Family, 2015


Drawing I did of Veronica as a child.


Family is an interesting thing.  We’re all aware that it’s not just who’s married to whom, and who shared bloodlines.  It’s far more complex–and, simultaneously, simple-than that.

I’m adopted, first of all.  When I was two-and-a-half years old, in the fall of 1968, I was adopted from foster care into the Olson home.  I was Leonard and Leone’s only child (they’d lost a baby at birth nine years before I was born), and they were in their middle forties, and both professionals.

Church photo a week after my adoption: Leone, Karla, Leonard Olson.  September, 1969.

Church photo a week after my adoption: Leone, Karla, Leonard Olson. September, 1969.

I hit the jackpot on families!  No one could ask for more loving, more dedicated parents. I am grateful, daily, for my upbringing.

Also, I’ve been married twice.


First husband and me, 1994, St. Cloud, MN


Justin and me, 2007, Clear Lake, MN

My first marriage was ill-advised, but I deeply loved my husband, and altogether we were together ten years. Shortly after he and I began dating i n 1988, he found out he was going to be a father.  The child’s mother was a high school friend of his, Beth, with whom he’d kept up a friendship, and they’d celebrated his birthday that year, resulting in an unexpected pregnancy. To make a long, long, story short, he has not been the world’s best father but I lucked out in our divorce, in 1998, and got to “keep” the kid–well, Veronica, his daughter, lived with her mother, obviously, but Beth was wonderful enough to allow me to remain in Veronica’s life.  As Beth aptly put it–I still remember what she said, and how I cried for happiness–“You love her, she loves you.”


Veronica at Aunt Geeney’s house, 1992


Veronica at her father’s and my house, St. Cloud, circa 1995


Veronica and her father’s and my house, St. Cloud, circa 1996.




Veronica at Twin Cities Gay Pride with her father and me, circa 1996.

There were a few family reunions–my ex-husband’s family, mind you–that were non-traditional.  I’ve stayed in contact with my former in-laws, and they’ve accepted my current husband without any problem. I do distinctly recall one summer gathering, at my in-law’s family homestead farm, where sitting together in a row on a picnic table were Veronica, Beth, me, and my now-current husband, Justin.  A few distant relatives, not knowing all the ins and outs, asked how we were family; this led to very interesting answers.  “Well, I used to be married to your cousin, see, and this wonderful girl is his daughter and this is her mother and his old friend.  Oh, and this is my boyfriend…”

Beth, Veronica, Justin, and I have vacationed together (Yay, Duluth!).  When asked, simply saying “family” supplies all the information anyone really needs.


Brighton Beach, north of Duluth, 2006


Veronica, Park Point (Duluth), 2006

Skip forward several more years, and Veronica’s now nearly 26 years old.  She lives in Sacramento, holds a Master’s Degree in public policy, and is doing great work on behalf of many people in the capital city of California.  She’s brilliant, funny, creative, and everyone’s dream of a daughter, stepdaughter, or former stepdaughter. I’m honored to have her in my life, and further honored to be friends (family?) with her mother.


Veronica in Germany, 2006ish.


Veronica and friend Angela, St. Cloud Java Joint, early 2000s.


Veronica at Mills, freshman year.


Veronica and proud mother Beth, Graduation from St. Paul Open School, 2007.


A favorite picture of Veronica.


Veronica at Mills. (I’ve edited the wall message for public consumption…)


Trivia Party, 2007, St. Cloud


Veronica’s going-off-to-college party, George Street, St. Paul, August 2007.

All this to say that while Veronica was still in junior high and high school in St. Paul, and Justin and I lived in Marshall, MN (four hours from them), our gatherings were looked forward to, and we always had the best of times with hilarious and scholarly discussions on pop culture, literature, current events, politics, childrearing, education, music, and, well, anything.  Games would be played (Wizard of Bees!). We’d eat good food (well, if we visited St. Paul, that is, rather than they visiting Marshall).  Libations would occur.  We’d go home with our bellies hurting from the laughter.


