Thursday, March 31, 2011


Strange, my weather program says that there are showers in Stillwater.  I just finished my walk and never felt even the smallest raindrop.  It makes me wonder about modern technology.  I am wishing for some rain to clean and green things up a bit.  We noticed as the snow recedes there is so much sand and dirt left behind.  It will be nice to have that washed clean again.  Down on the lake, the geese were their usual vocal selves, but they are still a bit shy.  Even though we walk about 100 yards away from their future nesting site, as we approached, they flew about 20 feet away from it and walked around on the ice while honking at us.  Soon, they will be used to people passing and will sound the alarm but stay put on or near their nests.  Enjoy the mild weather today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sunshine, beautiful sunshine

Yesterday I hit an emotional low.  I leaned heavily on my two best friends, my sister and my husband.  They were my life lines.  Today I was anxious to go on my walk.  I had a night filled with wonderful dreams and woke feeling so refreshed.  I felt as if during the night, there was a big shift in my consciousness.  I dreamed what my new reality would look like.  I wanted to contemplate this new life while being out in nature where I feel grounded and connected.
As my friend and I neared the lake, we heard a large chorus of geese.  Looking out over the lake, we saw that overnight the goose population had quadrupled, and they all had something to say today!  We took a moment just to watch them flying overhead in huge flocks and walking on the ice. 
As we picked up speed again, I was moved to tears, and I'm not a crier.  I got to thinking about how very blessed I am in my life.  I thought about how my sister and my husband were really with me in my journey yesterdayThey met me where I was and just illuminated the issues for me.  Neither tried to change anything or cheer me up, they just helped me to see and understand, on a profound level, what I was working through.  What amazing support!  I felt inspired to tell each of them in turn what their friendship and love means to me every day.  So today, make the time to tell your mentor, sponsor, sister, brother, parent, or friend how wonderful they are.  It will fill both of you with JOY!

"The life that you've been living is too small for the Blessing that is seeking to express itself by means of you."  Mary Morrissey

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Great News

I just got a call from my friend who had eye surgery.  It was a success, and he is marveling at his restored vision!  Hip Hip Hooray!

Beautiful Vision

My walk was seen through completely  new eyes today.  A very dear friend of mine who is legally blind is having eye surgery this morning.  He is hoping to have the cataracts removed from his "good" eye so that he has some sight.  He is resigned to the fact that he will never have any vision in one of his eyes.  He spent yesterday living his life as if he may be 100% blind after his procedure today.  I thought of all of the things that I could see clearly this morning, and all of the times I have complained about how difficult it is to drive in the rain after dark.  My friend's situation was a real wake up call for me.  I felt truly blessed to be "blinded" by the beautiful sunshine this morning, to see the brilliant red cardinal on a roof top, and to be able to make out the deepening cracks in the lake ice that signal spring.  Today may we all give thanks for our working parts, and put a beautiful vision in our mental keepsake box.  
I just have to share this wonderful quote:

If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.
Thomas A. Edison

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday, Monday

I got to go out with my best friend this morning.  We paused to look at the goose tracks on the snow.  They were plentiful, and looked like the geese had walked quite a ways across the lake.  We got to wondering why they wouldn't just have beaten their wings a few times and gotten from point A to B faster.  Aha...maybe that is the point.  Maybe they were just enjoying their unhurried journey as they waddled across the lake from shore to island.  We could all learn from our feathered friends.  Today take the meandering path from point A to B and notice something that brings you joy or pleasure.  Even if you are on a highway or going through a metro area, you may see a hawk, a child playing ball, a fascinating cloud formation, or the way the sun bounces off of a building.  There are many types of beauty.  Yesterday as I passed the airport, I saw 2 trumpeter swans in the wetlands bordering the highway.  Gorgeous!  Find something beautiful and savor it today!

Sunday March 27, 2011

I was away for the weekend, so had a walk much later in the day than usual.  I was surprised at how different the lighting and animal patterns were.  The sun was out and it looked so beautiful that I set off without a hat.  Thank goodness I had a hood because the wind was bitter.  I looked at my favorite nook in a big tree.  I wonder if it is too exposed to be of any use to a critter.  It reminds me of a mouth.

I sure passed a lot of people.  It was wonderful to see so many out enjoying the beautiful day and fresh clean air.  I decided  that I wasn't in the mood for a power walk, so I ambled along noting signs of spring.  I saw some green grass bravely growing amongst the brown.  It felt so full of promise.  I had the same feeling when I saw a canoe covered with snow.  Soon, the ice will be out and the geese will be joined by the gentle swoosh of canoes and kayaks.  

Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always To be Blest. ... "  Alexander Pope  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fantastic Book Title

Every one in awhile I run across a book that I think everyone should own a copy of.  This is one such book:

Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence  by Gail Sheehy

This book is filled with helpful advice and resources to use after you get "the call".  The call is the life changing call that you may receive alerting you of medical news of a loved one that changes your life. This book is absolutely essential for the main care giver of that loved one.   

If you don't have access to the book when you get "the call", please check out the PACE program  This is a Medicaid waiver program that helps seniors prolong independent living and stay out of hospitals and nursing homes as long as possible.  PACE uses an interdisciplinary team approach.

Another book:
Share the Care by Cappy Capossela and Sheila Warnock.  It's a philosophy developed by 2 caregivers who took care of a terminally ill friend with cancer for 3 years.

Call your local Area Agency on Aging
AAA  is a free one-stop shop for care of older Americans that is funded by the federal government.  A phone volunteer or social worker will answer, listen to your situation, and send you to the community providers of service that meet your family member's needs.  Includes much in home care and help!   Find your local Area Agency on Aging by going to the eldercare locator website  or call 1-800-677-1116.

Friday March 25, 2011

If I was feeling whiny about 19 degrees yesterday, 12 was a bit startling today.  I had my best friend on my walk with me this morning, and we had long periods of contemplative silence.  There are new birds in the area, welcome back dear robin friends, and longer bird songs.  The chickadees who chirped their "see-me" song all winter are now elaborating and adding a happy little flourish to their message.  Parts of the lake path were sheer ice, and it was a bit treacherous.  We persevered and found it to be an amazing morning.  While we were out, the sun sneaked behind some cloud cover, yet it was still so beautiful.  We watched 2 geese come in for an ice landing, joining 2 friends who were already on the ground.   A loud greeting followed.  The morning was so still that we could almost hear roots reaching, buds expanding, and all of nature stretching for spring growth and renewal.  If you can't get outside today, take a walk around the inside of your home and look outside to find some of the amazing icicles that are forming.  They are incredible!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Typical Thursdays

The Dynamic Duo
This is my wonderful friend Guy.  I pick him up every Thursday morning and we usually head into Wisconsin.  We stop at a nursing home there to visit with patients, and sometimes we visit people in their homes as well.  After our time in Wisconsin we return to the Stillwater area for lunch and more visits.  In a typical day we go to one or two other nursing homes or  private homes, and then finish our day at the Gathering.  The Gathering is a state of the art hospice facility located in Boutwell's Landing.    I bring the Reverie Harp on our visits, and as a Catholic Deacon and hospice chaplain, Guy brings communion for some and a twinkle in his eye and a wonderful deep singing voice for all!   He's quick with a hug and soothing words, and is loved by all who are fortunate enough to know him.  It is quite literally like spending the day with a famous celebrity.  Everyone knows Guy and wants to talk to him.  
Many may have the preconceived notion that all hospice patients are very near the end.  In reality, we have quite a few who are up, alert, and conversant.  In every single case, Guy and I are blessed beyond belief by these amazing people sharing their lives with us. 

March 24, 2011

 Thursdays are already my favorite day of the week, because I get to do hospice visits with my wonderful friend Guy.  What a beautiful morning.  I have to admit, when I looked at the temp and saw 19 degrees, I wanted to opt out of my morning walk.  Alas, the fresh air called to me and got me out and in this amazing day!  Not only was the sun shining brilliantly, but there was not a breath of wind.  The snow had that magical sparkle, as if millions of tiny gem crystals had been scattered from above.  They formed iridescent waves of glittering color on the surface of the clean white snow.  It was breath taking.   Gifts like that have me looking around and asking "Is anyone else seeing this?"  Truly remarkable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What is it you do exaclty?

I get this question often.  I decided to post a client story as an illustration.
"Mike" was a man who had lived alone his whole life.  He was strong and independent and in his 80s but had no family living near him.  His only relative was a sister of similar age who lived hours away.  He was rushed to the hospital one day after having a stroke.  "Mike" was then moved to a nursing home for rehab.  I was called the week of his discharge.  As planned, I picked him up  from the nursing home on graduation day and drove him to his home.  I got him settled, picked up his mail from a neighbor, cleaned out his refrigerator, washed all of the dishes, took out the trash, and started some laundry.  I drove to the local market and picked up all of "Mike's" prescriptions and a few groceries.  I spoke with the phone company and helped him get a technician to come out and fix his phone that had stopped working.  We set up a schedule, and I came twice each week to check in, do laundry or grocery shopping, and help him with other things that he needed.  He knows that he probably needs to move into assisted living, but is not ready to give up his home and his independence yet.  I will be available to help him sort and pack when it is time to move on, but for now, I can help him stay in the place that he loves and has called home for 50 years.

