Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I took this picture while on vacation. It was such a sweet picture I had to share!

Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the air. Today I decided around noon time to run out and take care of some errands. I slipped into a pair of capris, a short sleeve shirt, and flip flops and headed out the door. Despite the sun shining brightly, the air had that unmistakable fall nip to it.

I love autumn. There is something about the colors that nature displays, the crispness of the air, the sun that teases that makes me feel introspective and peaceful. I look forward to the coming of fall each year more than any other season. It’s kind of silly, but with the coming of fall I like to pull out my old, much used home taped VHS version of “Hocus Pocus” and watch it. Fall, “Hocus Pocus”, and turning inward go hand in hand in my world.

Most of the world does spring cleaning; I do fall cleaning. As the days grow cooler and shorter I tend to think of cleaning carpets, washing windows, and organizing closets. I need to organize closets; my 3 year old nephew said to me on Saturday as we went looking for the cat who was asleep in the closet, "Your closet's a mess, Auntie Tammie."

I talked with a friend this morning and she told me how this time of year leads her to think of what the year has held and what she would like to do in the coming year. We have been friends for many years and I never knew this of her. It is my habit also to begin to make my new year’s goals around Thanksgiving time.

I am one of the Saturday bloggers over at The Christian Writer's Forum. This past Saturday I posted about a recent trip to visit family in a small farming community of Southern Indiana. Fallow Ground came out of that trip. This is the time of year when farmers are harvesting their crops and the fields are lying in lost splendor. The thing about these fallow fields is that they are not really dormant, they are reviving and restoring. They are preparing for the next growing season.

Maybe that is why the fall makes me think to the future. The activities of spring and summer are done and life seems to slow down some. It seems to me to be an opportune time to consider the year that is almost done. The restoration that is happening during this time leads to anticipation of goals to be accomplished.

This fall brings me to the one year anniversary of my mother’s death and with it the sadness of having lived a year without her. It brings with it the realization that my goals were always important to my mother. She believed I could do anything I put my mind to doing.

So, as I hunker down and replenish, I savor the memories and lean on the strength she instilled in me. A new year is coming and I still have much to accomplish. My fallow ground is making way for new growth in the coming year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Tale of Wilson's Tail

Facebook has an application called Flair that allows a user to give virtual buttons to other users. It’s one of the ways that a user can express their likes and dislikes. Recently my friend sent me flair that said, “Friends don’t let friends become crazy cat ladies.” You know crazy cat ladies, right!?! They’re old maids who acquire cat after cat until their whole life revolves around their cats. Since Meredith is a wonderful single friend who has a cat of her own I didn’t take offense at the flair.

Still my sister has suggested that since I brought my kitty home I may be on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady. I will admit to the crazy part; that has been established already. I maintain that it is better to be a little crazy and enjoy life than to stick to the norm and be bored.

As for being a cat lady I don’t think I could. See, the truth is I love my kitty and I don’t know that I could love two kitties the same. Is this the dilemma faced by parents when they decide to have a second child? I know that it is possible to love more than one (fur) child. I just don’t know if I want to.

I adopted Wilson in June of this year. I had always thought of myself as a dog person, but my lifestyle right now just wouldn’t work to have a dog. So I decided to adopt a cat. Wilson stole my heart right from the start. I can’t imagine life without him. As I type this he is at the foot of the bed grooming himself and looking at me like I am disturbing him when I shift position.
Wilson is a sweet heart and I admit that I spoil him. I also admit that I talk about him way too much and take tons of pictures of him. It became a joke while I was on vacation with my family recently that I had to make everyone look at my pictures of him. Just a few days ago I downloaded the vacation pictures from my camera and found I had taken 50 pictures of Wilson before leaving on vacation. In defense of myself, I did get a new camera and was getting the hang of it by using Wilson as my subject ;-)

It has been said that you can tell the mood of a dog by his tail. I think that is very true of Wilson also. He has a very long, graceful tail. When I returned from vacation he would not leave my side. As we lounged on the couch that evening his tail gently flicked at the very end. This is his way of saying, “I am content and all is right with my world.”

He also uses his tail to tell me when he is upset with something I have done. Often this happens when I have been gone for a few hours and he didn’t appreciate me leaving. He will get my attention, then walk a few feet away, sit with his back to me and flick his tail. Not the gentle flicking I described above. The tail waves back and forth and the tip snaps at the end of each arc. He continues to do this for about 15 minutes or until he is sure I have received the message.

In the mornings when it is time to get up (he determines this usually, not me) he will jump on the bed and lay right next to my face with his tail waving back and forth over my face. I eventually have to get up because the cat hair up my nose makes me sneeze.

Sometimes as I am at the desk working I will see his tail straight up in the air with just a little crink at the end. He hunches down on his front legs with his backside and tail up like a periscope. He stalks around pursuing some invisible trail of some evil that needs to be extinguished. I try not to think too much about what evil he may be following in my house…I just rest assured that Wilson is on the trail.