Veronica, Beth, Justin

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Justin, Bindu, Veronica: St. Paul, circa 2008


Additionally, there was the annual KVSC Trivia Contest.  Veronica has played on our team (Those Meddling Kids, then WWSD) via phone when she was young, then in person from adolescence onward.  Beth now plays with us, too, though a latecomer compared with Veronica.


Trivia nap…circa maybe 2008?

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Trivia, circa 2006


Since Veronica left to go to college in California in 2007, our group gatherings have been limited to summers (when she still came home, which ended a while back) and, currently, at Christmas, when Veronica still makes the trek home to Minnesota to see friends and family (and likely organize everything in sight, as she’s wont to do).  While we can connect on facebook and via email and twitter all year, Justin and I very much look forward to when the four of us (now five, as Beth is partnered with Aaron, who’s a terrific addition!) can get together.

Veronica and Beth, Milaca, MN, January 2012 or 2013.

Veronica and Beth, Milaca, MN, January 2012 or 2013.

Which we did this past Friday.  In the Twin Cities.

Theses were written on the implications of Breaking Bad and Fight Club.  Second wave feminism butted against third wave, as it normally does in our gatherings.  We spent a good forty-five minutes discussing whether “mansplaining” was appropriate or obsfucating.  Knitting occurred.  There were liters and liters of coffee drunk. Snacking and eating in interesting establishments happened (Longfellow Grill, Peace Cafe, Riverview Cafe and Wine Bar) . There was disagreement on The Decemberists (Veronica votes Nay, Karla votes Yay) and The Shins (Karla votes Yay, Veronica votes Meh).  Presents were exchanged.  Dogs were fed (and pigdogs carried…). There were hugs.

And, my God, the laughter.  Open-mouthed, head back, full-throated laughter.  The absolute best part of being with these people.

I love my family. And how I look forward to these Christmas get-togethers!

b and v

Veronica and Justin, Peace Coffee, Jan. 2015

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Beth and Veronica, Peace Coffee, Jan. 2015


Gratitude 2014

I wrote a couple of years ago about being grateful, but it’s high time I revisited this destination. It’s imperative for happiness, for perspective.

In the intervening time since that blog post, I’ve lost my mother to Alzheimer’s, my father’s moved into Assisted Living, two of our cats have passed on (Muffin and Frodo), and we’re in the middle of a fight to keep our house (legal battle with the County over Medicaid assistance for Dad).

I painted Mom's nails the day before she died; she always had impeccable nails.

I painted Mom’s nails the day before she died; she always had impeccable nails.



Frodo, near the end of his illness.

Frodo, near the end of his illness.



Muffin, my mother’s cat


Additionally, I’ve had surgery this year on my foot, keeping me immobile for a long time, then in a walking cast and on a scooter. Health concerns continue, unabated. Financial issues, as with everyone, seem to only worsen.  Justin and I have often thought that 2014 has *not* been our year.




Steve, the Scooter, and Rufus, the Cast

Steve, the Scooter, and Rufus, the Cast

 However, attitude is everything.

While I miss my mother terribly, and Alzheimer’s is the worst disease in the world, as far as I’m concerned (I once heard it described on NPR as a disease in which the victim watches as her own brain is eaten away), she was more than ready to go, and I was fortunate enough to be able to be by her side, holding her hand, as she took her last breath.  She lived a full and happy and interesting life, and left a massive legacy through her teaching.

Dad seems very happy in Assisted Living, and is getting healthier in some ways even as his age is slowly taking away other things.  He’s ninety-one, now, but still enjoying living.

Dad, winning at cards, as usual, at his apartment.

Dad, winning at cards, as usual, at his apartment.

Dad at Thanksgiving, 2014

Dad at Thanksgiving, 2014


Dad, Sept. 2014

Dad, Sept. 2014

Dad at Assisted Living at a music concert (his favorite: Stonybrook Band).

Dad at Assisted Living at a music concert (his favorite: Stonybrook Band).


Dad this week on Christmas.

Dad this week on Christmas.

We miss Muffin and Frodo immensely, yet we’ve acquired both Pixel and Hershel in the last several months. Part of owning cats is acknowledging that lives are finite, and grief is inevitable.  We do it because the pain is worth it.







