Family issues

A Labor of Love

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FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: A turning point where releasing a loved one to fend for themselves is filled with immeasurable angst.

To what am I referring? Either sending a child off to Big Kids School (BKS) for the first time or a teenager for their first year of college away from home.

In our family right now, it’s a Mommy & Daddy dropping off their five-year-old son (our grandson) at a local elementary school. If you’ve experienced said angst-filled event, you know it’s not just day-of that’s a struggle; it’s every day leading up to that day (arguably months of days leading up to that day.)

It’s not enough to provide platitudes of support (although platitudes of support are exactly what my husband and I have provided to these stellar parents). Why? Although statistics and evidence document centuries of successful first-day moments, including those of our grandson’s parents, it’s an entirely different story when that first-day moment involves the cutie-patootie child in the family, right now.

The best evidence, however, is the sincere belief that a parent has done all within their power to prepare their sweetheart for the harsh realities of spending six hours away from home, five days a week, in the presence of strangers who – in time – will certainly become friends.

Us grandparents may have the benefit of decades of experience but we will still be waiting for the parents’ texts to report the ins and outs of our grandson’s first full day. Granted, we all know our grandson survived – and loved – his three half days of “trial kindergarten” earlier this summer, but now we’ve hit the big time.

His life of schooling is just beginning to take shape and the parents’ lives will never be the same.

After two years of part-time preschool, however, we all feel confident in our grandson’s forthcoming adaptability to what will become his normal for many years henceforth. Our grandson will flourish – not languish – at his elementary school, and one way or another, us adults will fine tune our own adaptability to a new normal for him, and be better prepared for his sister’s first day of BKS three years from now.

Ready or not, our granddaughter is headed toward becoming a member of the graduating Class of 2038!!!

 

Death of an Extraordinary Man

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October 13th 2007, my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. That morning I had received a call from the memory care unit where Dad had lived for several years. The nursing manager of that unit said if I wanted to see my father again before he died, I should come as soon as possible. (I had spent a week with him the month before and knew that his prostate cancer would most likely hasten his death.) I first called my husband at work to let him know I would find a flight from Seattle, WA to Medford, OR and be gone…for how long? I didn’t know. Then while on the phone with my brother and sister, I booked my flight online with a tentative return, threw the very minimum of clothing in an overnight bag, and headed to SeaTac International Airport.

If you have read my novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, you’ve pretty much read the account of what transpired for me at my father’s bedside; some of the happenings that day/evening were altered, but the gist of what transpired are contained in Chapters 41 & 42.

Upon my return to Seattle, my energy level was depleted yet still on alert. When you have a loved one with a debilitating disease, a state of alertness is the norm – the status quo of constantly being in a state of emergency, if you will. You keep waiting for the phone to ring with the latest development – such as it did for the last time on October 13, 2007 – but that phone number’s appearance on my Caller ID had ceased.

What hadn’t ceased was the business of dying – all the financial and estate matters one cannot ignore – but because of my father’s diligence and organization leading up to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of what I needed to do on behalf of his estate and us survivors, was readily dispatched in the months that followed my father’s death.

But the “now what?” of life post-caregiving was front and center for me. Initially, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything having to do with dementia. I continued to financially support my local Alzheimer’s Association and participated in one more Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but that was it. Then my heart called and I became an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator and shortly thereafter, I entered the world of long-term care advocacy by becoming a Washington State LTC ombudsman, both of which I did for five years.

Then my heart spoke to me again, this time it said, “How about writing about your experience as Dad’s caregiver?” I ignored that thought until I no longer could – it wouldn’t leave me alone! I dragged out all of Dad’s records and my numerous journals, sat at my dining table, and over many months’ time, outlined how I would honor my father’s journey and my family’s experience within the pages of a book that might benefit others.

That was five years after my father’s death. My book was published five years later.

Now almost fifteen years after the end of my father’s Alzheimer’s journey,

my book still manages to make its way into the hands of those who need it.

If you, or someone you know, needs encouragement and a renewed sense of hope,

please make your way to your favorite bookstore, or find it right here.

