When the Sun comes up. By Dave R. Otey

When the sun comes up the day is bright again. The paths are clear to see. The directions are easy to choose, the potholes and rough spots are easy to avoid. Clarity makes peace and progress possible and definite.  We have our sights set clear and wide, to change our directions to a happier life. Until the next set of clouds that form a storm that makes a darkness and a mood forlorn,

I wonder many times where the clouds come from: the ones within ourselves. What wind brings them in and how are they formed ? What sight or smell, or sound or touch, or taste can turn around our state of mind from joy to fear, from confidence to doubt, to hiding inside instead of going out ?  What pain within gives rise to pointing and yelling instead of finding the way to resolve whatever we think or know is the cause ? What makes us forget the peace and good we have to turn away into self-pity and spiritual depression ?

Hope is happy, the promise of a chance to see life get better, to feel connected to others who care and are waiting to give. Hope connects to the HOW TO, for knowledge of the steps to make, when and where. Hope points out the beliefs that must change to form the right empowering thoughts that must be focused on to provide the guiding insights that energize the desire and drive to confidently commit to the actions that are the steps from where you are to where you want to be.

Where does the rising sun of hope come from? From the right questions.  Why am I off the path of confidence and happiness ?  What needs to change ? What did I say or do that took me off the path ? What do I need to say and do to get back on the path ?  Is there anything I need to stop doing, to stop saying to myself and others to make that shift back onto the path ?  Who must I connect with to help me ?

Life is much better with good wise friends and sometimes strangers God provides along the way to help ”see” what we missed along the way and show us what we need to realign our spirits with peace and happiness.  Who are your sun rays of HOPE ?  Who are YOU a sun ray of hope for ?   Keep the lights shining every chance you get. Make every day glow for others and yourself.    End.

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This never ends. By Dave R. Otey

This will never end. The hate based on color, on entitlement, on size and shape, height, weight, clothing styles, hair styles, choice of spiritual faith, mental capabilities and more.  Someone somewhere is chosen to be a scapegoat for the lacks and/ or failures of others. There seems to be a world wide need to have some group to point to and say, “You are the reason my life is in the pits. You are the fault of the pains and terrors I face. You are the cause holding me back from the life of perfection and life of purity in wealth, joy and happiness I must have.”

Slowly, in different places and at different times there are laws made to control the hate, to push back the line, to make freedoms increase for all. But it will never go away. Hate will always find a place to go, always find some weak willed minds and greedy hearts to infect. That is a reality forever existing, and all I need to do is be aware that I stay in tune with my own feelings and my own ”moments” when I might want to blame someone else for any reason for something that is MY responsibility.

I do not worry about the world falling apart. Every puzzle has cracks. None of the pieces are one hundred percent fitting. Challenges happen every day, big or small. Challenges mean changes and we DO have some control over the changes in our lives by how we respond to the challenges we face. Understanding where the challenges come from is a necessary beginning to knowing which steps to take for separating from a  painful situation or how to change the conditions and circumstances that make up the situation.  In my training as a volunteer for CASA–Court Appointed Special Advocate for children– we learned 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies that I say as part of a personal growth drill every day. Avoid, Compete, Harmonize, Compromise, Collaborate. This is the list from weakest strategy to strongest. Sometimes none of them work, and in that case the best action is to MOVE away from the person or place where all the pain is pooling.

I know and understand prejudice, bias, whatever other names label this divisive mindset.  I understand it is wise of me to be careful, if I have to drive through certain places or if I get lost and find myself in an OBVIOUS environment I don’t instantly fit in with. I am wise enough to know how to walk and talk and how to make a peaceful physical presence. I am friendly with everyone but sometimes and in some places it is best to just stay quiet and do whatever business you have to do and leave. In some places, if locals notice you definitely are not from around their area, you might be approached by a helpful person or by someone targeting you for money or a game.

