Novel Updates

Adulting Is Hard

Posted on Updated on

Life is not an easy venture, regardless of who we are or how we were raised. But we get up every morning, stumble through our wake-up routines, and plod through the day because that’s what the human condition requires.

We all know that some days are easier than others – just as some years are worse than previous years – but when the not-so-good times start piling up day after day, we tend to wonder if we’ll ever get to the other side of the bad.

Life is most definitely a contact sport. Scrapes and bruises are bound to hit many of us in debilitating ways.

The fictional characters in this new novel – released April 2021 – are acquainted with yours and my experiences. They’ve had it tough, and they’ve had it easy, and how their lives panned out reflects outcomes not unlike those we’ve all endured.

Misery loves company isn’t what the author had in mind with the writing of A Jagged Journey but she knew that those going through a tough time could benefit from how Charlie, Hannah, Gretchen, and the book’s many other true-to-life characters, handle the challenges that come their way.

The outcomes aren’t all touchy-feely and rainbow-laden, but that’s not how real life pans out for you and I anyway.

May this well-crafted story keep you company during the highs – and the lows – in which you find yourself, and may you experience the joy and hope that so many previous readers of Journey have enjoyed.

New Book Release!

Posted on Updated on

I am so very excited about my latest novel – now available in paperback and eBook! Just as REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO was a work directly from my heart, A JAGGED JOURNEY has come from my heart as well – but in a very different way. I hope you will read my new novel’s synopsis and grab a copy for yourself. eBook just $3.99; Paperback just $11.99.

Last Sneak Peek of A JAGGED JOURNEY

Posted on Updated on

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.

A JAGGED JOURNEY excerpt!

Posted on Updated on

I love the new story I crafted and I LOVE THE CHARACTERS!!!

This brief excerpt takes place on a Monday in a classroom at the Seattle high school where Charlie Brooks, an Environmental Science teacher, and Jamila Sanders, school Spanish teacher, discuss Charlie’s current relationship after a Friday date that didn’t go at all as Charlie had planned.

 

Charlie crossed his arms in front of him. “I didn’t do any school work this weekend, I didn’t trust myself to grade the papers fairly. My students didn’t deserve for me to take out my anger and hurt on their assignments.”

 

“That was very thoughtful of you.”

 

“It was, wasn’t it? Anyway, I spent most of the weekend at a gym I hadn’t been to in weeks, and boy was I focused, so focused, in fact, that on Saturday one of the attendants had to remind me not to monopolize the equipment. I guess one of the other customers complained that I wasn’t following proper gym etiquette.”

 

“Gym etiquette? You see, that’s why I’ve never joined a gym. Working out is hard enough without having to worry about being polite. Jeez, I don’t know how you do it.”

 

“Well, like I said, I hadn’t gone in weeks because there was too much macho pressure feeling like I had to perform better than the guy next to me. My membership period expires this month. I cancelled the auto renewal when I left the gym on Saturday.”

 

“Good for you, no one deserves that kind of stress.”

 

Charlie stood up and paced in front of the classroom. “And guess what I did Sunday that was a sure sign I had fallen into the deep end?”

 

Jamila tapped the side of her head, looked up, and conjectured, “You drank yourself into oblivion?”

 

“No.”

 

“Um, you did some baking, and if you did do some baking, why didn’t you bring me any?”

 

“Baking? Hardly.”

 

Jamila slapped her hands on both sides of her face. “No way, you went to a ‘gentleman’s club.'”

 

Charlie couldn’t decide whether to crack up or be offended. “How long have you known me? You think I’d frequent that kind of a place, a place that if one of my student’s parents saw me might mean the end of my job?”

 

“Okay, yeah, you’re right, but what did you do on Sunday that was so utterly unbelievable?”

 

Charlie placed his hands on the back of his chair. “I went to Mass.”

 

Now it was time for Jamila to laugh. “You went to church? In all the years I’ve known you, I think I can count on one hand the number of times you told me you had gone to church. And wait a minute … you went to a Catholic church? Since when did that become the religion of choice for you?”

 

“It isn’t, okay? I just wanted to go someplace that might offer some amount of solace in my time of need and that church was a convenient one.” Charlie started to laugh at himself. “In answer to your next question, no, it didn’t help. And get this, I actually walked up and took communion. I was just mimicking the people in front of me, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. By the time I turned around to walk back to my seat, I felt like a heathen of magnanimous proportions and walked right past my seat and out of there as fast as I could.”