Blessings to you today, and always.

Alzheimer’s: am I next?

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Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”

In 2019, an article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. (Please note that the linked post references an extraordinary non-profit that I am still a part of but no longer serve in a managerial capacity, having retired from doing so.)

I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?

I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.

At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.

Our life: an ongoing parade

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Here I go again, relying on Dr. Bernie S. Siegel to provide some wisdom for your day, but what can I say, his 365 Prescriptions for the Soul catches my attention more often than not and when it does, I like to share the good stuff I find.  The following is provided verbatim:

Parade of Life

Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now, and do it. – William Durant

oktoberfest-819706_640Life is a parade. Sometimes we march along and realize we have passed by what we were looking for. What do we do? Stand there and drop out of the parade? March on with regrets? Feel bad about how we looked or that everything we wanted was on the wrong side of the street? It’s passed! Forget it and march on!

Sometimes our parade isn’t so pretty, and the crowd isn’t interested in us. If we drag everything we have passed with us, we will destroy the present. We have no future when we live in the past.

We even talk about past lives. Whether you believe in them or not, the same principle applies. If you are living a past life, you are destroying your present one. In therapy, people come to understand why they are acting the way they are and how the past is affecting them. They learn to let go, move on, and not sit in the same classroom year after year. They graduate and commence a new life.

To conclude, I, Irene Frances Olson, have this to say about Dr. Siegel’s comments:

The good news is that we can learn from our past, both the good and the bad, but if we stay cemented in the past and don’t move on? That parade Dr. Siegel talks about?  It’ll pass us by.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get left behind.

Solo Caregiving

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My recent post, Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support. When that is not the case, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.

THIS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING INFORMATIONAL POST, BUT IT IS A START.

CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you are experiencing. Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance. Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need. Easier said than done, I know, but a challenge worth pursuing. Here’s just one suggestion – one that could provide respite and community support.

DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT

If you are able to leave the house for a meal, there is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner. If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home. Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis. Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way for them to do so. Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.

!!!ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!!!

I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your solo caregiver friend needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs. Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.

  1. Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.
  2. Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden? I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.
  3. Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers. I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself. (Especially needed for the caregiver not at liberty to leave their loved one alone.)

In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help. I know I’m being somewhat judgmental when I say the following, but I’m gonna say it anyway: The first example of help is an empty offer – an offer that doesn’t carry much weight. Why? It comes across as an expected social comment without any true meat on its bones. You’re basically doing the minimal amount of due diligence while forcing the caregiver to ask for help. In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out.  If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night. Can you come over for a cup of coffee, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”

Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs. Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver. If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.

Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport

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What’s a pitcher without a catcher?  A quarterback without a receiver?  A point guard without a center?  Individuals – that’s what they are – they are not a team.  Caregiving should never be an individual effort because quite frankly, one person cannot do it all.

Take a deep breath; think happy thoughts; and do your best.

Whether the primary caregiver actually does hands-on-care or is the primary “manager” of a loved one’s day-to-day life, that caregiver needs all the support he or she can get. For the purposes of this article we’re going to assume that the loved one, Mom, lives in a long-term care (LTC) facility cared for by professionals. As with every sports team, there is a General Manager of the team – responsible for the overall smooth running of the team, and then there are the individual team members without whom there would be no support whatsoever. Let’s look at the responsibilities of each person on the team. GENERAL MANAGER: whether self-assigned or chosen, the GM is usually Mom’s primary contact/visitor. He or she will also be the main point of contact with the staff at the LTC facility and as such, should definitely be on the “approved list” of people with whom the care staff can discuss every aspect of Mom’s care. Getting on the approved list might involve one or both of the following:

  • Facility Care Plan/Residential Agreement. Because of the restrictions resulting from the enactment of HIPAA anyone other than the actual patient/resident must be given permission to receive confidential information regarding another individual’s health condition. There is usually a section on LTC facility agreements and/or care plans wherein a primary family member is listed and approved as the person who can have access to all confidential information regarding the resident’s/loved one’s care. Similarly you’ll want to be on the approved list for Mom’s doctors so you’re able to freely communicate with medical personnel regarding any ongoing health concerns. If Mom is able, she will need to sign the necessary documents that indicate her decision to allow that confidential health information be shared with you.
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care. This legal document allows someone, usually a family member, to speak on behalf of a loved one who may not be able to do so on her own. I’m not a lawyer so I’m not offering any advice regarding this document but the attached link will give you a thumbnail sketch addressing when the appropriateness of such a document comes into play.

