Sunday, June 28, 2009

Good Fortune (Todd Snider)

I commented recently on a friend's blog, regarding Todd Snider's new CD, The Excitement Plan:

I have been cranky lately because I actually got in on the limited edition box set, which was shipped to my house (in Florida) on the CD release day - however, I am still at my mom’s and as yet unable to listen…

I may actually order the CD from and have it sent here - I can find a good home for the duplicate when I get back home…

I personally think every single one of his albums is brilliant, and I do hope you manage to work your way through the backcatalog eventually - if you enjoy “political without being preachy”, start with East Nashville Skyline (The Ballad of the Kingsmen and Sunshine, in particular)…

So... I *did* order the CD... and it arrived yesterday - I had a chance to begin listening on my way back to mom's from Mari's this morning, and I am flippin' loving it already! I highly recommend - you can read more about it... and listen to a recent NPR interview here...

Speaking of Fortune... neighbors have been bringing food, friends have been sending flowers and cards and writing in mom's guestbook... and my husband might actually be flying up for a visit - goodness abounds!

POEM: Give Us Courage by Robert Louis Stevenson

Give us courage, gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare us to our friends, soften to us our enemies.
Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
that which is to come, that we be brave in peril,
constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune and down to the gates
of death, loyal and loving to one another.

QUOTE: "I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It's more important to confirm the least sincere. The clouds get enough attention as it is." ~ Frank O'Hara

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grampa Built Bridges (Danny Schmidt)

Okay... after yesterday's Pity Party post, I felt I needed to let you all know there are definitely bright spots in my transplanted life here - I've written before that I'm a big fan of Danny Schmidt's and, when I went looking on his site a few weeks ago for his latest tour schedule and found he would be appearing in a house concert about 30 minutes south of where my mom lives... well, can you spell
N-O B-R-A-I-N-E-R?

I dropped the host the following note:

My name is Susan... and I would like to make a reservation for your Danny/Jonathan/Doug&Telisha house concert on Saturday, June 20, please - there will be at least one (me) and hopefully I can bring a few more friends!

Long story short: I live, and run a concert series, in South Florida (links below) - I'm friends with, and have delightfully hosted, Danny and Jonathan. I'm currently in Flowery Branch (about 30 minutes north of you) with my ailing/aging mother - what began as a two-week visit has turned indefinite... and I'm jonesing for a music fix, as well as a break from caretaking...

If you have room, please count me in... and send me your address - I will keep you posted as to whether there will be others as it gets closer...

I'll ask your help in keeping this a secret, please... as I'd love to surprise the guys - would you do me a favor and make the reservation for Connie? (my mom's name... :-)

Thanks so much - I look forward to meeting you!

I did make it, had a grand time and wrote the musicians the e-mail below last evening:

Hey, Danny, Jonathan, Doug and Telisha -

Wanted to tell you, albeit belatedly, how much I enjoyed seeing you all at Art and Nance's this past Saturday night - it was great fun to surprise Danny and Jonathan (as well as be surprised by Don Porterfield!)... in addition to having a chance to "refill my well" from my caregiving duties of the last month...

Jonathan, I adore the new CD (and can't believe I hadn't yet taken the time to buy it) - every time I think your music can't get any better, it does. I've long thought that each new album is a re-invention... but now realize each is actually an extension... of your wisdom, experience and heart - Diana Jones is my new favorite JByrd song... :-)

Doug and Telisha, what a delight to be introduced to your great tunes and wonderful personalities - you're in good company on this tour, and you more than held your own. I always appreciate a new discovery (and promise to listen to your CD as soon as I can pry Jonathan's out of the player) - let's definitely talk about future Florida shows, okay?

Danny, count me in as a lover of Guilty By Association Blues - I also "called" the segue from D&T's Nashville song (turned to Don and said, "I'll bet money Danny follows that with Beggars & Mules"). Thanks for adding me to the dedication of Grampa Built Bridges (and for signing Instead the Forest Rose to Sing for my sister, who was staying with mom so I could take a break) - as I was leaving, and you hugged me long and hard, I somewhat tearily said, "there's no more stories about bridges indeed"... and you replied something to the effect of bridges always being built, which is a perfect metaphor for what I'm going through with my mom right now (so much baggage and history to wade through to get to the grace and dignity of this life transition)...

