Archive for August, 2010

What Do You Take For Granted?

August 28, 2010

I take the air that I breathe for granted. I expect the ground will be there to meet my feet when I step outside my front door. I know that each day there will be sun,a moon and millions of stars in the heavens. I really do, don’t you?

I do not, however, take my eyesight or my ability to read for granted. (That and the fact that I can hop in a car and drive to the library!)

I know that I cannot cure cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, but I can help alleviate isolation and loneliness.

The pervasive attitude in our society is that if you can’t see or hear it  – it doesn’t exist. Such is the case for the frail and elderly who live in nursing homes, long term care facilities, board and care homes, senior housing complexes; and YES even behind the closed doors in your neighborhood.

Half jokingly we talk about downsizing “one of these days.”  But downsizing by choice rather than a forced reduction in living space due to age, health or mental acuity changes one’s perspective. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average home size is 2,400 square feet. The living space for most elderly in facilities is an 8’ x 10’ room. Imagine purging 80 years of life into a small room. But that is exactly what so many of our aging population are destined to do.

Compare a child’s room to that of the parent in a nursing home. Because you want the best for your little one, there is color, many comfort items like stuffed animals and blankets, perhaps a mobile, musical toys and lots of books. Long before a child can read, there is a bookshelf lined with remarkable books.

In the memory care facility where I delivered recorded books to Barb the other day it was quite a different setting. A few yellowed photos were pinned to a washed out wall; the armrest of the fake leather recliner was duct taped together; the single light in the ceiling flickered off and on and the broken shades were cracked open exposing a brick wall.

A room devoid of color or background music brightened as I entered, It must have been from the smile on Barb’s face that greeted me. We talked for hours about her five children, 12 grandchildren, and her husband who recently passed away. I attempted to demonstrate to Barb the use of the cassette player hidden away in the corner of her room. It was broken and long forgotten, just like Barb. Fortunately, her training on the old compact disc player was successful.  She expressed gratitude that books were going to be returning her to a life of lost adventures.

You, Barb and I have 24 hours in a day. The difference is that sitting in solitude, her day is a lot longer.


A Prince of a Tale

August 26, 2010

When Antoine de Saint Exupery died at the age of 44 in 1944, he left behind one of the most priceless pieces; his ageless, timeless story, The Little Prince.Filled with pearls of wisdom, The Little Prince is a tale written by an adult for adults as seen through the eyes of a child for children.

The story opens with a man recalling a book he vividly recalls as a child, a jungle book, True Stories. The boy was inspired to draw vivid pictures which were ridiculed and dismissed by adults. And so the boy put away his childish ideas of ever drawing. In just three short pages we a jarred into the man’s reality as is reflecting a time, not more than six years ago when a plane he was piloting crashed in the Sahara Desert. And so the journey begins the following day after a night’s sleep on the sand when the man awakes to a Little Prince standing in front of him.

We learn about the planet this Little Prince calls home where he can enjoy sunsets 44 times in one day and a flower with four thorns that is cared for and nurtured. We are taken on an adventure led by the Little Prince as he visits neighboring asteroids. Along the way we learn many lessons as we are introduced to a commanding king “despised by all others”, a conceited “vain” man, the shameless drunk, the overworked businessman consumed with working so hard at doing nothing all day long, a lamplighter whose world was too small for two, and a know it all know nothing geographer. When the Little Prince makes a stop on earth he doesn’t learn lessons from people but from a snake and a fox instead. He realizes being too witty may lead to lying; “You become responsible for what you tame”  and the secret to life that “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”

You are an adult and you are reading this posting. You know that daily we face troubles and pain; we read about suffering and inhumanity. Go to the library and sit in solitude for an hour with The LIttle Prince and find the child in your heart.

Deja View

August 25, 2010

As I approached the entrance to the memory care live-in facility, my heart raced.  Walking along each corridor, I could feel my face become flushed. I hesitated outside of the library. The open door became my window to wonderment. Thirteen artists assembled around tables.  Watercolors, brushes, cups filled with water and paper plate palettes were placed neatly before each visitor.

For some, words are lost in the recesses of an aging mind. For others, words express fear, uncertainty and even anger. But today art is lost on none of these artists.

The artist trapped inside of my head questioned whether or not these few could create amidst mental clutter. But with words of inspiration and music like a gentle breeze, each were called to create outside of their box in a space they called their own.

Noticeably, a few heads droop, some hands wrestle with the tools of the trade and another drifts off for a time. And yet each begins to communicate and connect to a lost memory through an array of watercolors.

