He plays his sweet saxophone every day by my local grocery store. He stands on the street, because he’s not allowed to play in front of the store, but I always hear him. I know when he’s there, because in spite of the noise from traffic, I hear him because he plays from his heart. I don’t know his name, but I do know his sound and he gives me hope. I’ve often wondered why this lone saxophone player gives me hope? I can’t really explain it except that he embodies goodness. I can see it in his face and I feel it when he plays. His music moves me. I always give him a dollar and he’s incredibly grateful. But he gives me something far more valuable than what I give to him. Today he was playing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and it brought me to tears. At first I couldn’t figure out why today was so different from any other day and then I realized that he was my connection to what is still good in our world, that he helped me find some hope in the face of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Read More…
I love the art of communication. Nothing excites me more than having a wonderful conversation with someone, but when you are a caregiver and trying to find new subjects to discuss with your loved one day in and day out, sometimes conversation is really challenging. What do you talk about? How long will the conversation last? Will there even be a conversation?
I’m a little behind in reflecting on the last year but I wrote and posted this on my blog last night and wanted to share it with you too (especially since you all figure so prominently in my 2011).
I intended to do 2011 reflections on December 31. A reasonable date for such things. However, between hubby’s surgery, bringing Robert to our house for the long New Year’s weekend and being just a tad tired, reflections got moved to 2012. Reflections at the end of 2012 just may get moved to 2014. It’s hard to predict but be prepared.
I was a little apprehensive going into 2011. Just days before, I had turned 50 and I was disappointed I hadn’t yet published the book I was working on for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my 50th birthday with a family celebration in my favorite place – Disneyland (too bad I didn’t know G-J then!) but I was being hard on myself for not finishing the book.
Heck, I had worked on it for only ten years, maybe I should have been easier on myself.
I wasn’t sure what the new decade would have in store for me but I knew I was happy with my family, I was committed to caring for Robert, and I was employed. I am thoroughly grateful for all of that.
To my delight, 2011 brought so much goodness that I almost feel guilty about it! It also brought some difficulties but that is to be expected (this is life, after all).
The good stuff first (in no particular order):
1. I met some amazing caregivers through caregiving.com (you guys!). I accidentally found this site at the beginning of the year when I was trying in earnest to link my blog to related sites in order to grow my readership. Caregiving.com isn’t a site to link personal blogs but instead offers opportunities to write about our caregiving situations and to develop friendships and gain strength and inspiration. I also got a few tips on incontinence. It’s pretty awesome.
2. My blog was picked up by Sacramento Connect which is a network of local bloggers through the local paper, The Sacramento Bee. Heidi (Atticus Uncensored) kept reading my posts and leaving me comments. She loved reading the blog and she wasn’t even a relative! We became online friends (and then realized, hey, we’re in the same city, we could become actual real-life friends). So we did.
3. Heidi introduced me to a group of inspirational people who are entrepreneurs, artists, moms and bloggers and asked me to join their Facebook blogging group. I learn something from this group of talented people every time I read their blogs and am grateful to have them as readers of my blog. (If any of you have your own personal blog, please let me know if you’re interested in joining the group and I’ll have them add you).
4. I published my book!!! Much love and gratitude goes to my hubby, my daughter, Joelle Stone and our very own Denise for their undying support and gentle (well, sometimes not so gentle – you know who you are) nudging for me to get this done. And, it only took me ten years instead of eleven . . .
5. I learned about epilepsy. Being the older sister of my 46-year-old brother who has lived with epilepsy his entire life, you’d think that would be impossible. It wasn’t! I had a lot to learn and met some remarkable people (and organizations) along the way. My own personal challenge to complete 30 days of epilepsy awareness was something I was extremely proud to complete and am already looking forward to doing it again this November.
6. Robert moved from a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly to a smaller, more age appropriate group home. (As you all know, it turned out to hardly be a perfect fit but we’re working on that).
7. I became a Staff Writer for a caregiver magazine and branched out to another website to write as well (getting paid to write – wow! A dream come true). It’s a small start but I am thrilled to have to list some writing income on my taxes! (Note to the IRS: it’s a very small start).
