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Archive for the ‘the secret’ Category

Creating a bedtime ritual is good for the body and soul.

Parents do this for their children–read them a book, sing a song, say a prayer. Why do we ever stop?

Everything from brushing your teeth to the way you fluff your pillow gives cues to your body to begin to relax and let go. It’s a great way to ward off insomnia and over-thinking/worrying.

 

I always ask myself two questions at the end of each day:

What was the best part of my day?

What am I looking forward to tomorrow?

As I ask myself the first question, I almost always get a visual, and about 85% of the time the best part of my day had something to do with nature. Not about me achieving my goals–and believe me, I’m very goal driven. It’s not about a royalty check reflecting how many books I’ve sold or some other personal achievement (sometimes it is, but it has to be something I feel I’ve earned or dreamed about for a long time).

The first question allows me reflect upon the day.

It’s about the double-winged dragonfly that zipped past me while I was biking. Or the blue heron that stood still and let me get really close. Or the field of wild rabbits I came up on. No matter where you live–New York City or Kalamazoo, there’s more nature around you than you think. It’s there for a reason–it sustains you in so many ways.

 

Nature gets me outside myself. It connects me with all living things. It’s exquisite,  exotic, powerful, and surprising. Sometimes I relive these moments–the feel of my hair lifting off my shoulders as I bike, the buoyancy of the waves as I body surf–reliving those moments at the end of my day is living life twice.

Occasionally, it’s about an old friend that called, a recognition I’m particularly honored to receive, but more times than not–it’s not about me.

This one question has also changed my day. What will I have to tell myself at the end of the day if I don’t get outside and give opportunity for those “best parts of my day” to present themselves?

It’s heightened my awareness. I step out my front door expecting a miracle, or at the very least, a gift.  When that hummingbird appears, that deer looks me in the eye, I’m acutely aware–and grateful. I tuck in my memory like a pebble in my pocket knowing I’ll get to enjoy it again as I lay my head on my pillow.

The second question links me to the new day in front of me.

This one I heard from Dr. Phil.Now I’m not crazy about the direction he’s taken with his Jerry Springer-esque tv show, but I heard that he asks his sons this question each night so that they would end the day on a note of hope.

No matter our age or circumstance of life–we all need something to look forward to tomorrow.

Whether it’s meeting a friend for lunch or the next day’s walk, we need to go to sleep with the thought that tomorrow is waiting for us.

It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to cost money. It’s about creating a life of meaning.

Even our elders those we are caregiving need to look forward to the next day.

This again, causes us to create our days, make plans, and focus.

Create a morning ritual as well. 

List 5 things you’re grateful for before you get up.

Again, we’re talking simple.

Here’s today’s morning list for me:

I’m grateful for–

  • a bike ride (I go on one every morning)
  • my dog Rupert and his he sits nudged under my desk as I write
  • cherries that are in season–and the bowl that awaits me when I get up
  • my favorite pillow–gushy
  • my newly painted office that is lipstick red with white trim–and has a whole wall painted in chalkboard paint so I can literally write on the walls

Nothing earth shattering, but as my feet hit the ground each morning, I do what was suggested in the book, The Secret. Each step I take on my way to the bathroom–I say, “thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.” Out loud. I

‘m smiling by the time I glance into the mirror.

This sure is better than beating myself up for saying something stupid that day, or mulling over a pile of bills, or rehasing a disagreement. There is a time to deal with those things, but that time isn’t the last thing at night or the first thing in the morning.

Protect this sacred time. Gather the best, look forward to tomorrow–

and fill your heart with gratitude.

 

I’m Carol O’Dell, and this is my blog, Mothering Mother and More, found at caroldodell.wordpress.com/

Carol is the author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir.

It’s a collection of stories and thoughts for families and caregivers written in real time as she cared for her mother who suffered with Alzheimer’ and Parkinson’s.

Mothering Mother is available at Amazon and can be requested at any bookstore or library.

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One of the practices hospice recommends is to ask your loved one’s fforgiveness–and to offer yours.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. The importance, or power of forgiveness and how it might keep us here on earth, lingering. Everything hospice does is to make passing easy, comfortable, and to give a sense of closure to everyone.

And here’s this forgiveness“issue” needing to be addressed, perhaps for the first time in many family member’s lives–and for others, it’s a reassurance, a final healing of many healings we all must go through in life.

Isn’t it amazing that a lack of forgiveness can hold you to this world when your spirit is ready to leave?