Lakeview Ranch for Dementia Care

"Lakeview Ranch Inc. was established in February 1999; in memory of Evelyn Holly for the sole purpose of developing an alternative high quality specialized model of dementia care that focuses on meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of persons with dementia in addition to physical needs. Lakeview Ranch Inc. provides a model of specialized dementia care that meets the needs of persons with dementia that are at high risk of repeated hospitalizations for the common challenging behavior that accompanies most forms of dementia. The Lakeview Ranch model of care that includes high staff ratios of specially trained staff, not only allows us to provide the highest level of quality care while maintaining the dignity and basic human rights of persons with dementia, but also is a significantly more cost effective way to manage this chronic disease in the long term."

standard bedroom
You won't find a tv but you will find a dog and a bird.

I was honored to tour Judy Berry's Lakeview Ranch last summer!  It was so uplifting to find a facility that treated the dementia residents with respect and compassion which was evident in every detail of the building and grounds.  Two small examples:  In the kitchen, any drawers or cabinets that had locks had them mounted on the inside (think child safety hooks).  Judy explained that the residents will see a lock and feel frustrated, but if they pull on a drawer and it doesn't easily open, they will just try a different drawer. 
The residents are allowed to go outside whenever they want!  They take the time to dress residents appropriately for the weather and then stay outside with them until they want to come back inside.

If you have ever seen the inside of a nursing home, especially a memory care area, these are 2 huge steps toward helping residents feel empowered and respected.  It was an amazing day!  I felt like I was witnessing a care facility of the future, and I really hope that I was.

Judy started the Dementia Care Foundation to help raise awareness and funding for forward thinking enterprises such as hers.  What an amazing woman!

Eagles and more Eagles

Google Image

This past Saturday March 19, was an amazing day.  The sky was clear blue, and the world seemed to be thawing.  I was on a walk and kept hearing this strange noise that sounded like a big bird, but not a bird that I could identify.  Something caught my eye and when I looked overhead, I saw about 20 Sandhill Cranes flying north.  They are huge birds.  I have seen them often in fields along side the Lake Wobegon Trail north of St Cloud.

Google Image
 When I got back home, I was standing outside soaking up the sunshine and seeing how the yard and house had weathered the winter.  Again, something caught my attention above me.  I looked up and saw 9 bald eagles right overhead.  A few were very low and several more were riding wind currents high above in the beautiful blue sky.  I have a special place in my heart for bald eagles.  According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article published 03-23-11, in the 1960s there were "only about 50 breeding pairs nested in the state..." I can remember them being endangered, and I had never seen one until I was in my 20s.  "Officials estimate Minnesota now has about 2,300 breeding pairs and several thousand additional immature birds."  It's estimated that there are about 8,000 bald eagles in Minnesota.  I get a thrill every time that I see one because it is truly a gift.  They came back from near extinction and are prospering!  I am anxious to talk to my good friend Robin, who has studied numerology, to tell me about the significance of the number 9.  I'll let you know what she has to say.

Wednesday March 23, 2011

Wow, we had a wild night last night.  We had sleety snow, thunder, and lightening!
On my morning walk I trudged through several inches of very wet snow.  I headed down to the lake path and found to my delight that I was the the first person on the path.  The only other visible prints were those of little critters.  I spied a black squirrel, a chipmunk, and the geese that have returned to stake their nesting turf.  The wind was wild, and it was blowing snow every which way.  I get such a sense of being totally alone, yet fully connected to the earth on my morning walks.  On my return loop I always stop and do a sun salutation to properly greet the day.  I pause and give thanks for whatever weather I am standing in, the beautiful lake, the clean air filling my lungs, my strong healthy body that carried me on my walk, my eyes that can take in the incredible beauty around me, my ears that can hear the woodpeckers, chickadees, and even traffic, and anything else that comes to mind.  It seems very important to me to pause and acknowledge my many blessings in this way every morning.  It brings me such joy to know that even if I can't see the sun, it is there, above the clouds, shining brilliantly as I will attempt to do today!