Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Warm Welcome to the Blog Party!

Young woman decorates the Christmas tree, painting by Marcel Rieder (1862-1942) from 1898
A warm welcome for all my new visitors (and old friends as well). Today marks the beginning of the Caregiving.com's Fifth Annual Holiday Progressive Blog Party, and I'm one happy participant! Throughout the week of December 7, you can stop by the blogs of family caregivers and drop off holiday well-wishes and good cheer. This year, the party also includes companies that provides services and/or products to help family caregivers.

  1. Be sure to stop by each site during the week. The sites are listed at Caregiving.com.
  2. When you stop by, share a comment and let the blogger know you’re visiting because of CareGiving.com’s Holiday Progressive Blog Party.
  3. Be sure to stop by that page at Caregiving.com regularly, as more participants may be added as the week goes by.

I was happy to be able to donate a prize for this party -- an invisibility cloak. Everyone (caregivers especially) would love a chance to become invisible every once in a while, I believe. Put on that cloak (provided by Cat at her Etsy shop -- if you don't win this cape, you can purchase one from Cat!).

Welcome, welcome, welcome. I hope you can stay a while...

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Six Months In: Thoughts About Active Dying

"Life has many mysteries, but there is nothing comparable to death"
Tomorrow marks sixth months since my mother's death. The six month mark is especially difficult for spouses, so I'll be checking in on dad. For me, it hasn't been that rough (yet), because I've been so focused on other issues. But, that grieving timeline does affect me; otherwise, I wouldn't have woken with a start the other night thinking I had forgotten to flush mom's biliary catheter.

Those last three days before mom's death were breathtaking for me. The last coherent thing she did before she settled into her hospital bed in the living room for the last time was to pick out her urn. She dressed herself (with a little help), and held court with the funeral directors for about two hours. Then, she returned to her nightclothes and settled in for what appeared to be a 24-hour coma.

But, perhaps it wasn't a coma after all. I'm still learning about "active dying," or the end our "life in form," and how dying is a very active part of our lives. Death Cafe shared an interesting article this morning on Facebook, and I was thrilled to read the information contained in this piece about active dying. This article didn't focus on the usual 'list' of "are they dying yet" tips. Instead, this article speaks from a space that is both spiritual and physical. The third paragraph caught my attention immediately:
Often the time of death is preceded by an apparent coma, in which many things happen below conscious awareness. It is a great challenge to develop the spiritual guidance and inspiration, the vision and knowledge that can speak of the peace in surrender, and guide each other there.
Oh, that paragraph took me back to that moment six months ago, when I knew that mom heard everything that was going on around her. Although she seemed 'dead to the world,' she was active inside...her body was rapidly breaking down, and her mind was somewhere I couldn't touch. But, I knew she was still with me. She validated my assumption by becoming more communicative the day before she died, and by affirming she heard everything by answering some of my questions.

The article leans into Buddhism, and my mother was a deeply devout Christian. But, she often listened to my brother's Buddhist thoughts on spirituality, and she liked them. I think she would have enjoyed this article in another space and time, including its focus on metaphysical changes. Yes, metaphysical...the author is answering the questions, "what is ultimately there," and "what it is like."

If I take this article to heart, however, I'd have to laugh at the efforts that dad and I made to open the doors for her to hear the birds and to talk to her about the imaginary rabbits and turtles that we saw in the yard. According to the article, mom really wasn't aware of our efforts at the end...
During the period of the near-death reflex, the mind-body also experiences the release of beta-endorphins and other neuropeptides. The inner experience is a profound relaxation of the entire body, so profound that any awareness of the outside world disappears.
Ah, so. Dad and I were playing out those roles for ourselves. That's fine, too.

I know that I never would have remembered the information in this article while mom was alive. I was too concerned with her moment-to-moment living conditions. But now, looking back at those three days before her actual death, this article speaks to me like no other words have to this point.

For that revelation, I'm grateful.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blog Parties and Invisibility Cloaks

The silver "invisibility" or "superhero" cape -- perfect for caregivers for the holidays!
If you've followed me on Twitter, Facebook, or here at the blog, you know that Thanksgiving sucked for me. But, I recovered nicely, mainly because I was grateful that dad had a great time with his friends. Plus, my brother called, and -- despite my initial nausea over the smell of my husband's turkey -- that meat sure was good on a sandwich.

Next up -- the "real" holidays. Christmas, Boxing Day, Hanukkah, whatever individuals celebrate during December. I'm dreading the upcoming holidays and all the traditions that go with them. In a discussion with other caregivers and family members who lost their loved ones this past year to bile duct cancer, one woman said, "Christmas will even be worse" than Thanksgiving. I thought, "Wow -- I don't know if I want to project that far ahead," but then another woman agreed that the holidays will be worse, and then another woman agreed...

So, maybe Christmas will be worse than Thanksgiving, but I'm going to do everything I possibly can to reverse that direction for myself. Someone else asked if it was acceptable to be "peacefully inactive" for the holidays. Of course! Even more so, it would be wonderful if caregivers could become invisible. Just for a few hours, maybe, or a day...and, in the right situation, maybe for an entire week through New Year. What if we could wear an invisibility cloak that could serve us throughout the entire year when needed?

So I went hunting for an invisibility cloak and I found one at an Etsy shop based in England. This cape is not for me, however. I'm giving it away through Caregiving.com's upcoming Caregiving Holiday Blog Party. I've posted a link for this event in the right column on this site. If you cannot see that red background photo, please let me know and just use the link in this paragraph. Those links can take you to the event page to learn more about how to win this cape and at least five other prizes during the week between December 7th and 13th.

Many thanks to Cat and her to her Etsy invisibility capabilities! I'm excited about providing a caregiver with a way to become invisible anytime he or she wants. What a great gift, period, for any caregiver!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Holidays for Caregivers

What will Christmas be like without mom? I'm about to find out, with support from the folks at Caregiving.com...
The holidays will never be the same after a death of someone close to you. Even if that person got under your skin, something in you will expect that irritation -- especially during the holidays. That voice! Will it stay in your head forever?

On the other hand, the loss can be overwhelming. Not only is a loved one gone, but your life has changed. Forever. There's no pulling a cat out of a hat on that one. What are you feeling now? Rage? Frustration? Guilt?

No matter what you're feeling (if you survived Thanksgiving, that is), you might find comfort in the holiday survival articles posted at Caregiving.com. The "Attitudes on Platitudes" gave me my first laugh-out-loud moment yesterday. "Bah Humbug? A True Tale of Christmas" showed me how I have the power to alter my holiday traditions to make a new history for myself and my family. "Ten Signs an Aging Relative Needs Help" helped me decide if my remaining parent needs help or if I need help...(reading halfway through the list made me realize I'm in dire straits!).

I invite you to snoop around at Caregiving.com to see if this site fits your needs. I know, while caregiving, that little time is spent on what the caregiver needs or wants...and it takes time to commit to dedicating yourself to a group of individuals who may really understand you and care about you...but, hey. During the holidays, it might be just what you need.

