Category Archives: Change

Tidings Of Comfort and Joy

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This the final post in a 3-part series. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Two family members will be missing from our family Christmas gatherings this year.

My mother died in April after a ten-year journey with dementia. She hadn’t been well enough to participate in our family Christmas celebrations for the past few years. Instead, we had established different traditions with her at the Healthcare Facility in which she lived.

My sister’s husband died in August as a result of Lymphoma, just one year after being diagnosed with what was believed to be a treatable cancer. We didn’t know last Christmas would be his final Christmas.

Many extended family members and friends are also facing their first Christmas after the loss of a loved one. The anticipation of seeing that empty chair can seem overwhelming. Recalling once-happy Christmas memories leaves you in tears.

I love Christmas music, despite the physical reaction I have to “O’ Holy Night” and “Silent Night.” Both cause my eyes to instantly fill with tearsThe first was one of my Dad’s favorite songs. It brings to mind the Christmas Eve Masses we attended. The second reminds me of my paternal Grandmother and her annual family party held on December 23rd.

At one point during the evening she would remind us to sing carols to invite Santa Claus’s arrival. Grandma would begin singing “Silent Night.” Looking back, maybe this was her clever crowd control:  Gather her 24 grandchildren and quiet them with the lullaby effect of a hymn! When I hear the song, I hear her voice.

A few weeks ago I was in the car with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” playing on the radio. The song suddenly had a different meaning as I listened to the lyrics.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and joy? Wow! We were definitely in need of both this Holiday season. Where would we find them?

Then I unpacked some Christmas decorations. I was struck by the notes indicating the contents of some the boxes. It has been several years since my Mother and her Mother have written anything to me, but their handwriting is instantly recognizable.

Seeing the notes didn’t make me sad. It wasn’t even bittersweet. They made me smile. The notes are a connection to Christmases past, and a connection to my Mom and Grandma. I felt they were with me, giving me a decorating assist with their organized labeling. Funny, I didn’t know one day the real treasures in a box of Radko ornaments would be labels and crumpled sticky notes.

I think comfort can be found in our family traditions. As difficult it might be to carry on traditions without our loved ones, the familiar might be just what we need. They can at least get us in the groove, and provide a bit of a roadmap.

Traditions can be just as comforting when a new generation assumes them. My niece misses playing elf on her annual shopping day with her Dad, during which they would purchase a gift for her Mom. I imagine my niece’s  little elf-in-training will be shopping with her Daddy, very soon. How heartwarming is that?

I’m a fan of Christmas trees with eclectic decorations. Family heirloom ornaments that have hung on the tree for decades are some of my favorites. Whether they are legitimate antiques, a grade school craft, full of mid century kitsch or the coveted pickle, they tell the comforting history of family Holidays.

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Holiday menu fare includes family recipes that have become tradition. Grandma’s Jewish Coffee Cake, Mom’s Sugar Cookies, and Dad’s favorite cookies. We try to perfect those heirloom recipes in hope they will turn out exactly as they did when Mom or Grandma was cooking. After all, I think tradition is most comforting when it involves comfort food!

This Christmas, we’ll celebrate the birth of our Savior, be visited by Santa, and exchange gifts, but how can we possibly get in the mood for actual merriment when we are sad, missing our loved one and face an empty chair?

The empty chair has become a symbol for the absence of loved ones at family gatherings. There is a Facebook page dedicated to it. It is both literal and figurative, because the reality is, our missing loved ones took up more than a chair. This is especially true of my brother-in-law. His presence filled an entire room.

He lived his life in the spirit of the two main men of Christmas. He never had to ask himself, “What would Jesus do?” He just always did the right thing. He was a counselor in personal matters and a mentor in the business world.  Like Santa, he loved Christmas and gift giving. His quiet, usually anonymous generosity continued year round, and was life-changing for individuals and organizations.

With such a huge presence missing, how will we find joy?

My brother-in-law’s family gathered at my sister’s home to celebrate Christmas last weekend. His six siblings and their children and grandchildren numbering 60+ strong embraced the spirit of their  brother/uncle. They “adopted” an in-need family and purchased every item on the family’s wish list.

