Sunday, July 31, 2011

Detroit: The Next American Revolution

Grace Lee Boggs is a woman I heard about just last weekend. I'm sorry I didn't know about her sooner. Started reading her newest book "The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty First Century" today. Grace Lee Boggs is an activist. She's 96 years old and still writing, still contributing mightily. The James & Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership at Field and Goethe in Detroit is training young social changers, the next leaders for our new century. I'm just in the introduction, written by Scott Kurashige, and already it's more absorbing and informative, and hopeful than I thought this century might be. Detroit is the center city of this book, because it is the headquarters of Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs' history. Detroit is a microcosm of the industrial world we are leaving; the age of materialism, militarism and racism. It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. The American Dream is dead. Long live the American Dream. Will we reemerge as better humans in a more egalitarian society? Will the future be a world torn apart by famines, pandemics, and wars over vanishing supplies of oil and freshwater? Stay tuned. I heard about Grace Lee Boggs from a woman who knows her. She told us that when Grace Lee was a little girl the cook in her family's restaurant told her girls should be left on the street. I can't wait to read more about this remarkable woman, and her work in the state and country I love. Maybe I'll learn how I can help to rebirth the city of my birth.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Three Story Life: All Clear Sounds

The doldrums, it's called in equator sailing. Thank goodness, I call the calm this weekend. The week was rugged with new terrain amid emotional upheaval. What I figured out today is I am not able to analyze it all. I have an idea what Dad is going through, although he isn't giving me the data. His power is diminished, his physical strength gone. His ability to control his world (which was always, always an illusion) he sees as disappeared. I do not know if there are triggers for Scott's behavior, or if it's Alzheimer's bouncing his brain around. Is his medication okay, or is he having adverse side effects? Dad has no familiar ground, and he's miserable. I feel for his situation. He can't stand me interfering, but I will not have Scott yelled at, for things over which he has no control. I know Dad might not ever adjust, and I'm learning to let some stuff go. I can take his rage at me. Maybe we won't ever get a harmonious household again. But tonight, when Dad wanted to supervise how Scott ate, and Scott got mad, I told Dad "please let it go, and if you cannot, please eat in the other room." He got up and I took his plate, and milk in to him and asked if he needed anything else. I can hear him upstairs now sending the dog off his lap, so he's not happy. Scott smiled through the rest of his meal, but I won't credit anything but enjoying the food to that. That's all good enough. Right this minute life is good enough. And wow, I am so grateful.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Walking with Rabbits and Snakes

I'm becoming a snake protector. Snakes spook me, but I'm seeing many on my walks these days and so I'm adjusting. The heat brings them out to bask on the hot tarmac. They're slow to move, which I appreciate. Darting snakes I haven't seen make me reach to be sure I've got my cellphone to dial 911 when my heart suddenly hammers. Yesterday I guarded two, who may or may not have gotten out of the way of bikers zipping along. I told one "baby, you got to go." And I had to scuttle forward to make the snake slither into the grass. The rabbits I've encountered are young, and stay to watch me until I'm too close for comfort. One baby just stayed put watching me walk past. I said at writers' group I'd have to look up snakes and rabbits again in my Animal Speak book, but we all remembered snakes are rebirth and rabbits are abundance. And I know what the two ants in my hair meant: don't brush your head against dangling tree branches.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Three Story Life: Geometrically Storied

Dear Paul William, li'l bro,

I saw pictures of the new puppies today, which is a fun part of this particular day and week. I even heard Penny singing for her puppies on a video! Are you going to get one? Michelle and I both like the grey one on the left. You undoubtedly didn't see the Facebook pictures. I did. But, of course, being the shaman warrior you are, you will figure out which one this puppy you should have is.

Scott is getting deeper into Alzheimer's. Dad still thinks this is a behavioral issue, even though he had me fooled that he was not in denial. We've been doing pretty well. I figured out (is there such a thing as figured back out?) that Dad is pretty smart and he evidences this more and more when we can talk about things other than Scott.

Scott had a rough week what with getting into a new car at the dealership and being confused about the people in the house because there is a sewer backup in two units, and the camera revealed it was necessary to jackhammer the floor right over my shoulder.

I had a mini-breakdown. We were going to dinner because the plumber/workerbee/cement guys didn't get out of here until later, and it's taco night at Rio Grande, which Dad likes. I went up to ask Scott if he wanted to go to dinner. He was not quite in the room. He's angry lately. Dad used the word violent which is too severe. But Scott is mad. So I'm scared. Dad's scared. I was trying to explain to Scott about the chicken fajitas he likes, and he wouldn't look at me, and I figured out I was disturbing him and I was scrambling, and I said, "well, maybe I'll just get a carryout from Taco Bell." And, Paul, our baby brother, he glared at me. He jabbed his thumb at the door, his jaw clenched, and Scott yelled "then go get them."

