Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Truth Is…

Living near Whiteman AFB, I see stealth bombers and fighter jets on a regular basis. I was walking my dog a few weeks ago and a pair of fighter jets flew overhead. It made me pause and think about how I had no fear of bombs raining down from the sky. The truth is I feel lucky to live in a country where we don’t worry about our enemies dropping bombs on our homes. 

Lately, I’ve seen more hate than I’ve ever seen in my life. It is true that during the Vietnam War protesters were on the news every night taking out their frustration on those drafted into fighting. The death and destruction of war invaded our homes. During that turbulent era, reporters reported the news during a thirty-minute or one-hour broadcast, then they were finished until the next day. Now, we have twenty-four hour politically biased TV pseudo-news, the Internet, and social media. Constant exposure whips some folks into a lather.

The truth is hate doesn’t solve anything; it just increases the problems. If you aren’t part of the solution, you may well be part of the problem. Do you really love your political candidate more than your own family? If you do, I find you to be a scary person with messed up loyalties. Do you really think you can change someone’s mind by throwing a hissy fit every time he disagrees with you? Tantrums might be cute in a toddler, but ridiculous in an adult.

The truth is that it’s easier to believe lies, innuendoes, and gossip than to seek the truth. Lies destroy lives. This is especially true in politics. Baseless rumors dressed up as memes on social media are shared with thousands or millions without regard to the human being targeted. Apparently, sharing this crap is more important than how offensive and reprehensible it is to family and friends.

The truth is life isn’t fair. Never has been, never will be. Bad things happen to good people and bad people prosper. Jim was a good man and, if the world had been fair, his life would have never been cut short by dementia. If life were really fair, lightning bolts would strike down truly evil people who have gone beyond redemption.

The truth is cruelty should not be tolerated. Cruel people are ugly people from the inside out. When we support cruelty, or give it a wink, we are responsible for our own actions or reactions. Selfishness damages the hearts of people who love you. Lately, I’ve witnessed feuding among family members causing pain for their mother, unkind “dramatic” actions spewing anger at a friend, and treating a person with dementia as if he is no longer human and can’t be hurt.

The truth is we are all human regardless of religion, nationality, race, sexual orientation, political party, or economic status. Each classification has good, bad, and indifferent people. There is an ultimate danger in lumping everyone with a common denominator under a single umbrella of hate or dehumanization. On the other hand, you can’t put your trust in someone for the simple reason he falls within one of those categories. Bad people do bad things without regard to your preconceived opinion. Good people come from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds.

The truth is love hurts. We like to think that love equates happiness, but just as high as the highs, the lows are not only low, they can be rock bottom. Love can be a weapon, a bargaining chip, or the most unselfish act in the world. How you use love defines you as a human being. I’ve discovered throughout my life that either you love someone or you don’t. Infatuation is not love. Lust is not love. Admiration is not love. Saying “I love you” is not love.

You don’t have to look far to see what love is: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

At least with the people we love, each of us should strive to become less judgmental when they believe differently than we do. The truth is this would be a scary world, indeed, if we all thought alike. Thoughtful and respectful differences are a good thing. We need to become truth seekers.

Copyright © July 2016 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Beauty Is More than Skin Deep

When we went to the Pettis County Queen Contest, we certainly hoped that contestant #3, my granddaughter Whitney, would win. I was probably more nervous than Whitney when she walked out onto the stage, sat on the barstool, and began to play her ukulele and sing, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Whitney had never performed in front of anyone other than immediate family.

After hearing the first few notes, I knew she was going to nail it. Tears blurred my eyes as I thought of how proud her Grandpa Jim would have been of her. I can only imagine the pride he would feel to have a granddaughter inherit his natural music ability.

After she was crowned Miss Pettis County, Whitney was interviewed for the local news. She told the Sedalia Democrat reporter that she felt Grandpa Jim’s presence throughout the competition, and especially during the talent.

I knew she was thinking of her grandpa when she answered her on- stage interview question: “If you could change or create a new law, what would it be?” Her response was “I would enact a law making access for funds for early onset dementia patients more easily accessible.” She went on to explain that dementia is an incredibly expensive disease.

Early onset dementia affects the entire family. From an early age, our grandkids knew their grandpa had a disease that affected his memory.

When Whitney was not quite two years old, she was old enough to know that grandpa couldn’t go outside by himself because he could get lost. One day when Whitney was staying with us, we went next door to visit Jim’s mom. Jim was restless and pacing, and casually worked his way toward the door. Whitney spotted him and jumped into the doorway spreading her arms and legs to barricade the door.

“No, Papa Jim!” she said with all the authority she could muster. Jim stopped in front of her, turned around, and sat down in the recliner.

