Senior/Elder Care – Part Three of What’s YOUR Situation?

This third situation has a happy ending! My aunt was involved in her family’s decision to move her from a house she could no longer care for into a facility that she was familiar with. I thought she had had the perfect setup. There was a lady who cooked for her and cleaned the house and took her places if her son couldn’t do it. But no one was there during the nights, and several bouts with illness made her family concerned for her wellbeing. Senior care outside the home can be very expensive or it can be reasonable, but the fact is that my aunt’s resources were mostly tied up in her house. But her house had to be sold in order to fund her stay in the new facility. And for a while, she missed her house and her lifestyle…and all the memories therein.

My aunt moved around a good bit all her married life. She would breeze back into our town, having lived in faraway places, with big smiles and big hugs and the ability to make you feel as if you were the most important person in her world. Whatever house she found – after each move – was transformed into a lovely home, thanks to her interior decorating skills. Her culinary skills were legendary, and I treasure the recipes she shared with me. The most outstanding thing I remember about her was that she was FUN! She could talk with you on any subject as seriously as needed, but there was always a twist to her thinking that led to giggles and then outright laughter! I’m sure she could be sharp-tongued, but never to me or in my presence.

She never asked someone to do something outright; but after discussing whatever she wanted your help with, you found yourself offering your services – even insisting that she let you help her. And she would reluctantly accept – “that is, if you really want to.” And then she praised your help over and over to you and to your parents or whoever was nearby. She knew how to get things done. Occasionally she ran into a brick wall with her husband. They didn’t see eye to eye on some things, and usually it didn’t matter, but when it did – watch out!  Once, my aunt wanted her bedroom and living room done over and had actually begun acquiring bed linens and other small items. But her husband said he liked things just like they were, so leave them alone. And then he went on a 3 day, 2 night hunting trip. He left his house on Friday and came back late Sunday to her house, although he didn’t realize it until Monday. She had alerted remodelers and painters, and had purchased new furniture and equipment and curtains. And due to excellent prior planning, it was all accomplished within 48 hours! (It was sort of like that TV program where the man takes his wife to dinner and a movie and when they come back, their house has been transformed.) Needless to say, it was mighty quiet at their house for a while…!

I liked her attitude about things, even though it differed from mine. I would complain about having to wash dishes; she would tell me how she loved to make her china and crystal and silverware SPARKLE! I complained about having to make up beds and straighten up rooms; she said having a place for everything and everything in its place made her feel energized and calm at the same time! She never had nothing to do.

So – when I heard that she was going into an assisted living facility, I didn’t know what that would do to such a vibrant person. And here’s what I learned from watching her situation play out. Every person is unique. Even one parent who has been part of a couple for 60+ years is not that same person when facing an entirely new situation as a single person. Suddenly her needs/wants/wishes are addressed. And for those who are used to putting the needs of others ahead of themselves, this can be disconcerting…What DO I like? Want? Need?

My aunt did not need nursing care. She was able to keep her same doctor and her same medicines. She had known about this particular facility for many years and felt that it truly was a “good” place to be. (In fact, she used to belong to a jug band and they had entertained the residents at this same facility several years back!)  Friends and family are close enough to visit, but as she told me this past Sunday when I called her, they don’t visit as often as she would like. (She would LIKE to see them every day!) “I need my hugs!” she said. I love the way she answers the phone. After the initial “Hello,” and she knows it is us calling, she says in her musical southern voice,”Well, hey, darlin’!”

I asked about the food there and she told me the meals are pretty good and that, on balance, “this is a nice place”. She watches some TV but since she has eye problems, she “reads” books on tape instead of having actual books to “read”. Even though she forgets a few things and may tell you the same story or ask the same question several times, she still has a very sharp mind and still can ask the most pertinent questions!

I asked her what she does during the day, what her routine was. “Same old, same old,” she said. She goes to meals in a dining area with the other residents. There’s help if she needs it with putting on clothes, or anything else. She has a spacious apartment with her bed and her living room furniture nicely separated. Displayed are oil paintings she has done, china she has painted and pictures of her family members.

Since she seemed so healthy, I asked her how she was feeling. “I’m feeling real, real good, as far as that goes,” she said. “My bedroom is at the end of the building – a long ways away – so that’s how I get my exercise, and I need it!” She has always been an active person and walking is still the best exercise, even with her walker.