Now back to the General Manager’s duties: the GM needs to play on the strengths of each team member.

Alzheimer’s Walking Team: myself, my hubby and my brother

Hold a family meeting – even involving those living out of town using virtual means – to discuss the strengths that each possesses and ones’ willingness to exercise those strengths. Once those team members’ tasks have been assigned or volunteered for, it’s up to the General Manager to provide oversight to assure each task is being accomplished, and to discern if any team member needs assistance completing tasks. As you can see, taking on the role of General Manager carries a lot of responsibility and quite frankly, anyone who assumes this role needs to be good and ready to carry a heavy load. The good news, however, is that the GM is not alone – there are additional members of the team.

FINANCE MANAGER.  Your older sister is a finance whiz who’s very comfortable crunching numbers. She gets to take over the day-to-day system of bill paying, investment monitoring, and the like. You might even arrange for all mail to go to this sister’s home so that she has immediate access to timely financial information, in addition to online access of course.

INSURANCE MANAGER. One of your brothers who works in the health insurance industry understands the ins and outs of private insurance and as it relates to Medicare. Congratulations, his strength will contribute greatly to the whole, but you don’t have to work for an insurance company to excel at this task. Some of us – yes, I’m one of them – really “gets it” when it comes to reconciling Explanations of Benefits (EOB) documents from health insurance companies. The Insurance Manager will work hand in hand with the Finance Manager to assure that any balances due a particular medical professional or institution is paid. This can really get sticky when attempting to make sure that everyone who is responsible for paying a part of the medical service – private insurance companies and Medicare – have paid their part prior to sending out a check for the balance, but effective Finance & Insurance Managers can successfully get the job done.

TRANSPORTATION MANAGER.Your other sister has recently retired, or has a very flexible work schedule, and has the ability to take Mom to the various doctor appointments that occur each month. Terrific.

Anyone need a cab?

That sister will be doing the running around with Mom and can make sure each appointment is scheduled, attended, and summarized. Since she’s going to these appointments with Mom, she can sit in on the appointment and bring up issues about which the family has concerns; she can take notes on what transpires during the doctor visit; then she can report the medical updates to the family so everyone is on the same page every step of the way. This sister will also need to be on the approved HIPAA document that the physician’s office requires in order for her to communicate and interact in such a way as to be on top of Mom’s ongoing health care.

FAMILY DYNAMICS THAT GET IN THE WAY OF EFFECTIVE MANAGING. Let’s face it, not every family gets along well enough to avoid the bumps in the caregiving road.  If family dynamics were strained to begin with, you can certainly expect those dynamics to be heightened in stressful situations – and caring for Mom is certainly one of them.  My article “Family dynamics that hamper caregiving success,” an article of mine from 2011 that addresses family dysfunction and offers advice on how to lessen its impact on your caregiving team.

A team’s success is attainable – but each member has to dedicate themselves to the task at hand  for that to happen.

Life Happens

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We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132

I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.

Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.

We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.

I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?

Part of what I’ve learned in my almost seventy years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.

  • Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
  • A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
  • Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
  • Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.

All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.

Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:

The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.

 

Deathbed promises and how to fulfill them

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Here’s a post from the past that draws lots of attention. Bringing it into the present today.

First of all – take a deep breath and shed the mantle of guilt you’re wearing.  Now let’s address your dilemma.

When your father was on his deathbed you made a promise to take care of your mother in her old age. Now she is at the point of not being able to care for herself and you realize that you’re absolutely not cut out for – nor are you capable of – taking her under your roof to provide the care that she needs. What’s a dutiful son or daughter to do?