Membership is free. Just join us. Now.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Writers' Retreat

Writing away at the writers' retreat.
I am so very grateful for contributions to my Indiegogo campaign -- which is almost at an end. Thanks to my supporters, I was able to attend the Green River Writers retreat at the Kavanaugh Center in Crestwood, Kentucky, this past weekend, where I had access to solitude for writing, to writers who offered constructive criticism for my poetry (which is going into the memoir), and an opportunity to read part of my memoir to a discerning audience.

I'll never read that piece in front of an audience again. The part I chose was the third section, where my mother dies. The part about breathe. I actually lost my breathe while reading the piece aloud. One fellow writer thought -- just for a second -- that I was acting, then realized that I was almost in distress. But, I pulled it out of the hat; although, today I'm exhausted. Reading that one particular portion of the memoir wore me out as much as swimming the English Channel (not that I can swim, mind you).

I haven't been able to attend a Green River retreat for three years. The last time I attended a retreat, my mother was in apparent good health. It was a constant marvel to me how the past two years flew by, how quickly a story can become a dark memory that's so easily tucked into a corner. By forcing myself to get out, reconnect, and read and write, I'm forcing myself to connect to my mother's death over and over again. I can take it...I hope, though, that none of my perceptions are warped in the process.

This is why it's so important for me to write now, when memories are fresh.

Other highlights this past weekend:

1. My laptop is biting the dust. Crap.
2. Met George Eklund at the retreat and learned about some of his creative poetry processes.
3. I reconnected with several friends who also lost spouses, parents, and friends over the past three years.
4. I connected with new friends who also lost spouses, parents, and friends over the past few years.

One writer friend lost 29 friends -- some close, some not-so-close -- over the past year. We can't figure out if all these losses are normal at our ages, or if we're actually transitioning into a Stephen King novel. The cancer losses are breathtaking.

You can view some photos I took at the conference if you want to feel more connected, too. I'm into black and white photography right now, as you'll learn. I think someone took a photo of me along the way, but I'm not certain. I do have witnesses.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Letters from the Past

Letters, negatives, and other paraphernalia.
Mom left behind a lot of "things" to go through. I don't like her stealthy way of hiding recipes (which all can found found online save a few), coupons (some dated to 2005 or earlier), and newspaper clippings. Other items, like the box filled with letters that her parents wrote the month before mom was born in 1934, are well worth discovering.

I went through this box of letters a few nights ago. Being an historian, I recognized the value of these letters. They're not just love letters filled with endearments...they're artifacts that give a glimpse into what life was like in Virginia in August, 1934.

At that time, my grandmother, Elizabeth, was living in Roanoke. Her husband of barely nine months, Leo, was stationed as a National Guard recruit in Virginia Beach. It was four years into the Great Depression, and my grandparents note the cost of several items. They also talk about borrowing $3.00 like it was a burden and a sin. And, yet, they're about to have their first child together.

I think these letters might make for yet another book...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Overcoming Another Major Organization Hurdle

My desk this morning and then...this afternoon.
By the end of November, I should have this house in fairly decent shape. I need to be more organized, because I'm juggling several balls right now -- my Etsy shop, Amazon book sales, an upcoming writing workshop, clients, and -- the main purpose behind all this activity -- my memoir.

It made perfect sense for me to tackle my desk today in light of the deadline I set for myself with clients and the book. In the photos above, you can see a cluttered desk filled with items that I needed to list on Amazon and other items I need to photograph for sale on my Etsy shop (links to both venues are listed in the right column). All those items now are in their proper places, mostly. I did make it through the books today, and they're all out the door, listed on Amazon, or on my bookcase in the bedroom. I'm limiting myself to one bookcase for books I want to keep.

The other items are sitting on the folding table behind me as I sit at my desk. My next task is to photograph those pieces, then list them on Etsy and put them away in a nice, neat box until they're sold.

I don't know if I would have found the motivation to become more organized without Caregiving.com's 30-Day Organization Challenge. I don't like to fail at anything, and making a commitment to this challenge was one of the best things I could have done for my family and for myself. I have been battling depression for the past two years since before mom's diagnosis, and my struggle seems to be worse lately. I think it's because I don't have to focus on mom's caregiving anymore, so the focus is on me and my losses. It's all part of grief and grieving. A competition to become more organized was, surprisingly, just what I needed to begin to look at my life with new perspective and with less stress.

I'm happy about seeing my desk again. I'm also happy that I've untangled the speakers and separated them for better sound since I took that second photo. During this "desk-cleaning" project I was pleased to find a bracelet I thought I had lost. Bonus!

Now, to rid myself of this paranoia. I feel like the objects lurking on that table behind me are making fun of me and just waiting for me to fail at moving forward on these tasks. Little do they know that I have them on my "organization" hit list for tomorrow.

Friday, November 14, 2014

New Post at Caregiving.com -- a Great Community for Caregivers

Dad and my husband at a market this past fall.
I have a new post up about long-distance caregiving for dad at caregiving.com. This task of caregiving for dad is not a chore at the moment, but changes have altered the scenario both here at my home and at dad's place. My footing as a caregiver for dad is totally off-balance and unsure. I don't really know what he needs right now, but I guess that unknown is alright. At least, he seems to be doing well for his age. He seems to be doing somewhat fine alone, but I think I know he's not happy.

I'm not happy. None of us are happy right now. Life is stressful, but we all keep going along, doing what we think we need to do. Some of that "knowing" has changed, though, since mom's death. I am finding support at Caregiving.com -- what a great little community with some great leadership through Denise. In fact, I can't keep up with all the blogs, the activities, the podcasts, or the events this site offers; but it's great to know I have those resources available.

Without caregiving.com, in fact, I wouldn't have had the initiative to get organized around here. Hugh, my husband, wouldn't have a studio for making his baskets. I owe all that to the short amount of time I've spent with Denise and the other caregivers at that site.

I wish dad would find a community similar to what I've found with caregiving.com. He's not computer savvy, though, so that community would have to meet in person. But again, I don't know what dad needs right now. I don't think he knows what he needs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I'm a Caregiver, and I Matter



A birthday present to myself. Brenda Avadian leads caregivers in a simple Mirror Exercise to remind them, "I'm a Caregiver and I Matter." Caregivers experience a wide range of reactions depending on where they are along the caregiving journey.

Monday, November 10, 2014

There's No Turning Back...

My Logitch K120 keyboard, which I've owned for about three years. Note the dents, the missing letters, and possible pieces of peanut butter sandwich lodged between the keys. This is a writer's keyboard.
If I had been on the ball today, I would have written a post for Caregiving.com about caregiving my father from a distance. That topic is so muddled these days that I can't make sense of it, though, and I can't put it on paper yet. Death, when it touches someone close to us, changes us. All of us. There's no turning back.

That change goes very deep, too. I realize, in my conversations with other caregivers, that we're a breed apart in many ways. We have one portion of our lives (usually our own) that's disorganized and unimportant. The other part of our lives is insanely organized, much like Temple Grandin's Livestock Handling Systems. What goes in follows a defined path until it exits.

My life as caregiver to mom was organized. It became more organized the sicker she became. The one-time-per-day seven-day pill holder went to a two-week pill holder that held morning, noon, and night pills. The journals became real journals instead of sticky notes. The physical observation went from downright obvious to sly, so it wouldn't upset mom to know that I was becoming more concerned about her yellow skin, her swollen ankles, her swelling stomach.

