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Archive for the ‘dads’ Category

If you haven’t seen Pixar’s UP, get in the car and head to the movies. I’m not kidding. That’s an order:) And if you are a part of or direct a care home, an adult day care or a senior community center, load them all in the van and take them to see UP. You won’t regret it.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I don’t use it as a way to endorse or promote anything I don’t passionately believe in–so I hope you’ll trust me on this.

And it’s absolutely perfect for Fathers Day! 
If you’re a caregiver, what a perfect outing and take your loved one. Sandwich Generation? Take everybody to the movies!

Oh, and take a box of tissues–and be ready to laugh, cry, smile, and leave feeling completely rejuvenated.

Yes, it’s a cartoon, but I’m not sure Pixar’s great films (Monster’s Inc. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall E) can be placed in the category with Sponge Bob (sorry, Bob).

What’s UP about? I’m not telling. I will let you know what you could pick up from the commercials–it’s about a seemingly grumpy old man who has longed for adventure all his life–and about a young boy who so needs a friend. It’s much much more than that and old and young alike will identify with both these characters, their wants, needs and fears. It’s about dreams and adventures and how we find–and lose–and find our way through life.

Oh, and if you’re a dog lover, Doug the dog is adorable! He’s my dog, Rupert on the big screen–lovable, daffy, and most of all, loyal.

It’s about time that our elders were given their on-screen debut and delivered as the complex, meaty, powerful protagonists they are. Yes, it’s super-hero status in the best sense of the word–not because he can fly or walk through walls–but because he still has something amazing to offer the world–his time, love, and experience. It’s about time that the media portrays our elders with the respect they so deserve.

No, Pixar’s not paying (but feel free). I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been deeply touched. Take your dads. Take your moms. Take your aunts, uncles, kids, grandkids, and neighbors. UP will warm your heart, unhinge your tear ducts, and boost your heart.

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Sometimes we make holidays too hard. We buy cards. We buy ties, baseball caps and t-shirts for our dads. We plan elaborate parties and rack our brains for the next great Father’s Day gift when what our guys really want is just to hang out with us. 

Easy and Thoughtful Father’s Day Ideas:

  • Does your dad like breakfast? Mine does. Why not have a pancake extravaganza? Pick up 3 or 4 different kinds of syrups, maybe some bananas or walnuts and cook breakfast together–or at least pull a chair up for dad so he can sip on his coffee and read the paper nearby.
  • Is your dad a fisherman? Pick up some worms or some shrimp and find a lake or stream and hang out a bit. Even if dad is in a care home, you can usually take him on an outing for a couple of hours–or get that fishy kids game that have magnets on the end of tiny fishing poles–it’s fun.
  • Stop by the library and rent some WWII movies–you know, those classic war films with Lee Marvin. Make bowls of ice cream (don’t forget the whip cream!) and even if you’re not into shoot-em-ups, you can be for a couple of hours.
  • Make your own card by writing your favorite “dad” story. Start with, “My favorite day with dad was….” Or, how about “I’ll never forget when dad…” Write it big and clear so he can keep it and reread it.
  • Does your dad have a friend he hasn’t seen in a long time? A work buddy? A distant cousin? Why not plan a get together. Even if you have to pick the buddy up and take him to your dad’s place–or plan for them to meet at a restaurant, it will be toally worth it just to see the two of them gabbing and smiling This hanging out time with a buddy might be just the thing to lift his spirits.

No matter how you celebrate Father’s Day, remember to relax and not watch the clock. It’s so easy (espeically if you’re his caregiver) to get on such a regimine that we forget just to sit and talk, to not be in a hurry, to not think about all the things we have to do. Even if your dad has dementia, Lewy Body or Alzheimer’s, research has shown that the things we’ve enjoyed all our life (art, music, entertainment) still holds true–even after our mental decline.

In other words, your dad is still your dad, and our most precious gift to offer…is our time.

~Carol O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

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“I could go at any time,” my mother used to say.

Problem was, she started saying it about 15 years before she died!

My mother, like many others loved to create drama.

We were at odds. My “job” as her caregiver was to make sure she was safe and receiving good care. If I gave into her escapades, the delicate balance of our lives could unravel. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are two diseases that are best handled with consistency and as much as my mother wanted to run the show and perhaps get in the running for the Oscars, I couldn’t afford to lose focus.

And it’s not just women who like to ham it up–I know a few dads out there who can really do a number on their loved ones.

I admit, a little flair for the dramatic is cute and fun…but it can become a bone of contention. For some, it’s about control and manipulation–and it can be exhausting for those who already have such a full plate to then deal with an emotional volcano.

My mother had a full arsenal:

“I’m falling, help someone! I’m falling!”

(Mother, you’re not falling–and I can’t come running every time you yell my name).

“If you do this one thing for me, I’ll never ask you to do another thing as long as I live.”

(Boy, if I had a nickel for every time she said that).

