Monday, May 28, 2012

Conflict - Alzheimer's Style

When my husband was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, I had a definition in my head, but the definition wasn't connected to the reality of what my day to day living would become.  

The first Christmas season after the diagnosis, we were going to drive 45 minutes to my brother's house for a family gathering.  I hadn't finished all of my shopping so we stopped at the store before we left town.  It had snowed the night before and the roads were sloppy.  We discovered on the way to the store that we were out of window washer, so we picked up a bottle.

When we got out to the parking lot, my husband opened the hood.  He took a few minutes staring at the engine.  Then he started to open the only lid that I am familiar with, the one for the oil.  I really don't know where the washer fluid should go, but I do know where it should not.  I tried to talk him into waiting, but he refused, so, not knowing what to do, I slammed the hood shut.

He started to shake, pointed his finger in my face, and screamed at me, then walked off through the parking lot.  Not knowing what to do, I followed him down the street.  Since the sidewalk was covered with snow, he walked in the street.  I felt that his safety was in danger and so I phoned the police. 

I gave them an overview of what happened and told them where we were.  Then the 911 operator wanted a description of my husband.  Of course in that moment of craziness, I said, he is the only man walking in the middle of the street in front of Dillon's with a women trailing behind him.  Of course she was looking for the 6 ft. and so on details.  After giving those, they came out to talk to him.  He was very angry at me as well as at the policeman.  They finally talked him into going with me.  He held onto this resentment for nearly a year.  He could hardly remember what he had done in a day, but he could remember being angry at me about the window wash.

I was very puzzled for a long time about what had happened.  I had some anger too about what happened, until I learned more about this disease.  At no point did I think I played a part in what had happened.

The angry outburst had a name: a catastrophic episode.  This is an extreme response to too much stimuli.  I could have prevented it.  Who knew?  I am a special education teacher who works with emotionally disturbed children.  I  am not a stranger to emotional meltdowns.  If I had been working with a student, I would have given space, slowed my motions, tried to redirect and de-escalate.  I would not have pushed the student into a reaction, as I did my husband.  Also, I would not have waited to shop at the last minute to add more stress.  At work, I would have been reactive and I would have had a plan.  

It took me a while to figure out that the de-escalation tools that work at school can work at home.  My husbands reactions are from his disease and he does not have control over them.   I am grateful I have these tools and am now using them at home.

Do the tools always work?  Oh no, of course not.  When I over extend myself in other areas of my life, the stress shows in my face and actions and due to the disease he misreads me.  But since I know that I am the one that can prevent most of the problems before hand and I am the one that can redirect when something does happen, we have less  catastrophic episodes.  Less stress and chaos in our life leaves room for enjoyable moments of being together.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Baked Beans

When I was growing up, we often had baked beans and fried chicken at our many picnics.  My mom would open a can of baked beans and add lots of other ingredients before putting them into the oven.  I tried for years to make a tasty version without the can.  The trouble I had was they took a lot of effort and didn't taste like hers.  Over the last few years my crock pot and I have become best friends.  Here is the recipe I have put together using the crock pot and tastes like mom's.  Mine is without meat, but you could easily add bacon.  Also, If I have a good buy on barbecue sauce, I substitute it for the ketchup.

Nice and Easy Baked Beans

Cook 1 pound of dried navy beans until soft in 6 cups water.  I usually do this the day before, but you can cook ahead and have them in the freezer and defrost before you need them.

1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup ketchup
1 cup water
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 t. dry mustard
1 t. salt
1/2 t black pepper

Drain water from beans.  Put them into the crock pot.  Stir all ingredients together and pour over beans.  Mix.
Cover and cook on low 5 hours.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Welcome New Class

I taught a new Christian Coupon and Frugal Class today.  I hope the participants were all able to take something useful home with them.  I will be teaching a new class in the fall, so if you are in the Wichita/Newton area, please plan on attending.  Date will be picked closer to the date, so I will let you know.  Class participants, please keep in touch and let me know what is working for you and what has been helpful and what else you need.

On my way home from the class, I purchased strawberries and a watermelon by price matching at Walmart.  I love planning my menus around the produce bargains I get each week.  I have 1 box of 79 cent mushrooms left from last week's price matching.   I might make a mushroom omelet for Sunday's breakfast.

Thanks again for attending.  I had a great time.  Enjoy your frugal living!!

Pop, pop, pop popcorn

I love popcorn for a snack.  When I was a kid we would eat popcorn and apples on Sunday evening, instead of dinner.  My mom had a big pan with a heavy lid that she used for popcorn making.  I remember how excited I would get when she would pull that pan out. 

I bought the microwave kind for years and years.   It seemed so much easier than mom's way.  Of course, you then have extra packaging, cost, and ingredients I can't pronounce.  

For frugal reasons I stopped buying the microwave packages and instead I bought bulk popcorn and used an air popper that I had.  The air popper stopped working and it didn't make since to buy another one.  I don't like to shake a pan on the stove.  My stove popped corn never tastes like my mom's.  Also, it seems like too much work for a simple snack, unless I am making kettle corn (recipe soon).  

I found a used popper at the local used store for a couple of dollars.  It lasted about a year and then it stopped working. I still don't think that buying a new popcorn popper is the frugal way to go, so I now use the microwave and a lunch size paper sack to make popcorn.

