Health & Wellness

Why Bother?

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We’ve all read about the effectiveness of vaccines, most recently the vaccines to prevent Covid-19 virus infection. My post today is a brief one in which I am not offering my opinion, but I am offering data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, Yale Medicine, and WebMD.

I’ve heard people state – whether directly to me or through social media – that getting the Covid vaccine doesn’t guarantee we won’t acquire Covid-19 so why bother getting it? The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not 100% effective toward warding off the virus, but they are in the mid-90s percentile of effectiveness. Click this Yale Medicine link to see how successful they can be at warding off the virus and therefore preventing its spread.

The flu vaccine is nowhere near as effective as Covid vaccines but it is a vaccine many acquire each and every year as new flu vaccines are developed to fight the upcoming flu season – the vaccine changes each year to keep up with flu virus variants. This CDC link outlines the 2019-2020 flu vaccine efficacy to be between 25% and 55% depending on a person’s age.

Another bit of data I find extraordinarily helpful is this WEB MD link that spotlights how effective our Covid preventative measures have been toward making the current flu season almost non-existent, compared to previous years’ infection rates. Let’s face it, wearing masks, being diligent about hand washing, and limiting exposure to others seems to illustrate how the same measures we’re employing to prevent Covid transmission have had an amazing side effect: very limited flu virus transmission. That’s not my opinion, thus far 2020-2021 flu is a non-issue.

“But Covid is still an issue and people are still dying from it.” True. Covid is a virus, but it is not the flu. Covid has proven to be far more transmissible and deadly than the flu with which we’re familiar. Because of that fact, in the United States, bothering to get the Covid vaccine is an inconvenience 81 million fully vaccinated people have chosen to experience, with 202 million doses given nationwide as of April 15, 2021. There have been some rare cases of breakthrough Covid infection post vaccination, but viral loads are low, and the transmission rate to others is greatly reduced. Given the data provided, we all should be able to decide whether risking infection is something with which we are comfortable, and whether vaccination to reduce infection is an option to consider.

 

Last Sneak Peek of A JAGGED JOURNEY

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This final novel excerpt before A Jagged Journey is released on April 15th, introduces you to a key character, psychologist Gretchen Marks, and her unlikely friend, Amit Singh, an Uber driver who comes to her aid when no one else is available. Gretchen’s life has taken a cruel detour, in part because of her way of being, in part because life is oftentimes no respecter of persons.

“Are we going to the same place today, Doctor, where you have previously visited?”

“Yes, please.” Gretchen glanced at Amit and then out the side window. “Unfortunately, it will be a place I visit every day for a few weeks. If I had my choice, I’d rather have a root canal, but it appears God has chosen to punish me so I get to have these treatments instead.”

“I do not know what this root canal is of which you speak. Is that something to do with the hair on the top of one’s head?”

A smile broke out on Gretchen’s face at the innocence projected by her driver. “That’s a good one, Amit. Thank you for making my day.”

“A good one you say?”

“A root canal involves the teeth, not the scalp. It’s when a really bad tooth needs a lot of work, and it’s not enjoyable at all. But given how my treatments make me feel, I think the dental work would seem like child’s play…it would seem like something far easier than what I’m doing.”

“I see, yes, my splendid wife, Faria, had something similar to that soon after we arrived in this country – there was a cavity in one of her teeth. And you indicated that these treatments you are enduring are a punishment from God?”

Gretchen thought it was just like a foreigner to take idioms literally, but she had to admit his way of thinking was somewhat refreshing. “It’s just an expression people sometimes use when things aren’t going well for them. And a contrary statement might apply if, when we arrive at our destination, there’s a parking space available at the front where you can pull in and let me out. If that were to happen, I might say, “Well, I must have done something right in my life and now God is rewarding me.”

“Thank you, Dr. Gretchen Marks, for your very thorough explanation about expressions Americans use in their speaking.”

