Couple Hair

I took Mama to church this morning. It was a good service and it was good for her to see old friends. She and I were a few minutes late because she got very upset about not having pantyhose to wear to church. We almost didn’t go due to that issue. I tried to tell her the Lord doesn’t mind but she insisted it was improper. 

We slipped in the second to last row and joined right in with the worship music. When the pastor began to preach, I noticed an elderly couple a few rows ahead of us. The woman had on earrings and a sweater with sparkling threads running through it. Other than those rather differentiating qualities, their heads looked alike. Hers looked slightly more coiffed but the color, the cut and the length were the same.

You know you are getting older when your head is interchangeable with your husbands. Thankfully, for now at least, my hair is long and dark. Mike’s is salt and pepper with a great George Clooney cut. I keep asking my hairdresser if she thinks I am too old to wear my hair long. She promises that she will tell me when that day comes. I definitely do not want to be one of those 75 year-old women with long, stringy hair clinging tightly to it as one last youthful hurrah. On the other hand, I do not want look-alike hair. 

Ironically, the pastor today was talking about how we worship. He mentioned how easily we can become distracted at church. For example, it seems so holy to have the Bible app on your smart phone and use it to look up scripture rather than carrying the old-fashioned ten pound family bible. However, is everyone really staying on task with 2 Chronicles or are some swiping over to Facebook to check the number of likes on their new boat pic. It’s a social issue. 

Needless to say, I felt a tinge of guilt during prayer when I covertly got out my iPhone and took a snap of this look-alike-hair couple, especially in light of the sermon topic. I asked the Lord to forgive me. For the last 11 months I see so many things through the eyes of my blog. 

It is 9:39 PM and Mama is in bed. We are both worn to a frazzle. But we made it. We had struggles for sure but we had joys, too. We walked hand in hand up and down the driveway and picked up sticks and those annoying spiked round balls that fall from the sweet gum tree. Mama thinks they are beautiful and collects them every time she visits. 

Life ends up being a series of inconsistencies; a concert of dissonance. Yet, there is not a more lovely sound than those discordant notes coming together at just the right moment. 

The push and pull is how we find that beautiful middle.

Dog Days of Summer

For the record, Mama was not a cute little scottie today. She was a cantankerous, difficult, ready to nip at my ankles, beady-eyed Chihuahua. 

A recent study found that among the most aggressive breeds of dogs are the dachshund and the Chihuahua. Researchers discovered that one in five have bit or attempted to bite a stranger, and one in twelve have lashed out at their owners. 

Surprisingly, even the honey-haired ‘sweet’ little cocker spaniel, a very popular companion animal, having spent decades as one of the most popular breeds in the United States, has its moments. Its popularity has led to overbreeding issues, including a problem called “rage syndrome”.

A cocker prone to “rage syndrome” can become suddenly aggressive toward strangers, people she knows, or even her own family. And just as suddenly become calm again. 

I thought it might be an adventure to head out this morning with our coffee in hand and explore some garage sales. A friend had told me that her entire neighborhood of condominiums was hosting a huge sale today. I imagined that Mama and I could park and easily walk to five or seven of them and browse for books or glassware or other treasure.

That did not go well. Something triggered in her brain that I “did this to her last year” and it was all some kind of game to fool her; that it was a big conspiracy. I tried to assure her otherwise, to no avail. We did not stay long. On the way home she asked why I am being so cruel to her. She threatened to open the car door and find the police in order to have me arrested. Cocker spaniel alert. 

Oy vey. The best laid plans…

These times have to be okay. They do not feel okay but they have to be okay. It is part of the process of dementia. As my brother said “We lost our mom a year or two ago.” 

Today I wanted to ask a priest to call out this person living in her body and have my old mama return to me. But that feels like praying to idols; empty words to hollow figures. 

The difficult day melted into a long evening of confused questions and allegations. It was one of the worst times I have ever had with Mama. She was so fierce and yet so pitiful. She cried several times. So did I. Today felt like a step down deeper into the darkness. I felt the loss of her as she succumbed to the gnarled faulty wiring in her brain. 

Mama fell into the cocker spaniel “rage syndrome” today, but by bedtime she was a droopy-eared, red-eyed sad little hound, and I was her lost pup.

Drawers and Treasures

Mama is still living but I feel like she has died. My sisters and I were at her house today (without her) sorting through closets and shelves and boxes deciding what to keep and what to let go in the upcoming estate sale.

About six weeks ago we moved Mama (kicking and screaming) to a lovely independent living apartment. She still has the same care as always; one of her children with her every evening and overnight and her wonderful weekday caregiver and dear alternating weekend caregiver.

The house had become too much for her; too much room, large full basement, yard that needs continual upkeep, A/C problems, plumbing issues, property taxes, on and on. 