“But enough about me! What’s going on with you all?” She still has a healthy curiosity, and she really wants to know about each of us. So we filled her in.

She really seems happy, but I ask the defining question: “Do you miss living at home?” “Of course I miss my home,” she said. “But I don’t miss housekeeping!”

She recently had a birthday, and now – at 97 – she has lived the longest of any of our family members. We should all be so blessed! Live Long and Be Happy, my dear aunt!

Let’s Get Rid of Management, or so says Barry Wishner…

I enjoy reading thought-provoking articles, but when I saw this excerpt from an article in the Wall Street Journal – one of a series on management do’s and don’ts – I was intrigued by its message and its format (left justified). Any body out there listening?

Let’s Get

Rid of 



don’t want

to be


They want

to be led.

Whoever heard

of a world


World Leader,


Educational leader.

Political leader.

Religious leader.

Scout leader.

Community leader.

Labor leader.

Business leader.

They lead.

They don’t manage.

The carrot

always wins

over the stick.

Ask your horse.

You can lead your

horse to water,

but you can’t

manage him

to drink.

If you want to

manage somebody,

manage yourself.

Do that well

and you’ll

be ready to

stop managing,

And start


(as published in the Wall Street Journal

by United Technologies Corporation,

Hartford, Connecticut 06101)

Senior/Elder Care – Part Two of What’s YOUR Situation?

To Recap: The topic of Senior/Elder care is addressed within the framework of an article I wrote for hire. In Part One, my husband’s mother’s experience living in a step-down facility is detailed. Part Two tells my mother’s story, which involved being in several institutions. The highlighted parts were not in the original article.

My mother, on the other hand, was as sharp as the proverbial tack, mentally. Her problems were physical ones. Over the years, she had been in and out of the hospital many times, both emergency visits to the ER and hospital stays for surgeries. She lived with us for 22 years in two different houses. We built an apartment in each house for her, at her request. Mother managed her own affairs, including driving, well into her late 80s. My husband and I both worked full-time, and it was a great help that Mother was able to drive herself to her numerous doctor visits, her hair appointments, her grocery buying, her church activities, and visiting with friends.

At age 88, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, her second cancer diagnosis, and within a week, surgery was scheduled. At Vanderbilt. In Nashville.  Suddenly, I was faced with balancing my work schedule in Murfreesboro with driving two hours round trip to stay with Mother for 4-6 hours a day while she recuperated at Vanderbilt.

Mother came away from that surgery with a urostomy bag that I was taught how to put on and take care of every day until the day she died years later. Not a pleasant task, I assure you. The loss of privacy for my mother and myself was embarrassing, to say the least, but necessary. I found that not a lot of health care professionals know how to take care of a urostomy patient. I had to teach more than one person what to do as a back up in case I wasn’t there to handle any emergencies.

Be careful what you pray for. The daily travel, constant worry, my work, my family obligations – all combined to make my doctor double my two low-dose medications “for protection.” She thought I was a candidate for a heart attack or a stroke, she told me! So when a nurse friend of Mother’s recommended a convalescent center close to home, we thought it would be helpful to all of us. Mother would have round-the-clock-care, and I would finally have some rest.

What a nightmare that turned out to be!

Mother arrived at the facility with a potassium drip, but due to a “communication mixup”, the nursing staff never took it out. We got her a wheelchair so that she could have some mobility, but she quickly began to decline and assumed the fetal position in bed, semi-conscious. She was there for 5 days. The doctor assigned to the facility refused to see her during this time, saying he would drop in on his regularly scheduled weekly visit. On the fourth night, I walked away from her bedside and went to the kitchen where I was joined by a nurse in green scrubs. My first impression of her was that she was so pretty, it was just a joy to look at her! She said, “You look so unhappy.  What’s wrong?” “Everything”, I said, and I told her about Mother’s situation. “Have you talked with the person who is in charge here?” “Yes, I have, when I went in to complain that the only food Mother will eat is yogurt and ALL of their yogurts were over 6 month’s out of date. She didn’t believe me until I took her to the refrigerator and she saw for herself. To her credit, she threw them out.”

“M’am, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but if that sweet lady were my mother, I would take her back to Vanderbilt as soon as you possibly can – or else she will die.” The nurse hugged me gently and I felt a calmness I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I was used to running on FRANTIC! I thanked her as she went out the door.

