Saturday, December 31, 2011

“One Resolution”

         Years ago, every time I started a new volume for my journal, I’d construct a list of goals or plans to guide me though the next couple of months. Sometimes these items would carry specific instructions like to clear one of the credit cards or plant a new garden. Often times, the message became a subtle reminder on how to live my life. Eventually, I stopped making the list and began living it instead.
         With the New Year beginning tomorrow, I have no grand resolutions. Living too much in the future caused me problems in the past, so for this year I pledge to stay rooted in now. Many people live each day without worrying about their five year plan. They embrace and enjoy today. I want that pleasure. I long to watch the sunrise each morning with no expectation beyond appreciating its glory. I desire nothing more than taking each moment and discovering the pleasure within it.
         My mother’s illness has taught me many things about how to live life without projecting too far into the future. The minutiae of our daily routine highlight the wonders of life beyond our four walls. I don’t want to waste a moment of this next year on anything less than loving more and loving better.


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, December 30, 2011

“A Little Peach Pill”



         I hold bragging rights on having the highest cholesterol levels known to mankind! Without medication, my lab results shoot over 300 within weeks. Consequently, I started taking medication about eight years ago—at the same time I started teaching middle school again and by coincidence changed my entire wardrobe to smart suits and cute high heeled shoes. Middle school teachers never sit down. For that age group, control in the classroom comes from a mixture of personality and physicality. Sitting behind a desk dooms the middle school teacher to a classroom dissolving into a lunatic asylum.
         For the first few weeks of my new teaching assignment, my feet screamed by the end of each day. I reasoned all the news shoes needed breaking in and soaked in hot water each night. Slowly, the pain crawled up my legs so I reverted to lower heeled shoes or even flats. My feet and legs continued to ache, mainly each morning when I limped out of bed. I attributed the pain to the six hours I spent walking and standing, chalked it up as a hazard for my new teaching slot, and ignored it all as much as possible.
         After a few years, the pain upon waking each morning spread from my feet and lower legs to every muscle in my body. I felt like I’d rolled off a platform and splatted upon the floor. Even my hands and fingers hurt. One weekend, my sister critically observed my hobbled gait as I crawled out of bed.
         “How long have you been like this in the mornings?” she asked.
         “I don’t know,” I shot her a wary look. “Why?”
         “That’s your cholesterol medication. You need to call your doctor right away. Stop taking it. I did the same thing.”
         And so my leg pain and muscle aches vanished as soon as I stopped my medication. It wasn’t, after all, the endless hours spent on my feet, or my “just getting old” that I’d rationalized to myself. Then began the quest for a medication that I could tolerate. All statins had the same results—immediately dropping my cholesterol levels and a reemergence of pain, sometimes within a couple of doses. Using a non-statin drug lowered my results, but not enough.
         During my physical this year, my doctor’s PA asked me if I had fatigue. Once I stopped laughing, I told her I’d been exhausted for years! She decided to run a thyroid test along with the usual junk. Again, I scored high! Another new statin cholesterol medication was prescribed, with more blood work after six weeks. And she ordered another thyroid test. A morning spent on the Internet proved enlightening. Several vague but persistent symptoms suddenly made sense.
         So last week, I started taking a little peach pill, and the quality of my life changed immediately. The pain in my hands and arms upon awakening has subsided, and I no longer feel like mush in the mornings. I’m back to bouncing out of bed with eager vigor. I suspect my fatigue levels will continue to drop—and all due to a little pill. I never realized the quality of my life would change from taking one medication.  


Thursday, December 29, 2011

“Zuma’s Revenge!”




         The little frog appeals to my whimsy. I love how he spits at colored balls that ramble through a maze, blowing them up with a conqueror’s fanaticism. With my dexterity, I hop him from side to side to make better shots. Sometimes, I zap a special sphere that empowers my frog with wonderful bombs and blasts.

