the right diet

Intended to share with you how I did ‘it’. Our church was involved with The Daniel Plan during the season of Lent and I participated along with many other church members. I gave up sugar and white flour for the season of remembrance. Went on a low-carb eating plan and continued with my usual exercise routine: spinning, yoga, and some weight training. Lost a little weight, my clothes fit better and I feel good, but writing about it now feels shallow. Blah, blah, meh.

femalecardinal
This female cardinal has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. She’s been pecking at my windows for three weeks. I love her.

Let’s face it. I don’t have a big problem with diet and exercise. I’m weird…I LIKE exercise. I can thank my parents and other ancestors for a basically slim build and a built-in ‘off’ switch in my appetite. I’m lucky, grateful and without easy answers. Other areas of my life? Things aren’t always as easy.

One of my fittest friends at my gym (a doctor in his early forties) recently suffered a heart attack. This guy is skinny and he enthusiastically exercises every day. He’s obviously very strict with himself and with his diet. Wham.…two stints required. What the ?!

My minister mentions his love for chocolate-covered doughnuts quite regularly. He’s a big guy and he’s an avid long-distance cyclist. Talks about competing in the ‘Clydesdale’ division in bike races. Ride on, Pastor Burt!

Your body is a temple, because the spirit of God lives in you. If I want to see God, experience God-I can take a look at you and behold His majestic creation. You’re the priceless lost coin, you’re the sheep He’s calling home, and you’re a precious recipe of gold, frankincense and myrrh carefully folded together.

If you’re thin and look fantastic, hallelujah. If you’ve got some ‘middle aged spread’, you’ve surely earned it. If you like chocolate doughnuts, I hope you savor every last cocoa-morsel with the taste buds God gave you. If you are like the Texan and ice cream is your passion, thank God for the sweet, creamy delight in each chilly spoonful.

It’s altogether easy and familiar for me to rely on rigid thinking. Do ‘x’ and ‘y’ and I’ll get z!   I can quickly fall back into feeling like that lost child of alcoholic parents. I learned being good doesn’t stop your parents from drinking.

Today I’d tell that confused child, ‘you’re wonderful’, ‘you’re trying and doing the best you can’ and ‘you are incredibly strong’.

graham

My wish for you right now….whether you are fat or thin, healthy or unhealthy, sinner or saint, gay or straight, black, white, red, yellow or any other combination of colors, young or old….

Feel God’s embrace right where you are. He’s trying to tell you you’re pretty cool. Believe it.

Grace-for-the-week-ahead love to all.

 

truth telling

Truth telling leaves me conflicted. Things, circumstances and events look prettier when sugar-coated. The problem is, leaving Realville is detrimental to my mental health. The stinky elephant lived too long in my living room, not discussed.

My recent talk at the Samaritan Counseling Center is illustrative of my inner conflict. I attempted to speak honestly of what it was like to grow up in a household with alcoholic parents. How I learned to cope with my own demons through the years to become (somewhat) of a stable personality. How I labored over and analyzed every single syllable of that speech!

What had me at an impasse? What had my innards in an uproar?. My dad (who has been gone since 1978) and my Mom (died 2011) cheered me on. ‘Tell the truth’, they implored. ‘Let people know there IS a way out of addiction’.

After some pondering, I think I know why giving my talk didn’t feel better. Why I didn’t leave the building skipping and saying, ‘Whew!! Glad I got that off my chest!’

Here’s the dilemma:  I want people to know my folks were alcoholics, but they were good people. Smart people. Funny people. I count my redeeming qualities as a tribute to them. They were real people with real flaws. We were all doing the best we could at the time. Sometimes, the disease of addiction got the better of us. My father died of the disease, but my mother LIVED. She found sobriety and helped introduce me to a more serene existence.

Mostly I miss them, but today I’m grateful they aren’t around to give a talk dealing with my flaws as a child/young adult. That would be the shortest speech, EV-ER.

12 Kathy at 6

Right?

The day after the Samaritan Event, the Texan and I hightailed it to Dallas to bother the #3 Sprout and the D-I-L. Played some golf, walked through the park during a Bluegrass Festival, and ate lots of meats at Fogo de Chao. How I love these two young people! I’m blessed to have them in my life. The visit was just what the doctor ordered.

Leaving you with this.

5children
Adorables eating corn dogs at the Bluegrass Festival.

All credit goes to the Texan. I wasn’t even lugging my camera about that day. Didn’t he snap a winner?

Truth for today? I love you for reading this. And I’m strangely craving a corn dog.

Mrs. Realville love to all.

shifting gears

Like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, my head is spinning.

Just finished up Opportunity School’s LIPS fundraiser. I’ve been their sarcastic and maniacal mistress of ceremonies for 5 years now.

