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When I Bloom is a collection of poems, stories, and artwork created by caregivers and the loved ones they care for. The works contained here were imagined and created in writing and art workshops provided by Badgerdog, a program of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, and Mobile Art, two Austin-based nonprofits. Th is unique collaboration was made possible by the generous support of Health’s Angels, a

When I Bloom AN ANTHOLOGY

program of St. David’s Foundation Community Fund.

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When I Bloom

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When I Bloom AN ANTHOLOGY

Austin, Texas

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When I Bloom is published by Health’s Angels, a program of St. David’s Foundation Community Fund. Health’s Angels, Austin 78704 © 2013 All rights reserved. Printed in the United States. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information write to: Health’s Angels, 811 Barton Springs Road, Suite 600, Austin, TX 78704. All views and conclusions are those of the authors herein and not necessarily those of the editorial staff, Health’s Angels, Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, Mobile Art, their directors, officers, employees, representatives, or agents. All brand and product names listed in this book are trademarked properties.

Editor Cecily Sailer, Austin Public Library Friends Foundation Programs Manager Art Director Theresa Zelazny, Mobile Art Program Founder Mobile Art Program Staff Theresa Zelazny, Jasmin Arce, Emma Colombo,

Maggie Schmitt Mobile Art Program Volunteers Vianey Alonso, Denice Benntencourt,

Ben Bond, Victor Colombo, Stacy Ester, Fawn Faletogo, Sara Hall, Ashley Morris, Julie Morris, Melanie Morris, Teri Segal and Tyler Shaw Badgerdog Teaching Artists Cara Zimmer and Terri Schexnayder Badgerdog Volunteers Allison Sass, Becka Oliver, and Cory MacPherson Design Amber Morena Cover Art Dudley Brown, Keeping It Classy, see page 10.

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When I Bloom was made possible by a collaboration among the following organizations: Health’s Angels, a program of St. David’s Foundation Community Fund

St. David’s Foundation Community Fund created Health’s Angels to address the growing needs of the aging population in Central Texas. The Health’s Angels mission is to bring together individuals and community partners to improve the lives of older adults and their caregivers through education, volunteerism, and philanthropic support. Members are united in compassion, community engagement, and collaboration, and serve as public service ambassadors. www.stdavidsfoundation.org Austin Public Library Friends Foundation

The Austin Public Library Friends Foundation supports the Austin Public Library by increasing public awareness about the library and its importance to the community, and by enhancing library collections, programs, and facilities. www. austinlibrary.org Badgerdog

Badgerdog, a program of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, is a creative writing program based in Austin, Texas, that brings professional writers into the Austin Public Library, schools, and community spaces to lead writing workshops with people of all ages and skill levels, inviting them to examine the techniques of literary artists and experiment with language to communicate experience and meaning. Badgerdog programs strive to publish the work of participating writers online and in print. We also celebrate the writers in our programs with reading events on school campuses, in libraries, and in venues throughout Austin. www.austinlibrary.org Mobile Art Program

Founded in 2007, the Mobile Art Program (MAP) has been helping seniors in the Austin area who struggle with depression, isolation, and loneliness by giving them an outlet for creative expression. MAP is the only program in greater Austin to deliver, free-of-charge, art activities and lessons to older adults and individuals with disabilities. The largest populations we serve are people living with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders (dementia and mental retardation). Moblie Art depends on volunteers to engage with participants during activities to facilitate and develop friendships, restore self-esteem, and encourage self-expression. www.mobileartprogram.org.

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Contents Foreword ix Introduction xi Robin and Scott Bridgewater

1

Phyllis and Dudley Browne 7 Joanne and Bill Bruce 15 Robin Camp and Jere Jorgensen 23 Carter Dodd, Jordan VanNess-Dodd, and Marcia Dodd

31

Mary and Jewel Johnson

41

Stephanie and Keith Peco

49

Arianne Snyder and Caroline Henize 57 Bett y and Victor Appel 67 Helen and Gene Gold 75 Carrie and Arthur Mills 83

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Alice Sheth, Jayant Sheth, and Evelyn Marquez

