Beyond the march — dialogue is needed

<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0; URL=/marylou.vandyke?_fb_noscript=1″ />Today is the women’s march in Washington D.C.

Not being there, I wish them well in their determination that Change Begins Now. However, achieving that change — goes far beyond today’s event.
Rhetoric — such as “oh those stupid (insert group of choice)” is easy to do. We (including myself) are all prone to muttering our discontent at the way things are when we disagree.
Digging deep within ourselves to allow long lasting, impactful change and mutual understandings to occur, challenges us.
Dialogue — is how I see change occurring — and not just with those who happen to agree with us.
Dialogue is difficult. It involves listening — on all sides. Such as writing thoughtful letters to those newcomers to the federal government and issuing invitations to see real life situations such as in education.
It involves switching off our comfort zones on topics such as abortion, for example, and offering ways to support the women who choose to carry their babies through to birth and beyond.
It involves the best of us. Are we up for the challenge?
(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Caregiver duties wrap up for now

Being on active duty as my mother’s caregiver/spokesperson is wrapped up – for a time.

I hope.

How long this period will last is one of those unknowns dumped on us by life. Although only in her 70’s, her health is nowhere near the robustness of her parents who were taking trips, still living in their house, and making weekly treks to mow their son’s lawn.

I always imagined Mom’s journey would run on similar lines. Strong genetics. However, I should have factored in the fact that life lobbed many emotional projectiles at her. She’s coped as she could, creating a soft-colored environment in her home, buying dozens of “pretties” for the joy of it. Seeking quiet spaces and focusing on collecting reams of ancestral data.

So the cycle of active worry and care ends for a time. Life seems changed since November when Mom’s being unable to manage to walk and care for herself, pitched her and myself into a flurry of lists of agencies to contact for help, and visits with and from health care providers.

What alterations will stay, I wonder?

The final visit with a home therapist is scheduled for later this week and the focus will be on helping Mom learn how to use the bath bench that arrived by mail last week. I hope – I will encourage her – to use it.

The prescribed walker is still hanging out unused in the living room. Sometime soon I’ll be faced with hauling it back to the local Lion’s Club where we got it.

A Meals on Wheels volunteer showed up yesterday morning with another bag of food. I deliberately retreated to my room so I wouldn’t have to watch Mom struggling to slot the culinary offerings into the freezer, filled already with her treasure trove of frozen meals. The service with freshly made meals will continue. And the frozen meals will stay . . . .

Later in the day, Mom and I tackled the challenge of finding her a supplemental dental plan. Mom dialed the number but got overwhelmed by the automated instructions. She handed me the phone and I switched it to speaker mode so we could both hear.

A male representative came on line and I explained what my mother needed. He lavishly praised me for the great job I was doing for my mother – with Mom hearing every word.

I buried my face in my hands. Those words were sweet to hear – but Mom was trying to speak for herself.

Will she be able to do that more now as part of the changes? I really don’t know. Being able to advocate for ourselves, voice what we want, need, think is such a basic part of life.

So here we are – and I’m hoping for calmer days ahead with Mom relishing her life – and me, her daughter, being glad she can do so.

© 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Good bye 2016. Adieu!

Good bye 2016. Adieu! Also good riddance!

2016 showed itself to be a teeth-grinding, heavy weight time for many of us. I will say particularly for me in the past couple of months. Particularly in regards to my great and grand aspirations for writing a new novel – and having reality strike.  describe the sensation as the jarring noise that occurs when someone smacks a piano keyboard with the flat of their hand. Notes that would sound just fine by themselves, converging together into one loud din.

And the realities of care giving. Experiencing major quantity and quality time with an elderly relative – and wondering exactly how strong is the bond that binds us. Before I scuttle out the front door, madly seeking me.


Then there were the occurrences beyond my control – Politics. Major persons passing. Politics.

Okay. Dusting off my hands here. Be banished oh realities of 2016.

Well, be gone as much as is possible. I don’t own any magic pixie dust to banish the troubled times to the bottom of the nearest dumpster, swathed in plastic and tied firmly with my best knot.

What I do possess is determination. 2017, you WILL help me unearth opportunities to show how determined I can be. Even if I have to pinkie wrestle you for the honor.

True, my creativity took a serious beating for a couple of months. But I am ready to haul my novel out of the mental closet, brush it off and get going again. Chapter 4 awaits – and the realities experienced by a man who is struggling to live up to his family’s lofty scholastic achievements.

He and the other four major characters (yes, I write in multiple character perspectives) have a lot of stretching – think pretzel dough here – and “larning” to do – and we’ll see where he and all of them are at by the time I type Finis.

