Blogging Challenge · friendship · Life

Gobbledygook

Dear Kim,

Today’s prompt is the word “gobbledygook.”

I’m not really sure why, but that word makes me think of my mother. She liked to use words like that, but I’m not sure I ever heard her say gobbledygook.

Words are fun though, aren’t they?

I like that you like the word blithering — a word which rather aptly describes me and my writing style.

I was trying to remember when we first met. Was it Hutchmoot 2012? I think so. I remember seeing you sitting in the front row at Church of the Redeemer — watching, watching, watching, because that’s how you gathered the words that the rest of us so easily picked up through hearing.

My mother was still alive then. She didn’t have hearing problems. In fact, sometimes her hearing was too good. But she had the processing problems of dementia — and I think she knew that she was not grasping everything that was going on around her. It made me sad. It made her frustrated — because her reality wasn’t making sense and she couldn’t get us to understand what her reality was. Instead, at that point, I kept trying to bring her up to speed, orient her, help her understand truth. Over the next few years I had to learn to meet her where she was — in her strange netherworld of place and time.

But I saw you sitting in the front row and I remember thinking, I could try to help her. I tried sitting with you and taking notes that you could read but my handwriting is terrible and I couldn’t write anywhere near fast enough.

When someone would say something funny from the back of the room and everyone would erupt in laughter, you would look at me, questioning, what just happened? I would try to write it, but other things were being said that were meaningful or funny and I couldn’t keep up. I just couldn’t keep up with it all.

It gave me the tiniest glimpse into your world.

The funniest thing about that whole experience was that I thought I would help you, but you have ended helping me ever so much more.

Over the past nine years of our friendship, you have been the steadiest and most encouraging of friends. I have notes from you taped to my door where I can see them and think of you. I have books on my shelf from you, a mug in my cupboard, a small pottery pitcher with a rabbit on it, and a dress that you made for me — remember that? I wore that dress for two weddings!

There’s so much more.

But enough blithering. Enough gobbledygook for today.

You’re the best. I am so blessed to have you in my life.

Love,

Sally

Blogging Challenge · Life · Writing

Dear Kim

Gah — It’s New Year’s Day and I really want to get back into writing.

“I resolve to write every day in 2022.”

That sounds so pretentious. And lofty. And ridiculous. Yes, that’s it — utterly ridiculous because I barely posted anything in 2021 and I probably made the same resolution.

That’s where you come in, Kim. As I sat here squirming in my chair, feeling knots in my stomach — knots of both of anticipation and dread — I thought, what if I just wrote a letter to Kim every day?

I can picture you reading it. I know you’ll be kind in your responses. I owe you so much.

I think that‘s it, too. I owe you so much. So many thank you’s. So many responses to your faithful checking in on me. You know the road I’m walking — and you know how to encourage me on it. Have I ever thanked you for all that?

And here you are — unbeknownst to you at the time of my writing this — helping me again.

For the month of January 2022, I resolve to write to Kim every day. I’m going to use the prompts from Linda G. Hill’s blog. She calls Saturdays “Stream of Consciousness” and I’m not allowed to go back and edit. This may explain some of the blather in this post. I would ordinarily cut some of it out. But, then again, I probably wouldn’t end up posting because I would say, This is total blathering. Or blithering as the Scots might say.

Wednesdays are “One Liner Wednesdays.” Not exactly sure what happens there, but I’ll jump in and give it a go. At least for January.

All the other weekdays will have a prompt. So if I write to you about gobbledygook or unicorns, just know that that may be the prompt and I’ll try to work it into something meaningful I’d like to say to you.

Because I do have so many things I want to say to you — most of them centered around gratitude. You’ve been a good friend.

And if I fail to write you any of the days of January, just know that the failing is mine, not yours.

You’re the best.

Love,

Sally

Remember this?
Blogging Challenge · Life

Swim Camp

The other night I watched part of a Red Sox game against the Seattle Mariners with my father before I went to bed. In the morning I looked up the final score. The headline read: Sox can’t solve Leake as Rodriguez struggles

Leake was the pitcher for Seattle, and he has more pitches than numbers on a Bingo card.

