Friday, April 3, 2020

Social Distancing

Now that we are all social distancing due to COVID-19, I think about Jim and how he loved to get together with family. I don’t know if he would have been able to handle social distancing.

Well, he did social distance from the other residents in the Memory Care unit. Some of them tried to befriend him, but he didn’t seem to notice them unless they got in his way. He did pay more attention to the nurses and the aides. In fact, he seemed to become attached to some of them.

Before dementia, Jim loved to get together with family and friends for big dinners. Typically, everyone would pull out their musical instruments and have an impromptu jam session.

I never played an instrument and seldom sang, but when I did, I sang with Jim. He could throw in harmony and always made me sound better than I actually was.

A couple of years ago I bought a ukulele just to see if I could learn to play a few tunes. My thoughts were, I’d be serious when I cut off the long nails I’d had my entire life. Well, it wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t ever going to learn how to play until I trimmed the nails on my left hand.

After I learned a few chords, my brother Jimmy encouraged me to join the Capps Family Band for practice. Then, he said I might as well go with them when they played music at the nursing homes. Eventually, he tricked me into singing a song, and the next thing I knew, I was on the schedule.

Now, I realize that with the social distancing, one of the things I miss the most is playing music with the band. I miss our two practice sessions where we figure out what songs will be on the playlist.

I miss seeing the residents’ faces as we perform our program. They really love my 93-year-old mom, who, in turn, loves to sing for the “old folks.” My niece, Amy, is so talented she could sing the phone book and it would be stunning. Of course, last practice she worked on “Goodbye Earl” which is an entirely different kind of song. My sister, Roberta, had “Rocky Top” ready for the next program. Mitchell was going to sing, “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me.” Kathy has a great selection of songs and one she planned on singing was “I Heard it in a Love Song.” Jimmy was going to sing a song he stole from me—“Dream Lover.”

Well, we had to cancel February, and, of course, the March program was cancelled due to COVID-19. It was a good program, and I know that someday we’ll get to see our favorite folks at the nursing homes again.

My brother Jimmy has been picking up his guitar and he or Kathy video a song each day. I decided I wanted to video one of the songs I planned on singing in February—“Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Jimmy makes it look a lot easier than it is.

Jimmy and the band play the music when I sing at nursing homes. If I mess up, it isn’t too noticeable. I like to sing “fun” songs, so it makes my day if I can make the residents smile.

Jimmy likes to say that what I lack in talent, I make up for with courage. Without the audience, without the band, I recorded “Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Most of my home recordings are never, ever going to see the light of day, but I thought this one might make someone smile. If I accomplish that—it will make my day!

Copyright © April 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Unfortunate Accident

Many years ago, Jim’s parents, Bill and Virginia, noticed a squirrel that hopped up on their patio, day after day. They started to feed the little fellow and looked forward to his daily visits.

One day the power went out. A couple of linemen from the electric cooperative where I worked drove out to fix the problem. The line superintendent called me on the intercom and said, “We found the problem. Their pet squirrel got into the transformer.”

Later, my grandson Colby told me that the squirrel had “an unfortunate accident.”

People have unfortunate accidents too. I recently read about a couple who heard the president talking about an anti-malarial drug, chloroquine showing promise as a treatment for COVID-19. They knew that they have chloroquine phosphate to treat their koi. They mixed up a small amount and took it. They both immediately became ill. The woman vomited and lived, her husband, unfortunately, died.

Why would they do such a thing? They had probably heard about off-label use of drugs for years. Once they heard about the studies, they probably felt fortunate enough to have some on hand. Other people are enrolling in studies and trying other drugs to stave off or shorten the effects of COVID-19.

France and Italy are using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 although its effectiveness is unknown. The unfortunate thing about experiential off-label use of a drug in a pandemic is that people who take the drug for chronic conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or sarcoidosis find it “out of stock.”

India, where many of our drugs are manufactured, is not exporting the raw ingredients for hydroxychloroquine. They are recommending their medical professionals take the drug to prevent developing COVID-19. In the USA, pharmacists are reporting shortages as off-label use of the drug for the pandemic soars. People who have used the drugs for years to maintain their health are now finding it unavailable. It is unreasonable for healthy people to take a drug for off-label use when it might endanger the health of people whose lives depend on an uninterrupted supply of medication. These drugs have side-effects and it may be a case where the cure can be worse than the disease.

