Cindy Scott Day

December 2, 2015

Gray Matters

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindyscottday @ 12:32 pm

Tim, in July, before his second brain resection.

Tim, in July, before his second brain resection.

I have neurology happening all around me.

For years my mother has been in decline with vascular dementia. My adult daughter, who lives with me, has uncontrolled seizures. And recently I became primary caretaker for my first husband, diagnosed earlier this year with brain cancer that, despite surgeries in February and July, yesterday was declared inoperable.

The medical situations of these three people, all so very close, have me pondering the concept of identity and who we are — even, who I am.
Cells between our ears, behind our faces, somehow govern our behaviors, our ability to think, our personalities. Do they define us, or do we have identities that transcend our bodies?

My mother, once assertive and self-assured, has become dependent on those around her for the simplest decisions. “Is this where I sit?” she’ll ask as she approaches the chair at her kitchen table where she’s sat at meals since my earliest memories. “Is this my bedroom?” she’ll ask, heading down the hall to one of three. Sometimes it is her room; other times, she chooses incorrectly.
And yet this very same woman is still telling me how to drive, announcing speed limits and red lights and complaining if we have to wait at a light.

My mother's 81st birthday last year.

My mother’s 81st birthday last year.

My daughter, innately happy and easy going, will — in the tangle of a series of seizures — become anxious and inconsolable. “Please, please,” she pleads with me, grabbing at me, even though she knows there is nothing I can do. In my better moments I talk her through the emotions that flood over her as the seizure approaches. Anna has compared it to an approaching wave that she knows will knock her flat. The comparison is apt, because fighting the seizure causes more distress than diving into it and calmly riding it through. But still it’s frightening to watch her body contort against her will. I take for granted that I can move my arm from this side to that at my own bidding when she finds her arms, her legs, her entire body in motion and she has no power over them.

And now we are told tumors have found their way into Tim’s corpus callosum, the region deep inside his brain that allows communication within the brain itself. And indeed there are times now when he needs step-by-step directions in the simplest of tasks. “I want to go back to bed,” he told me tonight, and yet he was helpless in determining how to get there.

“Put this hand here on your walker,” I directed him. The hand I spoke of was gripping the wall at the door of his bedroom to steady himself. I motioned to the walker in front of him, and he seemed surprised it was there, even though it had brought him there moments ago. But then he followed my direction and it unlocked his brain to find the rest of his way back to his bed six feet away. This is the man who ten months ago drove to work, paid his bills, and cooked his own meals just like the rest of us.

Whether electrical storms or invading tumors or clogged veins killing healthy cells — all change the landscape, permanently or temporarily, inside the brains of these people I love. And yet I continue to know them, who they are, their “true” selves.



It occurs to me that who Tim is, who Anna is, who my mother is all continue to be informed by my memories of them in other times. It’s as if my own gray matter also counts in defining who they are. It isn’t any different when my sons stand in front of me and I see the little boys shooting Matchbox cars on tracks down our stairs into the living room.

We human beings are neurologically programmed to perceive time in one direction, moving from now until later, and yet our memories hint at a broader definition of What Is.

As I watch the father of our sons, the man who proposed to me on a roller coaster, stumble forward to a certainty no one covets, I realize that my memories help to anchor him in place in this world. They steady him and keep him whole, despite the reality of what is happening inside his brain. And even though I sometimes look into my mother’s face and, like the line in the Dr. Seuss book, think to myself, “Are you my mother?” I understand she still is there, because the woman who gave me life and bought me Nancy Drew books exists in my memory.

The senior President Bush declared the 1990s the decade of the brain, and in 2013 President Obama announced the birth of the Brain Initiative. As people, we know we have huge gaps in understanding this organ inside our heads. It is a medical frontier as vast as the universe, and our knowledge of its workings is embryonic, not even having reached infancy.

Perhaps someday a woman in my shoes, with neurology all around her, will have wiser words to offer, more profound concepts to contemplate. For now, I will cling to the fact that we live on and through the memories of people who love and know us, that time exists in more than one direction, that life is full and has purpose and meaning. I believe in More, even though I’m not neurologically programmed to understand all that that is.


December 17, 2012

Empowered: What I Can Do about Sandy Hook

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindyscottday @ 3:52 pm

101_0305Since noon Friday, I have sat by my computer, the television and the radio, fresh tears always on my cheeks, awaiting the most recent updates from that little Connecticut community of Newtown. I have grandchildren, one a kindergartener, and I remember each of my own four children in kindergarten, first grade, second grade. I texted my oldest son Friday afternoon, warning him of the event before he picked up his five-year-old at the bus stop, hoping the children would not have been told, but then understanding that they might have heard something. That night, we all thought about the twenty empty beds, missing their children.