Amit and Gretchen arrived at their destination, Amit pulled into an open space right in front of the building. “I see, Dr. Marks, that you must have done something right because God has graced us with this parking space.”

He parked the car and stepped out to assist Gretchen. He guided her out of her seat by her elbow and helped her step over the curb. “There you are, Dr. Marks.”

“You know, you can call me Gretchen.”

“Oh no, Doctor, you have attained a very important status in life that accords great respect. Unless it offends you, I will continue to address you as Doctor.”

“That’s fine, Amit, and regarding this parking space?”

“Yes, Dr. Marks?”

“It was because of your good works that God arranged for this space to be available. I’m quite certain my past works didn’t warrant such a benefit.”

“Either way, it is good that we are able to claim it, yes?”

Gretchen fumbled with her purse for a tip. “Yes, it is very good. I’ll see you after my appointment later today and I will call you a half hour before I am done.”

Gretchen’s appointment did not go well as she received some devastating news – said news put Gretchen on the defense when her Uber driver picked her up later that day.

Amit picked up Gretchen at the appointed time and although he tried to engage the doctor in conversation, he wasn’t entirely successful. At one point, Gretchen lashed out at him.

“Amit, are you a United States citizen?”

He looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Not currently, but that is my goal, Dr. Marks.”

“How long have you lived in this country?”

“Four years, Doctor.”

“What’s taking you so long to become a citizen?”

Amit drove a couple blocks then asked Gretchen a question. “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”

“What? What has that to do with anything?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“Excuse me?”

“Amendments. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers that were written in support of the Constitution of the United States.”

“I have no idea. I’m not sure I’m even familiar with those papers.”

“I am. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were two of the writers.”

“Good for you, you’ve memorized the answers on the civics exam for citizenship, that doesn’t make you a US citizen.”

“In this country it does.” Amit pulled up in front of Gretchen’s condo. Looking straight ahead, he had one more question for her. “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?”

Gretchen looked at her lap, then out her side window. “You win, Amit, and I’m sorry for being such a horrible person today. My doctor gave me some bad news and it’s made me angry at the world.”

Amit got out of the vehicle, opened Gretchen’s door, and helped her out. “This bad news, is it something you want to talk about with Amit?”

She patted the hand that rested gently on her forearm. “Maybe tomorrow, Amit. Will I see you at eleven?”

“It would be my extreme pleasure, Dr. Marks, thank you.”

There are many characters that are a part of the lives of those with whom you have already met: Charlie Brooks, the high school teacher and his fellow teacher Jamila Sanders. Single mother, Hannah Palmer and her engaging son, Sammy. And now, Dr. Gretchen Marks, and her Uber pal, Amit Singh. The cast of characters you will meet in A Jagged Journey are varied in age, life experience, and intent. I hope to see you soon, within Journey’s pages.

Worth the Price of Admission

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A year after the Covid spread became a verifiable pandemic, I received my 1st dose of the vaccine that will open up the possibility of arriving at herd immunity…depending on the percentage of people who agree to voluntarily submit themselves to the needle.

The global community has been immersed and drowning in a disaster that will become future school students’ history lessons on what can happen when a not-detectable-by-eye virus travels the world on the backs of unsuspecting travelers.

I’ve lived sixty-seven years and therefore have already lived through news events and disasters that are currently a part of history books everywhere. Trust me when I say, I would rather have a boring life experience than be able to recount the tragedies that have befallen my country and our world over the past six decades. The current pandemic is just one of many, but it’s currently front and center in my life, and in the lives of many.

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, after weeks and weeks of concerted effort, I submitted myself to the vaccine needle. I didn’t make finding a vaccine appointment a full-time job, but my dedication to doing so was sincere and robust. The day before I received my shot, my husband and I were preparing to go outside to enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest weather. “I’ll join you in a few minutes…I just want to check the vaccine websites one more time before I go out and play.” 