Off-label use can be a slippery slope. I took issue with the anti-psychotic drugs physicians prescribed for Jim. First, Jim was on a new Alzheimer’s drug that caused him to start bleeding and to feel bad. He had only been off the drug for a few days when he got into a scuffle with another resident and was kicked out of the nursing home. Fast forward to “regenerations.” They prescribed an anti-psychotic drug that made foam flow out of his mouth. Jim couldn’t eat or drink and he paced constantly, and acted like an angry insane man. He dropped weight and looked like he was on the verge of dying.

My son and I told them to either take him off the drug, or we would take him to a different hospital. The doctor said that the drug couldn’t have those side-effects and that they “would not be responsible” for how he acted without the drug.

We insisted. Signed papers, etc. Within a few days of being off the drug, he returned to his normal self. Throughout Jim’s disease, we fought the anti-psychotic drugs since most of them did not work on him and made him worse. Drugs that “calmed” or more accurately “zoned out” other residents would agitate Jim.

My feelings are that when using a drug off-label, use with extreme caution and only under a physician’s close supervision. If you start having strange side effects, stop taking the drug! In addition, don’t try a long shot off-label use when others need them for chronic conditions.

Maybe the best route to take with COVID-19 is wait until the studies are complete. I wouldn’t want any of my friends or family to have an unfortunate accident.

Copyright © March 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Decluttering the Calendar

My life is usually so busy that my calendar can have as many as three events on the same day. I toss so many balls into the air that occasionally one smacks me on top of my head.

Lately, meetings and events have been scheduled, and cancelled. My calendar was covered with so many changes, delays, and rescheduled events, that I finally gave up and bought a dry erase board. It’s been handy for changes, because I can just erase a date, or time, and write in the new info.

Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m in Missouri anymore, but have entered a strange world where everything is just a half bubble out of plumb. Each day brings changes: social distancing, sheltering in place, self-quarantine, businesses closing, and the stock market changing at warp speed.

After the Alzheimer’s forum was cancelled, I thought I’d be able to go with the family band to play at the nursing homes. The first home cancelled because of the flu. Shortly after our first practice, all nursing homes were on lockdown—no visitors or volunteers.

I can’t help but think how stressful it would have been for me if I hadn’t been able to see Jim when he was in long-term care. When anyone asked me why I did things for him that the nursing home should have been doing, I had to admit that it was for my own peace of mind. It helped me to know that he was fed, dry, and clean.

Jim was like a part of me. He became dependent on me to see about his well-being. When he could no longer remember our life together, his memories lived with mine in my heart.

Looking back I see how crazy it was for us to get married when we did. Jim had to finish his tour in Vietnam. Then, he was stationed at Ft. Riley for a year. We lived in Manhattan, Kansas, in a one-room apartment. Yes, one room, not one bedroom. We had no air-conditioning and it must have been one of the hottest summers in history. Before Eric was born, we moved to a bigger apartment in the same house.

The point I’m getting at is that we barely had enough money to live on. We paid our rent and utilities and carefully shopped for a month’s worth of groceries. After Jim got out of the service, we lived below the poverty level until I went to work at the Rural Electric Cooperative ten years later.

We went through some hard times, but we always managed to have money in a savings account for even harder times. Jim could keep any old car running and he could fix anything. If the washing machine broke down, no problem. We had family, we had love, and that’s what makes a person’s heart wealthy.

So yeah, a lot of people are going to face some tough times. My 401k is taking a major hit right now, but just like the last recession—if worse comes to worse, I’m not afraid. I’ve been poor before and living through that time is what makes me, me.

The economy doesn’t scare me for myself. I do worry about those who have never known how to budget, how to wear the same clothes and shoes for several years, or how to plan a healthy meal with limited funds. I hurt for the kids who depended on school for their only meals.

