Chocolate or Casserole

Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”Forrest had a good analogy, but I see life a bit differently. “Life is like a casserole. I never know how it will taste, but I am responsible for choosing the ingredients.” I might have leftovers and this inspires me to put together a casserole using the leftovers. A can of this and a can of that and some spices, and I have a casserole. As vegetables ripen in my garden I want to use them. I think, how about a casserole? My favorite is the eggplant casserole my Mother used to make. I could be motivated to make a casserole because I spotted a great casserole recipe in my favorite cooking magazine. Whatever the reason I decide to make a casserole, I choose the ingredients and hope the first bite confirms that the casserole is yummy.

So isn’t a box of chocolates better than those dumb casseroles that mix everything together? My choice of chocolate is limited by the manufacturer. Choosing a chocolate is like reacting to what life presents and my choices are limited by what I see in the box of life. Forgive me for this cliche, but it may be better to think outside the box! My casserole is original and creative and subject to change.

My life experiences, and emotional and spiritual histories are the ingredients I have on hand for my casserole, but I can always run to the store if I need something. My past life experiences have to go in the pot, I can’t change the past but I can learn from it. Then I can add my attitudes and beliefs. My attitude of gratitude and positive expectations bring out the best flavor of my life experiences already in the pot. I shopped a lot of places before I finally learned that I can’t buy my attitudes and expectations, they are strictly homegrown. I have learned that whining and people pleasing are very bitter, so I don’t use them anymore. Doubt and fear taste like rotten eggs, so I nix them as well. I always like to add some creativity and enthusiasm, because it spices things up. I also add salty tears, but if the casserole is too salty I know I can throw it away and start over. I am not afraid to start over, because I know that it’s a great opportunity to experiment and make an even better casserole. My faith in a higher power keeps me going. Grief does not ruin a casserole, but no one goes looking for it. Grief makes a rich broth and becomes THE ingredient that makes a gourmet casserole.

Don’t forget to use your best casserole dish and don’t over cook it. Risk trying something new and don’t be afraid to experiment. Trust that your casserole will all come together and taste wonderful. Have some chocolate for desert! Forrest would approve.

Chocolate or Casserole

The War on Terror

October is Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) awareness month. Susan Schneider Williams, the widow of Robin Williams, described Lewy Body Dementia as “the terrorist in my husbands’ brain.” This is a perfect description of how LBD kills its’ victims. It attacks and disables cognitive functions, causes hallucinations and delusions, and cripples the body with Parkisonian symptoms. Ms. Williams editorial is available in the most recent issue of Neurology. In her editorial, she describes how Robin suffered from extreme anxiety, delusions, tremors and difficulty reasoning. He was unable to remember his lines in his last movie, when memorizing pages of dialogue had once been easy for him. They went from doctor to doctor seeking a diagnosis. The autopsy of his brain showed an unusually severe case of LBD. She has asked for help for increasing LBD awareness, improving early diagnosis, and research into more effective treatment.

Like a thief in the night, LBD steals the personality of your loved one. I remember saying to a good friend “I want my husband back.” He never came back. I lost him to LBD, a progressive and deadly disease. LBD is very personal to me. I watched my husband go from a vibrant, funny, quick witted, very physically fit man, to a man who could no longer smile or ride bike. Rogers face became like a mask, and I begged him to smile. At the time, I thought he was depressed. I didn’t know about the mask of Parkinson’s. Then came the falls on his bicycle. He commented that he had fallen more in the last few months than he had fallen in years. He tried to hide his failing memory, but I was aware his memory was declining. He couldn’t manage his medications, so I took over. He was fastidious about his money and it seemed he didn’t care much anymore. I found mistakes and omissions, and managing the money became my job too.

And so began the difficult journey to a diagnosis. Roger was depressed, Roger did not have Parkinson’s, and then a diagnosis that seemed to fit; traumatic brain injury. Months earlier, Roger had fallen, hit his head, and was briefly unconscious and confused. He had a CT scan that did not show any bleeding in the brain, so he was deemed O.K.. His symptoms seemed to begin after his fall. I was relieved that we had a diagnosis and that rehabilitation was likely to improve his cognitive and motor skills. Sadly, he did not improve after months of rehab, and finally he was diagnosed with dementia. I remember the awful feeling that my world had turned upside down and my husband had a terminal illness.This was a battle we would not win. Roger died November 1, 2015. Although Ms. Williams and I have never met, we are bonded by the horrible pain of Lewy Body Dementia, and our inability to stop the disease.

