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

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

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

Not a great beginning.

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

Healing took a long, long time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why I keep him.

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from SAID CHILD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh won’t you please shine down on me.

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

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

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

***

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com, publishers

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If someone microchips their dog we think of them as acting loving and responsible.

Is that a good enough reason to put a microchip in a human? Isn’t that too “big brother-ish?”

We also put dogs to sleep, right? So maybe that’s not the best analogy.

As you can see, microchipping a human is controversial.

Why?

Some would argue it’s an invasion of privacy.

Others would argue it could be used by someone other than a family member or police.

Others say there are health concerns, such as cancer.

We insert pacemakers, steel rods and plates, silicone and collagen into our bodies, surely we can figure out how to make a tiny chip safe (enough) to give us some peace of mind.

What do you think?

You might feel different if you’ve ever lost your mom or dad. If they’ve ever snuck out of the house half dressed or not dressed at all. If they have Alzheimer’s and are not thinking clearly–insist they’re going to catch a taxi–my mother said that constantly even though I’m not sure she had ever ridden in a taxi in her life–and how in the world did she happen to remember that word but not her own daughter’s name?

Many, many, many night, I caught my mother trying to escape. We had several safety measure on the doors, and an alarm system that would beep if any doors or windows were opened, but still, I worried. She insisted she had to go preach, had to go to church, needed to go to the store and mostly….she needed to go home.

I was also worried because there was a river in our back yard and a 17 foot bluff/drop off. That didn’t seem to register to mother who was drawn more to the driveway and the street. We caught her in the bushes–a lot. And I was a vigilant caregiver. She was just slippery. I actually thanked God she had Parkinson’sto slow her down. Terrible thing to be thankful for, but as I see other moms with Alzheimer’s, and knowing my mother’s strength and fiestiness, I was grateful for any deterrent.

Why “chip?”

  • So they won’t get out and get hit by a car.
  • So they wont’ be kidnapped, raped, fall, wander in the woods.
  • So that so much time doesn’t lapse that they miss crucial medications.
  • So that if they take a car, bus, or train, you’ll know and won’t spend precious minutes, hours, or days in absolute panic and terror.

So yes, I would microchip. Give the benefits of the chip outweighs the risks.  I think. 

Let’s not confuse the issue here: most microchips simply hold information so that if/when the person is found, the information can be “read.” Most of these chips are not tracking devices. Technically, they’re called RFID–Radio Frequency Identification Device. 

One of the major controversies has to do with several studies that suggest that these implanted devices could cause subcutanous sarcomas — malignant tumors. This isn’t due to the radio frequency, it’s simply due to something foreign being under the skin (the tumors develop around the chip itself. Opponents argue that of the 10 million chipped pets, this isn’t a major issue, but it is something to think about.

So now, I’m back to wondering, would I?

The chip will only help “mom” out when someone (the police, etc) find her. If she’s stuck out in the woods tangled in briars, it won’t help?

I guess in my situation, I wouldn’t have been overly concerned about the cancer, considering her age and the greater risk of her getting lost–but I’d only do it it kept my mom safe and allowed us to find her quickly. I would want her found minutes, not days later.

One major microchip company that has recently been in the news is Verichip.

The chips about the size of a grain of rice and contains a 16-digit identification number which is scanned at a hospital. Once the number is placed in a database, it can provide crucial medical information.

This chip is now being tested in about 25 Alzheimer’s and elder/ill persons in Palm Beach,  and Del Ray Beach, Florida.

Here are some articles on microchips so you can decide for yourself:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=3536539

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/elder_tracking/rfid-microchips-implanted-into-alzheimers-patients-294731.php

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1672865,00.html

Memory disorder units use various types of wander protection for their residents. They have to. This is different than microchipping, but eventually, microchipping will be incorporated into this system. If you ever have to place your loved one somewhere due to Alzheimer’s, then you’ll need to know how they safeguard their residents. A building full of Alzheimer’s patients could spell disaster without a decisive protection plan. That’s why these units cost so much. You can expect to pay 4-6,000 dollars a month. (gasp)

One such system is Roam Alert, and here’s a diagram of how it works in a facility. Each resident must wear a non-removable band. While this may cause skin irritation and some patients obssess about it, it’s a necessary component.

 

 

Benefits to the wanderer:

  • Freedom to interact with other residents
  • Freedom to use facility’s resources
  • Safety from wandering into dangerous areas

 

To cognitive residents:

  • Freedom to mingle with all residents
  • Avoid “prison lock-down” image

 

To the facility:

  • first line of defense
  • Insurance coverage
  • Quick response to wandering

I’m not endorsing anything here, I’m just using these companies as examples of what’s out there. Most family caregivers are too busy doing the actual care–driving to the docs, cleaning up, meds, and food prep to have the time or energy to do all this research.

I can’t help but believe that this is all a matter of time until we track and chip our loved one’s who cannot make good judgements. We will have to reconcile our sense of moral obligation in regard to privacy issues with our moral obligation to keep them safe.

Will there be abuses? I’m sure. Just like all technology, it’s amoral and up to the user to be ethical. We can already track people by their cell phones, and as the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients swell, this will not only become big business, it’ll become a national concern.

