My Dementia Diary 18 – The last Posole’ Party

this past weekend, my wife and I had a posole’ party for friends and neighbors. Posole’ is a traditional Mexican soup served for special occasions and we’ve hosted such gatherings many times. When we first started doing this, my wife would prepare the posole’ from a recipe she’d learned from her mom. As her mind has deteriorated, I’ve picked up more and more of the process until, now, I’m the cook, and my wife the assistant.

Part of the challenge is procuring groceries, a process requiring us to walk downhill to the store and lug the needed items back up the hill. There is always a second trip because I always forget something. I put these efforts down to healthy exercise. The larger difficulty is emotional and mental, staying patient and caring as my wife becomes more and more anxious about the coming event, asking the same questions again and again. Who’s coming? When are they coming? Why are they coming? Who’s coming?…

As much as she enjoys the thought of company, she is also fearful that someone is going to take her things, so she begins to hide and cover them up. Still, we got through this and by mid afternoon the posole’ is simmering on the stove, our home filled with the sumptuous aroma of good things cooking. My wife is excited but needs hugs and assurance that all is well. 

Guests eventually arrive amidst smiles and laughter and all gather around to share a delicious meal and the opportunity to connect with each other again. My wife is happy, basking in all the love of the moment. Yet, I notice that she is not able to enter into conversation, most topics are too confusing for her. She retreats to the kitchen to do dishes, babbling joyfully to herself.

The evening winds down, friends depart, my wife and I hug, feeling good for the party’s success, but too tired to clean up after it. 

As I sat sipping tea the following morning while my wife engaged in her favorite pastime, adult coloring books, I reflected. yes, the previous night’s event had gone wonderfully well and it had been a great gathering. My wife had enjoyed it. Yet, I was beat. Certainly, the effort had been worth it, but would I ever want to do it again? perhaps it’s time to quit on a high note.

Time will tell.

tio stib

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Lumpy Gravy, thoughts on writing Well

I’m working on the rewrite of a chapter in a new book and in spite of hours of effort, when I pause to listen to what I’ve written, it sounds like lumpy gravy.

Yes, I realize that gravy doesn’t talk, sing, or make any other noise, but it still seems the perfect metaphor for my imperfect words. In case you’re not familiar with gravy and, in particular, lumpy gravy, a brief description-

Gravy is a sauce made from cooked meat juices, stock, and other ingredients. One ingredient is flour, which is used to thicken the sauce. When the flour is added incorrectly, the result is lumpy gravy, little balls of unmixed flour in the sauce, a culinary no-no. Like good writing, I believe creating good gravy, a sumptuously smooth sauce, is a combination of rigorous practicality and delicate art.

My own experience is that lumpy gravy usually results from hurrying, compromising time and care because of impatience, setting an unrealistic timeline for creating something that simply cannot be rushed. There is a proper order and way to add and mix ingredients. don’t do this and you get lumps.

what are the lumps in my writing? Words and phrases that don’t sound right, feel out of place, don’t fit the desired style, don’t truly support the theme. Adverbs and adjectives that were easy to insert but, upon reflection, don’t add anything. 

What I write seldom comes out smooth and lump free the first time. Admittedly, I rarely succeed at creating lump free gravy either. In cooking, there are two ways to fix this, stir or whisk much more, or, something few will admit to, strain the gravy through a sieve to remove the lumps. 

This is what rewriting is all about, the writer’s process of removing the lumps from his work through careful consideration, in my case, listening as I can’t see what I’ve written. Often I brainstorm words, sentences, even paragraphs. with the magic power of today’s word processing technology and my text reader friend, Alex voiceOver, I can quickly try and listen to many options, until I hear something that is smooth and feels right. And on I move to the next paragraph.