What an absolute abundance of joy, and an abundance of love. My sister shared with them, her family of 40+ years, that the gift of their presence was what she and her children most appreciated. She assured them that they needn’t to be afraid to talk about her husband or say his name. In fact, hearing stories helps her and her children feel close to him, and in a way – keeps him alive.

So, our biggest source of joy, will come from simply being together.  The delight of our smallest family members will keep us entertained. We’ll savor our culinary accomplishments. We’ll talk about our missing loved ones. We’ll say their names. There may be a few tears, but there will definitely be alot of laughs.

If you are grieving and facing the first Christmas since the loss of a loved one, I hope you are able to find true comfort and joy.

Go ahead. Hang the ornaments. Sing the carols. Cry the tears. Fill the chair. Share the stories. Laugh.

And eat the cookies.

 

 

 

When Life Was Peachy

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Part 1 of  a 3-part series.

You can find Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

 

 

No matter how many times we are reminded how quickly life can change, we are still caught off guard when it does.

When tragedy strikes, we often wish we could hit the rewind button. Logically, we know we couldn’t have altered the course of events, but we wish we could relive those precious last days, weeks, and months. We imagine how we would savor every moment.

I wanted  a complete do-over of  Summer 2016 when I came across this forgotten photo on my phone:img_1135I snapped this shot from the patio of my brother and sister-in-law’s lake cottage, during their granddaughter’s 10th birthday party. I vaguely remember taking the photo. I wasn’t focused on anything in particular, but I think Old Glory waving in the wind must have caught my attention. The weather on that mid-July day was delightfully perfect, but this photo barely captures that.

It’s a beautiful shot, but also a painful reminder of one of the last days that summer seemed sunny and peachy. One of the final days before a cascade of events changed life for my family. I wanted to go back in time. Back to before a stomach ache began.

Of course, there are no mulligans in life. The only place life can rewind is in the mind.

Summer began on a happy note. May and June were lovely, fun-filled, blessedly ordinary months. We didn’t know that for our family, Summer 2016 would eventually become “the summer that wasn’t.”

What occurred each day during the month of July is crystal clear in my memory. The bitter and the sweet. The sweetness of early July is easy to remember…

How my 50 pounds of Georgia Peaches had ripened to perfection for canning, inconveniently on July 1st. Early that morning, to the dismay of my sister I set up my canning operation in the kitchen of her lake cottage…amid the July 4th weekend chaos. “This won’t take long!” I assured her. One quart in, and and my sister was headed to the E.R. for stitches. The perils of peach pitting, or conveniently dodging doing dishes for the entire holiday weekend?

I became a sloppy one woman operation. The sweet mess that covered every surface of the kitchen at the end of the day, was a metaphor for those first six weeks of summer. It was a deliciously golden time.

It was a cottage bustling with three generations, and kids at three stages: A toddler working on his first steps. Preschoolers in some unsactioned competition: seeing who could tear through the house at the highest speed, while simultaneously yelling gibberish at the highest decibel level. Teens enjoying quality family time devoted to social media.

There was a July 4th shrimp boil. A joint 70th birthday party for dear cousins. A work trip to San Antonio for me.

Tinkerbell landing in Nana’s Fairy Garden. Golf cart shopping.  Donut runs at dawn by boat.

Coffee talk. Bloody Mary mornings. Margarita afternoons.

Trips for ice cream in the evening. Lazy pontoon rides. Hours playing on Lily Pads.

Fishing. Fireworks.

Endless and hilarious rounds of Little Sally Walker walkin’ down the street.

I’ve heard it said,  “You never realize you’re having the time of your life, until that time has passed.” It’s true. We were blissfully unaware of just how good life was.

In a way, it seems cruel that we didn’t know the fate that awaited.

Sure, a stem cell transplant was scheduled, but we believed it would be a success. Optimism, hope and faith gave us that belief.

Disbelief, disappointment and devastation loomed ahead, but we didn’t know it.

Optimism, hope, faith and love would sustain us through that, too…

 

 

 

I Don’t Speak The Language

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My native tongue is English, but after 25 years in Southern California, I understand Spanish, and can speak enough to get by. I also know a few sushi bars worth of Japanese.

But….I have a mental block and I will never be able to speak, read or write…..Captcha.

