Personal Struggles

Life’s Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Book Release!

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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

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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.

Another Excerpt From My New Novel!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah retrieved her mug and sat next to her son.

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

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

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

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

He looked up at her. “I love you.”

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

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

A Jagged Journey

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Our lives never follow a straight path. We make turns, we leap or crawl over speed bumps and roadblocks, and when needed, we take breaks along the way while battling the insistent urge to just give up. More often than not, however, we keep going – we move forward, one step at a time, hoping for the best.

A Jagged Journeynow available for pre-order, is a novel that follows the pothole-filled lives of disparate characters between the ages of seven and seventy-seven who are far from perfect and for the most part, are not hesitant to admit it. Set in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, the diversity inherent within that region is front and center and will have readers laughing and crying in equal measure.

Laughing because the youngest character, Sammy, is a kick-in-the-butt delight when his honesty comes through loud and clear, challenging every adult with whom he comes in contact to sit up and pay attention.

And crying, because readers will see themselves in the imperfect childhoods that can find adults sinking or swimming in their grown-up years.

Ms. Olson’s new novel was written for anyone eighteen years and older as there are a few – and very far between – language elements within its’ covers. Readers won’t find any gratuitous sex or violence, however; just loving friendships and relationships that will challenge even the hardest of hearts to open up to the many joys that life has to offer.

Although her second novel does not have the same focus as Requiem for the Status Quo with its’ storyline filled with the caregiver and loved one’s journey with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, you will always find that element in every novel she writes, including this latest, A Jagged Journey.

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?

I Am Ignorant

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At twenty-one years of age, I was a newlywed living on the eastern side of Washington State.

In 1974 I had married my high-school sweetheart who was enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at a local Washington university. I met my then-husband in high school while living in Honolulu, Hawaii where my family moved in 1965.

It was a beautiful, spring day when my husband and I walked hand-in-hand through the streets of the eastern Washington city looking for a restaurant where we could have a weekend lunch date. We approached a corner, my husband pushed the WALK button so we could cross the street, and when it flashed green we proceeded to walk across the street.

A woman approached us from the other direction on the crosswalk, pointed her finger at us, and yelled,

Thou shalt not mix with other races! You are an abomination!

I am white, my former husband, Chinese.

My happily married, joyful self was astounded at the hatred and intolerant attitude thrust our way. We had never encountered such vehemence when living in Hawaii as a young couple, so please understand how hurt and shocked I was. I was so taken aback, the first words that came out of my mouth were, “F*ck you!” My twenty-one-year-old self stood up for herself and her marriage partner in the quickest way she knew how.

As of this writing, in all my sixty-seven years of life, that is the only me-directed racism I have ever experienced. But that is not the case for people of color.

  • I have never been pulled over for driving while being white.
  • I’ve never been asked to prove that I belong in the neighborhood in which I was walking or riding my bike.
  • To my knowledge, I have never been followed through a department store by a store employee or store security personnel while shopping as a white woman.
  • Again, to my knowledge, I have never been turned down for a job for which I was highly qualified because of the color of my skin.

My current husband of twenty years and I have three daughters between us. My daughter is a beautiful mixture of Caucasian and Chinese, my husband’s daughters are Caucasian. While our girls were growing up, we instructed them on how to be safe when out and about; we helped them recognize dangerous, every-day situations they should try to avoid but we’ve never had to have “the talk” that so many parents have had to have with their non-white children, especially their sons.

  • If asked, show law enforcement your hands and ask permission to get something from your vehicle’s glovebox.
  • Don’t wear your hood out on the street and don’t put your hands in your pockets.
  • If you get stopped, don’t run.
  • And by God, please, please, just get home alive.

I have an educated knowledge and keen awareness of the issue but I lack sufficient experience to truly understand the challenges faced by many people of color. I am ignorant in the sense that other than that one incident forty-six years ago, I have not been personally hurt – emotionally or physically – in the manner in which so many have been, and still are.

I understand the sentiment, All Lives Matter, but Brené Brown offers the following in her book, Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone:

I believe Black Lives Matter is a movement to rehumanize black citizens. All lives matter, but not all lives need to be pulled back into moral inclusion…the humanity wasn’t stripped from all lives the way it was stripped from the lives of black citizens.

It is my hope that one day soon, we will all get it right. The general public learns more each and every time an incident of racism makes it to the news, but shouldn’t we have learned something more by now, given the number of horrid headline incidents that have occurred nationwide?

We all can do better. 

I will do better. 

Discounted Books About Alzheimer’s Disease

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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time to increase understanding of what dementia is and how it impacts the lives of those it touches. It’s also a great time to work to decrease the stigma and silence that too often accompanies an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Each June AlzAuthors hosts a book sale and giveaway to help caregivers and those concerned about dementia find knowledge, guidance, and support offered through shared wisdom and experience. AlzAuthors is the global community of authors writing about Alzheimer’s and dementia from personal experience. I’m proud to be a part of this growing non-profit organization, and I’m excited my eBook, Requiem for the Status Quo, is a part of this sale for only 99 cents, but only for a week!

