Family issues

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.

One Week Only: discounted books about Alzheimer’s and other dementia

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AlzAuthors is celebrating their four year anniversary as an entity by offering many discounted books for an entire week, but that’s not all. The Longest Day – which starts this discounted week-long period – is known in the Alzheimer’s community as a day to celebrate and honor those with the disease, and those who have passed from the disease.

AlzAuthors honors each caregiver – past and present – who has experienced the struggles inherent with helping a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or any other disease under the dementia umbrella; they are offering this discounted book purchasing opportunity to everyone who might benefit. If you know of someone in that category, please share this post with them – you will be doing them a great favor. Click right here to discover the discounted prices, then click on the book cover (or covers) of the books you wish to purchase, and you’ll be directed to the purchase page for each book. It’s that easy!

Time to fill your bookshelves with discounted books about Alzheimer’s disease

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Starting Friday, June 21st, the longest day of the year AND The Longest Day as celebrated in honor of those who have Alzheimer’s or other dementia or who have lost their lives to this always fatal disease, several AlzAuthors will be discounting their books so you will want to fill your shelves – virtual or otherwise – with several excellent sources of support.

These authors will generously discount their books for an entire week. Set your calendars so you don’t forget!

The link to these discounted books will be provided soon!

Sustenance for the family caregiver

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In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, New York Times columnist and author, David Brooks, eloquently responded to Oprah’s statement where she said, “I hear that authors write the books they need to read.” Mr. Brooks’ response:

We writers are beggars who tell other beggars where we found bread.

He further explained that statement by saying:

We found it here, we want to share it with you.

That is what the more than 200 AlzAuthors have in common. Each author may describe their quest or mission somewhat differently, but no doubt many of them would agree that the impetus to write about their personal experiences was a call to action they could not ignore.

As a member of the AlzAuthors community, I personally feel that the more mainstream the conversation surrounding the Alzheimer’s and dementia experience becomes, the more the AlzAuthors’ vision will be realized:

Our vision is to lift the silence and stigma of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

May you find sustenance within the AlzAuthors community.

My extraordinary success as an author

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A lot of time and effort go into writing a book. Regardless of the genre, much needs to take place prior to that work of art arriving in the public’s eye to be consumed. The writing process is grueling: outlining; picking character names – developing those characters to become who you need them to be, killing off characters that don’t add anything to the storyline or content; researching anything and everything having to do with absolutely every topic you decided to include within the front and back covers of your project; pounding out page after page of your shitty first draft – because every first draft is shitty; editing, cutting and pasting, throwing out your manuscript and then retrieving it from the garbage because you can’t bear to give up on something that initially seemed to mean so much to you.

But the preparation for my novel began years before I knew I would even be writing it.

My life changed forever when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Up until that point, AD was something that happened to other people. Just like everyone else, I was afraid of it – had friends whose parents or other loved ones were diagnosed with it – but just like everyone else, I really and truly did not think it could get close enough to harm me, but it did. You see, I had hoped my professional work in the assisted living and memory care field would be as close as I would ever get to the dreaded disease that is always fatal, but I was wrong.

As my author bio states: Having previously worked in memory care, she was not new to the disease, nor was her family immune.

Years after my father’s death I chose to prolong my involvement with all things dementia, venturing forth into one of the most competitive fields around because it appears that everyone … everyone … has a story to tell, and many have chosen to tell it. With well over 8 million books currently available on Amazon and just a fraction of those touted as Best Sellers, a person would be crazy to even think about adding to those numbers!

Or that person would be brave.

Bravery sounded better than crazy to me, knowing that putting myself out there would leave me vulnerable, exposed before every critic who, although a reader and not an author, would not shy away from tearing apart my completed labor of love. But I wanted something positive to result from my father’s and my family’s Alzheimer’s experience so rather than shying away from risking failure, you know, doing nothing that might prove disheartening, I chose to lay my heart out on the line.

And I am a success.

I am a success, not because Requiem for the status quo made it to Oprah’s book club and/or the New York Times’ Annual Top Books list, and certainly not because of any wealth publishing a novel has brought me…relatively few authors make money in this field. I am a success because I let my love for my father be translated into a novel, creatively based on my own family’s experience, so that others – whether a million in number or just a thousand – could find some encouragement and hope through the ashes of my family’s grief.

And guess what, others read my story and told me time and again how much it resonated with them; how my writing seemed to mirror what they too went through, or were currently going through. Readers thanked me for my story … they thanked me! If that isn’t success, then I don’t know what is.

All I can say is, “You’re very welcome.”

 

 

This Week’s Good News!

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A New Jersey mom took her son to a skate park on his fifth birthday as recommended by her son’s behavior therapist who is treating the youngster’s autism and ADHD. You will perhaps be surprised by how her son was treated by some older boys who frequented this same skate park. Read all about it here.

A book for family caregivers

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Although my novel, based on my own caregiving experiences for my father, focuses on the challenges faced by those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, it also benefits Every Caregiver – that universal person who finds her or himself as the primary individual caring for a loved one with a debilitating illness.

My prayer is that Requiem for the status quo helps everyone struggling to balance their own needs with that of their loved one.

Allow me to introduce my mother

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My dad and mom in their early 20s

Patricia Constance Conroy Desonier: born on May 6th, 1917, she married my father on May 26th, 1947,

and died in her sleep on September 24, 1994.

