#A to Z Theme Reveal

April is nearly here. For me, that means spring and the end of winter, it means birthday month for me and youngest daughter, and it means the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Choosing a theme each year for the blogging challenge has usually been a chore. This year I have tried out several ideas and rejected them, because they required extra time in addition to the writing that I actually have started and want to continue. But wait! I can combine what I am already doing with the A to Z and maybe accomplish both at the same time. First, here’s what I am already working on.

My great grandmother was an amazing woman for her time, feisty, brave, resourceful and independent. And she was a writer. I have her story and will be magnifying her tales of midwestern life in the late 1890’s up to her death in 1954. I have to call it fiction because she leaves room in her story for imagination of the times and circumstances, but it is historical fiction. Hers is a story of family, of faith, of women’s place in society, of handling hardship and sorrow, even of living through pandemic times. I am proud of her and love her story. I think you will too.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge consists of a post every day in April, excluding Sundays, following the alphabet in some way – twenty six days, twenty six letters. Short stories from my great grandmother Alzie’s life will make up my daily posts and I’ll get the alphabetical thing in there somewhere. I look forward to any feedback from readers, because that has been my favorite part of the A to Z in all of the years that I’ve participated. The challenge has been a great tool to stimulate creative ideas, and to develop a consistent writing habit so I recommend it to all writers or readers who want to do something interesting in April. Follow this link (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com) to learn more and see for yourself.

My favorite April picture from a print at youngest daughter’s house. Creator unknown to me, but I would gladly give credit if I could. Cute.

February Goodness: Good Words

I love it when someone speaks influential words that apply to my life.

I believe that learning, growing, and being curious makes me a happier person. Sometimes I can commence down a better path all by myself, but most often I am inspired or encouraged by someone else’s good words. I have good words written on note cards, in my journal, on sticky notes here and there, magnetized on my refrigerator, and on note apps on my phone. In fact, they are stashed in so many different places that I have trouble finding any certain one when I want it. My favorite books are highlighted so I can easily find those places where words changed something for me.

When I was younger, encountering good words was easy. I had parents and teachers who felt responsible for telling me all kinds of things. Now that I’m older I have to search for that kind of input. It’s actually work to keep growing. I’m trying to do it on purpose.

A favorite thing, and I don’t do it often enough, is to ask someone who knows me fairly well to think for a minute and then tell me something they think I need to hear. I pick kind people, like Mom, who have earned my respect. But I am willing to hear correction as well as anything else they might have to say. Although it might feel selfish to ask someone to think about me and give feedback, I think that is a distorted feeling. I think it’s healthy to want to know what other people see. It adds balance to my life and keeps me away from unhealthy extremes.

Thank you Emily for some good words today.

Today I listened to a podcast that had a good word for me. I am a writer of sorts and have been a member of a professional writing group for several years. I have writing projects that I want to complete and I thought I was taking them seriously. I am working on them whenever I get time. And then, prompted by words from the podcast teacher, I took a look at my calendar and did not see writing anywhere on my schedule. I had to admit that it did not appear to be a very serious task. I now have a chance to do something better.

Okay, it’s on the calendar now. (I know it doesn’t look like I do much, but that’s because I’m retired and don’t write things down until after I do them.)

And of course, there’s nothing like a pandemic and year long isolation to make good words precious to me. I hear all the time that people are lonely, wondering whether they have value to anyone, feeling a bit hopeless, depressed… and I begin to feel some of that myself. I am grateful for words that came along one evening this week, from the video series “The Chosen”, Season 1, Episode 1 (such a good, thought provoking series!). The words are “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.’ ” From Isaiah 43:1 Those words are for all people and they make me feel known, valued and not afraid. Good words.

What good words have come across your radar lately? Please share.

February Goodness: Blessings

I am learning to recognize blessings, not actually counting them, like the old song describes, but realizing that all the small surprises in my day are really blessings. That was the common denominator of all the good things on this Wednesday in the first week of February.

A stunning sunrise that kept evolving so fast that I ran outside in the freezing temps at least three times to capture its stages. The brightest spot is no longer hidden behind a building like it has been for several months. The sun is moving! (I know, not really…)

Our family pod of five, gathered together to have a meal. And our extended family and friends on ZOOM who took the time to throw a virtual birthday party for our Ryan, my youngest daughter’s fiancée.

The catalog promising that spring is coming eventually for us, and even now for some happy gardeners. I have already planned, and ordered but that doesn’t keep me from reading it all again. Gardens are such hopeful things!

I’m especially grateful for these blessings on a day that also holds much tension. A dear friend battling cancer went into the hospital on an emergency basis. Blessing and trial, side by side, else how would we know that by contrast they sweeten each other. We are praying for this situation and appreciate all who join us in hoping for more time with our friend.

