LOUD cheers & wild applause for the Northern Virginia Caregivers Consortium’s annual conference! We discovered this gem, held annually on the Veteran’s Day federal holiday, by sheer serendipity – John & I already look forward to 2018!
It was after July’s IAGG World Congress, when John once again welcomed me home from an eldercare-related conference, that he put his foot down, letting me know, “I want to go to one, too!” The words I’d been longing to hear.
Just not the time I wanted to hear them. It’s been years since we’ve been this low on funds; the possibility of getting him to a conference THIS year seemed slim to none. But never count out the power of the Universe to transform the seemingly impossible into the DONE.
The event that showed up went passed do-able to MUST DO. The Universe continues to astonish!
Having come up with the idea for a Comedy Relief Kit – first aid for the funny bone, I clearly could NOT miss a Creating Moments of Joy Conference. No how, no way – if it had been in Fargo, I would have hitchhiked to be there. This conference seemed a relative hop skip & jump from our suburban Philadelphia home, held in Centreville, VA, west of Alexandria. And its keynote speaker was Jolene Brackey! I was IN! And the cost of the conference was $30.00 (!) a person, so it was just a tad crazier for John to come, too.
The 36 hours surpassed my greatest hopes.
The drive down was relatively sane. Well, until we hit Rt 66. Cray-zee! Jam packed & not moving.
We high tailed it OFF the big road, looking for a promising dining spot. We found Amphora, a Fairfax restaurant with the look & prices of a high-end diner but the food choices & service of a white tablecloth establishment. We wish we lived close enough & had the current funds to have dinner there once a week & work our way through their distinctive menu. We controlled ourselves & had pancakes for supper – John was happy as a dickey bird with his blueberry flapjacks while I found my Autumn Harvest stack delectable – we dipped them into a puddle of syrup rather than pouring it over them, to not detract from their utter yum.
Returning to Rt 66, we counted ourselves blessed that traffic was high volume but not nuts. Little did we know! Around the time we were considering whether or not to have dessert, a train had hit a car on the tracks. The most direct route to our Airbnb was completely shut down. We had to take the back roads – discovering that in Centreville, they have a weird habit of changing without warning, from one intersection to the next.
The challenging drive was worth every minute. Our Airbnb was a beautiful home, tucked well off the small road that led to it, lovely grounds & a great mini-suite that included a terrific bathroom & a 2nd bedroom, had we needed it. The decor, inside & out, was right up our alley, with twirly swirly things spinning in front of the house, lots of intriguing graphics & lettered pictures inside that screamed about our host., “Laurie’s one of us!” I still haven’t learned how to use my iPad alarm, but had luckily taken my little Pampered Chef kitchen alarm along & it totally did the job.
It was NOT easy to head out at 7:30 a.m. – the house was so welcoming & the grounds beckoned us to explore. But (after taking a few moments to watch a squirrel scampering up a tree) we packed up the car & were off to THE CONFERENCE by 7:48 a.m., fingers crossed that the advertised “breakfast reception” before Jolene’s opening would suffice.
About twenty minutes later, we walked into a HUGE field house-sized space which housed the conference & happily spotted coffee, danish, bagels & cream cheese.
Inspired by closing speaker, Ron Culberson, I sported a headband with two pink flamingoes, facing beak to beak. A great ice breaker!
We checked out the vendors tables lining half the room, two tables deep, getting the chance to meet some truly awesome people I look forward to writing about later. Then we poured ourselves coffee, loaded up on nibblings & headed to a table at the front of the room. Suffice it to say the event went WAY past my wildest expectations, a total steal for $30.
As someone involved in putting together speaker events in my Prudential HealthCare days, was impressed with how diverse the speakers were AND how naturally their topics meshed. Jolene’s presentation on creatively interacting with people touched by dementia & Alzheimers (total WOW!) led into Ann Morrison’s outstanding talk about caregiver’s working through difficult feelings (needs to be discussed more often, whether a professional care partner, a loved one or friend) which segued into Melanie Chadwick addressing the current meds & ongoing research/trials (she thinks none too highly of what’s currently available). Lunch (catered by Panera!) was followed by Paula Kyle getting us going with her Dancing With Parkinson’s moves, then it was back to Jolene talking out how to make bathing & mealtimes less daunting, then Ron Culberson was up to tie everything together in his inimitable style, with lots of laughter along with bits of insight about aging & life.
As I drove home last night – a glorious drive that embodied playfulness & partnership – John was all smiles with his first conference. As we discussed what immediately came to mind in thinking about the conference, neither of us was surprised that we shared the same moment as our #1 – Jolene, who gave her presentation walking among the the sea of tables & the hundreds of attendees, asking which, if we were to swap places with our loved ones/clients, would WE prefer: to be safe ~or~ to feel ALIVE? To live five more years with dementia/Alzheimers ~or~ to live as we want for a few months?
Which would you?