 

“Didn’t you even get a receipt?”

 

Charlie did a double-take. “What are you talking about?”

 

“A receipt, the weekly church bulletin. I used to give my parents a hard time when they went to Mass. They complained the whole way there, and then at the end of the service when we walked out, we were handed a bulletin and my parents would say, ‘Well, at least we got our receipt.’ Happened every week.”

 

“No receipt for me. God, I’m such a loser.”

 

Jamila picked up her backpack. “You are not a loser. I don’t have friends who are losers.”

 

A Jagged Journey will introduce you to characters similar to those with whom we come in contact at work, play, and everywhere in between. If you’ve given up hope trying to find goodness and kindness in the immediate world around you, be assured you just might find what you’re looking for within the pages of this novel. I write because I figure just about everyone needs someone in their corner to help them along life’s troubled way. Although A Jagged Journey portrays the ups and downs inherent with life as we know it, I believe it just might serve as the catalyst to fill up your hope tank – a tank that may be hovering around empty right about now. This book will be released on April 15, 2021, and is now available for preorder.

Life’s Chapters

Posted on Updated on

I am not a writer, I happen to be a woman, mother, spouse, sister, grandmother, aunt, and a friend who has tried her hand at writing. I wrote a novel, Requiem for the Status Quo, to honor the father for whom I provided care when he had Alzheimer’s disease – a disease that took his life on October 13, 2007. I didn’t set out to be a novelist – arguably, I’m really not a novelist at all – but I knew it was imperative that I do something important for future Alzheimer’s caregivers and to use whichever vehicle was needed to accomplish that something. For me, it was writing a book.

Then what? What else could I possibly do to magnify the impact I set out to make regarding the disease that takes everyone it settles on, and forever changes the family members associated with its victims?

What I did was join AlzAuthors, a digital and community platform that uses the art of storytelling to light the way for those impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, to advance understanding of the disease, and to lift the silence and stigma of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As a newly published author and a survivor of dementia caregiving, I was extraordinarily impressed – and still am – with the organization founded by three daughters of Alzheimer’s who sought a place of refuge and resources for their own caregiving journeys.

Then a funny thing happened – one of those founders asked me to join the management team of five, an invitation I gladly accepted, and with the guidance of a business consultant, who just happens to be my own daughter, AlzAuthors went from being a growing community of authors to a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Then something else happened: although not serious, my health took a debilitating turn that now requires me to step back from my AlzAuthors responsibilities. Only the patient knows what she can handle, and what I know is that my focus needs to be on my health, as well as on the precious family that means so very much to me. I am still an AlzAuthor and I very much support AlzAuthors’ non-profit mission, but I will do so from a slightly removed distance.

Of this I am certain, and I quote Pico Iyer when I state:

In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow.

In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention.

In an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.

I completed another novel with a message I feel is of great importance that I will publish later this year. Currently, however, I have more important matters on which to spend my time and energy.

Now is my time for sitting still – focusing on me, and focusing on my family. That is the latest chapter I am writing for my life, hoping to get it right, once and for all.

12 years ago seems like yesterday

Posted on Updated on

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.

My extraordinary success as an author

Posted on Updated on

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.”

 

 

A wealth of books about Alzheimer’s disease

Posted on Updated on

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.

Another step to honor my father

Posted on Updated on

Who would have thought when I started my publishing journey to honor my father’s life – a life that was cut short because of the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease – I would one day be featured as part of Maria Shriver’s efforts to combat Alzheimer’s disease in women? But I am!

The Mission of Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM):Every 65 seconds, a new brain develops Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of the brains with Alzheimer’s belong to women, and no one knows why that is. The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement is determined to find out. Founded by Maria Shriver, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising awareness about women’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s and to educating the public — women andmen — about lifestyle changes they can make to protect their brain health. Through our annual campaigns and initiatives, we also raise dollars to fund women-based Alzheimer’s research at leading scientific institutions, so that we can better understand this mind-blowing disease and hopefully get closer to a cure.

My contribution, Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Personal Caregiving, is a transparent look at the challenges every dementia caregiver faces, even for a personal caregiver who had years of professional memory care experience, as did I. If you know of someone who could use some encouragement – whether they are caring for someone with dementia or another debilitating illness – I hope you will share my Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement piece with them; doing so would honor my father, and all those current and future caregivers who just might need some additional support in their corner.

