Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who Have You Been (and who are you now) (Carrie Newcomer)

A major update to follow later today or, more likely tomorrow - we were told a nurse/home health aide/caregiver would be coming today so I've waited to discuss yesterday's happenings...

In the meantime, I've been thinking how much caregiving for mom this past week and a half reminds me of the early stages of motherhood - I remember back to those days when my life revolved around someone else and how I needed to approach it with joy rather than resentment in order to maximize action and minimize frustration...

My day now consists of waking up about 8... and listening out for mom to stir (during which time I turn off the front porch light, unlock the front door, bring in the newspaper, unlock and open the back door and make myself a cup of chai) - I sometimes stand in her doorway to see if she's awake... although, when she does wake, she usually turns on the TV (The Today Show) to get herself ready to start her day.

At that point, I start a pot of coffee (she was drinking hot tea before I got here because it was easier) and go back to the bedroom to supervise her first walker-assisted trip of the day to the bathroom - mom spends as much time in there as she needs, slowly changing from her nightgown into the knee-length cotton T-shirts she likes to wear during the day (after I've applied the topical antibiotic to the lesions on her back and upper arms).

Again, when she's ready, I follow her walker-assisted trip into the living room, where mom settles herself into the left-side corner of the couch, remaining most of the day, with the TV on... at full volume - I then make her breakfast (an English muffin with butter and apricot preserves or a bowl of oatmeal or two blueberry waffles with butter and syrup), put it on a tray and bring it to her. I might do an e-mail check at that time, but usually I make up her bed and mine, as well as anything else that might need attending, and sit and chat with her a few minutes to see how she's feeling - when she's finished eating, I take the tray into the kitchen, clean up, make sure the distilled water in the humidifier of the oxygen machine is properly filled and check the flow gauge...

By that time, mom has laid her head down on the arm of the couch for a nap - I might get a few e-mails answered, but I'm constantly prepared for an interruption, whether by phone, front door or her waking. We chat off and on during the morning as I do laundry, prepare our To Do list and generally make myself accessible to follow through however she needs me (find specific paperwork, bring her summer pocketbook to switch over to, help sort through her medication, etc.) - we talk about what she wants for lunch and dinner...

Lunch can be a sandwich or salad, always with fruit since she remains constipated - she will rest again after eating. When she sleeps, she moans... and it scares me - I might try to work at the computer again, but I can never really concentrate because I'm worried and therefore constantly attentive to any slight change in breathing. I try to get a shower in then, but it's not always possible - I recall, when my children were infants, that I would put them in their rocker seat and set them on the bathroom floor so I could see them, taking the quickest shower in history and talking to them throughout. I wish I could do that with mom but instead have to leave her on the couch - when the water's running, I hallucinate that I hear her calling me, only to find that, after I've rushed through my hygiene process, she's still asleep, or at least perfectly fine...

At this point, I might run an errand to the grocery store or for some other necessity, making sure one of the neighbors knows I'm going... and that mom has the phone right next to her - I'm never gone more than an hour, and usually less than that. My sister and brother always call during the course of the day, as well as various friends and neighbors - it wears mom out to chat, but it's wonderful to know so many people are thinking of her...

Afternoons roll over into evenings and sometimes we do "Happy Hour"... after which I fix and serve dinner, usually about 7 p.m. - we watch Wheel of Fortune and then Jeopardy... and then mom goes on a three-hour jag of crime drama shows (continuing at full volume). NCIS/CSI:NameThatCity/Criminal Minds/Forensic Files/The Mentalist/Without a Trace all look alike to me... but she loves them - I'm over the blood and guts and gore, oh my!... and sometimes miss Jon & Kate (without the recent brouhaha), Antiques Roadshow and InTreatment...

Mom will usually watch the first 30 minutes of Murder, She Wrote and then head back to bed - I help her back to the bathroom and then switch on the fan and light in her bedroom, as well as turn back her covers and put her water glass on the bedside table. I wait for her to come in, kiss her goodnight (with emotion) and head back into the living room to get whatever I can get done at the computer (fingers crossed the Internet connection prevails) or some reading until exhaustion/sleepiness take over - I've found that if I stay up late, I pay for it the next day...

The worst part is the hours between 2 and 6 a.m., when it's still dark and I can hear mom breathing and moaning - then sometimes she gets quiet... and I sneak in there to make sure she's okay (remember those middle of the night visits standing by our infant's crib to make sure they're still alive?). Sometimes she gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom... which wakes me (I'm back in parent mode these days) - I yell out that I'm there if she needs me... and sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn't...

Before we know it, it's 8 a.m. again... and time to wash/rinse/repeat - I'm hanging in there... and some days are easier than others...

P.S. Speaking of children... my dear daughter Sarah just made arrangements to fly up next Friday to spend a long weekend with mom (my kids call her Mimi) - when I told mom, she cried with joy...

