Saturday, June 11, 2011

“Lifetime Movies = Lifeline Movies”

            Being housebound a large portion of each day means finding ways to keep minds sharp, attentions attuned, and moods elevated. That’s hard when a person has limited mobility and high levels of fatigue. When Mom first moved in, she could still do a little exercising—mainly working with rubber bands for her arms and some leg lifts while sitting in her wheelchair. As the months slip by, we’ve resorted more and more to television for amusement. For me, it’s been a learning experience as I’ve never watched that much television. Even as a child, I’d rather lounge with book in hand, preferring to spend hours in the wanton luxury of the written word over watching a crime show or sitcom.
            Caregiving for my mother means long days rotating through various types of television entertainment. We may begin the morning with back-to-back episodes of a true classic like I Love Lucy. From there we may dally with the local and national news, or spend half-an-hour bemoaning the drought as we watch the Weather Channel. Mom loves detective and law shows, so the entire Law and Order franchise fills many hours. These shows, added to the news, leave us with plenty to talk about as the day unwinds. Throw in favorite shows we access through Netflix, and we manage to keep a wide of variety to our daily viewing.
            If we’ve managed to leave the house earlier in the week, Mom’s exhaustion by the end of the week extends beyond physical symptoms and into mental fatigue on her usual shows (except for her passion for Everybody Loves Raymond). By Thursday or Friday, nothing appeals to Mom except viewing Lifetime movies. Imagine my surprise to see many of my favorite actors in these movies! Also, I suspect many of the young actors refining their skills in these movies will make the leap to the “big screen” within a few years. We enjoy paying attention to script structure, soundtrack music, and the details behind the directing on these television movies. Sometimes we discuss the basic plot that unfolds before us, predicting possible outcomes and endings. Sometimes we compare an actor’s performance in this movie to the more familiar television character we’d viewed him or her in week after week. Sometimes we comment on the locations of the productions. Always, we find something to talk about by viewing these films.
            As Mom’s Huntington’s Disease progresses, she’s finding speech more and more difficult. Our discussions slip into her initiating with shorter comments and responding in phrases instead of full conversations. Although she eventually may not talk at all, her mind will still be as sharp as ever. My commentary may become more and more one-sided, but her interests will still be the same. At that time, I know that Lifetime movies will become our lifeline movies.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, June 10, 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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

“Leaving Town”

            This morning finds me up extra early to prepare for a quick out of town trip. As I assemble all of the necessities we need for Mom, I realize how life has come full circle. Remember all the stuff a weekend trip needed when traveling with very young children? Bags of diapers, wipes, medicines (in case), toys, strollers, booster seat, favorite pillows, blankets, and that special stuffed animal. One bag contained clothing for the days of the trip plus three or four extra outfits for spills.
            Twenty years later, and I pack Depends instead of Pampers. The medications have their own small Rubbermaid tub. I swing a wheelchair into the back of the station wagon instead of a stroller, and I juggle two purses instead of a purse and diaper bag. Mom doesn’t have a favorite stuffed animal, but she takes along her favorite pillow and comforter. I make certain I have the lidded cups she now uses along with the bendable straws and plenty of water to drink on the three hour drive. One bag contains extra clothing in case driving three hours wears Mom  out and our one day trip turns into a longer stay until she regains strength.
            Mom asked for this trip a few days ago. For some reason, she has this sudden drive to do things while she still has the energy. On some level, I believe she suspects that even short outings may become too difficult before the year ends.
            Someone thoughtlessly said to me a couple of months ago, “You’re taking care of your mother full time now? I mean, this has dragged on for years!” Her tone of voice carried intolerance and a hint of disbelief, as though she couldn’t believe someone can have a disease that slowly narrows life into counting only good days.
            For us, celebrating good days comes easily. So today we’ll attempt the longest car ride Mom’s done in a couple of years. With luck, she’ll spend a wonderful day and evening with her eldest daughter and make it back to San Antonio with energy to spare. Maybe this trip will be so successful that she’ll plan a trip back to her own home in League City. If fortune follows us, we’ll be leaving town again.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Bejeweled 3 and Me"