Our legal fight is hugely stressful, and we still don’t have final results, yet for the time being we have a roof over our heads and are enjoying our property.  And as Justin and I keep saying, “You, me, and the kitties; that’s all we need.  We can face anything else.” We don’t want to have to, but we can if we need to. Us and the kitties: that’s home.

While the surgery and recovery were problematic, I’m walking and living without the daily excruciating pain that I’d had in my foot for over three years due to arthritis and bone spurs shredding tendons.  Every month, I’m walking easier and easier!

And finances?  Well, hell…that’s just the human condition (unless you’re one of the 1%). We’re both employed. We have a place to live (at least for now, LOL). We have plenty to eat. Everything else is gravy, when you really think about it!

Hershel’s story (written elsewhere) has done a lot to restore my faith in mankind, and to bring back smiles and hope.

Justin and I at a Twins game, 2014

Justin and I at a Twins game, 2014






My husband is the best person on the planet, in my opinion, and I’m grateful daily to share my life with him. And while we didn’t have snow for Christmas, we did get some the next day…it’s beautiful outside.







Justin, at dinner before an Ike Reilly show in Minneapolis

Justin, at dinner before an Ike Reilly show in Minneapolis

Justin likes coffee.

Justin likes coffee.


I love my husband.

I love my husband.


Justin with Wednesday Cat.

Justin with Wednesday Cat.


Here’s to seeing 2014 out–perhaps none too soon, but maybe I’m giving it a bad rap–and ushering a bright, beautiful, bountiful 2015 in.  

May we all have plenty to be grateful for in the coming year.


Outside our front door just now.

Outside our front door just now.




Justin’s Blog, and Why We Do This (But No Answers).

My husband has started blogging again.  Here’s my initial response:

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He writes, in his Christening piece, the following:

So, here’s the first thing; I’m not very good at this. Oh, I can navel-gaze and wool-gather with the very best of them.  If worry was a super power I could be an X-Man.  It’s just that I have not, up til the present day, been very good at keeping a record of it.  I have more than a couple of paper bound journals lying around the house with three entries in them. Digital culture and social media have been very helpful with this– I have moved through all of the platforms as they have come and gone.  I have a Myspace out there (watch out for squatters nobody’s been there in a while), Facebook, and Twitter. Of these Twitter has been most useful because it appeals to my lack of attention span.  So, while I have every good intention of keeping this going–I have to tell you this is not my first blog.

This makes me ponder the nature the navel gazing, why we do this. Even when no one is reading (or when lots of people are).  Are we justifying ourselves?  Are we marking time?  Are we reminding ourselves that time passes? Are we connecting with others?  Are we sending our brainwaves out into the universe to bounce off planets and nebulae billions of light-years away?

Are we selfish? Self-absorbed?

Are we too uncommitted to publish “real” literature?  🙂

In any case, it’s probably all the above. So what the Hell.

Happy 2015. Ours is likely going to be a blogging household.  I have three blogs (my others, besides this one, include my school blog as I blog with my kids, and our new Hershel the Christmas Cat blog).  One desktop, two iPads, two smartphones…no waiting.


My husband, always so very serious. He needs to lighten up.


Marriage Equality, a Conversation

I was recently asked, nicely, by supporters of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment who are open to hearing different sides, why I support marriage equality.  I realized then that just as we who are part of Minnesotans United for All Families have encouraged supporters to start conversations, I haven’t really done that.  I’ve done a lot of drive-by preaching on facebook–and probably still will–but I’ve not taken the time to converse, to spell out my views, in a calm and rational matter with people I love, and respect, who see things differently.

So, I aim to do that.  Now.

Point the first: Separate-but-equal was tried before, in matters of racial equality, and it was an abysmal failure. Brown vs. Board of Education wiped that out–far too late–and being a Constitutional fan of equality, I do not want to see it under any guise. Marriage  is a civil contract (and often a religious one, but that’s later) and has been granted as a right of citizenship in the United States.  If one adult has the right to marry, so does another, no matter anyone’s personal viewpoint. Rights are rights.

