Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fright Night—What Spooks Us?

The ghosts and goblins of All Hallows’ Eve are lurking in the dark ready to jump out from behind that old dead tree to send shivers of fright down our spines. Since we associate Halloween with scary beings that go bump in the night, it is a good time to talk about what frightens us.

The scene is set for me to talk about the things that scare us. As I sit in my office working on this article, the wind howls around the corner of the house and branches scrape against the window. In fact, the unusual sounds are downright creepy.

Although some of the surveys show slightly different results, I’m going to hone in on ten common fears.

Things that go BOOM in the night.  A lot of folks are scared of storms. Thunder and lightning can shake up the best of us. Throw in a tornado warning complete with a heart-stopping siren, and you can create panic. I used to be terrified of storms, but somewhere along the line, I just learned to respect them and find a safe spot if possible.

Dark and spooky nights. No wonder the cliché for the beginning of a story is “It was a dark and stormy night.” Two fears rolled into one. The dark is the most common fear of children. I think that’s because when its dark, you can’t see the monsters in the closet. And you can’t go trick or treating until after dark…

Creepy Crawlers. Let’s face it. Spiders are mean little critters that can give you the kiss of death before you can say “Granddaddy Longlegs.” They all scare me…black widows, tarantulas, or brown recluse…and the only good spider is one that I see first because it will become a ghost spider.

Slithering Sneaky Snakes.  I never saw a snake that I liked. A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner where Sedalia’s own “Snake Lady” dressed up as a witch and brought one of her pet snakes in a caldron. Fortunately, I was sitting at the back of the room. Needless to say, I wasn’t one of the people who let the snake slither around my arms.

Crash and burn.  If you are afraid of flying, you have lots of company. As many as twenty-five million people are nervous flyers. I don’t think they are so much afraid of flying as they are crashing.

Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I have a love/hate relationship with heights. I love looking at scenery far below, but I can freak out if I get too close to a canyon. The spinning sensation makes me feel that I’m just going to topple over the edge, plunging to my death far below.

Hell Hounds. I’ve never really been scared of dogs in general, but I’ve had a couple of close encounters. One time I was handing out some literature door-to-door for a local organization. At one house, I knocked, but no one was home. As I started back to the car, a German shepherd wedged himself between me and the car. I talked really nice to the dog as I slowly backed around him, never turning my back. “Nice doggy. Aren’t you a pretty boy? Are you having a good day, little doggie?”

Coffin Claustrophobia. Nobody likes to feel like they are in a tight spot where the air is hard to breathe. I’ve known fearless men who would climb a high wire or chase storms, but put them on an elevator and their knees began to knock.

Evil Drilling Dentist. Some people treat the dentist like he’s Dr. Frankenstein and they expect him to drill right through a tooth and into the brain while laughing manically.

Mice and Rats. Yep. Rats are pretty scary if they wind up in bed with you. That happened to me while staying at a very nice resort in Mexico. Not one of my more restful nights. But still, better a rat touching my hair than a ghost.
I don’t know why, but ghosts didn’t make the list. I’ve had a few experiences in my life that would be classified as supernatural. I’ll save those stories for another time. In the meantime, I’ll wish you a spooky, spine-chilling Halloween.

copyright © by L.S. Fisher, October 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Depends on Your Perspective

Often, what we get out of life depends on how we look at things. These last few weeks of rain began to get on my nerves. The grass is growing and the tree that came down in the storm needs to be hauled off. Except the yard is soggy from all the rain, so it all has to wait. This both gets on my nerves, and also is simultaneously a relief. I can use the time to work on my projects.

While I shivered in the blustery wind and cold rain as I took the dog out for her morning constitutional, I couldn’t see much good in the weather. I turned on my computer and my brother Tommy had posted: “Been shelling chestnuts this morning, now in the lanai enjoying the cool air and a hot cup of coffee.”  The accompanying photo was peaceful, beautiful, and gave me a new perspective of the incessant rain.

I drove through town yesterday and saw that gas had dropped to $2.83. All of a sudden, I noticed my tank was half empty. As I pumped the gas, I realized that when gas was reaching new highs, I’d have considered my tank half full and would have passed up the gas station. It’s all in how you look at things.

When I drove into Walmart’s parking lot, I noticed my car thermometer showed sixty-six degrees. The sun was shining brightly so I left my jacket in the car. As I walked toward the door, I noticed a cold breeze and pulled my thin sweater a little closer. I noticed that people’s different perspectives of this autumn day varied from a woman wearing a winter coat to a man clad T-shirt and shorts pushing a cart. They all seemed more comfortable than I did considering that I was dressed more appropriately for the weather than either of them.