I am confronted with my lack of fluency on an almost daily basis.  As I navigate the cyber world, entering my username and password is not sufficient for some websites. Some sites want to verify that I am a human, not a robot or computer.

The verification process begins like this:

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Alright, I’m going to guess that is…… offknol MID.

Captcha says, “Nope. Try again.”

Then I get this one:

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OK, this seems more difficult. Is that….tobanu usual?

Captcha says, “Haha that’s hilarious, but no.”

Next up, The captcha generator is sure I’ll get it this time:

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Yep, clearly it is erpackl certain!

Captcha, the a-hole, says “Wrong again, loser!”

Next up – THIS looks fairly simple:

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I’ve got it! It says: has tidelec.

“Hmmm….perhaps, but not likely.”

At this point, I usually just close my iPad.

I know I could opt for the audio version, but what is the fun in that? Isn’t that cheating?

What happened to just asking me questions I can understand….and even answer?

Questions like:

What street did you live on as a child?

What was the name of your 5th grade teacher?

In what city did your parents meet?

What was the model of your first car?

This Captcha nonsense reminds of those autostereograms that were popular in the 90’s. You know –  those prints that were a jumble of a bunch of different colored dots and squiggles that you were supposed to stare at and then a 3-D image would appear. I could never see the hidden image. Ever.

Magiceye.com

Magiceye.com

It must be a brain thing. Or maybe I’m less creative, and more black and white than I previously thought.

Then, one day while surfin’ the net, I was once again asked to verify that I was a human, not a robot or computer.

This window popped up:

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Woohoo! I made the correct selections. Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure I could have identified them in Japanese, too.

The next time I was required to verify my humanity, this window popped up:

IMG_0253Dessert. Of course I nailed it.

However, my single favorite challenge to prove my humanity was this:

IMG_0254Whew! Thankfully, they thoughtfully provided that sample image.

I look forward to the possibility that internet security will eventually improve, and Captcha will become a lost language. I fear I am too old to learn yet another new language.

Until then, I will pride myself on still being multi-lingual. I’m completely fluent in food and dog or, as fancy folks say, cuisine and canine.

A Bad Act

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As a resident of California, all the talk this past week about my home state of Indiana has left me puzzled.

In case you haven’t heard, Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law.

I finally pulled myself away from the enjoyment of reading countless Pro-RFRA and Anti-RFRA Facebook comments, tweets and editorials, and decided to read the actual bill. You can do the same here. Good luck. I don’t speak legalese, so I found it not difficult, but painful to read.

What’s it all about Alfie? Can anyone spot a loophole?

I don’t understand the need for this legislation.

Is it really to protect Christian Business owners from potential lawsuits as a result of refusing to serve “the Gays?”

I know the politically correct term is LGBT, I’m just mimicking my favorite Pro-RFRA commenter – a seriously pissed off old lady who referenced “the Gays” and “the Gays shoving it in my face” and “the Gay Agenda.”  She really got it all off her chest in one concise comment.

I kept reading the Pro-RFRA comments – many from folks who aren’t even residents of Indiana:

“I just don’t agree with their lifestyle.”

Really? I respect their lifestyle. Especially when it involves getting an education, working for a living, being in a committed relationship, creating a loving home and family, adopting and raising children, caring for animals, acting neighborly, being civic-minded, and generally making their little corner of the world a better place.

“Should a Muslim Caterer be expected to serve pork?”

Clearly, this clever Pro-RFRA commenter thought he had produced the ultimate “Gotcha!” argument. Except, in reference to this imagined scenario, I actually know Muslim chefs who cook and serve pork, and Jewish chefs who cook and serve bacon and shellfish. It is quite common.

“The bible says….”

OK, I have no response here because I am not a biblical scholar. At best, I am a Cafeteria Catholic.  I’m comfortable with my faith and spirituality. My belief is that everyone has their own personal relationship with God. That relationship like any other relationship – is simply none of my business – no matter what the bible says – or doesn’t say.

I honestly don’t understand what all the fuss is about. It is 2015. Doesn’t everyone have at least one good friend, neighbor, co-worker, client, service provider or gasp!…..relative who just happens to be LGBT?