Wish I could arrange to make it down to Eddie's Attic... but that would just be decadent overload, even for an instant gratification Leo like myself - much love to you all... and thanks again for all you do, all you are and all you give to so many... <3


P.S. Song commentary on Grampa Built Bridges from Danny's website:

It's my assertion that as our culture has gotten more urban and technological, and as our more direct connections with nature have been severed, we're not so in touch anymore with the autumns and winters of life -- the decomposing leaves, the turning back into soil -- and when we envision the path of a life, our model seems to only celebrate the bloomings and blossomings, and no longer celebrates the dignity in the inevitable curling and falling of the petals. And in that, our culture doesn't seem to prepare us to cross gracefully from one state of existence into another the way some older cultures have.

It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is probable
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious dénouement
to the unsurprising end — riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

QUOTE: "Praise the bridge that carried you over." ~ George Colman

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the Road to Find Out (Cat Stevens)

Today's DailyOM
June 23, 2009
Different Ways of Navigating
We’re All in the Same Boat

We’re all in the same boat. We just have different paddles, and perhaps we find ourselves on different rivers. We all live in human bodies. These are the vehicles in which we move through our world. We are all made of flesh, blood, and bone, with brains, hearts, and lungs to power us. Our paddles—the tools we use to move through the world—vary, as do the bodies of water—the environments—in which we find ourselves.

Some of us use our high IQs to get where we want to go. Some of us use our smiles, others use kindness, a gift with language, or athletic ability. Some of these qualities we were born with and others are skills we have learned. Considering this metaphor in light of your own life can be very enlightening. What tools are you using to get from point A to point B in your life? Chances are, you and the people you know have used many different tools in various combinations throughout your lives to get where you needed to go. Just as with oars or paddles, a balanced approach is best. If you rely too much on one thing, like beauty, to open doors, you fail to be well-rounded and you may eventually lose your equilibrium. And if you lose that one quality, you have no paddle at all. This is inspiration to develop multiple tools to navigate your world.

Some of us may be moving along paths that are like rushing rivers; others may be on a large, still lake. We have all felt, at one time or another, tossed about on a stormy ocean. Through all this, we are never really alone, even though it might seem that way. There is inspiration all around us in the form of other people making their way through the world, in the very same boat. Remember to look around you for role models, companionship, and encouragement.

A dear friend forwarded me yesterday's Writer's Almanac (to which I already subscribe) and asked, about the poem (below): "Wouldn't you love to meet the person she wrote about? Does she know you?"... and at that moment, I realized my smile is one of my best attributes... and I seem to have lost it over the last month...

Not sure exactly when and how it happened, but this caregiving is serious business... and maybe I'm taking it too seriously... except, is there any such thing as too serious when it's literally life and death - I seem to become much more annoyed lately... with mom, with others around me and with myself. I find myself thinking words like "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" with others' methods of dealing in ways different from my own (an unfair judgement I'm sure, as different does not necessarily mean worse) - I feel like "the bad guy", *making* mom do things (like go to the bathroom when she says she doesn't have the energy, because the last thing we need are open bedsores, a situation we *can* control when so much of this we can't)...

Crazy thing is... I'm getting more, and longer, breaks than I did the first few weeks - maybe the transition to "the real world" is jarring - when I didn't know differently, I could immerse myself in the mindless routines. Now I know that everything doesn't have to smell like urine, there is such a thing as a good night's sleep and a day can just flow without having to write down every detail of medication, visits and questions for the hospice nurse - sometimes it seems pointless to "escape" when I know I'll be going right back to it within 24 hours (what's the point, you know?)...

When I arrived here a month ago, mom was handling so much on her own (with the help of my siblings and her neighbors) and my plan was to visit for a few weeks and head back home - instead, the timing was fortuitous and I felt I was the catalyst for drastic changes in her health care plan. Mom seemed relieved not to have to rise to the daily challenges anymore, and her friends were grateful someone had finally stepped in to take control - it's now become a double-edged sword as mom, who has always been the one in charge, seems to be resenting me because I took away her perceived independence... and I can't be "fun" because I am enforcing schedules and order (in her own best interests)...

