Great Thanksgiving Listen!

We interrupt this Ted Talk Thursday to bring you a reminder about Storycorp’s Great Thanksgiving Listen!  Although the project targets kids through college to record conversations with older friends & family, it can be used at any holiday gathering as a springboard to sharing who we are, where we come from, what dreams we hold in our hearts.  Getting to know each other, appreciate those around us, hold them closer in our hearts.  Sharing our stories through a smart phone app.  Ahhhhhmazing.

When StoryCorps founder Dave Isay received the TED Prize, he used the money to create the Great Thanksgiving Listen app.

Jam-packed Wednesday

And a gammy leg!  Hence, no posting.  But it was the best sort of day, filled with responsibility & accountability, helping out a dear friend & hanging out with her children, risking writer’s cramp by addressing HUNDREDS of envelopes for a remarkable charity, having a growth moment with John.

So, no website.  And spinning off an earlier Ted Talk selection to remind y’all about an upcoming something special.

It’s interesting, being right where I am.  Fascinated to see my world opening up to ahhhsome possibilities that I stand ready to nurture develop grow.

For some unknown reason, I’ve always been aware of the power of words.  Then, I became aware of the power of thinking in the now, of shaking the dust of the past off my feet, honoring what was, respecting its place in the cosmos of my life, appreciating the characters who’ve gotten me to today, when I’m taking on a responsibility that will use my strengths -and- force me to step way outside my comfort zone & straight toward the end zone goal post.

My jam-packed Wednesday taught me about doing the best with what & who I am, that there is just so much I can do for others, to look inward to see where I can adjust & reshape, to let people be who they are, even if it appears to be hurtful to themselves & others.  It goes beyond “we can’t fix everything” – sometimes the things that appear broken, even hurt are just as they’re meant to be.

Am building my jam-packed Wednesday into…  we shall see!

A writing prompt for Ron Culberson

Whoa – pretty gutsy of this fun-ista to post a writing prompt for someone who’s swiftly aced being one of my Top 10 Influencers of All Time.  (I see a blog posting in that!)

What prompts me is the thought I have each morning checking the terrific perpetual Creating Moments of Joy calendar  Jolene Brackey GAVE me (!) at Friday’s conference.  (Today’s moment of joy – “Make eye contact, smile & take time to connect.  You have just created your own portable ‘comfort zone.’ “)

Every time I read a nugget from Jolene, I find myself wishing that Ron Culberson had a similar perpetual calendar, where I could see & be reminded through the years of the simple ways I can make excellence & fun an everyday experience for myself & others.  The little things he shares that make a big difference, like:

  • Say “You’re welcome” instead of the meaningless (& sadly ubiquitous) “No problem”  when someone says “Thank you” or gives a compliment.
  • We prosper when our goal is to help everyone, including our self, reach our greatest potential.
  • Put the kibosh on cynicism, nurture healthy skepticism.
  • Mirthful messages are more memorable.
  • Targeting everyday things helps ensure hitting our goals (without leaving a mess).

Throw in jokes people can share to break up the day ~or~ steps the front office/exec suite & parents can take to create stress-snapping smiles in the workplace, the home.

Envision a harried account exec toiling away on a presentation that feels stale, flat.  As dawn starts breaking, she flips to the next page of a calendar her teenage son gave her for Christmas.  She breaks into a smile at a joke Ron’s tucked in, maybe a reminder about the importance of thinking of others.  Her stuckness dissolved,  a fresh, winning approach pops into her head.  

Ron – it’s a perpetual calendar ~ you can make it so any time!  Get crackin’ – the business presentation you help save may be my own!


Ron Culberson – an appreciation

I’ve never had an image of someone I’d particularly like to model myself on.  Oh, I’ve found many great role models & mentors, men & women & children who have help me get from here to there & back again.  But there is something special about Ron Culberson that makes him very much someone on whom to model my path forward.

Ron has the gift of being able to take many important points & distill them into a powerful few.  I think about his presentation at the end of the Creating Moments of Joy Conference this past Friday, where he drew out key points from each of the presentations, adding his own deft, humor-laced comments.

Like too many people, I grew up hearing messages which weren’t necessarily being intentionally sent, whispers to my heart about inadequacy & lack.  I wanted to be a well-spring of original art, or ground-breaking writing, in spite of not seeing myself as the least bit artistic, light years from a creative writer.  I’ve moved up to seeing myself as an innovative adapter, raking a variety of already existing material to come up with something with a different spin.

Ron’s instilled a new belief – maybe I am capable of coming up with my own distinctive work.

The greatest gift I received from July’s IAGG World Congress was a sense of homecoming – of coming back to the person I’ve always been, the baby who arrived at the house at the corner of Fettersmill & Alden Road before she started processing all the images & information that would distance herself from her true self.

In both Do It Well. Make It Fun. and If Not Now, When?, Ron transforms words learned long ago into fresh understanding.  His style, phrasing & vocabulary are as simple & direct as his titles.  Ron’s comments & personal stories are springboards to my own musings & insights.  And he strips away any pretense that I need to learn more before doing differently.

Inspired by his recent book, If Not Now, When?,  which is made up of some of his blog postings, articles, essays, I’ll be sharing a link to one of his current postings, like one written – serendipity! – on July 28, 2017 aka the last day of the World Congress – – Are You Worth Your Salt? (and Part 2).  Simple, to the point, empowering.  Worth the read.

Love those comic strip collections! – book review

The holidays are a great time to haul out book collections of classic comic strips.  I was a huge Peanuts fan & Mom loved For Better or For Worse & Family Circus.  It would be fun to look over our many books filled with Charlie Brown & Lucy, Elly & John/Michael & Elizabeth & April/Farley & Edgar.

I have no doubt that Mom’s treasured For Better or For Worse collections would have come in handy had she faced dementia.  The family story lines, the distinctive characters, the connections she made with the dogs could have been bridges to her own memories.

As we move closer to Thanksgiving & all the special times that follow, thinking about books that were dear to Mom’s heart, how Mim shared her love of Helen MacInnes while I was almost as big a fan of Rosamunde Pilcher, shared loves that might have made for interesting discussions had we needed the hooks of beloved characters to spark conversation.

How many people know their parents’ favorite authors?  Their favorite quotes?  Hymns?  Comic strip characters?  Those might seem like fluff, but for people with the challenge of dementia, they can be lifelines to connection.

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”