They are standing outside the bathroom door with their little legs crossed.  Maybe that is exaggerating a bit, but not by much.  Two of our day trips included Granddaughter Chloe.  On the first one, we headed out to the Rolling Hills Zoo outside of Salina.  We spent many hours on the road in doing that round trip.  It was worth it.  The Zoo is very large with spacious areas for the animals.  The habitats are very nicely done, carefully mimicking as much as possible the environment that would be natural to the animals in it. 

It was easy to negotiate.  There was a tram with a spot for the wheel chair.  The paths were wide asphalt walkways that were very user friendly, except for the hills that were rolling up and down between displays.   Chloe loved it.  Mary Ann was not so much of a zoo person, but she seemed to enjoy it too.  It was a warm, but pleasant day.  They had ice cream in the concession area.   Enough said.

On that trip we did not have time to use the other half of our ticket, the one for the large building with displays of stuffed animals, and animated people in appropriate environments.  We had heard from others who had been there that the displays were worth seeing.   We made a second trip out there with Chloe later in the summer of that same year.  It was on the second trip that Mary Ann needed to use the bathroom after we had spent an hour or so walking around the displays.  The women’s rest room was huge.  There was a long wall lined with stalls.  Clearly they were prepared for large groups. 

When we entered the women’s rest room, after getting permission from the woman at the ticket counter, Chloe stayed at the door to keep people out while I helped Mary Ann.  It turned out to be a major intestinal event.  A great deal of time was needed to accomplish the task.  I decided to go out and tell Chloe that it would be a long time and check to see if there was anyone who needed to use the restroom.  There was — more than anyone, lots of anyones.   It was an entire busload of Second Graders, all in need of using the bathroom.  The girls were huddled outside the door. 

I decided to ask Chloe if she would just stand outside of the handicapped stall Mary Ann was using while the girls used the restroom.  Mary Ann just sat there until they were all done and the teacher had given the all clear for me to go back in and help her finish. 

It was the bathroom needs that complicated travel, but after surviving the busload of Second Graders, we were somewhat emboldened to head out in the car. 

Over the years we had made regular trips to Northern Illinois where we both grew up and had family.   As the disease became more difficult to manage, we were not always able to make the ten hour trip.  The last time we made that trip, we broke it up by staying in a motel and taking two days to do it.  My side of the family had gatherings every year or every two years around my Mother’s birthday, even after she was gone.  MaryAnn’s side of the family did not get together often for major reunions since two of her brothers were deceased and the third Brother had alienated himself from the family.  Whenever possible we would get together with Sisters-in-Law and as many Nieces and Nephews as could come.  We enjoyed those gatherings very much, as well as the reunions with my Brothers and Sisters and their families. 

One special treat was getting together with Mary Ann’s three friends from Fifth Grade on.  Sometimes we would get together with spouses also.  It was always wonderfully entertaining to see and hear the four of them together.   Mary Ann laughed more in a few hours with them than she did in the year or years in between the visits.  One way or another, we would be sure that the four of them had some time without any of the Spouses.  I don’t know what they talked about, but that is most certainly in the “better not to know” category. 

The three of them came to visit Mary Ann here a number of times also.  All of us recognized the power of healing those visits had for Mary Ann.  No matter how much she had declined, when they came, some sort of switch flipped and she perked up, became alert and communicative.  The last time they visited was after she had been enrolled in Hospice.  I described that visit in an earlier post.  We all laughed.  She had the closest I had seen to a belly laugh while we  sat at the Baskin & Robbins. 

Whatever toll the Parkinson’s took, it did not take away family and friends.  Travel was not easy, but as long as we could manage it, we headed out.  Some were day trips, some were long trips.  There will be more to come in the next few posts. 

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The last dozen years could have been spent cloistered at home, a prisoner to Parkinson’s.  We chose instead to live to the limits of our physical ability, maybe a little beyond.  It was Mary Ann’s resilience and our resolve that allowed a quality of life that was satisfying and fulfilling. 

