About kaiserswest

A wife and mother to 3 amazing sons, and grandma to 6 (and counting) beautiful grandchildren. This is just a place where I can muse on things in my life and the world around me. I don't pretend to be a great writer or theologian, historian or blogger, but I'd love you to join me on this journey!

“…We are in this struggle together.” Phil 1:30

You know, sometimes you are called upon to the be the rock, the anchor for other people. And sometimes you just walk alongside them. On occasion the days work well together and a walk is all you need. Other days, it is a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or perhaps deep prayer requests. And all of those are beautiful, because it means we are trusted to walk with someone, or dry their tears. We have been found sturdy enough to hold others up. Wow. Think about that. It is really an honor.

Every so often, that honor can become a burden, and one that we feel not up to fulfilling. I know that feeling all too well. As I have gotten older, I have retreated more and more from the world. I am completely devoted to my children and grandchildren, our various (and many) extended family members, and about a handful of people I would consider a friend. We have many acquaintances, but very few friends. And that is a good thing. Those people we call friend are there for us regardless of a clean house, shampooed hair, or the state of our bank accounts.

One of my granddaughters started kindergarten this year (to be fair, another started 1st grade, another also kindergarten, and a grandson in 2nd grade….a couple of more are not school aged, yet. I am blessed) and within two days told me about her new best friend. I asked her what her name was, and as she trotted off to play, she was yelling over her shoulder, “Oh, I don’t know her name but she is my best friend.” I had to chuckle. It did not matter that they had only known each other two days, or that she did not know her name, she just knew she had found a friend. How precious is that?? She did not care about anything else, just that she felt friendship. I love it.

As I said above, I have very few close friends. One of my friends is having a big birthday this year. And what is funny about it is that when we first became friends more than 30 years ago, we promised we would not do the birthday thing (it is just a number) or worry about anniversaries. We promised we would celebrate with our kids and not worry about dates and things for us. So I honestly never worried about it. She threw me a surprise birthday party over 20 years ago. But my husband wrangled that. And now it is her turn to have a big 6-0 party (unfortunately I cannot be there) and I finally added her birthdate to my calendar. In our more than 30 years as friends, I never knew the date! And it had no bearing on our relationship. Oh, I knew I was older than her and it sort of bugged me, for about a minute, but there are so many other factors that could have gotten in the way, that age truly is a number. The point of this is that our relationship, which has weathered so much over the years, is what is paramount. I know if there is something I need, she would drop everything to be at my side, regardless of how it would mess up her schedule.

Years ago, when my grandmother (who lived with us) passed away, this same friend and her husband rushed to our home to hold me up. I will never forget her squeezing my hand as they wheeled my grandma’s body into that hearse. That is a friend. (I know you will read this and I love you more than you realize). I have two or three of these friends. Women I know who would rush to my side. They depend on me in the same way. They trust me and I trust them. It is a beautiful thing.

Sometimes we offer support to people because it is the right thing to do, but we never expect them to need us. Surprise! Something comes up and we have to decide to honor that commitment or not. In other situations, we may be a leader-figure. A position of authority, formal or otherwise. We attract people to us and they come to rely on us. And sometimes that burden becomes too much. We cannot carry ourselves into tomorrow, let alone save others. Well, that is okay, too. Sometimes we need an emotional time-out or break.

The important thing, I believe, is to honor our commitments. To be the people God has called us to be. To take comfort in the strengths and gifts He has given us. He leads us where we need to go and where we need to be. The Lord is our best friend. Let His example guide you, His promises comfort you, and His love give you rest. Be confirmed that the Lord has not misplaced HIs trust in you. He has not given you these gifts on a whim. He knows you (Psalm 139: 13-14) better than anyone. And on those days when you feel pulled in thousands of directions, call on one of your friends or family members. Just simply say, “Pray for me.” They will take it from there. And the strength of their prayers will bolster you and give you the wisdom you need for the moment. The Lord truly has your back.

 

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“…Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”

This post has been percolating in my head for months, perhaps even years. And with everything in the media lately, I just cannot put it off any longer. I maintain this blog site to run through things in my head, and as I work through them, I share them. Maybe you think this way, too, or have had similar experiences. I think it helps us all to feel that we are not alone in our trek through this life.

The court jester. The one who would leap in front of royalty and entertain them, many times to offset their ordinary lives (most filled with battles, death, and diseases at the forefront) and provide some laughter. But would the jester dine with the guests? No. He was often fed the left overs in the kitchen with the staff. He was not welcome with the society ruling at that time; he did not sit with them. Oftentimes, the jester was a member of the family, sometimes extended member, who would follow the ruling family and class, as they went from castle to castle or encampment to encampment. At many gatherings, the jester would wait in the background until summoned by the Lord of the Castle, or whomever ruled the place the jester resided. There were also public jesters who entertained in the public square and earned their keep through people throwing coins at them or offering them food and shelter. But they were rarely invited into even the most humble of homes.

