a LONG time ago! I want an intimate and powerful relationship with God…a relationship that gives God glory. I want to be a disciple of God. Those  goals require trusting God.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of embracing reality. Today’s challenge was to embrace the reality that God’s will can be and at times will be painful for me. This pain is in direct correlation to my desire to have what I want, the way  want it, when I want it. God’s will is my joy only if I die daily and in Him alone live, breathe and have my being. We get to heavy blowing, running, shouting, dancing, speaking in tongues and whatnot when we declare that. The truth of the strength and courage of  this conviction though is revealed when life smacks you in the face with a brick or your own choices lead you to run at full speed into a brick wall. Well I’ve been smacked and I got angry with God. That anger surprised me. I went all the way back to things that happened in high school and went down the list of the times I felt that God had disappointed me, forgotten me, abandoned me. When I stepped into the Prayer Room today the anger left and I was left to struggle with trusting God. I cried…and I’m still crying. I recited scripture. I talked with God. I heard from God. I listened to music. I sang. I cried some more. The thing that I am most clear about is that my mother will be fine. The work I have to focus on is me and my relationship with God.

It’s not over. I’m still processing. What gets you through your battles in life? How do you let go of anger? How do you turn life’s circumstances into opportunities to grow closer to God? Do you trust God to be God? What does that question mean to you? Let’s pray for each other as we navigate through this thing called life. Let’s talk about trust.

I hope that this song ministers to you as it has to me and countless others…

Choices and Consequences

22 May

choices_and_consequences

There is so much talk about HATERS these days. Vultures ravage that which is already wounded or dead. Snipers hide and skillfully annihilate their prey, never having the guts to be face-to-face. I am not concerned about the vulture or sniper aka “the hater”. My concern is about the CHOICES I make all day, every day. I like to focus on relationships, problem solving, creating order out of chaos, creating desired results. I also focus on how I fill my time, occupy my mind, expand my heart, nurture my soul, and care for my body, process my emotions. My focus is really on CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES. From the moment I wake up, I am making choices that impact my life, my mother’s life, and the lives of many other people. These choices have consequences for me and them. I do not worry about the vultures or the snipers out there. At the end of each day, the things that concern me are the choices I make that are not authentic and reflective of my choice to be in submission to God. At the end of the day, I find myself focused on the choices I have made and how they have shown up in the actions I have taken or not taken, words that I have spoken or left unspoken,  thoughts and emotions that I have invested in and ones that I have ignored/hidden.

Life demands choices. Choices have consequences. CHOOSE WISELY

…and what I won’t do is invest energy in contemplating or commenting on “vultures’, “snipers”, “haters”.

choices and consequences

By the way, I re-read my posts and sense a real lack of joy.  That concerns me. I’ll talk about that more in my next post. Until then be blessed, be safe, and let’s BE HAPPY!

Be Happy - Del

This Alzheimer’s Journey

13 May

winding mountain path

It has been way too long since my last post. I have let the stresses of being a caregiver get the best of me lately. I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been working out less often. I’ve been eating poorly. I haven’t been sleeping well. My moods have been running amok. It’s time to pull it in.  This is going to be a long one and will be all over the place. Just hold on and go for the ride… 🙂

There is this sense that one should be quiet about Alzheimer’s. There is a stigma or shame that many attach to Alzheimer’s. It is very reminiscent of how we use to whisper the word “cancer” back in the day or just not speak the words “AIDS” or “HIV” (many conversations about AIDS and HIV are still laced with homophobia and judgement but we’ll talk about that in another post).  I REJECT ALL OF THAT COMPLETELY! I refuse to add the weight of  shame and silence to an already overwhelming journey though Alzheimer’s. My mother has a disease that impacts her and everyone involved in her life. There is nothing shameful about this. I am grateful for family and friends who still answer my calls, reply to my texts, wipe my tears, and understand when my silence or harsh words are really a cry for help. I am even grateful for those who don’t really get it, but hang in there with me anyway. Mostly, I am grateful for those who hold me accountable for my words, actions, silence, lack of action and push me to do better, be better, to operate at a higher level and live a life that speaks to my greatness.