It was morning a few hours later, and I called my husband, telling him we were going to take Mother out of the facility. When he got there, the morning shift was coming in and the night shift was going out. Both shifts of nurses were horrified that I was taking Mother out of the bed and putting her into her new wheelchair, and into our car. I was told I couldn’t leave without doctor’s orders. As usual, he didn’t answer his page. Once again, they called the doctor. Finally, I said “I need someone to take this drip out of her arm. How hard can it be? If you all don’t help me, I will take it out myself!” Thankfully, a nurse stepped forward and took the drip out. Looking over the assembled group, I asked to see the nurse who had been so kind to me during the night. They told me they had no nurses other than the ones there, and their scrubs were not green, anyway. I never knew who she was, but I’m pretty sure I know where she came from…

As we left the facility, we decided to take her back to Vanderbilt where the doctor who had operated on Mother said she was within a few hours of dying, from “potassium overdose”. 

Mother was ultimately released to our home with Home Health Care provided. That service was great and Mother became quite attached to the workers who helped her recover. Six months later, she was told she could resume normal activities, which included driving. She even felt well enough to go visit her sister in another state, but on the very day we were leaving, she opened her patio door, ignoring the handhold my husband had installed for her, and fell onto the concrete patio, breaking her left arm at the shoulder (ending her driving ability). We had been on our way to work on my husband’s mother’s house and had planned to drop Mother off at her sister’s for a visit. Mother had a nurse friend who offered to take care of her for the week we would be gone. We paid her $100 a day for a week’s care. Little did we know that that “care” consisted of keeping Mother in a recliner with her arm immobilized, which caused her arm to heal with a permanent gap at the shoulder.

Once again, we made the round of doctors, therapists and specialists, whose various, uncoordinated treatments produced a badly healed arm which became chronically painful. The home health care provider had ceased business operations in our area. Through a neighbor, we located a Nashville-based provider, and Mother regained a certain level of mobility, even though she had to use a walker.

Then, Mother’s heart began functioning erratically, causing temporary loss of consciousness and several falls, and it was determined that she needed a pacemaker, even though she was past 90. We went back to Nashville for that operation. When she was being wheeled back into her post-op room, the doctor came in. I thought to came to tell me how the operation went. He was just furious – with Mother! He apparently only took patients that could enhance his reputation and her crushed shoulder left bone shards in the very place he was going to house the pacemaker! He had to put the pacemaker in a less desirable place. My first thought was how painful that must be for mother – excruciating pain that painkillers couldn’t touch – but he continued to yell at her. I asked him if the operation had been a success, and he said it had. Then I asked him to leave Mother’s room and not come back. I later filed a complaint with the Medical Board, my mother’s heart doctor and her GP. I never heard anything about it.

It took about six months for some of her strength to return, but now there were three specialists in two towns to see, plus juggling side effects of multiple, uncoordinated medications, plus the dentist (ill-fitting dentures), plus the eye doctor (macular degeneration), plus dealing with her loss of sleep, and depression (due to chronic severe pain.)

On the positive side, Mother began to walk without a walker, and she “exercised” by walking from her patio to the driveway and back five times a day.  She still did her own cooking, medications, dressing, personal hygiene, bed making, paid her bills, read  books, magazines and newspapers, and kept up with the world through TV. And she had an opinion on everything! She was 91.

I will wrap up my mother’s final few years, in and out of institutions, until her death at age 96 in 2008.

So much for our family. Your family situation will pose different questions. How do you decide when it is time to entrust your loved one’s care to another? Some indicators may include a parent’s inability to maintain the activities of the home, such as paying bills, yard work, cooking, steps, frequent falls or suffering the isolation of living alone. Health problems to be considered include memory loss, confusion about taking medication, forgetting to eat or overeating, and safety concerns such as heaters and stoves left on “by accident.” Should you bring assistance into the home? Or look at assisted living or nursing home care?

Much will depend on how open your family member is to receiving help. And on the caregiver’s part, there are the emotional issues involved in making decisions for your parents, and the guilt one feels when we are unsure that we are doing the right thing. We have to be loving but firm when we find conditions that seem unsafe or unsanitary. And we have to question our motives as well.

Nashville is fortunate to have many wonderful senior care providers, and housing options from in-home care to assisted living and nursing home care.

It was at this point in the article that I addressed each real-life problem of our mothers and matched them with specific organizations and their contact information as to possible solutions. 

Senior/Elder Care – Part Three. Next week, I will conclude this series with the story of my aunt (mother’s sister), who is in a nursing home in her home town and she loves it! She is 96.