So I went downstairs and told Dad I was going to get a carryout, told Dad the story, and he tried to get out of his chair, his jaw clenched, and he was going to the stairway to yell at Scott. I said, "let it go, Dad." And Dad yelled "He will not control every goddamned thing." And we were off to the races.

I called Jane, broke down, and asked her what I need to pray for, for all of us. And she said peace. And I stopped sobbing and went upstairs to talk with Dad. He began to tell me a story about Scott in diapers, Dad walking with Scott down the street, and Scott was running away, and Dad caught him and tapped him on the diaper and Mrs. Glass yelled "how dare you spank a retarded child" and I thought there will be no reasonable talk about this. So I got a carryout, crying the whole way, and then Michelle called and said she was picking me up. I said "why?" And she said "for dinner." And I said I already ate. And she said then I'm picking you up, you're getting out of the house, I don't care where we go.

And there is the ridiculously long story about how I saw the puppies on Michelle's cellphone. Michelle, beautiful soul that she is, thought puppies are cheerful. And, of course, they are.

So, are you going to get one? I want one. I really do. But unfortunately, right now, I want one big enough to eat Dad.

Linda Ruth Dian, big sees

Friday, July 22, 2011

Boniva: Increased Risk of Esophageal Cancer?

Boniva, the once/month osteoporosis medication manufactured by Genentech and prescribed to primarily women (men get osteoporosis, too) is under investigation by the FDA. A British study links Boniva to an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Merck's Fosamax is being evaluated for fractures that may be associated with that drug. Forums on osteoporosis report issues with necrosis of the jawbone, teeth and throat irritation, and femur fractures as early as 2006, with all the brand names cited. So, in 2011, the FDA gets around to looking. The FDA guidelines for drug approval to treat osteoporosis require clinical documentation of improvement or reduction in spinal vertebrae fractures only. And the original approval was for daily oral doses, which are no longer recommended. Injecting Boniva may have been the pharmaceutical company's bid to work around troubling diagnosed throat issues. FDA allowed bridge studies (not full clinical trials) for the once/month level of dosing. Please keep this in mind before seeking or accepting a prescription for any of these bisphosphonate meds, just because you're postmenopausal. There is evidence that improving your bone density with enriching diet, calcium, Vitamin D and exercise is just as effective as these drugs. Be an informed, safe woman consumer always.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blood Test for Alzheimer's Disease Closer

Scientists at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, reported results today from a study on proteins present in the blood that may indicate potential Alzheimer's disease sufferers. Brain scan (expensive and not widely available) is the only conclusive diagnostic tool now. This blood test study, reported at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in France, confirms results from other studies, including a couple in the U.S. This test, and others that show potential, may predict Alzheimer's 8 to 10 years out. Another study presented at the conference revealed an eye test may predict Alzheimer's outcome as well. Identifying the precursors present will contribute mightily to the research to find a cure. Predictors assist a potential Alzheimer's patient in preparing for the future of living with the disease. Meanwhile, Pfizer reports that the brain swelling in clinical trials of their newest drug may be temporary. Oy! CSIRO has patented the blood test it reported today, and is shopping it around to pharmaceutical companies. We can hope the blood test, if approved will not end up as expensive as an MRI.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

UK Study: Antidepressants and Alzheimer's Disease

Often antidepressants are prescribed with medications to lessen the impact of Alzheimer's disease. My brother Scott is prescribed both. Common practice. A UK study published in The Lancet reveals that two antidepressant medications; sertraline (Zoloft), and mirtazapine (Remeron, Avanza, Zispin) have no better outcome than placebos, and increase the adverse side effects possible for dementia patients. The study suggests "because of the absence of benefit compared with placebo and increased risk of adverse events, the present practice of use of these antidepressants, with usual care, for first-line treatment of depression in Alzheimer's disease should be reconsidered."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Borders Books: Adieu

Since 1971 Borders Books has been my bookstore. I liked its casual atmosphere, there was one near where I lived always, and the Ann Arbor flagship store had great author book signings. All the books I have signed I got at Borders Books in Ann Arbor. Every magazine I bought, I paid for at Borders. Today is a sad day for me, for 11,000 employees who will soon be out of work, and for the great enterprise whose management didn't see the future until it was crashing on their heads. The indies and antiquarians will get my paper book business. Nicola's Books and Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor are still there, and hopefully will gain customers. Everybody Reads in Lansing is still there and will have new clients, too. Reclaiming the book buyers that B&N and Borders took away will be a good result of a sad event. A Wayne State University bankruptcy lawyer told the Detroit Free Press that physical bookstores are a thing of the past. Not yet. Maybe one day. And on that same day bankruptcy lawyers will be a thing of the past, too. Good-bye Borders Books. I'll miss you.

