Restorative Justice

John & I have a radically different view of our work with older friends than we had two years ago.  Up until late summer 2015, our experience with older loved ones, good friends & pleasant acquaintances was all upbeat.  We hadn’t seen the dark side of aging.

Just over two years ago, we saw an older friend be broken by a well-intention, tragically thoughtless child.  At the time, our friend was in her early 80s, recently diagnosed with dementia which was evidenced in messing up her meds & little if anything else, otherwise physically fit, in a home she loved, a house she’d brought over 50 years from run down to delightful, in a community that included a wide circle for friends, professional colleagues, close ties to the school where she’d taught all her life, was a member of a church congregation that loved her.

She longed to stay right where she was for as long as she could, with someone living in to help with the things she couldn’t handle – a mutually advantageous arrangement for both – but her oldest child insisted she give it all up, move almost 100 miles away to live with family.

A dream trip she’d long planned with two grandchildren, a college graduation present to the younger, became in her mind a grand last hurrah.  It was an idyllic ten days.  On her return, she walked into her beloved kitchen & was greeted by her mutually adoring pooch, walked into the dining room – home!  Walked into her music room – and stopped dead in her tracks.  The wall facing her, the one that should have been filled from ceiling to floor with her vinyl record collection was empty.  Every record gone, given away by her oldest as part of “clearing out the house” while she was away.

She never recovered.  Something inside her clicked OFF.  It would have been ghastly under any condition, but the shock of the loss crashing with her euphoria over the trip turned it traumatic, a trauma which her child still doesn’t comprehend.

It was a shocker for us, too.  We couldn’t get our heads around any of it.  For the first time, we saw a parent done in by the good intentions of a wrong-headed child.  Sadly, more was to come.

Over all the years we worked with Anne & Marg & other clients, we took for granted the many ways their families went out of their way to make sure their olders were busy, that they had something to DO & had younger, interesting people to do it with – family, friends or engaged care partners.  My John’s mom was active throughout her day, even living alone; mine was, too, right into her 90s – not busy like they were as kids of sixty, but always having something on their schedule, something to anticipate.

Before late summer 2015, we’d never considered the crying need for oldsters elders ancients, their families, care partners, support teams & facility staff to have moments of fun & smiles tucked into their day.  We get it now.  It’s needed for people facing debilitating challenges around aging ever upward ~and~ it’s needed for those who are simply getting acquainted with bodies that no longer do what they once didn’t even notice, who are doing their best to be their best in a culture with woeful attitudes around aging.

Now, John & I see the isolated people when we have our weekly breakfasts at a remarkably nice local continuous care retirement community.  This morning, I spotted a friend in the foyer, waiting for a ride – he seemed so alone, emotionally crumpled. He talked about feeling O L D, felt surrounded & hemmed in by old.  He talked about missing Anne, who died in January, which took me by surprise, since he wasn’t a particularly close friend – he spoke of missing her radiant smile every day, her upbeat nature & optimism in spite of being deep into memory loss.

He reminded me of something I never fully appreciated two years ago – the power of a single happy moment, or simple things like a beaming smile & kindness.

It’s been over five weeks since we’ve seen the older friend whose well-meaning daughter did her dirt – we’d been taking her out for a drive & lunch once a week.  Due to the unseasonably warm weather & the sorry fact the front windows of our ancient but stout-hearted & true Concorde are stuck in UP, it gets hot with the sun beaming in.  We’re hoping she’s available for a ramble next week – waiting to hear from the woman who handles her scheduling.  I feel sorry we haven’t been over, but our schedules have kept us busy every afternoon, her best time.

Perhaps it was the time apart from her, thinking about her being alone & isolated in a facility that doesn’t do much to keep their residents engaged, that resulted in our coming up with the COMEDY RELIEF KIT, so facilities like hers – filled with staff who care but simply lack the time to do the things their brochures indicate they do – can have simple ways to tuck those all-important moments of fun & happiness into every resident’s, staff, care partner’s days.  Preventive care for many, restorative healing for our friend.

Before two years ago, we saw ourselves as entertainers, interesting companions, engaging friends.  Since late summer 2015, we’ve sought to be more.  The memory of our friend at the Bon Voyage party before she & her grandchildren set out on their dream trip – our longing to do all we can to help restore that awesome woman back to life – is what drives us to do the work before us.  Our own form of restorative justice.

