Sure sign I was in pain yesterday

Thought it was Thursday. Why?  Because there were no markers through my day.  John drove himself to his part-time job (he enjoys working at a local craft & hobby store, which employs quite a few artists) & took a dear friend on a drive while I stayed home.  We don’t watch TV shows, so didn’t have them as markers.  Changed my NY Times subscription to digital, so didn’t have the print edition to clue me in on the day.

All it took for me to lose my sense of time placement was a gammy leg.  That’s all.

Envisioning how hard it would be to hold onto my sense of physical mental emotional place ~if~ I found myself without my sense of familiar home & things resting in their “proper” place, of a familiar neighborhood, of family & friends, of independent mobility, of all the layers of activity that fill even the most mundane of my days, of all I do without thinking.

For me, all it took was a gammy leg.

Holidays & dementia – think twice

It is tempting to think that Mom, Grandpa or Aunt Felicia would LOVE being surrounded with family & friends over the holidays – – in spite of having dementia.  Jolene Brackey reminded us at Friday’s Creating Moments of Joy Caregivers Conference that including them could a great disservice to everyone – especially to them & most certainly to their care partners.

Here’s my observations about the pleasures & potential pitfalls of including someone dealing with dementia to a holiday celebration, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, birthdays to reunions:

  • Understand that it creates stress for anyone dealing with dementia to be literally faced with people greeting them, “strangers” giving them hugs or (worse), saying with a big smile, “You remember me!
  • Realize that deep inside us, we REALLY want them with us over the holiday, but as they were.  We want Dad carving the turkey, Mom dishing up the stuffing, Grandma bringing her pies & Uncle Phil making his yummo green bean casserole.  At the holidays, our natural human tendency is to long for old roles.  Make sure over the holidays that you are focused on meeting their needs & not your wants, which often means doing it differently than before.
  • Keep it small – maybe even have two different celebrations, one at your house over lunch with just a few people who are focused on the person, one later – without the older loved one – at another person’s house for the whole clan.
  • If s/he always helped with making the meal, involve them in the preparation, making SURE to have an apron, a must-have in their day.  Have music playing to limit “Remember…” conversations.  Follow their lead.
  • If they ask why someone isn’t there, have a reason for the absence, other than illness or death.  Make up something, if necessary.  This is not a time for stark reality.
  • Skip the family get-together entirely.  I had a client that I took out for breakfast at her favorite diner because holiday breakfasts were bleak at her personal care residence.  Most restaurants are closed for holiday breakfasts, but Denny’s & IHOP are safe bets to be open.  We’d go for a drive & then head back to her beloved diner for lunch.  Staying in her continuous care residence would have been awful, as would being barraged by “strangers” at family events.  When she asked why her children weren’t having her to dinner, I explained they were out-of-town.
  • IF you are having a large group, get them involved in making it a happy time for the guest of honor.  Share your game plan, laying out the dos & don’ts – #1 being to NOT do the very thing that will seem most natural:  asking “Remember when...”,  sharing family photos, feeling disappointed they recognized Cousin Tony but not her own son.  Explain the importance of greeting them with “Good to see you” instead of the booby trapped “How are you doing?”  I think the idea of sending everyone a letter laying out the situation & including tips is BRILLIANT.
  • Play familiar music or her favorite songs – one family always made the event a swing fest, heavy on Glenn Miller & Tommy Dorsey.
  • Pull out collections of favorite cartoon strips.  Mom loved Peanuts, For Better & For Worse, so if dementia had been a challenge for her, we would have had those books out, remembering the different characters.
  • Have favorite nibblings available – hunger does not make for happiness.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Whether a big group or small, have a quiet room where the guest of honor can rest or get away from the hub bub.
  • Discreetly assign people to be a buddy for a specific period of time so someone is always by their side, keeping watch without hovering.
  • Make sure everyone understands if s/he can’t have any alcohol, even Uncle Bob who thinks s/he should have whatever s/he wants.
  • If not having a drink is an issue, have non-alcoholic beverages for everyone.  Maybe a non-alcoholic wine or sparkling cider in champagne glasses.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Skip church.  I can’t think of a worse thing to do with someone dealing with dementia than to take them to our church’s Thanksgiving service, which is held in a field house so the entire congregation can gather at one service.  S/he does NOT relate the setting to worship, there are WAY too many bodies & far too many “strangers” coming up, hoping to be recognized remembered reassured.
  • Once she started edging her way up into her upper 80s & 90s, Mom opted at Christmas to attend the Children’s Tableaux or the first, abbreviated family performance of the traditional tableaux.  She didn’t have dementia, but tired easily & knew that even the best time can be dampened by feeling weary or worn out.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Remember meds!  It’s easy to forget.  Make sure s/he is getting the proper meds at the right times.  Avoid potential embarrassment by being discreet.
  • The day before, send a holiday arrangement with a note that includes the reason & your relationship ~ “Happy Thanksgiving!  Love from your son, …” or daughter, friend…”  Send even if you are seeing them on The Day.  Especially powerful with women.
  • Be prepared for upset when you suggest going heading back to their residence.  Don’t ruin the moment for her & everyone else’s happy memory – tell her you’re going on a drive.
  • IF you include a loved one with dementia in a holiday celebration, know that it typically will take two weeks for their schedule to get back to normal.  Be aware of the added post-holiday stress on them, on you AND especially on care partners.
  • Keep it simple.

