Writing to make a difference, one person at a time

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February 10, 2000, four years before diagnosis
Writing a novel just for the hell of it isn’t what I did when, on December 29, 2012, I started to write REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO.

First and foremost, I sat down at my computer because I had something to say about how Alzheimer’s disease affected my father.  Additionally, having graduated from the unofficial school of family caregiving, I figured someone just might benefit from the good – and the not-so-good – ways in which I managed my father’s illness.

Now thirteen years after my father’s initial Alzheimer’s diagnosis, my novel will hit the virtual and brick & mortar shelves of bookstores. It will also make its way in person to a number of  senior centers and senior living communities in my area. As an event on their activity calendars, I will read passages from my novel that might just ring a bell in the minds and hearts of those gathered to listen to what this Baby Boomer has to say. Maybe what I share will inspire them to purchase REQUIEM which I will gladly sell to them at a highly-discounted price. And once they’ve read my novel, perhaps they will share it with someone else, and so on down the line.

Is REQUIEM about Irene Frances Olson and her father, Don Patrick Desonier? Read the rest of this entry »

Lighten up Mondays

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I can’t NOT provide humor about the hot weather being experienced country-wide, and globally this summer.

*****

The summer after college graduation, I was living at home, fishing in the daytime to enjoy the hot days, spending nights with my friends—generally just hanging out. One afternoon my grandfather, who never went to college, stopped by.

Concerned with how I was spending my time, he asked about my future plans. I told him I was in no hurry to tie myself down to a career.

“Well,” he replied, “you better start thinking about it. You’ll be thirty before you know it.”

“But I’m closer to twenty than to thirty,” I protested. “I won’t be thirty for eight more years.”

“I see,” he said, smiling. “And when will you be twenty again?”

*****

You know it’s hot when:

  • You can make instant sun tea.
  • You learn that a seat belt makes a pretty good branding iron.
  • The temperature drops below 95, you feel a bit chilly.
  • You discover that in July, it takes only 2 fingers to drive your car.
  • You notice the best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
  • Hot water now comes out of both taps.
  • It’s noon in July, kids are on summer vacation, and not one person is out on the streets.
  • No one would dream of putting vinyl upholstery in a car or not having air conditioning.
  • Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, “What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?”
  • You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.

Kindness Fridays

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For some, this may seem a trivial expression of kindness. For me, not so much.

When my husband and I aren’t hiking, we “hike” through the streets of our very hilly neighborhood. We have various walks that we take:

  • The Wall – a very steep incline in a short period of time
  • The Monster – a very steep incline over a longer stretch of time
  • The Broadhurst (or Reverse Broadhurst) – a longer walk in an adjacent neighborhood, and
  • The Broadhurst Monster – a steep hill in that same neighborhood

While on our walks, I lift up my hand in greeting to everyone who drives by, and without fail, the driver always returns the gesture. Sometimes the occupant in the car gives me a hand greeting before I can even lift my arm to do so.

“Yeah, but Irene, that’s not a very deep connection with someone; it’s just a throw-away gesture.”

Not to me it isn’t. It’s one way of connecting with people I might never meet. And besides, maybe the “hello” affects them just as positively as it affects me. What a great and simple gift that is.

My Alzheimer’s family caregiving journey

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My dad, circa 1980s

I had the privilege of being my father’s caregiver during his multi-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease that ended with his death in 2007. Five years after his death, I started writing my debut novel, Requiem for the status quo, to be released by an independent publisher, Black Rose Writing, on July 20th. And now five years since I started my novel, Requiem will be available to everyone in less than 30 days. My debut novel was inspired by my father’s and my caregiving journey and is dedicated to the man whose later years was robbed by a disease that is always fatal. The book’s dedication reads: Dedicated to my father, Don Patrick Desonier, who wore his disease with the dignity it did not deserve.

I am in the very distinct and healthy position of understanding that realistically, as a debut author I cannot hope to be an instant and resounding financial success. But that’s okay, because for me it has never been about the money, but very much about helping those who are experiencing or have experienced an Alzheimer’s caregiving journey similar to mine. For that reason, most of my “book tour” will encompass senior centers in the region, as well as senior living residential communities where I hope to hold readings and sell my novel to seniors at a highly-discounted price. I know it is said that when trying to fill an auditorium, it’s all about getting butts in seats, but for me, it’s about getting books into laps.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

Requiem for the status quo is currently available for preorder at Black Rose Writing, enter discount code PREORDER2017 before July 20th for a 10% discount. You can also preorder Requiem at Barnes & Noble right now, and Amazon will be providing preorder opportunities in the days ahead. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th.

