Katy McKenna Raymond  
Personal blog of christian writer Katy McKenna Raymond in Kansas City, Missouri

Personal blog of christian
writer & fallible mom
Katy McKenna Raymond
in Kansas City, Missouri

Katy is represented by
Greg Johnson at
WordServe Literary

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Punch Card (#1635)

Hospitals, if you hang around them long enough and for days and nights seemingly without end, often have hidden perks you might not recognize if you are only a casual visitor.

I am not a casual visitor. If I counted all the sleepless nights I’ve spent on lumpy, narrow cots in a patient room the size of a large closet, next to my fragile mother, well. Let’s just say math is not my strong suit.

It doesn’t take long in this setting, though—-maybe only three days—-before the nice guy who checks out your morning eggs in the cafeteria asks if you are entitled to the employee discount. You look down at your disheveled self, unshampooed for half a week, wrinkled, and in houseslippers, and wonder what he’s been smoking. But he’s serious, because you are now a regular. He’s seen you wandering the halls on his breaks, going in and out of various business offices on the premises, and you don’t even carry your purse anymore. You pull dollars out of your pocket like a worker who’s just left her post for a few seconds—-which is exactly the truth.

“Not an employee,” you say, “though the discount would come in handy. I am here a lot.” You try not to spill over into the morose, try not to give this sweet kid more information than he asked for. Your mother is not his problem. He only wants to know whether he should upcharge you or not—-that is all.

“Well, you should be an employee,” he says, with a sincerity and enthusiasm that shocks your ragged self. “You have a great personality!”

You do? This is news to you, like if you heard there was a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, only you found out way after the fact, after the heavy lifting equipment had been brought into the country and the debris removed and the bodies recovered and the nation rebuilt. A great personality? You file this piece of trivia away in your psyche—-or maybe in your soul—-for future reference. It might come in handy one day.

Later that afternoon, you make your trek down to the hospital Starbucks and put to use the tip your mother’s respiratory therapist just gave you: Friday is Double-Punch-Card Day. You were brilliant several months ago, when your mom was discharged without you filling up your Buy 10 Drinks, Get One Drink Free Card, to have secreted that valuable if flimsy scrap of cardstock away in your wallet.

In times past, when you were naive enough to believe you’d never endure another horrible hospitalization with your mom and she would miraculously stop being sick forever, you threw these cards away. In a spurt of eagerness for permanent relief from sickness, disability, brokenness, and yes, even death, you tossed your one chance to someday receive a venti sugar-free latte on the hospital’s dime. In fact, in the past ten years, you’ve thrown away six or seven of these cards, all filled with punches except for the very last one, since your mom always managed to be discharged from the hospital at exactly the most inopportune time.

Speaking purely from a caffeinated perspective, of course.

Finally, you get another chance. Looks like your mom will be in the hospital longer than usual, which is no short length of time. You make it your goal to fill up that punch card and receive your reward before she’s discharged. That seems fair, doesn’t it? You’ve earned that free drink many times over by now, and this time, you intend to work the system and get what’s coming to you.

On Double-Punch Day, you bring your game. For one thing, your mother’s condition is worsening, and coffee is needed. You declare a Rare Two Latte Day for yourself and invite your visiting husband to share in your largesse. Four punches on your card! You are so near now to winning the object of your desire, the piece de resistance, the One Free Drink that has managed to elude you these many long years of caring for your mom.

At last, the Final Punch is made on your card, and you exult. Tomorrow, on your afternoon break from listening to your mother’s airway slowly fill up until breath becomes impossible, you will treat yourself. Tomorrow, when you step out of her room for just a moment so that the nurses can clean up the messes her failing body continues to produce, you’ll coffee up and enjoy yourself.

Tomorrow, instead of holding her cold hand and waiting for final words that you’ll soon enough acknowledge have already been spoken, you’ll turn in your card and claim your prize.

Only you won’t, will you? You’ll end up, after everything is said and done, keeping that holey card as a tattered souvenir in your wallet, never cashing in those chips at all.

Your punch card is finally filled, and your mother is forever gone.

