Discuss holiday plans – tip du jour

One thing that helped keep the Lockphy Murphart Christmas celebrations merry & bright was sharing as a trio – and reaching out to other family in the area – what we wanted to do over the holidays.  Whether you are living in your long-time home, have recamped to smaller digs, are in an independent living or a continuous care community, take the time to go over with your children your holiday plans hopes wishes.  There is nothing worse than a parent expecting to be with children over the holidays only to find out their house is packed with guests from away ~or~ they’ll be off visiting family/friends.  Unless it is the kids planning a big holiday whoop-dee-do featuring their parents, grandparents, only to find they’re going to be celebrating in Hawaii.

If you are a care partner, either a family member or an assistant, plan a special time to discuss the holiday with the older person.  Instead of asking, “What do you want to do for…?”, come prepared with suggestions, options.  They can open the door to what the older would like to do & might not think of on their own.  Become an investigator, ferreting out what they would like to do.  And don’t put your keen interest or utter ho hum (or even humbug) about the season affect your listening – pay attention to what they say, rather than what you’d expect.  My mother’s expectations of the season were very different from Mom Murphy.  As was their ability to get around.  Mom depended on our wheels – or maybe Peter’s, if he was in touch that year – to shop, while Mom M’ lived in the city & could get herself to a variety of shopping areas.  Mom was the very embodiment of Christmas Past, Mom M’ – not so much.  But she had her Murphy traditions that were important to do – putting out the cozy village (now in The Retreat) atop the piano, checking with John on what to get her daughter-in-law (me!).

Mega warning – it is easy for children to have unspoken, usually unrecognized but very strong expectations of how parents or grands are meant to be over holidays.  The holidays worked for the two of us because we put our focus on our mothers – what they wanted, were able to do.  Mom at 89 could no more baked & decorated batch after batch of Christmas cookies than flapped her arms & flown around the kitchen, but she sure loved picking them out at Lochel’s Bakery!  We scaled down traditions to what worked for her & gave us all pleasure.

With our dear friend, Anne, we’d talk about the holiday around Thanksgiving.  One thing I learned was not to remind her that this or that child would be away over Christmas.  Unnecessary stress.  The last few years were made special in our eyes, since John & I had the fun of going over the plans as if for the first time at every meal or outing with Anne!  By talking to her children, we knew what each family was planning for the holiday, so could avoid unintentionally setting up expectations for something that wasn’t going to happen.  Instead of telling her, “Anne, we talked about this the other day,” we jumped right back into whatever was being discussed as if it was the first time.  And we kept our ears peeled for what gave her special joy & did more of it.  By last Christmas – which turned out to be our last Christmas with her – we had her likes & loves down to a science!

Here’s a smattering of what I’ve learned over the years from our parents & friends about setting up for a happy holiday:

  • Make a special time to review with older loved ones or clients their hopes for the holiday season.  Open the discussion by asking if they have any thoughts on the holidays. Be ready with suggestions & options as prompts.
  • Where needed, discuss scaling down past traditions to make new ones that are simpler but still pack a holiday punch.  Make them part of the process.
  • In discussing plans, take into account their physical condition.  You’re going to have a problem if you plan family holiday party in a place with a long flight of steps.  (Actually happened to my mother!)  If you’re layering events- like church followed by dinner – build in some down time for them to take a breather or get a rest.
  • Don’t set yourself up for the depression over the holidays – too many care partners stress out over providing an idyllic holiday experience.  Cut yourself a break!
  • Don’t try to replicate the past – be in the present.
  • KISS – keep it simple, sweetie – and everyone will have a happy holidays!


Three tips to help merry gentlemen (& ladies) REST throughout the holidays

Tip #1 for having a truly happy holiday is about as basic as they come – – get enough sleep.  Yes, YOU or whoever is the primary care partner!  It’s easy to log in fast-paced days & late nights.  Pace yourself.  Build in pauses.

Tip #2 – Make sure older loved ones, friends, clients aren’t tuckering themselves out.   The ideal holiday party for an elder who’s frail or dealing with memory challenges is low-key,  has a small guest list (10 is a reasonable max), with a quiet room complete with comfy chair or bed to grab a little rest.  Even fabulously fit older friends & family might appreciate the opportunity to take a breather.

