Saturday, February 25, 2012

An update on Suzette Haden Elgin from her husband

Her husband George asked me to pass this along:

Hello to you all. At last I have something to report about Suzette's condition.
On the ninth of January Suzette submitted to a battery of tests at the Schmeiding Center for Seniors in Springdale, designed to determine whether she had developed Alzheimer's disease or some form of dementia. They wouldn't give us any information at the conclusion of the tests, but insisted that her doctor would discuss the results at her next appointment with him. We drove up to Huntsville ( a 60 mile round trip) for her visit on the 17th of January only to find that the Schmeiding Center had sent the results to the Fayetteville office (only 10 minutes from our apartment). 
We then made an appointment with her Doctor for the following week and found that the Neuropsychologist at the Schmeiding Center had told Suzette's doctor the they could not offer a firm diagnosis without seeing a PET scan first, and that they had made an appointment for Suzette to have one at a facility in Tulsa that they approved of! I told them that Suzette could not possibly go to Tulsa because of he Diverticulitus, and I went ahead and scheduled one at the local Highland Oncology Clinic, which turned out to be perfectly acceptable. Then we had to make another appointment with her doctor to have him tell us the final diagnosis.

It seems that there is a quite diminished hypermetabolic activity within the bilateral frontal and temporal lobes which is nearly symmetric. There is also symmetric activity within the bilateral parietal and occipital lobes

What all of this gobbledegook boils down to, is that Suzette has developed a Fronto -Temperol Dementia. A condition that develops more rapidly than Alzheimer's disease, and does not respond to any form of treatment or medication. Somedays, for hours at a time, her behavior is almost normal. Most of the time she has no problem with filling up her day. She reads all kinds of books, and sometimes reads them over and over again. We are fortunate in living near a used book store, that has a vast assortment of titles that I can buy for 26 cents apiece. I've been buying 30 to 40 every 2 or 3 weeks. She reads them all! Then I pass them on to anyone who wants them.

When we first moved here, 15 months ago, I bought her a new Macintosh iMac computer. She started off using it daily, and said she was writing a new science fiction story. After a few months she stopped working on the story, and then stopped using the computer altogether. Now She won't use it even to read or answer her email.

For Christmas She wanted a laptop computer and a cellphone. She hasn't even started up the laptop, and she can't remember from day to day, how to use the cell phone. It's a very simple one, ideal for Seniors, called the Jitterbug. She won't answer the "hardwired" phone when it rings, and won't communicate in any way with anyone except immediate family, and a very limited way at that.
No radio. No TV. No form of entertainment except her books.
I'm giving her the best care that I can. I go out every morning for an hour or so. I have a cup of coffee, go to the grocery or bank, or gas up the car. Just the essentials. She sits in her Grandmother Bertha's rocking chair and reads, or more recently, sleeps. She seems OK with that.

She keeps moving her bedtime forward. She wants to eat our evening meal at 5pm, and then She goes upstairs and goes to bed. I have tried to encourage her to stay up later, but it just doesn't happen. Then, She's awake around 3am, and I have to keep sending her back to bed until at least 5 or 5:30 am.

She hasn't left the house for anything except visits to the doctor's office for about 15 months, and I just recently asked her if she wanted me to look for a small, used RV, (that has, of course, a bathroom), so that we could go for daytime drives or even short overnighters. She thought about it for a few days, and much to my suprise, said,"Yes,I'd like that very much". I waited a few days and asked again, and then again, and each time I got the same answer. So I did it!

Maybe it will be therapeutic to get her out of the house for short periods of time. It surely can't hurt. We could even go to someone's house and ask someone to come out to the RV and visit for a few minutes….. Maybe? We'll see.

I've rambled on for long enough. I've just tried to answer a few questions that I've been asked over the last year. The sad part is, She's just not ever going to get better. but I'm trying to make her days a little brighter. .

Thanks to all of you . . Family and Many, Many Friends.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Found a wonderful site for free art

08. Pretty to Look At, Segovia, Spain
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Medievil Walls and Aqueducts - Spain Style

If you right click on artwork, just to look at the full sized picture, it gives you code to borrow the picture to put it on your site, which means, it turns out, they approve of your using the artwork. That was a neat find -- and the pictures display at full size when you use them.

Some very, very pretty work is available.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Movie review: We Bought a Zoo.

We Bought a Zoo

Saw the movie with Rachel and with friends last night at the dollar theater.

