Prisms


As the year draws to a close it’s time to take stock and take inventory of all that’s past.

About a year and a half ago I felt as if a bomb had detonated internally that set off an explosion of emotions affecting my role as caregiver, son, friend and lover.

It was as if everywhere I looked all I could see littered before me was the damage; like shards from a broken glass, no longer able to discern if it were half empty or half full before the blast.

At the time I wondered how I would survive it all, was I strong enough? Was it my fault somehow that I’d attracted so much negative energy into my life?

And as I look back through the kaleidoscope of compartments that I’d lived my life at the time, coloring my world from light to dark there was alot of fault to go round but now I realize that dwelling on assigning blame serves no purpose.

So, as much as I twisted and turned from relationship to kinship, after l looked past the hurt (real or imagined) and disappointment (past and present) what was obscured was the love that should have colored it all.

I firmly believe “that which doesn’t kill us, serves to make us stronger” and I’m still here.

The ‘who, what and why’ of what’s happened aren’t as important as the lessons learned.

I’ve made mistakes and now I’ve made amends.

I’m reminded of the words of a kindly doctor whose books are prescriptions for how children’s (and the child in us all) should heal our lives; “No matter where you go, there you are”.

I remind myself moving forward that there will be bad days but at any moment I have the power to ‘start my day over’, to change my mindset and make my experiences work ‘for’ me and not against me.

If I can accept the negative that comes into my life then I also must embrace the positive that can be made manifest through thought and action.

What I’ve learned is to embrace the life that I have and not covet the life that I thought I’d be living. I can’t long for the fantasy of what might be because then I’d miss the reality of what’s happening in the here and now.

My time here is hardly over, if anything it’s just beginning as I enter my fourth year of caregiving.

On the eve of 2014 my life might not look like what I thought it would be but when I open my eyes each morning who I see reflected back at me through the looking glass is someone that is finally at peace with his time in this place.

#TimetoMaketheDonuts


Time to make the Donuts

My day is not unlike that of Fred, the dutiful baker who goes off to work in the pre-dawn hours to shove dough in and out of the ovens (long before most people are awake and craving their daily doze of sugary pasty) only to come home in the dark of night and do it all over again the next day, and again, and again….well, you get the picture (rather, you’ve just seen the classic television commercial thanks to youtube).

But, instead of donuts my days and nights begin and end in the darkness working for Miss Cathy.

I rise around five a.m. to start my day (for her) by turning off the alarm system located on the kitchen wall and then pulling out whatever breakfast meats or leftover’s she’s going to eat; then into the living room where I turn on the TV, open the blinds and double check that her morning meds are in their container.

This wasn’t always my routine, and Lord knows I haven’t gotten up this early since I was in high school, living at home and part of my chores was to get up (long before I needed to for school) and go out to start my mother’s car to ‘warm’ it up, turn o the heater or a/c for her drive into work….. And irony of ironies, here I am almost forty years later getting up early on mom’s behalf as well….I guess there is a sort of symmetry to that, but I digress.

I’ve learned to do this after many morning where I was startled awake (more than once) by the sound of either the alarm going off (when she’s opened the front door and forgotten the alarm was still on) or it’s the electronic ‘beep-beep’ sound her frantically pushing buttons as she tries to remember and enter the code to disable said alarm system.

Other times I’ve been rudely awakened by the harsh, static noises emanating fro the television when she hits the wrong buttons that have me up with the bakers to get things ready for whenever she starts her day.

I make sure everything is ready just in case she stirs before me, then it’s back to bed for a couple hours before I get up to start ‘my’ day around eight thirty (I have the luxury of being an artist and have spent the majority of my career working for myself so I don’t have to report to an office).

I’ve don’t mind really, it’s quiet and peaceful, much like when she takes a nap in the afternoon or goes to sleep at night.

