Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chasing After the Wind

Sometimes I’m in the right place at the right time to hear a message that resonates with me. That message may be at a high-priced conference in some exotic locale, or it could be in my hometown during one of Pastor Jim Downing’s sermons.

Sunday morning, he prefaced his sermon with the thought that it might be one of the most important messages he would ever give. I don’t remember his exact words, but he gave his self-depreciating smile, and said we might be thinking, “Nice words, preacher” and just go on our way and side-step the importance of the message.

His message was based on Ecclesiastes 4:6 “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” We seem to think that more is better, but is it?

When I was growing up in a family of eight, we learned that it wasn’t necessary to have a lot of material possessions to get by. Mom and Dad bought us school supplies and clothes at the beginning of the year. I had a few dresses to wear and one pair of school shoes. We always had the box of sixteen crayons, not the giant boxes some of the other kids had. Funny thing was, I still received the same education.

I had two dolls and not a lot of other toys. Mom always saw that I had books to read. She ordered a children’s version of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Through those books, the world of adventure opened to me. One of the first stories I read was “Little House in the Big Woods.” I loved it! I was reading about a girl like me that didn’t have much, but enjoyed every moment of being a kid.

After I became a grownup, my life has run the gamut from lying awake at night trying to figure out how we were going to pay the bills to the abundance of today. I worked more than three decades to be able to afford enough clothing to outfit a small nation and enough shoes to earn the nickname Imelda Marcos Junior. I have collections to the point of almost having collections of collections.

Which brings us to the first of three of Pastor Jim’s suggestions, “throw out.” I’ve been doing some of that with bags of clothes and shoes I’ve taken to Open Door. I know I have to get more serious about paring down on the overload of material possessions.

Pastor Jim hasn’t channeled into my internal self, so obviously, I’m not the only one with a crazy busy schedule. My calendar is often double or triple booked. I’m so over stretched that I have reminders of my reminders. “Cut back,” he said. Cut back on schedules. If I look through my calendar I can see things I want to do, but those are often pushed aside for something I feel obligated to do. I’m retired but, by golly, that doesn’t seem to give me a lot more time. My days are full and often hectic. I haven’t found time to write for months and months. Not. One. Story.

Perhaps, part of my time crunch comes from the interruptions of emails, phone calls, social media, Google, and that feeling of constantly being connected. Let’s face it…if I forget my phone on a simple trip to town, I’ll turn around and get it. My smart phone is like carrying a home office with me everywhere I go. It dings, buzzes, and even whistles at me.

“Turn off,” Pastor Jim said. He has a really good point. How do you relax when you are at the beck and call of, well, just about everyone? Not only people you know, but also people you don’t know. How the heck did that happen?

By de-cluttering our lives, we have more time to enjoy life’s breathtaking moments. We have time to look at a beautiful sunset and admire the way the clouds form in the sky. I remember my brother Donnie and I playing, “What does that cloud look like?” We saw angels, ships, faces, and all kinds of goofy things in the clouds. Now if I look at a cloud, I might see the possibility of rain, but it’s been years since I studied the clouds and tried to picture an object.

I’ve been under the misguided notion that’s just the way life is now-a-days. It doesn’t have to be. Is it possible for me to throw out, cut back, and turn off? I’ve been much too busy chasing the wind to enjoy a mere handful of tranquility.  

Copyright © May 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, May 22, 2015

Four Reasons to Take a Leap of Faith

My granddaughter is on the track team of a small school that doesn’t have their own track. When she decided to jump in addition to running, she watched a You-Tube video and practiced in the yard. It took a real leap of faith for her to try her skill at a track meet. Last year, she advanced to Sectional in the triple jump, and she was determined to do the same this year. At Districts this year, she placed third in triple jump and long jump.

A storm lurked behind dark clouds on the day of Sectionals. Her goal at Sectionals was to place in the top four and advance to State. After the long jump, she was disappointed because her jumps were short of her personal best, and it didn’t look like she would advance. The skies opened up and a torrential rain sent us to the truck and her to the athletes’ tent.  After the downpour, she jumped the triple jump and, although she placed better than last year, she clearly wasn’t in the top four.

She wasn’t really open to hearing she’d done her best, or how proud of her we were, or “there’s always next year.” We left after her events and by the time we stopped in town for pizza, she was feeling better. Track season was over for the year. She’d had a great year, so her leap of faith to compete had paid off.

It got me to thinking about when a leap of faith is personally beneficial.

#1. When failure, or even humiliation, is possible. When I decided to start my Early Onset Alzheimer’s blog, doubts churned in my mind. Did I have anything of interest to say and would anyone read it? Would I have mistakes in it that people would criticize? Would I get hate mail? Negative images almost kept me from pushing the post button that first time. Once I made the decision to move forward, I never looked back. It is obvious that success is not possible without a chance of failure, and failure can be humiliating. It’s moving beyond the fear that lets us know the thrill of accomplishing our goals.

#2. To follow your dream. My dream was to write. Little did I know when I was clacking out fiction stories on a manual typewriter that the future would hold many ways of publishing my work. Eventually, the time came when the mechanics of writing became about a thousand percent easier and publishing as easy as pushing the “post” button. Not everyone wants to be a writer, but almost everyone has a dream they want to follow. What’s yours? Take a leap of faith and go for it!