Perspective affects our big decisions in life as well as how we react to the small moments that make up our day. As we plug along from day to day, we can lose sight of the possibility that the rug can figuratively be pulled out from beneath our feet and we fall flat on our keister. What happens then depends on us. We can sit on the floor and cry from the pain, or we can stand up and keep moving forward.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? Those amazing people who choose to refuse to stay down, but instead continue to live life to the fullest. When life looks the bleakest, they focus on the thin ray of sunshine that breaks through the gloomy haze.

As my niece, Angie, explained it: clarity. From the moment, she found out that she had colon cancer, she knew she was terminal. Taking what time she had left, she experienced her dream wedding and spent quality time with her family, sharing her radiant smile, love, and hugs.

She shared her thoughts, hopes, happiness, on Facebook. On November 23, 2012, she wrote:  I think we all know what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful I’m still alive. Alive, to love my family. Another day to see Reiana smile, hear Madison’s laugh and see Connor’s beautiful eyes. And most of all to hear my hubby tell what “he thinks” are funny jokes. BTW, God, thank you for bringing my brother back to me. Occasionally, she spoke of her regrets, sorrow, and fears, but by far her words reflected her positive perspective on life. She died on December 11, 2012 a short time after her thirty-ninth birthday.

Alzheimer’s is another disease that can challenge a positive attitude. It is a disease without a cure or effective treatment and the only prognosis is death. Upon diagnosis, death isn’t normally immanent, which makes it more difficult to see the urgency of seizing each moment of joy. The care partner may be facing ten to twenty years of watching a disease rob a loved one of his or her memory, communication ability, skills, and talents. Yet, if you consider the expanse of time, it would be foolish to allow this disease to steal your happiness.

When Jim was in the early stages of dementia we were able to travel, spend time with family and friends. We shared many happy moments and good times. It was a bleak diagnosis, but life went on for ten more years. Even during the final stages, I loaded Jim into the van for trips to Dairy Queen or to take a walk in the park. When he couldn’t walk anymore, I wheeled him around the nursing home or parking lot.

How much you get out of life depends on how you look at it. Most of us don’t know how much time we have so we assume we have plenty. Enough that we can spend hours, days, years, or decades without a thought as to how much time we allow ourselves to sit on our keister and cry about the unfairness of it all.

Maybe the best thing we could do for ourselves is to consider how differently we would live if we knew we only had a short time left. Ask yourself: Who would I want to see? What would I want to do? How would I want to be remembered? Would that change my perspective?

copyright © October 2014 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Visit with Vicky

Each year when I visit Washington, D.C., to advocate for Alzheimer’s funding, I take my current blog book. This year I left copies of Garden of Hope with legislators. I leave these books with the thought that someone might read it—often a legislative aide—but seldom believe that the representative or senator will read the book.

I am an Alzheimer’s Ambassador for my representative, but due to a scheduling snafu, I did not get to meet personally with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. When I arrived at the scheduled time on my sheet, the Congresswoman was already gone. Her aide assured me that Vicky had wanted to meet with me and had waited several minutes past the time on her calendar. So I left the book and my apologies for the misunderstanding.

In early August, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a handwritten note from Congresswoman Hartzler thanking me for leaving her a copy of Garden of Hope. She wrote, “What a wonderful collection of insights into this tragic disease plus messages of hope in our fight to eradicate this debilitating illness.” She ended her note with “Thank you for leading the charge to bring awareness, spur action, and inspire hope.”

Okay, I’ll admit this was a first! I had never received a handwritten note from my representative. Then, another first…A few weeks ago I received a called from a “202” area code—Washington, D.C. When I answered the call, I was speaking to Adreine from Congresswoman Hartzler’s office. Adreine wanted to set up an appointment for the Congresswoman and me to meet for coffee on October 9. We agreed that I would meet her in the lobby of historic Bothwell Hotel and we would have coffee in the hotel’s restaurant, Ivory Grille.

On Thursday afternoon I arrived at Bothwell Hotel to find Vicky sitting in the lobby. We shook hands and she asked if I’d like to go somewhere else since the restaurant was closed for the afternoon. We decided to have our meeting in the lobby instead.

She talked about her morning at State Fair Community College where she spoke at a teen leadership summit. After our visit she was going to visit the Boys and Girls Club.

For the next forty-five minutes, we talked about Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on families. I had brought fact sheets that served to remind us how many Americans know the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s. There it was in purple, black, and white:

·         More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s
·         Every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s
·         Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States
·         Fifteen million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s
·         In 2014 the total cost of Alzheimer’s will be $214 billion—$150 billion to Medicare and Medicaid
·         0.25% of the cost of Alzheimer’s is being spent on research
·         Approximately 500,000 people die each year because they have Alzheimer’s

We talked of the frustration of how a mere 1.7% of the NIH’s budget goes toward Alzheimer’s research. I thanked the Congresswoman for being a co-sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Accountability
Act and for her unwavering support for Alzheimer’s research.

