Saturday, November 22, 2014

"I want to do it."

On the dining room floor at work, crumbled cornbread from lunch.

"Do you have a broom?" asked a resident walking by. "I'll sweep that up."

"Oh, great," I said, and went and got a broom and dustpan for her.

Her friend scolded her. "Don't do that, you've got a bad back."
[She doesn't, this was a figment of the friend's dementia.]

"Hush!" the woman scowled. "I want to do it!"

Wow--a resident said what she wanted to do!
The Big A (not all people with dementia have Alzheimer's, but a lot do) erodes people's ability to communicate clearly in words. Getting to know them is like playing a clue game, usually without words. 
But in this case--a free card!
Time for some more "therapeutic fibbing": I will get some popcorn or something and sprinkle it on the floor and see if it works a second time. There's no guarantee: the Big A is a cunning one.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Craft Tip No. 1

Here's what I learned this week:
Toilet-paper rolls?
Don't put them in the microwave for 2 minutes to sanitize them.

I tried it at work, and thankgod I didn't walk away because in about 80 seconds I got a whiff of burned cardboard; opened the microwave and half the rolls were singed.

I imagined a future job interview.
"Well, see, I lost my job doing activities with people with dementia because I set the kitchen on fire microwaving toilet-paper rolls."

Actually, I bet anyone who does crafts would recognize such a goof-up. (I never did crafts before, but I feel like I'm turning into a Pinterest board.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Lead Pin

It helps to be creative with language when you have the Big A.

Setting up the lightweight bowling pins for us to play at work, one woman told me insistently,
"They have to be in a triangle. This, " waving a pin at me, "is the lead pin." The one that goes at the tip of the triangle, I guess she meant.

Later we made applesauce.

"If only my mother..." she said.

"Did your mother make applesauce?" I asked.

"Oh, and how! But she's dead."

"I'm sorry. My mother's dead too," I said. "I really miss her."

"I miss her! The mother is the lead pin."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 minutes at 10ºF

Good morning!
I have ten minutes before I have to head out to catch a bus to work. 
I might've biked even in this cold, but it has yet to get warm enough to melt the sheets of ice on the bike path.

I spent all day yesterday shrink-wrapping every leaky window in this old house (for those of you who don't live in arctic conditions, this plastic sheeting stuff is like saran wrap, specially made for indoor windows), and now I don't wake up to a film of ice on the inside of the windows.

So, today is Toddler Day and I'm actually sort of looking forward to seeing the little thugs. 

Did I tell you they took my bike chain  off?

A few weeks ago I'd locked my bike to the railings around the outside play area, and when I came out, I was mystified as to how the chain had come off.

Later a janitor told me, "Don't lock your bike there. There were five toddlers running around with bike grease all over their hands."

For their troubles, the grown-ups and I will make them play-dough today---colored & scented with Kool-Aid... I hear this works.

Anyway, while in general I prefer the old folks, I have to admit that the toddlers' brains have their charms, including that they are expanding not diminishing, and as a biological being, I find that attractive. 
Life! It's nice.

And the old folks have plenty of life in them too, and I'm learning more and more what brings that out. 
The other day we played balloon toss for half an hour (a long time to hold their attention)---they batted and kicked balloons to one another, and I was the retriever. I actually worked up a sweat.

"This is fun!" someone said, and a couple other people echoed that.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Something of Mine

The past few days, I've been squirrely for something of my own to do. This is a good sign:
After a month of working full-time researching, reading, writing, thinking, and experimenting with activities and dementia (more , if you count the time my brain keeps humming), (and only paid for half that time), I've finally felt that everything at work is going well enough that I could take a break. Actually, everything was going well enough from day 1, but I didn't trust it. 

 This work would absorb everything I could give it, and more. 

Marz said, "You could make a book called Mine; Get Your Own." 

Perfect. I spent the evening water coloring --I set up water colors every day at work, but I never get to sit down and use them for more than a minute.

So, here is my painting of my string of marshmallows in hell prayer beads from a friend of my parents I called Uncle Yaman--he'd brought them from his home in Turkey when I was little. 

I just looked up the amber and it seems it is either butterscotch amber from the Baltic or a kind of vintage Bakelite called faturan used in Turkey before the 1940s to make prayer beads. 
They are soft and clicky---very satisfying and soothing to finger, and I handle them a lot.

(This is like a continuation of the Three Things prompt--draw/write/whatever three of your things that are very "you.") 