My life, on the other hand, kept fading into the distance. It helped that I wasn't at home for this illusion to work. Home became a lone fragment of fog floating up and over a mountain away from my daily routines.

But I'm home now. It's real. I'm becoming more organized. You may have read about part of that organization in my previous entry about changing the spare bedroom into a basket-making studio for my husband. My office? Still the same -- I have a path that leads from the door to my chair. I have a keyboard with no letters from overuse. I have chaos.

But, I'm focused on my mission to finish this memoir. My tool is the clock. I've used it before in keeping time with mom's daily routines, and I can use it again in writing this book. I know how that time-keeping works, as do so many other caregivers. Time. That linear framework consisting of hours, minutes, and seconds is all we have to align ourselves among the realities of health, sickness, and death.

There's no turning back (except for this damnable daylight savings time bullcrap).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Making Progress with the Organization Challenge

Two days ago I posted photos that I took of the spare bedroom that my husband and I are working on so he can use that space to make his hand-made baskets. Those photos, which I took on November 1st, represent the mess created by me from traveling back and forth between my parents' home and my home over the past two years -- plus dragging a lot of mom's things back with me to my home. Today, just seven days into the month, we've made tremendous progress on this room.

I'm very grateful to Caregiving.com's 30-Day Organization Challenge, because I don't believe we would have made this progress without a challenge. Take a look:

The first image of the corner near the closet -- everything is gone! I won't tell you what my office and our bedroom look like, though...
I couldn't back up far enough to take a photo of this corner of the room -- now that corner holds my husband's desk, computer, and basket supplies that were, initially, in our bedroom. We did a little switching around here.
As you can see from the photos above, we moved a lot of things out of the spare bedroom. But, a lot of my husband's things were in our bedroom, so we simply switched the portable closet for the desk, and his bookshelf with basket supplies for my bookshelf that still has a lot of junk on it.

This shot shows a LOT of things moved. I still have the rest of the month to go through all the boxes.
I'm very proud of the images above -- even though I haven't gone through all the boxes yet, I was able to organize the bags and loose items into separate piles to make my task easier.

Uh-oh...I have "stuff" on the top of the bookshelf. I'll move those items this evening.
All my husband needs to do to get started making baskets again is a table. We've got one -- he just needs to bring it up from the basement. And -- ta-da! This part of the task is done, all in just one week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

30-Day Organization Challenge, or How I'm Dealing with "Stuff"


One corner of the room -- and this was after I had already moved some boxes.
Caregiving.com started a 30-Day Organization Challenge for members on November 1. Denise is providing daily prompts for folks who want to follow along and spend 15 minutes per day organizing a purse, a mud room, bills and receipts (which would take me three months alone!), or under the kitchen sink. Members also have a choice to pick another project to organize. Since I knew I'd spend more than 15 minutes per day on most of the prompts, I decided instead to tackle one large project.

I couldn't move far enough into the room to capture the entire mess in one corner.
Since we're trying to work together on projects, I approached my husband about this organization challenge. He makes beautiful hand-made baskets and he could bring in income with these baskets if he had a larger space to work with. For the past two years he was stuffed into a corner of our bedroom, with no room to work at all.
The chifferobe? It's for sale (local only)!
I suggested that we clean out the 'spare' bedroom that isn't a bedroom at all. As you can see from the photos, this room is a catch-all for my clothes as well as for my mother's things that I'm salvaging from my parents' home. The room was, on day one, so dysfunctional that I couldn't find clothes to wear. For the past five days now -- every day this month -- my husband and I have spent approximately 15 minutes per day moving things back and forth between our bedroom and that spare bedroom. You wouldn't believe the difference already!

The books are mine -- but most of them will go up for sale on Amazon. That's just one bookshelf out of ten in this house. A little bit of a nutty obsession -- each book I own has a story behind it.  The clothes? They belonged to mom. What the heck am I doing with them? I'll figure it out...
This project could have been a daunting task, but with my husband's help it's coming together quickly. At this point we're just moving things back and forth, though. The task of going through all the boxes and organizing things is going to take the rest of the month, I'm sure.

I'll post "after" photos when we're done. Then we can tackle the living room, which is almost 1/4 filled with more boxes from the folks' house. Oy.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

When are Support Groups Helpful?

When do you know when to connect with other individuals who share your diagnosis or your situation? It's up to you.
I found a great cholangiocarcinoma (CC) support group when I was at dad's house last month. The support group is a "closed" group on Facebook, which means that only members can see and respond to messages on that group's page. As far as I can tell, the group consists of patients and caregivers (current and "after care"), although this non-denominational group also welcomes medical professionals and students.

I never sought out a support group while caregiving mom, because I felt that I was getting the answers I needed from various reliable resources. Also, once I was a full-blown caregiver, I never had time to seek support. I was too busy with mom's appointments, her medications, the tasks we had to schedule (like saline flushes for her bile duct catheter), with my own work, and with my own well-being.

Looking back, I'm not sure I could have tolerated a support group, because I was on a short fuse many times. I did check a few of those groups out, and I wasn't ready. Lighthearted entertainment was not my cup of tea during my tenure, and I sure didn't want to hear about hope when we knew we had no hope with mom's case. I also didn't want to hear about bad news when I knew the news was anything but good for us (some folks will understand this logic!).

I will say I'm more than ready for the Facebook support group now. Now, I have something to share, especially with newcomers to the group who -- on almost a daily basis -- are reporting a loved one recently diagnosed with stage four CC. I'm learning a lot about this disease from patients who have been exposed to treatments that my mother couldn't tolerate with her physical condition. I'm also learning that patients often know more than their doctors and oncologists about their conditions.

I'm somewhat sorry that I denied myself the support of a group during my mother's diagnosis and death, but I did share everything with my friends on Facebook. Believe me, I don't know what I would have done without my friends' support. And, at the time, my friends were far more substantial in their support for me than a stranger's support. Now, however...

I seem to find more support among other caregivers and CC patients than I do among my friends. I don't know why this sea change occurred after mom's death, but I'm sure a lot of this disconnect has to do with my push to finance a space of time to finish my memoir. So commercial! At the same time, I also think that friends have only so much tolerance for death and dying.

And, it's for that latter reason that I find support groups so attractive these days. There's something about a finite boundary on life that brings out the honesty, support, and love that happens nowhere else but within a support group. In that environment, I feel I can share my tears, inappropriate laughter or comments (and find immediate forgiveness), and fears.

If you feel you need a support group, seek one out. So many support groups exist for all types of cancers as well as for caregivers. I'm not sure if this link will work for the CC support group at Facebook, but give it a shot: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CHOLANGIOCARCINOMAsupportGroup (if this link doesn't work, please let me know via Facebook).

For caregivers, I recommend Caregiving.com. This is a great space for folks who are caregivers to spouses, siblings, and friends who suffer from a myriad of physical impairments. Denise will probably meet you at the door. Please tell her I sent you!

Contest!