And lo’ and behold, when I checked the 4th of as many appointment sites, a 1 pm appointment the very next day just a few blocks from my house showed as being available and I signed up for it as fast as I could, not wanting it to slip out of my hands.

THE VACCINE EXPERIENCE – GLORIOUS!!!!!

Three other similarly aged people stood behind me in line as I checked in – early! – for the privilege of moving forward in a vaccinated world. For me, the price of admission into that world is a sore arm, and that is all. But even if more uncomfortable side effects were guaranteed as a result of acquiring the vaccine, my husband and I were committed to getting vaccinated because a couple days of discomfort beat any day of having Covid. (My husband will acquire the vaccine when his age makes him eligible.)

Before I left the neighborhood pharmacy where I acquired my 1st dose, the pharmacy tech scheduled me for my 2nd dose, which will occur a few weeks later. I walked out of that pharmacy floating on air – and not because I was experiencing delirious or detrimental vaccine side effects. Nope! I was merely feeling what it’s like to be moving toward the other side of Covid, and closer and closer to once again being able to spend time gathering with loved ones with a greatly reduced chance of acquiring or spreading the virus that could make us severely ill, or even usher us into the great beyond.

Many express their desire to get back to normal, but I don’t think normal will ever return, nor should it. Just as after 9/11 we all adjusted our normals to accommodate our present experience, so too will we adjust our normal as a result of this virus experience that as of today’s date has killed 508,000 US people, and 2.5 million people world-wide.

BUSINESS AS USUAL WON’T AGAIN BE OUR NORMAL, BUT OUR RESILIENT ABILITY TO RESPONSIBLY MOVE FORWARD WILL SERVE US WELL.

 

 

A Change of Heart

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For many of us, our 2020 outlook was dingy at times and full of sharp edges at other times. It’s now a new year, and boy did it arrive in an explosive way. Last year, and its current new year counterpart, have kind of felt like we’ve experienced an entire lifetime of uncertainty tempered by acute feelings of fear and anxiety with no relief!

Who of us want that to be our 2021 way of being?

Not me. Same-o, same-o just doesn’t work for me. We cannot change what has transpired and have marginal ability to shape what is to come, but I relish the opportunity to control what is within my personal ability to control:

MY RESPONSE.

I choose to enter this new year by altering the way I respond to it. When I change my outlook, I have the chance of changing my response. When I change my response, I might be able to paint the way others choose to respond. If that sounds too good to be true, please know it is not. Everything we say and do influences those around us – whether someone living in our own household or the strangers we encounter in the community. We can choose to come from a place of possibilities rather than defeat; from a place of nourishment rather than a viral place of bitterness.

We are all harboring sad and bitter emotions – many of them resultant from the events of 2020. We can’t change the past, but we can create a better present that might turn into a more hopeful future. And let me tell you a secret…sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it. Who knows, you might be so convincing, you’ll be able to drop your efforts at fakery and actually flourish in your new found well-being.

I want that for me, and I want that for you.

Won’t you give it a try with me?

Of Barnacles and Candy…Oh My!

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Definition of a barnacle: A marine crustacean with an external shell that attaches itself to a variety of surfaces. One of those surfaces that non-marine barnacles attach to is aging human skin. There, I’ve said it, aging human skin! Mine to be exact! So said my dermatologist at my most recent annual skin cancer screening appointment. But wait, lest you think the only aging attribute one can look forward to is crusty, discolored skin, let me introduce you to one of the sweetest parts of aging in which one can luxuriate: the candy bowl.

My husband and I have put out an easily accessible candy bowl filled with mini chocolates of numerous varieties for the past seven years – there is no mini-sized chocolate we have not tasted. When purchasing provisions at the grocery store the other day, I told the store clerk and bagger, “We’re just trying to keep alive the stigma of old people eating candy. Doing our part to support one of the oldest clichés of our generation.”

I will say, however, that if my husband and I didn’t have the gift of willpower regarding sweets, we would have never started this 365 days of the year tradition. If each of us ate 3 mini-treats a day, I would be surprised. When it comes to candy, we really don’t have a problem stopping at one or two. (Probably can’t say the same for glasses of wine, however.) 