LIPS
Decked out for Opportunity School ROCKS. These days, it’s impossible to rock without my bifocals.

The Texan told me I botched a few of the punchlines. I’m simply grateful I made it through the evening without melting into a humongous hot flash puddle in the ever-present blinding spotlight.

It was a fantastic night for the school. Lots of cash raised for a deserving cause. I’m proud to be a small part of it.

Now, I must make the transition from laugh-lady to Mrs. Realville for my talk Thursday at the Samaritan Counseling Center Luncheon. I’ll be talking about growing up with 2 alcoholic parents.

Samaritan Luncheon Front
We are honoring some worthy good Samaritans.

Truth-telling and getting real are absolutes for my serenity these days. However, it feels easier to be this crazy lady.

2155333
Reason for the head lamp? Don’t ask.

Perhaps the requirements for being successful at these two events are more similar than I realize? Comedy is funny because it contains a grain of truth. Hopefully, I can bring some truth and humor to the Samaritan audience on Thursday.

I’ll let you know.

Mrs. Realville love to all.

pure unadulterated joy: crossing

This will be the last in a series about my mother. February 20th, 2012 will be the one-year anniversary of her passing.


The source of her constant pain that forced her into a nursing home? My fear of recurrent cancerous tumors was WAY off. She had multiple fractures in her spine. Maybe caused by taking steroids for years for her COPD, who knows?

I recall her last trip away from the nursing home. She was to go to the local hospital for an MRI of her spine. I could no longer transport Joy because her pain was intense and she couldn’t make it from the wheelchair into my car. Arrangements were made for the nursing home van to take her to the hospital and I would meet her there. I waited in the large lobby as sunlight streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The van approached the door and the driver got out, went to the back and slowly lowered the silhouetted figure in a wheelchair to the ground. He wheeled her into the bustling lobby as I met them. Mom was severely hunched in her chair and she donned a pained smile when she saw me. In her hands was a large manila folder containing the doctor’s orders for the procedure she would undergo today. Her name was written in large print on the outside of the folder. The thing I noticed most about the folder were the 3-inch tall letters, written in bold black on a fluorescent green sticker DO NOT RESUSCITATE! 

Mom….you look like a school kid holding your report card.

Joy glanced down at the folder and replied, Yeah, and it looks like I failed!

The inscription inside the Big Book of Alcoholic’s Anonymous Joy gave to me in 1980

We tried to control her pain. Joy was on a cocktail of meds to regulate her failing systems; any change was a high-wire act performed without a net. The pain patch didn’t help much.


Two other developments lowered my spirits to their nadir:  Joy kept having bouts of pneumonia requiring treatment with strong antibiotics. One morning she pulled me close to her face as she lay propped on her bed. In desperation she revealed,


Kath, I can’t see!


I squeezed her hand.


I know Mom…..I’m so sorry.

I sat with her as we both absorbed the cruelty of Joy being deaf and now blind. Freakin’ macular degeneration…they say if you live long enough, you’re gonna get it.

I won’t go into details of her last days. Made the decision to call hospice, as she had given me her medical power of attorney. She trusted me to make the right decision and I did the best I could. Maybe we could have gotten her through this episode, but I didn’t see the point. It was time to let go and let Joy move on.

A letter I cherish, written to me after a girl’s trip to Dallas. We saw an art exhibit ‘El Greco of Toledo’.

One of her last lucid moments was talking to the hospice nurse. He got close to her face and told her he was from hospice and they were going to take good care of her. She was resigned, but she was definitely not HAPPY to see hospice and she told him as much. The nurse thought she was hilarious and full of spirit. Said he loved her spunk.

Thankfully, Joy wasn’t in hospice care for long….only 2 days. Not sure what I expected from a dying person. Maybe I thought there would be lots of hand-holding and Joy would slip quietly into the night. That turned out to not be her dying ‘style’. Joy fought tooth-and-nail for every last precious breath and moment on this earth. I really didn’t expect this, but her dying was like her living:  she’d overcome many setbacks and she wasn’t going west without a good fight! She didn’t need or want any hand-holding or hair-stroking…..the battle was hers to wage. I was simply an onlooker. Good thing we hadn’t left anything unsaid.

What did I learn from Joy? Here are some things I keep in my heart.

1. It’s never too late to start over.
2. Never….ever….stop learning.
3. Don’t judge a person on their possessions or lack thereof. It’s a gift to be comfortable around all sorts of people.
4. My children are extraordinary.

One of my last little notes, written in Joy’s increasingly shaky handwriting.

5. The Texan is a Saint, and I am never to bad-mouth him.
6. Surviving awful experiences can make one stronger.
7. Always trust your Higher Power…this is the path to true serenity.