Richard Address/Rick Moody – night capper

Oh my gosh – haven’t posted a night capper for DAYS!  Making up for it with a flourish, posting a radio discussion between two men who have my respect & admiration – Rabbi Richard Address & Dr. Harry “Rick” Moody.  Totally worth your listen!

Check out Rabbi Address’ weekly radio show  at blogtalkradio/jewishsacredaging – Tuesday mornings, 11:00 a.m.

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!)


LIVE LIFE LAUGHING – the naturally funny Rosalind H. Trieber

Gene Cohen & Roz Trieber – I don’t know if the two knew each other (it is possible, since both lived in the Metro D.C. area), but the world was certainly a much sadder place after they died, within two months of each other.  They surely seem kindred spirits.

Gene left us with his legacy of humor & creativity on November 12, Roz – who just entered my life – left it on December 31.  How different our lives would be if both were still with us, pioneering the use of the arts & especially laughter in working with patients, the dependent, the elderly.

Gene’s classic, The Creative Age, was my awakening to the importance of the arts & nurturing creativity in helping people remain vital purposeful connected as we age upward.  Roz’s Live Live Laughing, which I read & reread for the first time this past weekend, is a blessing on all I’ve seen first hand about the power of laughter in alleviating confusion distress unhappiness depression despondency isolation helplesness…  In my experience, a dose of laughter immediately helps reduce those spirit killers in most people.

Laughter – silly, burst-out-loud, unrestrained – turned my 89-year old mother from self-denigrating to self-loving.  Where reading failed, reasoning failed, counseling failed, laughter succeeded.  For my part, it was discovered by sheer desperation, on an unthinking whim.  Roz would have understood, would have been able to explain the WHY behind the WOW that we experienced from simple silliness.

Live Life Laughing – An innovative & imaginative approach to living a healthier, happier & more prosperous life.  Roz was a Naturally Funny Lady who helped connect me to a deeper level of silly.  Her book is way more than how to get more chortles out of life.  It’s practical, grounded, full of simple ways to get to happy.  Like sharing Maggie Bedrosian’s terrific exercise – write down the first ten words that come to mind hearing “How do you feel when you’re feeling really well?”  Great question to use with any age, as intriguing for a 30-something to ponder as a 65 year old.  Roz considers it a good treatment for emotional constipation & I see what she means – it might first be met with glib answers, but once asked it drills down into the mind & hangs around,  resurfacing & reconnecting to thoughts focused on feeling gooood.

It would be fun to put together a workshop based on Roz’s work – a first aid kit of comedy to have on hand when we need a life-restoring laugh.  As Roz says, “No benefit plan provides a greater vale than a daily dose of compassionate humor.  It provides hope, reduces tension, includes all people & creates bonds.”

As Roz points out, you don’t need to go to clown school to master laughter.  And it doesn’t matter if you are laughing on cue instead of after hearing a joke – the body feels the mechanics & kicks in on its own.

The book is easily read over an evening, perhaps sitting gingerly on a whoopie cushion (or at least with a whoopie pie in hand), noise maker at hand, Patch Adams nose securely in place.  It has a smattering of ways to tuck humor into the various parts of your life; even more, it nudges the READER into spotting ways to spike their day with laughter.

When I think about the power of a hearty guffaw, I think about a visit Mom had about three weeks before she was reunited with her O Best Beloved.  She was at a local hospital, with her doctors still anticipating a successful round of rehab followed by a return home & a fairly full recovery.  A younger friend – around my age – made the 30 minute jaunt for a visit.  Esther’s energy is impossible to convey – she loves life & embodies verve.  She & Mom talked about her trips to Florence, about her husband, about teaching & house mothering at a local boarding school (Mom’s alma mater!).  It was a joy for me, experiencing how much Mom was loving the visit – all smiles & laughter.  Then, Esther gave me a golden moment – she made a crack about something or other & Mom just put her head back & LAUGHED.  A big bold-faced no-holds-barred LAUGH.  That one moment did more to make her feel whole than all the meds she was taking.  How do we get more of those moments into medicine?

