Christmas Gift #4 – The Art of Learning

Hot off the presses!  Jim Stovall teamed up with psychologist Ray Hull to co-author The Art of Learning, an easy read that packs a hefty punch of insight & inspiration.

Truth be told, a shocking number of us were taught WHAT  to learn, but not HOW.  And the unlucky few, like myself, were taught – outside of school – the REVERSE of how to learn.  Which was why I ordered this gem in the first place.  I’m 65, have read stacks of books & articles et al on personal growth, but recognize my lack of the greatest skill any teacher pr parent can give a child – basic learning mechanics & tools.

The Art of Learning & Self-Development: Your Competitive Edge is an excellent book for any lifelong learner, perhaps especially for olders like myself, who might never soaked in the right training as a younger OR has forgotten home truths that apply to ALL ages, stages.  What better Christmas gift than a key to an ever more fabulous future!

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.

In which the Universe gives me an assignment

Take Jolene Brackey’s inspiring Creating Moments of Joy books ADD Ron Culberson’s rollicking & empowering opuses, blend in a bracing number of other authors & influences, spike with Jolene’s perpetual calendar and you get a “start it now” assignment from the Universe – – put together a Comedy Relief perpetual calendar for all ages, whatever your decade.

I accept!  What an ab fab way to honor my mentors, experience, Eureka! moments while compiling a kick-butt calendar to help everyone wanting more joy in their days make life juicier.

Puts the FUN in FUNdamental!

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?


COMEDY RELIEF ~ “Take two jokes & call me in the morning.”

Somewhere in my pile of  “to be labeled” pictures is a snapshot of my mother & John’s at Daddypop’s, sitting side-by-side in a booth, laughing.  Mom Murphy’s eyes are twinkling & Mom’s head is thrown back.  The ladies are having a blast, something both of them did throughout their long lives.  As different as they were in many ways, the two of them always made fun part of their day.

It was relatively easy for them to include a little delight in each of their days, both living in their own homes right up to the last.  For Mom M., it might be a phone chat with one of “the girls,” tending her roses outdoors & her African violets inside, or watching a favorite show on the telly.  For my mom, it might be dashing off a note to one of her cavalcade of friends & family,  (Rosamunde Pilcher was a great favorite), or working with me on one of her Mindwalker1910 blog postings.

I learned from the two of them & other incredible older friends in my little hometown the importance of purpose & of play.  Sadly, as people tip upward into their sixties & well beyond, they often lose easy access to both.

Here’s something else I’ve learned over the years – it’s possible to have a sense of purpose without a sense of play, but a sense of play naturally teams (& teems!) with purpose.  Play is a purpose all by itself.  I saw that often enough with our two mothers, with Aunt Gay, with Miss Cornelia, with Mrs. Ridgeway & so many others.  They each regularly reveled in fun for fun’s sake – and each displayed a great degree of resilience, no matter what their age or physical condition.  Coincidence?  I think not!

The challenge is how to make play easily accessible, whether an older lives on his or her own, in a retirement community, a continuous care residence or elsewhere.

It seems to me that seeking a solution is typically hamstrung when we look at how possible answers can be monetarized.  I’ve let go of that consideration.

Years ago, when I worked at Prudential HealthCare, a very senior VP at PRUDENTIAL asked why I’d gone out on a limb with a project that had borne great fruit, but  initially had NOT been well received by key execs.  Why, she wondered, had I taken the risk?

Because it was a risk that needed taking & if it meant I was out of my job…  well, as I saw it, taking that risk for the sake of the company & our clients WAS the heart of my job.

It’s the same today – looking to see how a solution can be monetarized makes money as or more important than finding an answer.  Think of me as considering the lillies, believing there’s something we’re here on this little world of ours to do.  For the two of us, there’s no debating or dithering – this is it;  if it means taking a big risk for the sake of a greater good, seeking the good is the heart of our purpose.

It’s been 20+ years since that senior Prudential  VP identified me as a rebel ~ seem to have only gotten more so with the years!

SO (finally!), we’ve come up with a way to help oldsters elders ancients of every stripe & ilk, their families, care partners & facility staff find ways to tuck moments of joy into their days – a COMEDY RELIEF KIT, 1st aid for the funny bone.

Not much to share as to contents; the idea is at the most  fledgling stage – just hit me this afternoon.  As envisioned at this moment, it would NOT contain a bunch of things that might or might not meet particular tastes & interests; it WILL provide guidelines & directions for people to find their own solution.  We’ll provide the prescriptions for fun joy glee; others will come up with what works best for them, their loved ones, clients or residents.  And it’ll be available through open sourcing, eliminating cost as a barrier to access.

