My poetry “writing” process.

First,  Believe

I am a poet.

I’ve enjoyed finding out that I am a poet during this #Octpowrimo month.  I remember how at the beginning I felt excited and then halfway through it was, “What have I gotten myself into!”

Second, Find a spark

The spark is usually something that oddly occurs to me like the memory of riding the commuter train into Philly. I have never been a writer who just sits and writes all kind of thoughts free flow.  No, I like to mull over my thoughts while I am driving or cleaning… or, today, cleaning out the garage. My poem below was sparked during my great garage clean out.  The job is mostly completed and good thing:  I am actually able to pull my car in.

Third, Write it down

I begin typing it out and it usually flows.  But then I change it to make it make sense more artistically and fix words.  I look to see if there is an interesting flow or did I lose the concept somewhere along the way.  Also important to me is rhythm and rhyme although I don’t really try to obey any rhyming rules.  I think that the poetry writing is somewhat like painting.  There is a concept and a flow the eyes follow, a point, a main idea and supporting cast.

And then, I use the WordPress save draft or publish feature.  I like to publish it to post on a certain day and time.  For the poems it is around 5:30 am.  Then I put it away until later in the day or in the middle of the night.

Last, I reread later and once in a great while I give up on it and rewrite completely.  If I can’t sleep sometimes I will open up my poem on my iPhone in bed and am glad I do because I catch blatant looking errors that I wonder how I could possibly have missed.

Cleaning out

Allowed to take hold

Things are a task master

and if small’s what we afford

Small piles a disaster

The wealthy watch out for

Those shiny collections

Protecting and keeping

Their lovely perfections

From anyone holding

Or touching them.  Please!

Their temperature must be

Seventy degrees

So whether rich or the middle

Your heart its treasure most mightily tugs

It pulls you down to raise itself

Above the ones you want to love.

But if there is something you have to collect

Pick people and family and friends

Not old stuff in boxes closets garages

Attic and basement or under the bed

..

For life test it’s over,

When we’ve all walked away

those things we collected

They all have to stay

~Julie Robinson

Michael’s Morning Star

Old tunes played on a keyboard with singing

By a man who knows how to do it, bringing

Clapping and smiles under hill country trees

Serving hope love and kidding

A big family are these.

Tired from activity

And the big Texas lunch

Of brats beans and burgers

Swigging beer with no liquor ‘cause happy is quicker

And joy found in more ways than munch

It’s now nap time so staff

Spring to usual day to day tasks

Of wheeling and walking and tending to those

Whose minds may have faltered but not their hearts,

Peace there’s found in these here parts.

All back home the pictures we share

With far away family feeling part of it there

‘Cause seeing the smiles, happy we look

Can’t argue with a good photo took

At Michael’s Morning Star Memory Care

~Julie Robinson

The poem below is the twenty year old me living on the high speed line and working in center city Philadelphia.  For a little while I was taking courses at an eye institute in the north of the city and working in the center city while residing on the main train line in Pennsylvania several stops out.  So, to get to work, school, and home took me a very long time.  I walked to the train station near my apartment, took the commuter train to a bus and a subway to work, to class, to work, and back home again.  It was an interesting commute and I had a lot of strange experiences like breaking my nose in a train wreck or like the time I was flashed (those are for a whole different posts).  Mostly I remember watching people and wondering about where they were going. There was a mental hospital that had closed down, I think, and they were sleeping in cardboard boxes, some screaming strange scary stuff, sitting atop the steamy grates.  I can still conjure the sour smell mixed with the smell of pretzels baking in places.  The smell memory is a core brain area!  But, one of the strongest memories was feeling cold.

This is my first attempt at a Behrquain poem, it is not to rhyme, it has a 2, 4, 6, 8, 6, 4, 2… style.  I hope I got it right. Not rhyming was difficult for me!

Tomorrow, a Coat

Sweater

Wrecking her mood

Pulled o’er her head, static

Lipstick smearing, flyaway strands

Held tight down by hairspray

Taste in the air

Chilly

Fall all around

Gladly wearing it now.

Exhale is warming the fibers

Fogging, frosting glasses

Shirttail wiping.

Making

The subway full

Standing, no seat in sight

Holding handle through jerk and bump

The stop is made, all off

At subway’s end.

Her job

No sweaters there

Chilly but faking warm

And on her break she sipped hot tea

And dreamed of warmer things,

A summer’s play

Darkened

The sky grim gloom

A northern snowstorm dumped

Sweater weather turned winter freeze

Steadfast strode, subway fast

To her warm home

Heartened.

~Julie Robinson

Oh! #Octpowrimo, 25 days into the month of poetry.

Oh! The creative push to write a daily poem for Octpowrimo month has helped me write descriptive scenes in my fiction writing giving it better rhythm but not rhyme goodness me but that is a current problem! Anyone else?

Between fiction writing and oil painting and cleaning out my garage, I find myself “painting” poetic scenes in my mind.

And like a painting I have here still on my easel even before I add additional brushstrokes, I have done them in my mind first, same with the written work that needs additional keystrokes.

So, if that wasn’t enough stroking for one post… here is my poem for day 25: Strokes

Daily Strokes

Stroking a kitten’s like stoking a fire

Petting revs her purr motor higher

Arched high she springs to action

her claws get some friction, her fur some rough lickin’

Pouncing off she finds work of all kinds of hard play

And then there’s window sentry light sleeping where she’s keeping

A watch for her stroker, her purrfect re-stoker

To lay lap curled contently consumed by the fire of the day.

~Julie Robinson

Exquisitely Yours is the name of a hair styling salon in my town. I wonder, in light of the fashion of our time being at a loss for exquisiteness, how a person would pick that name for their salon. I wondered how they would think of hair as exquisite since in this day hairstyle for a woman that is too coiffed is considered out of fashion. Perhaps they are attempting to bring back exquisite. More power to them! Bravo!

But, most likely perhaps they are advertising that they provide exquisite service. That should never go out of style and I would not be surprised if a business in my town, a Texas town that may look a little rough around the edges offers, of course, exquisite service with a dash of southern hospitality.

I love words like a sports fanatic. In thinking about the word, exquisite, I was attempting to conjure up exquisite things and I was wondering if truly we may have lost touch with the concept of exquisite: We live in our cookie cutter homes, purchase modern art, wear unmatched clothing and decorate in farmhouse style, wear relaxed blue jeans and our idea of dressing up is wearing a darker color jean with a pretty top and extra makeup; and to top all that off, easy manageable hair.

And that brings me back to that “exquisite” hair salon. Hair has its fashions and our time is not a fashion of exquisite hair. (My poem, below, is where I had a bit of fun with the fashion of hair.)

Has it been in these past seventy or so years, since blue jeans came into vogue, that most everything has had its exquisiteness washed out in the tide of style involving every kind of fashion. The opposite of exquisite is preferred today.

Of course, being a word sleuth, I looked it up.

Exquisite – of special beauty or charm, or rare and appealing excellence, as a face, a flower, coloring, music, or poetry. From Dictionary.com

I was surprised that “coloring” was part of the definition of exquisite. So, I put exquisite coloring as a search term in google and only found exquisite adult coloring books which was surprising since the dictionary evidently believed that there was something exquisite about coloring. What could they have meant by including it? The color of skin, or of fabric or of paint on a canvas?

There is exquisite detail in Michelangelo’s paintings and in architecture belonging especially to the high renaissance and Victorian times and in clothing as it used to be made with fancy buttons and finely woven materials, and velvets, brocade, and top stitching.

If you have a great grandma, go to their house and look around. She probably has some furniture that were exquisitely crafted but you would have to check out an old Sears Roebuck catalog to find an exquisite appliance because they possibly aren’t able to run on today’s electrical current. But, cars. There are car shows in my little town around the courthouse where people gawk at the exquisiteness inside and out of old automobiles.

I know where exquisiteness went: the way of cheap manufacturing. How’d they make us buy into it? Well, I think it was an advertising campaign based on streamlined everything. The new modern look.