“I just wish the good Lord would take me.”

(Really? Because honestly, you’re doing everything you can to stay alive).

I got to where I could laugh most of the time (under my breath). There really wasn’t an emergency, and I learned to save my energies for the “big” events. I figured out that while my mother’s physical abilities were beginning to wane, she was still sharp enough to be bored. She wanted my attention–not always because she loved me–and certainly not because she wanted to ask me about my day or what was going on in my life.

No, my mom wanted me to talk to her, interact with her, care for her–and all that is good and much of it was necessary–but my mom had a difficult time understanding that I also had a husband, children, and other interests  and needs (to bathe, sleep and eat).

5 Keys to Help You Get Along with Your Drama Mama (or Daddy):

  • Take a moment to observe: what’s this about? Are they bored? Scared? Angry? Feeling Misplaced? Is there some way you can meet that need or reassure?
  • Don’t get sucked in. After you recognize that this type of behavior is happening over and over, then stay calm. Don’t let their emotions latch onto you. Let them vent, but see it as just that. As much as they try to get a rise out of you, they need you to stay level headed and make good decisions.
  • Get a sense of humor. Can you dispel the moment with a bit of wit or mild sarcasm? Don’t get into a word-match, but keeping it all in perspective means you can enjoy their moods (like not getting worked up with a 2 year-old, it won’t do you any good). Besides, this makes great stories to tell later–so enjoy the drama when you can.
  • Do a bit of reverse psychology: act like you  take them serious. Threaten to go to the ER, or call hospice or the local mortician–the old “I could go at any minute” isn’t as funny when you tell them you’ll call the local funeral home and give them a heads-up (facetious, I know…but sometimes it works).
  • Divert. Change the subject. Ask a question. Ask their advice. Walk out of the room. They can’t very well do their antics for long if there’s no audience.

Which tactic will work? Try them all and see what they respond to–see what brings you a bit of relief.

If you’ve got a Sarah Bernhardt on your hands (silent screen actress), then do what you can to live in harmony and try every tactic you can to ease the strain, but know that they’re not going to stop being their adorable selves. Some of it you’re just going to have to live with.

That’s why God made wine. To make the good days better. To make the rough days tolerable.

~Carol O’Dell

Author, Mothering Mother

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Let’s face it–there’s just too much to do during the holiday season–and if you’re caregiving or a sandwich gen-er–you’re really feeling it by now. 

Sure, it’s all good–the tree, the gifts, the home baked cookies, the parties, the family gatherings, the lights…

Every one of those holiday components can be truly wonderful–the fresh smell of the tree, the wonder of what’s in that big, sparkly-wrapped box…

But then the proverbial “soup pot” boils over and the cookies burn, you don’t want to go to one more red-sweater party (or there are no parties and you feel empty), and the whipped cream on top of the hot chocolate–someone says/does something really ugly…I mean you feel like your head’s going to explode you’re so mad.

Not exactly what you had planned, huh?

It’s all too much.

If you want a good laugh, the Thanksgiving segment of Boston Legal will make you snicker (you can watch it online).

Around the holiday table is Denny Crane, (played by William Shatner) who has Alzheimer’s, so he”s always good for a few inappropriate remarks, Alan Shore, his best friend (played by James Spader--he could read to me alll night) decides to deliver a lawyerly rampage on American politics…and the other players all pitch in their own prejudices, stereotypes, and funny banter that will make you WISH your family was this witty in their all too familiar digs. 

It all winds up (after a really big fight) in the kitchen with Denny thoroughly confused. Christmas, time, memories, love–it’s all too much. The small moment winds up being a long hug between two old friends.

But of course, you can’t just leave it like that–on a sweet note–no!

Just like at your house, (or mine)–someone has to take it too far and someone really does get their feelings hurt.

It happens. We’re human, and no one, no one can push that exact right button to make you go off than someone who shares your same DNA.

My other Christmas funny movie is the classic “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase. We still kid about his aunt wrapping up the cat and trying to give it as a gift–and then she sings the National Anthem instead of offering a blessing. My mother actually did that once–so we all went with it–hands on our hearts and belted out our national pride.

All you can do is spike the egg nog and go with it. Christmas and the holidays can bring out the beast in all of us. But if we look really close and think small, we might find something of value

My only advice is survive. Any way you can. Just envision that Last of the Mohican’s guy about to jump into the waterfall and telling the love of his life. “No matter what, I will find you. Survive!” This is what I tell myself when I’m really stressed. (FYI guys, All and I do mean ALL girls love that scene).

Choose one thing–whether it’s riding around looking at lights or baking Italian wedding cookies from your great aunt Sophia’s recipe–pick one thing that means Christmas to you–and do it. Don’t get hung up on what doesn’t get done, and what gets screwed up.

The perfect Christmas/Chanukah/holiday is  really more than the human race is capable of.

Zero in on what is most sacred, most precious to  you. That’s all that matters.