 

Lighten up Mondays

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Father’s Day was celebrated in some countries yesterday. Here is some humor centered around the dad in the home.

My dad was waterskiing when he fell into the river. As the boat 
circled to pick him up, he noticed a hunter sitting in a duck boat in the reeds. My husband put his hands in the air and joked, “Don’t shoot!”

The hunter responded, “Don’t quack.”

*****

I’ve been working on my PhD 
in engineering for the past five years, but my kids don’t necessarily see that as work. As we were driving past Walmart one day, my son spotted a Now Hiring sign and suggested that I could get 
a job there.

Hoping to make a point, I asked, “Do you think they’re looking for an engineer?”

“Oh, sure,” he said. “They’ll hire anybody.”

*****

The biggest change after having kids was putting a swear jar in the house. Whenever I say a bad word, 
I have to put a dollar in the jar, and 
at the end of every month, I take all that money and buy myself a nice steak for being such a cool dad.

*****

“Has your son decided what 
he wants to be when he grows up?” 
I asked my friend.

“He wants to be a garbageman,” 
he replied.

“That’s an unusual ambition to have at such a young age.”

“Not really, he thinks garbagemen only work on Tuesdays.”

Kindness Fridays

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Today’s musing takes a different turn. The focus of today’s kindness relates to my daughter Erin’s never-ending, no-holds-barred editing offerings for all things having to do with the upcoming July 20th release of my novel, Requiem for the status quo.

Erin has been one of the most consistent editors of my work and what I appreciate so much about her input is that regardless of how much she loves and adores me – and she does – she is 100% honest in her comments about my writing. I always know, without a doubt, that when she criticizes/critiques me, she is doing so out of love.  

Erin wants me to succeed because she knows this project means so much to me.

In preparation for my July 29th book signing at the Northwest Book Festival in Portland, Oregon, I designed a bi-fold brochure to hand out to attendees, a brochure that introduces my book and its primary characters to those who will be browsing through the many booths and literary offerings at the festival. They may not be ready to purchase my novel right then and there, but they’ll take the brochure with them and perhaps from the comfort of their living room, will decide to order, or purchase, the book from their favorite book seller.

Erin read through my brochure with a well-tuned eye and came up with several corrections and suggestions that absolutely rendered it a far better marketing effort than it was when I deemed it perfect and ready for printing. She has a keen, literary eye on which I have relied since I started writing my novel on December 29th, 2012.

My daughter leads a very busy life, so her consistently kind contributions to my writing success mean the world to me. That is why, and for so very many other reasons, I celebrate Erin’s gift of editorial kindness that keeps on giving.

 

Caregiving 101: when fiction meets reality

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I’ve written several articles over the years about the importance of assembling a caregiving team when caring for a loved one – a team that doesn’t necessarily rely on family because not everyone has a participatory family when it comes to these matters. That was certainly the case for REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO‘s Colleen Strand while taking care of her father, Patrick Quinn. She sought help from her brother  but that was not something with which he chose to be involved.

REQUIEM, my debut novel, is now available for pre-order from my publisher, Black Rose Writing. You will receive a 10% discount with code PREORDER2017 if purchased before its release date of July 20th. Additionally, in the days ahead, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble will be offering a pre-order option leading up to the novel’s release. Ebook options will be available at most online book retailers as of July 27th.

Of all the life-changes we encounter during our journey, caregiving is one of  – if not the most – difficult speed bumps to get over.

Caregiving: the ultimate team sport suggests how one might use the strengths of each team/family member to handle the varied needs during the caregiving journey.

Family dynamics that hamper caregiving success exposes the need to let go of stereotypes or childhood roles that don’t serve siblings well as adults. If ever there was a time to work together for the greater good, taking care of a family member with dementia or other terminal illness ranks right up there at the top.

Solo caregiving addresses the needs of the person who appears to be strapped with fulfilling all the roles needed for a successful caregiving venture. The solo caregiver need not settle into those roles, however. The help of other, well-meaning individuals, can lessen that daunting task.  Certainly, much relies on the neighbor, coworker, even casual acquaintance, but said entities are a resource from which much assistance can be found.

Here are several more articles for the caregivers out there – and those acquainted with a caregiver – to provide some wisdom and encouragement through the tough times: