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Dick Clark died April 18, 2012 of a massive heart attack. He was 82 years old and is considered America’s “oldest living  teenager.” My question is, could his heart attack have been avoided? Could mine–or yours? Heart disease remains the number one killer in America. It steals the quality of our lives and takes our loved ones from us too, too soon.

We can’t get around the facts. Americans suffer some of the highest heart disease rates in large part due to our issues with obesity and lack of exercise. I’m the first to admit that it’s tough to get in shape, to give up certain foods and hit the gym on a regular basis, but I also know after witnessing heart disease with my dad that heart disease doesn’t just kill you fast, it’s something you suffer with, something that impacts the quality of your life for years, something that can alter your loved ones and caregivers lives.

If you remember, Dick Clark suffered a stroke back in 2004, which meant had arteriosclerosis. It silenced the voice we had grown to love and count on. What you may not know is that he also had type 2 diabetes. “Two-thirds of people who have diabetes die of either heart disease or stroke,” Dick Clark shared a few years ago. “That was enough for me to stand up and say, ‘Whoa, I’m in that group…’ ”

Dick Clark is truly representative of what is happening in America, and especially to our men. Dick Clark wasn’t particularly heavy, so is heart disease and all of its “side dishes” (strokes, diabetes) come with just the “build-up” (literally) of life? Just how hard do we have to work at staying healthy to avoid this early killer?

Do we give up fat? Meat? Salt? What else? Do we hit the gym 30 minutes a day? One, two hours? What’s it going to take? Diligence, yes, but also a bit of know-how. Quality of life over quantity.

First, *and I can only speak for myself, it’s time to drop all processed foods. They’re simply no good. I heard Heidi Klum say recently that she “avoids anything that comes out of a box or a bag.” I also need to have a few meatless days a week, but it’s not just about going meatless, it’s also about what you replace that meat with–heart healthy beans and steamed or roasted veggies.

What stands in my way?

Stress and exhaustion.

I reach for the bag or the box, for the greasy/juicy hamburger when I’m tired, when I’ve worked too long, when I’ve let regret and worry  (living in the past or in the future avalanche my thoughts and bury my body in oh so familiar bad habits.

As I grow older I am even more aware of how much I value sleep and how being crazy-busy (as I used to like to call it as if it were a badge I wore proudly) just isn’t cutting it any more. I used to equate busy with important, but even I no longer believe my own lies (illusions).

I’ve also found that I can’t bully myself into a healthier lifestyle.

It’s got to be about joy, not guilt or shame.

Eating beautiful, clean foods. Learning to celebrate with a bowl of cherries and a handful of almonds instead of a red velvet cheesecake (the occasional bite is fine, but restaurants won’t bring you just a bite!)

It’s about dancing any hour of the day  (I take Zumba classes). It’s about long walks, meandering bike rides, and even a few challenges–signing up for a 5-K.

It’s about laughing, and recognizing stress and exhaustion before it’s tied me to its bumper and taken me on a cross-country tour. It’s about turning OFF the media and crawling into bed for a glorious night’s sleep BEFORE I fall asleep on the couch at midnight in a TV remote surfing coma.

It’s about being content, letting go, forgiving, and loving what is. I still struggle, still get worked up, still default into panic mode, but I am finding that it’s lost its appeal. I’d rather lay down my frantic thoughts. I’d rather not get worked up about what s0-and-so said. More often than before, I’m choosing quiet joy.

I know that something–heart disease, Alzheimer’s, who knows what–will eventually get me. We don’t just die. We die of something, but that something doesn’t have to live with me and rob me of precious years, even decades. I’ve always said I want to go out big–a bungee cord that snaps or the rip cord that doesn’t rip when I’m 92. I want my friends to spread the word of my demise by saying, “You’ll never guess how the ole’ gal left this world…”

Can I prevent my own heart attack? Can you prevent yours? Is it too late?

No, I don’t think it’s too late, but it does take the proverbial wake-up call. It does take a deep, life-changing/thought-changing jolt that reminds us again and again, even when we’re tired, even when we’re stressed, to make that first, and then another, and then hundreds of little choices and changes, not simply to avoid “the big one,” but to live now–cleaner, sweeter and simpler.

I miss Dick Clark already, but I realize now that I’ve missed Dick since 2004–eight years that “America’s eternal teenager” struggled with the ripple-effect of America’s number one disease. Dick, I danced to American Bandstand all those years ago and in my heart we’ll always dance.

~Carol O’Dell

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

Available on Amazon (hardback and Kindle)

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/18/dick-clark-had-history-heart-disease-type-2-diabetes-before-death/#ixzz1sURMLApY

http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

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Mr. Spock said it r first. We all hope to live long and prosper.