There is no such thing as “traditional” marriage–every culture, every time has had its own view of solemnifying romantic and family partnerships, from King Soloman’s hundreds of wives and concubines, to casual serial flings (past and present), and everything in between. In the United States, two people who marry are granted a laundry list of rights and responsibilities–whether or not they marry religiously–and it’s wrong, Constitutionally, morally, to grant those rights to some and deny them to others based solely on gender.

Why is Neil more a citizen than Sally?

Separate-but-equal (e.g. civil unions, for this issue) is not the same.  It’s not right.  It creates second class citizenship in the country that I’m proud to say, despite all its faults, doesn’t have a royalty, doesn’t have an inborn aristocracy, doesn’t have legal boundaries between classes of people, regardless of birth or gender.

So, I don’t want to add to my state’s Constitution an amendment that *limits* freedom; all great things in history have developed by opening up freedoms, and going the other way is simply…wrong.  There were many decent, loving people who, just a short time ago, fought against interracial marriage (legally, miscegenation, and also based on religious viewpoints), and I bet that if they’re still alive, they find that pretty darn silly these days.  I’m afraid that many of today’s opponents of marriage equality will one day feel much the same way.

Minnesota is a kind state, a no-nonsense, pragmatic state.  Just listen to A Prairie Home Companion.  My own Scandinavian-American parents are no exception. When I was a little girl and saw a show on television dealing with lesbians, I asked my mother what that meant.  To this day, I remember her practical response: “Well, you know how Dad and I love each other and are together?  It’s the same thing, only with two women.”  My response was, “Oh,” and then I went back to my Barbies or book, because it was no big deal.

Years later, when a family friend was condemning gay people in our presence, Mom, again, spoke up with her no-nonsense “Oh, Marv; there have always been gays in the military and there always will be.  Who cares.”  When I pressed her later, she said, “People are born the way they’re born; I don’t understand why people care so much.”

A few years ago, when her beloved ELCA chose to ordain gay and lesbian pastors, she said–and this was before the severe dementia–“Good; there’s no reason why not.”

In other words, I absolutely hate to think of Minnesota becoming a place that codifies creating second-class citizens with fewer rights. It’s incredibly sad, to me.

Point the second: The gay people I know and love, friends and family members and students and coworkers, deserve, personally, to have their families and partnerships honored in the same way mine is. In my view, there is no “gay marriage,” there is simply “marriage.”  I want to honor and support all my friends who dare venture into such commitment, such love.

This second point is not a rational, Constitutional matter, but a personal, emotional flip side to my earlier point. However, it is just as important. I cannot, myself, look at these people I love who are gay and tell them that my marriage is more important than theirs. That they don’t deserve what I have.  That they’re *less*. That doesn’t sit right with me.

Marriage is about forming family, and this doesn’t necessarily equate into having children at all, let alone having children via the traditional method.  We don’t deny 90-year-olds the right to marry, and we all know they’re not having children!  I know the Catholic viewpoint, which they’re entitled to, is that a couple must be *open* to the possibility of children, and that God can perform miracles.  I might counter (again, if this were strictly a rational argument, which it’s not as we’re into religious and emotional territory now) that I don’t think they believe in a God who’s powerful enough to make a 90-year-old pregnant, or form life in the womb of a virgin, but not make it happen for a lesbian married couple.  🙂

We don’t deny, legally (although perhaps in some religions, which is their right) the right to marry to couples who never, ever plan on having children, or those who cannot, biologically. Yet, I often hear from people that because two men or two women cannot have children, they either shouldn’t want marriage or shouldn’t get marriage.  I, the adopted daughter of older parents, simply scratch my head.  My parents have been married for nearly 66 years now; come again?

Point the Third: While I have yet to see any non-religious arguments against marriage equality, I guess I can’t say with 100% assurance there aren’t any. In the meantime, I would like to address the common point that many religious people bring up on this issue: they do not want their churches (or houses of worship of any faith) forced to go against its precepts on what is a holy marriage.