Posted by Katy on 03/12/11

From A Lullaby To Goodbye…. (#1634)

From A Lullaby To GoodbyeI don’t remember how I first came to follow Patti McKenna on Twitter. Maybe her name attracted me because, well, I’m always up to meet a McKenna.

But I think it was more than that, more than just a chance meeting based on a shared last name. I soon found out she was in the beginning stages of a book project meant to offer hope and healing to anyone who’s lost a child. I approached her, not because I’ve had two miscarriages, but because I’ve lost a sibling—Patrick McKenna, who died when he was four and I was nearly two.

If you are a parent who’s endured the death of an infant or an older child, or even if you’ve lost a grandchild or a sibling or a niece or a nephew, you may realize how little support there is out there for your grief. It truly does seem as if this is the one tragedy everyone wants you to stop talking about, perhaps because it’s so unimaginably horrifying to the listener that, well, she doesn’t want to imagine it could happen to her.

The death of a child, of course, is not catching. But, in general, the one who’s loved and lost is expected to get over it, and certainly not to have lingering sorrow twenty years later—or even five. So the grieving are forced to swallow their sorrow, hoping not to also lose the few friends who’ve somehow managed not to fade into the distant past.

Patti McKenna, who lost a beloved son to SIDS many years ago, still has a spot in her heart that can only be filled by that baby. She knows what it’s like to go on with her otherwise wonderful life, while at the same time thinking of how old he’d be at his younger sister’s wedding, and imagining how much he’d look like his handsome father.

In honor of him, and in honor of all the young ones gone too soon, she’s created a beautiful volume called From A Lullaby To Goodbye. For the moment, it’s only available as a download through her website, but a print version will be on the market in the days ahead.

I’m privileged to have written two pieces about my brother Patrick—an essay and a poem—which Patti included in her book. As I read through the entire ebook, I was reduced to tears many times by the touching true stories of the contributors. These are writers with nothing to hide—their very souls are laid bare. Because of their vulnerability, I believe thousands of readers will be comforted and will come away knowing that their stories, too, deserve to be told.

If you know anyone who’s lost a child, please visit Patti’s website and considering giving this book as a gift.

If you yourself are living with such a loss, I pray From A Lullaby To Goodbye helps to heal your heart.

Posted by Katy on 02/21/11

The More Things Change, The More They Don’t Have To Stay The Same (#1633)

I realized at the beginning of 2011 how tired I am of petty thieves, sneaky time stealers that do little more than provide mindless entertainment (though I certainly appreciate mindless entertainment in moderation!) or fill an habitual slot in my web-surfing routine.

I mean, how pathetic is it that even though I DON’T CARE, I continued for years on end to follow a mind-numbing string of umpteen daily news sites, diet message boards, and conspiracy theory blogs?

How ridiculous is it that even though I lost interest many seasons ago, I persisted in giving two or three nights per week, at the sole discretion of Ryan Seacrest, to the developing drama called American Idol? I mean, if I want to witness someone performing badly, I can sing in front of a mirror, you know?

The problem, of course—-and I knew this when I opted to cut these and other activities cold turkey—-is that a vacuum, once emptied of the dust and dirt it’s collected, really wants to have a clean bag attached to it so you can start sucking up a whole bunch of new nonsense. My life, once delivered of time-sucking habits, practically begged me to refill it with more of the same.

For some weeks now, I’ve been at loose ends. I’ve successfully resisted the lure of my former activities, but replacing them with highly-valued, carefully chosen endeavors has proven more challenging. It’s a little scary, actually, to have more time than you believed possible and then to recognize that it’s completely likely you’d previously filled it with goofiness so as not to have to face your own reasons for being.

I am facing my reasons now. I am writing more than at any period during the last five years. I am refusing to blink in the presence of some giants (one of them my rear end!) that have nearly overcome me—-but amazingly, not quite yet. I am focusing more clearly on my husband, the love of my heart, and on the relationship we’ve been granted as the gift of a lifetime. And I’m opening my soul to my two beautiful new grandchildren, to whom I hope to devote many of the days ahead.

And I’m relearning myself, this woman who apparently still has plenty left to say, to be, and to do.

I’m in no hurry to fill these calm spaces, either. As long as what eventually fills them are the things that truly matter most.

