Archive for the ‘art’ Category

I’m not much for regrets. I don’t think we as individuals, family members, or caregivers should even strive to perfect. Our faults and foibles define us and teach us. Besides, have you ever been around someone who was trying too hard? It’s exhausting and annoying. I love the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi–the beauty found in imperfection.

I found this definition at Nobel Harbor, written by Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect. This essay on Wabi Sabi so touched me that I thought I’d share it–it’s how I strive to live my life.

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

But I do wish I had known back then what I know now.

In regard to caring for my mother, I tell myself I was busy. There was never enough of “me” to go around. I had to eek out my time and love in tiny drops just to give everybody a piece. That was true, and asking a caregiver to stop spinning in a maddening circle is asking them to do the impossible.

The  busy-ness (observation–busy-nessand business is not necessarily the same), franticness, never stop breakneck speed is a protective stance.

I had a the privilege of being a real part of my mother’s life the last 15 years she was on earth. Daddy had died, and I was her closest relative. Although I’m adopted, that doesn’t change anything in terms of family dynamics–they were my parents, and I was their daughter. If anything, adoption added a little extra cement to our bond. 

I spent hours and hours with my mother–driving her to doctor appointments, to the grocery store, and to the million errands she could concoct just to get out of the house. And in the end, my mother lived with my family and me–she became a part of the O’Dell household complete with two dogs, two cats, three teenagers, my husband and myself. Most of the time she didn’t think about being a part of anything–by then, life, she believed, evolved around her. It was my job to incorporate her, create balance to my home, and not let anyone yell “fire” and hog all the time and attention away from the delicate harmony of our home.

So there I was, always on the go. Always avoiding. Always, even when sitting perfectly still on the outside, whizzing around in my soul like a gyro-top. It was fueled by panic, fear, sorrow, loss, and the underlying thought, “I can’t do this–be responsible for my mother’s life, for my children–I can’t do all this.”

But now I know.

What’s more important than making every doctor’s appointment, than reading about Alzheimer’s, then cutting pill after pill, then the calls to Medicare and home health aides was this:

What my mother (and my husband, children, and friends) needed from me more than anything–was a good conversation.

There isn’t anything in the world as loving and respectful as someone who will sit with you, look you in the eye, listen to what you have to say–and contribute to the conversation. The easy banter of thoughts, hopes, fears, and chit-chat of life is deeply satisfying.

My mother didn’t move into my home just to have a list of needs met every day. Anyone could do that. On some level she was hoping we’d have a few minutes–to simply be. Not to agree with one another, not to be little clones spouting off the same agendas, but to sit as bookends, side-by-side observing life.

That’s what my mother needed. What I needed. I couldn’t do much to speed up or postpone death. We can’t change much about life in the big scheme of things–but what is within our capabilities is how we interact with one another. We can choose to create a time and space for real connection to happen. It can’t be forced or cajoled.

Having one genuine moment of understanding–a said or unsaid conversation is rare and most precious.

I remember a conversation my mother and I had when I was about eleven years old. We were in the car outside of church waiting for Daddy to get out of an elder meeting. Something big was going down–there were rumors that our pastor had had an affair. Even the kids knew about it. I was just old enough to know what that meant–and young enough to think that life was black–or white–nothing in between.

I was in the back seat, mother was in the front, filing her nails, as usual. We both stopped what we were doing and looked at the church.

“Why doesn’t his wife just leave him and the church just fire him.” I said, angry that this pastor I had looked up to had betrayed me as well.

“It’s not that easy, honey.”

That’s all Mother said. I laid my head on the ledge of the front seat, and she continued to look at the building in front of us, at the steeple that strained into a blue sky.

I learned a lot that day–by all that she didn’t say.

We’d have many conversations over the next almost 40 years. Many times we’d talk at each other, alienate each other, blast each other–but every once in a while, there would be that cord that stretched from her to me and back to her again.

I’ll spend the next few posts exploring what makes a good conversation, how to talk to someone we love–someone who is ill or aged, or someone we have issues with–thorns that make us wince at the thought of a meaningful conversation. I’ll write about how to talk–or be with someone you love who no longer can speak, or comprehend who you are.

There are lots of great sites on the Internet about families, caregiving, Alzheimer’s, elder-careparentsand children–but nothing is more important than quieting your thoughts, unwinding the pent-up soul, and taking a few moments to sit quietly–and talk.

~Carol O’Dell

I hope you’ll check out my book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir–on sale at Amazon, other online e-tailers, and in most bookstores.

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Are you stuck at home?

Stuck hours at a time in a hospital / care facility with a loved one?

Do you own a snap front house dress and wear it with socks and house shoes? (Guys…come on, fess  up.!)

Then you might need a caregiver re-invention!

It’s kind of like an intervention–you know, when your loved ones all get in your face and tell you your life has gone to pot and you need professional help….

If you’re not careful, you’ll lose yourself in the vortex of caregiving.

I know, been there–my mom had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and lived with me (and my family) the last almost three years of her life. 

I had many, many days when I was too tired, lethargic, zombie like to do much of anything past cut pills, serve meals on trays and wash bed sheets.

But caregiving didn’t come in your life to drag you down. It also can provide incredible, unique opportunities.