But living long is an art–if you’re going to do it with finesse.

And prospering isn’t all about money–it’s about the wealth we acquire when we live good lives and take care of ourselves.

Great docs such as Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen of the book, Real Age have compiled all the latest health data that if followed, can literally add years to your life. I took this info, along with several known preventative methods to deter Alzheimer’s and compiled it into a list. I love Dr. Oz’s You on a Diet, and You the Owner’s Manual–just enough medicine talk to teach me a few things in a great format I don’t mind picking up again and again.

You might want to post this on your frig.

Don’t feel pressure to do it all–just pick 2-3 things that you can incorporate into your daily/weekly life. That’s enough for now. Later, you can add 2 more.

The Health List: (Ranked in importance to some degree)

  • Embrace a positive attitude. This is number one. Squash those negative thoughts. Redirect them. How? Catch yourself in the act. Turn the negative thought into a positive one and say it out loud. Flood your car and other places where you mind wanders with music, informational CDs, or healthy conversation–continually correct those down/derogatory thoughts until they’re crowded out by good ones.
  • When you can’t, laugh it off. Sometimes life just gets chaotic and absurd. When the crap just seems to pile up, then laugh about it. Ask yourself if this will matter one year, five years from now. Most of the time, it won’t. If it will, then take action and do what you can to fix it–if not–let go of life’s steering wheel and enjoy the ride.
  • Let go of hurts and resentments–most people don’t mean to hurt you, and for those who do, why give them power by dwelling on it?
  • Breathe! When stressed, stop, place your hand on the place on your body where you’re feeling the most tension–head, stomach, and take five slow deep breaths. Count if you need to, if your mind needs something to focus on–30 counts in, 30 counts out–breath in through your nose and really fill up those lungs, and breath out through your mouth and empty everything out in that breath. Do this at least three times a day–stress or not–it’ll change your life. It’s great for stress and anxiety.
  • While we’re on breath, you gotta give up smoking. If you haven’t so far, make an appointment and get into a doctor quick–there’s so many ways they can help you–meds, hypnotism–you’ve simply got to quit. Know that each time you try, you get closer. So don’t give up. I have lots of relatives who tried for years, and you know what? None of them smoke now. Many smoked for 20, 30 years–and now they’re clean. So it can be done!
  • Get enough sleep. I’m talking 8-10 hours. Sleep deprivation will take years off your life,damage your body, and make life miserable. Create a sanctuary in your bedroom–declutter, paint it in a soothing color, get great sheets–look forward to going to bed. Not sleeping enough is responsible for more car accidents than drunk driving and is directly linked to obesity.
  • When you can, nap for 20 minutes. It’s restorative and will aid in your mental sharpness and creativity.
  • Surround yourself with people you love–a spouse, friends, build relationships and community in which to be a part of.
  • Walk 30 minutes a day. Don’t stop. Keep a steady pace. Music helps. It aids in weight loss, stress, diabetes and heart disease prevention.
  • Music is a great mood enhancer. When you’re down, reach for the ipod instead of the pills/booze. It’s known to be effective in dealing with anxiety, depression, and lowers blood pressure.
  • Make love! With yourself and others–being sexual is good for you. (If it’s in a monogamous committed relationship). Create an environment where sex, cuddling and fooling around is easy and relaxing. If not, explore why you’ve shut down in this area–stress? Lack of sleep? Unresolved issues? Take a look.
  • Do some weight bearing exercise 2-3 times a week. Lift weights, work in the yard–move your muscles and stretch those ligaments. It’s even more important as we age.
  • Play! While exercise is important, face it, it’s boring. What sport or activity did you love as a child? I was a bicycler. Now, I bike almost every day. Swim, kayak, install a basketball goal in your driveway–even if you don’t have kids around any more.
  • Stretch–everyone can stretch–any age. 5-10 minutes a day–along with your breath work is something caregivers and their loved ones can do together. Yoga’sgreat too, and there are lots of DVDs and online classes if you can’t get out.