I miss my husband, children and friends - I have been horribly remiss about returning phone calls and e-mails... and I almost can't think about my old life back home because it takes me out of my head and where I feel I need to be. Mom and I really are trying to make the most of this time together (watching movies, looking up things on the computer and just chatting) - yet sometimes... I can't help but realize how lonely I am... not to mention exhausted...

As I recently wrote on mom's CaringBridge website page, "things are changing so fast now and the key is our ability to adapt" - this means me too (snap out of it, Susan!... or, in the immortal words of Billy Crystal's character's wife to him in City Slickers: "Go and find your smile"... :-)

On the Road to Find Out by Cat Stevens

Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers by Rosalynn Carter, Susan Golant

POEM: The Sun Grows In Your Smile by Linda Rodriguez

When you smile, the air grows warm and soft,
the earth is watered with gentle mists,
seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil,
earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface
to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins,
lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises,
fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies,
damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind,
the crazy-with-sheer-joy song of the Northern mockingbird
echoes above other chirps and sweet winged notes,
gardeners join the worms in the warm, rich dirt,
children gallop across yards and grab handfuls of dandelions
to present to mothers who will set them in glasses of water
in kitchen windows or on dining room tables, weeds
glorious after the dark of winter with the color of the sun
that grows and warms and heals in your smile.

QUOTE: "A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you're at home." ~ Author Unknown

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (Paul Simon)

...or the tip of her nose? - when the going gets tough, the tough get a body piercing!

I have been talking about this for the last few months, wanting to get a small diamond nose stud (left side) when the time was right - Mari was here with mom yesterday afternoon and last night... and I googled for the closest tattoo parlor (one town over in Buford), checked out their website, gave them a call and decided to seize the day. Jennifer, a co-owner of the shop, has been piercing for 10 years and told me the "pain" (more like a bee sting) would last 2-5 seconds - she was right, I have a lovely facial adornment (finally making peace with my Barbra proboscis after all these years) and I am resolved to keep up with the 3-6 times a day hygiene routine so no infection sets in...

Crazily enough, I see it as a tangible reminder of spending this time with mom, who is so much like a diamond (shiny and sharp... :-) - it's also a celebration of my upcoming 55th birthday (August 5)...

As I said, Mari spent the night here last night so I could go to her house to get a good night's sleep - I will write a full update later on mom's CaringBridge website page...

I have an upcoming post planned about fireflies, as we don't have them in Florida and I've missed them so - I continue to delight each dusk as the small flashing specks of light dot the yard...

I also have a musical excursion planned Saturday night to a local (Lawrenceville) house concert to see/hear some dear friends (Mari will stay with mom again) - more on that after the fact, as I'm hoping to surprise them!

SONG: Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes by Paul Simon

BOOK: Spiritual Tattoo: A Cultural History of Tattooing, Piercing, Scarification, Branding, and Implants by John Rush

POEM: The Ordinary by Kirsten Dierking

It's summer, so
the pink gingham shorts,
the red mower, the neat rows
of clean smelling grass
unspooling behind
the sweeping blades.

A dragonfly, black body
big as a finger, will not leave
the mower alone,
loving the sparkle
of scarlet metal,
seeing in even a rusting paint
the shade of a flower.

But I wave him off,
conscious he is
wasting his time,
conscious I am
filling my time
with such small details,
distracting colors,

like pink checks,
like this, then that,
like a dragonfly wing
in the sun reflecting
the color of opals,
like all the hours
we leave behind,
so ordinary,
but not unloved.

QUOTE: "For me the diamond dawns are set in rings of beauty, and all my ways are dewy wet with pleasant duty." ~ John Townsend Trowbridge

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Silver Hair (Michael McNevin)

From today's TUT: Note from the Universe:

In the end, Susan, all you have are memories, and usually the ones you have with friends are the ones you treasure most.

I got you, babe - The Universe

Not that there's really an "end," Susan. And "usually" means there are indeed exceptions - like dancing in the dark, walking in a park, and some of those really loud sneezes.

Over the weekend, I set up a page for mom on the CaringBridge website (which a few friends had told me about) - I've added a few since my last post here... and you can check there periodically or sign up for e-mail notifications every time I post an update...