Discounted book about Alzheimer’s!

Posted on Updated on

The eBook and audiobook of Requiem for the status quo will continue to be available on Amazon until the end of 2019. I am going to self-publish the paperback version through my publishing arm, Words Matter Press so as of March 1, 2019, you will not be able to purchase a paperback copy for your bookshelf until Words Matter Press’s Spring 2019 release on Amazon.

 

In the meantime, the Amazon paperback price for the month of February has been reduced so those who want to add this book to their library can do so at a discounted price before supplies run out. If you are a Prime member, shipping is FREE! 

Let these recent reviews encourage you to get your copy today!

Rubies My mother recently died from Alzheimer’s, and I could really relate to everything she wrote about. All her information is very accurate, and I felt like she was on the journey with me.

Vicki T. Olson draws in the reader, introducing us to the Quinn family, including protagonist Colleen, daughter and primary caregiver for Patrick, her beloved father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The author deftly weaves together the stages of this dreadful disease throughout her fast-paced narrative and in so doing, educates us on the progression of this always fatal disease. The characters are down-to-earth and believable, the story sprinkled with both humor and the pain of loss. A must-read for any caregiver whose loved one has been diagnosed with dementia.
Ann H. Irene Frances Olson does not flinch from the specific cruelties of Alzheimer’s disease in this novel, and I admire that very much. It is devastating to lose someone you love, bit by bit; devastating to watch them struggle to think as their brain is constricted by plaques and tangles. That said, this is also the story of how taking on the role of caregiver can be incredibly meaningful, even though it is also impossibly exhausting. In this case, an adult daughter is caring for a father she loves, and their mutual affection is made very poignant by the toll of the illness.

 

Spotlight on two authors: Irene Frances Olson and Jill Weatherholt

Posted on Updated on

While you’re enjoying your last official weekend of summer, I hope you’ll read a fellow blogger’s post Summer Spotlight that just happens to be an interview of an up and coming author … me!

And while you’re at it, check out that blogger’s inspirational romance title; Jill Weatherholt is quite good at what she writes. I enjoyed her novel, I know you will too!

Release day for Requiem for the status quo

Posted on Updated on

Today is release day for my debut novel.

My horoscope that day

On December 29, 2012, I first sat down to write that novel.

On the day of the fifth anniversary of my father’s October 13, 2007 death, I decided to write a novel inspired by my caregiving experiences as his Alzheimer’s care manager. I was certain novel writing would be a huge undertaking because up to that point, I had never written fiction. Because of the enormity of said project, I figured I would wait until the beginning of the following year – you know, a fresh start and all.

But the universe had other plans. My December 29, 2012 horoscope was what the universe used as the catalyst to get my attention. More than that, it shocked me into action. The horoscope so alarmed me, I cut it out of the newspaper, typed it out in large font, and after writing my novel’s very first page, I framed all three to memorialize the outstanding coincidence of what my Taurus-scope said. Here, for your enlightenment, is its wording:

Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year. Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

I showed the horoscope to my husband and if it at all possible, he was more shocked than I at the horoscope’s content. He left me alone the remainder of the day, knowing the horoscope meant business, and so did I. I closed the door to my office, sat at my computer and started typing.

I didn’t know what I was doing. As I mentioned earlier, I had never written fiction. At that point, my personal blog, Living: the ultimate team sport was filled with 100s of non-fiction pieces, most of which centered around aging, long-term care, as well as numerous posts about Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia, and the caregiving struggles faced by families. But to write prose – with dialogue!!!!! – was beyond my skill set, and remained to be for quite some time.

The short of the long of it is that Requiem for the status quo was not the first title for the novel, there were many, the first being Have we met? Aren’t you glad I changed it to its current one? Not only were several titles tried on but my magnum opus went through many rewrites, most notably and importantly, the first draft contained a whopping total of 140,000 words. You see, I had a lot to say and I just kept typing until I had nothing more to add.

That’s an excellent way to get thoughts down on paper, but the first draft is by no means the final product that is pitched to agents and publishers. My now published novel is less than 68,000 words. Yes, lots of cutting and slashing took place over the years, to the point where not only am I proud of the finished product, but a publisher is also proud of it, Black Rose Writing.

