Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Decorations

Ron and I decided to take a few pictures of the homes in our neighborhood that are decorated for Halloween.  We are going out tonight to take pictures after dark.  This an historic street in Norman around the corner from us.  It is called "Red Stocking Follies" and some of the homes are early Victorian. 

These are lit up at night!

This wagon is in the same yard as above.

This little house was turned into a beauty parlor!
More of the little beauty shop.
Another house on the block.
The next pictures were taken in the Vinyard just a few blocks from us.

Saturday, October 27, 2012



Yesterday I took Mike to meet his new psychiatrist.  Mike was anxious as usual but it went pretty well.  Dr. S. was about an hour behind schedule as he was trying to see all the former doctor's patients as well as his own.  We finally got in his office and had been seated about 5 seconds when I heard the awful rumbling omitting from Mike's stomach.  Mike's eyes bugged out and he suddenly jumped up and said "Doc, I need to go to the bathroom."  Dr. S. opened the door and pointed down the hall.  That's the last we saw of Mike for about 15 minutes.  I basically had the meet and greet with the doctor while we listened to the thunderous sounds coming from down the hall.  By the time Mike came back the appointment was over. 

When we got to the car to go homeI asked Mike if he was feeling alright and he said yes.  Then he told me that he drank about 16 ounces of prune juice before he left his house.  "WHAT"? I asked. 

I then told him to never do that when he knew he had an appointment to go to.  He said....."I'll try."

Thank goodness the prune juice didn't hit him while we were on the highway.  He'd have jumped out of the car like a ruptured duck.

Life with Mike is never dull!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


My parents had two families, the one in which I grew up and the other years before I was born.  You see my oldest brother is 13 years my senior.  He was an only child for 12 years and his life with our parents was considerably different than the one experienced by his younger siblings.  Our parents were only in their early twenties when he was born, newly married and just forging into adulthood. 

My brother was four years old the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.    WWII soon interrupted their lives and our mother followed our father to the west coast.  Dad was stationed with the Navy in San Diego while Mom and my brother were in Washington State where she was able to get a factory job.  My mother’s parents went with them and they all worked in the same factory on different shifts in order to have someone home with my brother.

Butch and an unidentified little girl.  Butch was wearing one of his many soldier uniforms!
On their train ride to the coast my brother was decked out in his sailor outfit and the soldiers on their way to the war played with him.  Partly to keep my brother entertained and most likely to distract themselves from thoughts of what was ahead for them.  For my brother it was simply a great adventure.  He and mother often talked about that experience on the train and remembered it fondly.  Mom said she thought about those young soldiers and often wondered if they made it back home safely.  My mother often referred to that time as one of the best and worst experiences of her life.  These were memories shared exclusively between my mother and brother.

The war left a huge impression on my brother.  So much that he spent 30 years in the army reserve and retired as a full colonel.  In addition he was a law enforcement officer so he spent his entire life in uniforms

After the war ended my parents tried to have another child.  By this time Butch was about nine years old.  After a few years they finally had David but sadly he only lived a few days.  Once again my mother and brother shared yet another tragic event.  Together they grieved the loss of a little brother and a baby son.  Our mother suffered a deep depression after David’s death and Butch was there helping our dad care for our mother.

About two years later Mike was born and Butch was finally a big brother.  Thirteen months later he became a big brother once again.  It always amazed me that my older brother welcomed his younger siblings so whole-heartedly when he had been an only child for so long.  But he really was the best big brother any kid could have.  Mike was attached to his hip from the moment he left the hospital.

For Mike and I our big brother was like another parent.  He was one more person who made us feel safe and secure.  I really don’t have any memory of Butch until he was about sixteen years old and he was already an adult in my thinking.  He was out of the house by the time I was nine years old.  I cried at his wedding not because I didn’t like my new sister-in-law but because my older brother would not be living at our house anymore.

