Wednesday, September 21, 2022

World Alzheimer's Awareness Month

September brings the equinox and autumn. It's also World Alzheimer's Month. 


By accident (or a grand design of which I'm unaware), two of my Alzheimer's-related publications have come out this month.


Here, read my review at Minola Review of Four Umbrellas: A Couple's Journey Into Young-Onset Alzheimer's. It's an exceptional book by June Hutton & Tony Wanless, in which Tony shares insights into his experience of dementia. Here's an excerpt from my review:


We all have a near-inexhaustible capacity to fool ourselves. No one wants to acknowledge their own mental confusion. No one wants to see dementia in the face that is resting on the pillow next to theirs. It took great courage to write this book.


We should all read it. Statistics suggest that if you don't know someone with dementia now, you will soon. 


Luckily, people -- generous, motivated, creative people -- with lived experience, people who love someone with dementia, and perhaps have cared for them, also write books. 


Here's an interview in the Miramichi Reader with Sheridan Rondeau, author of Dear Braveheart: A Caregiver's Loving Journey Through Alzheimer's Dementia (Crossfield Publishing).   


She cared for her husband, "Tony," at home during his time with dementia. Her insights and perspective can be a gentle companion for others in that situation. It was a pleasure to read her book and speak with her. 


I wrote recently about the pleasures and curiosities of "pulling back the curtain" and peeking behind the scenes. Sometimes it's fun (a movie's outtakes); sometimes it's engaging (creative competition show). 


And sometimes it's a responsibility for those of us who haven't been there to go there. That's why we broaden our reading habits to seek out #ownvoices whose experiences in society are different from ours. That's how we learn what we don't know. That's where we get ideas and energy and courage to change unequal power dynamics.


In some cases, that's how we prepare to be a better member of our community, or a better parent, sibling, friend, or "offspring" (my father's word when his "children" were adults with children of their own). 


That's why you should read books like these -- not for the curiosity or because they're scandalous, like some clickbait article on co-stars who are also having an affair. But because they let you see more fully.


If you've read a book like this, you might better understand what you're looking at. For example, when a woman filling a prescription huddles with a pharmacist for the "this is the first time for this medication" conversation, you might have insight into why she and the pharmacist both have tears in their eyes. 


Or on other errands: You might have more patience for the steely-haired older woman in the bank who's trying to keep her companion, a blank-faced white-haired woman, engaged without bothering others. The patient fifty-something woman in the coffee shop who repeatedly hands an elderly gentleman his handkerchief.


They're all part of the full range of human experience, often invisible, but still there. Where someone we know and love -- or ourselves -- might be someday.


Read these books, and books like them. Please.    



 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Holiday

I'm enjoying a hit-or-miss kind of September. Lots of hits of family and new experiences; lots of misses of being in my "upstairs office," doing work at the computer.


I'll be back sometime later this month. Until then, enjoy.




Rocks under water


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Inspection

So I’ve been thinking about looking deeply into things. Pulling back the curtain. Showing what happens behind the scenes.


Incident 1: When I was at the dentist early this summer, he poked and drilled while I sat benumbed and reclined. Then he brought me upright in the chair and handed me a mirror. He was excited to show me the series of cracks in my back molars (and several other teeth), the stains everywhere, and the big hole he’d created and was about to fill. Yay!


Because I’m a compliant person, most of the time, I looked in the mirror he was holding, but I really didn’t care. I know I didn’t muster enough enthusiasm to please him, but then again, a. No one could (he was pretty enthusiastic), b. I’ve been disappointing dentists and dental hygienists longer than he’s been alive so I’m used to it, and c. Basically, making a dentist happy is not my emotional labour to perform.


Consider the hydrangea, if that's what this is:
it neither toils nor spins. It knows for whom
it performs emotional labour.



Incident 2: A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to inspect the bottom of an almost empty water storage tank, capacity something like 250 gallons. Several buckets of sludge had already been removed and the sides had been scrubbed.


When invited, I happily hopped up to stand on the bottom of an overturned plastic pail and peer into the tank through the top hatch. I could see the bottom. The water was completely clear. It was a mystical, magical moment.


Why? I’ve wondered what made the difference between seeing the details of my mouth and the details of our water storage system.


I’m pretty curious, so I have a vague interest in the inner workings of a lot of different things. Just not my mouth, I guess. Related: recently I got to see a super special image of the inside of my husband’s eye. It was very cool.



The sun sets, not without drama,
but perhaps without pain.



But that made me think about when it is and isn’t interesting to see the inner workings of things. Why yes to the eye and the cistern but no to my teeth?


OK, the teeth thing involved needles and pain. But beyond that.


So I started thinking about glimpses “backstage.” Mostly on TV.


One allure of the competition show as a genre is to see people like aspiring models, clothing designers, and bakers at work. I like to see musicians try different interpretations of a song or spontaneously goof around together. How do other people in other artistic disciplines create?


Same with the home reno ouvre, also a creative pursuit, but for a slightly different reason: it’s fun to see a house stripped to studs and reassembled, all in the course of an hour, from the comfort of my chair. It’s satisfying when order becomes chaos and then a new order again.


Same with a behind-the-scenes look at making a movie—it can be as interesting as the movie itself.


Not yet, but never far away. 



But I’m a generalist, not a specialist. I don’t want to spend extra time with the director and set designer of every single movie I see. I’m not so keen on all the different competitive cooking shows that I never miss an episode, though that Great British Baking Show is beguiling. I’d happily watch more Project Runway, but the open concept floor plan has lost its allure.


And I’m “so over” police investigations into missing and murdered people. Maybe they’re the equivalent of the dentist with the mirror.


And so? In searching for a conclusion, I admit defeat.


I think it’s human nature to be curious about how things work, but we’re not all curious about the same things.


That’s good—I have zero curiosity about electricity, though I appreciate the curiosity and expertise of electricians every time I flip a light switch.


The end.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What I’m Taking Into September

My courage with both hands, mostly. In September, I’m traveling for the first time since October 2, 2019. (I found a receipt in my US wallet.) I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do. But much of it is. So, a risk.


Manitoba Maple starting to change


Quantifiably reduced expectations. It’s really helpful to specify how many pages of an interminable project I aspire to finish in a month (and then cut that by a third), as opposed to hoping that somehow I’ll magically finish the whole thing and being disappointed when I don’t.


I think this green plant is a lupin;
it's spread farther in the ditch
where they grew this year. Readying
for next year?


Wild blueberries, enjoyed this year and stored for next. I made a couple of awesome desserts, and we’ve got a stash of berries in the freezer. Since we had zero local blueberries last summer, a freezer full feels both magical and mundane. 



Is the world, ever so slowly, righting itself again? Stabilizing? So, so slowly? 


And if not -- or if this sense of balance, possibility, and normalcy is also only temporary -- can I enjoy it for this moment? There's the bigger question.












 


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Perfect Word

The wee scene below caught my eye the other day, when it wasn’t raining and I was out for a walk

A small yellow weedy wildflower
grows through a crack in the asphalt.




It made me laugh because it’s begging to be an inspirational poster on the wall of some business conference room.


Then I started wondering which word it would illustrate.


Persistence? Inevitability? Endurance? Imperfection?


Maybe a phrase. “Allow space to grieve,” or “You can grow anywhere you want,” or “Imperfection is where the good stuff happens.” And of course, an obvious choice: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”


Nevertheless. Love it.


So. Perhaps, just perhaps, there isn’t one perfect word or phrase for this photo. The “right” phrase depends on your perspective. And there are millions of those.


I hope you’re enjoying your Wednesday, whether you’re the weed, the asphalt, the observer, the sun, or a fawn who’d like a little snack while crossing the street.


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Summer Days

It’s Mid-August in a year that’s included fawns and chipmunks, squirrels and crows, clean water and clean new sheets, burgers on the barbecue, and The Great British Baking Show.


And I’m enjoying it beyond all reason. Who wants to listen to reason in August?


Morning sun breaks through clouds.

Doe watches photographer while fawn gambols.

Fawn gambols some more.

Fawn butts doe's flank;
surely s/he's weaned?
Maybe not yet?

Sunset lights up the evening sky.


I was not a huge fan of the movie Grease, but Olivia Newton-John made the world better, and we will miss her.  
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Numb

I've been thinking a lot about grief lately. I imagine we all have. All of us humans.


Eight years ago, I took
my cute boots out in the canoe.
We had fun. 



Whether we are or aren't "coming out of the pandemic," we have definitely been IN one, and that has held grief. Birthdays missed. Hell, births missed. Deaths, too. All kinds of celebration of life. 


As society changes, in whatever way it changes in the next 2.5 years, those changes can cause new pain. 


Perhaps I didn't have a "productive" stretch during the pandemic. Perhaps I have redefined "productive" and live a far happier life, more connected to things that matter. Perhaps I have merely survived. No "merely" about it, though.


In any case, I am considering today whether I (and we, as a society) have been misunderstanding grief. It's not like I haven't experienced it before, and I know more grief lies in the days ahead. 


As does more joy. Make no mistake, I know that, too.


Today I had a(nother) dental appointment. I'm getting two back molars crowned this summer, and I have whined about it before. I acknowledge my privilege in having dental insurance at all, to say nothing of the wherewithal to pay premiums and copays. But it's just not pleasant, okay?


Waiting for the "numbing," as the dentist calls it, to wear off is always interesting. I'm continually poking or patting at my cheek, my tongue, my lips. Can I feel them now? Here? No, how about there? Maybe. Et cetera. 


And then, whoosh, the numb spots are gone. Today, sensation returned to my face after 3.75 hours. In the space of about 5 minutes, I went from "is that gnarly thing in my mouth my tongue?" to "hey, there's skin on my cheek and I can feel my lips!"


And yep, that's how I still thought grief works. Like in the movies: there's a montage where our protagonist drags herself out of bed in January, sometimes falling back into bed with a bottle of wine, but generally mooching around the house in her bathrobe while calendar pages flip, and then it's March and trees are budding and she wakes up and goes, "Oh, I feel better! I'm going to be okay."


Feeling returns. The good kind. Energy enough to overcome inertia, to return to some semblance of a former self. 


But I'm guessing that's not how it works. Or how it will work, for some of us, this time. Because while we've all experienced a pandemic, we haven't had the same experience. And that's not all the painful experiences that some of us are experiencing.


Funny (not haha) how old assumptions lie there, waiting to be questioned. 


Now that I have, I won't be wondering where all my old energy is. I can be open to whatever energy I have. And look for that joy.