Key West or Bust……………… OR How To Drive Cross Country with your Mother who has Alzheimers!



For the next several weeks I will be telling you a few of my stories about a trip I decided to take while my Mother could still remember it.  WELL that was a fantasy!  She didn’t even know who SHE was by the end of the first day!  Hopefully this story will inspire others or at least let them know they are NOT the only ones out there trying to do the best they can while learning to cope with a truly insane situation!  ALZHEIMERS !

As you may have read, about a year ago my daughter Victoria moved to Key West.  Since the day she left my Mother has been asking” have you heard from Tori?” , ” I would sure like to see where Tori lives” ,  ” Why don’t we go visit Tori?”   When I say asking I mean ASKING!  OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER, because she has no memory of asking 10 seconds ago.  So I got this idea in my head to take her to see where Tori lives.  I also thought since we had lived 19 different places as I was growing up we could go by some of those and let her see them too.  My husband and traveling companion Robert called it the farewell tour.

Day one: We drove to Nashville, Tennessee.  We had rented a transporter wheelchair to make this easy.  (we thought)  So here we are in the German Town section of Nashville at the German Town Cafe.  I thought some yummy German food ( my Mother ‘s maiden name was Baumeister) would be a great beginning to our trip.  SURE.  So imagine my surprise when they had no German food at the German Town Cafe in GERMAN TOWN beyond some spatzel and cabbage that came with the duck breast!  On top of that we asked if they could just give us a half order for my Mother.  They absolutely refused to do that because they want all of the food to look the same????? WHAT ??? I kept insisting that we would be happy to pay full price just don’t give us a full order.  AGAIN refusal.  Then I said can you give us half of it to go?  Then you can give half to the homeless folks in the neighborhood.  HE was incredulous!  NO homeless people at all in the area.  BULL$hit!!!  As we were walking to the restaurant there was a homeless lady pushing her shopping cart right down the street next to us.

Then………..things………………….Strange!  Spooky Strange!   My mother went somewhere I had never seen her go.  She was in some alternate reality, some parallel universe!  She was agitated and wanted me to call her mother or sister to see if she could stay with us.  She wanted to know if it was ok not to be home early. Some how she allowed us to call Victoria who told her it was ok to stay out with us.  THIS HAD NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.  CREEPY to have your Mother who in so many ways isn’t even your Mother any  more go way out there into the other realms of the Universe.  That totally freaked me out!  We stopped at the first hotel we could then my husband went to the liquor store and bought some wine!!!

Every so often during the night I would here her whispering………..Debbie………….debbie………. d e b b i e ………..  CREEPY!  The next morning she was fine.  There was no talk at Shoney’s where we went for breakfast about needing to call her mother.  THANK GOD!  So on we went to Chattanooga.

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Getting Ready for a LONG Road Trip!

Hornet Travel Trailer

Sometime after I retire at the end of February we will be embarking on a long trip. This is something I have dreamed of all of my adult life. My ex-husband and I had this conversation numerous times but there was NEVER any money to do this kind of thing. I am not exaggerating when I say he would get stuff out of the thrift store dumpsters and sell it at garage sales to make money because he couldn’t keep a job. He had all kinds of interesting ideas that would never happen so this trip was just a dream for many more years.

When I married my current husband of 20 years we had no money-NONE. He worked at the zoo training elephants and I worked at the Houston Park District. Maybe we made $40,000 between us but we had insurance to pay, house payments, child support to Robert’s ex wife. On Thursday before payday we would float a check at the grocery store……knowing it would not clear before we could get the paycheck in the bank the next day and we would either buy groceries or go on our BIG SPLURGE of the week and go to the Chinese Food Buffet and pig out on a myriad of yummy food. Either way it only lasted until the next day when we were back to 29 cent a pound chicken. 10 pounds for $2.90!

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Over the years things got better. MUCH BETTER! Robert and I worked and saved and worked and saved. And now we can relax a bit and travel more. So in February when I leave the Joliet Park District after 17 years as part of an early buyout, before I start one more project, I am going to take a few months off and travel. We are going to go visit Victoria in Key West, We are going to go to state parks that we have never been to before and we are going to take off our watches and only look at a calendar (which I have lived by for 17 1/2 years) when we need to put another reservation number on it.

Travel Trailers

Yesterday was a FUN DAY. We took our Grandson Christopher with us to look at Travel Trailers. He was so excited when we told him that YES, he could go in all of them. He LOVED this experience almost as much as I did. There are bunks of all shapes and sizes for 11 year old boys to sleep in, dream in and play games in. There are all manner of fun things for Grandma too! Some have Islands in the KITCHEN! Heck, I don’t even have an island at my house. Some have granite counter tops! I don’t have those either. Some have 2 bathrooms! NO KIDDING! 2 bathrooms in a travel trailer. Such fun!