SONG: Who Have You Been (and who are you now) by Carrie Newcomer (scroll down to page 14)

Unwrapping the Sandwich Generation: Life Vignettes about Seniors & Their Adult Boomer Children by Susan Cunningham

POEM: Sometimes by David Whyte

if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and to stop what you

are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right
to go away.

QUOTE: "In youth the days are short and the years are long; in old age the years are short and the days long." ~ Nikita Ivanovich Panin

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Peace of Mind (Loggins & Messina)

First of all, I want everyone to know how much I cherish your blog comments as well as your private e-mails (Linda, I promise to reply personally soon) - it means much to hear from you, even if I'm not always able to respond. My days are not my own - between meals/doctors/laundry, etc., I've really not had much time for myself (no surprise there)...

I also want to say that, I of all people understand that life gets busy - even if you haven't weighed in, we can still feel your support...

This is truly the most difficult thing I've ever had to do... so please keep those thoughts, prayers and love coming - they are oh so appreciated...

Two more Connie Circle updates:

Sent: Wed, 27 May 2009 12:03 pm
Subject: Connie Circle update - 5/27/09

Hey, All -

Okay... two forward, one back - we'll start with the latter... :-)

~ I told you in yesterday's update that we had Hi-Tech switch mom from her 40 ft. (skinny) tubing to 25 ft. (high flow) - welllll, we thought we'd be fine logistically (didn't it always seem like she had way too much slack?) but, when mom went to motivate to bed last night, we realized she could only go as far as her bathroom doorway (whoops!).

Fortunately, we had taken the possibility into consideration and had her use the hallway bathroom on the way - I called Hi-Tech, took full responsibility for the mis-calculation and they will come out tomorrow morning to switch back, but this time to a 40 ft. high flow (crisis averted!). She does seem as if she's getting more oxygen since the switch - her color looks better and moving doesn't seem to take quite so much out of her...

~ We noticed some lesions on her back and shoulders yesterday and, after R took a look last night and suggested she see the doctor, I made an appointment with Dr. Mini for 3 p.m. today - good news...

~ We heard back from Crossroads Hospice today - they were more than willing to come out this afternoon but, since we had just made the doctor's appointment, they will come at 2 p.m. tomorrow instead. They are sending a nurse for an evaluation and someone from their office if we need to initiate paperwork/consent...

~ Mom called the cemetery (to talk about getting spaces for Marie, herself and B) and they do make home visits - she's to hear back from a Mr. Lawson sometime today to make an appointment...

~ Thanks to B (R's husband) who came over to measure for a screen door (which mom's been wanting) - I will pull up some options on Home Depot's website, mom can choose a few in order of preference and Brad and I can pick one up Sunday...

~ Mom called her newspaper carrier and asked if they could begin hanging the newspaper (Thursday-Sunday delivery on her front doorknob (rather than at the garage door where they've been throwing it) - they are more than glad to do that...

I think that's it (for now) - I'll keep you all posted... and thanks again to all for everything!


Sent: Fri, 29 May 2009 2:01 am
Subject: Connie Circle update - 5/28/09

Hey, All -

To quote my favorite singer-songwriter Dar Williams, "I lived a whole life in one night" - where to begin?

~ Hi-Tech (the oxygen company) called back this morning and it seems that the 40 ft. tubing does not come in high flow - we decided to make the trade-off of limited mobility for increased oxygen and mom is okay with it (more on this further down)...

~ I got her to the doctor yesterday afternoon for her lesions and she was immediately diagnosed with neurodermatitis, very common in people of her age and circumstances -the doctor prescribed a topical ointment to apply twice a day for the next 10 days and we are all so relieved to know what it is and how to make it better...

~ Two guys from the funeral home/cemetery came out yesterday to talk to mom about not only her arrangements, but the interment of Marie's cremains (who passed away last June) - B said he wanted to be with both his mothers (mom and Marie) so mom decided on three side-by-side niches in the Catholic section. Her words: "signed, sealed, delivered"... :-)

~ With my brother's help, I bought the screen door today, only to find out we really needed a storm door - thanks again to B, R's husband, who took me back up there tonight to make the exchange... and he will install tomorrow or over the weekend...

~ The newspaper was delivered to the front door today, but not hanging on the doorknob - we'll give it another few days before we call back..

~ Okay... two women from Crossroads Hospice came this afternoon, Connie the supervisor and Harriet, the caseworker/nurse - they were amazingly informative and experienced and compassionate and, after only a short while, it was determined that now was indeed a good time for mom to begin the program. M and B (my sister and brother) were here as well, and everyone could tell this was a mutual decision, for mom's benefit - peace of mind... priceless... not to mention the fact that Medicare covers everything. They will send a wheelchair, shower chair and bedside commode out tomorrow and a visiting nurse will come Saturday (she would have come tomorrow as well, except for the fact we have company mid-day and wanted to concentrate on them) - there will be a team of nurses, caregivers, social workers, spiritual counselors, etc. not to mention all of mom's oxygen and medications will be taken care of through Crossroads now (we are especially reassured about the switch in oxygen providers)...