Senior/Elder Care – What’s YOUR situation? (Part one)

The Wednesday chapter of AN AGREEABLE MAN will be updated on Friday, August 4.

A few years ago, I was commissioned as a researcher/writer to write an article for a Nashville publication for a very nice sum of money. The publication asked me to tie together the services of several local providers to the needs of local seniors, and asked that I personalize it – “humanize” it – by adding in some real-life stories. From first hand experience, my husband and I had had to deal with the failing health of our mothers during the past few years. Between their two very different situations, we had run the gamut of problems (and solutions) inherent in many senior care issues. And so, I began by interviewing the heads of the service providers that the magazine wanted me to publicize, got background statistics about  the Senior Care industry, and mixed it all together with our family-based “real-life” experience. Then I felt I was ready to write.

When I turned in the article, I received a nice letter and a check for $1500! However, as I read the letter, I became very upset! The president of the magazine who had assigned me the article told me that they were paying me for the “background information” I had written. But they couldn’t use it as an article because it was not believable – ! I called the president and told him that not only was every written word true, but also I had left out the truly bad parts. As he talked on, I realized he had no concept of what “elder care” involved.  

“Sir, how old are you?” I asked. “Thirty-five,” he answered. “Do you have a plan for your parents when they need your care?” “Uh, no,”, he said, “but they are relatively young and I won’t have to face that situation for a long time…” 

Oh, my…

That’s when I told him I had torn up his check and would mail it back to him that day. I also reminded him that I now retained all rights to this submitted-but-not-published article, and that I would encourage him to get a researcher of his choice to look up the problems inherent in caring for family members and see how “unbelievable” my article was in comparison.

Here is Part One of the article I submitted, which was never published…until today.

Like most problems in life, the topic of making healthcare decisions for one’s parents seems a benign issue – until it happens to you.  Suddenly, or gradually, you will be called on to make life-changing decisions that will affect not only the lives of your parents, but also your own personal and family life. Trying to do the “right thing” for either group puts you squarely in the middle, and can rob you personally of your success as a family member and a business person, not to mention your own health and well-being. That is, unless you have an understanding partner and some resources that can help you every step of the way in making informed and wise decisions.

Many of us are planners: we like to peer into the future and choose options for dealing with what we think the future holds so that we can be prepared when it comes. If we don’t plan ahead, the default plan is crisis management. Senior care issues are often precipitated by one or more crises, few of which lend themselves to neat solutions unless we have taken the time to inform ourselves beforehand.

Take, for example, the situation of my husband’s mom. After her husband’s death, Mom lived alone for 20+ years in a three-bedroom house that was centrally located to her church, her grocery store, and her hairdresser. She was able to drive to these places and manage her own affairs well into her late 80s. When Mom broke her ankle while planting flowers in her front yard, she had to have home health care for six months, and really bonded with her “visitors.” She loved the company!  On one visit, she introduced us to her “vampire,” eyes twinkling, referring to the nurse who drew blood to check her vital signs. Eventually, she needed more care, and went to stay with her daughter and son-in-law in another state. Soon other decisions had to be made because both of them were working full-time.

Fortunately, Mom’s retirement income allowed her the option of moving to a step-down facility since she was capable, at that time, of independent living. (This was comparable to living in a hotel: there was maid service, meals taken in a nice dining room, activities to do with people she came to know and get along with. And there was a schedule to her days, and people to talk with.) She lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a living room, a small kitchenette and a little balcony. Although she used a walker, she managed to perform most daily activities without assistance.

Mom was incredibly healthy. She bore her two children in a hospital 50-60 years ago, and managed to stay out of the hospital until she broke her ankle late in life. When she went into the independent living facility, her blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and weight were all normal. She never had smoked, and lived the moderate lifestyle of a stay-at-home wife and mother who cooked three meals a day from scratch and supported her family members in all their activities with her love, help and presence.

Eventually, her mental abilities began to decline, and she was moved to the assisted living side of the facility with the same apartment set-up but with more care. She was checked on at more frequent intervals and escorted to meals and other activities. Finally, she was moved to another floor whose tenants were in various stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s. She was 93.

During all of this, my husband and his sister had to make some major decisions. What should they do with their mother’s house – which had been vacant for a couple of years – and with her things? They agreed to get the house ready to sell, but when they began looking for the title to her house, they were in for a surprise. While still driving and apparently mentally competent, Mom had gone to her bank and emptied out the safe deposit box and had taken everything home “for safekeeping.” Many sentimental items were lost.