In 1999, the Kansas City Crew, including the two of us decided that a trip to Alaska was in order.  It was John and Carol’s 35th Wedding Anniversary.  Gary knew someone who had been a travel agent and still had access to the last minute cheaper fares on the Princess Cruise Line.  Marlene was impacted by ALS as Mary Ann was by the Parkinson’s.  We just did it.  It was a wonderful, memorable trip.  We flew to Anchorage, enjoyed a Farmers’ Market there, drove to a lodge outside of Denali, where we sat on a deck in the bright sunshine at 11pm.  We bussed through Denali, seeing the spectacular sights, Mt. McKinley, Moose, Dahl Sheep and Bear Scat.  That is as close as we got to spotting a Grizzly Bear — okay with me.

There was the obligatory stop at Talkeetna.  We walked the street and marveled at the size of the flowers.  We made one stop that provided a scene that doubled us over in laughter.  There was a huge statue of a Grizzly Bear.  From the back, his stance looked exactly like a huge guy standing there relieving himself.  There is a picture of the four of us (the guys) from the back as we lined up on either side of that bear and mimiced his stance.  No, I am not going to post that picture.  There are former parishioners who read this blog.  The KC Crew threatened to send a copy to the church when the pictures came back. 

We drove to Seward and boarded the ship.  Glacier Bay was breathtaking.  The aqua blue eminating from the cracks, the snapping of the glacier as it moved, the rumble of the calving, a seal sitting on an ice floe, a bright day with a crisp chill in the air made that part of the trip the most vivid in my memory.  We traveled the train the gold miners used at Skagway, the White Pass Excursion Train.  It is impossible to describe the expansiveness of the views.  Everything in Alaska is huge! 

We saw the Mendenhall Glacier, already then having retreated a mile or two from the observation building that at one time was at the edge of the glacier.  We ate our fill of grilled salmon fillets covered with a sweet brown sugar glaze.  There was fresh Haibut — who knew it could have so much flavor when fresh from the ocean. 

The Cruise Ship, as always, fed us huge gourmet meals multiple times a day.  One of the KC Crew is fluent in Spanish, since she is from Puerto Rico.  At one of our first dinners, Maria spoke in Spanish with one of our waiters.  It was not long before it was clear what she had said.   That meal and every meal after that ended with my receiving a large chocolate dessert, at least one, no matter what else was served as the regular dessert. 

Charlie and Marlene, Mary Ann and I hung together since on account of the wheel chairs, we moved at about the same pace.  The ship was accommodating, and most of the places we wanted to see were accessible. 

Near the end of the trip we watched the Eagles in great numbers hanging around the salmon canneries in Ketchikan.  We ended the trip, sitting at a restaurant on Puget Sound enjoying one of the best views of the trip.  We made some wonderful memories as we ventured to Alaska and back. 

That was our biggest and most dramatic adventure during the Parkinson’s years.  There were many smaller trips sprinkled throughout the last ten or twelve years.  I will spend some time in the next post or two describing some of them.  I need to savor the good times we had.  Thoughts of how debilitated Mary Ann became can be overwhelming at times.  Remembering the ventures out somehow seem to provide a bit of salve for the still open wound created by her death.  It helps to remember that we made the best of a difficult situation and chose not to allow the Parkinson’s to rule.

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This morning she said, “Let’s go some place and have some fun.”  Further interaction confirmed that she meant some sort of major trip this summer.  As we talked, she said, probably nowhere high [in elevation].  We had begun arranging through friends the use of a condo in the mountains of Colorado a couple of years ago.  After consulting with the Cardiologist, it seemed unwise to tackle a high elevation, putting stress on Mary Ann’s heart.

In the movies, a bucket list makes all the sense in the world.  Who could argue with doing anything and everything you have wanted to do before dying when death seems to be coming in the near term?  In the movies, whatever stands in the way can just be written out of the story line.

The dilemma in deciding what to do in response to the request for a major trip for fun, is that there are conflicting realities.  Each has validity.  One reality is Mary Ann’s view that is no longer reasoned through the executive function of her brain.  To her, the fainting, bathroom issues, problems with eating, falling, sleep problems, access to appropriate medical care, all are of little or no consequence.  She lives in a world in which she is constantly protected by those of us around her, taking care of whatever problems arise.  In that reality, there are no barriers to traveling wherever and whenever, just having fun doing all sorts of things.