No matter how old we get Mike and I will always be Butch’s little brother and sister and for us Butch will always be our protector and big brother.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

In 1969 it was my first Thanksgiving as a newlywed and I was determined to cook a Thanksgiving feast for my new husband even though my culinary skills were lacking and to date I had only recently mastered grilled cheese sandwiches.  But that wasn’t going to discourage my optimism and the first thing I decided to make was a pumpkin pie from scratch.  
So the first thing I did was go to the store and pick out 3 stately looking pumpkins and brought them home.  I had already prepared 3 pie crusts and though they were a little burned around the edges they looked almost edible.

 Next I cut one of the pumpkins in half but to my dismay I found I had a defective pumpkin.  So I opened the second pumpkin only to find it was also defective.  After opening all 3 pumpkins and finding them all to be flawed I went back to the store to get more and to make the store management aware of their produce issue. 

When the helpful checker asked what was wrong with the previous pumpkins I advised her that upon opening none of the pumpkins contained pie filling just strings and seeds!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Good Fellows

Mike brought me a progress report he asked a member of his Silver Sneakers class to write for him.  The woman he requested to write the report is a retired psych. nurse.  It was so funny I thought I'd share........... (the report is written in stages from when Mike first joined the class to present)

Progress report for
Michael Gene Simpson
At the request of
Michael Gene Simpson
Prepared for
Danise Marie Simpson Phillips

Stage 1: fetal position on the chair of the back row...participation in class limited to 15 minutes before exit.
Stage 2: controlled by Norman traffic patterns--length of participation in class depended on what he thought traffic was doing on his route home.
Stage 3: moved to the front row--nonstop participation.  Traffic patters no longer a concern.  MGS (Mike) in cultlike control of traffic; traffic yields to MGS; stays away from his path.
Stage 4: Swartnigger preparation for class:  could be seen lifting increasingly heavy weights each a.m.
Stage 5: took over teacher role of class (teacher absent).  Accepted as leader by group.  Since MGS is excited about Christmas, group was forced to exercise to Christmas songs.  Group is also forced to remember the full names of each member of his family.  Even though it's a challenge to the groups' memory, group is grateful to know of the important people in their leader's life.
Stage 6:  MGS is seeking managerial position at the gym.
Expansion (almost completed with a few exception:
Suspender phobia:  MGS was fearful that his suspenders would "let him down."
Suspender confusion:  after the big Okla. Texas win, MGS wore the wrong suspenders (wrong color).  He unwittingly had hoped that Kansas would win, even though they weren't playing.
Suspender neglect:  MGS had one suspender badly twisted in the back, so it took the group to straighten him out.

Conclusion:  suspenders only variable standing in the way of MGS.----------------------- THE END

Now, I don't know any of these wonderful people but I am so grateful to them for accepting my brother and for their kindness towards him. I'm protective of my brother and have always worried about how people will react to him when I'm not with him.  Now I can relax for he has found himself among friends and I can assure you they will be his life long friends!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Productive Saturday

What a Saturday we had yesterday.  The girls came over and we had a whopalooza yard sale.  Ron and I got the barn cleaned out and the girls sold off some of their teaching stuff.  It went pretty well.  Gorgeous day for it and we actually enjoyed sitting outside and visiting with people.  My son-in-law has arranged for Goodwill to pick everything up tomorrow that was left over.  So we are really cleaning house.....getting rid of all that stuff you thought you needed but turns out uh "not so much".

I haven't decided whether I'll be donating my piano or not.  I can't play it any more because of arthritis but it's hard to let it go.  I really don't have the room to just store it.  I guess keyboards have just taken the place of big pianos because you can't even give them away.

Today we hope to just catch up and get ready for another week.  We are both tired from the sale yesterday but glad to have it done.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Embrace the moment!

You'd think getting new furniture would be fun and I'm sure it is for most people.  Me....I have a little problem embracing change.  It takes me a little while to feel at home again amongst new stuff.  Not to mention I have such a small house it is hard to find furniture to fit the scale.  I have a very tall husband and he doesn't fit the scale....but what are you gonna do.