I’m also making a promise to myself – I suppose it could be called a resolution – to seek out the company of people. I am sooooo really overwhelmed at times – and it’s time to seek more of what refreshes, renews, restores me.

Like earlier this week and visiting a museum where the elderly gracious lines of a mansion and some stunningly beautiful artworks in material are displayed. Where the spirits of the past are present – strongly I might add.

I greatly appreciated viewing antique pieces belonging to the original occupants. A baby’s cradle carved from wood. A high chair. Smiling as I savor the joy ahead later this year for my son and daughter-in-law as they welcome their first born.

I am signed up for a class on Tuesday nights. Nothing with college credit to it, just an opportunity to meet with others and discuss our mutual thoughts on the text. Maybe some cooking classes to extend my culinary abilities.

A gym membership? Of course that is probably the most common resolution made by adults – “I’m going to get to the gym. Every day. I swear it.” But if I’m going to successfully wrestle determination out of 2017, I need to keep honing my muscles. Both mental and physical.

K. I’ve nattered on long enough here. You have your own good-byes to make to 2016. A word to describe what your goals are for this year – and possibly even purchasing that gym membership.

Wishing you determination!

© 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. For more information contact the writer at .

What Carrie Fisher’s passing means to this fan

Carrie Fisher, 60, – best known by many of us as the forthright, quick thinking Princess Leia of Star Wars – has died after experiencing a cardiac arrest late last week.

Her family and friends are mourning the person she was to them, now. Mom. Friend. Sister. Daughter. Co-star. Writer. Lover. The past few days have, undoubtedly, been a roller coaster of hope and despair, and hopefully with opportunities to hold her hand and let her know how deeply they love her.

Carrie Fisher Credit Actress Carrie Fisher © Riccardo Ghilardi photographer.jpg

For me, that’s not my part in her life – or she in mine. I met her – as most fans do – by sitting in a darkened movie theatre while watching her bring the role of Princess Leia to life. My interest in her was sparked seeing her holographic figure insert a disk into the quirky R2D2 and saying, “You are our only hope.” I wondered if I could have refused to give away the location of the Rebellion’s hidden base.

How would I feel as Princess Leia being forced to view the destruction of Alderaan and everyone I knew and loved?

Those moments in the original Star Wars trilogy provided rare proof of how strong female characters could be. Role models, even while attired in a white robe and ear phone hair style. In the next two movies, the Princess demonstrated her capabilities as a leader and devotion to the Rebel Alliance – even while trying to resist fellow fighter Han Solo’s advances.

Yes she did want to kiss the sort-of-ex mercenary. Couldn’t quite resist that dashing bad guy who could be rather sweet at times. But through all of that she never lost her core purpose of ensuring the rebellion must survive. I cheered her on. Rejoiced when Luke Skywalker turned out to be her twin and she let her hair down – literally – and let Han know he was Man No. 1 in her life.

In Fisher’s real life she battled addictions to cocaine and the ups and downs of life with bipolar disorder. She shared her experiences as an author, including in her Postcards from the Edge best-seller. Seemingly there was little peace for her at times, parallel to her fictitious counterpart.

In 2015 “The Force Awakens,” we saw her character, now in the middle years, still in the role of leader even as she mourned her son’s plunge to the dark side. Leia and Hans Solo found a moment of reconciliation, embracing, leaving many of us wishing this opposites attract couple might find their way back to each other.

So what happens next for Princess Leia? According to the Reuters article, we fans will have the opportunity to see the next step in her journey. Filming for Star Wars Episode VIII. Filming finished in July – the movie opens December 2017.

I cheered her presence in VIII. While the new stars are definitely worthwhile seeing, I appreciated having original actors lend another layer of “reality” to the movie. While nothing appeared easy about the Princess’ in-between years, her presence in the film proved how deeply her gritty “I will survive this” persona is part of the series.

Fisher’s real life death means producers and directors will have to decide how to proceed with her character in the final film.

Will they pay homage to her with a computer generated imagery (CGI) version, I wonder? Or rearrange the current raw footage to show her passing in the second movie.

I hope the film crew finds a solution that satisfies us, her fans, and would have pleased Fisher.

Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for giving us your interpretation of a character that we love and want to emulate, albeit hopefully not against a room of storm troopers. May you find peace and may the Force be with you. Peace to your loved ones.