Popcorn in a Brown Bag

Pour 1/3 cup popcorn into a small paper sack
Fold the sack over several times.  You have to fold several times so it doesn't open up   Put into the microwave for about 3 minutes.  Microwaves are all different so listen to the pop.  When it slows down, it is done.  Pour into a bowl and add your favorite seasonings.  I can use the sack 2 times before it begins to get holes.  So delicious, frugal, and simple to make.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I make salsa from the fresh tomatoes I grow in the summer.  I don't buy tomatoes in the winter.  I use the tomatoes that I put up for the winter.  This is a good substitute for fresh salsa.  The recipe uses tomatoes from a can.  If you can your own tomatoes or freeze them, you could use them.   I like this recipe since it uses parsley.  I don't care for cilantro, but you could use add cilantro with the parsley to taste.  When you make your own salsa you can adjust to your own taste.  Enjoy!



         1 1/2 cans canned tomatoes with juice 
          fresh or canned jalapeno pepper to taste, chopped
         1 small onion, chopped
         2 T. lemon juice
         2 cloves garlic peeled
        1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley 
          1 teaspoon salt (or to taste) 
        1/2  teaspoon pepper
         3 dashes Tabasco Sauce

·          Add all ingredients in food processor for just a few seconds
for chunky salsa or a bit longer for a smoother texture.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Orange Cleaner

This is a great cleaner.  I have been slowly replacing the cleaning products that I buy from the store with products I put together at home.  Mostly  I use vinegar and water for cleaning, but for some reason I don't like to use it in my mop water.  This recipe smells so much better.  I found  this cleaner on another blog .  You might want to check out the site.

We compost, so I don't feel like the orange peels were being  wasted when they are tossed in with the other food scraps, but this seems to make even better use of them.  I often candy orange peels to use in cooking, but the process is time consuming and I don't use most of my peels in this way.  Now I am happy to toss the peels into the jar and know they are being put to a great use.

Peel the oranges and throw peels into a jar.  
Pour enough vinegar to cover.  Continue to fill the jar with peels and vinegar and let sit 2 weeks. 
Shake occasionally.  
Strain the vinegar and return to jar.  
When you use the cleaner, dilute with 3 parts  water.  
I pour about 1 cup undiluted into 2 gallons of mop water to clean my floors. I sometimes add 1 squirt of Dawn Detergent if my floor is really dirty.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Participating in Our Life

When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease everthing changed in our life.  The first really noticable part was finances.  My husband was unable to work.  We had hospital bills, doctor bills, medication costs coming in.  Even with insurance we were being crushed.  Then, when the monthly bills started coming in, I figured out that my husband had not been able to take care of things for a long time.  At that time I started scrambling to take cover.

First I started reading frugal blogs and digging out my old cost-saving recipes trying to figure out what to do.  I pulled out the bills from the stack and put a plan in place to start taking care of them.  The big thing I learned from the blogs was pay off my bills and credit cards as fast as I could and then put that money towards other bills. 

The key, I understood from my reading was to get more money.  Ha, I wondered, should I wave my magic wand and get a little more money.  The thing to do, I gathered was get another job or spend less than I were earning.  Since my life was in an upheaval, I worked on the part that I felt like I had more control over, the spending less part.  I cut grocery costs, house cooling and heating costs, and every extra that I could cut out and paid towards bills.  A budget was my best friend.

I felt that getting an extra job, since I work full time, was not an option for me.  My family needs were and continue to be too time consuming for an outside job.

I, with my husband's help, started turning the backyard into garden strips.  We read everything we could on home gardening.  We added 1 strip or space a year and planted more each year.  Most years we have good results.  We have had an  amazing time  discovering the wonders of growing our own food.

Our backyard had the poles for hanging laundry, but the lines were gone.  We strung wire between the poles and by the next year we added the second line, since we were hanging all of our laundry, most of the time.

I cook most of our food from scratch.  I make our bread.  I use a white sauce instead of cream soups.  I spend time searching for new ways to use beans in our menus and other cost saving recipes.  Just recently I started making yogurt and granola again.  I make most of my cleaners and laundry soap.  

These changes have been gradual over the last few year.  This has certainly added more work.  I work full-time and am worn out when I come home, but our budget depends on these acts.

I read once that a long time ago, when  people were involved in their lives they were more apt to be more satisfied in their lives.  Their hard work contributed to their survival.  According to the article Daily amount of food waste in America enough to fill a football stadium, since 1974 there has been a 50 percent jump in food waste, with the average American producing around 5 pounds of trash a day with about 12 percent of this waste being food-based waste.  There are several theories  to explain this increase.  One is that there is a transition from those that lived though the Great Depression and tough times.  The other is that Americans are separated from the food they grow and this separation affects there perception about food.  

When my husband got sick and the whirl changed from career busy to healing my husband and now to maintaining his illness, I have discovered that I have that part time job that the frugal articles discussed.   I don't get a paycheck, but am payed back by our involvement in our lives.   I am making an investment in our life.  For me, the work makes a difference, I am more connected to my life.  I can't change my husbands disease or slow down the continual lose of his memory and functioning, but together, we continue to work together as best we can.  I feel that I am more satisfied with my life and am proud of our participation.