For two years Ron has been sitting on a dainty red checked wing back chair but we finally purchased two matching recliners.  Ron's in heaven.  I told him I had to be sure the marriage was going to last before I could commit to furniture.  Of course now the sofa looks old but I'm not replacing anything else.

It has definitely been an adjustment having a man in the house.  My home was a feminine domain for the past 34 years.  But we are slowly transforming it into a gender neutral zone where we can both be comfortable.  Oh the sacrifices we will make for love! 

Now, this is going to sound morbid and morose but if I'm being honest here I think I've been afraid of change for more than one reason.  I've been afraid, of all things, of a chair that is just him.  The fear is that if his cancer takes him away from me then there will be this visual reminder that he isn't here anymore.  An empty chair.  If I left things the way they have always been then somehow it would lessen the reminder of what I've lost.  

Sounds crazy I know.  But the fear of losing someone can make you a little crazy. It's amazing what lengths we will go to in order to protect the heart.  Loss is inevitable so we have to embrace the moment while we have it. 

But now.....we are just two old married people with matching recliners.  It's nice to look across the room and see him sprawled out in his lazy boy!  He finally looks permanent.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

3rd grade retention

Oklahoma recently joined other states in adopting a measure that holds back 3rd graders who fail to demonstrate sufficient reading ability on a state standardized test.  All of this in a effort to end social promotion.

Hmmm what do I think about this.  Well, not that my opinion is worth a plug nickel or that I am a teacher with years of experience, my head just tells me there are problems with this policy.  My first concern is for kids like my daughter who has a learning disability.  If Julie was faced with passing a test in third grade before she could be promoted she would have crumbled from the anxiety.  The exceptions in Oklahoma for taking this test are few and far between and nothing addresses learning disabilities.

Now, this is just a thought.  If it is expected to cost approximately $10,000 for each child to be retained then why not spend that money in early childhood education instead.  Hire more reading specialists.  In my head 3rd grade is kind of late to identify a reading problem.  Talk about make a child feel like a failure.

One other thought.  We have many excellent teachers who are more than capable of identifying children at risk.  Back them up and give them the support to address the child's needs.  That's why they are there. 

All I know is I feel so sorry for those 3rd grade teachers.  They'll have to wear bullet proof vests when they give the bad news to those parents whose children will not be promoted to 4th grade.

I just got a call from twin #2 and it appears she will have to have another operation on her arm.  She has Kienbocks disease where the lunate bone doesn't get an adequate blood supply and eventually dies.  She had surgery about 18 months ago but it didn't work.  Now they will have to fuse her wrist.  Don't know when she will be having it done but I imagine soon since the doctor said it will only get worse and require more surgery.

So that's now twin 1 and twin 2 in need of surgery.  One wrist and one knee.  I guess they can have it done together and then compare misery.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a brother's laughter....priceless

The 60 tips I posted yesterday really resonated with me and I've read them several times.  Just realizing that I can't "fix" my brother has liberated me.  You'd think I would have already realized that but somewhere inside I didn't.  We never stop learning.

Yesterday he called me and told me that our older brother was mad at him.  He said Butch left a message on his answering machine and he was angry.  Mike was so upset and then said he was afraid to call Butch because he was going to yell at him.

I first just talked too I usually do....then remembered that trying to talk him out of it was just a waste of time.  So I volunteered to intercede.  I was pretty sure Butch was trying to tease Mike but sounded serious to Mike.
I was right.  I wanted to tell my older brother that teasing a schizophrenic probably isn't the wisest choice but decided not to....that's for him to figure out. 

I called Mike back and explained that Butch was only teasing.  Our older brother is an ex-law enforcement officer from LA so you can imagine how gruff he can sound.   Mike and I both came to the conclusion that Butch is crazy and we shouldn't take him too seriously.  Mike was belly laughing.  Then he started crying........"I don't know what I'd do without you."  

"Well, I'm still here so let's check that worry off your list."

"OK, CHECK".......more laughter!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I found this on the web today. If you have a family member with neurobiological disorder ("NBD", formerly known as mental illness), remember these points:

1. You cannot cure a mental disorder for a family member.
2. Despite your efforts, symptoms may get worse, or may improve.
3. If you feel much resentment, you are giving too much.