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. For more information, go to

Re-igniting Holiday Spirit

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to re-ignite your joy to the world holiday spirit?
sad-christmas  For me, trying to light the spirit of Christmas feels like struggling to ignite a campfire with soggy wet kindling that won’t stay lit. Listening to seasonal songs and nibbling on holiday goodies offers momentary sparks.
That glow gets dowsed by all the tasks that need doing. This year’s realities  feature my mother’s ongoing health care needs, and my working (also) as a professional caregiver. So many hours of making sure others’ needs are met.
And my children are adults. Christmases past spent together as a family, with pets poking at discarded wrappings, and the melting sweetness of cinnamon rolls aren’t part of our lives.
So how do I re-adapt my expectations to Christmas present? Re-discover the sweetness of silent nights when my children slept and I did last minute stocking stuffing?
Last week, snowflakes coated the ground, giving me a hurrah!, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas feeling. Which lasted until southerly breezes swept into town and melted away all the snow angels and snow people.
Because of living in a house crowded with my mother’s possessions, there’s no Christmas tree to rock around this year. But I assembled and mailed out packages to relatives who live far away. My older son let me know the package had arrived in record (two days) time. I was delighted to hear he’d taken it upon himself (while his wife is away visiting relatives) to purchase and set-up their family tree. He also launched a new family tradition for tree decorations and made sure their cats don’t use the tree for climbing practice.
Today my plan is to bake some goodies to give as presents to relatives who live nearby and wrap the last of my gifts in holiday style per Christmas regulations.
However, if anything is guaranteed to send me into a I’ll have a blue funk for Christmas spirit, its swathing gifts. The paper doesn’t do what I want it to do – well, specifically my fingers don’t create those lovely sharp creases or those lovely curly strands of ribbon without great effort and often not even then.
My older son, on the other hand, sent me a photo of a present he’d wrapped, complete with ribbon, and I marveled. He’s better at wrapping than I am – and kudos to him!
But its time, time right now, to step away from my inner Grinchy feelings. Find a way to ignite my love of the holidays.
Christmas — will come. Must come. Whether there is a roast beast to serve or stockings stuffed with goodies. Or missing some faces around the table. The day nears – a time to draw close to ones we love whether in person or via phone or social networking.
Wishing you joy.
© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Not enough time

I sit here withered, locked in silence
Gazing down from on high as traffic blurs past,
And I wonder if you are gazing out your window, gulping down the quiet
Or spilling through your day in a blur of motion
As little ones clamour and the wash cycle beeps done
And the breakfast dishes are piled haphazardly
And work calls and the Christmas season beckons
And there’s just not enough time
Not enough time
And I am locked, still, in long hours of too much time
Dominated by a silent companion that commands me huddle here
Instead of springing up to join the busyness of your world
Pressed down in my chair, I await the day
When energy surges again through me. Allows me to
 claw off this grey veil and toss it in the scrap heap
and once again experience
enough time
with you.

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

For permission to use this work, go to


November train wreck

Oh November. What a train wreck you proved to be!

I switched my calendar to you, November, with glowing bright ambitions to complete writing a novel in one month. Struggling to hope that somewhere out there was an affordable home meant to be mine. Content to be a caregiver during long weekend shifts and to chill out in my room during my off-hours.

Well, November, you had other plans for me. Smashingly, derailing plans as I discovered.


The writing contest I was participating in dared me to write 50,000 words in one month, or approximately 1,667 words a day to meet the goal. That’s a lot of words – and a lot of energy.

But I felt up for it. Hungered for it. Time to reclaim my inner novelist.

Well I made my start, kept on track for the first week or so. But then my mother got sick suddenly and couldn’t walk or manage life details without needing my assistance.

I had to stop. Focus on her needs.

I should have been more prepared for that, I suppose. Part of middle age is reluctantly giving up the illusion that ones’ elderly parents are hearty, and will remain healthy and be around for a long time to come.

But November, you definitely slammed that illusion. Each of my parents has health challenges. My dad struggling to recover from bypass surgery. Mom and mobility challenges – and well, having her associated life issues popping up.

Holing up in my room and staying on track with my writing wasn’t possible.

So I learned Mom prefers drinking water that isn’t hot or cold. Found myself sitting with her in waiting rooms, hoping medical staff would call mom’s name soon. Wheeling her down corridors to the examination rooms.

At home time was spiked by health care workers knocking on the front door. Sitting down with them to discuss the details of mom’s illness and how to make life more accessible for her.

I told them while I play a role in her recovery and ongoing health concerns, I want to be my mother’s daughter. Not a paid caregiver for her.

I’m still unclear on where the boundaries between those two are.