Perhaps the short list which is left for exquisite is a person with an exquisite nose or fine jewelry and, especially, flowers – heaven made and never ever going out of exquisite style.

Here’s my poem based upon the Exquisitely Yours Hair Salon.

Fairly Exquisite

A covering, in bible speak

And once exquistely styled,

Is not the style any more

Unless the lady’s eighty-four

Remember power fros, wide picks hanging

And awful Mohawk punk rock wearings

Dread locks worn to partial shavings

Striped or bleached with black roots raising

Tow heads and blue heads, red heads and blondes

Black and brunettes, and my hair, all white

And it’s fashionable now: the young are wearing gray!

Or blue and pink they dye today

Farrah Faucet, Princess Di

Mary Jo Retton or the Rachel, all fly

Or that bowl cut wearing guy

Memories of iconic times

Wings, the shag, bowl cut, pixie

Pin curls, ponytail, curly, wavy,

Mall bangs, side bangs, feather, fringe

Losing, receding, crew cut, balayage

We crown ourselves with stylish hair

And make a glorious statement there

Each decade has its own display

But exquisite’s not the style today

~Julie Robinson

After today, October 23, I have just 7 poems left to write in the #Octpowrimo poetry challenge which spans the month of October. This challenge has required of my brain and heart and soul a rendering of my life transcribed into daily poetry. There are moments I have captured a poem idea but I’m in the middle of something… homeschooling or cooking, caregiving, or doing the list of chores my right brain requires. Those people who love me know I have a left brain that tries to drive both sides.

Anyhow thank you, you poets who came up with this artistic month long stretch and making us all work our creative muscle and lift some heavy word weight!

Poetry Month

October is the perfect stretch

For mind and soul and heart to fetch

New thoughts, old ideas

Holding them warm until they hatch

Solutions are babies

And feelings, the crazies

Then there’s things we all ought to know

So we try some on and wear them out

Til they, independent, grow

To mull and to ponder

And chase em o’er yonder

Across the mind field of near almost defeat,

Tackling, ramshackle-ing

Holding up by their feet

But then those thoughts that slide sideways

Down through the heart’s pathways

And wriggle all cozied up under your skin

Are the ones best divided

And held tightly captive

Fine tuned, put to rhyme

With a beat and some time

A laugh and a tear

Or a hug

And a sigh

~Julie Robinson

Oak Tree with a Cloverleaf

You might remember a tree

Loved in days more worry free

Where climbing was a little work

To sit on branch of scratchy bark

Or lean for hours in summer shade

Writing your first one act play

Of branching arms and trunk alive

Leaves fluttering against the sky

My family’s land, it had a tree

Til freeway cut the property

Estranging that oak

Like a castle’s moat

Now, middle of a cloverleaf

It stately stands, holding memories

Not the drivers by, but the girl in me

Who left my heart up in that tree

~Julie Robinson

Good they didn’t cut it down. My dad tells the story again and again of the property his parents owned. If I’m ever out riding with him I let him repeat the story of the tree. I’m glad for #Octpowrimo because I look around each day for a poem. Today we went out to bring home cheeseburgers and drove around that cloverleaf and I just knew I wanted to encapsulate the feeling.

Melancholy Glee

Lavender spike oil filled the room

better smelling than turpentine

The painter, tired, in a mood

How painting day was now the night

Across the room, with distance to see

That drama of the raging sea

Rough and vast and painterly

But her cat would change it, yes, would he

Who jumping to chase

Snagged his claw on the drapes

And clanging knocked over

Red buds in a vase

So frightened he shrieked

And wherein did leap

His bushy tail becoming a brush, he did sweep

Across the wet painting wide and deep

Oil painter was he

The artist doubled fitfully

Then signed the painting happily:

Melancholy Glee

~Julie Robinson

I went yesterday to visit my husband at his assisted living, Morning Star Memory Care. The story is in the poem below.

With a little Google sleuthing, Heather, the young caregiving attendant found that Adeline died two years ago.

Here’s the picture of the book and what fell out of it….

e664d34a-988c-48af-929a-64e6aee7b59d-1908-00000211c82d9326_file
A Book of Prayer by Helen Steiner Rice, a book found at Morning Star Memory Care, Fredericksburg, Texas

For the Giver of Books

A Book of Prayer

By Helen Steiner Rice

Was found on the bookshelf

By a visiting wife

Trying to find him

Some relief

Her husband’s dementia

was causing her grief

But opening it up

Its stiff spine told its story

This book never read

Was like a book with no glory

Like a doll never played with,

Dressed fancy on shelf,

Collectible car fifty years still in blister

Or a heart never loved

This written word, its pages not turned,

And heartbeat never heard.

Oh Miss Helen, your book!

She’d now take a look

Then out of the middle

Tumbled postcard, old photo

Of a lady who’d received it

As a gift long ago

Quickly flipped back to the title page

Where the giver had inscribed

“To Adeline, in Memory of Paul, 1995”

The penmanship fancy, quite alive

She’d wonder, pausing the read

To study that photo, who was she

This Adeline whose gift

Has finally now been received

Leaving the book but thanking the Giver

Of life and hope and happenings

This book on prayer, that God is there

Found timely just like everything

~Julie Robinson

Mysterious Scene, oil on canvas 11×14

I’ve been working on writing my fiction book instead of painting. I’m 7 chapters in, engrossed in my own story. I think all the creating poetry has done something interesting for my writing. Only problem is I keep trying to rhyme. But today I decided to finish one of my river paintings. I’m working to finish, sign, frame and show my paintings.

I hope you enjoy today’s poem…it’s loosely based in truth. That’s kinda funny. Loose truth. Oxymoron?

Fall’s Fault

It was blazing hot today

But fashion forced me to

Wear my new boots anyway

Oh! My feet the debt did pay

Changing to sandals for dinner

Seemed smart

So my feet I freed

And all ten toes they sighed relief

But walking home seems winter now

October fashion fail tis true

Cause now my toes are all froze

And my lips are all blue

So it’s Fall but it’s Summer

Feels Winter in Fall

But my poor feet plead

“Please come quick, Spring!”

~Julie Robinson

He Stood You Up?

Against the station pole she’s leaning

Heart palpating, heady, dreaming

As only a heart in love can hope

He’s coming

But he doesn’t… three long hours

Her eyes the crowd filled station scours

And upturned face has thence turned dour

Examining her wilted flower

Is he married, was he lying

Perhaps now he’s inside dying

But she’s not crying, she’s applying

That thin veneer to keep her trying

To be stood up

Thus is a doozy

Suddenly it made her woozy

Careful what you dream, be choosy

What a man! He said he’d meet her

Online chat he seemed so eager

But was she almost off to danger

Narrowly to join a stranger

That email man she’ll never meet

She’ll leave him in that virtual dream

Smiles perfect in her memory

But does he think of her, does he?

~Julie Robinson

I wrote this poem in response to another blogger’s story of being stiffed by an online love when she had her “You’ve Got Mail” un-encounter that scene where the fellow Shop Around the Corner workers say “He Stood You Up?” I have my own story where I met a man online – how much of it did that movie cause??? He didn’t stand me up but he was very strange and I was glad it was only a coffee date. I was able to sip it fast and zip out with no harm done.

Gilded

There it sits

The golden frame

Setting the painting

O’er fireplace hangs

Stormy seas bringing

A ship on the green

Waves swelling, telling

High venture at sea

Ornamental,

Brilliance beaming

Oil captured, artist dreaming

Come, move in closer now to see

What is happening

In that moment

Stormy day atop the wave

Rocking, rolling, treasure toting

Tell me, ship, you coming, going

Got time for a visit pay

Better, navigate my wall untamed

In the artist’s gilded frame

~Julie Robinson

Sometimes I like to imagine that something I have created on canvas is real. I have painted many ocean and beach scenes but this is my first attempt at a sailing vessel. I have the painting sitting on the floor trying to figure out a grouping with some other paintings. It’s actually an acrylic painting though it worked better in the poem to have it be an oil. And I have no fireplace, but I am considering building myself a faux fireplace with candles just so that I can hang it above the mantel.