I will close this post by providing glimpses of my father to you over the years. I hope you enjoy this montage that includes, from top left: My mother and father’s wedding day, 1947; my wedding day 2000 (my favorite photo of my dad and I); and the Desonier family circa 1971.

Gone but not forgotten

Posted on Updated on

Having completed my second novel, currently titled BRIDGED BY BETRAYAL, I packed up all the research I used for my first novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO.

An early version of my 1st novel circa 2014
An early version of my 1st novel circa 2014

REQUIEM spotlights a family that struggles with the tangible and emotional elements inherent when battling a disease that is always fatal; a disease that gives you daily – if not hourly – reminders of its devastating effects.

I could not write about the fictional family’s journey without incorporating some of my own stories from my years as Dad’s caregiver. I also included other people’s stories as told to me through my work as an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group facilitator, and as a Washington State certified Long-Term Care Ombudsman. (Names and facts altered to protect those directly involved.)

My Dad and I on a picnic, Spring 2005.
My Dad and I on a picnic, Spring 2005.

The research materials I packed away this past weekend consisted primarily of the caregiving journals I kept while being my father’s primary long-distance caregiver while he endured Alzheimer’s disease.

That research also included reams of paper I organized into multi-tabbed folders containing the various doctor’s reports and findings from the seven years of dad’s disease journey.

I was not prepared for the emotion with which I was blanketed when I pulled out the large waterproof chest that had resided in my writing space the past three years. Placing my research in the chest, shutting it, and returning it to its original under-the-stairs location was extremely difficult for me.

In a certain sense, I felt I had betrayed Dad because I wasn’t just packing up some paper, I was putting away the physical evidence of his seven year battle of brain function loss.  Read the rest of this entry »

Second novel … completed!

Posted on

Female writer with streak of gray hairYes, it’s true, I finished my second novel at approximately 3:30 pm PST November 25th, 2015. I wrote a 60,201 word novel (10,201 words above the required minimum word count) in 25 days as a participant in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) event.

Is the novel ready for publication? Hell no. Now begins the editing, fleshing out, adding and subtracting of content, and fact-checking drudgery required of a book fit for representation and publication.

But I did it! I averaged 2,408 words per day; yesterday alone I wrote 3,879 words in five and a half hours.

It’s all in the preparation, Bay-bee, at least for me it was. For the first time, I used a novel-planning software called Snowflake Pro developed by Randy Ingermanson. This software isn’t writing software per-se, rather, it’s planning software that helps you craft all the necessary elements for your novel.

The greatest realized benefits occurred in Step Three (wherein you create a list of characters and flesh out their storyline) and Step Seven (where you’re forced to answer forty-seven questions about each of your characters.) These questions are quite thorough, from stating the height and weight of your character, to best and worst childhood memory, to religion and political leanings, to how the character sees herself and how others see the character, and much more.

Typist caricatureArmed with these character profiles, the writing came easy for me. Of course I changed some of the initial answers as I completed one chapter after another. As is usually the case when drafting a novel, I found as I got to know the character better, I needed to redesign its destiny, but without a preliminary resume of sorts, I would have found myself floundering – not a comfortable position to be in when you’re on deadline. Yep, I’m certain I would not have experienced the same outcome without the software’s guidance. Read the rest of this entry »

First step for any endeavor: START

Posted on Updated on

man with binocularsYou have an idea that turns into a personal goal. You plan for it, making a list of To Dos and To Purchase, or whatever lists are required to put your idea into motion.

Then you’re paralyzed: when do I start? how do I start? You begin to second guess your idea, your plans, your goal.

Perfection is stagnationParalysis by analysis sets in. You freeze in place. You do nothing for a day, a week, a month, eventually discarding the project about which you were initially very excited.

Doubt sidelined your goal.

For me, taking that first step can be the beginning of failure, and because it is, oftentimes it’s a step I choose not to take.

I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, in August or September, I don’t remember. I purchased book-drafting software called Snowflake, and went through every step needed to prepare an outline and/or book proposal for a novel, my second. I was extremely excited about the novel’s concept.