One small thing. 

For me, it’s going to hear the Edward Water’s choir sing. They’re amazing, and sitting in a tiny chapel with warm wood walls and stained glass windows while 20+ college students belt out the Carols with soul and spice is the perfect way for me to celebrate the season. I attended last year, and tears streamed down my face–I clapped and sang and felt more in touch with the season that I had in years.

Each of us have to find our own way, what touches our heart and lifts our spirits.

If you’re caregiving, think really small. Hot tea and a cookie while sitting in front of a fire might be just right.

~Carol O’Dell, author of Motheirng Mother

Family Advisor at Caring.com

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People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. ~Abraham Lincoln

I find it pretty amazing that this quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

He didn’t exactly have a cushy life.

His mother died when he was nine, and although his family could barely survive, young Lincoln gave up hunting after watching a turkey suffer after he shot the bird(the bird thing is a side note, but I found it interesting).

He didn’t just become president over night–he was a lawyer, then tried for congress (twice) but was defeated by Stephen Douglas–over the issue of abolition.

He married Mary Todd, and three of their four children would die before adulthood. This left Mary, who already suffered with depression, even more mentally unstable. As Abraham Lincoln’s life began to evolve more and more around politics, his marriage suffered.

President Lincoln was under great stress to try to hold our country together in perhaps its most challenging time. He did so, but with great personal sacrifice. He was assasinated when he as only 56 years old.

According to today’s standards of what qualifies as a “good life,” Abraham Lincoln’s journey would not be considered an easy one–then or now.

(Other great quotes by Lincoln )

And yet, we all owe him a great debt. He held America together and changed the course of  history. His words and example still inspire us today.

He doesn’t exactly seem like a person who would focus much on the meaning of happiness–but who better than someone who knew, but did not give into sadness/

Happiness is a lot about choice. It’s a state of mind and way of looking at things. It doesn’t change the facts. If your mom has Alzheimer’s, if your dad fell and broke his hip, that’s a fact–but how you deal with it–that’s up to you.

There were many times in Mr. Lincoln’s  life when I’m sure he had to choose to simply go on, breathe in and out, and keep on doing the task at hand.  Sometimes happy isn’t about being happy, but choosing not to be unhappy (aka miserable).  Caregivers know this well.

According to the Princeton online dictionary, happiness  means:

  • state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy
  • emotions experienced when in a state of well-being

Where did the word  “happy” come from?

It dates back to 1340, from the waord, “hap,” which was connected to chance or fortune.

(From  Etymology.com)
1340, “lucky,” from hap “chance, fortune” (see haphazard), sense of “very glad” first recorded c.1390. Ousted O.E. eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. O.E. bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Gk. to Ir., a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.” Used in World War II and after as a suffix (e.g. bomb-happy, flak-happy) expressing “dazed or frazzled from stress.” Happiness is first recorded 1530. Happy hour“early evening period of discount drinks and free hors-d’oeuvres at a bar” is first recorded 1961. Happy-go-lucky is from 1672. Happy as a clam (1636) was originally happy as a clam in the mud at high tide, when it can’t be dug up and eaten.

How does it relate to caregiving?

Much of caregiving doesn’t fall under the category of “happy.” While parts might be necessary, needed, serve a purpose, and at times, appreciated–as a caregiver  I found that I had to fight or choose to be happy. Let me tell you, I know how it feels to push that rock up hill. There were some days when a Volkswagen Bug full of 50 clowns wouldn’t have gotten my mother to crack a smile! Caregiving taught me how little I could control, and writing Mothering Mother helped me to reflect on my journey.

I had to look for the good, the funny, the crazy and ironic. I had to let go, give up, give in, and simply trust. So much was so way beyond anything I could have prepared for that it was in away, left up to luck, to chance–to hope. And maybe that’s where the happy part comes in. When you can’t control it, you might as well choose to see the good, any good that comes your way.

The smallest of good/happy moments could make my day–a cardinal dipping past my window–I love how they fly–dip, dip, dip–their bright wings in defiance of a winter morning.

Bottom line, if Abe Lincoln can choose to be happy, then so can I.

Happy for no reason. Let luck and chance blow in like a surprising summer rain. Trust that it’s all meant for the good.

Right now, with all the economic challenges we face individually and collectively, I feel like I don’t have a choice–either crawl in the bed and pull up the covers (indefinitely), or keep an eye out for bright red birds and all the amazing small wonders that surround us.

Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

Family Advisor at Caring.com

www.caroldodell.com

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Caregivers,

Do you have a place to go?

A sanctuary?

If not, it may be a big part as to why you’re stressed and resentful.

Caregiving invades your space, your head, your time–you don’t always get to say when you’re needed.

I pulled many a “late night shift” with my mom.