And now I leave for work. I biked on the Greenway bike path yesterday after a day of icey snow (too early!)----it was too dicey--I almost fell on ice twice, and I was tense the rest of the time. 
So it's the bus for me until the sun comes out and melts the pathway.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Oh, no! I was wrong about the stripes...

After I wrote that last post, I went to take a shower, and just as I soaped up my head with Silverette Shampoo (or some-such named bluey gooey stuff for gray hair), I realized,

I'd written that one woman had asked me repeatedly to count the stripes on the flag she was painting. 

I kept reassuring her, "That's right---there are thirteen."

Then I'd go help someone else, and she'd demand I come and count again, saying they didn't look right.

I thought she was just being confused. She does have dementia, after all.

But now I realize she was right:
I'd been counting the red stripes, and there were thirteen. 
But there aren't thirteen red stripes on the flag. 
There are seven. Seven red and six white stripes total thirteen.

Ha! So much for me and my neuronormative brain.

"The Free Things"

For Veterans Day at work today, I xeroxed an American flag on the color copier at work (this is a great resource) and invited the residents to paint their own flags with watercolors.

Some people need a painting prompt––if I don't provide one, they ask, "what are we painting?" and if I say stuff like, "whatever you want," they just won't paint anything. 

Others always do their own thing no matter what. Some people find it very satisfying to paint straight lines, and they especially got into painting the red stripes. One woman repeatedly asked me to count her thirteen stripes to make sure she had the right number.

While they were painting, I asked, "What do we love about America?"

Only a couple people can respond to open-ended questions like that, but once in a while I like to throw one out.

"We have a lot of . . . the free things."

[coupons? sales? social welfare programs?]

"Oh," I said, "freedom?"

"Yes! Freedom!" 

Trying to engage the residents provides a real workout for my memory: I also dredged up all the songs about America I'd ever learned in grade school, such as "Home on the Range," "This Land Is Your Land," "Grand Old Flag", "God Bless America," and the "Star-Spangled Banner." 

The residents and I knew most of the words to these songs, etched in  our brains long ago, though we did mangle the national anthem's lyrics. Everybody does that, right? 
["o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming..."?]

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Seventy-Five-Dollar Hot Pad

< The first completed hot pad made by the Sewing Group on the Memory Care unit, led by me.

The group of about six ladies sorted, folded, and cut the fabric; 

I sewed the pieces together on the sewing machine.

You can't clearly see that the pattern on the brown cloth is owls. You also can't clearly see here how crooked the seams are. My auntie taught me how to sew on a machine forty years ago, and I haven't done it since. Plus I didn't have pins so I sewed it up freehand. *

But here's the thing: as a sewing project, this may be a disaster, but as something people with dementia made, it's a triumph, and I'm really, really pleased and proud of the group (including me).

They don't seem to care about the finished product––it's too removed in time, too many steps away from the beginning, and when I showed them, they said polite things like, "That's so cute!"

I hear this response to all sorts of things, some entirely not cute.
In fact, I gather our brains store such polite murmurings in the same part that stores swear words and racial slurs, separate from other verbal communication, and Alzheimer's doesn't kill off these automatic responses until very late in the game.

I am curious––and a little worried––what family members will think. Some of the group could have made a perfect hot pad in five minutes, a few years ago. 
Will their families see this out-of-whack object as a sad sign of decline?
Or, as I hope, will they see it as a hopeful sign of ongoing engagement with life,
of "a wholehearted participation in the present" * *

I took the hot pad home to photograph it, and on the way out of the building I showed it to the receptionist. 

"I love it!" she said. "You should sell them as a fundraiser."

"Thanks," I said, " I thought about that, but this one took two weeks to make..."

"Oh, yeah," she said, ". . . so it's a seventy-five dollar hot pad."


I'll get faster, and I'll get pins, and the next ones will be better. Maybe I can get the price down to twenty-five dollars.
In the meantime, the group can give crooked hot pads to their families, starting with the daughter who gave us her sewing machine.
* Full disclosure: I didn't even use a pattern, I just made it up as we went along. Also, the owl fabric is polyester that I think might very well melt if you picked up something hot with it. 

This item is strictly "for decorative use only."

But! I just found a very simple pattern I will follow starting this coming week: Quick & Easy Hot Pad Tutorial.
* * " a wholehearted participation in the present"

Does it seem like I'm insisting the family members stop grieving? I hope not: that's not at all how I feel! 
I hate suggestions to "just celebrate what your loved one can do."
No! I'm all for raging and screaming against this horror.
And sadness is an honorable emotion with a noble pedigree that modern Americans seem to want to wipe out. Bad idea.