It doesn’t even matter if your loved one is in a coma, or if they have cancer and are on morphine, or if they have Alzheimer’s or some other neurological disorder that may make you feel that they are beyond understanding. They’re not. You’re not. I believe that forgiveness, and the ability to give and receive forgiveness is at a cellular level. What we think, dwell on, harbor, hold on to, refuse to let go of–it has to go somewhere. It enters our muscles, or bones, or organs, and permeates all that we are.

I’m not implying that those who linger on and on, for whatever reason have “unforgiveness.” I’m not saying that at all.

Sometimes the hurts we harbor are from blantant acts of cruelty while others bubbled from years of silent sorrows. Either are weights to our souls.

What’s it mean to forgive–and be forgiven?

I was brought up in a Christian based household, and unfortuately, some interpretations of the Bible have us tangled in sin and shame. We create a trap we can’t seem to find our way out of. Not all faiths do this, not all families or churches do this, but I know that it took me some time to realize God doesn’t need to do the forgiving, we do. 

God’s forgiveness of humanity, of each individual’s life is limitless, and easy. He’s not into grudges, resentments, and guilt. We are. Unfortunately. We’re the ones that have to “work at” forgiveness.

“Forgiveness means being able to finally say, ‘thank you for giving me the insights I’ve gained from this experience.'”

I heard this from one of the founders of the book, The Secret, and no matter how you feel about that subject, this quote turned things upside down for me–in a good way.

That hit me in my gut. I thought of rape victims, family members of murder victims, family members of people who have overdosed or committed suicide, of all the lives taken by war and disease…and yet all of us, all of us must eventually come to our own end, to a place of giving and receiving forgiveness.

No matter what has been done to us.

No matter what we have done.

We will all be there, in our final days and minutes of passing–and forgiveness stands guard of the gate.

***

I can only speak of my own life here. My own hurts. I’ve had some. And it took a long, long time to come to this place. I’m not necessarily grateful for the experience, but I am grateful for what I’ve learned. My deepest hurts and shames, both of my own doing and that done to me, what I’ve learned has been a greater tenderness for life, a few stones of wisdom to carry in my pocket, and the ability (occasionally) to discern what’s really important.

This is what I’ve learned. What I’ve gleaned from a few very dark nights.

***

I can’t begin to postulate as to how to do this, or when, and I’m not going to lecture anyone here. If you’re reading this post, maybe it’s for a reason. You’ll know when you need to look at something again. You’ll know–life has a way of revealing what it is we’re supposed to deal with, examine.

It’s okay if it isn’t right now. If the wound is fresh, then most likely, no. You’ll have time. This isn’t something to fix or check off a list. Forgiveness is rarely instantaneous, and it can’t be forced.

Again, for me, I get lots of “passes at” forgiveness. I’m usually a last minute packer, but this is one area, I hope not to leave to last minute.

It’s like circling a mountain. Each time I find myself at the same location, looking at the same old issue, but sometimes, my elevation is a bit higher. I do a little heart work, see it from a different perspective, and then I keep walking–knowing that I’ll circle the mountain again, and I’ll have a new opportunity. Until then, I need to just live.

***

If you or your loved one is at this last juncture, and this question is one that needs to be addressed, know that this isn’t your last time. Heart work, healing work continues. Two bodies don’t have to be on earth to continue learning and forgiving.

But take this moment, say the words, “I forgive you. Will you forgive me?”

Whether it comes out just like that–or in some other form, words or no words, allow the power of forgiveness to change you.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

www.mothering-mother.com

 

 

Forgivess quotes:

Forgiveness is the giving, and the receiving, of life.     George MacDonald

Forgivess is the frangrance the violet gives when the heal has crushed it.    Mark Twain

Forgivness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr

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I remember that day well. The day I knew I couldn’t keep on caregiving like I was–not full-time, 24/7, in our home.

It wasn’t about being exhausted to the bone, frustrated to the point I had gritted my teeth down to the nubs, or numb due to months of interrupted and little sleep.

It wasn’t about me. Or Alzheimer’s. Or the end stages of Parkinson’s.

My breaking point was about my daughter.

I wrote in Mothering Mother:

I didn’t expect it—not today—the day I would decide I couldn’t take care of Mother anymore. It’s not really about how hard it is to care for her, but then again, maybe it is.

I should have known that in the end the deciding factor would not be when I had had enough, but when my family had had enough.

Cherish, our youngest daughter is in the hospital. She has a severe kidney infection.

