Community outreach

Club Alzheimer’s

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No one wants to be a member of a club characterized by a disease that robs a person of their cognitive function and is always fatal. Unfortunately, as of this writing, 5 million Americans (many more million in other countries) are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Here are a few more facts extracted from the most current Facts and Figures document published by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • In 2016, 15 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias;
  • That equates to 18.2 billion hours of care valued at $230 billion;
  • 1 in 3 adults dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia;
  • It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined;
  • Since the year 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89%;
  • Every 66 seconds, a person develops the disease.

My novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, (Black Rose Writing publication, July 2017) spotlights one family’s experience in particular – the Quinn family – while also visiting other households affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

  • Eddie and Katherine, a couple in their 40s. Katherine has a combination Alzheimer’s/Lewy Body dementia, a type of dementia that causes somewhat violent behavior and speech;
  • Frank and his son, Sean, the latter of whom suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) incurred while on deployment in Afghanistan;
  • Victoria and George, a couple in their 80s, trying to crawl through the maze of George’s Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Rose and Sophia, sisters in their 50s, struggling with the effects of Sophia’s vascular dementia;
  • Donna and Kelly, partners in their 60s, experiencing the devastating effects of Kelly’s Parkinson’s disease and the dementia associated with her disease.

These are characters like you and I. They were living their lives the best they knew how, being good people and doing good for others, yet Alzheimer’s still managed to grab them by the throat and refused to let go.

The storyline is a difficult one but the way in which I have portrayed all of these precious people will touch your heart, and at times, your funny bone. No, there’s nothing humorous about the disease, but people will be people, and when they’re confronted with the impossible, they can find – or create – a bright side onto which they can find redemption and community.

I look forward to introducing you to my characters. Just a few more months before they’ll become a part of your life.

Kindness Fridays

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This past Wednesday I rode the bus into downtown Seattle to have lunch with my daughter, Erin. Two blocks from my bus stop in a very congested road construction area, someone pulled the stop cord, and I guess because of the traffic, the driver let the passengers off a half block early. This was a very unusual action on the bus driver’s part. Every bus commuter knows the only time a driver picks up or drops off passengers is in the designated bus stop. I’ve witnessed people trying to catch a bus, flagging down the bus in an undesignated area, and that driver will keep on going. Even if the driver is stopped at a red light he or she will not open the door for the person flagging down the bus.  RULES ARE RULES.

So back to my bus commute. At the OFFICIAL bus stop stood a woman to board our bus. The driver opened the door and grumbled, “I already stopped back there! Now you’re holding everyone up.” She was walking to the OFFICIAL stop so missed seeing the premature stop that occurred behind her.

She was in the right by standing at the real stop but she was verbally penalized.

Kindness was in order but it wasn’t extended. The bus driver messed up the law-abiding woman’s day by yelling at her and collateral damage landed on me which took the form of my mood being deflated. But then the woman returned the driver’s discourtesy with kindness. She said, “Have a nice day, sir.”

When we have the opportunity to express ourselves in such a way as to harm someone, but choose instead to bless someone with our words, the grand order of the universe is altered so that peace displaces disharmony.

The female passenger’s words made my day, thus cancelling out the grumpy driver’s ill-chosen ones.

Have a nice day everyone.

Kindness Fridays

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Have world events impacted you in such a way that you feel things are hopeless?

Are you overwhelmed to the point that you say to yourself, What could I possibly do to make a difference?

The answer is:

You can make a difference because kindness trumps all.

I recently wrote Ellen Degeneres to thank her for her ongoing efforts to spread kindness. Sure, at the end of each of her daily shows she says, Be kind to one another, but she puts force behind those words in what she does for others.  At the conclusion of my letter to her, I said the following:

We’re not charged with changing the entire world, but we can have an impact on the miniscule portion of the world to which we have access. You’re doing it, and I will continue to do what I can from my corner of the world. If everyone makes a fraction of a difference right from where they are, those fractions will add up to great things.

I’m glad I’m on the same kindness train as you, Ellen, and I’ll keep chugging along until I can’t chug any longer.

I sincerely believe that random acts or words of kindness can make a difference in the world in which we live. There are so many negative and hurtful words being thrust into our universe, can’t we just please try to balance out that hurt with words of encouragement, recognition, and nourishment?

Yes, nourishment. In all our daily interactions – be they via social media or in person – we can nurture the hurt that exists all around us. Our words, our smile, our actions may just change the life of someone forever. Haven’t you been on the receiving end of that type of transformative nourishment? Didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it fill the emptiness within you that hungered and thirsted for confirmation that you matter, that you aren’t a failure, that you have potential?

Let’s revisit how that felt and commit to quenching the thirst of each person with whom we come in contact.

Being connected in a fragmented world

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Much has been said about how impersonal – or even cruel – social media can be. That certainly is the case many times over, but social media can also be a way in which to stay connected with those you care about but with whom you are not able to get together as frequently as you would like.