I am sixty years old. I thought and believed naively for a long time that my generation got to see the end of the serious physical attacks of prejudice. Sure, life has become better with more open doors for unity and harmony and climbing up a social and economic and political ladder for personal and community success. But I see now that history changes not so much in ”final” points reached. It changes more in ”steps” slowly walked in  a state of extreme caution, making certain the step is solid and cannot slip back before going on to the next step.  Some places will not allow advanced steps beyond a certain point so the people who want the advanced steps must move to the places that do allow it.  Crazy, nutty world.

The most peacefully integrated arena in the whole world–still not 100% perfect within itself either but higher than anywhere else–is the arena of creative arts. The arts exist for all humankind. There one can express the thoughts, feelings, dreams, horrors, tragedies, pains, pleasures; every human experience and plea, and know there is an audience who gains comfort and understanding and sometimes courage and empowerment from what is seen, felt and hear and tasted in the arena of art. It also has its dangers to watch out for, if someone is offended. But life still goes on.

The greatest power each of us possess is to make sure the hatred ends within each of our own spirits and souls, ends within our own homes, our own neighborhoods, our own towns, our own family reunions, anyplace and everyplace we stand to talk and act.  Be the peaceful and understanding person where we are.   End.

WHERE AND HOW DO I FIT IN AROUND HERE ? BY DAVID REID OTEY

We have to be right about some things to feel qualified to exist. That is why frustration is so strong when we’re wrong. Belonging to life means belonging to other people. Most of that belonging is to “fit in”. We fit in with clothing style, hair style, language/lingo, body marks or lack of, tastes in food, literature, films, hang outs for social fellowship, points of view with a degree of individual differences allowed, as long as intelligent discussion can take place, AND with being recognized as “right” about ‘anything’ once in a while. It’s a praise to hear, “Well, yeah, you’re right about that.”, as a ‘just scraping by’ acceptance from a member of the group.

The ‘being right’ part is more important than the rest because it’s easy to change or excuse something about any of the other elements, but to NOT match in mental blend means one of two things: you really don’t belong in that group by nature of who you are–and therefore should get out and find the group you really do match with—OR you are labeled as the ‘joker’ card of the group—and that is a social death blow for continuous social contact because ‘invitations’ to special events will not reach the joker, thus being cut off, and that action will become common knowledge among others and will eventually lead to the ears of the joker who will then be depressed, etc. Bottom line, the joker card spot is never a permanent position for anyone. If the joker doesn’t leave by half-way intelligent free will, the group will make sure the door is closed with a subtle ‘shunning’. The subtle shunning is far worse than the “in your face” shunning. Direct insults are always better because you can yell back in their faces regardless of being wrong or right about it. At least you get the satisfaction of standing up to the ‘mean ones’. BUT subtle shunning is cruel and feels like a knife being slowly pushed in. NOT GOOD.

There is strong merit to this idea that we REALLY DO need to be right about a certain percentage of things in life, to feel that we have a right to exist at all. Belonging to people as a group is the purpose of existing, perhaps. This can explain the extreme inner spirit pain that so many feel to the point of committing suicide. They really feel that they do not belong, that they cannot be right about anything, or what they want to be right about. And maybe they do not want to belong to a different group.

Their (our) perspective of which groups are important is where the wiring might be a bit skewed, twisted, off set. We gain much of our “opinions” through conditioning of facts and fictions mixed. The conditioning comes from family and friends, each being led by traditions and beliefs from private or social cultures and the current community culture of ‘what’s cool today’ in connections to music, clothes, political viewpoint, hang outs, lingo, etc. The fact is, every group—good or bad, sane or crazy– has a following, a fan club, a history and, especially in these times, an outlet of connection and fellowship through internet, world connections for chat, hook ups, you name it, it’s all possible. SO, the pressure is on “being where you are”, fitting in where you see actual people walking around you. It doesn’t matter, in a sense, if you DO belong to some group NOT physically represented where you live. What matters most is belonging to people you can immediately touch, see eye to eye and talk personally to while looking in their eyes and feeling the energies from their presence directly. THAT’S the winning card. It’s the big gold ticket like Willy Wonka’s chocolate bar prize.

