Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! Tiny Sandwiches, Table Tennis, and the Beach

What did I do last New Year's Eve? I asked. I had no idea. Did I drink champagne? Martini's with my mom? Watch the ball fall in New York on TV and then go to bed at 9? Did I kiss anyone at midnight?

Answering questions like that is easy when you're a blogaholic. I read ALL ABOUT IT  this morning. Things didn't get any better in January. I considered getting back on anti-depressants. I talked to my doctor about it--though I didn't follow through. I suspect things weren't much better in February either.

I have been showered with good luck and blessings and love as 2015 has drawn to a close. (It would have been swell not to have fallen off a ladder the night before Christmas Eve, but even that has gone well. My ribs are healing. After three days of misery, every day is a little easier.)

I hope I remember this New Year's eve forever because it's been fabulous.

Sand castle time.

Sophia tries sushi before high tea.

More beautiful grandchildren and the fancy New Year's Eve day high tea.

Girl filled with light.

Son vs Son-in-law ping pong.

I'll say it again. I hope I remember this New Year's eve forever because it's been fabulous.

And family back in Iowa tells me that my mom is doing well. I'm thrilled. With her fall Thanksgiving night in 2014 and the pain that followed, 2014 didn't end well for her either. Here's to 2015's final hours. I hope you have someone to kiss when the clock strikes midnight and that 2016 is kind to you.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Margaritaville: The Christmas Report

The tree, complete with my mom's crocheted snowflakes

Front hallway lights and unintentional selfie
The Christmas lights went up late this year due to the sore throat and cold. It was a joy to be feeling well enough to snare a tree and pull down the boxes of lights and get to work. I was feeling the satisfaction of the season as I stepped down the ladder, admiring the last string of lights atop the armoire in the dining room, when what to my wondering eyes should appear...well, pretty much nothing. When I opened my eyes, I was on the floor next to an overturned dining room chair with the ladder on top of me.

My friend Pete was here, a few feet away in the kitchen, baking cookies. I explained as quickly as I could that I hadn't hit my head, that I hadn't fallen from the top of the ladder, but simply missed the last step and probably would have managed to keep my balance if I hadn't collided with the chair. In those first moments I felt worse for him than for myself, having tended to a few emergencies with my mom during the years she lived here and knowing all too well those initial moments of pure panic and  the awful scenario of spending the holiday in the ER. 

I was lucky enough to forgo the sleigh ride to the hospital, but I've got some bruised ribs and a sore tailbone. And I'm sort of thankful for the reminder of how life can change in an instant. I know that. We all do. And I suppose it's good to forget it now and then and just be caught up in those times of joyful ease, but we also need to know that it can all come crashing down.

And so here I am this Christmas Day, thinking of my mom and hoping she's having a good Christmas in Iowa, thinking of Dan as I struggle for a good deep breath since the site of my injured ribs is exactly where his incision was from his lung cancer surgery, and last night I told the story of my dad and our family rituals protecting us from  Christmas tree danger. We love the distant, the dead, the living, and the light, and the darkness.

And speaking of light and darkness, I happened to catch this from my bedroom window as it streaked past.  

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Of course, I didn't think of that at all at first. I thought the worst--plane on fire, alien attack, end of the world. That's the way I am. And I wish you a very Merry Christmas. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Secret Solstice Sunset

The sun refused to show itself at the close of the shortest day, sinking into the water behind a wall of clouds.

I haven't shown myself much lately either. I've been roaming the house in the dead of night with a throat so sore that I can't sleep, then making my way back to bed when the middle of the night House Hunters re-run lulls me into submission. In the morning I wake with half-a-dozen Ricola wrappers on the night stand, convinced that certainly this will be the day I feel better. And I do for a little while. But then. Crash. However, this being the longest night of the year, I may be up again watching Love It or List it, International House Hunters or god knows what. I should be reading through my stack of New Yorkers, brushing up on my French or something but it feels like there's a block of goo filling my brain. Okay, it might have been that last night I finally did sleep. If I sleep again tonight, I'm going to proclaim myself cured.

Meanwhile, I've been appropriately engaged during  these dark days.  I'm spinning around and around trying to get my mom on Medicaid. This morning I confirmed that state #1 has now faxed State #2 in order to confirm that the measly little life insurance policy of my mom's has no cash value and therefore cannot be counted as an asset prohibiting her from qualifying for Medicaid yet again. So if State #2 faxes back to State #1, all should be well. Riiiiight? How's this for a darkest day of the year fear: My mom will finally get that Medicaid acceptance letter the day she takes her final breath. I've been working on the Medicaid thing since the end of September.