But I do hope the activities I lead will bring relief, not cruel reminders. I hope the hot pad project may represent people enjoying handling fabric (over and over and over again)--experiencing the colors, the textures, the scent even, of cloth. 

When I say, as I have before, that the enjoyment of the moment (over and over and over again) looks to me like a Zen state, I'm very aware I'm talking as an outsider. These aren't people I knew before, so I don't know or feel personal loss over how they've changed.  

I was glad to read a similar observation from an insider, therefore, in Rebecca Solnit's essay "Mirrors" about her mother's dementia (in The Faraway Nearby, Viking, 2013, p. 224). 

Solnit and her mother had had a contentious relationship:
"Finally, the war ended. She [Solnit's mother] forgot the stories that fueled her wrath, and when they were gone, everything was different. ...When I was in my thirties and things with her were at their worst, I'd considered never seeing her again.... ...In this late era, well down the road labeled Alzheimer's, my mother lit up at the sight of me.
... It wasn't just that she was more pleasant for me to be around; she seemed to be more pleasant for herself. She had achieved something of the state people strive for through spiritual practice: a lack of attachment to the past and future and a wholehearted participation in the present. It had come as part of a catastrophic terminal illness, not a devotional pursuit, but it came."

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Drop

Thursday is flower day on the second floor: 
a nearby grocery store donates their past week's flowers before the fresh lot arrives for the weekend. Sometimes it's just a few buckets. This week we got a grocery cart full of bouquets. 

I spread the flowers out on the long activities table and invited everyone around to help cut off the cellophane sleeves.

Rob [not his real name] is a quiet man who spends most of his time doing puzzles, alone but at a table in the public area. (Some people stay alone in their rooms.) 
When I ask him if he want to do something, mostly he just shrugs. I haven't been sure if he's hard of hearing, doesn't fully comprehend me, or truly doesn't care one way or another. He shrugged at the flowers, but got up and walked over to the table.

I'm trying to be calmer at work, but with all these flowers, and lots of people needing advice, I was in a bit of a flurry. I took the flowers Rob had freed and shoved them in a vase. The florists usually sheath the floppy stems of gerbera daisies in a green plastic straw, but they'd missed one.

"Oh, look at this one," I said to Rob, holding up a daisy that was flopped-over in half. 
"We'll have to..." I paused, distracted.

". . . put it in the middle," Rob finished.

"Oh," I said, "right. Yes, I'll put it in the middle where the other ones will support it." 

In fact, I had been going to say "throw it out."
One of these days I'm going to do some of my own art again, but in the meanwhile, here's this nifty watercolor by blogger Elizabeth Merriman:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

FINE Art Day

I've been at a corporate training the last two days---designed to be so boring, it seems, as to make workers eager to get back to work. I am, anyway, after sitting through hours of power points...

Also I'm eager to see what the paid expert does, she who is coming for the first time to lead the "intergen" group (kids & grown-ups).
She observed last week, and when one of the aides asked, "Are you coming to do crafts?" she said,
"Oh, no! We do fine art."

I do see the difference--I've mentioned the difference between making hot pads or baking, which is work guided toward an outcome, and water coloring, which is free expression, but I bristled at her seemingly snotty distinction---especially toward an aide who was only being friendly and welcoming. 
(If nothing else, it's not in your self-interest to annoy the aides who help you as well as the residents.)

My main activity today will be trying out the exercise balls for seated exercise. I found a good guide here online
And, off I go.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Souls' Day

Today is All Souls' Day, the beginning of the month of the dead in the Catholic calendar. 
My mother is my favorite soul. Here she is, below, wearing sunglasses at my brother's wedding because she'd doped herself up to her eyeballs in order to attend. She spent most of her time in her hotel room, ordering pancakes from room service. 

I'm on the far right. I hadn't wanted to come either. I'd asked my brother if attendance was optional.
He'd said no. (Lesson: don't ask.)

L to R: sister, brother, mother, me, at my brother's wedding 
(1996? –97? God, I don't even remember.)
All these people are not dead, to be remembered on All Souls' Day. Only my mother. 

I had this photo up for years. bink took it, and I think she caught some of the Monty Pythonesqueness of Family: everyone engaged with someone off camera but not with one another... It could cause pain, but mostly I just feel affection.
Also, I like my hair.