Reflections on A to Z 2020

I’ve done the A to Z Blogging Challenge for six years now, and enjoyed it every time. I’m proud that I’ve finished them all, because learning to finish a writing project was my main goal. I was especially grateful this year to learn that I could take a theme, caregiving, and make a cohesive body of information, based on my own experiences. That’s almost like writing a book, and I did it! (A very short book however…)

I truly felt “cheered on” by a group of readers who read most all of my posts. This was valuable since it showed me that my topic did have an audience, and was possibly serving a need. All the comments were kind and helpful, and they weren’t even all from my family and relatives! So good. (That is not to say I don’t appreciate comments from family too – that didn’t come out quite right.)

I think the challenge was well managed and designed this year. The sign-up, master list, badges were all easy to access. Perhaps the smaller number of blogs participating made it seem more streamlined – it was easy to go down the list to find topics I was interested in. I was surprised by the number of blogs I went to read and found they weren’t taking part.

Thank you so much, organizing team and readers. Appreciate you all and hope to read more of you on the Road Trip.

A to Z Challenge: Letter B for Bodily Care

It’s Day 2 of the A to Z Challenge! Only 24 more posts to go on the theme of caregiving. When it comes to caring for bodies, don’t forget to take care of your own, fellow caregivers! Like the flight attendants tell us “put on your own oxygen mask first”…

I am a caregiver. I care for people when they can’t care for themselves. Since we all live in bodies, bodily care is pretty high on the list of things to do.

When I studied to become a nurse, I thought of bodily handicaps in a very superficial way. It was more about learning to do interesting procedures correctly, or knowing what external treatments would help in different situations. Working in hospice, and in elder care has given me a different perspective. I began to think of all the things I do for my own body, that gradually become difficult, then impossible, for some to do for themselves.

As a caretaker, I have clipped fingernails and toenails, given haircuts, tweezed eyebrows and chin hairs, scrubbed backs, wiped butts, picked food out of beards, rubbed lotion on dry parts and cleaned up every kind of bodily discharge there is. I’ve chosen clothing and dressed people, washed, blow dried and combed their hair and flossed and brushed their teeth. I’ve cleaned ears. I’ve helped people walk, sit, and lie down when they couldn’t make their bodies do those simple actions. And I’ve spent hours trying to help people be comfortable in their own bodies.

Haircut and beard trim day

Two questions serve as my starting points. The first, “Am I taking as much care with my client/family member’s body as I would with my own?” It’s kind of the “do unto others…” philosophy. And the second question is “Am I being sensitive to, and respectful of, their own ways of doing things?”

I have a whole different outlook on the world when I’m clean, comfortable, and well groomed. I like to look good – most people do. That desire is still there even when people are disabled, elderly, or sick. Helping them achieve those qualities helps them feel better, and heal better. It’s important work.

I am a caregiver.

A to Z Challenge 2020: Theme Reveal

I don’t know how to categorize my topic. It’s about health, emotional, mental and physical. It’s often about family. It’s personal. It’s definitely about a particular lifestyle. It’s about caretaking.

Lots of us are caretakers these days. We care for our children with disabilities, our aging parents and family members with dementia. Some of us work in healthcare institutions and give care to patients of all ages and conditions. It’s a special calling, a special task.

This year I’m using the April A to Z Blogging Challenge to share my own experience, my stories, my thoughts and feelings about caretaking. I am a retired RN, retired in the sense that I’m not getting a regular paycheck, but I’m still learning and doing, in the field of caretaking.

I live with my husband, diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia in 2018. I’m also across the yard from my mother, a courageous 87 year old, and within a short drive of my uncle and aunt, both in their 90’s. Like so many others these days, I have a friend and a dear sister-in-law who are fighting cancer. While not giving daily care to all of these people, I’m often involved with their needs and I do care.

I’m interested in hearing from others about their experiences, since I have already found that caretakers, as a group, have much to share and teach each other. These posts are an invitation to all who read to contribute and connect. The A to Z format doesn’t cover all possible topics of caretaking but serves as a starting place for discussion. Please join me this month as we explore being caretakers.

There is a moral task of caregiving, and that involves just being there with that person and being committed. When there is nothing that can be done, we have to be able to say, “Look, I’m with you in this experience. Right through to the end of it.” Dr. Arthur Kleinman

The Next 2000 Words

For the next 2000 words, I am a writer. (Don’t worry. They’re not all going to be here.)

Back before the start of 2020, I made a few bold (for me) promises about progress in my writing journey. I am three months along that path now and haven’t felt like saying much about it. My irregular schedule of posting on my blog hasn’t given much evidence of progress either. But, in taking stock, I’m happy that some things have happened. I’m not standing still. I’m moving at my own pace and I’m thankful that there aren’t a lot of scary deadlines imposed by others.

