[PDF | 96,15 Mb] Vegan Food & Living – December 2018 – Download Magazine

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    Copyright © J.A. Tours, Inc.

    All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Published in 2017 by Random House Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Distributed in Canada and the United States of America by Penguin Random House Canada Limited, Toronto.


    Random House Canada and colophon are registered trademarks.

    Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

    Arden, Jann, author

    Feeding my mother : comfort and laughter in the kitchen as my mom lives with memory loss / Jann Arden.

    Issued in print and electronic formats.

    ISBN 9780735273924

    eBook ISBN 9780735273948

    1. Arden, Jann—Family. 2. Alzheimer’s disease—Patients—Care—Alberta. 3. Alzheimer’s disease—Patients—Family relationships—Alberta. 4. Mothers and daughters—Alberta. 5. Musicians—Canada—Biography. 6. Caregivers—Alberta—Biography. 7. Alzheimer’s disease— Patients—Alberta—Biography. I. Title.

    RC523.2A73 2017  362.1968’3110092  C2017-902276-8

    Book design by Terri Nimmo

    Photography by Jann Arden. Portraits of Jann and her mom on pages this page, this page, this page, this page, this page and this page by Nadine Beauchesne, and on this page by Paul Brandt

    Illustrations: (this page, this page, this page, this page) Terri Nimmo; all others Shutterstock.com: (this page, this page, this page, this page, this page, this page) Nataliia Kucherenko, (this page, this page, this page, this page, this page, this page, this page, this page, this page) Irtsya, (this page) Inspiring, (this page) Irina Usmanova, (this page) Galyna_P, (this page) Samburova Maria, (this page) ZUBKOVA IULIIA, (this page) Elena Medvedeva, (this page) runLenarun, (this page) Marina Grau, (this page, this page) Calesh, (this page) ru.co.la, (this page) lozas, (paper texture) Paladin12, Cover background: goldnetz



    This book is dedicated with an abundance of love and gratitude to my mom and dad, Joan and Derrel Richards.

    Never judgmental.

    Always understanding and supportive.

    Forever facing forward.



    Title Page




    Feeding My Mother




    About the Author

    Another year, another page.

    A million moments melt away.

    The ticking-tocking hands of time,

    what’s found and lost, remains sublime.

    The details that we hold so fast,

    are nothing more than memories past.

    For love is all that lingers true,

    the bond that ties my heart to you.



    I remember the first day it happened.

    I remember the first time she forgot something big. It wasn’t the kind of lapse we all have from time to time—forgetting where we put our keys or our cell phones, or where we parked the car. This was a big sudden void. Right after it happened, that morning eight years ago now, I felt a discomfort insert itself at the back of my throat that hasn’t really eased up since. It’s hard for me to remember what my life used to feel like. It’s hard for me to remember my old mom.

    We had been sitting having a visit with my sister-in-law, Lori, talking about life things: the weather, the grandkids, jobs, the progress of our summer garden. Everything seemed perfectly normal. My sister-in-law at some point brought up the subject of her old cat. “I didn’t want to tell you, Joan,” she said to my mom, “but we had to have her put down a few days ago. God, whatever you guys do, don’t tell Duray about it as he’ll be devastated.”

    My brother Duray was in jail, as he had been for the last twenty-five years, for first-degree murder—a murder he has always denied committing. He isn’t really up to speed on what is going on around our lives out here in the free world, and he’s very sensitive to anything the least bit upsetting. I’m sure it’s because he feels so helpless. I think that’s why Lori wanted to spare him the news about their cat.

    “I would never say a word,” Mom said. Lori went on about how sick the cat had been and that she hadn’t found the right moment to tell Duray she was gone. We talked about it in detail for at least fifteen minutes. Mom seemed to be carefully listening to the story, consoling and responding in all the right places. Lori repeated again as she walked out the door, “Please don’t say anything, okay, you guys?”

    Mom said, “We won’t, Lori. Mom’s the word.” And we all had a bit of a laugh.

    Lori waved goodbye, hopped into her little blue compact and pulled out of the driveway.