This is perhaps the *easiest* fear to allay, and the beauty of it is that the more you support Jefferson’s separation of church and state, the more you protect your own church’s right to do what it feels is right.  Seriously.  Listen, here’s how:

Let’s say I, raised Protestant but not a member of any faith at this time, met and wanted to marry a nice Catholic boy.  I mean, if I weren’t happily married already. Could I demand that the local Catholic church marry us, even though I’m not part of their faith?  Even though I refuse to follow their tenets on marriage, or join them, or vow to be open to children, or partake of pre-marriage counseling?

No, I couldn’t demand that.  Because the church (every church, synagogue, temple, mosque, coven, etc.) has the right–a right I will support, vocally and tenaciously–to require that its views be upheld by its members. No government should step in and say that just because marriage is a civil right, that Catholic church *must* perform the marriage ceremony for me and my new Catholic love.

The same will hold true under marriage equality.  No government body will come in and require your church (synagogue, temple, mosque, coven, etc.) to perform a gay marriage if that’s not in your faith.

It’s the same thing. Just because I’m allowed to get married by the local Justice of the Peace, as a civil right, doesn’t mean I can demand any religious instituution to perform the marriage for me, or smile on it.  If a church wanted Justin and me to wear purple, with straw hats, and recite “Jabberwocky” backwards to get hitched, then that’s something I could take or leave, and no government body would interfere.

Another tidbit on protection of church rights:  What about the churches (Christian and otherwise) who *want* to bless and perform same sex marriages?  Their rights are being trampled, right now.  Right this minute.  Don’t they deserve to have their freedom supported?  If not, why not?  Why shouldn’t the United Church of Christ, say, have the same rights as Bethany Lutheran?

So, even though I *personally* don’t find same-sex marriage against any Christian tenets (more on that later, and I’m not going to speak for any other faith tradition here right now), it’s perfectly rational for you–a generic, religious “you”–to vote an emphatic NO on the marriage amendment and to support marriage equality legally, yet still not have it part of your church’s tenets.

What it boils down to is this: if you want your own church’s rights upheld and protected, if you support the First Amendment, then you need to be vocal and diligent in your support of the separation of church and state. Always.  Because that protection works BOTH ways.  Your religion can’t dictate what others must live by, legally, AND government can’t legally force your church to change its tenets.  That wall has two sides, remember.

Point the Fourth: The personal flipside to the third point.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of an upcoming wedding of a couple that you, personally (and perhaps even silently) thought should *never* get married.  They were too young, or getting married for the wrong reasons, or it was an abusive relationship, or what have you.  I suspect we all have our hands in the air.  Here’s the thing: just because we were personally opposed, even a little, to that marriage taking place, we never even thought of getting it legally stopped.  That’s crazy talk!  We’d shake our heads, maybe.  If we were close enough to the couple in question, we may try to talk them out of it, but that’s the extent.  Even when the preacher says “If there be any here to oppose this union, speak now…” not a one of us went and got the *government* to stop the union, by law, even if we tried to talk the clergyman out of it (although I’ve never known anyone to even go that far…).

It’s the same thing here.  I, personally, don’t get the concept that marriage of two men or two women is any different than my own opposite-sex marriage, but I understand that people I love and respect do, for whatever reason.

That’s still absolutely no reason to support legal denial of equal rights, rationally or personally.

Point the Fifth: The religion thing.  While this has absolutely NO legal bearing on the issue–your religion beliefs (or mine) cannot infringe on others’ rights–because this is a *conversation*, I include this.  At least from the Christian perspective.

Jesus never said a single word about gay marriage.  Not one.  While there are a tiny handful of scriptural verses that appear to speak against sexual relations between same-sex persons, Jesus never had anything to say about it. Scriptures also support many things we, today, thousands of years later, find totally abhorrent and repugnant, such as selling one’s daughters, marrying one’s rapist, and keeping slaves.  We know enough to say, “Well, those were different times, and we can adjust to today’s world without keeping those things…” yet, too often, we suddenly throw out Leviticus’s laws (taken out of context) as somehow static and unchanging.  Without any logical reasons why. Scriptures also prescribe things that, thousands of years later in different climates with different lives, we simply find silly (like laws keeping menstruating women separate, or rules on how to holily de-mold one’s home). Again, we’re quite able to put those things in the “times change” cupboard, but if we see a few words about what appears to be homosexuality, we tend to freak out a little.

