Monday, December 4, 2017

Despite...

Despite being in this middle-aged body, she knew that once (she hoped not too long ago) she was wild and free. She had that memory and recalled a young woman who thought (at one time) she might rule her world. Despite finding herself in a more pedestrian life, she knew that (buried deep inside) that girl still remained—unbridled by today’s conventions, wild and free.

Stillness...

Every night I need to take an hour to myself before I close my eyes. I need this time alone to read, to meditate, to decompress. In a word, just to be. Stillness, calmness and peace are my dearest companions. Daily life is filled with busyness, with breaking news, with chaos. The very act of intentional, purposeful stillness is essential to my body, mind and soul.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Don’t put yourself on the clearance rack…

I saw a young woman today who was scantily clad. She put herself on display. I wanted to tell her that she shouldn’t put herself on the clearance rack. She belonged behind the counter where the expensive items were held.

The message: Don’t put yourself on the clearance rack when you deserve to be behind the counter.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dementia...

Dementia in a loved one is a cruel thing. Yesterday Mom had a day when I thought that maybe her diagnosis of vascular dementia wasn't correct, that these memory slips were just a part of getting older. Then you have a day like today whereby a woman with an incredible vocabulary can't seem to find a word she's used for over 80 years. You vacillate between wanting to fill in the blanks for her to minimize her frustration; then want to show respect and allow her to find that word herself. Quite simply, dementia is maddening and saddening. If I feel this way, I can't imagine what Mom is experiencing.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

This may be the time for me...

Q, has decided on either military and/or federal employment (ICE) after graduation in the fall semester next year. Q’s 5 year program is almost done! Dean’s list throughout college, Eagle Scout, international travel.—check.
I realized when in Europe that it may be the time for me to formulate what the second chapter of my life will look like. It is both exciting and a bit nerve wracking, but I’ve never been one to take the safe and expected route. I woke up the other night and had an epiphany: after many years, this may be the time for me.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Life is never perfect/no one promised it would be…

Life is never perfect; no one promised it would be.
But at the end of each day
I must say that I am grateful.
I am grateful; I am so very grateful.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

3 pieces of KFC, extra crispy,,,

I was in Madrid today.  It was my last day touring Europe and I was a bit blue.  I found myself walking through old  town and headed down a  steep hill.  Down, down, down, which matched my mood.  

An elderly, slightly disheveled woman began staring at me as I waited to cross the street. Her eyes were glacial blue and admittedly she made me a bit uncomfortable,  The wizened woman was not begging as some are prone to do when down and out.  She approached me, somewhat tentatively. She had a smallish puppy with her with a home maid leash made out of twine.  She asked if I might have a bit to eat in my backpack; something she could give her puppy to provide nourishment. 

I asked if her puppy liked chicken.  Her lined face lit up and she answered emphatically "Yes, of course she does!" What did she and her puppy have for dinner?  3 pieces of KFC, extra crispy.


Friday, October 20, 2017

One thing...

There is one thing we are obligated to do in life.  Live it!


I wouldn't change a thing...

God only knows my life has not been without its ups and downs, but truth be told I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Here’s the thing about traveling with someone, even someone you love.  You realize, quite soon into the trip, that there is truth to the saying, “Even fish gets old after 3 days.”  Because of this, Quentin and I decided to have a rule to live by when in Europe:  1 day together to sight see and 1 day apart to sight see.  Thus far, it has maintained our collective, familial sanity.

Today is our 1-day apart day.  I asked him last night what he planned to do in Valencia.  He said, “Sleep in and hang out.”  (Translation: sleep in, drink sangria, eat tapas and look at the hotties in a local bar). He asked what I planned to do.  I replied, “Take off early, go to Malvorosa Beach to look at the sea”. (Translation:  get up early, drink sangria, eat tapas and look at the hotties at a local beach).  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


Friday, October 13, 2017

What matters...

The older I get I realize that the things I most
cherish are not things at all. It is about experiences,
not things.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Today it is sunny...

There are days when it is cloudy and cold.  Today is sunny and warm. For me, this is more than enough.




Friday, October 6, 2017

Genius is the next thing to madness...

I have heard the saying: “Genius is the next thing to madness.”  I’ve always inherently known this to be the case.  That person who, in some aspect of their life, is incredibly gifted, many times creatively.  This person, by all accounts, would not be considered “normal” by societal standards.  Despite this, or because of this, they have this gift, this propensity to create. It lies dormant in them at birth and suddenly, seemingly bursts forward as if driven the need to be released.

