Moseying back home – MindWalker1910

A post about an autumn ramble WAY off our usual beaten paths!  Mom & I were returning home after her dream visit to EPCOT.  The trip, the memories, writing about it – about as good an example of gifts exchanged between the two of us, of the priceless treasure she left us in her Mindwalker postings.  Mom personified legacy building in everything she said did wrote.  She was mother & mentor.

Subj: moseying back home
Date: Fri Nov 17 23:08:24 EST 2000

We took sort of a coastal route down to DisneyWorld and ambled our way back home via the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge. It was loverly.

What a surprise to find that central Florida has a good number of cattle and horse ranches. I felt like we had blinked our eyes and wound up in Texas. It was an unexpected treat.

Elsa had looked forward to showing me Atlanta ever since she first visited there on a business trip when she worked for Prudential. In fact, she made quite a few trips to Atlanta when she worked for Prudential. She made sure a stop over in Atlanta was on our agenda.

We swung by the Prudential HealthCare office – a dramatic all-glass building on a bluff overlooking Vinings (a northwestern suburb). Some of Elsa’s business associates gave us the grand tour, then took us out for a delightful lunch. It was a special reunion with two of them, who’d been to Squirrel Haven for dinner when they were up north for meetings.

Dinner was at the Buckhead Diner, a diner in name only; it is beautifully appointed with lush wood and Art Deco lighting – and the food was out of this world.

We spent our second night in North Carolina’s Maggie Valley, at the eastern edge of the Smokies, at a way high up place called Smoky Mountain View.

Since we arrived long after dark, all we were aware of was the steep drive up and the rustic, comfy lodge. I remember waking up in the morning and looking out into mists. All through breakfast, the mountains were covered by mist (hence the name Smoky). As the morning sun got stronger, we sat out on the long porch and watched – it looked as if Mother Nature was gently lifting a beautiful sheer sheet up and off a quilt of autumn colors. The mountains were as beautiful as I had imagined.

We had lunch at a marvelous little restaurant and shop – Chelsea – in Asheville. I liked Asheville; Elsa completely lost her heart to it and to the region. I think she would move down to North Carolina in an instant if she had the chance. Anyway, it was a marvelous little restaurant and we were silly and had champagne with our lunch. Very festive.

The plan was to take the Blue Ridge Parkway, another treat Elsa had dreamed of ever since Pete and I told tales of taking it many moons ago. We had been driving up and up and up – with no guard rails! – when we turned a corner and Elsa quietly said, “I don’t think so.” I could not see what the big deal way, I could not see anything in front of us.

That, she pointed out, was the problem.

All that there was in front of us was a thick wall of mist.

Well, I remember driving the Blue Ridge in a similar pea soup with Pete – we stayed safe by inching along and following the stripe down the middle of the road – but Elsa was not up for such an adventure. She turned the car around. The next dilemma to be solved was whether to take the central route and take a regular highway to Greenville or head out west to Tennessee and head up from there.

We lit out for the west.

I am forever grateful we did – the autumn colors were more vivid, more beautiful in Tennessee than on any other part of the trip. It was a long and unexpected jog out of our way, but it turned into a blessing.

I am turning in with thoughts of friends, great food, fun times, gracious hospitality and beauty that is forever in my heart.

Love – Nan

turn bleah to bodacious – Ramblin’

This has been a gosh awful autumn for beautifully colored leaves.  My suggestion is to take a ramble up the River Road, say from Washington Crossing up through New Hope, cross over to Stockton at Centre Bridge, then continue up Rt 29 to Frenchtown.  Cross over, then turn right & head north to Upper Black Eddy.  Go PAST the bridge, keeping your eyes peeled to the right for the sign for HOMESTEAD COFFEE ROASTERS, which will be on your left.  (If it was on the right, it & you would be in the Delaware.)

Stop in for a great cup of coffee, a nibble or lunch.  A special place right off the beaten path.

Head back toward the bridge, this time crossing over to Milford.  Drop down to Frenchtown, this go ’round taking the time to meander around the terrific little shops.  Alas, Elizabeth Gilbert’s wondrous Two Buttons is no more, but there are plenty of options, including a delightful children’s book store –  “The Book Garden bibliophiles collect rare and precious writings with the same passion a botanist will collect rare and precious plants.” – and Blue Fish Clothing (oh for the day I can afford some pieces!).  If you are getting a bit peckish, I am a big fan of Lovin’ Oven.

Drop down Rt 29 to Stockton –  try to work your day & time to coincide with the justifiably renown Farmers Market.

Finish up with a final drop down to Lambertville & supper at our beloved MORE THAN Q  ~ the ‘que is so awesome, you’ll be slipping into a Texas drawl.