My good friend Caroline Dechert so sweetly framed it in that beautiful frame and put it in a local art show for me during a time when it was difficult to get out and do things due to caregiving.

That frame is as fancy as friendship. Caroline called me and checked up on me and came to my house to paint with me. She has been one of my biggest art supporters. Friendship is golden.

I think this painting should be named: “Gilded”.

The Dark

Children afraid of the dark need some lighting

For in closets and basements and under beds hiding

Mysterious creatures are sometimes abiding

And mere shadows become some imagined surprisings

Chased out by the day but not by the nighting

By day they’re all gone, you suddenly see

They’ve climbed high up in a tree

Now you’re under your bed for hide and seek

Closets are open without a big stink

In dark they’re at home but by light they’re made weak

So the dangled bedside foot bedside you stick

Don’t give it a worry, not a bit

But you’ll give the monster a chance to lick

If you watch that scary bedtime flick

Needs give the lightswitch the upward tick

~Julie Robinson

Halfway through the month of October’s poetry challenge I thought I’d write a poem to commemorate getting halfway through Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.

Learning From The Dark Ages

An ice age kicked off the dark 14th century

Froze up the water

Famine a looming

War with England, France’s undoing

Earthquake struck

They thought it God’s dooming

A hundred year war, and rodents were toting

A plague that killed droves

But the Church, forgiveness controlling

And divisions took toll on instead of the grace

Some lost their hope ever so slowly

Turned many away from the joy of the faith

High style the shoe was ever so pointy

Held by chain right to the knee

The king captured, knights unchivalrous bolted

Blaming, the peasants, how they revolted,

Starving and frozen no bread in their oven

The vests that they wore, the jacquerie

Now in our T-shirts and scruffy blue jeans

Dependent to shop for everything

Don’t know to sew to make us some clothes

Bake our own bread, we grub hub by phone

Do we read books or binge watch YouTube’s

Kittens and puppies hedgehogs and squirrels

What are we teaching our boys and our girls

Between soccer karate and parent board meetings

To work and to play at all a fast pace

iPhones glowing our proud selfie face

Did we vote in the last governors’ race

Beware the lights dimming for another dark age

~Julie Robinson

Was it Serendipity?

Sometimes I’m thinking

A word has a meaning

But the thought that it captures

Is another way leaning

What did I learn

Googling Serendipity

That it’s a made up word

With no etymology

From an old fairytale

In a city, Serendip

With sagacity and chance

Some princes saved their skins

First, let’s minus chance,

For isn’t it just circumstance

Mixed with possibility?

What’s left for those princes: sagacity

It’s wisdom and thinking

And learning, discerning

Schooling not luck

Nor magic happenings

I like to know words

…Serendipity toured…

For words are our thoughts

Truth treasure unfurled

So what do you call

A chance good event

Where does it come from

It’s a blessing heav’n sent

~Julie Robinson

My iPad keyboard reveals which keys I use the most. Smudgy traces of my fingers linger on the

asdfhjkletiocnm

and delete.

However the

qwrypzxvb

keys are still new looking. Yes, after I noticed the smudginess I gently scrubbed it with a soft sudsy cloth but not before I made a sorta scientific study which consisted of jotting down the smudge/nonsmudge keys and then considering what words I must be leaving out.

At first I thought I might make up words of those underused letters but then I noticed there was no vowel. Then I conjured all those weird words my English teachers used to get so fascinated about clutching their heart enraptured over some old writing that I couldn’t get adolescently stirred up for.

Anyhow that thought trail led me to write this poem for day 13 of this oh so exhilarating challenge.

Word Cake

Word cake, they served it in high school and college

Layered up stories and high minded sonnets

Condensed or flambéed to stir us to think

But drug us all close to the edge of the brink

Longingly lumbering flowery knowy

Old language of poets heavy and doughy

We studied a mouthful, but we were too slowly

Chewing on words a little bit showy

Or so light they puffed up

Now what did they say

Fancy tiered laying flat

Their complicated meaning take

We learned we know nothing

With cream they were stuffing

Our frosted dreams and airy things

Grown fat on old something

~Julie Robinson

I returned today to paint with my Thursday art friends after a very long break. Like many things I’m easing back into life, breathing a little and feeling free. I brought a canvas prepped with a green ground and I painted… clouds

Painting Clouds

Crowning steepled snowy mountains

Gathering rivers lakes and seas

Sailing billowed oceans roaring

Building walls of energy

Oh you droplets misty makings

Cumulative rainbows end

Heavy bottomed gray and brooding

Artist painted, poet penned

Twisting snowing hailing blowing

Drifts and puddle splashes stowing

Cool drink poured for all that’s growing

Owing to our heaven Friend

~Julie Robinson

Tall crepe myrtle grow in the front of my house. They glow especially brilliant in the sun at the time of day called…

The Golden Hour

Evening gilds the pink crepe myrtle

Glorifying every bloom

branches stretch and ivy creep to

Golden hour treasure boons

How we wonder at the Canvas

Painted while we work and play

No excuse we see the story

Written for this time of day

Stroking, revealing, highlighting, detailing,

The Artist touches everything

Giving hope of life eternal

renewing faith, reviving dreams

Though ’tis brief and often weary

Life its golden curtain draws

Thoughts to warm your heart sincerely

At the end, a brilliant dawn

~Julie Robinson

I put my husband in memory care last week and I left there feeling a little sad for him because of who I know he used to be. I saw a spark of his old personality and that made me consider the past 6 years I have been taking care of him in relation also to how long I’ve been raising children and it all made me feel grateful for the chance to take care of and love the people I have in my life.

They No Longer Living Here

It takes a lifetime raising children

Infant babe to driving teens

All the feeding, and the bleeding

Knees and hearts and hopes and dreams

It takes a lifeline helping old ones

through stages in senility

Never sure just how to do it

Stumbling through the years it seems

Raising caring loving praying

Over those you know are growing

Difficulties they are knowing

On them all your heart bestowing

The lives you touch when helping those

Who need a lift to help them through

Doesn’t matter young or old

It only matters that you do

But in the end you’re left a room

At the table, empty chair

The nest swept clean; so what’s it mean

That they’re no longer living there

~Julie Robinson

Fussing is an old fashioned word which basically means to make too much of something.

What’s the Fuss

When thoughts are to words

And words are to us

Selfishness sparks

The language of fuss

For fussing’s the thing

That fumemakers know

When kindred are kindled

It starts the whole row

What if we cared more

Than fueling our fued

And scorching the earth

While in it we stew

~Julie Robinson

I refinished an old desk bought at a local antique store and now have it in my living room. I had to use the furniture stripper twice on the top because I could still see the water rings then stained it to match the original color and put a brilliant polyurethane gloss on the top.

As I worked hard in the garage in the Texas heat in August refinishing this desk I was wondering its story. If desks could talk…

Here’s my day 8 poem:

Generational Thinking

The desk so mid-century

Sat solid and stately

But now it is lately

Neglected and old

With glass rings are lifting

the finish, I’m thinking

The one who did use it

Was busy I’m sure

Who sat and pushed paper

Or solved a crime caper

Or wrote a big novel

The New York Times list

Where was it a sitting

In small or tall building

And now what’s it doing

Retired and poor

Can’t we just shine it

Millenially find it

A place for an iPad

To sit and to think

To blog and to journal

And twitter a kernel

But give it a coaster

For under our drink.

~Julie Robinson

Wow it’s a week into the month. Each day That I write a new poem for this October poetry challenge, Octpowrimo, I find it a struggle at the beginning to get the poem started but then the flow goes. Getting the initial spark is not difficult because there is poetry everywhere when you begin to look for it.

Today’s poem…

Blue

How peaceful a color

But also the blues

Pinnochio’s fairy

Elvis’s shoes

Is sky or it’s velvet

And crying in the rain

It’s peaceful and tranquil

And bruises and pain

How cool in the spectrum

As chill as it goes

But difficult temper

In the bayou throes

Oh rescue this color!

Come yellow and red

To majesty and growing things

No! Get Titanium instead

It’ll lighten its load

And let its light shine

Like the rarified diamond

That few ever find.