Here's what I've been reading these short days and long nights:

It's Never Too Early to Start Thinking about Your Own Death

What Working in a Nursing Home Taught Me

Our Bodies, Ourselves

If You're 30% Through Your Life... (of course I know that I'm at least 60% through my life)

A Parting Lesson From My Parents

How Mindfulness Can Ease the Fear of Death and Dying

I might add that I've also been drinking some nice wine, eating rum balls and chocolate truffles, and lighting lots of candles.

One of the denizens of Hearst Castle

What have you been reading during these dark days, dear ones? Where are you finding the light?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This Rocky Place: They Have Fire Pits Here

I've driven up the coast  a bit from my piece of paradise to this rocky place--a paradise all its own. Colder. Wilder. The motel I'm staying at with my friend Linda has fire pits. It sounds fabulous, but it's cold. For this morning's trip to Hearst Castle I wore two pairs of pants, a tank top, a long sleeve t-shirt, a turtleneck, a down vest, a wool coat, and two scarves.

Last week I was in Arizona with my son and his family. It was cold and rainy there for the most part and my attire was pretty much the same--minus one pair of pants. I am fixated on the weather. Or perhaps more accurately the climate/climate change and our California drought. The drive north to the central coast is spectacular. The ocean stretching out next to the 101 and then the curve inland where, normally, the hills and their soft curves would bring to mind the tawny coats of giant sleeping lions. This trip there was a pallor beneath the tawny hills. Lions undergoing chemo. What green there is in the shrubbery has a black undertone. The uber-elegant Hearst Castle has no running water; the parking lot is clustered with port-a-potties. How long before all of our southern California indoor plumbing takes a crap and port-a-potties are perched on our patios and porches,while hand sanitizer is preferred instead of soap and running water? Maybe El Nino will save us.

In the meantime, art is alive and well. This ancient Greek torso at Hearst Castle has survived centuries.

The elephant seals are still here.

And the sunset is no less remarkable.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bird of the Day: Forster's Tern

The photo is not the best, but that's the new guy there on the left.

I was obsessed with the shore birds when I moved here over three years ago. I couldn't ID a single one except for the brown pelican. I still can't really tell all the gulls apart, but there are a dozen birds I do recognize. Because I walk the same beach over and over again, I haven't seen much new in the world of birds--until today. I believe the smaller bird on the left is a forster's tern.The larger terns on the right are elegant terns.  I love them all.

And how about tonight's sunset?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Beach Report

Waves crashing over the breakwater at Channel Islands Harbor yesterday

The waves have been immense the last couple of days, the tide so high that yesterday trucks came and pulled the lifeguard stations back from the water several feet. Today there were pools of water as far back as the dunes as a result of the high tides.

Willets and snowy plovers must have felt like they had swank resorts with their own private islands.  I can hear the waves crashing from my driveway which is just over a mile away from the beach. At the risk of redundancy, I'll say again that I love this place. It is paradise.

This picture does not do justice to the enormity of the waves
I don't always know what to do these days without my mother here. I'm greatly relieved that she's in Iowa, yet I'm uneasy sometimes that she's so far away. While making phone inquiries as to the cost of transporting someone's remains to a university deeded body program, it could be helpful to look across the room and see that person eating cookies and yogurt.

I would like to say that I've been able to turn my attention to writing. Instead I find myself googling things like "how to help a Syrian family," "interfaith organizations," "how to support religious freedom." Like the ocean, the world is in an uproar. Like most people I don't really know what to do about it personally. What are you doing, dear reader?

Most likely my volunteer gig after the first of the year will involve sea lions or the Channel Islands. But what I should probably be doing is sitting in the hallway at a social services office in Iowa, weeping and gnashing my teeth until I get my mom on Medicaid--and perhaps while ensconced there, stepping up on a soapbox to rail against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The bill for the third month of nursing home care has arrived and I've made my third attempt at bureaucratic hoop jumping. Sometimes I think I have too much faith in everything.

I've been wondering too if my life will soon feel settled. The last seven years have held a lot of turmoil. Divorce, death, and drama have been recurring themes here in Margaritaville. I do believe the winds of change are blowing. I have faith in that. Really I do.