I began pondering this statement recently as I approached my anticipated visit to Arles, France. The world reknown impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh, lived here for many years.  I knew about Van Gogh the way the average individual knows of this man:  he was the crazy artist who, in a fit of rage, cut off his left ear.  The reality of this, however, is untrue.  Yes, Van Gogh did cut off his left ear in a fit of rage.  However, what many do not know is that this unique creative mind was plagued throughout his life by extreme highs and lows and periodically by psychotic episodes.  He was institutionalized for treatment throughout his life until sadly, he committed suicide at age 37. Experts now suspect that Van Gogh suffered from manic depression or bipolar disorder.  He lived in the 1800's. A time in which medications for this mental illnesses did not exist. He was therefore repeatedly sent to asylums to recover at times when his illness (and he) became unmanageable.

     It is not surprising that Van Gogh channeled these periods of madness into some of the most revered masterpieces in artistic history: CafĂ© Terrace at Night, Starry Night Over the Rhone.  These moments became conduits for an outpouring of creativity, many times prolifically (he produced over 300 paintings while residing in Arles).  

      I suppose that’s the thing about this saying: “Genius is the next thing to madness.”  There is always a trade-off.  For excessive highs, there are excessive lows.  For excessive creativity, there is a line, however grey, that teeters on the verge of madness. Perhaps this is the price a person must pay for a mind such as this.  It is just the price they must pay.






Monday, October 2, 2017

At this time, in this moment, life is perfect...

I am sitting on the craggy rocks where they meet the sea; where they have stood sentinel for thousands of years. These rocks will continue to do so long after I am gone.   I am in Vernazza, in Cinque Terre, Italy.  It is sunset in early October, a bit cool with the sea breeze, but certainly not cold.  In my hands I am holding a glass of wine which was made  locally.  I take a slow draw of this this wine as I watch the sun dip down over the horizon. The sky sets on fire with the colors of orange, pink, blue and purple as it reflects against the sea. The sun is setting over this achingly beautiful, sleepy village. It is putting the day to rest.  I realize that at this time, in this moment, life is perfect. 



Saturday, September 30, 2017

Blaire from San Francisco for a day...

Q and I were walking to the train station this morning when a handsome Italian man started calling out "Blaire!". We turned when we heard him call out, but no Blaire appeared. We were at a crosswalk and the man ran up to me and gave me a bear hug and said "Blaire from San Francisco!"
I tried to tell him I wasn't Blaire. He eventually understood and tried to apologize in English. Q asked me why I looked "that way". I said that I was just wishing I could be Blaire from San Francisco for a day!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

she realized...

She realized she loved this man because every beat of her heart reminded her of him.

90 percent...

I think a good rule of thumb is to listen 90 percent of the time and talk only 10 percent. You can learn a great deal about a person by simply listening.

if you are a hammer...

I was thinking recently about a saying my brother told me awhile back. He said that if you are a hammer, all you see is a nail. The longer I live, the more I think this is true.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A relaxing day in the best sense...

Had a relaxing day. Slept in (for me that's 7a.m.), ate way too much good food, did laundry, took a nap and read "Walden" again. My favorite quote: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discovered that I had not lived." --Henry David Thoreau.

Tomorrow will be power sight seeing--Vatican City followed by the Colosseum. I am looking forward to seeing these sights, but today was a slow day, in the best sense. Life is good.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Angels watch over children and fools...

The theme for the day: "Angels watch over children and fools" (emphasis on fools). We took the train and exited what we thought would be the stop by our hotel. We began walking, following the directions we had. After 1 hour we were still searching for the hotel. The area was old and beautiful with winding streets but no street signs. Our phones had died so all we had was our paper map.

It was starting to get dark and we began to panic as we tried to find a main street to ask someone for directions. We came across a lawn mower repair shop and asked the owner if he could direct us to our hotel. He spoke very little English so we pointed to the map. He looked quizzically at us and asked, "How you get here?" We explained that we had taken the train several hours before.

He told us we were at least 10 miles from the hotel. We asked if he could help us get a cab. He replied, "I take you." He loaded up our luggage in his car and drove us 30 minutes away. Turned out we had gotten out at the wrong train station! When we arrived we asked him if we could pay him or take him out to eat. He declined and said, "No, no. Welcome to Berlin" and hugged us.

Angels watch over children and fools...

Monday, August 14, 2017

In a world...