That’s some of what I’ve learned interacting with older loved ones, friends & clients.  For more suggestions & tips check:

Celebrating Thanksgiving with “Generation Alzheimer’s” (what a ghastly title!)

Ten Holiday Survival Tips (actually over 50)

Holidays & Alzheimer’s Families

Celebrating the Holidays with Alzheimer’s

Or google “holidays dementia”

Just right 1st conference for John!

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?

 

surREAL

John & I are happily caught in surREALity  ~  facing down financial challenges that would daunt our earlier selves, confident in the knowledge they’re the ONLY things weighing us down.  Every other aspect of our lives gives us wings to soar over a tangled landscape, discovering new vistas & overgrown paths;  beckoning others to find the ancient, too-often forgotten awareness that ALL of our life is designed for wholeness & joy.

Quite the turn around from earlier this week, when I was uncharacteristically bummed.  Our newest client decided that, at 90+, she wasn’t up to the rehab we whisked her to & from. What stung, more than feeling the loss of income we NEED, was the loss of connecting with a remarkably active older woman.

We’ve lined up three clients since May; each one has said good bye (in addition to our most recent opting out of rehab, one family decided that enrichment, not covered under Medicare, was too $ while another went with a service offering more care options).

The Universe is sending a message – move on, this option’s been shut down.

I’m used to the Universe’s modus operandi of introducing me to new experiences, new lessons by throwing my life into an uproar.  If it means tossing me out of a job – teaching, public relations, marketing support – so be it.

Learned long ago that the Universe focuses on the end, not a fleeting moment.  The third time it happened, being tossed out of comfort no longer fazed me.  That time, the shock lasted a scant hour before it hit me that something BIG was in store, so best to get with the unknown program.

That’s how it feels now.  Yes, there are moments it feels scary.  Face it – most people under value what we offer; a shocking number flat-out dismiss the importance – at all ages – of spontaneous play, of experiencing joy.

We understand.  The average person caught up in the speed & stress of the age can feel dubious, even daunted, by the idea that playfulness is as essential to a healthy life as vitamins & other nutrients.  What was true when we were kids, when play came as naturally as breathing, is still true today – a sense of unfettered, open playfulness is  essential to our well-being.  Way too many adults have gotten so used to the base note of stress underscoring modern life & don’t realize how dangerous a lack of regular FUN is to their  health well-being prosperity

Our society focuses on work, on production, on racking up tangible results that can be measured calculated quantified.  Aka, the opposite of play, which requires a sense of the unfettered, the freely done & freely received.

Someone has to stand for getting more play into everyone’s lives, to infect our older friends with glee & laughter & a light heart.  The Universe tapped us.

My reality is that every time I find work that provides personal satisfaction, a decent income & serves others, the Universe ultimately yanks me out, tosses me into a void awaiting structure.  “Okay, you learned the lessons this work can provide – onto the next,” it seems to say.

The first time, I went from a teacher to a balloon seller to a editor/public relations maven.  The second, the shift was from public relations & advertising to account executive.  The third lead me to elder care.

None of them were places I would ever have predicted, ESPECIALLY the last.  All of them provided essential lessons that will serve me – us – well in being eldercare (r)evolutionaries, set on disrupting the current woeful culture society uses to straitjacket too many oldsters elders ancients.  I didn’t set out to do this work.  If I’d had my original druthers, I be winding down a wonderful life as a junior high teacher.

The Universe has other plans.

While that sounds whackily New Ageish to a lot of people,  experience taught me long ago that there is reason to what could appear calamity.  Surreal?  Yes.  As in phantasmagorical.

Phantasmagorical – “changing or shifting, as a scene made up of many elements.”  Yes, that sums up how my life has turned out.  “As something in a dream or created by the imagination” – that works, too.  I’ve come to have complete faith in the unforeseen, the out of left field.