         My adventures with this little amphibian began Christmas morning once I loaded the game into my laptop. Now I find myself slipping back into my room, once Mom’s settled down to watch one of her shows, for a quick leveling up in my challenges. Normally, I use the time when Mom’s watching a rerun to fold laundry or do other housework, but this week I’m drawn to the little frog and the next obstacle he faces.

         My habit from the past, reading a book to take a break, has shifted this year to playing computer games. I realized that I don’t have the time to peruse bookstores or libraries anymore to discover a new author, or to reacquaint myself with an old favorite. I don’t own a Kindle, or an equivalent. Friends tell me I need to get one so I can download all the books I want. Of course, I’d blow my budget for the month if I had such easy access to novels! So for now I’ll stick to my little frog that lets me hop into escapism with one single purchase.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Parental Love"


Guided through life   
by a silver thread   
that winds through the   
mazes our minds create    


Fine and delicate   
it’s a spider’s soft silk   
that gathers the morning dew   
and catches the sun’s warmth    


A gossamer of spun fairy’s hair   
touched with magic and dreams   
as fragile as a hummingbird’s egg   
yet strong with love and faith   

Copyright 1989 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

“Running on Empty”

         My son voices his worry that David and I will sap our energy too much in caring for my mother. He knows about the middle of the night aid to take Mom to and from the bathroom, realizes she wakes up at the crack of dawn; he understands her need of someone being constantly within calling distance. When he expresses his concern, I remind him we spend a huge portion of each evening enjoying our own interests. We spend time together watching something mindless on television while munching popcorn.
         But I do worry about those days when I’m snapping at everyone and everything because that’s an indication that I’m feeling neglected or overwhelmed. When my siblings come to give us a break, we try to sleep late and head out of the house to our favorite places like browsing through the shops in Gruene, Texas. If my brother or sister arrives early on a Friday, we sometimes escape to the cabin in the hill country. That perfect retreat always offers the respite we need. If we don’t get a long break, we find ourselves overtired.
         I love the advice everyone gives about David and I needing to take care of ourselves and get adequate breaks. What people don’t realize is that unless someone volunteers to come over to sit for an evening, we can’t take off for a stroll through a mall or an evening movie. We count ourselves fortunate that our son lives in the neighborhood. He spends an incredible amount of time “hanging” with Grammy. If I have a doctor’s appointment, I know he’ll come over. I don’t like to overuse my son, though. Is this a normal response? I don’t know. I fear the months in the future when Mom’s needs will increase, when my need for breaks won’t fall into the “occasional” category. I think on some level, I don’t want to misuse my son’s offers for help now because I may need him more in the future.
         As we enter the second year of caregiving, we’ve reached our stride. This morning, I ran Mom’s bath while David started his pre-work routine. He stepped in to help Mom into the tub. While I stayed with her as she soaked in her bubbles and listened to her new Susan Doyle cd, David packed his lunch. Then he returned to help lever Mom out of the tub, dashing from the room to get dressed while I toweled Mom dry, applied lotion to her skin, and dressed her. Entering the family room, we found David already munching on his morning cereal.
         Our lives have a steady routine that flows most days in surprising harmony. Those days where I can’t do anything right for Mom sprinkle throughout the month. Those moments when she drives me crazy because she doesn’t want anything I’ve cooked happen infrequently. Those nights where we get up two or three times with her occur no more than once or twice a week. So, for now we’re holding our own.
         And when I find that we’re “running on empty” I think we’ll fall into music, or books, or hobbies to recharge ourselves.     



Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman          

Monday, December 26, 2011

"I Want to Give You the World"

I want to give you the world   
with its promise     
with its pleasure   
with its plenitude   
I want to give you the world   
without the doubts   
without the debt   
without the desperation   
I want to give you the world   
with its splendor   
with its sunrises   
with its surprises   
I want to give you the world   
without the worry   
without the weaknesses   
without the wantonness   
I want to give you the world   
with its hope   
with its humor     
with its happiness   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, December 25, 2011

“The Crack of Dawn”

         “Santa came!” rang throughout the house.
         Sometimes, these words resounded as early as two or three in the morning. I know now that often my parents stayed up late into the night assembling the pink cardboard sink and refrigerator set (with burners that glowed when you turned them on) or the various bicycles we received throughout the years. Never once did they complain. Never once did they tell us it was too early to get up or send us back to our rooms. Christmas day began the moment one of us bounced out of bed.
         I carried on the same tradition with my son, Paul. His excitement fueled our energy as we’d open all of our gifts in the dark of the predawn, warmed by the tree lights and the pleasure of surprises. Everyone oohed over various presents. Someone clicked on the television to Christmas movies, and our day piddled along with food and family, and a long and lazy afternoon nap for everyone.
         I have friends who have rules for Christmas. I cannot imagine why a day of indulgence should have rules. One friend insisted her kids let her sleep late as part of their gift to her! Another friend has the entire family sit down to a scrumptious breakfast before a single gift can be opened. Then every dish has to be washed and put away before her family opens their presents from family members. Santa gifts sit untouched under the tree until after their dinner later in the day.
         I believe teaching delayed gratification is an important lesson, but not on Christmas day! I love our mad dash to the tree, the ecstatic squeals of delight as we rip through the wrapping paper. I love the sea of paper, tissue, and boxes that lap knee high around us in the living room. I love our lazy afternoons of catnaps and idle chats.
Socks! Christmas 2011

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Saturday, December 24, 2011

“The Reason for the Season”






Showering those you love with acceptance       
Holding tenderness within your heart       
Surrounding yourself with kindred spirits       
Collecting diversity to honor and cherish       
Fostering creativity, individuality       
Nurturing peace, grace, dignity       
Protecting humanity       



Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Sometimes"

sometimes the sun shines, oh, so bright, and sometimes the air is       sweet and clear       
   
sometimes my world glistens and glows, and sometimes the future feels so near      
 
then one day the sun doesn’t shine; one day the air is closed and too hot       

then one day my world's dull and dim; one day the future that was, is not          
 
I cannot cry for lost sunshine, and I cannot long for cool, sweet air       

I cannot see the world I know, and I cannot touch the future bare       

so I dream of gold lights of warmth; I dream of breezes in the dark night       

so I dream of my life's freedom; I dream of magic futures of light   

  

Copyright 1976 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, December 22, 2011

“The First Christmas”

         Tonight I labor to find the words that will ease the spirits of several friends and family members as Christmas approaches. For the first time, these friends face Christmas without a father, mother, brother or son. The recent losses of these families weighs me down, and even my fingers find it hard to search out the right keys, form the best words, offer comfort within the grief.
         All of the platitudes and well wishes voiced through love and concern cannot ease the ache or fill the emptiness. The next year becomes nothing but an endless list of “firsts.” Christmas, the New Year, Mother's Day and Father's Day, birthdays—every day. Every day will take effort to breathe and move. Every day will require unbelievable strength to simply make it from sunrise to sun set.
         Everyone processes loss differently. You’d think it would be easier to find acceptance with the loss of an elderly or ill parent, but loss is loss. Sorrow slips into the room at unexpected moments and silently taps you on the shoulder, whispers into your ear, “Remember how much Dad liked that?”  or “Mom’s favorite song’s on the radio again.” And the mourning stays fresh.
         Within the last week, we learned of the death of one of the younger members of our family. I watched the suffering of his father, mother and brother. I stood witness to the weeping of his aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I shed my own tears for the living as well as for him. Now, their lives demarcate into before and after. I hope this separation of their lives won’t rip them apart. I long to pull them tightly into an embrace that can bind their family together and protect them from this anguish.
          Tonight, another branch of the family sits at the bedside of their father. The hospice nurse tells them it’s time to take care of the final details. They, too, face the first Christmas with an empty chair.

