The 27 Club

I guess I must be living in a hole because until this weekend I had never heard of the 27 Club. And for those of you who are just like me, the 27 Club is an exclusive club of lore consisting of musical artists who died at the age of 27. For my generation the 27 club was started by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones who died in a pool at that age. The club has some auspicious members including Janis Joplin, Jimmie Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. This weekend the club welcomed its newest member Amy Winehouse. And although there may be a mythical aura surrounding this club, the sad thing is that it consists of members who had talent, charisma and promise but inevitably chose to embrace a life of alcohol and drugs to such an extreme degree that it killed them.

In many ways you are just beginning your life at 27. Most people have finished school and have begun the process of making career and life choices that will set the stage for the rest of their lives. These artists were not all that different in that regard, they were just doing it in a profession where big money and fame can be had quickly and so-called friendships and advisors can be bought and sold on a daily basis.

The only member of the club I actually had the privilege of seeing perform live was Janis Joplin. I was a freshman in college at the time  and my roommate and I snuck back to the Chicago area from DeKalb to see her performing live at Ravinia. She was already in the throws of her downfall and she appeared wasted and lethargic as she performed. On one of the amplifiers near her was her trusty bottle of Southern Comfort and every once in a while she would stroll over to the amp and take a big swig. She still had some magic left in her but it was obvious that she was in trouble. Janis attended a recording session on the night she died. She went out with a friend for a couple of drinks afterwards and then went back to her hotel. She shot herself up with heroine and went down to the hotel lobby to get change to buy cigarettes. She was found the next day collapsed on the floor of her hotel room with a cigarette in her hand.

Jimmie Hendrix was a phenomenal guitar player, one of the best of his generation and his song Purple Haze was every druggies’ anthem especially when he sang the words. “S’cuse me while I kiss the sky.” He mixed wine and sleeping pills and that turned out the lights for him.

Come on Baby Light My Fire was such a sexy song and very racy for the time – so racy as a matter of fact that when the Doors performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, Sullivan tried to get them to change some of the words that were thought to be too suggestive for family television. Needless to say Morrison figuratively gave him the third finger salute and although verbally consenting to change the words performed the song as originally written. Sullivan was furious and the Doors were never invited back to the show. I am sure Jim Morrison was not dismayed. On the night he died Jim was vomiting blood and found dead in the bathtub with blood oozing out of his nose.

Brian Jones was one of the original members of the Stones. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing the Stones live (that was at the Amphitheater in Chicago) but by the time I saw them Jones was already dead. I was and still am a Stones fan and have a great appreciation for some of their early music. I remember when Jones’ death was reported a lot was left unsaid but there was a heavy insinuation that the drowning was drug related. I never had a musical connection to Kurt Cobain but he was the lead singer in the grunge band Nirvana. He was a heroine addict who one evening decided to take a gun to his head and shoot.

And now Amy Winehouse. I have to admit I never paid much attention to her but upon hearing of her death and the 27 Club thing I watched a couple of YouTube videos of her early performances. I was impressed with her voice, that is her voice in earlier years, and could see a real talent behind the flashy clothes and trashy makeup.  I also watched the video of her last performance. She could not stand still, wobbled all over the stage, eyes clouded over and constantly rubbing her arms and nose (a sign associated with drug addiction). We don’t know as of yet what caused her death but I would double down on it being drug related. What a shame, not just for her but for all of them. So young, so talented, so much promise, so much to live for.

I would hope at this point that the 27 Club is closed off to membership but seeing the effects the music industry can have on high profile entertainers I think membership will continue to grow. And that is a sad state of affairs. The only comfort I take in all this comes from words of a Righteous Brother’s song – “If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand. If there’s a rock n’ roll heaven then you know they’ll have a hell of a band!”

Summer Memories

Summertime and the livin’ is easy… such a special time. And it brings about fond memories of summers past when I came out of my cocoon and enjoyed being outdoors. Can you remember what it was like to be out of school for almost three months? Having picnics, going to the beach, going to the amusement park (Riverview), staying up late. So now as I sit on my deck sipping some cool water and watching Mia play with her toy on a beautiful Summer day, I thought I would  jot down some of my more vivid and special memories of Summers past.

My parents, brother and I lived in a very small three bedroom apartment on the third floor of a three flat building on the South Side of Chicago. Being on the top floor of the building you could count on the summer heat to come blasting down from the attic filling the apartment from corner to corner. My bedroom had one window at the foot of my bed. One of my fondest summer memories was sleeping upside down – sleeping in a position opposite of what I normally did so that my head could be by the window and I could feel the cool breezes directly on me. Many summer evenings I would flip my pillow to the opposite side of the bed and lay by the screened window looking at the stars, listening to the crickets and praying for a cool breeze. We lived directly next door to a Catholic School – Saint Pancratious (don’t ask, don’t know) – and at the beginning of every summer the parish would have its annual carnival complete with Ferris Wheel and Tilt-o-Whirl!  The Tilt-o-Whirl actually was set up on part of our property and every night for ten days as I lay by the window I could hear the motor from the ride’s generator and the screams of the people riding it. It was my summer lullaby for many years. I also remember our very first air conditioner. We thought we had died and gone to heaven. We would wind up needing two window units to cool the entire apartment and even though they were obnoxiously loud they brought welcome relief to the summer heat. The only downside to getting air conditioners was that it often curtailed my joy of sleeping upside down.

I never was a day camp girl – I hated day camps. I was always the kid who threw up in the back of the bus on field trip days. But I loved going to the local pool and spent many a summer swimming at the McKinley Park pool. In later years my mom told me that she almost drowned in that pool and that she never wanted us to know because she did not want us to be afraid of the water.

But the highlight of every summer when I was a child undoubtedly was our special two week vacation. Every year we went to Beverly Shores Indiana (woo hoo!)- about two hours out of Chicago although it always felt like we were on the road forever before we got there. My mom and dad knew this woman who had a small boarding house with guest rooms and a common kitchen. My mom, her best friend and us kids (both dads would drop us off and come and stay on the weekends after work) would have what I thought was a dream vacation. Every day we would walk the quarter mile to the beach, play in the sand dunes, swim in Lake Michigan, sit in our inner tubes on the water, get bad sunburns (sunblock hadn’t been invented yet and no one knew of the perils of UV rays) and feel like we were living the good life – and we were. I remember every morning waking up to this distinct bird call – it wasn’t until years later that I found out it was the call of a bluejay. And I remember summer evenings playing baseball on the dirt road – with trees as our bases and using a plastic bat a whiffle ball. There was always a ton of mosquito bites to contend with (no West Nile Virus at the time) but it was worth it, especially when the fireflies came out and provided a beautiful evening light show.

Summer time was also the time when the Good Humor truck perused the neighborhood with the distinctive melody coming from the truck’s bull horns and of course that wonderful Good Humor Ice Cream. The second you heard that familiar music you would run into the house and beg your mom for some money to buy your favorite treat – mine was the ice-cream bar. To this day, no one makes a better ice-cream bar than Good Humor – or at least that is what I seem to remember.

As I got older, summer evenings were what I looked forward to the most. Especially once I was able to drive. I will never forget how free it felt to be behind the wheel of a car driving the streets of Chicago with the radio blasting and all the windows down. You really had no particular place to go but it was just the feeling of freedom you had driving in the summer air. It made you felt like you would live forever. I remember riding in my friend’s convertible for the first time – it felt like you were actually out on the street and could touch people but you were in a car. The radio was playing “Close To You” by the Carpenters and I remember singing it at the top of my lungs, my hair wildly blowing in the wind and I was feeling so happy and free. No amount of money, drugs or alcohol could ever recreate what I felt at that moment. What a feeling and what a memory!

As you get older the concept of summer vacation changes dramatically – unless you are a teacher and actually still have a three month summer vacation. Your days are now filled with work and although you earn “vacation time” it certainly is not those three glorious carefree months. If you do take a summer vacation you try to cram as much as you can into a week or two weeks, but it is never quite the same. You have greater responsibilities and the luxury of having twelve weeks for relaxation and fun is just not feasible anymore. Summer vacation is now gone forever, or so it seems to be.

But take heart. What goes around comes around. There is this thing called retirement and although it never dawned on me all of a sudden I have a summer vacation again! I really have a year-round vacation, but that feeling of being able to take the time and as much time as I chose to enjoy what the summer has to offer was a revelation for me when I first retired. I know, I am a slow learner – but all of a sudden I realized that those simple joys of years past can be had again. It is now just a matter of choosing to do them. So now when I drive down highway 287 with my windows down, hair blowing in the breeze, music blaring and singing at the top of my lungs – this summer it is to Adele singing “Rolling in the Deep” (some things just have to change) – I feel the joy that I felt at 18 albeit a different type of joy. When I was 18 I thought summer vacation was my right. Now I am just eternally grateful to have it back again.

So my wish for you is that you have a great Summer. Take some time to make some lasting memories. I am grateful that my parents did that for me. And now every morning when I hear the call of the bluejay it reminds me not only of memories past but of experiences yet to be. Hot fun in the Summertime!

It’s Time To Move On…

If you are anything like me, you are probably sick of all the posturing about Casey Anthony post trail. Did the jurors miss the boat, should their names be released, is Casey cutting a deal with the William Morris Agency, where will she go, will she be safe. All right – enough already!

I also think there are a few things we all need to think about that we may have forgotten in the light of this circus. First of all the justice system did not fail – it worked. There was a trial and a jury of her peers rendered a verdict based on their views of the evidence presented. If they found reasonable doubt, they found reasonable doubt.  Remember the jury was sequestered and not privy to all of the media opinions flying rampant throughout the trial. Bottom line, who are we to judge them?

Second, the media is out to get viewers people. HLN has never had ratings this high in recent history. So no wonder they are spending every minute fanning the flames of the Casey and Caylee Anthony story. People are watching and listening to their garbage. Are they telling the truth? Maybe sometimes but they are also sensationalizing – that is what gets people to tune in. Case in point: yesterday one of HLN’s reporters was “shocked and outraged” (you hear those terms a lot on HLN) because Jose Biaz and Case Anthony cut a deal to be represented by the William Morris Agency – the most powerful talent agency in existence. It was reported that Biaz negotiated a “package deal” to include both of them. But wait, twenty minutes later: now, breaking news – William Morris did not sign Casey Anthony after all and it appears they may be in conversations with only Jose Biaz. Very different story – but how many people got riled up because they heard the first false report any may have never heard the second.

Then there was the speculation of how Casey Anthony was dressed for the sentencing. “No more school marm look for her” retorts Nancy Grace. Well, who cares – and how does the almighty bleached blonde know what is going on in another person’s mind? I for one would  be very relieved if I bit the bullet and did not get charged with murder in the first degree. I would assume that would have to show on my face – just the relief of it all. But the media fans the fuel of the public’s outrage by speculating on things that they have no basis in fact on which to speculate.  Fan those flames – how she dressed means the party girl is back. Do we no that for certain – no. Could it be true – yes. But why do people feel they have the right to comment and enrage masses of people when what they are saying is based on conjecture and not fact?  Who are we to judge?

I think we have gotten to a place with instant communication that we convince ourselves that we know all the facts, know what is ultimately right and feel we have the right to threaten and suggest violent retribution if situations do not turn out the way we expect. And the media is not our friend. They are in a business to make money and although as television personalities, and face it folks that is what they are, they may seem altruistic, they are really ratings gurus who know how to build and sustain an audience however gullible that audience may be.

Bottom line I have had it up to here with all of this (can you tell?). The last time I heard, the only person in the position to judge is the Almighty and I know he (or she) will do their job. It may not be our good fortune to see it in our lifetimes, but what goes around always comes back around.

This whole fiasco, in my opinion, started and ended with people’s inabilities to differentiate fact from conjecture. And just to be clear – do I think she did it. Yes. Am I sick about the fact that this little girl’s death by our society’s standards may never have justice. Yes. Am I happy that Casey Anthony is being set free? No. But our legal system has spoken and after that who am I to judge?  Who are we to judge?

 

So You Think The Jurors Got It Wrong?

It was like waiting to hear the verdict from the O.J. Simpson trial – there I was getting ready to leave for work with CNN on in the background waiting with the rest of the world to hear the verdict. When I read online that the jury had taken only 11 hours to deliberate I knew for sure the outcome would be guilty. Even the television commentators were saying that they hoped the defense team was preparing Casey for the worst. A short deliberation time almost always means a guilty verdict. Almost always. When the verdict was read I remember turning to my husband and asking – what did they say to which he replied, not guilty.

No one can deny that emotions ran high in this case. Just looking at the pictures and videos of lovely little Caylee and the thought of what may have happened to her had everyone out looking for blood. The lies the manipulations and the death of an innocent, angelic 2 year old captured our hearts and minds. Over and over for 3 years we have seen the pictures, heard the commentary and formed our opinions based on how the media presented it. How could there be any doubt – this woman was a slut and a bad mother so it stands to reason that she killed her child. Thank goodness our criminal justice system is based on a couple of simple principles namely the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and acquittal with established reasonable doubt.

Who in this country for even one minute presumed Casey Anthony was innocent. No one person I know. And yet our legal system tells us we must presume thatit is the law. In an era of instant communication, social networking and media blitzes we all jumped on the bandwagon of convicting this woman before the trial even began. No wonder we are all in shock today because we all convicted a person before they had their day in court. And the media played a big part in this. So, guilty or innocent I for one am relieved that someone with so much bad press about them can still become a free person when being judged by a jury of their peers. I never would have believed that that could be possible anymore.

Then there is the mandate of reasonable doubt. I don’t think the story of Caylee drowning in the family pool or George Anthony trying to cover it up cast one shred of reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. But charging someone with a capital offense of murder in the first degree with the possibility of death and not being able to prove when Caylee died and how she died – that casts reasonable doubt. The jury only took 11 hours to deliberate because the prosecution failed to provide any substantive evidence that proved Caylee was murdered.  The prosecution also could not definitively prove her manner of death. And that was at the foundation of everything else that was presented to the jury. So if the they all agreed that the prosecution did not prove those two things there was absolutely no need to go any further with deliberations. Although the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming, our justice system requires proof . The prosecution was charged with proving that murder had been committed and in the end because they could not Casey was acquitted. When you are asking 12 men and women to convict someone to death because they killed someone, then you had better be able to prove that a murder occurred.

Although my heart aches for little Caylee, I do believe our justice system prevailed. I think one reporter coined it most appropriately – Casey’s verdict was not guilty on the charges brought up by the prosecution. That is totally different than saying that Casey is innocent. But because the prosecution went for the jugular in this case by pursuing murder in the first degree we may never know what happened to Caylee and her death will probably go the route of Jon Benet Ramsey – a memory that fades in time.

We forget that the purpose of our legal system is not to provide justice but plainly and simply to determine guilt or innocence based on facts and not on circumstance. And when emotions seep into the equation it steamrolls out of control just as it did in this case. The legal system was never designed to provide justice – if that were the case people like O. J. Simpson and Casey Anthony would never be able to walk free. But the system did do what it was supposed to do, provide a verdict based on whether the facts in the case prove the charges being rendered.  And in this instance, they did not.

That being said,  it doesn’t make me feel any better to know that we will probably never find out exactly what happened to poor little Caylee and who was responsible. And although the jury rendered a not guilty verdict I truly believe what goes around comes around. I just hope I am around when it comes back around.

 

How Much Of An American Are You?

Fourth of July – Independence Day – barb-b-queing with friends – hot fun in the Summertime. Yet we all know that what we celebrate today is the birth of our country, the good ole’ USA, and the freedoms we share and probably take much too much for granted. And although our country is relatively new by world standards, it is a country whose prosperities and freedoms are envied by many.

So how do we show our appreciation for what we have here in the United States? I think we all have the fun part down judging by the myriad of fireworks I’ve heard and charcoal fires I’ve smelled over the past several days. But do we truly honor our country by being students of its history and knowing some of the basic facts about who we are and who helped to make us great? I wonder.

So on this Fourth of July take a few minutes and test your knowledge about our country by clicking on the link below. Hopefully you will do well – and if not, you might want think less about the fireworks and more about learning and appreciating who we are as a nation.  Happy Fourth of July everyone!

Test your knowledge about the USA

 

Leadership In The Government Context

I spent my entire career working in local government. I did not pursue this career path by conscious choice but by the benefit of a political favor given to my father. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree and was certified to teach at the secondary level. The only problem was that once I became certified I began to struggle with the concept of our long standing grading system. In my mind I felt that my “A” effort may be vastly different from your “A” effort, but both deserving of an “A”. Unfortunately in our traditional system “A” is considered a rigid 93-100. The philosophical struggle resulted in me not pursuing a teaching career in the Chicago school system.

I moved out of the house one month after I graduated and got a receptionists job at an insurance agency in downtown Chicago. I hated it. At the time I lived in Oak Park and would take the “L” to and from work. Every day as I was riding home I could hear Peggy Lee singing in my mind “Is That All There Is”. I was 24 and felt like my life was over. My dad knew how unhappy I was and one Friday night I got a call from him saying he had just spoken to Mayor Daley. I laughed and said something like “sure dad, and I just got off the phone with Robert Kennedy.” He assured me that he was not joking. He told me that he had written three letters to the Mayor about me (this was at the time when Daley was sick and spending a lot of time at his Michigan home). He said Daley apologized for not getting back to him but he had not received the first two letters. He told my dad to have me bring my resume to Tom Donovan at City Hall on Monday and that they would fix me up with something.  Why Daley did this for my dad is a subject of another blog, but on Tuesday I had a job with the Chicago Park District (CPD). That was the beginning of my 34 year career in local government.

I was fortunate to work in a large agency like the CPD. It gave me the opportunities move up the ranks in one place. I stayed there until I had no other choice but to leave in order to get an executive level position. Having worked in local government since 1974, I’ve seen many changes especially regarding how to lead in that environment. In the waning years of my career I heard over and over again that government should learn to operate more like a business. And although at times I have said the same thing, now in retirement, my attitude has changed. I still think fiscal responsibility is absolutely paramount for government agencies.  But now having had experiences in working in both the public and private sectors there is no question in my mind that government leaders work under vastly different constraints. In the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt government was perceived as the people’s savior especially with the onset of the social security system.  Today it is totally different.  Government has far more impacts on people’s lives than the private sector and because of that can easily become the focal point for people’s hostilities. More than ever government agencies are being scrutinized for every thing they do and bashing government is a common pastime both with citizenry and the press. And on a parallel track, government’s budgets are being slashed dramatically but expectations for government services have become greater and greater. It almost sounds like a no-win situation and strong leadership skills are critical in order to maneuver through these unique challenges.

Over the next few weeks this is what I will be thinking about as I prepare to teach a class in Leadership for the National Recreation and Park Association’s Directors School. This class has been part of the school’s curriculum for the past three years. I team teach the class with a brilliant man who was the former Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of San Carlos, California (and we won’t even get into the budget issues that state is facing). We’ve decided to initiate some changes to the session and narrow our focus to a few of many critical leadership issues and skills. We also decided  to add a section on leading in the government context,which I will present.  I will also focus on gender and leadership (surprise, surprise) and accountability – a skill that is virtually non-existent in today’s litigious society. I know I have some P & R people who read this blog, and so any insights you might have as I am thinking this through are always welcome. And for those not in P & R, if you have any thoughts feel free to share. There are many commonalities between the constraints of the private and public sectors as well as vast differences. We can all learn from one another. I will look forward to hearing from anyone who wants to share their thoughts.

New York’s Gay Marriage Law

I have mentioned before that I led a very sheltered life when I was growing up. I went to both a Catholic grammar school and high school and lived in the bubble of that world for 18 years. My first sex education class was in Sophomore year Biology class. Sister Herman had the class read out loud paragraph by paragraph Chapter 6,  the chapter on human reproduction. When we finished she quickly said, “Since there are no questions we will move on to chapter 7. When I was a Senior I was taught in religion class that there should always be six people present when I went out on a date – me, my date, one of my parents and God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I was eighteen at the time and ready to go to college. My preparation for entering that world was far less than adequate up to that point.

I also felt at the time that I was a pretty normal girl. I went from the stage of hating boys to being curious about boys to liking boys. And that was normal, at least that was how I felt at the time. Then I went to college. For the first time in my life I attended a public institution, Northern Illinois University, and for the first time in my life I was away from home. At Northern, I got a very different perspective of the world and I got it quickly.

My major was in Theatre and like every good theatre student I got involved in plays early on. I don’t even remember the name of the first show I was in, but I do remember the director was a former Broadway actor who was now teaching at the University and so I felt really pleased that he cast me in the play. One night as we were rehearsing I was sitting in the audience watching a scene that I was not in. One of the other actors, a guy, was sitting next to me and watching as well. The scene we were watching was between a guy and a girl, and the guy on stage was absolutely gorgeous – I thought he was amazing. As I watched the scene I turned to the guy next to me and said something like, “I think he is so good looking” to which he replied, “so do I – we’re lovers.”

I almost fell off my chair. What did he say – they were lovers? How could that be? I didn’t know what to think. I was confused but didn’t say anything. After rehearsal I went back to my dorm room and called my mother. When I told her about it she said matter-of-factly, “Oh, he’s a homosexual.”  A what? And she proceeded to explain that a homosexual had sexual desires for their own sex rather than the opposite sex. I was in shock. After all, that’s not normal. I was confused on a variety of levels. Up to that point the thought had never crossed my mind that a man could be sexually interested in a man or a woman sexually interested in another woman. And I felt like an idiot finding out about something like this in the way that I did. I wasn’t sure whether to be hurt, angry, disgusted or repulsed. It was a lot to take in all at once.

But after a while I began to think about what I experienced from a different perspective. I have always fiercely supported a woman’s right to have the ultimate control over her own body – a woman’s right to choose. If a woman makes a decision to terminate a pregnancy, I believe (and still do) that she has the right to do so. That decision should never be taken lightly or without conversations with the father, but ultimately I believe that woman has the right to the final say-so. It is her body. So it stands to reason that I should support that same right to choose for both men and women when it comes to their bodies.

I also began to think about heterosexuality from a prejudicial standpoint. What would happen if all of sudden I was discriminated against because I was a heterosexual? What would happen if I was denied certain rights because of my sexuality. I couldn’t imagine it. And if that is the case, then who am I to judge someone else’s sexuality?  I also thought about those two guys – I really liked them both before I knew they were gay. Am I supposed to feel differently about them now because of their sexuality? How would I feel if all of sudden someone chose not to like me because I was straight. I just couldn’t fathom it – so why should it be different for them.

And that began my lifetime of supporting anyone’s right to love who they want to love and be who they want to be. Being in a theatrical community I have met and become friends with many gay men and lesbian women. A person is so much more than who they are in the bedroom – and all of my friends who find their joy differently than I do are the salt of the earth. You get to a point where it isn’t even a consideration or topic of conversation anymore. It is such a small part of what makes up a person.

So I for one am overjoyed about the recent happenings in New York. It is long overdue and I hope the rest of the country picks up on New York’s lead and then lets be done with it and move on. Human rights are human rights – they aren’t just for the strong, the rich or the straight. They are for everyone.

Swearing…

Most of my friends know that in my retirement I have my “fun job” – I work part time at Crate and Barrel. I love the store, have loved it for years even before it became anywhere near the corporation it is today, and I truly like the people I work with. It is a great way to still have some challenging structured work in my life without the greater responsibilities.

So, last night I was at Crate and as we were stocking the store for closing a customer came in and purchased some items from my section. I eyeballed from afar what she had taken and went to the stockroom to get replacements for the display. One thing I needed was three glasses of a particular type called a cooler. To my relief we had just three left on the stockroom shelf. If we didn’t have enough we would have had to do what is known as a fix and either change how the display was arranged or change out all of the items on the display and replace them with different items.

So merrily I went  on my way feeling very happy that we could avoid a fix. When I got to the display and began to replace the glasses, all of a sudden I noticed that I had miscounted and that I needed four glasses instead of three. I was not amused and not in the mood for a fix and so, without thinking twice, I stood there and said, “Oh s***!”  I thought I said it under my breath but then I heard “Jan” and looked to see two of my co-workers looking at me – one nearly busting a gut with laughter and the other smiling a big grin and looking like she couldn’t believe what I had just said – I knew that I had said it much louder than I had even realized. It was one of those Kodak moments.

As I was driving home after work I started rehashing the incident in my mind. I found the whole thing so strange and the only thing that kept going through my mind was boy have times changed for me. First of all, I am a big believer in being appropriate at work. I think I was tired and ready to go home and so my little expletive came out with a greater ease than I would have liked. But second of all, I found it funny that people might think that I am so prim and proper that I do not swear.

All throughout grammar school and high school I was the good little girl – didn’t do things like smoking or swearing. But then the college years rolled around and things changed pretty quickly. I remember the first time I dropped the f-bomb when I was in college. I waited for lightening to strike and the gates of hell to open and suck me in. But nothing happened. So I waited a few moments and I dropped it again – and again nothing happened. Pretty soon it became my favorite noun, verb, adjective, adverb – you name it – any way I could use it, I would. I became so comfortable saying it that when I went home from school on break I dropped it in front of my mother. Boy did I get the lecture about what it was exactly that I was learning in college.

Early on swearing was a way for me to feel equal to others, especially men. Men can swear and often people do not bat an eye – women swear and it is not considered lady-like. It was also just plain fun. It made me feel like an adult and every once in awhile the shock value was just too good to pass up. Most of my friends could pull out the gutter mouth just as well as I could – so I never gave swearing another thought.

Thank goodness I learned along the way that there is a time and a place for everything and as I matured I learned to temper my words so that they were appropriate for the situation and the people involved. But there are very few if any words in the English language that compare with s*** or f*** and so sometimes they just need to be said, loudly and with great conviction. At least I think so.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about the Crate incident was not what I said but that some people may have an impression of me that is so different from who I am. And that just makes me laugh. Recently I penned a comment on a friend’s status on Facebook and said LMAO. Another friend commented that she laughed her a** off that I even wrote that comment. Are you kidding me? Me, not swear? I had to chuckle. Maybe it is something that is attributed to age – the older you get it is assumed that you don’t do those kinds of things anymore. Boy, I would hate to think that as you get older all of the joys of your youth are stripped from you. I will not go into great detail about the things that I have and have not done in my lifetime, but I am no saint and find it hard to believe that there are many saints out there. And I just found it odd that people may actually believe that I am still the “little miss goodie two shoes” I was in grammar school and high school.

So, here and now I am making a bold confession – yes, I do swear and have done so since I was eighteen years old – probably a late bloomer by today’s standards. I do regret saying s*** at work yesterday – it was definitely inappropriate and I am glad no customers were around to hear it. But every once in a while I find it cathartic and even fun to rip out a good swear word. So I hope I have not burst anyone’s bubble regarding their impression of me. And if I did… well WTF! (Just kidding, but it sure felt good).

 

Just When You Thought You Had It Mastered

I am relatively new to this blogging thing – I like the idea of it, it is amazingly cathartic and it also leaves you wondering if anyone really cares what you have to say. And I have been pretty full of myself lately and especially with my technological prowess. Most people of my generation are not on Facebook, cannot maneuver their way through a smart phone, cringe when asked to put together a power point presentation, cannot text, tweet or blog. So here I am, little miss techno genius… or so I thought so until today I tried to figure out how to upload a picture to the sidebar of my blog.

The irony of it all is that I had done in once already – had the best picture of Mia with her tongue hanging down waiting for me to throw her toy with the snappy caption – Is It Spring Yet? And since we are in the throws of summer I felt, in my infinite wisdom, that I should update the picture. Big mistake. Because now I can’t figure out how to add a new photo. I could have sworn it was the image widget but when I pull that up it asks for a link to a URL. And, I could have sworn I uploaded the last sidebar image from my computer but there is no option in the set up of that widget to do that. But hey, I am a whiz at this right?  I’ll just link the image to a URL and the image will be be on the sidebar. Not! When I do that, sorry no image, all I get is this dreaded little blue square box with a question mark inside.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems loading images into my blog – but trying to get one on the sidebar has been a several hour nightmare. I’m just not getting this widget thing – especially where images are concerned. And to add insult to injury, after I recently changed my Facebook password I can no longer publish directly to Facebook either even though I follow the “to enable publicize” function.

So today I have been kicked down a notch in my technological self esteem. Just when you thought you mastered it all – bam, smacked back down again. But at least I will insert a picture into this post to prove that I can actually do something technologically related.


A Father and His Daughter

In a few short days the next major “Hallmark Holiday”, Father’s Day, will be upon us. And like Mother’s Day it gets us all talking about and honoring our fathers. So even though every day should be Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Children’s Day, its good every once in a while to stop and reflect on one of your parents.

My father was born Edward Joseph Drabik to Rose and Joseph Drabik on September 26, 1915. He was of Polish decent and like my mother came from a very humble background. He was the second of four children. His parents made their living by owning and running a small neighborhood grocery store on the South Side of Chicago. Back in those days the big grocery store chains were not as prevalent and neighborhoods quite often had two or three small independently owned stores within walking distance of several homes. These stores as well as the local taverns were the hubs of the neighborhoods.

Edward Joseph Drabik 1915-1998

Joseph died when my father was 10 years old leaving my grandmother Rose to raise three children on her own. The fourth child would come from a second marriage later in life. Being a woman and solely brining up three children in those days was very difficult. Money was very tight, so tight in fact that when my grandmother was “approached” by one of Al Capone’s men, Frank Nitty, to sell illegal alcohol in her store she agreed. I say “approached” because as a woman on her own there was no saying no to Al’s men – the consequences could have been enormous.

My father told me that one week my grandmother did not make her sales quota and when Nitty came to collect she was not able to give him the money he was owed. She was terrified and cried hysterically to him, telling him about the challenges of trying to bring up three children with no husband, working long hours plus having to make the sales quotas. Nitty was not pleased but gave her a pass and as he left handed her $50 free and clear to help with the children. I’m not so sure the mobsters in those days were all bad.

My dad was a very simple man who grew up with very traditional values. In his mind men had certain roles to fulfill and so did women. I will never forget the day he told me that he had never in his life done laundry. I was flabbergasted – I couldn’t believe it. But, as he said, he went from his mother’s house to married life and doing the laundry was always the woman’s job. I just had to shake my head.

My dad took his role as head of the household and provider very seriously. He always wanted to make sure we had what we needed and then some, probably to the point of spoiling us and especially me his only daughter.  He also had a bit of a temper that was exacerbated when he drank. Thankfully he eventually gave up the booze. But I always knew he was there for me even when he did not understand me, my way of thinking or even my beliefs.

Both of my parents were devout Catholics. When my husband and I decided to get married we opted not to do so in the Catholic Church since he was a divorced Catholic and I did not believe in “buying” and annulment. My mother was furious with me. One day on the phone she told me that if I was not going to get married in the Catholic Church that she would not be part of the wedding. The conversation was very tense and it did not end in a good place. I found out later that after we had hung up my dad sat down with my mother and talked to her. He told her that he was not happy about our decision either but he asked my mother if it was worth losing a daughter over. My mother was not an easy person to sway especially when it came down to her religious beliefs, but by the influence of my father she gave in, called back and said she would support us and our decision. He was truly a man of unconditional love. I never realized how amazing that was at the time but I do now.