Early actors often filled a void where no jesters were available. Sometimes they existed together, but most agree acting evolved out of the jesting sort of entertainment. There were still performers of feats and trials, much like the modern circus, but acting became something of its own as time progressed. It was common in the western cultures to think of actors and actresses as a lower class. In many instances, actors had to prostitute themselves (female and male) in order to put food on the table. Gentile society did not accept them as equal. In the east, most especially in China and Japan, prostitution was a part of the performing career. Many of the women in Kabuki were sold after the performances, and that is how many patrons were gained, to keep the production going. To have a patron in early theatre, most women sold sexual favors to patrons, who would then support the theatre. Think of some of the movies made about this very thing! The movie, “Gigi” comes to mind. Or “My Fair Lady.” There are so many.

And now actors are telling us how to vote and whom to vote for. They are threatening to leave the country if things don’t go their way – although, to be fair, only Madonna has actually done it so far, and she relocated to Venezuela to prove it is not socialist. I cannot wait for her to relinquish her American citizenship and then she will see how much of her fortune they allow her to keep (I bet she does not renounce her citizenship!!). The argument about “when did actors go from being considered no better than prostitutes to celebrities, and celebrities with political clout” is a fascinating one. How our social mores have shifted. How acting has become such big business, we get to see photos of what actors are working out where or eating what for their meals, to keep them human like us, and to keep them in public eye so their next project will be readily accepted.

Some actors have been lauded because they protest. Well, Hanoi Jane is still protesting. She just does not go away. Ha-Ha. In New York, I believe, there were quite a few actresses who came out in support of Planned Parenthood recently. But this week, this week paled. I think it is what finally tipped me over and caused me to post. This week on most media platforms we had “has-been-actress” Alyssa Milano telling the world how happy she was because her two abortions brought joy into her life. Sigh. “Fifteen years after that first love had fizzled, my life would be completely lacking all its great joys,” she said. “I would never had been free to be myself — and that’s what this fight is all about: freedom.” To quote her directly. She claims she was not ready to be a mother. Sadly, she is a mother. Those two children would be teenagers now. Not only did she stop them from living, she tore fatherhood away from her-then-lover. She destroyed 4 lives in order for her to have joy. Because I firmly believe she destroyed her life, as well. She WAS Catholic, but claims she realized it is a religion where men tell you what you can and cannot do. She has devolved into someone who pretty much only complains on media platforms these days, not having an acting job in awhile. She was on “Tanked,” where they installed a fish tank in her home. She is apparently happily married and does have some children. They must be so happy their mom allowed them to live, and that they did not interfere with her joy. I pray for her very lost soul, and for her aborted children. May their memories be eternal.

This woman, and many others like her, feel they are qualified to tell the rest of America what to believe, how to vote, and when to abort their children. This actress feels she has the platform to get her message to the rest of American voters. To the rest of American children who listen to this stuff. She is helping change opinion. Is this who we want to influence our culture, or our country? This woman and the other actors and actresses who rant and rage against conservative values in America? Since when have we changed so much we allow actors to influence how this country operates? Well, partially since we accepted acting and fantasy as industry. And it is a massive industry, supporting so many side industries. (Think Disney and all they have their hands in). They make so much money, it is almost unbelievable how much money the entertainment industry controls. And because of that, they pretty much own the airwaves. They certainly have the mainstream media leaning their way – deeply left. How can we stop them, or change the influence they hold sway over in our country? Well, we turn them off. We do not give them airtime. We don’t buy their products (movies, music, magazines, diets…there is so much controlled by the acting industry). We do not put our hard-earned money into their coffers. We stop the industry from having so much power. Can you do it? How can you do it?

Back in the early days of acting, the common man was outraged that someone would get up onto a platform and pretend to be someone else. There was such an outrage about women being on stage, that in early theatre, men played all the roles. For a woman to be acting was considered as bad as prostituting herself. Even in our modern era we all hear stories about the “director’s couch,” and how many actors and actresses literally had to have sex with someone in order to secure a role in a production of some sort. We have heard horrific stories of child prostitution and trafficking in acting. Behind so many secretive and closed doors, horrible stories emerge. And yet we listen to these people when they rage against our President? When they threaten to leave if President Trump was to be elected (we are still waiting for them to go and the list is pretty long) or certain legislation is not passed, or passed? When I was young, the entire “celebrity” aspect of acting was really getting going. The 1950s were glamorous. Actors were lionized and glorified. But there were horrible practices even then. There were good people, too. And even now, there are certainly some amazing people of caliber who chose acting. We cannot dismiss them all. Sadly, we know of only a few, because most of them are very quiet, because if they come out in support of conservative values, they are black listed. Kevin Sorbo comes to mind, or Scott Baio, or Kirk Cameron. Recently even Superman, Dean Cain, has come under fire. The press rants about how crazy they are, when in reality, they are just good people, trying to live good lives, raising their families. Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) does some amazing work and she is belittled for her position on life. She goes the extra mile, traveling to countries to try and make a positive difference. Good movies are pulled from countries (“Unplanned” was once banned in Canada, for example) or theaters. When will be stop allowing this? When will the silent majority stopping being so silent? When we will join the “woke” movement of black voters who are leaving the Democrat party in droves? When will we say enough is enough? When will we take America back???