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Teaching Artists

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Foreword

A

s a nat i v e of Aust i n, I can truly say there is no better place to grow up and raise a family. I have been fortunate to see the changes that have taken place in this city—watching new office towers dot the skyline and the growth of the University of Texas. While this community will always be known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” with all that title connotes, Austin is beginning to change. The people who came to the city for its live music stayed to raise children, nurture relationships, and fi nd a career, and they have decided to stay well into their work life and beyond. More and more people are choosing to retire in Austin, to stay engaged in this community, and will continue to shape the great elements of this city. That also means Austin must begin to think about becoming a city that continues to offer great services and opportunities to everyone, regardless of age. In 2012, I formed the Mayor’s Task Force on Aging to discuss the challenges of aging populations. Over and over again, I learned about caregivers—their challenges, their small and large victories, and the people they love and care for. From this experience, and a quote from Rosalynn Carter, I realized: There are only four kinds of people in the world—those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers. Austin is a great city, fi lled with these four groups of people. Going forward, as a caring community, we need to continue to meet the needs of our older adults and their caregivers. The collaboration among Health’s Angels, a program of St. David’s Foundation Community Fund; Badgerdog, a program of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation; and Mobile Art has brought readers a wonderful collection that shines light on the issue of caregiving. Caring for an aging parent or loved one can be dif-

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When I Bloom x

ficult, no doubt. It is exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming. That being said, there are many wonderful and unexpected rewards from those quiet moments when a caregiver and the loved one they care for are able to communicate some of the love and attention from days gone by. Those too-infrequent connections over a shared memory, conversation, or keepsake that rises up between two people creates priceless moments that are shared within this book. These times allow one to reaffi rm and strengthen family or friendship bonds that have been nurtured over a long or short lifetime. The stories, paintings, and poems contained in this book, When I Bloom, are powerful thoughts and memories that will touch your heart, as they have touched mine. Their stories remind us that even small life events have important meaning. The multifaceted scenes of home, of neighborhood, of community, of employment, and other human activities are constant companions and points of reference that enable us to carry on our daily lives. I look forward to the future Austin, the changes that will inevitably take place, and the transformation of the population. I welcome the work it will require, the opportunities it will present, and the time that will be invested to initiate and sustain the changes. Most of all, I look forward to the new and innovative ways the city will meet the challenges of an aging population. And I will always be able to say: Austin, no better place to grow up, raise a family, and grow old. Lee Leffi ngwell Mayor of the City of Austin

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Introduction

T

h er e is m uch e xcit e m en t su r rou n di ng the publication of When I Bloom, as it represents the work of the writers and artists in the fi rst two writing and art workshops for caregivers and their care-recipients held in our community. Th is pilot project in Central Texas by Badgerdog, a program of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, and Mobile Art is gaining interest from across the United States. St. David’s Foundation seeks opportunities to meet the health care needs of our community in ways that other organizations cannot. Just as the Foundation is united in compassion to serve Central Texans, our Health’s Angels members are united in helping older adults in our community. The Health’s Angels group specifically seeks unique ways to collaborate with other agencies that serve older adults and their caregivers. The workshops that led to When I Bloom were an innovative effort that gave Health’s Angels the opportunity to support other groups who share the same goals for our aging population. Funding the fi rst workshops in 2013 presented a perfect partnership for Health’s Angels, the Library Foundation, and Mobile Art. Caregiving is both a difficult and rewarding path to walk, a path that can lead to isolation and loneliness for both the caregivers and the loved ones for whom they are caring. The writing and art workshops for this project created a sense of purpose and accomplishment for the participants and helped to alleviate the social isolation many of them experience. During the workshops, the caregivers and their care-recipients reported experiencing stimulation, social connection, and increased emotional well-being. As an author and avid reader, I have great appreciation for the written word and the time and discipline it requires to record our thoughts on the page. My admiration for these caregivers is ex-

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When I Bloom xii

tended even further for taking their care-recipients with them to the workshops so they could create works of art. I hope you enjoy the poems and stories in this fi rst book where the caregivers have shared their feelings and memories, and I know you’ll admire the beautiful artwork the care-recipients created with the help of Mobile Art volunteers. As Health’s Angels continue to serve as public ambassadors to our community, they will continue to search for projects that demonstrate the St. David’s Foundation vision for a better life for all Central Texans. Earl Maxwell St. David’s Foundation Chief Executive Officer

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Carter, Jordan, Marcia T

o say t h at Jor da n Va n N e ss-Dodd, Carter Dodd, and Marcia Dodd live in a full house is an understatement. Eight parrots, four dogs, one cat, a brood of chickens, a brace of ducks, and over three hundred gallons of salt-water fish tanks. A full house, for sure, but they make it work. From the moment Jordan fi rst met Marcia, now a retired Methodist pastor and mother of the man he would later marry, he was charmed by her singsong Southern twang and in awe of the organized chaos she lived in. He never imagined that just a few years later he’d be carving out his own space in the midst of it as a caregiver and son-in-law. When Marcia’s chronic pain and arthritis became more debilitating, Jordan and Carter moved her from Arkansas to Texas and into their home. Jordan and Carter share caregiver duties, helping primarily with the physical activities (moving around, carrying things) that are more and more difficult for Marcia these days. Both students, Jordan and Carter enjoy married life in the downstairs level of the house, running a bird rescue outfit and spending time on do-it-yourself projects, writing (mostly Jordan), and tending to backyard fowl (mostly Carter). Carter also works on physics projects—playing mad scientist, as he describes it—designing spaceships and fusion reactors. When Marcia’s not passing time with her loyal parrot, TJ, in the upstairs level of their shared home, she can be found outside tending her hummingbird feeders and working in the garden.