Added to that, she had become afraid, though she was never alone. She would stare into the dark woods behind her house every evening. By bedtime she was stacking up chairs and pots and planters against the back sliding doors, though it was double-locked. She tried to eliminate every sliver of light that may escape through the plantation blinds on the front windows. “People can see right in” she would say. I tried to convince her that no one was out there peeking in the windows but she fiercely disagreed. There were times I nearly believed her.

However, Mama is not an apartment person. She is accustomed to front door access to a porch and a front yard with a tree, complete with magenta impatiens circled perfectly around. She watches the birds and talks to neighbors who stroll down the sidewalk.

She has struggled to adjust. Understandable. Though I am not sure the struggle to adjust is as much about the apartment as it is about adjusting to this new life, this new life that is actually a death.

I pulled out small drawers in an antique dresser. In the drawers were pieces of a necklace, a tiny locket, bobby pins, safety pins, two pretty marbles and a pearl tie tack. In another drawer I found four $2 bills, a few small pine cones and a little leather pouch with her initials burned into the side. 

These intimate things that have meant something to her. It feels like such an intrusion, such an uncovering of her interior life, laid bare for us to see, laid bare for strangers. 

I ran across a beautiful cameo with a gray/blue background, hanging from a dainty silver chain. I do not remember seeing Mama wear it. I will ask my sisters if they mind if I take it. This journey is about seeing an item here and there that we feel a sentiment about or just something we love. 

It has caused me great reflection, not so much about Mama, as myself. What will my children find? Scraps of notes and saved birthday cards. An earring who lost its mate. A drawer full of ribbons and shoelaces. Receipts and Chapsticks and headbands. Postcards and subway cards and ticket stubs.

The day caused me to want to go home and look through my own things and discard. However, I realized that there is healing in the purging. I’m glad to have found things that Mama thought were important. Every item has a story and most of those stories I will never know. 

It is enough to know that they mattered to her. 

Serious Sunday

I have not done a lot of traveling in my life. And I’m thinking I better plan to pursue it with a little more vigor. I would prefer to not see it from my three-wheeled mobility electric scooter, but will if that becomes my only option. 

Many of our family vacations have been to the southeast; South Carolina, Alabama shores, Florida. The furthest west I have been is Olathe, Kansas. Being a not-great flyer has certainly limited my travels to some of the most majestic places in this country—Boulder, Colorado; Jackson, Wyoming; Missoula, Montana, the Grand Canyon, the California coastline and the Pacific Northwest. 

Early this week we received in the mail a postcard from our dear Andrew and Lindsey as they made their way across the map. It was sent from Kodachrome Basin National Park in southern Utah. A (apparently) beautiful place not mentioned in the above paragraph. 

The postcard read “We read Psalm 19 last night under an amazingly bright moon that lit the desert. It was a passage most commensurate to this night.”

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;

The skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the world.

And ten more truly poetic verses.

The postcard is a reprint of an original poster available at some National Park Bookstores. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA’s (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project printed over two million posters in 35,000 different designs to stir the public’s imagination for education, theater, health, safety, and travel. Due to their fragile nature only two thousand posters have survived. 

I was printed in 1957. I may develop a fragile nature. But my hope is to remain one of the originals who survives the wear and tear and stands as a symbol of beautiful history.

Blueberries, Baby

The early 80s were all about putting fruity scents on things; scratch-and-sniff stickers, chunky erasers, lip balms, and magic markers. 

Ask any young woman what her favorite strawberry-scented object was from the 80s and she will most likely tell you this: Strawberry Shortcake. She was the doll that smelled like strawberries! And she actually smelled really good. 

The character was, and still is, owned by American Greetings. She started out as a star in their card line then moved into hearts and homes with her line of dolls, colognes, bed sheets and skirts, and posters. 

The Strawberry Shortcake doll was first introduced by Kenner in 1980 and was immediately popular. The dolls and toys made well over 100-million dollars in their first year out. Wow! That is a lot of strawberry scent. 

From my research, the appeal of the character as told through books and television specials was that she was always optimistic, kind, and ready to help anyone in need. I like that. 

This month is National July Belongs to Blueberries Month. I have always loved anything blueberry, much more than strawberry things. I am constantly searching out blueberry jams and blueberry syrups at restaurants and stores. If there is a choice of muffins, it is always blueberry. Same with pancakes. 

I also love the name blueberry and the color of blueberries, which actually has a lot of purple in them. Even better. 

Strawberry Shortcake had a crew of friends each with their own distinct name and smell. My favorite of her pals was, of course, Blueberry Muffin. She was SS’s friend since the very beginning. In the 1980s the character was depicted with blue hair in pigtails. She spoke with a southern drawl and was known as being a bit forgetful. This made her even more endearing. 