On the 4th of July this year, more than 700,000 people came out in Washington, D.C. to see the President, watch the fireworks, and celebrate America. That was just one city, on one particular day. If the proportion of voters represented on this day were to hit the voting booth in 2020, we can take America back. There were 700,000+ people there. Alyssa Milano is just 1 person. Just 1 person. Why is she more important than these citizens? She is not. She just has the cameras on her. We need to stop giving her the airtime and give it back to the people. We need to get America back to the time when we did not have to lock our doors, or feel the need to conceal carry a handgun to do the grocery shopping, or to allow our kids the freedom to walk to a city park and not have to worry they would be kidnapped or worse, sold. Back to when a baby was safe in its mother’s womb and shortly after birth. When life was protected fully. My Lord, America! Wake up! Stop allowing this to happen to a once amazing country. Stop being quiet. Stop watching TV and using it as your sole source of information. Get your collective backsides to the polling place on election day in 2020 to ensure America stays great. Elect good people to local offices. Elect good people to Congress! Stop expecting to change something you do nothing to affect. You cannot stay away from election days and expect everyone else to vote for you. Make your voices heard. Silence those who would do us harm by not supporting them. Take America back! Keep America great. We can do this. Think of states like Alaska, where I live. We are having elections results declared and winners announced before we have even left our workdays to vote. We should feel like “What’s the point?” or “Why bother; it’s already done!” and largely, many Alaskans have traditionally stayed home. But we hold great sway in borough and state politics, and this last cycle, changes were made for the better in Alaska. We need voters everywhere to vote!! We also need to ensure each vote is an honest vote, by registered, living, voters. If everyone owns their own vote (and you can ensure that with voter ID), takes pride in the privilege of voting, and votes their own way, we can win this thing. We can save America. But it takes sacrifice – it takes prayer and fasting – and then, it takes action! Please vote!!!!

He said to them, “This sort cannot come out by anything except by fasting and by prayer.” Mark 9:29

“My best memories are the ones we make together…”

Saw mom again this week. Spent two hours trying to get her to pee in a cup. I had my phone so I was sharing random photos with her. And lots of them she recognized. But sadly, many she did not. She will think a name sounds familiar, but the face has just slipped past her mind. I was visiting with her at the amazing assisted living home she lives at and the lovely, and fun, attendant was making her chicken soup, from scratch, and it smelled heavenly. Mom was trying to drink water, but she really does not like to drink plain water. She is from the era when people did not walk around with bottles of water, ensuring they were hydrated. We tried juice and iced tea. She was not that enthusiastic. But we chatted around the table and had some laughs. It was one of the best visits we have had in recent months. Mom was happy. Very happy. And we did finally get that sample from her! Barely enough, but we got it! Yay!

Alzheimer’s is such a weird disease. With the photo above which was on my phone, taken the week of my high school graduation (we will not discuss when exactly that was), my mom did not know who was in the photo. I told her that it was the two of us, from back in the day. She then went into this huge story about the dress she was wearing. She remembered so many details – the color, the fabric, where she bought it. It was amazing. All I could recall was that I had cut my waist-length hair the week before, and that my dress was red with little white felt dots on it (Dotted Swiss??). I had worn it for my senior prom. She even recalled details of when we had the wall behind us built, in the early 70s! But she did not recognize herself. Even after the discussion. Weird disease.

Mom loves clothes. She has always been what they call a “clothes horse.” Fashion has been her thing. But she has now lost the ability to use buttons and zippers. Even the simple act of putting on a shoe (if it is not a slipper or slip on style) is beyond her. She had such a beautiful wardrobe. But we had to toss it all, in favor of pull on tops and pull up, elastic waist pants, with cute slippers. She is down to 1 pair of white tennis shoes. She just cannot walk in a heeled shoe. And the really hard part of Alzheimer’s is that she is often ridiculously clear-headed and she is completely aware of the fact she has this disease, and that she is older. In those fleeting moments, she hates the clothes she has, because they are not overly fashionable and she also thinks she is 40-ish at that point. It is weird because she’ll be clear-headed about so much, but clings to that younger age! LOL! She has no concept she is almost 90 years old most days, or maybe it is that she doesn’t want to face she is almost 90!! Or that she is living in the USA! Ha-Ha. Those days are fun.