Friday marks the beginning of a new phase in my project campaign. This time YOU can receive monetary benefits from a merit-based referral contest. This contest is designed to increase contributions to my project, and you can also win a gift credit card to use as you wish.
  1. I'll provide one $100 VISA card to the person who brings in the most contributors to my campaign at any level, no matter the dollar amount. For instance, if you have 500 contributors at $1, you could win this prize for your efforts.
  2. I'll provide a second $100 gift credit VISA card to the person who brings in the highest dollar amount, no matter the number of contributors. For instance, if you bring in one contributor at $1,000, you could win this prize for your efforts.
  3. Finally, I'll provide a $50 gift credit card to the person who brings in the the most referrals, period. You deserve a prize for working so hard! For instance, if you bring in 550 referrals, but none of them contribute, you can still obtain this card
To learn more, visit the Contest Page on this blog (listed in right-hand column). NOTE: Only one prize per person, so at least three people must compete for all prizes to be awarded for your efforts.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Still Time to Compete...

This is a screenshot of the leader board on the dashboard on Saturday at 2pm. I didn't post on Friday, because it appeared nothing has changed over the past week except a few names and the fact that I brought in more money (and I'm not competing). So, you still have plenty of time to sign up and gain interest -- view the referral contest information and follow the rules to win by November 24th.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Memoir Progress Update

One rebuilt garden bed with new mulch!
The support I've received for this project so far has been wonderful. As of this writing, 43 individuals provided $1,184. This is enough money for me to pay expenses incurred during this campaign, to pay for an editor, and to pay for two days at a four-day poetry retreat in November with the Green River Writers to edit a few poems that are going into the memoir. I plan to get a lot done in those two days.

Next up -- paying for a month or two in seclusion to finish the memoir. Just to be perfectly clear, this time does not exclude regular work for clients. Instead, it is to finance travel to one of several writers' retreats (if I'm chosen), or to pay for a getaway from the chaos at home to have quiet time to finish my research and writing. My family WANTS me to leave to finish this project, so help them out! =)

In other news:

  • This is my last week at dad's house. I've finished weeding and separating the flowers in mom's garden beds (all ten of them), weeded along the fence and around the trees, and had mulch delivered for the front beds. The mulch for the back beds is arriving after I leave. I used mom's new garden gloves that she purchased before she died and never used, and I poked holes in the ends of the fingers. Dad said, "I'm sure she won't mind." Despite my initial fears over tackling my mother's gardens, I think I did fine by her.
  • Packing to return home includes items from around the house that dad wants me to sell. I have to put on my "impersonal" persona when conducting this work, because I feel as though I'm selling memories. On the other hand, it feels great to downsize, and I'm conducting this activity on the homefront as well so I can relieve my daughter from this task upon my death. I never realized I inherited my "hoarder gene" from mom. I've learned since mom's death how to hide that hoarding (in drawers, closets, and the attic!). I'll post more items to my Etsy shop (GoinOriginals) next week. Sending a "thank you" to my new customers at that venue!
  • It appears no one has really taken me up on the contest challenge yet. Too bad! But, there's still time to compete (until November 24th!).
  • It appears that folks are taking me up on my $1 birthday wish challenge at the Cancer, Caregiving, Contentious Love Indiegogo site! Wonderful! Those dollar bills add up! (hint for those who want to compete in the previously mentioned challenge -- I'm trying to help you!)
  • Thanks again to Denise at Caregiving.com for offering a new space to blog about my caregiving adventures with dad. Latest post: My Fears About Leaving Dad Alone.

Since I'm busy packing and traveling over the next two days, I won't be posting anything here until Friday. Be good, take care, and be happy if you can. <3

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Initial Referral Contest Leader Board

This is a screenshot of the leader board on the dashboard at 12:01 a.m. (yes, I was one minute late due to slow Internet issues). I'll post the leader board again on Friday, October 31 in the morning. You have plenty of time to sign up and gain interest -- view the referral contest information and follow the rules to win!


PS -- I'm not a contestant. =)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some People Who Support the Arts

I'm also a fine artist; but my writing is, at the moment, far more important to me, because I feel I have a story to share that can help other caregivers. I created this oil pastel in 2007 after a visit to the Bahamas as a professor's assistant for an archaeology project on San Salvador.
It's time to catch up on all the thank you notes for folks who have supported my Indiegogo project since October 13th. I look at Indiegogo fundraisers that bring in thousands of dollars, and I realize that they're for tech products. Then, I look at Indiegogo fundraisers for the arts, and we all lag behind those tech products by thousands of dollars. Therefore, I'm so very grateful to the individuals listed below, because they see value in my ability to tell a story. They are investing in my art -- that art of memoir.

  • I'm grateful to my film/documentary maker friend, Jacques Laurent. I met Jacques when he arrived in La Grange from France to film the trains that run through the town. We have been friends since, and I'm grateful that he's my first overseas supporter! (I have supporters in Canada, too -- not forgetting you! <3).
  • I'm grateful to the anonymous donor who decided to support me in a huge way. Much love and many, many <3!
  • I'm grateful for Amy Wellborn's support. This fine artist thanked me in person one day for my gratitude lists. I was overwhelmed, because it's rare that someone in this world will make time to thank someone in person. I'm guilty of that same lack of support for some of my friends. Love you, Amy!
  • I'm so grateful to Kristi Weber, who will always be one of my favorite poets. We met in April this year during Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-A-Day challenge, and I remain sufficiently charmed by her attitude, perspective, and downright solidness in being herself. She supported me the day after she learned she finally had a job -- now, that's digging deep. <3 to you, Kristi.
  • Gratitude to my long-time friend Sharon Jones -- an artist I met when living down south -- for her support. She could have bought me a rum and coke, but chose instead to support my art. Big thanks! =)
  • So grateful to Ursula Powers for her support. We've known each other since the BP Gulf Oil disaster, where we tweeted against BP. Power to the people, especially through the family business, Al's Bees!
  • Thanks to my buddy, Joe Davenport, for wanting so badly to push me to that $1K mark that he donated twice! You're a winner, Joe. Thanks for your support!

I also want to thank Denise at Caregiving.com for personally welcoming me into her space and offering a new channel to blog. This time, I'm blogging about the switch from being caregiver for my mother to realizing that I'm now my dad's caregiver (thanks to Denise's insight). Denise is a bright and energetic soul who is sincerely interested in all her Caregiving members. My blog, Linda's Blog, is located under "Caregiving for Parents."

Many thanks, too, to Mary Beth at Caregivers for Home. She approached me via Twitter to ask if she could write about my experience and memoir, and then asked if I would write a guest blog. Well, yes! Mary Beth's article is When Doctor’s RX is: No Hope, A Caregiver’s Journey. My article, which broaches a topic that I had to write about sooner or later. Yes, I shared this story with my husband before it was published -- Marriage and Caregiving: Letting Go, A Daughter’s Story.

So grateful to be meeting new friends and supporters in my quest to fund my art and I'm grateful to friends who have stepped up to share. If you want to fund my memoir as well, you can contribute as little as $1 or as much as you want at Cancer, Caregiving, and Contentious Love's Indiegogo campaign. A heads up on Friday -- YOU can win money by helping to spread my campaign through linkage. Learn more about my Referral Contest and, if you have questions, feel free to contact me through Twitter or Facebook

Monday, October 20, 2014

How Bile Duct Cancer Begins...