I don’t get that.

And back to Jesus.  Again, not a word about it.  But–and this is important–he DID have things to say about remarriage after divorce.  As in, it’s wrong. Utterly. Wrong.  Yet, in nearly every case (nearly), the same religious people, and the same religious churches, who deny gay couples the same benefit of marriage *will* do this for, or support, previously-divorced folks.

Look, I’m on my second (and last) marriage. I’m divorced.  By all rights, if we followed Jesus’s words, no church, no Christian clergy, should have blessed my marriage with Justin. No Christian person should support my current marriage (even if they love and support me).  Yet, they do (and have), thankfully. Not because Jesus was wrong, perhaps (if you’re a Scriptural purist), but because, as Jesus said, love is what matters, and love is more important than the law.

Also, if we allow Biblical views to dictate laws (and civil rights) in the United States, the government should not recognize any second marriages (after divorce).

Again, this fifth point of mine is not intended to be a rational, Constitutional argument for marriage equality.  It’s not.  However, because the vast majority of people who are against marriage equality are so because of their Christian beliefs, I wanted to address this.  And, because the people I love who catalyzed my making this blog entry are, indeed, Christian people (and fine, loving, generous, decent people to boot), I thought I’d include it.

Anyway, what this all boils down to is that I support marriage equality because it’s the right thing to do.  Historically, constitutionally, religiously.  And I hope you’ll at least entertain this a while, and I truly hope that between now and November, you’ll find it in your hearts to vote No.  If not, I’ll still love you. But turn this around in your heads a bit, in your hearts, and see what happens.


Marriage is marriage.


I’m Here!

Sort. Pack. Stack. Load. Unload. Sort. Store.


Yeah, so we’ve all moved before.  I’ve moved (at last count) 12 or 13 times. But this summer had the added excitement of not only moving my and my husband’s household (which is still in-process), but move my parents’ household and sell their house, AND move my mother’s room from one Alzheimer’s care facility to another one.

And our combined five cats.

While I’m preparing for a new teaching position, with totally new courses, in a whole new part of the state.

The fact that I’m actually using a computer in my new home, hooked up to internet, with a coffee mug full of coffee that was actually brewed right here and isn’t from a Starbuck’s paper cup (not that there’s a Starbucks here in east-central rural Minnesota) is a testament to all the hard work done by my husband, my father, our loyal and selfless friends and family members, and my in-laws.

So, while I have a minute (I’m taking a break from my course planning, as classes start in THREE DAYS [gasp]) I’ll share some of the truly lovely things I’ve noticed about my new town, new school, and new life living with “my guys” (my 87-year-old father and my husband, and, again, our five cats).

I love, love, LOVE my new house. Seriously.  It’s so great that all the consternation over getting it (see previous entries) is worth it, several times over.  I’m undeserving of this, and so very, very lucky. I’ll share some of my favorite snapshots over the last couple of weeks so you can see what I’m talking about.

My backyard, during a light rain. Seriously. I live here.


Having breakfast with my husband in the gazebo.

Scandinavian collection on mantle on one of the TWO fireplaces.

A fibromite's dream bathroom!

I love my new town; everyone I’ve come into contact with from the hardware store to the grocer’s to the pharmacy to the cell phone shop have been delightful and extremely helpful. I’ve been enjoying the farmers’ markets around, and natural resources.

Behind our woods, there are forest trails!

Farm Market Café, in Onamia, MN...uses all local ingredients from local markets.

I love my new school!   The administration and faculty and staff have been some of the loveliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met. I’ve laughed with my colleagues, and been included on gatherings, all week during in-service, and my initial reactions to the school during my interview (I thought it was welcoming and happy) have been borne out. I’m excited to begin my new professional life here.


My new universe. 🙂

Hay and Meditation

I’ve been known for a few things for all my life: I doodle, I’m stubborn, and I have zero patience. This summer has shown me a clever (read: frustrating) way to combine all three!