My goal is to just keep Mom happy, as her days flow into one another. She is attending half days at the senior center, three days a week. She has no memory she attends. She swears she sits around all day, never going anywhere. Oh mom. We all just let her live in her own reality, her own Alzheimer’s World. Because she is content there, she is happy there, she enjoys life there. Most of the time. The photo below is one of the trips she has taken with the others who live with her. She swears she lives alone, has lived there for years, and that people randomly show up at her house. We all let her live there, in Alzheimer’s World. Just one of the many interesting visits with Mom. God Bless her.

#PuppyLife #PuppyProblems #TiredPuppyMom #StandardPoodles #Kolbe

Ok, so now this blog should the puppy saga…meet our 6 month-old-Standard Poodle. His name is Kolbe. We named him this because I researched names and words referring to black and intelligent. His name should rightly be Colby – meaning from the dark country or coal country. But it is also cheese. And then I thought about St. Kolbe; we love St. Maximillian Kolbe. It was his feast day yesterday. Not sure how he feels about us naming a dog after him, but it helps remind me to practice the virtues of this amazing saint. (You can learn more by using this link I will provide:  St. Maximillian Kolbe.)

My husband and I wrestled with why we would even want a puppy at our stage in life. We also are facing the death soon of our 13-year-old English Springer, Poca. It is short for Pocahontas. She was a rescue Springer and she has brought such love, joy, and laughter into our lives. But she is slowing down. She is going both blind and deaf. She is on anti-inflammatories and glucosamine/chondroitin just so she can walk without pain. She sleeps most of the day away. We thought a puppy would put some spring in her step. Well, she tolerates Kolbe. Barely. She gives him her old lady growl and he leaves her alone. This morning, he desperately tried to play with her, but she only played a very short time. Then she snored in my absent-husband’s recliner, safe from Kolbe. LOL. Safe because when she goes on the couch, he is now jumping up there with all his puppy energy, to sit next to her. And he really is not into sleeping his days away.

Having a puppy around has kept me much more mobile. If I cannot see or hear him, he is being bad. Like just now I heard a strange noise. He was standing up on my washer, trying to get into his food dish. Then another sound – he was standing up with his front feet on my countertop, trying to get my ceramic butter dish (which I had placed as far back as I could) off the counter. He is constantly moving. Yesterday, we took a total of 8 walks. In one day. We have an acre, so I walk him around the property on a 20-foot lead, and we also went down to the cut-de-sac and back. Trying to wear him out, and teaching a few lessons here and there.

Kolbe likes to chew. Well, duh, he is a puppy. It is hard to remember because he is so tall. Our Springer can literally walk under him. We wanted a big dog and we got one! LOL! I just fed them their dinner. Poca is done in a 1/2 minute and he is daintily chewing his for about 5+ minutes. She vacuums her food down. She just does not know when to stop. Kolbe spent his first six months free-ranging with a bowl down all the time, full of food. He can self-regulate. Poca and I are constant dieters.

“But grace, for ourselves and for others, is obtained by humble prayer, by mortification, and by fidelity in the accomplishment of our own ordinary duties, including the simplest ones.” St. Maximillian Kolbe

I think of this and many of his quotes as I approach the things I do in daily life. And sometimes, well, a lot of the time, I fail miserably. My prayer rule slides some days. I don’t really mortify my flesh, except by fasting from meals here and there. But I am basically a wimp. My accomplishment of ordinary duties is sometimes more slothful than it should be. I seem to love waiting for the last minute and then dashing around, cleaning up. LOL.

Our new puppy, Kolbe, is helping me out. He is making me be more vigilant. He is making me be less slothful. He is making me move around a lot. Taking these walks, for example! Dang. I need to get one of those step counter things! He is making me a less-lazy person. And every time I say his name, it is like a little prayer, asking St. Max to keep an eye on our family.

“…Help us to overlook one another’s faults, to forgive as Jesus has forgiven us, and to love one another as Our Lord has asked us to love.
Please use our family to crush the head of the serpent. Ask your Spouse, St. Joseph, Protector of the universal Church, to keep us one in mind and heart…”

The above is part of the Consecration of the Family in the Missionaries Immaculata, which St. Kolbe founded. My husband was consecrated years before I was. And on my 40th birthday, over 20 years ago, my eldest son and I made our consecration together. He said he always wanted to be a soldier and warrior, so being a part of the MI made sense to him. The entire organization prayed for me for years, to soften my heart towards Mary, the Mother of God. Took years! LOL!