My mother had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and not only did she have Sundowning, a condition in which people with Alzheimer’s get more aggitated and have more energy as the sun goes down–and on into the night, but she simply didn’t need much sleep–or her body wouldn’t let her sleep. (Here’s a post I wrote about my experience with sundowning).

It’s not like we could make it up during the day.

I was dragging. That made me miserable, fussy, and I tended to overeat. Why? Because studies have now shown that obesity is linked with lack of sleep. We tend to munch all day because it gives us something to do, causes our brains to perk up, and since sugar is almost always involved, we’re pumping ourselves up like we’re climbing the highest point of a rollercoaster–and then plummeting to exhaustion.

Maybe what you need isn’t to just lie down. 

It’s a renewal of your spirit you’re hungry and longing for.

You don’t have to be religious to need a sanctuary.

I love that I happen to live in a bird sanctuary area–the Timucuan Preserve. I love the thought that animals are held as sacred and that an area is designated for them.

But shouldn’t we humans create our own sanctuaries? What exactly is a sanctuary?

The word, “sanctuary” means:

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) –The spelling has changed since then.

Sanctuary\Sanc"tu*a*ry\, n.; pl. Sanctuaries. [OE. seintuarie, OF. saintuaire, F. sanctuaire, fr. L. sanctuarium, from sanctus sacred, holy. See Saint.]
   A sacred place; a consecrated spot; a holy and inviolable
   site.
Two of the definitions include:
c) A house consecrated to the worship of God; a place where
       divine service is performed; a church, temple, or other
       place of worship. A place to keep sacred objects.
   (d) A sacred and inviolable asylum; a place of refuge and
       protection; shelter; refuge; protection.
Operative words: Refuge. Sacred. Shelter. Protection.

How to Create a Sanctuary:

What is sacred or holy to you?

  • Gather a few objects–a photo, seashells, stones, your mother’s broach, your dad’s pocket watch, your baby picture.
  • Grab a basket or a box and walk around your home and hard. Gather anything that interests you. Your sacred objects will change over time. Just get it rolling for now.

Find a place:

  • Where in your home or yard feels “safe?”
  • Where can you have some privacy? Where can you relax?
  • Place a table, a desk, a chair, a cover at this place. If it’s outside then create a box of your sacred items that you can carry out with you.
  • You might also want to include a journal and pen, micro-cassette recorder, a drawing pad, candles, a rosary–any object that helps you figure out life.
  • Go frivolous~ don’t think a sanctuary is all serious! Take your ipod along. Dance! Paint your toenails and read a magazine! Navel gaze. You may just need some extended down time–staring into space.
  • There are no rules. Do what you feel like doing. We’re taught not to trust our feelings. That if we got to do what we felt like, we’d all be drug addicts, cheaters who eat nothing but Oreos. Trust yourself. Do what feels right. Sleep. Stare. Rant. Cry. Sleep some more.
  • Your sanctuary is off limits to everyone else. Make your boundaries. No interruptions. No phone calls. Unless there’s blood and lots of it–you are not to be called away from your most important work–taking care of you.
  • You’ll be surprised, but your family and friends will respect your space–if you do. This is a great example for your children.
  • Don’t expect “results.”
  • This isn’t a magic box. It’s a place to rest or even to rejuvinate. Recenter. Calm down. Work things out. Place no expectations. This isn’t like Weight Watchers for the soul. You don’t have to weigh in and measure if you’ve gained or lost since last week. Just be.
  • You may need to use your sanctuary to work out your anger, hurt, and resentment. One thing I do when I’m really upset is to write it all down on scraps of paper, say it outloud, and then burn it. It helps to watch your anger turn to ash.

Pick a Sanctuary Location:

  • Some people like clearing out a closet and placing a chair, pillows, and a small table and light in their “prayer closet.” Oprah recently featured a sanctuary closet that was really decked out. 
  • Others like to go outside–they hide away in the nook of the yard and get the benefit of nature to heal them.
  • One friend keeps her “special box” she calls it in the car. She literally walks out the door and goes and sits in her car. Her family is less likely to find her there and she feels safe and cocooned. She can scream, cry or laugh in her sound-proof sanctuary.
  • For some, it’s in the bathroom. They retreat eat night to the tub–they keep candles, soaps, and a journal on hand. They know that being naked will most likely keep people away! Hey! Whatever works!
  • Be like my cat and change your sanctuary every once in a while.

Cats are great to observe. They seem to make their spots seem sacred. My cat picks a spot and goes there after breakfast each morning. He gives himself a luxurious bath, folds in his little paws and I swear, if cats could pray, I’d think he was praying. Then, he takes a nap.

This week, his spot is under my birth grandmother’s rocking chair in my bedroom. He tends to pick a spot and goes there for 3-4 weeks before picking another spot. Recently, it’s been in the back of my closet–that’s when he doesn’t want to be found. A few weeks ago, it was on a chair next to the dining room windows so he could enjoy the sun. I knew where he was, but he’s also quiet and hidden away enough to not invite attention. Smart cat.