~Julie Robinson

My husband who has dementia, was placed in memory care just yesterday. Today was his birthday so we brought cupcakes and I wrote this poem for the occasion.

Morning Star Birthday

He blew out his candle

Balloons to the ceiling

The birthday song sung

by all with such feeling

Enjoying the cupcakes

For some was a feat

Cause at their old age

Their fingers can’t reach

Some have help

With each bite that they take

But then still wear most

Of the chocolate cake

How gentle the persons

The handling care

To sit each bottom

In the dining room chair

Worn out from the eating

They go to the seating

Roun’ TV they’re keeping

A watch without care

At the doorstep of heaven

A place there is given

And nothing is hidden

Watched over by Him.

~Julie Robinson

I wrote this poem on 10/4/2018… and it is true that I did give up all sweets 12 years ago on 10/4/2006. I remember the date because it was 10/4 in CB radio language…“over and out” on sweets because I had been eating sweets like a crazy person.  It is also true I didn’t eat sweets for 2 years and that I’m now back to sweets/crazy status.  So 10/4/2018 I gave up eating sweets for as long as I can.

I gave up eating sweets

I gave up eating sweets

A dozen years ago

For two years, absolutely none

Completely, nil, zero

Then how did it happen

Over the course

I’m back heavy on it

I need a divorce

One where I’m keeping

The pots and the pans

But it gets the mixer

And the cupcake stand

I hope I can leave it

Forever this time

I really don’t love its

Consuming my mind

It taunts and it teases

And whines its “oh pleases”

Through binge worthy

Cringe worthy mountains of eat

It’s all or it’s nuthin

Not even a muffin

Not even just one little bite

I bid thee my sweetie a “final” goodbye.

~Julie Robinson

The Moment of Know

Twas the moment of know

The curtains they blow

The window pushed high

The caregiver low

Out of his mind

He went real slow

Now he wants to go “home”

It’s ringing, the phone

Can you come get your husband,

Did you know he’s not there,

No, I’ve been asleep,

I sleepily stare.

Dark is the town

Out driving am I

At a time that I never

Out of my mind.

~Julie Robinson

This is a true story except I’m not, I hope, out of my mind. Couldn’t get this in the poem but I hardly ever go anywhere at night and it was very mysterious indeed.

I made it to day three! Only 28 to go.

Mockingbirds and Cardinals

Lady cardinals with pink peaked heads

Are waiting atop a tree

Listening to the male, a suitor

Sing bright his suite melody.

How he gets them all undone

Twittering lovely all a flutter,

They all want to be the one, that is

Until the pushy mockingbirds come.

What a show, mocking, seizing

Their places high up in the tree

A plan, a program, in the genes

From the very first to this late scene.

Not quite the same in humankind

Who defend our top tree spots,

It’s fight…not flight, the enemy,

Against the swooping lot.

~Julie Robinson

If you take a peek at yesterday’s post you will see where the roots of the idea for this poem grew.

The Princess of Pee

Don’t mock the cardinals

I stood outside while my 10 year old Yorkie was doing her little business. I say little cause she’s only 9 pounds. She has had a little problem which has given her the nickname “The Princess of Pee” because she doesn’t want to “go” outside when it’s raining and it’s been raining a lot.

Enough is enough. So I figured I’d better stand outside with her to be sure.

And boy did the birds put on a show.

High on top my neighbors tree were three female cardinals. And in my tree, a beautiful male sang loud a courting song which is what got my attention. But then some mockingbirds, the Texas state bird, swooped in and took those high positions.

There are rules in birddom, I’m sure, rules dictating who gets the top of the tree. Sure seems the mockingbird ranks over the female cardinal.

Coming in from the animal show in my backyard, I can’t help but consider in this so far quiet early morning hour as I scoop coffee grounds and put the oatmeal in the microwave… I can’t help but compare our lives to the birds: When my husband got his dementia I had to swoop in and take his place kinda like the mockingbird.

And I wanted to … And I had to…

when I needed to … be at the top where I am the one in charge where I am caregiver to my husband and part encourager part enforcer to our daughter who homeschools.

Gotta be the mockingbird.

I really ought to write a mockingbird poem during this poetry writing month. Right?!

All Colors Brightly Gleaming

It brightens a color

But, color, it’s not

When it’s cold it’s ice

When it’s angry it’s hot.

It once was a poison,

‘‘Twas all the rage

Of painted up faces

In the Victorian age.

An empty blank canvas,

Peace flags flying grace,

The hope of a Bride,

In Cotton and lace.

Full moon rising

And carved concrete fountains,

Pillowy clouds puffing

Up snow capped mountains.

From rocks finely made,

To glittering beaches stored,

All high and foamy cresting waves

Must crash their lives against your shore.

“What? Radiance in the making!

Why must you come to such an end?”

“Because”, says he, “I get mixed up

When I get brushed on, my friend.”

White

~Julie Robinson

I just love this month long poetry writing challenge. I’m stuck on colors right now… I think I may do brown tomorrow.

The poetry writing has come at a good time for me. I’ve been sick with a bad cold and it’s got my poetry lights turned on. And it’s giving me something to think of as I go about my usual day of caregiving.

IMG_0765
For awhile I was churning out little clay animals, mostly owls, but I decided to make a turtle here and I snapped it’s picture as he looked like he was trying to climb out.

Feeling Stuck

I got a bead stuck up my nose… in all honesty, I stuck a bead up my nose when I was about eight years old and had to go to the doctor to get it out.  When you get anything stuck anywhere there is a franticness that sets in.  The bead gets dug even deeper, the kid with the elbow between the chair slats wedges even tighter (one of my kids).

When my grandson came to visit a few years ago he got his finger stuck in my pantry door.  Anything stuck makes me feel so frantic on the inside and his wailing really made made it worse.  I highlight those stuck moments in my mind along with other painful moments like falling off my skateboard.  I thought I could go faster if I ran and jumped on it.  I went up in the air and landed on the concrete where I felt like I kept landing… it was a strange sensation… and I remember laying there looking up at the sky and plumeria trees (we lived in Hawaii) and boy do I remember having to go to school the next day and sit.

What do you do in ongoing life stucky-ness?   Being a 24/7 caregiver for a person with any illness with no end is stuck time that drags on.

We are stuck in my husband’s dementia.

Usually I deal with it better.

Today I am not feeling well.

I feel like I’m coming down with a cold which is making me feel aggravated with his telling and repeating all his weird delusional tales he makes up.

Stuck in dementia… trying to at least emotionally climb out like the painted turtle above.

 

#OctPoWriMo

Day One of #OctPoWriMo 31 Days of October Poetry Challenge – I am writing poetry each day about the subjects of art and caregiving.  I am an artist and a caregiver.  Now I am dabbling a bit in poetry – especially for the month of October.

The Color of Life

Vibrant wave, first in the bow,

Bulls see it before a row.

Parades in velvet, rubies, garnet,

A dress possessed by a harlet,

The lady in and love is like,

To blush a cheek when pleasure spikes.

Oh so fast, it gets the ticket,

Or swirl and swish, can we just sip it?

Red

~Julie Robinson

I’m so glad you were here to read my first poem.  I am participating in a poetry writing group that is writing 31 poems in 31 days in October 2018.

Don’t miss my daily poetry posts as where… for the month of October 2018 I will write art and caregiving poetry in between my other usual posts on art and caregiving.

http://octpowrimo.com.
October poetry writing.
6B64D5A7-C53B-4DEE-A28E-D330833A1606
iPhone art. If you look closely in the lower left hand corner you will see the paper holes. I had taken a picture of some smears on my piece of paper and then doodled around with the iPad pencil. Sometimes I write a poem to go with my paintings.  (See Adrift Haiku below story)

Have you seen Adrift?

My daughter and I watched the movie Adrift last night on Amazon Prime.  If you haven’t seen it yet I promise I won’t spoil the story.

We sat together on the couch watching it and nearly hit each other over the grief when they showed the thing … that happened, the thing that was revealed was so surprising.  It’s a true story.

