Do you have a vision of who you are? Is it positive or is it negative?
What do you do when it’s both?

I want to see myself as a kind person. A lot of people have told me they think I am a kind person. But there are some who have seen my other side. I wish I could erase their memories of hideous Cruella. I don’t see Cruella crop up often. She’s not a welcome visitor by anyone who has had the displeasure of meeting her. She actually didn’t get named Cruella for a while… she went by “Mom!” But daughter Teresa suggested we come up with a name to my bad side, in hopes that it would make me laugh myself out of it…

This post is covering a lot of ground. So let me organize our minds on how it plays out:
2. WHY and WHEN Cruella surfaced
3. HOW I thought I could rid us of Cruella
4. IS THERE A BETTER WAY… to handle life’s trials?
5. SHOCKER… C.S. Lewis: Anger = Grief?
6. SWEETNESS…Mr. Rogers and “I’m Sorry”


I had just finished writing this whole article, was re-reading it, and happened to remember one of the FIRST renderings I gave of Cruella, though she was not named at that time (because Teresa–who suggested the name–was still a baby!). I remember being quite upset in that first Cruella appearance, but not remembering why. Probably was “that time of the month” but who knows.

So this is how the scene played out: Byron bravely strides into the kitchen, though other family members safely kept their distance. I think Byron was 4 or 5 years old. He opened the door from the kitchen in what was then our first house on Thornburgh Drive, went into the garage and closed the door. Pretty soon, there was a knock on that same door. I crankily thought, “Why is he knocking when he knows how to open the door?!!” But I stopped what I was doing and walked over to open the door to a bit of a surprise: Byron had changed clothes and had a cowboy hat on. He said, in a made-up western voice, “Hiyah. Mah name is Tex. Ah’m lookin’ for Bahron. Ah wonduh if Bahron can come out and play? Is he here today?”

I don’t remember how I answered, but Byron started using that ploy when he knew I was not dealing well with life. [He told me recently that he started his Tex role based on his Daddy Denny’s encouragement to try to cheer me up!] Thus we ended up having many a visit from “Tex”! It was hard to be cranky when Tex would come around. Byron’s Tex got me out of many a mood in those early days. Hahaha! Thanks for giving him that encouragement, Denny!

You may have some questions or thoughts forming right now, like,
“What is this subject doing in a blog about Dementia?”
or “I never knew Claire had a double personality!”
or “What…I say WHAT…is this subject doing in a blog about Dementia?

I am trying to make sense of it all as well. The Cruella Conundrum
keeps resurfacing in my mind, so I have some processing to do.
Thanks for bearing with me while I work through this unusual topic.!
— I think we will all see why Cruella is included in this Dementia blog by the time we fold the subject up.


Looking back at the times when I’ve been told my alter ego had surfaced, it seems to have been when I was not good at communicating my own needs; when circumstances had gotten out of hand and built up way too big for me to see clearly; when I was frustrated and felt cornered. And in more recent years (not the early “Tex” years), I believe I was confused, not realizing for quite some time that Denny had dementia. So I was certainly acting out my confusion. Go back and read “Water, Water, Everywhere!” to refresh your mind, and see if you agree with me!

“A little SONG, a little DANCE, a little seltzer down the pants

After such a time when Cranky Cruella came to the fore, I would be overcome with guilt over having been so angry. I felt TERRIBLE. Therefore, I started thinking ahead, figuring out possible ways to head Cruella off at the pass if I felt her trying to make an appearance. So I thought I might try to come up with words, song, and dance to physically get me out of my mood. HONEST! I really DID! Be glad you weren’t living with me at the time. Denny was the only one in the house, but he didn’t know about the crazy activity upstairs. He was downstairs in his bed-to-bathroom world, while I was upstairs critically watching myself in the full-length mirror, attempting to come up with a Snoopy happy dance.

Thus the little ditty in bold above, “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.” Do you recognize it? It came from the Mary Tyler Moore Show in one particular sitcom focused on the death of Chuckles the Clown. The characters in the sitcom were joking about the situation, since the clown had been dressed up as Peter Peanut for a parade and was shelled by an elephant. Mary was horrified that people were laughing. But they were just getting their grief out in a weird way. Since Mary DIDN’T join the gayly gathering grief group PRIOR to the funeral, she instead started snickering when seated AT the funeral as the preacher recited Chuckles’ favorite poem– A little Song, a little Dance, a little Seltzer down the Pants… When the preacher praised her for laughing, she immediately started sobbing, even though the preacher said tears would dishonor the clown who died. She was a mess! This whole silly sit-com situation did show how people tend to find different ways to vent their grief.

So I DID try for a SONG and a DANCE… but skipped the seltzer (always gives me the hiccups). I didn’t have to look far for words and a song that could pull me out of a “mood” – and the great thing about the song I found was that the beat and words made me WANT to dance!!!

Problem 1:
I’m a rotten dancer. So I even tried googling to see if there were dance lessons to the song I chose– and there WERE! Good ole’ Google came through for Cruella.

Problem 2:
I have difficulty watching someone else dance and trying to replicate the steps in my own uncoordinated body. So I was working hard at that for a season… until yanked from my surroundings and whooshed down to Colorado after my poor husband broke his leg.

The only thing that WAS NOT a Problem was the SONG!
The song I chose was one daughter Teresa had introduced me to…
I remember Teresa compiling a playlist of fun music when she and I drove Emma’s “lifestuff” in the van all the way from Wyoming to Emma’s new college in Louisiana several years prior. Denny would have been horrified with the song–just wasn’t his music type–but I loved the words, music, and energy in my own way for my own reasons at the time, and it kept Teresa and me awake driving through Texas!