In a world which is overly loud, sometimes it is best just to be quiet.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Life is a funny thing...

Life is a funny thing.
It can bring you down. So very far down.
It can also leave you absolutely breathless.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A letter to my dog...

I took Sadie for a walk after her "accident" today (she pottied on the floor). I noticed that her tail is almost all white now (it used to be a ginger color). She's near 11 years old but she is still a sweet puppy to me. I wrote to the website, A Letter to my Dog, back in 2013 about Sadie.

http://www.alettertomydog.com/2013/05/dear-sadie-2/

Saturday, July 22, 2017

My love for you...

My love for you is not a mushy, gushy, romantic comedy thing.
It is a love of endurance.  A strong love with an eternal bond.
I love you like the like the clouds love the sky. I adore you.
You have a place in my soul, where only you and God reside.
 You were my past, you are my present and you are my future.
You will be, my dearest, always in my heart.

Vibrant colors...

I see the world in vibrant colors.
Red, blue, yellow, purple and green.
Together these colors form a cohesive whole.
Perhaps one day you will see them too.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My neighbor sings...

Every night at exactly 8:00 pm my neighbor sings an aria. He is terribly off key yet he sings as if he is Pavorotti. At first it bothered me, but I've gotten to where I sort of love it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

She realized...

She realized that her love for him was like rain.
At times It spilled down from above and would encompass her.
At times the rain rushed down on her like a torrential downpour.
She realized that her love for him was like rain.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I have never met a strong person...

I have never met a strong person who hasn't encountered trials in life. These trials don't define you.  They refine you.

The reason...

The reason we have struggles in life is that when we get to the other side we are grateful for making it through. It’s like when we catch a bug and have a fever for days.  Suddenly the fever breaks and we begin to feel better. It’s then that we realize how good it feels to be well.   

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Travel...

I’ve always had this wanderlust; this need to travel. Throughout my journeys I’ve come to realize that despite cultural differences, despite different religions, despite contrasting life experiences, we all want the same things:  safety and  a connection to friends and family.  No matter where we live or the circumstances in which we find ourselves, when it comes down to it, we all are inherently similar. When we travel and meet people who we perceive are different than us, we ultimately realize this: we are all part of the same humanity.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America! We may not be perfect, yet we are the only country in the world that was founded on basic freedoms for all citizens.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

A gilded cage...

You may choose to live your life in a gilded cage, but the reality is, it still remains just that, a cage.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

An embarrassment of riches…

I was reading a novel yesterday and the protagonist described his life in this way: “I have an embarrassment of riches.” 

Webster’s dictionary defines this as “Too much or more than enough of a desired or needed thing.” Lately I’ve been thinking about this phrase and what it means in relation to my life. Some people may refer to it as blessings. Some may view it in a monetary way; meaning having an abundance of money and having expensive things. 


I think, for me, I do have this thing which is referred to as an embarrassment of riches. I realized that I have a life well lived: some good family; some good friends; some good work; some good travel; some good food and drink; some peace and some happiness. In a word, an embarrassment of riches.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

she knew him...

she knew him in the way a person knows the sky.
at times so sunny it would burn her eyes.
at times so cloudy she knew the rain would fall.
she knew him in the way a person knows the sky.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Lovely's dilemma...

Lovely was once was a girl who envisioned her life yet not in the conventional way. Her deepest desire was not to marry and settle but to learn, explore and experience the richness of life. She desired a close group of friends, of confidants, with whom to share these things. Lovely is a middle-aged woman now, older, and wiser. Despite her aspirations as a girl, in general, Lovely did what was expected of her. Lovely had married, had a child, gained; sometimes lost. suddenly, she found herself at a fork in the road. Should Lovely follow her heart, and to some, pursue her selfish desires? 

Lovely remained tied to the expectations of the responsible mother of a now adult child. She also felt the weight of being a responsible daughter of an aging mother. Sometimes late at night, Lovely wondered if it was time to take the leap. Truth to be told, Lovely had fulfilled many of her dreams she had envisioned as a girl. She had obtained that education, she had traveled, she had a group of dear friends. Even though these dreams had come true, Lovely continues to struggle between what she should do and what she desires to do. 

Deep in her heart she wishes to live abroad for a few months, perhaps for a few years. She feels a deep yearning to see that lovely sunset on the other side of the world. Lovely doesn’t have an abundance of money, but due to a bit of good fortune, if she lived modestly, she would be able to obtain this dream, as well. The dilemma which Lovely faces: should she continue to live the life of expectations or should she allow herself to see that lovely sunset on the other side of the world?