That’s when I find I can get things done around the house like cooking, laundry, cleaning, making phone calls to set up appointments or paperwork (I call those “administrative days”) without her being underfoot, needing me to any number of little things that add to distracting me form whatever I’m trying to do for me (or for her on her behalf).

At night, after I’ve given her evening meds and a few hours later turned out her light, I cook for the next day, straighten up the living room, clean the kitchen and then I get to have ‘my’ evening; to go for a swim lesson, read, write, watch TV or a film and occasionally to go out for a bit to remember what it feels like to have a life independent of being a caregiver.

Then, all too suddenly it’s time to turn on the alarm and it’s light out for me around midnight or so and before you know it, it’s time to get up to ‘make the donuts’.

Valley of the Dolls: Pt. l


Some days it seems my whole life is pills, pills, pills…or “dolls” as Neely refers to them in the film “Vally of the Dolls”

Miss Neely O’Hara is played by a woefully miscast but brilliantly over the top Patty Duke, trying to earn some adult film role cred after years of playing a dual role as teenaged (get this) “twin” cousins on the popular television show “The Patty Duke Show”

“Gimme my dolls!” she screams at one point to obliterate her pain (or the pain of screaming lines like those).

But, I digress; the pills that rule my life are not ones that I’m screaming for (although Neely may have been onto something).

No, the colorful little pellets I refer to are the prescription medications for Miss Cathy’s daily consumption.

In the mornings she takes:

1) Vitamin D3 1000iu (1 per day) For Bone Health
2) Vitamin B-12 (1 per day) Keep the body’s nerve and
blood cells healthy
3) Losartan Potassium 25mg (1 per day) For High Blood Pressure
4) Folic Acid 1mg (1 per day) For Memory
5) Amlodipine Besylate 10mg (1 per day) For High Blood Pressure
6) Metformin 500 mg (2 per day) For Type 2 Diabetes
7) Escitaopram 5 mg (1 per day) For Anxiety

In the evening she takes:

1) Aspirin 81mg (1 per at nite) Prevention of Blood Clots
2) Donepezil 5mg (1 per at nite) For Alzheimer’s
3) Namenda XR 28mg (1 per at nite) For Alzheimer’s
4) Metformin 500 mg (1 per at nite) For Type 2 Diabetes

As you can see, it’s quite the list and now her neurologists want to add to it!

Time to step back and see if Miss Cathy can fit another ‘doll’ on her shelve.

Before I present the best possible options to mom for her consideration, I (along with her doctor(s) need to access the benefits, effectiveness, side effects, costs and toll of all these medications on her system.

A Caregiver’s Online Guide: TyTips Pt. lll


8) Never lose your temper:

Find a response other than anger if/when your loved one does something that makes you angry

I know, “easier said than done” but practice makes perfect so ‘practice’:
a) Deep breathing
b) Counting to ten (or one hundred)
c) Walking out of the room
d) Telling yourself over and over that its ‘The Alz’ and not your loved one making them act the way they are (which in turn is making you mad)

…Doing whatever you need to do to squash your anger is as individual for the caregiver as the progression of the disease is for your loved one

Remember, anger only begets anger so nothing positive will result from indulging this negative emotion. Besides, your loved one will probably respond in kind or become confused or hurt, none of which should ever be our ‘intention’

9) Not everything your loved one does ‘wrong’ is an opportunity for you to show them how to do it ‘right’:

If your loved one is repeatedly engaging in the wrong behavior then they are probably past ‘teaching’ for the most part (sometimes this change in behavior can be an indication that the disease is progressing and/or other neurological changes are at play.