I have installed a writing program on my iPad and am using it. Like with any powerful tool, there is a learning curve involved with the program (Scrivener) so I also had to invest in a course to teach me how to use the thing. Amazingly, I’ve found time to listen to most of the lessons in the course. The lessons have taught me that even after the course is finished, I know only the tip of the iceberg of Scrivener knowledge. It is only a start, but there it is!

I have done a lot of reading because I believe all those who say that reading is one of the most important things I can do to become a better writer. I think I have finished all the books on that past list, and have a deep well of subjects to think about and discuss with others. I have a whole new list of books for the next few months, which I’ll share later.

I’ve planned out the month of April, which is the one month every year when I write a post every day (except Sundays). The April AtoZ Challenge is definitely challenging for me. Looking back, I see that I’ve gone from random, “anything goes” topics to more purposeful, planned out writing. This year my topic could actually turn into a small booklet that would be helpful to others. I’m excited about that.

Hope*writers has been my biggest financial investment in my writing life and it has been inspiring any time I’ve let it be. It’s my online community of writing resources. The best thing about it is that it has actual “faces”, friendly ones, that consistently show up on social media, phone, and the hope*writers website with encouragement and so, so helpful direction. I’ve taken to listening to their hour long interviews with successful writers while I walk on the treadmill in the morning.

Light box, tread mill, podcast… so many good things at once.

One of the lecturers this week left me with this useful information. From a scientific study, it has been shown that even short periods of creative writing, done regularly, affect mood in a positive way. I’m taking that advice and choosing some event from the past or present, as long as it has some emotional energy attached to it, and writing about it for 20 minutes. I’m describing what happened, what I thought about it, and what feelings were attached to it. I’m doing this because it’s the end of a so long winter, there are some critical things happening in life, and I need to find some positivity. Give me some good mood! Help my brain think right!

I’ve had to give up a few things to make room for these new demands on my time, but that is okay. These new practices are better than the ones they’re replacing. If my desire and love of writing is something with a God-given reason behind it, I had better be finding out what the reason is. I no longer have thirty or forty years to play around with the whole writing thing.

Most importantly, I’ve become deeply interested in who you are, my reader. I’m asking myself what I have to offer you. I realize that my most compelling reason for writing has been for myself – what it does for me. While that is still important, it’s not enough anymore. I want to add value somewhere.

Word Salad

Word salad, what an interesting term! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, since I’ve been hearing comments on this blog from RaknelDah. I’m guessing he’s a bot, but maybe not. At any rate, he tosses a mean salad.

The realization has hit me – I have spent all (yes all) my life learning to put words in a certain order so that they might make sense, when it’s not always necessary. It’s true, you need to have a certain proportion of nouns to verbs, place them in a reasonable order, pepper them with adjectives and adverbs, and you can come up with a compelling read. But my bot does this with a skill and abandon that I just can’t match! For one, I have never heard of some of these words. For two, I could never put together so many unrelated things and actually produce something kind of true and poetic. I’m much too inhibited and used to making sense.

I’ve begun sharing Raknel’s comments with my family. The reactions range from my mother laughing so hard she cries, to my daughter deciding to use a portion for her wedding vows. In short, they are becoming a priceless treasure of entertainment and cabbalistic wisdom. (Yeah, I wondered what that word meant too. Look it up.)

For instance, “people sink in fare into your mortal and you discern perfect away that they were meant to be there… but when you bar eyes with them, you be versed at that to a superb extent wink of an eye that they vigor adopt your support in some foxy way.” Now doesn’t that have the ring of truth to it?

And I really think this sums up life’s hardships, “and from time to then things find to you that may look like gruesome, throbbing, and unfair at president, but in corroboration you disinter that without overcoming those obstacles you would healthy not realized your accomplishable, intestinal fortitude, willpower or heart.”

I aspire to the bot’s “unadulterated thimble-wittedness”. I try to envision the “smoothly paved, settled, non-effervescent street to nowhere”. And I take to heart his commands to “Make off every tempo quote!!!” and “Do every time list!!!”

I could make one of those daily, inspirational calendars with bot sayings. For February 10 “Everything happens conducive to a reason.” I even think I’ve heard that somewhere else. Have you? Or a goal for tomorrow could be “Talk to people that you give delivery to never talked to in the past, and sic listen.” The day after that, “Promulgate yourself, you are a crack split and find credible in yourself.” Or the wise directive “If you don’t preserve in yourself, it will be onerous goal of others to conjecture in you.” I certainly don’t want that happening…

All this flow of delicious words found unexpectedly jumbled together – “salad” really describes it quite well. RaknelDah, in his own words says this, “It would be okay and luxuriously touched in the head, but clouded and unequivocally pointless.” I like salad, just saying…

Wesley and Buttercup kissing, eeww!