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Little Toddy Soft Paws...

Todd came to me from a shelter in Fredericksburg, Texas. I investigated breeds which cat experts reported to have the least number of allergens. The breed that came up was the Russian Blue.  I found Todd on a website for rescued cats.  I asked the shelter to hold Todd for me and drove 3 hours to the shelter. 

When I arrived, the shelter said that they were mistaken. That, in fact, Todd was not a Russian Blue but was most likely a Korat (not a breed known for their lack of allergens). Never the less I decided to honor my commitment and adopt Todd. The shelter reported that Todd had been left in a garage and was abandoned by his owners when they sold their house. A neighbor called as he heard Todd crying from the intense summer heat and lack of food and water.


I’ve had Todd for three years now.  I have to take medication daily due to my allergies related to cat dander.  Further, Todd often vacillates between being attention seeking and extreme aloofness. However, in the early mornings he always awakens me with a light tapping on my face. It’s as if Todd needs assurance of his not being left alone.  This is why I refer to him as Little Toddy Soft Paws. He knows I will never leave him alone.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The real reason...

The real reason I always felt a bit sorry for her was because she never allowed herself time to be "me" before she chose to become "we". 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

That is what real men do...

They show up.
They support you.
They are present.
They value you.
They own who they are.
That is what real men do.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day...

3 pictures that typify what Father's Day means to me. The first one is of my Dad and me; the second one is of my Grandpa Reed with Mom and my Aunt Bobbi, and the one on the bottom is of Mom & Dad when they were first engaged (without the two of them I may have not been able to celebrate Father's Day). My Dad and my Grandpa Reed were fathers in the best sense of the word--genuine, steady, strong and true.





Sunday, June 11, 2017

It is not about you...

It is not about your issues, whether real or imaged; 
Those things in your past or in your present day life.
It is not about the bullshit, the competition, the pretension.
Don’t you understand that there is life outside of your reality?
There are consequences to your actions;
They relate to your deep seated insecurities.
I am uncertain why you don’t understand that it is not about you.

Her life...

She didn't love her life because it was perfect.
She loved her life because it was hers alone.

Epiphany…

One day she woke up with an epiphany.
It wasn’t merely the life she desired.
It was the life she was meant to live all along.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Two different things...

Being nice and being kind are two different things.
If you have to choose one, choose to be kind.

In the end, that's all that matters...

My father wasn't a perfect man.
I certainly wasn't the perfect daughter.  
But we loved each other deeply.
In the end, that's all that matters.

Monday, June 5, 2017

I refuse...

I refuse to live a life where I do not believe in the inherent goodness of humanity.

Choose...

Choose to be happy.  Choose to be at peace.  All is as it should be.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Leaning in…And Finally, Stepping Out


Here’s the thing.  I’ve led my entire life living up to the expectations of others.  I in some ways, in most ways, have taken on the role of the oldest child.  One of three siblings, I was the middle child.  I admittedly do have some of the traits that psychologists attribute to the child in the middle:  I am a peace keeper, I do believe in the goodness of others, and I am inherently the adult child who deeply, who at times over-emotionally, cares.  Please understand I’m not implying that my siblings don’t care.  It’s just that for some reason, due to some dynamic in my family, I’ve inadvertently assumed that role.

Let’s get back to the leaning in.  I googled the term and this is what I found: “In early 2013, the term "leaning in" started popping up on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  The term comes from the book "Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” published in March 2013 by Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The book traces its origins to a Ted Talk Sheryl Sandberg gave titled "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders". The point of her message was to convince professional women to stay in the workforce and "lean in" to whatever role they are playing.”

Although this concept may be “new” it is essentially a repackaged definition and concept regarding the role of women.  I was raised as a young woman in the 1980’s. My father and I had a different relationship than that of my other siblings. He pushed me to achieve.  He said to me that “I don’t celebrate mediocrity” when I brought home less than “A’s”.  My parents moved from Iowa to the St. Louis area with my Dad's job. They purposefully chose a school district that would provide the best education a public school could offer.  This school was filled with overachievers.  It wasn’t if you went to college, it was where you went on the way to graduate school.

The young women at that time were expected to achieve, achieve, achieve.  In education, in occupation, in life.  We, and all of my female peers who grew into adulthood at that time, were expected to be “hard chargers.” We were expected, to coin today’s term, to “lean in”.  I suspect this was because it was the period in which Ronald Reagan expected all in society to become independent and self-sufficient.  To place work above all other things.

