Thursday, February 24, 2011


One sister lives in Canada and we emailed about hiking through airports with carry-on luggage.

My flight last June to meet her and my family in MI involved an LL Bean duffle bag that my husband and I had been using for years to haul stuff. We owned four in sizes medium, large and jumbo. They were tough, expandable, and could be shoved under airplane seats or into overhead bins. I used to see other people use the same green canvass bags.

But on this last trip I was seven years older and my LL Bean duffle bag was stuffed. As I struggled to haul the padded, brown leather strap to my shoulder, I observed everyone else gracefully towing carry-on bags with wheels.

This epiphany did not cheer me in my prospective march from Minneapolis Concourse A to Concourse D Gate 207. When a motorized cart driver took pity and asked if I wanted a ride, I swallowed my pride and climbed on with a couple of octogenarians.  Jorge easily swung the wretched bag onto the cart which earned him five dollars.

A week after I returned home, my husband and I marched to Costco and bought a carry-on bag with wheels.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"Authority without wisdom is like a heavy ax without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish."
   Anne Bradstreet, American poet (1612-1672).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Listening occurs on many levels.

Not all our speech originates in the cerebral cortex. When we speak before thinking, we are reacting. Reactions begin in the same section of the brain as Fight or Flight--the brain stem.

Fear instigates a lot of different emotions. When we up our speech volume, shorten our sentence length to spits of words, we may be reacting. Probably over-reacting. We may communicate what we think we are saying, but to hear us, the listener must dodge our aggression.

Our first congregation drew blood at the annual budget meeting. When we attended our first congregational meeting at our second church, I swallowed an Excedrin for fortification. When we adjourned for coffee after forty-five congenial minutes, I expressed my amazement. My new friends couldn’t understand why people would treat each other with bloody disrespect.

Harry learned early in life that when he shouted, people stopped disagreeing with him. Cessation was not to be confused with getting his way, but that was his perceived success. As a member of our congregation we learned early in our acquaintance that when Harry began to raise the decibels, we needed to respond so he had a place to go besides out the door. His wife was no longer so generous. Her body language led me to believe that at the end of the day, hollering Harry lay by himself on his side of the bed.

It took me a bit to understand that the profanity Dementia speaks explodes from the brain stem through the dead spaces in the cerebral cortex. The controls are gone. Interesting to consider that the vocabulary we can now control will be there if we develop a form of dementia.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


We hear more than words.

Under emotional or caffeine overload we may chatter rather than communicate. Our brain, isolated in a fluffy wrap of self-involvement, enjoys its creative “verbalocity.” Concern for the listener is minimal.

We lived across the street from a woman who never completed her thought. She interrupted herself to begin another subject. Her desired result was to control the conversation. She communicated insecurity to me and that is what I remember.

Every church we have served has in its membership two or three—usually men but not always—people who begin any conversation with an aggressive, argumentative comment. Communicating with them must begin with a careful reach around the spears to pat their shoulder, stroke their ego, to achieve a communal position of interest. We may accept them as they are, but we never really like them.

The Dutch term,Stilasmuis,”* embeds a sly connotation into the English description, “poker face”.   This person never expresses his opinion in the Board room or the staff meeting until he has heard everyone else and gets a sense of the prevailing wind. He reveals his position when he can best manipulate the listeners.

Silence communicates. A now-deceased acquaintance controlled her family by moving about her home in cold silence when she was upset. I observed this mean behavior and concluded that her withdrawal opened opportunity for the rest of the family. If she chose to be miserable, the others could choose to ignore her. The woman was upset already so how could another silent day be worse?

Emotive content is especially important with Dementia. Calm and quiet preserves the moment.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


News reports of violence in the Middle East remind me of a hymn from my Lutheran songbook. Text by John Oxenham, 1853-1941.

In Christ there is no east or west,
In him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

In him shall true hearts everywhere,
Their high communion find;
His service is the golden cord
Close-binding all mankind.

Join hands then, brothers of the faith,
What-e’er your race may be.
Who serves my Father as a son
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ there is no east or west,
In him meet south and north;
All Christly souls are one in him
Throughout the whole wide earth.

Amen and Shalom.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Living with hearing loss is frustrating. Living with people with hearing loss offers challenges. Too soft and they wait to see if you actually said something to them. Speaking loudly and clearly when they are not prepared startles them. Speaking rapidly washes them in syllabic sound they do not understand.

We all have experienced quietly thinking our own thoughts. Someone speaks and jolts us out of our reverie. Being spoken to demands a two-stage awareness: I am being spoken to and what am I expected to do. We feel and sound silly as we repeat “what” until we mentally locate their verbal context and understand the message.

Combine hearing loss and short term memory loss in one person. The normal ebb and flow of sound and conversation can be overwhelming. Confusion and anxiety are not desired results. Too much energy and noise and the individual must be calmed before we achieve communication.

Considering the listener before I speak is always a good thing.