Having three son, Strawberry Shortcake dolls and paraphernalia were never a part of our home. But I always loved the idea of her, and more specifically, her bosom buddy, Blueberry Muffin.

I believe that no matter how old we are, there are still sweet things that touch our hearts and instantly bump us back to the simple innocence of youth. I hope I never let go of that. 

Vanilla is a Dark Horse

Vanilla Ice-cream gets a bap rap. I have been guilty, in the past, of participating in the bad rapping. 

My husband is a picky eater. A few months ago we went out to a wonderful Italian restaurant. It took me 15 minutes to submit my order because I could not decide between the three entrees I had narrowed down. When I order food, it is like being at the NFL Draft. 

When the server asked my husband what he would like, he ordered four sides of mashed potatoes. Yes, really. I was a bit frustrated by that, which I really should not have been. But, OMG, how can you order a plate full of mashed potatoes with all of these ridiculously delicious Italian food offerings?!

He also is the one to order a vanilla ice-cream cone at the top ice-cream spot in the city. That kind of thinking is so beyond my comprehension that I am befuddled.  

But I have learned, through time (why must wisdom always involve aging?), that it is perfectly okay to be “a plate of mashed potatoes and vanilla ice-cream cone kind of guy”.

Today I have spent some time thinking about vanilla ice-cream. That is not a statement you often hear. 

Vanilla ice-cream is actually pretty amazing. Here is why. 

It is simple. It has fewer ingredients than other ice-cream, which in the food world, is a good thing. So it is great all by itself. 

However, the really great part is that it can be dressed up. Vanilla ice-cream is like a fresh sheet of paper or an artist’s blank canvas. How fun is it to pour chocolate syrup into vanilla ice-cream and stir it up? I used to do that as a kid. 

And how fun is it to make a trifle in a beautiful glass bowl with layers of pure white vanilla ice-cream, layers of brownie chunks, layers of beautiful red strawberries and layers of whipped cream with chopped pecans?! And truly, it is nothing but delightful to drizzle caramel topping over mountains of vanilla ice-cream. 

If I had to classify myself as ice-cream, I have come to the conclusion that I do not want to be mocha chip (one of my favorites), or rocky road or moose tracks or peachy crunch, I want to be vanilla. 

Vanilla is flexible and knows how to adapt. Vanilla can be an introvert or an extrovert. Vanilla knows it is amazing all on its own and has weathered the storm. It can handle anything and still remain true to its roots, literally.  

Vanilla ice-cream knows how to be a classic yet also knows how to doll it up for a night on the town. 

Yep, I want to be vanilla.

A Whiff of Smoke

Today I had lunch with a few cousins. It was nice to see them. I sat across from one and she and I pretty much chatted the entire time. It was good to hear about her life; her joys, her sorrows, her interests. I did not know that she loves dancing. 

She told me about a friend who was her dance partner for many years. She said they went through a period of dancing every evening, every evening! That is a lot of dancing. When she spoke of it, her eyes sparkled. She looked happy. She said it indeed made her happy. That dance partner endured a stroke about 18 months ago. The complications of it, however, ended his life a year ago.

This cousin has had some bumps in the road, as have we all. But she found something she loved and she did it. She actually did it. 

How many of us, myself included and maybe especially, do not do the extra things we want to do. Situations or attitudes or stuff become obstacles that we think are too difficult to work around, so we concede. 

I don’t want to continue to concede. I am caring for my 90 year-old mother who can now do very little about any of her missed opportunities. Perhaps she wanted to dance or sing or play the piano or skydive. 

There are not burning drives to do anything specific, but there may be small, innocent simmers. I’m not sure at the moment I can name one.

But I do want to be open to the whiff of campfire and see where the blue-orange flames and smoke may lead me. 


On this rainy, blustery, atypically cool July evening we went out to hear my brother’s band. They were playing at a great coffee shop called College Hill Coffee, a cozy, eclectic restaurant/coffee shop/wine bar. We had eaten dinner so I ordered only coffee and enjoyed it delivered in a white glass cup and saucer set with a sweet little white glass cream pitcher of cream. 

My brother’s band is called Rosewood. They have been playing together for 44 years. Amazing. That sounds as if they have weekly rehearsals and play gigs every month. That is not the case. Life happened; marriages, divorce, kids, grandkids, jobs, illnesses. There were big pockets of time that they did not get together. But they always knew they had something special from the first time they sang harmony to James Taylor’s Close Your Eyes in Laura’s basement. 

For my brother, playing out in a genre is okay. It’s not his favorite thing. His favorite thing is rehearsal. He loves the time the three of them spend playing music together, working out the harmony of the song, seeing it all come together. That is the heart-sign of a passionate musician. It doesn’t matter where you are, it doesn’t matter if there is a crowd. What matters is closing your eyes and feeling the music. 