Tip #3 – If you MUST layer activities – church service or play, followed by dinner – keep a watchful but unobtrusive eye on the elder.  Make sure they have a comfortable place to sit, that they have a bit of quiet time if they seem to be tiring.

With a little forethought & attention, judicious pacing can help older friends & family extend their time enjoying loved ones & the holidays.

The Stephen Ministry throws down the guantlet

Like many Christian congregations, my birth church offers the Stephen Ministry , a program that provides one-on-one support from a congregant for people having difficulties in life.

That presents ME with a challenge!  I’ve had older friends who requested visits from the Stephen Ministry but were put off when the assigned contact wanted to delve into their problems when their problem was not having anyone to just talk to, to share info on what was happening in the broader community to which they no longer had ready access.

The guantlet thrown down by the Stephen Ministry?  To develop Anne’s Ministry, similar in that it’s a volunteer-based, peer-to-peer program BUT one focused on JOY.  That shares who’s getting married, just became grandparents, what’s happening in our three schools – elementary/high school/college.  Volunteers who could go over the Bryn Athyn POST for news of the week, who’d get to know their older friend’s interests, what sort of news they’re interested in hearing, what seems to trigger happiness.  Not to help solve problems or alleviate depression, but, through social connection of the joyful kind, to PREVENT them.

A worthy challenge – ACCEPTED!

Oldsters, the holidays & loneliness

Even youngers find the holidays strewn with emotional landmines & social booby traps.  It can be infinitely worse for oldsters elders ancients.

The older we get, the more things can trigger holiday depression.  The best way to deal with them is to look them straight in the eye.

There was no way Mom was NOT going to miss Dad intensely over the stretch from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  Instead of avoiding any mention of her O Best Beloved, we’d talk about their favorite moments together, from the 1930s Thanksgiving dinner she made completely using a fireplace rotisserie because they didn’t have a working oven to making paper ornaments for the tree when Peter was three so he could touch them to meeting Dad at the New Year’s Eve party she threw for Aunt Betty.

Thoughts bring presence & it helped Mom stay on even keel to talk about loved ones who were long gone or lived far away.  She lived with us, but some version of most of these can be done with someone living over the river & through the woods:

We made a party out of decorating the tree.  Every year, she’d tell John the stories behind the Lockhart ornaments & loved hearing from him the tales behind the Murphy decorations.  For years, we had two trees – what John described as the “museum quality” Lockhart tree in the living room, the more boisterous Murphy tree in the den – until we FINALLY, a couple years before Mom was reunited with her O Best Beloved, we combined both into the one, living room tree.

I made sure we got plenty of great catalogues for armchair shopping.  Favorites included Signals, LL Bean, Vermont Country Store, Lands End, Green Tiger Press & Current.  She’d settle down with a cuppa, a plate of cookies & shop til she dropped – all without leaving the comfort of her big cozy chair!

There was always a supply of stamps on hand for her Christmas cards, stationery for her holiday letters & plenty of working pens.  And Scotch Tape!

Another party for wrapping presents!

John & I helped Mom get out to see friends & to have them in, if need be, happily fetching them.

We reminded her to set up time on the phone with Ellen in Texas & Elsa in Florida, Peggy in Missouri & folks all over, rather than leaving it up to chance.

Because we’d kept past cards from friends & family, we could look at signatures of folks who’d been gone for years, sparking memories & smiles.  Still do!

Mom & I would talk about the little card that Dad gave her with a present on their first Christmas – So little a thing to express all the strengths that are mine through your love & affectionate understanding ~ Pete.  A card I found among her things that now holds a yearlong place of honor in The Retreat.

On the night of the Glencairn Sing, we’d listen to a recording of the music & talk about long-ago traditions, like all the Raymond & Mildred’s granddaughters lighting candles throughout the Great Hall, or all the years the three Lockhart Ladies (Mom Mim moi) had the fun of bringing Marguerite de Angeli, leaving at intermission & stopping off for cocktails – with Marguerite! – on the drive back to her Philadelphia Parkway abode.

We shared a holiday reading from the Christmas story every day, which often triggered more talk of memories.

There was always plenty of special treats in the house, in case friends & family stopped by.

The Lockhart collection of Christmas books was put in a place of honor, near her armchair.