I’m not advocating that you break your promise to your father but I am suggesting that you consider redefining what that promise looks like. You promised your father that you would take care of your mother and that’s exactly what you’re going to do.  aking care of your mother is not solely defined as moving her into your home and taking care of all her basic needs until she dies. Very few people have the ability or the means to provide 24-hour care in their home. You made that promise with the best intentions and you can still honor your promise without dishonoring your father. Keep in mind that loving your mother doesn’t guarantee your success as her caregiver. Even adult children with a fabulous relationship with their parent struggle greatly in their efforts. And if your relationship with your mother is tenuous at best, try picturing the scenario of you as caregiver and her as recipient of that care. What effect will that have on her, you, and the remainder of your household?

Let’s clarify how best to care for your mother.

Why can’t caring for your mother mean that you’re honest enough to admit that you’re not the best caregiving option? Do your best to find the care alternative that will provide her an optimal quality of life, e.g. adult daycare, errand and housekeeping services, assisted living. Do the research and consult the experts to confidently fulfill your promise to your father by securing the best care solution for your mother. If that solution involves selecting an assisted living facility, there are many resources available to you that can make this move a successful one for everyone involved. As her son or daughter you will be able to lovingly help her transition into a residential location with like-minded older adults where she can receive the care that will fulfill the promise you made to your father.

Now imagine the NEW normal that your mother and your family can experience.

Your mother lives nearby in an assisted living residence. She has companions with whom she enjoys spending time. She receives three wholesome meals a day and when she, or you, feel like seeing each other, you’re just a short drive away! The time she spends at your house will be as a pampered visitor – not an inpatient (or impatient) relative. It’s probably difficult right now for you to see this as a viable option, but I think in time, you’ll find that everyone, including your father, will be pleased with the outcome.

Here are some links to get you started on your quest: www.alz.org; www.caregiver.com; www.ltcombudsman.org

The Brutality of Loss

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My first novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, released in July of 2017, speaks of the brutal protracted loss of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Caregivers for a loved one with dementia witness the gradual loss of someone they love over an extended period of time.

Once my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it took four years for him to leave me. I was devastated the moment he took his last breath on October 13th, 2007, but my heart was continuously ripped apart during the years leading up to that final breath.

48 months, 208 weeks, 1460 days, 35,040 hours, and 2,102,400 minutes of ongoing departures from my and his life.

The characters in my novel have a front row seat to their loved one’s measured departure from this earth. That departure might appear as more-than-a-senior-moment of forgetfulness; an inability to perform simple tasks; struggling to come up with the name of the spouse to whom a person has been married for half a century; or the complete change in personality from a loving spouse to an actual threat to the other spouse’s life.

Loss is a life event from which recovery has no prescribed length of time, but recovery does eventually occur. In time, we live a minute where we can truthfully acknowledge that during that brief snippet of time, we didn’t feel the pain and despair as deeply as before. When that happens, dear friends and readers, I encourage you to celebrate that moment because if you wait for the big events for which you might hold a celebration, you just might be waiting for a very long time.

Celebrate even the smallest of victories and joys that come your way. Doing so will guarantee you many more reasons to be grateful, to experience joy, and perhaps to even witness the life-giving feeling that hope can bring.

I wrote Requiem for the Status Quo to honor my father, other loved ones like him, and all those current caregivers who are just trying to mess up less today than they did yesterday.

Perfection isn’t possible, but when you’ve done your best, you’ve done your best.

I celebrate you.

Requiem is available where all books are sold, or readily ordered if not currently in stock. On Amazon, the eBook is $1.99 and the paperback, is less than $7.

Hope + Action = Winning Combination

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Are you tired? Yeah, me too. Tired tired – due to lack of sleep. Emotionally tired – due to the day to day personal challenges we all face. And sick and tired of the status quo in a world that just doesn’t seem to want to get better. My intent with this post is not to single out any causes for the mess we’re in – that would not be a popular post and quite frankly, I just don’t have the energy to address that mess.

