Tuesday, April 30, 2013


The families of our Adagio residents have at times deserved negative names like dysfunctional, difficult, loud-and-obnoxious-without-filters, but are you familiar with "neophobic?"

Neo refers to new: "used with many nouns and adjectives to make nouns and adjectives describing things that exist in the present in a slightly different form from the way that they existed in the past."

A shorthand definition is "change."  But our antennae curl like Danish sweet rolls at a hint of needed change. So we will sneak into our discussion with "neo." So chic.

At one time our oldest resident (94 years 2 months) who exhibited increasing weakness, plaintively asked me what was wrong with her. I held her hand and quietly suggested she was getting old, but in answer to her immediate question said she probably was not going to die tonight. To her three children each in their late 60's and 70's, their mother's observable deterioration was unwelcome, required immediate intervention and they even suggested a physical therapist could strengthen her with exercises. They reacted with full blown neophobia. Their insistent demands and hovering attention became upsetting. We needed to include their home health nurse in a discussion based on realistic medical facts.

Other families have visited our home looking at the possible need to move their mother. They were victimized by the prevalent notion that living independently is best. Their mother has been the bulwark for the family...and their tributes go on and on. We can hear that she has been a remarkable woman and her children rise up and call her "blessed." But her strength is failing and they could well be the death of her.

No one lives independently forever without aches and pains and medical intervention. But a few aged folk give the impression that they will be the exception to the rule. Until they wear out. Then a fall, a small stroke (TIA), or pneumonia caused by swallowing and laughing simultaneously signals change. And the weakness catches both the individual and the family by surprise.

Hopefully one of the children is healthy and comprehending enough to serve as DPOA and help their mother transition from independence to accepting care in an assisted living facility like our adult family home. Otherwise we shake our heads as the family in denial stalks back to their car, and we whisper sadly, "neophobia."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April is Poetry Appreciation Month

Every human being is a poet whether or not we write down our thoughts, whether or not anyone else cares. 

Anyone can hear poetry in the cry “I just washed that floor!” 

A child stomping out of the house in rage at his siblings, “Tell them they can forget about me.” 

A dementia patient gazing in awe at towering cedars, “The sky is certainly full of clouds low and legal. So many tall trees. The trees are so tall.”

“How long did it take God to think up stars?”

Dylan Thomas recognized the difficulties inherent in human relationships:

 That though I loved them for their faults
 As much as for their good,
 My friends were enemies on stilts
 With their heads in a cunning cloud.

Here are a few universal Lawrence Ferlinghetti titillating tidbits from his tiny book, Poetry As Insurgent Art:

Look for the permanent in the evanescent and fleeting.

Be a canary in the coal mine. (A dead canary is not just an ornithological problem.)

Poetry is the earth turning and turning, with its humans everyday turning into light or darkness.

Be a poet this week and sing yourself a song of living celebration.


Monday, April 15, 2013


“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear... it's like being between trapezes.” ~ Marilyn Ferguson


Spring is a wonderful season for new beginnings or modifications of the old.

Last week we experienced a threatening gap between our caregivers’ shifts as we drove into the driveway. We stressed with A. when she began work at Adagio that K. needed to leave before the hour to make it down the hill in time to catch her bus 18 which comes any time between 2:58 and 3:10. Fear froze my brain and I jumped in to the breech with a squawk and offended A. who came at 3:01—not exactly late. To make a long story short, A. waited a day and then at a calm space in our caregiving informed me that I had offended her.

Here is the test: How would you respond?

a.   Freeze her out and triangulate with my husband about that insensitive A.

b.   Respond that she knew and she should have and she…she…she….

c.    Pause. Review what happened and respond with appreciation that she told me I had offended her. Apologize and hug.

If you don’t know about triangulation, it is when A experiences a problem with B and goes to C to complain about B. Now C has A’s problem on her hands and must decide to choose sides, or…tell A to deal with it herself and she needs to talk to B directly, and C doesn't want to hear anymore about it until A does.

If you choose (b) you have an attitude problem and need to do some thinking about your relationship with B. Are you in frequent contact with B? Is any of B’s complaint your responsibility? Do you have problems with more people than B and how often do you offend people? If the answer is that Spring brings all the jerks out of the woodwork, hurt feelings aren’t seasonal.