  • If you want to obsess about a body part, then concentrate on your waist size. Waist size reflects mid-section fat–the dangerous kind that’s close to your heart. Men should have a waist of no larger than 36 inches and women, 32 inches. So get out the tape measure and take deep breath…
  • Incorporate being active into your relationships. Meet with a friend for lunch–and then go for thirty minute walk. Sign you and your spouse up for tennis lessons or dance lessons. Shake things up. It’s easy to get sedentary in our relationships and build upon eachother’s bad habits.
  • Get out in nature. Nature’s benefits are endless. We are a part of this planet, and no matter where you live, there’s a dragonfly or cardinal waiting for you. Nature teaches us and heals us in ways we’ve yet to explore or understand. Do you know what prisoners miss the most? The sun–and being outside. Most of us can get up and go outside our front door. Do more than walk to your car.
  • Get your Vitamin D.How? By getting outside–remember I mentioned walking for 30 minutes? Do you know that your eyes and skin absorb just the right amount of Vitamin D in about 10-20 minutes and then it shuts off so you can’t overload? Vitamin D is crucial to your bones and is a real problem for the very young and the elderly–so even if you’re a caregiver–wheel your loved one outside and enjoy the flowers, dragonflies, and walk around the block.
  • Before you head out the door, slather on some sunscreen. No need to inflict damage to your skin, which isn’t pretty in the long run, or put yourself at risk for skin cancer. It’s way too easy to buy a moisturizer that has full spectrum sunblock and slather it on each day.
  • Speak up. When something is bothering you, begin to speak up. Say how you’re feeling. You can do this without blame, but stuffing your feelings is damaging and is known to cause lots of health problems. Speaking up is about taking care of yourself. It’s not always about fixing a problem, but voicing your hurts and concerns is beneficial for everyone. Risk the confrontation. Most people take it better than you think and it can be a great bridge to better communication.
  • Embrace faith. Whatever you believe, to whatever degree–embrace the sense of hope that faith embodies. It’s okay if it’s not the faith of your family or culture, it’s okay if it is–people who have some sense of life beyond, of purpose past self feel more at peace and more connected.
  • Look at your stress. Caregivers and those who are actively caring for others all hours of the day and night can really feel overwhelmed, but what is it that really gets to you? Everyone is different. Stress usually stems from a lack of control. For some, it’s the feeling of being trapped, of feeling like your life is put on hold, or maybe it’s the helplessness of seeing a loved one in pain. Is there one small thing about the stress that you could change? Ask for different pain meds? Try acupuncture? Take an online college class so that you feel like you’re doing something for you? Change doctors if yours won’t listen or communicate. One positive act can have a huge effect. You can’t fix it all, but knowing that you can do one thing can really help combat stress.
  • Learn something new. Learn a language, take a class at the rec center, learn to knit, take a computer course, do a tutorial of photo shop, learn how to make a great tiramasu–use that brain of yours!
  • Play games–in your downtime, reach for the crossword puzzle, chess set, or brain games. It beats re-runs of old tv shows and fires those neurons in your brain.
  • When is the last time you laughed? This is where friends come in handy. If you’re going to watch tv, then opt for funny because it does great things for your body and spirit. Make sure you have at least one “fun” friend who makes you laugh, and brings joy and play into your life.
  • Touch. Be affectionate. Hug, kiss, pet your dog. Touch is deeply important. It’s healing. Get a massage. Hold hands.
  • Practice smiling. If you haven’t smiled in a while, or you can’t remember if you have or haven’t, then start practicing. Smile in the car. Smile on the way to work. Smile in the shower. Smiling goes much deeper than just affecting the muscles in your face. Smiling and touching a part of your body is known as Qi Gong in Chinese medicine. It may sound silly, but you”ll feel better and sometimes we just get out of the practice.
  • Avoid the doctor! Whenever possible (not when you’re really/very sick) don’t reach for the anti-biotics. A cold will run its course. Getting in a medical mindset is unhealthy. Drug companies have corrupted American health care–and a pill isn’t always the answer. For simple things, go to the Internet, a health book and try the natural alternative. Now I’m not talking about cancer, heart attacks, etc.

