Dreams

This morning my thoughts are of dreams. I’ve always been a dreamer. I believe our sleeping lives tell us a great deal about our waking time sometimes it’s just difficult to figure out what it all means and what to do with it. As we settle into this time of isolation and slowing of our society, I wonder how our dreams will be? I wonder if the spirits might be heard more clearly as we allow our brains to quiet from the daily noise? I wonder if we’ll understand and listen?

I don’t always remember my dreams, but there are few from these past two weeks that are still floating in my head. In the first I was pregnant. My belly was large and round. I felt its warmth and cradled my about to be born child with love. I woke as the child was being born. The child was a new world. It was a beautiful moment for a forty-eight year old post-menopausal woman who’s never had a biological child. It feels like some directions to me, that I am to give birth to something. I don’t know what but I trust in the beauty and the good.

The second dream made me thankful for being able to awaken. I was in an old house, but it was new to me. I was there with an old friend. We were just moving in. I’d laid on a bed when I felt a weight down on me and couldn’t move. I could hear that Queen song, Under Pressure playing and forcing me down into the mattress. Then I awoke and for just a moment I was stuck there unable to move until I realized again where I was. It wasn’t quite a nightmare. I was able to wake up before it became one. I was somewhere between the old and the new and stuck there.

How are we all now in this place between the old and the new? Are we ready to give birth to a new beginning? What is it that we seek of ourselves and what is it that we seek in the world when this time of isolation is done? How are we preparing?

Dreams well my friends. Our dreams hold a lot of questions and a lot of answers.

The Blizzard of Dementia

My father was born in a blizzard in 1928. He entered a world of isolation where it was impossible to travel. He entered a world where the whirls of snow kept people apart from one another. But, eventually, the snow melted and he grew and thrived and the world was good to him.

Dad entered his 92nd year in another blizzard. This one had a name. We’re calling it COVID-19. This one is different. It has me wondering about the many other people across the world with aging family and friends in the same situation as my father. He has dementia and lives in a memory care unit.

Up until just a few years ago his mind was really quite sharp. Not too many years back he was able to live in an apartment on his own, then a care facility, and just a few months ago we made the decision to move him to memory care. I am thankful we made that decision and think we did the right thing. I wonder about him too.

Like others across the country, his facility is closed to visitors now to protect the health of the patients and care providers and the inhabitants are following strict regulations to keep everyone safe.

Before this virus, Dad had visitors a few times a week, mostly family. I couldn’t usually visit because I live a state away, but I had the comfort of knowing people could and were spending time with him. We have great faith in the staff of his living facility and have seen that they are doing wonderful work, but I wonder is that the equal to family and friends? A year ago I would have called him, but today the phone only confuses and frustrates him. A video call would be out of the question.

There was a moment when I saw him over the Christmas holidays that he said to me with tears in his eyes that he wanted to go see his Ma. He said that Ma shouldn’t be alone at Christmas. I explained to him that she wasn’t alone. That she was well and happy in heaven and that he’d see her there again some day. The words calmed him. I find myself caught now between wanting to be there with him holding his hand and making everything okay, thinking he shouldn’t be alone during this time, and just wishing he could go be with his Ma.

Dementia is a strange force in our lives and, I think, becomes even more so when outside forces join in taking our loved ones from us as this virus is doing right now. I am trying so hard right now to come up with some great and inspirational words, but none are coming. So maybe there is nothing more right now than to say– If you’re one of the people out there who’s been disconnected from someone you love because of dementia, if you’re struggling through not being able to be next to them much less communicate with them right now, you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out here and we will get through this blizzard one way or another. Take good care my friends

Learning When School Is Closed

So, the schools are closed. For some this is a challenge and it might even mean that learning is lost. For others I suspect it could the best thing that’s happened in 500 years.

I was just thinking this morning about some of my Native friends whose kids and grandkids aren’t in school right now, thinking about where those kids are instead. I realized they’re out at the sugarbush. They’re helping cook food for the family. They’re listening to their grandpa tell stories. Heck, some are even talking with their moms in their Native languages. It made me wonder what will happen to these children?