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Looking for Peace

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I am forcing myself to write something! I am sitting at my table in the dining room thinking about the trip to Hawaii and how peaceful and calming it was to stand at the Lavender Farm and look out across the fields and see what seemed like all of Maui and take in the silence. Virtually no cars, no traffic, no people noise. The silence of peace.
That is the kind of peace I am looking for in retirement. At least on a somewhat more regular basis. A balance of peace and excitement would be nice and that is what I am working on now so that when February rolls around there will be fun, excitement and peace.

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Photo Friday ………………Fall is on it’s Way!


I have had the privilege to manage Pilcher Park Nature Center for the past 17 years. I love Pilcher Park and I love Nature! I am now ready to go see the rest of the world. My heart will remain here but on February 28, 2014 I will be turning my keys over to the new Nature Center Manager. May their journey be filled with as much fun as mine was!

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Photo Friday ………….. Butterflies and Flowers for you….

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Pilcher Park in Joliet, IL has a beautiful meadow hidden in the woods. You won’t find this one from your car. You will have to go to the Nature Center and walk on the Pilcher Interpretive Trail from the Nature Center to the Greenhouse. You will find this gem on that path.

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Among the coneflowers, Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Bergamont/Monarda/Bee Balm and other prairie plants you can see how beautiful this meadow is:

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Photo Friday Flower………….. Pink Thistle

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When driving back home from Bryce Canyon National Park we saw an amazing field of pink thistle. It was so beautiful. Not only that but there was a storm coming in and that made for some beautiful clouds over the mountains. When the storm hit ……… it REALLY hit! We ran for the car but not before I got this amazing shot:

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A HUMMINGBIRD Moth! Then we ran to the car and sat while it hailed on us and wondered what we were going to tell the rental car company about the hail damage. But when we got out………..there was none. Happy Friday all!

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Photo Friday Flower……….. Rose

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There are so many beautiful roses in this world. When we lived in Texas folks used to go rose rustling all the time. They would go to old cemeteries and find old plants and take cuttings and propagate them. I never had much success with that. I am much better at rustling a fan or two of an old Iris at a cemetery. Whether you rustle them or buy them they can add some fabulous color to your garden.

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Have a Sunny Day Friends……………..


This is a sunflower from our Organic Community Garden here in Joliet, Illinois. I thought I would post it today to give everyone a chance for a sunny day!

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Photo Friday Flower……….. Daylily Flowers

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Daylily flowers come in all shapes and sizes. There seem to be a bazillion different colors. I love them all. These are the easiest flowers to grow and propagate in your yard. They are nearly impossible to kill and they offer color all summer and into fall. The photo above is what most aficionados call a ditch lily. They are often referred to as weeds. In my opinion flowers are just weeds that have been moved into your yard. 🙂 So I have some of all of them. Cultivated or wild they offer beautiful color. There are MANY different sizes, shapes and colors of these lovely lilies.

A more cultivated variety is this yellow beauty:

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Tor is Back Home in Key West after BlogHer13


I attended Blogher13 this weekend with my Daughter Victoria Elizabeth. You may remember that she left here a few months ago and I have MISSED HER LIKE CRAZY! Before she left, way back in November we decided to go to Blogher13. She has been blogging for a few years and I have been TRYING to blog for a couple. I wanted to go to see if I could get inspired. So after Tor moved we talked about selling our tickets but she still had clients here in the Chicagoland area from her Social Media Company Victoria Elizabeth Productions. So she flew in two days early for the conference and worked all day the day before.

Then we had Catch Phrase Night at our house. WE LOVE CATCH PHRASE so much we actually play in a group once a month at least with a bunch of ladies. It had been a bit sedate since Victoria left. NOT this month. As the game came to an end we were all sitting around drinking a bit and I brought in some eyeglasses I had purchased at work the day before. The following picture probably says it all:


Anyway, for the next few days and weeks you will be hearing about Blogher13. It was a great learning experience but that didn’t compare to the time I got to spend with Victoria. Every waking moment for three days I was with my favorite girl. She is so smart, so funny and so good with people. I am so proud of her!


After a fabulous weekend of togetherness we came home. Spent the evening with friends and family and had a wonderful evening.


As with the first time she left I cried. I bet she did too as she walked away. There are so many reasons for that. My Mother has NO idea why Victoria is coming and going. NO short term memory at all of anything. Small, very small glimpses, of her long term memory. She seems to be stuck in a loop of the same 10 questions. Debbie, did you work today? Do I have any money? Can you write a check to so and so? What day is this? What is the date? And so it goes. On and on and on, the same questions all day every day and night. So on the way to the airport on the way to drop Tor off she asked 20 times where we were going and why Victoria was leaving. And Victoria would say she was going home and the only home my Mother remembers is ours, here in Joliet, WITH Victoria. It is so sad that she doesn’t remember. It is so hard to have to deal with this and it is as always……….maybe the last time she sees her Grammie. Or that Grammie sees her. Every so often Grammie surfaces from the fog that is alzheimers and asks “Is Victoria home yet?” Or does she? Which home is she asking about?

Well that is my life……….. for today……….

Want more info on Blogher13 from Victoria’s perspective? Go to her site at HunksRHandbags.

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