4. It is as hard for the individual to accept the disorder as it is for other family members.
5. Acceptance of the disorder by all concerned may be helpful, but not necessary.
6. A delusion will not go away by reasoning and therefore needs no discussion.
7. You may learn something about yourself as you learn about a family member's mental disorder.
8. Separate the person from the disorder. Love the person, even if you hate the disorder.
9. Separate medication side effects from the disorder/person.
10. It is not OK for you to be neglected. You have needs & wants too.
11. Your chances of getting mental illness as a sibling or adult child of someone with NBD are 10-14%. If you are older than 30, they are negligible for schizophrenia.
12. Your children's chances are approximately 2-4%, compared to the general population of 1%.
13. The illness of a family member is nothing to be ashamed of. Reality is that you may encounter discrimination from an apprehensive public.
14. No one is to blame.
15. Don't forget your sense of humor.
16. It may be necessary to renegotiate your emotional relationship.
17. It may be necessary to revise your expectations.
18. Success for each individual may be different.
19. Acknowledge the remarkable courage your family member may show dealing with a mental disorder.
20.Your family member is entitled to his own life journey, as you are.
21. Survival-oriented response is often to shut down your emotional life. Resist this.
22. Inability to talk about feelings may leave you stuck or frozen.
23. The family relationships may be in disarray in the confusion around the mental disorder.
24. Generally, those closest in sibling order and gender become emotionally enmeshed, while those further out become estranged.
25. Grief issues for siblings are about what you had and lost. For adult children the issues are about what you never had.
26. After denial, sadness, and anger comes acceptance. The addition of understanding yields compassion.
27. The mental illnesses, like other diseases, are a part of the varied fabric of life.
28. Shed neurotic suffering and embrace real suffering.
29. The mental illnesses are not on a continuum with mental health. Mental illness is a biological brain disease.
30. It is absurd to believe you may correct a physical illness such as diabetes, the schizophrenias, or manic-depression with talk, although addressing social complications may be helpful.
31. Symptoms may change over time while the underlying disorder remains.
32. The disorder may be periodic, with times of improvement and deterioration, independent of your hopes or actions.
33. You should request the diagnosis and its explanation from professionals.
34. Schizophrenia may be a class of disorders rather than a single disorder.
35. Identical diagnoses does not mean identical causes, courses, or symptoms.
36. Strange behavior is symptom of the disorder. Don't take it personally.
37. You have a right to assure your personal safety.
38. Don't shoulder the whole responsibility for your mentally disordered relative.
39. You are not a paid professional case worker. Work with them about your concerns.
Maintain your role as the sibling, child, or parent of the individual. Don't change your role.
40. Mental health professionals, family members, & the disordered all have ups and downs when dealing with a mental disorder.
41. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes made.
42. Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence.
43. If you can't care for yourself, you can't care for another.
44. You may eventually forgive your member for having MI.
45. The needs of the ill person do not necessarily always come first.
46. It is important to have boundaries and set clear limits.
47. Most modern researchers favor a genetic, biochemical (perhaps interuteral), or viral basis. Each individual case may be one, a combination, or none of the above.
Genetic predisposition may result from a varied single gene or a combination.
48. Learn more about mental disorders.
50. It may be therapeutic to you to help others if you cannot help your family member.
51. Recognizing that a person has limited capabilities should not mean that you expect nothing of them.
52. Don't be afraid to ask your family member if he is thinking about hurting himself.
A suicide rate of 10% is based on it happening to real people. Your own relative could be one. Discuss it to avoid it.
53. Mental disorders affect more than the afflicted.
54. Your conflicted relationship may spill over into your relationships with others. You may unconsciously reenact the conflicted relationship.
55. It is natural to experience a cauldron of emotions such as grief, guilt, fear, anger, sadness, hurt, confusion, etc. You, not the ill member, are responsible for your own feelings.
56. Eventually you may see the silver lining in the storm clouds: increased awareness, sensitivity, receptivity, compassion, maturity and become less judgmental, self-centered.
57. Allow family members to maintain denial of the illness if they need it. Seek out others whom you can talk to.
58. You are not alone. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others in a support group is helpful and enlightening for many.
59. The mental disorder of a family member is an emotional trauma for you. You pay a price if you do not receive support and help.
60. Support AMI/FAMI and the search for a cure!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rituals and Obsessive Compulsions