This time, I correctly chose (c) and expanded the base for communication between A and myself. I also confessed to K. so that, even though she wasn’t directly involved, I could further build her trust in me for the future when I step on her toes. And I will. I’m not dead yet.

My son sent me the Marilyn Ferguson quote. Any organizational system experiences the heart-stopping moments of suspension between trapezes. And organizations are composed of individuals who also swing in Spring breezes and other tornadic activity. Hugs are wonderful, safe stops in the action. Give them often.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

April is Poetry Appreciation Month

Poetry comes in formats other than books or magazines.
Amanda Laughtland offers a delightful website with poems and her postcards and zines. http://teenytiny.org  She prints tiny books folded and sliced from a single standard sheet of computer paper that present the reader with a cover and 7 pages. Her following poem would fit perfectly on one of those pages.

On an Errand
I found the cupboard far from bare
but lacking important ingredients
for banana muffins: wheat flour
and baking powder. So I drove
to the grocery store, pausing twice
at four-way stops and once more
to look (no cars were behind me)
at the tidy row of crocuses,
purple and white, beside the cemetery.
A postcard serves as a tiny frame for a personal note of appreciation. In the days of email we have forgotten this now unique method of communication.
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa and sold life insurance in Nebraska for Lincoln Benefit Life Company. He has published a book called Winter Morning Walks which consists entirely of poems he wrote to fit on 100 postcards for his friend, poet Jim Harrison (post of April 6). Clear, delightful observations of nature as the poet sees it.  

Snow melting from the roof.

Spring, the sky rippled with geese,
but the green comes on slowly,
timed to the ticking of downspouts.
The pond, still numb from months
of ice, reflects just one enthusiastic
this morning, a budding maple
whose every twig is strung with beads
of carved cinnabar, bittersweet red.


Saturday, April 6, 2013


April is Poetry Appreciation Month.
We writers need attention drawn to words written in poetic form more than mothers need Mother’s Day. So poets get a month. It has been said by someone, probably a poet, that the only people who buy poetry are other poets. Whereas the only people who do not pay attention to Mother’s Day either no longer have one or experience some reserve about their own mother. And florists, Hallmark, Macy’s advertise for weeks attracting you to purchase a remembrance for your mother from their supply. Where is their display of “send a card to your favorite poet”?
The“whys” for our lack of appreciation for poetry are varied. Struggling in eighth grade English class with poems that made no sense to a hormone-riddled mind may be one explanation. In high school we were forced to memorize poetry which required effort. There was no winging your way through the test. You either had done the repetitive work or not.
Partially the fault lies with poets who become so entangled in their words and imagery they forget their audience. Academia seeking to justify its existence does no endeavor any good be it Poetry or Political Science. On the other hand, if you write for a living and have mastered the sonnet or the ballad by writing hundreds of poems, creating more and more intricate designs is a necessary challenge. Few of us excel at any endeavor to be in the “reach for the stars” mode, witness my crocheting.
So allow me to share with you favorite lines from poems that are clear and appealing.
Observing my rhubarb seriously growing up this week, Jane Kenyon’s description nails what I see in her poem, “April Chores”.
Like a mad red brain the involute rhubarb leaf thinks its way up through the loam.
Involute was a new word for me and it means whorled, curved within itself. Perfect description of new rhubarb leaves.
New poems are being written in full sentences, experimenting with full margin-to-margin lines rather than raggedy phrases pushed around the page. For those of you living in climates that are slow to warm up this year, you may appreciate Jim Harrison’s associations with a late Spring. (I heard a rumor that Pennsylvania has incarcerated the rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, because he predicted Spring would arrive in March. He was incorrect.)

Here is part of Jim Harrison’s poem, Spring.
Something new in the air today, perhaps the struggle of the bud
to become a leaf. Nearly two weeks late it invaded the air but
then what is two weeks to life herself? On a cool night there is
a break from the struggle of becoming. I suppose that’s why we

If you think you might want to participate in Poetry Appreciation Month you can buy or check out of your library Jim Harrison’s book, Songs of Unreason, printed by Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Jane Kenyon’s book is Collected Poems. Graywolf Press, 2005.

Do you have a favorite poem that lifts your spirits?