“What do you think he’s going to throw this time?” one commentator would ask the other.

“I don’t know,” the other replied.

Apparently the Red Sox didn’t know either. Pitcher vs. Batter is such a mind game.

Seattle won 7-2.

Meh — baseball is a long season. I wasn’t too dejected.

I’ve been procrastinating planning swim camp for a while. I set up two meetings last week to discuss the nuts-and-bolts of swim camp with the staff that I would have. We planned activities and scheduled who would be where when. This is the 4th year that I’ve run the swim camp. I wasn’t cocky, but felt like I had a pretty good handle on it.

Plus I knew that a curveball or two would be thrown at me.

It goes with the territory.

Yesterday (Sunday) Bud and my children were covering little signs I had made with clear contact paper so they would withstand a week in the pool.

Last Wednesday I had 22 kids registered so I planned for 28. You never know.

This  morning I got up early to cut up our watermelon snack. 30 wedges should be plenty. I put it in a big bowl and brought it to the pool along with tape for my signs, sandals for my feet, and my whistle for silencing the small masses.

Curveball #1 — It turns out that I’m not allowed to tape anything on the walls. No worries, I thought. The signs were cheesy anyway.

Curveball #2 — Between last Wednesday and Monday (today), the camp had grown from 22 to 31. I didn’t have enough supplies for some of the activities. No worries, I thought. I have several sets of siblings and siblings can share.

Two of our three pools.

Curveball-slider-fastball-knuckleball-all-rolled-into-one — Two of the three pools were not available to me. AND the pool that was available was also being shared with adult lap swimmers and another camp. Maybe I could have three lanes.

I may have started hyperventilating.

Changeup pitch — Over one-third of the swimmers who signed up for my SWIM camp could not swim. One of the pools we couldn’t use was the shallow teaching pool. Now I had safety concerns.

We were told that we should have asked. Asked to use the pool for swim camp? A swim camp scheduled by the facility?

Apparently, it was my fault for not asking. Asking wouldn’t have changed anything. It just would have prepared me.

I was speechless.

So we fumbled (<– sorry, football analogy) through the morning.

The kids had fun.

Who knew that kids could have fun in such circumstances?

And I went home still feeling totally blindsided.

The prompt for today is my greatest regret. My greatest regret today was agreeing to run the swim camp.

It’s not my greatest regret, though. That has to do with far bigger things — missed opportunities with people I love.

However, today, I’m reeling.

The Red Sox couldn’t solve Leake, and I couldn’t solve Monday at swim camp.

BUT — tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet. (Anne of Green Gables)

I can’t wait.


Blogging Challenge · Life

Things That Make Me Happy/Things That Make Me Sad

In no particular order:

My children make me happy — especially when they’re together having fun.

Half my children on Father’s Day

Daisies and baby’s breath and buttercups growing by the side of the road make me happy.
Garbage – cups, cans, bottles, bags, etc – thrown out of a car window makes me sad.

The physician patiently listening to my father’s time travel narrative from baseball to Africa to Boston, and asking appropriate questions like there was nothing out of the ordinary in his story makes me happy.
People who ask “How’s your father doing?” and then walk away before I have a chance to answer make me sad.

My father chuckling and outright laughing at Gary Larson’s The Far Side makes me happy.
My father making many mistakes on the crossword puzzle and not recognizing them as mistakes makes me sad.

Wispy clouds in a blue sky make my happy.

A dog with a wagging tail makes me happy.

Hearing from friends makes me happy.

Being able to allow my father to stay in his home makes me happy.
Giving up my job at the pool (so that I can be home all the time) makes me sad.

Jeans that fit make me happy.
A hole in the pocket of my favorite jeans makes me sad.

Having friends from other countries and other cultures makes me happy.
Politics void of compassion make me sad.

A doe peeking her head above the grass to watch me as I walk on the road (and then learning that she recently gave birth to fawn) makes me happy.

Can you find the doe?

Posting something on my blog makes me happy.
Too much busyness makes me sad.

Blogging Challenge · Writing

Favorite not-Blogs

To choose my favorite blog is impossible.