What Do I Do in My Sanctuary?

First, let’s address what you DON’T do.

  • You don’t take care of anybody but you.
  • You don’t stay busy just to avoid what’s bothering you.
  • You don’t have your thoughts constantly interrupted with the chatter of life.
  • You don’t allow yourself to be bombarded with the demands of every day life.

This is What You DO:

Rest. Think. Imagine. Work out hurts. Cry. Zone out. Learn (maybe take a book?) Find your joy.

If it feels odd at first because you’ve never done anything like this, then let it feel odd. Your sanctuary practice will be even more necessary at the end of your loved one’s life–and especially during your time of grief. Create this space now so that you’ll have a place to run to when you really need it.

Like my cat, I change my locale every once in a while.

Right now, it’s on my back porch on my parent’s glider (they had it since I was adopted in 1965). I have a stack of books on one arm, and I recently bought a big cushion–in case I get sleepy. About 9am you’ll find me there with my 2nd cup of coffee, my journal, a few magazines, a no doubt, a couple of dogs by my feet.

I’m a Guy and This Sounds Lame:

Does it?

My daddy had a sanctuary. He called it a garage. He built it himself. He left for his garage every morning after breakfast (he was retired at this point) and after his game shows. He putzed, worked on a broken lamp, put in a small bathroom. He listened to talk radio. For the most part, he was alone–although a few friends would come and visit. Mama and I came down but never really stayed long. It felt like we were intruding.

He’d come back to the house with a smile. He’d had his time to himself. He smelled of sawdust and linseed oil–and peanuts and Coke he kept in a cooler to sustain him throughout the day. He came back relaxed because he allowed himself this break. He didn’t have to listen to Mama nag or me talk incessantly. He came back ready to be a dad and husband. Smart man.

Caregiving stress is a real issue with real ramifications to your health and realtionships. Sometimes we unknowingly contribute to our own stress by always being on call. Sometimes it’s a power thing we’re unaware of, sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s just a plain ole’ bad habit we can’t figure out how to break.

You need a sanctuary–caregiving or not.

You need to know that the world won’t fall apart because you take a half an hour and pull inward.

Like Daddy, you’ll come back refreshed.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com/mothering

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I spoke at Haven Hospice in Gainesville, Florida yesterday–and the speaker before me was Dr. Slayton who is also a caregiver to his 87 year old father. He spoke of the “Out of Town Hero Syndrome.”

Everyone knew what that was–it’s when out of town relatives swoop in town and begin to tell YOU how to care give.

They come once or twice a year (thank goodness, not more) and rearrange everything from your medicine cabinet to your car’s glove compartment while proceeding to tell you (in subtle and not so subtle back stabs) how you could, should give better care–to mom or dad.

You’re there 365 days a year. They’re there for 10.

You’re nice at first. Keep peace, you tell yourself…but by day three you’re about to blow a gasket.

If your loved one has to go to the doctor or is in the hospital or in hospice and it’s near the end–then it’s ten times worse. They run the show. The doctors and nurses speak to them. Especially if they’re an older sibling–then you’re really in for it.

By the time they leave you can barely find your own socks.

You’re angry, frustrated–and worse–your confidence has been undermined.

You start to doubt yourself.

You just want to quit. Fine then–take mom–take dad.

“Do it all yourself and I’ll come back this time next year and boss YOU around for ten days.”

That’s what you’d like to say.

On top of that–your mom or dad like them MORE.

They get the smiles, holding hands, pleasantries you haven’t seen in months–they sit at the table and gab like you do this every night and you feel like such a hypocrite. They’re all in the livingroom talking after dinner–and where are you?

Loading the dishwasher.

I didn’t have siblings, but I experienced this with several relatives who came into see mom–twice–once each in more than two years.

I went off for the day to give them time alone and when I had come home this person (no names) had reorganized my pantry and all my kitchen cabinets. She took me in there by the hand and showed me everything she had done and explained why her system should work better. I had to stand there like a ten year old in trouble and agree, yes, her system was better and I was a piece of …well, you know.

I was so stressed, angry and nervous by the time she left I thought I’d collapse in a heap on the floor when she pulled out of the driveway. On top of that, I knew my mother had complained her head off about me–not taking her to church, drinking wine (my mother was a fundamentalist minister), watching movies with curse words, letting my daughters wear those short shorts…you name it.

The next time this happened was with a good friend of mine. My mother ate her up like she was homemade vanilla ice cream. They chatted and laughed–my friend washed my mother’s hair and did her nails.

Made me sick.

I had asked my friend to come down to help me and this felt like betrayal. I know she didn’t mean to but that’s how it felt.

I felt judged–and poorly lacking.

Mother hadn’t said a kind word to me in weeks and now she was a geyser of compliments.

Then I heard them whispering. Mother was crying (fake crying) and saying she wished I were sweeter, kinder, more patient, that she didn’t know what she had done to make me act so cold to her.