So what if the fall colors are bleah this year ~ a ramble up through the Delaware’s river towns will always set you right!




Preaching to the playfulness choir

Steve Gross asks two questions that go as much to the heart of fostering a great life experience for oldsters elders ancients as they do for the children Steve works with – “Our mission at Playmakers is to … create enriching environments where people feel safe enough to play again.  That needs to be the mission of any organization that’s looking to foster & nurture the highest level of human potential.  ‘What do we do to get fear out of the environment & what do we do to enrich our environment so our people feel safe enough to engage, connect & explore?’ 

I heard that & everything in me said a hushed, “wow…”  Different words, but the same as our older2elder motto – engage energize empower.  Three steps that require a core sense of safety.  More, please.

Playfulness is a drive, a motivation to freely & joyfully engage with, connect with & explore the surrounding world.  What could be more important than that?

Playfulness is kinda like the Rodney Dangerfield of traits – it gets no respect.”  Steve talks about how superintendents miss the driving value of infusing playfulness into their schools, about children’s mental health care clinicians not making it #1 in their desired outcome goals – both see playfulness as inconsequential.

The same is true with far too many older people, their loved ones, their care partners, the administrators of even the best senior residences, most of whom brush playfulness off as a worthless frivolity.  And they confuse play activities with playfulness.

Trust me, no older person on the face of the earth feels the least bit playful sitting in a circle of other older people – including ones beset by dementia, others present but asleep in their wheelchairs – while an activities director leads them in a game of TV trivia.

That is killing time, not being playful.

What Steve is talking about, what John & I bring to our clients, whether an 8-year old decorating a cupcake or an 90-year old catching an in-room mini-film fest of Astaire-Rogers flicks, is the playful approach to what we do.

We’ve talked for years about how to define what we do, to convince Doubting Thomases about its worth, to empower others to do the same.  Duh!  It was so simple & right in front of us the whole time – show oldsters elders ancients, their loved ones, care partners, the staff & administrators at their senior residences how to bring a playful approach to their lives.

Exactly what we did with Mom & all our clients.  Not what we do;  HOW we do it.

Steve calls us to look at any activity we did as a child – playing tag or washing the dishes – and add a dash of playful approach to it.  “Any activity tagged with a playful approach produces PLAY.

Amen & hallelujah! With Mom & our wide range of older friends, John & I have always infused a playful approach into whatever we do, from driving to a dental appointment to scootling down to Philadelphia for jazz.

When we arrive at a friend’s, that zoom of playfulness is an immediate hit on the senses, because we bring out a sense of play in each other.  Being a dynamic duo is part of our special superpower – the sense of delight we have hanging out together, doubled by the joy we have doing things with our friends, whatever their ages.

Consider Anne, whose dementia was so advanced, she could not remember the day or date from one moment to the next, but was always up for the next moment of joy;  if she spotted us, she was immediately wreathed in smiles, knowing they’d come thick & fast.

When Steve talks about blurring the lines between work & play –  play our jobs & work our play – he’s speaking to two members of his choir.

Thirty years ago, John had his dream job, but there were aspects about it that wore down his spirits;  that client base crashed when computers came on the scene, but left him happier than before, loving his work as “painter of guy stuff,”  accepting commissions for pieces he loves to paint.  Without the dread of a phone call from an unhappy art director or trying desperately to meet a tight deadline, he’s free to feel a sense of play walking into his studio, which has gone from chaos to creative order.

As for me, been blessed most of my life with work that matters, companies that appreciated me & clients who gave me a spring in my step whenever I walked into a new work day.

But neither of us have experienced our present glee – – watching an older friend’s face light up when we come into sight, the deep satisfaction dropping someone off who’s lighter of step & in a happier frame of mind for having been on an out & about, the astonishing experience of three 80-something lifelong gal pals transforming into a trio of teens gabbing in the car as we take a back roads route to lunch at the shore.  THAT is a superpower!

Playfulness was why I went from years of mediocrity at Prudential Health Care to lauded & applauded, why I bagged Employee of the Year at BISYS.  Human Resources at both companies wanted me to develop a workshop on what I did so others could replicate it.  Never could.

Post-Steve, it would be a piece of cake – show them how to infuse playfulness into every aspect of their work, because that was what I did.  I just didn’t recognize the secret ingredient.

Our approach is much more important than the activities we are doing.”  That was why client after client called or wrote to rave about my work for them – it was their sense that turning around their situation gave me joy.  It wasn’t just a job to me – it was an opportunity, every day, to solve puzzles, switch frowns into smiles, transform a stressed voice to a calm.  That was fun & apparently it came across.