Yes, as you can see I do love my kitty and I love to talk about him. He has a spot in my heart that can never be replaced. I wrote a short story about him recently for the Faithwriter’s Writing Challenge. He was a good subject and the piece was well received. If you would like to indulge me in my kitty appreciation, you can read it at Finding My Place in Life

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Family Sized Adventure! - Adventure #9

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter. ~ e.e. cummings

Laughter punctuated my adventure number nine in a big way. Adventure nine took me across the country to the heartland to spend a week with my extended family which, of course, means a week of laughter. As long as I can remember, time spent with the family was always full of laughter.

When my mom passed away last year my brother in his words of remembrance described our family as “rather large and wonderful.” Mom had 12 brothers and sisters and Dad has five. These two families have grown over the years. One of my aunts commented to my grandmother this weekend that she and grandpa had no idea what they were starting when Mom was born in 1942. Today the family encompasses the ten spouses who joined the family, thirty some grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

When my sister and I began talking about walking in the Alzheimer’s Memory walk in honor of Mom we decided it would be fun to travel to Indiana and walk with the extended family. So, we began to plan a trip and began to grow our team. When the walk day dawned we had 15 walkers and one stroller….Gabe is too young to walk the whole way yet.

The week was so full of activities, people and stories. The most prominent memory of the week though is the laughter. As I write this I find it hard to put it into words. Until you have made an hour and half trip to another town with several of my aunts you really can’t understand how silly knock-knock jokes can create such uproarious laughter. The fact that the aunts made them up with family names made them hilarious. Here, let’s give it a try…

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Duane who?
Duane the tub, I’m dwoning!

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Randy who?
Ran de car in the ditch.

I laughed as I typed these, did you laugh as you read them? The thing that makes them so funny is the interactions between my aunts and uncles as they are told. You really had to be there.

The tradition on Sunday evenings for my family in Indiana is to gather at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner. It’s not the whole family, but whoever can make it is welcome to come. We got to have Sunday dinner there this week. The little house was filled with conversation, good food and laughter. And as a bonus we got to hear (and experience) Aunt Connie’s chicken in the rinse cycle story. If you are ever in the area, you really have to experience that! True to form in our family, my sister was laughing so hard she was in tears. The great thing about her laughter is she sounds so much like Mom.

Yes, the week was full of laughter and it was full of adventure. As I started the trip I decided that I was not going to let anything hold me back from experiencing whatever came my way. This meant meeting some new people who will remain in my memory for a long time to come.
The first person I met is my cousin’s friend who is called Sweet Pea by just about everyone. After I had lunch with several of my aunts and a couple of cousins on Friday we went back to Bev’s house. Her housemate Sweet Pea joined in our conversation for a while. The thing I admire about her is that she has no regrets in being herself. She fills a room with her voice and her laughter. She kept us all in stitches as she recounted things that happened to her. Some may be turned off by her boisterousness, but if you allow that to cloud your vision you might miss the heart of gold that lies beneath. As Bev told us more about Sweet Pea I saw that heart of willingness. She truly was part of a great adventure.

That night we headed out to Bubba’s Bar and Grill. I don’t frequent bars for the most part. This, however, was a family outing and so I decided to let go and join the fun. My uncle was meeting a woman that Bev wanted to set him up with. They all decided it might be easier if it happened as part of a group. I have to say that Allan and Dawn were both brave to submit themselves to the craziness that envelopes the family when a group gets together. I don’t know that I would want my sisters and nieces along if I were to be meeting a new guy.

When we got to Bubba’s I had to get my picture taken under the sign. There was something about going to a place called Bubba’s that signified small town life for me. Bev decided that I also needed to meet Bubba and he very graciously came over to introduce himself and shake my hand. I bet he never imagined I would go on to write about him on my blog. He’s a big, burly guy just as you might imagine from his name, but Bev tells me he is just a great big old marshmallow. Thanks, Bubba, for being a good sport!

Another person I met on my trip was a lady who sat next to me on the plane. She was a sweet lady from Columbia, SC and was on her way to visit her daughter. Turns out her daughter and son-in-law visited Colorado and liked it so much they decided to move there while he went to school. They had been in the area for about four weeks. Her daughter just had surgery and so my seat mate was traveling out to help care for her granddaughter while her daughter healed. In the short time we had together she told me about her children who are scattered all over the country right now. I have never really met anyone on a plane before so this was a great experience.

Finally, I got to meet my cousin’s girlfriend since she joined us on our memory walk. Laura was in a car accident last July and was seriously injured. We prayed for her and there were times when I wondered if she was going to make it through. Her injuries required extensive rehab for her to be able to return to her normal routine. She worked hard at recovering. Her big desire was to go to graduate school and the accident didn’t change that, it just delayed it. This fall, just a little over a year after that devastating accident, she returned to school to pursue her graduate degree. She is an amazing amount of determination packed into a small package.