There is validity in that view.  The various assessments of her physical/mental situation suggest that there may not be many years left to do all sorts of entertaining and enjoyable items on our wish list.  Assuming that is so, we need to get out and do anything and everything we can, as soon as possible.

The other reality is that we are on a roller coaster in which there is no telling if Mary Ann will be alert or completely out of it, whether she will be able to stay awake or will crash suddenly, whether she will be able to stand and transfer to the toilet stool or will crumple in a dead faint.  We don’t know if she will be able to eat or sleep or discern reality from hallucination/delusion/dream.  In the other reality, I am the one who has to figure out how to deal with whatever comes when it comes.  Not having the resources that are easily accessible here at home when problems come is a real issue.  This is not a movie.

The question is, how do we balance what is actually so in our little world with what we would like to be so.  My problem is determining how many of the barriers that I see are more my own concerns over what might happen rather than real barriers.  Now that we have made decisions associated with the transition to Hospice Care, the fear of not making it to a hospital in time may be unsettling, but it is no longer the primary issue.  We have already faced that demon and stolen its power.

I don’t want to stand in the way of Mary Ann having as good a quality of days as possible in these next months or years.  I also am not infinitely good and capable and strong and filled with limitless endurance for whatever may come.

In a recent thread of posts by members of the online group of Caregiving Spouses of those with forms of Lewy Body Dementia, there were some who talked about the struggle to do enough to provide adequate stimulation in their Loved Ones’ lives.  Some in that group have seen how others can draw the best out of their Loved Ones as they respond at a level referred to as “showtime.”  We have just come off three weeks of visits by friends and family.  Mary Ann has been at her best much of that time.  She has been engaged in conversation, she has laughed, she has connected and initiated interactions.  As Caregivers we want to provide that sort of quality all the time.

We can’t do it.  We can’t provide enough to compensate for their limitations.  Last night Mary Ann did not sleep well.  Today she made it through lunch, then crashed, fainting so much that she just had to lie down.  That was at about 12:30pm.  I tried to get her up two or three times, but it was 5:30pm or later before she got up.  We got some Dairy Queen, she came home and crashed again.  No matter how romantic it sounds to check off items on a bucket list, there are some parts of our reality that we can’t change.

For now, my intention is to think as creatively as possible about options for places that might be fun for Mary Ann.  I am willing to stretch beyond my comfort zone what we try to do.  She has mentioned the Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky as a possible destination in the past.

…I have just been “scared straight!”  My comments above about two realities have just ceased to be a balanced weighing of conflicting views.  I have spent the last hour (not sure, lost track of time) in an intense battle with active intestines, in a fainting, jerking stiff body, fighting against every move to try to keep what was coming out off clothes and into its designated receptacle.

Mary Ann is only 113.5 at last weigh-in, but it took every ounce of strength I have to try to manipulate her into position, hold her up while trying to clean her up, while she would stiffen in a sort of mild seizure, or go completely limp becoming dead weight, all happening while trying to take clothes off or put them on or wipe off her body where it had spread or the toilet seat so that it didn’t spread again when she fell back down on it in a faint.

This was about as tough a time as we have had with that activity.  I describe out loud the difficulty I am having and my frustration with it as it is happening.  That is part of my getting out what would be tougher to handle if I tried to keep it in.  A couple of times when she happened to be conscious she told me to calm down. My most frustrating moments are the times her body is fighting against what I am trying to do to get her seated so it will go where it should go.  Once, she even said I should put her some place, to which I immediately responded, “I am not putting you anywhere!”

I have now rinsed the matter off Mary Ann’s pajama tops and bottoms in fresh toilet water, put them in and started the washer.  I have washed my hands fifteen times.  Cleaned the stuff from under her fingernails, gotten her in clean clothes and into bed.  There was one aftershock that included the fainting and all the rest except (gratefully) for the “stuff.”  She is again in bed.  I have taken a couple of Ibuprofen to take the edge off the back and muscle pain from the physical exertion.

You have just had a peak into something that is routine in the lives of many Caregivers.  Others in the online group have to do what I just did but with someone who outweighs them by a hundred pounds.  I have no idea how they do it.