My mother's mother in 1954. She died from liver complications in 1969. Did my mother inherit mutated genes from her mother? Doubtful, but mom did inherit some issues that complicated her disease.
Now that my frantic caregiving chores for mom are over, I've been concentrating on how her cholangiocarcinoma occurred. My mother's age contributed to her risk factor. More than two out of three patients diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma are older than age 65, and my mother was 78 when she was diagnosed. But lately I've been viewing more news on younger deaths from this cancer.

Cancer usually results from gene mutation, and sometimes this proclivity to certain mutations is inherited. Gene mutations related to bile duct cancers, however, usually are acquired during a lifetime rather than inherited. What changes during a lifetime could contribute to bile duct cancer?

  • Liver fluke (parasitic flatworm) infections that settle in the bile duct and cause irritation is a major cause of bile duct cancer in Asia, but very rare in the U.S. It can affect people who travel to Asia and who eat raw or poorly cooked fish in that region.
  • Bile duct infections or inflammation (cholangitis) can lead to scar tissue (sclerosis), which can create a risk for cholangiocarcinoma. Many people who have this disease (Primary sclerosing cholangitis or PSC) also may have issues with ulcerative colitis. Risk factors for progression of any of the issues to bile duct cancer can be as high as 30 percent.
  • Bile-filled sacs connected to the bile duct are called choledochal cysts. The cells in these cysts, as with cysts in other parts of the body, can contain areas of pre-cancerous changes.
  • People who are born with, or who develop, abnormalities where the bile and pancreatic ducts meet can be at higher risk for bile duct cancer. This abnormality can prevent bile from exiting the ducts normally, and that condition can prove deadly.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver, caused by alcohol excess or diseases such as hepatitis, can create scar tissue that can affect the bile duct and lead to #2. Liver diseases and subsequent scar tissues can contribute up to 15 percent of bile duct cancers.
  • Exposure to certain industry chemicals and PCBs can also lead to possible bile duct cancer.
  • Thorotrast, a contrast agent that radiologists no longer used in x-rays, is a huge culprit in cholangiocarcinoma cases in individuals who are old enough to have had x-rays through the mid-1950s. The connection between the ingestion of Thorotrast and bile duct cancer can be up to 100 percent.
Some medical facilities and cancer institutions list other causes, including obesity, exposure to asbestos, smoking, exposure to radon, and diabetes. All these factors often contribute to liver damage and then scarring and damage to bile ducts. Is there a way to determine if you are at risk for bile duct cancer? Yes -- if you know that you are subject to any of the conditions listed above.

Can this cancer be detected early? According to the American Cancer Society, the answer is no.
The bile duct is located deep inside the body, so early tumors cannot be seen or felt by health care providers during routine physical exams. There are currently no blood tests or other tests that can reliably detect bile duct cancers early enough to be useful as screening tests. Without effective screening tests, most bile duct cancers are found only when the cancer has grown enough to cause symptoms. The most common symptom is jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, which is caused by a blocked bile duct.
From experience, I can tell you that the jaundice is a symptom, but it's also an alarm. It's the alarm that starts the race to the end of the cancer patient's life. How much time will that patient have? Anywhere from three months to 18 months, depending upon a number of factors including new procedures that can extend that patient's life.

But, that's another story...









Thursday, October 16, 2014

Michael Smith's Music Magic

Mom's banjo uke
Mom's banjo uke, minus strings...
About one week after mom died in June, I sent a Facebook message to friend, musician, and neighbor, Michael Smith. I attached a photo of a musical instrument I found hidden in one of mom's closets. It looked like a miniature banjo at 21 inches in length and with a seven-inch diameter head. It had two "f" holes in the resonator's back and it was branded Ferry Quality.

I know mom told me when I was much younger that she played the ukulele, but I never remember her playing one. I definitely don't remember seeing this instrument before I found it in the closet. Michael informed me that this instrument was more than a ukulele -- it was a banjo ukulele.

I searched high and low on the Internet and found little about the Ferry Quality banjo uke; but, I did discover Banjo Ukulele Haven, which details the history and value of some other banjo uke brands. Either the banjo uke mom owned is very rare or it's not in demand, but Michael seemed to like it. He encouraged me keep and preserve it by putting it in a display case. I almost took it home with me in August, but something told me to keep it at dad's house.

Fast forward to September. I am back at the folks' house, helping dad with various and sundry things. Before I left, Michele Larocque from Deep River Studio interviewed me for a book trailer that she was making for my Indiegogo fundraising project. We talked briefly about music for the video, but we were at a loss as to what to use for background sound. Mom liked all types of music -- opera, classical, gospel, folk...anything but rap. The tone of the video also needed consideration, and I thought about my choices on the way to dad's house.

I finally decided on blues, so I asked a musician friend to help me out. He didn't respond, and time wasn't on my side. Several people nudged me to use royalty-free music or to pay for a popular artist's piece, but I wanted desperately to ask someone local to help out. I know plenty of very good local musicians, so I went to Facebook to ask if anyone could help with an original piece.

I received a ton of responses over the 24 hours after I posted, but Michael was the only musician to respond with a video and an original piece -- within 24 hours! I was floored...the music was a great mix of eastern, bluegrass, and blues (yes, obviously this mix is possible), so I wanted Michael to provide the music for the video.

Unfortunately, Michele needed a longer piece for the project than the one that Michael originally produced, so I talked to him about this issue. I liked his original music and he did, too -- but after he saw the rough cut for the video, he was excited about pushing his music to another level. To make a long story short, he wrote and performed a final piece that was dedicated to his brother, Paul, who recently died from cancer.

"Paul's Song" is beautiful. Michael shared it with me after he recorded it in a local studio (All Things Music at 522 Washington Street in Shelbyville, KY). I knew Michael was a stellar musician, but I was stunned by this piece. I was honored that Michael was willing to share his music with me, and I was humbled by his inspiration.

Michael's music on the video comes in bits and pieces, and it doesn't represent the entire song as Michael wrote it. But, that's what happens with a music/audio/visual mix, and Michele, in my opinion, did a bang-up job on the video (shown at the top bottom of every page, because I'm that proud of the final product). This lack of musical continuity is sad, however, because the full rendition of "Paul's Song" could melt your heart. On the other hand, Michael still retains the original piece in all its glory, and it is up to him to decide what he wants to do with that music.

I do know that mom's banjo uke belongs to Michael. In fact, I could almost hear her voice say a resounding "Yes!" at the exact moment I realized what I needed to do with that instrument. When I return home, I will return with that Ferry Quality banjo uke and hand it -- and the accompanying "Original Guckert's Chords for the Ukulele at Sight Without Notes or Teacher" booklet -- over to Michael's care.

Michael, thank you for blessing me with your talents, skills, and love. I only hope I can do the same for you one day, friend. Cheers.

NOTE: Michael doesn't have a website, but he does give uke lessons in La Grange. If you'd like to take lessons from Michael, please message me on Facebook or Twitter, and I'll ask him to get in touch with you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cancer, Caregiving, Contentious Love Book Trailer...