When it comes to stuff – to school tax & ancient cars, cat food & weekly groceries – we admit to being in a temporarily dicey place.  When it comes to everything else, all is awesome, beyond the beyond.  In ways other than the material, the here & now, the temporal, we push pursue put the REAL in surreality!

Dying is a wild night & a new road*

While many shy away from discussing dying & death, my mother was at ease with the topic & downright enthusiastic about the prospect of leaving this life for what’s next.   Her faith held no fears about what’s next, plus she was fed up with being a widow, was eager to be – as she was certain she would – reunited with her O! Best Beloved.

Our 1997 ramble to & from DisneyWorld was highlighted on the drive down by Mom’s awakening to the possibility there was more to herself than she’d imagined, while the drive back included long discussions about what she wanted as she drew close to death.

Because Mom had already signed up with the Humanity Gifts Registry, I knew the only thing I had to do with her body was to give them a call, then decide later what to do with her ashes.  HGR would – and did – do the rest.

On the drive up through the center of Florida, through the Smokies, along the Blue Ridge, we talked about how she hoped to approach her dying, which minister she’d like to do her memorial service, the songs, the party – she always loved that Gerry Timlin talked about the fine wake they had back in Co. Kerry after his dad died & she wanted a rouser of a party, too.

By the end of the drive, I was thoroughly versed in what Mom wanted as she neared the end of her life, what she wanted done in the way of medical care, where her documents were located, and what she hoped we’d do in way of a life celebration.  All of this while she was still fit enough to brave the Magic Kingdom & walk the encircled nations of EPCOT.

Alas, a recent study in the UK shows that almost 1/3 of Brits haven’t talked about their own end-of-life issues with family or care support.  I doubt folks here in the USA are similarly reluctant to discuss what far too many consider a morbid rather than natural topic.

Dying & death were frequently part of the cocktail hour Mom enjoyed every Friday with some very senior members of her friendship circle – “Grandma” Rose, Viola Ridgeway, Cornelia Stroh were all significantly older than Mom – always broached with light hearts & even a hint of merriment. They seemed more curious than anything.   They showed no fear of death &, praise be, exited before the current era of prolonged dying.

Would that more of today’s oldsters elders ancients discussed their end of life over whiskey sours & canapes.  Sadly, per the Age UK and the Malnutrition Task Force study:

  • Most people could talk generally about death and dying within their own peer group but not their own family
  • Younger people did not feel comfortable to speak to their older friends and relatives and closed down conversations very quickly
  • Older people found it difficult to talk to professionals and family and easier to peers about wanting to stop treatment and let nature take its course
  • Older people found that their grown up children do not want grandparents to discuss dying and death with their grandchildren – even when they have a positive relationship and may take on a fair amount of childcare responsibilities
  • All age groups felt that they had no idea of what may physically happen when people approach the end of life

Ah hem…  They might want to rethink that third bullet.  Health care professionals are NOT comfortable with stopping treatment & would consider a natural death against their Hippocratic Oath.   As for the first – all I could see were Mom’s wonderful circle of older ladies toasting each other, the church & life – and talking about the end as naturally as discussing a recipe.   The fourth bullet was disconcerting – and worth a long discussion – while the 2nd is too vague to be of value.  How much younger are we talking about?  It’s my experience that those who are in their twenties & younger often seem more at ease talking with their grandparents than those over thirty & even more so over forty.   As for the last bullet – naturally all age groups have “no idea of what may physically happen when people approach the end of life” because it’s NOT a cookie cutter experience, one size does not fit most.

Digging down into the data, the survey of 2000+ found that, in discussing dying & death with others:

  • 50% said they would be worried about upsetting the other person
  • 30% said they would be worried it would offend the other person
  • 25% would simply not know how to bring up the subject
  • 22% said it would make them feel too upset
  • 20% don’t think they would be able to find the right time and place to have the conversation
  • 19% said it isn’t something they would want to think about at all

Makes sense to me.  Medical professionals have, right here in the USA, done our best to excise dying & death OUT of our normal experience.  With less & less social interaction between generations, more & more children of all ages are unlikely to see older family members get frailer, decline, move through the stages of dying.

It’s hard to have a conversation around end-of-life issues when the different generations increasingly have less & less natural contact – how many people still gather around the Sunday dinner table as an extended family?