Mary Ann will be fine; I will be fine.  It is just another day on our roller coaster ride.  This encounter with one of our realities has certainly suggested that traveling a long way may not be a very good idea.  It is hard to imagine doing what I just did, but in a motel bathroom.  At the moment, our bucket has no room for a list, it is full of poop.  Tomorrow is another day!

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I could hardly believe my eyes, but there they were.  Trees filled with American Bald Eagles and some Ospreys.  I counted.  There were between eighteen and twenty of them spread out in four different trees.  It was breath-taking.

They were gathered for a lunch of fish and fowl.  They were gathered not far from the spillway of a very large lake.  When the water comes through the spillway into the river, it brings with it fish.  The Eagles were fishing.  There were as many as four of them in the air at a time, dipping down to try to grab a fish.

There were also around 150 ducks of mixed variety gathered on the water in that same area.  The ducks were aware that they could make the banquet table just as easily as the fish.  It was actually comical to watch — probably not funny to the ducks.  When an Eagle got too close to one of the duck, the duck would do just that, duck.  It would pop underwater for a moment.

I was captivated with the scene for as much as an hour and a half while a Volunteer was at the house with Mary Ann.  This was not actually a day to be out and about.  We got a few inches of dry snow on top of the nine inches we got during the Christmas Eve blizzard.  It has been cold enough that all the snow is still here.  The streets melted some, but dry snow on top of refrozen melting ice made for some treacherous driving.

As I drove out to the lake and back, there were eight to ten cars in the median or off to the side in the ditch.  Many of the cars still had people in them.  When I left, I had intended on going to a couple of my favorite spots by the lake to check for birds.  I was dressed to be able to get out and walk if I chose to do so.  As I traveled there, it became clear that there would be a risk in getting off the main road on to areas that had not yet been cleared.  While a four-wheel drive vehicle would have made it more possible to get to those spots, there was something else that dominated my thinking.

Were I to slide off into a spot I could not get out of, there would be a long wait for help.  There were no other cars in on the roads around the lake.  I was making new tracks in some of the roads I was already traveling.  If I were tied up for any length of time waiting for help, it would complicate the day for Mary Ann and the Volunteer.  Any risks I take are not just about me.  They are about Mary Ann.  She cannot be by herself.  If I am not available to be with her, it would be no small task to keep her secure.  Gratefully, Mary (who schedules the Volunteers) would make phone calls until she found Volunteers to stay with Mary Ann.   Bad roads also impact Volunteers.  They are not necessarily able to get out with ease themselves.

As a result of those concerns, I was extremely cautious.  I found a spot on the road across the dam.  There is a great view from the top of the dam.  The spot was right above the spillway.  Snow was falling lightly, the sun was just a light spot in the clouds.  With the snow covering the ground it was very bright.  The panorama of frozen snow-covered lake on one side and the expansive view of the landscape through the lightly falling snow the other side was as beautiful as it was peaceful.

I listened to music as the car ran to keep me comfortable, and I watched the scene below.  The last of the music was some Russian Orthodox liturgical music.  It was as if I was in a bright white cathedral filled with the presence of God.  After so many days contained by the four walls of a small townhome, it was a wonderfully refreshing respite.

Mary Ann seemed to do pretty well today.  We watched the Kansas City Chiefs win, a rare treat.  Mary Ann went to bed fairly early, but she has been watching television while lying in bed for about two and a half hours now.  There is no sign of her going to sleep yet.

We chose to stay in tonight.  The weather is predicted to continue to be far colder than usual here.  The combination of the snow cover and temperatures heading to below zero later in the week are testing our mettle.  Our Northern Illinois roots help us from being completely intimidated, but what the wheel chair adds to the complexity of getting in and out of a car and in and out of parking lots and in and out of sometimes heavy and/or awkward doors with threshholds that can provide barriers others would never notice, all makes us think twice about going out in cold and snowy weather.

At least it looks pretty outside!

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Maybe this will be our new Thanksgiving tradition, barbequed ribs, pork and brisket with stuffing on the side.  The meal was tasty, lots of food, great desserts, both pumpkin pie and Baskin & Robbins Grasshopper Pie for Granddaughter Chloe’s birthday treat.