The Empty Chair By Dena Cardwell

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“Liz and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”

         Confession time today. Some days, nothing goes right. No matter how hard I smile, or what lilt I put into my voice, everything I say or do rubs my mother wrong. No matter how much she may struggle to hold onto a good mood or try to lever herself into or out of her wheelchair, Mom still needs a tremendous amount of help. And it frustrates both of us. Some days.
         One moment yesterday, we sat watching Marley & Me. Mom likes Owen Wilson, and I reasoned this movie would give me a break from watching reruns-of-reruns-of-reruns-of-reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.  The next second, Mom insisted I get her into her wheelchair so she could go to bed. It didn’t matter that it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. If Mom gets the idea stuck in her head that she wants to go to bed, then to bed she goes. I convinced her not to change out of her clothes, but to stretch out and take a nap while she listened to her favorite oldies radio station. I snugged her into her beloved green blanket from head to toe and left the room.
I never made it down the hallway. She rang her service bell, calling my name simultaneously. I about-faced and fairly cheerfully asked, “What do you want?”
“Nothing,” Mom replied.
“Okay,” I readjusted her blanket because her jerking left arm had entrapped itself in the fabric.
I made it down the hallway and into the family room before she called me back again. Used to this routine, I still tinted my voice with good will as I asked, “What now, Mom?”
“Nothing,” she responded yet again. This time, though, she burst into tears. Her feet kicked back and forth as she struggled to roll onto her right side. Her left arm flailed a little. Then she started crying. “I can’t.”
“Can’t what?” I moved over to her bed, sitting in her wheelchair to bring us eye to eye. I waited. Then I asked again, “Can’t what?”
“Get . . . get. . . get. . . my leg right.” At this point her crying shut down her ability to speak. “Fix it!” she managed to demand.
 I stood next to Mom’s bed in utter exasperation because I can’t “fix it.” She started trying to sit up, grabbing for her wheelchair. “Where are you going? Where are you going?” I asked. “What do you want me to do? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Bathroom?” I asked as she dragged herself into a standing position.
“Which way do I go? I can’t go.” Her frustration wept from her as I turned her into her wheelchair.
“Do you want to go watch TV now? TV or bed?” I waited a few seconds while she regained her composure. “TV or bed?”
“Bathroom.”
And so our afternoon went—round and round, on and on until I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs because I just wasn’t able to get things right. I wasn’t yelling at my mother—well, I was—but I also yelled at the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” I screamed at my powerlessness in giving her comfort. I bawled at the unfairness of our bad days and my failure to watch my tone of voice and body language. Some days, I feel hopeless. Some days.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“Lefty Loosey”

       

           I suffer from a lifelong disability—left handedness. Now, some people write or eat with their left hand, but do other things with their right hands. Not me! I drag the right side of my body along with me as a useless attachment that often gets in the way. My left side dominance dictates every aspect of my body. Not only do I write and eat with my left hand, I also chew on the left side of my mouth, listen on the phone with my left ear, and kick with my left foot.
         My first grade teacher, aka The Battleax, made eradicating my handedness her crusade for the few months I remained in her class. I remember her swooping down the aisle as I diligently practiced my letters with my giant pencil and Big Chief pad. She’d harrumph her disapproval, snatch the pencil from my fingers, and force it into my right hand. My smooth, neat letters turned into illegible, rickety scrawls. When the principal suggested my mother pull me out of school, she took over as the handwriting expert. A lefty herself, she’d weathered the same discrimination as a child. Her handwriting, a beautiful, disciplined script that flowered across the page, became my guideline. My mother taught me to write using a blackboard. With the angle changed, I dropped the lefty hook that many left handed people use. As a teacher, watching me write on the board often disturbed my students. They commented every single time I wrote on the board. As a result, I arrived every morning to place the bulk of information on the board ahead of time. I was one of the first teachers to jump at the opportunity to use a computer and projector in the classroom.
         My left side dominance often causes challenges. I do not always approach the physical world in the same way. Many little things in our lives put the lefty at a disadvantage. Cabinet doors open to the wrong side. As I sit at my desk, the drawers run down the right side to make opening and rummaging easy for the right handed person. For me to access the drawers, I have to turn sideways. My mouse, too, rests on the right. I’ve learned to maneuver it by practicing with games like Bejeweled. I practice every day. For some reason, placing keys in locks often creates a challenge. The angle of approach, geared for the right handed person, means I’m battling the door frame as I insert the key. And don’t forget the ignition in cars or the gear shifts!
         Discrimination against lefties is centuries old. I could rattle off many different taboos associated with right versus left. Also, left handed people live shorter lives because they have more accidents. Check your statistics if you don’t believe me. It’s not because we’re klutzes, but because our entire day we must compensate. I figure all of the disadvantages accumulate over our lifetimes, resulting in the false reputation of being clumsy when we’re not.
         So as you cut your Christmas wrapping paper in straight lines with grace and ease I hope you remember your lefty friend’s struggle with right handed scissors. When you examine the not-so-perfect wrapping on the gift you receive, keep in mind the challenges of snipping and folding for the left handed.