I asked a friend how she explained gay couples to her young daughter. She explained that her daughter’s only exposure to gay couples thus far is Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family. That’s close enough to real life for me. I mean really….has there been a more lovable couple since since Lucy & Ricky?

What is the big deal? In the words of the great Depeche Mode, “People are people.”

Amid the nationwide uproar and outrage over the RFRA, I am saddened by the perception of my Indiana PEOPLE.

If you have been disgusted by the “knuckle-dragger” (my favorite and most succinct, Anti-RFRA comment) lawmakers in Indiana, please don’t think this is an accurate representation of my fellow Hoosiers.

In our often uncivil society, being nice is under-rated. But, believe me – being nice, friendly and welcoming is a way of life in Indiana.

Hoosier Hospitality is a real thing. I think a handful of lobbyists, lawmakers and the Governor momentarily forgot this. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard hasn’t.

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IF, in fact, the intention is to protect private parties from government action as expressed in this statement, and has nothing to do with transactions between two private parties, and does NOT allow for discrimination; they certainly did a terrible job presenting it accurately, and an excellent job allowing it to be misrepresented.

They continue to fail miserably at explaining what it is, and what it isn’t.

They better get Olivia Pope on damage control. Pronto. Our Hoosier reputation is at stake.

While It is plausible that Frank Underwood had a hand in this debacle, I don’t have time to address all the conspiracy theories I read about, because I have real world concerns on the West Coast:

The Drought, the California Sea Lion crisis, and Bruce Jenner’s wardrobe choices as he transitions.

Family Jewels

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Where it all began

Where it all began

I received some disappointing news last week.

In a few short months, a family-owned jewelry store in my hometown is scheduled to close after nearly seven decades in business. With roots in the “old neighborhood,” five generations of my family, from my grandparents to my great nieces, have worn sparkly things and watches purchased at Freeman Jewelers.

First Holy Communion crosses, add-a-bead necklaces, charm bracelets, rings from Dad, Christmas gifts hidden in tree branches, engagement rings, and custom designs and settings have marked Sacraments, life milestones and special occasions.

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My Mother is no longer able to wear the jewelry she once enjoyed so much. As her dementia progressed, she began throwing her jewelry in the trash. Someday it will be worn and enjoyed again by another generation, but for now, it is safely tucked away.

Her jewelry was purchased from this family owned store. The value of this jewelry is not in the precious metals and stones, it is in the memories. The memory of helping Dad select just the right gift. A tiny, wrapped box hidden on a Christmas tree branch. The memory of Mom’s face when she found it, and the delight when she unwrapped it.

For our family, there has never been another place to purchase jewelry. Or get a new watch battery. The Freeman family has been a constant. They are genuine, friendly and ethical. Their merchandise is beautiful and unique. They catered to every budget. While I am happy for the 2nd generation, sibling owners who will now enjoy some well-deserved retirement relaxation and fun; selfishly, I am sad to see them go.

I feel like we have a shared history, and I will miss them and their store.

Where will we shop now?

I’m not interested in Jane Seymour’s Open Hearts Collection, and I definitely won’t ever say  “I went to Jared’s.”

Buying and receiving jewelry will never be the same.

Another family owned business, a lovely home furnishings and decor store also recently closed its doors after 30+ years in my hometown. Apparently,  the trend towards online purchasing, and folks furnishing their homes with cheaper decor, rather than investment pieces, had resulted in declining sales.

How sad.

I hate that this keeps happening, but I understand how it does.

In our pursuit of paying less, we have moved away from buying from the “little guys.”

We’ve been seduced by perceived savings at national chains, big box stores, and on-line retailers.

The falling prices at Walmart are enticing. Personally, I’ve never felt good walking into a Walmart. I find it rather depressing and avoid it. Now Target on the other hand….

We head to Target for household items. Instead of sticking to our list, we suddenly find $150 in “must-have” purchases.  Come on, who hasn’t looked at their bank statement or credit card bill and thought, What the heck did I buy at Target last month?

A 20% store coupon makes us antsy.  We must to get to the mall before our coupon expires.  We can’t miss the chance to  “save.”

I confess, I recently took a spin on the Old Navy merry-go-round.

They were having a sale.  I went shopping. I earned super cash. I spent the super cash. The next day, everything was 30% off. I shopped again. I earned rewards.