Am I thrilled that my skin is old enough to have barnacles? No, but I am thrilled and grateful that I am a woman of a certain age who can boast about barnacles and eating candy in one, celebratory post.

And may I conclude by saying:

I hope to live long enough to keep spotlighting – and celebrating – aging matters for many years to come.

 

 

 

Equanimity: My Word of 2021

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Equanimity describes a way of being with each moment, regardless of that moment’s characteristics, with a sense of the bigger picture in mind.

For me, that equates to understanding the impermanence of everything in life – the good, the bad, the mundane. A gloriously happy moment will eventually fade, but so will a horrific and unbearable moment. It’s more than a this too shall pass way of thinking. Instead, it involves a willingness to simply be with what is.

Standing in the middle of it all. Balanced. Centered.

STABLE

I Am SO Angry Right Now!

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Those close to our household have taken great measures to be safe in this age of Covid-19. The household with which we have had most contact over the past several months is that of our youngest daughter and her husband, with their son, and as of September 9th, their daughter.

The plan was to add our granddaughter to our current care day schedule, once a week, but now that Covid stats in our state are so ridiculously high – as is the case in too many states in the “United” States – our two households have decided to curtail all further contact for the time being.

This decision was made, not because our personal households have faltered, but because too many households have failed all around us, making avoidance of the virus more problematic. No one enjoys the inconvenience, but because some have rebelled against the inconvenience, we are no closer to containing the virus.

Had civilization as a whole been less selfish, we wouldn’t be dealing with this upsurge in cases…we would be adjusting to a new normal that is FAR better than the ongoing abnormal we are currently experiencing.

I am so f*cking angry right now. As a result of the selfishness of far too many people, my household is currently being robbed of a healthy relationship with the newest addition to our family. Please understand me when I say, I know we are not the only individuals affected by a pandemic that hasn’t been handled correctly from the get-go. My husband and I are healthy and we want for nothing. Millions have been affected far worse than has my household with our seemingly minor personal issue.

But I beg of you, please, to allow me this mini-pity party while I mourn this inconvenient loss.

Life is Precious – Let me Tell You Why

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This post is about anticipatory vs sudden death. I know that doesn’t sound like a very positive post in honor of my sixty-seventh birthday, but this subject matter weighed on my heart the other day so I decided to write about it.

The last time I saw my mother was the 3rd week of August 1994. She died one month later. Mom and Dad visited their adult children during the month of August: my brother and I in the Seattle, WA area, and my sister in Northern California. What a gift that was – the impact of that gift not fully appreciated until Mom was taken from us during her sleep on September 24, 1994 – a life-changing shock to my father who found her, an occasion for us kids to receive the worst news possible by telephone.

The last time I saw my father was October 13, 2007 at his bedside as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease leeched the life from him. When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years earlier, we knew there was no cure; we had time to prepare for the inevitable, an inevitability accelerated by a cancer that was not operable due to my father’s frail condition resultant from the slow deterioration of his body by Alzheimer’s disease.

Which death was more difficult, the fully unexpected one, or the expected one?

There is no comparison, and by that I mean you cannot compare grief in that manner. Grief is grief and although the shock of my mother’s death was a jolt to our emotional systems, so too was the slow death that occurred for my father. The outcome was the same: someone we all loved no longer existed, but more importantly, we became painfully aware that whether a person is seventy-seven years old when they die, as was our mother, or eighty-nine years old as was my father, life is short.

The child who succumbs to an illness, the teenager killed in an automobile accident, the newly married sweethearts starting out on their journey as a couple, the sixty-something-year-old or centenarian whose days come to an end, all those lives are valuable and their ending won’t always be anticipated.