Even with December here now, there’s still so much to do. Paperwork for a caregiver program for which thankfully she qualifies. Getting a walker for mom to use – even while I fear she probably won’t use it much – and it will sit in a corner of the already overcrowded living room. Perhaps she’ll use it to hold  bags of groceries yet to be eaten or drape it with scarves she might wear some day.

The novelist inside me is stirring. Visions of characters and the next chapter to write  simmering. Waiting to emerge as my energy grows to encompass the newest realities of my mother’s life – and of mine. No home of my own for now.

So November, no, you don’t get the final word. But I cannot say I will remember you fondly.

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint go to:

Parental concerns

Highs and lows. This past month has conjured up  both extremes on the parental front.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my elderly dad’s quintuple bypass surgery. It was a very difficult surgery for him, followed by a second operation to stop internal bleeding, and since then he’s been back to the hospital again. And is home now, hopefully with no more complications.

This week spilled out fresh challenges (no, I’m not talking about our elections). No, this time occurred Wednesday with a soft knock on my door and Mom saying she was experiencing numbness in her legs and feet.

“All right, we need to go see your doctor. Today.” I said.

Mom refused. Nope. Seeing her doctor would cost money. I phoned Medicare to verify her coverage with them and the fact that she’d satisfied her medical deductions. It took a few minutes even then to reassure her that it was safe to go.

The coin flipped when I called the doctor’s office and asked for an appointment. Upon hearing mom’s symptoms, the nurse told me to get her to the Emergency Room. Fortunately my sister was with us through a very long afternoon of waiting to be seen, tests and more tests, and finally the news that mom had neuralgia, meaning an intense nerve pain in her lower joints and feet.

An E.R. nurse advised Mom to begin wearing warmer socks to help circulation in her feet, instead of her usual nylons and delicate shoes. “I can’t do that, none of my shoes will fit,” Mom protested.

I wanted to laugh, to groan at the same time at her determined expression. We will see her doctor next week and hopefully the cause of the pain can be identified.  Possible medications include pain killers and topical creams. However, Mom won’t use a topical cream, because it’s a sticky substance and would “ruin” her nylons and shoes.

So it will be my role to advise the doctor of that particular concern. And to make sure the office has my name and phone number as the contact person. They called mom the day after her E.R. visit, and she lost the notes (taken during the call)  in her piles of “must keep papers.”

All of this is concerning and draining. Somewhere between the parental concerns, I’m scraping together enough energy to forge on, for my two “paid” caregiving jobs and for writing, and staying sane.

Wish me luck..

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Now is the hour of our voting discontent

Today is Election Day here in the United States.

In the furor over who becomes president, it’s easy to overlook the local aspect today. But I am hoping voters in my area approve additional funding for emergency medical services, for development of our green park/trail systems, for adding more commuter rail lines in the Seattle-Everett and regions further south.

These issues matter.

Then there are the races for president, for governor and a host of local and other state positions. What a bloody process its been, chiefly among our two presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Neither is illustrious. Or perfect.

But the reality is one of them will become our next president. I plan to do my best to show support for whichever one wins — despite grave reservations.

May whoever is elected:

Proceed with integrity, care and concern for the citizens and others who reside here in the United States.

Remember to speak thoughtfully and to act in a timely, reasoned manner.

Base decisions on what is best for the United States and not just for themselves and the closest friends who helped them get elected.

God help us all — and may we all do our best to help ourselves!

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke.

Birthing a novel

Its been years since my last great novel expectations. Years of dealing with the break-up of a marriage. Returning to college as a middle-aged student. Dealing with the lows of being homeless for a time.  Battling depression through all of the above.

When life requires major amounts of energy just to survive, creativity, I discovered, tends to hibernate and its not easily coaxed awake.

But I am awake now and reclaiming that long ago ability of mine – the art of birthing a novel.

Writing fiction isn’t simple. The process involves dreaming up fictitious people and setting them up in an imaginary world filled with conflicts – and releasing their angst, areas of denial and growth at the keyboard.

I am thrilled to reconnect with this part of myself. The characters are taking shape inside my head. However, one in particular – I’ll call him the Professor – who’s supposed to play a minor role, keeps bugging me, demanding to be featured in his own chapter.

I tried to shoo him away, go bug another writer. I have two primary characters and they are the only viewpoints I want to present.

Well, the Professor refused to take a hike. Reluctantly I gave in today and was surprised and pleased with the result. He’s got plenty to say about matters in his world.

I don’t know where the next page will take me. But I’m not going to stop until I’ve birthed this novel and gotten it cleaned up and ready for presentation to the world.

Wish me luck!

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.