Monday, September 28, 2009

Put My House in Order

For the past week I’ve been trying to put my house in order for our annual family reunion. This year I’m the hostess for my seven siblings and their families.

My busy life has turned home into the place where I sleep, and housekeeping has fallen by the wayside. While putting my house in order, I’ve sorted through years of paperwork and dug into hidey-holes. I’ve stayed up past my bedtime every night for a week while I sorted, dusted, tossed, or packed items in plastic storage tubs.

If I had been on a scavenger hunt, I would surely be a winner. I found the USB for the MP3 Player I recently replaced with an IPOD. It was still an ah-hah moment to discovered I had tucked it into an old camera case. In my Suzy Homemaker mode, dusting wasn’t good enough so I removed a cloth angel for a thorough cleaning and uncovered Jim’s long-lost dog tags on the hook behind it. Memories were tucked away in an old Christmas tin. I found tattered valentines from Jim and my eyes blurred when I read his “Love you always” signature.

This week has turned into a trail of discovery as I ferreted out long-forgotten secrets. I am not sure at what point in life I turned into a packrat. It wasn’t so bad when Jim was here to coerce me into tossing souvenirs and freebies from conventions and state fairs. On my own, I just tuck them away, and add to the clutter.

While I was frantically cleaning, my co-worker and friend, Brenda spent precious moments with her husband before he left his worldly home and passed to the next. Ray had battled cancer and knowing his time was limited, he worked at putting his house in order. He made his own arrangements and wrote his obituary. His family knew his wishes and fulfilled them precisely. Following Ray’s instructions, his ashes were placed into his Honeymooner’s cookie jar. You can almost hear Ray’s hearty laugh anticipating the look on unsuspecting faces when they see the “urn” he has chosen.

When friends or loved ones die, it makes us pause and contemplate our own mortality. I often say my kids are going to be really mad at me when they have to sort through my worldly possessions. Barring a horrific accident, I should have time to go through all those tubs filled with things I can’t part with yet. I certainly plan to get my house in order so my family doesn’t have to rummage through my belongings to separate treasures from junk.

Death also makes me question the order of my spiritual house which has become cluttered and needs a good dusting. Hopefully, when my time comes, my house will be in order from top to bottom and I won’t have to try to make it right at the last minute.

The best thing about a clean house is being able to relax without the mental nagging to get busy and finish. When that day comes, I can truthfully say, “I can rest now—my work here is done.” For now, I’m not even close.
copyright (c) 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Friendship Connection

When Whitney and her friend Mariah donned their balloon hat, it reminded me of how we are connected to our friends. Don the Balloon man’s hat-for-two gave the friends a different kind of connection at our Sedalia Memory Walk this year.

Friendship connections have evolved since my friend Sharon and I wrote notes in study hall. To keep our words private, we wrote them backwards and held them up to a mirror to read them. Now people email, text, Twitter, or use Facebook. Many of us have cell phones with nationwide plans and think nothing of calling someone across country to chat for a few minutes.

Not too long ago, I was riding with my daughter-in-law and my grandkids were texting each other—and they were both in the backseat. Of course, one advantage of text messaging is that siblings can have a disagreement without getting the parents involved.

I finally caved to the pressure and opened a Facebook account. It is a good way to stay updated on what is going on in my friends’ lives. I’m sure all friends on Facebook are not necessarily friends in the true sense of the word. Many of these “friends” are only casual acquaintances. A person is not a friend unless we care about what happens to them, we keep their confidences, and we overlook their faults. We support our friends and celebrate their successes without a twinge of envy.

When we meet people, we feel an immediate connection with some but not others. Our friends aren’t necessarily mirror images of ourselves. Sometimes we are drawn to others because they have a trait or skill we lack but admire.

I have been blessed with many friends. My involvement in my business women’s group, writers’ guild, work, and the Alzheimer’s Association brings me into contact with a lot of talented people. A combined effort to support a cause forges a lot of other personal differences to create a bond.

The Memory Walk took months of planning, organization, leg work and fortitude. My sister-in-law, Ginger Dollinger, and team coordinator, Sheila Ream, logged countless hours of preparation. All this effort birthed a fun Memory Walk with music, balloons, face painting, raffles, prizes, and a cake walk.

Friends pitch in and help you when you need it. That’s what Connie Pope did when she saw we needed help at Memory Walk. Cindy stopped to visit while I signed books, casually bagged them and handed them out with a smile. Brenda called to let me know she couldn’t be at the walk because she felt she needed to stay with her gravely ill husband. Sheila gave me a comforting hug as we released our balloons at the end of the walk. These are just a few of the contacts I made with friends at one event.

My favorite part of Memory Walk is spending a few hours with family and friends—hugs, smiles, and a lifting of spirits as we connect with each other. Weeks, months, and years disappear when I greet a friend after a separation.

We don’t need a balloon hat to physically connect us to our friends. A real friendship connection is not diminished by miles and time. It has no boundaries or limits and lives deep within our hearts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

White Rabbit Syndrome: Always Late

My daddy used to have a saying, “A day late and a dollar short.” It was not a good thing to be the person he referred to when he pulled his brows down in a frown and uttered the words. He had many pet peeves and being late and not paying lawful debts were near the top of the list.

I’m not sure what has happened to me over the years because I struggle with being on time. I wasn’t raised that way. I’ve self-diagnosed a bad case of White Rabbit Syndrome. People with this rare disorder rush all the time only to catch every red light in town, have to wait on the longest freight train in history, spend hours searching for car keys, or have to turn around and return home to turn off the coffee pot. Clocks and watches are not their friends.

The world has just now begun to recognize this disease, and a conspiracy is already afoot to release the White Rabbit Syndrome suffers’ names to email spammers. My evidence is the large number of “cheap luxury watch” offers I receive in my inbox each day.

Does anyone in his right mind buy a watch from an unsolicited email? They seem to be wising up to my lack of interest in their watches because now I can’t open an “Important Information” or “Important Request” without finding another watch offer.

I was explaining this to my son, Eric, a few nights ago as we chowed down on Long John Silver’s fish and chips.

“I get a lot of email from my website and blog,” I told him. “I hate to just delete mail from names I don’t recognize just to keep from looking at more watch offers.”

“Speaking of watches,” my daughter-in-law the nurse said, “did you ever get an offer for one with military time, and numbers with a second hand? At work I have to use military time, but I need a second hand too.”

“I bet I’ll be offered that kind of watch,” I said. “Oh, guess what I found? My old Timex! I think it was still ticking.”

I bit into a hushpuppy. “Do you remember how you kids used to want to go to Long John Silvers so you could get a pirate hat?”

“Yeah, I always liked to eat there when I was a kid,” Eric said.

I don’t remember feeling so rushed back then. I also remember getting to work before anyone else. I always seemed to get a lot of work done in the quiet hours before all those tardy last-minute-peel-into-the-parking-lot workers arrived. I scoffed at how they jumped out of their cars and raced for the time clock.

I was younger then, too. Another one of my dad’s sayings when one of us kids didn’t jump fast enough, “Grandma is slow, but she’s old.”

Funny how those words keep popping into my head lately. I’m a grandma, so maybe I’m entitled to slow down a bit. I don’t admit to being old though. If I were old, I’d just rest my case on my daddy’s words and White Rabbit Syndrome.

Instead of another watch offer, someone needs to offer me a time machine. If I could make time speed up, slow down, or move backwards at will, I might be on to something. Then, I could just go back and do “overs” as Jim always called it. Unfortunately, we don’t get the opportunity to do overs—time wasted is time gone. Just like my Timex, time keeps on ticking until it’s going, going, gone.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

If I make it through September!

My life has turned into a NASCAR speedway and sometimes I feel like I’m driving a tricycle. It leaves me in danger of being pancaked by the big boys.

I’m not sure how it got to be September already. What happened to summer? Please don’t tell me I Rip Van Winkled right past it. Considering my sleep deprivation, that doesn’t seem logical. Somehow I survived the summer without once shinnying into a swimsuit, visiting a beach, suffering heat stroke at Silver Dollar City (so much for season tickets!) or for that matter, turning lobster-red from a sunburn. What a waste of summer months, and uh-huh-oh summer nights.

I thought Halloween was supposed to be scary, but it doesn’t come close to the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I flipped the calendar page and saw all the scribble marks. Here I am on Labor Day weekend, laboring, trying to catch up to all the events that are now staring me in the face.

Today started with a radio program “Open Mike” where Chris and I talked about Alzheimer’s and our September 19 Memory Walk. Then, I stopped off at the office to use high speed Internet and my duo screens to send emails and media releases for two different organizations. After four hours, I made a small dent in my calendar to-do list.

I only have fourteen “events” written on my calendar, so shouldn’t that mean I have more free time than scheduled time? That might be true if they were events where I just had to show up, but it doesn’t work that way for those of us on the planning committee or in charge. Oh, and let’s not forget the 101 items that didn’t make the official calendar. That would be those things I intend to do if I have time.

One of the best things about hectic life is I never have time to be bored, or even think about being bored. My goal on Wellsphere is to take a thirty-minute stress break five times a week. That doesn’t seem like too lofty a goal until I actually went through the stress of trying to find a spare thirty minutes.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep peddling until I make it through September, and then, I can relax awhile. After all, I have two free weekends in October. Yes, if I make it through September, I’ll be fine.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ted and Norma: Promises to Keep

On October 3, Ted Distler and his lovely wife, Norma, will celebrate 50 years of marriage. I admire Ted for his devotion to Norma and how he has held her hand and guided her through the quagmire of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Besides being a devoted husband, Ted honors Norma by being a tireless volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association Mid-Missouri Chapter. We met in 1999 when Ted was at the helm of the Jefferson City Memory Walk and I coordinated the Sedalia Memory Walk. Ted was a formidable fundraiser, and I made a valiant effort to stay in the competition. Although we squared off like championship boxers, we were cheerleaders for each other as we joined forces for a common cause. Our ultimate goal was to help support families facing Alzheimer’s and a cure for their loved ones, and our loved ones. We knew our local Chapter was providing that support for Mid-Missouri families.

Ted and I met for coffee one day and worked on a story for Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love. Norma and Ted’s story of unconditional love, courage, and devotion is posted on the Mid-Missouri Chapter’s website at

Congratulations, Ted and Norma! I wish you blessings and love with each step of your journey.

"Promises to Keep" published in Alzheimer's Anthology of Unconditional Love