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Archive for the ‘passions’ Category

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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Do you feel like running away?

You may have restless caregiver syndrome.

What’s that, you ask?

I may have made up the term, but I certainly experienced it firsthand.

Have you seen the commercials for restless leg syndrome?

They’re kind of quirky, and I’m not saying that it’s not a serious disorder, but it’s presented in a way that makes my own legs twitch! Nothing like an idea planted in your brain.

But that’s exactly what I felt like some days as I cared for my mom who had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. I just couldn’t sit still. I wanted to run, to stay busy, to go, go, go.

I guess I was scared.

I was scared my mother would consume me.

I was scared that this was going to be my life from now on, and that by accepting it now, I was accepting it forever.

I was scared that if I sat still, thought too long, I’d realize it was a mistake, that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was scared I’d grow old and not have the life, the adventures, the memories and journeys I’d always dreamed of.

Restless caregiver syndrome happens off and on in the caregiving process. It occurs when you’ve given up your old life in order to care for your loved one. It’s also compounded by a sandwich generation lifestyle where everyone wants something from you all the time. And, if you’re female, you may be dealing with the oh so lovely change of life–men-o-pause. And, on top of that, you’re probably a boomer and thinking about your own future, i.e. finances, career, retirement, aging, etc.

You became a caregiver because your loved one needed you. You did it believing it was the right thing to do. You told yourself there were some benefits—getting out of a dead-end job, able to spend more time at home, maybe take better care of your own health, or begin that second career you’ve always dreamed of.

Only…

Caregiving isn’t quite what you’d thought it’d be. You’re bored. Stressed. Unmotivated. Overwhelmed by all the stuff there is to do, and how little you feel you get done. You have time (sometimes) but no focus, no initiative.

Your loved one certainly needs your assistance, but you didn’t plan on becoming someone’s personal butler, driver, maid, and cook. They also seem to enjoy your being at your beck and call—or they’re miserable, fussy, or constantly apologizing. You didn’t think all this emotional baggage would come in tow.

You‘re consumed by caregiving even when you’re not caregiving.

You’re fumbling in your own life. Directionless. How long can this go on? The years stretch out in front of you like a vast desert. Some days, sure, you feel on top of your game, but there’s also an underlying sense of sadness. You know where this is going to end.

A restlessness has built up inside you. You gotta get out. You can’t sit in that living room chair one more minute. You can’t scramble one more egg. But you’re stuck.

How to Combat Restless Caregiver Syndrome:

·       Play a game with yourself: if you were under house arrest, but you weren’t caregiving, what would you do? What resources do you have right at home?

·       If someone gave you three years to reinvent yourself, what would you do? Learn a new language? Take some classes and become a computer whiz? Sell your handmade jewelry online?

·       Create a structure you can live with. You call the shots. You decide when dinner is, you decide the med routine. If you want your loved one to go to bed at 7pm so you can have the night to yourself, then arrange it. Create boundaries you can honor that make your life easier.

·       Start planning for time off. Check into respite care; hire a CNA for $20.00 an hour. It may take you a while to get all this in order, but do your homework, find someone you feel your loved one is safe with, and start taking regular breaks.

·       Don’t use your take out for anything that you aren’t dying to do. Go for a mountain hike, antique shopping, to the local pub to watch a football game—anything that will make you feel as if you’ve truly taken a break. No errands. No combining. Time off is time for you.

·       Create a room—your bedroom, a spare office, part of the garage that is just for you. Make it your haven. Put a cooler in there with drinks, stock a mini-bar, and collect magazines only you like— and go there — alone. Your family and loved ones will respect what you respect—and they will run rough-shod over you if you let them.

·       Call a friend and vent for 10 minutes. Set the timer and then just go for it. After that, tell your friend to forbid you from any further complaining for the day. Complaining and whining and griping are good, but not when it’s a toilet bowl that never flushes. I mean that visual to be disgusting so that you’d STOP. Incessant thinking is unhealthy.

·       Use your fidgetiness and wear yourself out. Do something physical—put all your anger and edginess into it. Clean out the frig, scrub the bathroom tiles and get out the gunk around the shower door. Use your restlessness.