~ After reading lots about hospice programs, I realized someone has to step up to be primary caregiver and that role seems to fall naturally to me - I've said from the beginning that my unemployment was a blessing in disguise. I plan to stay up here indefinitely to oversee the progression, as well as take advantage of the time with mom - M and B will come over when they're able (considering they're both working full-time jobs) and M mentioned getting wireless at mom's so she can work from there (since Internet has been so unreliable here). Everyone has promised I will get breaks, which I will need - fortunately, everything I need to accomplish in the next few months can be done from here, and we will take one joyful, comfortable, peace-filled day at a time (it's now all about abundance rather than deprivation)...

I'm pretty talked/typed out... but so glad to know the responsibility will now be umbrella-ed under one resource... and we can concentrate on spending quality time together - much love to all as we continue on this journey together... <3

SONG: Peace of Mind by Loggins & Messina

No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

POEM: To Look at Any Thing by John Moffitt

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say,
"I have seen spring in these
Woods," will not do - you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.

QUOTE: "The world that was not mine yesterday now lies spread out at my feet, a splendor. I seem, in the middle of the night, to have returned to the world of apples, the orchards of Heaven. Perhaps I should take my problems to a shrink, or perhaps I should enjoy the apples that I have, streaked with color like the evening sky." ~ John Cheever

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lungs (Townes Van Zandt)

Below is a note I just wrote to The Connie Circle, an e-mail distribution I've spoken of before (consisting of me, my sister, my daughter, and three of Mom's neighbors/friends), which I set up to keep us all in the loop after I returned last January - I also added my husband and two sons to this one, so they can be apprised of information/progress...


Sent: Tue, 26 May 2009 2:32 pm
Subject: Connie Circle update - 5/26/09 - looooong (sorry!)...

Hey, All (and I've added C, R and E to our loop) -

As everyone knows, I've been here since mid-Tuesday (5/19)... so today makes one week I've had to observe 24/7 what's happening with mom - crazy enough, when I made my reservations, it was just supposed to be a "routine" visit... but it didn't take long to realize my timing was intuitively perfect...

Mom has obviously declined since I last saw her late-January... but I've even noticed a downturn since my arrival - you all know it is terrifying to watch her struggle for breath, especially when motivating to the bathroom or bedroom... but even sometimes just sitting still. She needs more oxygen, which seems to be less effective - no wonder she doesn't want to leave the comfort zone of her corner of the couch...

~ One thing I feel *very* good about is dealing with H-T (the oxygen company) this morning - they had been promising her extra cannulas (the high-flow breathing tubing) for weeks and still hadn't delivered. I left a message with their answering service over the weekend to escalate... and then called the office itself this morning - spoke with A, who was extremely helpful, and sent back the two techs who were here Friday...

Long story short (I'm trying!): on A's recommendation, they switched out the longer (40 ft.) thinner line for the shorter (25 ft.) thicker (high flow) line - we had problems over the weekend, and mom asked me to turn up her oxygen. I had the dial *as far as it would go* and it was still only registering 9 (very scary) rather than the 10 it is supposed to go up to - now, the machine is accurately reflecting her oxygen flow and I/we feel 9 is a *true* 9 (whew)...

Also, mom told me that someone (she doesn't recall who) told her that the cannula and the humidifier should be changed out every *month* - as I questioned H-T, all are saying they should be changed out every *week*. Of course that's going to make a difference, since her nasal connection gets clogged up with mucus/blood/etc. - we will now make a point to change out both each Monday...

Also, since Mom had a problem with the portable tanks when we went out for R's birthday (they only go up to 6), she asked me to ask A if they could just take those away, as well as remove the Helios portable tank we used to fill them. A said that big tank can be used as a back-up in case of a power outage (who knew?!?)... and they not only moved it into the futon room, but equipped it with a 25 ft. high flow line, a humidifier and a cannula such that, should she lose power, all she (or someone) has to do is make it to that room, put on that cannula and turn it up to 10 (it jumps from 8 to 10, skipping over 9)...

This has all gone a long way toward giving mom (and me) peace of mind regarding her oxygen, which makes her breathe easier (literally and metaphorically) - whew...

~ Her ankles started swelling yesterday afternoon when everyone was here, because she was sitting up more than usual (with her feet on the ground) - she took one of her Fluorsomething? (Lasix substitute) pills last night and, after calling Dr. G's (kidney doctor) office, again this morning, making sure to eat some potassium after (as per instructions)...

