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Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Twelve Pounds of Christmas

After eating my way through the holidays, I think the popular Christmas song is misnamed and should be changed to the “Twelve Pounds of Christmas.” I always did find that song annoying and after “five golden rings” I was ready for it to end. If you think of it as food, five should be enough. Five holiday meals should be enough—let me count—yes, that’s how many I had.

Whew, sure glad I didn’t have six. If I gained two pounds at each meal and had six, I couldn’t stay within the twelve pounds and have any cookies, peanut clusters, caramel popcorn, fudge, fruitcake, solid milk chocolate bar, or any other holiday goodies to die for. With the damage to my cholesterol and triglycerides, “to die for” might not be a good expression to use.

I was going to go to the gym yesterday to minimize the damage, but they were among the businesses that closed the day after Christmas. If I reversed my habits and went to the gym three times a day and ate three times a week I would drop the twelve pounds of Christmas in a hurry.

I can’t even use the weather as an excuse to curl up on the couch and watch the snow fall. After a few days of bone chilling weather and frozen water pipes, we warmed up to 63 degrees. Yesterday my weather alert warned of flash floods, this morning the shrill alert was a TORNADO WARNING. A huge storm moved through the adjoining county to the southwest of us…not a good place to be when they normally move northeast.

Usually at least during a storm I run up and down the stairs with the question running through my mind—to the basement? Up the stairs? This is not the exercise I had in mind for two days after Christmas—the Stairmaster of Tornado Alley. That sounds like a combination of exercise and a video game.

Do I take my decorations down, or let them go to Oz? I wonder if a Christmas tree has ever had lightning come in on it. I’m enjoying my tree, but I hear the rumble of thunder through the sound of the pouring down rain. Christmas has come and gone, but as long as I leave up the tree and decorations, it looks like Christmas in my house. I may need to shut the blinds because it looks like a spring thunderstorm outside.

The good news is most of the food is gone. Well, I do have a cheese ball in the fridge. It should be good for a couple of pounds. Twelve pounds should not be insurmountable. I would need to lose a pound a month. I probably lost 100 pounds in 2008. Let me explain before you call Jenny Craig and give them my name for a new spokesperson. I lost the same five pounds over and over. I think my scales are stuck in a five pound section.

Jim used to think my agony over five or ten pounds was silly. He said I was the weight I was supposed to be and I was battling nature by trying to lose weight. “Everyone is different,” he said. “The difference between eating what you want and what your diet allows is about five pounds. Is it worth it?”

My doctor thinks it is, but I’m not really sold. Five pounds? Bah Humbug! Twelve pounds…break out the Melba toast.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Secret Santa of Sedalia

Sedalia has gotten a holiday boost from our own personal hometown Secret Santa. This lady has spread good cheer throughout our community and has distributed $6000 of her own money to those in need. She has gone door to door, waltzed into Hardees and McDonald’s, the Salvation Army store, and caught people exiting their cars. Everyone’s first reaction is disbelief. When did we become so skeptical that we don’t believe in Santa Claus?

Like a true Secret Santa, her identity remains unknown. The Sedalia Democrat reporters follow in her wake to interview recipients. Out-of-work people, down-on- their-luck people, and worried-about-how-to-pay-for Christmas/taxes/heat/prescriptions—fill in the blank—people get tears in their eyes as they describe what they will do with their $50 or $100 the lady in red gave them.

We all want to make a difference in the world and here is one lady who found an anonymous way. She borrowed her idea from the millionaire Secret Santa in Kansas City. Larry Stewart's identity became known shortly before he died in 2007 after he had given away more than $1.3 million. Another Santa donned a red hat and continued the tradition in Kansas City, but this is our town’s first Secret Santa.

Somehow, I don’t think this lady is a millionaire. She might be, but I think she is just a caring, generous person who raided her bank account to spread Christmas cheer in a world where so many face hard economic times. Her gift comes from the heart without an ulterior motive of self-promotion. She cares, she loves, and she gives.

Most pictures in the paper are taken from an angle that hides her face. You see the flowing Santa “beard” and her face is obscured by the red-and-white Santa hat pulled low. One lone picture showed enough of her face that people who knew her well might have recognized her, but the photographers didn’t make that mistake again.

She is adamant that she remain anonymous. She doesn’t want public glory, only the private knowledge that she has made a difference in her own community.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa” but he doesn’t live at the North Pole, she lives in Sedalia. “Merry Christmas” isn’t just a trite phrase to her, it’s a personal mission.

I tip my Santa hat to you, Ms. Secret Santa. Thank you for reminding us that the greatest blessing of Christmas comes from spreading good cheer and giving generously to those who have less than we do.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Small Town Book Signing

Book signings aren’t for the timid or those lacking in self confidence. You may sit with pen in hand ready to sign the book you crafted with love and watch people walk by who refuse to make eye contact. You may sell one book, twenty books, or no books at all.

My sister asked me to have a book signing at her craft booth the day of the Stover Christmas Parade. It sounded intriguing to me to have a book signing in my old hometown.