For any number of reasons there is also an isolation that comes with Alzheimer’s. This isolation is shared by the patient and the caregiver. It is worsened by this sense that we just shouldn’t talk about it. I believe that not talking about it will kill us. Internalizing and not processing the stress, grief, myriad emotions, frustrations, challenges, joys, triumphs, tears, laughter, and more will kill those of us serving as caregivers before our loved one dies.

Not knowing the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s and the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer’s is another reason why many get diagnosed until advanced phases. For my family, we attributed Mom’s early indicators to aging and her ever evolving broken-heartedness over the loss of her soul-mate.  I embrace that we could not have prevented her from developing Alzheimer’s while also embracing that there are some things we could have done early on in terms of planning and preparing though. (I told you that this was going to be all over the place. LOL)

It was not until I shared the information about my mother’s diagnosis that I learned about the number of people in my life who also had loved ones, spouses, siblings, co-workers, friends, etc. with Alzheimer’s. We never talked about it. If we did talk about it, I was not listening…AT ALL…and I regret that.

Everyday with Mom was baffling in the beginning. I simply wanted her to eat well, recover from knee replacement surgery, and get back to being herself. My delusions may have been bigger than her’s at that point! Then I got angry and that anger led to me getting focused (that’s just what I do when I get angry). I started doing research, reaching out to the Alzheimer’s Association, reading books and articles, subscribing to blogs, following different folks on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, posting on social media, and connecting with other caregivers. I clung and still cling to anything that gives me a sense of control while on this out-of-control journey through Alzheimer’s. Being informed gives me that sense of control that I desperately need. There is a whole world of information, resources, support, and inspiration out there and I try to take in as much as possible. I hope that you do too. We do not have to be uninformed or isolated and we shouldn’t be. I also had to do some things to help me let go and embrace the complete lack of control I have over what is happening to my mother. Faith and trust in God have been a major part of my journey.  Attending church, strengthening my prayer life, meditating regularly, and studying the bible and other writings have been key. Information and Spirituality are my yin yang.

You still with me?  It’ll be over soon. You’ve gotta check out Seth Rogan’s testimony before the Senate too though. I hope you like it as much as I do. 

This Alzheimer’s Journey has taken me through some emotional hills and valleys and lots of twists and turns. It has led and continues to lead to the reexamination and redefinition of relationships, especially my relationship with my mother. As I wrote about earlier, it has also solidified my status as a “daddy’s girl.” I have chosen to let this journey alter the trajectory of my life, career, and finances. My health and fitness journey was kick-started by me realizing I needed to be much healthier if I was going to serve as my mother’s caregiver. This journey has led me to pursue a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. This journey has put me in touch with my anger and helped me heal. This Alzheimer’s journey is profound for the patient, the family, the caregiver(s) and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. It has impacted my life in ways I could never have imagined.

I hope that this post motivates a caregiver to reach out for help on his/her journey. We need help.  We need support. We need each other. This Alzheimer’s journey…

Whew, you survived the ride. Thanks for hanging in there to the end. :-*  I’ll be more focused on my next post…promise.

Delmarie at CMBC's Alzheimer's Awareness Day 2014

My church has started a support group for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s (isn’ t that cool!). We have also started a team for the 2014 Walk To End Alzheimer’s – PG County, MD. Please go to: http://act.alz.org/goto/DelmarieHines to learn more about the walk and to make a tax-deductible donation. All contributions are appreciated. My goal is to raise $5,000 to support patients, caregivers, research, and to find a cure. The End of Alzheimer’s Starts with You and Me!

Is Your Mother Still Alive

19 Nov

While having her lunch, my mother asked me if my mother is still alive. Yep. you read that right. Nope. I didn’t miss a word nor is that a typo. My mother asked me if my mother is still alive. That question literally took my breath away. At first I could not respond. I was looking at her and processing a million emotions at once. She asked the question again and I calmly replied, “No, she isn’t.” I have been pretty numb for the rest of the day. Later on mom mentioned that she went to my mother’s funeral. I just had to walk away. There was absolutely nothing left to say. Now I’m simply going to go to bed and pray that tomorrow is a better day for Mom and me. Confession of  a caregiver of a parent with Alzheimer’s

NEXT DAY: Now the real test is for me to approach the day as a clean slate. My mother will not remember anything about yesterday. She may even ask the same question several times today. This is when the dance between my reality and her reality gets complex or as simple as a choice to embrace her reality.