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Country Road by Marcia Dodd, ceramic glazed platter.

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Ca rt er Dodd, Jor da n Va n N e ss-Dodd, & M a rci a Dodd

Untitled

33

It’s so quiet. I can hear the trees rustling. Every once in a while there’s the snap of a twig or the limb of a tree, probably from the wind or a small animal. The leaves rustle like waves traveling through the forest, beating regularly or randomly. There are no machines within hearing range. It always surprises me how quiet nature is without cars or air conditioners or any other machines we’ve created to make our lives easier. I can’t really hear nature until I come out to a place like this. We have to park the cars far from where we’re going because the mountain road has been badly eroded and is now impassable. We hike up the mountain until we come to a path that’s invisible to everyone but those who know where it is. We follow it down the hill, sometimes losing it, but eventually coming to an unmistakable turn surrounded by cedar trees that won’t grow any higher up the mountain for some reason. Leaving the path, we walk through thick brush to fi nd an old, collapsed cabin, once inhabited by one of my long-deceased relatives. Surrounded in only this wonderful silence. My father loved to build. Carter Dodd

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I Miss Being in the Middle of Things by Marcia Dodd, collage on mat board.

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Ca rt er Dodd, Jor da n Va n N e ss-Dodd, & M a rci a Dodd

Waiting

35

She sits there waiting. Waiting at her window. Waiting for her husband to come home. Waiting for her children. In her rocker, wearing a pink and purple floral housedress, she waits. People in and out all day. People she doesn’t recognize. She doesn’t understand. Why do they look so sad? So concerned? Why do they speak so slowly? Who are they? Then she remembers—Ken, right? Or Paul? It’s Paul. No? Who are these people? Paul will be home soon. He’ll sort this out. So she sits and waits. Waits for a man who’s been dead thirty years. Waits, but never wonders why he doesn’t come or where he is. Just the sweet joy of knowing he’ll be there soon. Paul, is that you? Jordan VanNess-Dodd

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36

Self-Portrait by Marcia Dodd, acrylic on canvas.

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Ca rt er Dodd, Jor da n Va n N e ss-Dodd, & M a rci a Dodd

Sermons

37

Sermons are all she knows. Listen. She’ll tell you all about it. All you need to do is listen. She can talk forever about nothing, or talk forever about something. Don’t be impatient, she’ll get to the point, she just likes to take the long way, meandering through memories and anecdotes, forgett ing a word here and there. Not from pride or vanity. Not to hear herself speak. Just a need—a need to communicate, to express herself. Love and be loved. Share. She’ll tailor the conversation, suit your needs and interests. Just talk and listen. She once told me how the cows would gather outside the church in Fayetteville—or was it Jonesboro? Jonesboro—because that’s where she lived when Carter was born. He was such a joy. She’d wanted a baby so badly and fi nally got her litt le miracle. So Jonesboro, the cows—they’d gather after service along a fence near the church. One Sunday, she gave them a sermon. A beautiful sermon. They stood listening intently. She fi nished and they left. She swears they understood. The next week, she prepared for them an even better sermon. Tested it on the human congregation, then skipped out to the fence for the second service. No cows. No cows for two weeks, three weeks, and on the fourth week, she started asking around. They’d been sent to slaughter. But, she’ll tell you, they went in peace, having received a beautiful benediction and knowing of a loving God. Jordan VanNess-Dodd

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When I Bloom 38

Whenever I bloom I think of clumsy bees stumbling about happy carefree unaware and living only for the next flower only for their family Whenever I shine I think of plants people & animals drinking up the sun a fi nite existence a limited life every star falls victim to gravity in the end more beautiful for the brevity Whenever I orbit I think of the moon dancing around the Earth a timeless tango an unappreciated waltz the dance of life itself separately just rocks together a team of possibilities

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Ca rt er Dodd, Jor da n Va n N e ss-Dodd, & M a rci a Dodd Whenever I erupt I think of Pompeii

39

lives lost in a roar forever trapped in cold stone I wish I could take it back Whenever I flow I think of fish busily darting about in a stream gliding on a current or fighting against it no cares of where the water goes nor from where it came Just living simplicity Jordan VanNess-Dodd