Not really feeling festive just yet, but here's a Christmas wreath

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Morning Beach Report

 In one direction, the sky streaks of gray and blue, clouds like strands of raw wool unraveling above Anacapa.

In another direction, the clouds ripped apart, baring blue sky.

The waves looked as sturdy as semi-trucks this morning as two men stood on the sand, looking out to sea. They talked briefly, then turned and ran. Surfers, I'll bet. I couldn't stay long enough to confirm that they returned with their boards, but I'm grateful for the reminder to seize the moment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving and Thank You

It was unsettling at first to change our Thanksgiving routine. No family dinner. Winter travel. Flying. 
But I emailed off the dessert recipes to my daughters and, on Thanksgiving Day, got on a plane.

I saw my mom. She looked and felt good. (Why didn't I take a photo?) She's gained a couple pounds. I credit the array of salads available--jello with whipped cream, anyone? No? How about pasta salad with mayonnaise?) She was talkative and brighter--just as she was when I saw her six weeks ago. When my mom came to live with me in August of 2012, I was determined that she would live out her days with me (I figured we's be lucky if she lasted six months.) She spends a lot of her time reading (currently a racy Harlequin romance!) as opposed to the group activities, but she eats all her meals in the dining room and seems to enjoy the conversation and company. The realization for me here is that I could not be all things and everyone to my mom. I'm her daughter. One of her children. The population in Margaritaville was two most of the time. In Iowa there is an array of a dozen people who visit her. If you're one of them and reading this, you are among the people I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Bless you.

And I should mention that I did see my daughters anyway. We met at the nursing home on Saturday. Saturday night there was a restaurant dinner for 14 in my hometown with the daughters, my brother and his family. By then, I had a plate full of gratitude with no side of regret.

And I enjoyed the mini-road trip immensely.

Mississippi River Sunrise

Chicago Clouds

Indiana Dunes--if you look closely you can see Chicago in the distance.

It'll be a long travel day, but by midnight tonight I should be asleep in my own bed. 

Blessings on all your households.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thank You for all the Birthday Wishes

Tonight's sunset

Some say that the soul leaves the body at the moment of death. That it rises up to heaven. Or that it descends to receive its eternal punishment. Others say that the soul wanders around for a while or that the spirit of the dead person can return for an earthly visit, or that death is simply the end. Having held a person in my arms at the moment of his death, I still cannot say for certain.

It was my birthday today, and how can one help but ponder death on the anniversary of one's birth? Birth and death are life's bookends. So, yes, Happy Birthday to me and someday my soul will go somewhere even if that somewhere turns out to be nowhere. Meanwhile, I'm full of joy and gratitude for this life. For love, friends, family, food, drink, music, theatre, art, my good health, beauty in all of its incarnations--clouds, birds, rocks, a finely crafted sentence, a pretty scarf, and for birthday wishes.

Yesterday I read about Einstein in the New York times. THIS INFO GRAPHIC blew my 63-year-old mind. And there was this quote: "In 1907, Albert Einstein had his “happiest thought” — people in free fall do not feel their own weight. This simple idea laid the foundation for his general theory of relativity, which Einstein presented 100 years ago this month." 

If I woke up in a box, completely weightless, I wouldn't know if I were falling or floating. Maybe that's how the soul feels.

And before the sunset's color drained from the sky, the full moon appeared from behind the clouds.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Morning Beach Report

The ocean all froth and foam, waves booming like cannon fire, still this skua sits unperturbed.

Me? My feathers have been a bit ruffled by the incessant wind. Wind chimes clanging more than chiming, the roots of my hair hurting after a walk. It's cold in my southern California house when the wind blows. What lovely first world problems.

I had to cancel my T'ai Chi Chih class on Sunday due to wind. You can see a brief video HERE. (Scroll down to Sunday.) But maybe stop by that piece from the New York Times titled, "Brawn and Brains." That's why none of us blew over.

How's the weather where you are?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday Beach Report

Yesterday I felt wrecked. My hair in tangles from the wind, my throat dry, never quite warm enough to be comfortable. The bereavement group I attended left me feeling rattled. What do I do with that box of videos on my garage shelf that may or may not contain footage of Dan? Will there be some future day when I sit on the couch with the curtains drawn, fast-forwarding through past moments when I didn't even know him? What do I do with Dan's computer? What would I search for there? Is compartmentalizing a good thing or a bad thing? How do we mourn a loved one's continued absence while acknowledging that we've moved on? How do we live inside the gratitude for that love and translate that into living each day going forward? There were answers to those questions. Just not an answer.  And what about all the grief in that room? How does each of us carry it? The box of kleenex that gets shoved from one end of the table to another seems like a metaphor, but I can't quite put it into words.