My dad’s last days were very tragic. He fell in his home and became quadriplegic. For 18 months he was relegated to the fate of being a live head on a dead body. He did not deserve that and I was relieved for him when he passed away. Always having been a very active man who loved to dance and play baseball, being quadriplegic was the worse thing imaginable for him. I knew he had suffered his hell on earth. One day after his death my mom handed me his wallet and told me to open it. I looked inside and saw all the usual suspects, credit cards, drivers license, insurance card, etc. But when I opened the billfold area I got the surprise of my life. There in the billfold area was a picture of me as a baby. My mom said she never knew that all this time he was carrying that around in his wallet. On the back of the picture in his writing were the words, My Precious Nannie (his nickname for me when I was a child). My mom said she felt the picture symbolized how he always had me with him and that I was always in his heart. I cried like a baby.

So, on this Father’s Day, I would like to honor my father, Edward Joseph Drabik. You were my rock, my safety net, my dancing partner, my mentor and probably the most Christian person I have ever known. I love you and I miss you terribly, Daddy but I feel your love every day. I am honored and humbled to be your precious Nannie!

The Bolder Boulder – A Matter of Pride

Today was the 33rd annual running of the Bolder Boulder the largeest 10k race in this country and the 5th largest 10k race in the world. This Memorial Day 56,000 people (the population of Loveland, CO.) descended on Boulder, Colorado to run, jog, walk, hobble or even race their wheelchairs through the streets of Boulder and into the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field to show they can complete a six mile course in whatever ability they have.

Folsom Field - Bolder Boulder Finish Line.

I guess that is what I think is so special about the Bolder Boulder. It’s not about racing or your time, although you can make it about that and there is a professional race that is associated with it. It’s really about getting out there and showing yourself that you can do it. That no matter what ability or inability you have, you can complete a 10k race and be proud of your accomplishment.

This week the local newspaper was filled with stories about people who were going to participate in the race. One family was planning a family reunion and part of the festivities would be the whole family being in the race. Some participants have done the race for the entire 33 years and would be coming back to do it once again. Grandparents walking with their grandchildren, people in a wide variety of costumes (King Kong made an appearance as well as Superman and Batgirl) and all along the route there was entertainment to make you forget that your legs felt like bricks. Elvis serenaded the crowds, belly dancers shimmied and shaked, garden hoses doused the sweaty participants and even a slip and slide was set up for those that wanted to really cool themselves off.

But above and beyond all the hoopla, the most important part of this event is to complete it. To keep going, keep trying, push yourself a little and get up off of your butt. Along the route people shouted encouragement, offered free hugs and high-fives, provided you with cups of water or gatorade and even told you that you only had one kilometer left to go and not to stop now. The streets were packed with people of all ages, sizes, skills and abilities and all with a common purpose – to show themselves that they could complete this race.

The person who runs the race, Cliff Bosley, told me once that his father started the race to get his children interested in physical activity. And he soon found out that he had no olympic calibre athletes in the Bosely household. So in order not to discourage them he structured the race so that the prize was completing not competing. He even offered trophies for the top 13 finishers. Why the top 13? Because inevitably a Bosely child would be near the top and it almost always was in 13th place. And the philosophy of the importance of completing underscores this race to this very day.

So on this day that we celebrate our men and women in the Armed Forces, it was so incredible to see 56,000 of your closest friends all cheering you on and celebrating your desire to improve yourself and to try. This is the second year that I participated in this race and I intend to keep on participating in it. I like what it stands for and I like that it provides me with the impetus to keep pushing myself to be better emotionally, mentally and physically. Congrats to all that completed the race – you definitely should be proud of yourself today! And thank you Bolder Boulder – you certainly know what is important and how to do it up right!

When Is The Exact Moment That You Become Old?

By now, a lot of my friends know that at 8:17 a.m on this day sixty years ago Janice Marie Drabik was born to Edward and Euphrasia Drabik at Holy Cross Hospital on the South Side of Chicago. Sixty years ago, a whole century ago, a whole lifetime ago, and in many ways only just yesterday.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was twenty, it felt like just a blink of an eye. Then I turned around and I was forty-five. Now I’ve sneezed and I am sixty. Am I old – I don’t know. When do you become old, is there an exact moment in time?  Is it the first time you get up out bed in the morning and your bones are creaky? Is it the first time someone calls you m’am? Is it the first time you’re given a senior discount on your food bill when you never asked for it? Is it the first time someone says you look just like a friend’s grandmother?  If these are specific moments that define being old then I am old because they have all happened to me.

Over the past few months I have been thinking a lot about turning sixty. To me, that number just sounded old. In the past I’ve never been one to focus on my chronological number but this year I was borderline obsessed by it. I have always prided myself in trying to keep myself in the forefront of whatever I was doing. I can be extremely competitive and always want to make sure that I am part of the fray, making a contribution, being a contender. (can you hear the music from Rocky building right now?).  But there is one thing that you cannot control and that is the march of time. And to quote a line from the play Steel Magnolias – “time marches on until one day you see that it has marched all over your face.” No one is immune, it happens to us all. And unfortunately we are a society that is obsessed by youth, looking young, feeling young. Want to feel younger – try lifestyle lift and get rid of that sagging skin under your chin. Want to feel younger – get Botox injections and get rid of those bags under and around your eyes. Want to feel younger – go to a fat farm and lose those unwanted pounds. And it can go on and on.

So I woke up this morning, and I have to admit that I was feeling a little down. I don’t want to be sixty but there is nothing that I can do about it. Or can I? Just as I was starting to wallow in a heavy dose of self pity, I picked up my iPhone and noticed that I had a message on Facebook. The message was from a former student of mine a lovely young woman, now thirty, who recently went through a huge medical issue that for quite some time left her virtually completely paralyzed. Before that happened, she had been in the teaching profession for about 10 years and in her message shared with me how shocked and amazed she was at the outpouring of love she received during her illness not only from friends and family but especially from her students, some of which she knew for years but others for only a few weeks or months. She said she knew she had touched these students in many ways but realized there were so many other ways she had had an influence on them and never realized until this unfortunate incident happened.

She then told me that she felt our lives as teachers were similar in many ways. She proceeded to thank me for my influence on her life and that, based on her recent experience, could not fathom the breadth of influence she felt I must have had on many lives given the years and various work experiences that I had. She ended by saying, “to quote my sister Shelly, we are so happy that you were born. Happy Birthday to you with all my love.”  And at that moment it finally dawned on me that I had totally been obsessing about the wrong thing over these past few months. The worth of your life has nothing to do with the number you are, your physical beauty or your physical ability. The worth of your life is really about who you love and who loves you. To have love in your life, to give love and to receive love is all that matters. Everything else will be what it will be.

So on my sixtieth birthday, I want to especially thank my former student Sandy Jarosz Kozloswki for being my personal Cher who so brilliantly in the movie Moonstruck slapped Nicholas Cage in the face and said “snap out of it.” Taking the time to write that beautiful and poignant message was, more than you will ever know, exactly what I needed to hear and exactly when I needed to hear it.

And to all my old friends from Chicago, my new friends from Colorado and my fabulous co-workers at Crate and Barrel, thank you so much for the messages you sent me today on Facebook. Your kind thoughts mean the world to me. And now, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and keep training for the Bolder Boulder! Here’s to the next sixty!

Men and Power – A Dangerous Cocktail!

There is a never ending struggle between men and women to understand what makes the other tick. A few days ago I had a friend tell me that he thought all women were crazy, and he truly meant it. After hearing why he felt that way I could understand why he might think like that. But if women are crazy, what’s up with men, especially men of power?

By now we all know about the escapades of Arnold. And we hear about it all the time – men with power and prestige thinking that society’s basic mores do not apply to them. Osama Bin Laden’s hideaway was found to be a treasure trove of porn, not to mention the fact that he had several wives. Tiger Woods thought it was ok to dip his wick with a porn star while a married man with two children. Gary Hart and Donna Rice, John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski  – and Arnold, well isn’t he just the icing on the cake. Not only does he lie to his family but he lies to the entire state of California. He conveniently waits to come clean until he is no longer in office, leaving with a dismal approval rating in the low 20’s and with no chance of ever being taken seriously as a politician again. That was really big of him. And what was the point of coming clean now – to humiliate Maria and his children? Or maybe it was because his housekeeper/sex partner was finding it harder and harder to keep her mouth shut. You have to wonder.

I just don’t get it. Why does this happen over and over again with men of power? Don’t get me wrong, I love men – always have. When I was younger I felt more comfortable around men than women. Some of my best friends are men. In my estimation it would be a pretty boring life without men. But men have one serious issue that can plague them beginning with puberty and lasting through the rest of their lives –  and that is the dangerous cocktail of testosterone and their appendage. Most men learn to manage that perfect storm very well, but others, and it seems like over and over again especially men with power, feel it is their God given right to do what they want to do, when they want to do it and with whomever they want to do it with. Will the ever learn that they are not above it all? I somehow doubt it.

But, I think Pete the Greek had the answer to solving this dilemma. Pete the Greek was a drinking buddy of my husband’s. You could always count on Pete the Greek to be sitting at the bar of our local tavern holding court and spouting pearls of wisdom regarding just about any subject imaginable. One day, after the Gary Hart sex scandal broke Pete was sitting drinking a beer and bemoaning the demise of another powerful man. Out of nowhere he said to my husband, “You know Nick. Men are born with a deadly curse, their dicks. It is the source of all of their troubles throughout their lives. I was just thinking, maybe instead of circumcising us at birth they should just cut it off. It would save us and a lot of other people we know from a whole lot of agony and grief. And think about it.  We could go on with the rest of our lives, just drinking beer and watching sports. We would be a lot happier and our lives would be a hell of a lot less complicated.”  Socrates could not have said it better.

Why Do I Feel So Bad?

We are such creatures of habit. We can create such structure in our lives without even knowing how we got there. Think about it. When was the last time you deviated from your established route to work? Or better yet, when was the last time you were going somewhere other than work but on your work route and all of a sudden you found yourself unwittingly going to work versus your actual destination?  We’ve all done it. Most often when that happens to me I’ll say something to myself like, “if I had a brain, I could be dangerous.”

So, the other day I was on my usual route to the grocery store. After I passed one of the landmarks it suddenly occurred to me that something had changed. The landmark was a vacant field where prairie dogs had established a colony. That colony has existed since I moved here ten years ago. It is right off of a busy intersection and has been thriving for quite some time.

Prairie dog - Teller Farm Trail

In recent months a for sale sign had been put up on the property. I remember thinking at the time that I could not imagine who would actually buy a piece of property with an active prairie dog colony on it. The expense of mitigation added to the expense of the property itself would be enormous. But then again, maybe not. As I drove passed the property the other day it dawned on me that something was very different. Then I noticed that the field had been completely plowed over. The day before active burrows, today only tilled soil. And all of sudden I started to feel sick to my stomach.

People who know me know that I love animals, animals of all kinds. And people who know me also know of the challenges I faced related to prairie dog mitigation when I worked for local government. Prairie dogs are a source of heated public debate in this neck of the woods. They are considered a cornerstone species, a link to attracting the fabulous raptors you see here and also a key ingredient in land management. Before man inhabited this area, prairie dogs were nature’s own rototiller. They would build their burrows (and if you have ever tried to plant anything here without some type of soil amendment you would quickly find out that the high concentration of clay makes the soil like a brick without some sort treatment), aerate and denude the land and move on. Then the land is ready to be revitalized with the first step of the process being aptly performed by the prairie dog.

Now that man had developed the area, prairie dogs have become to many merely a nuisance. And since they are technically of the rodent family they are considered to be rats by those that would advocate for their demise. There is no easy answer to the prairie dog situation. At what point do we protect life and at what point do we not? I certainly don’t know the answer to that.

I do know that I am not a PETA advocate. There are times that organization is too radical for my tastes.  But I would match my love for animals with anyone. To me it is a simple question of how we value life. Do we have the right as human beings to simply go in one day plow up a field and bury alive a colony of prairie dogs? Something about that just doesn’t seem right to me. Relocation is expensive and tends not to be successful, capturing them and donating them to a recovering raptor program is also expensive. Any way you look at it, it is costly to manage an unwanted prairie dog colony. But burying them alive?

I’m not sure what the answer is. I understand a person wanting to sell their property. I understand this person patiently allowed prairie dogs to inhabit the space for ten years, maybe hoping the colony would be hit by plague and naturally die off. But since that didn’t happen there has to be a better way, even if it is more expensive. From my standpoint it is a question of do we or don’t we value life. If we do, then we need to think very carefully about our rationale and methods for taking life. Anyone who has ever been faced with euthanizing a pet knows the agony of making that decisions. Should prairie dogs be treated any differently simply because they are not our pets?

At this point I see no better solution than trapping and humanely euthanizing them. If the land needs to be sold and the prairie dogs are preventing that, then I would opt for that solution. Yes it is more expensive but do we or do we not value life, any kind of life? To simply view life as something easily discarded or in this instance plowed over dehumanizes us. I would hope that as a species we were more intelligent and caring than that.

There is, although, an upside to this dilemma. Whoever plowed the land did a pretty poor job. If you know anything about prairie dogs, you need to eliminate each and every hole as their underground system is interconnected and leaving just one hole can result in the easy reestablishment of the colony. And that is exactly what happened. As a matter of fact several holes on the perimeter were left unscathed and the very next day the prairie dogs were out in force reestablishing the colony. So it appears most of them survived the trauma to this point. What will happen next is left to be seen. But it still makes me uneasy to think that we as man, the stronger and supposedly smarter species, can have such little concern for life and for taking life. I don’t care if technically they are rodents. The bigger question is are we humane in how we deal with life and do we treat life and death with respect. I was really saddened to see how this was handled and I have to say surprised about how bad I felt for the prairie dogs. They were the bane of my existence when I was working in local government but there is a reason why they exist in the whole scheme of things. And they are living, breathing creatures that have a right to life and a humane death.

What Goes Around Comes Around

I was sitting on my couch last night watching CNN and all of a sudden, breaking news – the President is going to address the country. My first thoughts went to the unrest in Libya and thought to myself, ok – what happened now. Then came the newscasters who certainly know how to pour on the drama. Wolf Blitzer says he was told by a source that you better “go into work”, and that he had a inkling of what the address may be about, but he felt compelled not to say it because it only came from one single source. This went on for about thirty minutes or so, the newscasters repeating again and again how unprecedented this Sunday evening address to the nation was, how they had an idea of what it may be about and that it definitely was not about Libya.

So goes the theatre of the news. Then at a strategic moment before the president revealed what he had to say, the newscasters announced that Osama Bin Laden was dead. They couldn’t let the President be the first to say it, they had to trump him (no pun intended) by sharing what they new probably from the beginning of the “breaking news” segment. But the drama sure kept you tuned in until the President was ready to speak. And of course, the newscasters had to be the first to tell us.

After they announced that the President’s remarks would not be about Libya, I began to wonder what the news could be. I have to say it took me a few minutes, but I remember getting up to get a drink of water and it finally dawned on me – I bet they’ve captured Bin Laden. I never considered that he would be dead, just that we would finally have him. What goes around, comes around.