Mary Ann seemed pretty tired today, especially in the morning before the kids came.  She did not talk much during the day, but Son, Micah, got her to laugh a few times. He has a way of connecting with her that is fun to watch.

Chloe is, of course, a breath of fresh air.  She is warm and engaging always making clear to both her Grandma and her Grandpa that we are loved.  She is such a sweety.

Becky brings a brightness and positive energy with her that lifts us up.  She treats us with love and respect, always thoughtful of our unique circumstances.  She always provides relief from the cleanup task by insisting on doing it for us.  That gift does not come from some automatic domestic role expectation, it is an intentional and thoughtful act of generosity, offering me some respite from the task.

Chloe and I did a little bird-feeding together.  Micah helped with a clean up of some of the Cypress needles that had fallen into the lower area of the pondless waterfall installed last summer.  I described to them plans for a possible remodel to the back of the house that would provide additional indoor space with lots of glass so that we could enjoy the waterfall and the birds more than we can now, since there is no easily accessible view of the water fall from inside the house.  No decision is made on the project, but the decision-making process is in motion.

Later in the afternoon, Micah shared something he had been thinking about.  He has plenty of access to information on my side of the family in terms of health history.  My siblings are all living, and over the years he has had a fair amount of contact given the geography with cousins.

Micah noted that he has very little knowledge of his Mom’s side of the family.  Only Mary Ann’s Mother was still living when Lisa and Micah were born.  Two of her three brothers died, one of Lung Cancer and the other of Acute Leukemia, when Micah was almost too young to remember.  The third brother chose to alienate himself completely from the family at the death of their Mother.  It is pretty much too painful for Mary Ann even to talk about.

As a result, Micah did not have a chance to get to know her family other than her Mother.  The same is so for Lisa, although, since she is three and a half years older than Micah, she probably has a few more memories of her Mom’s brothers.

What developed from the conversation was the idea of our traveling back to Northern Illinois to visit with Mary Ann’s two deceased brothers’ families to hear stories about them that will help fill in that void of knowledge.  The email has gone out to see if there is a possibility of having a family gathering to reminisce and share stories.

After a nice time on the phone with our Daughter Lisa, who shares her brother’s interest in connecting with their Mom’s family, Mary Ann has settled into bed, and I have been thinking about Mary Ann’s family connections.  She loves and is loved by her family.  The death of her Father, a few weeks after we were married, the deaths of her two brothers (each one at the age of 51), being hurt so deeply by her other brother as that relationship was severed, and finally the death of her Mother, left Mary Ann feeling very much alone.

Her Sisters-in-Law and her Nieces and Nephews seem to love and respect Aunt Mary very much.  She is not only separated from them by geography (a ten or twelve hour drive demanding two days of travel for us to get there).  She cannot talk audibly on the phone, or react quickly enough to maintain a conversation on the phone.  Sometimes she can’t get any words at all to come out.  She hasn’t been able to write legibly for the last few years.  She cannot negotiate a computer keyboard or control a computer mouse.  It is frustrating to her and to those who long to interact with her.

I hope something materializes that will allow our children a window into Mary Ann’s family, and a chance for Mary Ann to feel part of a family of her very own.

Tomorrow afternoon is the first meeting with our Cardiologist after the trip to the hospital for Congestive Heart Failure three weeks ago.  He was out of town at the time of the hospital stay.  I delivered to his office a letter and attachment requesting consideration of a change in meds that might help with the fainting while not raising her blood pressure when lying down.  I intend to report on that visit in tomorrow evening’s post.

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Finally!  Chocolate Wednesday!!

Yes, it began with a breakfast sundae.  It was not quite as decadent as it sounds.  The first layer was yogurt with home made granola mixed in.  Then came the strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate drizzled over the top.

Next came the plate with herb roasted potatoes, sausage patties and a breakfast strudel, which is a pastry shell filled with an egg and veggie center.  Who would have imagined such a thing?  It was wonderful!

The highlight was the Innkeeper’s 4pm table of treats.  The wines are always well chosen, red and white each day.  There were Halloween cookies, crackers and three kinds of cheese —  then, of course, the chocolate covered strawberries.  The chocolate was unusually rich and tasty.  The Godiva Chocolate Liquor with a touch of caramel was too wonderful.  It is good that liquor glasses are tiny.