I have lots of opinions about gun control. I have just as many opinions about giving more attention to mental health in our healthcare policies. But, as is the case for us regular citizens, all of this seems completely outside my hands, a battle for the president, for Congress, for state legislators, for judges. And, feeling powerless, I watched the news as it came in. I prayed for the families, for the children, for the first responders. I prayed for our country, our world. Evil entered a young man’s heart and worked havoc in our consciousness.

And I felt helpless. This morning, I watched my youngest daughter, a high school senior, board her school bus, suddenly aware that I never know what the coming day will bring, not today, not ever. But what can I do? My family and I live in a violent world, somewhat innocent in our own country, while in Syria, children have sat in school and died from fire-power launched by their own government. But here in the U.S., the biggest danger we face to violence is from fellow citizens, people filled with evil and seeking an outlet for their rage. They may be strangers, a random someone who simply crosses our path at the wrong moment. Or they may live in our very household. Who expects to be shot down dead today or tomorrow?

I can and do sign petitions and vote for people who appear to want the same stricter laws and better mental healthcare accessibility that I want. But it occurs to me that there is a more powerful way to change the world. It is with my personal purchases and with what I allow in my own household. And I want to spread the word: that we can help change our violent world and culture, one family at a time.

I know that violence in this world preceded video games and violent movies and television shows. I’m not entirely naive. But I also know that their existence now has not made anything better. Violent video games are fun — somebody made them that way or they would not sell. Violence in movies and television also brings high profits. Entertainment is crafted in such a way as to entice us with violence. It gives us some kind of sick rush. Brain chemicals are stimulated in a pleasurable way. It is commerce, pure and simple.

We can honor those twenty children and the educators who died trying to save them by taking a stand.

Parents: Stop buying your children toys with guns in them. Stop buying your minor children video games with shooting in them, and don’t allow them to play such video games in other homes with their friends.

Warn them that if they buy such a game with their own money and you find it, you will take it away from them until they are 18. Let them know why. Point to these incidents.

Don’t take your minor children to movies that have shooting in them, and don’t allow them to go to such movies with others. Don’t watch such shows and movies in your own household. Tell them that when they are 18 they will be able to buy what they want, but that your house, which has your name on the title or lease, is a violence-free zone. Tell them, this is how we are honoring the children of Sandy Hook.

If you are truly serious, don’t purchase or financially support movies and games that promote violence for your own consumption. I am not talking about censorship. I am talking about consumer choices. Do this for Sandy Hook.

Admit to your children that you have made your own mistakes, as a consumer of violence. But, because of Sandy Hook, you understand that things have to be different, and that we can only change the world by first changing ourselves. Ask them to help you change the world and honor the children of Sandy Hook.

We, the people of this country, can take our own stand. We can decide how we want our own children to grow up. Our children may object, but now we have some very solid, real incidents to point to. Tell them we don’t want to promote violence in our society and this is the one small thing that we can do.

In this holiday season, return to the store any games, videos or toys that you already have purchased and tell them why, that you are honoring the Sandy Hook children and rejecting violence in your household.

Yes, this is hard to enforce, especially with teenagers. But have this serious discussion with them. Tell them, in honor of Sandy Hook, no more. Ask them to honor your wishes. Ask them, if they too want to honor the Sandy Hook children and take this stand, to let you put away their offending games until they are out of the house, living on their own. Then they can decide, do they want to continue to take this stand or not? When they are no longer in your household, it will be their turn to decide. Do they want to continue to honor the children of Sandy Hook?

Let’s choose for ourselves, What kind of culture do we want to live in? What kind of world do we want to leave our children? What kind of children do we want to rear? What kind of people do we want to be?

Can you do this for the children of Sandy Hook?

November 7, 2012

Why this Christian Votes Progressive.

Filed under: faith,politics — cindyscottday @ 6:49 pm

Actually, I prefer to say I am a Jesus-follower. I don’t even like using the name Christian anymore, because people make assumptions and then find out I don’t fit their pre-conceived notions. Because lately it isn’t about religion. It’s about the way I want to live. I have decided to follow His way, His example.

And here’s the kicker. The reason why I have progressive political views, why I am quite liberal, why I am in fact perhaps close to calling myself a Socialist is because I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in MY personal responsibility.

