Holiday Stress? Watch the Roches Perform Handel’s Hallelujah

Our family had a very, very challenged couple of weeks as we awaited Santa. It feels like Jesus came tumbling by way of a King’s Island roller coaster this year.

On my side of the family – no hitches: all three major trans USA move transitions went fine. All systems, go, go go! (Doing the thankful daughter/sister/mom dance in my mind because when I try to do even a mini office chair samba my brain sort of explodes and my hip dislocates a bit).

Why even try to samba? Because my people are happy and that’s the goal:

1. My brother is in proud dad heaven as my niece grabbed the golden ring of what she wants to do with her life, 2. My cousin who survived hurricane Irene on Long Isle and I still love each other more than anyone, 3. My aunt and uncle’s children seem to be doing especially well this year, and,

4. My father?! Holy smokes. When I talked to him on Christmas day he sounded happier than he has, honestly,

since well before my mother died of colon cancer eight years ago.

What favorite daughter of the best dad in the world isn’t trying to reach THAT brass ring? Eh?

John Fugiel troop Douglas McEwan photog.With a little bit of help from my brother and I, his perfectly laid out plan to organize, sell his home and move permanently to Florida is, as he would say: “Finito!” Done.

It worked! The rewards of his hard work to grieve and retire at the same time seem to be that his new neighbor Rose loves him (he killed and threw away the scary dead snake in the road), my cousins went from enjoying to adoring his company (he reminds them of our grandfather), and even dad’s doctors love him it seems. (Aka: He is being compliant to their plans and in return his kidney disease issues are at a standstill for now).

In addition, though his favorite new walking park let him down mightily by closing off a path so they could chase away alligators by draining a pond, his life seems to be moving at his perfecto pace at last. Hell. After two years of weekly poker losses, he says that he’s now even winning some card hands now.

If you’ve ever met my dad even once for ten minutes, you’d agree that his life is now wonderful indeed.

Boo, and YA world! High fives all around the globe.

I imagine that you, whoever you are: stranger or not, I imagine that you are staring at your PhoneComputerTouch screen and thinking, “and this made your 2012 Christmas a disaster because…?”

…there’s more of course.

On my adoring Sleigh Driver’s side of the family, elder care issues

have come home to roost in epic proportion.

If your Christmas celebrations have you feeling like this:

(click the word BESTBEST if you have 5 minutes to watch and hear a righteous cool Handel’s Messiah rendition.Thank you SO much @JamesMartinSJ and @suzzyroche – that tweet share last night has me confused about whether or not this is the best or worst Christmas season I’ve celebrated in my 45 years.)

Or, if you feel a bit guilty that you didn’t have a crappy or complicated holiday season, just google

sudden onset of dementia

and your heart will break just enough to empathize with my favorite husband.

He has a very, very large German family in a lovely rural Appalachian corner of Ohio. We have all helped take care of his grandmother for a couple of years now as she has had some health issues. Despite those efforts, she has suddenly become what I can only describe as a five foot GermanHandful of frustration and occasional cuteness.

She was and will always be the Matriarch of, I exaggerate not, dozens, which if you count the great-great-greats, is probably more like hundreds.

But. She apparently kept us all fooled that it was perfect apple pie that was keeping us in line and clicking our rosaries for the last 100 years. It was actually her mind.

Over the past 20 years she has become blind, deaf, and in the last year or so has developed mobility issues. We’re trying to figure out what she needs most, and my SO not an “expert at geriatric care” opinion is that “Little Grandma” has been suffering from some normal oxygen loss which results in tired thinking issues. In turn, this is creating a sudden onset of dementia that is moving faster than is easy to manage for her two daughters.

I didn’t expect that my mother in law and I would be at her kitchen table trying to figure out if all of a sudden Little Grandma has Alzheimer’s or not.

You’d think since my mother in law is a librarian and I’ve mostly been a teacher or student we could combine our tired noggins and figure that out at least a little bit.

Not so much over just one cup of lukewarm peppermint tea.

For now, my approach is going to be to watch and re-watch that music video of the Roches singing Alleluia that I found on Twitter while finally giving myself a Christmas sixty minutes alone.

Surviving Desolation: Two Artists

This morning, in between the second or third hit of the snooze button on our alarm, I had a dream that my husband and I ran into a friend that we’ve not seen in a few years. “Kate!” our friend Jim said, “Did you check out that video I sent you? Isn’t it wonderful?” Of course, off to the computer I skipped.

Indeed, I’d not looked at a video he had sent quite a while ago. Before looking at what Jim had sent, “by chance,” I stumbled on an equally interesting story that was right up my friend’s alley of intrigue. Some say that “there are no accidents.”

I’d like to share links with you to both stories, but I’ll warn you, I’ve been reading up on both of these guys for almost two hours, and could read more. It’s that interesting.

Assuming time only allows you a few minutes, I’d recommend at least looking at the first video that I will link you in each of these inspirational stories of men who survive desolation by connecting to others with their art.