My friend came out and a very concerned voice told me I needed to make up with my mother and forgive her.

I thought my head would split open. I felt betrayed by everyone.

Mother was up to her old manipulation tricks–and I knew this full well having experienced it countless time in forty years.

I told my friend she really had no idea what was really going on here and that I needed her to respect and trust me.

Later, she apologized. Her father got Alzheimer’s and she dealt with her own family issues. She really didn’t have anything to apologize for. I knew how mother had played her, but I understood.

I share all this with you to say this about relatives in town or out who make you question yourself:

Know deep inside you are a good person–a good daughter, son, spouse–and let no one shake you on this

Stop worrying about what other people think about you and your caregiving.

It’s none of your business what others think of you. (How freeing is that?!?)

You’re care giving because you believe it’s the right thing to do. You have to give care the way you can–the way you can be consistent, they way that’s right for you and your loved one.

Stand firm on this and don’t listen to other’s opinions. 

Unless they have done this for as long as you have, they can’t possibly comprehend the level of sacrifice, committment, love, tenacity, and exhaustion you’ve endured. Caregiving is a marathon not a sprint.

You may feel yourself pulling away from people.

That’s part of caregiving.

You’ll naturally pull in–for good and not so good reasons.

You’ll get tired of explaining yourself.

You’ll get tired of trying to be nice to people.

You’ll get tired of feeling that everything you do is up for scrutiny.

You’ll get strong and stop needing others to validate you or what you’re doing.

That’s the bottom line.

Your relatives, friends and neighbors will intimidate you just so far and then you’ll find your backbone and stand your ground.

This is one of the best lessons of caregiving that can change you and how you deal with others for the rest of your life.

You will become strong, independent, and do what you need to do and you won’t give a rip what others think. They have no idea.

The anger and hurt will dissapte. In time.

These situations and people that threaten you will give you a gift–you’ll find your own confidence.

You’ll be in your own quiet center.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati Publishing, www.kunati.com/caroldodell

Family Advisor on www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog on www.OpentoHope.com

 

 

 

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Do you wonder sometimes why your life has turned out like it has?

Why does one parent need you right now?

Why you’re caregiving dad–not mom–or vice versa?

The obvious reason is dad or mom is still here and needs care.

That’s the obvious reason, but not the only one.

It’s no coincidence.

It has a lot to do with what you need to learn. What lessons have come your way.

Where you are and what you’re doing is important and significant not only to you, but how your experience ripples out and touches others.

Some have pleasant, easy caregiving experiences. Not too many.

Relationships are complicated, and even when they’re not, caring for another life can be exhausting, frustrating and challenging because there are so many aspects to it–physically, financially, dealing with the medical community and other family members–it’s about as pleasant as licking a porcupine!

I also wonder about those people–with nice parents. Nice spouses. I feel as if I’m studying an ailien species that breathe in water. How do they do that? I ask myself.

I had to ask myself why my dad passed fifteen years before my mom. He died of heart disease and had  struggled with it for about a decade–he’d had a valve replacement, several veins replaced, he lived on nitro-glycerin tablets, and in the end his heart simply wore out. I was relieved for him to pass knowing he was out of pain and not struggling for every breath. He held on for my mother. She asked him to and he did. For as long as he could.

Dads can be stubborn, cantankerous, strong (headed and bodied), non-communicative, cold, (maybe less affectionate, or shows it in differnt ways), proud, demanding, opinionated, and controlling.

Not all dads. Just some. Caring can be a real challenge. And some of those challenges are inherent to the fact that you’re dealing with testosterone.

Men are proud critters. They’ve always been the one to help others. They’ve provided for a family, fought in a war, held a job down for 30+years–and now you, their child, is going to tell them what to do???

I can understand that it may take a bit of an adjustment period.

The list may sound stereotypical, but I believe many of those traits are more personality than gender based. Stubborn? Cantakerous? Demanding? Opinionated? My mom staked her claim to all of these. But there’s a male version that adds a whole other level of independence and stubborness to this scenario.

Dads can also push our buttons. A lot of history runs between dads and their kids. Hurts, frustrations, wanting to please your dad, obey your dad, honor your dad–how do you do that and still change his diaper? It’s tough.

Let’s be fair here. Not all dads were Ward Cleavers. We adults have to deal with the disappointments and hurts from childhoods and teenhoods that maybe have been marred by absentee dads, alcoholic dads, angry or distant dads–and now, we have to care give and act like one happy family?

That’s another post, but know that you can find a way to take care of you–and provide the care they need.

Sometimes dads are difficult to care for because of all the things they won’t let you do.

Not just you, but anyone. Pride again. They don’t know how to stop being that person they were for so long.

How do you reach your dad? Especially if you have a hard time (either of you or both) talking about things of the heart?