8. I was interviewed a few times by Denise on Blog Talk Radio and was so nervous the first time I wouldn’t let anyone tell me if they would be listening (not even my own family who secretly listened in another room). I sat in my home office, closed the door and talked with Denise, pretending it was just me and her on the phone. I was so nervous I actually thought there was a good possibility I would pass out during the 30 minute interview (I didn’t; thanks for asking). I was grateful I couldn’t be seen because I’m pretty sure my proclivity to blush when nervous would have been quite evident.
9. 2011 was also full of reminders of what a wonderful, beautiful family I am blessed with. We laugh, we enjoy time with each other (most of the time) and, most of all, love each other no matter what.
2011 had its difficulties (the big ones were extraordinarily heart-wrenching work decisions and health problems for my beloved mother-in-law) but I would like to let those difficulties stay in 2011 and focus on the positive moving into 2012.
Wishing all of you a very happy and joyous new year filled with great possibilities for love, friendships and success (and many laughs along the way). I’m happy to have all of you as part of my family.
How about those New Years Resolutions?
It’s that time of year, the time when everybody looks back on the old year and wonders where it all went. 2011 was going to be the year where your life finally came together; where you are focused on serious goals; where you finally break out of ordinary and more on to outrageous. At the finish line, I find that 2011 didn’t meet those expectations. I have some thoughts about that which will go into another post. Right now I’m focused on 2012, an empty slate full of potential. How should I approach this opportunity to extract every ounce of potential? What resolves should I embrace to position myself for accomplishing my goals?
Be strategic, not emotional.
I’ve changed my perspective on New Years resolutions. In the past I always thought about changes that I wanted to accomplish: things like losing 20 pounds, finding a new job, saving money. I mostly failed with those resolutions and I eventually gave up on resolutions like I think most everybody else.
What I have learned is that accomplishing those goals is a result of changing myself. I need to be the person who weighs less, attracts new job opportunities and makes better spending decisions. Changing how I live can ultimately give me the results I want. Staying as I am will keep me where I am. Making those resolutions without changing myself is a waste of time.
It is the means and not the end.
It is easy to get focused on the end result because that is where the emotional satisfaction is produced. The completed task is easy to picture and describe. But picturing the finishes product tells nothing about how to make it happen. The problem lies in the actions necessary to accomplish them. The how is almost never a part of a resolution and without a how the path to the end goal may not be clear. Without a clear path it is easy to miss the target. And the clear path is changing yourself. It is a process. It means losing old habits and forming new ones. It means venturing into new territory outside ‘normal’. It means growing and changing. It means taking control instead of being controlled. Ans it feels pretty uncomfortable and not very satisfying for a long time.
No wonder that New Years resolutions aren’t taken seriously. Without a plan, they are more like wishes for a fairy godmother than a resolve to change your life.
Instead of those traditional New Years resolutions that you give up on almost before you start, I have a different suggestion. Make a resolve to make a change in your habits. Acting differently is something that you can start on January 1. You can claim success right from the start. But even better, if you select the right habit to change you become the person you want to be.
Why New Years Resolutions Fail! is a post from: Ralph Carlson Blog If you like this post stop by Ralph Carlson Blog – How to create your own unique retirement lifestyle. for more.
Don’t be coy!
Ask for what you want.
And have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
Take a lesson this Christmas is a post from: Ralph Carlson Blog If you like this post stop by Ralph Carlson Blog – How to create your own unique retirement lifestyle. for more.
On a recent trip to Monterey, CA, I packed along a leather-bound journal that I had received as a birthday gift some years ago. I thought this would be a good opportunity to write down some ideas for future blog posts, possible topics for our monthly support group, marketing ideas for future seminars, and yes, my innermost thoughts.