FACT:  Death is a wild night & a new road that we will all experience & take.  It’s inescapable, a fate best faced with others by our side.  The book download on Aging UK’s website is a help, but we’re not going to find the solution to bringing up the topic if the generations aren’t connecting with each other in the first place.  Until & unless we do, the distance between the ages is only going to get worse, we’ll be clueless about what each other thinks about living, let alone dying & death.

Let’s be more like “Grandma” Rose, Mrs. Ridgeway,  Miss Cornelia & Mom, talking over sips & nibbles about life, joy, love – AND dying & death!

 

(* by Emily Dickinson)

Anger v. Losing It

Poor John.  I was so happy & peaceful when we met, fell in love, married.  After we were hitched, he was taken unawares when some relatively trivial problem came up & I blew a gasket.  Instead of coming right back at me with disbelieving anger of his own, he looked at me aghast, then asked one question, “What is the matter?

I stopped cold in mid-rant, my jaw dropped & I said something like, “Whaaaaa?”

John looked me in the eye & repeated the question, “What is the matter?

I was totally thrown – no one had ever asked me that question before.  I launched into a heated description of what he’d said to tear my heart out.  He listened.

He listened carefully, letting me get it all out.  Then, he sat down next to me & said, “You heard me say…” and repeated back to me, exactly, that very thing.  THEN, he said, “No wonder you’re upset by what you understood.  What I MEANT by what I said was…”  and he went on to explain the message he’d hoped to convey.

John, in that one exchange, won my deepest admiration & keenest envy – – I wanted to do what he did.  Not getting sucked into an emotional maelstrom, instead listening through the upset for understanding.  John was able to get past the angry person to discover the root of my anger.  And although it was not justified by what he’d meant to convey, he could understand the furor based on how it had registered in MY brain, seeping through layers of ancient wounds.  Wow…

Twenty-eight years later, I’ve learned a lot about the difference between anger & being angry.  Anger is meant to be like a robust sneeze or, for me, a scratchy throat – a warning that things are not well, that attention has to be paid to something.  It seems to me that being angry includes some loss of control.

The Whaaaaa problem that needed to be identified was that our separate processes were woefully out of sync, a common problem with newly weds (right up there with does the Christmas tree have large twinkly colored lights with a big flashing star at the top or steady-glow tiny white lights topped with an angel made by a brother back in 4th grade).

I’d like to say that I saw the righteousness of John’s approach & never ever fell into the pit of lash-out anger again.  The old triggers of invisibility  & disconnection still do the occasional back flip into my processing, sidelining a response to make way for a reaction.  But John stays steady, still looking for what’s up at the heart of my distress.

It was John who taught me about the value of anger, that emotions are supposed to wake us up to what’s happening, positive or negative, constructive or unproductive.

It was a message I was ready to hear.

My own family has a long history of avoiding confrontation at all costs.  The tendency from Mom’s side of the family was to tolerate pervasive conflict rather than face difficult reality.  Which always seemed weird to me, even as a kid, because disagreements are a natural part of life.  And having a disagreement, having to bring up tough topics in order to get past them, are essential tools for growth, both personally & within relationship.

I am forever grateful for having a sister-in-law who didn’t hesitate to share what she saw as off-kilter & did so without getty angry.  She was heated but calm telling Mom, “For someone who talks all the time about communication, you do darn little of it.”  Of course, we all thought it hysterically funny, but Pam was absolutely on target – Mom did NOT walk her talk.  Small wonder.  Experience taught her the “wisdom” of laying low – – stand up & get mowed down.

By hanging out with John, seeing how much better his life functioned than ours, Mom & I learned the  importance of feeling expressing sharing healthy anger at appropriate times, in appropriate ways.  Some things we discovered included…

>   If you feel just cause to be unhappy with someone,  look for a way to share it while the issue is active, fresh.    Sidestepping issues can lead to disastrous results.  Mom was an epic side stepper, although I doubt she topped the family member who, back in 1973, wrote to Mom about how awful I had been to her, that one reason she was happy to have moved away was that I could no hurt her.  The kicker is that in the same paragraph, she acknowledged never talking to me about any of it – –  but i was okay with her if Mom did.  That never-shared anger, which she felt was justified, finally spewed out at a terrible time, in a terrible way  – – 24 years later.  How differently things might have gone if she’d shared with me how I made her feel, all those years ago.  