The timing was perfect, since we had enjoyed a light midday meal a couple of hours earlier from the new in-house menu.  A chicken salad sandwich on a toasted croissant for Mary Ann, and bowl of tomato basil soup and a salad of field greens with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for me.  It was served to us in the dining room where we could look out the windows and the gardens and the lake as we had a quiet meal.  The food here has yet to disappoint.

As we looked out the window, Mary Ann called my attention to the surface of the lake.  I have heard and used the word shimmering many times.  I now understand more fully what it means.  I guess it was the angle of the sun that combined with just the right movement of the water that produced almost blindingly bright sparkles on the water — as in diamonds, real ones.

Today was a spectacularly beautiful, warm and sunny day.  We sat for a while this afternoon on the patio by the fountain.  Mary Ann began reading a book she picked up at a Walgreen’s yesterday afternoon.  I read a bit from the Spirituality journal called Weavings.  Most of the time I just sat and soaked in the setting.

I had just a moment’s realization of the significance of our having this time sitting together.  There was a flash to a time that may come when sitting next to her will no longer be an option, when I may be sitting alone.  It was not a deep and sad feeling as much as it was an appreciation of what we are now able to enjoy.

As she read, I took some time to walk through the garden on the stone path that wound through the blooming Azaleas, going across stone bridges over the stream created by the fountain and waterfalls.  Some wonderfully colorful butterflies moved from blossom to blossom, a Monarch, a black Swallowtail of some sort, a yellow Sulfur butterfly.  There were lots of bees wandering in and out of the blossoms.  When I walked along the lake, there was a turtle  hovering at the wall.  It was just a very pleasant afternoon.

We have enjoyed meeting lots of folks.  One couple mentioned that their daughter’s wedding was just two weeks earlier.  She was married in South Carolina.  I asked where in South Car0lina she had been married.  They said something about Cliffs and Glassy, and we filled in the blanks.  Their daughter was married in the same beautiful little chapel in the mountains north of Greenville, South Carolina, in which our Daughter, Lisa, was married.

It has pretty much never failed that asking other residents at the B&B where they are from has initiated a conversation that produced some connection or commonality.  There are people here from a variety of places, some still working and attending conferences here in town, some retired.

If there was no other common ground, often the mention of being a retired pastor began the path leading to the discovery of something in common, or something of mutual interest.  Two are active pastors, another is the daughter of a pastor, another has a brother who is a Franciscan priest (just switched to Diocesan for the sake of getting a pension), one plays guitar at his large Cowboy Church in South Texas.  One shared a tragic story of the death of her Son-in-Law when her daughter was pregnant with their first child.  It is a reminder of the depth and breadth of the experiences that lie behind the faces of those we encounter.   It is good to be in a setting in which we are all moving slowly enough that we can take time to make some discoveries that allow us into each other’s lives if only for a moment.

Mary Ann is down for the night (I hope).  We will eat breakfast in the morning here, load the van and head for Eureka Springs to stay the night so that we won’t have too long a trip back.  There are storms predicted for the day both here and in Eureka Springs.  We will take our time and stop whenever we need to.

Again, we are grateful for some good days.  We can put them in the bank.  Tomorrow will bring whatever it will.

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Hooray, the we saw light from the shining ball of fire in the sky late this afternoon.  We did not see the ball, but discernible evidence of its presence.

This evening after dark, I sat on the patio again by the waterfall/fountain/pond, looking at the bright moon and nearby planet.  Am I a wildlife magnet???  Maybe five feet away from me, a small possum just wandered by from the shrubs on one side of the water feature, across the cement patio at its edge, and headed on through the shrubs on the other side of the water feature, showing himself at various times as he lumbered along.  I guess the sound of the waterfall distracted him and it was dark enough that he just didn’ t notice me.

We had a good day.  It started out with the Lookout Blend of a really nice, medium roast coffee (clearly a certain percent of dark roast beans in the blend).  Next came the juice, again a blend — equal parts cranberry and orange juice.