·       Find a safety valve. If you’re really about to blow your top, how can you get away? Do you have an emergency person? Can you take them to adult day care? Are they okay for a couple of hours alone if you really couldn’t take it anymore? Have a plan B—because sometimes, it all gets to be too much.

·       If you have siblings and you’ve been carrying this burden alone—then make the call and insist they help out in some way. Even if it’s paying for home help, then that’s a help. Don’t let resentment and exhaustion build up. Tell them how hard it is. Insist you get a weekend off every few months—and a week or two of vacation time a year. You only get what you ask for, so ask!

·       Don’t be a perfectionist and think everything has to be exactly right and exactly your way. If you do, you’ll be a slave to the mundane. Choose a few things to do well, and a few things to do lousy. Nobody ever died because the forks were sticking up in the dishwasher.

·       If your loved one is being ugly, then get in the car and leave. Even driving around the block helps. I used to walk out back, down the embankment out at the river—and scream. So what if the neighbors heard! Better they hear me scream than gunshotsJ They’re adults and can be alone for 5 minutes and they need to be taught that you will not be mistreated. Make that point clear.

You get what you allow.

Sometimes, you’re just going to feel restless as caregiver. You’re going to want to run, to scream, to change your name to Flo and become a waitress on some seaside pier restaurant (my fantasy, not yours necessarily).

When you feel like running, then run. Get out as much as you can. Even if it’s just out the front door and around the block. Hide, sneak out, stay in bed an extra half hour, stand in your shower until the water turns cold. Do what your gut is telling you to do–at least in some small way. If you let off the pressure valve, then maybe, maybe the whole thing won’t blow.

Trust yourself. Trust your journey and this process.

Later, there will come a time when you might not be able to “run,” so do it now. Trust that you will come back.

After your loved one passes, you’ll go through this all over again—there’ll be days when you just can’t be at home. It’s a part of the grieving process. There’ll be other days, or weeks that you can’t make yourself leave. Home feels safe.

Again, trust yourself. Trust that your body, your soul, and your heart knows how to heal itself.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Family Advisor at Caring.com

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.opentohope.com

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Caregiving isn’t exactly synonymous with a spicy love life–not until now. Maybe a passionate love life is just what the doctor ordered…

 

Dr. Christine Northrup, Oprah’s gynecologist on speed dial and author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, and the Wisdom of Menopause suggests that you spend 30 minutes three time a week in “self love.”

(Yes, that’s right. We’re talking about the M word)

Now, I can only speak for myself here, but unless “self love” includes eating a bag of Dove chocolates, painting my toenails and thumbing through a magazine, I’m going to have about 27 minutes to kill.

 

It’s not like I have to woo myself or assure myself that I’ll respect me in the morning…

 

As a caregiver, mother, daughter, sandwich generationer, pet “mom,” I have to tell you, thirty uninterrupted minutes is hard to come by.
(pah dum,dum)

 

I figure I can blog about this if Oprah can discuss it at 4:00 in the afternoon while I’m making chicken pot pie.

Besides, a healthy love life is important–and most of us would rather “play with others,” so let’s take the leap.

 

Why bother? You haven’t got time? You have no drive?

You’re beyond exhausted? You’ll deal with “that” later?

 

Here’s why it’s crucial: 

 

Being a passionate person spills over into everything in your life–how you dress, walk, what you choose to eat, how generous you are with your time and energies, how affectionate you are to all living creatures–not to mention the effects giving and receiving love has on your heart, immune system, psychological, emotional and spiritual foundation.

 

Here’s a few tips for revving up the ole’ love life for couples who are also caregivers, raise kids, and walk dogs. Believe me, I’ve been there–forty pounds heavier than I am today–sleep deprived, irritable, and pulled in a thousand directions–and living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s isn’t exactly conducive to candles and teddys.

 

Mom’s Home—Quick, Lock the Bedroom Door!Enjoy Your Relationship Even if Your Mom

Lives With You

· Put a lock on your bedroom door—and use it
· Sneak around—intimacy doesn’t just have to happen in the bedroom. Be playful! Flirt!
· Nix the old t-shirt and sweats and wear attractive PJs—they don’t have to be overly sexy to be attractive.
· Stay affectionate–even if you have to make yourself at first—call each other during the day just for a “Hi, and I love you,” hug and kiss hello and goodbye, cuddle on the couch, call each other affectionate names/ take baths or showers together (you do remember those?)
. Take short walks together—even 5 or 10 minutes of fresh air is invigorating and gives you a chance to talk
· Plan a surprise—sneak out to the yard after dark to cuddle on a quilt under the stars with cups of hot chocolate
. Laugh! Rent a comedy, pop some popcorn and sit ont the couch together–not in dueling recliners
· Don’t sweat it if you aren’t in a lovey-dove mood–caregiving is stressful and there are seasons in life. Remember though, a healthy love life is healing, satisfying and stress relieving—and better for you than a bottle of Scotch

  • If you’re a care partner, you have also face physical challenges. Talk, cuddle, find out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t think you have to “go all the way.” Find your own way.

Being a caregiver, care receiver, or care partner doesn’t mean you–or your loved one is dead. Unearthing those needs and desires means you’re still alive. Love and passion are vital.

Say “yes” to LIFE every chance you get.

And don’t forget–holding hands is still pretty darn great.

Happy V 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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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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Today, I’ll continue my conversation with author, Linda Merlino.

Her book, Belly of the Whale will be released in April and is about a woman who finds that cancer isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Hudson Catalina finds herself a hostage of a killer, held in a gas station as violence unfolds. She thought cancer would kill her. Then, a bullet. And then, she decided to fight.  

I’d pick this book up with this premise in a heartbeat.

So, what’s it got to do with caregiving? Death and dying? Everything.

It’s just like life to throw one catastrophe at us and then wallop us from the side with another. Only then, after our self-wallowing whining and being knocked around a few times do we find that we get mad, and get up. Psychologists say humans (and most animals) have a fight or flight mechanism. I say we also have a fight or die one too.  

I know if I get pushed down (and I have, many times), I collapse, cry, grow quiet, too quiet, doubt myself, and then….I get mad. I get back up. I’ve seen myself do this in an almost out of body experience (observation–observing that I’m observing) I hate to see me cower. God, I hate that. I hate bullies, but man, do they teach good lessons.

Where I got this from, I don’t know. I’ve always been stubborn—and rebellious.

What’s your default? How can you use your “bad” qualities for the good? I’ve learned I have to, they’re like a good old pack of dogs always laying under my feet and following me wherever I go. Faithful to a fault. I have to put my “bad side” to work–give it something to do. Make it play fetch.

Even before I was adopted, I’ve been told that my grandmother would tell me the opposite thing to do in order to get me to do the thing she wanted. And I was only four!  Now, I try to use it for the good.  

Linda’s character, Hudson, has gone into “the belly of the whale,” the dark night of the soul, the fear of death and suffering…and that got me wondering…

where does the “will to live” come from?  

Some caregivers are passive. They let life happen to them, and then caregivingcame along and “just happened.” But many times, caregiving will cause us to face our own fears and reflect on our own lives.  

Some people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or cancer (not to mention ALS, MS, and other debilitating diseases) succumb to the sorrow and seemingly give up. Others fight like hell. Why? Personality? Life events? What causes a person to get to the point to either lay down—or stand up—to life?   So I asked Linda:  

Q: When it comes to life and death, how much do you feel is “will” or just a person’s time to go? A: You can will things to happen.  I believe that; even death.  I believe also, that there is a time and a purpose in all of what life brings to us.  We do not know when we will run out of summers.  In “Belly of the Whale”, Hudson Catalina feels her time to go is imminent.  The beast she’s been running away from since she was fourteen has finally caught up with her and although she appeared to be fighting the fight, at heart, she probably never believed she would win against cancer. People of extraordinary faith, whether it is old time religion or simple spirituality, can defy the odds.  Even if death finds them through illness, accident or tragedy, rather than old age, these faith-driven folk teach us all a lesson.  

Here is an excerpt from “Belly of the Whale”: 

Ruby Desmond to Hudson Catalina “I’m a woman of great faith,” Ruby said. 

“When Charlie passed, I relied on my belief in God to help me through those long days and even longer nights.” “Weren’t you angry?” I asked her. 

“His dying just like your Daddy is like my mother and I dying of breast cancer.” 

First off, child, you are not dead yet; and second, things don’t go according to our plan, no way, no how.” 

Ruby made her point by thrusting her head back into her rocker and pushing off hard on the runners. 

“I’m not unfeeling to your situation, child, but the truth is you have already decided what is going to happen and that’s plain crazy.  God isn’t to blame for these unfortunate times in our lives.” 

“Who is then?” I asked. 

“Just like I said before, I never get the answers I want when I ask.” 

She made a circle with her fingers in the air. 

 “If you’re asking me, which you are, I’ll tell you that life’s a circle and we go around like the spokes on a wheel.  Sometimes we’re happy, our faces in the light, and sometimes the wheel thrusts us into harsh places of darkness and despair.  But we have to believe that it keeps going around, back into the light.  Never give up hope.”   

Q: What was the bud or seed of this story? 

A: The interesting thing is that the seed or bud of this story was not about Hudson Catalina or about breast cancer.  In fact, the very seed of this book was centered on the character, Willy Wu.  The original title of the novel was “Willy Wu”.  At the time that I began putting words to paper I was re-reading some of Joseph Campbell’s works and I was taken once again with his concept of heroes.  Coupled with this and the desire to write a story about a character like Willy, who is challenged physically, mentally and verbally, I wondered how much Willy processed and if he could transcend his stereotyping and be a hero. 

Part II of “Belly of the Whale” begins with: “Heroes are the most unassuming, and the most improbable of individuals.”Through the filter system of publishing Willy became autistic.

 In the early stages I hesitated to tag Willy.  I felt that the community of his peers might be offended by the mention of a more defined diagnosis.  Now that the story is completed I am comfortable with Willy being autistic.  He rises above his handicaps and fulfills my original intention.   

The story evolved and Hudson Catalina became the main character leaving Willy to be a hero in the true sense.  Hudson must face her fears, but Willy is not capable of fear.  He trusts everyone.  He is innocent, he is pure, he knows about heroes. 

More tomorrow. This is just too good to gorge on all at one time. Savor.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

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You’ve been caregiving awhile–

and you have to admit, you’re good at it.

But how would you know?

What is an UBER-Caregiver anyway?

In this context, I mean “over the top, more than necessary, to excess”

See if any of these fit you:

  • You take pride in the fact that you can maneuver your way around the Medicare/Medicaid site.
  • You know all the medical/caregiver lingo and even use the acronyms.
  • You talk like you’re a pharmacist  and try to diagnose everyone else in your life.  
  • Your loved one’s doctors ask you’ve ever considered going into medicine.
  • You’re the unofficial leader of your local support group.
  • Your loved one is always clean and matching, and people comment what good care you give.
  • Your loved one’s daily regime is more planned and detailed than a wartime tactical maneuver.
  • You’ve started introducing yourself as your loved one’s caregiver–not their son, daughter, spouse.
  • Your friends and family say they’d like you to be their caregiver when the time comes….

I know your defenses (my defenses)

You have to get good at this. You can’t help it, it comes with the territory. What else do you have to do? You might as well do it right if you’re going to bother at all.

It fills you with a sense of pride. And rightly so. Only…

Somewhere deep inside you there’s a small voice that says, “this isn’t what/who you thought you’d be when you grew up.”

You had other plans.

There are other things you’re good at to.

How did this happen?

Uber-caregiving isn’t all bad. Your loved one certainly benefits. They’re taken care of well–whether they like it or want it or not.

It’s the flip-side of Uber-Parenting and I’m guessing here, but I think it comes with perfectionist tendencies, wanting to please, and a tenacious spirit that loves to learn and be good at things.

Have you ever seen the mother who fusses with her toddler too much?

She leaps every time they take a tumble. She says they’re hot and bundles them up–too much–their little cheeks are flushed and they look pudgy in their three layers. She’s a know-it-all that drives all the other parents bonkers. She thinks her kid is brilliant…and therefore, by default, yours isn’t…

Same thing, honey. It’s irritating as hell.  

And while it’s good to be good at what you do, you might have gotten carried away.

Why? For me, I think I was bored. My mind and body is active and is always searching for something to challenge it and keep it engaged–for meaning and purpose. And the only thing that seemed available at the time was caregiving. Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and Parkinson’s had become my life. I liked the challenge. I liked learning how to handle all this. It made me feel smart–and needed.

The only thing is, it’s not all I’m meant to be. I’ve always been a writer/communicator/artist. That’s who I am at my core.

Why is Uber-Caregiving Not So Good For You?

You might be driving your loved one nuts.

You might be driving away help.

You might be isolating yourself and not know it.

You might be running from your demons/avoiding personal soul/heart work.

It might not be as fulfilling as you try and tell yourself it is.

And one thing I know for sure.

You’ll eventually be out of a job.

Our elderly, our infirmed loved ones will eventually die.

I know you don’t want to hear that word. You don’t want to think about it. Part of you believes that if you’re good enough, give them the right meds, find the right doctor, enroll in the right treatment plan…that they won’t die. You’ll have more time.

You might (might) buy them–and you a little time, but people die. Death, dying, grieving are all a part of this experience. We avoid it as long as we can, but eventually, we have to look at it.

I say that with a gentle voice and tender hand. You can’t always feels those things across the abyss of the Internet, but I mean that with utmost kindness.

 

Your loved one will pass away, and your life must go on.

What will you do then? After years of caregiving. Years of pouring your heart and soul and energy–and money into all that caregiving asks and seems to demand.

And then your life changes. It’s over. In one day. And you walk around in a blur. Part of you is relieved. You’re exhausted, you didn’t even know how exhausted you were, but another part–a bigger part is completely and utterly lost.

I tell you this because I know. That’s how I felt after my mom passed away after three years of full-time caregiving and 15 years of being her only child, her daugher, and her caregiver coordinator. That’s a long time. Long enough for that identity to form.

When I started writing Mothering Mother, I didn’t realize I would become an uber-caregiver, and I certainly didn’t do it all right. I wasn’t a perfectionist, but at times, I was a know-it-all because caregiving was all that I felt like I was thinking, doing, being. Writing about my mother’s actual passing allowed me to look beyond that point, to deal with my guilt and grief–and begin to slowly build my life again. I did because I didn’t want anyone else to have to face it alone.

I ask you, look past today. Look past that moment of death. Look past that year of grieving, and look into your own future.

Who will you be?

What will you do?

We’ll talk more tomorrow.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, available on Amazon and in most bookstores.

Kunati Publishing

www.mothering-mother.com

 

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I was featured on Sandy Springs Radio, AM 1620, Atlanta area station. (http://www.radiosandysprings.com/passions.php) and interviewed by host Bernard Kearse on his radio program, Following Your Passions.

Mr.Kearse interviews people from all walks of life who have found passion in who they are and what they do.  

What makes a passionate caregiver?

A passionate caregiver is someone who is still engaged–in caring for their loved one and caring for themselves.

A passionate caregiver asks for help.

A passionate caregiver knows that they need allies. They incorporate their friends, extended family, church, and community into their lives.

A passionate caregiver gets angry–and knows how to use it in constructive ways.

A passionate caregiver gets frustrated at times–they might cry, yell or demand that their loved one’s needs are attended to.

A passionate caregiver refuses to be isolated. They rely on their friends, spouses, and others to keep them in balance.

A passionate caregiver gets out, reaches out, and looks outward–knowing their lives must go on past caregiving.

A passionate caregiver laughs at the craziness, chaos, and absurdity that comes with the challenges of dealing with such debilitating diseases. They keep it in perspective and finds the ironies of life.

A passionate caregiver is present–even for all the scary, nasty, terrifying parts of life. They dig in and face the dark, knowing they will survive. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, heart disease are all faced with tenderness  and when needed, tough love.

A passionate caregiver chooses dignity, grace, and mercy–for themselves and others.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

Kunati Publishing

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

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