We shared our personal experiences. Talked of nursing homes, caregiving, and recognizing that a person with Alzheimer’s is a person first. Someone to love, and to find joy in his or her moments of clarity or humor.

We ended on a high note. I gave her a handout of what we are doing in Sedalia: Photos of our successful Walk to End Alzheimer’s and information about our local support group facilitated by Betty Hopkins.

Our meeting began with a handshake and ended with a hug. The Congresswoman and I are united in this battle against Alzheimer’s and for a world without it.

Copyright © October 2014 by L.S. Fisher


Watch the video of Facts and Figures:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Clues to What Is Normal: Ten Warning Signs

For the past few days, I’ve been immersed in reading mystery stories for an anthology. A good mystery writer sprinkles clues throughout the entire story and then at the end it all makes sense. Sometimes you slap your head and believe you should have figured it out, and other times, you are completely surprised. It depends on the skill of the storyteller and how attentive you are.

I guess our greatest mystery in life is life itself. It seems that clues pop up every day in our relationships and our health. If we ignore those clues, or just don’t “get it” life can move forward while we are oblivious to what is happening.

Most of us fear the unknown. No matter how dire the diagnosis or prognosis, we realize that we have two choices: give up and be miserable, or live life to the fullest choosing quality over quantity if necessary.

Almost every disease has warning signs—and have you noticed that it is usually ten? Alzheimer’s is one that has narrowed the multitude of clues to a manageable ten. I’ve taken a look at the ten to see what the clues have to tell me.

The number one warning sign of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that disrupts daily life. We all forget things. Last month I showed up at the hair salon for my appointment a few minutes early so I sat down and started reading a magazine. My hairdresser came back from lunch and began to leaf through the appointment book. “Linda, I have your appointment down for tomorrow,” she said. Sure enough, I checked my calendar and there it was, same time, same place, wrong day. That interrupted that day a little for her and me, but it isn’t a warning sign of Alzheimer’s. Occasionally forgetting appointments is normal. Whew!

 The second warning sign is challenges in planning or solving problems. I had a nightmare about this a few nights ago. I dreamed I was taking a test and it used two words in questions that I didn’t recognize. How was I supposed to answer a question if I didn’t understand the words? Well, when I awoke in the middle of the night, I Googled paradigm (pattern) and esoteric (cryptic). The strange thing is that although I couldn’t place the meaning immediately, they made sense when I inserted them into the problems. With Alzheimer’s words and numbers may not make sense which can make solving a problem impossible.

Sign three is difficulty completing familiar tasks. I run into this often when I need a password or user name to pay a bill online. Part of the reason is that to get to the familiar task, I am using a new method. This is normal unless I forget that I need to pay bills.

The fourth sign is confusion with time or place. Since I’m retired, the days and months seem to swirl together. So sometimes I admit to being a little vague about the day of the week. Thank goodness, my granddaughter plays volleyball so monitoring her schedule helps me keep track of the days and the date. Oh, and the place. It really helps to show up at the correct gym.

The fifth sign is understanding visual images and spatial relationships. This includes reading and judging distance, both of which can affect driving. We won’t talk about me getting too close to the curb and scratching my fancy wheels—twice.

Number six: problems with words in speaking or writing. A person with Alzheimer’s might have trouble finding the right word…okay, so we all have that trouble from time to time. Sometimes, I’ll be leafing through my mental dictionary and can’t seem to come up with the correct word to express an idea. My mental Google is offline, the “page cannot be found” or is “not available at this time.” Sometimes it comes to me. Sometimes not. Still, considered to be normal.

The seventh sign is misplacing things and not being able to retrace steps. Let’s just say that I’ve had to call my cell phone everyday this week to locate the darn thing. I can’t remember where I left it. As long as I can remember the number, I’m considering that a normal sign of aging.

Number eight is poor judgment. My judgment is normally pretty good, but sometimes I’ll buy both pair of shoes rather than having to choose. Just saying!

The ninth sign is withdrawal from work or social activities. I withdrew from work permanently when I retired at the beginning of the year. I need to withdraw from a few social activities just because I like to stay at home once in a while. After all, there’s a new season of The Voice to watch.

The tenth sign is changes in mood and personality—becoming fearful, depressed, confused, etc. Okay, I take ownership of being irritable from time to time, but, hey, that falls within normal range.

After reviewing the ten clues, I consider myself to be as normal as I’ve ever been. Life is a challenge for each of us, but as long as we use our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses, we’ll get by. Whatever the clues say is wrong with us, we always have the ability to opt for quality over quantity.

copyright © October 2014 by L.S. Fisher