What is it called when the author knows the thing that happens and keeps it a secret?  It makes me kinda mad, like they were keeping a secret and holding it back from you to punch you in the face with it for effect.  It was strangely satisfying though because I think it made us feel a little like the character felt when it happened.

What happens in the movie (except the thing I can’t tell you that happened), is no surprise.  And, that there would be a rescue was no surprise since it is based on a true story.

The way the director weaves in the days prior, during, and after the storm of a couple who fall in love not long before they set sail to the time of a great storm that changes their course, leaves us all adrift with them.  We were on that sailboat… what a cinematic accomplishment.  And, we always kept in the back of our mind that there of course would be a rescue.

But, the surprise:  it cut deep.

See the movie and tell me what you think.

Adrift Haiku

Adrift is not lost

A storm can n’er be conquered

But peace can be found.

~Julie Robinson

I couldn’t help comparing Adrift to being a caregiver to my spouse who has dementia.  Not everything can be equally compared.  But sometimes I am Adrift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close up on a painting I’m working on to show details. When my iPhone wasn’t working, I noticed there was detail needed in this painting I’ve been working on for the past two days.

IPhone Addiction… how to know?

This all happened to me yesterday so I diagnose myself: addicted

I got to thinking … maybe it isn’t the iPhone, per se, ,,,but the

I n f o r m a t i o n.

IPHONE ADDICTION?

Here is a list of my own life events and my own reactions to a day without my iphone.

This wonderful technology I haven’t had that long in the scheme of my life… It was born in 2001. YouTube 2006, WordPress 2003, Siri 2011. I use it to find the word of the day, the verse of the day, and look up words … I love etymology! Breaking news, traveling the Google Earth to find that place they are talking about on the news, writing my blog, and poetry, and reading, keeping up my blog readers, checking arrival of Amazon prime orders, YouTube for learning about anything and everything, and using Siri for text, reminders, putting things on my calendar. The iPhone has reached in and gripped my entire life. And when I didn’t have it, I felt at a loss. I think I might feel that the iPhone is my friend. Granted, it wasn’t just the iphone, but my internet and cellular were also out at my house. So, a triple whammy!

I was locked out of my phone first thing in the morning. Because, of course, what is the first thing I do every morning? I simply didn’t enter the passcode correctly that I had just set up less than a day ago so got locked out.

1. I was frantic about it beyond normal and couldn’t eat because I was trying to solve the problem.

2. Spent all day watching YouTube videos to figure out how to reset my phone and trying all of the things they said to do. None of those “hard reset” hacks worked.

3. Spent hours and energy into iTunes (which by the way could be more helpful).

4. Bought a brand new phone instead of waiting to go to the apple store where I was told they could restore my phone.

5. When I got home with my new phone there was an internet outage in my area until the next morning so I ate a cupcake and went to bed with my book, The Distant Mirror, The Calamitous 14th Century, a difficult read that I usually read with Wikipedia at the ready. No Wikipedia. So, I couldn’t really even read my book.

6. Upset that I couldn’t answer comments on my blog.

7. Couldn’t set up my new iPhone because I couldn’t go on the internet or the cellular service. And, just like a person whose power goes out who keeps trying to flick on the light switch, that’s what I kept on doing with my phone. It was on… I could see the apps, but I couldn’t actually get in. I kept going to the weather app and the news app… For some reason, I wasn’t able to use the cellular data for internet either. It was tough for an information junkie.

8. Woke the next morning and my heart skipped a beat when I saw the internet on so I could set up my new phone.

I was refreshed because I got a good night’s sleep … with no YouTube to distract me and I thought about trying to fight the iPhone addiction. So, I looked up, on the iPhone, “how to fight iPhone addiction”. Of course.

Visiting a Colorful Muddy Road, Acrylic on Canvas

My husband was cranky so when I mentioned his going to the adult day care he told me in a tone that I knew was going to be a “brick wall” conversation… that I needed to be the one to go.

Sometimes I run through phrases in my head that fortunately I don’t speak. All those years of my mom’s teaching me (and my big teenager mouth) to let those thoughts rattle around awhile before deciding to let them shoot out the chute… pays off time and again.

So I told him he’d maybe feel better if he lay down awhile. The sound of my voice was so soothing I surprised myself. Thanks mom! I know it was hard work raising me.

So today we stayed home and I made chicken flautas. Everyone’s favorite. Here’s the recipe. I don’t do exact amounts but I will try to here. I’ve been cooking these up for perhaps 20 years and the amounts don’t have to be exact. Trick is to use leftover chicken and soften the tortillas before you stuff them or they will crack.

I’ve had these in a restaurant… but always deep fried. Never like mine… so GOOD!

Julie’s Chicken Flautas

1 cup of cooked chicken, shredded or diced up small

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 can green chilis

1 tsp cumin

8 flour tortillas, warmed

Roll up cooked chicken, grated cheese, green chilies and cumin in each flour tortilla. Seal each one good and tight with a wooden toothpick. They resemble little flutes – where they get their name flautas, Spanish for flute. Brown then them in a little oil in a skillet. Serve over shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes and top with sour cream and salsa. They are a pretty presentation. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top to make them appear so extra tasty. Don’t forget to remove the wooden toothpick before serving.

So, I decided as I was serving the delicious meal that sometimes it is better to stay home and invite people over. I invited my parents, who I was intending to meet out for lunch, and asked them to bring cupcakes from our favorite cupcake shop: The Sweeter Side of Rails. We like the tuxedo and the peanut butter cup. That made it all the more sweet.

And after they left, I painted over the above painting which I had painted last year when I was doing clouds differently than I am doing now. And what did I do, of course you know if you’ve been reading my blog….

…but add a very wet reflecty muddy road that is in itself a weird kind of respite for me..

If Clouds Could Talk, Acrylic on Canvas … with poem at the end of this post.

We went for the Psych evaluation.

First off, the psychologist had at least 4″ high purple shag wall to wall carpeting in her office. I haven’t ever seen anything like it and I’m a child of the 70’s.

And her office was in an old building that didn’t have a “trust factor” for me.

As in the above painting of mine, clouds talk, and apparently, psychologists performing a psych eval do too. After the evaluation the psychologist gave her opinion that my husband probably wouldn’t get the disability because she didn’t think dementia is caused by PTSD and that he didn’t have any PTSD symptoms.

But the paperwork from the VA had said the psychologist evaluator only does the evaluation and won’t give an answer. I thought it a bit strange she’d give an opinion.

In my own reading on the matter I’ve learned that it does happen that a person can have a very stressful event happen such as my husband did in Vietnam that can cause dementia later in life.

Well, I am not worried about any of it. And I remind myself that I’m just carrying through on the application for disability that the VFW near us had helped my husband apply for a few years ago after he was no longer able to work, but had not as yet been diagnosed with dementia.

A little tiny bit of history on him case you were wondering…

He was a practicing attorney until 2012 when he wasn’t able any longer to concentrate or to properly function in his job.

Then in 2014 after he had been going to visit with the veterans at our local VFW, they helped him apply.

Then in 2015 he finally got a diagnosis of dementia.

Then… a few weeks ago (9/2018) I was looking for something in the file cabinet and I came across the PTSD disability application which he had filed. So I took it up to the VFW and they refiled it with the information they had said they were lacking. In about a week the psych eval had been ordered by the VA.

I don’t know how any of it will go. But that purple shag carpeting was very very strange. Just about as strange as clouds communicating.

If Clouds Could Talk

If clouds could talk

in puffed up words

Or heavy purple phrases

Misty morning melodies

To tornado laden crazies

They’d loftily quote

Or drastically deluge

If clouds could talk.

~Julie Robinson

This current painting of mine has no storm in it. I have been painting out of my own feelings instead of looking at a picture. Sometime the strokes of paint look like something. Those little sheep had been some rocks. Sometimes it is whatever occurs to me at the time. I have painted plenty that have turned into a storm when I add to it another day… So better hold on to your sheepskins you little sweet sheep.