So I did that.  I met all of these expectations of my parents and of society.  I became the woman I thought I needed to be.  I’ve described my life in my fictional work, Jennifer’s Mask.  Truth be told, I wrote this “fictional” work as an exact reflection and experience of my life growing up and my life as an adult woman. At times, I wrote about some things that were brutally honest, that may have caused discomfort in my family.  I wrote truthfully about my life up until that point as Jennifer.   Now it is time to write about me, as me.

I’m through leaning in. I’m finished with living a life of expectations of who I am and who others expect me to be.  I’m certain I will continue to be that responsible person who loads herself with societal expectations—to a point.  The thing is, I’ll always be there for those members of my family who have proven their loyalty and show their love for me through not just words but actions.  To be frank, I have people in my life with whom I’ve made a conscious decision over the past few years to remove myself, both emotionally and physically. This isn’t in blame or in anger.  It’s out of self-love and of a realization that I deserve genuine people in my life who care for me and, most importantly, who I care for. With these people there is no pretense, no competition. 

Leaning in and being a “hard charger” no longer appeals to me.  I no longer desire or need, at any level, to be that woman who “does it all.” I admittedly love to work and to continue to challenge myself with the sometimes complex and intricate dynamics that managerial and/or executive level positions entail.  The difference for me now is that I’m not chasing that “thing”; that drive to excel, that higher and higher income.  I no longer want to sacrifice my emotional, physical and spiritual health to achieve these things.  I’ve realized that ultimately the question for me is “to what end?”

So this is where I am in the second chapter of my life.  I’m scaling back regarding material possessions so that I may experience those things which bring me joy—traveling with close family and friends, taking time to just be. I’m learning a new language (Spanish) and am obtaining my second Master’s degree for the mere fact that it interests me and keeps my mind sharp. I don’t get “bent out of shape” anymore at the games and the ridiculousness of life sometimes.  I still am that person who believes that most people are inherently good.  The difference, I’ve come to realize, is that I deserve to receive that goodness not only from others, but most of all, from myself.




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Life lessons learned/rules I live by…

Love deeply
Regret nothing
Never be with someone who devalues your worth
Find joy in every day
Be present and mindful of each moment
Be genuine and true
Be gentle
Be compassionate
Be loyal to family and friends
Do no harm
Share your bed with your dog and/or cat
Allow yourself to cry when something touches you
Don’t be cynical or defensive
Believe that people are more good than bad
Be kind and giving to those in need
Be quiet and listen
Be respectful of others
Be grateful
Travel often
Continue to grow mentally, physically and spiritually
Challenge yourself
Face your fears
Love those who love you back
Eat good food
Read good books
Drink good wine
Experience people who are different than you
Thank God every night that you have been given one more day

The small things/life edited...

My life has gradually become smaller. It has become smaller due to intention.  I have my small world which consists of close family members and friends. My small world also has a few belongings which have meaning to me: family photos, artwork from my now adult son.
I have begun molding my life into a world which I desire. At times, I feel a sadness at the letting go of the people or things in my life which are detritus; those peiple and things which I must let go. My wish is to keep the good memories I have, yet I know I must let some of these people and things go.

Contrary to what the world extols that bigger is better, I’ve come to the realization that for me, the small things are in that sweet spot.  My friends and family have been curated. I’ve edited and revised those material things: my possessions have been culled. The result is the edited version of my life. It has become “lesser than” and the final result is the people and things that matter to me.  These are the small things. This is my life edited.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Heavenly Father (My Testament to Him) …

Heavenly Father knows me; He is aware of me.
He had a plan for me ages before I was born.
He put me on this Earth to gain experiences:
To refine me on this Earth before I return to Him.
So I never despair when life does not go my way.
I know Heavenly Father has a plan for me which was preordained.
I know that when I experience a hardship 
He is testing my faith in Him and that something wonderful will counter the adversity. 
These things I know above all others:  He is aware of me, He loves me, and I am never alone.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

She promised herself...

She promised herself she’d go sometime and do all of those things she was meant to do.  Then suddenly, one day she realized she never knew that sometime had actually come.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Girl, it's gonna be all right...

Tonight I had to say to myself, “Hey, Girl.  It’s okay not to be strong all the time.  You’re human, Girl. Sometimes life can get messy, Girl. You need to give yourself a break.” 