I hope that we work together as decent human beings to change the trajectory of this virus. When we come out on the other side, more people are going to learn that hard times make us stronger. When life, as well as our calendars, is decluttered, we will rediscover the worth of simpler times.

Copyright © March 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Monday, March 16, 2020

Something Important to Say

“I have something important to say,” I said to my husband. He got a worried look on his face with this preface to an announcement. We had been talking about COVID-19 so he may have thought I had a fever.

“What’s that?” he asked, cautiously.

“I love you,” I said, thinking that we just didn’t say it enough.

“I have something important to say too,” he said. I smiled in anticipation of words of love. “You snore.” He then proceeded to tell me he had spent several hours in the living room watching TV and eventually catching some ZZZs.

Life has certainly changed over the past few weeks. We Americans are used to going where we want and socializing often. Now to stem COVID-19, we are spending more alone time than ever.

The first indication that things were getting serious in my world was the cancellation of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM) in DC. My mom and my husband had both tried to talk  me out of going to DC and were thankful the decision had been taken out of my hands. I spent a day cancelling hotel rooms and plane tickets.

To stop the spread of  COVID-19, we as a nation and as individuals are taking extreme action. People have been placed in quarantine, and what is considered a large group has shrunk from over 1,000 to 50. It’s not easy or inexpensive to shut down venues, concerts, schools, after school activities, professional sporting events, and to hang out the CLOSED sign on restaurants, small businesses, and physical therapy clinics.

Today, our pastor announced our church would be closed for deep cleaning and they have postponed other activities. The next Sedalia Business Women’s meeting has beens cancelled, and other upcoming meetings will probably be cancelled too.

Personally, I’ve been in a funk and can’t seem to get motivated to do much of anything. Lack of sleep and not going and doing as usual, has zapped my enthusiasm.

I have something important to say:  Although the AIM Forum has been cancelled, advocacy work must go on.

·         Approximately 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Presently, there is no cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s. This is why research funding is so important!
·         In 2019, unpaid caregivers provided 18.6 billion hours of care for people with Alzheimer’s, at a value of $244 billion.
·         Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
·         Two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women. Thirty percent are older than 65. Only 10% are caregivers for their spouse while over half provide care for a parent or in-law.

I have some upcoming telephone conferences, and possibly video conferences. I dread video because that means I should fix my hair and put on makeup. That’s been optional for a while. The only place I’ve been lately was to practice music at my brother’s house. We’ve decided to have more jam sessions while we wait for the nursing homes to open their doors to volunteers.

I just need to keep reminding myself that there’s still work to be done and, eventually, life will get back to normal.

When my husband left home the day of our conversation, I asked him, “Don’t you have anything important to say?”

“I love you,” he promptly replied.

“I love you,” I said, “but you snore too!”

Copyright © March 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Memory Day Thoughts

On Memory Day, March 4, at the Missouri State Capitol, advocates from across the state spoke with their legislators about establishing the Missouri Alzheimer’s State Plan Taskforce, fund Alzheimer’s grants for respite, and to Build a Dementia-Capable Workforce.

After our visits, we gather in rotunda for a Memory Day Ceremony. This year, I was asked to share some of my thoughts as an advocate. Here are my thoughts:

My Fellow advocates,

Some of you have been Alzheimer’s advocates for years, and for some of you this is your first time. For you who are first-timers, I have to warn you—advocacy gets into your blood.

Each of us has a story that brings us to Capitol Hill. The pinwheel flower shows your connection to the disease. I always select a purple flower because I have lost a loved one.

My husband Jim developed dementia at 49 years old. For the next ten years, the disease stole him away from me, his sons, and his grandchildren. He never met his youngest grandson.

Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is on-the-job training for a job that you never wanted to do. From the time you wake up in the morning, until you wake up again the next morning, you are on-the-job. When Jim lived at home, I averaged about four hours sleep each night—and not always consecutive hours.

I was in my forties and worked fulltime. I was lucky to have an abundance of family support. Jim’s mom, his sisters, my mom and my sisters, our sons and daughters-in-law all pitched in to keep him at home for as long as we could. No matter how hard we tried to keep him safe, Jim kept wandering off. 