If you’ve had to quit your job/work less hours/move or have your loved one move in with you, chances are you’re not going to be able to go back to your old life. Life has changed. You’ve changed.

The average caregivers spend 4.5 years caring full-time for a loved one–and 70% of all caregivers do it at home–and go it alone. Sad. Caregiving need not be that isolating.

You have to think creatively. Use adult day care while you can. Hire a sitter–a neighbor–someone you trust–while you can. There may come a day when you can’t. Even if you do have to put your loved one in a facility, you still have to check on them all hours of the day and night to make sure they’re receiving good care.

But…in the few snatch and grab minutes you have during the course of 24 hours a day–why not try something new?

  • start that memoir or write a poem–even a sappy one
  • buy a hummingbird feeder and take pictures of them–you don’t even have to go outside
  • buy some yarn, some knitting needles and a book
  • cook something you saw on the Food Channel
  • try an online college class
  • take up chess or soduku
  • try a home repair yourself–get a book from the library
  • buy a yoga DVD and do 5 minutes a day–build from there

Now, none of this is going to change the world, but it can brighten yours.

Before you go all snarky on me, grumble, complain you don’t have time–or energy for such malarky…give it a try.

No one’s watching.

Caregivers need a break and  no one’s going to give you a break until YOU give you a break.

I know it’s difficult to think about, but one day, your loved one will not be on this earth.

And you need to go on. You need to come out of caregiving a different person–with new skills and interests.

Caregiving happened for a reason, for many reasons–some of them good.

Reinvent yourself. You just might like the new you.

~Carol D. O”Dell

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

by Kunati Publishing

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

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Today, my virtual book tour stopped at www.bookpleasures.com

(to read my interview, click on the link below). http://www.bookpleasures.com/Lore2/idx/0/2997/article/Meet_Carol_D_ODell_

The editor Norm Goldman, practiced law as a title attorney and civil law notary, and now he reads and reviews books. Lots of them. He and his wife love to travel and “meld art and words.” He looks like a happy guy. He said he retired from his profession–not from life.

Bookpleasures.com is one of those sites you could spend a lot of time on–there’s so many books, so many reviews, that I would need a bottomless cup of coffee and some serious couch time to even make a dent in his site.

Thank you, Norm, for an engaging interview. Caregivers, and those who aren’t caregivers (yet) will enjoy this conversation about writing, publishing, memoirs, caring for those we love.

~Carol D. O’Dell

author of Mothering Mother

available on Amazon and in most bookstores.

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Chaos. Bad Connotations, right? Not necessarily.

I recently reviewed a book on Amazon, “The Perfect Mess.” It’s about rejecting the need to be perfect and neat and trade it in for more creativity and trust. I get that. I’m one of the UNneat. My mantra is, “Organized People Are Just Too Lazy To Look For Things.”

If you ring my doorbell, I’ll greet you with a sheepish “I’m sorry my house isn’t perfect,” but if you’re not looking down your nose, I’ll invite you in, make you a cup of hot tea or pour you a glass of wine and we’ll chat about art, faith, lack of faith, good food, history, astronomy, who knows, then I’ll whip something up for dinner. But you’ll have to overlook my office, and maybe some dishes soaking in the sink, and the stack (stacks with an s) of books (with lots of s’s) next to the couch, bed, chair…I’m not into perfection. I don’t have time for it. I have better things to do–like writing, finding places to speak about my book, Mothering Mother, cooking, gardening, painting–anything other than mind-numbing endless whine of the vacuum. So, I’m in yoga the other day (at Y Yoga–hey Liz) and my instructor tells me that we need to create MUSCLE CHAOS. My Favorite Martian antennas raised on my little head.

After class, I asked her to explain:“Push your body past its norm–shake it up, do something different or longer and your body senses “chaos” That chaos creates new synapses and your muscles respond/sense that something’s up, go on alert, and DELIVERS”   So, I got to thinking. The same principle works for artists, creators, (human beings of all sorts). If we only give our body, mind, spirit, relationships–what it expects, it will in turn, deliver the expected.

How do we get more? CREATE CHAOS.

Liz (my yoga teacher) tells me yesterday (as we were talking about the various and amazing uses of the ball) that “INSTABILITY CREATES STABILITY.” Antennas. She explains: “As you wobble on the ball, your body seeks balance, and by throwing it off, it fires those neurons to seek new/deeper/stronger balance. It’s on alert again. That’s why our muscles shake when we haven’t used them, just like we tend to get nervous writing about things that are still a bit mysterious to us–INSTABILITY CREATES STABILITY.” 

My writing mentor, Tamara Sellman and I continued the discussion: “Most people avoid chaos. Life has gotten so (#&% orderly/neat/perfect that it’s downright scary And yet, we abhor perfection–It’s okay to be rough around the edges and true to yourself. That’s more authentic than being competent and perfect as a stylist. That’s why we look at people who have had too much plastic surgery, and although mathematically they’re “perfect”—it’s odd. We don’t trust it–it’s actually unappealing, cold, sterile, harsh…freaky. That’s why so many great models, actors, etc. have “odd” faces. Beautiful and quirky      Nature is perfect in its imperfection. Why else would snowflakes and leaves be unique and yet beautiful?    

Wabi-Sabi–beauty found in imperfection.  

Glass of wine, anyone?  

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