Thank you, dear reader for sharing my remembrances of my mother. I wanted to write some truths of her life to help myself and hopefully shine a light on the difficulty of alcoholism and addictions in general. Seems no one is untouched these days. Redemption is always out there. Joy found it through God and Alcoholic’s Anonymous. I spent many-a-day in Al-Anon trying to find answers for myself.

This has been a difficult, but ultimately triumphant series, I hope.

Please check back, as I will be posting some lighter, more humorous blog posts. Oh…and lots of pictures of a certain grandson and an adventurous wiener dog! Did I mention I caught Roxy-Doxy Tebowing after a spectacular tennis ball catch the other day? Oh….lawd-eee, that dog!

Redemptive love to all.

pure unadulterated joy: dancing with skeletons

Everyone has skeletons in his closet, but not everyone has taught them to dance….my pastor, Burt Palmer in church last Sunday.

Joy’s big moving day dawned cold and clear. The Texan, the Sprouts, the in-laws and anyone else we could throw a lasso over helped us with the move to the nursing home. Mom remained stoic even though the move was complicated for her. While the nurse reviewed Joy’s condition and talked with me about her medications, the others dutifully brought in her precious belongings and beloved family photos. Faded photos of her parents, brothers and sisters, and lots of shots of the grandchildren were hung close to her bed.
A favorite photo of Joy’s mother and her twin sister
Joy’s hearing had deteriorated to basically ‘non-existent’ in recent days. Her hearing loss was profound, but she took pride in being able to read lips when a speaker was standing in front of her. Now, macular degeneration was robbing her of the ability to read lips. I was her lifeline to the world. I brought some wide-tipped, black magic markers and a note tablet to the home and asked the nurses to write a note and hold it in front of her to aid communication. She was different, but not demented.

If any one’s family tree had been stunted and wrecked by the disease of alcoholism…it was surely Joy’s. I experienced firsthand how the sinister disease had touched the lives of her brothers and sisters…even how it had wreaked havoc on their families. Many novels are waiting to be written filled with the unusual exploits of my family. Think Angela’s Ashes (by Frank McCourt) times 10. Once in a great while, I’d ask Mom about her childhood and she would clue me in.

She once told me of how abusive her father became when he drank. By all accounts he was a brilliant, perfectly civil man, but drinking brought out his dark side. Joy said she and her brothers and sisters hid in a bathroom when they heard their daddy hit the front door drunk. They lived in an upscale neighborhood of Oklahoma City called Nichols Hills. Seems Joy’s father did pretty well for himself during the Depression years. They often took in relatives and helped feed the neighbors and others struggling at the time. Mom recalled her dad coming home one evening and all the kids scrambled to the bathroom to avoid the destructive fallout. They could hear shouting, their mother crying and objects flying around the house. The episode must have gone on for some time and the children fell asleep in the locked bathroom. Joy’s memory was of getting up the next day and getting ready for school. As she walked from the house to the sidewalk, she saw the lovely curtains gently blowing out all the broken windows. Bits of destroyed furniture were scattered on the lawn. She said she cried as she went to school that day thinking of her beautiful, destroyed home. The incident was never spoken of again.

Another favorite Joy-story involved her preparing a speech for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union meeting. She was about 12 and she was entered in a speech contest for the WCTU to decry the dangers of drinking alcohol.

Early WCTU poster

Young Joy set her keen mind on writing and memorizing her speech. One afternoon, her father and a neighbor-friend asked Joy to recite her speech for them. She recited her speech on the front porch as her dad and the neighbor drank liberally from an open fifth of bourbon. She recalled walking over the passed out neighbor as she went back inside the house. The competition occurred a few days later in front of a large audience inside a packed church. Joy remembered hearing some of the youth delivering passionate speeches and scathing remarks about the evil of drink. Readying for her turn, she rehearsed the lines in her head. She stiffly strode to the podium. Silence. Throat-clearing. Nothing came to her. She looked at the packed house. She looked at her family beaming at her in expectation. Still nothing. Young Joy stood alone for an uncomfortable while trying to collect her thoughts and gather up the opening words to her finely prepared speech. Still nothing. She left the podium….unable to recall a single word.

It was getting late at the nursing home. The busy-ness of the first day was almost complete. The sweet nurse asked us if we would like to eat with the residents in the dining room.
Joy in her room meeting a sweet, sweet baby. This visit raised her spirits.
Might as well jump in with both feet, Kath. Let’s give it a try. Will you eat with me?