I spent quite a bit of time before the election this year simply re-reading the Gospels. Before you can ask, “What would Jesus do?” you need to find out “What did Jesus say?” And what does Jesus NOT say?

And when I read the words of Jesus, I find that He talks at length about giving to others, sharing, caring, loving and forgiving sinners. He even has something to say about providing healthcare to those in need. After all, that is what the story of the good Samaritan is all about. He has practically nothing to say about laws and regulations, and the little He says about taxes is that we should pay them.

But what does he say about money? What does he say about wealth?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to give to him who asks from you, to not turn away a borrower. He did not say that first I had to judge another person’s need and whether it was legitimate, only that I was to respond with a generous heart.

He told the rich, young ruler to go and sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Why? It wasn’t to benefit the poor. It was for his own benefit.

Jesus taught that it is our own relationship with wealth and pride that gets in our way with our relationship with our Creator. Jesus often warned against accumulating wealth. It is our personal responsibility to be generous with what we have, to give help to those in need. Whatever I have is not mine anyway. It is God’s blessing on me, meant to be shared.

Jesus told about a landowner who hired laborers early in the day for a fair wage but then decided he needed more laborers. So he went out again three hours later and hired more laborers. And then again, six hours and nine hours later, he did the same. And when, at the end of the day, all were paid the same wages, the wage that had been first agreed upon, the ones hired early complained. We often see the eternal lesson of the parable, but miss the immediate one, that all of the laborers had the same need for the fair wage.

I fear that believers in this country are themselves becoming like the scribes and Pharisees of scripture, who Jesus called hypocrites, of whom he said, “For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Now, there are lots of people who say that taking care of the poor is the role of the church, not the government. That’s not what Jesus said. He said it is OUR responsibility. And in a democracy, we are the government. In a democracy, the government’s role can be anything we decide that it is.

Frankly, the church in America is not stepping up to the plate anyway. If everyone who calls himself a believer in Jesus would take seriously what He taught, there would be no poor. But we live in a land where there is much more feeling of entitlement in those who have than those who don’t have. They worked hard for their money, after all.

Lately, I have heard people who disagree with me call a caring government a “nanny state.” I prefer to call it a “family state.” In a family, we take care of each other. When there is a brother in need, we help. In a family, we make sure everyone is fed. We provide an education, so that every member can stand on his own in the future. We provide basic healthcare, so that everyone is healthy enough to learn and to work.

What about self-sufficiency, you ask? The problem is that in reality none of us is self-sufficient. We all need each other. Jesus never preached self-sufficiency. In fact, He taught against it.

I used to be pretty moderate politically, perhaps on the conservative side of moderate. Then I had a daughter born with cerebral palsy and who now has acquired a seizure disorder. Her future is not entirely certain, and she may be dependent on me for the rest of my life. In the time since her birth, I have learned quite a bit about the illusion of self-sufficiency. I thought I was self-sufficient, but it turns out that I was fooling myself. Because of my daughter, I have felt my own need. It is not a bad thing to need other people, to need your family.

Not all individuals have a family able and ready to help. I have come to see need as an opportunity, both for those who can humbly give and for those who must humbly receive.

Now the question for me has become, Who is my brother?

November 2, 2012

Sugar Cookies

Filed under: Food — cindyscottday @ 11:42 am

I doubled this recipe from The Martha Stewart Cookbook, and she credits Entertaining magazine for first publishing it.

4 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
2 sticks (1/2 lb) butter, softened
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c brandy (I used peach brandy.)
1 t vanilla extract
Royal Icing

Sift together dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar until light, then add egg, brandy and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix until well blended. Wrap and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out 1/3 of the dough at a time on a lightly floured board, to about 1/8 inch thick and cut out with cookie cutters. Put shapes on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Cool on racks.

Decorate with royal icing.

Royal icing recipe:

2 c confectioners’ sugar
2 egg whites
1-2 T water
1 t vanilla
food coloring

Mix together until smooth and creamy. Make adjustments to the thickness of its consistency by adding more sugar if needed. You want it thin enough to spread easily and relatively thinly, but you don’t want it so watery that it just runs off the cookies. Add details with piping pushed through a frosting bag.

February 15, 2012

Zucchini Fritters

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindyscottday @ 12:11 pm

Remember all of that zucchini bounty from my garden last summer? I grated and froze quite a bit of it, and now we are reaping the benefits in the middle of winter. One of my personal favorite recipes is this one, for zucchini fritters, which we eat for breakfast in the morning, like savory pancakes.


