Wednesday, October 22, 2014


During my week-long visit with my mom, I found myself making wishes.

I wish my mom did not have Alzheimer's.
I wish her brain was completely healthy.
I wish her thoughts were unfuddled and her memories clear.
I wish she was living out her golden years with comfort and serenity, clear in her sense of who she is and what her life has been.
I wish my mom was whole again.

Sadly, I know that my wishes cannot come true, at least not in this lifetime. And I am learning to make my peace with that.

During the same week, my mom had just one wish.

My mom wished for a homemade peanut butter cookie.

And happily, I was able to make her wish come true.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Own Life

Not gonna lie. When I am staying with my mom, she works me like a dog. 

Wait. If Ranger's life is any indication, dogs live a life of utter leisure. Better pick another metaphor. 

Let's say she keeps me as a bee in a field full of clover. For example, every evening, Mom gives me marching orders and critiques my progress as I am:

Cooking her dinner, 
Preparing her plate, 
Pouring her milk,  
Buttering her bread, 
Clearing her plate,
Washing the dishes,
Cleaning the kitchen, 
Taking out the trash. 

There often seems to be no end to the directions and demands, and last night, as I dragged four heavy bags of garbage out of the garage and into a rainy drizzle, I felt like I was twelve years old again. In wordless resentment, I recalled the frustration of feeling out of control, of forcing myself to unwillingly submit to a bossy parent, of knowing that my life didn't truly belong to me yet.  I dreamed, in those days, of all the things I hoped to someday become - college graduate, homeowner, wife, mother, adventurer, and all-around satisfied human being. I had no desire to help my mom with her life; I craved my own life. 

The rain pitter-pattered on my back as I double-checked the knot on each wet bag and carefully piled them in a big black heap by the street. Upon completing my task, I straightened up and saw this. 

Holy moly, what a sunset! Though rainclouds filled the sky overhead, off to the west, the gloom thinned and the setting sun brought the distant horizon alive with color. As I paused to admire the scene, a series of thoughts flashed through my mind 

West. The sun sets in the west. 

When I was a girl, "out west" was a magical idea. During my childhood years, I never got any further than Colorado, but the west represented an unknown, untamed frontier of unimaginable adventure, and a land of unlimited possibility. This vague notion of a place filled me with dreams.

Now, the west is my home. On the far edge of this continent, all my girlhood dreams for the future have come true. Granted, I graduated college and got married here in Great Lakes country,  but most of my adult life has happened in the west.

My four daughters were born and raised in the west.

I found my dream house in the west, and made it into a home. 

My amazing students and awesome friends share my life in the west. 

My adventures around the world always lead me back to the west. 

The west represents the life I have made for myself, a life that makes me happy and proud and satisfied indeed. 

Suddenly, the weight of those childish resentments flew off my shoulders and as the raindrops fell lightly against my face, I saw my mom's demands in a whole new light. 

So you know what I did? I marched back into the house, and asked my mom what else I could do. Because now that I have my own life, I am perfectly happy to help out with hers. 

Mom's Makeovers

Though she would surely protest that her tastes are humble and plain, my mom has always had a knack for decorating her home. In the years of raising her family, she didn't always have a lot of money to work with? But Mom has been DIYing since the days when sewing, sanding and making from scratch were just part of a good day"s work, and she hallways found a way to make the best of what she had on hand.

In the golden years of her life, Mom sold our old lakeside home and moved to a brand spanking new condo in town.  As a part of that transition, she set aside a nice budget to surround herself with lovely things, and this new place has been practically picture perfect from Day One. 

However, Mom is also a classic tweaker. Like most decor mavens, she's continually rearranging artwork, swapping out seasonal elements, and bringing in new treasures to freshen up the mix. That updating energy has been part of her decor style all her life and continues to this very day. 

So it is with great curiosity that I've watched her home evolve over these past months, as her Alzheimer's has taken a firmer foothold in her brain. Each time I pull up her drive to begin a new visit, I take a deep breath, wondering if her chaotic mindset has finally begun to reflect itself in her home. 

The answer is a most definite no. Take a look at these freshly revamped scenes from my mother's house and see for yourself

^  Last August, Mom decided to revamp her living room mantel. She brought the art in from another space, and added the pewter candlesticks with the coordinating candles in a deep rich red. The ivy on the right, she pointed out, repeats the cascading effect of the planted window boxes in the framed street scene. And her new purchase, the rustic red oversize pitcher on the hearth, completes the Tuscan mood. 

^ A few years back, my youngest brother got Mom hooked up with a wall-mounted TV and so began the challenge of creating an interesting vignette that complements but does not fight the big black rectangle. Starting with a pair of mid-century walnut dressers to ground the arrangement, she recently added two black-framed seasonal prints to relate to the TV, and layered in a carefully chosen handful of flowers, framed family photos, seasonal knick-knacks and an antique tea set. Oh, and on football Saturdays, she brings out that small hand-carved wooden M (for University of Michigan!), created by one of my brothers as a teen, to bring special luck to the gridiron. 