Posted by Katy on 02/10/11

Durable Medical Power Of Attorney Backwards R Us (#1629)

I just participated in a quick elder care chat on Twitter. The question came up about who determines when it’s time for your medical-power-of-attorney to kick in on behalf of your elder. The moderator asked whether it’s typically a doctor, a judge, or an attorney who makes the decision.

I’ve gotta tell you, if I’d waited for an outsider to tell me what I already knew—-which was that Mom needed someone to make decisions for her NOW—-she would have been in a deadly situation with no one to speak for her on occasions too numerous to count.

Isn’t the whole point of the document to appoint someone who will make decisions regarding your care (often on an emergent basis), when you are unable to speak for yourself? How is that interest served if the timing of the “transfer of power” is left up to yet another party?

For a number of years, I went in-and-out of acting as Mom’s power-of-attorney. Typically, when she would overmedicate with Xanax and codeine and other cognition-altering drugs, she would end up falling and breaking bones. Or having a grand mal seizure. Or descending into anxiety attacks so serious that she had to be admitted to a geri-psych unit to get her drug situation better managed.

No one ever questioned my power-of-attorney during those lengthy episodes of injury and relative recovery. I would pull out the papers and be part of the decisions that affected Mom’s care. She was far too out of it at those junctures to make any choices on her own behalf. That went without saying.

But then, after they’d get her medications sorted out and her injuries addressed and send her back to assisted living, she might be more clear headed for a while—-perhaps, some months. That’s when she would resent me if I tried to micro-manage her health affairs, and I knew that she was able to make some good choices for herself again. So I would pull back.

Until the whole cycle started all over again. The drugs, the falls, the seizures, hospitalizations, nursing homes for long periods of therapy, etc.

Eventually, of course, if this cycle repeats too many times, the elderly person becomes incapable of reverting back to their former decision-making self. Mom is now entering her tenth year of long-term care. I wear power-of-attorney documents like a scapular under my blouse. I would not dream of leaving the house without them.

But it can be a slow-but-steady process, when the powers first come into play, if they ever do at all. It can be a give and take, a point of respect and responsibility between you and your parent which is rather like a dance in which you’re careful not to step on toes, but dedicated to fulfilling your role in the partnership.

Whatever you do, don’t wait for someone else to tell you it’s time to take up your role as leader in the dance. By then, it truly might be too late to act in your parent’s best interests, and that is the entire intention of the document in the first place.

Carry it with you. Use it well.

Posted by Katy on 02/09/11

Blizzard’s Charm (#1628)

We mothers have a primal urge:
Protect, nourish, and warm,
Those in our care, whether young or old.

And so we watch the leaden skies:
Wait, anticipate the storm,
Plot out our plans, safe from gathering cold.

We brave the winds though they be fierce:
Face brute threats of harm,
To serve the helpless sheep within our fold.

“Make cinnamon rolls!” a small one cries:
A waif-like, fragile form,
“And popcorn balls!” Her voice becomes more bold.

So mothers do what they have done:
Maintain maternal charm,
By making sure this tale’s forever told.

Posted by Katy on 02/01/11

One Thing Really Does Lead To Another (#1627)

So I got all the way through No-Spend January with only one short stop-off at HyVee, where they were practically giving away several loss leaders one day and I ended up spending $90. Other than that, nobody got any of my money during the entire month.

It’s the only New Year’s Resolution I made, and even it wasn’t intended to last a year. It was truly meant to be a New Month’s Resolution, which I find I’m much more likely to keep if only because I see the light at the end of the tunnel—-and some money at the end of my month.

Now I’ve decided to extend my no-spending trend into February, because honestly, why NOT? Is there anything I desperately need out there in the land of big screens and iPhones and appliances and purses and cars? Sometimes, I do have a genuine need, but this is not one of those times. So what’s with the chronic shopping in the absence of need?

If I’m bored or in it for the thrill of the hunt, well, I need to get over myself. I’ve decided that I do not want to get to the end of my life and be reduced to bragging to the Lord how I got my last pair of jeans on the 80% off clearance rack at Kohl’s and then had a 30% off coupon to make them even cheaper. It would be especially egregious, I imagine, if I also felt compelled to say to Him, “You could have waited to call me home until I got the chance to use my ‘$10 for Every $50 You Spend!’ coupons, since you and I both know it’s like getting paid to shop!”