As I’ve been talking about, we (husband, father, all our collective cats, and I) have been planning a move across the state. Good things afoot. Found the perfect house, one I can’t wait to move into. Which obviously means, of course, that it’s time for the obstacles to enter, stage right. Getting a loan, having inspections, and now finding out how best to get the septic system up to code in order to get the loan when the sellers may not wish to comply.

And it’s been a holiday weekend.

And our loan officer seems to be mostly…MIA and uncommunicative.

I like the pace set at the beginning of this process.  I interviewed on May 26. I was offered the job on May 31. I resigned my old job June 1 and formally accepted the new position June 3. That same day, the 3rd, we found the house we wanted. We put in an offer on June 6th. Wow.  Whirlwind of changes!  Here we goooooooooooOOOOOOOOO!

And then…wait. Look at clock. Panic. Draw diagrams of new house.  Color-code the placement of furniture based on which house and which room the pieces are coming from.  Fret.  Rearrange.  Color-code some more.  Sketch some more.


Refuse to dream too much about the house because it would be heartbreaking to lose it.  Offer accepted (with some changes), inspection completed (with further changes).

Dig heels in, get good news, and finally start to relax and dream about the place.  Smile a lot.

Stubborn, but Smiling

Stubborn, but Smiling

Then, the septic system snafu (tension tends to run to the alliterative). Still in the process of this one, and I’m losing years off my life, here. While I don’t want to hear a definite “no” to this house, this limbo sucks, too, and there’s nothing else in the area in our price range.  I start my new job next month. Things are crazy!

There’s nothing left for me to doodle about (digitally or otherwise). Being stubborn will only go so far. And now, my patience is completely and totally gone.

Send help. I’ll be the one braying while holding a pencil and hitting my head against the wall, drowning in boxes.

My Joy Looks Like Kittens

Twig the Fairy, on Twitter, just tweeted “What does your joy look like today?”

Good question, and timely. I’ve spent what little of the day I’ve been awake for doing unpleasant things. I’ve been trying to get things lined up for the mortgage on the new house despite lousy communication among two different bankers at the same bank (who don’t seem to share information), my father in another town without e-mail, and our realtor (okay, this last has great communication–thanks, Bonnie!). Additionally, the house here is in chaos–more so than usual–because of the packing and boxes everywhere.

And, on top of that, Dad called after his followup visit with the eye doctor a week post-cataract surgery, with bad news: The new lens has partially detached because of his having had shingles in that eye, and the tissue being unhealthy. He’s going to have to go to Minneapolis on Monday to have it redone by another doctor, one who’ll sew the new lens in rather than trust in the tissue to do the work. Aside from the “ewwwww” factor, Dad certainly doesn’t need the stress.  The whole moving thing is keeping him on edge.

So, what does my joy look like?  Angry and confused black scribbling, perhaps?

angry scribble

angry scribble

Perhaps this needs a re-vision.

  • I’m joyful that my Dad is not in pain.
  • I’m joyful that I’m available to take Dad to Minneapolis, despite the fact that he kept apologizing for my having to (apologizing for *what*, I kept saying; he’s my *Dad*…this is what we do, and besides, going on trips with him is fun!)
  • I’m joyful that the house we want and have been dreaming of isn’t yet off the table; it’s just a bit rocky getting there, thus far.
  • I’m joyful that my awesome husband just brought me tunafish sandwiches!

I’m alive, and loved, and while things may be stressful and chaotic right now, my life is that of royalty compared to much of the world, and it seems somewhat shameful to complain about things when I have it so good.  Today, I get to eat my sandwiches, post on a blog, pack some more clothes and books, watch a Twins game, and maybe read a book later, or knit, or go for a walk.