Some of my favorite bloggers aren’t writing much at present. I don’t mind that because I know that they are busy living life — one recently adopted a child, another recently graduated from college, and a third recently moved across the pond. Those life events are all so much more important than hammering out blog posts — although they could possibly become fodder for posts in the years ahead.

Writers have to live life in order to write about it.

To answer the prompt, (Your Favorite Blogs) I tried to think about something I had recently read that spoke to me — and I thought of Jonathan Rogers.

Jonathan sends out a weekly letter for writers called The Habit.

To say that it’s my favorite blog would be a misnomer. He hasn’t updated his blog since May. (Tsk, tsk – Jonathan)

Still, if I could recommend one place to get good sound writing advice, it would be from Jonathan Rogers. I look forward to The Habit every week.

Number two would be Tweetspeak Poetry. It’s not really a blog, but they post a poem each day — and everyone needs a little poetry. I read my daily poem with my morning green smoothie.

Both Jonathan Rogers and Tweetspeak Poetry have courses and workshops for more in-depth writing work. Jonathan has a course starting next week — Writing with Flannery O’Connor. He has two spots left, so sign up now.


Blogging Challenge · family

Two Pictures of Me

I’m not a big fan of pictures of myself — but I like this one because it brings back so many memories of a very happy trip.

Eiffel Tower, May 2017

And this one, taken last month. We taken my father for his weekly dinner at the Doubleday Cafe on Main Street in Cooperstown. After dinner, the kids were going to walk down to the lake to take some pictures. Laurel grabbed me and said, “Hey, Mary! Take a picture of me and Mom.” So she did.

Laurel and me

Yes, Laurel is taller than I am.


Blogging Challenge · poetry

Thoughts on Education

Short answer: I’m for it.


Slightly longer answer:

Education

thinking
solving
proving
discovery

too much
social
interaction –
recovery

writing
rewriting
citing
recite

reading
researching
finding
delight

learning
questioning
seeking
knowledge

elementary
middle
high school
college

Except not everyone needs to go to college.


Alzheimer's · Blogging Challenge · dementia

Looking Ahead

Below is one of the first pieces I wrote about my mother’s dementia. At the time, I had no idea that we would only have her for another five or so years.

Today’s prompt is “Where will you be in 5 years.” Please excuse me if I don’t want to go there.

(This was originally published on Facebook on July 9, 2010)

The Twilight Zone

I think Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone, must have had some experience with a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. Some days, here in Cooperstown, that’s all I can think about – The Twilight Zone.

My mother is trapped in a very strange episode of The Twilight Zone. She is time-travelling from decade to decade, and it’s difficult to figure out where she is. She thinks she is 25 years old, but her face in the mirror tells another story. It must be frightening. She thinks she has a date to go to a dance, but her date never shows up. An old man claiming to be her husband does.

When she wakes the next day, she’s in a new place. Her husband is at work (he’s been retired for 11 years, but is at a meeting). The red barn across the street looks just like the barn that was across the street from their house (it is the red barn that is across the street from their house). “Whose car is that in that in the driveway? I need to borrow it,” she says, but it’s my car and I won’t let her.

Two days ago she was very worried about me. I was 6 years old and lost. I’m here with her; I’m not lost; I’m 50. Something doesn’t make sense, but she can’t figure out what it is. We move on.

The only constant in this Twilight Zone episode is orange marmalade. Orange marmalade is served at every meal – on hot dogs, on sandwiches, you name it. Orange marmalade – I really can’t figure it out. But I think I understand now what they’re talking about on the Food Channel when they refer to comfort foods. They’re talking about orange marmalade.

I think it has always been one of my fears that I will be trapped in The Twilight Zone. It was always such a scary show to me, because there would be that twist at the end – like M. Night Shyamalan had in The Sixth Sense. Reality isn’t what we’ve been led to believe that it is. For my mother, the twist doesn’t come at the end; it comes so often that it is dizzying. Another twist and another twist.

I want to cry.

I’ll have some orange marmalade instead.

Blogging Challenge · Life

Three Words

Years ago, I bought Helen one of those pillowcases. It said, “Eat. Sleep. Swim.”

Like that’s all there was to life.

Thank goodness, she didn’t adhere to it or the world would be less one fine nurse.