How strange to think that today makes four weeks I've been here at mom's - as the days unfold, I'm finding my own routine, as well as ours together. It's been ages since I experienced life in a small town (since our during- and post-college days in Carrollton)... and Flowery Branch brings back such good memories of friendliness, innocence and connection - whether I'm in a store or out in "traffic" or at exercise class, there's just a different, less hurried/harried feeling to my life. The slow Georgia drawl is a metaphor for the stretching out of time - this all seems to have a been another blessing in disguise for me, as my Florida schedule had become exhausting and paralyzing...

I have to talk a minute about the women in the seniors aerobics, which I've been attending fairly regularly (aiming for 3 times a week) since my arrival - all in their 70s and 80s, they've been so friendly and welcoming... and it's comforting to take a break from the illness at home to their light-hearted chatter of grandchildren, gardens and knitting. I've grown quite fond of non-stop-talking Shirley with her knee brace, perpetually-arriving-late Charlotte with her pearl-buttoned cardigan sweater, always-smiling Elsie who is still trying to find a home for her gerbils and immaculately-made-up and manicured Joyce who has suffered some serious health problems and still manages to make it to exercise class - I am in awe of these women, who have become my role models by not just showing up... but by not giving up...

I finally finished Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott (which I'd been working on for well over a week, not my reading modus operandi at all!) - I so enjoy her writing... and wanted to share a few passages that hit home:

Charles groaned, shifted. She tried to imagine the effect that their being around for his dying was going to have on her and Rae, and Rosie. She didn't know what that effect would be, because it was like a tiny green shoot whose flower was growing in the dark, but sitting with him today gave her this hard gift: it let her acknowledge one incandescent part of the world that would soon be gone, extinguished.


She heard Rae's footsteps recede, and then Elizabeth felt grief trying to pierce her or trying to get through to her to save her: it was hard to tell. Crying withheld feels sometimes like dying. Finally when she started to cry, she was so deluged with mucus and tears that she didn't think she would ever again get a full breath.

I semi-blogged about this song over at Star Maker Machine - remembered the perfect poem to go with it... so decided to recycle it here... :-)

POEM: I Confess by Alison Luterman

I stalked her
in the grocery store: her crown
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,
beaming peace like the North Star.
I wanted to ask, "
What aisle did you find
your serenity in, do you know
how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess
some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis
But we don’t request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

QUOTE(S): "Women are always beautiful." ~ Ville Valo

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. ~ Samuel Ullman

"The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion. ~ Doris Lessing

"It's important to have a twinkle in your wrinkle. ~ Author Unknown

"It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart." ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Ever Change (Amy Rigby)

Sent: Tue, 9 Jun 2009 4:00 pm
Subject: Connie Circle update - 6/9/09

Hey, All -

Hard to believe it's been a week since my last update - "no news is good news" is a cliche for a reason!

I've added a few people to the distribution: J/M M, M/B B, K/R G, B/M H, M/C M, D/K C, E L and J/L A - continued love, prayers, purple candles, cards, skyward intentions are appreciated...

Lots of good days for mom, most of them prompted by the support of friends and family - D, K and E came up last Tuesday night for a visit... and we had Chinese Food Night last Wednesday with her Flowery Branch friends/neighbors (R, A, C, S, D, R) as well as me, Mari and Julia...

D stopped in Saturday morning... and my Sarah (soon-to-be-28, believe it or not!) was here (from Florida) Friday through early this morning - we had a most delightful long weekend, with Mari and Julia spending most of it with us, and Brad coming over Sunday for a family dinner...

A, G, M and B are coming up tomorrow and bringing lunch - it will be grand to see them, as the last time was at Aunt Marie's funeral (almost a year ago, actually)...

We just can't say enough good things about Crossroads Hospice - every nurse/health care aide/administrator has been friendly, compassionate and knowledgeable every step of the way. Arranging for mom to stay in her own home throughout the journey is everyone's priority - as her safety net widens, her anxiety level decreases... which is a win/win for all...

We did indeed get wireless here last week (thanks to my little sister!)... and Mari has begun working from mom's house each Monday and Wednesday so I can get to exercise class with two of mom's friends/neighbors (thanks, A and D!) - each day brings a finetuning of the processes, options and opportunities... and it is slowly becoming the calming and nurturing routine we envisioned...

Mom's church family has been wonderful... with a married couple coming every Sunday morning at 9:30 to pray and administer communion... and mom's priest visited this past Sunday afternoon for The Anointing of the Sick rite (after watching the Tony Awards later that evening, we realized he looks like Elton John!)...