~ After her difficulties yesterday, I remembered she had 3 Ventolin inhalers (1 in her medicine tray and 2 in the cabinet), which she had told me her doctor said she didn't need anymore - I brought one to her in the bathroom and a few puffs actually helped her make it back to the couch less winded. So... I've stationed them throughout the house (next to the couch, in the bathroom drawer, next to her bed), which she can use 4 times a day as an assistance/auxiliary...

~ R had bought mom some saline spray when I was here back in January, and she really hasn't been using it - so... we are now on a track of trying to use it a few times a day to flush/irrigate/moisturize her nasal passages (very helpful)...

~ I also *slathered* her legs with Eucerin lotion I bought at Publix - they were so dry, and just soaked up the moisture (and I'll continue to do it daily or as needed)...

~ She is *loving* the Depends, which I had suggested to her the other day and R continued the discussion and then picked them up while I was at Mari's (thanks, R!) - it also lessens anxiety about accidents, etc.

~ I tried calling Dr. E's (her pulmonologist) office to start proceedings for a home hospice analysis, which just means we see what they have to offer but don't necessarily have to start anything right now - it also doesn't necessarily mean 24- or 48-hours, but can extend for months. I stayed up until 4 a.m. reading (thanks, C, for the great books from Legacy Link!) and everything indicates (which we knew) sooner rather than later - they offer so many services/resources and I personally feel it's time. They were out to lunch and, given all the phone calls/mom-attending in the last hour and a half, I wanted to finish this e-mail and then give them a call back - at that point, it sounds as if they will send someone out to determine her needs/status (more peace of mind, right?)...

~ Can't say enough to all (A, M, S and B so far today) about your check-in phone calls - she treasures hearing from you... <3

I am very concerned (as I know we all are) and am attempting to stay calm... but inside I feel helpless and panicked (as I'm sure everyone has been feeling all these many months) - I know our goal is to "make her comfortable", not in a "sounds like the end" way that freaks B out... but in a "making the most of her days" sense...

It's all about intuition, abundance, self-empowerment, honesty, knowledge and, most importantly, love - we're moving forward...

SONG: Lungs by Townes Van Zandt

BOOK: The Official Patient's Sourcebook on Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis by James N. Parker

POEM: That Lives in Us by Rumi

If you put your hands on this oar with me,
they will never harm another, and they will come to find
they hold everything you want.

If you put your hands on this oar with me, they would no longer
lift anything to your
mouth that might wound your precious land -
that sacred earth that is your body.

If you put your soul against this oar with me,
the power that made the universe will enter your sinew
from a source not outside your limbs, but from a holy realm
that lives in us.

Exuberant is existence, time a husk.
When the moment cracks open, ecstasy leaps out and devours
love goes mad with the blessings, like my words give.

Why lay yourself on the torturer's rack of the past and the future?
The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities
will find no rest.

Be kind to yourself, dear - to our innocent follies.
Forget any sounds or touch you knew that did not help you dance.
You will come to see that all evolves us.

QUOTE: "Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God." ~ Krishnamacharya

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hey, Ho (Dave Carter)

Taking my mind off our private war for a while...

POEM: Memorial Day by Steve Kowit

Because our sons adore their plastic missile launchers,
electronic space bazookas, neutron death-ray guns,
a decade down the pike it won't prove difficult
to trick them out in combat boots
& camouflage fatigues,
rouse them with a frenzy of parades, the heady
rhetoric of country, camaraderie & God,
the drum & bugle & the sudden
thunder of the cannon as they march
into Hell singing.
Which is the order of things.
Obedient to a fault, the people will do as they are told.
However dispirited by grief at the graves
of their fallen, the mother returns at last to her loom,
the father to his lathe,
& the inconsolable widow home to raise sons
ardent for the next imperial bloodbath;
Ilium. Thermopylae. Verdun. Pork Chop Hill.

QUOTE: "Perform, then, this one act of remembrance before this Day passes - Remember there is an army of defense and advance that never dies and never surrenders, but is increasingly recruited from the eternal sources of the American spirit and from the generations of American youth." ~ W.J. Cameron

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stand By Me (Ben E. King)

I am back at my mother's house north of Atlanta, arriving this past Tuesday and intending to stay for two weeks - she has declined substantially (pulmonary fibrosis) since I was last here in late-January...

Internet has been spotty as well as slow and frankly, I am exhausted - the physical I don't mind as it is a joy to help mom in whatever capacity I'm able (make meals, do chores and just generally be the step-n-fetch-it girl by replenishing her ice water, bringing her items from another room of the house, running errands). The emotional drain is another story - it's hard for one's brain to process the inevitable, even if that's where the path is ultimately leading...