The first day we brought him home, Kolbe was helping me a better person. I have to develop lots of patience (I keep telling myself, “He’s a puppy. He’s a puppy!”) and I have to be smarter than this ridiculously intelligent dog. Because let me assure you, he is one smart dog. We have to change up how we do things, constantly, because he is a thinker. He can figure out what you want from him, and he is deciding whether or not he respects you enough to obey. And I have to be on my toes. Poca and I can be couch potatoes together. But Kolbe gets me outside, trying to keep up with him as he explores all the unkempt areas of our acreage. He makes me hop over logs and get out of holes, while holding him in check, on a 20-foot lead. Somedays I think I was nuts to do this. But then he crawls in my lap, or he does something funny while chasing a toy while we play fetch (hardwood floors are fun for puppies…lol), and I melt. He brings a surge of love out of me I did not know I had. I was cuddling Poca and he felt left out. Somehow he climbed up with us and the three of us cuddled. My poor chair!! Animals live in the here and now. It is a good lesson for us humans. And Kolbe is working on me!!

“St. Maximilian Kolbe, you gave your life so that a family might not be deprived of a husband and father. By your heroic martyrdom of charity, teach us that the value of family life is worth our sacrifices also. Just as you found in Mary the channel of those graces that strengthened you to be faithful to her Son, help us to rejoice also in her who was given to us as a mother by Jesus from the cross. Be with us, St. Maximilian, as we pray for the special needs of our family. Amen.”

St. Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us. Pray for our nation. Pray for our world. And thank you for bringing this bundle of crazy joy into our lives, who now bears your name. Please don’t think it is disrespectful, because it is with the utmost respect we call him, “Kolbe.”

 

“People forget years ago and remember moments.”

Yesterday was a rough day. So much so, I cried in my car after I left mom. Yeah. Alzheimer’s is a wicked disease. It robs me of my mom, but more importantly, it robs my mom of herself. Yesterday I spent about 4 hours with her. She gets a pedicure every six weeks and it is our time together. Yesterday she was so confused. So lost. No clue where she was or much of anything. I took her straight home and we skipped lunch. Why? Because I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss. The caretaker (awesome woman) could tell something was wrong as I dropped mom off (she lives in an assisted living home) and asked me if I was going to be okay. I told her not to be nice to me because I would start crying and I did not want my mom to see me cry. And when I looked at my mom, she looked so sad to see me go. It made leaving even worse. But I was barely holding it together. I realized after I left that she was sad because I am one of the only people she still recognizes from her life. How horrible is that?

 

Mom and I have had a rough road together. We have spent years being civil, but unconnected. And I regret those years. She was a hard woman to cuddle up to. She was wonderful with strangers, but stand-offish with family. Like she could relax and not have to be nice because we were related. LOL. As I grew into womanhood, I grew to be different from my mom. I was more open, definitely a cuddler with my boys, and a softer person, if that makes sense. My mom was always so rigid. Things had to be a certain way. You had to wear proper clothing for each thing, with matching jewelry, and always made up with hair done. I am much more casual. I prefer jeans and t-shirts. LOL. I also had 3 boys, where mom only had me and my brother. Our home was much louder, messier, and casual than the house I grew up in. Plus, we lived on dairy farms most of our son’s youth. It was very different from the rigid, British-styled youth I had. And now, now my mom is subdued, weak, and sadder. She is losing so much. And it yanked at my heart. It is still yanking. Ugh.

Mom commented at what long, lovely fingers and hands I have. I laughed and told her they were pretty much the same as hers. We measured and sure enough, our hands are almost exactly the same size. She commented that mine looked so much better. Then I reminded her that they looked like her hands, thirty years ago. She held my hand and just looked at me. Where have the years flown? She had no idea how old we are. She looked so confused. I told her I would be 63 this Saturday, and that she would be 90 in November. She was shocked. Again. Questioning her, I realized she truly lives in her 20s or 40s, depending on her day. Yesterday, she was in her 20s. When I questioned her, she had no memory of her second husband, or my brother, or that I have kids and grandkids. She recalled I had a husband, but not his name. Although she did ask me to hug and kiss him for her (she really likes him). And I was so sad because she has lost some of the best years of her life. Of the time we shared as a family while I was young. Of all the times we spent laughing and enjoying days with her and her husband, Frank. I told her she loved him very much, that he was a good man, and he was who my kids think of when they think of “grandpa.” She said, “Well, that is good. I believe he was a good man.” And the next sentence was, “Look at this view. I love driving this way.” SQUIRREL. We were back in Alzheimer’s Land.