It may be trite to say live each day as though it were your last, but trite or not, that’s what each of us needs to do. I do so without being morbid about it – rather, I have gotten into the habit of living and loving fully, always respecting and honoring those with whom I come in contact, and spreading kindness and truth wherever I go. Because, as I’ve said: life is precious.

Won’t you join me?

What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name? Turns out, quite a bit. We have all been on the receiving end of name misspellings – whether our first name or our surname. Countless times since my 2000 marriage, my surname has been spelled Olsen.  Fortunately, when our name appears in print, oftentimes such misprints are easy to correct and life blissfully carries on. But what about after our life has ended?

In my home-based gym, I have been exercising as of late to a Netflix series, Finding God, hosted by Morgan Freeman. What attracted me to the series was the fact that no one religion is spotlighted, rather, many beliefs are presented, and that pleases me to no end.

Today’s episode discussed the topic all of us wish we knew more about:

What happens after we leave this life; is there such a thing as eternal life?

Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question but what I can offer is the following: our name will live on forever. Morgan Freeman went to Thebes, Egypt and received an educational tour of Ramses’ tomb in the Valley of the Kings. (There were several Ramses, this was one of them.) In this tomb, Ramses tried to preserve the memory of his life by writing on the walls and pillars with both a self-body image (a selfie) and the actual writing of his name in the language of his time. He was well aware that many would outlive him but he was also aware that no one lives forever so he’d better make his mark on history while he could.

What about our mark on history? I already know there are more than one Irene Olsons, which is why when I published my book Requiem for the Status Quo, I wrote out my full name, including my middle name, Frances. No doubt I am not the only Irene Frances Olson who ever existed but to my knowledge, I am the only one who wrote this particular novel to honor her father who died from Alzheimer’s disease; I am the only Irene Frances Olson, née Desaulniers then changed to Desonier by her parents in the hopes of others spelling it correctly; the only Irene Frances Olson who birthed Erin Maureen Li Sai Wong Green; the only woman fortunate enough to be named Irene Frances Olson because of her marriage to Jerry Olson; I am also the only Grammo to her grandson, Lucas…and so on and so forth. Who I am as Irene Frances Olson is different from every other person similarly named because who I am is a result of how I have lived my life and how I continue to live my life.

My name is very important because it is attached to the me who is trying to make a difference everywhere she goes.

No one else is me, so I choose to make sure I inspire memories in others that will carry from one generation to the next. Fortunately, I don’t have to be famous in order for that to happen. All that is necessary is that the me that is attached to my version of Irene Frances Olson is memorable in a positive way.

This Week’s Good News!

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Oh my, I sure do love it when my local ABC affiliate runs an Eric’s Heroes story. You will be challenged, yet encouraged, by how 83-year old Bernie Stillwell has chosen to face life – even as she loses bits and pieces of her mobility.

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.

This Week’s Good News!

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Happy New Year! May 2020 see kindness, love, and abundant health as your portion!

If I tried to describe the story that makes up the first Good News story of the year, I would fail miserably. Please click on this link to both read, and listen, to proof that miracles happen, and because they do, we should never give up hope.

This Week’s Good News!

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This story out of Nova Scotia, Canada will warm your heart. There are angels everywhere, and this guardian angel proves it when he helps an elderly neighbor.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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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As someone who relies on books to provide carefree, enjoyable quality time in my life, I really appreciate a story based out of Chicago, that focuses on libraries and their book-return policy. Just wait until you read this one!

This Week’s Good News!

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A young girl in the UK wants Crayola Crayons to improve its ecological footprint in her country. Check out her extraordinary efforts here. She is amazing!

This Week’s Good News!

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TODAY IS WORLD COMPASSION DAY. LET’S SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS!

This story is a grand way of illustrating how being in the right place at the right time can mean the difference between life and death.

This Week’s Good News!

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Chad Kollman knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. The thing is, he doesn’t even consider that he’s been served a heaping portion of lemons, even though the casual observer might conclude that to be the case. Enjoy this story that is certain to brighten even the darkest of your days.