                  
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman





Monday, December 19, 2011

“His Easy Smile”

They believed his easy smile   
the laughter at all the right places   
while he cloaked his deception through necessity     
as the world within him clung to distortions   
Illness subtly ate at his reason   
making it impossible to disguise the turmoil within   
unless he buried it under the things he loved:   
games, computers, politics, religion   
Intellect guided him to delude   
to use his words to hide his thoughts   
Need shepherded him to security   
safety with the familiar:   
church and keyboard, childhood ritual and digital certainty   
where he shared with his surrogates     
the Truths he let them see   
Security in his world narrowed down   
into a box of silent despair   
broken only by the words, “I love you”   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman


Sunday, December 18, 2011

“A Field of Flowers”

The seed   
planted deep into the warm womb   
protected by shell and earth     
softens under ground   
as skies weep and weep   
it feeds upon itself   
drawing upon stored energy   
until a fragile spout forms   
roots, like fairy hair, seek purchase   
security   
they hold tightly to the nurturing mother   
confident of her care   
the shoot breaks into sunshine   
unfolds tender leaves   
trusting in the gentleness of spring   
when killing frosts   
die   
sheltered from whips of wind   
buds bloom  
into the glorious promise of life   
sprinkled with morning dew   
blossoming with hope   
for a field of flowers   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman







Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Weddings and Funerals"

Best friends      
sharing whispered secrets late into the night     
laughing at inside jokes     
crying at sentimental Hallmark card commercials     
dreaming     
Best friends     
writing voluminous letters across the years     
freezing moments with photographs     
offering comfort and strength     
supporting      
Best friends     
visiting at weddings and funerals     
revealing superficial news     
concealing heartbreak and disappointments     
surviving     
Best friends     
reconnecting despite differences     
creating new laughter      
rediscovering commonalities     
hoping     


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Time"


Time   
Puzzle pieces piled upon the table   
Moments carefully measured and cut   
Respites sandwiched between what is and what won’t become   
Not wandering in my mind anymore into tomorrows   
I flail helpless against the inevitable   
I choke on my burning unshed tears   
I grieve the erosion of self   
I step away from plans   
Now my focus sharpens upon the fallen leaves under my feet   
Instead of next Spring’s buds   
How cruel, to lose the future   


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, December 15, 2011

“For the Camera”

The old photos reveal nothing   
         show no hint of the abuses   
                     that darken your future   
         Gape-tooth smiles, youthful   
                     mugging for the camera   
                                 don’t predict   
                                             anorexia   
                                             drugs    
                                             despair   


         The childish arms that hugged   
                     friend and family   
                                 Now   
                     hang skeletal   
                                 by your sides   
         While your sunken eyes   
                     and forced and frozen smiles   
                                             lie   
                                             lie   
                                             lie    
                                                         for the camera    