#3. Leave a dead end situation. We’ve all been there. The job that went nowhere. The relationship that caused more harm than good, or was downright scary. It is really hard to leave the known for the unknown, but given the correct circumstances, it can be life changing. I once had a job working for a family business. It wasn’t all bad, at first. I liked what I was doing but as the married couple’s relationship went south, conditions became unbearable. I needed a job so I stayed even after I began to dread going to work each day. I was forced into leaving the dead end situation when they sold the business. Thankfully, the demise of the company forced me into the job market and launched a life-long career at a job I loved.

#4. Keep improbable from being impossible. I dropped out of college when I married Jim. Finally, when my children began school, I returned to our local junior college to earn a two-year degree. Still, I always regretted not getting my bachelor’s degree, and the older I got, the more improbable it became that it was going to happen. The opportunity to get a degree came at a really bad time. I was working full-time, Jim was in the nursing home, and I was already squeezing in time to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association. Although the situation seemed impossible, I entered an eighteen-month cohort program offered by William Woods University. I graduated in 2005, easily the oldest student in our class. Was it worth it? You bet it was.

Taking a leap of faith doesn’t always pan out, but not taking it strips you of the sweet taste of success.

Oh, during that downpour at the track meet, we missed the announcement of the long jump winners. My granddaughter’s coach collected her medal and gave her the good news that evening that she had advanced to State. Will she win a medal at State? Maybe, maybe not, but without taking that leap of faith she would have never had the opportunity or experience.

Copyright © May 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Alzheimer’s Research—Climb the Highest Mountain

When you name your company after the highest mountain in North America, you know you have great expectations. A new company, Denali Therapeutics, has taken on the challenge of finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Their task is formidable, and that is the reason they chose Denali for their name.

The former Genetech researchers began their venture with an astounding $217 million. Denali’s chairman of the board, Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, believes that the time is right for breakthrough treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

This group of scientists plan to break away from the study of drugs to block beta-amyloid. Their focus will be on genetics, which has led to effective drugs for cancer. Scientists have discovered new genes linked to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s. They believe these “degenogenes” will lead to a better outcome than previous drug studies.

Hallelujah! How often have you heard that if you keep trying the same thing you’ll have the same outcome? Alzheimer’s research is at an impasse. No one has found the illusive cure, or even a good treatment for the disease. It is time to try a complete new approach and these seem like just the guys to do it.

The company is looking at brain inflammation and the substances that develop between brain cells. They are concentrating on the factors that cause brain cells to die when a person develops a brain disease. They are already looking at twelve drug targets!

The brightest brains in the world have banded together to tackle the most baffling disease left to conquer. Now, they hope to engage the Food and Drug Administration in fast tracking brain drugs for Alzheimer’s as they did for HIV and other diseases.

Today I’m wearing a tee-shirt that says, “Your brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells. Each One is Worth Keeping Around.” I want to keep as many of those precious cells as I can. Don’t you?

Copyright © May 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Alzheimer's Box

Several years ago, I went through piles of papers from my various volunteer organizations and threw them into different totes. This was a haphazard way of sorting them and was much quicker than making file folders and filing them away. Besides, at the time, my file space was quite limited so that may not have been an option.

Today, I sorted through the Alzheimer’s tote. It was quite an interesting assortment of papers.  The first task at hand was to sort into three piles: recycle, burn, and file. I quickly pared down the amount of information to keep to a smaller stack.

In the Alzheimer’s box, I found articles that I thought were lost forever. I found the article about my friend, Karen Henley, published in Newsday Magazine. Karen was caring for her forty-two-year-old husband Mike, who had familial early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her story is one of courage, perseverance, and most of all, love.

I found an article that made me smile. My friend, David Oliver, was one of the researchers who biked in the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride. I met him when we both served on the local Alzheimer’s chapter board of directors. He had joined the cross-country ride (San Francisco to D.C.) for the segment from Sedalia to Jefferson City. I drove into town early for the send off. David and four others took the scenic route to Jefferson City. David was dedicated to go above and beyond to further Alzheimer’s research funding. David passed away from cancer in March. It was especially touching to see this article and remember his wonderful sense of humor and optimistic outlook on life.

I found several years of Advocate’s Guides and Facts and Figures from some of the fifteen Advocacy Forums I’ve attended over the years. I go through these two books each year to see what we’ve accomplished and what we need to tackle. They serve as a valuable resource for me.

Of course, I had several folders of Alzheimer’s Walks, previously known as “Memory Walks.” I was able to pitch a lot of old forms. At one time, we had to make our own! I spent hours developing signup sheets for team captains and posters for events. It’s much easier now that the Alzheimer’s Association and the chapter have everything online and with a few clicks, we can download and print any report, form, or poster we need.

Then to top it off, there’s always the odd pieces of information. Prints of the airline tickets for one of the years my granddaughter went to D.C. with me. I found a stub from the Smithsonian and a map of the Old Town Trolley. I pitched an outdated congressional book.

Tucked in among the Alzheimer’s papers were a few from Sedalia Business Women. Oops, guess that was in the wrong box entirely. That one is still intact. Who knows, when I go through it I might find more Alzheimer’s memorabilia.

It’s kind of sad to look back at years and years of events that have come and gone. I’m happy to say my passion for Alzheimer’s advocacy is still alive. I’m just looking forward to the day when it is no longer necessary and Alzheimer’s is eradicated.      

Copyright © May 2015 by L.S. Fisher