If you notice that they are starting to get more things ‘wrong’ or different activities/behaviors are becoming a challenge it may be time to take them to see their neurologist for a check-up)

Some behaviors can be modified or re-taught but people diagnosed with dementia have short term memory issues, impaired cognitive skills and decreased problem solving abilities so depending on what stage of the disease they are and their individual manifestations of the disease you (as their caregiver) should adjust your expectations accordingly regarding what they are capable of doing and learning

10) Never scold or chastise your loved one:

Every time something happens that is aggravating, annoying, surprising or disruptive does not necessarily give you license to ‘dress down’ your loved one using harsh words

After you have calmed down, take the time to either explain why their behavior was inappropriate, wrong or upsetting (knowing that they may or may not understand or retain what you have just said and repeat whatever has just happened)

11) Your safety comes first (yes, even above your loved ones):

Do not underestimate the power of the disease by thinking your loved one would never harm you. Do not think that your experience with their ‘non violent’ past persona has anything to do with what they are capable of in the present

If/when (heaven forbid) they become violent, it’s not the time to discuss, negotiate or make the mistake of passively thinking, “They would never hurt me” and not take steps to insure your own safety

Never hesitate to leave the room and lock the door behind you if you feel physically threatened in any way

Remember, even the airlines suggest that you ‘put the breathing device on yourself first, then on your little (loved) one’…translation, if you don’t put your safety first-then how are you going to be able to help some one else

To Be Continued: In the interim, I welcome your comments or suggestions from your own experience

A Caregiver’s Online Guide: TyTips on how to care for your loved one: Pt. ll


4) Don’t ask your loved one to do something that you know they cannot do:

Sometimes we think that a loved one is being ‘lazy’ or not living up to their potential but the reality is that when you see that they are struggling to perform a task (that was previously not a challenge to them) it may be a sign that their disease is progressing, instead of insisting that they ‘can’ do whatever it is that they cannot, accept this as fact and move on

Do not berate them or think that you can turn this into a ‘teaching moment’, in most cases this exercise will only end in their frustration and your anger and disappointment

5) Find a space that is yours:

It’s important to have a room or place where you can go to relax, unwind or decompress from the stress of caring for a loved one

It’s important to create a space that is yours alone to retreat to is yours alone

6) Say good-bye to ‘who’ they used to be and hello to the person they are now:

Trying to get your loved one to ‘act’ or ‘react’ the why they did before they started on the spiral down into dementia is futile

Make peace with the person they are ‘now’ and adjust your expectations and requirements accordingly

Best to mourn the loss of who they used to be and be grateful for the moments when there is a flicker of their former selves

7) Keep to your schedule:

Loved ones with dementia respond well to structure and routine

Do your best to be consistent in your actions and deeds

(For example:

If you say you will take them somewhere at a specific time-do not be late!

If they are used to bath time being at 7 pm-don’t start turn on the shower at 7:30pm!

To Be Continued: In the interim, I welcome your comments or suggestions from your own experience

A Caregiver’s Online Guide: TyTips on how to care for your loved one: Pt. l


The following are a few simple TyTips (suggestions for you to ponder or practice) that might help when it seems like the only light at the end of the tunnel is complete darkness:

1) Start thinking of the things that you do for your loved one as ‘work’ and act accordingly:

Let’s face it, we all have different standards (usually higher) at work than at home so why not use that to your advantage

By utilizing the discipline, skills and organization at home that you would employ at work, your days will be more productive (the things that you do will be less of a ‘chore’ and more of a ‘task’)

2) Detach:

Detachment can become your best defense against personal attacks

Separating your emotions from the task at hand when you are caring for a loved one can sometimes save you from getting hurt or feeling resentful

If you can separate your feelings from the person you’re caring for (spouse, parent, sibling or friend) then you might be better able to focus on the task at hand when they become verbally abusive or belligerent

3) Stop arguing:

Engaging in an argument with a person with dementia is about as productive as trying to milk a bull

If your loved one becomes argumentative you can listen to what they have to say without responding (sometimes they just want to be heard)

Change the subject (by not directly responding to what they are emotionally upset about you might be able to ‘shake’ them out of their agitated state ad back to rational conversation)