Does not each artist struggle with inspiration? What is it, where is it to be  found?

The calendar photo of a hummingbird suspended in air brings Dottie back to her expansive yard where the littlest angels used to wrestle for their place on the feeder.

Thomas finds meaning in a Christmas card with brilliant poinsettias and shares about a time when he and his lovely wife would sit by a decorated tree.

Angie’s frustration as an artist is apparent from the onset. She says that she has no patience for this sort of drivel, until a vertical rainbow unfolds on her paper. To which she remarks, “I am quite good, aren’t I?”

As their concentration increased so, too, the sense of support and companionship lovingly spread among the artists.

Johnny kept loosing sight of his paintbrush. But his confidence never waned, nor had his sense of humor diminished. I commented that his Pueblo sketch was an interesting piece. “You think so? Well, I am loosing my touch. I am going down hill. But I guess if I must, I will do it with a paintbrush in my hand.”

Josephine’s landscape of sand, stones and sky was a work of art. When encouraged to add trees to her piece she did so under duress. “There are no trees here.” she said as she began to crumple her painting. Her neighbor, Mary, saved it from destruction and gently erased the uninvited trees which caused Josephine to beam!

Betty was never an artist. She was a hiker! And her artwork was inspired by a rugged mountain that was surrounded by a calming river. “I remember taking the girl scouts hiking. Oh, we had to train for weeks to prepare for our campouts. On one occasion three dads wanted to come along for the hike. Of course, they couldn’t finish! They weren’t prepared, like a good scout. Those were the days,” Betty said.

Your life is your work of art. Inspiration surrounds you with family, friends, meaningful work. Every moment is a memory in the making. Cherish and share the joy.

Sixty Eight is Old. Pew Says So!

August 15, 2010

I was multi-tasking this morning on my computer. (I am almost ashamed to admit that since most people consider multi-tasking a physical activity. You know what I mean: making dinner, talking to a relative on the phone, watching the evening news, emptying the dishwasher, overseeing homework activities of the children and folding clothes right out of the dryer).

But alas, for me, I was reading an article on when does old age begin, writing an article in my head, staring at an image of a bell curve, looking at my google calendar to determine how much time I can spend surfing; yes, I was surfing, listening to Pandora blaring out a quick mix of my favorites, IMing a friend a thousand miles away and catching up on the latest sales from Powell’s Bookstore in Portland.

So at what age does a person stop getting older and actually become old and when does old age begin? Now that I recently turned sixty, this age-old and tireless debate has become old and tired. Period.

Research, whether from AARP, Office On Aging or Pew Research Institute states that results are staggering or at least, revealing. Again, from my perch, findings have neither staggered me or become a revelation. However, according to a report by the Pew, Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality, bottom lining it: Old age begins at 68.  Thank goodness for me, I am not old yet.

The study is easily dismissed. Consider these “facts”:

Factoid #1 – Nearly 15% of the respondents correlate being old to having gray hair. (Fortunately for me I have been “blonding” for so many years so no one will ever know for certain, except my hairdresser).

Factoid #2 – 45% of those in this survey stated that having trouble walking up stairs marks old age. (Stairs were a problem 20 years ago when I had to make an average of 50 trips up and down flights in my home when kids were under foot).

Factoid #3 – Survey says that 66% of the folks believe that when you can’t drive a car you are old. (Heck, I have been old since I was 21. I hated driving then. I always relied on public transportation as a way of getting from point A to B and still hate driving to this day).

Old age is whenever you want it to take over your being. I can recall being old at 30 amidst a group of “fresh outta college kids”  in the office.

I knew I was old as a 38 year old at the mommy and me play group with 20 something green mommies.

But then, I felt young in my late 40’s when the high schoolers would hang at our house till the early hours of the morning.

And how wonderful it was to be considered a youngster to the 70 plus year olds at the women’s group in my 50’s.

Looking at age as a bell curve can open your eyes to how, why, when or where you are as you face that number on your biological clock. At the beginning of life just as when you are nearing the end, you are “childlike!”
Anything in between can be compared to one of the liquid wave toys. A gentle move causes the contents to flow up and down resulting in a rippling effect. So, toss out those studies with the baby and the bath water and hold on for a ride. Some days you are as old as you feel and other days you just plain feel old.

What Color is Patience?