I wheeled Mom to the dining room where we sat at a nicely decorated table. Joy furtively looked at the other residents. One impeccably coiffed lady was dangerously close to falling headfirst into her mashed potatoes. Another man constantly chattered to himself and struggled to find his mouth with his fork. There were helpful aides feeding some of the residents. Everyone wore a large bib….some of them made of big pieces of molded plastic to catch the run-off. Joy and I weakly smiled at each other and tried not to notice how different this dining room and it’s residents were from her previous residence.

We ate quickly and hightailed it out of there to finish up some chores in her room. The Florence Nightingale-of-a-nurse who tirelessly helped us all day approached Joy in the hall.

How did you enjoy your dinner and the dining room? she chirped.

It’s not baaad……if you don’t mind eating in a morgue! was Joy’s acid reply.

Right then and there, Joy became one of Florence Nightingale’s favorite residents. Me?….my heart was racing and I promised myself I’d call the cardiologist in the morning.





pure unadulterated joy: alcohol

(the third in a series about my mother)

The honest depiction of your past may be the courage for another’s future.  Danny Gokey

Mom….would you like to go see the new, beautiful nursing home I’ve been telling you about? The Texan’s mother is out there and she ADORES it!

Joy about age 14

Nice try. No old, dying person really wants to see the inside of a nursing home no matter how avant garde you promise it to be. Joy was a practical realist, so we scheduled an appointment. Wouldn’t you know I had some very important business out-of-town with the Sprout on the day of the nursing home visit.  Who do you guess wheeled Mom around on her fun nursing home tour? That’s right…the steadfast, rock-love of my life….the Texan! Mom loved the Texan and she trusted him completely. The Texan reported Joy took copious notes and inquired as to the cost of everything. How much were meals? Did they charge extra for the oxygen? Did they charge to give her a bath? Could she bring her computer without an extra charge? Was toilet paper in the bathroom included in the price? Could she get her diabetic meals and what would they cost? The Texan finally got through to her that everything was included and she didn’t need to worry about anything….she could be right next door to his mom. We placed a deposit and scheduled a move-in day.

Joy had always been smart. She had a good head for figures and business, too. But during my growing-up years, Joy didn’t always make good decisions. You see, for my formative years….as far back as I can remember, Mom was an alcoholic. Of course, when I was little I didn’t know what ‘alcoholism’ was. I had no name or way of communicating what was wrong with my mother. Call it a progressive revelation.

Me with broken arm as a baby. Something about a run-in with my 2 older brothers.

circa 1962

I knew she was able to work her job OK, but when she came home in the evenings, she passed out on the couch. On weekends, she might pass out earlier. I knew she and my dad argued about what was wrong with her. (My dad was an alcoholic as well, and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1978. That’s another tale and beyond the scope of this story).

Dad and Mom early 1950’s

One of the earliest recollections of realizing my mother was sick was when she checked into the Oklahoma State Mental Hospital. It was the early 1960’s and I’m not talking the Betty Ford clinic, I’m talking One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She was gone for weeks and I remember going to the foreboding place for a visit. Never went back. Guess the adults in my life figured it was too much for a youngster. They were right. The clenching fingers of fear gripped my young psyche and held tight for decades.

When Joy found sobriety with the help of A.A. in 1980, she began the task of turning her life around, making amends and building a new, productive life for herself. I was a young mom with small children as Joy embarked on her journey and I was hedging my bets. I’d witnessed many ‘recoveries’ and she’d have to prove she could be trusted. Her attempt at transformation felt like turning back a freight train speeding towards a cliff. I’d never known a sober mother and I would reserve judgement, thank you very much. Jump forward to her funeral in 2011….she celebrated almost thirty-one years of sobriety.

We enjoyed our sober Joy so much, we moved her from Oklahoma to Texas 1985. We loved her and yes….we needed an extra baby sitter for our three rug-rats. The raging freight train had turned.

Now….back to her smoking addiction I told you about. She knew I detested her smoking. I’d grown up with it. Gone on endless road trips in an old station wagon with the windows rolled up…both parents smoking. I have allergies and asthma and become ill when exposed to cigarette smoke. Wanted to become a sleazy lounge singer, but I couldn’t handle the smoke. My lungs have spoken…..ENOUGH!

In our conversations over the ensuing years, Mom told me giving up drinking was the hardest thing she EVER did. Alcoholics always crave a drink and that’s just the way it is. She honestly and boldly told me after giving up alcohol, there was no way in hell she was ever gonna give up cigarettes. She simply could not do it, no matter my pleading. No matter the lung cancer. No matter living in a smoke-free retirement home. No matter needing oxygen 24/7. Mom had spoken.

She almost made good on her promise. She was about to move to the nursing home. I would gladly have handed her a smoldering cig if it would relieve her pain…even for a moment.