After all, what could be more inspiring than the beauty and serenity of California’s Central Coast, crashing waves against magnificent rock formations, sunbathing seals lying along the coves…you get the picture. Besides, this was a trip with a purpose, to run the Big Sur Half Marathon at Monterey Bay. I should have been filled with inspiration, right? I was, once I crossed the finish line. However, while packing up to leave at the end of the weekend, I realized I hadn’t written a thing. Truth be told, I hadn’t even removed the book from my suitcase. It was then I had an epiphany; I was thoughtless. What a joy! I was able to enjoy my surroundings unencumbered by intruding thoughts of work, or the economy, or things I “should” have been doing instead of running with the masses and savoring clam chowder in the bread bowl on Fisherman’s Wharf.
Sometimes we need to be thoughtless and enjoy the moment, look at what is in front of us and appreciate it. When we’re young, it seems that time can’t go fast enough. We are always looking to the future. We are in a hurry to get that first driver’s license, go off to college, and grow our careers. As we age, we tend to look to the past and wish for what could have been or desire to relive certain events. And while the present may seem frustrating or look bleak, try turning off the TV for a change and quit listening to the doom and gloom.
Focus on something positive that may be right in front of your face. The author of the phrase, “Stop and smell and roses,” had it right. He must have been from the Central Coast. It (the elusive serenity, joy or excitement) is out there, just refocus your senses, your mindset, and go for it. No “shoulds” allowed!
Bitty (a.k.a. Linda Sussman-Swiller) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. You may view her credentials or contact her by clicking here…
Wow! I am honored, thrilled and grateful to have Forever a Caregiver chosen as the October Book of the Month Club pick on caregiving.com.
Denise will talk with me about the book tomorrow (Tuesday, October 25) at 12:00 p.m. PDT. You can listen here.
Forever a Caregiver is a book that took me ten years to write but was actually a lifetime in the making. (Still – 10 years? Sheesh!). Denise was one of the many people who encouraged me to publish this book and who ignored my disclaimers along the way (I can be quite persistent with my disclaimers). I am very grateful to Denise, my family and friends for helping me see this book through to completion and publication instead of indulging the coward in me and letting me safely keep it to myself. My hope is that others will see their own family experiences in this book and find acceptance of their family roles and experiences.
Now that I actually know what caregiving is, I realize I was born into this caregiving role. Everyone has family roles and mine happens to be the one where I take care of people. Maybe it’s the control freak in me but I enthusiastically accept this role although, I admit, it was not always something I wanted to do. As a teenager, keeping a watchful eye on Mom so she didn’t sink further into depression (and attempt suicide again) was not something I would have volunteered to do or wish on anyone else for that matter. Yet it was one of many experiences that I accepted, managed to get through and which I actually appreciate for making me the person I am today.
“Appreciate” may seem an odd word choice but I wouldn’t want to be anyone else and those experiences helped shape who I am. For me, appreciating these family experiences (and family itself) is the perfect word.
That complete acceptance of my experiences made me a better caregiver to Mom when she was terminally ill twelve years ago and helps me be the best caregiver I can be to Robert today. Don’t misunderstand – caregiving is not easy (as you all know!) and it certainly isn’t always (or even mostly) roses and butterflies and lollipops but taking care of family is what fulfills me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Call me crazy!
Please recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves in a caregiving role or who has struggled with accepting some of the mess that comes with being a part of a family. I’d love it if you listened tomorrow, too!
This was intended to be a quick video but I’m learning a new video production program and it took forever. Not to mention the definition is off. I can’t take any more time just now but when I get a chance I’ll figure out what went wrong. Life gets messy sometimes.
Retirement Lifestyle:Riding lessons and drawing is a post from: Ralph Carlson Blog If you like this post stop by Ralph Carlson Blog – How to create your own unique retirement lifestyle. for more.
I told you that last week I was heading to The Enlightened Entrepreneur Experience and indeed, it was just THAT…but not just enlightening… powerful on so many levels. There was the business level, of course. There was the emotional level, but then therewas also the inspirational “Take Hold Get Going” level that is difficult to put into words. For me, this happens when someone reaches us in our gut! It happened numerous times during the weekend, and it was magnificent. My personal challenge is to keep that energy alive and bring it to you each and every day. This is my commitment.