My mother never complained about how much pain she experienced in her life. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis as a teenager, she lived with this debilitating condition, staying as active as she wanted to be. When I was a young adult, I told Mom how much I respected her for her activity level, knowing each deformed joint in her body never let her forget the disease that got progressively worse as the years wore on. Mom’s response, “If I stay at home and do nothing, I’ll still hurt. I’d much rather be active, doing something I love, and hurt more.” Nothing stopped my mother  – absolutely nothing. She took neighborhood walks; she golfed using special clubs with thickened grips; she made all our clothing; she painted the insides of each home I lived in and stripped and restored wood furniture that stayed with the family in various iterations throughout our lives.

Mom encouraged me to write from a very early age. As a four-year-old, she let me pound on her manual typewriter, typing gibberish but encouraging me to read my “stories” to the family at dinner time. My current soft activism can be attributed to both my parents, but especially to my mother. I say “soft” activism, not because I pull punches, but because I learned how to have an impact on others without offense, without judgment, and with a kindness that speaks far louder than words. Like my mother, I won’t stand for injustice; also like my mother, I won’t dish out unjust behavior just so my voice can be louder than the offending voice. I guess the phrase, “Kill ’em with kindness” is applicable in this respect. My mother killed many a person in that manner.

Mom didn’t miss out on seeing all of her grandchildren, including my daughter, Erin, above, but she did miss out on meeting my extraordinary husband, Jerry, and his two daughters, which she would have welcomed as her own granddaughters. Dad had the privilege of getting to know my husband and he met my additional two daughters, and for that, I am truly grateful. I honor Mom today – her birthday – and every day because she deserves the same honor and respect she bestowed on others, including my father with whom she was married for forty-seven years.

I love you Mom and am so pleased you live within me.

A wealth of books about Alzheimer’s disease

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AlzAuthors is a community of more than 200 extraordinary authors who have written about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Today I am spotlighting those books written by the community’s supportive management team, of which I am a member. Please take time to visit the six books spotlighted below. I truly believe you will be glad you did. Let AlzAuthors light your way through Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Daughter – a memoir by Jean Lee. A poignant accounting of a family’s life after both parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease on the same day.

Blue Hydrangeas – an Alzheimer’s love story by Marianne Sciucco. A touching account of a couple’s journey into Alzheimer’s and of the love that never succumbed to the disease.

Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia by Vicki Tapia. This engaging memoir offers useful information from experts within the field of Alzheimer’s research, personal lessons the author learned along the way, and ideas and tips for managing the day-to-day ups and downs of dementia.

Weeds in Nana’s Garden by Kathryn Harrison. A heartfelt story of love that helps explain Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias geared toward the children in our lives.

Motherhood: Lost and Found – a memoir by Ann Campanella. A memoir of the ordinary and extraordinary courage of those who endure debilitating and even crushing illness, and those who suffer with them when they do so.

Requiem for the Status Quo by Irene Frances Olson. A novel that explores the delicate balance of families upended by Alzheimer’s disease and how they manage their loved one’s needs with their own.

This Week’s Good News!

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You will absolutely fall in love with this story about a retiree who improves the lives of numerous children, every school day. He does so much for this school in Washington state that is located in an impoverished area just south of Seattle, he was assigned his very own parking space right at the front of the property. There are school volunteers, and then there’s Mr. Preyer, a man who has something to offer every single child at Tukwila Elementary School.

This Week’s Good News!

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We have all been on flights where, lo’ and behold, walking down the aisle to find their seats is a parent and her or his baby and if you’re like me, you silently prayed, “Please, please, please don’t let that baby be seated anywhere near me!” Okay, maybe you didn’t exactly say that prayer but I know you had those thoughts. Well, a mother boarded a plane for a 10-hour flight with her four-month-old baby and you just know there were passengers thinking about how their extended flight experience may turn out to be. Well, the mother had a contingency plan, which this article spells out. I was amazed by what she did!

Is time your enemy or your friend?

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Sometimes statements or concepts I hear repeatedly over the years suddenly come to mean something new to me and when they do, wow! My life is set on edge, but in a good way.

I was listening to a podcast the other day focused on the concept of stress and anxiety in the workplace and in our private lives. The statement, “We oftentimes declare time to be our enemy when we have so very much to do and so little time in which to do it” came up and suddenly, a new perspective about time settled within my thoughts and within my heart, which made me boldly declare out loud:

Time is my very good friend, because I still have time.

That was it – very simple – but I know the reason for that revelation came about because as of January 24, 2019, my extraordinary sister-in-law, Wendy, no longer had time at her disposal. I know Wendy wanted more time to spend with her husband, three adult children, her sisters and brothers, her good friend Gary who also happened to be her boss, and so many other people she cherished, and who cherished her. But through no fault of her own, decades of life were stolen from her by the ugly injustice of cancer.

I cared for my sister-in-law greatly. I choose to honor her by respecting the time with which I have been gifted, just as Wendy so beautifully spent the time given her.

Won’t you do the same?

 

 

This Week’s Good News!

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Wow! Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! Joe Bahr suffered the loss of his brother, Marty, to Alzheimer’s disease. Joe and Marty made a deal before Marty passed on. Check out here what that deal entailed. What a legacy Marty left for the rest of us!

Get your discounted copy today!

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And if you act now, there are a few copies available that are ridiculously priced for under $13. Act now while supplies last!