That was followed by roasted plums with creme fraiche.  What a wonderfully sweet treat it was.  There were ribbons of caramel that cradled the plums before the creme fraiche was poured over them.  Both of us left those dishes ready for the next use — no washing needed since there was nothing left in them.  We refrained from putting the dishes to our mouths and licking them clean.  We didn’t want to give Kansas a bad name.

Following that came the plate with a large slice of warm veggie frittata with a very tasty salsa with which to add still more flavor.  There were sections of polish sausage sitting on the plate next to the frittata.  They were complemented by freshly baked hot biscuits with butter and three kinds of locally made jam to be slathered on.

It is just plain cruel to describe in such detail the lavish breakfast we had today, but then I never claimed to be perfect.  This is actually just an attempt at helping each of you understand the commandment about coveting so that you can do a better job of avoiding it.  Aren’t you grateful?

After relaxing for a time here, checking out together the library and reading room and sitting area in the large sun room, spending some time on the patio in spite of the chill of the cloudy day, we headed into Hot Springs.

As we neared the main part of town, it had been long enough since breakfast that we thought we might eat a little something.  Mary Ann remembered from our last trip a little European style deli that we had visited.  I had a vague memory of where it was, but she remembered the exact name of it, Cafe 1217 (its street address is 1217).  With a little help from our GPS unit (Helga) we found it.

There are glass cases there with the various food items in view.  There is a dessert case, a veggie section, salad section and entree section.  The ordering is done at the counter.  Names are called and patrons come to the counter to get a heavy ceramic plate with the food items on it.

We ordered one piece of Honey BBQ Salmon which we split.  We each picked a side to accompany it.  Mary Ann picked the Caramelized Apricot Sweet Potatoes, and I picked the Grilled Ratatouille Vegetable Salad.  The cases were filled with foods that were out of the ordinary.  Apparently, the menu changes each month.  There were autographed pictures of a number of famous folks who had eaten there.

Then we spent almost an hour in one of the better art galleries in the area.  Hot Springs is one of the top five communities in the nation known for the fine arts.  In describing all the various events, the owner talked about the film festival, drawing thousands.  Then he described the music festival, that brought people from all over the world.  A woodwind ensemble practiced in the gallery.  The acoustics are alive in that old building with a ceiling two stories high, hard surfaces everywhere throwing the sound back on itself.  Hearing him describe the experience stirred memories of singing in old cathedrals in Europe over forty years ago on a choir tour.

The art work was moderately priced for good art.  The prices for the same pieces would have been much higher in other places in the country, but they were still in the thousands of dollars.

One artist, Randall Good, has a close connection with the Blue Moon Gallery in Hot Springs.  His work is powerful.  He was commissioned about eight years ago to do fourteen large paintings of the Stations of the Cross.  The result of the years of work was impressive.  The folks at the gallery explained the process by which he made the medium on which the paintings would be done, with the medium becoming a part of the final piece.

After hearing descriptions of the process that has brought each piece to completion and his creative journey as it is unfolding, it is apparent just how complex a painting can be.  In years past, when I looked at art pieces, I saw them as pictures to be observed.  Hearing so much about the living dynamics of each piece gives me new eyes with which to see.

It has helped my ability to experience more when I view an art piece to have had a gifted friend named Milt Heinrich, who has served for many years as the head of the Art Department at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska.  He also served for many years as part of the Arts Council [may not be the correct designation] for the state of Nebraska.  He was commissioned to do the huge wall sculpture at one end of the Omaha Airport.

Access to Randall Good’s web site can be found by Googling the Blue Moon Art Gallery in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  There can be found is a link to his site.

It is so odd that I have come to enjoy the visual arts.  I know virtually nothing about great art.  I am one of five children.  Three of us are gifted in the ability to draw beautifully.  Two of us are Pastors.  Oh well — same gene pool.  I guess Dick and I just stayed in the shallow end.

After the art galleries (we visited a second one for a time), we headed back to the B&B.  There we were, of course, greeted by freshly baked coffee cake and cookies, red wine, white wine, cheese and crackers — the Innkeepers daily 4pm offering.

Mary Ann is settled in bed, hopefully sleeping soundly.  While we don’t have specific plans for tomorrow, it is Chocolate Wednesday!  Wait till I tell you about the breakfast sundaes!

That is for tomorrow.

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