That has been my favorite saying over the years. I have seen the wisdom in this saying play out in a variety of ways and in my experience it always comes back around. I created an addendum to this saying. My version is: “what goes around, comes around – and I hope I am around when it comes back around”. This is one of those times when I was glad to be around when it came back around.

We all remember where we were on 9/11 when the World Trade Center got struck. Heck, I remember where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated! And both times, I remember very clearly how I felt. When Kennedy was killed I was very young and in utter disbelief. It was a sort of coming of age for me as up to that point I firmly believed that bad things did not happen to good people. On 9/11 I was working for the City of Dayton. This was the first time in my lifetime that the United States was attacked on its mainland. The false feeling of security we all felt living here died that day along with the three thousand plus lives that were lost. I remember just wanting to be with my family, to make sure they were safe. I was in shock and utter disbelief that this could happen, a very different sort of coming of age.

Osama Bin Laden was definitely the face of 9/11, but as many today are celebrating, I am left wondering whether his death will make this crazy extreme violence stop. I doubt it. We talk justice, they talk revenge and it goes on and on in a vicious cycle. So although many feel that the death of Bin Laden brings some sort of closure, I think its just another chapter in the “an eye for an eye” saga that we see playing out all over the world. And, if we keep on with this strategy, pretty soon there will be no eyes left, and that is my greatest fear of all.

Easter and Memories of Ben Hur

For most people, the movie that conjures up Easter memories is The Ten Commandments. Every Easter you can count on seeing the Epic story of Moses and Ramses brought to life by Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. But another Charlton Heston movie captures my Easter memories, and that movie is Ben Hur.

I remember seeing Ben Hur with my entire family at the Michael Todd when I was eight years old. At the risk of sounding ancient, in those days going to the movies was a big event, especially seeing an epically produced movie like Ben Hur , Gone With The Wind, or Camelot. Those movies were over three hours long and when you went to see them it was like seeing a Broadway play. The movie had an overture and an intermission. Yes, you would have about a 10 minute opportunity mid-movie to get up, use the facilities, get some more popcorn or whatever. It was the art of creating an theatrical experience through film and as a young girl I was captivated.

I had never seen anything like it before, the music, the grandeur the conflict, the spectacle. Watching the story of two boyhood friends, one a Roman and one a Jew, grow into men and into enemies. The movie chronicles the story of the Roman oppression of the Jews and one of the side plots is the story of Jesus Christ. Ben Hur chronicles the life of Judah Ben Hur beginning with his life of wealth and privilege and moving to his loss of wealth, the imprisonment of his mother and his sister, his sentence to be a galley slave and his downward spiral into hatred and despair. In the end it is Jesus Christ that saves him and reunites him with his family. The movie begins with the birth of Christ and ends with His death and the redemption of mankind.

I remember sitting in my seat watching the miracle of redemption and feeling so convinced that the teachings of the Catholic Church were absolute. Unfortunately time and experience have shaken those beliefs but a glimmer  of faith remains in the seed of Ben Hur. Many times in my life I have been disillusioned by things I once believed in so strongly. Many times I questioned why certain things have occurred, why bad things happen to good people, why I was hurt deeply or deeply hurt others. In those moments, my mind flashes to the very end of the movie when Ben Hur comes home to Esther no longer angry and bitter but with peace in his heart and he says, “it was as if He took the sword from my hand.”

Many times in my life I prayed to have the sword taken from my hand, and I have to say it always was. So although I may not have blind faith, I do believe that there is someone watching over me. And every Easter, I think about sitting between my mother and father at the Michael Todd Theatre and seeing Ben Hur. I am grateful they gave me the gift of that movie and I am grateful that throughout my life God has always taken the sword from my hand.

Royal Wedding – Prelude to a Royal Let Down?

If you’re like me, you probably have had your fill already about the royal wedding. Day after day, insipid article after insipid article tracing the parade route, what Kate bought for the honeymoon, her diet, why Prince William will not be wearing a wedding band, the history of Westminster Abbey, and on and on and on.

I vividly remember when Diana and Charles got married. I admit I got all caught up in the fairy tale nature of it all. How romantic that a young girl could find the prince of their dreams and they could get married and live happily ever after. And we all know how that one turned out. And here we are again, pinning our hopes on romance and getting sucked into wedding fever. Not me this time. Does it mean that I am jaded or just older and wiser?

I have to say there are many factors about this wedding that give me a glimmer of hope that this marriage can have a go of it. I love the fact that the two of them have lived together and had some sort of an extended private life together before they decided to go into the public fray. I like the fact that William was not required to marry an aristocratic virgin. Now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one as well as a throw back to the dark ages. I like the fact that it appears that Kate is more mature than Diana was and that she is handling the spotlight with poise. I have to say I really like the fact that William gave Kate his mother’s ring. I think it says something about how much his mother meant and still means to him. So have they learned from the past or are cultural norms more relaxed and they have become much more media savvy?

These people live a life that we cannot even hope to understand, a life of extreme privilege. Can you imagine what it would be like to have someone who everyday squeezes the toothpaste on your toothbrush for you? That’s just humdrum day-to-day life for Prince Charles. Can you imagine having three chauffeurs always at your beckon call? Just humdrum day-to-day life for Queen Elizabeth. Can you imagine having the cobblestones outside of the church were you are to be wed vacuumed? Just humdrum day-to-day life for the royals. So with these types of privileges, what are the rules of the game for royal marriage? Does it mean a stiff upper lip and discretion, or do the normal everyday rules apply?

I would hope for the normal everyday rules, but they do not lead a normal everyday life. So, all I can do is wish William and Kate my best. Their lives will never be the same and although fraught with privilege will be under a constant microscope. I hope they make a go of it, I hope it works, but I just can’t get sucked into it like I did before and I can’t wait until April 30th when we can move on from it all.

So Long School of Journalism

In its infinite wisdom, the University of Colorado Board of Regents decided yesterday to phase out the School of Journalism. Citing reasons of dwindling enrollment and not being afraid to blaze new trails with more innovative programs, they decided the journalism program was no longer relevant. And why not, I mean after all we are a nation of great writers, right?

What were they thinking? The art of writing a simple declarative sentence is going down the same path as All My Children – canceled. After all, when we can truncate things by using such nifty abbreviations like u, r, LMAO, TTYL and my favorite WTF, we don’t need to write the old fashioned way anymore. At the risk of sounding somewhat stodgy, I rather enjoy something that is well thought out and well written. The skill and creativity needed to create interest, hold someone riveted, make someone laugh or simply tell a good story is, I fear, fading into the sunset. Or maybe the sun has already set.

And above and beyond that precious skill, simple rules of English are consistently being murdered these days. Knowing the difference between there and their, when to correctly use which or that, the difference between your and you’re – these and many more basic concepts have long gone by the wayside.

Take for example some fun little games that people post on their status on Facebook – something like “You wake up in the morning and come down to the kitchen. There are only two people in the room, you and me, and there is only one cup of coffee. In four words, tell me what you would say.”  And you see replies like: “This one’s not yours” or “You’re not drinking this”. HELLO! This one’s not yours is five words as “one’s” is a contraction for one is – and the same with you’re not drinking this, you’re is a contraction for you are. Drives me insane!

And, how about the young woman who posted on her Facebook status that “Today the United States attacked Labia”. I used all the restraint I could muster not to make some smart aleck comment about that – just too ripe for the asking. And you see things like this over and over again. How do all of these people pass their English courses? Do we teach basic writing anymore? Do we teach English anymore?

I guess not. And I guess we don’t teach journalism anymore either. What CU is saying with their recent decision is that writing, among other journalistic endeavors, is just not relevant. So @ University of Colorado, all I can say is WTF! R U kidding me? When I herd you’re decision I LMFAO. TTYL. =-/

There is a little bit of Erica Kane in all of us…

Northern Illinois University, 1969-1973 – lunch time at the student union, lunch with All My Children. Since my college days I have downplayed the fact that I have been an All My Children fan. From the time I had control of my academic schedule I made sure that the noon hour was not scheduled so that I could eat lunch in Pine Valley. From the early days and the romance of Philip Brent and Tara, to Tad the Cad, Jenny and Greg, Jessie and Angie and Kendall and Zach, I religiously followed the lives and dirty deeds of the residents of Pine Valley.

Now I know that, at heart, this is trash TV but over the years there were story lines that gripped me and some acting that was actually superb. Who could ever forget James Mitchell (RIP) as Palmer Courtland and my all time favorite David Canary as Adam Chandler. And although she will probably never win an Academy Award, Susan Lucci as Erica Kane defined that show almost from the beginning. I don’t think there is a person alive that on one day or another didn’t wish they could step into those shoes and say or do the things that Erica did. All you need to say is the name Erica, and everyone knows who you mean. That is creating quite a brand and quite an achievement!

The comings and goings of the residents of Pine Valley have been a part of the fabric of my life. I watched the series when it was in black and white and only a half hour long, rejoiced when it became an hour long series and filmed in color and loved the transition to high definition. Beautiful people are beautiful people high definition or not. And today ABC announced that the show will be canceled with episodes airing through September of this year.

Another ending. I can’t say that I did not see it coming. My husband actually called it a few weeks back. The era of the stay-at-home mom who gets respite from her tedious life by living vicariously through soap opera characters is gone and has been gone for a long time. Viewing habits have changed – today All My Children is gone tomorrow the daily newspaper.  And in the end is all about one thing – making money.  I am surprised it held on for as long as it did.

So, thank you All My Children. It has been a glorious ride. I will never forget Pine Valley and its many residents over the years. Thank you for the laughter, the tears, the escape. And life goes on…

I Can’t Believe This Is Happening

This morning started out like many others, taking the dog out, skimming the newspapers, sipping my coffee. I was unusually tired this morning as some heavy winds came our way about 3 a.m. and woke me up. I got up to get some water and was tempted to turn on the TV but decided against it. I am glad I did.

When I reached for my trusty iPhone this morning and did my daily look-see on Facebook, one of my friends had written that she could not believe what was going on in Japan. I immediately logged into Google News and saw that Japan had been struck with an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale. It is devastating to see what earthquakes do and the lives they affect.

I immediately turned on CNN and could not believe my eyes. Pictures of the tsunami spawned by the earthquake were unreal, surreal. Houses, cars, trucks and boats all being pushed along like they were tinker toys. The fury of the water was unbelievable with water reaching as far as 14 miles inward. Heartbreaking, heartbreaking. But even more heartbreaking is the fact that a colleague of mine left last week for Japan to visit her family. She is perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met – a genuinely beautiful soul. It is my understanding that she had not been home in years and was so looking forward to seeing her family and seeing old faces and places. Before she left she bought some chocolate to take to her former school. She was excited, looking forward to a great adventure and going home.

As I write this we do not know what has happened to her. We pray for her well being and for that of her family. We are all worried sick and hope that they are all ok and will contact us as soon as they can. Bad things are not supposed to happen to good people – this time this disaster has really brought it home.

When my mom passed away, I was struck by how things that I used to think were important no longer mattered and that I got such joy out of the smallest things. She taught me a lesson that I sometimes forget and then something like this happens today and you don’t know the whereabouts of a very dear person and you are reminded once again. We sometimes forget what is truly important – family and friends. So to my friend in Japan, I love you – am praying for you. Come back home safe and sound.

It’s been a long time

Hi all,
 
It definitely has been a long time since I’e written, hasn’t it? It seems like I identified this space with the story of my mother, and so now that she is gone and life goes on I have not thought much about adding to this site.
 
Someone emailed me to say that I have not be blogging lately and wondered if I was ok. I am – but I am sure that most of you can relate to the fact that it just is a strange time.
 
I was pretty sick this month – sicker that I have been for a very long time. I was off of work for a little more than a week and diagnosed with bronchitis, sinusitis, an ear infection and I was running a 101 fever. I still haven’t shaken it completely as my ear is still plugged up, but he antibiotics seem to be loosening that up a bit.
 
Everyone told me that I would probably have a let down once mom died. I thought it would happen over the holidays, but when it didn’t of course I felt I had beaten that. But, being sick and just trying to move forward has put me in a place of doing a lot of reflection and soul searching. I’m not sure where it is taking me, but I am viewing it as a journey that needs to be taken.
 
I hope all of you are well. So far, this year has been much better than the last two – I have had some opportunity to be on an even keel, and although that may sound boring it is suiting me just fine for now.
 
The onslaught of snow has stopped here for a while and although we were getting pounded with it over and over, lately we have been having warmer weather and we missed the record of 63 consecutive days with snow on the ground by 2 days. The bad news is that March and April are historically the snowiest months of the year here, so we will see what happens with that. It is funny to be happy to see the grass in your back yard again – we have had snow on the ground continously since December 20.
 
I hope to get back in the habit of keeping up my blogs – but, as I said, it has been nice to have had some time where everything has been on an even keel that it leaves me little to write about.  Take care, all!

Happy New Year

I don’t know about you, but I am very happy it is 2007. Last year was one of the worst that I ever had – and I am looking forward to moving on.
 
I had a strange feeling last night – yesterday was the last day in the final year of my mother’s life – I don’t know why I started to think that way, but I did. There was a sadness that she would never know 2007, but after what she went through in 2006, I know she is in a much better place
I got a chance to see some movies over holidays – I saw the movie "The Holiday" -which I really enjoyed. Jack Black, who I never really cared for, did a phenomenal in job in a romantic comedy – if you can believe that. I saw "Night in the Museum" and although it is raking it in at the box office, I found it to be pretty predictable and mundance. Today I saw "Dream Girls" and although I felt the screen play was weak, the vocal performances were very impressive.
 
Nick and I welcomed in the New Year last night by having a steak and lobster dinner at home and just relaxing. I did a lot of relaxing over the holidays, and it really helped me. I am facing the new year with some renewed enthusiasm.
 
Saying goodbye to the holidays is always hard for me. I just love the holiday season, and there seems to be an emptiness when it is gone. I usually keep my tree up until the middle of January. This holiday was not as bad as I thought it would be – I do believe that there was an angel up in heaven who saw to it that there was still joy and magic around Christmas. Thanks, Mom – I am grateful for that.
 
So, happy new year everyone. The best to one and all in 2007!
 
 

The next 20 inches

They are saying that the last time the Denver area had two snows of this magnitude so close together was in 1913. And normally, it does not snow in December. It either tends to snow in November when the ground is still warmer or in March – and when that happens, the snow melts off very quickly. We anticipate that this snow may be around for months – so we are definitely getting a midwest type of snowfall.
 
Enjoy the new pictures – Nick and I are getting tired of shoveling the driveway – but I look at it as good exercixe.
 
 

Boy, did we have a White Christmas!

I know you all are aware of the blizzard that hit us last week. Between Wednesday and Thursday, Erie received 29 inches of snow. And, we were lucky. Some parts of Colorado got over 50 inches. It was unreal. It started snowing at six in the morning, and it just kept dumping.
 
For a state that is used to lots of snow, this storm still paralyzed a lot of things. The roads are still recovering. Grocery stores which normally have their shelves overstocked for Christmas were running out of supplies. The malls were closed for two days at the busiest shopping time of the year. It was insane!
 
I was so glad that my vacation started on Wednesday. I did not have to worry about going into work.
 
 
Earlier, I told Nick that I had decided not to make Christmas cookies this year. Normally, every year I would make about five or six different kinds, but this year I was just not in the mood.
 
Well, I am now convinced that my mother exerted a little bit of influence in heaven and orchestrated a blizzard so that I would be stuck at home. And since I was stuck at home, I thought what the heck, and I made Christmas cookies. In retrospect, I am glad I did it – but I just know that there was some divine intervention to get me to make them.
 