    Before the car had even disappeared down the road, Mom’s phone rang, and it was Duray. The first thing that came out of her mouth, was, “You wouldn’t believe it, but your cat died!” I stood there in her kitchen in disbelief.

    “MOM!” I waved my arms in the air trying to get her attention.

    “What?” she asked with her hand over the receiver. “I’m on the phone!”

    “Jesus, you weren’t supposed to tell him that!”

    “Tell him what?” She looked at me blankly. She really didn’t know what she wasn’t supposed to tell him.

    “About the cat dying! What are you thinking?”

    That was the day. From one single second to the next, my life, my mom’s life, my dad’s life, my brothers’ lives, the lives of all of our friends and family, were altered profoundly. My mom had started the journey down the lonely, confusing road called Alzheimer’s disease.

    I would spend the next two years in denial. I made excuses for both my parents over and over again as the memory thieves slowly stole things from right beneath our noses. I chalked the frequent lapses up to garden-variety old age and tried to leave it at that. My dad had had a stroke several years earlier, so we already knew he had severe memory and mobility issues, but my mom was the normal one. She was the glue that held everything together. She dedicated her days to looking after my dad, coordinating his appointments and doling out his medications. She looked after their house and their yard and their meals and all the driving. I desperately needed her to be okay and I was also too scared to think about what was happening.

    I must have hoped if I ignored it enough, and wished it away often enough, my mom would start remembering again. But that’s not the way Alzheimer’s works. I have come to think of it as a cruel and haphazard sculptor. It chisels away at a person, one tiny piece at a time, exposing a mind to every form of loss and sadness. Uncovering every nerve and every bone and every vein. It doesn’t stop until it cuts away the last breath. We lived through a small stretch in which my mom knew she was forgetting things. It seemed only a matter of hours to me, but it was actually a short few months where she was aware of things going missing and time being lost and tasks being left undone. She admitted to me once or twice that she knew she was forgetting things. I will never forget her saying to me, “I know I can’t remember the way I used to, Jann. It could always be worse, you know. I hope you never let me become a filthy old lady.” Those words are stuck inside my heart like wet leaves in a gutter.

    I have spent the last few years in various stages of grief and fear and frustration and anger. I’m not sure half the time if I am doing things right with my mom, or screwing things up, but I do know that none of that matters. What matters are the moments spent with the people you love. What matters is setting judgement and resentment aside so that tolerance and patience and kindness can move into your soul and live there in their forever home. Life is never dull. That’s what Mom always says. “Life may be hard, but it’s not dull…”

    Mom’s journey, and my journey with her, is far from over and for that I am grateful. In these last eight years I have learned more about compassion and empathy and forgiveness than I ever thought possible. I’ve learned that something good can come from something bad: facing adversity can make you a much better version of yourself. I’ve learned that having a sense of humour is crucial in order to survive these trying days. I’ve also learned that feeding my mother, making her a great home-cooked meal, provides both of us with grace and solace and peace, that food is so important for our wellness and contentment. You can soothe pretty much any heartache with a loaf of bread and a hot bowl of soup!

    And I’ve learned that writing it all down can save me, which is what I started doing when everything around me began to feel unsteady. Seeing what was happening in front of me on the page made it much less daunting. And sharing my thoughts and feelings on social media made all the difference. I guess I wanted to reach out and tell somebody, anybody, about what was happening to my family. I didn’t want to feel alone in a room with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to throw open every door and window and let the light in. I wanted to unload some of the burden of carrying my parents’ secrets. I wanted to rid myself of this weird shame I was feeling because they were forgetting themselves. I started feeling like I was being forgotten too, lost in this pile of nothingness. It all seemed like such a mess, and some days it still does. I was talking with a friend about how I was feeling a few months ago, and she described how she felt orphaned when she lost her parents even though she was a grown-up. I think that’s exactly how I feel, even though Mom is still here physically. I feel like an orphan.