The Lord has better plans for me, and I intend to pursue them. The first step is to ditch a bunch of stuff that currently occupies my thoughts, emotions, strength, and time. Unimportant stuff. Frivolous nonsense. Drama, dare I say it? There, I said it.

I’ve already decided that this year, I’m not watching American Idol. I have LOVED this show, and especially all the lessons I’ve learned from deluded contestants and applied to my own creative endeavors. But after watching every season thus far, I think I’ve gotten enough take-away to, well, take it away. I recently realized that I could not remember who last season’s winner was, and if that’s true, how invested was I in this show, anyway? Evidently, not invested enough to warrant spending umpteen hours per week watching it for yet another season.

I’ve also decided to give online news sites and talk radio a break. I only listen to the radio when I’m in the car, which isn’t that much, but you know what? I need to either find a music station that really makes me happy, or listen to French instruction CDs, or listen to books on tape. Or—-and here’s a concept I manage to avoid whenever possible—-drive in SILENCE.

Kind of scary for me, the whole “being alone with my own thoughts” thing. But, who knows? It could happen.

Finally (and remember, these are just February’s challenges I’m talking about…..), I am celebrating FINALLY getting my thyroid and hormone situation turned around by committing to a grain-free diet. I’ve been sugar-free since Feb, 2000 (Happy 11-Year Atkinsversary to Me!), and losing the sugar was the single best health decision I’ve ever managed to stick to.

But my thyroid problems over the past 1.5 years caused me an untenable weight gain, that did not stabilize until the day I switched from synthetic thyroid meds (which I’d taken for 17 years) to natural desiccated thyroid. For two months, my weight has stayed the same, and now it’s time to LOSE IT, baby!

I love Mark Sisson, who wrote The Primal Blueprint and who blogss at http://www.marksdailyapple.com. His philosophies are blessedly close to those of Dr. Atkins, with added emphasis on a fun-exercise way-of-life that I really need to add to my plan.

So this is what staying out of the stores in January leads to! Several more resolutions, all of which I feel are doable because of the success of one little January pledge.

If you’re looking down the barrel at some big changes in your life that you KNOW need to happen, think about making one small change first. It just might give you the boost you need to go forward with the more difficult challenge. At least, that’s what is true for me.

The huge plus to all of this is that I am finding time to write that I did not believe I had. I blamed The Moms and my year-long (truly debilitating) illness for robbing me, but there’s a good chance that the so-called stress relievers of shopping and Idol watching and news junkieism were the ultimate thieves.

Time to unload the excuses and make something of the rest of this, my one and only life.

Posted by Katy on 02/01/11

The Legacy (#1626)

Remembering nothing, 
I am his keeper. 
Feathery wisp, tinged with faintest auburn, 
Yellowed cellophane, 
Faded page, 
Mildewed book. 
Touching his hair, 
Long decades unmussed. 
Tugging it once more, 
Like the baby I was. 
Did he laugh? Or cry? 
Or pay me back? 
He died. 
Glistening, shimmering, 
Onto my brother’s lock. 
Onto this, 
My inheritance. 

Posted by Katy on 01/28/11

Grouch (#1625)

So I’ve been just a tad grouchy recently, and honestly, a lot of it has to do with cash flow.

We own a small business, a company of only two employees—-us. We’ve managed to fall into that age group where purchasing health insurance is a pricey venture. You would probably have a coronary if I told you how much our premiums and deductibles cost so I will spare you, since YOUR insurance may not be sufficient to cover such a medical disaster.

In addition, I just added up all the taxes I’ve written checks for in January alone—-and this includes one month’s federal payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, three months worth of payroll taxes to the state of MO, and our estimated personal taxes to the feds and MO on the non-corporate side of the equation. Our tax liability ALONE exceeded the income we brought in in January by 50%! And that’s BEFORE we purchase health, life, disability, homeowners, and car insurance. Before we pay our mortgage and tithe. Not that I’m complaining, you understand.