We’d attend the simpler, shorter children’s tableaux instead of the magnificent presentation at the cathedral.  The children’s tableaux always undid Mom with its innocence.

We watched LOTS of Christmas specials.  John & I made sure we had video tapes of her favorite holiday movies.

The house was always filled with music, either WFLN (classical music radio) or recordings.

When John & I went out without her, we’d regale her with tales of our adventures on returning home.

We always let my brothers & sister know they were welcome to spend part or all of Christmas with us.

And we let Mom know that we understood if a tender heart moment dipped into sadness.  But sorrow has been part of our family celebration since 1959, the Christmas after Ian died.  I believe that letting herself feel, respect the sorrow when it hit helped Mom avoid holiday depression.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Those are a smattering of the things that we – all of us – did to help Mom stay free of the holiday blues.  Tomorrow, will look at some of the things the Hyatts & Tamar & the two of us did to help Anne Hyatt, a widow living in a continuous care community, keep the merry in her Christmas!






Creating a Life of Legacy – book review

Okay, the full title is What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone? – Creating a Life of Legacy, authored by Rabbi Daniel Cohen, the book that I’m devouring at the moment.

Let me back up, to mention the books that came before Rabbi Cohen’s wondrous read.

Had the AMAZING experience of reading Ron Culberson’s surprising Do It Well.  Make It Fun.  ~ surprising, because it turned out to be the last book of what I’d assumed would be an endless quest.  The messages it held wrapped up the core lessons learned along the way in beautiful boxes, beribboned with gorgeous bows.  It was a remarkable, unexpected experience – feeling 41+ years for searching drawn to what I never expected:  a clear ending point.

Mel Robbins5-Second Rule came next, the first post-quest books, which built on what I’ve learned from Mel’s shake & wake videos.  (What will I quest for next?)   Mel’s 5 4 3 2 1 technique is simple & simply life altering.

Am in the middle of James Hillman‘s excellent The Force of Character, set aside when Rabbi Cohen’s book arrived.    The sub-title is what grabbed me – creating a life of legacy, not leaving one.  Being one, right now.

Much of what Rabbi Cohen writes speaks straight to the heart of what drives me – helping all ages live a life of purpose meaning worth.  His book contains so many nuggets that I look forward to fashioning into something wonderful to use with all ages, while giving special attention to those that speak directly to oldsters elders ancients.

We want more out of life.

We all possess a deep-rooted desire for a life of purpose.

You’re blessed with inherent gifts, and your life is trademarked.  There is only one you.   

The time is short; the task is abundant.

Four lines that speak directly to the reality of olders, the reality our mothers lived every day of their lives.  The reality we’ve seen in our clients, in the lives of many of our older friends & pleasant acquaintances right here in my little hometown.

Sadly, it is rare in the lives of too many older people, people who need their sense of purpose restored, their feelings of personal worth renewed.  Rabbi Cohen is clearly an exceptional ally in that quest, helping us understand & embrace that purpose is the ageless reason for our existence, to live fully in this day without glances back to yesterday’s regrets or projecting our energies onto tomorrow’s promises.

Stopped, totally still, reading, “Are you living out your higher purpose or allowing each day to blur into the next?”  So many of the people I see at every manner of senior residences describe their days as blurring, bleeding into the next until time no longer seems to exist, just a long fuzz.  John & I are over-the-moon with the strategies that Rabbi Cohen shares to help us help them rediscovering a sense of purpose, reconnect with their worth – to turn fuzz into FIZZ!

What Will They Say About You When You’re Gone is a blend of Rabbi Cohen’s personal experience & stories, insights from the famous & the utterly unknown. It’s deceptively simple, down to earth & heart inspiring.  It sends its value soaring by including work pages!

This blog is called All Ages, All Stages because we – especially I – work right across the age spectrum.  My clients have been as young as 18 months & as old as 95, from bright young things to olders facing dementia; we are the first to admit our work with oldsters elders ancients most grabs our hearts.

It can be daunting to be 70+, of sound mind & body – there’s an abundance of resources for those olders grappling with physical & mental challenges of aging, but precious little for those in relatively fine fettle who find themselves in a new stage of life with precious little training, leaving them to see the unknown as filled with hobgoblins rather than as a culmination, a capstone, a long final bow.