    It turned out that sending out an account of my daily adventures with my folks was life-changing. People started writing back, sharing their doubts and fears and frustrations with me. It changed everything in such a positive, wonderful way. I am so grateful to all of them—to all of you. It takes bravery to share your troubles. It takes grit and guts and gumption. Thank you for easing my troubles, for putting your wisdom and pain out there for everyone to benefit from. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent propped up in my bed reading through the hundreds and hundreds of comments you’ve left on my Facebook pages. I’ve laughed out loud and cried quietly and I have to say, I feel much less alone for having reached out. Losing someone an inch at a time is extremely hard.

    This book is a glimpse into my journey with memory loss but it’s also a journey that thousands and thousands of us are on with our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and husbands and wives and uncles and aunts and grandmothers and grandfathers and even children.

    Alzheimer’s and dementia have always been there, but perhaps families in earlier generations absorbed their elderly folks into the fold of home more gracefully. Many of us these days don’t have the kind of lives or rooted family structures that enable us to cope with parents, or grandparents, who can’t manage on their own, and we have to find nursing homes for them. Some of these places are great, some not so good, some downright depressing and dehumanizing. It’s an agonizing decision and one that can be hard to live with. So far I’ve been lucky enough to have the means to keep Mom at home with me, and ways to meet the challenges that entails. The stories and the recipes in this book are what I have to share about how we’re managing—about the road my mom and all the people who love her are travelling. It was written with humility, and sadness, and fear, and panic, and joy.

    What I’ve learned is that no matter what comes you’ve got to wrap yourself in all the goodness you can muster. That’s what my mom does every single day.

    Last week as we were driving into town to buy a few groceries, she told me that she was eighty per cent happy. That made me laugh really hard. “Eighty per cent, Mom? Well, that’s way better than me!”

    She told me that I would have to work on that…

    June 14, 2014

    It’s been an interesting, daunting, scary, anxiety-ridden week. Last Wednesday I ended up calling an ambulance to come and gather up my very delusional, incontinent, falling-all-over-the-place father. My mom and I had tried to “work through” whatever issues he was having for about forty-eight hours when I finally realized that it was something more than him just not feeling good. He couldn’t answer my questions, and when he did try to answer, his responses were so abstract and zany we couldn’t help but smile (through our fear).

    It’s difficult watching your parents getting older, and frailer, and increasingly more forgetful. I have watched some of my friends go through similar things with their folks over the past few years, and it’s been agonizing to see them with such heavy hearts, so uncertain about what to do next. It’s like one moment you are asking for permission to go to a high school dance and the next you’re driving into town on a Depends run for your father.

    It turns out my dad had some sort of “mystery infection” that triggered the apparent delirium. It’s been squashed with antibiotics, but the doctor told us it can take months for an elderly person’s mind to clear after such an infection. He has also been diagnosed with dementia, which we more or less knew, as it has come up before in some of his testing. He also has type 2 diabetes and some kidney issues and really crappy circulation in his legs, which makes it hard for him to walk. Other than that, he is super-healthy.

    What do we do next?

    Well, we want to bring him home. We are just trying to sort out what his needs are going to be once he gets here. So far, I think Mom and I will need:

    a Sherpa to get him up the stairs to his bedroom

    a comedian

    an award-winning food network chef

    a full-time housekeeper

    a butler

    a chauffeur

    a pharmacist

    a team of nurses

    a large oxygen tank

    one of those electric hospital beds

    a soft-serve ice-cream machine

    a gardener

    and a drug dealer for my mother and myself.

    Apparently the government will provide us with three hours a week of in-home help of some sort for free. What a load off our shoulders.

    Seriously, though, you have to enter this stage of life with a sense of humour. Not only for your aging parents’ sakes, but for yourself. Laughter is an amazing love potion and medicine—an incredible healer—and sometimes it’s the help you need at the end of a long, hard, delirium-filled day.

    June 15, 2014

    My dad called Mom this morning from the hospital and asked her how she was. I thought that was adorable. I just need to secure the Sherpa and ice-cream machine and we can bring him home.

    June 17, 2014

    Well, my dad gets to come home today. Apparently he is already dressed and sitting on the edge of his bed, ready for us to pick him up.