Alzheimer’s is many things. And it can be different for each person who suffers with it. The brain is an amazing organ. And it is beyond fascinating at what it holds on to, what slides into oblivion. There is a lady who lives with mom at her assisted living home. She greeted me with, “Hello. I am from Tulare.” And we all smiled and agreed with her. It is where she lives in her mind – Tulare, California – amidst the farms and fruit, heat and dirt. It is where her heart still resides. For my mom, it is always and forever New Zealand. She has no idea she is in the USA, let alone in Alaska. She has no memory of my dad. And he is suffering, at 93, with his own dementing illness, in Texas, about as far away from each other as they could be. Ironic. And my mom clings to her childhood. And I wonder why so much of her adulthood has slipped away. She vividly recalls her father; her mom, not as much. She was focused on her grandfather and obsessed about clouds and watching them with him, but that, too, has faded. My entire life as her daughter has faded; she does not know she has a son. Or any other family, besides me. And when I walked out that door, I took the last of her reality of life with me. Because Alzheimer’s World is where she lives more and more of the day. When I am not there, she has no memory of me. I made her a book with photos of her life. She has put it away and hidden it. She is taking down photos in her room. I realized it is because she has no idea who is in the photos. She does not even recognize herself in some of them – because those years of her life are now gone.

And I cling to that. I do. Moments are what are recalled years and years later. I watched a documentary called, “Why they run” and it is about the Iditarod. In the movie, Martin Buser (a famous Iditarod musher) talks about what he has learned from dogs. They live in the moment. They hold no grudges. They are happy with what is happening now. Their favorite Iditarod route is the one they are on. Their favorite day is today. And that has stayed with me. To deal with what Alzheimer’s sufferers deal with, and to handle it better emotionally, I think all of us need to adopt that way of looking at life. My mom is here. Now. She does not worry about what happened to her yesterday or years ago. She is just now. I need to join her there, rather than drag her back to what she no longer knows. It is better for all of us!

So, I am here. It is now. I am happy for what is. I cannot change what we have lost, or what we are going to loose as this journey with mom continues. I need to adopt today, and forget the rest. Living in the now. Alzheimer’s rips so much away from us. Celebrate what we have today. And find some peace with that. Somehow. It is a hard journey. I am still trying. Still crying. Sigh….

“..but I wasn’t done, yet…”

I have been enjoying the summer insofar as my flowers go. I am in love with all things Dahlia. There are so very many styles of them. And they are a flower within a flower. They bloom in so many ways. They go from simple to complex, miniature to dinner plate, and even giants. The color variety is stunning!

For each of the Dahlias, I pluck them to keep them fresh, dead-heading regularly. I remove yellowing leaves, and am sure I water them regularly. Dahlias are originally from Mexico and the South American peninsula. They have adapted to climates in New Zealand, in England, and in different areas of the northwest like Oregon and Washington. They like cold nights and sunny days. Some of them like shade, and some like full sun. There is a particular Dahlia I saw in a book, and the plant is in England, and it is a gigantic one that is actually a tree! Dahlia Imperialis! It is stunning. Below is a Pom Pom Imperialis. So cool.

I am finding that at my age, I can still learn. I can still be taught. And I have found something I enjoy very much – growing flowers – Dahlias. And the fact that I am not regularly killing them makes me happy. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. And with Dahlias, I can try so many different flowers every year. This year, I seem to have a lot of white dinner plates. And they are astounding in their complexity and depth, even though when you first see them, they look sort of boring. But in the right light, they are incredibly beautiful.

In the right light, we can all be beautiful and shine. I am enjoying sharing my flowers with people. Some of my family and friends think I am mildly obsessed and I may well be. But I can only obsess in summer, when we can grow things here. And summer is quickly winding down. None of the stores have plants anymore. Snow blowers abound. I am still planting! We ordered some gray stacking stones to create planters around our house. They arrive this Friday!!! Ours is a white house with white trim and a big, green lawn. No flowers! I have been adding color wherever I can. Trees, bushes, and my flowers. I am very excited to get our planters done before the first freeze. And then I will start to harvest my Dahlias for their winter storage. You have to take them out of their pots and harvest the tubers. They are these long tubes that sort of look like a sweet potato. They are trimmed down and you write what they are in marker on the tubers itself. They are then kept in the garage, in boxes, while the snows are blowing and it’s below freezing outside (yay for a heated garage). Then when the ground thaws, you plant the tubers and wait for the blooms.

This is my most recent bloom – the Majestic! Isn’t it lovely? I just love the deep purple accented with the white. I know it will change up as it matures. They are just so surprising. Dahlias mimic life in that you think you know what you have, but every day brings a little surprise. Dahlias surprise you almost daily.

