NEVER TOO OLD TO DREAM

I really love our new life. Oh yes, we SOOO miss the days when our entire lives revolved around the kids and their acticvities. But that doesn’t last forever as much as we would like it to. Today, we have our own interests and activities, usually culminating in the evening with cooking a healthful and delicious dinner, followed by enjoying that dinner and engaging in conversation.

Tonight it was about our dreams. I finished my book earlier this summer…a culmination of my dreams. But the idea of publishing it still waits in the wings. And Ken, years ago now, began work on writing and possibly recording some music. He is very good. We talked about the importance of him continuing to research and pursue that dream just as it is important for me to continue to research mine I still have one contract on my desk but am now, once again looking at options. And, Ken has retreated to his office and his guitar, hopefully with renewed interest in pursuing his.

You are NEVER too old to chase your dreams. Hopefully we AND you never forget that. Ken Stueve

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FACE TO FACE WITH ALZHEIMER’S

You may recall that back on March 1, we accepted the #40Bagsin40Days decluttering challenge for Lent. We’ve been doing quite well and have come across some interesting and long forgotten items in the process. But, one that I came across yesterday really touched my heart and made me think.

It was a copy of the speech I wrote for an Alzheimer’s Candlelight Memorial Service, about a year after my Mom passed away. It brought back so many memories of that heartbreaking experience, but it was also eye-opening when I realize, as I stare my upcoming 70th birthday in the face, that my Mom had recently turned 71, when she and my Dad moved from Denver back to Sioux City and into our home because neither of them were able to live on their own any longer. The theme of that service was “Face to Face With Alzheimer’s” and I would like to share that speech with you all today. It’s as valid today as it was then as Alzheimers continues to strike so many families. Since this was written, my own mother-in-law and brother-in-law have also fought battles with dementia.

When Alzheimer’s Disease stole Jeannette Williams memory and then her life, she was no different from millions of others facing the same fate…except for one thing. She was my mother.

It started out with little things – lapses in memory – forgetting to call or send a card on my birthday – incidents that we might have found strange momentarily, but quickly shrugged off. She was hundreds of miles away and we only saw her a couple of times a year.

But, in January of 1995 my Dad’s diagnosis of terminal cancer brought my parents from Colorado back home to Iowa…and brought us all FACE TO FACE WITH ALZHEIMER’S.

I know of no other disease that focuses our attention so closely on the human face…because it is the eyes of the Alzheimer’s patient that reflect so much of what they’re going through. In their eyes, you may one day see confusion and the next day see blissful acceptance of their world. One day you see fear and the next day, child-like trust. Eyes that seem to be desperately searching for answers today may, tomorrow, offer an overwhelming outpouring of warmth and love.

Alzheimer’s Disease is often referred to as tragic – destructive – and devastating…and it is all of those things and more. But, over the years, I have come to realize that we can find another side to Alzheimer’s if we try…a side that softens the tragedy, limits the devastation and helps to provide the balance so necessary in maintaining a healthy outlook on life.

Nicholas Spark’s bestseller, “The Notebook”, chronicles the enduring love story of a couple, who in their golden years, suddenly find themselves FACE TO FACE WITH ALZHEIMER’S. It recounts their experiences as they adapt to her gradual loss of memory and function and his discovery that with acceptance of the changes and adaptation to the circumstances, he could, in some way, turn tragedy into triumph. He wrote…”I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered. But most of all, I learned that life is about sitting on benches next to ancient creeks with my hand on her knee and sometimes…on good days…for falling in love.”

I took my mother out to buy a birthday card and gift for my Dad shortly after they moved in with us. When we got home, I gave her a pen and suggested she sign the card. At that time, her speech and writing skills were waning but not gone. She took the pen and wrote Happy Happy. Love J…and the rest of her name just trailed off. She handed the card back to me and smiled broadly. When Dad opened the card he started to cry. It was so hard for him to accept what was happening to her and to see graphic evidence of her decline. But, looking back, I vividly see what he didn’t see…that as she wrote Happy Happy instead of Happy Birthday, she truly was Happy Happy at that moment. Happy that she was able to give him a card on his birthday just as she had for the previous fifty years that they had been married. And, I know that is true because when I close my eyes I can still see hers shining as she handed the card to me.