Creating with Love

We're talking daily about transitioning. We are creating lives that are sustainable. We are bartering, recycling, riding our bicycles, walking, trying to be attuned to earth and life. We volunteer, donate and help others when we can. But we also need to eat, pay the phone bill, go to the dentist, repair our vehicles and survive best way. What is bread labor and what is heart labor? Are skills I have marketable, or am I deluded? I'm over 60. It's not time to start a new career: it's time to contribute. While we are sorting out this big life stuff, we need to live in the now too. I create. My bread job is illustration - that's how I get paid. But I'm giving away more work than I'm being paid for. I want to create for entrepreneurs I want to support and grow, but those businesses are in the same shape I am financially. I need to create my own work. How to balance that and still live is the key. I am happiest when I'm creating. Dinner, illustrations, writing, friendships, jewelry, my lifestory. I am immersed in the journey when I disappear into art: I live in joyicity. That's my bliss. And if I'm creating something for a friend, then creating is nirvana. This necklace I made for Geri's birthday. I thought about who she is, as I know her; what I love about her. She is thoughtful, generous, intelligent, funny, gifted. She wears elegant clothes, has gorgeous red hair, extraordinary eyes, and her skin shines like new butter. I wanted jewelry for her that reflects her inner and outer beauty. The amber, translucent glass beads, capped with oxidized silver - I could not believe how fine they looked together! I would never have paired these, but I was immersed in Geri's essence, and these wanted to share the space on her neck. And the few bronze pearls, the dusky Swarovski crystals, the vintage toggle clasp, and the Celtic knot squares came together like a dream. Like Geri. Like Beckie, whose findings these are; and whom finding changed me. Like living with gratitude in the moment. Joyicity. The luxury of enough. Bliss.

My Michigan (Barb Barton in concert)

No Women Allowed?

Elizabeth Warren will not head the Consumer Protection Agency. Elizabeth Warren started it, is qualified and eager to lead, is an expert in the field. We trust Elizabeth Warren. We have seen her in action, and we like what we see. But President Obama will appoint Richard Cordray. Elizabeth Warren is being diplomatic about it. The Consolation Prize Committee is recommending she run for the Senate. "Thanks for all the hard work, honey. Don't let the door hit you in the..." While Richard Cordray may be a good second string choice, he's a B guy. He's not Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren hired Richard Cordray. He's a replacement guy who will be appointed instead of a superior woman. He's second choice promoted to first choice because the powers that be are too chickenshit to find a way to get Elizabeth Warren in the post. I hate this. A lot. But not many news sources care enough to cover it. Only 2,310 results for "Consumer Protection Agency," most of which talk about how Elizabeth Warren pissed off half of Washington and all of Wall Street. That's ex-act-ly what I want in an agency head that is representing me, the consumer. I may have to go find myself a third party choice for President. This administration is acting too much like a new boys' club.

A Three Story Life: Stress

An article on NPR this morning reads that AARP's Public Policy Institute report finds the toll on family caregivers huge. Ah. The next paragraph monetizes it. Ah shit. I clicked just now on the article, and while I'm waiting for it to load, the url box reads "valuing the invaluable." What do we learn by knowing the value of caregiver work is $450 billion? What is it globally where everyone is aging at the same speed? The idea of assigning a dollar figure to family caregiving is to figure out what outside money (government programs) or enterprise (caregiving entrepreneurs) has to be spent if family caregivers aren't available, expire, or go mad and are thus confined themselves to alternative care facilities, therefore needing government programs, yadayada. AARP can estimate, assign, number crunch and recommend 'til the cows come home, but with a decades-long global financial miasma like ours we'd better pray the cows are wearing money belts stuffed with gold. As federal government shrinks, states will bear more of the burden, and states are getting rid of aid programs as fast as they can sign legislation. Where are the reports about how to live and have caregiver support when the money is gone? My wonderful friends and caregiving colleagues are trying to figure out how to NOT monetize the whole bloomin' galaxy, and still maintain a semi-upright life. Part of the stress of caregiving is reports that put a financial value on what we do, as though it's the money to think about in the future, not the people involved. Calling caregiving an "unpaid contribution" isn't the dialogue we want hitting our eyeballs and eardrums. When do we talk about people? Why aren't we hearing the narrative of people who are comfortably transitioning into the next world, while making choices about how to make life about living, not where the next buck is coming from. Those are the stories that will help us caregivers. Not how much we're not being compensated. AARP needs to be lobbying for extended family communities, not government programs. The best government money can buy got us where we are now. We need to organize life around life. Screw the dollars.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Operation eBook Drop