  • Be patient
  • Let them have their way on things that don’t really matter
  • Honor them. Treat them with dignity. “Brag” about who he is, and all he’s done when you’re out in public or when people come over
  • Focus on how proud you are of him as a person–not just a list of things he did. It’s hard for him to reconcile himself to not being able to be that strong, tough guy he used to be. Focus on inner qualities of patience, humor, kindness, wisdom–things he still possesses
  • Choose to focus on the good times, the good in him–and in you. Let go of the “you weren’t there for me” moments of your life
  • Pay attention to anything that interests him–birds, politics, how to cook perfect scrambled eggs, vintage cars–find ways to connect
  • Smile. Do something they like–pull out the sports page, buy him a car magazine.
  • Be easy. Let go of your own fussiness and let the time just flow.
  • Before long, you’ll see a softening in him–less combative–and if you can get just one small acknowledgement in a week, then you know you’ve broken through.
  • Ignore the bluster. If he’s fussy, demanding, opinionated, even angry–ignore it. Do the care you need to do–take him to the doctor, give him his bath or meds and just let him gripe while you keep doing “your job.” Griping is one way of handling the embarrassment–a way to distract him and you from the task at hand

***

This Father’s Day, if you don’t have a great relationship with you dad, then focus in one thing to be thankful for. Write it down on an index card and put it in your pocket of what you’re wearing that day. If things get off course, pull that out and focus on what you’re grateful for.

Why you’re caregiving your dad and not your mom may be a mystery to you–right now. But I bet in time, you’ll see why.

I know that I had a soft spot for my dad–and it would have been easier for me to be kinder, more patient with my dad–I’m a Daddy’s girl. But it wouldn’t have been good for him. He was in pain. He needed to pass on to the other side. Perhaps my caregiving would him would be hard on him. I was his little girl.

But I believe the biggest reason why I had to care for my mom is that I still have lessons to learn from her–how to be a wife, a mother, how to become an older woman, how to die. I also needed to learn how to stand up for myself. I still had some forgiving to do. I still had some letting go to do. I needed to know that I had the strength and tenacity to see it through–to make plans about my own integrity and personhood based off what she had to teach me.

Caregiving is a two-way street. Each have something to gain. Each have something to learn.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon, Kunti Publishers, www.Kunati.com

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

 

 

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My Daddy died at the average age men die in the US (78 years old), from the most common disease men die from–heart disease. Yet, Daddy was anything but typical. He was a big teddy bear of a guy who made my world right again.

I was adopted at the age of four. My early years weren’t easy.

My birth mother suffered from schizophrenia (severely and eventually permanently hospitalized), and addiction to alcohol and gambling choked all the life out of my birth father. My sister and I lived with my father’s co-dependent/enabler grandmother and was abused by a boarder who lived in her house.

Not a great beginning.

I don’t share this with you to make you uncomfortable or to get sympathy points because my life didn’t stay that way. I was adopted and received layer after layer of personal healing and insights that allow me to incorporate this experience into my being.

Healing took a long, long time.

My adoptive Daddy was a big part of that. He was 54 and Mama was 50 when they adopted me. That’s taking a big chance–but it also shows what a void they had to fill.

He died when I was 23 years old. Too young for him to die–and too young for me. But he isn’t really gone.

He has become a part of me now–his songs, his stories, his gestures, his wisdom–I carry him every day.

I see him just like I did when I was six and playing baseball in the backyard–he was my “seated” lawn chair pitcher. I broke his garage window. Don’t know that he got too upset.

I remember the summer we had  a contest and ate 38 watermelons. He told me vines were going to shoot out my ears. I hoped they would. Every time my nose tickled, or I hiccuped, I got excited.

I remember when I was 12 and just starting to like boys–Daddy drove me to the skating rink each Saturday night and picked me up at 11:00. I know he really didn’t want to get dressed and traipse out that late, but he did. I remember when he asked me if that boy kissed me. I lied and said, “No, Daddy.” He knew. I knew. But I couldn’t say the words–not to my dad.

I remember when I brought home countless boyfriends and the disgusting look he’d hide behind his newspaper. No one was ever good enough for his little sweety-pie.

Eventually, one was, and I married him. He loves my dad as much as I do. That’s why we’re still married. He reminds me of that honorable man who changed my life and he’s the daddy to our three girls. His face lights up when his daughters just walk into the room. His face lights up when I walk into the room.

That’s why I keep him.

The power of a great dad changes a child’s life. And it keeps changing it. Even after our dads are no longer walking on this earth. Whispered wisdom, needed advice, family traditions and that sense of security never goes away.

I never got to be my dad’s caregiver the way I did with my mom. But I promised him we would take care of her. That promise got me through some rough times.

I hope you enjoy a short excerpt from my forthcoming book, SAID CHILD.

It’s about our night time ritual and coming home after church. (Being raised in church means I have many, many memories of life on the pew). Perhaps this excerpt will spark one of your own favorite memories.