That is the case for me.

I currently have 60 Facebook (FB) friends, most of whom are those who are close friends and family members. I’ve never felt I needed to post ginormous numbers of friends in order to be a valid Facebook user; I’ve just always been thrilled to be able to follow the lives of those with whom I have a history.

When I first opened my FB account I sent friend requests to everyone I could find on the site. One of those was my daughter, Erin, who indicated that she preferred to keep her FB life separate from her mother/daughter life. I totally got that – and still do – so Erin and I aren’t FB friends but we communicate so much, we always know what’s the latest and greatest in each of our lives.

It’s just this year that my FB family has been enlarged; I’m reaching out to my nieces and nephews and other fabulous family members who – when I first started on FB – were quite a bit younger than they are now. And joy of all joys, they’re reaching out to me! Quite frankly, I figured why would the younger set care about what this geezer-in-the-making is doing with herself? Turns out, they do care, and it’s been glorious, and I certainly care about what they’re doing. The added benefit is that when we do get together, I’ll be far better acquainted with them because we’ve stayed connected on an ongoing basis.

Connecting with others – having contact with them – tears down walls that need not exist. I’ll leave you with a quote from The Power of Kindness about what lack of connection can result in:

We can also do the opposite: build walls, as well as find ourselves in front of others’ walls, and decide that this is an easier, more practical way to live . . . Distance may be safer. But our lives are poorer without the nourishment that these people can give – nourishment in the form of stimuli, different points of view, fresh emotions.

The incapacity of being in touch with others can become a tragedy of solitude. We become our own prisoners.

No thank you.



Kindness Fridays

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Have you ever been on the receiving end of encouragement? Of course you have. Referring again to my daily-read book, The Power of Kindness, by Piero Ferucci, he calls that type of kindness”

“a warming help: attention and a kind word in a difficult moment.”

My across the street neighbor, Eva, is an enthusiastic, lively person – kind of like me if I do say so myself. We get along quite well. Unfortunately, we don’t get together often enough because life gets in the way. Yep, the intricacies of life even get in the way of spending time with decidedly beautiful people.

When Eva and I get together we operate on the same wavelength: we love people more than we hate people, we get excited about similar things, and we lift each other up just by sharing our energy with each other. And when one of us is down or blahness seems to have taken over our personal orbit, time spent with each other erases a good portion of that blahness. I’m close to twenty years older than Eva, but that doesn’t matter in the least. When we’re together, we’re Besties, and we’re the same age. Period.

Without fail, each and every time we leave each other – whether at the conclusion of a neighborhood walk or a lunch date – Eva throws me kisses. Saying goodbye until next time isn’t good enough for my neighbor, instead, she gives me something that lasts and also makes me feel good about the time I’ve spent with her. Just thinking about those thrown kisses are a warming help that is sometimes needed during my day. Quite frankly, just writing about it has already improved my day exponentially.

My neighbor Eva: a delightful gift of kindness.

Gawd, I love her.


Kindness Fridays

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Last Friday I mentioned a book that I read daily, Live your dash. Another book I read on a daily basis is The Power of Kindness, The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life, by Piero Ferrucci, I’m actually on my second read-through of this encouraging book.

I think we can all agree that what makes the headline news is rarely the pleasant things that occur around us. Horror sells newspapers.

Mr. Ferrucci says the following regarding that unfortunate truth:

There may be murder, there may be violence, and there may be selfishness, but most human beings at heart are helpful and supportive. Cruelty makes the headlines precisely because it is the exception.

But the world goes on because we care for one another . . .

And yet life goes on precisely because we are kind to one another. No newspaper tomorrow will tell of a mother who read a bedtime story to her child, or a father who prepared breakfast for his children, of someone who listened with attention, of a friend who cheered us up, of a stranger who helped us carry a suitcase.

Think of how long our world has been in existence and consider all the mayhem that has played out as described in history books and in front of our very eyes.

Yet, the world goes on.

Kindness and caring have sufficiently sustained us through wars, terrorism, pestilence, and other natural disasters.

It seems appropriate, therefore, that we should feed kindness so its supply never runs out.

Perhaps some day cruelty will run out of steam and die a natural death.

I mean, a person’s gotta hope … right?

Kindness Fridays

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I own a book – kind of a devotional, but not religious – that I read each morning, Live Your Dash, by Linda Ellis. The subtitle is Make Every Moment Matter. Ms. Ellis’s book encourages readers to live well in the time between the dash that exists between the day we were born and the day we die. Today’s Kindness post directly quotes an excerpt from her book that I thought was relevant to the subject at hand.

Your name, as spoken, and as remembered, represents more than your reputation. Through the years, it becomes an embodiment of the ways in which you have lived your dash, and touched others’ lives.

Live your life in such a manner that when you imagine your name being spoken in your absence, there will never be a desire (or need) to be present to defend it.

Words in italics provided by this blog author.