By bedtime last night, still a bit teary-eyed, I shivered under a tower of blankets, figuring I was coming down with something.

This morning I woke up feeling well. Better than well.

Not today's actual surfer--but a previous day's surfer. Just in case someone recognizes this guy and he's supposed to be at work.
The beach today was windswept today. A lone and patient surfer waited far out from shore for that perfect moment. As I walked back, he was riding in, every breath full of balance and grace. So much of every day feels like a chain of perfect moments for me right now. But I haven't really caught my wave. I'm still treading water, figuring out how to manage my freedom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I'm home and it looks like this:

I live in a beautiful place. I am now free to enjoy the sunsets on the sand as well as the morning. My mother continues to do well in the nursing home. I've purchased tickets for a November visit. My brain is re-booting itself as it shuts down the hyper-vigilant caregiver mode. What's next? I ask myself and then remember that I have not yet succeeded at getting my mom onto Medicaid. We're close. I hope. Meanwhile, I've sent a boatload of money off to Iowa to pay the first bill. I'm still in charge of her finances--paying her insurance premiums, her credit card, handling end-of-life arrangements, thinking ahead while looking behind and all the while blessing every present moment whether my feet are in the sand or under my desk.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Forest of saguaros. Random ocotillo in bloom. The desert bursts with surprises. For three days I stayed with friends on a mountaintop above Phoenix. At night, the city below laid out like a circuit board. The mornings full of birds that buzz or laugh—birds I’ve never before laid eyes on. From the patio I scan the landscape below and study the mountains behind the mountains behind the mountains behind the mountains. Surely, if I look west, the ocean is there somewhere. If I look east, the stubble of golden corn rolling across the Iowa hillside.  In a way, I see all of that. I see past and future. I see where I’ve been and where I’m going. 

I’m still traveling and my mom continues to do well at the nursing home in Iowa. She’s had a raft of visitors. I’ve had a raft of feelings, but mostly relief. Relief for me. Relief for her. While she lived with me, I often led my mom outside to look at the moon. The moonrise in the desert was spectacular last night. I saw it with friends as we drove down into town for dinner. Maybe the moonrise in Iowa was spectacular too. I don’t really know. There’s a lot I don’t know right now as I begin this new chapter of my life. But the future feels full and bright and beautiful.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Leaving Albuquerque

power lines in the Albuquerque dawn 

I dreamed I died last night.

Terminally ill, I invoked the right to die and took a large capsule of morphine. People knew I was going to do it. But I did it without much fanfare. Oh, by the way, I told one of my daughters. I took the capsule and tonight when I go to bed, I won't wake up.

This morning when I awoke, I felt weighed down. The responsibility of love is not a weightless thing.  It has heft and substance and every morning we pick it up again--if we are so blessed to awake and have love in our lives.

The road trip  continues. I'm off to see friends, friends of friends, and family. Places familiar and new.  Sights seen and unseen. Connections winding tighter. The power of love anchoring me to this earth and rising upward and beyond the known world.

Do you see the outstretched hand? 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Report from the Universe

I'm thinking a lot bout the big picture these days. Love. Luck. Beginnings. Endings. The never-ending. Everything.

I went to see my mom in the nursing home Thursday evening. She hadn't been served her nightly glass of wine. Her toenails needed cutting. Stuff. Took care of it. She looked good. The food looked good. She ate well. The nursing home is the most attractive nursing home I've had any experience with. (There have been four.)

When I went back the next morning, she looked even better. She seemed more engaged and awake than she's been in ages. She said the words my friend while referring to another resident. Over the past few years the only times I've heard my mom use the word friend in reference to friends of hers is this: All of my friends are dead. A person can be 91 and make a new friend. How about that?

New things are constantly occurring.

I'm on a road trip. New things outside the car windows every second. Car windows are my window on the world right now. The first night on the road was at my brother's house. The next night, a town called Liberty. Yesterday a quick stop in a town called Kismet. Last night, a town called Liberal. I'm not making this up.

I wish you liberty, kismet, and liberal doses of love.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thank you. Safe at home.