I just have to be right about all of this. 🙂 Why ? Because sanity is extremely important if you want to hang on long enough to see the proof that we all belong, we are all important and we all have someone who deeply loves us for who we are because we match their energies in some ways, some of the times and that’s all we really need to belong, to be right in the connection sense instead in the fact sense.

You already belong. The journey of life is to find where and then to recognize and accept when to change, as you grow inside toward other groups that provide what you need next for your spiritual journey. Eventually there will be some groups you always belong to. Relax and enjoy the journey and be brave and bold when you walk where you live. Be true to your sense of yourself, and if you cannot find the group that matches you, start your own. Then you will see them show up from their own hiding places because someone was brave enough to give them permission to be ok.

The end.

On A Whim. Stay Alive. By David Reid Otey

Every action makes a reaction, common knowledge for most people. And it applies not just to bouncing balls but to thoughts behind the actions we commit to. You know that every act happens for a reason , even an accident happens because someone was day dreaming or involved in some action of not attending to the moment. So, people’s actions create reactions, responses, results.

This is also one of the ways we know when someone is in trouble somehow. If you have a teenager looking depressed yet who says nothing’s wrong after you ask, you know that’s not the total truth, and we have to, we must try to interfere with that depressing or troublesome thought that occupies their minds because that thought might lead them into hurting themselves or someone else. What do you think has happened in the minds of every kid who committed suicide? Definitely not boredom. But fear of shame and embarrassment.

And REMEMBER from your own experiences that you survived, and yet which may have also affected your own personality to some negative degree in order for you to survive the more serious consequences, REMEMBER you committed to some negative action because of that disturbing thought or belief. And one way you became a prisoner of that thought that led you to make a bad choice was the fact of fear of embarrassment and shame.

THOSE TWO feelings alone are the mental TRAP that we all need a support group to free us from. Trying to go it alone, to prove we are mavericks or super men and super women, kings and queens of the mountain and all that other anti-social, anti-community crap, isolates us even more; makes us want to hide as if we’re some freak of human nature that no one has ever seen. Somehow those thoughts of tragic disillusion make us see what is NOT really real. Yeah, so we may have screwed up somehow. Maybe we stole something. Maybe we killed a neighbor’s dog on purpose instead of by accident. Maybe we broke windows, key scratched a car, flipped off a cop, or had horrible thoughts about relating to close people in obscene or extremely hurtful ways. Suddenly we have crossed a line; a moral line; a line we never believed we could ever step across, mentally or physically.

Now we wonder” what is wrong with me”. Now we think we are turning into the nightmare people from horror shows, from really nasty murder mysteries and whatever other depressing, scary, perverted negative junk we’ve been filling our minds, eyes and thoughts with for hours at a time in front of any screens. WHEN YOU FEEL THE ATTACK OF SHAME OR EMBARRASSMENT–DO NOT GIVE IN TO IT. We all know there is a limit to what is ok and what is not ok, as far as when the law becomes involved. We all NEED TO KNOW that consequences are varied,

BUT CONSEQUENCES ALSO have a very POSITIVE purpose; TO REBALANCE the spirit, soul, humanity, personality and communal connection that was TEMPORARILY separated, broken or cut. Remember that word: TEMPORARY. THAT is the word you must focus on. THAT is the word that will beat down the shame and embarrassment you will feel when others know what you have done or said. ADD THIS TO YOUR THOUGHTS: Are you the only one who ever did that thing or said those words ? NO WAY. NO ONE IS A CLUB BY THEMSELVES. IT’S NOT POSSIBLE TO BECOME SO FAMOUS. You would have to be well over 2,500 years old to claim being the founder of any specific perversion or horrible crime. MOST PEOPLE who take themselves down and out of regular social life and regular social connections are not even close to belonging to the worst clubs in the world. Not—–even—–close. Yet THEY are the ones who are lining up to commit suicide or become alcoholics or drug addicts.