Walk out of the room (sometimes leaving the room and coming back gives your loved one time to calm down, and the simple fact of walking in/out of the room instantly changes the dynamic that existed between the two of you…and (better yet) sometimes gives your loved one time to ‘forget’ what they were being argumentative about)

To Be Continued: In the interim, I welcome your comments or suggestions from your own experience

Blessings


One day last week I was sitting in the parking lot of CVS waiting for Miss Cathy to come back from buying a disposable camera. We were on our way to her girlfriend’s house for a holiday visit when she decided that she wanted to take pictures of Adele’s newly renovated kitchen. She’d been in here the store awhile so I was giving her another 15 minutes before I went in to check whether or not she was lost in one of the aisles or passed out from finally getting some exercise outside of the apartment.

When she finally returned to the car and was buckled up she told what had taken so long. Apparently she walked to the back of the store to the Pharmacy department thinking that’s where the photo center was (it’s actually located just inside the door on the right, beside the registers). She stood in line waiting to ask for the photo center location when she found herself in conversation with the lady in line ahead of her.

They got to talking about prescription drugs and how expensive they were. The woman told mom that she was distressed because her prescriptions (even though they were generic) were almost $100.00 a month and she didn’t know if she had enough money for this month’s supply.

Hearing her story Miss Cathy decided to offer the lady ten of the twenty dollars that she brought to purchase the disposable camera. The lady refused saying that she couldn’t possibly take her money and that she didn’t want mom to think that she told her plight to illicit money.

Miss Cathy assured her that wasn’t the case, simply that hearing her story made her realize how blessed she was in her life and all that she’d been given. She told the lady that she had great insurance and didn’t need to worry about her prescription costs like so many and she’d been blessed with great children and then she told her new friend about Tony and me.

In the car mom told me how years ago a woman had offered her some money when she was running short and she’d always remembered the kindness of that stranger and wanted to so the same for someone else. She said that the ten dollars wasn’t much but it was half of what she had so she offered it.

I listened to her, thinking that she’d never seen the movie or heard the expression, “pay it forward” but that was indeed what she was doing. I forget that underneath her bluster and the anger that the disease seems to taking over her personality that she’s a sweet person with a good heart.

She insisted that the woman take the money. True to form Miss Cathy told me that at that very moment she was thinking, “You betta take this money lady-I don’t offer money often-and never to strangers.”

What she said to the lady was, “please take the money, you never know where your blessings are going to come from so you should never refuse them when they present themselves.”

Grateful and touched, the lady took the money and Miss Cathy toddled off to the front of the store after the cashier told her where to go. She made her purchase and off we went to visit Adele to give her the Christmas wreath I’d made and to see her new kitchen and holiday decorations.

Bed(time) Story


One day last week I was walking from the laundry room when I spied Miss Cathy pulling the sheets off her bed. Seeing me she asked, ”Do you have anything you want to go in the wash?”

“Isn’t that funny” I said, “Great minds think alike. I just took my bed things in to wash.”

I told her that I was going to do my laundry the day before but kept putting it off, leaving it till the traditional “wash-day” of old.

“I don’t think about what day it is to wash my things”, she said,” I just do laundry whenever I get ready. It used to be when I had a utility bill when we lived in the house that I would think about things like when it was cheaper to run water but now that I’m in a condo I just run water when I like.”

“Yeah, I know”, I say having heard what was coming a thousand times before, so I started walking again, “I wasn’t subscribing to any particular day to wash -I was just talking.”

“I use the water whenever I want because I pay my condo fees and there’s people here that don’t.” (At this point I could feel a rant coming on….)

“Makes me sick that people can do that! How can they do that and get away with it?” (And …there’s she goes….)

She went off on a tear about people who didn’t pay their faire share to the condominium association and how it made it hard on everybody else. So, to insure that she was NOT taken advantage of and got her monies worth she leaves lights on in rooms she’s not in and runs water without a thought to conservation-Miss Cathy logic.