I'm in an airport bar. A sports bar. Mostly no one really watches the 3 TVs that border this postage stamp of a place, but today the CUBS are playing and the place is electric (yes, even in Los Angeles.). Cheers, boos, groans, gestures. People are leaping to their feet. Me, I'm thinking how lovely the phrase safe at home is. 
My mother was no longer safe in my home, but I'm on my way back to see how her first week in a nursing home has gone. I'm also on my way to see my friend Pete and my Iowa family. Soon I will be safe at home even though I will be away from home. Don't you love how that sounds?
That feeling of safety is really just another manifestation of love. Love makes us feel safe. I felt so much safety in your comments last week, dear friends. I was safe at home in your love and support. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Welcome to Margaritaville

Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.--"Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed

I left Iowa this morning. My brother and my aunt and uncle drove me to the Twin Cities where I boarded a plane, flew away, rode a shuttle bus, then got delivered to my door by a friend. With every breath I took today, I left my mother farther and farther behind. Now I'm home in my quiet house--the place I once called Margaritaville before it was re-christened Pillville.

My heart is its own pressurized cabin. I can breathe here, yet it feels like the oxygen masks might drop at any moment. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pillville: the Iowa Version, part 2

Silos and barn, shot from a moving car

Something feels all wrong, taking care of my mom in Iowa. This is the place where she took care of me. The place where she laid down the law and cooked dinner every night. The place where she lit the candles on our birthday cakes, The place where she once held court at my brother's kitchen table when we gathered there to bring our far-flung family back together. Yesterday, after three nights with her here, we wheeled her away from that kitchen table and drove her to the nursing home where she will live out her days.

But it's better than it sounds. People know people in small towns. People know almost everyone. We hadn't been in the nursing home but a few minutes when one of the nurses ran up to hug my sister-in-law. They used to work together. Another staff member came up to introduce herself because her parents live next door to my aunt. One of the residents waylaid us more than once. Some relative of his married one of my mom's great aunts. He was quite familiar with our family tree and wanted to talk about it. 

My brother and I spent all day at the nursing home yesterday. Unpacking, labeling my mom's clothes, measuring the space for a new recliner, making arrangements to have pictures hung and wine served with her dinner, filling out a mountain of paperwork.

Afterwards we drove back into our little town next to the bigger town where the nursing home is. We went to a furniture store on main street and within a few minutes found the perfect chair for my mom's room.

This morning we delivered the chair and took care of a few more loose ends. The place and the staff continued to impress. The view across the street from the nursing home is a bit much. But my mom's room faces an enormous deck out back instead of a cemetery.

And this afternoon as I was getting ready to leave, this was delivered to her room. She thought it was too early to drink, so she saved it for dinner. I carried her glass of wine to the dining room, and that's where my brother and I left her.

Last night I went out to dinner with a friend. Is it a special occasion? the waitress asked. Yes, I said after I stumbled for a moment. I've just retired.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pillville: the Iowa version

We went to the anniversary party. 
It was fabulous. 
My mom visited with many many relatives and we reminisced about my sister's wedding. 

Today there's a perfunctory doctor's appointment. 

Waiting is no party. But my mom is doing just fine. Me? I'm good. But I feel like I'm sleep walking. But hey, I'm here in my hometown and you can get sauerkraut on your pizza here. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hotel de Pillville: a retrospective

First read this.  The flow chart still makes me laugh hysterically.

Traveling with my mom is easier now that she doesn't smoke. Last night we stayed at an Embassy Suites. I chose the couch in the living room and let my mom have the bedroom to herself. There was some pretty terrifying shouting at the dead around midnight. She was yelling at her twin sister Millie. If I'd already been asleep, I'm sure the noise would have awakened me, heart pounding. As it was, I just got a case of the goosebumps and resolved to fling open the door to the hallway and run if a ghost came through the bedroom door.

Last evening as she was wheeled off the plane with the aid of an aisle-sized wheel chair and three attendants, the logistics of it all blocked the incoming crew from boarding. The end of the jetway was lined with people in navy blue as she was transferred to her own wheelchair. This is my last flight, she told them. I'm coming home. I'm not sure if she actually spoke the words to die. But it was in the air. Not a single person tapped a toe or sighed impatiently. They waited, almost at attention, thanking us for flying Delta, telling her to have a good time, a good night, to rest.