It started out with a backache that lasted for a couple of weeks, and then last night she came down with flu-like symptoms, only something was different about it. My mothering instinct kicked in, and I told Phillip I had to take her to the emergency room.

She was admitted, and for the first time, I found myself in the children’s wing of the hospital, the walls decorated with brightly colored tropical fish murals, and a friendly, concerned staff.

I spent day and night beside her, getting washcloths, holding back her hair and wondering how she had gotten so sick and I didn’t know it. I’ve spent every lucid moment taking care of my mother. My own child needed me and I didn’t pick up on it.

 

Cherish’s medications worked and we barely avoided surgery, but they told us one kidney was smaller than the other and we would have to continue to monitor the situation. She spent five days slowly improving. My mother-in-law flew in to take care of my mother, which was a godsend. 

On the day we were told we could leave, the doctor did a final exam. She asked Cherish, “Who’s your best friend?” and “What do you like to do for fun?”

Cherish’s answers were polite, but lacked enthusiasm. I wondered how I’d answer the same questions. Our life had become as bland and monotonous as a bowl of oatmeal.

The doctor asked what home was like and Cherish explained how her grandmother lived with us. She said it was hard. 

I sat there, stunned, not ever having fully realized the impact of Mother’s care on my children’s lives.

 

“Is your grandmother’s care too much for you or your mom?” the doctor asked and I felt sick inside. How did we get here? How did it ever come to this?

Cherish’s timid nod yes was followed with tears and quivering lips.

 

It all fell away. The illusion that we were all coping was over. I admitted to myself, perhaps for the first time, that this was too much.

 

I had no right to put my family through this. What had started our as love and loyalty had morphed into something unhealthy. I was no longer sure I was taking good care of anyone, including my mother.

I had to accept that my Mother’s bizarre behavior (Alzheimer’s) is no different than living with the mentally ill in practical terms. Its origin may be different, but no one would or should subject a child to this.

My children had endured a worn-out mother, a bickering, beligerent grandmother who inflicts constant verbal attacks, and the loss of the freedom just to be a teenager. This child had taken the brunt.

Everything I’ve believed in is on shaky ground.

 

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. I just know I can’t keep doing this.

I’ve been home a few days from the hospital; I pick up Mother’s wallet, get out her insurance card and dial the number. Within fifteen minutes I’m talking to someone who suggests possibilities.

Why haven’t I thought of this before?  What keeps me locked in the I-have-to-do-this mind-set?  Guilt?  Loyalty?  A promise Mother asked of a child?

I no longer feel obligated to do this no matter what. The no matter what is my family. I’ve done the best I can.

 

After hours hours and hours over the last several days on the phone—time I don’t have to waste—and I’m back to nowhere. The cost for nursing care is astronomical. Mother’s conditions are not considered a “skilled-nurse necessity” and therefore Mother’s insurance doesn’t cover her. I’m stuck between paying out thousands a month for who knows how long, or piecing the care together as I’ve been doing while carrying the main load myself. So much for help.

 I basically spent a week fooling myself, thinking that I could find Mother decent care without bankrupting us. So far, I haven’t found it. Mother’s been with us twenty months and I’ve done all that I know to do. It feels like it’s time to let go, but I don’t know where to turn.

*****

I don’t know if you’re at your breaking point.

If you’re not, you may be one day.

It will be about your own family dynamics, or perhaps your marriage or your health. Most disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, ALS, all offer ring side seats to a very long and heartbreaking situation.

I wish I didn’t have to share this with you.

I wish I could clean it up and offer you something cool to drink.

I wish we didn’t have to talk about this, and yes, your loved one might slip out quietly and peacefully in the middle of the night. I wish, pray, and hope that for you.

 

But I’d rather share my story, offer a few insights, and reassure you that while yes, it will be really, really hard–you will make it.

My story doesn’t end here. My daughter is healthy today. We’ve managed to avoid surgery a few more times.

My mother’s passing was at home and peaceful, but it was slow, and I have to tell you these things because who else but a fellow caregiver will be this candid?

 

Sandwich generation-ers aren’t people just under a catchy umbrella. Their concerns aren’t just how to get little Jimmy to soccer practice–many of them face gut-wrenching choices.

I can also tell you that I believe my children are grateful for the experience of living with my mother, and while aspects of it were really hard, they gleaned a lot, learned a lot about themselves and what it means to be a family.

Did I pray? Turn to God for help? I think I did, although I was in full crisis mode, and I didn’t have the sense to make a formal plea. Nor do I think we need to. A desperate prayer occurs instantly.