Rather, I simply want to state that all of us need to do better at the art of living and how that living affects others. One way in which to do better is to shift from a hopeless base to a hopeful one. Doing so may not be what it takes for you to have a positive mind shift, but it has worked for me in the past so it’s a tool that I am drawing on now.

Please accept the following sentiments as nourishment for your own journey of hope. These are quotes from the book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams:

Hope does not deny all the difficulty and all the danger that exists, but it is not stopped by them. There is a lot of darkness, but our actions create the light. Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.

Hope without action dies on the vine; it needs nourishment in the form of constant feeding and forward motion. None of us need to be scientists, psychologists, or world changers in order to be effective, but all of us need to do something positive within the limited real estate of our little corner of the world. Is it easier to just give up and let others take the lead? Yes…and no. Giving up means you have no control and if you’re like me, you don’t want to surrender the reins to just anyone!

I need to pick up this tool – this hope tool – every day and treat it as though it just might be the answer to my well-being and yours. If you and I employ it starting with our own household and then to that which exists within our control, we’ll all be better off as a result. A little bit goes a long way, especially if more people than not opt to disembark from the train of desperation and climb on board the far more promising hope train.

ALL ABOARD! LET’S GO.

 

Aging is a Privilege

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Last time I checked, the only way to live a long life is to be on board with aging.

Are there downsides to getting older? Sure there are. Here are just a few that might be applicable at any given time:

  • the body and/or the mind might not function quite as efficiently as before;
  • our peers move on, whether by relocating because of downsizing or illness or relocating to the beyond (you know, heaven or elsewhere);
  • our loved ones (spouses, partners) experience advanced illness or pass on; and
  • society dismisses us as no longer relevant.

But what about the upsides of aging? Surely positive elements exist that can be celebrated and accentuated the longer we reside on this earth, such as:

  • enjoyment of our adult children and growing-up grandchildren, if such a family dynamic exists;
  • recognition of what’s truly important in life so that worrying about the small things is a practice not worthy of our time;
  • the decision to respectfully let our feelings and beliefs be known, without holding back, and not caring as much about whether someone agrees or disagrees with those feelings; and
  • finally having time to do this, that, and the other, because there is no longer such a thing as a weekend, and every day can be filled with whatever activity pleases us.

Regarding that last point, some may argue that because our bodies don’t function as efficiently as before, it doesn’t matter if we have all the time in the world if we can’t do what matters most to us! 

That’s a valid point if the only thing that matters to a person is maintaining an Olympic-quality fitness level. Look, my husband and I used to do amazingly difficult hikes as recently as three years ago and although I miss the forests wherein those hikes took place, I don’t miss the actual exercise part of those ventures because I still exercise: yoga, aerobics, weights, (using free online videos for all three options) and taking energetic walks in the neighborhood. I’m not competing with anyone but myself when I perform that smorgasbord of exercises. Regardless of what exercise I do and how I do it, I’m still lapping everyone else on the couch.

And come on, being physically active isn’t the only qualification for contributing to the world around us. I’m not talking about the global stage, but what about the little corner of the world wherein we reside? We have time and we have a lifetime of skill and wisdom that our corner of the universe needs. Whether we find those opportunities through a community organization, senior center, local school system or elsewhere, there is more need than these organizations have solutions!

You are relevant and that relevancy needs to be recognized first by you, and then society will get on board.

The only way to live a long life is to live the life you’ve been given. And as the saying goes, this ain’t no dress rehearsal. And remember, it’s never too late to try something new. If that means letting go of something else in order to start something new, then so be it. Get after it!

Life’s Challenges

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It’s so tempting to turn the other way when we witness something that offends us, or to cringe when we ourselves think or say something of which we are ashamed and wished we had done better. Well, at least one character in my second novel, A Jagged Journeyhas a few opportunities to cringe and correct when confronted with their own abashed behavior.