Oh, wait. I am.

In the past year or so, we’ve found collecting on the monies owed us to be a arduous task, whereas in most of the twelve years we’ve been running this business, we’ve only had occasional serious problems getting what was coming to us. Now, we’re made to feel like heels for requesting to be paid for jobs that were completed many months ago, and that just feels wrong.

What feels more wrong, though, is my lack of thankfulness for everything we have. And when I get like this, I have to go back to certain behaviors that have never failed to fill me with a humble gratitude, an attitude that I need to practice every single day, no matter what.

And so I iron. Ironing convinces me, quicker than any other discipline, that we have more nice clothes than any couple has a right to. There’s nothing “designer” in the whole mix, mind you, but we have outfits for any occasion that might come up, and who has a right to ask for more than that?

And then I cook. And when I cook, I use ingredients I find in my own pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. I challenge myself to make the most nutritious and tasty meals imaginable with items I already have in the house. I thank God, as I cook, for the abundance he’s given us, even if the abundance did not arrive this month. We then make it a point to tell each other how delicious our meals are, and how affordable, and how much less expensive than if we ate out.

And then I clean. I have inherited many beautiful antiques from beloved family members. There’s nothing like giving my great-grandmother’s pie safe a good once-over with Murphey’s Oil Soap and then maybe rubbing a nice coating of lemon oil into its grain to made me fully cognizant of the heritage I’ve been given. There’s nothing like changing the sheets on every bed, wiping down all the (old, but bravely hanging in there) appliances, and dusting cherished gifts from children now long grown to bring on an understanding of what it means to be truly blessed.

And then I take inventory of all the gift cards and Groupons I’ve got stacked up here. If I space out the spending of them, we could have one or two nice outings per month this year at restaurants, the dinner theater, and the movies, without spending a dime! We find ourselves becoming grateful because we have so much fun to look forward to.

And then I serve. Whether it’s my husband, The Moms, or a friend in need, putting someone else’s concerns ahead of my own is an automatic gratitude builder. I always forget that when I set out to serve, and it’s certainly not my motivation, but it nevertheless turns out to be true.

And then, after (or sometimes before) all that is said and done, I write. There is something so freeing about arriving at the end of the day and realizing you did the work God cut out for you. A huge burden is lifted when I get the words down on paper, when I move toward a goal of finishing a manuscript, and the lightness afterwards of a well-deserved sleep makes me thankful indeed.

I need to keep practicing gratitude. I need to ditch the grouchiness. And, for sanity’s sake, we might need to hire someone to do collections for us.

In the meantime, there are some really cute blouses in the ironing basket that I completely forgot I had. An entirely new wardrobe awaits, for which I am very thankful.

Posted by Katy on 01/26/11

Frozen Falls (#1624)

Caught in mid-air, frozen in place
Overflowing power reined in by frigid facts.
Going nowhere, until the sun dictates.

Waterfall’s icicles, solidified strength
Stalagtites paralyzed by nature’s force.
Standing silent
Till tomorrow, when the torrent resumes.


Posted by Katy on 01/25/11

Silent Hour, Holy Hour (#1623)

There are gifts wrapped inside the package of silence that can’t be given any other way.

If I fail to fall quiet, my eyes rarely seek out the window and the landscape beyond.I miss the solitary winter cardinal as it flings itself from limb to barren limb, like Turkish red embroidery stitched upon a field of rugged homespun fabric.

If I fail at noise reduction, my fingers neither anticipate nor appreciate the fine texture of a sheet of linen stationery, or a sheet of Egyptian cotton. I do not feel, when life is loud, the tenderness of my husband’s soul when his bearded cheek caresses my hand.

If I turn down the volume on everything but my own heartbeat, though, for even the briefest of moments, I hear thoughts swirling in my head. They are my thoughts, all mine, not those of another planted there during cacophonous hours. Sounding like a foreign language to me at first, a language I only vaguely recall, my quiet thoughts soon feel like the measure of who I am.

In utter silence, I hear droplets from icicles pinging the porch rail.

I feel breaths, drawn in shallows, making way for dreams drawn from depths.