Yippee!!!  I was saving SO MUCH MONEY that my Gap Visa bill was……$500. Wait, What? How did THIS happen? I finally got off that ride.

We sit on the couch, shop online,  and with one click enjoy almost instant gratification. They tell us: folks who bought this, also bought….this. So, we toss that in our virtual shopping cart, too.  Amazon Prime. Free shipping. Brown boxes on the porch.

But, are we really saving anything?

Of course not. We’ve been tricked into buying way too much stuff.

Shame on us.

With all these big box bargains and online deals, we are losing more than just our own cash.

Locally owned businesses are the heart and soul of city. Community means people. These business people are more vested in their community than any big chain could ever be.

Losing the family owned businesses in our communities is also leading to the retail homogenization of America.

Every city and town has shopping centers with Kohls, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, Staples, Home Depot, etc. It  is revolving scenery, with only changes in landscape.

We can buy the same stuff in every city.

This is especially evident in department stores.

Macy’s and Bloomingdales INC line will soon have us all looking like these guys:

Some folks thought Star Trek..I think they all bought the INC line.

Some folks thought Star Trek..I think they all bought the INC line.

We are at risk of losing our individual style.

Even worse, communities are losing their individual personality.

What do we often love to stumble upon while traveling?

A charming downtown area. A walkable shopping district. Drinks or dinner followed by checking out the area, on foot. Whether it is a nostalgic or modern vibe, these areas give a destination its personality.

If we purchase a trinket, gadget, Christmas ornament, or article of clothing, it automatically has the memory of the shop where it was purchased and the trip we took, attached to it.

The same can’t be said for items randomly purchased at the mall, or a national chain. It’s just bland stuff.

I’ve had enough bland stuff. I’m hungry for local flavor. I want locally owned businesses to come back…STRONG.

Make a plan to celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 29th.

Stay away from the mall madness and the big chains.

Plot out some locally-owned shops to check out.

Support a hometown artisan and enjoy the added benefit of buying American made.

I bet you’ll find some unexpected treasures.

If shopping isn’t on your agenda, you can still participate.

Start your weekend by grabbing breakfast at a Mom & Pop coffee shop.

Visit your local hardware or paint store while working through your “honey-do” list.

Instead of watching the game at a chain sports bar, grab a beer at a locally-owned joint.

If dining out isn’t in the budget, hit the butcher shop and dine in.

Shop small on November 29th.

And then, make a habit of it.

Locally owned businesses are the precious gems in our community settings.

Let’s do what we can to make sure they continue to SHINE.

shop small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music & Memory

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I’ve witnessed the power of music with my Mom, who has advanced dementia.

On days when making conversation is difficult for her, she may ride quietly in the passenger seat of the car, or read a few signs we pass, or maybe whisper both sides of a conversation with someone I can’t see.

However, if the radio is set between a 40’s station and a light 70’s station, she’ll sing along. She’ll check the display to read the artist and song.

The songs trigger memories and conversation.

“Gosh, if I had a nickel for every time my girlfriends and I danced to this song.”

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name….I always thought their sound was just so pleasing to the ears.”

I know even this small bit of stimulation is good for her, and it is enjoyable to see.

A few months ago, I joined her for a Sunday afternoon of Christmas Carols at the care facility where she lives.

We sat amid a crowd of residents – many with dementia, and sea of walkers and wheelchairs,

Maybe I’ve watched too many Fa-la-la-la-Lifetime and Hallmark movies, but I swear Mike the piano player looked exactly like Kris Kringle in street clothes.

His repertoire included all the classics. He was delightful!

Occasionally, he stopped singing and let the group finish a line of a song.

The residents knew all the lyrics to every song.

I smiled as I looked around the room, and saw the heads bopping back and forth and the toes tapping in rhythm with the music.

No one was restless, agitated, or sitting in a dull, detached state.

The residents were relaxed and engaged with Mike and his performance.

It was fascinating to watch.

Somehow, the music magically melted through the fog of dementia.

I was so moved by what I was witnessing that I got a little teary.

Instead of looking sort of stone-faced as she had the previous day, Mom was animated.

She happily smiled at my phone so I could snap a pic.