When I made the heartbreaking decision to put Jim in long-term care, I never relinquished my role as his primary caregiver. My daily routine was to feed him, toilet him, and bathe him. It is safe to say that Jim had more family members dropping by the home than any other resident.

Becoming an advocate gave me power over a disease that made me feel powerless. I’ve been an advocate on the state and national levels for two decades. When more than 1,000 Alzheimer’s advocates wearing purple sashes storm our nation’s capitol, everyone notices! We hear “thank yous” and stories from passersby. We hear “go-get-’em” and “God bless you.”

An important part of being an advocate is building relationships with your senators and representative. That does not happen with one visit a year—it happens through district visits, mobile offices, emails, thank you notes, phone calls, using social media, and letters to the editor.
One of the best things I did was to join AIM, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement. AIM provides the tools to make me the best advocate I can be.

Don’t let your advocacy for 2020 end here today; let it be a beginning. Take the power you have as an individual and become passionate about legislation that improves quality of life for persons with the disease and their caregivers. Let’s work together to end Alzheimer’s before our target date of 2025. Know that your voice is powerful, and you, individually, and all of you collectively can make a difference.

As an advocate, I do not vote red or blue, I vote purple. Being an advocate is not just what I do; it is what I am.
Copyright © March 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Unforgettable Characters

Have you ever thought about how life is a story and although you are the main character, you have a full cast of supporting characters? As your supporting characters move in and out of your life, they shift your trajectory, sometimes slightly, but other times turning it into a new direction. Our heroes (unless they fall from grace) affect us positively and put us on an upward course. The villains, sometimes disguised as friends, can sink us to abject misery.

Of course, there are walk-on characters who are so unimportant that they don’t make any impressions. Occasionally, these casual passersby will play a pivotal role in your story.

In all good stories, you need a romantic lead. Of course, that would be Jim. He had so many characteristics that made him perfect for the role. Our backgrounds were similar in some ways and polar opposites in others. We were both from big musical families, but I had lived in one house throughout my entire childhood, Jim had lived in several states and numerous houses—or even under bridges and under trees. Jim was intelligent, musically talented, generous to a fault, highly principled, honest, and had a big heart. Our story took a Nicholas Sparks turn, ending with a flood of tears and sadness. Jim was the character in my story that taught me that love could endure through good times and bad.

Jim’s life, dementia, and his death catapulted my story into a different genre. I had been living a dull, routine life: waking up, going to work, spending my evenings at home doing a few chores, watching some TV, reading my book, sleeping, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I literally walked into a new chapter of my life when Jim and I went to our first Memory Walk on a hot September day in 1998. And there, I met a feisty seventy-some-year-old ball of fire named Helen Hanneford. As we proceeded to walk from Liberty Park to the downtown area, Helen would occasionally blow her hunting horn. We walked into the VFW and a man told her if she would blow her horn, they would take up a collection. She was happy to oblige. I only saw her one other time, but I never forgot her. I opened our local newspaper earlier this month and read a death notice for Helen Hanneford, Slater. She passed away at age 93 on January 30, 2020, at her home. Yes, I would just imagine she still lived at home and occasionally blew that hunting horn. Helen was the character who taught me that volunteering could be joyful.

Being a part of the Alzheimer’s Walk community of volunteers brought another inspiring character into my world, Ted Distler. Ours began as a friendly rivalry—Sedalia Walk VS Jefferson City Walk, but rivalry aside we wholeheartedly supported each other’s fundraisers and walks. Ted was one of those guys who always had a joke, a hearty laugh, and hugs for his friends. Ted was in survival mode as he cared for the love of his life who had Alzheimer’s.

We talked on the phone frequently as we kept abreast of how things were going in our separate lives. Ted and I would occasionally “meet in the middle” for breakfast and conversation. “Have you seen that movie The Notebook?” he asked me one time. I told him I had—another one of those sad Nicholas Sparks’ stories. “I hope it’s that way for Norma and me,” he said. He wanted them to die at the same time, so he wouldn’t have to know life without her. As his story ended, he passed away a short time before his beloved wife. He came close to the Notebook ending he wanted. Ted was the character that taught me to treasure my friends because they leave a gaping hole in our lives once they are gone.