Christmas turned out to be ok. Christmas Eve I was a little bummed, but Christmas Day was relatively ok – helped by a new wide screen high definition tv that Nick got us for our new room addition. But even without that, it would have been ok.
 
On Christmas Eve I prayed to mom. Christmas Eve has always been a magical time for both of us, since we both love (loved) the story of Ebenezer Scrooge – and Christmas Eve is the day that the three spirits visit Scrooge and get him to change his ways. That is my favorite story of all time – and mom shared in the love of that story.
 
I prayed to her (I even sent her an email – addressed to my home address but to her) asking her to intercede for me on the night that Scrooge was visited by the three spirits, to help me find my way and to get me back on track.
 
The rest of the night was so-so and I was sad, but yesterday a veil was lifted off of that sadness and I could even enjoy the day. I am not kidding myself in thinking I am magically over my grief – but I do feel that mom has taken me by the hand and walked me through an initial door of moving on – it may sound strange, but I felt different yesterday, and today I’m ok.
 
So, I will continue to write these blogs – they may occassionally reference mom as she will always be a big influence in my life, but I will use this space to keep you informed as to what is going on and would welcome any thoughts or comments you might have regarding what you interesting. I am not thinking that I have all this great knowledge that needs to be shared – quite the opposite. But, I can at least keep you up to date and share more than I possibly could in a phone call.
 
So, I’m off bargain hunting today – and maybe even a movie. I still have a week off, and I intend to make the best use of it.
 
I truly hope you all had a great  Christmas. Enjoy the snow pictures that I posted.
 
Jan

LIfe goes on

The memorial service was on Tuesday – it was great and it was hard and definitely more meaningful (at least to me) than her funeral because this is was at the nursing home where she spent the last 5 months of her life and her caregivers and friends from her apartment building were able to attend.
 
We played her music – we shared memories, we prayed and we had chocolate cake (of course) and the book was closed.
 
As for me, as you can well imagine, the book is not closed and I am struggling but know that eventually this will all come to some kind of acceptance and meaning and I will go on. I force myself to do things (like Christmas shopping which for anyone who knows me knows that this has never been a chore in my entire life) knowing that she wants me to move on. But, (and I know this sounds dramatic) you question the meaning of your life and how to move on, and those answers have not come yet – I don’t suppose they will for a while.
 
I am taking about 10 days off during the holidays. I need some time where I can do and be without schedules and plans – and then move on into the next year.
 
There will be no one happier than me when 2007 arrives for 2006 will probably go down in my mind as the worst year of my life. So, if that is the case, there is no way to go but up – right?
 
I’m not sure what I will do with this site – it was so dedicated to mom and her journey, and her journey – at least on this earth – has ended. I need to think about that to – but anticipate that I will continue with blogs that take me and us in a whole different direction – I am just not sure what that will mean.
 
So, as we enter the last week before Christmas – Happy Holidays to all and remember to hug those you love for tomorrow is not given to any of us. There is a part of me that is looking forward to Christmas – so thank you mom – you continue to give me gifts.

A Memorial Service on Tuesday

On Tuesday there will be a memorial service for mom at the Peaks Care Center. The staff from  the center and her friends from her apartment building are invited to share memories about mom.
 
I took some time today and printed up some pictures of her to display at the service. I am also bringing some chocolate, so that everyone who comes gets a piece of chocolate on mom. Anyone who knew mom knew about her passion for chocolate.
 
It will be nice to have this closure – and it will be nice to hear the stories that everyone has to tell. The one recurring theme I hear about mom is about her very infectious personality – how she drew you in, made you feel important and most of all made you laugh.
 
I take it one day at a time now – every day is an adventure – I never know how I will feel or what will make me react. But everyday I tell myself to continue to move forward and I now she is there with me helping me along.
 
I finally listened to one of my favorite Christmas CD’s today – The Carpenters. It was a favorite of both mine and mom’s and I had a hard time making myself listen to it. It brought a lot of tears as I was riding in the car – but I was glad to finally hear it.
 
The holidays are getting closer and I know I will be ok. I really do feel her at times, giving me strength and pusing me to move forward. I also feel that she is happy and at peace – I don’t know why I feel it, but I do.
 
And I got a sign – this week as I was driving to work – Barney appeared. Barney is a mule that I would always see on the way to work and since I would call my mom every morning, I would always tell her about him and she would always ask about him. Well, I haven’t seen Barney in many months – and I was afraid maybe something had happened to him. But this week – there he was, and I looked up to heaven and I said – "Thanks Mom – thanks for bringing him back."  And I know she was smiling down at me.

Tomorrow it will be three weeks…

This whole situation is just so strange – I am really beginning to realize that I just put closure to the easy part – picking up the pieces and moving on is the hard part.
 
I know time will heal some of the hurt – grief is just such a strange thing to deal with – it shows no logic – it sometimes hits you totally by surprise. It makes you think about a lot of things – it makes you take stock.
 
I’ve decided just to give myself some time and to be a little forgiving to myself. I have been on such a treadmill for such a long time – and it is so strange – when you get off there is that loss as well. No more having to run to the nursing home when things go wrong – my weekends are now totally mine to choose what to do – no more worrying about making sure that someone is ok – no more making calls on the way to work or on the way home.
 
It is just so strange. One day I can be right as rain – the next day I want to cry at the drop of a hat. One day I feel strong, and the next I feel like mush. One minute I am looking forward to Christmas, and in the same breath I am dreading it.
 
So, how you handle all of this, I do not know. All I know is dealing with the day to day before all of this happened was much clearer, much more real, much more logical than this thing called grief.
 
Tomorrow it will be three weeks – some days it seems like 3 hours, and some days like 3 years. The full realization of never seeing her or never being able to talk to her again has not fully set in – and the joy that she is not longer suffering has. So, talk about Doctor Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde – this is really a flip flop kind of thing that plays havoc with your mind and emotions. So, I take it one day at a time, try to cut myself some slack, and try to forgive myself for these crazy days when I am not sure what is real, and what is not.
 
Please time, pass quickly.

It wasn’t so bad

We always went shopping together the day after Thanksgiving. So, after the reaction I had when I walked the mall in Florida, I was a little concerned. But, I have to say, it wasn’t so bad.
 
Maybe it was the crowds, maybe it was the bustle, or maybe it was because mom was helping me to know that it was ok, but I did pretty well, and even somewhat enjoyed the experience of the holidays officially starting.
 
One thing that this experience has emblazoned in my brain is that life is short. You need to grab the moments while you have them and enjoy them to the fullest. So, I did. And I did not feel alone – I truly felt that in some fashion, she was there with me helping me to move on.
 
And maybe it was the decision to buy an ornament in her memory. If you know anything about our tree, it is truly a compilation of our lives and the people in them over these many years. From dogs, to the muppets, to pink flamingoes, to bubbly bear, our tree is such a wonderful reminder of the people, places and experiences that have been important to us. But, I did not want a gravestone on the tree – that would just not make sense – instead I opted to buy an angel ornament (a picture of it is included in the most recent photo album I have with the last pcitures I have of my mother) and I just put on it mom and the date 2006. So there will be a reminder, but an upbeat reminder,  that she is now our angel watching over us and helping us in a very different way. And for those of you that know me well, there is not greater joy for me than adding something memorable to the Christmas tree.
 
So mom will be there now, our angel, now and for the future of our Christmases helping our days to be merry and bright!

The first Thanksgiving

Ok – here is the way it is supposed to work. I get up first – I always do. It is hard to separate your work schedule from the occassional holiday. I make the coffee, flavored of course, (and this time of year it is always holiday peppermint), let the dog out, feed the dog and the cats and get the paper.
 
Once that is done, I slowly open the door to the room where mom is sleeping (she always does sleep-overs for the holidays) and burst out into song – Happy Happy Turkey Day, Happy Happy Turkey Day, Happy Happy Turkey Day, HAAAAAAAAppy Happy, Turkey Day. Mom always says "What time is it?", I tell her, and then we exchange Happy Thanksgivings. Then it is time to drink some of that wonderful peppermint coffee and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
 
Well, the routine was pretty much the same through getting the paper. But this year no song, this year no mom.
 
I have to say I am surprisingly non-emotional right now. Maybe it is because it really hasn’t sunk in that mom is not here. Or maybe it is because I have cried so much that the tear ducts are a little dried out at this time. It is so strange, the grieving process. You can be absolutely fine one moment and then zap, you are reduced to mish mosh.
 
So, it is Thanksgiving Day, a day that I was not looking forward to long before it actually happened. You see, I thought for sure that mom was going to die around Thanksgiving. I could tell by her condition that she probably did not have the strength to make it until Christmas, but I thought it would be just like her to give me my final challenge and see if I was up to the task – that challenge being trying to navagate a funeral and travel arrangements during the busiest travel time of the year. But, in the end, she gave me a reprieve.
 
So, today will be different in a lot of ways. I had anticipated spending Thanksgiving at the nursing home, sharing a meal with my mom. Because of that, Nick and I decided to forgo cooking a turkey and instead opted to go to a nice restaurant for dinner. Those plans are still on, and I am glad that they are. This way, our routine will be different this year, and I believe that will help in making the emptiness of the day just a little less noticeable.
 
So, Happy Happy Turkey day to all that are reading this. Take the time to be thankful for your blessings, and most importantly, take the time to hug and cherish your loved ones – becuase that is a gift that we are never assured and that can be taken away from us sooner than we expect.
 
Tomorrow, I will go shopping without her – and I think that will be even tougher. I pray that there is some way for me to feel her presence and to take comfort in that. I know she would want to be push to move on, and I know she would want my holidays to be merry and bright. I just need to keep telling myself that, and hope that it will eventually sink in. Now, it’s time to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The final journey

Before I go into the final journey, please read the blog right before this one. It would be great if you had words to say about my mom that you enter them into the guest book at the Funeral Home in Longmont that initally handled her arrangments – all of the information is there for you to click on to their website and enter your thoughts.
 
Now, it is all over – at least the easy part. I am beginning to realize that the hard part is only beginning, as I reach for the phone to call her and of course, she is not there.
 
I went to Florida a day early to close some chapters. You can see that I added a new photo album that has some pictures of the house that they loved so dearly and the mall that they always walked.
 
I met my aunt Jane (my uncle Vic’s second wife) and her daughter (Charmaine) for breakfast on Friday at the restaurant where they used to meet my mother for breakfast once a week. I had the opportunity to share with them the story of mom’s last days and it was very cathartic to do so.  Charmaine helped me find a restaurant for the meal after the burial – most nice restaurants in that part of town do not open until 4pm and she was able to talk a restaurant owner into opening sooner for our party. That was great – mom would have loved the place and would have approved.
 
After breakfast, I went to take pictures of their old house. They loved that house so much – it was their dream, and in retrospect, they lived a "dream" retirement for almost 20 years. As I was taking pictures, the owner of the house came out. I told him who I was, and he immediately said to me "Oh, you must be Euphrasia’s daughter " and I said yes. He asked how she was and how Nick was as well (Nick was the one who spent a month with her to help her move to Colorado).
 
When I told him about mom, he expressed his sympathy and asked me if I wanted to go inside the house. I told him, that if he did not mind, that I would really appreciate that. Well, life does go on, and I had to laugh because the house was very different from what I remembered.
 
This man and his wife were animal rehabilitators – they had 6 dogs, 7 cats, 6 birds, 2 racoons, and 2 squirrels all living in the house. He told me that when he saw me taking pictures of the house, he thought maybe one of the neighbors was preparing to sue him because of the complaints that he has gotten about the dogs barking.
 
They had added an additional screened-in area off of the pool deck to accomodate some of the birds, the two squirrels and the 2 racoons. You could smell urine in that area, and my first thought was, oh boy, mom and dad would really be turning over in their graves to see this. But, it just reinforced to me that life does go on, and that is the way it should be. It was their home now, and their home and their lifestyle certainly did not have to conform to my memories of it.
 
I was grateful to be able to take some pictures of the pool, and they are included in the new photo album as well that I just added to this site.
 
Saturday was a tough day, much tougher than I expected. I found out that I really had no desire to see my mother in a coffin, nor did I have any desire to touch her. Personally, I would have just been happy being there with her when she died and then having her taken care of in a manner in which I did not have to view it. What I saw was not my mom (don’t get me wrong, they did a fine enough job with the body) – it was just an empty shell – a well dressed stone of a person.
 
But, I could also see that the viewing was very important to my brother and the rest of the family that attended. The funeral party was very small – me, my brother and his wife, my aunt from Florida and her daughter and husband, my aunt and uncle from Georgia and my cousin, and one of my mother’s friends from bingo. Nick could not make it – with his lung problems, the doctor does not recommend that he fly at this time – so he handled the home front and I took care of mom.
 
We had only an hour and a half of viewing and then went to the Catholic Church (Light of Christ) where my mom and dad had been parishoners for 20+ years. That mass was very nice and it was officiated by a priest with a noticeable accent (I found out later that he was Polish, so it was ironically very appropriate).
 
At the cemetery, after the priest spoke, I said a few final words. I shared with the group the story of mom’s last week (which is included in some of the previous blogs if you want to read them) and the story of her death. Then we escorted her to the crypt. There was a curtain over the opening, and when we asked what it was covering, they said that it was covering dad’s coffin in the back. So, we asked if we could see it, and sure enough, there was his coffin. I immediately said, "Hold on dad, here she comes and I am sure the orders will start shortly", everyone laughed. We watched as she was put next to dad, and we left as they began the process of sealing the crypt.
 
And then, the easy part of was over. We had a nice lunch – I went back to the hotel and called my aunt (Sister Teresita) to let her know how it went, – went to a nearby mall to do some retail therapy and met my brother and sister-in-law later to watch part of the Ohio State and Michigan game.
 
Chapter closed. And in the words from the play Steel Magnolias – … I know that is true in my brain – I just wish someone would tell that to my heart… because the chapter is not closed, the essence of my mom is not gone – it is here with me, and now I have to figure out how to live with that and be happy with that.
 
As I went shopping, all I could think of was her words to me "Honey, I won’t be able to go Christmas shopping with you this year." and I told her that she would always go Christmas shopping with me, because she would always be in my heart. And yet, as I was carrying her in my heart through that mall, I was angry and I was sad, because it just was not good enough. I wanted her there, with me, hanging on to my arm like she used to, talking away about every little detail of her life and wanting to stop for some lunch or a glass of wine.
 
But she was not there, and it dawned on me that as I face this holiday season, she will not be there – and I have to figure out how to live with that, and how my life has to go one without one of the most significant influences and loves in my life. We shared a love for the story of the Christmas Carol, and all of the antics of Ebeneezer Scrooge – we loved holiday music (she especially the big band version of holiday songs) and I would play them incessently in my car as we travelled around doing our holiday chores. Right now, none of this brings any spark of joy.
 
She had to give me an early Christmas gift this year – the gift of helping her move on to her eternal life – and although that may be the most precious gift she has ever given me, I feel empty with that gift right now. I know I am being selfish, and that time will help me appreciate that gift even more than I do now, but it is my reality and I have to work through it the best I can.
 
When I was flying home, and just as we were making our approach back into the Denver airport, I swear I felt her touch my shoulder and I felt a calm as I came back to Colorado without her. It was hard to leave her in Florida and come back her by myself, but she belonged to dad much longer than she belonged to me, and I know dad was overjoyed to have her back in his arms.
 
So I am banking on the fact that they will do in death what they did so beautifully in life all those many years and that is take care of their little girl. Because Lord knows, she really needs it now.
 