    Every time I went to visit him, he was lying in his bed with his brown leather shoes on. He told me that he was keeping them on his feet because things go missing around there. It made me laugh.

    Life is funny. The subject of death can be, too. One day my mom told me that if Dad were to die in the yard, she and I would have to somehow get him into the wheelbarrow and push him up to the house so that the ambulance guys wouldn’t have to do it. I am not kidding. Either that, she said, or we’d throw a tarp over him so the dogs wouldn’t “get at him.” Every time I look at the wheelbarrow now, I smile, thinking of my mom’s way of solving problems.

    She’s never been sentimental. She looks at life with such economy and practicality. She lives in the day and doesn’t get too far ahead of herself. When I was nine or ten, she told us at the supper table one night that we would all die one day and that we needed to try and have a happy life. That always stuck with me. To never talk about death is just plain silly. It’s like not talking about one of the most important things in our existence.

    I hope my dad has a happy summer. I hope he can sit in his lawn chair and yell at me about how I am using the weed eater wrong, or pruning the trees wrong, or hoeing the garden wrong. For some reason, I am looking forward to the old grouch hollering orders at me like I’m some waitress.

    June 25, 2014

    My dad has been home just over a week. He is so changed. His facial expressions, even his gestures, are somehow unfamiliar to me—the way his mouth turns down at one corner, the way he looks past you over your shoulder, the way he holds his fork and knife like he is not sure what they’re for. The grouchy, strict man who raised three kids, and poured concrete pads his whole life, has left the building. This man is quiet and still, perhaps wondering what his future holds. I catch him standing at the kitchen window looking down the road. His thumbs are shoved through his belt loops, and his jaw moves side to side.

    You would think that my mother would be torn apart over losing (more or less) her partner of fifty-six years, but she’s steady and calm and goes about her chores around the house without any visible sadness. She’ll tell me, “Jann, that’s just the way it goes. That’s life. What can you do?” She never spends any time feeling sorry for herself—she has bird feeders to fill and squirrels to entertain, after all. She’s tied strips of cloth—bits of cut-up tube socks and T-shirts and old aprons—to a dozen tree branches out in the yard. “The squirrels make their beds with them,” she answered when I asked what in the hell they were for.

    “That’s weird, Mom.”

    “They love them. I put new ones out every few days because they all disappear.”

    She gets up in the morning and feeds the dogs and putters around. Makes herself and Dad a protein shake with anything that happens to be sitting on the kitchen counter, throwing bananas or nuts or apples into the blender with a scoop of “powder” as she calls it.

    She vacuums every single day without fail and does at least one load of laundry. She never says, “I don’t know what I’ll do without your dad.” She always tells me that she’ll be fine, though she says she does worry sometimes. But that’s what people do. They worry and let their brains run around like chickens in a slaughterhouse. That’s what I do, too much of the time.

    We are going to try and keep Dad at home. We’ll make a few modifications in the bathrooms and we’ll bubble-wrap everything. (Kidding.) That has always been the plan.

    Mom and I think that Dad will outlive us. He always lands on his feet somehow, the guy who drank and smoked his whole life like some kind of movie star. He still has good days when he makes sense and bad days when we feel like we’re playing charades as we try to figure out what he’s trying to tell us.

    Yesterday he called me and said, “I just wanted to touch base about your financial situation and whatnot.” After many failed guesses, I finally figured out he was calling to find out what time I was making him dinner.

    mom and dad

    together for fifty-eight years

    July 1, 2014

    I have been in Nashville the past few days, getting some writing done and having a little bit of a break from my folks. Though I worry constantly, and I have been calling them three times a day to make sure they are all right.

    I keep thinking that I shouldn’t have come down here, but Dad seemed to be pretty good. I’ll be home on Saturday around suppertime and am hoping that they can keep themselves fed and alive until then.

    Of course, as soon as I landed in Nashville, I was getting messages from friends that a tornado had touched down about an hour outside of Calgary. I phoned home to check in, and Mom told me the weather had been so


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