August 15, 2010

When you look at the image on the left what do you see? Do your eyes behold the beauty of an antique Hungarian pickling jar, or do you see a glass container?  Do you see three pounds or 300 jelly bellies?  Do you see colors that represent tasty favorites: banana, tangerine, lime, grape or raspberry fizz? Do you see a rainbow of treats that will delight the taste buds for weeks to come?

I am looking at a whole lot of temptation and another lesson in will power. On one level this jar of jelly beans represents potential calories and tooth decay and on another this is a test of my patience.

Why does my impatience find me looking past the flavorful choices and plotting ways I can bypass mandarin orange and blueberry to get to the lonely black licorice jelly bean located near the middle of the jar?

And how come I get angry realizing that my favorite cinnamon reds are lining the bottom of this container?

We learn to walk or ride a two-wheeler, and once mastered don’t have to revisit those skills. But patience, that is an entirely different story.
I can thaw frozen hamburger meat or make popcorn in two minutes, but when it comes to friendships they require patience along with constant love and nurturing.

I can email, Facebook, text or Twitter hundreds of people in a matter of minutes, but real relationships take a lifetime of care and attention.

So, blindly I pick a jellybean, a white one slowly followed by a brown one; savoring the creamy vanilla flavor and then a deep rich coffee bean.  While I am not used to waiting for much, I have deliberately decided to adjust my attitude and behavior. I know it’s gonna take time to reach that pink watermelon jelly belly, but when I do, patience will pay of

A Time to Remember

August 10, 2010

One by one the 30 passenger buses pull up to the curb and one by one the passengers disembark; the pale elderly man, a woman in a wheel chair with her head slumped, a bright-eyed man in his sixties with spunk and a lightness to his step, a gal with a smile the size of New Jersey and a broken accent to boot.

Each visitor to this Interfaith Religious Service is greeted by a warm glow that surrounds the volunteers who support the Alzheimer’s Association on the Interfaith Committee. They are lovingly guided to a church where the tile floor has the appearance of a shimmering lake and pews surround the altar welcoming all to the table of the Lord. Searching eyes stare up at a cross exposing a crippled and pained Savior while melodious echoes of the organ beckon to the guests to rest and be comforted.

In a world where loved ones and professionals try desperately, and often times unsuccessfully to make contact with dementia sufferers, a religious setting or tradition makes a spiritual connection. Such was the case for many of those who attended the service at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Huntington Beach this glorious morning.

For those suffering from memory loss, and those of us who have a fondness for the traditional hymns, AMAZING GRACE filled the sanctuary. Truly, “ How sweet the sound” that stirred wonder and contentment among today’s guests. Mary rocked sweetly back and forth to a tune that provided comfort and joy to her failing memory.

As the priest appeared in the aisle, a long, red vestment trailing, the attendees were moved once again by the commanding organ to HOW GREAT THOU ART. In the front row, Robert tapped in time as his loud voice carried on out of tune, “Then sings my soul, my savior God to me!”

The service continued with familiar readings from Romans, Psalms and Matthew. All eyes were on Father Jerome Karcher as he shared a message of faith, promise and love; reminding us that “whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Heads nodded in complete contentment and understanding of a homily fit for this very special, chosen group.

Throughout the worship service Betty would rise whenever asked to do so by the celebrant. Resting on her walker, she would weaken after a time. When prompted to be seated, she would indignantly reply, “ I will stand as I am able until he tells me otherwise!” Yes, Betty was fully present in His house.

As The Lord’s Prayer began, Ruth walked in. Ever so slight, she stood tall and was trembling as she was led to the available space next to me. She looked deep into my soul with her opal eyes, as clear as the full moon on a quiet lake in June. Approvingly, I held her bony hand. We sat, huddled next to each other, sharing a blanket of love from the Lord as LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH was led by the organist. And Ruth cried. As I massaged her shoulder and sang, “Let peace begin with me Let this be the moment now”  Ruth wept. Her tears streamed onto  the song sheet. Her large drops stained my linen shirt with a lasting part of her life given ever so freely, innocently to me.  By the time we came to the words, “To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally” Ruth was singing with me.

When the recessional hymn began and the congregation rose, as they were able, Ruth wrapped her arms around me and became limp. I softly sang into her heart, “And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun… and hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Father Jerome stood at the entrance of the church to greet each visitor, lovingly, one by one.   Lunch followed in the fellowship hall. Prepared and presented by gentle volunteers from the parish. Music played the old tunes of the thirties and forties. People wandered about, laughed and lingered forever. Or so it must have seemed.