So, today?  My joy looks like this:

Alzheimer’s, a Bloody Thief

My mother has Alzheimer’s disease; she is in about stage 6 (of 7), from what I can tell. She also suffers from spinal stenosis which has limited her ability to stand and walk, so she’s wheelchair bound, as well.  The last few years have been Hell, especially on my father as he’s not only been her spouse of 60-plus years (they’ll celebrate their 65th anniversary this upcoming December), but decider, caregiver, and advocate. Until quite recently, my father–himself nearly 88 years old, now–cared for her at home, alone, including feeding and bathing and bathrooming, as well as taking care of house cleaning, gardening, mowing, snow removal, shopping, bills, and all the tasks that life necessitates.  While she’s spent short periods of time in various nursing home facilities, she’s been home, with Dad, until January of this year, when he finally placed her permanently in a Memory Care unit.

Mom and Dad, circa 1995

Mom and Dad, circa 1995

Then, he promptly got sick himself and nearly died.  Twice.

Dad’s on the road to recovery from kidney and heart failure, but he’ll likely not regain all of what he was before his illnesses in February; he lost forty pounds, first of all, and didn’t have that much to spare to begin with.  He’s gained a few back and we hope to help–with Justin’s cooking–in his gaining twenty pounds more back (his goal) after we all move in together this summer.

Dad & Muffin, Feb. 2011

Dad & Muffin, Feb. 2011

I bring this up because today, Justin and I were in my parents’ town to celebrate Father’s Day.  Dad had gone to “break Mom out” of the home for dinner, so we all went out then returned to their home so Justin could help move some boxes (my father’s far more along on packing than we are, to no one’s surprise, despite his having had eye surgery only days ago, the use of only one arm, and being shaky while walking with a cane). I sat with Mom while Dad directed Justin and the handcart.

And I was totally unprepared for my response to Mom’s current stage of dementia.

Alzheimer’s, I’m finding, not only transitions with very blurry edges in the patient, but tends to sneak up and surprise the Hell out of the family members, as well. I’ve visited with Mom, in person, at least weekly for months now, so it’s not like there’s been a lot of time elapsed. I just was at her place on Thursday, four days ago.  But today, sitting with her in their Den, despite the fact that she was in a terrific mood and happy and laughing (and had been flirting with the waiter, in Norwegian), broke my heart.

My mother, the wordsmith, the woman who’s never been quiet more than two minutes in her whole life, the veteran teacher who taught grade school for forty years, who’s read and promoted quality language use her whole life, no longer has the ability to use the right words.

Mom, heading to California, c. 1944

Mom, heading to California, c. 1944

I’ve noticed this before, mind you; here and there.  It frustrates her, but I’ve always been able to understand what she was trying to say.  Often, she’s incorporated a word or concept spoken behind her (or on TV) into her own communication, but it’s been easy enough to follow.

Not today.  Today was an entirely different beast. A very ugly one.

She was speaking in word salad. Grammatically correct (as always, bless her heart); using the right parts of speech, correct syntax. But none of the words meant anything that she wanted to say.  Worse, when she’d ask one of us a question and wait for an answer, and none of us had the first clue what she was asking. It was as if she were randomly selecting words from pages in a dictionary, without any tangible connection to her thoughts that I could discern.

My parents, husband, and I: July 2007

My parents, husband, and I: July 2007

I turned off the TV, hoping that would help.  No.  I sought to find patterns in initial letters, or concepts, or images, but could find none.  Her brain seemed to simply be supplying words chosen by a roll of the dice.  And she had no control, and worse–she realized she had no control.

She attempted to maintain her sense of humor, and to keep communicating, but I was horribly frustrated and–to my own shame–embarrassed. Not of her, exactly, but of the whole situation. Damned mad, which I process by becoming overly anxious and short.  More than once, I left the room to find something to do to get away from the incomprehensible communications, and then I felt bad for doing that.

Next time, I hope to be more prepared for this.  I hope to find a way to communicate with words even when the words haven’t any meaning.  She could understand us just fine, which is helpful, but I can’t imagine being my mother, being the woman I’ve known, without being able to verbally express my thoughts. What a horrible, cruel, worthless shitty joke to play on her.

I hate Alzheimer’s more than ever, today. Hate it. Hate it more than cancer, waaaaay more than fibromyalgia or Hashimoto’s disease, more than anything.

Alzheimer’s has just robbed my mother of her greatest joy.

My parents and I, Mother's Day 2011

My parents and I, Mother's Day 2011