TODAY WE GO FOR MY HUSBAND’S PSCYH EVAL

Because of the disability application, as a matter of course, the VA orders a psychological evaluation of the person to see if PTSD is the cause of their symptoms. In tomorrow’s post I will say how that goes. I don’t really know what to expect.

6ABFFE4D-DFDB-4FC4-AF4C-B8C5558FAE3C
Colorful Puddles After a Rainstorm, Acrylic on Canvas

Besides the sweet smell in Texas when “It’s fixin’ to rain”, one of my favorite things is puddles after a good rainstorm with reflections of a now bright sky. I love to put those last touches of bright red in the fresh puddle that make the road rise up.

I express this feel of a scene often in my paintings because it says “Look up, the torrent is over and it’s a brand new brightness.”

Being a caregiver has been a bit like that rainstorm.  But, it has been helpful for me to find acceptance in who I am now. I don’t have a husband who is there for me to love and care for me.  Instead I’m left with a man who sometimes packs up because it’s time for him to go home.

But “The position has been filled”… as was succinctly stated to the dog standing outside the door in Mary Poppins.

…Filled by the One who makes a storm, knows fully about the puddles, the colorful brightness, and how to fill my artist’s heart with joy.

img_4216-1“Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Owlright” is a canvas bag I painted. Such a cutie!!

Dementia is progressive.  It does not get better.  There is no cure. And we who care for someone with dementia are at risk ourselves due to the ongoing stress of it all.

That brings me to a question I saw posed online, I think it was a writing prompt.

Wife, or Caregiver?

I think the question could be expanded to…

Husband, or Caregiver,

Daughter, Son, Granddaughter… or caregiver... and on and on.

I will speak to the spouse/caregiver because it is what I know and live.

An answer to the question is found where the lines got blurred between my husband as spouse and me as fully caregiver.

I am so glad to be able to share this information because I believe it is so helpful for the mental health of the caregiver.  And, for those of you who read my blog, you know I am an artist so forgive me, a non scientist, as I get “all scientific” with my seven stages…

First I ought to say… My considering myself to be a caregiver and no longer a wife happened incrementally over the course of several years.  Here are the stages we have been and are still going through:

The seven stages of my becoming a caregiver.

Stage Zero:  (All spouses take care of each other throughout their marriage – sometimes one spouse needs more care… and it can’t ever be seen as equal as the spousal role is to love the other – so this stage is a reminder of that…)

Stage One.  Unnoticible to those outside the husband/wife relationship:  husband has small changes in his personality, husband apologizes, difficult time is covered over by husband/wife relationship. (+/- 1 years)

Stage Two.  Wife confronts husband on his now more apparent personal changes, gets angry pushback.  The relationship suffers. (+/- 1 years)

Stage Three.  Husband is unable to concentrate on work and otherwise is acting in outlandish and inappropriate ways in his business, but, thankfully, wife is able to talk him into retiring.   Still, he is able to hold a conversation, be excited about politics, and he still reads.  He still drives.  The family still plays games together and he can fully participate.  Wife is able to talk her husband into retiring and moving out of state. (+/- 1 years)

Stage Four.  Husband is acting in inappropriate ways socially and wife talks him into letting her come along to his next doctor’s appointment where he is diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.  Husband no longer reads yet spends all of his waking hours watching cable news.  (+/- 1 years)

Stage Five.  Husband gets confused with bill paying and has trouble concentrating, begins to have problems working his television.  Wife takes over all finances. (+/- 1 year)

Stage Six.  Wife has husband evaluated for driving the automobile.  He loses his license. Husband begins believing he is running a business and also begins thinking “he needs to go home” and will pack his bags.  Wife sees that the business ideas are being stoked by his constant web surfing so wife takes away all electronic devices.  Wife is able to verbally talk him out of leaving.  Husband is unable to stay home alone.  (+/- 6  months)

Stage Seven.  Wife has now crossed over into full caregiver because husband has become incapable of understanding most things.  Wife is able to manage his television viewing habits so as to have him watch for the most part, good movies and reruns of shows like I Love Lucy.  Husband is now completely unable to play a family game.  Husband has times of psychotic type behavior where he, in agitation, tries to escape.  Will walk down the street and not want to come back.  Wife has needed to call the police to come help with this problem.  Husband does not wash himself even if he is in the shower and will put on the same dirty clothes afterward.  Husband sleeps in his clothing.  Husband cannot at times find the bathroom though there is a label on the door.  Cannot find where his bedroom is.  Husband will want to eat though he just ate a full meal.  (3 years… and counting).

So, for me it was not wife OR caregiver.  It is wife has BECOME caregiver.

It is not just a war of words, though. Tomorrow I plan to discuss how defining myself as caregiver has helped me.

Is every little thing gonna be owlright? What do you think?

Me… and my ideas… and showing off my haircut. FYI in case anyone out there wonders… My hair went totally white and so I just… go with it. And now on to…

Respite Care Reform

Please read yesterday’s post where I describe respite care.

(Don’t get me wrong… I love the place and the people where I take my husband). But if I were asked…

I have been taking my husband to adult day care for a couple of years now, and I have some ideas for improvement…

What if there was/were

  1.  curb service drop in/pick up so that the person using a walker would not ever have to walk across a parking lot and the caregiver would not need to get out of the car. My husband is physically able but I see many that are not.
  2. a full service salon for haircut and nails during the times they are in care?  It isn’t easy for caregivers to do this.
  3. beds for nap time because having a rested person to pick up would be nice. For my husband the respite care is busy busy. Too busy.
  4. daily, all day care for working people.  Maybe employers would allow their employees a little allowance to assist with the expense of this.  Or, maybe there could be some tax remedy to allow people to afford it.  Our day care is five hours, three times a week which I am thankful for but it doesn’t allow me enough time to work.
  5. a calm schedule with activities for people who want to participate and movies or television for those who like to sit and watch.  It would be nice to keep the person from being worn out from the day.

Sometimes we people who give care forget about our own needs, independent from the ones who depend solely on our energy, our kindness, our patience. Respite allows us to recharge those finite resources. If you aren’t already seeking respite… go out there and find it.

I think I have mentioned that I have

S

T

A

C

K

S

and walls of my paintings at my house. Granted, many are because I’ve been learning, practicing and developing my personal style over the past six years that I have been a caregiver.

And trying to stay sane.

And, sanity… brings me to how much I appreciate RESPITE CARE.

Before I begin to discuss respite care I feel for most people not close to the dementia world I should begin with giving my best definition:

Respite: a short break from engagement in something, anything really, that is especially difficult.

Remember respite during primary school days?

School recess is a respite we most of us can relate to. It was where we once so easily threw off the frustration of the strict classroom and climbed to the top of the monkey bars to hang by our knees.

Remember being a new parent? (Or business owner… I think anything that is truly your “baby” would compare to the feeling…). As a new parent I remember feeling at a loss when I went out without my baby for the first time.

It was a similar experience when I took my husband to the adult day care. I sat in my car with no plan. Now what? Who am I even?

A couple years down the road I now know what to do.

Respite care is never long enough. If I choose to paint I lose track of time which is why I don’t usually paint. I don’t mind at all painting when he’s home. So even if I have a compelling artistic venture I choose not to paint during my respite time. Instead I…

  • run errands
  • have coffee or lunch out with friends
  • make a great grocery list and shop carefully for as long as I want
  • do a household task that’s hard to be in the middle of with him here
  • pay bills
  • make important phone calls
  • study my bible and memorize scripture
  • read a book
  • clean out a closet, a drawer
  • make plans, lists for things I need to do but am putting off… like tackle the garage. (The garage is last on my list (always). Does anyone else have the problem that the garage feels… foreign and full of spiders. I need to take the space over and make it work. Well I will be inducing a little self therapy on that very soon… like next Spring… I kid, really.)

Respite ought to leave a person refreshed. Cleaning out the garage during my respite time might do that in the end.

Tomorrow I will discuss a few small Respite Care Reform ideas I have that would help me. And, since respite is for me, the caregiver, I don’t mind divulging my ideas.

And, look for a future post with the great garage clean out. I think.