The last two self-destroying avenues have a great deal of club members NOT because of horrible behaviors but because of having no direction, no purpose, no inner vision of their “could be” values in life around them or no confidence in their real values they probably do not even recognize that make others want to be around them and love them. SO–THE SOLUTION is THIS. Accept the feelings of shame and/or embarrassment because they are ALWAYS TEMPORARY feelings. They DO go away because the people who support you will apply forgiveness, grace, hugs and love, as well as their own stories. And these actions of support for you have the power to diminish, erase and dissolve the feelings of shame and embarrassment.

GIVE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS THE CHANCE TO SAVE YOU from the horrible, life-threatening powers of shame and embarrassment. Ask for help from the right people. YOU KNOW WHO THE CONDEMNERS ARE, WHO THE FEAKS OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE, WHO THE “LET ME MAKE DAMNED SURE YOU FEEL LIKE COW PATTIES” PEOPLE ARE; STAY AWAY FROM THEM. Just call the one or ones you know who will not pass judgement. Just show up to their door and say, “Hey. I’ve made a real mess and I need someone to listen to me confess, hold me, forgive me and help me go through the gauntlet that I will probably have to suffer as a consequence. I really need you. Please help me with this.” Just ask. Show up. Be there. Speak the words of need. Stay there. Stand there. Fall down in tears. Whatever it takes to hold on to the value that you give from within you for other’s happiness, joy and successes. Never let go of your real self.

You’re never as bad, nasty, stupid, ignorant, hopeless nor demented as you might think. No matter what degree of human imperfections you have–and we all have them—thus the reasons for therapies, laws, all kinds of depressions medications, prime time “fix me” shows, etc–you are, more than anything, a wonderful person with talents, humor, passion for love and creation and healing. There are projects you can create or become a strong part of the team that helps the rest of the world maintain and improve the qualities of kindness, compassion, decency and human equality regardless of gender, color and any other barriers built up by the wall makers. There is always a way to turn your negative feelings, negative circumstances and negative situation around to a forgiving and community supported positive pathway. Go for the Light, not for the Dark. Go for the Smile and not the Frown. Surround yourself with the positive, healing friends. The end of one beginning is start of another beginning. Grab all the beginnings you can.

“REAL” SCHOOL By David Reid Otey 11-09-2014

The basis of this piece is founded upon the fact of how knowledge is naturally acquired and naturally applied. All knowledge ever gleaned by humankind has come from the process of “living”. Living means experiencing the elements and connections of knowledge through personal relationships with observation and motion with all working senses collecting information into the brain. Living is made up of collecting and experimenting. Living is a scientific process in natural form. Science is the result of living. You learn something (gain knowledge)  from all your senses. Then you get curious about some of it (an idea comes from your brain’s connection of facts). Then you experiment in some fashion ( try out the idea based on the question “what will happen if and when I do…”). The results are more knowledge gained. The point to understand here is that before any experimentation was done knowledge was first collected through natural experiences. That knowledge was eventually written down to guide the next generation so they could “keep on experimenting” to review, maybe double check and then to further the knowledge and understanding,  to add content of “what we learned by this point in time”.

In most schools all knowledge is taught separate from experiencing it. Lists of facts and photos and sentences “telling” you what things are and how they connect are presented like a ready made meal on a ready made plate with ready made tools to eat with. The only act required is to take it in, ingest it (memorize it) and say it back, write it back, pick out the right answer from the wrong ones and say it back. Occasionally you are asked to create a copy of what you memorized (like the models of Indian villages displayed in a library). That is a very unfortunate, extremely limited  process of  education. It is only the first step of learning and it is not connected to “really using” that information at all. It is NOT the way people have successfully learned how to create and connect all that we have in this amazing world we live in. I have another teaching idea that involves the “living” process over the spoon fed process.

Here is my dream school for all students starting with at least 6th grade. All Special Ed and Regular Ed kids would be in the same class room because they would be peer guiding each other as a supplement to the teacher guided lessons.  This school would combine academics with apprenticeship to create “real” knowledge, meaning lessons that form understanding in a context allowing immediate application to real life situations.  Gone is the concept of teaching pieces of knowledge separated from their original source of real life connections.  Gone is the mystery of how all the knowledge connects. Gone is useless repetition of facts and figures that keep younger generations  in stupefied mystery. Here is how it works.