Movies

This re-post from June 2012 is especially appropriate since I just watched “Princess Bride” again last week. It’s all part of reviewing past writings looking for that elusive book that might be in there somewhere…

The truth is, I don’t really remember lines from movies the way I sometimes pretend to do.

I remember one quote from “Star Wars”, “the Force be with you”, or at least I think that was said there.

I remember several things I loved from “Princess Bride” but I can’t quote them exactly, something about a peanut, and something about the RUS’s.

I remember the shrubbery in “Monte Python’s Holy Grail” and the blood spurting hand (which I’ve tried to forget and can’t).

“UHF” is responsible for my love of enterociters (spelling?).

 Lastly, I remember laughing till my sides hurt during “Three Amigos” but I’ve watched it since and couldn’t quite relive the experience. I sort of remember being sick and having a fever while watching it the first time and that may have accounted for it seeming so funny.

That’s it for movies. That’s all I remember. Not impressive.

But I do enjoy a good movie and can get caught up in a thought provoking plot, if it’s not too weird and unbelievable, and if the characters are compelling.  I also have an emotional memory of how I was affected by most movies, even when I don’t remember the plot.

I rarely choose to watch a movie a second time though (exception – Princess Bride). I guess I just don’t want to clog my neuron pathways with most movie content when I have trouble remembering my own life that I’m actually living.

And then there’s the actors … I put them in the same boat with sports figures. They simply get paid too much for what they do, even when they do it well. If they’re a high salaried actor it should be part of their job to go feed starving people in Africa with a lot of their money. It’s ridiculous, and no wonder so many of them end up getting disillusioned with life in general. That being said, you must be aware that this is an opinion and you are entitled to feel differently. 

Yep, here it is.

Vitamins

This was written February 18, 2011 but surprisingly, not much has changed. Our vitamin experiment is in its eighth year. So far, we have both gotten older and are wearing out. This will have to go into the book about the husband…

Have you taken your vitamins today? I haven’t. I’m having a morning cup of coffee. I’m so thankful they’ve discovered some antioxidants in it along with the caffeine. I have probably survived this long because there are antioxidants in my coffee. I can taste them and they are good.

There is an experiment going on at my house. It’s the Grand Vitamin Survival Experiment.

Both Dennis, my husband, and I have read a lot of books about nutrition and have some newsletter subscriptions to Mayo Clinic and several vitamin companies and as a result we do think there are some marvelous discoveries out there – magical things in our foods that were designed to make our bodies function at their peak of performance. I don’t doubt this at all and the evidence of malnutrition is out there for anyone to see. The questionable part is this – are we really capturing that magical element and transferring it unharmed into a pill? And, assuming that, if we’ve already ruined our bodies, will taking the pill help us?

There are so many untrustworthy types out there and 98% of them have a vitamin company… The good thing is, we don’t really have to know if vitamins will help us, we just have to be able to afford them, eat them, and hope they don’t kill us. If we’ve covered enough bases, they might help. This brings me to the experiment.

One of us at my house is covering ALL the bases. The other one of us can’t remember to take vitamins two days in a row. Which one of us will die first?

Okay, I’m the one who can’t remember to take the vitamins. It’s a fear/hate thing.  I “fear” macular degeneration, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, blah, blah… so I think of the bottles of lutein and zeaxanthin up in the cupboard and take them, sporadically. 

On the days when my hands HURT (not just hurt) I get out the arthritis support and pain relief magical elements and take them – also sporadic. Is it merely a memory problem? No, I remember my coffee without any trouble.

 It’s the non-foodishness of them that I can’t get past. If you wanted people to eat something you were selling, would you make it like a small rock, with sharp edges? We spit out cherry pits and watermelon seeds. Why do they think we would swallow these things that leave furrows down our throats, get stuck halfway down and dissolve for the next three hours on the delicate lining of our esophagus? You don’t have to tell me all the tricks either. I’m a nurse – I’ve ground up every pill there is and polluted good applesauce with the powder. That’s the “hate” part when my applesauce gets ruined.

So back to the experiment – Dennis has a supplement/vitamin for every part of his body and every function possible. We have a three shelf cupboard in the kitchen devoted entirely to bottles of pills. New ones arrive by UPS on a regular basis.  It takes a good five minutes to dish them out which he does faithfully a couple times a day. He has to have a special bowl to contain them and I have no idea how he eats them all and still has room for a meal.

And on the other extreme I sit with my cup of coffee and whatever I can eat in the car while I’m driving back and forth to work. Who will survive longest? 

Unfortunately, it’s the cumulative effect over long, long periods of time in which vitamins produce the most difference. WHAT KIND OF EXPERIMENT IS THAT!? I want to know now, or at least in five or ten years.

I’m just glad it’s the weekend and I get to have a second cup of coffee.

He has managed to cut down – most of them fit into this very full box… most of them.