I Love You More Than Cupcakes…

… A writing prompt from my kitchen.

Have you had a store bought cupcake recently?  Not a homemade or from a grocery store bakery.

No, a cupcake from one of those cupcake shops that have arisen in strip malls in the past few years.  Our town has one with cupcakes and gelato.

A little comparison: Yesteryear’s cupcake was 2” cake and 1/4 “ frosting. Today’s are basically buttercream frosting and filling encased in a little cake … to hold it together.

i love ‘em. My favorite? Peanut butter cup.

I will never be able to go back.

DEMENTIA SWEET CRAVINGS

One of the side effects of dementia is a new sweet tooth. And it’s my husband with the dementia.

My husband, before dementia, didn’t especially like sweets.  If we ever had something he’d just want one little bite.  I’ve always wanted anything that was dripping in childish amounts of  sweet. My husband, now that he has dementia… is more like that child.  He will eat handfuls of candy and will want a large chocolate milkshake with his cheeseburger.  When getting cookies, he asks for several.

I’m trying to think of the earthly things I love more than a good cupcake.

img_5379
At the beginning of Water Street… I stopped to take this picture in order to paint it someday.

”See that building up there on that hill,” starts in my husband, who has dementia.

“It belonged to my father when we started this town.”  I allow him to say things like this without any correction.  We have only lived here six years and most of them have been living with dementia.

He enjoys telling these stories, so who cares if they’re true.

He tells stories about everything now.

I enjoy just looking:  the trees, the people standing waiting for the walk signal on the street paralleling the river.  Where is everyone headed?  What are they thinking?

I like going this way because it is off the Main Street in our little town and on this quaint old street lined with… old memories.

My Granny used to bring my older brother and I “to town” and we would go to the 5 and dime store so she could “spoil us” which meant we got to pick out a toy.  Seems everyone knew my Granny and she liked to show us off, I think, more than anything.

My parents grew up in this town and tell stories of how different life was. Now that I’m older I pay more attention.

My mom tells of how she and her brother got to wander around town back in the 50’s when kids could do such a thing on a Saturday and they would shortcut through the tiny space between the buildings to get to the movie theater partly to sit in air conditioning.

If I had the money I would buy a space on Water Street and open a museum with exhibits that change out.  This town needs a history museum.  But, my very first exhibit would be “Water Street through time”.  I’m always imagining “ghost images” of people who have inhabited it.  What were they wearing, doing, hoping, riding in (or on), seeing?

I know my mom went to see Tarzan and went right home to jump out of a tree with a rope around her neck… now that was a story!!!

When we are driving down Water Street to the adult day care, he asks me several times (or a dozen…) if I am picking him up at 3:00.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Don’t worry.  That’s what I wrote on his yellow sticky note on the front of The Yellow Book he takes with him.

Being keyed up is part of his dementia.

Repetition is part of the dementia.

But then so is the reassurance I know he needs.

And so we drive along.

“Sketching” in acrylics. The Path

I was in the mood to do what I call acrylic sketching today (above landscape). I’ve been painting in my sketch book recently. And, I can’t wait to get back to painting on canvas. The paint goes on so differently on the paper. I love the paint on the canvas because there is some give to it as you paint. Why is that important to me? I don’t know, but I do like the feel.

I plan to do a painting soon on canvas of a hill country pathway like one that would’ve been painted in the 18th century, and I plan to frame it in an old timey ornate gold frame, the kind can only be gotten (affordably) at a thrift store these days.

Music and Dementia

As I was cleaning up from the day’s painting my daughter, who had been playing her precise classical pieces and jazzed up versions of her other songs, sat and improvised on the piano The House of the Rising Sun and my husband began belting with more feeling than most people sing… the lyrics: “There is a house in New Orleans…”

There are more interesting changes in my husband’s dementia than the delusions, hallucinations, forgetting and wandering and weird behavior.

Sometimes there are good things.

My husband never before cared much about music. He certainly never sang except for in church. And then I would have to strain to hear the proper tune to sing because he was so off.

He has developed a whole new kind of a talent now for singing. Knows all the words to all the songs though he doesn’t know the president, how old his daughter is, the city he’s in or what he ate for lunch.

And he’s quite on pitch now. Do you think that the difference in his musical ability is because now he doesn’t hold back?

We have music in our home all the time.

And when not at home, we sing CD’s … from old time gospel to John Denver to Queen.

“We are the champions, my friends….”

Pumpkins I painted over my old Peaches Sign

Eating with Dementia

We made homemade tortillas and smoked up the kitchen in the process (the pan I think was too hot?) requiring that we open all the windows though there was not a breath of air in this Texas Hill Country post lots of rain evening.

To complete the eventful dinner time , my husband, who has dementia, built his own taco but he did it completely upside down. He put all of the ingredients in layers on his plate starting with the sour cream, the cheese, and the chunks of chicken and then topped it with a tortilla.

I just watched (more like an artist, less like a caregiver) to see what would happen next as he turned his plate upside down and it all fell off to the table, disgustingly. I could’ve helped him but he seemed determined.

He scraped it all off with the tortilla and ate it. I figured it was just a matter of a quick wipe up when he was done. I’ve seen worse being a mom of three.

But the chicken tacos with the fresh tortillas were just delicious.

And then we ate ice cream. And who could argue with that?

I’ve been working on this a little each day… added another tree and widened the river.

Playing Clue With Dementia. Yes We Can!

First of all, I’m considering making my own worksheets for the game of Clue. We ran out about six months ago and each time we play we write out all of the categories before we start playing. Yes, we have played it a lot over the years. And, he used to be the one to win. I’ve always been pretty bad at it. Now, my game is Scrabble!

But our daughter likes to play Clue. And, she still doesn’t mind inviting him to join us, though we figured out a way to play with just 2 players.

So, I have created – on my new IPAD Pro – a new Clue worksheet.

I first perused Etsy to see if anyone has made any. None. So, maybe I am the first?

I am going to print them and get them laminated so they can be reusable with Expo marker.

Dementia Clue Works!

We play dementia Clue which means we let him do whatever he wants. We let him have some of the cards and don’t make a big deal out of it if he says the card out loud. If you are familiar with the game, a player quietly shows their card to the person whose turn it is. It makes the game shorter which is good for playing with him. He gets joy from choosing to be for instance in the kitchen or the bedroom. We tell him he is the winner. Some of his playing and antics are funny but the last time we played I noticed I lost a bit of my game playing funny bone.

What I’m working on. Painting and Praying.

A DRAMA OF DEMENTIA DRUGS

Drugs… past use

Dementia drugs have been unsuccessful in the past in treating my husband’s intermittent revved up delusional antics that can lead him to racing out the door on a mission, with me having to chase him down.

In fact about 2 years ago the drugs in his system, all prescribed dosages, interacted and sent him to the trauma center by helicopter.

So the trauma doctor took him off of all those drugs and instructed us to contact his doctor to see what drugs might work better.

Better than drugs?

By the time we could get in to the doctor and because the drug she wanted to try him on was not covered under his Medicare plan, I decided instead I would try to manage him drug free with redirect, a bottle of water, a cookie, my calm voice, a smile.

But dementia is progressive…

But dementia being progressive, worse over time, stopped at times listening to me. So I took him back to his neurologist who prescribed a very low dose mood stabilizer that I wouldn’t have to give all the time. Only if he began showing signs of what I refer to as “brick wall”, impervious to my behavioral interventions and usual winning ways with him.

I could sometimes give him a pill.

I have to say it is a strange thing as a wife not to be able to influence any longer the one person you used to be able to win over.

Why didn’t I just give him a pill?

I almost gave him one of those pills today because he could not settle himself down. He began being afraid it was going to flood because our local paper had flood watch as the headline story. He would not drop the subject. Would not be redirected. And of course there is never any ability to reason with him.

We just had a hard dementia day. All day.

I should have medicated him.

The F fell off my letter board and the reflection in the Bath and Body candle lid picked up the word.