Yesterday was most difficult, as I drove mom to her doctor's appointment and we received some honest answers to some hard questions - mom asked about a lung transplant and there is a cut-off age of 65 (mom will be 79 in September). She also asked how long she had and the doctor honestly told her she seems to be at the beginning of the final stage of her illness - right now everything is designed to keep her comfortable. If mom thinks she feels better from the Prednisone, then the doctor was fine with increasing her dosage - she also gave mom "permission" to turn up the level of her oxygen (which she's on 24/7), but that's a terrifying thought for mom, since it's already at 9 (and 10 is the highest)...

Mom told me she's not afraid of dying... but she does fear not knowing what comes next... and whether or not each struggle for breath will be her last - the doctor assured her that, when the time comes, mom will know and we will call in hospice, where medications will be administered to calm her breathing and ease her anxiety. It was always assumed that, as it got closer, mom would move in with my sister - now I'm thinking I will extend my stay, or leave and come back, in order to ensure she is able to transition from her own house. My brother and sister are coming over Monday for a Memorial Day family gathering... and we will have an in-depth, brainstorming conversation at that time - we are retaining hope... but we are definitely at a crossroads. I just ordered (overnighted) the book I reference below... and will receive it tomorrow - I want to do my homework and be as prepared as I possibly can...

As soon as I finish writing this, I will send out the link in an e-mail to various friends who are holding their own vigil for mom... and for me... and for my family - thanks to all for continued thoughts, prayers and purple candles...

P.S. I am trying to take care of myself along the way as well - went to a seniors aerobics class with one of mom's neighbors this morning... which was equally humbling and inspiring (I want to be Frances, 88, when I grow up... still moving, smiling and living life to the fullest... :-)

P.P.S. Thanks to J for the poem...

SONG: Stand By Me By Ben E. King

The Needs of the Dying: A Guide for Bringing Hope, Comfort, and Love to Life's Final Chapter by David Kessler

POEM: Invisible Work by Alison Luterman

Because no one could ever praise me enough,

because I don't mean these poems only

but the unseen

unbelievable effort it takes to live

the life that goes on between them,

I think all the time about invisible work

About the young mother on Welfare

I interviewed years ago,who said, "It's hard.

You bring him to the park,

run rings around yourself keeping him safe,

cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces for dinner,

and there's no one

to say what a good job you're doing,

how you were patient and loving

for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."

And I, who am used to feeling sorry for myself

because I am lonely,

when all the while,

as the Chippewa poem says, I am being carried

by great winds across the sky,

thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night

the slow, unglamorous work of healing,

the way worms in the garden

tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe

and bees ransack this world into being,

while owls and poets stalk shadows,

our loneliest labors under the moon.

There are mothers

for everything, and the sea

is a mother too

whispering and whispering to us

long after we have stopped listening.

I stopped and let myself lean

a moment, against the blue

shoulder of the air. The work

of my heart

is the work of the world's heart.

There is no other art.

QUOTE(S): "My mother is a poem I'll never be able to write, though everything I write is a poem to my mother." ~ Sharon Doubiago

"A mother understands what a child does not say." ~ Jewish proverb

Friday, May 15, 2009

This Bouquet (Ani DiFranco)

Yesterday was my two-year blogiversary... and I missed it - I'm known for being punctuality-challenged... but I even forgot my own celebration! Just goes to show how much in Overwhelmed Mode I really am - Calgon, take me away... :-)

So... what has happened here in the last year?

We went on an
amazing family vacation in early-August, I was laid off mid-October and I was asked to contribute to Star Maker Machine about the same time (which went a long way toward saving my sanity) - I find myself blogging less but enjoying life more. My Word of the Year was Health - I'm not there yet... but each day is a conscious effort to move toward...

mom's health continues to decline and I'm actually leaving this Tuesday to fly up to the Atlanta area to spend two weeks with her - one of my children (middle child R) moved out... right before another (youngest child E) came home from college for the summer. We had a family dinner last night (we aim for them weekly) and it was a joy - we're hoping all five of us can get away on vacation sometime in the next few months to re-create the Ft. Myers Beach memories of our past...

I cherish my friends: the forever (I'm still recovering from our four-hour lunch yesterday), the fairly-new (bring on the Day Ones!), the geographically-distant ("balloon man lives in it too") and everyone in between - to use a Cruise-ism: you complete me (ha... :-)

Every day continues to be a growth opportunity, as I find my balance, set my boundaries and re-frame my priorities - here's/cheers to another year of music and magic and mayhem, oh my!

This Bouquet by Ani DiFranco

The Best of Inquiring Mind: 25 Years of Dharma, Drama, and Uncommon Insight by Barbara Gates, Wes Nisker (Editors)

POEM: What Have I Learned by Gary Snyder

What have I learned but
the proper use for several tools?