John & I do the same with our older friends.  When Mom’s very being was filled with fear after she’d broken her hip, we figured how to ease her back to feeling safe, little smile by little smile.

When Anne was feeling especially low, we’d find ways to open her up & get her laughing,  our goal always to drop her off at the end of the evening looking forward to the new day.

With Richard, it’s seeing his face go from dark & dull to upbeat & excited, knowing he’s about to head out on a ramble.

With each, the fun starts the moment they spot the good times in our eyes.

When I spot an older friend stuck in a circle of other elderly people, with a middle-aged activities director leading some game or quiz, it is clear he or she is feeling the opposite of playful.

Which has me thinking about the local continuous care retirement community where Anne lived for many years.  One of the things that I absolutely LOVE about Rydal Park is that their activities directors exude a sense of playful energies, even when we just walk past them in the hall.  Their eyes sparkle & there is laughter in their voice as they greet us.  They bring that light touch & sense of fun to planning their Personal Care & Dementia Unit activities, which are often guided by young people, students at a local college.  Every breath they take says, “I am glad to see you – let’s have a great time together.”  We applaud – and relate to – that!

That dynamic, that approach, that active infusing of a sense of playfulness into whatever we do – – that IS something John & I can share with other people, the secret sauce of our success that we’ll happily spread around.

It would be wonderful if every senior residence & care facility was like Rydal Park at its best.  Sadly, that’s not the case.  Too many – perhaps even most – elder care settings, from day cares to continuous care communities, apartments & family residences, even their own homes, are more infused with fear than with playfulness.  And that CAN change.

Oldsters elders ancients, their loved ones, care partners & staff can learn new ways to bring playfulness into every day.  Someone can live in a single room at a continuous care residence, with the teeniest of kitchens in her foyer (a reminder that she never actually cooks), considerably smaller than her bathroom which has to be able to accommodate herself, a wheelchair & an aide, her movements limited to when someone can help her get from the bed to a wheelchair ~ and yet ~  she can STILL, with the right support for herself & from every staff member who enters her room or crosses her path, have a sense of playfulness throughout her day.

It doesn’t take much more than awareness & a few basic techniques to raise the experience of someone coming into a resident’s room to empty a wastebasket from being sensed as an intrusion on a long-lost privacy to a connecting encounter that makes both parties feel better after the staff member has said “Take care!” on his way out.  It just takes knowing.

Helping elders & their support team add a dash of playfulness throughout their day, wherever they live, whatever their situation & circumstance – that’s gotta be about the best play in the guise of work EVER.

Tomorrow, will write my first fan letter to Steve Gross, thanking him for helping me connect with a Future Self who wonders what took me so long to get to Now, asking who out there is/are already applying his Playmaker principles to create environments that help everyone – of any age stage circumstance – engage connect explore their surroundings.  We want in.

Steve is a true Champion of Optimism.  He doesn’t just preach it –  he empowers others to go & do likewise.  He reveals a path we were born nurtured tapped to follow.


Beat beat beat of the tom toms

Funny, I didn’t hear the drums calling the tribe together.  But here they are, gathered in my heart.  My tribe.  The Jacobs brothers & their merry band of optimism champions, chief among them…

Steve Gross, Playmaker Extraordinare, who taps playfulness as THE single-most important trait in children’s lives for dealing with adversity & trauma.  As for adults, he diagnoses the emotional mental spiritual syndrome grinding down so many of us, from twenty-somethings to centenarians – – Playfulness Deficiency Disorder (PDD).

Steve is clearly a member of my tribe (as is everyone at Life is Good) – – we speak the same language.  He speaks it WAY more fluently convincingly effectively.

How sublime to have found him at the start of Charter Day weekend, because finding Steve Gross feels like homecoming to me.  Yes, he works with kids while I work primarily with mature adults – – our hearts keep the same beat.  And we both focus much needed attention on their care partners, largely underappreciated & all too often underpaid, seeking ways to put more play into their lives & into their work.

Finding Steve feels like the last CLICK in a quest started 41 years ago.  Wrong – it’s the ending/beginning point of a lifelong trek that started the moment a voice from my future told my Baby Self, “Whatever you do, don’t break.”

I hung on & here I be.  With my wondrous circle of “marble jar” friends, good amigos, casual buddies, pleasant acquaintances – & new ones waiting in the wings; with A LOT of business cards from IAGG & earlier conferences/connections awaiting follow-up; with a professional tribe with people fluent in play; with a foundation under my feet, stars in my eyes & determination in my soul.

Homecoming & new adventures, all tumbled together.  Ain’t life grand!!