We had the pure joy of being introduced to Sam Cawthorn…the most inspirational human being I have ever had the good fortune of experiencing. I’m certain you’ve never heard of him, but he is a movement unto himself and you should know Sam…even if it’s just watching his videos or reading his blog. It will be time well spent. He has more focused, passionate energy about appreciating life than I have ever seen. His mission is teaching us all to “Bounce Forward!” Check out his site and you’ll see what I mean.
How does this translate to caregiving? Caregivers need to find inspiration. It can become easy to get stuck in the day-to-day tasks that need doing. We forget that the very act of caregiving is the most beautiful gift for another person that we can give. We forget that one day it will be over. We forget the importance of providing comfort and care for a loved one who can’t care for him/herself anymore. We forget how our presence symbolizes safety, security, comfort and love for another. It’s just too easy to forget. And it’s also too easy to take our loved one for granted. Sam Cawthorn reminds us NEVER to do this.
So let’s start a movement. Let’s let this movement be about Empowering and Enlightening Caregivers. Let’s find a way to get out of the doldrums and move towards making a decision to change what isn’t working…making a decision to live in power and strength and clarity around the caregiving journey. It begins with you and you can do this. You have the power within you…I can help you tap into it and then we can get our Movement started. Will you join me?
I’d sure love to hear from you! Leave your comments below.
This week I’m heading off to San Diego to attend The Enlightened Entrepreneur Experience, a conference designed to help entrepreneurs fine-tune their message and also rejuvenate. I’m really looking forward to these three days for many reasons, but mostly because it gives me a chance to meet new people who are on a path to partnering with other like-minded individuals, and ultimately to focus like a laser beam on my business. Now how does this translate to caregiving?
Caregivers tend to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges and tasks and forget about the importance of recharging their “batteries.” If you forget about caring for YOU, eventually you will be running on empty and ultimately, will be no good for anyone. It’s an easy place to land, because the truth is that it’s easier to focus on the “to-do list” than it is to spend time on your personal needs. When we begin the process of thinking about ourselves, it brings up all sorts of things for us….often unpleasant things. It’s challenging to think about what we are really feeling…what we really need on a daily basis and what caregiving is doing to our lives.
Enlightened and Empowered Caregivers are very clear about the need to recharge a little bit on a daily basis, as well as getting away from it all and spending time alone in order to listen to what your body, mind and soul are telling you. If you take a holistic approach to caregiving, you will reap the rewards of walking the path with your loved one, along with having your life in tact. Caregiver rejuvenation is one of the KEYS to your success. I’m often asked by caregivers, “How do I rejuvenate? I’ve never done this before. I’ve never spent any time on myself.” I remember feeling the same way when I was about to “crash and burn.” And then I learned. I learned that I didn’t have to do it all myself. I learned that if I felt good inside, I was a better caregiver. I learned that years of not paying attention to my feelings and emotions had wreaked havoc on my life and ultimately I learned that once I did listen and honor my feelings; I was more open and patient and less stressed about caregiving.
I used to think, “I don’t have time to get everything done. What if I don’t do my job perfectly? What if I fail at caregiving?” And you know what? The what if’s can eat you alive. The truth is that if you don’t get everything done, Armageddon is not going to happen. There is no right or wrong way to be a caregiver. So you can’t be perfect. All you can do is show up perfectly. All you can do is just be your perfect self, and if you have a down day – cut yourself some slack and set it free. You cannot fail at caregiving unless you are abusive, cruel or you simply don’t do anything. And if you were that kind of person, you wouldn’t be reading this, because you wouldn’t care.
I encourage you to spend time each day rejuvenating. This looks different for each person. Find a way to care for you. Find a way to become Enlightened and Empowered.