The ceremony was in southern CA, where the bride is from, "by the ocean": basically in a parking lot (for boats). The grass was some plant that grows green spikes under adverse conditions. 

It was the first time we'd come together in 20ish years, kids and parentsand it would be the last time until my mother's funeral some five years later, if that counts.

I don't imagine we'll get together again. I certainly wasn't willing to try again when my sister got married in San Francisco a few years ago. I know she was displeased, but I didn't ask for permission.

When I meet family of people with dementia at work, and I see they haven't made the switch to the new reality, I can relate. My mother didn't have dementia, but she did slowly disintegrate (the sunglasses didn't fool anybody), and none of us could really get in synch with that. 

I'm meeting friends at the basilica where I used to go, to go out for breakfast after Mass. There's a Book of the Dead set up for the month; I'll write my mother's name in.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Your Way

Watercolors by Georgia O'Keeffe and a resident whose idea it was to paint in a book her husband had given her. 
This gives me the idea to use art reproductions as painting prompts instead of setting up still lives.

People's personalities are obvious in their painting styles. I put Frank Sinatra on while we painted, and when he started singing "My Way", she started singing along.

"This is your song," I said to her.

"Yes, it is," she said.

Friday, October 31, 2014


This photo I took at work yesterday gives me pangs of joy.

Bowling with a lightweight ball & pins was a big hit on 2nd floor---both men and women liked it, which is rare. (So far, mostly I can't get the men interested in the activities I offer.)
I moved the pins closer or farther from each person, and all but the most disabled were able to launch the ball and knock a few down. Very satisfying! and people cheered for one another too.

I can't post most photos I take at work because they clearly show people's faces, but this is my favorite anyway. I did blur the features a little for privacy; it still works, I hope. 

I could imagine doing a photo essay showing a side of life with dementia that isn't normally shown: 
people being themselves, not just losing parts of themselves... 
So much non-verbal stuff remains in play, even as the analytical part of the brain fails.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


My laptop is telling me it doesn't support me anymore, and wants me to update its browser, but the new browsers won't load. It works fine otherwise, and it bugs me that five years old is considered old for this technology. 

I'm grumbling because I wanted to show you pictures of the hot pads the people on 2nd floor and I made yesterday, and my computer won't load pictures. (Truth is, it hasn't been right since I spilled coffee on it three years ago.)
 You can imagine the hot pads--maybe they're what you yourself might make if you didn't follow a pattern, which I didn't. 

I didn't take the time to measure the cloth carefully for the people to cut, not because they can't cut straight: 
if they can still manage scissors, most of them are quite handy at such things. It's the "what comes next" hurdle where they freeze. I can't mark one piece and then instruct them "do the same thing with the next piece". Most people need direction for every single step, every time.

It makes me realize that what we consider simple common sense is anything but simple---I guess about a zillion connections have to be in linked up in our brains for us to take the next step in a process.

The hot pads are also crooked because I sewed them on the machine, the one a daughter donated, and I don't know what I'm doing, and also I can't concentrate at the machine uninterrupted, I have to get up or speak up regularly to help people sitting at the activities table.

I don't care if the hot pads are crooked, and the residents don't either, most of them. (One woman is actually focused on things that don't line up right---I'll have to make a perfectly square one to show her.) 

I hope that their family members don't care either, but I worry they might see them not as a triumph, which believe me, they are, but as another sign of loss. 

Some of the family members don't seem to have calibrated their expectations to the new reality. (When I speak of this, I'm not criticizing--I can't imagine how hard it is to accept and adapt to your partner or parent changing this way.) Yesterday I was trying to praise a woman's cloth-handling abilities to her husband, and he kept telling me about the complex crafts used to do.

I get that, his need to talk about the loss of his reality. But at some point, if he can't adjust, that seems to stand in the way of his ability to support and even to enjoy her as she is. She doesn't have the abilities she used to have, not at all, and that's a killer. 
But she is the only one at the table who can mark her own cloth and cut it perfectly.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Works

I. Cut the Cloth

I'm coming to see that it's important I help the people I work with to work, i.e., to be useful, and not just to do things that are merely, only, fun.

My favorite dementia educator, Teepa Snow, says living in a care center can be like being trapped on a cruise ship: being entertained all the time and never doing anything useful gets old fast.

I had a glimmer of that listless feeling from being out of work for too long---and now I feel the relief of having good work to do. I'm energized by this new job. The other morning as I was biking to work, I realized I was excited to get there! That was the day I was going to start the quilting project.