THE FOOD LIST:

  • Eat well. Food is a celebration of life and culture. Eat what you love. You may think you love Fritos and Ding Dongs, but I bet you love other things too. Make your plate a work of art. Eat on a real plate, sitting down at a nice table. Eat with those you love. Surround yourself with beauty as you eat–a candle or a flower. Think about the food you’re eating. Turn off the tv and enjoy what’s going in your body.
  • Have an eating plan. If you know you’re going to be extremely busy, then take a sec and plan what you’re going to eat. There are almost always decent alternatives. You can eat decently from a quick stop, so no excuses. Stress eating leads to junk food eating. Create a fall-back plan for when life is crazy and incorporate at least a few healthy alternatives. Love salty? Go for salted nuts as opposed to chips. Love sweets? Go for Twizzlers or other candies with no fat–or a bag of grapes. Mindlessly eating? Grab a bag of carrots. Some gum, or popcorn. Know what it is you want–to chew, something creamy and homey–have those comfort foods on hand. They now make a Mac and Cheese with only 2% fat–and it doesn’t taste half bad. 
  • Know your weak spots. I know when I’m overworked and exhausted that I eat crappy. I’m working on a plan–foods that aren’t terrible for me, but I still find comforting in times of stress. I also know that during those mindless eating stress times I need to take a bath and put myself to bed. I’m not craving food as much as I am self-care and rest.
  • Cut way, way back on fried foods. Now I know you love them, but save them for truly special occasions–birthdays, anniversaries. If you need a fix, then consider oven frying your food at home–country fried steak, and fried chicken still taste good from the oven and it really cuts down on the fat.
  • Eat at home. It’s the only way to control your portions and calories–and quality. There are so many hidden variables in eating out it’s hard to know where to start. Make your home a place of serenity and beauty and take pride in the food you fix. It’s a much more satisfying experience. Learn to make one or two new dishes a month–and enjoy the experience.
  • Embrace fruits and veggies. You know you should–start with those you already like. If you grew up on green beans and corn, then start there and always have those on hand. Try a few more–see what you like. There’s a million ways to make a salad so get creative. The darker green the veggie, the better–the brighter the fruit, the better. Color rules!
  • Go green and buy those fruits and veggies from a local stand–you’ll not only help out your community, but you’ll get fresher produce.
  • Look at your palm. That’s the size and thickness a piece of meat needs to be. You only need one of two of these palms a day. Not enough food? Then pile on the veggies! Have a piece of fruit before your meal–or after.
  • Avoid white–white bread, white rice, have small portions of corn and potatoes. Choose grains instead–brown rice, wild rice, all different kinds of bread–seek out a local bakery. Potatoes and corn are good, but know that you don’t need a huge plateful.
  • Avoid the other white stuff–mayo, full calorie dressings, gravies–all should be used sparingly and the low-fat version is a better choice since we tend to over do it in these areas.
  • Dairy is okay for most people–especially women. Americans could eat more yogurt–the yogurt cultures contain acidophilus and is great for balancing our digestive tract.
  • Curb your appetite with a palmful of nuts. Keep lots of nuts on hand (raw is best, but just get used to eating them regularly at first). The best nuts for your brain are walnuts, almonds, and pecans. They’re great in salads too. It’s a good idea to eat a small handful before a meal–they curb your appetite, have a healthy amount of oils, and you’ll be less ravenous at your meal.
  • Know your super foods–not all food is created equal–here’s a list of the best of the best:
    • Beans
    • Blueberries
    • Broccoli
    • Oats
    • Oranges
    • Pumpkin
    • Salmon
    • Soy
    • Spinach
    • Tea (green or black)
    • Tomatoes
    • Turkey
    • Walnuts
    • Yogurt
  • Nix the plastic bottles of water and install a water filtration system on your faucet. Plastic isn’t good for you–fumes and all–and most city’s tap water is just as clean, if not cleaner than the stuff you’re paying for.
  • If you want notch it up, go for organic meats and eggs that haven’t been injected with hormones. It’s more expensive, but realize you need to eat less amounts of meat any way. We don’t need all those hormones and antibiotics.
  • Take a multi-vitamin–while research goes back and forth about supplements, if you’re eating well, you don’t need too much else. If you’;re dealing with a certain condition–UTIs, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, then this is the time to incorate a few more supplements. Some research indicates that Vitamin C and E helps stave off Alzheimer’s. A great source to know what to take for what disease/condition is at Dr. Weil’s site.                                       .
  • Enjoy a glass of wine! Ladies, on a day is enough. Red is better (although I’m a Riesling fan). Beer’s okay too.
  • Give up the Cokes/carbonated drinks. Nothing good is in any of them. Treat yourself to one occasionally–if you really like the way it tastes, but don’t keep them in your house. They actually suck oxygen out of your bones, has been linked to Parkinson’s, and new research says it might actually damage your cells. And have you seen what it does to your car battery? 
  • Have a cuppa coffee! This one made me particularly happy. Studies show that coffee’s good for your heart–and for Alzheimer’s. It opens up the blood vessels.
  • Give up the artificial sweeteners. They’re all scary. Go with steevia. I know, it’s hard for me too.
  • Go with real butter as opposed to the fake stuff–but a little dab’ll do ya.
  • Go with olive oil whenever you can. Other than desserts, you can cook with olive oil–and we already said that cakes and cookies are a splurge item.
  • Fish rules. Try to incorporate 2-3 fish dishes into your weekly diet. Salmon is great choice. So are all the white fishes–this is when white is good. Go local when you can. Broil or pan cooked fish only takes minutes to fix.
  • Desserts such as cakes should go with life’s celebrations. Enjoy them on birthdays,  anniversaries and holidays–as well as break ups and other life tragedies that only a cake can help. Other than that, have your glass of wine, dark chocolate and some cherries–not a bad way to end a day. If you love your icecream, then go with a low-fat frozen yogurt. Experiment and find your favorite kind.
  • One great dessert you can have it dark chocolate. I keep it at all times. Seriously. I have a small bar each day. I like Dove dark chocolates. I need it be a little creamy. Some of the European high cacoa varieties are too bitter to my liking. Four of their little squares makes me very, very happy. I also like Ritter–and they have one with hazelnuts that’s to die for. Dark chocolate has anti-oxidants which lowers blood pressure.
  • Incorporate flax seed or flax seed oil into your diet–a spoon of the oil can be added to soup, rice, or other dishes and isn’t even noticed. This gives the body Omega 3’s which is great for your heart and is also high in fiber.
  • Women and seniors probably need to take a calcium supplement. We just don’t get enough, and we don’t lift enough weights to offset gravity’s pull on the bones and spine.
  • Best spices are cinnamon (regulates blood levels and is good for diabetes), curry and cumin (heart and metabolic effects) and garlic (heart again). In fact, spices are great all the way around.