I grew up south of Stover and rode the school bus for about an hour each way to go to school in town. When the bus bumped over the Rock Island railroad tracks, I read the “city” limit sign proclaiming the population to be 757. I think dogs and cats might have been included in that total. One of the advantages and disadvantages of a small town is that you know everyone.

Seeing a stranger was an oddity and noteworthy, especially since Stover had no tourism. On a hot summer day in 1968, I met a young man with the broadest shoulders I had ever seen. Jim’s uncle introduced us in front of the Dew Drop In Cafe. Jim still wasn’t a total stranger since his Uncle Orvie knew my mom and her brothers and they played music together.

After Jim and I married, we moved away from the area, and other than visiting my folks, I never spent much time in Stover. On my rare visits, I sometimes saw people I once knew well, but I no longer recognized most of them. People change and, gosh, how “they” have aged!

The week before the signing, the local newspaper ran an article about me complete with picture. Funny, how I looked like my mother in that picture. I was hopeful that a few people would read the article and show up for the signing. I took my book, Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love, and A Cup of Comfort for Families with Alzheimer’s. At most book signings I only have non-fiction Alzheimer’s books, but this time I took Well Versed and Echoes of the Ozarks which include some of my fiction stories. I saw people I hadn’t seen in years, sold a lot of books, and really enjoyed the book signing.

Last week, I was the guest on a local radio talk show with Jack Miller. We talked about Alzheimer’s and about the two Alzheimer’s books. More than five million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, so odds are you know someone with the disease. Either book will help you understand how the disease affects the entire family.

This Friday, I have a book signing at Sedalia Book and Toy. I will be signing my book and my story in the Cup of Comfort book. Sedalia Book and Toy manager, Sandy Diamond, sent out invitations to people we thought might be interested in coming. I e-invited others and have a list to still invite. I’ve lived in Sedalia for thirty-five years so this is my second hometown book signing this month.

If you are in Sedalia December 19 between 2 and 4, please stop by Sedalia Book and Toy and browse through their great books. If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s and become a better friend, family member, or caregiver for someone with dementia, stop by my table. Whether you buy a book or simply pick up free Alzheimer’s brochures, don’t be afraid to make eye contact.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ten Thousand Cicadas and a Drummer Boy

Health wise, last year was my luckiest ever. I missed all the sickness and didn’t have so much as a cold. We all know what a difference a year can make.

Last week, I came down with a cold. I can handle a measly little cold by taking one day really easy. So, I spent last Sunday self medicating, fully confident that Monday would be full steam ahead.

I felt better Monday morning so I went to work at 7:00 a.m. as usual. About 10:00, my ear stopped up. I called the doctor and he penciled me into a 12:00 cancellation.

“You have an ear infection,” he said. He wrote a prescription for an antibiotic and sent me on my way. By now the whole left side of my face throbbed.

At Wal-Mart, I dropped off the prescription at the appropriate window and went to buy some chicken soup and green tea. While I shopped, I remembered the problems Jim had with his ears and how he couldn’t tell us how it hurt. Jim had aphasia and rarely spoke so it took observation to determine when he wasn’t feeling well. One time, his balance was off, and a nurse at the nursing home decided to take him across the lot to our family doctor’s office to have his ears irrigated.

“Does he speak at all?” the doctor asked the nurse as Jim silently sat on the examining table. The doctor visited Jim regularly in the nursing home and hadn’t heard Jim say anything in years.

“Not much,” the nurse said.

The doctor poked an Otoscope in Jim’s ear to take a look.

“Jesus Christ!” Jim yelled and jumped off the examining table scowling at the doctor.

“I thought you said he didn’t talk,” the doctor said.

“I said, ‘Not much’,” she replied.

I pushed my thoughts of Jim aside and got in line behind a woman with coupons and questions dealing with a novice checker. Ten minutes later, I paid for my few items and headed back to the pharmacy to check on my prescription. After I stood in another line, I picked up my medicine and headed home.

By now my ear sounded like it had ten thousand cicadas in it. Occasionally it would “thump” like the little drummer boy had given it a whack. After all these years, I began to think of an ear drum as a real drum.

After a short winter’s nap, I woke up and the pressure wasn’t as bad, but I felt liquid in my ear. I used a Kleenex to wipe out my ear and bright red blood covered it. I called my doctor at home. He explained how the pressure had ruptured my ear drum, but he was confident that it would heal. “I never knew of anyone to bleed to death from their ear,” he said.

Oh, crap. I hadn’t even thought of that! Didn’t the cowboys in TV westerns often bleed from their ears right before they died?

The doctor was correct, and I didn’t bleed to death and the ear eventually stopped hurting. I’ve become accustomed to the humming and the drummer boy has laid down his sticks. I can’t hear well out of the ear yet and my sound perception is askew. When I turn on the water, it sounds like it is running somewhere off to my right. My hearing has always been excellent and I thought God was compensating me for my poor eyesight. According to Google, my ear drum will probably heal on its own, but I have a few options if it doesn’t before I need to break out the hearing aides.

For now, it’s always summer in my ear, and it’s a good year for cicadas.