Christmas Caroling Lois Anne loves a selfie

Christmas Caroling
Even Lois Anne loves a selfie!

The memory of that afternoon is a treasure.

A few days ago, my friend Terri, emailed me about a news story she had seen featuring Music & Memory – Muncie

This new program was started by a group of freshman at Ball State University. It is affiliated with Music & Memory, a national non-profit 501c3 organization, but the BSU students believe they are the first college-based group.

The mission of Music & Memory – Muncie is to bring iPods with personalized playlists to the elderly, especially those suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

They recognize that personalized music can enhance the quality of life for these nursing home residents with cognitive disorders.

This is a brilliant and beautiful program. I remember the soundtrack of my college years. These college freshman are just beginning to compile theirs. I love their awareness that these older folks had a soundtrack to their lives, too.

By speaking to a resident’s family, they learn what genre and artists the resident likes.

With this simple idea they’re delivering more than just music.

They’re sparking happy memories.

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They share friendship, love and compassion.

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With the use of splitters, the students listen to the music through their own set of headphones.

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Because music sounds best when shared, doesn’t it?

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What an amazing way to enrich and humanize an isolated, nursing home existence.

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M&M 1

 

When I read about their work and looked at the heartwarming photos, I was again moved to tears.

I was also filled with some Hoosier pride.

These college freshman are a great example of making the world a better place, by beginning in your own “backyard.”

They’re using their time and talents, employing a little bit of technology, but more importantly – a whole lotta heart.

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If this “strikes a chord” with you, like it did with me, and you are interested in supporting this wonderful program, there are a few ways you can help:

  1. Visit their gofundme page and make a quick donation. Super easy and every little bit helps!
  2. Have you or your kids upgraded to a new iPod? Do you have a gently-used iPod (preferably an iPod shuffle) sitting around the house? They’ll take it!
  3. Grab an iTunes gift card the next time you’re at the grocery store. They’re always right there in the checkout area. Then instead of buying Candy Crush lives – boost some more interesting and real lives.

iTunes cards or gently used iPods can be mailed to:

Music and Memory – Muncie
c/o TCOM Dept.
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306 

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I hope you’ll consider helping these remarkable BSU students with their inspirational program.

Visit their website or Facebook page to learn more about their work.

In an email to me, Tyler Sparkman, President of Music & Memory – Muncie wrote:

It has become an absolute joy and life changing experience working with these residents. Not only have we gone in and helped change the lives of the elderly by sharing these personal iPod mixes, but the elderly have also changed our lives! 

Well, that is music to my ears.

Clearly, no matter what genre of music they load on those iPods, these students ROCK!

 

 

Time Travelers

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ImageFor the first time in 50 years, I had an argument with my Mother.

We were chatting on the phone and reminiscing, when the subject turned to my Dad being mad at me.

“You know what you should do?” She said.

 “What?” I could not imagine what she was about to say.

“You should apologize to your Dad.” she said in a matter of  fact tone.

“Apologize?  For What?”

“Just apologize. He’ll like that.”

Then, in a sing-songy voice she continued, “When he gets home, why don’t you just say:  Dad…I’m really sorry…I didn’t mean to make you so mad. Will you forgive me?”

Instantly, I flamed. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Mom! I have NOTHING to apologize for!”

“Just do it.”she suggested.

“I didn’t do anything WRONG, Mother!”

“Come on, just apologize!”she said oh-so-very-sweetly.

“NO! Absolutely NOT. I am NOT apologizing to him!”

I stood my ground.

This is embarrassing because my Mother has advanced dementia. And my Dad passed away in 1986.

So yes, I had an argument with my 83-year old Mother….and refused to apologize for something that happened when I was 19… to my Dad who has been dead nearly 30 years.

Ridiculous, I know, and certainly not my proudest moment.

I dialed up my friend Nancy.

She was familiar with  my loving, but head-butting relationship with my Dad, and she is actively dealing with two aging parents . It’s a full circle friendship. I knew she would understand, and most importantly, laugh with me about the absurdity.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked her, after we had finished laughing.

Nancy said, “It’s those damn letters!  You read all those letters, and now YOU’RE  back in the 80’s with Lois!”

Maybe she was onto to something.