1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for frying

Stir together ingredients in order listed. Warm oil in frying pan over medium heat. (I like to use coconut oil, which produces a crunchier edge, about 1 to 2 tablespoons in a medium-sized skillet.) Drop batter into hot oil. I use a two-tablespoon coffee scoop to measure out my batter. Turn and brown other side. Remove, salt to taste and serve.

We are a small family and use half the batter one morning and refrigerate the remaining half for use the following day.

March 23, 2011

Banana Bread

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindyscottday @ 3:36 pm

Preheat oven to 350°

Mix together:

1 egg
2-3 mashed bananas
1 c sugar, brown or white or 1/2 c each
1/4 c melted butter, margarine or oil
1/3 c milk
1 t salt
1 T baking powder
2 c flour
1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Grease one 9-inch loaf pan. (I love and use Pampered Chef’s stone loaf pan.) Pour in mixed ingredients. Bake at 350° for about one hour, until top crust is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This recipe is based heavily on one found in an old edition (1978) of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

January 4, 2011

My Favorite Spritz Cookies

Filed under: Food — cindyscottday @ 3:50 pm

Spritz cookies are family favorites in this household, particularly during the Christmas season. And they are unusually easy to make. You simply run the cookie dough through a cookie press to shape the cookies.

I’ve had my cookie press for 25-plus years, and while many shape-templates came with the press, in time my family has gotten to the point where we use only one — the one pictured at the bottom of this photo, which results in a long ribbon cookie.

There’s something about the slight crispiness of the ribbon cookie that seems absolutely perfect for the almond-and-butter flavors. We cover the cookie sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle the cookies with a multi-colored nonpareil mix before baking.

Here’s my favorite Spritz cookie recipe, which I have modified slightly from a recipe that is in the 1974 edition of the Family Circle Cookbook. (My own copy of that cookbook is barely hanging together, with the binding secured with packing tape.)

2 c (1 lb) butter, softened
2 c sugar
4 egg yolks
1 t almond extract
1 t vanilla extract
5 c sifted all-purpose flour

1. Cream the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, creaming well after each addition, until light.
2. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts.
4. Stir in the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well. I switch to a dough hook for the last two cups of flour.
5. Pack dough into the cookie press and press the dough out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with colored sugars or nonpareils.
6. Bake at 350 degrees in oven, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven when the cookies just begin to brown slightly on the edges.
7. Allow the cookies to cool five minutes on the cookie sheets before carefully moving them with a spatula to cool further on wire racks.

My cookie sheets accommodate a 13 to 14-inch ribbon of cookie. I enjoy putting out these long ribbons of cookies, which seem to catch a special attention with small children. But they can be cut on the cookie sheets immediately upon removing from the oven into more manageable lengths. Six inch lengths are still impressive on a plate but are less likely to break in transit.

Since I typically make these cookies at Christmas time, I use the leftover egg whites in royal frosting used on our traditional cookie-cutter sugar cookies.

November 17, 2010

How to Make Flip Flops More Wearable

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindyscottday @ 6:01 pm

My daughter Anna has cerebral palsy, the result of a stroke at birth. But she’s also a teenaged girl, and sometimes she just wants to be like her friends. In summer, that often means she would love to wear flip flops. Up until this summer that was something she could only dream about. Because of spasticity in her right foot, caused by her cerebral palsy, flip flops are nearly impossible for Anna to wear. But then we thought of a way to add a nearly invisible strap to a flip flop. While she still can’t run in flip flops, at least she can wear them to the pool and back or out to the movies with her friends.

All you need to make this is one pair of flip flops, a package of clear elastic (which you can buy from most fabric stores and hobby shops) and a rubber-based adhesive, such as E-6000 or Goop. Attach an elastic strap to points about one inch from where the flip flop side straps attach to the sole. Then let the adhesive set overnight.

Anna wore her invisible-strapped flip flops more than a dozen times before the elastic stretched a bit and we had to replace the strap. But that’s so easy to do that we could replace the straps time after time for the full lifespan of the shoe if we wanted to without any real frustration setting in.

But just in case you think that I think flip flops are advisable footware for anyone, let me refer you to some flip flop-centered research.

September 30, 2009

Anna’s Prize

My daughter Anna astonished me Saturday by running her first 5K cross-country race.

What makes the feat remarkable is that Anna, a high school freshman, has cerebral palsy, having survived a stroke at birth.