When I talk to myself in this way, I call myself “Girl”. I say to myself  “Girl, if you don’t stop giving from your cup without filling it back up, you’ll have nothing left.” I set myself down, breathe deeply exactly five times and I say to myself, “Girl, it’s gonna be all right. It’s gonna be all right.”

No one knows the question...

There are days when everyone has an answer, 
yet no one knows the question.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ardent love...

you say that you adore me
your ardent love implores me
your desire is to explore me
your ardent love implores me

Saturday, May 6, 2017

That shine...

that’s the thing about the construct we call love.
in the beginning you both have that shine.
you are “in love”; enamored by one another.
the newness of this relationship is fresh, unused.
that newly found sense of love is coruscant.
maybe that shine will endure over time.
there are those rare occasions when it remains.
it is also possible that twinkle may fade away.
it may no longer contain and reflect that shine. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

she is part of me (she will always be part of me)/ an homage to my mother…

she is part of me (she will always be part of me)
i share her reddish wavy hair,
i share her blue/green eyes
i share her pale skin which is sensitive to the sun
i share her ironic sense of humor
i share her frugal tendencies
i share her sensitive nature
i share her tendency to worry
i share her love for close family and friends
she is part of me (she will always be part of me)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Estella Pride...

I think that we are often spectators when it concerns the lives of our ancestors if indeed  we are spectators at all. As children we may have heard a certain ancestor discussed around a Sunday dinner or in a brief passing conversation. Now in my mid-fifties I have found myself wondering about her; about my maternal great grandmother.  Who was Estella Pride?  How did she feel when she became Estella Pride Kernen at 28 years old? It was then and there that I realized by knowing her I would better know myself.

This was the way I originally learned about my maternal great grandmother, Estella Pride. I began to know her out of a cursory curiosity and slowly began to know her as my great grandmother. I began to know this woman who was Estella Pride. This was the woman who was to become Estella Pride Kernen. This was the woman who was to become part of me; who would always be a part of who I am. I found myself thinking about how my great grandmother must have felt as she traveled on a train from Morgantown, West Virginia to become the wife of an Iowa farmer, Carl Kernen.

How Estella Pride must have felt as a young woman who was relocating her life to become a bride, to live a life which she had no knowledge of. How it would have felt to be put on a train headed for rural Iowa which carried her, her piano, her trousseau, to a place she had never been.  To a place she had never known.

Nowadays we women are taught, we are encouraged, to be strong and independent.  We are taught to follow our dreams. This was not the case many decades ago.  Women of that generation were expected to marry an acceptable man.  They were expected to do the expected things, at the expected time, in an expected way. There was a family, there was society telling a young woman who she was and who she was to become: a married woman, a mother, a companion and a support for her spouse.  There were never those options to gain an education or to have a career the way women are given those choices today.

Estella Pride may have been a bit of an anomaly in that she was several years older than the man she married.  According to my grandmother, her mother, Estella, was quite secretive and sensitive about the age difference between she and her husband, Carl Kernen.  So much so that it was said she did not divulge the fact of her being older until she was on her deathbed.

Estella Pride was an educated woman from a proper family.  It wasn’t that my great grandfather wasn’t her equal.  He was just different than her. Carl Kernen was from a different part of the country and had a different past.  I have not discovered how and when my great grandmother and great grandfather had met.  Was this marriage arranged for them in some way?  If so, how must this have felt?

I know Estella Pride only from the time she was an elderly woman and I was a young girl. My great grandmother must have been in her early 90’s at the time.  I remember how I sat in her lap when we visited her in “the old folks home.”  They say that smell, the olfactory sense, is the most primitive of the 5 senses. I believe this is true. I remember Estella smelled of baby powder and Noxzema.  She was a formal, proper lady.  She referred to me as Julia. She was a tall woman and not one of those women who shrank away, who diminished and gradually faded away in her old age.

These are the things I have learned about Estella Pride, my great grandmother. A woman’s worth is not dictated by societal standards nor is it dictated by well-meaning family. If it is who you are or who you aspire to be, it is perfectly acceptable to be a regal, formal lady; to embody class and dignity.  Estella was immaculate in both her dress and her mannerisms.  She seemed to command certain behaviors, a sense of respectability, a sense of decorum.  I do not think these things are often even thought of today. For me, however, when I reflect on these things my thoughts always return to my great grandmother, Estella Pride.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

You do those acts of kindness...

You do those acts of kindness not for the changes it will make in them. You do those acts of kindness for the changes it will make in you.