We had a pretty good weekend.  I did get a little alarmed Friday night during a conversation with Mike.  He had been looking forward to Ron coming to his house Saturday to watch the OU/Texas game but he told me Friday that Ron couldn't come.  I asked why and he replied, "Because it will interfere with my bedtime routine."

Now, the game started at 11:00 am so I was having trouble understanding what the conflict was.  Mike proceeded to give me a lengthy and detailed account of his routine.  Most of which didn't make a lick of sense.  So my alarm bells started ringing loud.  So I reminded him that the game started at 11:00 am and he doesn't go to bed until 9:00 pm.  Plenty of time for his ritual.  

Finally he said Ron could come over and that I should tell his psychiatrist about his rituals. 

After I had time to think about the situation a while I decided that I have to learn that normal for me isn't the same as Mike's normal.  I have to stop trying to "fix" him and determine only if his actions are a danger to himself or others.  That's when I need to sound the alarm bells. 

So on Saturday we discussed the whole routine.  He told me how he gets up in the morning and blesses everything on his kitchen table (salt & pepper shakers, etc) before he takes his pills which he must count 7 times because 7 is a lucky number.  Then he says his guardian prayer for me 3 times because I was the third child and I'm important to him.

I listened to all this kind of wide eyed but realized this is normal in his world.  I just told him that routines and schedules are very helpful as long as we control them and they don't control us.  I suggested he try to be flexible so that he won't miss out on fun things like Ron watching a game with him.  The weekend proceeded and all was well.

I just realize I still have much to learn about schizophrenia and mental illness.  It's just hard sometimes to know when something is a potential crisis or just his normal.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Watch out San Diego Chicken

As I have mentioned in the past my brother Mike has a lot of food allergies.  He's allergic to dairy (milk, cheese, etc) tomatoes and grains, MSG and a few others.  This has made cooking for him a challenge.  Then you throw in his chicken paranoia or phobia or whatever it is and that limits the culinary quest even more.   So, I'm always looking for new and creative things to cook for Mike. 

I can't remember when the chicken phobia started because it was there when we were kids.  I don't remember a time when he wasn't paranoid about chickens.  But yesterday all was revealed when we met Mike's new psych. counselor.  

I went with Mike to his appointment and thirty-year old Elizabeth seemed quite taken with my brother.  I could tell she was fascinated by his story by the questions she was asking him.  She was trying to determine when he began exhibiting signs of schizophrenia and I had always thought it was around age nineteen.  That was the first  time he received psychiatric treatment.  But as she talked to him he revealed that he was about eight years old when he first saw "The Big Giant Chicken" and he told him to do bad things.

All at once I remembered when we were kids and my mother talked about Mike's hallucinations.  She always explained them as being a side affect of his asthma medication.  I never knew the specifics of his hallucinations and never thought much of it.  Of course I was only seven at the time myself. wonder he was afraid of chickens!  Now, he's decided to just eat them and not listen to them.  Wow, what an amazing man!

I made him homemade chicken noodle soup last night.  He ate it with gusto!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Frost on the pumpkin

The frost was on the pumpkin this morning.  The first frost.  Sweater weather has officially arrived and I couldn't be happier.