Thankfully I had reached the laundry room and (small space that it is in a not very large apartment) it wasn’t far enough away so I could still hear her. I turned on the washer and the rushing water drowned out the sound of her negativity as it filled the machine with just enough water to clean my clothes (somebody around here has to be conscious of natural resources).

After the laundry was washed and dried I’d laid her linens back on her bed. Later that same morning on my way to my room to work I looked in on her in her room and saw her standing over the bed, thinking she was going to make the bed I went in to help.

“Where are you going?” I asked puzzled when she took the fitted sheet out of my hand. She’d gathered everything up was about to walk past me out of the room, “Don’t you want to make your bed while the sheets are still warm from the dryer?”

“Oh”, she said startled and confused, “I’m so crazy, I was headed for the laundry room. I thought I still needed to wash them.”

She came back into the room and I made the bed for her while she went into the living room to sit and watch television for a little while. It wasn’t much later than noon but I knew she’d be back and ready to lie down for a nap soon.

Blowin’ in the wind


Thanksgiving was over a week ago but a conversation I had with my sister-in-law, Suemi still lingers in my mind-like so much leftover turkey you don’t know what to do with.

We found ourselves alone in the kitchen the morning after the holiday, everyone else was still passed out from turkey overdose, so we had a chance to have a private chat.

“Mom surprised me,” she said.

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve seen her and she looks so old, I’m surprised that she’s still walking so slow and using a cane. She doesn’t seem sure of her balance, always reaching out to grab onto something, like she thinks she’s going to fall. She’s how old? Seventy-three? Wow, by the way she walks and acts she looks ten years older.”

“It’s not only that”, she continued, “I can tell that she’s not the same, she’s not as confident as she used to be. I can see when I look into her face that something has changed.”

I listened, well aware of her metamorphosis into an “old lady”. Just a few years ago-before her diagnosis, she was active, independent and fearless, people were surprised when they found out how old she was. I listened, remembering who she was and quietly judging myself and wondering if I was being judged for her decline.

Suemi was surprised when I told her ho much Miss Cathy slept.

“Oh wow, that’s a lot!” she said eyes wide with amazement, “she can live another twenty years like that……just sleep, no work, no stress. A lot of old people live a long time that way.”

“Believe me I know,” I said nodding that I felt the same, “she’s like a bear hibernating through the rest of her life.”

But, she’s not completely stress free I reminded her, she still has her temper. Then I regaled my sister-in-law with some of the highlights of Miss Cathy’s rants against enemies and evils real and imagined.

I was kind of surprised that Suemi had seen so much change in Miss Cathy in just the space of three or four months.

She reminded me of the reason why I started this blog in the first place. I was very aware when I moved here that it was important to record the progression of her disease. I knew that change when come when I was busy tending to her and before I knew it ‘who she is’ would be the new normal and l would have forgotten how she ‘used to be’.

Tough as it is, these are the Halcyon days of Alzheimer’s, she’s still stage one dementia but the curtain can lift on stage two at any time and those challenges will make the previous diagnosis seem ‘quaint’ so I wanted to be sure to write it all down so that I could remind myself that it wasn’t all bad.

With caregivers, it seems that you deal with the person as they are “that day” and quickly you forget how it’s different from yesterday’s issues and challenges.

Some things, like the love you feel for them-and they for you are constant but everything else is kinda up for grabs. But knowing that, hell, and even writing about it doesn’t prepare you for an outsider’s observation (an outsider being anyone that isn’t their caregiver and hasn’t seen your loved one for awhile-be they friend or family) that validates your purpose.

Suemi held up a mirror so that I could see Miss Cathy (and myself) and it hit me that Thanksgiving this year is yet another marker of change in our family. We’re not a particularly sentimental bunch (well, I am but I’ve long maintained that someone made a scramble with the babies when I was born and I was left with the wrong people-all evidence and my striking familial resemblance to the clan aside).