Irish drunk...

My family and I have under an enormous amount of stress lately due to the failing health of our mother.  My brother texted me and said that when he is in Atlanta on a business trip he'll pick one night when he will be getting "Irish drunk." 

My text back: "Just be safe. I don't mind bailing you out of jail, but I will be royally  pissed off if I have to travel to that little hunk of heaven to do so. It is hot, humid, and  has terrible traffic. Also, Atlanta has more crackers than a saltine factory. In sibling love, your sister, Jules."

Friday, April 28, 2017

A little bit less...

Sometimes a person you care about says something that hurts you deeply.  The thing they don’t realize is that when they do this it makes you love them a little bit less.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sometimes life just kicks you in the ass...

sometimes life just kicks you in the ass.
you think "really?  is this just a cosmic joke?"
later that day, unexpectedly, you have a moment that is just amazing.
it may be an incredible sunset; a phone call from an old friend.
it is then that you realize that despite being kicked in the ass, you just may be able to make it through one more day.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I feel quiet/tomorrow can wait…

no television, no computer
no conversations, no email
no cell phone, no “to do” list
tomorrow can wait; it will always wait
I lay on my bed in the darkness
I silence my body & mind
I feel …quiet; tomorrow can wait

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Depleted....

Yesterday when I got in my car, the warning light came on.  It said, "maintenance needed...low tire pressure, oil change due, windshield wiper fluid empty." I thought of the irony of this.  I thought how I felt 5 days ago when my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia.  I wanted to scream “maintenance needed" at the top of my lungs. Maintenance needed for myself as I felt I was sinking, falling into a place which I did not want to go.

Six days ago I delivered my mother’s prescriptions which were recently prescribed by her doctor. I was concerned for her and thought delivering these medications would provide an excuse for dropping in. On that morning I found my mother confused, disoriented, fully disrobed and unable to stand or walk as she sat on her bench in her bedroom. I asked my mother how she felt and she responded “I think something is wrong.”

I called 911 as per  her doctor's recommendation. I'll never forget that feeling of panic as I took my mother's blood pressure The reading was so high I feared she might have a stroke. When the EMS arrived Mom couldn’t stand up or walk. She was agitated and said she didn't want to go to the emergency room. She been there only 2 weeks ago.

What ensued was 10 hours in the emergency room, admission to the hospital, and the diagnosis of vascular dementia.  Skilled nursing was recommended for Mom upon discharge which was in 3 days. Scurrying to find a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation and visits to assisted living or memory care post skilled nursing facility.

Visiting my disoriented mother in the hospital, dealing with financial concerns, and long seated strained family dynamics. All the while trying to balance life with my family as things were falling apart.  I felt deep sadness and anger at the disease that has enveloped Mom. I felt fear. The fear of what has happened to Mom. The fear of what might be.

Updates to concerned family and friends, fitful nights of sleep and tears in those wee hours of the morning. Attempting to keep a sense of normalcy for my adult son who lives with me as he is attending college. I tried to act strong and capable while feeling feeling a deep sadness. I felt disbelief, guilt and anger. Why is this happening to Mom?  Why so soon; why so severe?  This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

Constant reassurances to Mom when I visited her in the hospital. Taking care of her cat, Tess, while disregarding my own because I arrived home late each night due to the many tasks which arose. Feeling exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.  In a word, depleted.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Life or something like it...

I had the strangest feeling two days ago when I visited my mother.  She was in the hospital and was recently diagnosed with vascular dementia. She was receiving speech therapy and I sat in the corner of the room, just observing. I watched my mother interact with the speech therapist.  She tried so hard to find the right words when the therapist asked a question. It became clear that she was unable to retrieve the majority of past or present life events.  She would then become frustrated and agitated.  At one point she could not recall my father’s name.  A man she was married to for 45 years. A man who was the love of her life. My mother said that she wanted to stop working with the therapist. It was clear that she was aware of the deficits in her memory. 

As I sat in that corner of the hospital room observing my mother, I had the strangest feeling. I recognized the woman who was lying in the hospital bed.This was the woman who had raised me. The woman I always adored, the woman who, without fail, was always there for me. She had the same beautiful wavy red hair and the kindest eyes I had ever seen. Despite this I had an overwhelming feeling that this, in fact, was not my mother.  I knew intellectually that of course the answer to this question was “yes." Emotionally, however, I felt frightened that this woman laying in this hospital bed may eventually not know or recognize me as her daughter. She will, in essence, not have the constructs which make up one's past. Those essential moments which color the history of a person's life.