For a mom who sheds tears over all her children’s achievements, her race was a predictably emotional event. I was proud she had succeeded in completing her race, but I was not prepared for the greater prize that awaited her at the finish line.

Anna showing me her racing number before the race.

Anna showing me her racing number before the race.

Even though Anna is remarkably athletic for a teen with a disability, she still has the one-sided weakness and semi-paralysis typical for people who’ve suffered sizable unilateral strokes. However, she loves to run. She says that when she runs she feels strong, and when I watch her run, I believe it.

In middle school, she had considered joining track and cross-country, but she knew many of her classmates ran much faster than she could and she worried they would not want her. This year, though, Anna overcame her fears and decided to give it a go. The coaches welcomed her, and a few weeks before classes started she began training with the others.

When school began, I could tell this was a special group of kids. Anna reported how, when team members passed her in the school halls, they shouted out greetings. They sat with her at lunches. Before and after practices, I could see she was included in their conversations. This is not always the case for kids with obvious disabilities. Such a kid doesn’t want attention that comes with being “special.” What she craves is simply being part of a group.

In the U.S., high school cross-country races are a 5K course – roughly a little more than three miles. It’s one thing to run a mile in gym class a few times a week. It’s quite another to go three. Yet that’s what Anna’s team runs every day (not counting the mile warm-up before they even begin). Anna started out slowly and added a little more distance day by day. By mid-August, she was able to complete the time trials on her team’s home course, the first time she ran the full 5K. Then that week, just before her first meet, her leg brace broke.

Without her leg brace, Anna can barely walk let alone run. After we found and dug out the brace she wore in 7th grade from the back of her closet, she was able to get around and even run the warm-up mile every day. But it was not tall enough to adequately support her for more strenuous running. So every practice, five days a week, Anna trained with injured teammates, riding the stationary bikes and exercising on the elliptical machines. She stretched with her team, exercised her core muscles with her team and lifted weights with her team. When the team ran the meets, she helped record runners’ times along the course. She was disappointed she wasn’t running in the meets, but she was happy.
Anna's team returning from a practice start.  You can pick out Anna by looking for her leg brace.

Anna’s insurance took nearly a month to approve the brace’s replacement, which is considerably longer than normal but not completely unheard of. Finally Anna’s new brace was ready. With only two practices before the next meet, she didn’t have time to prepare for a 5K race. By this past Saturday, though, she thought she could run. Her coach expressed concerns, as Anna still had not completed a full 5K during practice since the time trials. She asked me what I thought. I of course couldn’t predict if my daughter would be able to finish the race. But in my experience if Anna wants to do something she usually rises to the occasion. I voted for letting her run.

About 2 miles into the race

About 2 miles into the race

Anna’s race, the JV girls’ race, was scheduled last for the day. She had no trouble with the first mile. The second was difficult, but she kept up. However, by the third mile she was in tears (although still putting one foot in front of the other and running at the back of the pack). When she passed me, I heard the coach tell the varsity girls watching near us that she was having trouble. Without any prompting, these girls – the fastest runners on the team – spread themselves out along the course and shouted out encouragement. These were girls who understood where a runner finds untapped reserves within herself. They were also kids who had been on this very course earlier in the day. They knew the dips in the path, the hills, and the sandy spots. When Anna pulled out of the woods and into a grassy section of the course, the girls ran alongside her just outside the path’s boundaries, continuing to cheer for her in this final stretch.

As Anna approached the end of the race, some of the JV girls who had just completed the race saw her coming and joined in. By the time she crossed the finish line, there was a cadre of teammates meeting her on the other side.

Throughout this season, I have been to every meet, keeping a close eye on the runners at the end of the pack where I knew my daughter would be running. Writers have long understood that the greatest sports stories often can be found at the bottom of the roster. I have watched many other equally courageous runners fighting their own obstacles. Some run with asthma. Others are significantly overweight. Some run fighting a lifelong absence of self-confidence. Having witnessed the solitude these other runners faced at their races’ end, I fully expected Anna and I would be left celebrate her victory alone. The triumph would have been just as satisfying, but it was so much sweeter sharing it with others.

Had there been one false note in her teammates’ excitement, one hint of insincerity in the team’s clamor to celebrate, Anna would have hated the attention it brought. There was none of that, only genuine thrill that she had gotten to run and that she had successfully finished.

What Anna found as she crossed that finish line on Saturday was far more valuable than a successful run of a 5K race. Her prize was the friendship of her teammates and the sense of truly belonging to a team.

A team, I might add, that really knows how to finish a race.

After the race.

After the race.

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