Lewy Body Dementia afflicts 1.4 million people in our country. Even though it is the second leading cause of dementia in our country, second only to Alzheimer’s, many people have never heard of it. A common question is “Lewy who? Education about LBD is desperately needed. Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s! Patients with LBD are likely to have hallucinations, problems with movement resembling Parkinson’s, and fluctuations in alertness and cognition. Patients with Alzheimer’s are less likely to show these symptoms. It is very important to diagnose LBD early because of drug sensitivities that can harm or be fatal to LBD patients. Conversely, drugs frequently prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients (Aricept, Namenda and Exelon) can be more effective with LBD patients. There is much more to learn about Lewy Body Dementia and I am happy to share what I know. You can use “Comments” to contact me. Check out for
comprehensive information on LBD. I hope a majority will soon be able to say “I know Lewy.”

It’s time to stop the “terrorism” of Lewy Body Dementia.

The War on Terror

31 Days

For me, the 31 days of October are rich with sentiment, and emotional highs and lows. I look forward to October with anticipation and trepidation, very ambivalent. Consumers are quite enthusiastic about Halloween, spending 8.4 billion on costumes, candy, decor and being frightened. The scream houses give adrenaline junkies a good fix. I know it will be a rough ride for me. I will get my adrenaline rush from the fight or flight response.

My son was born in October and he is the best gift life has ever given me. I wanted a child so badly, and the universe did not disappoint me. He is now a young man, doing well as he travels thru life. I enjoy spending time with him and appreciate his dry sense of humor. Now if he could get married and give me a grandchild to spoil!

My father died in October. I remember it was a beautiful fall day and my grief turned the leaves gray. He was a gentleman in overalls. He could talk to anyone, and genuinely liked people. I treasure the compliment he gave me about how well I was doing with my son. After a weekend at home, when I left to return to college he never failed to show up to say goodbye. He loved to hear about the roads we took to get home, especially if we discovered a short cut. He didn’t need to worry, our destination was the farm, and the gentleman farmer.

My friend Gayle went home to Florida to die. She died in October. She was 26 years old. It was melanoma and it had spread to her spine. The last time I saw her we went to a Rod Stewart concert at Fiddlers Green. We had the best time, getting into the music. Gayle complained that her back hurt, but said she was having a great time. “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart

And of course, there is my Halloween birthday, October 31, 1952. My Mom says she could hear trick or treaters outside her hospital window. When I am asked about my Halloween costume , I often say I will wear my birthday suit. Halloween kind of over shadows my birthday. When I was young, my birthdays were notorious for break ups with boyfriends and other sad events. Last year I spent my birthday with Roger, helping him to die a good death. He died the day after Halloween , November 1, 2015.

Not all my birthdays were sad, and I am looking forward to my birthday this year. My banjo teacher has me learning the Beatles song “When I’m 64” for my 64th birthday! The other song I am working on is “Ring of Fire”. Turning 64 is like falling into a ” burning ring of fire” . Life goes on, and my Halloween costume is ready to go! The wrinkles are so realistic…

31 Days



A mutt is a dog with parents of a different breed. Some mixed breeds are created by engineering which breeds to mate. i.e. Puggle, Chiweenie, Labradoodle, Cockerpoo and Pitchu. Wait a minute! What is a Pitchu? It is a mixed breed with Pitbull and Chihuahua parents. Let me introduce Ozzie, a Pitchu. He is the size of a Chihuahua with a Pit Bull face, muscular Pitbull legs and brindle Pitbull coloring. His ears are a just a bit smaller than a Chihuahuas’. The result is a very cute, but very unusual looking little dog. Because Ozzie is a dog, he is not teased or bullied, and does not suffer from poor self esteem. We humans are not so lucky.

What about humans? We are mutts too. We have a female and a male parent (different breeds). We have 23 pairs of chromosomes which contain our genetic material. Combinations of genes can’t even be counted. We are truly one of a kind. Amazing!







Climbing Mountains

This past weekend my niece’s son, Logan, and his mentor, climbed Mount Lady Washington, a 13,281 peak close to Longs Peak. It took more than 10 hours to reach the peak and come back down. Logan has a lot of spirit, old fashioned gumption and determination, all tempered by white hot anger. In his short 12 years he has made friends with chaos. Born to a mother barely in her teens, he grew up as his Mother grew up. Now she has grown into a responsible, loving Mother. Her road to maturity had lots of her own mountains to climb. Depression, anxiety and an eating disorder consumed her. Logan felt her absence. The most stable relationships he had were with his Nana and Poppa, his grand parents. Logan had lots of “parents”. His father, who Logan has seen regularly since his parents divorced, recently lost his job and needed to move closer to his family out of state. Yet another mountain of loss.

We are all mountain climbers. My Mother always said ” Don”t make mountains out of mole hills.” I hated to hear this because I knew I faced only mountains. Of course, some of my problems were molehills driven by my ego’s need to be the center of attention. Sadly, there were too many times that my mountains were made into molehills. Pain compressed, sadness squashed, fear like a black hole, and abandonment denied, were all shaped into molehills. In my family, mountains of denial and hurt were just too imposing to climb and conquer. I felt like Chicken Little, ignored and dismissed, when I cried out ” The sky is falling.” or “Help me! I am hurting” Only I could see the mountains.