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This past Saturday I had the amazing pleasure and joy of attending Dolly Parton’s debut performance at The Hollywood Bowl! It was a perfect summer evening in Los Angeles…the Bowl was abuzz…the company was great….and everyone was excited for the long-awaited, much-anticipated Dolly concert! At 8:30pm sharp she appeared on stage singing “Walking on Sunshine” and indeed, she does walk on sunshine! She is an absolute breath of freshness and light radiates from her. Just to be clear – Dolly Parton is 65 years young! She looks incredible! Her voice is still like that of a sweet angel and she is bubbly and full of life. She is an inspiration and she should be the poster child for life after 60. I suppose she gets a senior citizen discount, but she definitely has the energy and passion for life of a 20-something.
Now why am I writing about Dolly Parton? As we age, it is often common to lose the zest for life we once had. It’s easy to get caught up in the whole, “I’m getting older mentality,” and buy into the notion that somehow, magically at a certain age, your body starts falling apart….you become forgetful….weight gain is now your friend and you should just accept it as such and society is finished with you. There’s that whole energy to buy in to, or there’s the person who says, “Nope…not me…I’m living life!” And this is Dolly Parton. Taking a lesson from her storybook is not difficult. Yes, she’s very successful, but that’s not what makes her so radiant. So what is it? It’s her roots. It’s her history. It’s the fact that she came from nothing and found light and joy in each day. She took adversity and turned it into something we can all share. She created her own outcome. Dolly Parton is loved around the world, because she’s the real deal.
This is your journey…this is your life. What do you want that to look like? There are simple things you can do to change your attitude about aging…really simple things.
- Delete all emails that joke about getting older or that make fun of old age!
- Spend time doing something you love! Really love – who cares how crazy it is!
- Be inspired by your own story and record it for your family.
- Write your own story. So many families are left with just photos. Hearing your voice is a magical gift especially it’s accompanied by your writings. Put your thoughts and experiences on paper. Treat yourself to a beautiful journal.
- Volunteer. Being of service to others brings joy to our soul.
- If you’re retired, make yourself valuable to your community.
- If you’re still working, make yourself heard. You have wisdom and that has value.
- Take vitamins. Take fish oil. Take whatever supplements you can to keep yourself healthy. Your body will love you.
- Do some sort of exercise.
- Rescue an animal if you can.
- Spend time with your family or a friend’s family. Don’t spend all of your time alone.
- Don’t believe everything you read about getting older. It’s just not true.
Be the best you can be. Be present each and every day. Savor your life…and you, too, can be “Walking on Sunshine!”
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One of the greatest joys in my life is interacting with people who are involved with The Care Company community. I love receiving emails and feedback. Sometimes someone needs a little help. Sometimes someone needs A LOT of help and sometimes someone wants to share a story. This story crossed my desk today and I thought it was special. It’s also a great lesson about how careful we must be when dealing with our aging loved ones and understanding their spirit. When you read this story, you will quickly understand that Maggie’s daughters did everything they could for her. The challenge is when the medical team does not work with the family to make decisions. Things happen and usually pretty quickly. There is little time to act. Often we can only react. I encourage each person who reads this story to go deeper with your loved ones. Take the time to know EXACTLY what their wishes are, share those wishes in writing with the people who are caring for your loved one. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, but it helps alleviate the guilt. In the spirit of privacy, I’m withholding the last name of the woman who submitted Maggie’s story. I thank her for having the courage to reach out and share it with others.
Maggie loved cruising in her RV truck on the Alaskan Highway, from Canada to Anchorage, Alaska.
At age 77, Maggie was a mother of 6 children, a grandmother, and great grandmother. She had buried her husband, Leo, a U.S. Navy veteran in Riverside Veteran’s Cemetery 24 years ago. She was a European traveler, backpacker and hiker. Maggie was a free-spirited, independent, open-road adventurer.
A daughter relates to her mother emotionally as a child, “My mother will never die.” Maggie came down the rushing river of the end of her spirited life swiftly.
Maggie fell on the sidewalk outside of her $2,000 a month “assisted living apartment.” The gardener had to help her up. Maggie had osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and dementia. Who was watching out for her care and safety at that place? My sister, Kathleen, was her caregiver. She had to now place our mother in a nursing home. Stress, grief, guilt were the result of this move.