(Incredibly, we had just been down for a visit with her and had gone to the bank to make a list of the things in her safe deposit box at her request. She was looking for the names of her husband’s pallbearers.) Documents had to be recreated through the legal system before work could be started on her house to get it ready to sell, and her pre-paid burial policy had to be re-created as well. Both my husband and his sister got Durable Power of Attorney so that they could act on her behalf. Fortunately, Mom had made a will years ago, as well as a Living Will.

My husband and his sister tried to split the burdens that having someone’s life imposed on your own presents. Mom’s house was in one state; my husband’s sister and her husband lived in another state; and we lived in a third state. We made many trips back to Mom’s house, dealing with contractors and suppliers to get Mom’s house in shape to sell. After a couple of bad experiences, we hired an excellent realtor. Whatever money the house brought would go toward her care because Medicare paid nothing for Assisted Living care. Mom’s daughter saw to her day-to-day finances and needs, and came by often to visit.

However, when my husband’s sister had major surgery requiring many months of recuperation, and her husband had a heart attack, they did not get to visit Mom for several months, and Mom’s condition quickly deteriorated. On one of our house renovation visits we brought Mom’s brother for a visit. She did not recognize him. On another renovation visit, we were reminiscing with Mom about when my husband – her son – was a small child.  She laughed delightedly and clapped her hands. “You mean I have a son?” she asked. Chills went over me and my husband. “Yes, Mom, I’m your son.” They hugged and then sat back down. “Now, tell me,” she asked my husband, as if on a new topic, “how do you fit into the picture?” She had forgotten the concept of what a “son” was.

Below are some of the “real-life experiences” that I left out of the original article.

Our visits were always unsettling. Here we thought that Mom was being well taken care of, but a combination of events made her every day life miserable. Early on when she went to the dementia wing, she still had enough presence of mind to follow us to the elevator when we got ready to leave. “You know the way home,” she said, and she tried to get in the elevator with us. “No, Mom, this is your home now.” She looked very confused and uncertain, and we were heartbroken. One of the nurses took her back to her room.

Another incident made me so angry. We couldn’t find her when we dropped in for a visit a few months later.  Her room was just a couple of doors down from the nurses station, and the hallway was filled with an extremely high volume of loud music.  When we asked where Mom was and commented on the music, they said she liked it loud.  They unlocked her door – ! – and sure enough it was her TV turned up so loud that my ears hurt.  Mom lay on the bed, immobile. Honestly, I thought she might be dead. She wasn’t, but their assessment of her as “liking” the loud noise, and locking her room so that she had no escape from the noise, was mind boggling. The solution to that problem was to leave the door unlocked, and to keep the TV off, as she no longer could process the programming.

Another time, our visit was over about noon and the nurses told her she could come to lunch. She told me that she really would rather not eat, if she had to sit at a table with crazy people. No wonder she lost weight during her last months there. So many more incidents like this have come to the surface in the writing of this blog.

I am crying as I write this! I just have to file these memories away for the time being, but I must tell you this: I took copious notes of Mom’s comments and our observations during our visits, just as I did with my Mother’s decline into institutionalism, and someday they will emerge in a book. I am staring my future in the face and if my husband and I don’t help our children plan for our care, who knows what is ahead for us?

Watch this blog Thursday for the next part of this series on Senior/Elder Care, in which my (now-deceased) mother’s institutional experiences will be presented as well as those of her sister, who is still living in an assisted living facility – and loving it!


I do not understand how any writer can have writer’s block as long as he/she can read the daily news. You can’t make this stuff up! Just become a people watcher/news reader and problem solved! Truth IS stranger than fiction…

Japanese Police Arrest Haiku Poet After Five Killings

This headline appeared in last weeks news and instantly attracted my attention.  I knew that words could kill, but those must have been some strong words to kill five people! As I looked into it, I found that “Japanese police … arrested a man when he disappeared after five people were murdered in a tiny mountain village.” Police officers found three corpses inside two burned-out houses and then uncovered two more bodies in separate homes. The five victims, who all appeared to have been battered to death, were in their 70s or 80s and represented a third of the population of the hamlet.  When Kosei Homi, 63, was found in nearby mountains, he was dressed only in his underwear. Police found a haiku stuck to the window of Homi’s house which read: “Setting a fire – smoke gives delight – to a country fellow.”