Today’s culture is into distilling life into three words to live by. A quick Google search revealed these:

Live. Laugh. Love.

Dream. Plan. Do.

Imagine. Believe. Achieve.

Learn. Live. Hope.

Smile. Sparkle. Shine.

I can see the value in three short words. Those words can be become a mantra. You know, to “Remember. Speak. Repeat.” when the going gets tough.

A dementia caregiver’s three words might be –

Protect. Assist. Repeat.

with Repeat being ambiguous. Repeating the act of protecting (from harm) and assisting (with daily activities), or repeating the same instructions, or listening to the same story repeated. There’s lots of repeating in caregiving. There’s lots of repeating in caregiving.

For myself, three mental health habits which I try to incorporate into each day are

Read. Pray. Walk.

For general healthy living, I would say

Eat (unprocessed wholesome foods)

Exercise (every day)

Enjoy (take time to relax)

Love is the underpinning for all of life. I don’t include it in my three words, not because I don’t believe in it, but because it goes unsaid. Love always.

I think this came from Lancelot Andrewes, and I apply it to love —

In every imagination of my heart:
The words of my lips
The works of my hands
The ways of my feet

Love could be distilled to: Words. Works. Ways.

What are your three words?


Blogging Challenge · family · Life

The Refrigerator

Our refrigerator is slowly dying.

I picked out a new one, and ordered it.

Before the delivery guys came, I cleaned the old fridge, throwing away old and unidentifiable items. I disposed of leftovers that had gotten pushed to the back and overlooked until they turned pretty colors. I tossed out salad dressings whose “Best by” date was two years ago.

I was ready.

The new refrigerator arrived on a hot, hot day in late May. The temperature hovered around 85, the humidity around 80.

They backed the delivery truck to the house and I went out to meet them. “Can we see the place this is going?” one asked, and I showed them in.

They nodded approvingly at the large sliders they would bring the refrigerator through. One pulled out a tape measure and measured the other two doorways it would have to pass. They looked at the dying refrigerator and asked if they were hauling that one away.

Yes, yes, yes. Everything was a go.

They wiggled the old fridge out and put it on a hand truck. The whole process gave them a trial run (in reverse) of getting the new fridge in. It all went smoothly.

While they lugged the old one out to the truck, I quickly cleaned the floor underneath since I knew it wouldn’t see the light of day for a while.

They brought in the new fridge, shiny white and wrapped in plastic, and a box that they set on the table.

“This is your ice maker,” one of them said to me.

“Wait — what?” I asked. “Isn’t it already installed?”

“No, you have to call a plumber for that,” he said, and nicely explained all the reasons that was so.

“But when I called and ordered, no one said anything about that,” I told them.

They apologized as they unwrapped the new refrigerator, but I knew they couldn’t do anything about it.

As they tried to wiggle the new fridge in the old spot, they stopped to realign many times. Too many times. I knew there was a problem.

“Ma’am,” the spokesman said, “we have a problem. See how this is bowing out here?” he asked, pointing to the side panel from the cupboards. “This unit is about a 1/4″ too wide. And up here,” he pointed at the cupboard above, “you’re a good inch too low.”

I looked. He was right. We stood there silently studying the refrigerator that didn’t fit.

He finally broke the silence. “What do you want us to do?” he asked.

“Are there choices?” I asked.

“There are always choices,” he said, smiling and dripping with sweat.

The other guy was sweating even more. He said, “I think your husband can fix this.” I don’t think he wanted me to consider the other choice.

“We can leave it here and your husband can make some modifications so it will fit,” the first guy said, and I looked at him doubtfully, not doubting my husband’s skill of course, but doubting this old house. “Or we can bring the old one back in.”

The other delivery guy was pleading with me with his eyes.

I sighed.

“I am so sorry,” I said. “Can I fix you some ice water or something?”

They both looked at me, waiting for me to say the dreaded words.

“I think I want the old one back,” I said.

I walked behind them, carrying the ice-maker-in-a-box so they wouldn’t forget it as they hauled the new refrigerator out. Then they brought the old one in again.


Here’s a peek inside my refrigerator this morning. Nobody can tell that it was recently cleaned out.