The moments
between hard pleasant tasks

To sit silent, drink wine,
and think my own kind
of dry crusty thoughts.

—the first Calochortus flowers
and in all the land,
it's spring.
I point them out:
the yellow petals, the golden hairs,
to Gen.

Seeing in silence:
never the same twice,
but when you get it right,

you pass it on.

QUOTE: "Work hard to improve your mind and body. Nourish your spirit. Do the things you fear." ~ Robin S. Sharma

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dancing with My Mother (Rachel Bissex)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

Today is Mother's Day. Mother's Day as we know it — where we celebrate our own mothers, with flowers, gifts, and cards — is relatively new, but annual celebrations to celebrate motherhood are an ancient practice.

The motherhood festivities have historically been in spring, the season of fertility. In ancient Egypt, there were celebrations to honor Isis, the loving mother-goddess, who is often shown in Egyptian art with the baby Horus at her breast, much like Mary and Jesus in later Christian iconography. The cult of the great mother-goddess Cybele began in Turkey and soon moved to Greece and Rome, and she was worshipped in some form for more than a thousand years. Her priestesses led wild celebrations, full of drinking, dancing, music, and all kinds of debauchery.

As the Roman Empire and Europe transitioned to Christianity, the Church set aside the fourth Sunday of Lent as a day to honor motherhood. It was a day to celebrate the Virgin Mary, and for people to honor their "mother church."

In the 1600s, England declared an official Mothering Day for that fourth Sunday of Lent. It was a time when families were encouraged to get together, and servants or workers were allowed one day off work to go see their mothers, since many working-class families in England worked as servants on separate estates and rarely got to see each other. Mothering Day was also declared an exception to the fasting and penance of Lent, so that families could have a feast together.

When the pilgrims came to America, they stopped celebrating Mothering Day, just as they stopped celebrating most holidays that they thought had become too secular.

Mother's Day was reintroduced to America in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, who wanted to set aside a day of protest after the Civil War, in which mothers could come together and protest their sons killing other mothers' sons.

But the woman who really created Mother's Day as we know it was Anna Jarvis. Her mother had held Mother's Friendship Days to reunite families and neighbors separated during the war, and when she died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, worked to proclaim an official Mother's Day to honor her mother and celebrate peace. And so on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebrations took place in Grafton, West Virginia, and at a church in Philadelphia. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day.

But Mother's Day became commercialized very quickly, especially in the floral industry, and Anna Jarvis was furious. She said, "What will you do to route charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers, and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest, and truest movements and celebrations?" But flower sales and card sales continued to grow, and Anna Jarvis died in poverty and without any children of her own.

In the last U.S. Census, there were an estimated 82.8 million mothers in this country, and about 96 percent of American consumers spend money for Mother's Day.

It's midnight on Mother's Day... and it has been lovely, albeit exhausting - I actually spent most of the day with Michael McNevin, a singer-songwriter friend who played my concert series yesterday evening... and had a house concert today, which I drove him to/did merch for. Since my husband and daughter were out of town, it worked out okay - they had left me cards this morning... and I came home to a card and flowers from E, my youngest. All three of my children had chipped in to get me a gift certificate for a facial/massage - can't wait to redeem it sometime this week... and we'll do a family celebration in the next few days as well... :-)

Life is good - I have the most amazing children... and I am loved!

Here are my last two Mother's Day posts...

SONG: Dancing with My Mother by Rachel Bissex

BOOK: Undress Your Stress by Lois Levy

POEM: For A Mother-to-Be by John O'Donohue

Nothing could have prepared
Your heart to open like this.

From beyond the skies and the stars
This echo arrived inside you
And started to pulse with life,
Each beat a tiny act of growth,
Traversing all our ancient shapes
On its way home to itself.

Once it began, you were no longer your own.
A new, more courageous you, offering itself
In a new way to a presence you can sense
But you have not seen or known.

It has made you feel alone
In a way you never knew before;
Everyone else sees only from the outside
What you feel and feed
With every fiber of your being.

Never have you traveled farther inward
Where words and thoughts become half-light
Unable to reach the fund of brightness
Strengthening inside the night of your womb.

Like some primeval moon,
Your soul brightens
The tides of essence
That flow to your child.

You know your life has changed forever,
For in all the days and years to come,
Distance will never be able to cut you off
From the one you now carry
For nine months under your heart.

May you be blessed with quiet confidence
That destiny will guide you and mind you.

May the emerging spirit of your child
Imbibe encouragement and joy
From the continuous music of your heart,
So that it can grow with ease,
Expectant of wonder and welcome
When its form is fully filled

And it makes its journey out
To see you and settle at last
Relived, and glad in your arms.