In particular, those of you who have already ventured into the pages of my second novel have met Dr. Gretchen Marks and know of what I speak. From the outsider’s perspective, it looks like Gretchen leads a life of leisure in her 20th floor Seattle penthouse apartment when she’s not treating high-end clients at her luxurious counseling practice. In a book review, one of my readers characterized Gretchen as someone to be throttled posthaste and let me tell you, I relate to that character assessment with a “Hear! Hear” and a “I couldn’t agree with you more!”

But there’s a reason why I created a somewhat despicable element in my story and it’s because I really, really, want to believe that everyone can undergo an about-face in their way of thinking and come out the other side treating others with the respect they deserve. Readers will get a peek into perhaps why Gretchen is the way she is, while also asking themselves if what has transpired in her life gives her license to push against what most would consider common decency toward one’s fellow man. I’m not going to provide a spoiler by revealing what transpires in the end, because quite frankly, I think readers will walk away with differing conclusions because their own life experience might very well paint a different picture from someone else’s.

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on the matter once you’ve read A Jagged Journey and can leave an honest review on Amazon or elsewhere. It took me several years to finalize this book because I wanted to get it right while offering characters everyone will fall in love with – and there are many – alongside those we just might love to hate. As one of my book promotions has so accurately stated:

Life is imperfect, because it is lived by imperfect people, just like you and me.

 

 

Another Excerpt From My New Novel!

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Time to introduce single mother, Hannah Palmer and her young son, Sammy! Sammy’s father – Hannah’s ex-boyfriend from high school – is white. Hannah’s mother is Black and her father is White. This scene takes place after Hannah has discovered that her biracial son has been bullied at school because of his African American and Caucasian background.

Prior to discussing the issue with her son, Hannah met with the chaplain at Seattle Children’s Hospital where she worked to put together a plan that would assure Sammy of how good a person he was. Armed with the chaplain’s suggestions, she sat down with her son to discuss her own childhood experience, and his, with bullying.

“But Mom, I don’t understand why they called you an Oreo cookie. I like Oreo cookies so wouldn’t that be a good thing?”

Hannah didn’t consider the fact that her son might miss the message those kids from her childhood sent her that day; now she had to explain it.

“You know how an Oreo is white on the inside and black on the outside?

“Right, that’s what’s so fun about them, I always lick the cream inside and then eat the cookie part. It’s like having two desserts in one cookie.”

Sammy’s mom stood up from the dining table where the two of them were seated and put her mug of green tea in the microwave to reheat.

“Well, Sweetie, the point they were making is that I looked Black on the outside, but because I was with parents that were both White and Black, they said I was White on the inside, you know, because your Grandpa’s White.”

“Well that’s just stupid. You’re just you. You’ve always been that way, and I’ve always been the way I am.”

Hannah retrieved her mug and sat next to her son.

“It’s stupid, you’re right, but those kids hurt my feelings because the voices they used when making fun of me were really mean-sounding. They weren’t trying to be funny, they were trying to be cruel.”

Sammy looked down at his lap. “I get it now, that’s the kind of voices the kids at school used when they said I was a nothing. I knew they were wrong, I’m not a nothing, but they hurt my feelings.”

Hannah’s eyes watered but she was able to smile because she knew Sammy would weather this event and still be okay. “I’m glad you know who you are because you’re an amazing boy and you’re the best son a mother could ever hope to have.”

Sammy put his arms around Hannah. “Thanks, Mom, you’re the best too.”

He looked up at her. “I love you.”

Hannah kissed her son’s forehead. “I love you too.”

Words said with cruelty – or even disguised as being in jest – can hurt young and old alike. Words matter and they always will. That is why my self-publishing arm is called Words Matter Press.  I hope you’ll download my second novel, A Jagged Journey, which is now available for preorder for only $3.99 and available for your reading pleasure on April 15th.

The encouraging truth about children’s hearts!

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Yep, that’s me in both photos.

Since my grandson turned 3 months old, my husband and I have had the delight and privilege of providing child care for him a few days a week. As I’ve said to anyone who will listen, being a grandparent is one of the most cherished roles I have ever taken on.