I miss my husband, children and dog terribly... although it appears they are faring just fine in my absence - Chico and Eric bought a gas grill... so buy stock in the Publix meat department!)...

This time is all about mom... and we are making sure she eats healthy food, gets as much rest as she wants/needs and *lives* each day with joy, peace and love... surrounded by the amazing people she has blessed with her goodness over the years... who are reciprocating a thousandfold now. So she's not the Energizer Bunny anymore - she's doing a pretty good imitation of a Buddhist monk (be here now... :-)

Much love to all - thanks for everything... <3


A Life of Learning
Earth School
May 21, 2009

Life is the province of learning, and the wisdom we acquire throughout our lives is the reward of existence. As we traverse the winding roads that lead from birth to death, experience is our patient teacher. We exist, bound to human bodies as we are, to evolve, enrolled by the universe in earth school, an informal and individualized academy of living, being, and changing. Life’s lessons can take many forms and present us with many challenges. There are scores of mundane lessons that help us learn to navigate with grace, poise, and tolerance in this world. And there are those once-in-a-lifetime lessons that touch us so deeply that they change the course of our lives. The latter can be heartrending, and we may wander through life as unwilling students for a time. But the quality of our lives is based almost entirely on what we derive from our experiences.

Earth school provides us with an education of the heart and the soul, as well as the intellect. The scope of our instruction is dependent on our ability and readiness to accept the lesson laid out before us in the circumstances we face. When we find ourselves blindsided by life, we are free to choose to close our minds or to view the inbuilt lesson in a narrow-minded way. The notion that existence is a never-ending lesson can be dismaying at times. The courses we undertake in earth school can be painful as well as pleasurable, and as taxing as they are eventually rewarding. However, in every situation, relationship, or encounter, a range of lessons can be unearthed. When we choose to consciously take advantage of each of the lessons we are confronted with, we gradually discover that our previous ideas about love, compassion, resilience, grief, fear, trust, and generosity could have been half-formed.

Ultimately, when we acknowledge that growth is an integral part of life and that attending earth school is the responsibility of every individual, the concept of "life as lesson" no longer chafes. We can openly and joyfully look for the blessing buried in the difficulties we face without feeling that we are trapped in a roller-coaster ride of forced learning. Though we cannot always know when we are experiencing a life lesson, the wisdom we accrue will bless us with the keenest hindsight.

And from my 5/29/09 TUT (Totally Unique Thoughts):

Which sounds like more fun, Susan: Being showered with miracles just because I love you, or being showered with miracles because you dared, stretched, went out on a limb, raised the bar, threw down the gauntlet, faced your fears, and grew into more than you ever knew you could be?

Dare ya, The Universe

Challenge yourself, Susan, every single day.

Don't Ever Change by Amy Rigby

BOOK: Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser

POEM: In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

QUOTE:"In the East they say that luck favors the prepared mind. I believe that life favors the prepared mind." ~ Robin S. Sharma

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band)

June 1, 2009
Taking a Time Out
You Are Not Crazy

Most of us feel a little crazy from time to time. Periods of high stress can make us feel like we’re losing it, as can being surrounded by people whose values are very different from our own. Losing a significant relationship and moving into a new life situation are other events that can cause us to feel off kilter. Circumstances like these recur in our lives, and they naturally affect our mental stability. The symptoms of our state of mind can range from having no recollection of putting our car keys where we eventually find them, to wondering if we’re seeing things clearly when everyone around us seems to be in denial of what’s going on right in front of their eyes. For most of us, the key to survival at times like these is to step back, take a deep breath, and regain our composure. Then we can decide what course of action to take.

Sometimes a time-out does the trick. We take a day off from whatever is making us feel crazy and, like magic, we feel in our right mind again. Talking to an objective friend can also help. We begin to see what it is about the situation that destabilizes us, and we can make changes from there. At other times, if the situation is particularly sticky, we may need to seek professional help. Meeting with someone who understands the way the human mind reacts to stress, loss, and difficulty can make us feel less alone and more supported. A therapist or a spiritual counselor can give us techniques that help bring us back to a sane state of mind so that we can affect useful changes. They can also mirror our basic goodness, helping us to see that we are actually okay.