QUOTE: "What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way to the coffin." ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Smiling (Richard Shindell)

I just got back from visiting with a long-time e-mail friend (in August, it will be 12 years), whom I've only met face-to-face once... and that was 9 years ago - this time around, he was in Miami for about 36 hours for a work-related conference, and we decided to get together for breakfast at his hotel. What used to be a daily correspondence has become spotty the last few years, and I take full responsibility - I don't seem to be doing so well in the time management department lately...

Anyway... it was sweet, exciting and ultimately comfortable, as we caught up on kids, spouses and life in general - we only had a two-hour window of opportunity, which wasn't enough time... but it was...

There's a story here - suffice it to say it has a happy ending (and no one was harmed in the unfolding... :-)

BOOK: Kindred Spirits: Relationships That Spark the Soul by Dianne Hicks Morrow

POEM: by Jane Gentry - On a Perfect Day

... I eat an artichoke in front
of the Charles Street Laundromat
and watch the clouds bloom
into white flowers out of
the building across the way.
The bright air moves on my face
like the touch of someone who loves me.
Far overhead a dart-shaped plane softens
through membranes of vacancy. A ship,
riding the bright glissade of the Hudson, slips
past the end of the street. Colette's vagabond
says the sun belongs to the lizard
that warms in its light. I own these moments
when my skin like a drumhead stretches on the frame
of my bones, then swells, a bellows filled
with sacred breath seared by this flame,
this happiness.

QUOTE: "There are three ingredients to the good life: learning, earning, and yearning." ~ Christopher Morley

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Que Hago Ahora? (Silvio Rodriguez)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexico's defeat of French invaders at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Cinco de Mayo has actually become a bigger holiday in the United States than in Mexico, where it is mostly a regional holiday in Puebla. There are large Cinco de Mayo celebrations - with parades, music, and food - in Los Angeles, Denver, Portland, St. Paul, and other cities across the country.

Cinco de Mayo... a.k.a. Day One again... a.k.a. Carpe Diem Uno - how many Day Ones will it take to recalibrate my brain and realign my focus and reprioritize my habits? (oh f*cking my!)...

I've been sliding right back into To Do List mode, and am suffering these days from Exploding Brain Syndrome - I'm behind in my concert series PR, still haven't gotten out this month's folk club newsletter, have to do some major research/legwork for some caregiving services for my ever-worsening mom, have been virtually non-existent to dear M whose mom passed away a few months ago, my friend A just got out of the hospital (open heart surgery) and I've yet to deliver the food I promised, R moved out and E moved back from college and the transition of furniture, etc. is exhausting... and the beat goes on. All of these equally-important but hard-to-keep-up-with responsibilities have thrown me into a panic - I feel woefully inadequate these days and unable to keep up... as a professional, as a daughter, as a friend...

MH called to ask me to walk this morning, which helped tremendously... and we've already planned to do it again tomorrow - I need to get back on the proverbial horse that threw me. If only good intentions translated to daily life - however, the reality is that follow-through is key... and I just have to figure out ways of doing things differently...

In the meantime, I'm trying to operate from a place of love - it's grounding, fueling and ultimately, despite the cliche, all you need...

This is now. Now is,
all there is. Don't wait for Then;
strike the spark, light the fire.

Sit at the Beloved's table,
feast with gusto, drink your fill

then dance
the way branches
of jasmine and cypress
dance in a spring wind.

The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.

QUOTE: "Every beginning is a consequence - every beginning ends some thing." ~ Paul Valery

Sunday, May 3, 2009

How Can I Keep from Singing? (Robert Wadsworth Lowry)

Happy 90th Birthday, Pete Seeger!

Pete Seeger's 90th birthday will be a selfless celebration
Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Three months after Bruce Springsteen persuaded Pete Seeger to sing This Land Is Your Land with him at President Obama's inaugural concert, they'll be back together on stage Sunday — on Seeger's 90th birthday.

A sold-out benefit concert at Madison Square Garden will celebrate Seeger, the folk singer/songwriter who was banished from commercial TV for 17 years.

Seeger says a party for 15,000 isn't his idea of a birthday celebration, even with more than 40 musicians, including Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and Arlo Guthrie, whose dad, Woody, taught Seeger how to jump freight trains 60 years ago.

But he agreed to it because it will benefit his Hudson River environmental group. Or, as Seeger puts it, "wooden boats don't last forever."

The boat is a 106-foot sloop, the Clearwater, a floating symbol for the group of the same name that Seeger started in 1966 when the Hudson was an open sewer.

It's healthier now, repopulated by eagles, shad and osprey. But, Seeger says, "a lot remains to be done," including "thousands of dollars of repairs to the boat."

Seeger, who says "small is beautiful," plans to remind the crowd: "It's not always the big things that make a difference, but all the small things done by people who don't get attention."
As the subject of three new books and an updated biography, Seeger says, "I've had too much publicity," even as he talks by phone to a reporter.