The greatest thing we can do for our dads on Father’s Day is simply to remember.

Excerpt from SAID CHILD:

Daddy slid next to us after his usher and elder duties of collecting and counting the money were complete. We’d all squeeze into the pew making room and he’d have to pull on his coat a few times to get comfortable. He’d reach in his shirt pocket and in one continuous smooth move, a gold package of Butter Rum Life Savers appeared and the fleshy underbelly of my tongue salivated. I got one, he got one and he’d wink. Mama preferred peppermint. Peppermint reminded me of the nausea of backseat card rides.

I’d roll the butter rum disk around in my mouth and hold it vertical between my teeth, my tongue reading the raised letters as if in Braille. I’d lay my head against Daddy’s arm, recognizing the texture of his different suits, and then he’d put his arm around me and poke his finger in my ear. I brush it away and he’d smile without looking at me. I snuggled up waiting for my butter rum Life Saver to dissolve so I could get another one. As the preacher’s words droned on and on, I knew we’d never make it home in time to see the Sunday night Disney movie. We never did. Missing all my favorite TV shows was the worst part to me. I’d have to run a fever or throw-up to get to stay home.

Daddy covered my legs with his jacket and patted me until the sounds and lights muffled, dimming into soft shades of gold as I watched my eyelashes fold again and again, the world faded fuzzy, then black.

I barely remembered most of the car ride home on Sunday nights and Daddy would place me between the cool sheets long after I was too big to be carried, my lanky legs scraping the bed and the quilt slid in place. 

Daddy half-whispered, half-growled, “My baby done gone to sleep, Lord bless my little sweety-pie.”

He’d sing me to sleep and I’d always ask for Mr. Moon:  

Oh Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and shinin’ moon,

Oh won’t you please shine down on me.

For my life’s in danger and I’m scared to run,

There’s a man behind me with me with a big shot gun,

Oh Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and shinin’ moon, oh won’t you please shine down on me. Boom, boom, boom.

***

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com, publishers

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Lions, tigers, and support groups, oh my!

I have to admit, I didn’t attend a monthly caregiver’s support group while I cared for my mom. Why?

I guess you can chalk it up to my preacher’s kid background, but I’m about meeting’ed out. I was a notorious school skipper in high school and I still have problems sitting through events where one person talks and everyone else has to listen, stand up, sit down, and clap on que. (Unless I’m the one doing the talking…and even then, I’m sensitive to people’s time and attention spans).

For some reason, I’m either the slacker in the back of the room doodling on her notebook and making snide comments about everyone in the class–or I’m the front-row suck-up nerd hogging all the teacher’s attention. One or the other–on any given day.

I hate meeting rooms. They look like cages to me. Cages to pace in, to plot my breakout and lunge at innocent gawkers. I’m more of a “Born Free” kind of lion. (remember that old song, boomers?)

I start hyperventilating at the sight of a banquet table and metal chairs placed around it, or worse, a “sharing circle” lit by a flourescent light and tired looking folks staring at one another–I want to go screaming out into the sunlight, find the nearest park, beach, or river and take a walk, that or go buy a triple expresso and power shop.

It’s not that I don’t realize that sharing your experience and working through the stresses, frustraitons, questions, and heartaches of caregiving isn’t important. I know it is, but as my southern Mama always said:

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Remember the Dr. Suess book, If I Ran the Zoo? Well, I guess I’ve always wanted to be a zoo-keeper.

So, here’s how I would run a support group. (dream scenario)

There would be couches, not metal chairs.
There would always be food and drink–and not just grocery store bought cookies.
There would be beautiful artwork.
There would be fresh flowers.
There would be music playing (sometimes jazz, sometimes, oldies, sometimes classical).

Stickers would be given out for doing things for yourself–making a phonecall, signing up for a class, etc. You would get to stand up, announce what you did for you, and get claps and/or hugs.

There would be show and tell–your latest photograph of your garden, a drawing, mom’s broach, Dad’s WWII medals, etc.

We’d share our favorite poems, books, recipes, and movie suggestons. Conversation would free flow. There would be laughter.

We’d have a gripe session and start off with cues such as:
“You wanna know what bugs me?!”
We’d throw eachother a potato to keep it going and anger would get a clap–we need to use our frustrations as energy so they won’t implode on us.

We’d have guest speakers occasionally–but not all doctors and elder-care based. We’d have life coaches, a juggler who would teach us how to juggle, a policeman teaching us safety practices, a wardrobe consultant for you and your loved one…

We’d plan events–like a mother-daughter fashion show, or a vintage car show and ride through town. We’d raise money for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s–or to sponsor a road trip!

We’d finish each session with either yoga or a walk or dancing. Movement is vital!

If I’m going to have to live at the zoo (aka, a caregiver’s life), then give me a comfy cage, and lots of play room.

Carol D. O’Dell
Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir,
available on Amazon

 http://www.mothering-mother.com

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