I kept receiving NaNoWriMo emails, counting down the days until November 1st when that novel writing month would commence. The second week of October I questioned the sensibility of subjecting myself to completing a novel in thirty days. The third week of October, I ceased all preparation. Monday of the fourth week of October, I decided not to participate. Read the rest of this entry »

12 Lessons Learned From a Debut Author | WritersDigest.com

Posted on

12 Lessons Learned From a Debut Author | WritersDigest.com. I’m a debut novelist so I latched onto the attached article pronto! In writing this article, Anne A. Wilson managed to describe emotions I’ve been experiencing for the past several months.

Female writer with streak of gray hairWhat makes Anne’s story even more relatable for me, a somewhat older novelist, is that Ms. Wilson wrote her first novel six years ago at the age of forty-three.  That’s not the novel that actually got published, but herein lies my point: it took years for her to write a publishable book.  Also, Ms. Wilson had no creditable writing education or experience when she decided to write a novel.  Like me, she was “starting from scratch.” Read the rest of this entry »

Setting aside our perceived limitations

Posted on

Movie director clapboardEarlier this year, Richard Glatzer, co-director of the award winning movie, Still Alice, died at the age of 63 after battling ALS for four years.  It would have been unfortunate if he had gone with his first reaction when approached to adapt Lisa Genova’s novel into a movie.  (Evidently, he almost turned down the project.)  Fortunately for us, he did not.  One article on this subject indicated that it was Glatzer’s personal connection to independence-robbing illness that gave Still Alice a greater authenticity.

From what I understand, Mr. Glatzer used one finger – using a text-to-speech app – to communicate every directive.  I don’t have to know anything about film directing to understand that doing so with his “limitations” would have been extraordinarily clumsy and time consuming.  I wonder if his decision to accept the project was made in part because he believed he was the best person for the job.  Did you see the movie?  Wouldn’t you agree?

Leaping over a hurdleYet all of us are faced with far less daunting struggles than those experienced by Mr. Glatzer and we cave in to our well-honed ability to find every reason not to pursue a task that requires exceptional action on our part.

I’m ashamed of all the excuses I’ve come up with to postpone – or to avoid entirely – new ventures that required more of me than I was willing to give.  Ugh – I grieve those lost opportunities when I think of the benefit to me and others such ventures would have provided.  But crying over spilled milk won’t undo the past.

Going forward I can commit to seizing new opportunities and disregarding the emotional and physical hurdles in my path.

I can, but will I?

Will you?

 

 

 

Rejection: part and parcel of the writing craft

Posted on Updated on

Labyrinth redGetting Out of the Labyrinth: Part 6 – Submission. The attached article on the submission process of trying to secure a literary agent, was written – and experienced – by now successful author, Kate McIntyre.  This exceptional article is Part 6 of a series that so painstakingly and accurately describes the writing journey of a debut author.

God help my withering writer’s soul and those of other struggling writers that perish in publishing purgatory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rejection is a passing fantasy

Posted on Updated on

Enevelope greenHave you ever been rejected? Read the attached NY Times article: Accepted? Rejected? Relax You’ll see that the article was retitled since it first appeared so when you click on the link, you’ll see the subject matter as being about college admissions.

Rejection affects all of us: it’s not just about college admission policies.

I’m a writer; I should know.

I’ve only been looking for an agent for 30 days, therefore the 15 rejections – or what I like to call not interesteds – I’ve received out of 60 submissions sent is only 25% of the total so far.  Wow, 75% of the agents haven’t turned me down yet! Read the rest of this entry »

Requiem for the status quo

Posted on Updated on

Allow me to reintroduce myself:

My name is Irene.  I am the author of the upcoming novel Requiem for the status quo.

Some of you know me as a family member, friend, or casual acquaintance.  Others are familiar with me as the author of this blog, a writer who has posted hundreds of articles over the past several years.  Still others know me because of my professional connections as a volunteer advocate for vulnerable adults living in long-term care (LTC) facilities, or because of my years as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator.

Typist caricatureI’m here to announce that in addition to being the family member/friend/acquaintance/volunteer/co-employee of the past and present, I am also the novelist who has something to say.

“Oh my gosh Irene, I didn’t realize your book was already published!”

It’s not, but I’m actively pursuing agent representation by contacting several agents per day until I no longer need to.

“Why should people be interested in your book?”

