Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Freestyle Fridays: A Story of Love and Adventure

Coping with a Parent Living with Alzheimer’s

Two weeks ago I guest posted on a wonderful blog called . Actually, it was a conversation with Kerry about my parents, who are about to embark on a journey back to Colombia. This time my mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s and my folks seek a better life. Thanks Kerry for the opportunity!
Kerry: The idea of your dad taking your mom back to Colombia for better care in the spirit of their adventurous marriage really warms my heart and makes me tear up. True love is so inspirational and they seem to have it.
Jeannie parentsJeannie: Yes, my best self agrees completely. But the child inside, the one who will greatly miss the touch of my mother’s hand and her still-strong hugs, is the one who thinks the whole idea is very, very bad. One of my brothers is a chaplain, and I told him my biggest fear is that when we say goodbye on March 2nd it will be the last time she will remember my name. He sighed and said, “Jeannie, she’s going to forget you.” It made me realize that will be true no matter where she lives.
Kerry: When was your mom diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
Jeannie: Her Alzheimer’s came on suddenly, on May 17, 2012, when she didn’t recognize my dad, and wanted him to leave the house. Now she knows who he is most of the time, but she has very limited short-term memory. I miss our conversations most – the laughter about some crazy situation my dad has gotten into – but we’ve been able to stay connected. We talk about the weather, the room we’re in, the food.  She’s from Oklahoma, and we love to sing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from the musical. I’m so grateful Mom always has a smile on her face, even though it must be awful for her world to be so incomprehensible. Dad had to put Mom in a nursing home this past summer because she kept falling. It’s a nice place, but they prefer my dad leave around 2 o’clock each day.
Kerry: I can’t imagine the pain your dad must feel leaving her every afternoon. Will they live together again or will she be in a nursing home in Colombia?
Jeannie:  My Dad and one brother went to Cali a few months back to see where my parents could live, and they found an assisted living arrangement where Mom and Dad can live together again. The place is near some of Dad’s friends, the healthcare will be fine, and it’s much less expensive!
Kerry: I’m glad they’ve been close enough for you to visit, but I know you must be tired from traveling back and forth so often to see them. How far away do they live?
Jeannie: They are in Montgomery, Alabama, a three-hour drive from here. They’ve lived there for the past 15 years. Before that, they were Baptist missionaries to Colombia for 30 years. I grew up there, from age 2 to 17, and returned for visits up until their move to the States.
Kerry: Their move to Colombia seems like a big deal. How are you handling all of this, Jeannie?
Jeannie: I was pretty heartbroken at the thought of them moving so far away, but I turned a corner when I realized I would get to share pandebono, delicious cheese bread, with my husband and two daughters when we visit my parents in Colombia.
Kerry: So you’ll visit your parents once they get settled back in Colombia…for the bread? Haha! What a great way to revisit your childhood and maybe your kids can see where you grew up!
Jeannie: Yes! I think people who grow up overseas have a hard time sharing their culture with their American families. It’s almost like we have to close off a part of ourselves. With the pandebono I realized I will finally get to share my childhood with my family. My girls will see with childlike eyes what I saw, and that’s so exciting!  I’m also looking forward to meeting up with school friends, seeing the amazing Andes mountains, and being in my beautiful vibrant city again.
I haven’t traveled overseas with my blond, blue-eyed daughters, though, and the thought of taking them to South America terrified me. Then I remembered my parents did the same thing when my brothers and I were ages 2, 4, 5, and 7. Compared to that, taking a 13- and 16-year-old will be a breeze!
Kerry: Your parents were really brave.
Jeannie: Yes, and committed to their beliefs. But my parents have always put their lives in God’s hands, and that hasn’t changed just because they are now in their 80’s. Dad told me he prayed that if this wasn’t the right thing to do, he wanted God to block the process. But the process has only been smooth and easy, so my brothers and I have to trust that it’s meant to be. It’s God’s will for Dad and Mom; it’s their fate.
Kerry: I know you said you couldn’t meet for writing group on the 2nd because of a big family send-off party for your parents. Tell me about that.
Jeannie: This party came about because I found my cousin Larry’s phone number and called him to tell him about my mom. I expected him to simply give my mom a call, but Larry said he wanted to see my parents before they left for Colombia, and he’s already booked a flight from Colorado to Atlanta for the big sendoff. I wasn’t planning to go to the airport on that sad day, but when Larry turned the event into a party, how could I not? Now my three brothers and their families will be there too, and we’ll take over the Airport Hilton and have fun until we watch them walk through the security gates. And although I worry I might fall apart when I wave Mom and Dad off, at least I know I’ll be surrounded by family. It may seem a little late for my parents to start a new chapter in their lives, but they have never been known to play it safe. They are still teaching me to not be afraid of living life to the fullest.
Kerry: Well, bon voyage to your parents and good luck to you, Jeannie! I look forward to hearing how everything turns out. You’ll be in my thoughts at the sendoff, I’m sure you’ll feel some relief.
Jeannie: Thanks so much for the opportunity to share my crazy story with you and your readers. And I’d love to hear from anyone whose aging parents have retired to a foreign country. I’m sure I’m not alone!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's the Big Idea?