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.

Meet Sue Anne W. Kirkham, author of Loving Zelda – A Stepdaughter’s Caregiving Journal

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by Sue Anne W. Kirkham

How it all began:

It was late October when my husband, Jack, and I showed up at my father and stepmother’s townhouse to walk their two dogs—a duty we’d taken on several months earlier, after they announced they no longer felt up to the task. At 84, my father suffered from respiratory and circulatory problems; at 81, my stepmother showed early signs of dementia, with some Parkinson’s-like tremors erupting, just to keep things interesting. I was determined that they not be forced by these circumstances to give up their pets. On this day, Dad greeted us at the door with another shocker. “We have to move into assisted living.” No hello. No how ya doin? Just this stark declaration.

Dad and Zelda had always been younger than their years in every respect. He continued his career as a psychologist into his late 70s, and the warm, witty, delightful woman he married in 1972 had always been active and ready for a new adventure. Each enjoyed absorbing hobbies, and they eagerly traveled the globe together for most of their 32-year marriage.

As Jack and I herded the pups that chilly autumn day, I remained troubled by the prospect of a radical change in lifestyle for my beloved father and stepmother. So I hatched a plan: leave my dreary clerical position and devote myself to lightening their load and injecting some sparkle back into their lives. I would carve out a new weekday vocation as companion/housekeeper/social director/exercise coach/assistant cook.

I kept a journal from Day One as, over the next 18 months, Zelda suffered incremental losses of mental acuity. Less noticeably, my father’s COPD was cranking toward a dramatic climax that none of us anticipated. While I focused on finding enough fingers to plug the ever-multiplying holes in the home-front dike, Dad’s staunch self-sufficiency propelled him through his own physical deterioration. Meanwhile, I watched Zelda—former organizer of Fourth of July kitchen band marches—fade into confusion. To be at her side through the slow, agonizing loss of her Self would prove to be the most affecting experience of my life. It soon became clear that the course I was chronicling was strewn with striking contrasts: moments of high hilarity and wrenching despair; snapshots of the struggle for dignity in the face of decline; arcs of mood between fear and optimism, gratitude and resentment. Hobbling my efforts to navigate these troubled waters was the crushing blow of friends and family members challenging my motives, questioning my trustworthiness.

This enterprise had much to teach me about life and death, human limitations, faith, and endurance. The struggle, as they say, was real. But the joys and rewards were every bit as genuine.

Why I wrote about it:

As my time with Dad and Zelda ended, a fresh commitment shaped my mission: I had been seeking a book topic I felt passionate about. This was that subject. I would share our experiences, unique amidst all the universal similarities, to promote understanding and support others confronting the challenge of caring for those who once cared for us. I chose the memoir format because, as dementia robbed Zelda of her voice, my journal became the story; it painted a complete and authentic picture for readers. Memoir also allowed for the interweaving of  family history, a fleshing out of characters, and a means of affirming through narration the individual’s continuing worth, untainted by the loss of physical and cognitive abilities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue Anne Kirkham is a freelance writer who blogs atwww.yourrecipesforlife.com. She has published print articles on aging and family relations as well as online profiles of inspiring everyday heroes, and essays on health-conscious living and the peculiarities of contemporary culture.

FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:

 

FOLLOW THE AUTHOR:

Author website: www.lovingzelda.com

Author Facebook page: @LovingZeldaCaregiving/

Twitter: @SueAnneKirkham1

LinkedIn: Sue Anne Kirkham

This Week’s Good News!

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This story out of Ashton, Maryland is sure to pull at your heartstrings. A pound dog was saved just in time to become a very welcome resident of a senior living residence. So much joy abounds in this story – I thought it would be the perfect Good News to close out the month of October.

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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There is a science to being kind, and UCLA in California has set out to prove it! They opened up the world’s first Research Institute on the Science of Kindness, which I’m sure you’ll agree is something the world needs right now. Check it out for yourself!

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.