         Pretending your world glows   
         Making believe he’ll finally   
                                             notice you   
                                             love you   
                                                         fit you into his small and selfish life   


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

“Cows in the Road”

In route to Doolin, Ireland Sept. 2010
          When my father first met my mother, he told her he and his family owned “land in Texas.” Although my mother’s family no longer owned their farm in Illinois, others in her family still farmed their acreage. Visions of Giant must have briefly flashed through my mother’s mind until my father jokingly admitted that the “land” consisted of the two plots his parents and aunt owned in League City, Texas. My mother, interested more in Dad’s good looks than his possible oil rigs or herds of cattle, married him anyway.
          As a couple, my parents moved frequently. During the first few years, Dad’s training took him to twenty-four different places, and my mother followed him each time. In later years, they entertained us kids with tales of Texas Panhandle dust, Shreveport gumbo, and Florida lizards big enough to ride. By the time I came along, Dad had completed his training and began three or four year assignments in exotic places like New Jersey and Delaware. After a year in Vietnam, Dad decided to say goodbye to Air Force life and retired in San Antonio, Texas. He wished to be closer to his own aging mother and great aunt, who still resided on the family “estate” in League City, but he didn’t want to be too close.
          My siblings and I, transplanted so many times in our childhood, fixed deep roots in Texas. If you heard my sister speak, you’d never suspect she’d lived anywhere but here. Having spent from the age of two to five in New Jersey, I had a different accent for quite a while, and my blended twang belongs uniquely to me. My brother, somehow, escaped the Texas drawl. All three of us have never thought about leaving the state. As a matter of fact, my brother lives in my parents’ home while Mom’s living with us. My sister and her husband landed in Bay City after they graduated from college thirty-seven years ago, and David and I settled back in San Antonio as soon as I graduated from college.
          Now, I don’t go around claiming Texas is the grandest state in the nation. Nor do I deride others for living in different states. Most of the time, I muddle through each day without much claim to “Texas Pride.” When we travel to other states, I enjoy the beauty and unique features of each place, but I’ve always been glad to return home—until Ireland.
          David and I try to spend our vacations in new places, but we talk of returning to Ireland eventually. On our last trek up to our cabin in the Hill Country, the summer’s drought scorched everything in sight. The contrast to Ireland’s lush green made me wince. Clouds of dust enveloped our SUV as we snaked down our rocky road, and we stopped for some cows in the road.  Instantly, I transported to another street. This lane, slicked wet by an earlier rain, rolled among soft green hills. We paused in our journey on this faraway track because of cows in the road.
          I know the “What if we leave Texas?” temptation is only a game we play. We’ll cling to our soft hills, green only in the spring, and our winding rugged roads because our roots have fastened themselves so deeply below the rocky ground (probably in search of water).


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

“The Lingering Dream”

"Smoke Lady" http://desperadofromhell.deviantart.com/gallery/?q=smoke+lady#/d21pmk1   


traces of a dream    
nonsensical, inconsequential,   
inescapable   
mood tinting   
skewing my day   
blurring the boundary with reality   
chasing an elusive image   
whispers of memory   
a scent   
here and gone   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Dusk with Daybreak"

Dusk with daybreak—the shadowed haze   
sits cold upon my shoulders   
hiding Future in gray unknowns.   

Tethered to old illusions,   
I hunker low to the Mother   
longing to return to her   
as mist gentles me to slumber,   
numbs my fears, halts my labored   
breath with winter’s monotony.   

Knees pulled tight, a fetal ball   
of too many expectations,   
I flee in desperation   
back to her welcoming graces.   

My unsteady hand gathers   
kindle, possibilities fueled   
by spring’s retreat, fall’s demise.   

A flame feeds upon offerings   
of leaf and twig, stick and log   
until the blaze scorches my cheeks,   
warms my tremulous fingers,   
and banishes the icy gloom.    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman