Sunday, December 31, 2017

Good Bye 2017

Not alpenglow, but so much like it, ten minutes before sunset.
 I'm not sure if I have ever disliked a year quite as much as I detested this one. For so many reasons, it was the worst year... personally, politically, environmentally. It was just one bummer after another. I wanted to wave goodbye to this year with something more uplifting than "Goodbye and good riddance, and please do let the door hit you on the way out..." but I can't.

I'm not going to go into details about politics or the environment. You all know what's going on, and what the future might hold if things keep at this pace of destruction at every level. I'm not sure what can be done. I guess marching in the streets, political involvement, and getting out the vote will be extremely important in 2018. Otherwise... the future looks pretty grim.
A fogbow over the wires on a suburban street
But, really what I want to tell you is what's been going on with my mom. Back in mid December my sister went to the facility to visit with her and found her in the bathroom in a messy excrement situation. Despite my mom's Level II incontinent care, she often heads off to the restrooms alone. Sigh. We all knew what the poop could lead to... a urinary tract infection, which for people suffering with dementia and Alzheimer's is a serious compromise to their already precarious brain function. Ten days ago I spoke with her and she was more garbled and out of it than I had ever heard her before. She was not only not making sense, she was saying words that weren't really words. It blew my mind. So I set an alarm off with emails to my siblings, and my sister took my mom to the doctor and sure enough she had another UTI. She was prescribed an antibiotic and that was that. Well, not exactly, it was the wrong antibiotic, and a new one was prescribed three days later. In the meantime, my twin brother was finally able to drive down to spend some time with her. The timing of that was both good and bad. She definitely needed the support and company, but Michael once again got to see her at the worst time of her UTI-induced brain fog. On his last day there, he called me while he was sitting with her out in the sun. He handed her the phone. She sounded a bit more like herself. I made her laugh (it's my job!). I told her I loved her. She said, "I love you and Roger tremendously." We laughed and laughed. I said "Tremendously? Did you pick that word up from Trump?" We laughed some more.
A moment of zen reflection
This year of my mom's Alzheimer's has been challenging for my siblings and me. Love can't make any of this different or better. We try. Back in January on the day of Trump's inauguration, my mom's decline began in a big way with a UTI and a stroke. My older brother has said that on that day he lost his country and his mother. So sadly true.

So there you go, 2017. Now get out of here and let us all usher in some much-needed peace.

Happy New Year, friends. Sorry for being a bummer, but at least I showed you pretty pictures!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: The Skies of December

Sunset December 8

Sunrise December 9

Sunrise December 11

The last of the moon December 16

Parhelic Circle, Sundogs, Halo, and Circumzenithal Arc December 17

Rainbow all the way to the ground December 21

Contrail Shadow December 23

Monday, December 25, 2017

And So This Is Christmas

We never celebrated Christmas when I was growing up. Never had a tree or lights in the windows. And even though we were Jewish, we never celebrated Hanukkah either. Never lit candles for a menorah. December always came and went without much fanfare in our house. My father told us from the time we were young that he was an atheist. I always loved that about him, that and all the other wonderful honest soulful things he shared with us. I thought that he may have arrived at his atheistic reality after being a medic in World War II, fighting behind enemy lines at the Battle of the Bulge, or maybe just growing up with an ogre of a father and a brokenhearted and sadly suicidal mother. However he got there, he was there. I didn't mind growing up without a structured belief system, other than sincere compassion and desire to understand the world.

So here it is another Christmas, and I'm thinking of my dad. Last week would have been his 99th birthday. I wish he had been here to celebrate, but he's already been gone for 25 years. Still not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and especially at Christmas because it stirs these long-ago memories. Here is my only Christmas story.

We didn't really celebrate the day, but for some reasaon my paternal grandfather did. So, every year we drove from our suburban home back to the busy city streets of our hometown Newark, New Jersey to pick him up, then pick up my father's younger sister (the one who never got married), and drive to their older sister's house for dinner. When we would pull up in front of Poppy's ground floor apartment, we always recognized his window because of the blinking Santa face in it every year. It always stuck us as crazy hilarious that he would have such a thing, but he always did. He would literally have a huge bag of toys for his grandchildren that we put in the trunk of our car. He had seven grandchildren, and many gifts for each one. Plastic things he bought at the Woolworth's store. Things we never dreamed we wanted because we actually didn't. But we were always so grateful and appreciative of his efforts. We couldn't wait to see what Poppy had in his bag. We would always take it all home and literally never see them again. A yearly ritual was all it was.

Christmas stirs these memories. My father's father was not a kind or good man. He was gruff and mean. Somehow my father resisted his influence and became the kind of man who cared deeply for others. And so this is Christmas, and I think of my father, an atheist who taught me well.