Ara : Photographer and Chef

“It always strikes me, and it is very peculiar, that when we see the image of indescribably and unutterable desolation – loneliness, of poverty and misery, the end of all thing, or their extreme – then rises in our mind the thought of God.”

~ Vincent Van Gogh, painter

Though I admit to having my assumption that the hot, dusty parts of America are God forsaken, I am glad to be proven wrong. I was looking at photographs on Alive Now, and found myself drawn into the story and art of a fellow named Ara. Following the loss of his son to cancer, Ara and his dog named Spirit set out on a journey by motorcycle. This effort toward healing and reconciliation is chronicled on his website name The Oasis of My Soul. I find this site and fellow so interesting! His combination of photos, journalism and links to recipes are hopeful and bright.

If you only have a few minutes, don’t miss this video, it’s only 2 ½ minutes long.

If you want to see more of Ara’s photos, click HERE.

If you want to know more about Ara’s One Pan Recipes, click HERE.

Much peace on your travels Ara and Spirit,

Kate (and her dogs Lenny and Paul)

Doug Smith: Piano Player

“My desolation does begin to make a better life.”

~William Shakespeare, Writer

I mentioned that my husband and I haven’t seen this friend in a few years. One of the last times I did visit with him, he flopped down at the table I was at and said “Look at this, isn’t it beautiful!” It was photographs of men wrestling cattle in Texas, where our friend was moving. I tried not to snarl, but I don’t think I did a swell job at hiding my disdain. Wow! Do I stand corrected, as this video that he sent me is simply the loveliest thing that I have seen in a very, very long time.

It is embedded in the website of piano player Doug Smith, a Texan whose life career as a musician was nearly ended by paralysis that resulted from a car accident a few years ago. The video, amazingly, is his first composition since his accident. The accompanying photography is incredible. Check out the VIDEO.

I found myself wanting to read more on this fellow, and found links to a great article that includes two video clips where Doug explains why he considers his paralysis a blessing. If you want to check them out, click HERE. I also found a link to what looks like a great documentary of his development as an artist. See what you think by clicking HERE.

I think what inspires me the most about what I saw and read of this man’s story, is that by being true to his creative voice, even after the accident, his life is saved even more significantly than the neurosurgery that initially kept him from death. What is more, by sharing his joy, strangers and friends alike, get a window seat view to the truth which is that God wants us to experience life, no matter how dark, bright, soft or prickly.

Prayers for continued healing Doug,


Living Grief is Legitimate

Shweet! I was just looking in my old blog for some posts on grief to share with someone. I came upon an unfinished draft from what looks to be at least two Octobers ago. It makes me dearly miss the cow path, and I now want to write about nature.

But, the topic is grief…so here it ‘tis:

This is the time of year of course that political signs are popping up in yards. If there is a big issue on the ballot in our teeny village, I’ve not seen or heard.

Then again, I honestly don’t pay much attention.

I know that there’s competition for a part-time job that will affect getting our road (aka. cow path), clear of ice so that we can get to work and school.

Last year’s ice created the repetition: “Yeah, well, our road is the one that shuts schools down.” I hope the smartest township farmer wins on that one.

I’ve noticed a LOT of signs that are red and white this year.

Perhaps there is a candy cane sale going on.

This week though, while parenting, getting myself to the doctor and soaking up the fall colors, I noticed a new campaign of signs everywhere:

Legitimate Pain Care. Call 123.456.7890.

The sign has one of those pharmacy images on it with the snake that to me looks like a music signature.

My first thought was, okay…who do the people who fake pain call?

As I passed more of these silly signs, my gut reaction was slowly turning to some form of rage, as the Small Towns Against kNucklehead Drug Dealers corners of my heart and mind woke up.

We could form a group called STANDD. I’d vote for that. Who wouldn’t?

Oh. Yeah. Drug dealers.

None the less, I am enjoying the fall view tremendously during this week of our wedding anniversary. The beautiful weather along with our youngest son’s cute “boy and girl” questions makes it easy to remember our honeymoon. This blessing makes me hopeful that something funny could come from seeing these signs.


Overall, in some circular way, these signs loop me back to a wonderful conversation a couple of weeks ago with a woman on my support team that convinced me that “living grief” is indeed: legitimate pain.

We weren’t talking about standard grief: when someone dies. We were talking about situations like one that a friend and his wife are experiencing. They are avoiding downsizing and possibly foreclosure.

I’ve lost touch for a bit with this friend for a variety of reasons. I think of this guy as an online mentor, particularly in terms of spirituality. He and his wife saw the income writing on the wall and “took a knee” right off the bat in their unique way. I’m fully confident that they will continue to work through their dilemma.

One of the things that I was impressed with when he first got the news that he was losing his job was that his first list of lists of to do’s was, oh, fifteen lines long. It was something to the effect of:

1. Go to the bank to see what to do.

2. Buckle my shoe.

3-4. Go to the store.

5. Grieve. 6. Grieve. 7. Grieve

8. 9, 10. Love on the elderly dog ’cause we ain’t gettin’ no fat hen.

Living Grief” is pretty legitimate stuff.