In 2001, I became an advocate on the national level. At my first Alzheimer’s Forum in DC, I met Jane, Kathy, and Sarah. I immediately felt a connection to these three women unlike any friendship I had ever had in my life. Our individual journeys connected into a shared journey. We are truly sisters of the heart. Each year, our secret radar allows us to find each other quickly in the crowd of more than 1,000 advocates—all dressed in purple. It seems that we can pick up our conversations from the previous year almost in mid-sentence. These three characters have taught me that the closest friends can live the farthest away.

Life just wouldn’t be a story without all of the amazing characters who walk in and out of our lives.

Copyright © February 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Hearing Voices

To meditate you are supposed to empty your mind and concentrate on breathing. My internal conversation goes something like this: Breathe in…what should I fix for supper? I need to pick up a loaf of bread…breathe out…did I lock my car? I really need to print those forms. I’ve never had any luck emptying my mind. It just doesn’t work for me because my brain never shuts down its internal conversation.

Our internal voices are where we find the motivation to become a voice, or an advocate. The motivation to be an advocate for a cause you believe in comes from the inside out. Seeing the devastation dementia had on Jim was motivation enough for me.

My first introduction to advocacy was at the Alzheimer’s forum in 2001. Those first few years, we had to educate our legislators about the devastation of Alzheimer’s and related dementia. Eventually, everyone knew about Alzheimer’s, either from us or from personal experience. Over the years, we advocates have become better trained and well organized under the guidance of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM).

This year I’ll be making my twentieth trip to DC to visit with my senators and my representative, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. In preparation for the DC trip, Jessica Snell, Jerry Dowell, and I met with her field representative Rachel Gilroy and District Director Austin Kramer.

We discussed AIM’s federal priorities:

1)      An Additional $354 Million for Alzheimer’s Research. We are still playing catch up with Alzheimer’s research funding at NIH after being woefully underfunded for more than a decade. Our only hope of staving off a devastating blow to Medicare and Medicaid is to find effective treatment or a cure. On a personal level, I don’t want anyone to go through the heartbreak of dementia.
2)      An Additional $20 Million for the BOLD Infrastructure Act. The BOLD Act uses the traditional tools and techniques of public health to fight Alzheimer’s on a local level. Alzheimer’s Centers of Excellence will be established across the country. Local health departments can implement interventions to help with early diagnosis, promoting healthy lifestyles to reduce risk, and data collection. The Act also strengthens the role of the CDC as they lead public health efforts and provide funding on the state level.
3)      Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act (S.901/H.R.1903). Persons with younger-onset dementia do not have access to the same support and services as Americans aged 60 and older. Jim was only 49, so we were turned down when we asked for help through the Division of Aging. The Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorization includes giving access to these services to persons with dementia regardless of age, extends the RAISE Family Caregivers Act from three to four years, and includes elements of the Supporting America’s Families and Caregivers Act. These successes are largely because of the thousands of dedicated Alzheimer’s Advocates who don purple sashes and visit Capitol Hill annually. As Congresswoman Hartzler’s ambassador, I was pleased that she was one of the co-sponsors.
4)      Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act (S.880/H.R.1873). In 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allowed clinicians to be reimbursed for providing care planning for cognitively impaired individuals. As most of us who have had a loved one with dementia know, care planning is a vital part of improving quality of life. However, few people knew about care planning for dementia and the service was not widely used. The Improving HOPE Act would require Health and Human Services to educate clinicians on the service and report the barriers keeping individuals from using care planning. Our role as advocates will be to seek co-sponsors.

Do you want to be a voice for Alzheimer’s? You don’t have to go to Capitol Hill to have your voice heard. One of the ways you can lend support is to join the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement at ($20). You will receive updates and the online tools will make advocacy easy.

During the AIM Forum, we use an app to keep you updated on the message we are taking to our legislators. You can pick up your phone, text, use Facebook or Twitter to add your voice to ours. If enough people whisper the same message, it is much more effective than when one person shouts.