Doing the research will be part of the fun.  Ideally, the olders will come up with their own material, using the internet (which might requiring teaming up with computer-savvy partners), the library, 1st person resources or to-be-discovered methods.  It can be built on, revised, handed along to others to expand or winnow.  It would be organic, no two alike.

Here’s rub – the way to effectively monetarize an idea is to design a standard version, figure out the easiest way to pro duce it & find the most effective way to market it.

The way to solve a problem – like how to interject fun joy glee into sometimes bleak situations – is to find ways it can be customized to adapt to individual people & situations.  Do NOT break out the cookie cutters!

John & I will do our best to make a dent in the current dilemma, in part by creating connections to solutions that are already out there.  That puts energizing lives & sparking enthusiasm over securing income sources & expanding bank accounts.

Taking a moment to thank the Universe for my years in schools & in the corporate world – it turns out the education I received from each place I worked gave me invaluable insights no college, workshop, seminar or conference could.  My first & final jobs – both in teaching – taught me to not be surprised at forces that seem to pull you away from your primary use & suck you into the petty but powerful (educating students v. dealing with administration & parents).  My corporate experience showed me that exceptional worker is rarely (if ever) done by people strictly following what they learned through classes or manuals ~and~ that it sometimes takes being a bit of a rebel to get a tough job done.  And they all taught me the wisdom of putting what seems right over job security, even if it means taking a risk – the end result is what ultimately provides true value, not your pay check.

Just as I could have ended up out of a job back in my Pru’ days,  we realize we could end out on the street.  No risk, no reward.  At least when the goal is to whip together a ready-to-customize COMEDY  RELIEF  KIT, we’ll never be short on laughs!

(John asked to add a joke from the great Groucho, “I took a train to Chicago once, but they made me take it back.”  Done!)


COLLABORATION – following the call of the wild

Took me 65 years to fully GET my predisposition to working in collaboration with others, that I work best in a small group setting.  My problem is that so much in my first 50 years goes wildly against it.

Throughout their lives, Mom & Dad played well with others, so it would be natural to think I’d get the message.  But from birth – middle age, the core messages I got were from my way more influential older sibs;  #1 was that connection was for suckers, that collaboration leads to soul-deadening “group think” & a stultifying “herd” mentality.

It’s STILL a struggle for me to know which personal mechanics lead TO connection, which lead AWAY.  When so many messed up things were presented & modeled as normal, it’s hard to get a handle on which ones do & which ones don’t.  A lot of people aren’t raised in family cultures that nurture connection;  count me among the unfortunates who, without realizing, went even further down the wrong road, were taught techniques that kept me separate unique alone – and distainful of anything more.

Here I am, at 65+, doing my best to get a crash course in collaboration as THE source of human power!

First, striving to get my mind heart spirit on the same page.  The head catches on – no problem.  But the heart was steeped for years in contempt for anything that might remotely resemble group collaboration – brushed off as a “herd mentality” that was to be shunned rather than nurtured.  And if heart doesn’t get it, spirit will never buy in.

Am determined to get them in sync, but it’s HARD & I was raised in a family culture that aimed for comfort over challenge, process over product.  Instead of buckling down, I’ve injected a sense of PLAY.  Look at the problem as a TASK or even a challenge?  No how, ho way!  Am embracing pursuing collaboration skills as an adventure.  How far up that once haze-hidden peak can I get over my remaining years?  What are the tools & skills I need to learn the ins & outs & ’round abouts of connecting & collaborating?  Find them, master them, APPLY them.  Let those dynamics be simple, easy & fun to master!

Collaboration leads to POWer  – I hear & follow its call!



Snow ball in autumn

Forty-one years ago, I knew in my bones that how I felt – in my body skin soul – was NOT how I was meant to feel.  And there’s no way I can explain how I knew it.  Just did.  Forty-one years ago, it was clear that how my life is now is what it was created to be.  Happy, fulfilled, of use.

My challenge, which I knew without being able to put words to it, was just that – I totally lack any sense of the language to describe my deepest desires & greatest beliefs.  Turns out, wasn’t just that I didn’t have the language to describe life unfolding around & within me; I did have words – they were the WRONG words.  They were opposite from my reality.

