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.

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.

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…