As it turned out, most people obviously most enjoyed simply folding the fabric:
cutting out quilt squares was too precise for all but a few of them, and I had to do a lot of the work or closely direct every single step, which with one of me and maybe eight of them, I can't manage.

Me (center) quilting with a couple of the most adept crafters

I'm going to keep the quilt project going anyway, because besides engaging the residents, I think it's important to help their families and friends too, and when we produce tangible results, like quilt pieces, I can see that the families are reassured and even thrilled.

That matters. In my 12 days at work, I can already see how emotionally taxed some visitors are. Their faces are like a slide-show of grief, dismay, fear, and––when they see their person doing something they can relate to––relief and gratitude. 

The daughter of one woman even donated her sewing machine to the project, when she heard me saying the kids one I got at the Thrift Store really wasn't adequate.  The residents won't be able to operate this powerful machine, but I hope they will enjoy watching me sew the pieces together while they sit at the table and continue to work on sorting and folding the fabric.

II. Smell the Cinnamon

Thursday is my one full day, so I have time to lead a baking group in the afternoon. Yesterday we were baking apple-carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Another visiting daughter ran to get her mother, who, she told me, always loved to bake.

Well . . . not anymore she doesn't.

The mother sat there and shook her head. I could feel the daughter's frustration, and, I'm sure, so could her mother.

The thing was, the daughter was using words alone to communicate with her mother, and her mother's disease is pretty well progressed, so words don't convey much. But emotions do, and the daughter was radiating concern. Loving concern, I could tell, but the feeling of it was jangley.

Based on the mother's reaction, I don't think she heard, Come do something fun.

The way she was glowering and leaning away, I think she felt something like... mmmm... maybe like the fear I felt when my father tried to convince toddler-me to get into a grown-up-size swimming pool. My fear was so acute, I still recall it clearly, though nothing else about the day remains.

The four other bakers and I were putting together the dry ingredients, and when we got to the cinnamon, I passed the bottle around for everyone to smell. Then I asked one of the baking group to hand it to the mother.

She sniffed it, and she smiled.

She never did join in the work of baking, but she did relax and continue to smile when I did things such as getting her daughter (!) to beat the eggs, and she sat with everyone who gathered afterward for tea and cupcakes.

At this tea time, I asked my fellow bakers if they had enjoyed baking.

Each one of them let me know it was only OK.

I was a little surprised. They'd certainly joined in willingly enough.

"But if we don't bake," I said, "we don't get to throw a tea party."
They all agreed with that.

Instead of dropping baking, which I thought about for a moment, next time I'm going to emphasize more that we're baking to feed other people, for a party.
Maybe it's not the most fun thing, but it's good work.


Remember the pine cone decorations we'd made?

They all disappeared. I figured they'd been thrown out or something, and I put that activity down as a loser.

Yesterday I went into someone's room, something I rarely have cause to do, to get her sweater. There, lined up on the windowsill, were about half the pine cones! This woman is a rather sparse person, not a hoarder; she must have taken them because she liked them.

My little heart swelled.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Those bloody toddlers...

Hi, kids, today we're going to make a sea of blood!

No, we're not. Even though child-fearing me is desperate for stuff to do with the toddlers when they come visit the old folks twice a week, I am NOT going to make the Ten Plagues of Egypt with them, though I found plenty of ideas on home schooling pinterest pages. 

Really, you can make a sea of blood in your bathtub that would have given me a terror of baths when I was little.
And here, Plague of Flies cupcakes!

This is the hardest part of my job--coming up with toddler activities. The old people love them but aren't able to initiate stuff with them, and I just don't know what kids that age can do.

I turn to the Internet, and have decided that instead of making a plague of frogs out of construction paper (tempting though that one is), damned atheist that I am, we are going to sing "Clap Your Hands" with Pete Seeger, and read a Toot & Puddle book, You Are My Sunshine, and then make a rays-of-sunshine mobile out of construction paper

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zen Fibbing & Sewing

I found a kids' battery-operated sewing machine at the Thrift Store yesterday, so now we can do safe and simple and slow sewing projects at work.

We have a lot of donated scraps of fabric, perfect for quilting. When I suggested to the residents that we could make a collective quilt, one woman said we should make a crazy quilt. 
Yes, how perfect: a demented quilt!

I brought up a big pile of scraps to fold, which people really enjoyed. I relate to the enjoyment of sorting and folding that people with Alzheimer's commonly have.

Here we are. Except for mine, I blurred the faces for privacy, but you get the feel, and you can see the little white and pink sewing machine in the center of the table.