Before Lucas had a presence in my life, however, I became a mother to a little girl who has become one of the most astonishing, loving, and giving people I have ever known. Other than the normal worries parents adopt while their children are growing up, Erin never caused any drama or heartache from the day she was born. But it’s only since I became a grandmother that I have faced the truth of how beautiful a child’s heart is – how honest and generous are their expressions of love. Don’t get me wrong, when I was a very young mother I appreciated the precious person that was my daughter, I became thrilled at every adorable development in her life, I felt that being a mother was – and is – my highest calling, but now as a considerably older mother and grandmother, I am freshly aware of a young child’s ways of expressing that love.

My husband and I can be playing outside with our 2+ year old grandson when all of a sudden he will stop what he is doing and run to one of us with his arms open wide and launch himself at his Grampa; then he will turn toward me, Grammo, and run and launch himself at me, with the tightest huggies and kissies available on this earth. Or out of nowhere, regardless of where we are or what we are doing, Lucas will walk up to one or both of us and say, “Kiss Grammo, Kiss Grampa” and we do just that. The honesty of a child’s behavior is mind-blowing to me – there is no pretense and no calculated manipulation. Certainly, that will come later as it did for all of us, but right now, that type of behavior does not exist. If one or both of us grandparents do something Lucas deems as funny, he’ll endearingly say, “Oh, Grammo. Oh, Grampa” and the smile on his face when he says that melts my heart over, and over, and over again. What a gift this little 2.9-year-old child is to us.

I am so grateful that I have been freshly exposed to the joy-infusing love of a child’s heart. What an extraordinary Valentine’s Day gift that is to me in my mid-60s of life.

 

This Week’s Good News!

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This delightful story out of Oregon shows the lengths a grandparent will go to spend time with his grandchildren and make their school days just a bit brighter. I know you’ll enjoy the wonderful connection he has with his young ones.

This Week’s Good News!

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One thing I’ve learned over the years is that regardless of how many differences appear to separate us from others, those differences disappear when kindness is at the forefront of all that we do. This next Good News story will really float your boat.

This Week’s Good News!

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Living a life with no regrets would be the kind of good news we all would be willing to celebrate. You will be saddened, but encouraged, by this WWII veteran’s story. Please take the time to honor him and his family with your time.

This Week’s Good News!

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So many in this world suffer unbearable loss; I do not know how such losses are reconciled, or how one survives such a loss without losing one’s soul. A young mother in Wisconsin lost her baby boy, shortly after his birth. The generosity she exhibited after her loss absolutely floored me.

This Week’s Good News!

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It is so easy to take the comfort of our Home Sweet Home for granted, even when so many, through no fault of their own, have nowhere to live: homeless on the street or living in their vehicle, there are countless numbers of fellow human beings who have no home to call their own. This story about a school bus driver will warm your heart. Let us all be careful not to judge those whose stories we know nothing of.

May Comfort and Joy be Your Portion

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Thank you to all who have chosen to keep in touch over the many years I have hosted this blog.

Please stay safe during the Holidays and take some time for yourself as we plod toward a New Year!

The limited value of worrying.

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Your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and as their biological child you wonder, “Will that be my fate?”

An article of mine, Me Worry? Not on your Life was recently published on the CogniHealth website, a company that in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland, developed a caregiver aid for those – especially family members – providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

I chose the topic of whether or not dementia might be passed along to biological family members because as a daughter who witnessed the decline of her father as a result of dementia, I certainly had an opinion on the matter. Does one need to worry their entire life about the chance of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease?

I hope you will read my article that while transparent and painfully clear, also provides many rays of hope and encouragement for those in similar circumstances.

At the very least, I am certain you will come away with a clearer understanding of how little value worry contributes to ones’ life.

This Week’s Good News!

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It doesn’t matter which major political party to which you belong, you will love this story that focuses on fallen heroes and the honor they deserve.

This Week’s Good News!

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One of my sisters-in-law died of breast cancer earlier this year. It was – and remains – an event that is prominent in our minds and in our hearts. This story warmed my heart, as I hope it does yours. A former Pittsburgh Steelers running back is fighting the disease that took his mother’s life.