I had recently found a box of old letters, written to me throughout both terms of the Reagan Presidency. Letters from high school friends, college friends, and several family members.

I scanned the letters from my girlfriends, and emailed copies to the authors. (More on that, later.)

I also read the letters – all except the dozens from my Mom. I bundled those up and tucked them away for another day. I’ve gotten used to the  current version of my Mother, and I don’t want to reacquaint myself  just yet, with the previous version of her that I miss so terribly.

The event my Mom and I we were reminiscing about during our phone conversation was a coming of age moment for me, in the early 80’s. My Dad was not adjusting too well to my increasing independence, and during our debate of the day, I had outfoxed him for the first time.

He was openly furious.  I was silently victorious. Mom was secretly amused.

It has been one of my Mother’s favorite stories. The former version of my Mother would re-enact the conversation with me and we would have a good giggle.

However the current version of my Mother, who’s  mind was  somewhere back in the 1980’s  during our phone conversation, viewed it differently.

As Nancy had so insightfully pointed out, just maybe those old letters had opened a portal to emotional time travel for me, too.

So during the phone call, there I was, transported back to that summer evening, only to discover my Mom had switched  sides. I had no ally. Like the  cheese in the dell, I  stood alone.

Dementia can be magical thinking. It’s also a trickster, and it certainly keeps you on your toes. As such, our phone conversation quickly turned, and suddenly we were  back to the current day.

My Mom quizzed me.

“Where are you?”

“When did you move?”

“How old am I?”

“How old is your Dad?”

“How old are you?”

I answered truthfully (except for the teensy fib about Dad still being alive.)

She was shocked: “I can’t believe  you’re 50. Well, at least you’re not older than me, yet!”

Magical thinking indeed.

We began to wrap up our phone conversation.

Dad would be home from work soon, and she needed to get home to make dinner. She told me there wasn’t much in the fridge, so she planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We said our “I love you’s” and hung up.

I admit, I was still  a bit miffed.

Hmmmphh. I thought smugly.

I should apologize?  I don’t think so.

SHE is the one who should be  apologizing…for that menu.

That’ll be the first and last time Dad eats a PB & J sandwich for dinner. 

What’s The Buzz?

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SkypadJane Jetson had quite the techie abode up in the luxurious Skypad Apartment Tower.

Did you watch The Jetson’s and wonder if any of that futuristic fantasy would come true?

Well, airports have moving walkways.

George talked to his watch the way we talk to Siri.

Jane’s daily phone chat with her mother looks like Skype and Facetime. In fact, recently, the Hilarious Sister introduced our Mother to Facetime. A concept difficult to grasp, for an 82-year old amid the fog of dementia.

“Are we live?” “Can she see us?” my Mother asked.

My sister said, “Mom, it’s just like the Jetsons!”

She got it.

The Jetson’s lived in a completely push button world. In fact,  Jane’s morning fitness routine concentrated only on exercises to prevent “push button finger.” Of course, she watched the Modern Mother’s Muscle Tone workout on a 3-D flat panel TV.

Lately, from the moment I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night,  I’ve been feeling like I live with the Jetson’s. No, the bed doesn’t fold up into a toaster and eject me like a Pop Tart. Of course not, I rely on my cell phone for that pulse-pounding leap to the floor, with my selection of  a “bell tower” as an alarm.

The thing is, I don’t feel so much like Jane with her cute haircut, and button earrings; I feel more like Rosey….the robot. It is not only that technology and gadgets have made life easier; we now do things so mindlessly. Robotically, in fact.

While washing my  face with a sonic facial cleanser, I am on auto-pilot. No need to wake up, open my eyes and focus, because a quick “Beep!” and I am prompted to move from my forehead to the rest of the t-zone. The next “Beep!” prompts me to move to my right cheek. Two more “Beeps!” and I am freshly scrubbed.

I forego singing the ABC’s to make sure my teeth are adequately brushed. My sonic toothbrush, which sounds like a mad hornet trapped in my mouth, tells me how long to brush my teeth, signaling when it is time to move from one area of my mouth to the next one.

The morning continues with a background symphony of rings, whistles, and dings, each alerting me to the next task at hand. Text messages sounds like a clown car horn. Email is soft bing.

