Retirement

Kindness Fridays

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One way of expressing kindness is by expressing gratitude.

Anytime we think we don’t need to thank someone for something they’ve said or done that meant something to us, we do them a disservice.

My husband and I have been gifted with daily gratitude each time we take care of our grandson during our daughter and son-in-law’s work week. We have a routine: our daughter drops off our grandson and all other items needed for his day with us and as she gets into her car she always says, “Thank you.”

Our son-in-law picks up our grandson after a grueling day of work outside and after securing our grandson into the backseat of his truck, he says, “Thanks you guys.”

We’ve been caring for our grandson a few days a week since early August and now with September coming to a close the routine is pretty much set in stone but what isn’t set in stone, what is always fresh and affirming, is that our grandson’s parents bend over backwards to express their gratitude for what we’re doing to enable them to go to work and not have to worry about the care their son is receiving.

Big deal, right?

It is absolutely a big deal. We thoroughly enjoy the time we spend with our grandson – it is such a privilege we have been given – and we enjoy seeing his parents each caregiving day.  Their expressions of gratitude never get old; every time they say “Thank you” I am filled with warm fuzzies that carry me through the day and the night. Such delightful adult children.

 

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The secret of Alzheimer’s disease

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I discovered something shocking during the weeks that followed my novel’s release:

Alzheimer’s disease is still a secret.

I know; we’ve all certainly read about it, especially when a celebrity is diagnosed with the disease. Every once and awhile there might be an Alzheimer’s Association commercial on television…that is assuming we don’t fast forward through it or walk out of the room. Another reason we’re familiar with the disease is that it is happening to so many people with whom we are acquainted – whether intimately or tangentially.

But it’s still a secret. The very definition of the word speaks to its intent: adj. not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others; n. something not properly understood; a mystery. from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary

In many of my promotional posts and boasts for my novel Requiem for the status quo, I’ve indicated that my book tour would probably look more like a senior center tour than what is normally the route for authors: readings and signings in major and independent bookstores. That’s the tact I took, approaching numerous senior centers in Western Washington. 25% of those I approached booked my author event on their activity calendars.  But when I approached a major senior housing community foundation to get on their speakers’ calendar, I was told the residents pushed back at the foundation’s previous efforts to enlighten and inform when they hosted those who spoke to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.

Damn. Read the rest of this entry »

Author Celebration: Books about Alzheimer’s disease

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To celebrate my own book’s July 20th release, a book that’s about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, I am tooting the horn of other authors who have done the same, a few of whom I know personally.

There’s a high degree of sadness surrounding this list because almost without fail, those authors who have written memoirs, story collections, fiction, and non-fiction books have done so because of their own personal Alzheimer’s journey.

Ann Hedreen, Her Beautiful Brain – A Memoir. Ann lives in Seattle, Washington, and has provided valuable support to me through my own publication journey. To quote Amazon.com:

Her Beautiful Brain is Ann Hedreen’s story of what it was like to become a mom just as her beautiful, brainy mother began to lose her mind to an unforgiving disease.

I can not imagine the struggle Ann endured while being a new mother whose time and energy was already spread so thin when life happened to her and her household, in a manner hardly believable to so many of us.

Collin Tong, Seattle journalist, Into the Storm – Journeys with Alzheimer’s, a compilation of true stories that starts with the very personal story of Collin’s caregiving journey with his wife, Linda. Collin’s support of my project, telling me not to give up when so many agents and publishers wouldn’t give me the time of day, inspired me to keep on keepin’ on. His story collection is amazing. Again, quoting Amazon:

In his compelling new anthology, Into the Storm: Journeys with Alzheimer’s, twenty-three writers, journalists, educators, health practitioners, social workers, clergy and other family caregivers from across the United States share their intimate stories of caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Each of the twenty-three stories are gems that you do not want to miss. I know you will be as impressed as I was by each and every one of them.

The next entry contains numerous authors and their books, found in one central location: AlzAuthors. The purpose for their site states:

We are AlzAuthors. In some way, each of us who have come together on this site have been affected by Alzheimer’s Disease/dementia. We share our experiences to bring knowledge, comfort, and understanding to others on this journey.

Click on this link to the AlzAuthors Bookstore to discover a wealth of informational and engaging books that will meet the needs of those who are caring for parents or grandparents, spouses or partners, those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, fiction books, books for children and teens, and those offerings that provide helpful information for one and all.

3rd Act Magazine, not a book, but a publication addressing the third act of one’s life, usually heavy on those of us who are Baby Boomers. This publication has so much to offer its readers. I, for one, am pleased that the subtitle of their magazine reads, Aging with Confidence. You got that right! You’re not done with us yet; we have so much to offer the world that is spread out before us.