And the above bloom is a Seattle. I just love its tender colors. It is also changing as the bloom opens. I love how Dahlias do not disappoint – because they change as they mature – and I love that about them. This one is sort of caramel and cinnamon, with a touch of red in the center, and the delicate white tips. The petals actually start to form a tube as they open further and further. It is fun to look every morning to see what they have done overnight. Most of my Dahlias have lots of buds on them, so the flowers will keep blooming for another two or three weeks.

Anyway, as I end this, I wanted to share how happy growing things has made me this year. I’ve never paid it much attention in the past, always busy with kids and commitments that took me away from my garden. Growing season here is short and very intense, due to the extended day light hours. And now the signs of fall are starting to become irrefutable. The Fireweed is blooming out. That means 6 weeks until our first frost. The movement of the seasons reflects life. We have so much planned, and then the time just runs out. Sigh. And I wasn’t done, yet. But wait until you see my garden next year!!! Already planning ahead!

 

“…the old broad who could not keep up…”

Boy, we chose an amazing journey to further explore Alaska! We were naive in what to expect, but overwhelmed by the majesty, beauty, and inexhaustible zest for exploration and hard work with which America was made great! And it made me realize what an amazing country we get to live in! WOW!

We saw majestic mountain peaks and incredibly large glaciers. We were able to just sit and look at the slow moving glacier, off the front porch of our little, dry, cabin. When we were quiet enough, we could hear the rocks and parts of the glacier breaking away and falling into the lake in front of us! It was so incredible. We were blessed that weekend with cooler temperatures, and even some overcast skies. But sitting on that front porch and watching a glacier, and all the land around it, took our breath away. It is hard to see in this photo, but that chunk of white centered in that sort of dip, is the 3rd largest ice fall in the world. The entire world. And it was outside our doorstep for 4 glorious days.

We were privileged to listen to the fast moving waters, flowing from the glacier. The waters look muddy, but that is glacier silt. The rich minerals feed the lands below and all the plants and creatures that call Alaska their home! What I thought was common knowledge, but what I came to realize was not really known, is that I am afraid of heights. I have always told my husband about it, but in our 36 years together, he got to see for the first time just how much it freaks me out. He had no idea I was truly frightened from being up high, and not feeling the solid support of the land under my feet, that I need to feel safe. The first time on this trip he got to see me panic was when we had to drive over a narrow wooden bridge that was 238 feet above a river. I about died when I saw it was wood. Wood! Creaky, old 1910 constructed, wood. And then I stupidly looked down. I was a mess for a few minutes afterwards. But I did not really have time to wallow in my fear, because after we crossed the bridge, we faced 60+ miles of dirt roads. I use the term, “road,” only because it was bigger than a path, but not much. It took us over 2 hours to go that distance. At times, the road fell away to canyons far below, on my side of the car. I gripped onto those “panic straps” like my life depended on it. The river above has to be crossed to get from where we were staying to the town of McCarthy. And from McCarthy, you can either hike the 5 miles uphill, or ride in a 15-passenger van, up to the Kennicott Mine. And this bridge, well, it is a footbridge and it is not solid. It is a wire mesh-like thing. Yes, it is solidly built, but it is see-through and very high over that river. And yes, I was holding on to save my life. My husband, God bless him, thought it would be funny to jump up and down on the bridge, as he walked behind me. Until he heard me panic, scream, and practically fall to my knees. Oh my word. I was scared to death. And that sort of made him realize that I am truly afraid of heights. At least he now knows for sure. LOL. A man, a pretty smart man, has a pet-sitting service on the beginning side of this footbridge. He’ll watch your dogs for $10 while you explore McCarthy and Kennicott. Why? Because so many dogs are scared to death of that bridge and refuse to cross. I almost wanted to stay with the dogs.

This is downtown McCarthy. Population, full time, of 33. There is no paving. There are very few cars, but there are lots and lots of dogs. I think they out-number the residents. They must be descended from the brave dogs who crossed that bridge, along with me! It is a laid back and casual town. I have never seen so many tattoos, ice axes, man-buns, and hiking shoes in my life. Backpacks far outnumber purses. I rarely saw anyone carrying a purse! LOL! Everyone is hiking up to the mine, or to the glacier itself. The park we were in is larger than Connecticut. Seriously huge. Lots of backpacking trails, glacier hikes, and generally incredible sites to see. (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve – check it out by clicking here). It is an incredible national park. I got a really uncomfortable neck ache and it took me a day or so to realize what from – I had to watch where I walked because it is so rocky and the paths very treacherous, that I developed a sore neck! Too funny. It also highlighted for me how out of shape and old I have become. I am definitely more of a couch potato and realized how out of my depth I was, hiking more than 5 miles in one day. Ouch! I ache in places I did not realize could ache. I learned that I have let myself really go. I hated being the old broad who could not keep up and needed that 15-passenger van to just get from the Potato (restaurant) in McCarthy to the walking bridge – a distance of about a mile – after a full day of walking and exploring. I was just done. My girlfriend was happily counting all her steps, but after 20,000+ I just groaned, because I was walking next to her most of the time. Seriously – I want to get back into shape, but not in one trip! LOL!