For over a hundred years Native children were stolen from their families and placed in boarding schools where their language, culture, and traditions were forcibly taken from them. When the boarding school era was winding down the federal government tried another tactic, taking funding from tribes and, in some cases, revoking the recognition of tribes making it impossible to maintain schools equal to that of predominately white areas. Yet, somehow the people survived. A great deal was lost, but much was retained.

If cultures can survive when children are torn away for generations and kept by their captors, what might happen if children can be held close and held with love and told the stories by their families? I can only hope that this illness that has struck the world might help us find the medicine we need.

I suspect the same is true regardless of who we are, Native or non-Native. Our children grow strong when they know their history, when they know who they are. Tell them the stories. Show them the way. The time out of school may be the best time to learn.

How Does This Change Us?

Okay, I took a break again and now it’s time to start writing. I don’t know what to say and can only hope that I find words that can provide help to someone somewhere. This COVID-19 thing is a strange beast. To me in some ways it only feels like a continuance and growth of my past few years here in Morris. While I have found some friends who have made all the difference, I haven’t found my home here. My main community has remained in different places separate from me. So, this is largely just a chance to learn about myself, to figure out some different ways to work, and to work on my own inner challenges in hopes of coming out a stronger and healthier person for whatever my next adventure may be.

The thing that keeps coming to my mind is something that my old friend Walt used to speak about when he was out talking with groups. Walt was a leader in the environmental and social justice movements in the Midwest and beyond. He used to tell people that we didn’t need to worry about saving the earth. The earth she will be okay. The earth she will heal herself. It is us that will die when we can’t breathe the air. It is us who will die when can’t drink the water anymore. It is us who will die when there are no trees, when there is no food to eat. It is us who will die.

Walt told the stories and gave the warnings. This COVID-19 thing seems to be giving the warnings too, giving them loudly and forcefully. I wonder how this changes who we each are individually and collectively? I’ve heard some tales that the shutdowns have already had positive impacts on the environment. I see stories each day of people slowing down and taking the time to take a walk and wave to people they pass, feeling the crushing weight of stress lighten as they stop running from meeting to meeting and task to task.

When this is over will we go back to who we were? Can we go back to who we were? Will we be someone new? Who do we want that someone to be?

Another New Year and Greetings From the Mayo Clinic

Well, a year has gone by and here I sit at the St. Mary’s Hospital campus of the Mayo Clinic reflecting on my goals of the past year and redefining my goals for next year. Here are last year’s goals.

  1. Writing at least 50 blog posts (here’s the 1st one!)
  2. Reading/ listening to 50 books ( I’m starting with “The Education of Will” by Patricia McConnell and “38 Nooses” by Scott W. Berg)
  3. Getting back on track with my healthy eating habits
  4. Running a 10k or 1/2 marathon (I haven’t decided yet, but I know more than 5k and probably not a full)
  5. learn to play guitar
  6. finish at least 3 or 4 knitting projects
  7. Get Buddy started with his therapy dog training
  8. Cutting my screen time significantly, especially facebook time

I met a few of them. I wrote more than 50 blog posts. I did okay with eating healthy most of the year. I went quite a while without lousy pizza and I did some time increasing my fruits and veggies too. I still need some work there, but I count that goal as met. I did finish a few small knitting and crochet projects, baby hats and blankets. I still need to send them off to charities though.

I learned some and had a few setbacks too. I’ve learned that sometimes seizures make it hard to focus on reading and I’ve been reminded that I like returning to the same old books over and over again. I forget stuff or maybe find new things in a second reading and some books are just simply comforting. I didn’t come close on that goal. I wasn’t on track, quite literally, for my running goal and then I blew it completely breaking my ankle in September. I’d like to return though, maybe just to a short race. Buddy still needs to get his good canine before he can do therapy dog training. Both are tough to find in Morris and right now I can’t drive to get training elsewhere. Screen time is still an issue that needs work. I set down the guitar in probably February again, apparently I need inspiration or maybe just a guide.

For this year, I think I want to simplify things just a little and name a few less goals. Maybe some of the others that didn’t happen last year will happen this year, but this is what I want to focus on.