The true story is at

It is a movie about traveling the stages of grief.  It is actually based on a book, We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever and the story is family friendly.

The book summary reads: 

"When Benjamin Mee decided to uproot his family and move them to an unlikely new home—a dilapidated zoo where more than 200 exotic animals would be their new neighbors—his friends and colleagues thought he was crazy. Mee’s dream was to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. The grand reopening was scheduled for spring, but there was much work to be done and none of it easy for the novice zookeepers. Tigers broke loose, money was tight, the staff grew skeptical, and family tensions reached a boiling point.
Then tragedy struck. Katherine, Ben’s wife, had a recurrence of a brain tumor, forcing Benjamin and his two young children to face the heartbreak of illness and the devastating loss of a wife and mother. But inspired by the memory of Katherine and the healing power of the incredible family of animals they had grown to love; Benjamin and his kids resolved to move forward, and today the zoo is a thriving success."

The movie has the wife die before they move to the zoo, ignoring that they really moved because the grandfather died and the grandmother decided to move.  A bear escapes instead of a tiger. There are some romantic interests added.  The oldest son is older than six, the daughter older than four. But the story is clear and direct, and well executed in the move.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The talk I expect to give at Church in about an hour and a half

One of my favorite Lorenzo Snow quotes goes as follows:
I saw the … imperfections in [Joseph Smith] … I thanked God that He would put upon a man who had those imperfections the power and authority He placed upon him … for I knew that I myself had weakness, and I thought there was a chance for me … I thanked God that I saw these imperfections.”
          It was with that perspective on weaknesses in mind that I thought about George Albert Smith. 

          Now the basic facts about George Albert Smith are simple.  He was born on April 4, 1870, in Salt Lake City. His father, John Henry Smith, and grandfather, George A. Smith, had both been counselors to Church Presidents. While employed in the Federal Land Office for Utah, he was called at the age of 33 to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1903.

          George Albert Smith had to work the day his calling was announced in general conference and he had not been warned of it in advance, so the first he heard of it was from well wishers dropping by to see him at the office between conference sessions.

          He had fragile health and impaired eyesight. His father, an apostle, thought that the work load of being called as an apostle would be George Albert Smith's death in a matter of a few short years.

          However, instead of dying, George Albert Smith served as an apostle for more than forty years and he became President of the Church on May 21, 1945.

          George Albert Smith was the one who organized the Church's massive welfare assistance to Europe following World War II shortly after his call to be President of the Church. After six years as President of the Church, George Albert Smith died in Salt Lake City on his eighty-first birthday, April 4, 1951. 

          A longer summary of his life brings up the fact that a very significant part of his life was wrapped up in his disability issues.  He suffered from  lupus (an autoimmune disease) and was disabled to the point of being bedridden, from 1909 to 1912. 
          I would like to talk about what we can learn from his disabilities.
          George Albert Smith had disability issues, severe ones, in spite of being an exemplary man from an exemplary family.  His disability had nothing to do with his personal righteousness or that of his family.  Most of us can not expect to have a father and a grandfather who were apostles or to be called as an apostle. 

          If George Albert Smith could have disabilities, having them probably had little to do with some failing in faith on his behalf or of that of his family.  We should not look at the physical problems others have as signs of a lack of personal righteousness or criticize ourselves for the weaknesses we have.

          We know from his writings and from those of others that George Albert Smith's first response to physical disability was to try to just work through it.  The work load on the members of the quorum of the twelve was very great and he felt that he would be letting his brethren down if he did not respond to his physical problems by just working harder.

          However, when he tried to just "work through" things, when he tried to face his disability by just working harder, all he succeeded in doing was working himself into the ground and making things worse.  We know from the letters that were saved that his father and others advised him in person and in writing to take a different approach, but that from 1903 to about 1909 when he finally collapsed, he just tried to work harder.

          The lesson learned from that experience is disability is not overcome by denial or by ignoring the symptoms.  It was not just a matter of having more faith, of trying harder of doubling down and working even more.  That was not the solution to his problems.  Instead, he had to finally give in to the physical limits he faced.

          From surviving letters, we know that before his disability lifted, George Albert Smith's father and others had expected him to die before he was 40.  The expectation that they had was that regardless of faith or personal effort, many disabilities were things that only death could be expected to free one from.  We should not expect people who have disabilities to be freed from them.  

          In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 that when he prayed to God to relieve him of his physical disability, God spoke to him and told him no.