My mom is exhausted. She's still asleep. I have her toast and coffee ready. I'll have to wake her soon. Then Pillville will be hitting the road.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pillville is Mobile

My mom and I are in the air, flying into the biggest cloud I've ever seen. Flight attendants are taking their seats and I don't even care. All I care about is the half drunk cup of coffee on my mom's tray table. Will it spill? Can I keep it from spilling? I kinda gave up on the pool of muck under the dining room table the past few days. The caregiver and I made a cursory wipe here and there, but I waited until my mom was outside the front door in her wheelchair this morning before I got the mop.

Pillville is mobile. 37,000 feet. In the cloud, literally. Then a hotel for the night. Then a car ride. Then my brother''s house. Then my sister and her husband's anniversary party. Then a doctor's appointment, then the nursing home. Then what?

I take back all that about the big cloud. We're in it and I hate it and I have to go now.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Our Last Night in Pillville

It's been unusually hot here for months in case you haven't heard. Like the weather gods have finally complied and made it possible for my mother to remove her long underwear and enjoy the patio. She has a suntan--which might be a feat that only a few hospice patients manage. We aim to please here in Pillville.

The wind kicked up this afternoon. It's blowing off the ocean and it's blowing harder than it has in months. There's an eerie pinkish yellow gray light out there as dusk settles in. Now the weather gods are saying go. Get out of town while the getting's good.

I wouldn't say the getting is good, exactly. I think the getting is iffy. "I think she'll make the trip," the hospice nurse said. This is what the nurse has been saying for weeks--without the emphasis on the word think. I'm not going to weigh in with what I think. What I think doesn't matter. I'm going to put one foot in front of the other. I'm going to put my lips together and blow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Report from Pillville: The Final Days

Mom, let's talk about socks, I said. Mother, you like all these tank tops, right? Okay, now lets talk about pajamas. Sweaters. Pants. Shirts. Skirts. Shoes. All afternoon I went through my mom's closet while she sat at the dining room table eating cookies. We discussed the pros and cons of every article of clothing. How hard it was to put on or take off. The itchiness factor. Whether or not there were pockets. (Must have pockets!) What color rocks with the silver hair. Almost of  the keepers are in the giant roller bag--except for the outfit for my sister and her husband's 50th anniversary party--which will go on the very top--and what my mom's  wearing on the plane. I have a small load of laundry yet to do and then we'll be good to go. Thank god for my Delta mileage and my free checked bags.

How are you, the hospice nurse asked when she came by for her regular visit. She meant me. My mom's pulse ox and her blood pressure were fine. I see stress, she said, locking her blue eyelinered eyes with mine. I'll make it to the plane, I said.

Years ago when I was in college and home for the holidays, I went to my mom's company (John Deere)  Christmas party with her. We were a bit late and when we walked in the room some guy shouted out, "Hey! Ethel's here!" There was a chorus of Hi Ethel, Merry Christmas, Ethel, Can I get you a drink, Ethel? Let's dance, Ethel. I felt like a geeky wallflower.

So hey, party people, if you're a relative of mine and living in northeast Iowa my mom is coming to town. I don't know about asking her to dance, but please visit her. If it's allowed, mix her up a 2-ounce martini or buy one of those single serving bottles of wine and join her for dinner. If you're a relative or friend of mine/hers and reading this, can you please share this post on Facebook to the wall of every relative/friend we know? If you're a niece or a nephew or hers, she'll tell you stories about your parents. As far as I can tell, she loved all of her siblings. Ask her who came home from the war unable to hold a cup of coffee. Ask her who was her favorite (you might get different answers, depending on her mood.) Ask her who had PTSD after the war and what he learned to do because of it. Ask her about the bobsled ride and who her mother threw out and took back when he came back with a broken arm. Ask her who became a hobo and rode the rails. Ask her who was the most talented. Ask her about bloomers and who always made her mother cry. About the baby who was a preemie, small enough to fit in a shoebox, kept warm by the wood stove and survived against the odds. Ask her about the goats and the Italian family, and the crick with the colored clay, the den of wolves, the snakes in the basement, the bounty on rattlesnakes, and the dog who would let people into the yard but not out. Tell me what you find out because after more than three years of stories almost every night, I'm pretty sure I haven't heard them all.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Morning Beach Report/ Report from Pillville

Can you see it? The hint of an island? Maybe, right? Or is it just a band of fog?

Right now the music therapist is here, playing her guitar and singing "Puff the Magic Dragon" to my mom. Lifelong friendships, mists, and magical lands.

And now they're tapping on singing bowls. Tap to send out love, the therapist says. Love is magic, right?

And life itself is magic if you ask me.