Be as honest as possible;  leave doors open rather than using the “truth” to slam them shut.  Since 2010, I’d tried to make contact with my sister & oldest brother through One Book, One Family.  It ultimately reconnected me with Mim, no response from Peter.  A couple years later, I decided to take another stab.  John & I took over food from one of his favorite Chinese places.  When I left it at the Front Desk of his domicile, the woman asked me, “Don’t you want to give it to him yourself?”   I paused, then replied, “I don’t know how my brother feels about me NOW, but at one time I was like fingers on a chalkboard to him.  His feelings might have changed, but I do not have the energy to risk they haven’t.”  I was open, honest.  And when we got home, there was a flashing light on the answering machine & a lovely message from Peter. 

>   Put improving communication – “What is the matter?” –  over pinning blame.    Brene Brown says she & her husband use the “story” line to help defuse testy situations.  If she feels there is a problem, she’ll tell him, “The story I am telling myself about this is…”  which acknowledges that a) it is a story, not necessarily the truth & b) she recognizes & respects he has his story, too.  Their goal is to put finding common ground over blaming & shaming.

Resist the urge to retaliate.   Speaks for itself.   I learned very early, from John, that retaliation & relationship are incompatible.

Respect anger, honoring  it as a tool to greater understanding.    This was a particularly tough row for Mom to hoe – to her, all anger was from hell.  She was used to people who were angry at her being abusive.  It took her many years to accept that people can express anger without wanting to dominate, without others losing control.

BOTTOM LINE:  Approriate anger, where we’re focused on the situation rather than the person, is fleeting, felt, expressed, learned from & moved past.  It supports healthy relationships.  ~  Abusive anger is rooted in our ego, cares squat about relationship, seeks to fix blame & attach shame, never to gain better understanding & deeper compassion.  ~  Healthy anger is released;  harmful anger lingers festers grows.

We are never too old to step past losing our anger with long-time triggers.  Mim was 66 years old when we got past ancient gunk to create an new relationship.  Peter was in his mid 70s!  With both sibs, there would be times when flashes of the old arrrgggghhhh anger would flash, but we’d set it aside & move past it.  I’ve seen more older people be able to set aside ancient sources of losing it, choosing relationship, than I’ve seen entrenched in a need for blame shame retaliation.  Not a mere hope – actual experience!

Anger is just anger. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice. – Jim Butcher

A man can’t eat anger for breakfast and sleep with it at night and not suffer damage to his soul. – Garrison Keillor

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean. – Maya Angelou

 

Let it GO!

If I could do one thing for every one of my friends of all ages, I’d get them to pick a song of the month to play as one of the first things they do each morning.  A week is too short a time, a year way too long.  We’ll see how a month works.  Am starting today through to October 9, when I’ll pick my next one.

This focus on music started this past Tuesday, when the always inspiring Rachel Rubin got all of us gathered at Be Well for “Design Your Dream Day” up on our feet & jazzing out to Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling, an exercise that literally rocked my world.

I’d learned about the power of music through an older friend, who experienced an unimaginable heart break.  She knew that while she was in Paris with a beloved grandchild – a graduation present from his adoring Grammie – one of her sons would get the ball rolling cleaning out her house, which they were selling because she was moving into his big place.  She loved that house, set on 4 acres of meadow & woods, but bowed to her family’s wish that she no longer live alone.  When she returned, blissed out from the trip, she discovered her son had cleared more than cleaned – he’d given away most of her book collection, all of her dvds & videos, and every one of her records.  The first two were unfathomable losses (some of the least “valuable” books were among her heart’s greatest treasures), but the loss of the records – that broke her.  Her will & sense of independence were crushed; she never recovered.  Music has the power to connect & to lose all of those precious moments…  it’s two years later, she is a shadow of what she was & I am still in shock at such a callous act by a genuinely loving but dangerously oblivious child.

SO – here is my change to flip heartrending energy to constructively butt kicking!

For all of my life, the “Sousa Alarm” has been part of my morning, first through WFLN & now WRTI radio.  John loves it every bit as much as I do – he is a mega Sousa fan, a longtime devotee of the Allentown Band, which features Sousa.  Listening to something every morning is in my background, waiting to be rewoven into my warp & woof!

Imagining how listening to a beloved song first thing – before breakfast, before getting started on their daily routine – could jumpstart the day with happiness.  Doesn’t matter if they are fully independent, in assisted care or need someone to turn it on – – connecting first thing with something audible they love, that they selected, could have a seriously positive effect on them & everyone around.

How will it impact ME, starting each day with something that hooks deep into my psyche, that sets every quark in my being a-quivering?  Kicked off with Let It Go!, the song that inspired the idea.  And it’s just the start of songs in my day – Rachel inspired me to add dance to my daily schedule, using it as a way to regularly get off my duff & shake my booty to great songs like JT’s.

Stay tuned for how it all goes down!!