          As verse 8 reads:  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. Then, in vs. 9 Paul records God's answer: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul was not healed, even though he could pray and God gave him verbal answers.

          George Albert Smith, in his disability and in spite of his health problems remained committed to caring and ministering to others, in kindness.  There is nothing about disability that prevents people from being Christlike or following Christ.  The spirit of Charity welcomes everyone.

          As 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 reads:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 

          George Albert Smith's experiences strengthened his belief in his personal creed he had established before his calling.  That creed reads:

·        I would be a friend to the friendless and find joy in ministering to the needs of the poor.
·        I would visit the sick and afflicted and inspire in them a desire for faith to be healed.
·        I would teach the truth to the understanding and blessing of all mankind.
·        I would seek out the erring one and try to win him back to a righteous and happy life.
·        I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals, but rather love them into doing the thing that is right.
·        I would live by the masses and help to solve their problems that their earth life may be happy.
·        I would avoid the publicity of high positions and discourage the flattery of thoughtless friends.
·        I would not knowingly wound the feelings of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend.
·        I would overcome the tendency to selfishness and jealousy and rejoice in the success of all the children of my Heavenly Father.
·        I would not be an enemy to any living soul.

         In spite of disability, he had a loving and full life. There is value in all life, including the lives of those with disabilities. whether physical, emotional, mental or otherwise.

          In thinking on the weaknesses of George Albert Smith and the way he faced them, I think that if we approached disability more with those points in mind, we would be more Christlike and more Christian. To have Charity, as Moroni says (7:47) but acharity is the pure blove of Christ, and it endureth cforever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

          While George Albert Smith had physical disabilities, each of us has weaknesses that keep us spiritually from kindness, from charity and from expressing the love of Christ.  But by reflecting on how George Albert Smith lived his life and overcame physical disability, not allowing it to define or destroy him, we can learn to face our weaknesses and draw closer to God, so that it may be well with us.

          This is my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What would you suggest?

I know a guy, I'll call "Mike" (not his real name) who I really respect, probably more than he knows.

We were talking and he brought up that he was able to get a real handle on his personal weaknesses by looking at his resentments.  Every resentment was a key to a personal weakness.

Now if you've read Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by Arbinger Institute or The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict the idea of resentments being a guide to where you have gone wrong is not new to you.

But about the same time, I had a real wake-up call when I asked for some feedback on a short essay I wrote on how to prevail with those above you in a religious hierarchy (back in 1996 or before).  I was trying to suggest spiritual tools to use in religious conflicts.  I've always thought about reworking it.

The response I got was "gee, so the real problem is that we are defective" -- or words to that effect.  The reader got the message that I was blaming them for having an issue.

That made me realize that while reflecting on resentments is fine if you are brilliant and competent like "Mike" -- if you are overwhelmed and feeling mundane that sort of advice comes across as "I've been ground down by life, and now it is my fault too if I feel hurt because of it."

I know, I know, the Al Anon mantra that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die.  I know, resentment binds people together in chains of co-dependency.  But resentment is also what the powerless feel when they've been wronged and can't do anything about it.

I've been reflecting on this because I know people who are powerless.  Not people who have transitory feelings, or who aren't as privileged as they would like (the type who "oh Lord won't you give me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends" was written about).  But people for whom getting a job as a greeter at a Wal-Mart is a real step up, who have been ground down and ground up by life.

It is hard for people in those circumstances to find voice.

It is one thing for a professor friend of Chauncey Riddle (a BYU professor of philosophy who I admire) to spend seven years praying an hour a day to get an answer from God.  It was great advice when Dr. Riddle passed that along to freshmen in college as a guide.  Or for Alma to have the Church gather together to fast and pray for his son, Alma the Younger.

But what if I'm Anne Without Gables, or starving adjunct with a problem?  A harried mother with children and without five minutes to call her own, not an hour or more a day to pray?

I'm not sure what advice to give them on how to seek spiritual guidance and help with religious problems.  What would you suggest?  If you are privileged, I can give you lots of suggestions.  But you probably don't need them.  But what if you are not?  What advice is there to give?

I've been struggling with variations on that, ever since reading of some problems Annegb had.  It was reflecting on what Mike said (which was very, very valuable to me) that made me realize I still don't have an answer to what advice to give the dispossessed that isn't as likely to feel like "blame the victim" or "it is really your fault" than to help them find a voice and prevail. 

Which is why I'd appreciate thoughts from readers.