When the fabric was mostly folded, I took the pieces into the hall, shook them out, and brought them back in to be folded again. 

"Therapeutic fibbing," that trick is called. It feels a little weird at first, but it so obviously facilitates ongoing comfort and satisfaction, like facilitating a Zen state---all enjoyment of the process, with no concern for the outcome. 

I'm a little surprised to find that being around the residents is rather restful (though being in charge is a lot of work). When I leave work and see the rest of us racing around, engaged in getting and spending, really, I do rather wonder who is wasting their powers...

NOT to romanticize dementia: the people I work with are in a Zen-like state––sometimes––not by choice but because their brains are dying. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

I don't have TB, and other good news.


Finally, I'm not tired!I slept eleven hours last night––really slept, didn't just lie there worrying about my new job. I woke up at 6:30 AM, refreshed.

I'm starting to trust that things are going well at work.

Yesterday we water colored pictures of pumpkins.  This one here was the only round and orange one. It's cheeriness, I think, is accidental, but I like it a lot. 

[Me (to resident who usually wears pants): You look lovely--you're wearing a skirt today.
She: It was an accident. ]

The woman who painted the cheery pumpkin paints like a careful child. She's the most well-intentioned of the people on second floor--always offering to help me do the dishes or move furniture.

"It's better than sitting around doing nothing," she told me.


Boredom is a real problem, I see: it's as if people with Alzheimer's have lost their start switch. If someone else (me) starts a project, they get going, many of them; otherwise they are often lightly agitated but inactive, like moored boats.

Already coworkers, family members, and the residents themselves have let me know they're very happy, even relieved, I'm there. 
One coworkers told me that the activities assistant before me didn't do anything, which is weird, because when people can't rely on words, communication becomes all about actions, including simple touching and looking.

I try to start and end each of our activities by gently touching each person's arm (if it seems welcome), looking them in the eye, and saying I'm glad they're there.
Though, in fact, activities don't usually have discrete beginnings and endings--one thing flows into another, so I have to remember to tuck that acknowledgement in, here and there.

Like finding a nurse to give me the Mantoux test for TB--they are here and there, out and about on the floors, but finally I coordinated with one, got injected, and the result is negative, which relieved me.

The nurse seemed surprised I would be worried about it.
"Do you live with someone infected who coughs on you?"

"No," I said, "but I live in a crowded neighborhood with lots of people from other countries, and I ride the city bus, and that feels like a big Petri dish."

She laughed and agreed.


At the end of my shift yesterday, my boss mentioned that one family member (f.m.) complains to her that when f.m. calls her mother from across the country, her mother tells her she's done nothing all day. 

The f.m. doesn't factor in that her mother forgets what she's done five minutes after she's done it. 

It just so happens I'd taken a photo of her mother and me, out on a walk in yesterday's weirdly warm weather. I sent it to my boss to forward to the daughter--maybe it'll comfort her.
Here it is, cropped for privacy. >
The full-size shows her grinning mother holding up autumn leaves.


Other good news--my sanitation book is getting great reviews, which makes me happy. One blogger wrote, "It’s like a lite version of a Mary Roach book!
(I haven't read any, but Roach writes popular science books, such as Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal.

It makes me happy partly because my brain is far away from words in my new work. Once I'm not so wiped out by it, I'd like to write more in depth about what I'm seeing. Or not. I could just keep jotting impressions down here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The People on Second Floor

So tired...
I am loving my new job---it is meaningful, and interesting, and, often, fun... and exhausting, physically and emotionally. 

After too many years sitting at the computer, my body feels like a silted up riverbed---heavy with accumulations of many, many tiny little heavy things...

So, I'm going to drink some white wine (muscle relaxant!), watch some Boston Legal (Alzheimer's on a television show!), and then go to bed.

But first I want to show you all the water colors the People on Second Floor (Mad Cow Floor) did today. 

I'd taken scissors to the plantings outside the building this morning and gathered a bouquet of fall flowers as a subject to paint.
I love seeing how entirely differently people interpreted the painting prompt. 
It took hardly any time at all once I'd started this work for me to stop seeing the residents as "people with Alzheimer's" and to start seeing them as "X, whose precision reminds me of electrical engineering diagrams", and so forth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

That Which Remains

Scene from the Memory Care Floor

Me: It's your birthday today!

Craig: [baffled] It is? 

Me: Would you like to join the others and watch a Shirley Temple movie?

Craig: Shirley Temple? Oh God, no!