Posted by Katy on 01/24/11

Break In The Storms (#1622)

Spindly limbs
Crackling under weighted, leaden snow
Like creaking bones,
Petrified and fracture-ready.

They splinter, one by one,
Dangling, useless arms
Swinging in the storm,
Till separated at the shoulder.

The birds, here by mistaken instinct,
Hear the trees’ screeching screams
But pay no mind,
Free from alarm.

They kiss each falling part,
Then escape each crashing branch.
Letting go to save their lives,
Taking flight to higher sky.

Posted by Katy on 01/22/11

Falling By The Wayside (#1621)

There are many things I’m letting go, so very many things.

I’ve learned, in slow motion over the span of decades, with arms outreached and exhausted from perpetual effort, that I cannot keep a single sparrow from falling out of the sky. I can cradle the lifeless fallen in my cupped palm, let a stray tear fall on its head in the baptism of the dead, and bury it in a shoe box, if I’m so inclined. But I can’t prevent its fall or soften the inevitable crash, either.

I am not God.

I’ve learned, during frantic episodes of manic good works, that I cannot direct the course of another’s life. I am not called to be so kind that I inadvertently protect a human soul from the dealings of a loving Savior. I am not appointed to prevent a friend from coming into contact with the One who may or may not seem to be, at that moment, as beneficient as I imagine myself to be.

I am not God.

I’ve learned, through years of multi-tasking yet somehow missing the miracles in the moment, that each of us is only given one brief life on this earth. It flees as if on fire, faster every day it races toward the finish line as it sees the prize ahead, and I am powerless to stop it. I cannot slow the speed with which my earthly life sprints, but I can slow my heart and mind to match the unrushed rhythms of eternity. I can focus on the minutest detail of the now, and stop the clock, second by second.

Even though I am not God.

I am letting so many things fall by the wayside. I am casting aside the weights that so easily encumber me, the burdens I am not meant to carry, the concerns that have not been fashioned by my Creator for me to bear.

I, too, am falling by the wayside, like a seed sown in uncertain and apparently unyielding ground. I am trusting more than ever in the One who raises us and brings forth fruit from those who answer His frightening bidding to fall to the earth and die.

Because, when all is said and done, I am not now, nor will I ever be God.

Posted by Katy on 01/18/11

The Biggest Loser (#1620)

I read an article online not long ago that I can’t get out of my mind. It was written by a woman who’s taken her very elderly mother into her home, to live with her and her family. I don’t know what the younger woman does for a living, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she’s a professional writer.

The commenters to her piece almost universally praised her for her beautiful words (they were certainly evocative, in that memoirish, creative non-fiction way so many readers and writers admire, including me). Many also encouraged the author’s nobility in caring so deeply and well for her mother that she would spare her mother the indignity of being institutionalized (for significant dementia) and instead provide care and oversight in a family setting.

So why did I cringe when I read the story, and why am I wincing still?

Because it was so clear reading the author’s account that the old lady’s most basic needs were not being met, and that the daughter resented the mother’s intrusion into what would have otherwise been a rather streamlined (and yes, dare I say it, fun!) life.

The author mentioned her mother wearing the same outfit—-day and night—-for six days, and refusing (or was it merely forgetting?) to bathe. She wrote that her mother got frustrated with their conversation early one morning, grabbed the car keys, and drove down the driveway. Do responsible caregivers really allow their elders to drive cars, no matter how physically capable they might be to do so, when their cognitive abilities have declined so markedly that they can’t remember what happened thirty seconds ago?

The writer said her mother stopped at the edge of the driveway and drove no farther, because she knew she wouldn’t know how to get back home. This is a poor understanding of advanced dementia, in my experience. How can the daughter predict with certainty which things her mother will “know” and “not know” in a specific situation? Or from one day—-or one moment—-to the next? Dementia is progressive, not static. Its victims are unpredictable, even if immobile—-and this writer’s mother is anything but immobile.

My own mother-in-law took automotive chances regularly for months, if not years, before we her children were aware of her driving difficulties. She was only determined to make short runs to the grocery store, just a few blocks from her house, but finally admitted that every time she tried it she had to stop and ask directions back to her own address. The gas station attendant knew her well. She’d pull in, display her driver’s license to him, and he’d tell her exactly which corners to turn at if she ever hoped to see her home again.