^ Back at the lake house, my mom filled this old plant stand with red geraniums and plopped it out on our shady back deck. When she moved to her new place, the stand was stashed in the basement and almost forgotten. But this last winter, when my mom noticed the new wave of succulent mania sweeping through her local mega-market, she carried it upstairs and brought it babk to life. Within a few weeks of careful purchases including the plants, containers, and little gardener dude at the top, whom she adores, this look was complete. 

^ Last spring, after years of wrestling to grow annuals on her hot deck, Mom picked up these self-watering railing-mounted planter boxes. Simple, smart, and  styled with yellow marigolds and blue alyssum (which had worn out by September)), and accompanied by a pot of pink geranium, these boxes brought spunk to her view from summer right into fall. 

^ A field of red poppies on green stems, bright and bold ar the front and fading to gentle pinks and peaches to create the illusion of depth. My mom saw this oversize painting in a catalog last fall and fell in love. Though there are several small groupings of art clustered around her dining table, my mom chose to highlight this piece on a wall all its own. The effect is magical. 

* * * * *

I'll be the first to admit that my mom's decor may not be everyone's cup of tea. Heck, sometimes it's not even my cup of tea. But for a woman who daily struggles to dress herself or even remember where she is, I'd say my mom's makeovers show remarkable clarity and cohesion of mind. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to help Mom decide on the perfect spot for her new Christmas pillow. Isn't it adorable?!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Swinging Sticks

She was walking up this hill as I was driving down. 

From the beginning, I felt like I was dreaming. My car purred quietly as I wound around the narrow dirt roads of the neighborhood where I grew up. Alone, I was lost in blissful childhood memories spent exploring this lakeside paradise.

But the instant I laid eyes on her, my mood snapped from dreamy to surreal. A little girl, maybe seven years old, with tousled blonde hair walked up the hill toward me in a pair of muddy boots. Like a true country girl, she claimed the very center of the lane and skipped over to the grassy edge only when my car came close. 

I could tell she was an adventurer. She walked with easy confidence, at a relaxed yet purposeful pace. With shoulders back and head held high, she was obviously drinking in the nuances of the scene with all her senses. She carried a nice big stick. 

And she was alone. Happily, contentedly, comfortably alone. 

I felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning. 

I felt like I had fallen through a wormhole. 

I felt like I had traveled back through the mists of time to the years of my own childhood. 

Because I felt like I was looking at myself. 

For an instant, I thought of stopping and talking to her. I wanted to tell her that I used to live here when I was her age. I wanted her to know that I carried sticks and wore muddy boots and looked for adventures, just like her. I wanted to ask her to show me her favorite trees, her favorite hide-outs, her favorite secrets. 

But I knew that if she really was like me, that would be way too much attention from a strange adult. Too many questions. Too many invasions into a private world of dreams. 

So I just drove slowly past her, squeezing my car against the tree branches on the right side of the lane so that she had plenty of room to swing her stick on the right.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

With The Windows Down

If ever a photo captured the true nature of a soul and the pure joy of a moment, it is this one.

Taken probably five years ago, and recently rediscovered in a dark corner of my Dropbox, this shot captures six-ish-year-old Ranger riding in the backseat of our Toyota Yaris. With his head completely out of the wide-open window,  fur blown back in a river of red, his expression reveals the ecstasy of scent and sensation he must be feeling. 

Thank you, dear Ranger, for reminding me to breathe deep, to savor every moment for what it's worth, and to always, always, ride with the windows down. 
* * * * *

Photo credit to Tessa, who knows exactly when to snap the shutter. 

Luna In The Leaves

This is Luna.

He is a straightforward cat.

Well. Except for the fact that at first, we thought he was a girl.

He turned out to be a boy.

But that's fine. We had already decided to call him Luna, which is kind of a girly name, but we figured he could handle it.

Luna is cool like that.

Once the runt of an abandoned litter, Luna makes up for his still-delicate stature with an easy calm and relaxed confidence that makes me smile. His silky black body moves fluidly, with the grace that only the most nimble of cats can possess.

He is the kind of cat who slips out the door each day and sails off over the back fence for a life that we know nothing about. He comes back at his own discretion, eats with wild abandon, then curls up wherever he darn well pleases for a good hard nap.

Two or three times, he has returned home with some mysterious wounds. We have no idea what kind of mischief our Luna may have found, but he takes his troubles in stride. He may lay low for a day or two, but soon enough he is back in his routine, no worse for wear.

Luna, it has been said, is a cat's cat. So true. He loves us, his people, with warm affection. But the heart and soul of his life is spent out in the suburban jungle, as if he were a tiny black panther.

The other day, I was quite surprised to discover Luna uncharacteristically lounging in the middle of the front yard, relaxed yet highly attentive to the sights and sounds of his territory. I loved catching this rare glimpse into our boy's mostly private outdoor life, and cherish this little scene of Luna in the leaves.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dream Daily

One of the really lovely things about the evening sunset is that it gives me a moment, every 24 hours, 
to pause, 
to reflect,
to wonder,
to imagine the possibilities of how life could be different. 

Watching the sky fill with light as the sun slips to horizon is the perfect time for me to dream daily, and I try to take full advantage of that miracle.