This Week’s Good News!

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Angels exist everywhere, and if you’ve ever been touched by one, you’ll agree. This story out of Milford, OH will touch you like none other. I certainly hope each of us meets an angel like the one portrayed in this brief story. If you’re having a not so great day or week, this angel is sure to improve your outlook.

12 years ago seems like yesterday

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Twelve years ago today, my father died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. That morning I had received a call from the memory care unit where Dad had lived for several years. The nursing manager of that unit said if I wanted to see my father again before he died, I should come as soon as possible. (I had spent a week with him the month before and knew that his prostate cancer would most likely hasten his death.) I first called my husband at work to let him know I would find a flight from Seattle, WA to Medford, OR and be gone…for how long? I didn’t know. Then while on the phone with my brother and sister, I booked my flight online with a tentative return, threw the very minimum of clothing in an overnight bag, and headed to SeaTac International Airport.

If you have read my novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, you’ve pretty much read the account of what transpired for me at my father’s bedside; some of the happenings that day/evening were altered, but the gist of what transpired are contained in Chapters 41 & 42.

Upon my return to Seattle, my energy level was depleted yet still on alert. When you have a loved one with a debilitating disease, a state of alertness is the norm – the status quo of constantly being in a state of emergency, if you will. You keep waiting for the phone to ring with the latest development – such as it did for the last time on October 13, 2007 – but that phone number’s appearance on my Caller ID had ceased.

What hadn’t ceased was the business of dying – all the financial and estate matters one cannot ignore – but because of my father’s diligence and organization leading up to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, much of what I needed to do on behalf of his estate and us survivors, was readily dispatched in the months that followed my father’s death.

But the “now what?” of life post-caregiving was front and center for me. Initially, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything having to do with dementia. I continued to financially support my local Alzheimer’s Association and participated in one more Walk to End Alzheimer’s, but that was it. Then my heart called and I became an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator and shortly thereafter, I entered the world of long-term care advocacy by becoming a Washington State LTC ombudsman, both of which I did for five years.

Then my heart spoke to me again, this time it said, “How about writing about your experience as Dad’s caregiver?” I ignored that thought until I no longer could – it wouldn’t leave me alone! I dragged out all of Dad’s records and my numerous journals, sat at my dining table, and over many months’ time, outlined how I would honor my father’s journey and my family’s experience within the pages of a book that might benefit others.

That was five years after my father’s death. My book was published five years later.

Now twelve years after the end of my father’s Alzheimer’s journey,

my book still manages to make its way into the hands of those who need it.

If you, or someone you know, needs encouragement and a renewed sense of hope,

please make your way to your favorite bookstore, or find it right here.

Blessings to you today, and always.

This Week’s Good News!

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When restaurants see a need and meet that need, I get goosebumps and want to spread the good news of such good deeds. Wait until you read this story that shows the value in not ignoring another person’s hunger.

This Week’s Good News!

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I love it when children extend a hand to those in need. This story spotlights an Arkansan youngster and her mother who made a difference in the lives of many children who don’t have something most of us take for granted: shoes.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month

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In celebration of the many former and current family caregivers in the world, and in honor of their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, AlzAuthors has released the eBook of Volume II of Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregiving Stories. The introductory price is only $1.99. Be sure to get your copy now!

This Week’s Good News!

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Generosity and selflessness abound in this family that lives in the northern part of Western Washington. This story will blow your mind and provide a clear definition of what it means to be a family.

Status Quo or Same-O Same-O

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How often have you felt defeated because your day-to-day existence is somewhat routine and boring?

The life of a family caregiver, attending to a loved one with a disease or malady that is all-encompassing, is never Same-O Same-O. Any semblance of status quo flies out the window shortly after taking on this learn-as-you-go caregiver role. The boring life about which the family caregiver used to complain no longer exists as she or he memorializes that long-abandoned way of living. My memorial to status quo existed while attending to my father during his Alzheimer’s journey.

Requiem for the Status Quo speaks of that memorial to things that once were.