The article included a definition of Haiku: “The haiku is a traditional Japanese form, a three-line verse of 17 syllables in a five-seven-five (syllable) arrangement. It customarily evokes natural phenomena and usually involves a reference to the seasons.”

Here are some examples of my Haiku-style poetry … with a  twist:


Fan in hand

I ponder how to say

“I love you”

in Haiku;

No words…



I wake to find

A precious hour


No time to dream…

Late for class.



Thoughts of hot food 

Make me tremble

With hunger.

Reaching, I clutch…

old rolls.



The moon, bright pumpkin,

Intrudes on lovers


Garlic for supper.



Bargain Hunters

My computer problems have resolved (fingers crossed!), and let me tell you what I did.  I went back into the earliest AN AGREEABLE MAN posts and introduced and expanded  Merlie’s and Jack’s friends.  There will be other additions (and possible deletions) as the plot thickens, and as more characters are introduced or fleshed out or deleted. Meanwhile, The Schedule rules, with poetry & short writing pieces on Mondays and Fridays; Tuesdays and Thursdays will host fact & opinion pieces; and Wednesdays will be devoted to continue writing AN AGREEABLE MAN, as the plots & characters unfold.

Today’s poems are short, but sweet!


We need four girls…

One with a good car,

One with a parking card,

One with a fun attitude


One with a brain – !

With these four things

We can go anywhere

And do anything…

Until they catch us!

We are the Coupon Ladies!

The Bargain Hunters!

We love to get

More for Less…

While looking good

And having fun!


I would let pork chops burn

In my cast iron skillet…

If you wanted

A hug.

I would wake up early

Or stay up late

For one of your

Slow, sweet kisses!

I would put off bathing,

Or bathe twice a day,

Just to be in your arms

And hear you say

“I like the way you smell – !

Due to Technical Difficulties…

Well, I am so frustrated I could scream…Computer problems are beyond me.  I tried all day to solve them, but the solutions are not forthcoming!  So I will try again tomorrow to post the Wednesday segment of AN AGREEABLE MAN.

In the meantime, here is one way I have found to relieve frustration of any kind.  I am going outside to submerge myself in Nature!


Come with me to the country and let’s just walk around.

Get out of your truck and start looking,

Start smelling,

Start melting into the whole scene.

The grass and the trees

and the rocks …and the bees…

Oh, yes! Nature can be dangerous!

You might get stung,

You might get bitten,

You might get poison ivy – but

You might get hooked!


Take a good, long look.

360 degrees, if you can.

Where do you fit into the picture?

All the green, green grass,

All the puffy white clouds,

In the glorious blue sky!

Birds singing and flying,

butterflies, and yes,

The bees!

Still flying around,

Still pollenating, still doing their thing,

(and they will sting, you know – it is their thing!)

No artist could adequately paint these colors


These colors come with emotions built in.

Each hue creates a memory,

Each scent ties you to certain flowers

(remember the honeysuckle?)

And they will evoke this afternoon

When we remember it.

And the sunshine!

My God! How soft and warm it feels,

Like a kiss from the Creator,

or an arm around our shoulders!

You asked me once if I were a religious person;

I am not very “religious”.

I have not yet found God in any church I have visited.

My God is so much bigger than a building!

And God is here!

Not a personage, but the God that is Beauty,

and Peace,

and Order,

and Purpose,

and Hope,

and Forgiveness,

and Love…

Most of all


That God is here

Don’t you feel it?

It is as if God came down one day

and had a passionate affair

with flirtatious Earth!

And the result is all this beauty and glory!

A true Love Child…

The Earth hums and shimmers

And sighs and cries and dies and is reborn

As Life unfolds before her, within her,

every Day and every Night,

Over and over again.

Too soon,

It’s time to go.

Take one last breath,

Stay one last minute,

Close your eyes and feel

All this around you!

Smell the Earth!

Take off your shoes and

Wiggle your feet in the soil.

Feel the warm air on the hairs

of your arms!

Drink it all in…


After a while, you wil swear

That the Earth is talking to you

Because you can almost hear

Her sweet whispers in your ears…

Her message?

‘Come back soon!

I’m not done with you, and you

Are not done with me…’

She whispers enticingly

‘Come back to the country

And lose yourself,

And find yourself,

at the same time…’

What does She mean?