The song was “Shackles” by Mary, Mary. Just type that into YouTube and feel like dancing yourself!
I particularly related to these words:

“Everything that could go wrong all went wrong at one time;
So much pressure fell on me, I thought I was gonna lose my mind.
But I know You wanna see if I will hold on through these trials.
But I need You to lift this load, ’cause I can’t take it no more.”

Sorry for the grammar. Poetic license!


I related to the words of the song noted above, because I did indeed feel like I was in a major life trial. I DID want to make God proud of how I handled life. Therefore, I was particularly sad when I felt I failed, knowing I didn’t just fail myself and my kids and Denny, but failed my God who wants me to be KIND!

Taking scripture seriously
But then I remember God telling the apostle Paul in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul erupted with: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

After meditating on those words, I understand that I need to recognize where I am weak, acknowledge all that to God, and ask Him to strengthen me for His own precious purposes. He certainly knows better than I what He wants to accomplish through me during these times and trials. So I am making a conscious choice to CHOOSE to trust Him going forward.

Those Bible verses are my current meditation and prayer, as I hope to more fully comprehend and embrace God’s forgiveness and ask for His empowerment for this very life, encapsulated in frail old Betty Claire. I’m grateful God says He desires for us to come to Him for help, to come quickly to Him for forgiveness when we know we’ve come up short, that He treasures us as little children in great need. He is willing, waiting, and wanting for us to ask for help! He Himself rushes toward US when we acknowledge we need Him. What a vision that produces in my mind! That thought and vision will go to bed with me tonight.

Zeigarnik Effect
Ah, thinking of going to bed tonight made me think about “the Zeigarnik effect”! Kids Byron and Emma learned about this in Laramie High School from one of their cool teachers. A twist on the Zeigarnik effect is that the unconscious mind works on unsolved problems. So, if I think about the unfinished business of molding me into “KIND, CONSIDERATE CLAIRE” each night before sleep, I’m hopeful my brain will work out some solutions for me during the nighttime slumber so I can SEE RESULTS during upcoming trials that would normally have conjured up Cruella. My true dream would be to experience a “Kind, Considerate, Compassionate, Patient, Wise Claire” even and most importantly in the midst of the most difficult trials! I would like to make a difference in other people’s lives by being such a human.


Check out this CS Lewis quote:
“I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief.”

Whoa! This shocked me when I came across that quote. Could my anger bouts have been prompted by frustration with the WHOLE situation with Denny, very possibly GRIEVING the entire saga through dementia with him, not just his death? I don’t know what to think about that. It would look to me like I was trying to find anything else to blame my bad girl eruptions on. It would seem like I am not being accountable for my own actions if I point to grief. But then I came across some wisdom from Mr. Rogers…


I saw a sweet Mr. Roger’s flashback recently. Rogers (actually, my family calls him “Gers” since Byron was just a toddler when we first started watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Little Byron LOVED that show. When the entry music started and Mr. Rogers would come through the door and wave, Byron would run round and around his little rocking chair and say, “Oh boy, Oh boy! Gers is on!! Gers is on!” But, I digress…)

Anyway, “Gers” said (in the flashback I referred to) when he himself was younger, he stopped at his sister’s house after work. His sister’s little boy was there. I don’t remember what the little boy did, but Gers was upset with him, spoke shortly with him, then left and drove home.

Knowing Gers as we think we might, he wasn’t happy with himself for being upset with the little boy. I think we could say he was GRIEVED about the way he talked to the little fella. So Gers called his nephew and said something like this, “Today when I came to see you, I had a hard day at work and was tired and a little upset. I let my mood color how I responded to YOU and was short and harsh in my words to you. I want to apologize to you.”

The Need for an “I’m Sorry”… The little boy mentioned above of course grew up; and as an adult, he attended Fred Rogers’ retirement celebration, remembering and sharing about that earlier interaction. He said how kind he felt it was of Mr. Rogers to care enough about his little fella feelings. So my takeaway from that is to hope to always say “I’m sorry” when I realize I am angry and taking it out on others.

Even if my anger was a result of GRIEF, it is still important to say, “I’m sorry”. Remember the line that was so popular in the old movie, “Love Story”?–“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” In my estimation, that statement was WAY off base!!! I instead hope I will be QUICK to say, “I’m sorry”, instead of allowing Cruella to completely take over. I am human–as even “Gers” was human. And humans make mistakes… and are the BEST humans when they say they are sorry. That’s my thought, anyway. I need to make that into a sign and put it on my wall.


A dear lifetime friend of mine commented on a blog post a while ago. I am grateful for what she wrote, so I’ll put her comment in its fullness below. I have decided to embrace and adopt what she has recommended:

“So heartbreaking that you had to deal with all of this (especially while working). You make yourself out to be unkind and mean, but I think maybe looking back has negatively colored some of what went on. I think even the most saintly people occasionally lose patience, and it sure seems that you did the best you could at the time knowing what you knew then. I wish you could be a little more gentle with yourself as you heal. If dementia were easy to recognize, no one would have to contend with what you did, yet your stories resonate with everyone who has been through this.”

I want to thank you, dear friend Donna, for your kind words. Writing this blog post was freeing. I don’t feel guilty anymore; I’ve repented! I feel more patient with myself, more aware of God walking beside me through thick and thin. The thinking through and writing of this post helped to air out all my dirty laundry. Hopefully I am smelling fresher from here on out!!!

Good-bye, Cruella!! …But whatever happened to Tex?

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