Anyway, Thanksgiving became important to us as a family back in1997. It was the last time my pop was healthy enough to celebrate the holiday before cancer took him away the following spring. He’d been in the hospital just days before and the doctors weren’t holding out hope that he’d ever leave (alive) but he proved them wrong buy not only getting better, he sat at his place at Tony’s holiday table and ate like a man half his age and filled the room with his deep Barry White baritone and laughter. Since then we’ve made it a point to get together on the last Thursday in November.

And now, after not being at Tony’s last year because Miss Cathy just didn’t want to go we were all together this year but it’s different now. Not only do we have the memory of pop at the thanksgiving table to top our list of thanks, this year we add Miss Cathy’s joy and spontaneous “Star spangled banner”.

We will come together next here but the reality is that she probably won’t be the same but who knows, maybe she’ll surprise us and sing her favorite Bob Dylan song:

“How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the canon balls fly before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind”.

How the Grinch stole Christmas (well, not exactly Xmas but most of my stuff instead)


It was the week after Christmas and all through my house, there was the usual activity, the usual grouse. I was snug as a bug when my cell rang, “Yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo” but it wasn’t Cindy-Lou or any other Who…..it was the manager of the storage facility in Kansas City calling to tell me my unit had been robbed.

She was sorry to tell me that while on her morning rounds she discovered that my lock had been cut and when she opened the 10 by 25 foot unit I rented she could see that for such a big space there was very little in it.

I was then and I am now still in a state of disbelief-denial being a safer place to live than Missouri I’ve come to learn, too late. My initial reaction was ”Oh no!” and “Fuck!”(I think I said that a couple of times) then I reminded myself out loud not to take out whatever I was feeling on this woman who was just doing her job and concentrated on listening to what she was telling me. I asked a few questions and hung up knowing that I’d be talking to her again along with the police.

My first call after I hung up was to Chad and not the police, I wanted his comfort and I needed his help. Poor puss, I think he took the news harder than I did when I told him. Thank God for Chad, though, he was (and is) there for me, agreeing to do whatever was needed in my stead.

Funny, I used to write that I “left” my life in KC to join my mother’s here in Maryland, but at the time I thought that what I left was safe and sound on Southwest Blvd in a 10 x 25 foot space, neatly packed on “pause”, just waiting for me to return and hit the “resume” button that was my life.

Since I was in the middle of shaving when Joyce, the manager called, I saw no reason to not finish my toilet so I proceeded shave and shower so that I could be fresh for whatever hell was in store for the rest of the day.

I didn’t know what I felt, but I knew I didn’t feel like sitting around the apartment so I went to the Mall-what better place to clear your mind after you’ve heard that everything other than what you could mail to yourself or load in your PT Cruiser was probably gone.

I walked the Mall aimlessly for a while, no clear path or destination in mind. Truth be told the local Mall has seen better days-as have the shoppers that frequent it. Nothing piqued my interest until I found myself in Target, the familiar feel of a shopping cart and the noise of a catty-wompuos wheel that was rattling. I walking up and down the aisles perusing the after Christmas sales and in no time I had a cart full of crap, 1/2 priced Xmas decorations and candy (bags of marked down treats). I even managed to justify a flat screen TV (on sale!), DVDs and some accessories for home I just “had to have”-after all I “don’t have” as of today, so, shop I did.

I even managed to drum up a little “after Christmas” spirit and put a pack of Nathan’s Hot Dogs in the cart for Miss Cathy. She loves Nathan’s Hot Dogs, she considers the price exorbitant for frankfurters so to her they are a delicacy and a “special treat”-much the way others would view caviar. Well, if I could have a tin of cashews dipped in chocolate while I watched something banal on a new flat-screen then she should have a treat, too!

An hour or so into my shop-a-thon I headed for the check out, stopping an aisle or two away, coveting my orgy of purchases. I looked at all that I’d picked up, carefully scrutinized and selected (these were no random, impulse items) I comparison shopped, selected the best of what was left on the sale racks and satisfied with my selections I went to the check out.