The main purpose of the wake-up call that feeling crazy provides is to let us know that something in our lives is out of balance. Confirm for yourself that you are capable of creating a sane and peaceful reality for yourself. Try to remember that most people have felt, at one time or another, that they are losing it. You deserve a life that helps you thrive. Try and take some steps today to help you achieve more balance and a little less crazy.


Contrary to what my song title might suggest, I am doing the *next best thing*: self-nurturing - you can take that any way you wish!

Thanks to my darling sister, I have the day off - now that mom's settling into a bit more of a routine, Mari and I are working out a schedule such that she can get to her Boot Camp workout from 7-8 a.m. each Monday and Wednesday... and then come directly to mom's so I can get to *my* exercise class (albeit seniors, with some of mom's neighbors) from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Having wireless installed at mom's (great idea, sis!) means that she can stay there and work from mom's house, so as soon as I get back from working out, I can shower and then head over to Mari's for a day of leisure (confused yet?... :-)

I *should* be working on the folk club June newsletter (which is already three days overdue)... but I am instead checking and responding to e-mail, drinking a Diet Coke (it's been months since I indulged) and doing serious damage to some smoked fish dip in Mari's fridge... not to mention writing this blog post - I am so loving this break. You can't imagine how wonderful it is to be able to concentrate (or not) and know I don't have to be responsible for anything for a few hours - Peace of Mind: f*cking Priceless (thank you, thank you, thank you, Mari!)...

She had even suggested I stay overnight and come back in the morning - I'll take a raincheck on that offer... since I had already begun coordinating a Chinese Food Night at mom's with the neighbors tonight, and I selfishly wanted to be there for it...

Had a great visit last night with E and D, two guy friends from my late-high-school/early-college/post-wedding past - we used to have a Three Musketeers relationship... and I hate to admit I'd lost touch (more my fault than theirs). They, along with D's wife (who I also know and love) came up to mom's last night to hang out - it was lovely to reconnect (we've still got it... :-)

I have another hour before I need to return - maybe I'll take a nap (mmmmmm)...

P.S. I haven't had sex in two weeks - you may notice a change in attitude soon (grumpy and snappy and needy, oh my!)...

SONG: Afternoon Delight by Starland Vocal Band

BOOK: Self-Nurture: Learning to Care for Yourself As Effectively As You Care for Everyone Else by Alice D. Domar, Henry Dreher

POEM: Daffodils by William Wordsworth

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay;
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

QUOTE: "I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world." ~ Comte de Mirabeau

Monday, June 1, 2009

Home (Karla Bonoff)

Below is the latest Connie Circle e-mail - I've added my two uncles/aunts, as well as friends from mom's old neighborhood (the circle widens)...


Sent: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 2:15 am
Subject: Connie Circle - 6/1/09 update

Hey, All -

It's been a few days since my last update - much to report... and I've added a few people to the distribution (welcome D/G D, A/M, Uncle A/J, Uncle F/Aunt J, A/G, B/J). Widening the circle is always a good thing - mom is lucky to have so many people who love her...

When I last wrote, mom had just signed up for hospice care - they were ready to send someone out Friday but, since we'd already scheduled to have D, G, A and M visit (thanks for a lovely afternoon, full of good food, good company and plenty of reminiscing!), we asked if we could postpone until Monday. They said they could actually send some of their weekend staff on Saturday, and we were thrilled - when we still hadn't heard from anyone by 3 p.m. Saturday, I gave a call...

Got their answering service, left message and someone called me back within 5 minutes - I explained the situation and she said they could send two people (a home health aide and a nurse) out that afternoon. I said we were fine waiting until Sunday or Monday - she insisted... and they came within a few hours, the former giving mom a bath and the latter checking her vital signs and chatting with her a bit.

This morning (Monday) was our first "official" day with them, and the phone rang numerous times as I heard from a different nurse, a different home health aide, a social worker and a spiritual caregiver - we made appointments this afternoon with the first three and asked the fourth to come on Wednesday instead (wow - impressive!)...