Whitney has a passion to be a volunteer and advocate for Alzheimer’s. She has walked with Jim’s Team at the Memory Walk/Walk to End Alzheimer’s since she was a toddler. She has gone to the Alzheimer’s Forum in Washington, D.C., twice to advocate for Alzheimer’s research funding and legislation to help persons with Alzheimer’s and their families.

Whitney was only seven years old, when her grandpa died. If early onset dementia had not cut his life short, Grandpa Jim would have taught Whitney how to play the ukulele, and she wouldn’t have had to learn from a YouTube video. He would have loved to sing harmony with her and played along on his guitar.

We are all proud of Whitney! We know her beauty is not just skin deep. She is an accomplished young woman with a bright future. She just graduated high school and enters college in the fall as a junior.

In the meantime, she has queenly duties and appearances to make. Volunteering at Child Safe’s Color Run this weekend will be a breeze after her obligatory duties at the Smithton Fair, including wading into a mud pit to catch a pig and dress it.

Next month during the Missouri State Fair, Whitney will compete in the State Fair Queen Contest. We’ll all be there to cheer her on to victory. When Whitney walks onto the stage holding her ukulele, Grandpa Jim will be present in our hearts and minds—bursting with pride and grinning from ear to ear.

Copyright © July 2016 by L.S. Fisher

Thursday, July 7, 2016

When Things Go Wrong

Last week, I was getting ready to go to my Alzheimer’s board meeting and decided to take the dog outside before I left. As I walked past the tubs of tomato, sweet potato, and pepper plants, I noticed another of those pesky Japanese beetles crawling along the grapevine that twines across the lattice work.

We’d been trying to get rid of the beetles for weeks. They had skeletonized the grape leaves and I could swear they were eyeballing our tomato plants.

After reviewing information from the Master Gardener’s, we had tried a couple of recommended ideas to get rid of them. One of the recommendations  was to pick them off. My first reaction had been “Ewwweee” but after a couple of weeks, that didn’t seem to be a bad idea.

I never thought about the beetle squirming in my hand in a bid for survival. When I went to throw it down, I whacked the back of my hand on the handle of the dog leash. Hard! It puffed up like a bad case of rheumatoid arthritis. Well, I iced it, had it x-rayed, put in a splint, and looked at by an orthopedic doc. Verdict was that it wasn’t broken and the tendons were where they were supposed to be.

My hand was a small reminder of how difficult life can become. We never realize how great something is until things go wrong and it doesn’t work right.

When things go wrong, we can easily be persuaded to pay more attention to what is wrong than what is right. I know how true that was as a caregiver. It was a constant struggle to schedule substitute care while I was at work. Sometimes I had to remind myself that I was so lucky to have a big family and people who were willing to go the extra mile to help me keep Jim safe. But things went wrong—he wandered away, he was stubborn, he paced, he scared some of the hired help.

I can still remember Jim’s frustration when he couldn’t find the right words, or when he made a grocery list and later noticed he had transposed letters. When his mechanical brain quit functioning correctly, he remembered how to take the vacuum apart, but not how to put it together again. His musical knowledge slipped away and he couldn’t remember song lyrics or what chords to use.

In the category of things going awry, no one has ever been exempt. Even people, who seem to lead golden lives, have catastrophes. To make it worse, those who live in view of the public often have their personal disasters plastered all over the tabloids, Internet, or even mainstream news where armchair quarterbacks nationwide critique their failures.

Just recently, parents have been skewered over the flames of self-righteousness for not being watchful of their children. People expressed their outrage toward the mother of a three-year-old child who wound up in a guerilla pit at the Cincinnati zoo. Fortunately, that child lived and no charges were filed against the mother. Another child was allowed to wade in a lagoon near a Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and was attacked and killed by an alligator. The child was too young to read the “no swimming” signs, and the parents did not realize the danger in ignoring the warning.

Before we are too quick to judge, I think maybe we should consider the times when things could have went wrong, but didn’t. Our lives can be upended in a heartbeat.

People can have life changing injuries in an accident. My accident was small, but not having the use of my right hand for a couple of days created more problems than I would have thought possible. Signing a check left handed may have been the highlight. Heaven knows what the bank is going to think of those scribbles!   

More than a week after the hand-whack-gone-wrong, my hand still hurts and remains swollen. I still have two fingers that don’t always do what they should, which makes typing incredibly challenging.

Less than a month ago, I didn’t even know what a Japanese beetle looked like, much less that one would be responsible for an injury. Until things went wrong, I didn't realize just how good things were! 

Copyright © July 2016 by L.S. Fisher