“Don’t tell the others….” she begged my sister-in-law, who immediately, of course, told the others. And all of us put our heads together and figured out the first in a series of next steps, which was obviously to remove the car keys from her possession. For her sake, though, we had to do it in a way that appealed to her love for all “the puppies,” who might be in danger if she were to be in an accident. But appeal we did, and act we did.

Besides the fact that her mom is not getting bathed or wearing clean clothing and is a clear flight risk, the author also referred to her mom’s endless energy and desire to be moving from one activity straight into the next. For the daughter, who just wanted to sip some coffee in peace (I get that, I really do!), her mom’s enthusiasm was frustrating and she didn’t hesitate to let her mom know how she felt.

Yeah, that’s honest and gripping storytelling. So raw, it might even be award-winning, I don’t know. But I keep thinking about the old lady’s social needs, going almost completely unmet, and how Memory Care units are designed for gals just like her.

In the right setting, the demented woman would not be constantly barraged with questions she couldn’t answer. Or questions worded in such a way that she felt like she was being “tested” and always failing. In the right setting, she would have family relationships plus some peers with whom to chatter, do crafts, share meals, and go on outings.

I am not at all saying that the adult child’s home is never the right setting for the demented parent. In many cases, it’s the perfect setting. But I wish every child who’s faced with a parent’s decline would consider the elder’s best interests to be foremost in the decision making process. For those whose parent has no problem getting in and out of a car, some days spent in a terrific elder daycare setting might be a wonderful social solution, as well as a respite for both parent and child.

If the adult child consistently loses patience with a parent who is physically amazing but mentally a no-show, I hate to think how quickly nobility would fly out the window if the old lady, I don’t know, broke her hip or something.

With everything our elderly stand to lose as their days draw to an ultimate close, I see no earthly reason why anyone’s mom should end up The Biggest Loser of all.

Posted by Katy on 01/12/11

Maybe It’s Not Magic, After All (#1619)

I am currently sitting on more potentially publishable material than any one person has a right to.

I’ve been writing humor pieces for 15 years, and while many have been published in newspapers and magazines, tons more have only ever seen the light of blog. I’ve got solid ideas for a dozen novels, have a good start on four or so, but have completed only one. In addition, I’ve got some terrific plans for creative non-fiction books, at least ten titles that I can remember off the top of my head.

So what’s my problem, you ask? Why don’t I get my rear in gear and get my act together?

That’s easy. My problem is that I’ve believed in magic.

It hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when a friend dared me to snail mail (our only option back then, before email had even entered our imaginations) articles out to publishers and issued an ultimatum that we wouldn’t meet up socially again until I’d overcome this hurdle. In one month’s time, I sent out three finished pieces (unsolicited) and all three were purchased and subsequently published.

I apparently respond well to ultimatums. My friend was shocked that I’d had such a simple time placing my articles, and happy she’d had a hand in prompting me to risk the rejections and reap the reward.

I’ve experienced my share of rejections since then, don’t get me wrong. But not so many that I didn’t also have regular sales, the number of which was sufficient to keep me motivated and confident that I was on the right path.

Somewhere along the line, though, things took a bad turn in my psyche. It didn’t help that my entire life got so waylaid with eldercare issues, for such an extended period of time (ten years running now), that I became physically ill myself. I put my entire life on hold, not because I wanted to, but because I did not have the spiritual, emotional, or physical reserves to do The Moms’ lives and mine, too.

Duty called. I answered. And I started believing the lie that only people who had Magically Delicious Lives got published—-and clearly my life was and is anything but a box of Lucky Charms.

But now I wonder how I could have been so deceived. I know amazing writers who’ve not abandoned ship even when they’ve contracted cancer and had to go through chemo. I know writers whose adult or teenaged children give them constant fits, but they continue to lead productive creative lives, and others with multiple school-aged kids who manage all their many activities and still meet deadlines.

And yes, I now know writers who deal with caring for their elders without completely sacrificing their own ambitions and callings. It can be done. It’s done every day, by countless dedicated artists who are served quite well by their disbelief in magic.