I can tell you from my experience this summer at an international conference of gerontologists & geriatricians, the interest is there, the willingness to consider “if not meds & traditional treatment, what?

The moment is open to Roz’s message in large part because of her work.  Would she were here – praise be her book is!

Few are gathered

My parents had an interesting way of bringing up hot issues with us – they’d wait until “the right time” to address it, often over a meal in a nice restaurant where no one was able to blow a gasket.  Peter’s wife said she came to dread a dinner invitation from Mom & Dad, worrying what the problem might be.

It was a mega eye opener when I learned through management classes at Prudential HealthCare that it’s essential issues be brought up while they are active, or at least when they are still fresh.

Last month, was surprised to have an ancient issue served up fresh, an out-of-the-blue opportunity to effectively handle something I’d repeatedly bungled it over the years.  This week, a whole new issue is offered up, as active as they come.

Am delighted to be throwing my first online Pampered Chef party, something I intend to make an annual autumn event.  I invited 2/3 of my Facebook friends, since I don’t have a Ouiji board to know who wants to find the new mini deep dish covered baker under their Christmas tree (in addition to me!), a classic batter bowl with lid for a granddaughter’s dorm room, or needs a pair of cooling racks for holiday cookies because they lent theirs to a son who moved with them out of state.

That’s a lot of people.  Out of all those invitees, four (4) have responded as coming, two as maybes.

The dearth of responses has left me facing a deeply-rooted sense of utter inadequacy in forging connection beyond a bright smile & breezy introduction, wondering, “Has present-day reality uprooted my gutting belief that I can’t do connection ~or~ do ancient issues still ride roughshod over me?”  

Praise be, it’s taught its lesson & moved on!

It’s just a fact that I remain a total failure at making meaningful connections with my own family.  Peter’s daughter unfriended me & her brother declined my friend invitation.  Ditto my sister-in-law.  Yikes –  two of my siblings drew closer to each other about twenty years ago after discovering that neither liked me.  Even Mom felt more at ease with Mim than with me.

But there was a reason for all that – they didn’t trust me.

See, they were okay with the sense of massive disconnect that pervaded our family, while the baby of the family (me) kept working for deeper connections.  That first great quest did not go well for me.  Was left with a deeply entrenched belief in my own inability to connect, in the expectation that people who appeared to like me were actually irritated beyond belief by my existence.

Sheez – all that dredged up from a Pampered Chef party?  A bold & joyous YES!  Because it has PAST & “No longer at this address” written all over it!

Being able to be within the actual moment last month with Mike & Kerry, able to accept that while we all wish each other well we have a long history of not doing well together, able to realize that getting together for breakfast had the potential for disaster, so don’t – that was BIG for me.

The response to this online party is equally BIG for me.  The large number invited & the teensy  group attending brings up old memories, long-ago situations that could look like they have “heartbreak” written all over them, yet brought only happiness:

When I was in my first wedding in our hometown church, Bryn Athyn Cathedral, & hoped my friends would come to see me in that beautiful setting, only one did.  To this day – almost 50 years later – appreciation for her presence wells up whenever I see her.

When my father – at 63 – died a few years later & friends of my mother & my sister & my brother came to the house to comfort them, no one came to comfort me.  I understood – they all thought someone else was covering.  When, bold lass that I was, I called Marie to ask, “Where is everyone?” it turned out that several of my buddies were with her at a long-planned dinner party – which she immediately decamped to my house!  To this day am awed that Marie turning her dinner party into a movable feast set in motion one of her guests, a fellow from Iowa named Dave, becoming a faux brother to me & a pseudo son to Mom.

When John & I were married in 1989, ALL of my relatives showed up for the wedding & the church was filled with 400 well wishers.  After the ceremony, my oldest brother, serving as toastmaster, looked over the assembled throng spilling off of the church lawn onto the parking lot, said those unforgettable words – “As I see all these happy, smiling faces, it strikes me that you are not here so much for John & Elsa (me) as out of respect & love for our mother, Katharine Reynolds Lockhart” & proceeded to talk for almost ten minutes about MOM.  I just looked at John & we both smiled – Peter being Peter.  My relatives loved his comments – everything he shared about Mom was wonderful & true.  But friends & especially business colleagues thought it pretty bizarre, while those who’d always reassured me, “Of COURSE your family likes you!” got a ringside seat to my reality.  Far from upsetting the bride, I was relieved Peter said what he did, because every word helped paint a revealing picture.