Is it Fall yet?????? (Scroll down for poem at the end)

Fall isn’t necessarily my favorite time of year. I just like the season called Summer’s Over. And the beginning of that season is September 2. In my opinion, The best description for Fall was written by Nora Ephron, God rest her soul, and includes freshly sharpened pencils. (You’ve Got Mail)

I love the sense of expectation Fall ushers in where summer still tries to keep us in its doldrums.

When I was a kid we got brand new school clothes in the Fall that I wore to school even though I roasted. Anyone remember cowl necks.

This morning I was so glad to get pictures by text of my oldest daughter’s new Fall wreath she made which looked like something you’d see in a magazine. So I figured it was high time to replace mine from last Spring that had Easter eggs all over it.

So now I have a new Fall wreath on my front door. I bought mine from Walmart but who will ever know?

BRING BACK AUTUMN

Where did Autumn go?

Seems the word is rarely used.

Too quaint and dry and dusty,

Making Fall so overbruised.

Happy Fall? Really…

Let’s put our minds to higher thoughts

Of harvest, pilgrims, and Thanksgiving,

Around the table, olds and tots.

Bring back Autumn

‘Cause Fall… good grief!

It’s solely relating to a leaf.

~Julie Robinson

27899276-52E1-49E7-9D79-CF9E1E02E5B6.jpeg

Redirecting From the Rabbit Hole

I picture, at the entrance to the proverbial rabbit hole of wayward thoughts, desires, and actions, the place good people fall, a stern rabbit holding a sign:

TURN AROUND.

I can easily find myself ignoring those warning signs in the matter of my own creative passion. I’m a creative junkie. How can that be a problem? Isn’t creative expression a good thing? Not when it is out of order. And I need to keep order and boundaries for my home since I am also in the business of redirecting others, a homeschooling teenager and a severely demented husband.

You know though there is a lie I sometimes fall prey to that leads me bunny trailing.

“You’ve got a lot on your shoulders.  Go easy on yourself.”

That leads me to the rabbit hole, a world where my thoughts and desires are scattered in too many directions that I end up not actually accomplishing anything of real value in my painting and my writing.

My valuable creative personal resources hop off to everything else …

I think it important I should divulge the list of the attention stealers for me: (and, of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing any of these things).

CREATIVE ATTENTION STEALERS

Paper mache, clay, watercolor, charcoal, crayons, markers, pastels, oil pastels, embroidery, crochet, knitting, sewing, writing poetry, writing many comic strips about my yorkie, making little stuffed baby sock creatures, creating greeting cards with die cut shapes from aluminum cans and cardboard and whatever I figured out could go through the die cutter, creating stories and handmade and painted books for my grandchildren, painting elaborate T-shirts for my grandchildren. And rearranging and painting and redecorating my home and cleaning out and redoing all areas of the house, and making new recipes and special meals, and baking all kinds of treats and (trying to) make gingerbread houses. Then there’s my new fascination for reading and studying the 14th century. Now I’m not at all saying I have to give it all up but I’m just trying to prove a point…

I am a creative junkie.  (Safe to say?)

My creativity rabbit holes.  So… I am now trying to harness that creative energy and put it into what I have decided is most important for me to be doing.

I have to decide if the thing I am beginning to put my mind to figuring out, the thing I am just beginning to set my heart on, is something I need to spend my creative God given resources on right now or is it a rabbit hole that makes me lose the best parts of myself…. my heart and my mind.

So, what do I plan to do next.

Going With The Flow

A “Navy Brat”, I spent my childhood at the beach. I think it’s why I’m magnetically drawn to paint it now.

I race through cleaning up the breakfast mess and make sure my husband has plenty of coffee and “reading” material because I’ve got an ocean scene calling my artist’s imagination. Have I mentioned I’ve painted stacks of paintings, many of them ocean scenes. Not all good. Some ok. All still in a learning stage for me.

As I paint, my husband and I usually chat about what he’s looking at in the paper. He thinks he knows the people in the pictures, he’s been in business with them, his mind is delusionally entertwined with them. Mostly I say “Oh, is that right,” and “Wow I didn’t know that”, faking a tone to allow him to continue there. I know he just likes the talking and the time.

I put a live ocean scene on YouTube loud enough so I can feel like I’m there and so I can study the light hitting all the places light hits, glowing, refracting, being deflected and diffused, causing shadows.

Sometimes when I paint, I wax a little poetic… I didn’t want to title this one because it would mess up the tip of the wave… so it is

An

Ode

to the

Ocean:

a melody

and a dance.

Waves prance,

in lacy edge dress,

seagulls squawk soprano,

starkly accompanying the sea.

And there am I, a party to the scene,

only in my mind through the power of TV.

~ Julie Robinson

As all of this “excitement” is raging, my husband gets up to return to his second love, Turner Classic Movies. First he looks at my painting and says, as always, “Another ocean”. I try not to be deflated by the flat dementia tone that I know he has entirely no control over.

And he leaves me at my painting to go watch Turner Classic Movies.

4FA80C12-6BAA-4B2A-ADD0-A359AAAEC7DE.jpeg

Caregiver Painting Poetry

Sometimes I write stories or poetry to go with my paintings. I’m absolutely taken in by the subject matter and get absorbed in my paintings. The picture I took of this one in my Pathways series is a little dark… but I decided to leave it that way because I thought it a mysterious path.

The writing/painting combo keeps away the dangerous caregiver stress.  (See my previous post.)

Above the painting… below the poem.

The Dusty Road

The dusty road,

After a squall,

Whispers, “Come and walk awhile”,

Needing nothing,

It wants your all.

You listen to

The dusty road

And consider its promise,

Breathing in its sweet grasses,

Seems like heaven’s abode.

Bunnies race

And deer eyes gleam.

The dusty road

‘Tis steep it seems;

And the road becomes your dreams.

The river racing

And Crickets chirp,

And you plod on and on and on and on

The dusty road

It’s mighty work.

At last, a rock’s your friend,

Long nuff you’ve strode.

The singers, the music, the song,

And to sleep you’ve gone on

The dusty road.

~ Julie Robinson

It’s Fall in my cart!!!

Caregiver Stress… My Take

Have you seen the statistics related to how badly caregivers fare? Not so good! I’ll leave it to you to google this.

Lots of research has apparently said that I’m toast.

So since I’ve been doing this for 6 years now I thought it would be a good idea since it’s almost Fall to take an almost change of season stock of myself:

do I have stress?

I had to think hard about this one.

Well, I do have stressors. That’s for sure. But I don’t think I’m stressed. Here is how I consider measuring this for myself:

1. Do I keep myself and my home clean and as neat as possible? Yes. Probably better than ever since I’m here most the time in “forced retirement”.

But I’m no perfectionist. Last Spring I planted a vegetable garden and forgot to water it often enough that it just flat gave out. I felt like a gardener failure. But right now I’m making plans to try it again next Spring and setting an iPhone watering reminder

2. Am I angry? Or do I cry a lot? No

3. Do I get breaks? Yes. I take my husband to adult daycare a few times a week.

4. Do I maintain friendships? The best I can. I run a weekly bible study out of my home. We are a crazy mix of Catholics and Baptists. Today we joked that we are the Batholics. As well, am starting back up with a ladies bible study at our church.

5. Do I have outside interests besides caregiving? Yes. I paint and, of course, blog, and am writing a book. And I read. I have a wide range of reading interests. And I oversee my daughter who’s homeschooling 11th grade.

6. Do I feel depressed or discouraged? Earlier on It was harder for me. I was ready for it to be over and not knowing how long used to just “eat my lunch”. But as time has passed I have gotten more peace about it.

I pray. And I memorize scripture.

7. Do I overeat or use alcohol/drugs to cope. Well no on the 2 latters. But the overeating I was guilty of. Right now I’m on day 5 of no sweets because I was overeating them. I should try overeating broccoli sometime.

These are the criteria in my mind for whether I’m over stressed. You might do your own inventory and with your own criteria. I suggest you do, especially after you check out the scary reports on what caregiver stress can do to a person.

Now I will sip the cranberry tea I just brewed and light me a pumpkin candle. Fall… come quick!