I left with the Nathan’s Hot dogs as my sole purchase. The shopping cart, I’m ashamed to say because I believe in department store etiquette (putting things back where you found them if you’re not going to buy them) was left abandoned for some clerk to find and have to re-stock.

In the parking lot holding onto my weenies while I looked for my car, I thought about what the universe was trying to tell me-again. Unfortunately, this is not my first experience with theft. Back in the late 80’s my apartment in New York was robbed of all my jewelry. At the time I had a lot of unique, expensive antique and original jewelry-most of which were gifts that I wore religiously, pins and brooches, on my lapel, fingers, on my hat, sweaters and vests. I was “known” for my eccentric style and the jewelry was an important part of giving me an identity that I could hide behind long before I had one of my own. What that loss taught me was not to covet ‘things’ so much as to enjoy possessions for what they are and not what they represent. The theft also forced me out from behind the accoutrements, to be me-sans decorations, unadorned, flaws and all. So, the universe had an important lesson for me to learn and I think I got it.

I lived that lesson for several years, but as time accumulated so did new possessions and obsessions (antiquing and collecting) and my ego for a time was stocked as full as my wine cellar. So, the universe stepped in, once again, to give pause to my life so that I could reevaluate what was important.

In 2004, what the papers called a “100 year rain” hit the small rural town where I once lived and owned an old farmhouse. After it’s sale the town in which it was located became the location of the storage facility for all that housed my life; antiques, furniture, archives of my life’s work up until that point (about 20 years worth of original art, sketches, notes, serigraphs and sketchbooks) books, clothes and all of my childhood possessions including pictures, yearbooks, comics and all my old “diaries” and adult journals.

The “100 year rain” came so fast and so furious that the Delaware River that bordered the town became so swollen that it overflowed it’s banks and flooded the town, leaving hundreds homeless. My storage facility was in the low-lands and thus in the river’s watery path so 65% of my possessions ended up buried under seven feet of water and mud. What little was let was dried in the sun and moved to higher ground, there was much pain and a long battle with the insurance company but ultimately, another lesson learned in “letting go” and moving on.

And now the universe is speaking to me once more, but, damn, does it always have to be a punch up side the head instead of a soft tap on the shoulder to get my attention, robbed of about 80% of what I’ve accumulated since starting what I thought would be a new, quiet life in the Midwest.

And so I ask, what is the measure of a man? In years gone by property, possessions and children were what were left to judge a life lived well. Well, we all know I have no children (that is if you don’t count Miss Cathy), and although I’ve owned two homes and possessions worthy of being photographed for a life-style magazine I find that I have nothing more than the memories and a magazine.

Here I am at the close of 2010 living in Maryland with my mother, the Midwest forsaken for selflessness. For the first time since I was seventeen years old I find that I do not have a lease with my name on it, so I have no “home” to call my own and now only a few possessions that represent the life I’ve lived. What I wonder is what am I to gain from this? What is the universe is telling me, showing me?

Part of me feels that what I have to learn (again) and be reminded of (again) is that nothing is tangible, to enjoy what you have when you have it, and that our memories of what we do with what we have is truly all we can ever have to hold onto. It’s the people and experiences that are important and not the “things”, although there is nothing wrong with possessions, just the importance we attach to them can be suspect.

And maybe the universe is telling me that it’s time to let go of the (recent) past-literally, for my time in Kansas City was anything but quiet. I was tested and judged, and learned a lot about myself and grew in ways that I could only learn having been there, in that time, under those circumstances. Suffice to say it was one of the most challenging chapters of my life. So, maybe now the time has come to be free, and in loss there is much to gain.

I’d also like to believe that at the end of this decade, after all that I’ve been through in the “aughts” and now 2010, that the new decade ahead holds so much abundance for me that I had to make room for all that is to come.