When Mom died early on a Sunday morning & it was announced at both family & traditional services, only six friends stopped by to pay their respects.  Six people who really mattered.  The small, cozy, heart-knit group gathered in the living room suited us far better than a throng.

When I turned sixty, we invited sixty friends to join us at a friend’s Irish restaurant to celebrate & to enjoy a jam of Celtic musicians.  Again, six friends showed up – one from each era of my life, from the rare childhood friend through my corporate years to then present day.  Still gives me goose bumps!

And now it’s my online Pampered Chef party, with a kazillion invitees, four coming, two maybes.  WHY would I feel in the least unhappy about such a miniscule response when it’s worked out so awesomely in the past.  Why would the present be any different?

I might not connect with others in what feels to me like a standard traditional normal way, but connect I do, in my own fashion & the results tend to be unpredictably WONDROUS!

Thank you, Universe, for this much appreciated chance to give a tip of my hat to an active situation, to ponder the why behind my connection fears, for the ability to take a moment to recognize there were reasons for them to fester AND know that reason is past, for the opportunity to share what could have been some of the saddest moments in my life that, even at the time, were experienced only as JOY.

All this, from a Pampered Chef party?  YES YES YES!  Many have been called – may the right few be gathered!

Oh – and if you’d like to join in the fun, visit & feel free to share the party link – !

WILLIAM WOLF DAVIS – Mindwalker1910

This posting from Mom about her staunch Methodist grandfather always makes me crack up – especially the part about Wife #3!

Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 07:11:21 EST
Subject: William Wolf Davis

The Reynolds branch of my family may have the more distinguished heritage but the Davis side is rich with interesting characters.

My grandfather, William Wolf Davis, outlived three wives. His first and the mother of his children was Katharine Rebecca. I am named for her. She died when she was 45 years old. At that time, everyone thought she’d lived to a good age. Since she died before I was born, I have no memories of her.

I barely recall Grandfather Davis’ second wife. In fact, I cannot remember her name, just that we called her Mom-Mom.

That woman was a piece of work. When she cooked anything, she went strictly by the recipe, cooking something no longer and no shorter than it called for in the recipe. This was back in the days of wood-heated stoves, without the temperature controls we take for granted these days. My grandfather developed a stomach condition because of eating too much undercooked food. The kitchen was her department,so he would not say a word. One time, my mother made an early dinner for her brother, Aram, who was going out for the evening. Mom-Mom chewed her out, saying that if Aram could not eat with the family, he would not eat at all. She was a real tartar.

I do have more distinct memories of Sarah, my grandfather’s last wife. Sarah was attractive to the eye, but inside she seemed to be a dried up, withered prune. A maiden lady when she married Grandfather Davis, he got the surprise of his life when she denied him the privileges of the marriage bed. Sarah said that, at their age, they were too old for that sort of thing. I got the impression from my mother that my grandfather did not agree, but what could he do.

As a staunch Methodist household of that period, there was no drinking, no dancing, no cards, no nothing at my grandfather’s house. He only took liquor if he was having ”a spell”. It amazed me how many spells that man had.

I recall one time when he was visiting at our house in Arbutus. My brother Al made ginger ale and bourbon drinks for everyone, except grandfather. Grandfather Davis perked up and asked if he could have one too. Al was only too happy and poured a generous serving. Just as he handed it to Grandfather Davis, who should walk in but Uncle Aram.

Now, Uncle Aram was the staunchest of the staunch when it came to the “thou shalt nots.” Everyone shot around a look of “what next?”

Uncle Aram looked at them all holding their highball glasses and grilled, “What are you drinking?

My brother Al remained completely unflustered. (I was quivering in my boots.) “Why, we are all enjoying some ginger ale. Could I get you some?

Yes,” replied Uncle Aram, “But add some water – ginger ale is too strong a drink for me.”

So there we all were on the wraparound porch, Uncle Aram with his ginger ale with a splash of water and the rest with more spirited beverages.

A toast – to the characters in our families, who help build the character of our families!

Much love – Gocky

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!