Rabbi Cohen has written a book that’s for all ages, all stages, that appeals to people of any faith, or no faith at all.  Personally, John & I hope to convince our weekly spiritual growth discussion circle to use this as a basis for a six-week read ponder share.  We sense our shoulders tapped by the Divine to spark conversations on what it is to be alive, at any age;  what it is to have a body that does less yet is teamed with a mind that understands deeper;  what it is to to know our core values & live from them – and respect that others are doing the same.

What Will They Say About You When You’re Gone? is a great start to that & to so many other conversations, with others, within community, with just our self.

Stepping past brazenly Tech Timid

This summer, I was determined that by 12/31/17, I’d move from technically timid to at least  technically okay, preferably technically competent.  Nailing tech basics was a large part of Rising Strong 2017.  Here it is, early December & I am still a relative tech newbie.  Yet, strangely, it doesn’t feel like a loss.

Back in the day, I knew the ins & outs of word processing.  Twenty years ago, I had Prudential’s exceptional IT guys at my beck & call.  But that’s a kazillion years ago in computer terms.

Instead of being discouraged, I feel enlightened.  First off, it’s clear I am not someone who can easily pick up skills from books or on-line tutorials ~ without a living, breathing human next to me, giving life to directions, I flounder.  And it turned out that working with brilliant young friends as tutors was a wash-out,  always a couple levels above where I needed them to be;  trying to get them to understand what I meant by BASIC core skills was like trying to describe the wetness of water to a fish.

If I lived in NYC or could afford the fairly inexpensive commute up on NJ Transit, could take weekly classes at Senior Planet.  If Philadelphia had an equivalent to Senior Planet, I could afford the $2 round-trip senior fare on SEPTA to take free classes – there isn’t.  If I could ante up for a tutor who specializes in the once-proficient, now out-of-her-depth computer user, would be on it in a heart beat.  If I could cough up the moola for someone to design a decent blog & Facebook page, I’d be all over it.  If I had the cash, I’d hire a business coach to turn ideas like Cyber Access for the Technically Timid (CATT) into profitable realities that could fund the 2018 workshops & conferences that beckon.

The past five months showed me that as much as I want to make a go of CATT & other endeavors, there is just so much I can do on my own, having the sort of brain that I have.  It is not a weakness, just a reality.  Have always been a right brainer, more creative than technological.  It wasn’t my perception of being a dunce that made me struggle with math – mathematics truly were my bete noir.  It didn’t help that in Algebra, I kept getting the right answers without working through the proper formulas.

My Algebra experience sums up a lot of the past 65 years – getting right answers but unable to explain the how, which has proven a constant source of irritation to key others.  I’m an ultimate product gal in a world focused on process.

If you had described to me in January 2017 where I am today, it would have sounded like a mega failure.  But it turns out NOT achieving core goals has been a major opportunity to face facts, without judgement.  One fact is incredibly clear.

The adage that it takes money to make money is true.

It takes money to brush up my computer skills to where they were when I first had the brainstorm that became Cyber Access for the Technically Timid – helping older friends access the internet, use word processing, write blogs, build their circle of friends through social media, all without them having to touch a keyboard.

It takes money to bring on a business coach to help me see how to take Values Vision Dreams from a rough prototype to a tool that helps oldsters elders ancients connect with their present-day values, from there to crafting a here & now vision statement, and finally to identifying/pursing dreams.

It takes money to get guidance on how to become a dream manager for olders.

It takes A LOT of money to make the above accessible in some form to mature adults, their families & care partners of all income levels, to those who are champs at being online & those who shut down just hearing the word “keyboard” (or think someone’s talking about a piano).

Money is something I do not have.  This year.  I just came across a check from last December from our sustaining client – over $2,000.  It brought home how different 2016 was from 2017.  Over two months, we went from three clients to none.  Our core client & dear friend was reunited with her O Best Beloved in January, after too many years as a widow.  We rejoiced for her, but her passing gave us pause.  While Anne’s family believed we were invaluable to her remarkable level of LIVING, despite zeroing in on 100 & having dementia, John & I understand – preventive services are always a hard sell.

Yes, it takes money to make money.  But it takes creativity & determination & focused energies to make a difference.  And those we have in plentiful supply.