In the mountains of Colorado, if you can’t go over or under the mountain, you build a tunnel through it. My mountain of grief since Roger died can not be made into a molehill, and I can’t
climb over or go under it. There is only so much denial I can carry in my backpack. It seems my only option is to go through the mountain. Jackhammers and drills are the tools used to get through rock. Courage to face the grief, feel it, and hands to hold on my journey, are my only tools to get thru the stone in my heart. My memories of hiking in the mountains with Roger sustain me. I will put my backpack on and head out to the trails. My backpack is full if rocks now, but it will be empty of rocks and full of love when I return.

Climbing Mountains

Duck Butts

img_1034Sir Roscoe, His Royal Naughtiness
Prompted by the “peach pit incident”, my sister Aileen has knighted Roscoe with his new moniker. A most deserving name! Last Thursday, Roscoe grabbed a peach out of my hand and ran off with it, hiding under the table. Before I knew it the peach was eaten and the pit was gone. Damn, he swallowed it. The Vet Hospital Emergency Room was his next destination. The Resident on duty was very good looking, but that’s another story. Roscoe was given medication to make him vomit, and the peach pit came out whole. An X-ray confirmed no damage to his esophagus. Hundreds of dollars later we were on our way home, tired but all better.

The other day, driving between the North and South poles, Fort Collins and Loveland, I witnessed a most unusual spectacle. In a pond about midway, I saw a bunch of ducks swimming and, as if on cue, they all turned upside down and stuck their butts in the air. I can just hear the coach duck saying: “Now ladies all together now, “Flip and hold.” Synchronized swimming for anas platyrynchos, the Mallard duck. I would not have been shocked if they had been wearing swim caps with flowers on them. Team name: “The Duck Butts”

One of my favorite animal happenings is one Roger and I witnessed about 10 years ago. On the mountain side we saw a deer herd with a large black deer. Black deer? Binocular time! The animal was a large black billy goat. The goat and deer calmly munched side by side. The ranger told us that the goat had been with the deer herd for several years. Affirmative action?

Did I tell you about a chihuahua named “Poptart”? 4 months old and 2 pounds. His Mom and Dad drove 12 hours to get him surgery. His gruff Papa kissed him and said he loved him…

Duck Butts

The Yellow Caterpillar

It must have looked like a mountain from below, but there was no stopping the yellow caterpillar. Up and over,up and over, crawling slowly over the rocks. Roger and I were sitting on our favorite bench,taking a break from walking around Rogers shrinking world. We were watching the yellow caterpillar move, and Roger said it was heading for a tree a few feet away. After he got sick, Rogers’ travels on foot had gone from a few miles, to just around the block. Right then the yellow caterpillar was his “find” and he calmly focused on it. Insects were very interesting to Roger. One day he buzzed for help several times so he could warn all the staff , according to his book, it was female mosquitos that bit, so watch out for female mosquitos! He was so earnest because he was innocent, and forgot how to lie and manipulate. Roger noticed that the yellow caterpillar was going off course, so he asked me to pick up a small stick and help him go the right way. I redirected the caterpillar and all was well. We watched until Roger was sure the caterpillar would reach the tree. We slowly made our return trip, and Rogers’ attention shifted from the yellow caterpillar to what was for lunch.

That was the way it was. We went for a walk whenever it was a nice day and Roger felt up to it. When it was raining, we had options for indoor fun. We put puzzles together, and if Roger sometimes forced pieces to fit, nobody cared that his puzzles looked a bit “off”. If he wanted to “read”, he could pick the books. We called it good if Roger could point to what we asked for. I can still “see” the book on bears and wolves he loved. Of course, his books on insects were some of his favorites. Playing the dice game “Zilch” was his all time favorite pastime. I saved pages and pages of score sheets from the hundreds of games we played. It’s hard for me to look at them without imagining his face when he got a good roll. The game was a way to get Roger to join and engage with us and vice versa.

Sunday’s were “Ann” days. Roger knew if it was Sunday, my sister Ann came to visit. The three of us, Ann, Roger and I, had our “special” activities. Ann and Roger were bonded by unconditional love, and together in acceptance. We looked at the birds in the cage and waited for them to chirp. Roger was now in a wheelchair so we pushed him down to the “plant” room so he could touch the giant leaves on the elephant plant. Roger could see pretty well with his glasses on, but seemed to need more sensory input, so he often touched things.

Roger had a bear which he named “Steve Alvin”. He was proud to bring the bear to the entry where I came in, so Steve Alvin could say hello too. He loved to rub his face in Steve Alvins’ fur. There is a box in safekeeping, with very special things from his room. Steve Alvin is one of the things in it, and when I am ready, I will open the box.

I remember that once Ann and I lost a card game and were joking that we were losers. Roger thought for a moment and said ” No you are not losers, you are runners up.” He won our hearts.

The Yellow Caterpillar