Maggie was mad as a wet hen! Her freedom and independence in life was over. She tried to escape from the nursing home by climbing out the window. She was angry at her captors, the nursing staff. So what did the nurses do, they informed her doctor of her behavior. The doctor’s solution? Prescribe the sedative drug, Thioridazine. This behavior suppressive drug extinguished the light from Maggie’s fighting spirit, and she lost her will to live. She just sat in a chair staring into space out the window where her spirit and will to live floated right out that window. That’s okay, Mom. At that point I believe she embraced and reclaimed her right to her own decision and will of her dignity in the last days of her life.
Early one morning, my sister, Eileen, had breakfast with Mom. As Eileen left, my mother waved goodbye to Eileen and told her, “I love you”, and then also told Eileen that she wanted to go be with her husband, Leo, now. My mother died that night.
You see, no drugs, no doctors, no nursing home was going to inhibit my mother’s free will and spirit. The power of the human spirit can overcome the boundaries of this physical planet. I’ll walk into the ocean. I miss you, Mom. Are there RV’s in heaven?
Your loving daughter, Nanette.
In Memory of Carolyn Helen Martin Toomey
August 29, 1928 – September 6, 2005
Rest in peace, my beloved Mother, Maggie
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Today a new social network was launched, but this one has a twist: it’s designed to encourage you to write your memoirs by using prompts in the spirit of the Proust Questionnaire. Then, if you wish, you can share them online with your friends and family.
The Proust Questionnaire was a 19th century parlor game popularized by contemporaries of Marcel Proust, French essayist and novelist, that was supposed to reveal your true inner nature through your answers to a series of questions. Samples of the questions at the newly-launched Proust.com: What was your most memorable birthday? When was your first kiss? What did you admire most about your parents?
You can add photographs or other images to your stories, too, so it’s rather like an on-line scrapbook that enhances the stories you tell. Are you a writer who would find this helpful or inspiring? You can investigate at Proust.com. EngAGE encourages everyone to tell their personal stories, so we’re interested to learn what you think about this new website. Please let us know in the comments on this post!
The Class of ’46
Talk about outrageous retirement lifestyle. My wife and I stumbled upon something remarkable yesterday. On the way back from our personal trainer we stopped for breakfast. We had heard good things about this restaurant but we had never managed to get there because it’s in the next town over and a bit out of our way. It’s a small place and we expected it to be empty by mid morning but when we entered, we found a boisterous party of older men filling a large table down the center of the space. It felt like we were entering a private party but the waitress seated us and soon we were looking over a tempting menu and sipping excellent coffee. We joked about the men who seemed like they were having a great time and how they made us feel like kids but we didn’t know the half of the story.
As we were eating, one of the men stopped at our table and chatted. He apologized for the noise because, he told us, they were all deaf. We laughed but then he continued. They were a group of 1946 graduates from Richmond California High School. It seems that this group gets together for breakfast once a month in Folsom California, 90 miles from their Alma Mater. They come from as far away as Nevada for this meeting.
I quickly calculated that they would be 84 years old and thinking about that inspires me. I asked if I could take a picture and chatted with them for a time. Every one of them was sharp and physically strong and mobile. There wasn’t a walker or even a cane in the bunch. When I told them I was inspired and optometistic about my future seeing them, one of the said he had children older than me And when I confessed to being 70, another said he remembered 70 and that it was a good age. These guys were still going strong and giving each other strength and encouragement 65 years after they left high school.
For me there just couldn’t have been a better confirmation of living a full life and staying strong. I often find myself wondering how many ‘good’ years I have left and feeling like I’m always the old guy in the room. I won’t be indulging those thoughts any longer. So if you are 70, like me. If you are 60 or even 50, you have a long time left to fill up. Take inspiration from the Richmond High class of ’46 and make those years great.
Inspiration and Breakfast is a post from: Ralph Carlson Blog If you like this post stop by Ralph Carlson Blog – How to create your own unique retirement lifestyle. for more.