  1. Getting my seizures to stop
  2. Getting to my goal weight
  3. Reading at least 12 books
  4. Cutting my screen time

That’s it. Let’s keep it simple and see where it goes. I wish all those reading this the best in the new year and good luck with your resolutions.

The Mayo Experience

It’s been two days now at Mayo. Yesterday, I was at the clinic where I met with doctors, had an MRI, and got blood tests. I have decided I am not a fan of MRI machines, though I did make it through. I am happy to say that I didn’t sneeze while in it too. It was definitely a possibility as I have been hit with a head cold for this visit. I could just imagine sneezing and getting snot all over the inside of the machine and spraying into my face.

It was a tiring day. I was supposed to have a sleep deprived EEG in the afternoon so I’d only slept four hours the night before and those weren’t the most restful. So, I wasn’t at my best. But, it may have helped get me to today. Instead of the EEG yesterday the doctors scheduled me to have a multi-day EEG and video monitoring at the St. Mary’s Hospital.

I walked here early this morning. I tried to get the shuttle, but I wasn’t sure I had called it correctly, so it seemed better to just walk the couple blocks from Neuro Hospitality House. I am glad that I did. It’s good for me to walk and be outside, healthy for the spirit. I got signed in at 7:30 and by about 9 or 9:30 I was all hooked up. Within an hour or two I had a seizure just under a minute. It left me pretty confused. The techs came in immediately and were asking me questions. I couldn’t remember the name of the state where I live, Minnesota. I knew it was near Wisconsin and that it started with an M, but it took a while for me to say it. I couldn’t remember Rochester at all.

I’ve been twitching more throughout the day and pretty tired, but I don’t think I’ve had any more seizures yet. It’s been a relaxing day, just sitting and watching movies and napping. I tried reading right around the time of my seizure, but I couldn’t do it.

Staying in the hospital is weird. It brings back memories. I spent a lot of time in hospitals when I was a kid. My mom had cancer. She was diagnosed when I was six and died when I was twelve. She did a pretty amazing job being a mom from her bed. I celebrated my birthday by her bedside. I think it was my 12th. I still feel her with me as I am taking my turn laying in bed. It still feels like she’s here in my heart and taking care of me, assuring me that it will be okay.

We’ll see where things go from here. I am hoping for more of an update tomorrow.

Coming to the Mayo Clinic

I have officially begun the new adventure. I am in Rochester, Minnesota at the Neuro Hospitality House. My first appointment at the Mayo Clinic will begin in just three and a half hours. I am really excited about this.

I’d say this step of the adventure really began yesterday morning. I’d spent the night in Sheboygan, Wisconsin finishing out my week with family with my last night sleeping on the couch at my sister Jean’s house. A bit after 6am, she and her husband Bob took me to the bus stop for my ride to Rochester. The bus never showed up. Thank goodness for caring family with flexible schedules! They changed up their day and drove me to Rochester, over four hours away. Arriving here I met the crew of patients currently staying at the House, a man with a fused spine and his wife and a woman who came here expecting spinal surgery and instead got a diagnosis of ALS. Later in the evening another gentleman with ALS who is hoping to be a part of some stem cell research happening at Mayo joined our crew. We now represent four states and include the east and west coasts as well as the Midwest.

Just in my short experience thus far I would recommend staying at places like the Neuro Hospitality House to anyone facing these types of medical experiences. Not only are they cheaper than staying at a hotel, but they are kind of homey and it is a really helpful thing to talk about stuff like perspectives on life with others who’ve had theirs changed by what they’ve been dealt.

This morning I am both excited for my appointment, wondering what this experience might bring, and simply tired. I have a sleep deprived EEG this afternoon so I was only allowed four hours of sleep last night. This is in hopes of generating seizures that they can catch and record. I am hoping that I don’t have one until this afternoon when I am hooked to that machine. Before then I have evaluations and other tests, and most fun, I will likely get a chance to have lunch with my old college housemate Julie who I haven’t seen in over twenty years. It should be a good day. Stay tuned for more updates!