It is weird to have what looks like a life with a degree of recognition – at US HealthCare, at Prudential HealthCare, at BISYS Financial Services, at Delaware Valley High School, even to a certain degree at Bryn Athyn Church School – & know that success was stumbled into, rather than strategized.  Back then – up until a year or so ago – I wasn’t capable of taking strategic action – I had the desire, but lacked the basic tools, the core infrastructure on which to build INTENTIONAL success.

Even the conferences & workshops I’ve attended over the past 3+ years – it was instinct, not any great thought process, that lead me to going to each.  I trusted my intuition, which did not steer me wrong.  Not in the events I attended from 2014-16, not in the ones I skipped last year to focus available resources on an event that made no sense for me to attend – the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st Quadrennial World Congress (IAGG).  Felt like the right thing to do, in spite of the distance/time/expense – and it was!

It was all instinct, intuition.  Until around noon on 07/27/17, as the conference was breaking up.  Literally.  As I sat at one of the tall tables, grabbing one last gab with a new friend, crews were taking it all down, getting ready to prep for the next Moscone Center event.  Elizabeth & I were comparing our feelings about the end of the conference – for the first time, it hit me that, unlike the previous events, instead of feeling changed, transformed in some new way, I simply felt WHOLE, myself.

Since the conference, I found Bert & John Jacobs’ Life Is Good.  Through that book, simply written from tender hearts in a uniquely them colloquial style, I found Steve Gross.  Through Steve, I found my/our (John & mine) truest True North calling.

On 10/24,  I wrote to Steve, asking for names of organizations adapting the techniques he’s developed as a joyologist to infuse fun & glee into every possible nook & cranny of the too-often stressed-out lives of children with acute or chronic trauma, their loved ones, care partners, staffs of care facilities.

Write & it shall be given.  I have not heard from Steve, but related energies were clearly released, because on 10/26 I discovered that Jolene Brackey was actually venturing outside the MidWest to the East Coast (RARE!) & was giving the opening keynote address at the Northern Virginia Dementia Care Consortium’s 11/10/17 Caregiver Conference south of Alexandria, VA.  Theme & her presentation – Creating Moments of Joy!  And through Jolene I connected with Ron Culberson, whose book Do It Well. Make It Fun basically recaps in simple, easy-to-follow language, the gist of my decades long quest.

Looking at how my life has snow balled over the past twenty days leaves me breathless.  Learning about Bert & John’s reason for working & functioning as a company, about Steve’s work with the Life Is Good Kids Foundation switched my internal life-scanning mechanism from instinctive to intentional.

Am 65+ & my days are finally targeted (!) at a specific end – how to evolve two playfulness coaches to joyologists, finding ways & means of infusing small moments of fun & glee into every possible nook & crannie of the lives of oldsters elders ancients, their loved ones, care partners & staffs at care facilities, from continuous care retirement communities to own-home settings, from mature adult day care to nursing homes.

And I feel the JOY that I knew at twenty-four was the way I – we – am created to feel.  Unbridled, heart-felt, wildly grateful JOY!  It comes with the coolest, deja vu-ish sense of home coming, like I felt this before, which is why I knew things weren’t right all those years ago, but has somehow gotten off track.  A been-there, felt-that feeling that releases me to see that my family WAS functional ’cause life IS funky, weird & massively confusing; that the qualities that left me awash in arrrggghhhh were the very ones that evolved into a great & grand never-ending source of enlightenment, refreshed awareness, ultimately – that word again – JOY!

Took me forty-one years to say, but here goes – enough with the reading to figure out who I am & what I’m here to DO.  Time to get cracking with doing it, with knuckling down & figuring out just what a playfulness coach does & giving it form, function.  It starts with FINISHING what I started – making Cyber Access for the Technically Timid (CATT) more than a clever business card, contact The Foundation for a Better Life about REALLY developing my Values Visions Dreams project (a build off dream management).

Golly – this is how it feels to finally be set upside right, to have the words to get from Point A to Point B & so on.  Some might find that dull.  I find it the very basis of defining what calls to be done, then doing it.  Radical stuff – or so it would have been to me, forty-one years ago, taught as I was to shun the standard as “bourgeoisie,” painfully plodding.  Yeah, baby – bring it on!

GASP!  The gal who once feared goal-setting because it guaranteed I’d never meet them is settin’ herself  time-specific tasks.

First up – get back on track. I know what works in my life & what doesn’t.  Be intentional.  The magical transformation spell begins with s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g it out, then following through to getting it DONE.

How well will I do on this first GOAL?  Will check back next week & let y’all know!

Loving how this feels, snow balling in today’s 75 degrees (F) temps!!