I had no idea when my parents moved in with us, to what extent Alzheimer’s had altered their lives but I quickly came to realize that my mother had very little ability to care for herself at all at that point. She did not know how to run her own bath water and get in the tub or how to select appropriate clothing and put everything on in the proper order. Since Dad was too ill himself to continue caring for her, I found myself in an abrupt role reversal situation. As I helped her into the tub that first time, she looked at me with the faith of a child, just as I must have looked at her decades before when the roles were reversed, and she said, “You’re a good one.” That scenario brought tears to my eyes at the time, but those words are one of my most treasured memories today.

The following year, after my Dad had passed away and my mother had moved to a nursing home, we had a birthday party for her. She really didn’t understand what was going on or how to open a gift or even what they were once someone else had helped her open them. But, when we sang Happy Birthday, her eyes lit up and she got a big smile on her face and she started singing along with us. That was a Happy Happy moment for her, in spite of everything.

Eventually, the progression of her illness brought her to the point where she could no longer command her mind or control her body. She was unable to feed herself or to walk without assistance. In a very short time, she reached the point where walking to the dining room, even with assistance, was too difficult and Hospice ordered a wheelchair for her. She began having difficulty eating and seemed to be forgetting how to swallow. Yet, even then, her spirit was indomitable. At that point, she seemed to make a conscious decision that enough was enough. Up to then, in spite of everything that was happening to her, there was a spark in my mother’s eyes that you couldn’t miss. The staff who helped care for her often commented on it too. Her face always lit up when we walked in and even though it had been years since she called me by name, I could feel her love by looking in her eyes.

When we went to visit her on Sunday, November 2, 1997, there was a chill in the air and a tiredness in her eyes that I hadn’t seen before. It was trying to snow and she was gazing out the window as if she were looking at something that the rest of us couldn’t see

On Wednesday, November 5, Mom laid down on her bed after lunch and went to sleep.

Losing my mother to Alzheimer’s Disease was a very painful experience…but the lessons of life that we learned from that experience offer a special pain reliever that, over time, has been very helpful This experience has taught us, first hand that devastating diseases do not lessen the value of human life…that a distressing end to life as we know it does not have to be a time for anguish and regret. There is value in human life at any stage or in any condition and that value is love.

Later.

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON COMING OUT OF HIBERNATION

As terrible as it is, I realize that I have become lazy and unmotivated during this past winter. I DO NOT like winter and prefer to wrap up in my blanket and read, get on my laptop, watch movies or whatever…anything rather than go somewhere. That is exactly what I said I would never let happen when I retired. But now, hallelujah, spring is officially less than a week away. Time to shake off that lazy personality that I do not admire and spring forward. Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I got back on the treadmill this week. I have one of those big milestone birthdays staring me in the face this summer and I intend to meet it head-on. My friend, Fred, used to always quote that TV commercial, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. So, I best get moving again.

When we got back from Texas, I harvested the remainder of the herbs that I had planted at Christmas time, cleaned out the Aero Garden and, last week, replanted with lettuce and kale. It’s up already!! Aren’t you excited? Well, it’s a small amount, I know,  but, hopefully, enough to tide us over until we can plant outside.

Yesterday, I started the vegetables for this year’s garden. So many plants – so little space. Should be interesting. Now, once I replenish my supplies, I can get some flowers started. Can hardly wait until we can get outside and start planting. I know – that will be awhile. But, how uplifting to get the process started anyway.

Still working on my 40 Bags in 40 Days de-cluttering project. Got a little behind but did some catching up today and DEFINITELY WILL catch up and complete by the end of the 40 days. Today is the 15th day and I think I’m at 13 bags right now. Not too bad!

And, here’s a big one. I got back to my writing this week. In fact, this afternoon I even submitted an excerpt from what I have completed so far to a publisher for possible feedback. What are the odds? Probably not great, but better than if I didn’t even try.