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Stephanie Keith S

t eph a n i e a n d K eit h Peco l ov e to go on adventures together. Th roughout their twenty-nine-year marriage, they have traveled to California and Vancouver, lived for a month in the Florida Keys, visited Europe three times, and more recently visited Orlando, Florida, and the beaches along the coast. When they aren’t exploring the world, Keith and Stephanie enjoy completing do-it-yourself renovations, including woodwork, flooring, tiling, and painting. Stephanie currently works as a college recruiter for a technology company, and Keith is an electrical engineer. Since Keith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in September 2012, Stephanie has served as his caregiver, taking him to appointments and aiding with general housekeeping. Stephanie and Keith have two children—Kyle, who lives with his wife, Gail, and Jamie, who is currently earning her bachelor’s degree. Growing up, Kyle and Jamie were accustomed to having pranksters for parents. Keith and Stephanie would frequently bark, “Stop it!” over the home intercom system, just to convince their children they were always watching. Stephanie and Keith also take every opportunity to play tricks on one another. Stephanie recently encouraged Keith to dash to the mailbox under the cloak of night to post a letter in just his underwear! She proceeded to lock the door behind him and turn on the porch light, much to the surprise of their elderly neighbor. Over the years, the Peco family home has been fi lled with good cheer, thanks to two loving parents who know laughter is the best medicine. 49

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50

Self-Portrait by Keith Peco, acrylic on canvas.

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Steph a n i e a n d K eit h Peco

A Marriage

51

Your glasses are on your head. Your keys are in your other pants. The mayonnaise is in the refrigerator door. My fear is waiting on the bedside table. The light bulb for the track light in the study is available online. Your password is Stephanieoxox. Don’t forget to get a spare. My grief is in my purse. If you’ll dust the downstairs, I’ll handle our average tragedy, tucking it into bed at night and making sure to take it on a walk. If you’ll stay a litt le longer I’ll take it. Take it however I can get it. The good days or the blank ones when you stay in bed, sick as a four-year-old. If you stay, I’ll be the catch-it bowl for you. You can throw everything in me and know always always where it is. Stephanie Peco

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On the Beach by Keith Peco, collage on mat board.

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Steph a n i e a n d K eit h Peco

The First Time I Saw You

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Cut-offs too short, wife-beater too tight, and so tan you seemed lit from the inside. It was in a cafeteria and you looked like a stock car driver. Is this how love starts? From the shallowest place in me. From mistaken identity. For you were never the plastic-tray-toting Studs McTool subduing the laminate floor. You are lovely in such a different way. Stephanie Peco

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Preparing to Nest by Keith Peco, found-object sculpture.

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Steph a n i e a n d K eit h Peco

Whenever I see the leaves trembling on a tree I see all the leaves

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ever the mossy oak on Thomas Road the red oak now the maple in college the palms in Belize the view of beardless sky through the flutter of green awakens the girl I was waiting calmly to begin Stephanie Peco

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Teaching Artists Cara Zimmer worked for four years as a teaching artist with

Badgerdog before moving to New York City in 2013. She earned her MA in English and poetry at the University of Texas at Austin and served as Editor Laura Furman’s sole collaborator on the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories in 2010. She’s led workshops with bilingual elementary and middle school students in Austin and Del Valle ISD schools, high school students at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and older adults in Austin community centers. Before moving to Austin, she wrote, taught, ran, and swam all over Sevilla, Charlottesville, London, Pensacola, and Pitt sburgh, where she was born and raised. She’s currently working on her poetry and nonfiction and studying secondary English education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Terri Schexnayder is a graduate of St. Edward’s University, summa cum laude, with a BA in English literature. Since she fi rst read Little Women, she knew she was meant to become Jo March, the novel’s tomboy writer heroine. Her articles about people, places, and things have been published in Austin Woman, Texas Highways, and Texas Co-op Power magazines, as well as other regional publications. As a longtime Badgerdog teaching artist, Terri is delighted to help and inspire lower elementary school groups and adult writers to fi nd their voices on paper. Theresa Zelazny spent twenty-five years working in the fi nan-

cial industry as a clerical assistant. A lifelong artist, she never pursued art as a profession until her mother, Gloria Bond, also a selftaught artist, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998. The process of viewing and creating art helped bring the two closer together. When Gloria was hospitalized for long periods of time, Theresa

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When I Bloom is a collection of poems, stories, and artwork created by caregivers and the loved ones they care for. The works contained here were imagined and created in writing and art workshops provided by Badgerdog, a program of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, and Mobile Art, two Austin-based nonprofits. Th is unique collaboration was made possible by the generous support of Health’s Angels, a

When I Bloom AN ANTHOLOGY

program of St. David’s Foundation Community Fund.

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Design: When I Bloom