Because I have an engaging way of writing about Alzheimer’s disease – a disease that will affect each and every one of you because until a cure or vaccine is developed to eradicate it, this disease is here to stay.  Whether a person’s diagnosis falls into the actual Alzheimer’s category, or into one of several other dementia such as: vascular, lewy body, frontal temporal, Parkinson’s, or dementia resultant from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), there’s no escaping its effect on the unpaid caregiver (that’s you and me) and the person being cared for (spouse, partner, mother, father, brother or sister).

And here’s a fact of which some of you may not be aware: Alzheimer’s is not just an older person’s disease; an increasing number of people are being diagnosed well-before the age of 60.

“Say it isn’t so, Irene.”

I can’t do that.  What I can do, however, is tell you a wee bit about my book: Read the rest of this entry »

Entering the arena of vulnerability

Posted on Updated on

Arena colliseumNow that my novel is finished, I decided to re-post an article I wrote about daring greatly. Everything we do requires a certain amount of risk: walking across the street, going on a 1st date, changing careers. But if we don’t take a calculated risk, we’ll never see the inside of the arena; we’ll never know what we missed.

I hope you enjoy reading this article that served to remind me that as I start to look for agent representation for my first novel, I should do so with the confidence that my vulnerability will one day pay off.

Living: the ultimate team sport

It’s not the critic who counts; it’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles; or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

re-enactment of a gladiator fight in the arena... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly and who errs and fails, and is sometimes victorious.  But when he fails, at least he does so daring greatly.

The above is an abbreviated quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, Citizenship in a Republic a/k/a The Man in the Arena, delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910.

Brené Brown, PhD, paraphrased the above when appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Super Soul Sunday.  I admit – I’m addicted to the types of shows that challenge the way I think, and/or that validate the way I think.  This particular show that…

View original post 415 more words

Do you believe in magic?

Posted on Updated on

Horoscope chartMy December 29, 2012 Horoscope:

Today is a 7.  Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year.  Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

Prior to 12/29/2012 I would have stood by my belief that Horoscopes are merely faulty predictions by faulty people provided to those of us who are humored by such baseless declarations of personalized present and future outcomes.

But that personalized declaration for Irene on a day in late December 2012 was right on the money.

Computer stationThe backstory: During the summer of 2012 I made the decision to write a novel that focuses on the lives of caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.  The focus would be split with equal attention spent on the person with the disease.  My book’s mission: to put a personal face on those every day people (that’s you and me) thrust onto the memory-removing disease journey.  Once I made the decision to write a book, I set January 1, 2013 as the start date for my project.

That start date was moved up based on the extremely accurate Horoscope (see above) for this wannabe author whose birthday fell under the sign of the bull: Taurus.

I obeyed the directive and sat at my computer that very day and managed to write page after page of content.  Wow!  I’m writing a novel!  It was quite exhilarating being able to spew page after page of fictional story line based on experiences I had with my father, my sister-in-law, and the many people with whom I became acquainted during my years of work with vulnerable adults.

I finished the “final” version of my manuscript earlier this month and set the timeline for next steps: starting January 1, 2015 I will actively seek representation for my novel.  Oddly enough, that seems to jive with today’s Horoscope (2 years after the first timely Horoscope) if you force a few of the jigsaw puzzle pieces to fit what’s currently going on in my life.

My December 29, 2014 Horoscope:

Today is a 6.  Hide away somewhere peaceful and you can get some productive thinking in.  Inspire intuitive leaps.  Creative work pays well now.  Don’t squander an enticing opportunity.  Meditate on it, and your choice comes to you.  Nurture your physical health with exercise, good food and rest.

Glass Now TAMI guess I may as well get to it based on previous personal declarations that brought me to this stage of my writing career.  Seriously, why wait when I can do it now?

If you’re interested in how this all pans out for me, I hope you’ll Follow my blog for updates.  If you’re already a Follower, stay tuned for more predictions and/or fabulous outcomes.

 

 

Pooped in your pants lately? How’d that feel?

Posted on Updated on

Were you eating breakfast in bed at the time? 

Or perhaps while sitting in the easy chair next to your bed, you tried your very best to ignore the urge to purge … but you couldn’t wait any longer for someone to assist you so you let it all out, leaving you in a shameful way, sitting in a mushy pile of excrement while a stream of urine puddled at the base of your chair.

Welcome to the life of a vulnerable adult living in a nursing home.  From coast to coast across the United States skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are filled with adults needing the greatest amount of assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) – toileting is one of those ADLs.