Now, if I can just get motivated to finish our tax stuff and get it to the CPA!

Yep…I’ve definitely come out of hibernation and it feels good!

Later.

To Matt and Sara

It’s on my mind so I’m going for it. An open letter to Sara Stueve and Matt Stueve.

You are so on my mind tonight. I have watched with interest and a smile, your posts from the museums, your photos of the Liberty Bell, Philly Cheesesteaks, Benjamin Franklin, etc and have loved it.

Image may contain: outdoorI am so so thrilled that you were able to make this trip that meant so much to you. Now tomorrow you board a bus and travel to DC for the March. I am so proud of you for following your convictions and spending the time and money to participate in something you truly believe in. I lived through the 60s. I understand.

But the “mom” in me now implores you to please be careful. I know that your group is not a violent one. But unfortunately there are crazies out there who care about nothing more than making a mockery of the democratic principles of freedom of speech, etc. They have no real convictions. Just a desire to instigate violence and perpetrate vandalism. So please hold on to each other and be safe. We are so looking forward to hearing about this experience and sharing it with you. Have a great day. Love you both.

#WomensMarchOnWashington

My Dad

I have avoided making any political posts throughout this long, drawn out election period. It seemed like doing so brought out the worst in many people and I didn’t want to be a part of that. But, watching Meet the Press this morning, I couldn’t help but think of my Dad. What would he think about this election?

My Dad dropped out of college to enlist in the Navy during World War II. He was an intensely patriotic man…a bit too opinionated sometimes, but very patriotic nonetheless. Even songs like America the Beautiful and God Bless America could bring him to tears.img_4515

I can’t help but wonder who he would have voted for. I honestly don’t know, but one thing I do know is that he would have voted. I hear many say that they don’t like either candidate so they’re just not going to vote. I understand, but I strongly disagree. We can’t change the person Hillary Clinton is…we can’t change the person Donald Trump is. But one of them WILL be our next President.

What we CAN do is vote. We were given that right by our founding fathers and it is the only voice we have. In school, we voted for Class President and Homecoming King and Queen. We vote for our state and local officials. And we vote for President of the United States. In all cases, whether our preferred candidate has won, we always get behind the winner and move on. That’s who we are. But according to the “experts” on Meet the Press this morning, this will not happen after this election. That is appalling. There are a huge group of people who will not feel good about the outcome of this election and many of them, unfortunately, may handle that inappropriately.

What they CAN feel good about, though, is exercising their right and responsibility to vote. It occurred to me this morning that it would be an amazing, feel good event if EVERYONE would get out and vote. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see that the people of this country cared enough to generate the highest voter turnout in American history? I think we should do everything in our power over these next few days to make that happen.

I would like to challenge my kids, my grandkids, the rest of my family and all of my friends to PLEASE VOTE. I apologize for the length of this post, but I am feeling strongly about this. I am not asking you to comment if you voted and I am especially not asking you to share who you are voting for. I am not asking you to type AMEN. But, if you agree with me on this, it would be great if you would take a moment to help get the word out and maybe, just maybe, we can convince some who are not planning on voting to do so. Maybe we can band together and get everyone to use the only voice they have that really counts. Please share if you agree. #vote #everyonevote #pleasevote #trump #clinton #largestvoterturnoutever

Thanks.

TWO HORSES

canstock16119189Working on my book today, I came across this blog post from July 28, 2010. It brought back memories of several co-workers whose cancer diagnoses came on the heels of my own. The story I included in my post is one I believe I found online. The author is unknown, but it carried a powerful message for me at that time. Both of these friends have since passed on, but the bond we developed through our cancer journeys is one I will always remember.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 28, 2010

Who knew? Who knew when I was diagnosed with cancer 9 months ago that it would just be the beginning of the cancer attack on my work family.

Last week, I asked for prayers for a good friend, just recently diagnosed. Today, another. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is such a devastating blow. You have all kept me going through your prayers and support. I would like to offer that same support to those who are close to me.

