Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion (for many good causes)

Some of you may not have seen the column that I wrote for Maria Shriver's wonderful website, so I want to be sure you don't miss it...not just because I am featured this week, but because of the multitude of great causes that Maria has consistently supported. An extraordinary woman of great accomplishment, Maria is someone I have admired for a very long time because of her authenticity and grace. Though she comes from a privileged family, she has had more than her share of personal challenges and always been an inspiration to women who wish to matter in this world.

That is why I was honored to be asked to write our story of Tom's Alzheimer's and how we are attempting to deal with it in our lives. While I know that everyone's journey through this wilderness of tangled brain connections is different, we all share feelings of fear, anguish, sadness and frustration. Our friends and family want to say something helpful but often cannot find the words. Quite literally, no one can understand unless they have watched a loved one be so terribly diminished by this disease. I desperately hope that something in our story will give encouragement to families who struggle with this on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, I urge you to visit She is one busy lady who is active in a wide variety of causes, many of which are critical to women in this country. I am more than honored to be connected to her and the things she cares about.

This poem is a closely related piece to the article  "In Spite of Everything: A Love Story."

A Single Moment

In and out of the sunlight,
darting between familiar shadows,
patches of lucidity amidst the fog,
you search for connections and meanings
to understand what was effortless
only yesterday, but which now is gone.

I want to help you, fix you, hate you,
I want to scream, to laugh, to fall apart.
I long to be indifferent –
but I am too accustomed to loving you
to change now, the line between where you end
and I begin blurred like a garden of wildflowers.

I wish to be larger than this mishap,
this mystery, that doctors only describe
in the vaguest terms, while our specifics
become memories that fade and falter,
your sweetness and submission exasperating
when I need a wall to push against.

My discontent feels gritty in my mouth
like pearls I have ground with my teeth.
I learn to avoid the fruit that will not ripen
and the metaphors without meaning;
I ride the back of the wind as far as I can go
in a single moment, for that is all there is.

Nancy Calhoun
“Dance on a Dirt Road: Poems for Life’s Rough Places”

Saturday, June 16, 2012


but one day you just know...
that the struggle must end,

that the time for sadness is past
and the grieving stranger, no longer needed,
has gone for good;

that the sweet music you hear
is the rhythm of your hopeful heart
laden with gifts of nourishment,

a lavish feast for your hunger,
a warm cup for your deepest thirst
that you will not turn from, but embrace;

that you have come at last, searching
for yourself, clothed in grace,

to offer only love.

from "Dance on a Dirt Road"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lessons from the Ancients

Last week with our dear friends, the Burnetts, we visited Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwest New Mexico. Some 800-1200 years ago this sprawling “city” was home to a large number of  the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. The intricacies of design, the clear understanding of archaeoastronomy, and a sophisticated use of masonry tells us a great deal about these people who, though thought to be nomadic, put down considerable roots for several hundred years and then vanished for reasons that are not clear.
We learned many facts about these people but as we walked the several miles of archeological ruins with our Park Service ranger, I found myself thinking more about those things that we cannot learn from the physical site. Since we do not have to carry water from a distant place or drag huge stones many miles in order to cut and stack the raw materials into a home, not to mention how far beyond necessity we are accustomed to living, it is hard to grasp the nature of living, giving birth, learning how to use your surroundings to sustain a population and finally dying with little or no possessions to call your own. How ingenious they must have been, how careful not to waste a thing, how brave to experiment with the unknown. But how free they were to ‘pick up and go’ when necessary because they had so few possessions to deal with. This is gross over-simplification, of course, but it intrigued me.
As someone who has a lot of “stuff” and enjoys it a great deal, I can also confess that I frequently feel a bit guilty for having so much more than I need. That’s what I was thinking as I stood amid the sacred kivas and imagined teeming life all around. Did these people feel happiness or was life too difficult to have even considered such a thing? Is happiness an invention of our times as we acquired more and more so that we can indeed be happy? Those who know me well will know that I’m not giving up my creature comforts for a life of strict austerity. But I do feel a need to reexamine what feels like necessity to me. And given the state of our invested nest egg, I have some serious motivation to make careful decisions. I think just asking the question “Is this a need or a want?” might yield more thoughtfulness at point of purchase. Just sayin’.

Anyway, the few days we spent with our friends was refreshing and a great deal of it always is. One of life’s true blessings is friendship over a period of many years with people who care for you as you do for them. Four days of laughter and conversation, along with beautiful scenery, wonderful food and plentiful margaritas...well, who could ask for anything more?