He says he's encouraged by Obama's willingness to experiment and "to remind us he can't do it all. We have to help."

He recalls how another president, Herbert Hoover, told Rudy Vallee: "If you can sing a song that makes people forget the Depression, I'll give you a medal."

Says Seeger: "Too many singers have been trying to get that medal."

He's the only star in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to discuss past membership in the Communist Party. His 1955 conviction was overturned on appeal in 1961, but Seeger's blacklisting lasted from 1950 to 1967. Even then, CBS censored his anti-Vietnam War allegory, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.

The man who wrote If I Had a Hammer and Turn, Turn, Turn and helped popularize We Shall Overcome plans to sing one solo Sunday — he won't say which one — and join some choruses.

Asked about being called "a saint" by Bob Dylan, he laughs. "What a terrible thing to call someone. I've made a lot of foolish mistakes over the years."


Clay Eals, Steve Goodman's biographer (Facing The Music), posted a note to the FolkDJ list, drawing attention to the fact that there are going to be MANY celebrations for Pete on May 3. Clay says, "Spurred by the Internet proliferation of an idea advanced by Marie Goonan, a Seeger enthusiast from Melbourne, Australia, a grassroots movement has taken hold to schedule concerts all over the world on May 3, Seeger's 90th, to pay tribute to the legendary musician and humanitarian. Marie's apt and catchy suggestion for a theme for these shows is "For Pete's Sake: Sing!" - he provided a partial list of events below (shows keep getting added every day):

Seattle, WA

You can also sign the petition to encourage Pete Seeger's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize here...

BoyHowdy at Cover Lay Down just posted a wonderful essay, complete with music links, here...

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother's piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I've never understood
Why this is so

But there's an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

QUOTE(S): "As long as we live, there is never enough singing." ~ Martin Luther

"The total person sings not just the vocal chords." ~ Esther Broner

"It was his nature to blossom into song, as it is a tree's to leaf itself in April." ~ Alexander Smith

"Faith and joy are the ascensive forces of song." ~ Edmund Clarence Stedman

"Life is a song. Love is the music." ~ Author Unknown

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Balloon Man (Richard Shindell)

I posted the following last night to Richard Shindell's discussion list:

I recently returned from the Richard Shindell backyard house concert in Sunrise, Florida - oh... my... god...

It's been altogether too long since he's been in this neck of the woods... and we're hoping to get him back on a more regular basis - he joked early in the evening that he had avoided our part of the state for a while... because of the heat (he self-admittedly sweats a lot)... and trepidation about alligators. Fortunately the weather cooperated with a lovely breeze... and we assured him that, since this particular house wasn't on a canal, not too much danger of the latter - even the minimal traffic sounds joined in... in Richard's words, "in thirds, fifths and unisons"...

Richard was in grand form, with excellent musicianship, warm vocals and such a great sense of humor and smile which flashed early and often - he talked about his parents loving the few songs of his that sounded "perky", realizing that the content of most of his repertoire was "deeply troubled"... and worried that they were somehow to blame... :-)

He spoke of feeling right at home in his hotel room in Coral Gables (about an hour south of the show), which had an Argentine deli directly across the street - he also told a wildly descriptive story of Balloon Man colliding with a dog walker (14 golden retrievers!)... and then said he just made that up...

More great chatter, none of which I can remember right now - I'm still floating (balloon woman?... :-)

Below is the setlist, in no particular order except for the first song and encores:

Beyond the Iron Gate
Acadian Driftwood
Sitting on Top of the World
another cover, which I've gone completely blank (none of the ones from South of Delia)...
Last Fare of the Day
Get Up Clara
The Island
Balloon Man
Sparrows Point
Hazel's House
The Kenworth of My Dreams
Reunion Hill
Are You Happy Now
There Goes Mavis

She Belongs to Me (Bob Dylan)

My friend (hosting the concert) asked if I'd sell Richard's merchandise at the break and at the end, which I was more than happy to do (since I of course have them all and could explain which songs were on what CDs) - Richard also gave me a step-by-step tutorial on the proper method of drinking yerba mate (with the gourd, straw and loose tea)... since I said I'd given up coffee a year ago, segueing to that beverage (although in the less powerful teabag form... :-)

Hope we don't have to wait another 7 years for a repeat performance - can't wait to hear reports from the remaining Florida shows!

P.S. SMM here, here, here, here and here...

BOOK: Millennium Folk: American Folk Music Since the Sixties by Thomas R. Gruning

POEM: Chansons Innocentes: I by e. e. cummings

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and


balloonMan whistles

QUOTE: "My definition [of a philosopher] is of a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends holding the ropes which confine him to earth and trying to haul him down." ~ Louisa May Alcott