Yeah -- well. I'm pretty stoked about the results of the trailer. Michele Larocque of Deep River finalized the work today, and it's up at the Cancer Caregiving, Contentious Love fundraising site, YouTube, and Vimeo...and, people are sharing it all over Facebook. It's a gorgeous piece of work, and Michele dreamed it all up.

The music? That's another story altogether, and I'm planning to tell you about it before the end of the week. Let's just say that I've been blessed by Michael Smith, a neighbor. He's downright genius with a big heart.

Here's the trailer:

video

Monday, October 13, 2014

Time to Give Thanks

I haven't thanked anyone since my October 1 post, where I thanked many artist, writer, poet, musician, and photography friends for their monetary, emotional, and physical support. So, a quick post today to catch up on all those individuals who have stepped up since the beginning of the month...

First, a huge thank you and gratitude to the authors, editors, and publishers who read my memoir excerpt and offered their words of praise and encouragement: Many thanks to Mara Eve Robbins, Kim Jacobs, Janeson Keeley, S. E. Ingraham, and Tony Acree. I've posted their reviews on this site.

If you're a blogger, author, editor, or publisher and you'd like to write a (hopefully positive) review of this memoir's excerpt, don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter or Facebook.

Now for the donors!

  • Who can write a book without the support of her family? Thanks to my husband, Hugh, my daughter, Cora, and her boyfriend, Will, for their monetary encouragement! They dug deep for this effort, trust me. That's what makes their gifts all that much more awesome. <3
  • Thanks again to Tony Acree, as he not only partially dedicated his last book to me (The Watchers), but he wrote a review AND he wants an eBook. You know how to be a fan, Tony -- thanks!
  • Vicki Bironas, owner of Fire It Up Studio in La Grange, KY, stepped up to be the first business to support my memoir. Thanks to her generous $150 gift, her shop name and location will go in the print and eBook editions of the memoir. Vicki  - MWHA! One of my best besties. 
  • To my friend, Tess Elliott -- thank you for your monetary support and your encouragement. I love, especially that you comment on almost every post I write and like just about every post I contribute to my Facebook page. You're a gem, Tess. Tess is an artist and a photographer who creates toy theaters, and who is insanely in love with puppetry and art in general.
  • Thank you, Melissa Crites, for your support! Melissa is the owner of Serenity Studio, LLC in La Grange, KY, and I can guarantee you that she is a superb massage therapist. She's also an artist with a focus on painting some beautiful gourds.
  • Another La Grange business owner, Sue Ann Birchfield, owner of Rainy Day Resale, stepped up to support my project, too. If you'll notice at her website, her resale business is top notch and upscale -- drool-worthy, actually. =)
  • And, thanks to my dear friend Joe Davenport for his support. He's been a huge supporter for a long time, to the extent that he actually dressed up like Elvis for an event I created. Joe, you're the best. <3
  • Many thanks to Dr. Nurit Israeli , a psychologist and psychology professor in NY, but also a wonderful poet. Of course, that's how I met Nurit -- as a poet -- and she's an extraordinary wordsmith and observer of life. I'm so honored to have your company on this journey, Nurit!
  • Then, there are the anonymous supporters. Anonymous to you, that is...I know who they are, because Indiegogo provides that information for me. I think they know how much I appreciate them, too. Much love!
  • Finally, I have a supporter to thank who may not show up on the campaign site, depending upon if we can work it out. John Manning is a friend, a dance partner, a banker, and a hoot. He wants his name in the book, so we're working that out. I'm honored.

That's right --  you can contact me directly if you don't want to use your credit card or display your name or whatever is keeping you from using the Indiegogo Cancer, Caregiving, Contentious Love site. If you want to support my efforts, let me know. I'll be happy to help.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Differences Between Hospice and Palliative Care

When it comes to elderly relatives -- do you need palliative or hospice care?
It's World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, and this event provides a great opportunity to talk about the difference between hospice and palliative care. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't understand the difference between the two services until after mom was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. I did understand hospice to a degree, as relatives had used this service prior to mom's diagnosis. The first time I really understood palliative care, however, was when mom received her first chemotherapy treatments.

After mom's failed Whipple surgery, the oncologist suggested chemotherapy to hold the cancer at bay. The doctors all told mom, without qualms, that her cancer was not "curable" and that the chemo treatments were "palliative." In other words, she would receive treatments that would stem the cancer cell growth until she could no longer take chemo. This was a "chemo for life" program, where "life" part meant that treatments would continue as long as mom could tolerate them.

There are no time restrictions in palliative care situations. Patients can receive palliative care at any stage of illness, whether that illness is terminal or not. The point behind palliative care is to provide comfort for the patient. This comfort is especially important for the patient when the the patient's disease is at its most uncomfortable.

Palliative care can be received at home, in the hospital, in a treatment center, or at a doctor's office. The fuzzy part of this type of care is that it covers a broad spectrum of diseases at various stages within that disease. The important thing to remember is that palliative care is not hospice, although hospice and palliative care go hand in hand.

Hospice is for end-of-life care, and it's all about palliative care...making the patient comfortable through various methods that range from Styrofoam wedges to make bed rest more comfortable to morphine to ease end-of-life pain. Although policy has it that hospice care is for the last six months of life, we learned that the local hospice had patients that were going on three years in treatment. On the other hand, some hospice patients barely see the oxygen tanks come through the door when they exit life.

Although hospice generally is ordered by the patient's primary-care physician* for end-of-life care, no one has a crystal ball. The practice of predicting someone's end of life sentence is based on both fact and guesses. Sometimes facts win. Sometimes guesses far surpass wildest hopes, especially when it comes to family members who don't want to lose that patient.

Interestingly, hospice couldn't begin for mom until her chemotherapy palliative care ended. That "chemo for life" program lasted as long as mom's body could tolerate the limited amount of chemo that she was taking. Since one oncologist earlier in mom's care had the guts to give us a time frame of three to six months of life without any treatment for her cancer, I had at least a base to work from after mom's chemo treatments ended. Mom's then-current oncologist must have known as well, as she ordered hospice for mom when she stopped mom's treatments, and that end to treatment came approximately six months  before mom's life ended.

Hospice provides palliative care, and that's the thrust of their services. In mom's case, however, another goal was imperative: that we try to keep mom out of the hospital. Her capacity to fight illness and infection was low, so home care was the best option. Additionally, mom wanted to die at home, and hospice made that goal a mission in mom's case.

To make a long story short, here are some major differences between hospice and palliative care:

  1. Hospice services can be provided at home, where palliative services provided by medical professionals often are provided through a medical facility.
  2. Palliative care knows no time restrictions, whereas hospice care is, supposedly, for the last six months of life.
  3. Patients pay for palliative care the same way they would pay for any other treatment -- with cash, insurance, or other payment methods. Hospice, on the other hand, takes over the bills and everything is paid through Medicare. At least, that's the current structure in most cases. It's always good to check with your local medical facilities to understand your possibilities.

I can say nothing but good about mom's hospice care at this point, especially on a day when we honor the services provided by palliative and hospice care. The goal? To make these services better all around and as widely available as possible to people who need them.

