Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Families are the blessings and complaints of the Thanksgiving Day celebration. Last June my mother attained 98 years of life. I was able to visit her this month and we reminisced about the wonderful years we enjoyed together and some of the lessons learned.

We remember and give thanks for the riches we gained through family members throughout the years. My mother used to evaluate someone who had fallen in life, that they lacked the blessings of inner resources. It was her duty and joy to build our awareness of responsibility and privilege. Now our duty is to give back to our community patient contradiction when we see error in ourselves and others, and to offer assistance and support.

I opened our Book of Common Worship and was pleased to read the prayers offered for those experiencing tragedy, for the sick and those giving care, for one in emotional distress, for someone who is old, for an Alzheimer’s disease patient and for those giving care, for those suffering with AIDS, among others.

In the riches of faith and amid the misery we experience in life, I return to Psalm 100.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Sitting at the kitchen table after breakfast, a resident latched onto our small, apple basket filled with individually wrapped tea bags. She fanned them out across the table, lining them up like a train wreck. Then she opened three Tetley bags and dropped papers and tea in a pile. I watched her focused attention as I stood at the counter stirring boiling water into the strawberry flavored gelatin. Our caregiver came into the kitchen, saw the tea upheaval and rushed to rescue and re-create order.

The question of the day is this: what does it matter?

A few tea bags are not a great expense.
The wood table and ceramic tile floor are easily swept.
Who says tea bags can only be used to brew tea?
If this activity is removed, with what will we replace it?

I think the issue is that a common object was used in an uncommon way. We are accustomed to seeing tea bags carefully removed from the paper wrapping and dropped into a cup in preparation for hot water. The paper is then crumbled and neatly disposed of.

We all have our preconceptions about appropriate and inappropriate, positions that we lean into rather than carefully evaluate. These positions encourage us to criticize when someone acts differently than we would. We don’t know the story behind someone’s choices; we just know it is not what we would choose.

Does it matter? Does it cause consequences of irreparable damage? Do our grumbles emanate from a justifiable, moral base? Or is it just different?

By the by, the apple basket was named such because two small wooden, red apples each dangle from an end of short, hemp twine wrapped around a leather handle. And it’s the right size for individual tea bags. Now that I think of it, the Pennsylvania manufacturer does bill it as a tea basket. But we could name it something completely different. If we all agreed, would it matter?


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


One of our residents easily develops hang nails on her cuticles. I Binged it:

A hang nail is a small piece of skin that has separated from the cuticle and is growing away from the nail bed. Hang nails typically occur on the side of the fingernail and they can be red and tender. Hang nails can be a minor annoyance, but they can also become infected if they are not cared for properly. Most health organizations, like the Mayo Clinic, recommend trimming hang nails with a clean pair of nail scissors as soon as they are spotted. Never pull, pick or bite at a hang nail--this is a surefire way to bring about a nail infection. As you are caring for your hang nail, be sure to wash your hands regularly to reduce your risk of infection.

But, here is the truth. She likes to fuss with and about her hang nail. When we cream her cuticles and gently push back at the anomaly, she fusses until the skin again sticks out and annoys.

Does this make sense? Well, here is the truth. We enjoy fussing which rapidily becomes grumbling. And while we are grumbling we are not listening compassionately. We are not asking questions that would lead us to understanding and peace. Understanding and peace demand we give up a piece of ourselves to others and that is hard work.
I made a rapid transition from a minor health issue to a major social issue. Because here is the truth, minor irritants quickly expand to become major conflicts.


Saturday, November 2, 2013


Into every kingdom a dragon will at some time creep, unbidden and fearful. Ever since Eden. It may happen as soon as a child is born to a parent with undeveloped boundaries, or the fire-breathing dragon may greet you at the door to your sixth-grade classroom. We learn quickly what nourishes and what irritates the dragon into erupting like an unpredictable volcano. The dragon in your life may show itself to be a co-worker or supervisor who boldly or perhaps obliquely stings under your skin depositing venom that festers.

Some inhabitants of the kingdom may foolishly think they can corral and train dragons. They torch their energy in vain with self-diminishing results. We are never prepared when the bite comes, shock setting off explosive response. We should not be surprised when we find ourselves cowering in avoidance.

Dementia can be a dragon. Remembering this at all times is the trick to survival. Caution can be exhausting. Learning to embrace the dragon, but just out of reach, is all consuming but gives the caregiver perspective. The dragon will never understand boundaries, but for our own protection boundaries are crucial.  “I am me and you are the habitat of the dragon. I care for myself first and then I can move in and treasure you, care for you and supply your emotional needs.”

Remember, you are never alone in the battle and many supporting wizards are prepared to strengthen you. Consult or similar websites for caregiver support groups.