That was the question I was trying to answer as I sat in the corner of that hospital room on that day.  If my mother could not remember her past or present, would this woman still be that person who I called mother?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The big forget...

We’ve all had that moment when we forget that word in mid-sentence or we forget where we placed an item (our keys, our phone).  In that fleeting moment we have that fear which hits us as with an exclamation point: “Am I losing my memory?” It’s concerning at least and frightening at best.   If we are past 30 years old and are honest with ourselves, we all have had this moment.  We see a close relative, maybe our Aunt Gert or Uncle Henry, exhibiting signs of memory loss. We see a commercial touting the new drug which will slow the progression of Alzheimer's. This is when we say “Please, please God, don’t let this be me”. We push down that fear and panic. We relegate it to a hidden compartment inside of ourselves each time these feelings arise.

I’ve recently been dealing with a parent who is suffering from memory loss.  She has been diagnosed with vascular dementia. My brother and I are trying to be there for my mother, emotionally and physically.  We listen and nod at pauses in her speech as she searches for that lost word. We want and need her to see that she is okay. The memory loss is wearing her down, mentally, spiritually and physically. We stop by her apartment to check on her; to make her a meal; to take out her trash.  We assure her that we’ll always be there as we stuff down our concerns. These concerns come to us late at night as we lie in bed hoping for a few hours of sleep so that we may escape our present day reality. Throughout the day we do those things which need to be done. We put on a brave face even though, internally, our emotions move from deep sadness to anger to frustration. We tell ourselves that we are doing what needs to be done, yet continue to worry that it may not be enough. There is no pill, no amount of alcohol which can dull the pain or remove us from this new reality.

The most difficult, heart wrenching thing about it is to hear your parent acknowledge the fact that he or she is aware that they are losing their memory. They say they know friends and family are worried. Truth be told they are concerned as well.

Today was Easter Sunday. We gathered at Mom's as we do every Easter. We tried to make things normal and light hearted.  We tried to avoid looks of concern as our mother would pause as she was talking or relaying a story.

After the meal, after the clean-up and time spent with Mom, we said our “I love you’s.” We said our goodbyes.  A few hours after returning home I felt compelled to return to my mother’s apartment.  She said that she was happy to see me.  I wondered if she realized that I had been with her just two hours before.  I wanted to let her know that I was there for her, to listen or to just spend time.

My mother said today that she realizes her memory is failing. She said that she did not want to be a burden to her family.  Isn’t that the thing we all fear most? Losing our memory or becoming physically and/or psychologically dependent on our family?

I remember when my grandfather (my mother’s father) began suffering from memory loss. He had undergone a thorough work up at a hospital renowned for diagnosing memory impairments in Omaha, Nebraska. The tests were inconclusive yet the doctors said that they suspected Alzheimer’s dementia.  Back then there were no medications to slow or prevent further memory loss like there are today. My grandfather voiced his concerns regarding his memory loss as he struggled against the fading away of his memory.

The first signs of his deteriorating memory involved difficulties in doing his activities of daily living. Then there was the driving. He would get lost when navigating through Bedford, Iowa. This was a small Iowa town in which he had grown up and had lived for 70 years.  

I remember the phone call from my grandfather late one night after my grandmother placed him in a nursing home. My grandfather said that he knew he was becoming forgetful. He said he feared he was losing his mind. My grandfather was from hardy stock. He was a tall, strong man whose ancestors hailed from the Netherlands.  He was an Iowa farmer who was also an intellectual. He was a person who, although always present, lived a life of the mind.  Typically, he would rise at 5 in the morning to read the Des Moines Register or the New York Times before he would begin his chores. Would he have been born at a different time in different circumstances I am sure he would have become an attorney. He loved the law and the significance it played in our lives. 

Tomorrow my brother and I are taking my mother to a geriatric specialist.  We are hoping that he will provide us answers to my mother’s failing health and memory loss. We want to give our mother hope that things can get better.  We hope that for her sake (and ours) we will get those answers. We pray fervently that she is not a victim of the big forget.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sometimes it just doesn’t fit...

We’ve all been there. In that relationship that just doesn’t fit. It is analogous to that furniture which so appealed to us in the showroom and which we ended up purchasing.  When we get it home we fervently attempt to make the furniture fit.  We move it around the room, we upend it, we juggle it and even hang it from the ceiling.  However, despite all of our efforts it just doesn't fit.