* Primary care physician can be any type of doctor, from cardiologist to oncologist.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Who Hasn't Been Touched by Cancer?

Mom -- hoping to actually drive this Jaguar on her 60th birthday in 1994.
I've been floating between two towns during the past two years, trying my best to actually be present in my own home when I've been pouring my heart and energy into my parents' home. Caregiving takes effort. It takes money. It can take a person's soul if the caregiver isn't careful.

That's what cancer does. It eats at its host and it tries to reach out to eat everyone who cares about the cancer patient.

In both towns, I hear stories about people who have died from cancer, people who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, and people who are surviving cancer. In most cases, individuals relay those stories in a "hush hush" manner, as though to speak about cancer out loud makes that disease contagious. The survivors are a different story, because even the media wants to shout those success stories from the rooftops; but, those stories are fraught with doubt. Are the survivors really "cured," or are these cancer survivors and their families hoping against hope that that victims are in remission forever?

Who hasn't been touched by cancer? Who hasn't felt hope that cancer can be "beat" into submission? Who hasn't felt that this disease deserves only a whisper instead of a shout...shouts of anger that people of all ages are falling victim to these alterations in their DNA? People we love. People we don't even know who touch our hearts with their stories.

Who hasn't been touched by cancer? I'd like to know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Things People Say to People With Cancer

During my stint as caregiver to my mother, I was privileged to accompany mom on her visits to her various doctor appointments. There were many appointments; but, as mom continued to hang on to life, the appointments dwindled. Instead of explaining why those appointments began to shut down, I'll share a few quotes that I heard first-hand from mom's primary physicians and nurses:

  • We didn't expect you to live this long (doctor who was treating mom)
  • Cremation? Why? You're so beautiful, I thought you'd go the open casket route (nurse).
  • You're still with us? (doctor who was summoned for mom's treatment for a second time within four months)
  • I can't look at the cancer count. I want to sleep at night (a doctor's answer to my question about mom's cancer advancement).

You get the idea -- out of the mouths of babes scenarios, right? Except the individuals who offered their opinions were professionals. What, then, can cancer patients expect to hear from friends and relatives who aren't professional doctors or nurses?

If you know a cancer victim, please don't try to excuse yourself from making stupid remarks to that person because you're not a professional. If anything, as a friend, relative, or neighbor, you might have a bit more insight into that cancer patient and become more compassionate. At least, that's the hope.

A friend of mine found that sometimes that hope runs slim. Craig Allen has cancer, and he is a realist about his prognosis, and responses to his current treatment option drive him mad. Literally. He's taking hormone treatments that provide him with physical reactions that are similar to menopause hot flashes. When he shares this news with female listeners, they often respond with:

"Ha! Now you know what we go through."

Excuse me? Your menopause hot flashes are similar to my cancer treatments? I'm sharing a link to Craig's justifiable rant. Please read to understand how a simple statement (like "We didn't expect you to live this long") can affect a person who is dying from cancer.

Thank you.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Taking my Gratitude to the Next Level

I'm grateful that mom left a story for me to tell.
I mentioned in a previous post that I began to share a gratitude list every morning on my private Facebook page. I started this practice about three months before mom died. In the beginning, I felt very self-conscious about expressing appreciation for what I had, although now that self-consciousness seems ludicrous.

I was late posting my gratitude a few days. Some days I was up before the rooster crowed, pondering how I could turn things around in my head to show that I was looking at a brighter side. Believe me, some days I really worked hard at this list. I skipped the list for at least five separate days, because I just couldn't shake my funk enough to see the light.

I don't know why I stuck to five items daily. Perhaps that fifth (or fourth, or even third) item on the list really takes some genuine reflection and change of attitude on my part. By the time I'm through with each morning's list, I often gain a tremendous amount of insight into my feelings and motives.

A few of my friends are in the habit of offering up a gratitude list on a daily basis. What I love about these lists is that I get to know that friend just a little bit better because of what she (yes -- usually a she) is going through. A number of friends, even those who don't post a gratitude list, have approached me to tell me how much my lists mean to them. Mostly, they can relate to a lot of things I went through during my time as a caregiver to mom.

I continue to post those lists on a daily basis, and the focus now is more on the aftermath. I can't seem to get my head wrapped around the lists these days, and I think I've reached a threshold. I think I know the cause behind my lackadaisical attitude...I've become less grateful. The habit is now just a habit, and I need to challenge my perspective. As a result, I want to take my list to a new level.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be posting my daily gratitude lists to my Cancer, Caregiving, and Contentious Love public Facebook page. I think this is the right thing to do, because I'm feeling very self-conscious about the move. I realize that many new readers may not know my entire story, and that's another prompt for me to become more aware of my motives and my explanations.

Maybe, after a few weeks, I'll begin to see my new self-consciousness as ludicrous. And, I hope that my habit will help someone else. I would be most grateful if you'd let me know.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Ritual I Developed During My Caregiver Stint

My ritual is somewhat like a pinata ceremony.
I write these blog entries in hopes that readers won't judge me, as I am bringing my own perspective to topics that deal with a death in my family. Although death is common ground, and should -- above anything -- unite us somehow, I've learned that folks may not agree with my outlook on certain topics. Feel free to disagree; but don't tell me I'm wrong, especially over a ritual that saved my sanity for the past two years.

According to The Chaplaincy Institute, ritual can make a person "stop, focus, and make sacred that which is ordinarily taken for granted. A ritual can be used as a way to give voice to the unspoken, facilitate healing, or remember a person or event. It can also be a way to refocus personal thought patterns so they become self-serving, not self-defeating. A ritual does not need to be elaborate or take a lot of time. In fact, to keep meaning from getting lost, the simpler the better."

That article goes on to provide an example of a ritual that involves an altar, candles, and prayer, which is fitting for that particular perspective. Other rituals I've known caregivers to use include yoga for meditative qualities and also for keeping the body fit. I love yoga practice, and I understand how yoga benefits me. But, I haven't had a class since the last one I took with Terri Hug, and that was before I even learned about my mother's illness. Terri is a sister from another mother, and I'm having a difficult time choosing to take on another yoga instructor after becoming so close with Terri. I need classes, because I don't have the self-discipline to practice alone.

Other caregiver rituals might include a set time each day/week to get away, or time to be alone. In my experience, however, getting away from home was fraught with anxiety, because every time I did leave home, mom would encounter an emergency situation. The only time I was able to get away was during Easter weekend, when some friends kidnapped me to spend a weekend with their poet and bard neighbors. But, that wasn't a ritual, although the escape was sorely needed and appreciated.

My alone time and ritual came about without planning. I still practice it after mom's death, especially when I'm at my folks' house. I leave the house proper to sit in the screened porch with my Android and begin to play Candy Crush Saga. Playing that game in itself is not a ritual; but, playing game #75 over and over and over again became a ritual for me, one that isn't elaborate or that takes a lot of time.

Other friends who play that game continue to offer free passes for me to get past game #130. Yes, that's how far I got before I learned about mom's cholangiocarcinoma. But, I'll never go there again. I doubt if I'll ever get past game #75. If I play the game without thinking about the game, it provides me with time for reflection and planning. If I play the game with intent on beating the other two women who are ahead of me, the play takes me away from everything. The fact that the game only allows play for five games unless the player wins a game (garnering one free game per win) is convenient, too. Once I've played through those five or so games, I'm revitalized and ready to get back to more pertinent tasks at hand.