Here is a song a friend sent us that we have fallen in love with. We share it here, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: We See You

The furtive American Bittern

Surfaced for just a moment

We see the coot in the corner too

Hiding from ducks that he wants to shoot

Blending in with the reeds

Monday, December 18, 2017


Sunrise December 12
My twin brother Michael was supposed to drive down to see our mom on Sunday, but his plans had to be changed because of the Thomas Fire. This is one crazy huge fire, third largest in recent California history and shows no sign of stopping. It has been roaring since December 4th. Michael isn't sure when he'll be able to hit the road south, because the route goes directly into the hardest hit part of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. This is the second time in two months that trips to see our mom have been cancelled due to fires. I wrote about  having to postpone our trip in October. Who would have ever guessed that in December such huge fires would still be raging? Certainly not us. The smoke from the southern California fires have blown so far north that we woke to a smoky sunrise last Tuesday. That's 700 miles of smoke.

I have been calling my mom every other day for weeks. Lately she's been sounding less and less like herself and more and more far away. Hardly a coherent thought is ever expressed, only the wispy sounds of love come over the phone. I say, "Hey mom would you like to talk to my handsome husband?" She says, "Yes, I'd love to talk to Roger." They have a brief "conversation." Then he gives the phone back to me, and she tells me something I don't understand, and then we tell each other how much we love each other. We hang up. I sigh. I miss my mom. I was so hoping Michael would be there with her. When my mom and I talked on Friday I told her he was coming down and that he's so helpful, he'll be able to solve all of her problems. She liked that. I hope those fires are under control soon.

We're still going out walking everyday, even when the crazy winds are blowing 22 mph and the air is chilling us to our bones. My eyes tear when I'm out there. It's the cold wind I say, those winds that make me cry.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Bull Whip Kelp

We headed out to Trinidad Beach on Sunday for another mind-calming, therapeutic walk. It was a beautiful day, and we saw monsters (!) in the harbor.
Part way up the trail, looking north

Top of the trail, looking north at the same beach
Heading down the other side looking southeast at the harbor

What are those crazy monsters in the sea

Our first look at Bull Whip Kelp, native to the west coast
We've seen lots of Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) in Monterey Bay, but this was our first look at Bull Whip Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). Another reminder of the crazy awesome beauty of our earth.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Walking A New Trail

Lately we've noticed that even when we're out walking at the marsh we can't seem to stop worrying and talking about our current political situation in our country. So many things loom on the horizon. Things like Korea, Russia, the Middle East, climate change, tax reform, the Senate race in Alabama. It has all gotten so distracting that the poem Peace of Wild Things seemed no longer true.
That red dot is where we were walking. The Hammond Trail goes five miles along the ocean here.
So we decided to walk a new trail. We drove just a bit north up the coast and walked a short part of the Hammond Trail.
This view is looking across the Mad River and out to the ocean. If you click on the photo you can see the waves. We stood there a while and breathed in the calm ocean air.
This is the view looking north. You can see Trinidad Head and the river making its way to the ocean. It was good to look far into the blue of it all.
The birds flew and dipped into the river. They moved in unison, and their shadows flitted on the river like a ballet in a mirror. No words.

We walked and walked. We saw a harbor seal, or I should say s/he saw us and slipped into the river as quietly as could be. I waited for it to pop up again, and when it did it looked right at us and slipped back under. It was a brief encounter between our two species. And yet it reminded me that Wendell Berry had it right. We can still come into the peace of wild things.

When we got home we both realized and reveled in the fact that we had not thought of politics for at least an hour, and it felt good.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Sky Is My Ocean

We don't always have the beautiful ocean outside our windows, but we do always have the sky. So sometimes the sky is my ocean. All photos taken this month just outside our front door looking east.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Remembering Reminiscence

It's been a week since we arrived home from our ten day journey south and back. I've been thinking about our time with my mom in the memory care facility and thought I'd write about it here. Because of her wandering behavior she is in the locked part of the facility called Reminiscence. The fellow residents are all in various stages of dementia and Alzheimer's. Some need a caregiver for every move they make from their rooms to the dining hall and back; some have their heads down all day long; some play games at the dining tables between meals; some walk around on their own with walkers. No one can leave without knowing the code to get out.
My mom laughing at the news, which she said seems to be all about sex lately!
It sounds bleaker than it is. The caregivers there are truly remarkable human beings. We were struck by their calm demeanor; their compassion; their non-stop work like a day care center for elderly in Depends.

We did have some interesting, weird, and a bit disconcerting (bordering on traumatizing) experiences while we were there, but it was just a regular day for the staff. On the first day, we sat in the little comfy living room area with my mom. It has a music player and a cabinet full of things to distract idle hands. While we were there we heard seriously loud screaming coming from the dining room across the hall. A woman was screeching, "This is my house. I bought it. I want everyone to get out of here. Get out!!!" She yelled that on the top of her high pitched lungs over and over. It was absolutely wild. It went on and on. The staff intervened; she persisted. The staff tried to get her to her room. She persisted. My mom decided she'd heard enough and wanted to go back to her own room. In the hallway we crossed paths with the screamer. She yelled at us, "Get out of here. This is my house. Get out!!!!" My mom, of course wanted to engage, but we quietly moved her on. Yikes.