For a few years now I've collected ideas in a notebook on my bedside table. Whenever a business plan, a home improvement project, or a story comes to me, I write it down. So far I'm up to 88 ideas, and many of them involve putting artwork on tee-shirts and selling them. Even more are book ideas. Some concepts are elaborate, others are simple. Most  are completely random, like Number 47: "Come up with a Facebook just for pets. Owners can create pages for their dogs or cats or birds (or whatever) and interact with other people and their pets. I'd call it Petface." (Okay, I never said the concepts were super, but I'm hoping SOMEthing will click by the time I get to the magic 100th idea!)
Chris Zokan's Photos
Where do these ideas come from? One place - almost always. A mind distracted by simple tasks: on a run, in the shower, washing dishes, in the car. And better than any of those places is my meditation cushion.
I love my ideas. I have a feeling the only thing holding me back is the limits I put on the new thoughts I allow, the space I give myself. And in meditation, I'm walking up to the great ocean of ideas and scooping them out by the netful. So why don't I meditate more? Here's another 100 reasons to sit still: http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/05/100-benefits-of-meditation/  
How about you? Where do your ideas come from? Would you put your pet on Petface?




Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Stories I Only Tell My Friends"

Mia Hamm, Nat "King" Cole, Kurt Russell, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. (author of Cheaper by the Dozen), and I have something in common: we were born on March 17.
Rob Lowe and I share a birthday, too, but we were also born in the same year, so I've always been a little more aware of his career moves than of other famous people. (Yes, that's my excuse; what's yours?)
So when Rob wrote a book, I checked it out.  And it's good. Listening to the book on CD in my car, he had me sitting at my destination remembering where I was when St. Elmo's Fire came out, what I thought of the sex-tape scandal, and how impressed I was by The West Wing.
In this best-selling autobiography, Rob isn't just a pretty boy who made a few mistakes along the way. In a smart, insightful, and very honest book, we learn he's one of the few in my generation who actually grew up.
As he looks back on his life so far, Rob invites readers into his world and shares with us the good times, what he learned from the bad, and the humor in all of it.
Have you read it yet? Did you like it as much as I did?

You can find out who shares your birthday - and all sorts of details about the day - at  http://www.paulsadowski.com/Birthday.asp  Among many other things I learned Rob's and my Native American Zodiac sign is the Wolf, the moon's phase on our birthday was a waxing crescent, and that, "Today is not one of your lucky days!" It's Wednesday. Go figure.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wrong Wrong Wrong!

The other day I found out I was wrong about something I was absolutely SURE I'd been right about. After all, I had a lot of company, and we'd been doing this a while! What have so many of us been doing wrong?
We've been putting two spaces after a period where there should only be one. 
When fellow writer Ron Tew passed this advice on from an editor, I made a joke about the editor's credentials. Then I looked it up here http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/OneSpaceorTwo.html?old=  and saw for myself. It seems two spaces are going the way of the typewriter, and the double-spacers of the world will have to adapt.
Being wrong when I'd been so sure I was right was unsettling. What else could I be wrong about? Was I wrong about the spelling of Colombia? Had I been writing with the wrong hand all my life? Could cats actually make good pets?
It hasn't taken long to adjust to the single space, which is good. I've been busy keeping my eyes open for other changes in this unpredictable world, and I've been trying to keep a more open mind since it turns out I don't know everything. Our new kitten Spock is a cuddly, hilarious, and constant reminder that this die-hard dog-lover can be wrong, and that's okay. 
So, have you been wrong lately?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I am a writer - for I have been rejected.

"Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, your manuscript doesn't sound like something that’s right for us. We wish you the best of success in placing your work elsewhere."

The above is the reply to the query I sent six days ago. Maybe later I'll feel disappointed, but for today I'm thrilled! Being rejected by a potential agent is the writer's calling card, and I just got mine, thank you very much.
This email means other things, too. It means I followed this agent's submission guidelines closely enough to deserve a minute of someone's time and an actual reply. It means I can go on to the next potential agent. Oh, and it means I have a manuscript.
That last one may seem obvious, but writers sometimes forget how far they've come. Getting my first rejection is a pretty high rung on my ladder to publishing success - above writing a  novel, rewriting a novel, editing a novel, and repeating the process with a query letter, which is much harder. So for today I'm celebrating the view from this lofty height.
And tomorrow? I guess it's already time to query a few more agents. Wish me luck!
(Photo courtesy of Natalie Sharpston)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Climb Every Mountain

"My most memorable experience as a college-age summer camp counselor (by far) was climbing Mount Elbert. The highest mountain in Colorado, it is an impressive 14,433 feet above sea level. Our leader, an adventure-loving trailblazer of a man, lived to hike mountains and this was not his first time up Elbert. We were in good hands. It took hours to walk through the forest at the mountain's base, but finally we passed the tree line and our hiking took on a more vertical slant. We had to be careful not to start a landslide as we climbed over loose, shale-like rock at a 45-degree angle, but we made it to the snow and up to the summit. Elbert is relatively easy to climb compared to many fourteeners, but the view from the top can't be beat. The only thing comparable is looking out of an airplane. Clouds floated by below us as we studied huge mountains at our feet. It was absolutely astounding to be on top of the world, but scary, too. Gravity seemed a little less strong up there, as if we needed to hang on to the boulders around us or we might just fall up into that deep blue sky.
My trip up Mt. Elbert was a life event that can't be understated, but all I did was show up. I walked hour after hour, followed directions, trusted I was safe, and never gave up until I was on the summit, a small patch of land no bigger than a porch deck. I'm doing the exact same thing with Nanowrimo - writing 1,667 words each day come hell or high water - and I'm beginning to believe this month will have the same impact."
I wrote this on November 17, 2008 for my memoir "One Hundred Times" and am posting it today because on this day, July 17, 2013, I've reached another summit of sorts. "Pity," my YA novel, (which was written during Nanowrimo) is ready, and my first query went to an agent. Barry Goldblatt, I hope you like it!
NOTE: For more information about Mt. Elbert go to: http://www.summitpost.org/mount-elbert/150325