I play game #75 when traveling, too, because my husband refuses to let me drive. But, the game isn't a ritual then -- in fact, it's boring. The only time Candy Crush Saga game #75 becomes a satisfying ritual is on my parents' back porch. This rite offers me comfort, mindlessness, and even some sense of self-worth and achievement. I am only a few points away from obtaining the #1 spot on that game. When I achieve that goal, I don't know what I'll do.

Note: Candy Crush Saga is a puzzle game distributed by King.com. The logo image is from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Supporting the Arts & Letters


This is the trailer for Afterthoughts by Lynn Tincher, produced by Dark Palette Productions

I love to support artists. I have supported many writers, musicians, videographers, other authors, poets, crafters, and actors over the years, and it's been my pleasure. Often, the payback is unexpected, like when local author Tony Acree dedicated his latest book, The Watchers, to another local author, Lynn Tincher, and me. What a gift! All I did was tell him to quit editing and keep writing (advice that is difficult for me to follow, by the way -- I was throwing down the gauntlet!).

That's why I'm supporting two artists I know from the get-go with my Indiegogo fundraiser.
  1. Michele Larocque is a photographer, writer, poet, and visionary. She is a friend, too. She is creating a trailer for my fundraiser at Indiegogo, and it's in its final stages. You can find her on Facebook.
  2. When I was asked to find some music for that trailer, I reached out to my local musician friends. Within 24 hours, neighbor Michael Smith came up with an original track that he's modifying now to fit the trailer. I'm so blessed, because Michael, too, is a visionary and a talented musician. He teaches ukulele, but he's adept at any stringed instrument. He doesn't have a site I can point to; but, if you're a local I can provide you with his number if you want lessons.
The wonderful thing about my Indiegogo campaign is this: Other artists now are supporting me, and I'm thrilled beyond words. My gratitude is tangible...
  • I'm mentioning Lynn Tincher again not only because she was a generous donor to my Indiegogo campaign, but because she's also involved in a project that is making tracks. She's creating a film from her first novel, Afterthoughts, and she's having great success with this endeavor. Please support her.
  • I met another donor to my campaign, Pearl Ketover Prilik, at Robert Brewer's Poetic Asides, where we've been writing poems side-by-side for a few years now. I taught Pearl how to make a heart with ascii type, and she's been a devoted heart fan since that lesson.
  • Speaking of Robert Lee Brewer, he generously offered to be a reference for my applications to writer retreats, and you can purchase his latest poetry, Solving the World's Problems, at Amazon. Michael Dwayne Smith from Mojave River Press & Review also stepped up to offer a reference, as did Kim Michele Richardson (another local), author of The Unbreakable Child and columnist at Huffington Post. Other people who offered their support include Jay Sizemore, author of Father Figures, and Sheri Wright -- a woman who offers a bagful of talent in photography, poetry, writing, and now in documentaries.
  • Other donors to my campaign include Penny, who makes jewelry from mushrooms (how creative is THAT), and sells at local markets in Virginia. Another donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, also is a writer and a poet. Yet another donor, Diane, writes AND edits, and she helped me tremendously with the copy on my campaign as well as donated to my cause.
I'm blessed to be surrounded by such giving and creative people, and I haven't even tapped the surface of my well of creative friends. I am VERY blessed. If these individuals have faith in me, then you can have faith in me, too. Visit Cancer, Caregiving, and Contentious Love at Indiegogo.

How about you? Do you create? Do you support creators?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Yes, I'm the Cemetery Snob

Saints arising from the dead, different than the average person.
I recently learned that I'm a bit of a cemetery snob. I've researched the subject for years, wrote about it, and studied burial methods and what the professors called "outdoor museums," or cemeteries, in my master's studies. So, I know about Christian burials and the tradition of placing the head to the west and the feet to the east in many cemeteries. Not all cemeteries, mind you, follow this tradition. But, my paternal great-grandfather purchased twelve plots in a cemetery that does follow this tradition.

Burying a body to face east is a long-standing tradition that goes back centuries. In Christian belief, this body orientation is never directly referenced in the Bible. But, ancient tradition dies hard, so some scripture was used to validate the continuation of this body orientation, including Matthew 24:27:

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so with be the coming of the Son of Man.

Another reference is found in Ezekiel 43:1

Then the man brought me to the eastward facing the gate, and I saw the Glory of God coming.

And, yet another reference in Luke 1: 78, 79:

...because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death...

Enough for references. You get the picture -- by being buried facing east, a body could be easily resurrected facing the Son of God. Simple, I thought, and very convenient for fast and easy resurrection. But, I learned that many Christians today aren't aware of this tradition. They aren't even aware that many churches were built so that congregations were facing east to meet the Son of God should he arrive on a Sunday morning between, say, 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Or, on a Wednesday night. Or, during choir practice.

So, therefore, I am a bit of a cemetery snob. But, I have learned that the funeral home that oversees this particular cemetery where my mother will be buried knows about this tradition. And public works, which oversees cemetery maintenance, also knows about this tradition. I assumed I could trust them, then, in placing stones in the correct positions.

So why did I sense something was awry when I visited that cemetery earlier this year after my mother's death? Dad and I had traveled to talk to the funeral home about the plots, since dad was entitled to two of those plots -- one for him and one for his wife -- as a direct descendant. There were plenty of plots left, but mom and dad decided to be cremated and share one plot. This cemetery allows that practice (not all cemeteries do).

By the time I had figured out the problem, the owner of the funeral home was in attendance, as well as one of the funeral directors, and the head of public works. We all realized that the headstones in our family plots were being placed at the feet of the graves. If I go into details here, I won't have anything left for this chapter in my book. Let's just say the situation was rectified the following day. Since no bodies had to be moved, all was well (the mystery deepens, no?).

Today, my father and I traveled to that cemetery again to view my mother's headstone for the first time. When we walked up to the plots, dad and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. My mother's headstone was in the wrong place. Fortunately, I'm a cemetery snob. I had the funeral home's phone number, and I called and talked directly to the owner. The conversation, in my opinion, was hilarious. At the end, the funeral home owner said, "One day we'll get this right." I answered, "Yes, when all the plots are filled."

Fortunately, mom is at home in her urn on the fireplace mantel. No body had to be moved. All is well for now.

About the image with this blog entry -- attribution is below. Note that the people arising from the dead in this image are saints. Saints, clergy, and other religious leaders are different than ordinary people. They, traditionally, are buried in the opposite direction of the congregation; so, when the resurrection arrives they can lead the masses that arise to face the Son of God. I don't know why, but I keep thinking about phrasing this tradition as an "organized Walking Dead." I'll probably burn for that thought.

"Plaque resurrection dead VandA M.104-1945" by Marie-Lan Nguyen - Marie-Lan Nguyen (2012). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plaque_resurrection_dead_VandA_M.104-1945.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Plaque_resurrection_dead_VandA_M.104-1945.jpg