A Few Last Words:

Trust your body. If you’re craving lemons, then eat lots of lemons. If you’re sleeping ten hours a night, then tuck yourself in early.

Our bodies are incredibly intuitive. It knows what it needs. Also know that it’s about 3-6 months behind, so the stress you’re experiencing now (say, a bum knee or a heal spur) might be because of the stress and strain that was put on it months before–also know that your spirit works the same way.

If you’ve experienced a huge life change, then realize that your body and mind may be reacting to it months later. If you’re weepy, angry, mopey, it may be that your body needs to play catch up. Let it feel what it needs to feel and trust that it won’t last forever.

Get rid of negatives. Negative people and work situations can be difficult, if not downright impossible to overcome. If you’ve tried to remedy the situation–you’ve spoken up, offered solutions, tried to be amenable and it’s still not working–then consider a change. Money isn’t everything, and if your relationship is unhealthy, then choose to be alone and trust that if you ask the universe for something better–and then wait–it will come.

If you’re in a stressful situation–caregiving, the end of life, a messy divorce, recovering from a car accident, then be gentle on yourself. Life ebbs and flows and know that this difficult time will pass.

Sounds like a lot, huh?

Focus on one thing. If you try to be uber-good, it’ll back-fire and you’ll wind up overdosing on Ho-Ho’s in your car. One change is a good change.

If I’ve forgotten something important, then email me and I’ll add it to the list!

According to the death clock, I’m living to 100. Now, I’ve seen what 90-100 looks like for most folks, and I’m on a mission to improve my last decade. I plan on dancing at my great, great granddaughter’s wedding!

Live long–and prosper!

 Carol D. O’Dell

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com 

 

 

 

 

 

Syndicated Blog at www.OpentoHope.com

Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com/motheringmother-memoir-by-car/ – 95k

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We avoid thinking about or dealing with death at every turn.

Even caregivers who are caring for their aging parents try not to think about the inevitable end.

 

 

Cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, combined with age will eventually claim the lives of those we love. And sadly, by not fully anticipating and participating in this momentous event, we’re left scared, in doubt, and not knowing how to die–or be with someone we love when the time comes.

 

Who will teach us? How will we learn?

 

 

I recently interviewed a Rachel, a young mother in my community who experienced a tragedy–she lost her two year old little boy, Tyler, in a swimming pool accident.

 

 

As I sat with Rachel and listened to her story, I immediately sensed she had wisdom and insight well beyond her years. She’s handled grief with grace, forgiveness, and determination.

 

 

My own worries seemed insignificant.

 

Rachel’s story got me to thinking.

 

 

How will we remember our loved ones?

 

What memorial, statue, headstone or story will honor those who have touched our lives?

 

 

While I have nothing against cremation, sometimes people need a place to go–it’s important to create a sanctuary or sorts–a place to be, to pray, to think and meditate. 

 

A place to remember.

 

 

My Daddy is buried in Atlanta, and so this Father’s Day, I’ve had to create a new place for “us” to meet and talk.

 

I like to spend a few minutes catching up with my daddy about my life.

I have a bench overlooking a lake in my backyard. He would have liked it here. He loved to sit outside and talk.

 

 

That’s where I’m headed this Sunday.

I’m including an article I recently wrote about Rachel and a place of remembrance for all those who have lost someone they love.

 

As you read her remarkable story, I’m sure you’ll agree–we can all learn from her–how to love, and how to hope again.

 

 

Angels Among Us 

 

There’s an angel on Amelia Island. The childlike face lifts toward the sky, arms outstretched as though holding something invisible, and bronzed wings gleam against the stark Florida sun. The inscription at the bottom of the statue reads, “Angel of Hope.” It is encircled by a short brick wall and eight benches for seating with a loved one’s name on each one.