The following true scenarios occurred recently at a nursing home in a Seattle suburb, and at a similar facility in a suburb of San Francisco.

A handicapped toilet in South San Francisco, C...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man who is fully reliant on mobility assistance pushed the call button near his bed to register a need for assistance.  In this case, he needed to go “Number 1” and “Number 2” and had the audacity to require assistance while the staff was busy attending to other residents’ needs – but not his needs.  When a staff person finally entered his room an hour later, she did so to simply indicate that she didn’t have time to take him to the bathroom so he should just go in his pants.

A woman equally as vulnerable needed the assistance of a staff person upon waking in the morning and – knowing that breakfasts were brought around to the rooms at 7 a.m. – the 91 year old started to press her call button at 6 a.m. hoping to have her morning pee prior to the arrival of her breakfast tray an hour later.  That “luxury” was one that would not be afforded her; instead, a caregiver brought a breakfast tray to this patient in the seven o’clock hour and when the patient asked if she could receive help to the toilet prior to eating her breakfast, the employee told her to just go in her pants because no one had time to help her at that moment.

I can’t help myself – here’s another incident:  A staff person helps a woman to the toilet first thing in the morning.  The woman who is clothed in a lightweight nightgown finishes using the toilet and is ready to receive assistance back to her bed – but lo’ and behold, the staff person forgot to place the call button within close reach of the patient so she is not able to alert someone of her desire to go back to bed.  Enough time has passed that by this time the patient is shivering and screams for help – screams that went unnoticed for a quarter hour.  In desperation this elderly woman somehow managed to lean far enough forward to push over a metal trash pail which she then kicked repeatedly until someone finally arrived to see what all the commotion was about.

These stories don’t paint a very pretty picture do they?  They depict a low quality of life that no one deserves.

What does Quality of Life mean to you?

  • Eating at fine dining establishments?
  • Having a clothing wardrobe that rivals the catwalks of Paris?
  • Driving in a luxury vehicle that provides amenities previously only found in limousines?

For most of us, quality of life boils down to leading a dignified existence in which we are allowed to take advantage of the basic necessities of life.  For me, those necessities should include a safe living environment, sustenance, the inclusion of loving family and friends in my life, the freedom to make choices about matters that are important to me, and being on the receiving end of respectful behavior from those with whom I come in contact.

The most vulnerable among us should expect no less than those basic necessities, but “the system” isn’t working to guarantee those basics.  Try to imagine, if you will, your own grandparent, parent, spouse, partner, or other family member in any one of the above scenarios.  How comfortable are you with that type of day-to-day existence for them?  You’re not comfortable at all – as a matter of fact you’re feeling a bit uneasy about this whole subject matter.  I’m sorry to place doubt in your mind about the care your loved one is receiving but I’ll just bet that you need to get out of the comfort of denial you’ve been enjoying and into the eye-opening role of resident advocate.

Lack of caring = lack of care.  Nursing home management is a tough job to do correctly, but I know it’s possible because there are some reputable and well-run facilities out there – not perfect by any means, but fairly acceptable.  So yes, some nursing facilities employ stellar care staff but there are also those employees who just don’t give a damn.  “I go to work.  I go home after work.  I get paid.  What more do you want from me?”  Caring – that’s what we want.  You’ve chosen to work in this particular type of environment so don’t act like you didn’t know what you were getting into.  Withholding proper care for those who have no recourse but to depend upon you is not only unfair, but it’s illegal.  And how about answering these questions about your own aging prospects: Do you think you’ll somehow skip the journey into old age?  Do you not realize that you too will be as old as the patients whose care is entrusted to you?  What type of care will you hope to receive?  Does it resemble any of the scenarios I’ve illustrated above – or are you under the impression that you’ll be at a “Champagne and Chandelier” type of place where you’ll be waited on hand and foot?

Not gonna happen.

This article just scratches the surface of the sub-standard care that can be found in nursing facilities.  I only mention the toileting issue because it’s been front and center in my experiences with some of my acquaintances lately.  One place to start getting some positive traction where these matters are concerned is the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center where you’ll find links to advocacy programs in your state.  Call those local representatives and report any concerns you may have about how your loved one is being cared for, or not cared for, in their nursing facility, assisted living facility, or group home.

If you act on behalf of your loved one, you’re also acting on behalf of everyone else in the facility because trust me – your mom isn’t the only one being neglected on her nursing home floor.