Edward C. Patterson, an author and Vietnam veteran, has partnered with Smashwords in creating a website called Operation eBook Drop which allows authors to post their free ebooks for download by military personnel. You can upload your book on Smashwords, and become an Operation eBook Drop affiliate with a few clicks. If your book is for sale, you simply create a coupon on the Smashwords site giving 100% discount to our good people in uniform. I did this with my book and then wrote to a friend that young people in the field aren't going to be interested in a book about 60 year old women, but she wrote quickly back "they all have moms." If you have a children's book, this might be a terrific opportunity for a soldier in the field to share a story with their children, even from a great distance. Do some good today, authors and publishers! Share your stories. The words on the digital device in this illustration are from "Four Little Sailors" by Bill Staines, on The Happy Wanderer CD. It's a delightful song about the adventures to be enjoyed in reading. Happy wandering!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fountain with Tree Shadow

Taking 50 pictures to get 1 good one is worth the click work. I love this photo. This is the fountain in Paul Baker Memorial Park this morning, a tiny swath of lovely in South Lyon, Michigan. Mr. Baker was a Michigan entrepreneur, a beautiful human, and he left us for the other side at 58 years old. I rest by the fountain and contemplate with gratitude the good works of Mr. Baker, and think of good works I can do. Then I get up and go do some.


This knot is in a board second from the top in a fence that protects a small ravine in the marsh along the walkbike path. It is at eye level when I plop my foot on the board to stretch my hamstrings. It is lovely. The knot. The ravine. Not my hamstrings. I searched "what are knots in wood?" and found a description "a knot is a particular type of imperfection in a piece of timber which reduces its strength but which may be exploited for artistic effect." Okay. A sentence with exploit and artistic in it is wicked wrong, but can I warp that sentence into a metaphor for a knotty bit of life experience? "A knot is an opportunity to artistically effect a personal strength enhancement." Not sublime, but the gist is strong. Knots are nature's workaround. We are nature. We can work around.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chantepleure Digital 75% Off in July!

Chantepleure is on sale at 75% off in the month of July at Smashwords. Only $2.50. As I am behind myself, as well as beside myself, we're already gobbling up the days in July. There are thousands of books participating in the July sale so do click and browse. Chantepleure (pronounced shant-pluray) means to sing and weep at the same time. It's a lovely word, and although it may not be possible to sing and cry simultaneously, we women manage to pull that off just as we do most impossible things. My new favorite quotation is Rita O'Grady being interviewed in Made in Dagenham. A male reporter asks her (a striking Ford worker who has just declared the 187 women will stay out until equal pay is gained), "how will you cope?" Rita turns her head and raises an eyebrow. "Cope? How will we cope? We are women. Now don't ask such stupid questions." Chantepleure is about three women friends in their 60s who have been friends all their lives. It is fictionalized reality, as friend Rosemary calls it. Only the names have been...well, juggled to celebrate the warriors turning elders. These are my friends, my life; your friends, your life. We sing. We weep. We cope. A woman at one of my book signings laid her hand on the book, looked at me over the top of her reading glasses. "Books today," she announced, "have too much sex." I laid my hand on the book next to the book she touched. "There is, in my book, no sex at all," I said, looking over the top of my glasses, "because quite simply I don't remember how it goes."

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Three Story Life: Caregiver Blues

Scott was unhappy and mad at dinner tonight. It was one of his favorite meals, but it didn't please him. I went upstairs after dinner to ask if he was okay, to see if there was anything I could do. He wasn't playing music, which he loves to do. His equipment wasn't working last week - there was a tape stuck in the tape player. I fixed the CD player part. Something else must have gone wrong because Dad took the whole unit up to the repair shop that is never open, while the repair guy takes months to fix anything. Dad has shopped on the computer for a week solid for a tape player standalone. It came in the mail today. Dad's got it next to him on the couch, and I thought he was checking it out for Scott. Scott's little Sony Walkman (I think it was Mom's) wasn't working tonight. I took it down to Dad. "This isn't working," I said. He figured out it was the batteries, and replaced them. Dad said "I asked him if the batteries were okay, and he said yes." I took the player back up to Scott, he put on his headphones and nodded thanks. Back downstairs, I asked Dad "who did you buy that tape player for?" He said, "me." My heart took a hit again tonight. I have nowhere to turn, no help on these issues in the family. The support group at the Senior Center is no more. I can't make Dad think of more than himself, can't get him to understand once and for flipping all that Scott has Alzheimer's and it takes more than one question to find out what he needs. I cannot make Scott's life better. I know all this. But I sure as hell want to get some relief when I feel this bad. How do I do that? Anybody out there got a clue?