The week ended all too soon and there is way more to tell than I can possibly fit into one blog post. I will have to write again soon about my trip to Abe Lincoln’s Boyhood Home and St. Meinrad Archabbey. I was able to get lots of great photos and will be adding those to my blog posts during the coming months.

Adventure 9 was a family sized adventure that will make me smile for years to come.

“A merry heart does good, like medicine…” Psalm 17:22

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Thing About Lewy

The thing about Lewy is that it’s still such a mystery. Not only a mystery, it’s a mystery few have heard of before. When Mom was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) we had never heard of it. I had to do a Google search to find out anything about it and I have been around the healthcare field for a long time. If I hadn’t heard of it considering my background, you can imagine what it is like when people ask what condition my Mom had.

“She had what?” “Lewy whatcha call it?” “Huh?” The comments are usually accompanied by confused looks. Mom had symptoms that got progressively worse over the course of about ten years. In the early stages the doctors had many theories, but no answers. It was hard because people would ask about it and I longed to be able to give a simple answer that others understood. When you say someone has Alzheimer’s people nod and are sympathetic. Not so with Lewy.

So, after the shock wore off I began to talk about it. I had been doing research about LBD and began to believe that more people are afflicted with it than the 1.5 million the Lewy Body Dementia Association currently has statistics to support. Why do I believe that? LBD’s three main symptoms are hallucinations, fluctuating cognition, and Parkinson’s type symptoms. There is a lot of overlap between Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and LBD. The other two are much better known and so those are often considered first. Knowing that Mom was originally considered to have Alzheimer’s and having talked with other care givers whose loved ones have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, I think there are people out there with one of these diagnoses that just doesn’t quite fit.

If LBD is similar to these, why do we care about distinguishing it? One reason for this is because LBD patients are more susceptible to a class of drugs called neuroleptics. These drugs are often used to help treat hallucinations. In LBD they can cause coma and even death. I have also found that care givers want to know that someone understands their loved one. Being able to talk about it with others who understand is part of the healing process. It is hard when there is so much mystery surrounding the disease.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to a meeting with the new medical director at the company where I work. He is a neonatologist and pediatrician by trade. He hasn’t had to be up on the diseases that afflict the elderly. I talked with him about my Mom and answered his questions about LBD. Today in a meeting he turned to me and said, “You know since we had that conversation I was talking with a friend whose wife (or mother, I can’t remember) has Lewy.” He laughingly told me that because of the conversation he at least sounded intelligent while talking about it. In one simple conversation I raised his awareness of LBD. That is why I talk about Lewy.

So, I do talk about LBD when I get a chance. I write about it. I am doing my small part to bring light to the disease for all those people who are out there dealing with it. I am only one, but sometimes one is enough.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Permanent Reminders - Adventure #8

Over the last eight months I have opened my life to experience more of this world by trying new things. I have been learning about the world and about myself through this process. One thing I have learned is to never say never! There are things that I have said I would never do and in August I did one of those things.

My sister began the conversation with, “Hear me out.” She knew what my first reaction was going to be when she announced that she had an adventure for me. Since my adventures have only included her once before, I was excited that she wanted to join in. So, I heard her out.

“Let’s get tattoos.”

“Teri, you know how I feel about tattoos – “

“Hear me out. Let’s get tattoos of ladybugs as a permanent reminder of Mom.”

Okay, now I was listening and softening. See since Mom died in October last year ladybugs have been a seemingly ever present reminder of her.

It started when I began to search for family stories and funny stories to pass the hours with Mom. As Lewy Body Dementia took more of her she was unable to do much. We all tried to relieve her boredom with pictures and stories.

Dad always a man of few words; often said he ran out of things to talk about. He just couldn’t talk on and on, but he knew I could so he enlisted me to help. Teri often said my job was to act goofy and make Mom laugh. Acting goofy; also something I could do.

I reached out to family and friends to beef up my reservoir of interesting and funny stories. My aunt Connie told me a story of hers and Jim’s anniversary. They were heading to the casinos in French Lick, IN and my aunts (my Mom has five wonderful, wacky sisters) decided to give Connie their good luck charms. Connie wrote, “I ended up with two nuts, a rock and I would have had a dead ladybug, but Cheryl went to kiss it for good luck. She laughed so hard she snuffed it up her nose.”

That story was a winner. Mom laughed every time I told it. We often talked about Cheryl’s ladybug habit and laughed. The great thing about my aunts is they never minded that I used their crazy antics to make Mom laugh.