June 15th through June 22nd you can take advantage of this biannual opportunity to purchase excellent resources on the dementia diseases for free or at reduced prices. AlzAuthors offers a variety of genres, including fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and children’s and teen literature. Most are available in Kindle and ebook, and many are available in paperback and audio. I would like to encourage you to build a library of carefully vetted books to help guide and inspire you every day.

These books are written from a deep place of solidarity, vulnerability, and love. May you find one – or two, or more! – to help guide you on your own dementia journey. Click here for the sale’s discounted offerings.

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?

Granny Can’t Remember Me, by Susan McCormick

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Granny Can't Remember MeGRANNY CAN’T REMEMBER ME:  A CHILDREN’S BOOK ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S

by Susan McCormick

Granny Can’t Remember Me, my lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, was motivated by our family’s experience with my mother’s Alzheimer’s. My sons witnessed her agitation when she knew her memory was failing, yet we learned how to shape our conversations so they were pleasurable for all. My boys always started a visit with my mom with, “Hi, Granny, it’s me, James, or it’s me, Peter.” This set my mother up to know she was the grandmother and this was her grandchild. If not for those clear introductions, my sons would be greeted with, “Which one are you?” I wrote this book for children like mine, who need coping skills for this sometimes scary and sad all-too-common family situation.

We learned not to ask any questions, because this would make my mother anxious and worried. Before her Alzheimer’s progressed, my lawyerly mom would try to figure out why she didn’t know the answer, and she would often try to fake an answer or turn the conversation away from the question. This upset her. So, my boys would just state the facts and start a conversation. “Today is Friday and it’s root beer floats and milkshakes day. I love root beer floats and milkshakes.” Then my mom could join in with, “I love chocolate milkshakes best of all.” In the book, six-year-old Joey doesn’t ask his Granny what she ate for lunch because he knows she can’t remember.

Another trick was to have a story my boys knew my mother enjoyed, usually about Albert, our huge, slobbery Newfoundland dog. The boys could say, “Albert got stuck in the pantry and ate an entire bag of flour.” Then my mom would say, “Oh, Albert, what a dog! What a mess!” They could tell the same story over and over; my mom always loved it and couldn’t remember that she’d heard it before, which always presented an interesting conversation topic. Alternatively, they encouraged my mom to tell her favorite stories. In Granny Can’t Remember Me, Joey hears Granny’s stories again and again, how Mom cut Uncle Jim’s hair playing barbershop or when Jim got a bump on his head playing catch with rocks.

We never questioned anything my mom said. When I told her James wanted to learn to drive a manual transmission but couldn’t find a car with a stick shift, my mom brightened and said, “My car is a stick shift, he’s welcome to borrow it.” Instead of telling my mom she hadn’t driven in years and that her car was long gone, I said, “Thank you, I’ll let him know.” She beamed, knowing she was helping. In Granny Can’t Remember Me, Joey knows his grandmother’s dog was alive long before he was born, but he doesn’t tell this to Granny, he just goes along with her story.

These methods, not asking questions, going with the flow of the mind of the person with dementia, and telling favorite stories, served my boys and our family well. In the book, though Granny can’t remember Joey likes soccer and rockets and dogs, with the endearing stories of her Three Best Days, Joey knows she loves him just the same. Granny Can’t Remember Me shows a boy’s acceptance and love for his grandmother despite her unfortunate illness. I hope the story helps other families dealing with dementia as well.

Author Bio

Susan McCormick is an author and doctor who lives in Seattle. She also wrote The Fog Ladies, a cozy murder mystery with spunky senior sleuths set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University Medical School, with additional medical training in San Francisco and Washington, DC. She served as a doctor for nine years in the US Army before moving to the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys. Her mother and father-in-law had Alzheimer’s disease.

Social media links

Author Website: https://susanmccormickbooks.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47112539-the-fog-ladies?from_search=true

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/the-fog-ladies-a-san-francisco-cozy-murder-mystery-by-susan-mccormick

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susanmccormickauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/smccormickbooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susanmccormickbooks/

 

 

 

This Week’s Good News!

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A five-year-old in San Diego, CA was concerned about school lunch debt incurred by those households not able to keep up with their children’s lunch expenses. Wait until you see how she set out to rectify this ongoing problem that occurs in so many school districts. What a great story to start February’s weekly good news!

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!

This Week’s Good News! a few days late…

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Lending a hand when needed is something at which customers at a Birmingham, Alabama Waffle House excelled. I am certain one particular employee at this eating establishment had the experience of a lifetime during his work shift. I sure do love good news like this.

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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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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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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What do farming, cancer, and the kindness of others have in common? Read this extraordinary and touching story to find out. Goodness abounds, it really does.

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.