Ultimately, I’m the cook in my word kitchen and I know, that unless what I’ve written passes my taste test, unless I’ve taken the time, done the work, to make perfect, lump free, gravy, those words can’t leave the kitchen.

tio stib

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Excuses

damn sick, you know, that awful flu
slipped and fell on doggy do
triple booked, what could I do
have you met the new guy, Lew
slipped out to sip a little brew
Giants lost, the Seahawks too
burned the Sunday evening stew
blame it on my low I.Q.
what’s with all the ballyhoo
just what did I promise you

really

what else is new

tio stib
2017, 2018

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Floating

floating in a tranquil sea
my thoughts drift to what might be
concerns and chaos slip away
as I inhale a perfect day

clouds above sail slowly by
white against an azure sky
I close my eyes and feel the grace
the sun’s caress warm on my face

years of pain
the tides of time
have scoured the beaches
of my mind
at last, surrendered
to my fate
I no more struggle
with death’s date

floating in a tranquil sea
I smile and simply
let it be

tio stib
2015, 2018

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Paddling a Submarine vs. Living an Authentic Life 

Last night I dreamed I was paddling a canoe up a lake in the middle of the night. It was calm, I felt peaceful, yet there was one concern. The canoe was underwater. I was trying to paddle a submarine.

I’ve spent years listening to my dreams, paying attention to patterns, weighing the emotions of dreams with respect to my life at the moment. I believe larger forces speak to me in that unconscious world, forces that can guide me to awareness of deeper truths. This pushes me to wonder, why was I paddling a submarine?

I know there are many ways to interpret dreams, but ultimately, I tend to accept that my dreams are about me. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I’m honest about how I feel in my dreams, they have given me clues to parts of me I needed to pay attention to.

Paddling a submarine. I feel this dream was about my need to live an authentic life. Paddling the canoe was me moving forward in life. My goal was to get to the end of the lake, to a state of inner peace, but I was struggling because I was keeping my emotions below the surface. If I would allow my feelings to express themselves above the water, I would have less resistance to life and my journey would be immensely easier.

I need to be genuine, original, true and trustworthy, and not be in fear of what the world may think of me in my many moments of  smallness.

Authenticity means to be honest, to be vulnerable, to take risks. Authenticity is built one day, one choice, at a time. It is a process of continually stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging the world from a place of worthiness vs. shame.

Authenticity is a daily journey into the wilderness of being fully alive.

What’s the greater risk I ask myself? Living life based on what other people think, or being vibrantly alive based on how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?

This blog, “Travels with Tio, a blind writer’s path to happiness,” is my journey, my choice, to be all of me, fully alive. It is one way I will raise myself from paddling a submarine, to paddling a canoe, to perhaps even flying.

What does authenticity mean to you? How does it affect your life?

Please share your feelings on being the authentic “you”.

tio Stib

2013, 2017, 2018

Brene’ Brown recently gave a TED talk, “Listening to Shame,” in which she explores the challenges of authenticity. Brown believes authenticity is a process, a series of choices we make in our lives, choices made each day, in each moment, to be real…or not.

Here’s the link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/15/opinion/brown-authentic-self/index.html?hpt=op_bn2

 

Selling Out to Google Maps

I may be blind but I can still feel the sun’s warmth on my face and if it’s noon, I know I’m pointed south. On a recent family trip, I felt the sun’s noon warmth and knew we were driving south. but, Napa was north. We were headed in the wrong direction. What had happened?

The driver had entered the desired destination into Google Maps on his smart phone. However, deep into conversation with his front seat companion, he’d missed a turn. We were now not only headed in the wrong direction, we were about to cross a toll bridge.

Yes, the female Google Maps voice did eventually sort things out. We turned around, paid the toll to recross the bridge, and got headed north. but how had the driver made such an obvious mistake in direction? I pondered this question as we drove on in search of amiable wineries and fine wines. I noted several other google Map miscues, the computer guide was far from perfect. We were doing our third circle of the same block before the driver realized he’d missed another turn.

What happens when we sell our souls to Google Maps?