And yes, all of the above-mentioned projects prove that a lifetime of experience – the good and the not so terribly good – equates to having something to say, and not being afraid to say it. Which brings me to my part in that effort:

Requiem for the status quo is currently available at just about any bookstore you can walk into or find online. If a particular store doesn’t currently stock my novel, simply request that they order one for you and you should be able to get your hands on it in short order. You can order Requiem at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Be sure to shop around for the best price, you won’t be sorry you did. And for those of you with eReaders, the eBook will be available at most online book retailers on, or about, July 27th. Additionally, would you like your local library to carry my novel? Simply ask them; quite often they are quite willing to accommodate individual requests.

Requiem for the status quo is dedicated to my father, Don Patrick Desonier, who wore his disease with the dignity it did not deserve.

I love you Dad.

 

 

 

 

The family caregiver’s hope quotient

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Each person reading this post has experienced a time when their hope quotient was at an all time low.

The definition of hopeless: 1) feeling or causing despair about something; 2) inadequate, incompetent.

When life happens, as it always does regardless of our preferences, we’re bound to find ourselves unable to manufacture even a modicum of hope to get us through the circumstances in which we find ourselves:

  • The loss of a job and the financial repercussions resultant from that loss.
  • Crimes against our body or our property.
  • Relationship disruptions.
  • The devastating diagnosis of a debilitating disease: cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease.

Hope isn’t what a person feels when the rug has been yanked out from underneath them and their very existence as they knew it, maybe even just five minutes earlier, takes an irreversible turn.To be sure, that’s how quickly hope can take a nosedive. Equally as quick, we can not imagine we will ever feel happy again, nor can we imagine not being overwhelmed with how life has showed up. In an instant, our level of hope took a nosedive. Read the rest of this entry »

Kindness Fridays

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Today’s installment combines two passions of mine: kindness and hiking.

Since my husband’s retirement in April of 2016, we’ve managed to hike every week except during the winter months. Now with the snow a distant memory on most of the Pacific Northwest trails, we’re well into this year’s hiking season.

On Tuesday of this week, we headed out to Barclay Lake located in the lower Stevens Pass area of western Washington. This was a new hike for me and one perfectly suited for a sprained right foot, mine, needing a bit of coddling while on its healing journey. The hike was just under 5 miles and only had an elevation gain of 500 feet.

About two miles into our hike and a half mile from the lake, a couple in their late 60s were making their descent and as I always do for every hiker we meet on the trail, I greeted the man and woman which then encouraged them to pause and spend some time with us. This couple hiked 30 times last year – to our 18 times – which seriously encouraged me to continue our hiking activities during the winter season, albeit on trails at lower elevations to avoid snow encounters along the way. The kindness extended was the mutual sharing of favorite hiking destinations: for us, it was Margaret Lake, for them, Bowen Bay.

My husband and I, geared up.

The excitement from each couple describing their particular trail favorite created a commonality of experience that went beyond any differences we may harbor within ourselves, be they political, religious, life experience, or otherwise. The four of us agreed that being out in nature and accomplishing our individual hiking goals contributed greatly to our quality of life.

On the trail, differences in beliefs or political leanings simply don’t come into play. And that, my friends, is a glorious way to experience kindness.

 

The Alzheimer’s caregiver: NOT a fictional character

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REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, to be released July 2017, contains fictional characters right out of yours and my reality. If your life hasn’t been impacted by caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, you are at least tangentially connected to someone who has been.

  • A parent’s senior moments transform into hair-raising episodes of wandering and getting lost at all hours of the day and night during varied seasonal temperatures that may very well threaten their lives.
  • The husband who was Mr. Fixit for all home repairs, big and small, no longer knows how to use a screwdriver, and becomes combative when challenged.
  • A sister’s successful writing career is derailed when she can no longer write coherently or understand the written word.
  • The middle-aged next door neighbor pounds on your front door demanding entry to his home and threatens to call the authorities if you don’t immediately vacate the premises.

Variations of these scenarios abound, and within those story-like confines exist the caregivers who have been thrust into a role for which they were not prepared, derailing their status quo – their normalcy – beyond recognition. These same caregivers had very full lives before their days became what has become the caregiver’s  36-Hour Day. Any down time they enjoyed prior to stepping into their ill-fitting caregiver shoes has been filled with doctors’ appointments, loved one-sitting, and putting out fires. Carefully crafted family and retirement plans are no longer feasible because life as the caregiver once knew it no longer exists.

REQUIEM will give readers an intimate look at a caregiver’s day-to-day reality while also endeavoring to provide hope for what lies ahead. To be sure, there are no happy endings, but promises of resolution and lightness spring forth in the least likely of places and during some of the most awkward of times. Whether you are a caregiver, a former caregiver, or know someone who is, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO will become a most cherished and often-read bookshelf addition.

Life happens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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