Copyright © February 2020 by L.S. Fisher


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

From the Ashes

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how our lowest moments give us the opportunity to rise from the ashes. We can emerge as something new from something that has been destroyed.

I helped celebrate the first service at our new church building. The historic church was destroyed by fire in 2016. Unable to rebuild in the same location, a new site was chosen for a new “traditional” church. Through faith and hope, a beautiful structure metaphorically rose from the ashes.

I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t felt his or her world is in a shambles from time to time. When someone receives a terminal diagnosis, they feel the burden of ashes. It takes determination and optimism to rise above the ashes and continue living. I have seen amazing people who have received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and immediately kicked into action to advocate for research dollars. Often, these advocates are aware that should a treatment be discovered, it would be too late for them.

Chronic disease creates a heap of ashes. Dealing with pain every day, wears a person down. Arthritis can make every joint in your body ache, and make movement a challenge. Especially, when a disease has no cure, and you know your health is only going to worsen and never get better. It is hard to see a loved one suffer, and it can foster a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, if you let it.

Life can change in a heartbeat. Couples marry. Babies are born. We can feel so blessed at times, and at other times wonder where it all went wrong. Life is full of surprises, and a rollercoaster of separations and reunions.

When death separates us from those we love desperately, it takes fortitude to overcome the sorrow. There is no time limit on grief.

The trick is to build on the ashes instead of being buried beneath them. It’s a lot of hard work to wallow in self-pity and sorrow. Life is certainly more enjoyable when we concentrate on the good times and not the sad times.

When I think about ashes, I think about campfires. That makes me think about Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. I think about early morning coffee, breakfast cooked on the camp stove, hiking, and animal watching. The memories are like a thousand wings lifting my spirits on the dreariest and saddest days.

As long as I walk this earth, I hope to rise from the ashes of loss by appreciating what I still have. Life will be what I make of it, not what it makes of me.

Copyright © February 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, January 31, 2020

My Right Hand

Sometimes we refer to the indispensable people who support our work as a “right hand.” I have been called a “right hand” and have had people who served as my “right hand.”

In addition to the metaphorical right hand, those of us who are right-handed have a physical right hand that we count on for many tasks: typing, writing, removing medicine bottle lids, etc. The uses for our right hand are endless.

The Alzheimer’s type of disease Jim had (corticobasal ganglionic degeneration) caused a symptom known as alien limb. In Jim’s case, the limb involved the right arm. He eventually quit using his right hand and it was clutched into a fist. Although we used every technique we could, his hand became infected and his little finger had to be amputated. Jim had lost his ability to play the guitar, but still it comforted me that the hand he used to fret the guitar was still usable.

Problems with hands was brought to the forefront of my attention when I began to have difficulties with my right hand. Each morning, I’d have to work out the kinks before my hand was useful. I kept thinking that the problems would go away, so I limited activities that left my hand curled up and in pain. I took ibuprofen and toughed it out for a few months. Then, my ring finger curled down, and when I tried to straighten it, it snapped into place.

My family doctor sent me to an orthopedic specialist. After x-rays, I found out that more was wrong than right about my hand. He reeled off the problems: trigger finger, bone spurs, arthritis, ganglion cysts, and carpal tunnel disease.

“I’ll give you a cortisone shot,” he said. “It about 48 percent of the time.” Okay, I was game. He sprayed the palm of my hand and injected the cortisone.

“Ouch!” I was not prepared for the pain. “That hurt a lot worse than the shots in my knees,” If my hand could have talked, it would have been screaming.

“You have more nerves in your hand,” he explained. No, joke. Not being a medical professional, I had not considered that.

He put a carpal tunnel brace on my wrist. “You need to wear this when you sleep and when you drive long distances.” After discussion of what constituted long distances, I told him I traveled that far five times a month. Our family band practiced two times a month and we played at nursing homes another three days a month.

“I bet they really enjoy that,” he said. “What instrument do you play?”

“Ukulele,” I said. I told him that reluctantly I had started singing. He wanted to know what I sang. I explained we sang a variety of genres and that one of my favorites was “Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”

“Do you yodel?” he asked. I shouldn’t have been surprised that a cowboy poet would recognize Patsy Montana’s old time hit. I explained that I only yodeled at the end of the song.