I am taking this week off to get some things done in relation to mom’s estate and to take a little rest. Tomorrow I am spending all day at a spa and I am really looking forward to that. And on Friday, I will do what I have always done and that is go Christmas shopping. Yes, I am one of those nuts that actually enjoys going Christmas shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year. So mom, I am counting on you to help me feel your presence so that my life can go on -and that I learn that carrying you in my heart is enough while I am on this earth – and that I never forget and never stop feeling your love.
 
 

Euphrasia D. Drabik (1922-2006)

Euphrasia Dolores Miksis Drabik (1922-2006) was laid to rest next to her husband, Edward Joseph Drabik (1915-1998) on Saturday, November 18, 2004 at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Clearwater Florida.
 
Memorial contributions can be made to HospiceCare of Boulder and Broomfield Counties and sent to Ahlberg Funeral Chapel – 326 Terry Street, Longmont, CO . 80501. Please note on any contribution – IMO: Euphrasia Drabik.
 
Visit www.ahlbergfuneralchapel.com to leave condolences for the family.
 

It’s finally over… peace

Euphrasia Dolores Miksis Drabik – born September 23, 1922 – died November 14, 2006. How do you even begin to put into the words this very special life. She was one of four children (the baby) of Apolian and Marcella Miksis (Victor, Genevieve and Bernice), born in Chicago and lived under very modest means on the south side of Chicago (a large Lithuanian stronghold at the time). She married Edward Joseph Drabik (1915-1998) and had two children, Robert (1947) and Janice (1951). She lived in Chicago until she retired with her husband to Clearwater Florida in 1982 and moved to Colorado to be near her daughter in 2004.

Mom, I miss you terribly already, but I am at such peace because you are not suffering any longer. I had two + great years with my mom here in Colorado. We went shoppping, went to movies, saw plays had regular ladies nite out dinners – and I was blessed to have had the opportunity to really spend some time with her after living far away from her for so many years once she and dad moved to Florida. She always felt I was going to follow them down there, but little Jan who always had a boat load of independence decided that Florida was not for her and lived in Chicago, Dayton, Ohio and now Boulder, Colorado.

I had never experienced a death before and so I was really not sure what to expect and how I would feel about it. Yesterday started with a call from Hospice. They asked if I wanted a nurse to stay with mom all day, because they had one available. I jumped at the chance, because I had planned to be there all day as well, and knew I would appreciate not only the company but the professional assessment of mom’s condition.

We sat all morning and chatted about mom. There were some changes in her condition since the nurse spent the day with her on Sunday, but nothing to indicate eminent death. The nurse was quick to remind me that those conditions could change at any time, and could change rapidly.

At about 11:30 am, the nurse suggested that I go out for a while and grab some lunch. I decided to do so – nursing homes are tough environments to be in when you are sitting at the bedside of a dying person.

I was just finishing when I got a call on my cell phone – some things appeared to be changing, they recommended that I come back. I got back relatively quickly, and to my untrained eye I could not notice any type of change. But they told me that her heart rate had incresed significantly and that her breathing was changing.

So, I sat by her bed and held her hand. I told her that she was the one who was there when I entered into this world and I asked her to give me a final Christmas gift – to let me be there when she left this world. I kept encouraging her to go, I told her daddy was waiting, I told her that I would be ok, and I told her that she should give in and be at peace. Over the course of about 20 minutes, as I continued to talk to her and to hold her hand, her breathing became more and more shallow. It finally got to the point where her breaths were so insignificant that it made me wonder how that little amount of oxygen could sustain life. Then there were a couple of more very shallow, very small breaths, and nothing. A tear streamed down out of her left eye, and it was all over.

When I came back from lunch, not only was the nurse there who was assigned for the day, but mom’s regular nurse, the hospice social worker and a nurse being trained to do bedside assessments. She had a room full of people, pulling for her to be out of her pain and wishing her a speedy journey to dad.

I have to say, although I was fearful of what to expect, it was the most beautiful experience of my life. My mom gave me the ultimate gift, and I will always be grateful to her for sharing her last moments of life with me.

Since last Wednesday you could see that she was accepting what was happening and preparing for the next phase of her life. On Friday she asked me what was happening to her. When I asked what she thought was happening to her, she said, "I’m dying", and I told her yes. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she would not be able to go Christmas shopping with me, and with tears in my eyes, I told her that she would always be able to go Christmas shopping with me, because for as long as I live, I will always have her in my heart wherever I go and whatever I do. She smiled.

On Monday I had both my aunt and my brother talk to her. I held the phone by her ear and they told her it was ok to let go. When she heard my brother’s voice, she opened her eyes and I got cognitive recognition. I said hi to her, and she very weakly and softly said to me, "I love you." Those were the last words I would ever hear her say.

Today we will finalize the arrangements and my last job is to get her back to dad. I can’t believe that it is over, and yet I am so happy that she is finally out of her pain. This journey was a tough one, but she handled it with grace and a positive attitude. I truly believe that until this last week, she thought she would beat this thing and walk out of that nursing home. She was a fighter until the end.

Euphrasia Dolores Miksis Drabik – born 1922, died 2006. I love you with all my heart, mom. And until the day that I die, you will live on in my heart. I am counting on you to be my guardian angel now. It’s a dirty job, but I know you are up to the task. Thank you for everything, mom. I will always love you.

Your baby,

Janice Marie

 

Could be days… Could be a week…

We are in the midst of the dying process. I guess you could say that we have, since the end of June, been in the midst of the dying process but we kid ourselves that we have control and we look for excuses to lessen the reality.
 
But now, we are DEFINTELY in the dying process. Mom had a goodbye conversation with me on Wednesday. She thanked me for everything I have done for her and told me I was a good daughter. She told me that even though she was telling me she was ok that something was "weird" and that she knew she was dying. I told her not to worry about me and I told her that I loved her. I tried hard not to cry, but could not help myself. My mom cried at first, but when I started to cry, she stopped. When I asked her if my crying bothered her, she said no – in fact, she rather appreciated it!
 
On Thursday, I thought she was going to die. She was in a lot of pain and required much more morphine – the nursing home had to call hospice to get permission to raise the dosage. She was breathing irratically, and showed signs of apnia (not breathing for seconds at a time) but later in the day her breathing stabilized and she just sounded like she was sleeping.
 
On Friday she appeared much stronger but at one point she asked me what was happening to her. When I asked her what she thought was happening to her, she told me she thought she was dying. I told her that that was true – and if I could, I would spend all of my money to make her well again (if that would do it) and that I would give anything for her not to have to go through this. I brought one of her favorite movies – the George C. Scott version of "The Christmas Carol" and played it for her. She watched for a while and made mention of her favorite part, and then she closed her eyes and listened. After a while, she opened her eyes and told me she did not remember that movie at all (she has seen it dozens of times) – and so it becomes so apparent that her mind goes in and out.
 
I got there early on Saturday and the first thing she asked me was if I was mad at her. I sad no, and when I asked her why, she told me that she thought I was mad at her because I had not been there in a long time (just most of the day on Wednesday, all day Thursday and all day on Friday). I spent some time with her, but then left as I had a lot of stuff to do at home.
 
Today, hospice called and offered to have a nurse spend the entire day with mom to monitor her.They wanted to do it for a couple of reasons. First, they wanted to note when she was in pain to better be able to determine how to administer her pain medication. Second, they wanted to watch her to determine if they could somewhat speculate on where she was in the dying process. I really appreciated that, as the past few days have been the worst roller coaster ride I have been on for a while.
 
I cried so hard on Wednesday after we had the goodbye conversation, that my eyes hurt for the rest of the night. They hurt so bad, I had to put a cold compress on them for most of the evening. Then the next day, she is stronger. But I understand, this is natural, and her ability to rally will become less and less.
 
Today when I got there, she knew who I was, she told me she loved me, but she said some things that I could not understand. For most of the time I was there, she slept. And the nurse is going to call me this evening to give me an update on what she observed all day today.
 
I called my brother and told him to be prepared. I keep telling myself to be prepared – but I know I can’t. Every time the phone rings, I jump. I struggle with what to do with work at this point as so much is going on there – but this is my mom and the last days of her life. I just hope I make the right decisions.
 
I want her to be out of her misery and I want her back to where she was, but that cannot be. So I pray that dad will take her hand, calm her fears, and gently help her over to the other side – and then when she’s ready, that they dance like they used to.
 

Holding pattern

That is what I feel my life is like now – on a holding pattern. It is obvious that mom is weak, but she has rallies and at least a couple of days this week she exhibited more strength than usual. But most of the time she sleeps and she really needs to be fed all of the time now as eating can become overwhelming for her, both from an energy perspective and an eyesight perspective (her macular degeneration has gotten worse, and she can’t really see what she is eating).
 
Yesterday I spent some time with her – I played some music for her and read to her. She never heard me reading to her although a couple of times she had her eyes open as I read. When I fed her her lunch, I asked her if she remembered me reading to her, and she said no.
 
Today, I went to see a movie. I called her this morning and she did answer the phone, but she sounded very tired, and she shows no interest in talking on the phone anymore.
 
I tried calling later and she did not answer. I called the nurses station and they said that she slept most of the day – that she had complained of pain earlier in the day, and they had given her some morphine.
 
After I went to the movies today (I went to see the movie Santa Clause 3), I walked around the mall for a while. All of the Christmas decorations are starting to pop up and things are starting to look festive.
 
For those of you that do not know, Christmas is my most favorite time of year – I just love the sights and sounds of Christmas, the tree, the ornaments, the Department 56 Houses, Santa, and all that. And  now I am struggling with the thought of Christmas – all the memories of mom and dad at Christmas, the Christmases in Florida, the times my parents came to visit me and Nick. My parents and I decided a long time ago that we would spend Christmas together. Either they would come to see me, or I them. We kept that tradition for 24 years – and now, I wonder what will happen this year.
 
I thought a lot about dying and the holidays – it is sort of like a baby being born – you cannot predict exactly when or what time (unless you are having a Cesearian). And I’ve thought about whether this is going to change it all for me – and I’ve come to a conclusion.
 
If mom dies during the holidays, of course it will be hard. But from then on, every holiday, I could celebrate her life and celebrate all of the good memories and times. Mom had a hard time at Christmas ever since dad died, but I am going to promise both her and dad that I will keep the holidays joyous. They both knew how much Christmas meant to me, and I know they would want it to remain that way and that they will just celebrate it with me in a different way.
 
It may sound like I am borrowing trouble, and I’m not really. But I see my mom’s progression, and I have a hard time believing she will be with us for the new year. But, believe me, if she is – there will be no one happier than me – if that is what is best for her.
 
So what do I want for Christmas this year – I want my mom to be relieved of her suffering and I want  her to be at peace – and whatever that means or how it all plays out will be absolutely fine with me. All I want for Christmas is what is best for my mom – that will be the best gift I could ever receive.

Morphine

That dreaded word – morphine. It is now part of the treatment plan. My mom is losing strength, and it is difficult to even get her out of bed. If the nurses try, say to put her on the commode, she often goes limp in their arms and the end result is more skin tears because she has scraped herself.
 
This week, the nurses told her that she should try to use a bed pan. She was not pleased with that and demanded to use a commode. The nurses tried to move her and sure enough the strain made her go limp in their arms and she wound up getting two new skin tears on the backs of her thighs.
 
She has two sources of pain now – the cancer and her skin tears. The medication she was on was not completely managing the pain – so the nurse called me and suggested we put her on a morphine caplet, which would only be given to her when she asks for it. The caplet goes under the tongue and dissolves in the mouth – it is supposed to give very quick pain relief. So, she is on her first round of morphine.
 
She is really weak – it is difficult for her to stay awake and she often will not even answer the phone anymore. I often go and visit with her and just play her favorite music and read to her. She still has her cognitive abilities – it just seems that even speaking drains her of her strength.
 
I am not sure what the next few weeks will bring, but I am becoming more convinced that she will not live through the end of the year, and maybe not another month. BUT, the nurse says my mom has a strong will, and I do not doubt that for one minute. She has a strong will to live, and I will continue to support her in that for as long as she wants to live.
 
I find myself missing her a lot in terms of things we used to do together especially the past couple of years when she lived here in Colorado. This afternoon I was sitting on the deck and missing her being there – she never has had the chance to see our deck and newly landscaped backyard and I know she would have loved it. We used to sit out on my patio quite a bit – and when I am out there now, I miss her not being there.
 
I’ve been talking a lot to my dad lately, asking him to have influence on whomever so that my mom does not have to suffer. Every time I see her, there is a little bit of anger in me, seeing what she is now and knowing what she was all of her life. It is opposite ends of the spectrum. I feel so bad that she has to go through this – no one deserves this. It is just slowly wasting away – waiting around until your body gives out. It is not much of a life – and I don’t understand why we make people go through this – but I am grateful that I have had this time with her and I just want her to be rid of all this pain and suffering.
 
I will continue to keep you posted. More next Sunday at the least or sooner if anything major happens.
 
 

I think its starting

I knew this would happen and some point and I think it is now. Mom is really starting to get noticeably weaker. The realization started for me on Tuesday morning when I called her and she told me that she had not slept all night. I called Pat the Hospice Nurse and asked her to check in on her.
 
Every day, up to this point, my mom would have her breakfast in bed, then they would dress her and move her to the big lazy boy chair in her room where she would spend most of her day. Some days the nursing staff would take her for walks outside in her wheelchair and other times she would just stay in her chair until after dinner when they got her ready for bed.
 
She would also ring for the nurses when she had to go to the bathroom and they would lift her on to a throne-like (I guess that is why the call it the throne) commode where she would do her business. Pat told me that on Tuesday when the nurses lifted her, she passed out on them. When she did, she slipped a little in their grasp (it is now taking two of them to move her at any time) and she scraped her knee and her arm. My mom’s skin is paper thin, and so these scrapes are painful and heal very slowly. So Pat told me she recommended that mom spend most of her time in bed and both mom and I agreed. She needs to call if she needs to go to the bathroom, and they now provide her with a bed pan.
 
Pat told me she had a conversation with mom and got mom to admit that the reason she had not slept the night before was because she was afraid of dying. Mom has even told my aunt that she wants to see a priest – and I have arranged for that.
 
She is eating noticeably less and it is very difficult for her to eat because I think her eyesight has gotten a lot worse as well. We are having a care conference on Tuesday and I am going to ask them to assit her with eating from now on.  I was there today at lunch and noticed that it really tired her out to try to eat – just the process of trying to get food on a fork or spoon and into her mouth without spilling it all over herself.  When I helped her, I think she was willing to eat a little more, but even with that she only ate about a quarter of her food. All she wants to do now is sleep.
 
Yesterday she told me that I was a good daughter and that she finally recognizes that I am really an adult and not a child anymore. She told me that she was amazed at how I survived this past summer and that she is truly grateful to have a daughter like me. She told me that she knows she does not have anything to worry about and that I will take care of everything.
 
It is very hard to see her this way – this is not the mom I have know all of my life – the vibrant, energetic woman who always wanted to be going places and doing things. It is such a shame that the last few months have had to be this way for her – just slowly wasting away, slowly getting weaker. I get mad about that sometimes. She told me the other day that she is not ready to die and yet she talks a lot more about death these days.
 
Yesterday I was able to give her a treat. When I cleaned out her apartment, I found a video that my sister-in-law had taken at my dad’s surprise 75th birthday party. It was held in Chicago. With current technology, I was able to transfer that video onto a disc and I played it on my laptop for my mom yesterday. The neat thing about that video is that at one point, the room becomes very quiet as my dad thanks everyone for coming and says that the party was one of the more special moments in his life. My mom got to hear my dad’s voice once again. When I was transferring the video, Nick asked me if I really wanted to show it to her – he was afraid it would make her cry. I said I wanted to, and I was surprised – she did not cry. What she did was show me a glimmer of what I know as my mom – she turned to me and she said "He really never had a lot to say, did he?" and we both laughed.
 
