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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Alzheimer’s DMZ

A DMZ, demilitarized zone, is intended to provide safe haven between conflicting powers where opposing parties can discuss possibilities for peace. Or not.

For someone entering the terminal stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a DMZ is an uncharted territory of one or more ill defined or utterly wretched options.

The border between doing all we can to save a life and following a POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) that may reduce medical care for the terminally ill to providing only palliative needs is not a sharp edge. You don’t step from one sovereign nation loaded with physicians, nurses, pharmaceuticals, clinicians, therapists, and social workers into another sovereign nation occupied only by aspirin. Or worse, juju advice from Aunt Henny Penny’s Home Health Remedies for Everything from Alzheimer’s to Zits.

You, the advocate for the one you love who is a victim of Alzheimer’s, the one who is so ill they are suffering painfully with every breath, you walk into a demilitarized zone defined by hidden landmines. Will this treatment end their suffering or end their life? Will that one offer six more months of comfort and communication? Will doing nothing result in the miracle cure you’ve been seeking in tea leaf patterns and fervently uttered mantras? You don’t know where to turn, what to do, who to ask. Because no one really knows.

And that’s why being the Durable Power of Attorney is so damned difficult. You, the advocate, are making legal decisions about the life of another person. And they probably don’t know what you’re doing. And you’re both scared, and neither of you sleeps well.

Before the complicated, multi-optioned POLST, there was a DNR – Do Not Resuscitate. Don’t be a hero. Turn off the machine, lower the lights, let God do what’s natural.

Thing is, we don’t know what’s natural. We don’t know where God is in all this. If you think God is on your side, all I can say is, “Why this? Why let someone dog paddle desparately for years in the swamp of Alzheimer’s disease?”

I believe in God. You may put in your religion of choice here, it makes no difference to me. Even if you guess what religion I follow, you know nothing of how I worship or what I suspect about the Divine. I just don’t think God chooses to take sides, other than the original one of creating this world. Now it’s up to us.

So here we stand, lost in the quandary, trudging through a maze of options but unable to intuit for certain what happens next.  Choose your own adventure, but unlike reading a kid’s book, you get no do-overs. Worse, the choices you make may have a catastrophic outcome for the person you love – your spouse, your parent, your sibling – who suffers from a disease that prevents them from making an informed decision. You’d be asking a toddler in gray hair and aged body to choose between unhealthy and more unhealthy. One choice might hurt less, another might extend their life, another could plummet them into a no-man’s land of parboiled limbo. Not a choice you meant to make, but when dealing with the brain – who knows what’s right or wrong.

The moral and ethical dilemmas are even more volcanic territory to explore. You walk on lava. It follows its own underground river and explodes in fissures you thought were gardens. You may think God expects you to impose a particular medical protocol for the person you love. I bet it’s just the roar of the crowd you hear and the loudest voices are not holy but human. And they don’t know either.

It is something close to a sacred task to accept being a DPOA for another person. I kneel before you as you make choices. Because I was that person for almost ten years, and I know how lonely you are. I know you look at the face of the one you love and hope you chose correctly. It’s the best you can do, and I trust that you made the best choice under the circumstances.

The POLST is a piece of paper of legal statements meant to protect you as you decide what to do next that will best protect the life of the one you love. Now hold their hand, tell them how much they mean to you, how well they guided your life, and try to sleep at night. I wish you well on this journey.

 

Note: I’ve written a novel, Where Did Mama Go? about the devastation Alzheimer’s disease inflicts on families. It’s in the process of being edited, and then I’ll start querying for an agent to represent my work. My credentials for writing this story are eighteen years of assisting my mom through the labyrinth of this illness.

 

Hope painting, 1886, by George Frederic Watts, courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day is Done

Day is done, the weary trope

lingers yet the bawdy sun

o’er sea, o’er realm

may all love survive

may all peace abide

may all night be still

in prayer till dark

is lit once more by morn

the sun awake with fire

and all woes on wind

are borne across worn skies

seeking the light of day

 

Night is nigh, the common sleep

‘neath stars in woolen sky

cosmos reels beyond human sight

here we blindly look up

my hand reaching yours

your shadow touching mine

our blood jumping gates

our skin tingling hymns

our throats clutching sighs

hearts grasping for arrows

backs bent like willow bows

yearning for dark to fall anew

 