In this case, the driver had surrendered all connection with the reality outside his vehicle. He had no idea which way was south and that south was the wrong direction. He had no vision of the larger world he was operating in, trusting that a voice from a computer would take care of his directional needs.

True, google Maps did eventually get him to the wineries he was seeking. but at what cost? What did he miss along the way? what sights, what experiences, what happenings were left unnoticed because he was content to live within the isolated bubble of his automobile reality?

I wonder what kind of world it will be when the majority of people around me are content to live in such bubbles. It seems obvious that such lives would be self-centered, caring little for most of what lies outside their isolated existence, things like, weather, sunsets, Nature in all its wonders.

Ouch! Not my kind of world. Not my kind of life. I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of adventures with road maps, topographical maps, nautical charts, maps on napkins, all kinds of real, touchable maps. How boring life would have been without all those maps guiding me to lost places, crazy characters, and unexplored  frontiers.

“No, sonny, Denio Hot Springs ain’t on the map. Buy me a beer and I’ll show you where it is.”

“Damn, I’m thirsty! Do you think the name ‘Sometimes Creek’ means it’s not here in the summertime?”

“I think that vacant gas station we just passed was the town of Desolation. So much for our cold beer break.”

“The vulture sitting on the sign seems to say that things are not so great in Paradise, population 2.”

“Yeah, that big X on Wally’s map meant big rapids. Next time, tell us before we get sucked into a monster like that.”

“I know we’re out of gas, but that spot you thought was a town is a piece of chocolate.”

I dare you to break your bubble, turn off your smart phone, grab a real map, and chase your own adventures.

You might even get lost.

Tio Stib

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My dementia diary – Beginnings

Five years ago this month, two things happened which changed the course of my life. I lost my sight and my wife began to lose her mind.

I’d already lost vision in one eye when, one day, my other eye clouded over. For the second time, a rare blood clot condition had fried my remaining healthy  optic nerve. The same week, my wife had a seizure which resulted in total amnesia. Fortunately, within twenty four hours, her memory came back, but her mental ability to reason, remember, and connect with reality began to deteriorate.

Sudden blindness left me disoriented and depressed. It was months before I was able to start on the path towards re-inventing my life with the help of folks from California’s rehabilitative services program. While  riding the emotional rollercoaster of adapting to my new world, my wife was also changing.

More and more, she was showing the signs of dementia, repeating questions many times and forgetting recent events. Over time, the dementia symptoms became more obvious. Her ability to plan and organize disappeared. Her creative activities got simpler. Where she once enjoyed abstract painting, she now spends hours with coloring books, her mind unable to deal with mixing paint colors.

She has become a child who loves life, no longer distracted by adult worries or conceptions of what life should be. I deal with practicalities, grocery shopping, money matters, scheduling. We have found a new balance, becoming a unique partnership of attitudes and abilities..

Do I miss the dreams I had for our life? All the time. I miss the adventures we had and the ones I’d hoped to share. I miss saying, “let’s go!” jumping in the car and taking off to nowhere. But, as the popular saying goes, “it is what it is.” The work now is making the most of the life  we still have.

That’s a daily challenge, one I’m going to explore in writing this journal. I invite you to join us as we walk together, blind and demented, down the road of life.

 

this child who once was woman

she laughs at dancing butterflies
smiles at babies passing by
clings to me when brought to cry
this child who once was woman

her zest is sparkling innocence
a love of life without a fence
a mind released from circumstance
this child who once was woman

a singing bird
a playful word
the mirth of anything absurd
she hugs
she screams
she loves
she beams
this child who once was woman

my heart beats glad, she is such joy
reminds me when I was a boy
of times preceding plots and ploys
this child who once was woman

the change, I was slow to see
as fog crept over memories
and here is all that she can be
this child who once was woman

now I hold her close and dear
do my best to soften fears
not to shed a single tear
make the most while she is here
my wife who once was woman

tio stib
2017

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