So, this is me throwing down the gauntlet to my Tech Timid present moment self – how much improvement can I rack up between 12/03/17 & 12/31/17?   I’ve been a flub this year at making money & made a pretty poor showing at attracting it – let’s see how far I can go with the bounty of powerful intangibles at my fingertips!

This is just WEIRD – PA DMV

My present self is way more organized than my past.  Got out all the necessary documentation to take stout-hearted & true Gibbs (our Chrysler Concorde) in for the 11/30 inspection – current insurance info, driver’s license, car registration.  Wait…

As of 01/01/17, Pennsylvania stopped branding license plates with stickers to show it was registered, no longer sends registration cards.  Car owners do the whole thing on line, print out the receipt & LATER, when confirmation arrives from the state, print THAT & keep it with the basic car docs.  I’d done the first step, NOT the second.  A receipt is not an auto registration.

Here’s why this turned out to be good.  John & I were set to watch the Hatboro Holiday Parade – we went, but only long enough to see the start, for me to get weepish soaking in the experience of the first high school marching band (red & black school colors).  Then we went to the Upper Moreland Library to track down my missing registration CARD & get a hard copy (we currently don’t have a printer).

Found nothing – zip nada zilch.  Reviewed my 07/01/17 receipt, which gave an e-mail address to contact with problems – it would be responded to promptly (I thought Tuesday, if I was lucky);  sent off the e-mail, with a copy of the receipt & explaining my dilemma.

I then posted a description of my dilemma on Facebook.  People responded & I revealed the depth to which I am tech timid.  If felt like one of them even sort of shamed me, which actually turned out to be constructive (more later).  Called Microsoft support to find out how to remove the non-persistent cookies which were blocking me from accessing the portion of the PA DMV site needed to resolve my dilemma.  Learned how to locate my browser, but little else.

My ultimate solution – be at AAA/Warminster when they open at 7:00 this morning.  THEY would be able to resolve it.  It messed up my morning in a couple difficulty-creating ways, but the early opening seemed an answer to this maiden’s prayer.

Around 7:00 p.m., I checked my e-mail, which is not my norm.  There were two notification from “REGISTRATION” – one with an attachment.  The first explained that my original registration request was reprocessed; because it was not within the 30-day window stipulated on the receipt as when to contact the state with an error, I’d be billed for the full cost.  Again.  And there it was, in the 2nd e-mail ~ a beautiful registration card, waiting there to be printed.  We don’t have a printer.   And the relatively local places that once offered print services on a Sunday night no longer do.

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  No – it’s SUPER ANDREW!  My go-to savior for all things computerish printed it out for us.

Right now, I have – tucked in the clear plastic holder AAA gave us a couple years ago – is Gibbs’ registration, our current car insurance info & it awaits my driver’s license, all needed for PA inspection.  I will drop Gibbs off at Chuck’s Service Center at 7:00 a.m, then another longtime super hero will pick me up & whisk me up to Be Well, where I will hunker down until getting the magic call the inspection is done, then I’ll a slow, hobbly (my left calf is giving me problems) walk down the long hill to pick it up, grateful for the opportunity.

In the meantime, will call Uber to pick up John to hie him to A.C. Moore/Warminster – a manager called last night about needing extra help & being the good guy he is, John said yes, in spite of a head-stuffing cold.  Another super hero!

Okay, here is the flat-out weird part – – after I received the two registration notices, I checked my online credit card history,  just to see if the duplicate charge had posted in pending transactions.  Not there.  But scanning down my purchases, it was THERE, already processed as a THURSDAY purchase & a FRIDAY post.  Three days before I duplicated the registration.  Spooky, albeit in a good way.

In any case, am ready to roll. Heading out in twenty minutes, as the sun begins peeking over the now barely light skies.

postscript:  What good came from being burned by a friend for my lack of computer savvy?   The computer wiz alluded to my having a lot of problems with computer stuff gave me the opportunity to reply – – deev would be having lots of problems with computer things other people consider simple & straightforward. it is why i am good working with people who are older because i know how it feels to not know stuff that other people consider fundamental. i’ve taken that weakness & turned it into a strength, yet it remains a weakness – for the time being. it will not always be so.  “It will not always be so.”  I might not ever be masterful, but the day will dawn when I am computer competent!