Charles commented to me that he had hoped we would do this for him again tomorrow. Jerry said that although he has a terrible voice, it was such fun to sing with us yesterday and not have anyone make fun of him. I have never experienced such appreciation and gratitude, than by Judy who kissed and hugged the devil right out of me and said that surely God would bless me for spending time with the old folks. She couldn’t know how richly I had just been blessed by this day.

As the last guest boarded the last bus and drove away, I couldn’t help noticing that Mother Mary had come to each of us in an hour of darkness.  Thanks be to God.

Bimonthly, the Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County organizes special programs that provide spiritual support for men and women with dementia. More than a dozen churches and synagogues host worship and prayer services for individuals, families, residents of adult day health care and live-in facilities.


August 3, 2010

It seemed like an unlikely venue for a glam rock star (and an even more unlikely place for a 60 year old). Built in the 1920’s the Copley Symphony Hall in downtown San Diego was once the famous Gothic Revival movie House known as the Fox Theater.  Conferred to a symphony hall in 1984,  this 2,200 seat French Rocco/Spanish Colonial center was transformed from a blend of  majestic civility and high society to an auditorium filled with thunderous screams of love and a festival of fan appreciation for Adam Lambert. (And while I wasn’t donning leather or chains, over the knee black platform boots or dog collars) I was dazzling in my pink crepe and toole (sp) skirt and black tights and top and tennies!

As part of the 2010 Glam Tour, the night opened with a rocky start by newbie Allison Irihita, was launched forward with  Michael Jackson’s lead guitarist Orianthi Panagari and the verve was unleashed with headliner Adam Lambert, the 29 year old San Diego son, (American Idol runner up) who needs no introduction and no one to warm up the stage.

Playing to a  standing room only crowd of eight to 80 year olds and everything in between, Adam won hearts in his own style and fashion just  FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT.  Long and lanky Lambert showed us he could STRUT STRUT STRUT while the audience bobbed up and down along the way.

Captivating the crowd, he went solo (solo, solo)  and crooned, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? Oh  the wailing fans  let him know time and again as they chanted, “Adam, Adam, Adam.”

Laser lights cut through the smoke filled hall  as Adam hypnotized the audience with A RING OF FIRE that was so chilling, Johnny Cash surely took notice from his grave. And when he belted out a mesmerizing WHOLE LOTTA LOVE , unlike anything Led Zepellin would have dreamed of,  the crowd  begged for more.

A brilliant surprise of the evening was the dynamic rock opera, SOAKED. This song showed grace, versatility and the clarity of this performer.  But what had the audience jumping up and down was (we are the) SURE FIRE WINNERS. And they were sure winners, having been treated to a scaled down idol version of what could be a larger than life Las Vegas style performance,  but because of stage size and costume change time this was a evening filled with a demonstration of Adam’s range of talent and mass appeal.

Adam, it’s true, I am a GLAMBERT, my public display was shameless and tweenybopper-like,  and YOU MAKE ME WANNA LISTEN TO MUSIC AGAIN.

The Lady Wore a Red Hat

August 3, 2010

Over the past several weeks, many people and community groups have been wrestling with the viability of Harper’s Pointe senior housing project (a 53 unit mixed up low income housing property).

I, too have had questions… Until yesterday when I attended the memorial for Anne Hogan Sherevshesky, a friend of mine for more than 22 years who past away earlier this month at the age of 89.5 years.

Then it occurred to me: WWAHSD  ~ What would Ann Hogan Sherevshesky do?

The red hat lady would ask questions and want answers.

Is this the best location for senior housing, perhaps not… but this is a unique opportunity to offer high quality apartments to low income seniors.

Is this a safe location for housing? With an onsite manager and security personnel, safety is ensured for its residents.

Is this the quietest spot for housing? Not any more so than for Woodland Apartment residents or visitors to Residence Inn. But we have been assured that noise issues will be mitigated to ensure quality of life for Harpers Pointe residents.

Is there access to food and doctors? Harper’s Pointe is 8/10 of a mile from a large chain grocery store and urgent care center.

Harper’s Pointe is 6/10 of a mile to shops and fast food places  and other restaurants.

Is this a place for seniors? Harper’s Pointe offers a community center, dedicated activity space and exercise room.  Harper’s offers a community environment for its residents. With its social service enriched programming, seniors will have onsite access to a wealth of community resources.

Oh, and Anne would be happy that Harper’s Pointe is 4/10 of a mile to a church.

Here is an opportunity for the city council to provide seniors with much needed affordable housing.  And now is the time.

Thanks, Anne, this one is for you. And hats off to you, my dear friend.