They were feeling the music tonight and so was the crowd, a subdued smattering of 30somethings to 70 somethings. And the songs fit the age range.

We heard Peaceful Easy Feeling, Sandbar, Chains, Your Song, Close Your Eyes (a personal favorite of mine), If I Fell, Norwegian Wood, and many more. 

The only downside to the evening was that I was not up there with them. One of the “What I would liked to have done” things on my list is singing with a band. I never dreamed about being the ‘star’. I truly would rather have been a backup singer. You are in the band and loving it, but without the pressure of being the lead. It’s win-win.

So, one of these days before I get too old, maybe I’ll get the opportunity to be a part of a band, if for only one song on one night. I can look the part. I will wear my faded jeans and white peasant blouse and put my hair in a messy side braid and on my ears, place dangling, silver earrings.

And I will sing my little heart out:

Well, the sun is surely sinking down

And the moon is slowly rising

And this old world must still be spinning round

And I still love you

So close your eyes, you can close your eyes

It’s alright

Cause I don’t know no love songs

And I can’t sing the blues anymore

But I can sing this song

And you can sing this song when I’m gone

Birthday Boy

Today my baby, my BABY turned 31 years old. Wow. I always heard parents say that you don’t feel old until your youngest child turns 30. I must agree.

Thirty-one years ago I awakened on a beautiful summer morning from a dream that I had had a baby. Shortly after I got up, my water broke. I called my husband and told him to come home. I called my mother-in-law and asked if she could come and be with my two other little boys. I then shaved my legs. Really. Baby coming or not, I wanted smooth legs, no stubs.

Noah was born via Caesarean section, as were my other two. My firstborn, was a hefty 8 pounds, 11 ounces. He was also in a breech position. The doctor felt it best to go Caesarean. I certainly agreed.

At the time of Noah’s birth, I was working at the hospital in which he was born so I feel that I received extra special care from the nursing staff and also had many visitors. It is a good memory for obvious reasons but also for the bonus of familiarity. 

One of the hit songs in the time period of Noah’s birth was Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, by Jefferson Starship. What a catchy, great song. I remember specifically that song was playing on the radio when we were en route to the hospital. It has, since that time, become known as Noah’s song. Even now when we happen to catch it on an oldies station, we all smile and know. 

Here are a few lines from the song:

I’m so glad I found you

I’m not gonna lose you

Whatever it takes

I will stay here with you

Take it to the good times

See it though the bad times

Whatever it takes

Is what I’m gonna do

And that is how life has been with Noah these 31 amazing years. Enjoying the good times. Seeing each other through the tough times. Whatever it takes is what I’m gonna do. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, my beautiful baby boy and now grown man. Push on in this life, and you will continue to find your way. 

Sumatra Kerinci

Today I felt old. I met a client at a hip little coffee shop to do an interview for a story. I walked in and everyone was totally cool and aloof in running shorts and Nike’s or skinny jeans with a clever tee and Tom’s. I was, without a doubt, the oldest there. 

So I tried to do what my oldest son, Andrew, says “Own it.” No, I am not 30 or 40. No, I am not wearing running shorts and Nike’s. But I am wearing a cute little trendy dress with ruffles on the sleeves. My shoes are black, wedgy sandals. My toenails are freshly painted magenta. I have a bracelet that is multiple bracelets of silver and pearls. And I am using a Mac laptop. Whew! At least my computer helps me fit in.

And while it is true that I am wearing bifocals in order to type the interview, my glasses are black plastic frame with pink and green flowers on the arms. My hair is pulled into a side pony. It is not a 1982 high side pony, however. I do not want look totally Debbie Gibson. It is low and pulled together with a black claw, complete with intentional messy Meghan Markle wisps. 

My client was a 39 year-old football coach. The story is about his dedicated community work. It was impressive to hear. He also gushed about his 18 month-old son, who has obviously won his heart. 

I told the client that I have a son his age (actually just a tad older). He was kind and asked if I got married when I was 10. “Yes”, I smiled. 

In the famous words of my dear husband, who borrowed the line from a mentor of his in medical school, “It is what it is.” And it sure is. It cannot be denied that I could have been the mother of everyone in that coffee shop. It is a bit humbling to face that reality. 

When I paid for my coffee and his, I slid my card through the (also hip) little white Square and used my finger to sign the screen. I asked for a receipt to expense report it and the barista told me sweetly that they do not print paper receipts. “We can text it or email it to you”, he said politely.  Well, okay then.

It’s a new world and I’m an old girl. But I know that the moment I step away from new things and new ways and new knowledge, the train will pass me by. 

So I will stay ’in it’ and continue learning. And perhaps along the way I can also do a little teaching, at least a little modeling of grace and patience. Those things are always in vogue.