            I admit it. Every night, before I snuggle into bed, I play the game Bejeweled 3. If you’ve played the game, you understand the relaxing qualities of this diversion. Brightly colored jewels glisten against a black screen while calm background music lulls you into complacency. The object of the game? Line up similar colored jewels in groups of three or more by shifting the gems from row to row or column to column. It doesn’t matter which specific level I play. The “Classic” mode allows me to pull my mind away from the day’s negative events. “Poker” focuses my attention on maneuvering those ruby squares or white orbs into a flush. If I want more of a distraction, I select “Lightning” or “Ice Storm” because the element of speed tunes my mind onto the flaming diamonds and exploding successes.  I always end my evening play with “Butterflies” since the mesmerizing music induces a near hypnotic state for me. Even the little squeal of a butterfly being eaten by the spider doesn’t break the soothing effect of the game.
            When I started playing an earlier version of Bejeweled a few years ago, I didn’t predict it would become as important to my nightly ritual as brushing my teeth. My husband and son both play WOW, claiming the stress reducing benefits of rolling a character, leveling up, and interacting within an RPG. They could never entice me into their world, though. But lining up little colorful gems and watching them zap and explode reduces my daily anxieties into miniscule irritations. Once I play through my rounds, I stretch out in bed and close my eyes. I don’t visualize any of the day’s dramas. No worry or tension accompanies me as I slip into slumber. Instead, I visualize all of those wonderful jewels under my control, lining up perfectly, and reducing my world into simple geometric shapes. 

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


            Movement catches his attention as he passes her door. He pauses, peering through the narrow crack. She stands facing her dresser, her head bent as she searches her drawer, and her blonde hair a curtain protecting her face from his scrutiny. His eyes fixate on her private dressing. His pulse kicks up its pace as he finally steps back in embarrassment. He creeps soundlessly down the hallway to his own room.
            Weeks later, she stands at the pool’s edge, dipping her toe into the water to test its coolness against the fever of summer. Swiftly, she pulls her tight t-shirt over her head, slips out of her denim shorts, and then tosses her underclothes carelessly into the messy pile. Her dark tan, which covers every inch of her lithe body, proves her worship of the sun. She dives smoothly into the coolness, surfacing midway in the pool, her long hair drifting in golden tendrils around her shoulders. She tilts backward, trusting the water to hold her afloat.
            Upstairs, he watches her peaceful moonlit swim for only a moment. Then, before the rules of society bind him in place, he dashes down the stairs, shedding his clothing in haste. He hits the back door at a full run, bare feet pounding on grass and patio. Airborne for only a second, his muscles constrict in anticipation.
            Startled by the splash, she whips her legs downward, treading water as she spins to locate her predator. His hands snag her right leg, and he tugs her under, using the cover of play to skim his hands over her thighs and whisper them across her breasts. She surfaces, exploding with irritation at his surprise attack, pleased that she lured him into the pool. She bats his hands away, squawking in mock indignation as they play their childhood game in adult bodies, the undercurrents hot with each brush of skin.
            Feeling powerful and cruel, she slips out of his reach and swims to the ladder. She pulls herself up, pausing for effect with her head thrown back, neck kissed by moonlight. His scalding gaze burns her skin, and suddenly shame flames her cheeks. She gathers her clothing clumsily, clutching the t-shirt and shorts tightly to her chest as she quickly runs to the back door. She flies up the stairs, mortified by this sibling skinny dipping. With resolution, she slams and locks her bedroom door, thwarting all temptation.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

The challenge for the writer, to create reality from imagination, means taking on different themes and pushing beyond personal experiences. I challenged myself to do daily blog entries and often rely upon my own life for inspiration. Sometimes, though, I want to sharpen my skills by heading in a different direction.

Monday, June 6, 2011

“The Sunday Paper”

            Two weeks ago, I renewed our subscription to the newspaper after a three year hiatus. Little did I know just how much I missed the leisure of my browse through the Sunday paper until I steeped myself in the printed word. Years ago, we spent our Sunday mornings propped on soft pillows, heads touching as we shared the antics of colorful comic characters. Newsprint blanketed our bed with world events, celebrity gossip, helpful hints, and smiling brides. Ads, dressed up in red, blue and green, enticed our eyes and tempted us to dream. Slowly over the years, weekends filled with responsibilities, and the Sunday paper remained rolled on the counter until one of us removed it, untouched like a virgin, to the recycle bin. Eventually, guilt over the wastefulness forced me to stop our subscription and bid farewell to lazy Sundays in bed. Staying late in bed still isn’t a reality, but I missed the ritual meandering through news. In a weak moment, I succumbed to the latest phone appeal to subscribe once again. Yesterday didn’t find me lounging in bed, but the scent of the paper as I sat on the couch triggered memories of those idle Sunday mornings, and I felt content.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, June 5, 2011

“Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery”

Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery June 4, 2011

Soldiers at attention
Blessed by live oak
Decorated with crepe myrtle
Names worn and weathered by time
Loved By All
I Lived Life My Way
Words to grace the names
My fingers brush the carving
I press my palm against the empty space
The reminder of losses yet to come

Copyright 2011

My mother decided to wait until after Memorial Day to go to the cemetery. Most years, she doesn't ask for a visit, but for some reason she wanted to make certain she could "still find Dad."