 

I found this “Angel of Hope” one afternoon on a photography/bike trek around the island. I stopped to take a picture and began to read:

 

The inscription on the back of the statue reads, “The Christmas Box Angel,” and I thought of Richard Paul Evans’ book, The Christmas Box, about a woman who mourns the loss of her child and finds comfort at the base of an angel monument.

 

At the base of the angel I read, “For all the children” and began to put it together—the benches, the names, the stones lined up at the base, the bouquet of flowers indicating someone had been here. 

 

This angel is a place of remembrance for families who have lost a child. It’s a sacred gift given by other bereaved parents and is available to anyone who would like to come, sit, and remember. 

 

I thought of Tyler, a purely sweet loving laid-back two-year old with beautiful big brown eyes, the son of Rachel and Patrick Pennewell. I remembered the day I found out Tyler had suffered a swimming pool accident.

 

Rachel, his mother told me, “Tyler was our angel. He had a purpose in being here. Sometimes I would just look at him. He was such a calm, knowing soul, and I’d wonder, you know something, don’t you? Some things be understood here on earth.”

 

After Tyler’s passing, Rachel and Patrick found the community of Nassau to be their angels who sustained them in those early weeks and months when shock turned to grief. 

 

“I’ll never be able to thank the people at our church and in our community for all they did. How can I ever show them what this meant to us?”

 

Rachel said it’s so important for bereaved parents to find ways to give back because, “What else can we do? You don’t stop being a parent. You have to find a way to give, and in that giving, your child lives on.”

 

I asked Rachel how she got to a place of peace.

 

“Tyler’s life completely transformed the way I saw myself, and that lives on today. He brought such peace into my life, from the moment of conception on; it was as if he had a mission. Patrick and I now have a second child, Hannah, Tyler’s little sister. I promise, Tyler helped pick her out. In so many ways, he’s still with us. He’ll always be with us.”

 

As I stand in this circle and read the names on each of the benches that surround this angel, I wonder who each one of them are, what their stories are, because it’s our stories that connect us–not the how did-he-die stories–but the deeper question: how did he live?

This Amelia angel creates a circle of hope; the hope and belief that each child’s life, no matter how short of a time they spent on earth, is a gift. If you look closely at the angel’s right wing, you will see the word “hope.”

 

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us

 and we see nothing but sand;

the angels come to visit us,

and we only know them when they are gone. 

                                                                                                          ~George Elliot

 

Christmas Box Angels are erected in more than 25 other communities around the world.  http://www.richardpaulevans.com/statue.html

If you’d like to view a photograph of this statue, it’s posted on my website at http://home.comcast.net/~cdodell/ (www.mothering-mother.com) on the Caregiving Tips page.

~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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Caregiving is complex.

Many family situations are a continuation of a long, tangled history.

There are stubborn siblings, financial headaches, cantankerous parents, emotional memories kicked back up, frustrating home heath aides, and confusing health insurance concerns. This is just the surface–throw in worries like a naked, wandering Alzheimer’s loved one, your mother feels cheated on (or is cheating) while her husband is in a facility and no longer remembers any of you, your home health aide stole your wedding ring (you suspect), you lost your health insurance and have to go back to work, but how? Or maybe your mother is like mine and kicks your cat or your partner says caregiving is killing you and insists you give them attention too.

I know how hard it is to find safe, how challenging it is to find reliable help, or you get into a big fight with your dad (and your neighbor) because he ran over your neighbor’s dog and he still refuses to give up driving. Some questions go even deeper–you’ve become hooked on pain meds to compensate for your back from all the lifting and you’re fighting depression, or just how bone-deep scary it is to think that you have to decide whether or not to stop life support and you’re afraid all your family will blame you for not doing enough…the list goes on.

I”m now a “Family Advisor” on www.Caring.com, and these are just some of the types of issues families write about.

It’s not that I’m a know-it-all or that questions always have neat little answers, but I’ll do my research and offer suggestions that are not just technically correct but delve into the heart of the matter. Relationships are not cut and dry, and it’s not easy to just make a decision and carry it out–not when there are other family members involved who may not agree with you–and not when even the decisions that you have to make aren’t easy to deal with emotionally.

Life can’t always be “fixed,” but I’ll do everything I can to offer some valid help and direction as well as support you, the caregiver/spouse/friend. It won’t be cut and dry either. Humor, spunk, and tenacity are great weapons people forget they have, and sometimes we have to use guerrilla tactics to get anything done, but when integrated with love and commitment serendipity can occur.  I won’t sugar coat caregiving either, or wrap it up and slap a bow on it, or belittle the guilt or everyday stresses can just get under your skin.

I know how all this eats away at what fragile hope you have remaining.

By writing a question (even anonymously), you are asking not only Caring.com for advice, you open the window for opportunity. I firmly believe that by simply asking the question you start to attract the answers/solutions. By verbalizing your fears, frustrations and concerns, you can then begin to visualize how this can be solved or at least some of the tension relieved.

You’ll feel less alone. You have options.

If you know of anyone who is in an emotional or ethical quandry consider suggesting Caring.com.

They have sections for all types of care–mental illness, cancer, MS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many other points of connection.

Caregivers need every resource they can get their hands on–in their community and on the Internet.

I hope that my book, my blog, and now this family advisor column will help you feel less isolated and show you that you’re not alone. You’re surrounded by people who care.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

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This week, I’ve blogged about the Law of Attraction.

It took me a while to comprehend how we can attract the negative into our life by saying we don’t want something–don’t want to be poor, don’t want to be sick, don’t want to get a divorce…

But then, last week I attended this awesome Alzheimer’s conference, and I learned something very important.

(Might I note here that I’m a school skipper from way back. It’s a wonder I ever graduated.

I personally think everyone should graduate at sixteen, that Jr. College should be paid by the state (or technical school), and that everyone should turn 18 with either their AA degree, or a skill. (sorry, opinions jump subjects at will)

What I mean is that something has to be really, really good to make me stay in the room, be alert, and take notes–and at this conference, I did all three….

Here’s what the presenter said (specialist in Alz)

BAN “DON’T ” FROM YOUR VOCABULARY WHEN DEALING WITH

ALZHEIMER’S AND DEMENTIA PATIENTS.

Why? Because when you say, “Don’t sit own yet.”

They don’t hear the don’t.

It’s just one word, at the beginning of the sentence, their brain doesn’t pick up on it. We even say the word lower in tone, and they simply don’t comprehend it. They do the thing you told them not to. Too many words, and that one matters the least.

Wow.

Why do we think our brains, our lives, or anything else is any different?

We drop the don’t, and attract the rest.

Why? Because it’s not what you say, it’s what you fixate on.

Ohhhhh….now that I get.

It’s like saying, “Don’t think about a purple elephant cooking eggs in your kitchen.”

Can you think/imagine anything else? Of course not!

I planted the image in your brain.

So, how are you attracting the good things into your life?

Are you thinking of those? Are you saying those things out loud?

As a caregiver, or a person who is struggling with a disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cancer, MS…joy is sometimes a difficult commodity to come by.

Joy is supposed to be about happiness, right?

And what do I have to be happy about?

Losing my job? Going on two hours sleep?

Dealing with my cantankerous mom? Fighting with doctors and insurance?

Knowing this disease is only going to get worse?

Knowing that caregiving ends with losing my loved one?

Joy is about finding life’s goodness–everywhere. In the small things.

Simple pleasure. Sweet moments. Quiet, deep peace. Allowing.

Trusting. Resting.

I have a new mantra–to hold me over during the time I know what I want or need and actually achieving it:
(it’s on a post-it note on my monitor now)

Trust, Wait, Anticipate.

Trust that good will come my way.

Wait, by finding joy and staying busy.

Anticipate, imagine, and expect the good to show up.

Here are the last of my questions I asked Linda Merlino, author of Belly of the Whale, coming out in April. (check back posts for the premise of this book) Hope you’ve enjoyed my guest blogger, Linda. I’ve enjoyed our Q&A–only thing better would have been if it were face to face and involved coffee.

(I’m the questioner–Linda is the answeree)

Q: Your character becomes proactive, in terms of psychologically. She begins to face her fear. Is this autobiographical in some way? How does facing our fear—whether it’s a gunman, breast cancer, or anything else—change a person? As I said before this is not autobiographical in regard to the breast cancer experience, but beyond that we all have are own fears. I read somewhere that there are only two significant emotions: love and fear.

Fear is paralyzing. Hudson Catalina loses her mother when she is fourteen years old.

Emotionally she becomes immobilized. On the surface she carries on, graduates from high school, goes to college, becomes a teacher, gets married, has children and not until her daughter is born and then her diagnosis does she begin to face the suppressed emotions of her youth. Life often bumps along allowing us to bury significant experiences and generally we do not deal with them until there is a collision, a forced head-on crash of some kind. When the moment arrives that any one of us faces our fears, like Hudson in Belly of the Whale, there is a shift into change. As an example, in an excerpt from Belly of the Whale, Hudson Catalina in regard to her cancer and the killer, Buddy Baker:

“Breast cancer and Buddy Baker were one and the same, both trying to suck me down. Yesterday, I gave in to cancer, gave myself over to a disease that had taken me into the bowels of despair, into the belly of hell; a disease that had no sympathy, no compassion and no purpose other than to kill me. Now I was confronted by Buddy, a black-hooded murderer, another kind of killer who had taken me hostage, who had no mercy, no kindness and no other purpose than to take my life. Buddy and cancer wanted a sign, wanted me to concede my battle with each, to fly the flag of defeat.I glared at him. I would not surrender to either.”

Q: There’s a lot of talk about The Law of Attraction these days. I’ve read some of the prominent writers and speakers in the field, and I’ve heard them say that we attract everything—even violence or illness. We attract it for two reasons: 1) in order to learn from it, and 2) we attract it because we have unhealthy patterns/beliefs, and don’t realize we are attracting such negativity.

This sort of thinking goes against the old adage: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

While I don’t feel that you—or I—need to make a definitive stand for or against the Law of Attraction, how do you feel about it, in terms of someone who contracts cancer, such as your character, and then winds up in a dangerous, life threatening situation?What can other people who are in real life traumas and dramas glean from this? A: The Law of Attraction is just another name for fear. If a person is negative then negative happens. Why- me-God people can not see the flip side…the glass half full. Why do some people take on this kind of behavior? I believe it is out of fear. Fear becomes their protection, the negativity of their attitude is the barrier created against life. Inevitably, I believe this kind of person attracts the very things they fear.

Now, what of the “good” people the ones that die young, the ones that suffer, the ones that are taken from us too soon? I have no answer; I believe there is no answer, only that there is a reason, a higher purpose to everything and that we are players on the stage of life and we do not write the script. Perhaps the good folk who attract illness or violence are role models. They are the teachers. We, like Hudson Catalina, learn from them. We learn how to die, we learn how to live. In a final excerpt from Belly of the Whale speaking of Willy Wu and Ruby Desmond:“Ruby Desmond and Willy Wu were teachers, the kind of teachers that cross paths and impact lives forever.” ~Linda Merlino

I hope you too, ban “don’t” from your vocabulary.

May you attract joy and find sweetness in each day.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

Kunati Publishing

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Ever heard of the freshman 15?

That’s where kids heading off to college gain 15 pounds because they’re eating pizza, drinking beer, and stressed out?

Well, I’m here to tell ya there’s a Caregiver’s 30!

I gained over 30 pounds in the almost three years I cared for my mom full time. You would think lifting and helping something with Parkinson’s, and chasing after someone with Alzheimer’s (she had both) would be enough exercise.

Why? Stress, #1–that whole cortisol thing

Lack of sleep, #2

One for you, two for me, #3

Here’s why stress causes weight gain:

Chronic stress and cortisol can contribute to weight gain in the following ways:

    Metabolism —  Too much cortisol can slow your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience.Cravings — People experiencing chronic stress tend to crave more fatty, salty and sugary foods. This includes sweets, processed food and other things that aren’t as good for you. 

    Blood Sugar — Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia. Too much stress has even been linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health concerns that can lead to greater health problems, like heart attacks and diabetes.

    Fat Storage — Excessive stress even affects where we tend to store fat. Higher levels of stress are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. Unfortunately, abdominal fat isn’t attractive, it’s linked with greater health risks than fat stored in other areas of the body. This info is from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/weightgain.htm

Mother’s eating habits became atrocious, although I have to preface that with if you’re in your twilight years you should be allowed to finally eat anything you darn well please. The only problem was that I’m not in my twilight years.

As I unwrapped her a Klondike bar, I might eat one myself.

When she wanted peanut butter and crackers for a snack, I ate them as well.

When she woke in the middle of the night, I too, had to get up–and then I couldn’t sleep, so…a handful of Cheese-Its and a glass of milk.

Add the fact that I’m a sandwich generationer with kids still at home. I had teenagers into the mix, and the pantry always had chips or crackers or something naughty. And it was my saving grace to order pizza or wings after a particularly stressful day.

You can see? It adds up.

It didn’t feel like I was eating a lot, but I don’t think it was just the food, it was the stress and the kinds of foods I was eating.

I know food is comforting. I know the boredom, the hankering for something to just hit the spot, the problem was, my back end was spreading, and that made me feel miserable.

Also…I stopped getting on the scale. I ignored the solution. I didn’t want to face it. I told myself I had enough on my plate (pun intended)–that I’d deal with it later.

I’m grateful diabetes didn’t kick in, and I’m grateful it was 30+ pounds, not 60, but if I had to do it again,

I’d pay attention to me–first.

My mother passed away at the age of 92. A good long life. For the most part, she took good care of her health, and still, she wound up with two debilitating diseases. It took almost a year to drop my “caregiver spread” and I’m grateful I had the momentum and ability to do so. It wasn’t easy. Paying attention to your health is something we simply have to incorporate into our very core. We especially need it in our caregiving years.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

Available on Amazon and in most bookstores

Kunati Publishing

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