She means that you need to hear the message

She is passing on to you.

The message that you can’t hear

at home, at work, in the world you live in,

because of all the noise

So, above all,


There is a message here just for you.

It has your name on it.

It is yours for the taking.

Write it down if you have to,

because you will need to remember it,

Especially when you go back

Into the Jungle…

Three Monday Poems…

Today I am sharing three poems with you.  They are short and they don’t rhyme but I consider them word poems and I chose each word carefully.  Enjoy!


I set a cookie in my heart for you.

Yes, I said to the Powers That Be,

I will receive any message

That you want to send me.

I will accept any terms and conditions

Relating to this cookie,

Because your message is important to me.

And I know how you love cookies!

So how can I deny you mine?

And now, we’ll see.

Are you a good cookie, soft and sweet?

Or are you a real cookie monster?


Whenever I come to see you

We have to talk

Through the screen door.

There’s a lock on your side – the inside –

And no one comes in

Unless you say so.

We can talk through the screen door,

And I can see you,

But I can’t touch you.

And that makes me sad…

I want to come in

And stand close to you,

And feel the warmth of your body

As we stand together

With nothing between us.

I want to come in

And touch your shoulder or

Move a curl of your hair

Out of your eyes.

I want to come in

And look into your eyes,

And see what I could not see

Behind the screen door.

Let me come in…please?


Horses stand together

In a field

Close to each other.

One moves to another

And just stands,

Side by side.

Nostrils flare, gently…

Hooves paw the ground, softly…

It is a peaceful moment.

They are observing their world,

Just looking around,

Just being horses.


One horse will lay its neck

Flat against another horse’s neck

And gently rub

And make little noises…

Wanna Neck?


Three Musings on Love…

Ah, Love!

It ain’t what it used to be…

The impression I get of today’s love relationships is that they are chosen by chance (Internet dating), nourished through opinions of our peers (people who serve as soundboards about how we should feel), evaluated through the cloud of mood elevators, all through a short term lens. We feel that we can return everything to square one if things don’t work out to our liking. We “love” for the entertainment value of it; the truth of love requires long-term commitment to find out who we are through the eyes of another.

Very moderne, and very 1920’s at the same time.

We have not been trained in how to create, deepen, grow and manage long-term relationships. Our pattern for relationships tends to be what’s on TV or on Broadway or in Hollywood. But our emotions didn’t get the memo that we are so strong that we are unable to feel pain.  We soldier on, damaged by emotional encounters.  We have no universal guidebook for how to recover from rejection, how to re-define our own very personal parameters or – for that matter – how to enjoy those few “perfect” moments that we only realize are perfect in retrospect.

Maybe you elicit the behavior – you are dominant, he/she is submissive. And not in a “fun” way…) Maybe one of you is childish; the other is an old soul.  One of you is the introvert; the other an extrovert. Opposites may attract, but very seldom is it the “glue” that sticks us together.

The ability to step back and view a relationship objectively helps us to see if we will be  able to grow into our own skin with this person or if we are just repeating the same pattern, which inhibits growth, or if we will have to be less of ourselves and more of them.  We don’t know how to discuss – and so we argue. Instead of working things out, one draws a (metaphorical) line in the sand and dares the other to step over it. We have no resources with which to deal with conflict, no way to effect conflict resolution.

In my marriage, I have been through more stages than you can imagine; my husband has more or less remained “himself”.  This huge dichotomy within our marriage is what enables me to relate to many situations and enjoy many different types of people. Yet at our collective hearts, we have the same values. We come from the same social and educational and family backgrounds. And so, we understand each other. And together we make a whole person. And if I have issues, I write them out.

And so, here are three poems.


We’ll get through this, you used to say.

And we would.

It might be tough, but we faced it together.

And we won.

We would hold hands, facing each other,

Hearing with our eyes what our hearts were saying.

“There is nothing we can’t do – together.”

“There is no obstacle we can’t overcome – together.”

Well, now we aren’t together…

I can’t get through this by myself!

It is so tough!

It hurts!

I can’t do this … alone.

I look in the mirror and see a broken person.

A hopeless, helpless, sad, angry, desperate person.

And so I cry…

And then I rage!

I want to die…

Or kill…

What if I come back?

What if I say I’m sorry?

What if I tell you I will do anything – be anyone – endure any trial – try anything new…?

Will that be enough?

Will you forgive me?