And now again, day is done

 

 

Just a thought 66

 

Sunrise image courtesy Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Lightning and Quicksand

I thought myself a girl of pirouettes and lace

You a boy of liquid tongue and muscled limbs

We leapt across the beach at midnight

Sweeping constellations of sand into the sky

Gimlet eyed moon glinting over the ocean

Ignoring two young fools fledged by kisses

 

Yet we are none of these night creatures

We’re cast from lightning and quicksand

You and I ablaze with our fierce shimmer

Blinded by the sparks we see in the other

Though nearly drowned in my clay of insecurity

Jealous of your flare, my star fades at dawn

 

We bend our marrow to earth and sky

Tangled by our presence in the firmament

Kneel beside each other yet rise alone

Me, grounded in quicksand, awaiting the flash

Your bright burst of lightning to remind me

Lace and limbs, I cannot ascend without you

 

Just a thought 65

 

Lightning image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

Blue Succulent

Touched a succulent with lavender-blue tips

Fractal beauty. I wanted to absorb its presence

It stung me. Invisible spiny tips crown

The edges of those violet-cheek leaves

I yelped, rubbed my fingers together

Trying to dull the pain, mellow the attack

 

But you, you flex your thorns, and I mine

Indignant power bound with furied muscle

Maybe just brushing our bodies skin to skin

Will slough off the hackles of our tempers

As for the snappish blue succulent

I left it in its pearly pot to sulk alone

 

I have bled enough and so have you

Time for us to sit side by side

Pull in our prickles, expose our tender flesh

Blindly surrender into each other

Knowing the one will break the other’s fall

Such comfort in this. At hazard to love

 

Just  thought 64

 

Image courtesy Pixabay

 

 

 

 

The Color of My Blood

If you bury your head in the ground, you’ll never glimpse the cosmos. The sounds you hear so deep in the earth are muffled and distorted by distance. Snowdrops hammer threats. The words I love you morph to I mug you. No wonder you’re terrified.

It’s natural to drop to the floor at sudden assaults. Earthquakes, landslides, fiery smoke, gunshots. We’re told to stop, drop, and roll, a dance step scarier than the junior high prom. Our heads tuck under our arms, huddling in fear as a safety strategy.

Soil pressing into your palms and the soles of your feet drags you deeper into the chasm. It takes heart muscle and cranial strength to chuck the dross and hoist the body. It resists change.

It’s even more frightening to remain in the dirt, ears stuffed with clods, hands clutching grass by the roots. The nature of fear is that it’s deaf and blind.

Raise yourself, hair by hair, toenail by toenail. Step upon the crust. Open your eyes to look further than a vulture’s flight. Cup your ears to detect vibrations. Turn slowly and stare. Be silent and listen. The universe is addressing you. The drum beat booms. Words screech. Snowfall crackles like breaking glass. Still the stars spiral.

The universe wheels and rolls around you. Be part of it, as you were at its inception. The darker the sky, the more you see. The quieter your voice, the more you hear.

This planet is too tiny to divide into barbed parcels. Hold hands with the stranger and work together. It doesn’t have to be a wall. It could be a bridge. What you build will shelter your grandchildren.

The world is not flat. You have to muster courage and that starts with pulling your head out of the ground.

The cosmos courses through all of us. By genetic heritage we are 99.9 percent alike. The color of my blood is the same as yours.

 

 

Just a Thought 63

 

Tortoise image courtesy Commons Wikimedia

 

 

The Best Little Kid in Class

I finally found my calling in my senior year of college. Of course I intended to be a writer but before I started signing autographs in copies of my runaway best seller, I needed a job to pay the bills. I’d suffered enough soul scorching gigs to know I didn’t want to wait tables, work the phones on an answering system switchboard, burn plates for a printing company, or even manage a tiny art store on a street no one ever walked so no one ever entered. I’d done all those and a few more, earning enough to pay for plates of fried rice and cups of stale coffee.

So when my university offered a temporary teaching assistant position for students in their last semester of college, I took it. And there I found kids. Lots of sweet but very poor and sometimes very hungry kids. I hated the school system, a plodding curriculum that was certain to deaden any glimmer of affection for learning in any child, but I loved the kids. I’d found it, thank heaven, a goal for a career.