If not the chip, how do we keep mom and dad (or our husbands and wives, sisters and brothers) safe?

I’m just asking because I truly don’t know the answer.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

 

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Want to know the worst aspect of caregiving?

The monotony.

Can I get an “Amen?!”

It’s true. It’s not the doctor’s visits, how long it takes to get in and out of the car, the snide comments your loved one makes about your housekeeping, your weight, or your marriage. It’s not the broken hip, the hospital bed in your livingrooom, the way they no longer remember your children’s names. No, it’s the monotony.

Mono–one. Tony–tone. One tone.

Every day, it’s the pills, the trays, the exercises, the TV shows, the occasional change of a home health visit or a doc appointment, but overall, if you’re not careful, your days can get pretty gloomy.

When I was a kid, Saturday night was a ritual. I got a real bath in a bathtub (not those sink/sponge baths). I got my nails, elbows, knees and toes scrubbed with a brush. Mama rolled my hair on sponge rollers and I practiced my memory verse for Sunday school. We ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup while we watched Lawrence Welk. I remember Saturday nights well. To this day, Saturday nights mean I scrub my nails.

Here are a few suggestions for shaking things up on the weekend:

  • Take advantage of EVERY holiday. Spike your Sprite or apple juice with green food dye–serve green eggs and ham for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t let a holiday go by without at least a cupcake!
  • Make Friday night movie night–get Netflix or run get something. It may be a routine, but it’s something to look forward to. Trying to find something for both of you to enjoy? Watch the original Manchurian Candidate, Sabrina, Dirty Dozen, or My Fair Lady–these are old classics, but they’re still classic. After you loved one starts to snooze, pop in a new flick for yourself.
  • Make Saturdays special–yard day, Dairy Queen day, blueberry pancake day–whatever you do, make it different than the other days. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast for dinner. Pack the pills, a snack, and go for a drive. Sit next to a river or lake on lawn chairs and eat your snack–even if they can’t get out of the car–the scenery is different!
  • Is Sunday a day of religious practice for you? Or another day? If you can’t go to church then create your own. Read from your favorite text. Light a candle. Create a prayer journal. Sing a hymn. Alzheimer’s and dementia folk respond to music, poetry, and faith practices because it’s so deeply engrained. Faith is important, particularly to our elders, so honor their traditions. You might find they bring you comfort. Incorporate a few of your own spiritual practices, whether it be yoga, meditation, or new songs of faith and hope.
  • Whatever happened to Sunday dinner? Now, I’m not saying you have to cook it all…some families go out for Chinese, others do a pot-luck, others head to the Picadilly Cafeteria. Invite someone over–pop in a frozen apple pie and get out the ice cream.
  • Make Sunday (or pick another one) and truly make it your Sabbath. A day or rest. Our bodies, souls, and spirits need down time. Take a nap that day. Be quiet, take a slow walk. Don’t throw in the laundry, mop the floor and try and do next week’s long list of chores. Chores you will have with you always (to paraphrase).

My point is to make Saturday and Sunday not look like Monday-Friday. It may have a routine, but it’s a different routine.

Caregivingis a lot like being a pre-school teacher. Incorporate fun, celebration, and “play” any way you can as often as you can.  

Save something special for weekends–something you do, eat, buy, go to vist, that’s not done on any other day.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

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I’m backing out of my driveway the other day with my cell phone cocked on my shoulder as I set a date with Studio 10 TV in Tampa Florida. I’m not sure even a year ago I could imagine myself doing that–preparing for a television program about caregiving, elder-care, Alzheimer’s, family and mothers. As I hung up the phone and marked the date in my calendar, I remembered a small vignette I wrote in MOTHERING MOTHER–how my mother and I were “Quite a Pair.” We were ironically suited for one another.

If anyone had dared to say this to me even five years ago, they would have encountered an icy stare. The caregiving years were not the time to remind me of our likenesses. That was not how I wanted to see myself, and although my mother was  bossy, opinionated and volitile. She was also dynamic, funny, and quite the professional.

My mother held her ministerial papers for over 52 years. She preached and taught, sang and played many instruments and was on TV and radio. She “carried herself well” as the southern saying goes. She was still my mother through and through, and even though I came to her late in life (she adopted me when she was 54, Daddy, 58), she still had a few good years left.

I witnessed how she’d get ready to preach–saw her closet full of suits, her handbags and matching shoes. The housework quieted as she prepared for her sermon or Sunday school lesson. She studied, prepared, practiced, and then she was up there–in front of everybody–waltzing across the stage like she was on Broadway. She was as comfortable speaking before hundreds or thousands as she was in the living room with her feet up. I hope some of that rubs off on me, and of course, she had me singing and testifying at the age of four in front of the whole congregation. No wonder it feels familiar.

Daddy and I sat on the front row, proud. I despised her at times–she was a walking juxtaposition of good and evil (it seemed to me, anyway), but up there…even I had to admit she was pretty amazing. 

Even after writing MOTHERING MOTHER and the prequel, SAID CHILD, after many revisions and edits, I still find that I’m learning something about her–and me.

And here I am, talking to TV producers and thanking my mother for her example.  

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