This is the Kennicott Mine with yours truly posing across from the main ore processing building. It was 14 stories tall on the side of a mountain and at one time, the tallest building in North America! I can assure you that we are a generation of wimps. This mine was discovered in 1901 and closed in 1938. In those 37 years, countless hundreds worked the mine. They put up with 30-foot snow drifts. They had -50-degree winters and sometimes suffered with the 90s in the summers. No running water. They generated their own electricity. I cannot imagine the life of a woman back then, trying to care for her family in one of the provided cabins. Or bunking with other families in the dorm-styled quarters. The laundry alone was daunting, let alone trying to provide meals for the entire family. So much work! There was a school for the children – many were born here and the hospital up at the mine was top-notch; they had the first x-ray machine in all of Alaska. They had a dairy, a bakery, a general store. They played baseball in the summers and hockey in the winters. They had a tennis court. All in the clothing and habits of the 20s and 30s. It was a very hard life. My husband and his friend went crazy over all the engineering feats they accomplished at Kennicott. It is an amazing place. Like I said, we are wimps! These people made millions of dollars worth of copper come out of the ground in one of the 5 or 6 underground mines, up through the rail and tunnel system, into this processing plant, and onto the ferries which hauled the ore for smelting, clear to Tacoma, Washington. It is an incredible story. And I was so proud of the many, many feats accomplished at Kennicott Mine. It stunned me, truly.

Every single item we saw at Kennicott had to be brought up there. There was nothing there, except for the initial hole in the mountain, when they started. Today, we have kids wining about their iPhones and faulty apps, and their free college tuition, and the rights they think are owed to them. I wish they could experience the life these Kennicott miners had. I wish they could know hard work and a job well done. Of working 24/7 against Mother Nature and the very low odds of success. They want everything handed to them. They want reparations for things none of us perpetuated. They think they are owed something. Well, they are riding on the backs of people who worked harder than they could ever imagine, just to have the freedom to complain. And I stand in awe of these people. And I am so proud of the American ingenuity and brains it took to accomplish what they did in just 37 short years, and the legacy they have given to us all. I wish our American youth could know these sorts of historical facts. Where they could see the photos of these men and women, and their children, as they lived in astounding conditions doing heroic work to line the pockets of people like the Havemeyers, JP Morgan, and the Guggenheim families, the titans of industry who helped shape American industry and its accomplishments. When the copper ran out, the mine was abandoned (in a matter of hours). And they left behind a wonderful time capsule of life at Kennicott.

When I see what was possible, using far less than what we have now, I am stunned and humbled by the people who worked Kennicott and McCarthy. It was, and still is, a rough life. I doubt many of those protesting in our city streets could have handled a work day at this mine. From 1911 – 1938, over $200 million dollars worth of copper was extracted by approximately 200-300 miners, and 300 who worked in the town below, McCarthy. McCarthy, in its heyday, had 100s of residents, and even boasted of having 12 whorehouses! It was quite the town, and the hub for moving all this copper.

The sunrise at our cabin on the last day we were there, was exceptional. The glacier was glowing with blue and white, and the skies had some left-over clouds from a brief drizzle the night before. We had fun watching the white-water rafting crew set off on a night run before we climbed into bed, exhausted and ready to go home. And we had only stayed there 3 nights and 4 days, in July. The town is closed in the winter, because the roads are not even plowed! So I cannot imagine life in the wintertime. Only the 33 hardiest McCarthy residents brave that! I came away from our journey of just 4 days wonderfully excited and proud of the past Alaska has played in American industry and history, and blissfully grateful for my own bed, running water, and carpeting. Like I said, I am a wimp! But I also came home realizing I have let myself down. I have become lazy and content with the status quo. It is not good for my health, my psyche, and my family. I need to be a better me. I did not like my role of the “old broad who could not keep up.” I am a grandmother to 6 wonderful grandchildren (so far) and I want to enjoy them. So I am endeavoring to take up outdoor walking. And eventually hiking. I loved being out there, holding hands with my hubby, as we explored a slice of American history and ingenuity. And we want to continue to explore this amazing land we call home. Alaska is an incredible place to live, and holds so many secrets I am excited to discover. Me and the hubby have lots of plans to do just that! God Bless Alaska, and God Bless America!!