“Yodel for me!” he said.

I gave a brief yodel, and it brought a big smile to his face. Guess I can mark yodeling in a doctor’s office off my bucket list.

As for the hand, for the first three days I thought I’d made a bad, bad mistake. Then, like magic, it’s a whole lot better. Makes me feel like yodeling just for the heck of it.

Copyright © January 2020 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Eyes Have It

We have entered the year of perfect vision: 2020. This is a year of cautionary notes, specifically not to shorten the year to 20 on checks or legal documents. It makes perfect sense since the date could be changed to 20 whatever.

I’m sure that when I was a kid that the magically sounding year of 2020 seemed so far in the future as to not be on my radar. In fact, the thought of 20/20 vision wasn’t on my radar either. I’m not sure what happened, but I lost my ability to see so slowly that I never even noticed it until I was in 7th grade. That year, our teacher for some crazy reason didn’t want us to work the problems in our math book so she wrote different problems on the blackboard. I could see she was writing on the board, but couldn’t make out the numbers. Eventually, another student and I sat at the teacher’s desk so that we could read the problems.

That summer, I got my first pair of glasses. The optometrist, a wise old man, said he was not going to correct my vision to 20/20. “You have gotten so used to not seeing that you quit trying.” Sure enough, when I went back two weeks later, my corrected vision was 20/20. I can remember being amazed that it was possible to see individual leaves on the trees.

Our eyes open up the world around us and allow us to see both the beautiful and ugly. Paulo Coelho said, “The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror they also reflect the person looking into them.”

Eyes Show Emotion: Eyes are our most expressive facial feature. Before I had my glasses, I squinted a lot. Why? Narrowing the eyes helps us focus and see more details. Narrowed eyes are often associated with discrimination, disgust, and suspicion. Wide eyes are associated with fear or awe.

Eyes Reflect Mood: If you are sad, it shows in your eyes. Happiness can cause a twinkle in your eye. Eyes are the outward mirror of the inward self. Eyes can be angry. They can be filled with pity, empathy, or love. They can show exasperation—eye roll. Even if we hold the rest of our face still, eyes can tell on us.

Eyes Are a Clue to Truthfulness: Studies show that the eyes can reveal thinking, lying, or being honest. If you close your eyes when you are conversing with someone, you may either be taking a short nap (because they are boring), or you may be connecting with your inner self. Psychologists say that if a person looks up and to the right, they are lying. However, if you look up and to the left, you are as honest as Abe. Theoretically. I can’t help but think that a habitual liar will look you straight into your eyes and fabricate away. Don’t you think they read too?

Eyes Indicate Physical Health: Diabetes, stress, heart problems, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and retinal detachment can cause changes in your vision. Sudden blurry vision could indicate a migraine or a stroke. Grave’s disease can cause bulging eyes. We’ve hear of ring around the collar (old commercial for those of you under forty), but if you are under forty and have a ring around your cornea, you should have your cholesterol checked. If the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice), you could have liver problems. Twitching eyelids could be from stress, too much caffeine, MS, or as I have personally noticed—lack of sleep. And, of course, red teary eyes could be from allergies.

Can a Simple Eye Test Detect Alzheimer’s? Studies indicate that changes in the blood vessels in the retina appear to be linked to dementia. By using optical coherence tomography angiograpy (Octa),  researchers at Duke University, North Carolina, compared the retinas of 39 people with Alzheimer’s and 37 who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to 133 people with no brain impairment. They discovered that people with Alzheimer’s had fewer blood vessels and reduced blood flow the other two groups. Both the people with MCI and Alzheimer’s had a thinner layer of nerve fibers that surround the optic nerve. The study was small, and so far, the eye test to detect Alzheimer’s isn’t simple, or available at this time.   

When it comes to noting the motives, truthfulness, moods, and health of those around you, look into their eyes. The next time you look in the mirror, examine your own eyes for anything new or different. For many reasons, the eyes have it.

Copyright © January 2020 by L.S. Fisher