I came across this story the other day…

TWO HORSES

“When I was a young boy in Idaho, I remember there was a field with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looked like any other horse. But, if you stopped your car, or walked by, you noticed something quite amazing. Looking into the eyes of one horse you would have discovered that he is blind. His owner had chosen not to have him put down, but had made a good home for him. If you stood nearby and listened, you would hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound, you would see that it came from the smaller horse in the field. Attached to the horse’s halter was a small bell. It let the blind friend know where the other horse was, so he could follow. As you stood and watched these two horses, you’d see that the horse with the bell was always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse was listening for the bell. He would then slowly walk to where the other horse was, trusting that he would not be led astray. When the horse with the bell returned to the shelter of the barn each evening, it stopped occasionally and looked back, making sure that the blind friend wasn’t too far behind to hear the bell. I like to think that, like the owner of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect or because we come with problems or challenges. He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.

Sometimes we are the blind horse, being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives. And at other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way.” – Author unknown

How perfect!!

Later.

LUCKY SEVEN

img_4480I had my six month check-up at the Cancer Center yesterday…met my new oncologist….my third since this journey began. She’s good. She’s nice. I like her. She’s no Dr. Doddabele, but then no one is.

And, the good news is…everything looks great. My labs were good. My general health is excellent. There is no sign of cancer.

This was particularly great news because TODAY is my seven-year Cancerversary. SEVEN years ago today I started on a journey that changed my life forever. I am not going to make this a long. drawn-out post about all that has happened over these past seven years. I realize that, to the rest of the world, this is just another day. But Ken and I celebrate this day, October 22, every single year now. It represents another year of life that I have been given. It reminds me of just how far I have come and how much I have to  be thankful for.

I walked into the Cancer Center yesterday and was blown away by the number of people who greeted me with smiles and told me how great it was to see me again. As crazy as it sounds, it is like coming home once every six months. I spent so many, many hours there in the beginning and met so many kind, caring and talented people while on this journey. I could not have made it this far without them and without my friends and family. They were all so instrumental in supporting me and lifting me up so that I could reach this milestone today…seven years.

And, because it is so important to me and to Ken, I just wanted to take a few moments to share the excitement with the rest of you.

fightNow…just one more thing. My cancer diagnosis was totally unexpected. I had no idea when I showed up at Mercy Medical Center back on October 22, 2009, that there might be a problem. My doctor had no idea either. My cancer was found unexpectedly on a routine mammogram. This is breast cancer awareness month. If you, or someone you care about, is due for a mammogram, please get it done. Do that for me. Do it for yourself and everyone you care about. It could save your life. Take it from one who knows.

Later.

The Road Less Travelled

road-less-travelled3We’ve just returned from another road trip and, once again, so thoroughly enjoyed the option of taking the road less travelled.

Last February, we drove to Texas and chose the road less travelled because we wanted to avoid as many major metropolitan areas as possible – especially Dallas. So, in the process, we found ourselves on many back roads, most of which offer a variety of interesting areas missed when taking the faster, busier interstate routes. For example, we never would have discovered the mysterious “Forbidden Zone” I wrote about back then had we not taken that route.

We often choose to travel the Nebraska back roads on our way to Denver as well, in order to avoid some of the hectic semi activity on Interstate 80. And, this trip was no exception. We drove from home to Kearney, NE, travelling Nebraska highways rather than Interstate. We enjoy seeing the country churches and the family farmsteads and prefer the slower pace that these roads bring to life.

This year, on our return home from Denver, we decided to travel by way of the Black Hills. We wanted to visit Hot Springs, the southern Gateway to the Black Hills…mostly because we had never visited that area, but also because we had been told that it is in the Banana Belt of South Dakota. For whatever reason, that sounded intriguing. So we did. We spent just one night there but we did a lot of driving around exploring the scenery, soaking up the history and experiencing the small town lifestyle that the area had to offer. It was quiet and thoroughly enjoyable.