I start this enlightenment with the first day of registration. You and your child  walk in the front door and are directed by guides to the main hall where a series of professionally designed posters show a list of ‘occupation’ classes.  The ‘occupations’ cover plumbing, carpentry-house framing and finishing work, wood working crafts, building furniture, electrician, cooking-choice of two areas/types of meals, musician-choice of two instruments at the same time, medicine (beginning with first aid)–aide, nurse, doctor, medical science, veterinarian, space science for astronauts or space exploration, writing to be a writer, mathematician-to teach or to work in a field of math, clothing design and creation/sewing, business development-choose a business you would want to create, money management for banking and investing, sports-choice of 2 at the same time, the arts-dancing, theater, painting, drawing, clay, statues, etc., exploration-historical studies of great explorers and real-life explorations as a class in field trips, journalism, broadcasting, and more.  I think making everyone learn first aid and how to swim would be powerful personal growth confidence features.

The students show up for their classes where 2 or more teachers will instruct their sections of  the class. In PHOTOGRAPHY, for example, the class sections will be already arranged by the teachers. Some would say it is necessary for professional photographers to teach the class. That will be true at a later stage of the lessons where the services of the local professionals, already connected to the teachers during the planning stage, can be paid to add practical authenticity for instructions, as well as ”field trip” locations to practice.  Sections can be divided into the history of camera development, of techniques developed by historical photographers, comparing the old cameras to the new cameras, of making a home made box camera, using ‘film’ strips, developing images from negatives, practicing with natural and artificial lights and angles, taking care of cameras, switching lenses, all sorts of detailed lessons connected through the art of creating images and catching historical moments for family and community. Taking photos can start right away, giving real time photos as examples of how certain images are created and to show how and why we get weak or strong results. Learning a bit about each historical photographer and life in their times, and what it took for them to be able to make just one photograph compared to today, can count for history and social studies. Studying the photographs of historical moments through world history will enlighten the students and spark questions for discussion and for ideas to flow. Photography will teach students to look inward as well as take a closer look at the outer details of their world and their lives. This creates an inner awakening for some. Every occupation comes with a list of terms, a vocabulary. These terms contain the ideas, the processes and the connections of the occupation. Students will be writing about their projects, planning projects, actively creating projects alone and with others, accomplishing reading and language skills related to not only this occupation but also to other concepts in life: such as, how your own life “develops” from who and what you “expose” yourself to for a specific amount of time. Can you see how the development of confidence through personal growth of a “real” work can happen here ? Math is used in the angles, in the amount of light needed, in the distance for clarity, in the varying degrees of focus for effect and much more. Teachers are trained first and foremost to be excellent at research. That means finding, understanding, arranging in sections for lessons, any content that needs to be taught. Connecting with professionals who do that work for a living adds the life element to create the perfect class. My vision is for consistent activity in the class, always creating something while learning the foundations, even if they are not immediately connected.

A University teacher of mine told us the order of understanding. It is something I never forgot. It is MPCB-First comes Motor skills which lead to Perceptions which lead to Concepts which lead to Behaviors. He stated, in my paraphrasing, ‘ If there are any holes in the first two, there will be serious deficits in the last two.’  I feel, as a professional teacher, that our public school system seriously shuts down the Motor skill area to the point that student boredom and carelessness result and then lead to the eventual negative behavior problems so prevalent in every school.  That’s always the challenge, isn’t it? What is commonly said that teachers talk about in teacher lounges ? Problem students.  And what happens to most of the graduates from high schools ? They just ship off to another school (college) for more of the same unsure about a degree direction while they pay good money for useless training of the first two years, or go into the military, or begin working for someone else who wonders why they cannot add or write well or even remember a list of things. Now, some graduates end up growing in the business they started in as a clean up person or server of some sort, to eventually become their own boss opening their own business of the same type. And why did that happen ? Real life learning, knowledge connected with a real job in real time learning and actively doing real things that mattered. And what was their test ? Improving in the job in skill and in attitude and their grade was the praise and raise they got from their boss.

A story to share that has influenced this way of thinking for me. I had a student in Junior High School whom I felt–by my professional experience and perspective–was heading to a life of working for the local developmentally disabled business agency. The only jobs there are sorting recycled trash and cleaning at local businesses. I had not been at the same school to see that student graduate. I discovered later from talking to his parents that he ended up working on cruise ships and then connecting to a photographer and traveling with that person. His life had turned out far richer than I anticipated. His mom was super happy for her son, even though it meant he had to be away from home to have this life. I learned a lesson: maybe the doors are not already set as ‘closed’ for those who “seem” to be unable to succeed. There was something there regarding connections to “real” life to understand.  That something is this: LIFE is the real school. So why not turn school into a reflection of real life.

If we run schools the way I see them as being successful, then we have a guarantee that our children will graduate ready to work in a chosen field, ready to be deeply involved in the process of maintaining and improving the communities they live in, ready to handle their choice of college starting at a higher level instead of repeating the last four years of high school all over again at a faster pace during the first two years of college , and ready to make a life instead of crawling through life as a cleverly ‘educated, conditioned and enslaved’  worker bee for mass production. Some will choose that mass production life/work style happily for themselves and that is fine. But it is very wrong to maintain an educational system geared to ‘force’ a mindset and extremely limited opportunity lifestyle upon our children from k-12. The basics can be covered easily between grades k-5. The REAL SCHOOL can start at grade 6 and we can watch our children grow into the strong and talented people they were meant to be.

The end.

This Kind of Change. By David Otey

The mind is the number one control center. The programming starts from day one, coming out to join the world. For many years the brains of us have been soaking up understandings through what we’re told, what our senses bring in and what we think looks and feels good enough to give room to. We won’t know for a long time how much of our programmings are really mis-understandings.

We figure out what’s what, as we lose money, friends, time, respect, spouses, material possessions, an arm or a leg, any sort of loss that grabs us deep with the fact that we have reached a point of no return. We can’t go back, turn back the clock, get a fifteenth chance. It becomes the fork road, cross road and only one of them is open. And we already know, because we can feel it and even see some of it within sight on the only road open to us, that it’s going to be hard like we’ve never known. It’s time to change from what we were to what we must become, to not have to repeat the same losses all over again with the new acquirements. To hold onto the people and good that came from the right choices and understandings.

This kind of change is like trying to rub off ten years of rust with a fine. smooth cloth. Beliefs settled deep struggle to hold on like someone clutching to a cliff edge. The battle to change is slow and difficult. But it is possible and becomes successful because of the constant forward sight of  why we’re changing by our own will, and the difference we know it will make, the difference it already makes as we feel stronger, more confident and happier step by step. Like the marathon swimmer seeing the shore line, then feeling the sand beneath and finally trudging through the heavy steps in water onto the lighter steps on the beach to the joy of arriving totally on the land.  The little deeply felt rewards along the way are the extra energy bars to encourage and fuel the next step of the journey.

One defense used by old limiting beliefs and old enslaving thoughts, to fight to stay in our  minds, is to use defeating thoughts of shame, of time and our age being too late to change, of trying to convince us that we don’t really belong, that we’re just fooling ourselves, that others are laughing at our attempts to join a part and level of life meant only for others. These type of doubts are the small mountains to climb up and over, the potholes to climb up and out of, like the character in the book, The Pilgrims Progress. Life is meant for growth which means for changing into stronger and wiser spirits, to become greater givers and healers, more like flowers and less like weeds.

The anger and shame and fears in life are mostly the results of failed change attempts, of those being in too tight a bondage and to weak to look outward for the help of others reaching to grasp their hands and help pull them up and out of their despair. Convincing ourselves alone is almost impossible. We do need others. We need the help and words and hugs and encouragement of those already standing where we want to stand. Community has always been the strength of the strongest, the best, the wisest, the builders and maintainers of all that is right and good and happy and true.