Shortly after Mom died I was talking to my brother on the phone and he told me there were ladybugs all over the side of his house. He had never seen so many ladybugs in one place. I reminded him of the story and told him I thought this was our sign that Mom was happy and laughing again in heaven. She was once again whole, healthy and happy.

Since that time ladybugs have appeared in all of our lives at one time or another. Tom had several living in his house. My niece found some in her apartment and crawling across her foot once. Tom and I both have found them on the 9th and 6th floors of the office buildings we work in. The ladybugs are everywhere and so when we see them we smile and think of Mom.

When Teri suggested ladybug tattoos I couldn’t resist. The fact that my 13 year old niece drew the ladybugs was another plus.

We weren’t sure what Dad would think about the tattoos, but when I said I could see Mom there in heaven shaking her head, grinning, and saying “I don’t know where I went wrong with those two” Dad couldn’t help but laugh.

Teri found a great tattoo place and we visited to make sure it was clean and reputable. Our artist was a sweet guy named Mike. We felt comfortable and set up our appointments. This definitely wasn’t a get drunk and get a tattoo endeavor.

Teri got hers first while I was at a concert on a Saturday night. She sent me pictures and texts after it was all over. One text said, “It’s all over. The pain is excruciating. T (her 13 year old) is driving home.” I began to have second thoughts. She, of course, was kidding and I only had a few moments of thinking, “What the heck am I doing!?!”
My time came on Tuesday evening. T went with me for moral support since Teri was working. It was a little nerve wracking. The thought of needles permanently altering my leg was scary and I began to wonder if I had truly lost my mind.

The pain WAS excruciating and I felt as if my foot was being amputated. Just kidding! It was really no more painful than those shots the dentist gives. I had three little ladybugs inked on my right ankle. The whole process took about 20 minutes.

Now the ladybugs will be with me forever. As a little old lady I will look at my ankle and think of Mom. Will I get another tattoo? Doubtful! But I have experienced a little more this world has to offer and won’t ever be able to forget this adventure!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9/11

Do you remember the day, where you were when you heard, how you felt? This question has been asked many times in many forms since that September day in 2001.

I was on my way to work when I heard the news report. I was stunned and wondered how a pilot could make such an error. When I heard the reports of the second plane hitting the other tower I was in disbelief. That day was somewhat surreal. My employees were looking for comfort and understanding. One woman’s mom brought in their TV and set it up in our break room. I found myself wandering back there throughout the day as did everyone else in the office.

The country pulled together at the time. I believe it was instinctual. I have seen it at times when someone loses a loved one. The need to be around others is human nature. The need to have someone to lean on is fierce.

I remember the weeks after the attacks. For those of us at a distance from the tragedies life began to return to normal. Almost normal. I live in the flight path of the local airport. It was eerie to not hear those planes overhead as they left the airport. The skies were silent. I have grown up in a time when plane travel is somewhat routine and so not having planes in the sky was definitely strange. We went back to our lives, but are more hesitant. We are not as trusting as we once were.

Despite the fact that much has changed since those days I have to wonder if we are really different. The sentiments of righteous indignation that was prevalent in the days after the attacks have been replaced by dissension over the war. We get frustrated with the security measures put in place after 9/11/01. I think some of us forget how much we lost on that day. Life has gone on for some of us and we don’t think of it, until the day rolls around each year. Some, though, can’t forget; they were there and experienced it firsthand, they lost loved ones, they have been to Iraq or Afghanistan or have sent a loved one. They are haunted every day.

Tomorrow is 9/11/08. Tomorrow we remember and we hope. Tomorrow we grieve for all that was lost. Tomorrow let’s remember how much we need each other. Tomorrow let’s pray something like this never happens again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

8 Random Things

So, it's been a while since I blogged, but when I saw this post
http://thesurrenderedscribe.blogspot.com/2008/09/8-random-things-you-need-to-know.html by my buddy Julie over at The Surrendered Scribe it sounded like fun so here I am posting 8 Random Things About Me.

1. I was bribed by a nun in first grade and kicked out of choir by a nun in seventh grade.

2. I used to open my Christmas presents before Christmas and rewrap them. My siblings say I opened theirs also. I have no memory of opening theirs!

3. I scooped ice cream at Baskin-Robbins to put myself through college.

4. I jokingly tell people I am multilingual, but the truth is I know a few words in Turkish, German, Spanish, Latin and French. I don’t yet speak any of them fluently.

5. I have a weird, illogical fear of certain plants.

6. I have five crazy aunts (love ya Kathy, Karen, Mary, Cheryl and Janice!) and believe that every child needs at least one crazy aunt while growing up. I, alone, fill that role for my six nieces and nephews!

7. As one of my Facebook flair buttons says, “People who don’t know me think I am quiet; those who do know me wish I was.”

8. I just finished my Apprentice Course through the Christian Writer’s Guild.

What about you? Will you join me and post 8 Random Things about yourself!?!