A few more divots snagged my steps along the way to teacherhood. I found myself newly married and working in a Detroit podiatry office (oh my God,) then newly pregnant and working in a Denver computer center (oh my Lord.) As a mom of two young sons, I supplemented our family’s meager income as an art teacher in the city recreation program, teaching little kids to paint pictures of trees and turtles and tide pools (oh yes.) I became an assistant resource teacher in an elementary school (on the right path,) then an artist in a commercial fabric design company (oh no.) Finally my chance came to gather my skills, invent a few others, and serve as the art specialist at a tiny private elementary school.  I’d arrived: I was a teacher.

No one, especially school administrators, knows what an art curriculum should look like so I was trusted to create my own. Fortunately for every school where I ever worked, I was ambitious. I took more college classes, intending to earn a master degree in studio art and a teaching credential. From all these experiences I built an art curriculum that exposed my students to a range of media and techniques and taught them that the journey was everything, the finished artwork merely a byproduct of their explorations.

Despite all the skills I learned and all the classes I taught, every day was a frontier of unexplored territory. One of a small school’s best assets is that a teacher gets to work with the same students year after year, helping them find their strengths and interests, developing their proficiency. As a teacher I got to know the kids as individuals, to encourage their talents and dreams, sometimes to witness their foibles and peccadilloes.

Rhys was a beautiful child, at seven all giant eyes and peachy cheeks. He was also a handful, the center of every fracas. Gia was another little seven-year-old beauty, all long curls and sweet grin. She was the classroom angel, no matter what room she was in. At seven it’s hard to find a child who isn’t a baby-faced beauty, snaggletoothed smiles, matted hair, and all.

One day the commotion in art class centered on Rhys and Gia, a mess of paper, brushes, and pencils strewn on the floor around them. I called both kids to the front of the room and asked Gia what had happened.

She pointed at Rhys, her injured feelings as palpable on her face as the red juice stain on her blouse. “He threw all my stuff on the floor.”

I turned to Rhys and asked if he had dumped Gia’s art supplies on the floor. He nodded. Struggling to keep the irritation out of my voice, I asked why he’d done such a thing.

“Because she threw my things on the floor first.”

I asked Gia if she was the provocateur. Innocence blazing on her face, she nodded. Little Miss Angel had made the first naughty move, and Rhys the Imp had simply responded in kind. I told them to apologize to each other and then clean up the mess.

Rhys and Gia taught me something that day. The best little kid in class misbehaves at times, the little troublemaker gets labeled with an undeserved indelible mark if we’re not careful, and a seven-year-old is an adorable, endearing, mischievous person who benefits from adult moderation. Sometimes they point fingers at each other; sometimes they tell the incriminating truth. We teachers had best be alert.

There’s a lesson in all that: the little surprises we bring to our stories, making them true at heart.

 

Photo of child creating art courtesy Pixabay

 

Who Tells Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell. To traverse across a chasm while balanced on a thin silver string. Gaping crowds below, pearlescent clouds above, the wire shuddering in the wind. Few have touched down safely on the other side.

But you have. With pluck, determination, and courage. That’s your story.

Not everyone knows how to write. It isn’t just paragraph and spelling knowledge. It’s character development, plot construction, writing craftsmanship. Sequence, judgment, vision.

Some may be able to learn. Schools, online courses, writers’ conferences, self-help books all offer opportunities. Computer programs and lined paper pages stay open late. Practice and critical review always meet deadlines.

Probability of failure despite effort.

Possibility of an audience.

Others must learn to be grateful to share their story with those who can write. A minute on a high wire is a moment to contemplate. The one trembling on the wire, those on the ground looking up.

The choice is to insist on writing your story so poorly that few will read and praise it, or to hand the idea to the master who will craft your story so that many will turn the pages.

Or a third choice. Learn to write well, a demanding journey of effort and failure and potential success, its own act on a high wire. The ultimate achievement.

Probability of story well written.

Possibility of glittering stars on Goodreads.

Brilliance evolves when someone reads the story and is transformed. Yes, it began with you, your ballet on the silver string.

Whose life is important? Whose balance on the wire is exciting enough to write it in a story?

Maybe anyone’s. Probably everyone’s. Possibly yours.

 

Says she who has yet to be published.

 

Just a thought 62

 

Painting Seiltanzerin* 1913 by August Macke, courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; *Tightrope Walker

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