Will you take me back?

Can we be together again?

Because I can’t do this alone…


You can’t take back Love!

Love can grow


Love can die.

But it can’t be taken back.

You can care for it and nurture it,


You can rip it from the ground, roots hanging.

But it can’t be taken back.

You said “When I told you ‘I love you’,

I didn’t really mean



I take it back.”

But you can’t do that.

Love has all the tenacity of an unborn fetus.

And it will cling to the wall of the heart


allowed to grow,

something awesome is born!


It will cling to the lining of the heart


some deadly device sucks the life out of it.

But you can’t take it back.


I am forever marked by you…

Your look, your smile, your touch!

I never knew I could begin anew –

Never knew Life could mean so much!

I am newly born, brand new!

The “me” I always knew I could be

Is here, right now, on cue!

Through my brand new heart, I see

That so many things were untrue.

Not lies, so much as ignorance.

I’ve learned so much because of you

By Divine Design, not through chance…

I am male or female, any shape, any age –

Where once I was boxed in!

I now can write a book, or craft a page –

I’ve learned to worship… and to sin.

These are my thoughts, my feelings, too.

But now I think you should know this:

Let me adventure into the real You

I want to give you my virginal kiss…

Reach out and wrap me in your arms

Use me to rejuvenate, unwind!

Show me your passion – I know your charms…

See the real Me with your mind!

We don’t have the luxury of Time

Circumstance will force us to part.

Love me now and please be kind

With me, and my newborn heart…

What’s Missing?

I must tell you that, as a reader, I would be disappointed at this point in the storyline of An Agreeable Man. The characters don’t add up to a full deck, so how will the game play out? We have an idea of what Merlie is like, and almost of what she looks like (overweight? thin?), but frankly I see the dog Lucky Charm more fully drawn than Merlie is.  We know there is a nosey take-charge neighbor but we don’t know her name or what she looks like, and we certainly don’t know who Merlie’s friends are, or if she even has friends. Remember, Jack is a very controlling man, and he has total control over a very timid wife. They don’t have children of their own, although we will learn that Jack worked with and donated money to children’s programs in town. We get the impression that Jack is a wealthy man, but Merlie seems almost dirt poor. She’s a prisoner in their house, can’t go anywhere or do anything unless Jack says so or takes her. Jack has a job – he goes to work every weekday. Jack has friends; he goes hunting and fishing with them. Who are they? What are they like? What do they look like? There are collateral characters. Mr. Simmons, owner of Simmons Fine Furnishings, and the minister, nameless and a bit boring.

So…When do we introduce and develop these characters?

One reader suggested that the after-funeral gathering at Merlie’s house would have been a great time to let us know who the circle of friends are. And the minister’s eulogy at Jack’s funeral would have told us a lot of specific information about Jack. Comments made to Merlie at church, the actual burial site, and at Merlie’s home would have widened the plot possibilities even more.

Now I, as the writer, know how the storyline develops. I know the characters and the conflict among the characters. I know the resolution of that conflict. So from now until next Wednesday, I will be writing these down and inserting them into the storyline, but I want you to be thinking about the possibilities that come to your mind.

Remember: this book is based on a true story, and I will keep to the facts of that story until I plot the end of the book.

Okay!  Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago, and I think on some level it sums up how Merlie must be feeling upon reflection of her changed status.

I Hate Being Poor

All my life I’ve had to count pennies, and I’m tired of it.

Sometimes it amuses me when I think of how mismatched is my talent for spending with my small budget.

At other times, I am bitter.

I look around and see other people with bigger houses, more furniture, pets, habits which require money like boats, several cars, exotic vacations, elegant clothes.

I covet possessions!

I want things!

I even envy people their parents, their hometowns, the kids they grew up with.

The things I loved innocently were taken away from me when I was very young.

First my daddy, then our home, then my mother.

We moved around, and for years I lived in other people’s houses,

wore hand-me-down clothes,

took and made use of things other people threw away,

ate food other people selected and cooked.

Consequently, I developed no sense of taste or style.

Why dream of,

or plan for,

things I might want,

when I knew I would take what was given to me?

It doesn’t bother me so much now.

For I m daring to want again,

daring to select and go after the things I want,

and the people I want,

and make them mine.

Being poor doesn’t have to impoverish.

I intend to be rich in the things that mean more than wealth to me.

So I give  you warning:

I see riches in you I will possess,

For I hate being poor.