If you’re on a journey of change right now, and you’re fighting the doubts that hammer away at your climbing successes, keep going, keep in constant communication with your helpers.  Focus consistently and act frequently every day toward the inner vision that you know is real and that you keep your  sight constantly upon. You’re closer now than yesterday. You’re never any steps backwards. If you learn anything from what you think is a slip, then you have succeeded with another step and you continue to succeed by continuing.  It’s the one life we get here on this beautiful world of possibilities and wonder. Keep on going. Keep on moving. Keep on holding the hands of those who love and encourage you.

My Disappearing Mom: Alzheimers joins the family.

Distance made it easier to see, but distance also made it more difficult to provide protection against the brain virus: Alzheimers.  When we talked on the phone between California and Illinois, mom’s conditioned mode of talking and subject content masked the silent steps of the mental intruder . Phone conversations had been a half-century practiced habit of my mom, because many of her friendships were maintained by phone as she constantly moved across the country.

I would ask mom something specific whenever my mind gave me tiny cues of something amiss, but she always successfully redefined and redirected me away from the suspicion.  Until one day, when there was no chance of redefining what she asked me directly. Her parents, my grandparents, had passed on over twenty years previously, yet she asked me two main things: “Have you heard from the Reids lately ?” and ” Isn’t that weird that I’m thinking of them ?”  And that’s the moment I dropped the ball big time because of fear. I was afraid to tell my mom she was “losing it” over the phone. So I lied to her by saying the Reids were on their annual vacation in the northeast part of the country and they’d  probably be back soon. I could not pull back from the lie once I spoke it. To me, I was buying time for help from her friend of thirty years who lived within fifteen minutes from her.

There is a strange defense of the human mind when this disease strikes. It is a connection between the mind and the spirit, almost as if the mind is the spirit–or the main housing of the spirit–contrary to how we usually express spirit by pointing to our hearts. I say this because of my mom’s severe negative reactions and harsh cursing language to her dear friend’s attempts to help her reorganize her life with a calendar and helpful tips. The denial that anything is wrong with one’s mind is ultra protective. The fight is stronger than giving up the car keys because the time has come. Freedom and self-respect are at risk now. If I cannot be me as I recognize myself then I cannot know anything for certain. That is the fear, the conditioned truth–maybe the real truth. Order is shaped by structure which gives us holding points like handle bars, to get around easier by the connections made in our minds.

Everything MUST connect somehow–as a like or dislike–with a connecting history we can explain in time and space sequence. Alzheimers totally shuffles the sequences of time and space or place, even sounds and sights. It is an amazing  disease in how it takes over and remakes a person on the inside. BUT it’s NOT like a personality-changing effect which I’ve heard happens often to people who suffer from severe head concussions or super hard hits to the brain. My mom’s hand gestures–all of her body language–and all of her usual vocal expressions never changed. That’s one of the things that make this disease so damned frustrating to the families. They see the usual actions and reactions and hear the same voice tones but cannot understand why mom or dad are not making any sense. This element took me almost half a year to pick up on. One afternoon, in the middle of talking, mom quickly leaned forward, frowned, put her finger to her lips and loudly said ”shhhh”, like telling a child to stop talking. She leaned her head to one side and said in a whisper, “Someone’s in the garage. Hear that ?”  I reacted in sync, frowning, titling my head, squinting my eyes, and looking the same direction as her for ten seconds. Then I nodded, sighed, straightened up and said, “It’s ok now, they’re gone, mom.” How do you know?”, she said. ” I just heard them leave and close the door.” She relaxed and became ok again.

As part of releiving stress for families, I tell them to make a little test.  The next time they visit mom or dad, to figure how advanced the disease is, call your mom and dad by their first names instead of saying ”hi, mom”.  Most people still say hi, mom, etc. I believe that your mom or dad will say something to you about it if they are ok, and that they won’t even flinch if the disease has become deeper entrenched. The value of this is two-fold. One, accept them in their state, because they remain the same people with the same memories although shuffled or lost in the back room so to speak. Two, the most valuable of all, you now have a chance to listen to some of their history and dreams and hopes never before heard which they tell only to strangers. This was true in my mom’s case. The hospice lady would call me to verify some of the stories my mom told but also to tell me things I never knew. My mom wanted to be a dancer. She told this to the lady with emotion. I wish I had done this little test myself.