I hope I can stay strong because in my gut and in my heart I know that things are changing. I just want my mom to be at peace – whatever that means for her. The rest I will deal with because, as my mom finally recognized, I am all grown up. But if being grown up means I can no longer have my mommy, I’m not all that sure I want to be.

I hope I am blissfully unaware

The more I travel down this path, the more I become painfully unaware how important it is for a patient to have an advocate. Otherwise, Lord knows what would happen.
 
This week something happened that almost took the cake. I called my mom after work like I normally do. She sounded very stressed and said that they need to know that they can’t take her out for these long trips – that she was very tired. They brought her back to her room and turned the TV on but neglected to put the nurse call button next to her. I immediately thought that she was in the Land of Oz.
 
She began telling me how they took her to Kaiser Permanente (A specialized health care provider in the area) and then took her to McDonalds. She said she kept telling them that she did not want to sign up for Kaiser and that she would not sign anything as her daughter is her eyes and takes care of all of her medical needs. Oh boy, la la land again. But she was so stressed that I told her that I would call the nurse and see what happened.
 
Lo and behold I find out that they nursing facility’s driver had picked her up and taken her mistakenly for a blood work up at Kaiser. When I questioned the nurses why, they said they did not know how it happened.
 
I was fit to be tied. I told them that I wanted the administrator to call me the next day, and they said she would call me in the morning. The next day, when I had not received a call by twelve noon, I called Lynn, the admissions director. She told me she had heard what went on and apologize profusely. She told me she would have the administrator call me.
 
The administrator finally did call and explained that the driver was talking on the phone and writing down the room number of the patient who was to go for the blood work all at the same time and wrote down the wrong room number. Apparently my mom was pretty stressed when he went to pick her up and the acitivities director noticed that and decided to ride with her. When they found out the error, they took her to McDonalds for dinner.
 
The administrator told me that they would give a verbal warning to the driver, and they added to their policy a procedure to double check all trips with the nurse. They could not apologize enough, and when I asked my mom how far she thought I should pursue it, she told me to drop it.
 
I just have to shake my head. I just don’t get how something like this could happen and yet the mistake was relatively harmless and mistakes do get made. Mom has forgotten all about it now, and the nursing home really bent over backwards to apologize and to deal with the driver. I just wonder what would happen if my mom did not have someone in her corner checking up on her all the time. That’s why I say, when and if I ever have to be in a nursing facility, I hope that I am blissfully unaware – because I’m not sure there will be anyone around to watch out for me.
 
I leave tomorrow to go to Seattle for a week to attend the National Recreation and Park Association Conference. I am looking forward to a little time away although I will be in a ton of meetings. I will check in with you all next weekend.

Mom turned 84!

Yesterday was mom’s birthday – she turned 84. Eighty-three was not the best year – it was a very pivotal year in her life. It was the year that the reality of mortality reared its ugly head. Last year at this time, I would have never dreamed that this is where we would be this year for her birthday.
 
I’m sitting on my deck writing this right now. We have a new deck and our yard finally got landscaped and I am sitting here wishing that she was at the table with me enjoying this beautiful back yard and this beautiful time of year. She loved sitting out in the back yard with me. Of course, this is where she used to smoke as well, as she did not believe in smoking in her house or anyone’s elses house for that matter. In Florida, she would walk around her pool and smoke. Here she would take an old pepsi can and use it for an ashtray and try to find a place at the table where the wind would not blow the smoke in my face. Quite often we had to switch places.
 
She would sit out here and watch the birds. She was especially enamored by the Canada Geese that fly over our house every morning and evening in large v-like formations. The fly very low and they squawk as they fly – she just loved that. But today, all I could do was call her on the phone and describe what the new deck was like and describe what the yard looked like. I wanted her to be here with me.
 
 
But at least she had a good birthday. For years we thought (and so did mom) that her birthday was on September 22. We used to have this thing – my birthday was May 22 and my brother’s birthday was May 26 and mom’s birthday was September 22 and my dad’s was September 26. I’m not sure how we discovered this, and it was just discovered recently, but we found out that mom’s birth certificate was written out in error. The story was that my mom was delivered by a midwife and supposedly she was drunk and she wrote down the wrong date on the birth certificate. So, it is really September 23. Leave it to mom to have two birthdays – she loves getting presents.
 
Last week, I wrote about her early birthday dinner. This week, she wanted an ice-cream cake for her birthday – so I got her this huge one that she could enjoy as well as share with the nurses. She was like a little kid. As a matter of fact, it is really interesting to see the role reversal. You should have seen me cleaning her up after she ate her cake – she had frosting and ice-cream all over herself and her blanket. As I was cleaning it up, I was thinking how ironic it was that I was being the mom.
 
This morning when I called she was not feeling well. She said her ankle was hurting (remember she is holding fluid in the lower portion of her body). When I spoke to her I told her to call the nurse and ask for a pain pill. She sometimes seems to forget that she can ask for pain medication regardless of where it hurts. Later on I called her and she sounded fine – but she definitely is sleeping a lot more and she tires very easily.
 
The nurses told me that they just love her. She is so pleasant, and really for most of the time she is. She could have chosen to be angry about what has happened and to be negative, but she is just the opposite. She is very positive and upbeat most of the time – and I really do believe that her positive attitude is what is keeping her alive. The nurses even told me that when she first came in that they did not think she would live very long – but she is certainly proving us all wrong – and I am so glad for that.
 
So, another year. I’m not sure what 84 going on 85 will bring – but I hope it brings the greatest quality of life possible and no pain. And I hope it brings a good attitude and joy. Happy Birthday mom. I love you very much.
 
 
 
 

An early birthday dinner

After last weekend when the hospice nurse told me that we were going into another phase in my mom’s journey, I decided that I would not waste time. My mom’s birthday is next Saturday but I am never assured about what a new day will bring. So, this year for her birthday, she wanted a dinner from Carabbas – it is her favority Italian restaurant. She especially likes their crusty bread that they serve with herbs and dipping oil. Her birthday is next Saturday – but I asked her if she wanted to have an early birthday dinner and she did not hesitate to say yes.
 
So yesterday, I went there and ordered a couple of filet dinners – and two loaves of crusty bread. We had the staff set up a table in a little room down the hall and we had a special birthday dinner. My mom was excited all day – and it gave her something to look forward to. We had a great dinner – with mom mostly eating bread and salad – she did eat some of her filet, but she was so excited about having some crusty bread that I did not have the heart to tell her that she should save some room for the meal.
 
It was a nice dinner. And with all the excitement, once we were done she wanted to go back to her room because she was tired and wanted to go to bed. She really has very little energy anymore – but she had a great dinner and she is still talking about it.
 
Next week I told her that I would bring her an ice-cream cake for her birthday. That way, she can also share some of it with all of the staff that have been so good to her. And again, it gives her something else to look forward to.
 
The swelling in her body has not subsided – the doctor did not think it would even with the lasix, and she was right. I guess I was hoping against hope that it might help, but obviously the tumors are affecting other things in her body. She still has a good appetitie and she is still pretty lucid, so I am grateful for every day at this time. And next Saturday it is ice-cream cake – I think I will look forward to that too.

I hate cigarettes!

It seems that I just need to constantly expect the unexpected. This one just about takes the cake. On Thursday, I got a call from the nursing home. The nurse on the other end of the line says to me, "Are you aware that your mother is smoking cigarettes?"
 
I almost flipped. I said to the nurse," She is not to be smoking cigarettes", and the nurse says to me, "I sorry, but the patient has rights and if your mom wants to smoke cigarettes, she can."
 
So I am asking all of you who are reading this – help me to understand. How can a health care facility give a woman who is dying of lung cancer a cigarette?
 
About a week ago, a nurse called me and told me that my mom was asking for cigarettes. When I asked mom about it, she said that she was only joking. Then I found out that she was not joking and that she was actually smoking. Not much, mind you. Maybe three maximum within a week. But in order to have a cigarette the nurses have to put her in a wheelchair and take her outside to a specific smoking area. There is no smoking allowed within the nursing facility.
 
I suppose there is definitely two sides to this story. After all, my mother is dying of lung cancer. Smoking at this time is certainly not going to make anything worse.
 
Two things bother me about this whole situation. First of all, I am in charge of everything else. I pay the bills, I deal with the insurance companies, I wrangle with the doctor, I close down the apartment, I manage the estate, I make the health care decisions. But when it comes to smoking, well a patient has their rights. A friend of mine who recently went through something similar with her father told me that I need to understand that a person in my mother’s place needs to feel like they have some control in their life. I guess I can understand that, but believe me I am not taking control of all these things out of choice – it is out of necessity so that my mother can be cared for, be pain free and so that her money can be used to take care of her needs. But, in trying to put myself in my mother’s shoes, I can certainly understand the need to feel like you have some control.
 
Fundamentally, I guess the thing that bothers me the most about all of this is that my mother lied to me about the smoking. When I asked her to be honest with me and told her how important it was that she was honest with me, she did admit that she lied when she told me she was only joking about asking for cigarettes.
 
That hurt the most, and I told her that. She promised she would not lie to me again. Now I am at a point where I am realizing that I need to really step back and deal with this from her perspective. Heck, I am not dying of cancer – I have no clue what she is going through and how hard this must be to constantly deal with that reality. I know in principle we are all dying, but to have that amount of specific information relative to it is something that I currently do not have, and I need to be more empathetic about that.
 
I am still struggling with why a health care facility would give a lung cancer patient a cigarette – and I am still confused about what exactly what my role is in all of this – but I will continue to go with the flow.
 
Another friend of mine put it all in perspective for me. I was ranting about this whole situation and how much I have done for my mother and this is how she repays me – by lying – and she said. "Jan, welcome to the world of having children." We both started to laugh. I made a conscious choice not to have kids – I knew I would not be a good mother – I am way too selfish – so I have no framework for having children and now, for all intents and purposes, I am thrust into the role of being a mom. The one thing that has been beneficial for me in all of this is that it has affirmed me in my decision about not being a parent.
 
So, today I am planning a special dinner for my mom. She is turning a corner in her condition and right now I never know when she may slip into something other than the lucid reality she is in right now. So we are celebrating her birthday a week early. I am going to her favorite restaurant and buying dinner and bringing it to her. It should be great and I know she will enjoy it. Yesterday she asked me what I was planning for dessert – I told her it would be a surprise. But guess what – it won’t be coffee and a cigarette – that’s for sure. Happy weekend, all!

You are entering a new phase…

Those were the words of the Hospice nurse yesterday.
 
To talk to my mom on the phone, you might hardly notice any difference. To see her in person, you notice the changes. The medication that she is on is giving her a voracious appetite – but I see no reason to deny her the pleasures of food, and especially chocolate -which she loves so dearly. The medication is making her face puffy, and then of course, there is the swelling.
 
When mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, she was put on Lasix – a medication that assists the body in releasing fluid that a normal heart would automatically do. Her left foot would swell slightly, but that was about it. We discontinued the lasix when mom started Hospice treatment.
 
Yesterday, when I went to visit mom, the nurses aide pointed out to me that her lrft leg was swelling all the way up to her hip. And I also found out that her body is "weeping" – giving off fluid through her pores that is not being released in the normal fashion. So, she is swathed in a blanket that absorbs the moisture.
 
I called the Hospice nurse and she came out to see her. The nurse talked to my mom’s doctor who in turn called me. The doctor seems to think that the tumor we treated in June has grown and his pressing up against a vein that is not allowing sufficient blood flow to the lower part of the body. So, we have the swelling. I talked to the doctor about putting her back on Lasix – she told me she was hesitant to do so because she was pretty sure that the swelling was being caused by the growth in the tumor and that Lasix would not do anything to allow for sufficient blood flow to the lower part of her body, which is what would relieve the swelling. I told the doctor that we should try anyway – for one week to see if it would give her relief. The doctor said after a week, we would have to begin testing my mom’s electrolyte levels (blood tests) as the Lasix would remove fluids from her body, just not the ones we are trying to target. But, on the chance that the Lasix might help, we will try – but I am not going to have her on it for too long if it is not helping the problem.
 
When I was on the phone yesterday, the hospice nurse said, "Jan, I want you to know that you are entering a new phase in your mother’s condition." When I asked her what that meant, she could not be specific, but she was indicating that things were changing.
 
I talked to the doctor about that, and asked what that meant. She said that I would probably see my mom sleeping more (which I already have), and that this could ultimately result in renal failure. But, she also said that some people live with that type of swelling for some time.
 
So, we are on to a new phase. I was a little saddened by that last night, but when I spoke to mom today, she sounded fine – so I allowed myself to delude myself and say, she sounds fine and that is all that matters right now.
 
I hope I find the strength – and somehow, I know I will.

Closing a chapter

On Thursday I turned in the keys to my mother’s apartment. Just a simple thing – go meet the landlord and turn in the keys.
 
I had arranged to meet the landlord at 12:30, but some things ended early at work and I got to the apartment building sooner than planned.  I decided to take one last look around.
 
The apartment was bare now – the only thing that remained was the custom curtains that my mom had installed. I walked out on the balcony and thought about the many times my mom and I sat out there. She basically went out there to smoke her cigarettes (arghh) – but we would sit and listen to sounds of the trains going by – the tracks were a few blocks away and it was amazing how after only a short while you often missed the sounds of the train unless the conductor sounded the horn. Her balcony was on the east side of the building, so you got the morning son, but in the afternoon it was very pleasant. We would have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and talk about how great it was that she was now in Colorado and had found such a great place to live.
 
I walked back in and went from the living room to the family room – she spent a lot of her time in there in the evenings watching tv. She also had her desk in there and that is where she did all of her paperwork until her macular degeneration got so bad that I had to do it for her.
 
I walked into her bedroom – it looked so much smaller without the furniture and her walk in closet looked so much bigger without all of her clothes. She had two bathrooms and a laundry room as well – she loved that. She did not like all of the "retirement" places we visited that had one laundry facility on every floor. She wanted to do her wash in her own apartment  and she had that there.
 
I systematically went into every room and thought about things that had occurred in each of them. My mother was so happy there – she had found an ideal place for herself and she felt very safe and comfortable there.
 
I was so happy she had the time there – this was my mom’s apartment. It’s hard to believe that someone else is moving into it this weekend.
 
It sounds silly but I thanked the space for being so good to and for my mom. She couldn’t have found a better place. It was ideal for her. I started to leave and just couldn’t. I had to walk through  one more time. I did that and then walked out and closed the door. I would never go back into that apartment again.
 
Since I had gotten there early and left early, I left the keys with the landlord’s grandmother who also lives on that floor and who became a very dear friend to my mother. I walked out of the building and went to visit mom.
 
I walked in her room and after making some small talk I told her that I turned in the keys. She started to cry and so did I. She said she has gone through many phases in her life, and this was the end of another chapter. I held her hand and told her that I understood – I told her it was also hard for me and that I was just as sad to know that that apartment was now a thing of the past. She continued to cry and then she looked at me and said that it was the right thing to do and that she was glad that that weight was now lifted off of my shoulders.
 
Then, all of sudden, she said – "Enough of this nonsense, I want to eat" -(she was in the middle of lunch when I got ther). And almost as if it meant nothing, the subject was over and the joy of eating returned.
 