The old school drip coffee maker, (NOT a K-Cup brewer) fires off five shrill beeps when it is finished brewing. Completely unnecessary because I am standing nearby waiting for my caffeine.

That caffeine is the charge for my robot battery. When I am home all day,  I scoot around the house like Rosey. Spinning, pivoting, and changing direction quickly  reacting to every alert.

BIZZ! The washer stopped.

BEEP! Oven is hot.

DING!  Timer is done.

Beep….Beep…Beep. Microwave is finished.

BUZZ! Clothes in the dryer need to be folded.

CHIRP! Dishwasher is programmed for delayed start…but the door is ajar.

The one thing NOT making a sound at our house? A house phone.

My how times have changed. Things have come full circle. We are now so terribly modern, we don’t have a land line!

Sadly, the Jetson’s fantastic and fascinating Food-A-Rac-A-Cycle, which instantly served a variety of menu items at the push of a button,  has never come to fruition.

Maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t need faster food.

We’ve been pushing buttons for a few decades already, and have progressed to touch screens and motion sensing screens. Hanna-Barbera could never have imagined that by 2013 our fingers would be the least of our worries.

How could they have imagined, bellies and fannies would be the real problem areas in Orbit City by 2013?

Then again, maybe they did.

There is something vaguely familiar about Rosey’s figure as she scoots through the house.

Rosie

Ohhh….K, Trouble Is Brewin’

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It started with a weekly trip to the grocery store. Gound coffee was on the list. A walk down the coffee aisle left me puzzled. Where was my Breakfast Blend? I scanned the shelves and realized that the ground coffee selection had been squeezed out to make room for an extensive array of K-Cups.

Really? Seriously? Is my kitchen now the only one in America without a Keurig?

Several years ago, I had a similar feeling when I went to a Best Buy store to purchase a CD as a gift. I walked in and found a large empty space that had for years been filled with bins of  music CDs. Sure, I had gone digital, but it had not really occurred to me that CDs would become extinct. This change I could deal with. It made sense for so many reasons. We have become accustomed to technological advances in the music industry. Remember back when a homemade party mix tape was the greatest idea ever?

But getting rid of something as basic as ground coffee?

I suddenly identified with my Grandma Thelma, who was 90 years of age  when the local department store discontinued her long trusted style of girdle. She was “madder than a wet hen.” Like millions of female internal organs everywhere, her old standby was the latest victim to be cruelly squeezed out by Spanx. The tags on her girdles were frayed and faded from laundering. We examined one with a magnifying glass under bright light to determine the style number. Hey, I figured any gal in her 90’s who still cared enough to have smooth lines under her Alfred Dunner separates, shouldn’t have to learn any new tricks. She deserved the girdle of her dreams. After calling an old fashioned lingerie store in Chicago, we secured a supply to carry her firmly through the rest of her years.

Unlike Thelma, will I be forced to convert? Will my daily challenge of filling the coffee maker without spilling water into the silverware drawer that I never fully close, be a thing of the past? Is that the aroma of java socialism I smell? Did I miss the mandate that our coffee be brewed only in pre-determined strengths and portions?

My Midwestern sensibility compelled me to crunch the numbers on the K-Cups. With two coffee drinkers in my household, each drinking two cups every morning, I just can’t justify the expense. It seems wasteful. I might as well splurge on a daily stop at Starbucks. I have now offended  several members of my extended family. So, I will clarify – no judgement here – especially regarding the Starbucks Devotees (we don’t need to point fingers or  name names).  I should also add, the real reason I haven’t made the leap to a Keurig is: I don’t have the counter space in my tiny step-saver kitchen to devote to one.

In addition to the expense, I understand people are concerned about the waste resulting from the extra packaging of the K-Cups. Maybe the reason we had to stop using plastic grocery bags, was to make room in our landfills for discarded K-Cups. I don’t miss the plastic grocery bags, but at least they could  be recycled in multiple ways: waste basket liners, doggie poo bags, etc. The same can not be said about K-Cups.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just not ready to trade the simple and comforting morning ritual of making an eye-opening  pot of coffee, for the convenience of a K-Cup. I am also not willing to try taking empty K-Cups along on my next dog walk.

Meet my at Starbucks?