Besides shuffling all of the life experience pages in our minds, mixing the dates and times and places like cut-outs and re-glues to other pages, this disease creates conscious illusions like living your sleep dreams in real time. This disease also takes memories from past dates and places and holograms them into the current time and place which makes for some strange scenarios. I finally got to the point of never asking mom how she was nor what she thought and never did I ask what she did for the day. I simply commented on the weather and started telling her what I did for the day. She would always have something to say or add, whether or not it made sense to me. Conversations became speaking drills of verbal collage or something that would resemble a Picasso painting.

In our case, flying to California to bring mom back to Illinois, we were fortunate for a simple accident that made her stay out of our way for the packing of her things for the trip. We transferred her from the hospital to our hotel room where she stayed the three days we had for our mission.  She had fallen the night before and could not stand up. We reached a neighbor of hers and he discovered her condition which prompted us to ask him to call for an ambulance. We had only three days to work everything around. This required a lot of giving away of furniture and some clothes to neighbors in the gated community. I told them mom always preached giving to the poor, which everyone was in the apartment community. Yet, one day, my son said he felt it was wrong doing what we did. “I don’t feel right about this, dad”, he said. I explained that while the disease tore everything up within her mind, it also required us, in our circumstances and situation–time constraint, long distance travel and limited finances–to tear apart much of the physical belongings she accumulated over the past forty years. When we settled into the van of her friend, who was able to get mom’s ok to drive us to the airport, mom looked out the front window and said, ” This is a lovely place, Don. What’s the name of it ?” He had to compose himself a few seconds before answering, ” Sacramento.” It was only at THAT point I realized mom thought she was in a completely different city upon entering our hotel from the hospital. She never knew she was only three blocks away from her apartment.

My mom’s mind had such a strong dedication to surviving that I believe her mind/spirit was able to create deceptions to those outside of her or far away from her for more than a year.  Some of this deception was consciously created but half of it was the mind taking over, as crazy as that may sound. I think this because of the third night she was in the health care center. I came to visit. She was asleep. I sat by her bed watching her sleep and I suddenly realized she looked very different: pale, suddenly older by a decade, totally worn out. I thought she was going to die that night or that week. I was stunned and saddened. I returned two days later and her disposition was a bit more calmed, and her face and color had changed again to more normal appearance. So I wondered if I had witnessed the brain finally letting go of its protection mode because of the fact she was now in a very protective and happy environment with other people and care takers. I am always going to believe that is what I saw.

Perceptions make happiness and sadness, success and failure, love and hate, marriage and divorce. Perceptions are mentally created yet emotionally supported. Your MIND is the BIG deal of your conscious existence. Alzheimers attacks the perceptions department. Memories are the structure and scaffolding of beliefs and thoughts and life experience interpretations. Altered reality from this disease is much like the M. C. Escher lithograph ‘Relativity’–all those impossible staircases. The experience seems like being possessed by another’s interpretation of your life experiences. Someone shook up the slide show and placed every period of life in random order and some of those went in upside down or sideways.

So, what to do about all this ? Nothing. Keep up to date with new possible meds yet with close scrutiny of the side effects–which can be worse than the disease. Make no expectations or demands of your loved one who is affected. You never know when the reality shifts will take place. There is no schedule. Realize that some of the victims feel great frustration. Help make life easier, happier in every way possible. the greatest expectation should be from yourself to give the gift of  keeping life simple and as joyous as possible. You can handle every bit of it if you’re committed.

My mom lived almost one year more when we brought her to our town. She was happy to have others to relate to. I was overjoyed at the care she received from the healthcare staff and the hospice lady. I can say I did bring her to the best life she could have had for her last year. When she passed on I imagined her traveling back to the time of a photograph I have where she and my dad and two friends are toasting each other in bathing suit clothing on board a cabin cruiser on some lake. They were college grads and just starting their new graduate lives.           The End, as far as I know.