New responses to ancient icks

Charter Day & I have a complicated relationship.  It’s homecoming weekend, time for friends to gather & share memories of high school, even of college.  The forecast is clear blue October skies & mid-September temperatures – almost too warm, but not quite. Events started Wednesday & go straight through Monday.  Part of me wants to waiting right now to see the schools & college process to the cathedral for the Charter Day service of thanks; part of me wants to spend the next 72 hours sticking close to home.

It strikes me that Charter Day embodies everything that made my life confusing for so many decades.   The Lockhart kids were raised to fully enjoy the weekend.  As an elementary school student, I got Friday off – pretty cool.  Which is not to say the day was mine to drift through – we always headed up from our house on Alden Road to watch the procession from Benade Hall cross the Pike to a road that doesn’t exist any more, right a short nip along  Alnwick Road, then onto the cathedral.  It always gave me a thrill.  We’d hang around until the return to Benade Hall to hear the mass of people  – students faculty corporation board alums – sing school & club songs.  Then it was home to the cake Mom always baked to celebrate the Academy’s birthday.


Those are treasured memories.  Straight through high school & college, I loved the various Charter Day rituals, from the procession to the football game to the formal dance & closing banquet, with the bonus on Sunday of seeing so many people from away at church (where we seemed to always sing a particularly difficult song that no one in Bryn Athyn seemed to know but was a great favorite of alums from Pittsburgh).

What I connected to was the pageantry & spectacle, not to what the visitors & most other townies were there for –  the people.  The thought of trying to connect with people made my breath go short, my heart raise & my spirits fall.  All part of my complete faith in my utter UNlikability.  That never hit more closely than over Charter Day weekend, when everyone ELSE seemed so connected & I felt so not.

Was reminded today, sharing just a few words with a dear friend down at Be Well, how pernicious that entrenched belief can still be; found myself fretting over saying too much, was I dominating the conversation or being boring or keeping him from something/someone actually interesting.  My breath went shallow, my face turned red, my heart raced, the old sense of low self-worth & assumed inadequacy cloaked me – after all these years.

OUCH!  Thought I’d come so far in moving away from those venous fumes of ancient crippling beliefs.  Still have a ways to go in recovering from the 2nd-hand trauma of my earlier years.

From what I’ve been able to figure out, most of my family faced early traumas that seemed to sear their souls.  My parents were messed up in their teens, my oldest brother was born overthinking things (his first words, at three years old, was a perfectly pronouced “Fox Chase”), my sister suffered a horrific (never acknowledged – ever) trauma at an early age that further impaled the family, the two of them did seriously confidence-gutting numbers on yours truly & my #2 brother;  these already corrosive dynamics were coated with more toxicity when my next-older brother was killed at 11.

By the time I hit 10 years old, I could see the older family was a mess.  And then there was me, all unaware, wildly verbal yet never heard with a see-the-rainbow-not-the-clouds personality that left the others feeling…  I don’t know.  Never did.  True then, largely still true – am tolerated rather than liked.

The one thing I had in common with rest of the surviving family was that being every bit as much a mess.

Ian’s death was unimaginably heartbreaking, but the 8-year gap it created between me & the next sib, Mim, turned out to make the difference between my getting completely caught up in the massive family dysfunction & being able to take a step back & see it.  That, I believe, saved me from at least that mess.  And while my sibs, even my parents, did not SEE me, I had the distance to see appreciate love them.

But their dripping dislike did its damage – a crippling lack of genuine social ease that left me chatty but not confidently conversant with other people.

This morning, it was that acceptance of being socially sub par that burbled up to the surface in talking to Ryan, back in noxious bloom due to the weekend.  Strange, after coming so far in gaining healthier ground in feeling self-affirmed, to feel myself slip under a crashing undertow of self-doubt.

At 65 & beyond, seems I can expect family-induced icks to raise their nasty ugly heads when least expected.  Will treat it like my fledgling meditation practice – notice the monkey mind, step away, set aside language, BE.  Just BE.  When judgement tries to creep back in, go back to BE.

This year is the 50th reunion for the Class of 1967.  Three years until 2020 – my 50th.  Three years to strike up conversations, let my muscles relax & my mind comfortably connect with the other(s), breathe normally, keep my heart open, stay in the present & BE.  Enjoy every moment of this weekend, whatever events I choose to experience.  ONLY go to ones where I truly want to go.  And once I am there, let myself BE there, without any ghosts.

Let this morning be the only time I feel… less.  More is so much better!  My Past Selves are rooting themselves hoarse for my Now to enjoy Charter Day‘s traditions, pageantry & PEOPLE.

Gotta LOVE fresh opportunities to have new responses to ancient icks.  May this bloom be never blighted, may I hold my heart united, faithful to the pledge now plighted – my own sanity!