These inspiring authors are making it happen in spite of their circumstances, in spite of the cards they’ve been dealt, in spite of the incredible odds against them.

So today, I’m committing to ditching my misplaced belief in magic. I’m going to do what it takes to put one word after another, to follow one sentence with the next, and to put together viable book proposals based on the wonderful ideas I’ve been sitting on for far too long.

But even though I’m deliberately demystifying the process of writing and getting my materials out there for consideration, there’s one kind of magic I’ll never give up—the kind that happens when a reader connects with the written word and is changed by it, touched by it, made more alive than she ever was before the encounter.

That’s the only magic I still hope to make happen.

Posted by Katy on 01/11/11

That Pesky Good Samaritan (#1618)

I’ve been a follower of Jesus for a good long time, but I’ve gotta be honest with you: There are some Bible stories that bug the heck out of me.

I’m fairly certain I discern the makings of an ongoing series of blog posts on this subject, so I won’t spill all the bugged beans in one entry. But for today, let me just say that I’ve never thought The Good Samaritan was overly compassionate. In fact, I’ve always thought he fell down on the job with a major thud.

So why did Jesus give him—-ostensibly, a fictional character in a parable the Savior was free to spin any way He liked—-such Scot-free kudos? Sure, compared to the religious creeps who passed by the beat-up guy on the other side of the road and wouldn’t even lower themselves to pretend they noticed his distress, The Good Samaritan looks squeaky clean and uber-caring.

But, honestly. Would YOU give a Best Samaritan Character award to a guy who staunches a bit of blood, drags a punk to a Super 8, spends one night loosely monitoring his vital signs, and then bribes the manager to cover the property damage?

I’ve never thought The Good Samaritan was too late, but I’ve always thought he did too little. Far too little.

For one thing, it seems to me the businessman (who had an appointment in Jericho that supposedly couldn’t wait long…..) did nothing to address the social needs of the guy who’d been mugged and beaten. Jesus’ story doesn’t indicate that the Samaritan tried to get the Division of Family Services involved, or contacted the police to file a missing persons report, in case the guy’s wife or parents were looking for him.

Furthermore, the story doesn’t indicate that the Samaritan was much of a conversationalist. Did he even attempt to soothe the victim’s fears, offer companionship on a level deeper than wiping his brow until his fever broke, or agree to play Mafia Wars or Farmville with him on facebook after the dust settled? There’s no reason to believe he did one darned thing more than meet the man’s basic survival needs and then consign him to someone who may or may not have been sufficiently motivated to provide ongoing assistance.

And then, when The Good Samaritan checked out of the Super 8 the next morning, he wrote a big, fat check to the manager. A check large enough to cover everything, including ongoing care for the injured man. Along with a promise to return and cough up more money, if the situation demanded it.

THIS is where the story gets dicey for me. How did he know he could trust the manager to do the caregiving task as well as he’d been doing it, which was at least at a level of basic competence if he got the guy through the night? Was it purely a case of “money talks” and just in case you’re thinking about slacking off, there’s plenty more where that came from? And also: How did the Samaritan determine that his business dealings in Jericho were still important, still an uppermost priority, in light of the fact that God had put this “person of need” directly in his path?

The truth is that The Good Samaritan drew a boundary on that blood-spattered road, and so did the priest and the Levite who walked past on the other side and averted their eyes and hearts. Unlike them, though, he was compelled to alleviate the type of human suffering that cannot be overcome by the victim’s efforts alone. He was compelled to bear the burdens of another until those burdens became less acute, but not to ignore his own callings and concerns completely.

I’ve always imagined the mugging victim dying at the incompetent hands of the Super 8 manager, but Jesus gives us no reason to think the victim had anything but a positive outcome after the Samaritan left his side. Besides, the story isn’t really about the Needy Guy,is it? It’s about us, and whether we step up to the appropriate boundaries in our lives. And when we do, making sure we do it in a way that meets the need of the desperate soul without misplacing our own callings and responsibilities.

Suffice it to say, I’m taking another look at The Good Samaritan and what made him tick.

And realizing that Jesus saw something in him that He’d very much like to see in me.

Posted by Katy on 01/05/11

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