At dinner that night in Hot Springs, Ken asked me how I felt about doing a little exploring on our way back to Sioux City. Over the years, we have made numerous trips to the Black Hills, always via Interstate 29 and 90. This time, he wanted to do something different…to return home via Highway 20 across Nebraska…just to see what it was like. So we did!

Once again, The Road Less Travelled offered us a new adventure with lots of intriguing eye candy along the way. Beautiful farmsteads, old barns, small towns and loads of beautiful fall foliage. After so many years of always living our lives on fast forward, there is something so very enjoyable about slowing things down a bit. There is so much out there to see.

It was a fabulous week, ranging from visiting wonderful restaurants, the arts district, Botanic Gardens and various other adventures in downtown Denver to a step back in time in the hills of South Dakota and along the back roads of Nebraska. We’re home again now but the “high” of our just completed vacation remains. I had to smile, watching Ken out on the deck grilling last night…in the dark, now, as fall closes in on us, but still enjoying his Bluetooth music and his glass of wine. We will begin planning our next road trip soon, but, for now, our “staycation” is pretty enjoyable too. Life is good!

Later.

ELEPHANT APPRECIATION DAY?

I heard this morning that today is Elephant Appreciation Day. elephantNot sure how that would have even gotten started or why. But, while I’m sure it speaks to many of the animal activists in the world, and I can certainly appreciate that, I am more drawn to yesterday’s honored occasion…World Gratitude Day.

It seems that back in 1965, an international gathering of people in Hawaii decided that September 21 would be a perfect day to celebrate all that they were grateful for. And, from that, World Day of Gratitude was born and has stood the test of time. I bring this up, because seeing this, I was reminded of the days when I was a part of the real estate community. I used to attend motivational seminars on a regular basis, and recall especially, the Brian Buffini series, and their focus on beginning every day with a list of your “gratitudes”…those things for which you are thankful. This isn’t difficult. No matter what is going on in your life, you can always find something to be grateful for. And reminding yourself of those things is a great way to start the day. Gratitude is an attitude, and when you accept that attitude as your own on a daily basis, it can change your entire outlook on life…not only how others see you and relate to you, but, also, how you see yourself.

When I saw the reference to World Gratitude Day on Facebook, I was reminded of that and how we should celebrate our gratitude, not just on that one day, but every day. Therefore, I thought I would share with you, a post written by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.  On World Gratitude Day. Enjoy.

I’m grateful for all of my family, friends and followers and hope that you all have a great day!

Later.

A SUMMER SONG – 1964

chad-and-jeremyI heard a song the other day that is a blast from the past…Chad and Jeremy’s, A SUMMER SONG. It is a typical song from the 60’s about a dreamy summer love. But for me, it speaks rather of my love of summer.

 

 

 

“They say that all good things must end one day

Autumn leaves must fall.

But, don’t you know that it hurts me so to say good-bye to you.

Wish you didn’t have to go

No, no, no, no!!”

That is how I feel every year when the nights get cooler and the days get shorter and I know that it is just a matter of time before shorts, t-shirts and flip flops are but a memory, frozen in time. So, I decided to try to come up with some positive things about the end of summer…something to help hold the negative thoughts at bay. And, here it is…my

Top Ten List of Reasons to Embrace the Changing Season

10.  Bing cherries may be done, but Holiday grapes are just coming in. LOVE those Holiday grapes.

9.  Once the cold temps have freeze dried everything that is growing outside, the water bill goes down.

8.  With nothing growing that they can destroy, the squirrels can just do their thing and not bother me in the least.

7.  More time to devote to working on my book and using the treadmill.

6.  We will get back to enjoying our afternoon Nespresso breaks.

5.  My cuddly Restoration Hardware blanket will once again become a cocoon for me to hibernate in.

4.  No good grilling weather means more time to enjoy cold weather comfort food like crockpot meals and Smokey Bacon Chili over baked sweet potatoes.

3.  The “clean out the basement” project that I deserted last spring is still there, waiting for me to resume once the weather turns.

2.  Save money on pedicures. No need with your feet crammed into weather-resistant boots all the time.

1.  No bug bites for the next six months.

What do you think? Will it help?

Later.