The next day, while we were sitting in the same living room area with my mom, the same woman started screaming in the hall. SCREAMING. She had to be constrained by one of the bigger caregivers. She had to be stopped from trying to go into a restroom that was already being used by someone. The battle was fierce, like a holding back a wild creature. Another very disconcerting moment for all of us.

And still the staff was calm and attentive. It made us feel like my mom is really in a good place.

We "met' several other residents. There was one who said the exact same thing to us over and over, everyday for five days. "I want to go home. I just want to go home. I tell them, and they won't help me. I just want to go home." She said it us in the dining room. She said it to us in the hallway. She said it us on the patio in the afternoon sunshine while the hummingbirds came to check out the flowers and feeders. She said it to us in the little comfy living room. She just wants to go home; it's a fairly common lament for Alzheimer's patients, even those living in the homes they've been in forever.
My mom dancing with a caregiver
One of the highlights of the visit was seeing the entertainment provided to the residents in the afternoons. You would be surprised by the lovely performers who come to sing for an hour after lunch. They bring speakers and equipment and really put on quite a show. They offer maracas and tambourines to the residents, and they sing all the old oldies that the residents know and love. One of the things that I've read about Alzheimer's is that music somehow stays familiar even when so many other memories have faded. Residents in wheelchairs with their heads down, who never look up, would sing a refrain right on cue when the microphone came their way. It was truly beautiful to see. That, and other residents rocking their shoulders in perfect rhythm and motion to the music. Not many would get up and dance, but my mom did with one of the sweetest caregivers. I'll confess that I stood in the hallway and had a rather nice little dance with one of the residents (who swears he doesn't really live there, and really will only be there for two weeks, and wouldn't we like to come to his real house and stay with him!).

This is life in a memory care facility. We were both saddened and enlightened by the experience. I'll tell you this, it made me want to volunteer at a local facility, and maybe I will one day...maybe I will.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Scenes From Capitola

The view when we arrived and opened the blinds

Circumzenithal arc over the house

Paddle boarders in the sparkling bay
Sunrise the morning we packed the car for the trip home

Monday, November 20, 2017

The First Half Of The Journey Home

There was a time when two 350 mile days of highways didn't knock us out as much as they do now. We have to take a day between to let our bodies recover from such an uncomfortable hurling trip on old roadways. So, we headed out on Friday from southern CA back to the beach house. We usually stop about 100 miles into the trip at the Gaviota Rest Stop. But on the way south we noticed that it was closed in both directions, so we knew we had to make other plans for the trip back. We decided to stop at Refugio State Park for our morning break to snack on our homemade granola with raisins, apples, and yogurt. We never go to restaurants, so when we paid the $10 entry fee for our brief half hour stay, we figured it was less than what we would pay for a breakfast at a roadside restaurant. When we arrived at the picnic area we fell in love.
This was just about the most wonderful place to unwind and relax. It was quiet, no sound of the roaring highway, just the rolling waves and gulls calling.
This is the view looking south.
The view looking north, curlews at the surf and oil rigs at the horizon
We sat  delighted with the choice to stop here and knew that we would do this whenever we travel these roads. Breakfast at the beach and a two minute drive back to the freeway.

From here we drove up through the Salinas Valley. It was such a beautiful day with the sun shining and the hills bathed in light. The grape vines were yellowing  in the autumn air. I took photos while we zoomed through at 75 mph. I think you can see the calm beauty of the moment. It looked like this for a hundred miles.

This was the first half of our journey north to Capitola. All the way, all the way I kept saying, "I love California. I just love California." It's true.

Monday, November 13, 2017

700 Miles Later

We finally were able to make the journey south. We hit the road on Friday and drove 350 miles to Roger's family beach house. Roger has been coming to this house since before he was born. And now, he's been there every year for the past 75. I can't even imagine what that must feel like, 75 years of history in one place. It's always so beautiful there. The moment we walk in the door, I run and open the blinds and look out to the bay, then open the door to the deck and go out to breathe the ocean air. The 350 miles slip away in an instant. The ocean always says Be Here Now.
We woke Saturday morning to this lovely sunrise.
And later in the day walked down to the wharf and watched this Snowy Egret contemplating the tide coming in.
Sunday morning we headed south for the second half of the journey. It's another 350 miles, but very different from the first half of the trip. This one always has traffic jams in the last 75 miles that come to a full stop and inch along mile after mile. We're always so relieved to get out of the car and finally be done with it.

And then this happens, and all those miles just slip away. We go to see my mom in the memory care facility, and she was so happy to see us. It always makes our hearts soar to be with her. We're staying until Friday, so there will be lots of time for all this love.