For whatever reason, she is keeping an amazingly positive attitude and she does not dwell on her situation. She remains mostly upbeat and positive and I know that is having a significant effect on her health. Whether she is choosing not to admit things, or whether she just feels that she is going to make the best of her situation – I am very impressed by her strength and appreciate the fight she has in her.
 
So, another chapter is closed. Many have closed since June when this incredible journey began for me, my mother and Nick. We are all on a different path now, one that is more defined and thankfully one that has some semblance of normalcy. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that – I appreciate the little things – the sound of my mother’s voice – sitting in the kitchen and knowing that Nick is sitting on the couch – not having to call or visit a hospital every day – going to work every day – all these simple little things that I wondered if I would ever experience again.
 
I am not kidding myself – I know there will be other hardships in life. But when all of this was going on, a friend of mine told me that after living through this, all other hardships will come and go, but nothing will ever compare. I really think that is true.
 
On a side note, I got a call yesterday that one of my employee’s mother died in her sleep. She and I were just talking recently about our mother’s health issues. She had just gone to see her mother recently and she told me that she wondered if this would be the last time she would see her mother alive. I tried to call her last night when I heard. Her voicemail kicked in immediately, so I think she was on the phone. I left her a message to express my sympathy. I wished her peace and strength but also said that I  could not say that I knew how she was feeling – only that I wished her the strength to live through what was to come.
 
And then, I took a deep breath. I realized I did not know what she is feeling  – and I got a little scared. Treasure your mother while you have her, Jan. You just never know.

So long summer – I, for one, will not miss you!

Hi all,
 
It has been a while since I have written, but that is good because I have accomplished a lot and finally got some things completed. And now it is Labor Day – where did the summer go, right? Not for me – I am very happy this summer is on its way out.
 
This summer represents one of the worst periods in my life – starting on June 10 with Nick’s hospitalization and ending with me finally closing down my mother’s apartment on Saturday.
 
So, as I reflect on what went on – it sort of sounds like this :
  • Putting Nick in the hospital
  • 5 days later putting my mom in the hospital
  • Researching rehab care for Nick
  • Researching nursing homes for Mom
  • Selling my mother’s car
  • Moving Nick into rehab
  • Moving my mom into the nursing home
  • Overseeing the construction of our deck
  • Managing the day-to-day of two households
  • Staying up all night worrying because Nick was not home
  • Going to Wyoming to pick up Nick
  • Arranging to have Nick’s car transported back to Erie
  • Dealing with the insurance company on Nick’s car
  • Dealing with the insurance company regarding mom’s long term care insurance
  • Overseeing the landscaping project for both the front and back yards
  • Planning the close down of my mother’s apartment
  • Renting a car for my aunt and her travelling companion who spent two weeks visiting mom (I thank God for the care and support they gave her and the relief they gave to me)
  • Physically closing down my mother’s apartment – dealing with the consignment people who moved the furniture, the Salvation Army who picked up most of the rest, and loving friends who helped me pack
  • Managing my mother’s health care – the ups and downs on confusion, skin tears and falls
  • Fighting with the nursing home over keeping my mom in a private room
  • Taking my car into the dealership and finding out it needs a whole new engine
  • Oh, and working a full time job which was only full time for two of the weeks between June 10 and now (my staff is now completely burned out and overwhelmed)

And that’s about it. I look back and say, wow, certainly a lot was accomplished – but it was stressful, and painful. I am not sad to see this chapter closed.

And yet, this chapter has fundamentally changed me and my perspective on things. I am happy – and I can’t believe that I can say that. When this first started and right before everything hit the fan, I was wondering if I would ever be happy again. That was very hard, and despressing to the point of contemplating why I should even continue to value my life.

But, finally something did happen, and even though it was horrific, it ended a lot of waiting and anticipating, wondering and worrying. It all burst open, and although it was painful, it was also something tangible to deal with. And that provided me perspective and grounded me. It also taught me to appreciate the little things, and I take a lot of joy from that now.

As we move forward, things are looking very positive for Nick. Day by day he is getting stronger and it is so nice to see come back the man I married. It is much more peaceful and stable at home.

As for my mom, only time will tell with her. She is going to die, but so will we all someday. But she is pain free, and she has the best quality of life possible under the circumstances. I got word from her insurance company that her benefits have been approved, so with that, I will be able to manage her finances and maybe even save some money for her versus just seeing it all pour out to the nursing home. She is ecstatic about that, and that makes me happy.

The apartment is all done. I will turn the keys in on Thursday (the last day it is ours) and I want to walk through it one more time and think about all of the joy it brought both mom and me. She had the opportunity to be more social, live in a great place, make some great new friends and be near family for the past couple of years, and that was much better than the life she was leading after my dad died – so I will smile about that and cry for the loss – and walk out of that apartment and into the whatever will be – for me, my mom and Nick. But I can say right now, that phase looks a lot better than the phase I entered into on June 10. Thank God!

In and out…

So today mom’s confusion was better – she was pretty thick tongued in the morning, but this evening she sounded clearer. It seems her life these days consists of sleeping and eating.
 
Yesterday some friends of mine helped me pack up all of the remaining little stuff so that the Salvation Army can pick it up on Monday. My one friend Kathy took my mom’s desk and TV last weekend. When she came yesterday, she told me about her daughter Madison and the desk. She said the desk is not in the place in her home where it will eventually be, but no matter, her daughter sat down at the desk, spread out her chemistry homework and started to work on it. Kathy said that it was a great sense of the human spirit living on, and she asked me if it would make mom happy to know that the desk was being used in such a way. I told her that I definitely thought mom would be happy about that – once again the desk is being put to use and once again that desk is supporting the work of someone. And it is supporting the work of a daughter of a friend – that is really nice.
 
Kathy also kept asking me how we could thank my mom for the wonderful things that she is giving people. I told her that to thank her for her things might not be the best idea, especially since all of her things being moved out respresents a very scary thing to her, even though she knows that logically that needs to happen. I told Kathy the best way to thank my mom was to use the things she took in good health and maybe every once in a while, it might be a  reminder of mom – and that would be the best way.
 
My friends were great – they helped me pack, we sat around and talked for a while and it made the whole situation a lot easier to deal with.
 
Everything is done now. All that is left is the Salvation Army pickup on Monday and then next weekend a final clean up of the apartment. I’m not sure how I will handle walking out of the door of that apartment for the last time. My mom so loved it there – it will be very hard. I really do not want to think about that any more right now. Tomorrow I am taking a little time for myself – I will think about that for now.

Confusion

Confusion – a very polite term to describe the effects of drugs on one’s brain or the effects of cancer on one’s brain. We’re not quite sure yet what is causing the confusion.
 
Yesterday mom was quite confused. She started by telling me that something was going on at the care center involving the hispanics and the blacks and that the nurses would not talk to her about it. Boulder County has a growing hispanic population and some people of the hispanic culture do work at the center, but believe me, there are no black people. African Americans are not the dominant culture here, as a matter of fact I believe their numbers are in the less than 1% range – so that tipped me off that what we had was "confusion".
 
When I spoke to the nurse, she affirmed that my mom was confused but she also said that she had a urinary tract infection and that that can be the contributing factor. They asked if I wanted to start her on antibiotics. So, I called Pat the hospice nurse.
 
Pat told me that bacteria in the urinary tract is common, especially in nursing home environments, and that we had treated mom for that before as well. She seemed to think that this could be the onslaught of the cancer spreading to my mother’s brain. We decided to move ahead with the antibiotics and we would have a better idea within a few days if the confusion was caused by the infection or by the cancer.
 
I spoke to mom this morning. She is a little less confusion but still speaking with a very thick sounding tongue. She did say a few things that were off the mark, but most of the conversation was lucid enough. It is so hard to tell what is going on – this is such a nasty condition – it just strings you along and gives you so many highs and lows.
 
Yesterday they moved my mom’s furniture out of the house. It was a relief to see that done, and yet it was one of the hardest things to experience. To see this representation of her life slowly fade into nothing is very difficult. The good thing is that it is so much work that you can lose yourself in the project and forget at time what the project represents. When the movers left, I cried. Some of that furniture was in my family for 50 years, a lot of it was furniture that my mom and dad bought together when they moved to Florida and so in some instances, it represented not only a loss in relation to my mom, but reliving the loss of my dad as well.
 
As I stood in front of the bed they slept in for many years and watched as it was dismantled and taken away, I felt very alone and very sad. I thought of all of the times I visited them in Florida and how that home, for all intents and purposes, was their dream home – their dream life – after living most of their lives in a small ethnic neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, they finally had the opportunity to experience the American Dream – they had a corner lot , 30 trees, a pool , and a beautiful home filled with all new furniture – most of which was taken away yesterday. The memories attached to those pieces of furniture were endless, the lives that were lived in and around those pieces are now either gone or dwindling and soon they will be in different homes that will never know what they have been a part of or who sat on them, slept on them, cried on them and laughed on them.
 
Life goes on and although in my head I know that is the best – I wish someone would explain that to my heart. I love you mom and dad, and even though the material possesions are going or gone, the important parts of you will live on in me – for as long as I live. I promise you that.

The effects of cancer

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that my mom is going to get better. Hospice has gotten so good at managing her pain that every once in a while I buy into my mother’s dream of being the "hospice miracle" and leaving the nursing home for a return to an apartment and independent living.
 
But the dream always seems to get interrupted by some dose of reality. Yesterday it was one of the effects of cancer on the body – the thinning of the skin.
 
I remember when Nick’s dad was battling cancer – his skin began to look like wax paper, very thin and very transparent. That is what is happening to my mother’s skin, especially on the legs.
 
She is no longer mobile – the extent of her movement is from the bed to the chair. This lack of activity results in abrasions and sores and with the skin thinning, it seems like any contact that might cause a bump or a bruise on one of us, results in a skin tear for her. That in turn is very difficult to manage because any attempt to put an application on it, a bandage or medical tape results in another tear when you try to take it off.
 
Last night I called her after dinner as I usually do and she was very agitated. She said that she had a lot of cloths around her legs and that the nurses told her that nothing could be done until they talk to the doctor.
 
These days I have to be very careful about what my mother tells me to determine what acutally happened. She does forget and she does get information distorted and sometimes she is as clear as a bell, so it is difficult to discern what I am hearing.
 
I called the nurse because she was so agitated and the nurse confirmed that they were doing some temporary treatment until they could confer with the nurse who specialized in these types of wounds. Well, I found out pretty quickly that in these types of cases I need to call hospice immediately – even if it is on the weekends as they have nurses on call 24/7. I did not do that, but I will know in the future.
 
The other thing that got my mother so agitated was the fact that if she laid very still she was fine, but any movement resulted in a burning sensation in her legs and she did not the fact that her wounds were weepy.
 
First thing this morning I called Pat her hospice nurse and Pat arranged for some special gauze which she thinks will be capable for being removed without resulting in additional skin tears. Pat dressed the wounds and my mom said she had instant relief. Pat also said that if my mom was feeling pain that she should ask for a Vicadin, but when I mentioned that to mom she did not want to do that – I think she fears being overly drugged.
 
Today mom was a little "thick tongued" again as well. Every few days she will have a day when she almost sounds a little drunk – Pat informs me that that is common in cancer patients – a common side affect of the drugs.
 
So although mom has been breezing along, after I spoke to her last night and this morning, I was made aware again that this is not going to go away and that there is more to come.
 
I was so concerned about her that I made a trip out to see her at lunch time and that was after Pat had dressed her wounds and she was better and obviously more comfortable. But, she slept a lot today – more than usual – again another by-product of her condition but one that had not manifested itself frequently in recent weeks.
 
I’ve always loved roller coasters – but this ride is certainly not for the weak, and certainly one that I do not want to take too often. Just a few simple things change and the thoughts get darker and the eyes get watery and the brain goes to a place that is dark and sad. I think this type of exit from the world is perhaps the cruelest because you get yanked and pulled from happy to sad, from euphoria to despair and it all seems to happen as a matter of course for the disease.

It’s been a week – wow!

It’s been a almost a week since I wrote something. That seems hard to believe. But the great thing is that I was able to be at work for an entire week – that felt really good.
 
I still have a lot to handle before the end of the month. I finally got all of the paperwork done (or I think I did – it will be interesting to hear what the insurance company says) for my mom’s long term care insurance. The problem was getting all of the necessary documentation for the home health care she received after her congestive heart failure diagnosis. Orginally I was told my the insurance company that all I needed to provide was the itemized bill that they sent to medicare. Then I was told I had to fill out a bunch of other forms plus provide the caregiver notes from her home health care. My mother received home health services from a nurse, a physical therapist and a home health care aide, and each one did notes every time they came. The entire package of notes was 137 pages long. I really don’t understand why the insurance company needs that when I had a signed diagnosis form from the doctor. But needless to say, once I had accumlated the piles of papers, it was not longer possible to fax all of the information, so I had to go to the post office and send it Express Mail. I wanted to make sure it got there the next day.
 
That was on Wednesday. When I called the insurance company today (they should have received the information by noon yesterday), it still was not logged into their system. Once that occurs, I was told that it would take a minimum of two weeks for the information to be analyzed to determine where she is in her elimination period and when her benefit payouts could begin.
 
So, it is hurry up and wait. I am planning on calling again on Monday to make sure the information is in their system.
 
The next hurdle is closing down the apartment. When I spoke to the estate manager yesterday to inquire about what I needed to do to help with the sale next Saturday, she suggested that we not do the sale (she had unexpected out-of-town guests) we skip the sale, that she would arrange to pick up all of the furniture either Thursday or Friday of next week and that I be responsible for getting rid of all of the "smalls" as she calls them (dishes, pots and pans, nic-nacs, etc.) I thought that was great – I really wasn’t looking forward to hanging around while we held a flea market sale of my mom’s stuff – so that will work out for the better.
 
So barring any unforseen circumstances I will have the furniture out of the apartment by the 25th and then Salvation Army is scheduled to come on the 28th for all of the rest. Then all I have to do is some light picking up and we can move on.
 
It felt so good to be at work again – and to be there for a whole week. Next week I will need to take off a couple of days as I need to finalize the move. Then it will be only a few follow up doctors appointments with Nick until mid-September and then (hopefully) a breather.
 
It definitely feels better than it did the second week in June when this all hit the fan, but it has changed me. I’ll get into that more later. For right now, just pray that things happen as planned through the end of the month.

Seeing the Cubbies!

Today  I did something for myself. A colleague of mine who I worked with at the Chicago Park District and who is now the Director of Parks and Recreation in Denver had asked me quite a while back if I wanted to go to the Cubs/Rockies game today. I had it on my calendar for a few months now and never took it off.
 
This week when I got an email from her asking if I was still planning on going, I decided to go. It was so great to get out of the house and do something for myself – the day was perfect and the Cubs even won the ballgame.
 
Mom was very supportive when I told her that I was thinking about going. She encouraged me to go, saying that I had been through so much lately that I deserved to go. I was so grateful for her support. I remember when she was taking care of dad and I encouraged her not to go see him 7 days a week – that she should take a couple of days for herself. I remember talking to her on the phone and the guilt she felt because she was actually looking forward to those days and feeling like she shouldn’t be feeling that way.
 
I think I felt a little that way too, but she, having gone through what I am going through, was very supportive and made me feel so much better about taking the time for myself. Anyway, it was a great day, I had a great time and it was so nice to do something like this.
 
Sometimes I wonder what it is going to be for folks 5-10 years down the road when the baby boomers are all in this boat and the next generartion of caregivers will be faced with similar situations. I do hope we get better at taking care of the older adults and that we figure out a better way to do it with with grace and decency for both the person who needs the care and the caregivers. There has got to be a better answer than what we do now. But, what it is, I do not know.