~ Tammy will be mom's nurse, coming twice a week, Monday or Tuesday... and again Thursday or Friday - we loved her immediately, as she answered so many of her questions about mom's prednisone dosage, her nasal crustiness, her swollen ankle and her constipation (sorry). One of my main concerns is when mom asks me to "tweak" (i.e., turn up her oxygen at certain times when she's having trouble... and then turn it back down when she's calmer) - Tammy said that was perfectly fine to do and should help alleviate some of mom's anxiety about having to get up to go to the bathroom, etc... which would go a long way toward reducing my worry as well...

A very cool thing is that Tammy's parents just happen to be the #2 importers of sea shells in the country... and we all know that mom's house is decorated with them from tip to toe, bow to stern - Tammy said she'd bring mom a present the next time she comes... :-)

~ Then Sandra, mom's social worker, arrived (she will come twice a month, unless we need her more often) - she basically evaluated our situation by asking lots of questions. Her main role is providing guidance, if needed, for funeral arrangements, caregiver hiring, legal issues, etc. - she is also there for emotional support, when talking to someone objective, rather than a family member, is what mom needs...

~ Erica will be mom's home health aide, coming every Monday, Wednesday and Friday - it was a good thing she was running late, because mom was already so wiped out from the first two visits. I allow mom to set the pace as to how much talking she wants to do - I can handle most of it, and she does what she's able. Erica will help mom with bathing (a bed bath seems to be the way to go), applying lotion, giving massages/manicures/pedicures, changing sheets, etc. - we were floored to find out the hospice program provides the adult underwear, wipes, deodorant, body wash and many other products.

We continue to be amazed with the program - these caregivers are not only knowledgeable and informative, but they are compassionate as well, always making eye contact with mom, and exhibiting in their conversational skills that this is a vocation/calling for them, rather than a job. We now have a prepared team of professionals surrounding mom, which reinforces the team we already had in place with family and neighbors - we're learning more each day, and establishing routines that can be flexible if need be.

Not sure if I said this in my last few updates... but Harriet, the admissions nurse, told mom she needs to compare her day to a prepaid phone card, in which she has a finite number of minutes each day - she can spend them any way she chooses but, once they're gone, they're gone. Better to conserve her energy for things only she can do (bathroom, etc.), and allow others to help elsewhere - it's been a learning experience for mom, as she's always been the caregiver and isn't used to accepting help. I'm also walking the fine line of encouraging her to letting me follow through on certain things (topical ointment, saline solution, etc.) which I know wear her out but are of value in the long run - I told mom tonight that I didn't want her to feel I was forcing her into anything but... there are so many things we *can't* control regarding her pulmonary fibrosis that it feels good to set goals in which we *can* make a difference...

Thanks so much to Mari for getting in touch with mom's cable provider and setting up an appointment to have wireless installed Wednesday morning - I've said before that Internet connection is spotty here (piggybacking onto a neighbor's network) and not only will I be able to get more done more quickly once she has wireless... but that also means Mari can come over more often and work from mom's house, giving me breaks...

Speaking of... we've arranged for that this Wednesday, as Mari and Julia will arrive a few minutes before 9 a.m. so I can go to exercise class with A and D - when I return, I'll shower and then head over to Mari's house (about 20 minutes away) with Julia, where I can spend the day as I choose (sleeping/reading/computer), returning later in the event for Chinese food night (a neighborhood routine I'm attempting to re-vitalize... :-)

We remain boundlessly grateful for everyone's phone calls, e-mails, book loans, prayers, support, love, etc. - it truly does take a village... and mom is so lucky hers transcends county/state lines...Love to you all - more in the next few days... <3>

Home by Karla Bonoff

BOOK: Hospice Care at Home: A Guide to Caring for Your Dying Loved One at Home by Starr Calo-oy, Bob Calo-oy

POEM: Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches? by Mary Oliver

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches
of other lives --
tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey,
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning,
feel like?

Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over
the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left --
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one's foot into the door of the grass, which is
the mystery, which is death as well as life, and
not be afraid!

To set one's foot in the door of death, and be overcome
with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,
nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
present hour,
to the song falling out of the mockingbird's pink mouth,
to the tippets of the honeysuckle, that have opened
in the night
To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?
While the soul, after all, is only a window,
and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them.
I even heard a curl or tow of music, damp and rouge red,
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters,
caution and prudence?
Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what's coming next
is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn't ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes,
I follow the ocean's edge.
I climb, I backtrack. I float.
I ramble my way home.

QUOTE: "Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven." ~ Tryon Edwards