Our weekend was uneventful.  Ron and Mike enjoyed the OU/Texas Tech game on Saturday.  Fortunately OU won so I was spared the after game shock that followed the last game. We had the usual weekend chores in preparation of another work week which always arrives way too soon.  Church on Sunday and lunch with Mike.  That pretty much sums up a typical weekend for me these days.  I guess I have to accept the fact that my life is just pretty boring these days.  (I'm not complaining, boring is good for awhile, I needed a rest from chaos)

I've decided that December 31st will be my last post.  I've just run out of steam.  When I started writing this blog it was originally a private journal in AOL.  When the AOL blog site ended I transferred to blogger but didn't know how to make it a private journal.  So for the past four years I've completely put my life out there for the world to see never really thinking anyone would ever see it. saw and you responded and my life was richer for it.  I feel as if I know many of you personally.  It's amazing how friendships begin.  I shared the death of my mother with all of you, my wedding and marriage to a wonderful man and the pain of caring for my schizophrenic brother.  You have responded with kind words, listened with a sympathetic ear and sent your well wishes and it has all been so greatly appreciated and received. But in fear of wearing out my welcome I've decided to stop writing here and go back to my old fashioned pen and paper journal.  I'll occasionally post until the end of the year so don't say good-bye yet. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

One door closes....

My daughter wants to get her realtor's license through an online course.  Since she is dyslexic I usually assist with typing and studying.  So I've been thinking that I will just take the course with her and get my license as well.  It might just be an avenue for extra income when I retire or better yet facilitate an earlier retirement.  Who knows?  

I worked part-time at a real estate office for about eleven years.  I wrote the ads for property listings and took pictures of properties.  It was a great part-time job but it was 7 days a week and that was a grind on top of a full-time job.  But still I enjoyed it.  

Julie probably won't be ready to start the class until after Christmas break.  We may do it while she is home recovering from her 3rd knee surgery.  Poor kid!  She has a great group of students this year so she isn't wanting to have to miss any of the school year but her doctor says it can't wait.

So, I just may leave one career and start another.  Might be fun especially working with my daughter.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Did Mitt Wake Up on the Left Side of the Bed?

Well, I gotta say I was surprised when Mitt didn't swallow his foot last night.  However, he still didn't give specifics on how he plans to do anything.  But based on theatrical performance  he was a good performer.  I'm just not sure which Mitt is the real Mitt.....the one that showed up for the debate or the one that says he doesn't care about 47% of Americans.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bad memory or just creative problem solving

I have a young friend who has a two-year old son and is just about to give birth to twin boys.  OH MY!  There lives are about to change dramatically but how exciting for them!  I've been thinking about her so much and remembering my days with newborn twins.  I can't imagine having a two year old to boot though. 

Looking back got me to thinking that my memory didn't just get bad when I got always sucked!

When my girls were little I sent them off to a dance recital but forgot to put their panties on them. 

I left one of them at the doctor's office.  But in my defense the other one made enough noise for two.  I didn't notice her sister wasn't with us until we got home.

I don't know if my memory was bad or I just had mom fog!

So, how do I explain it now or what do I blame it on?  I'm 63 years old and I keep leaving the remote control in the refrigerator.  I'm either spending a lot of time foraging for food or I'm just looking for a safe place to put the darn thing or better yet, I'm just hiding it from my husband so he won't change the channel while I'm gone.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tony the Tiger

It seemed like the weekend just flew by.  Didn't seem to get much done other than the usual weekend chores.  Of course our Sunday's are devoted to church and Mike.  I finally got Mike to pose for a picture but now I can't download it.  I used my Iphone camera and I guess I don't know how to get it from there to my computer.  At least my computer isn't recognizing it.  Mike really looks good.  He walks every day in his neighborhood and goes to his gym 3 days a week.  Like everything in his life it is now imprinted into his "routine".  

We got him a stationery recumbent bike so he will have it when the weather is bad and he can't go walking.  I tried to show him how to select a program on it but I'm not sure he understood.  I also told him not to get obsessive about using it but that may have just been white noise to him.  He really is doing great (Tony The Tiger Great) as he puts it.  I think all those endorphins from exercising not to mention his slew of psych. pills are really working.  His total weight loss over the past two years is 110 pounds.  That's amazing!  Most of that was the first year.  He did it simply by eating less and exercising 3 days a week and all the while taking medications that are notorious for causing huge weight gain.  That's what caused him to balloon to 310 pounds in the first place.  He's my inspiration!