Did I have faith? I’m not sure I had much of anything, and I can’t see a divine loving being holding that against a worn-out caregiver. We think we have to jump through hoops–do it right, say it right. I don’t think so. I’m just grateful our lungs are on auto-pilot because in times of great stress, I’m sure I’d forget to breath in and out.

Did I let some things go on too long? Should I have done some things differently? Perhaps. I’m not one to wallow in regrets. I accept what was and learn from it.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far

An Irish Blessing

Where are you? Does this post hit you hard and deep? Does it scare you? Infuriate you? What is it that shakes you to your core?

If you’re at your breaking point, my advice is to go ahead and break. Let it fall apart. You’ve done all you can. You’ve loved, and given, and worked, and hoped, and now it’s time to let go. Trust. Trust something will happen, something or someone will help.

Call someone. Alzheimer’s (www.alz.org) has a toll free number. Call–pour your heart out. Ask for help. Tell others that this is it. You can’t do any more.

Trust that help will come.

~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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The latest stats released by the Alzheimer’s Association paint a grim picture.

USA Today reported that ten million are expected to get Alzheimer’s over the next 2 decades.

Most boomers I know are a bit stunned. 1 in 8 will get Alzheimer’s.

I started bunching people I know in eights. Terrible, I know.

My husband has 8 siblings. Which one?

I mentally grouped my friends and imagined myself visiting them, trying to rouse the remnants of our relationship.

It was so much easier in my imagination for it to be somebody else other than me!

I felt like those people in the Titanic lifeboats. The boat’s too heavy, who’s going to get the ole’ heave ho! We always kid about poor Leo’s icy fingers being pried off one by one. My husband says he can see me doing that. I tell him I’ll sing him a Celine Delion song and wave to him as he sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic. Just kidding.

I walked around for days living too far into the future, speculating too much about whether or not I’d be the one in eight.

Then, I remembered the quote:

“To tell a man his future is to condemn him to one.”

That’s kind of what this news did. Maybe it didn’t mean to.

I assume their reasons for imparting this knowledge was to spar research, educate the masses, but I wonder if they know what they’ve done?

It doesn’t take long for the rebellious inner child to stand up and yell, “Hell no!” I’m not going without a fight.

I’ve already seen Alzheimer’s up close and personal with my mom. She had Parkinson’s for 15 years and Alzheimer’s for at least the last three years of her life. That’s when I brought her into my home, so I know how brutal it can get. What I’m not willing to face is a two, three, four decade old bully poking at me, taunting me, telling me over and over he’s gonna get me in the end.

Are you worried about getting Alzheimer’s too?

One thing I’ve done is to go ahead and play my own devil’s advocate.

So what if I get it? What will life be like?

Many scenarios here: I could be mean and belligerent. Doesn’t sound half bad, I’m kind of tired of being nice all the time.

If I just had one day where I told people what I really think…

It could be scary. That’s what I don’t want. To be on the edge. Nervous, agitated, restless to no end. Paranoid. Angry beyond consoling. To that, I say, drug me. Drug me in a stupor if you have to. By then, I promise you, I’ll have had a good life, and if it’s too awful for me or for you, then I give you permission to gork me out of my…mind. If the last couple of years are a throw away then so be it. If it’s painful to watch, then don’t.

Go live a big, bold, purpose-filled life. That’s the best way I can think of being honored.

I’ve told this to my husband and my girls and it’s going in the “important drawer.”

If you love me, then do something meaningful with your life–in my honor, if it makes you feel better.

But, if I’m just in la-la land, rambling around in the past, and I’m rather amiable, then let me enjoy it.

Don’t remind me who’s dead or that I’m nearly there myself. I don’t expect you to play along and mess up the delicate balance of reality you’ve scrambled for–just make me comfortable. If I think I’m sixteen, or twenty four, or forty-four, then let me enjoy it.

I learned the hard way with my mom that most people fear Alzheimer’s (both as caregivers and for themselves) because they can’t control it. It scares them, rattles their nerves. Their loved one acting “not like themselves,” angry, sexually explicit, fussy, playing in feces–it unnerves people. Is it really all that bad? My brain went kaflooey. It’s not a reflection of the kind of person I chose to be–we are in fact, what we choose. It’s not a reflection of our relationship or of you. It just happens.

Brains go haywire and you can’t control it any more than you can control your dreams, your nightmares, and all those random blips that you dare never admit or mention to anybody. It’s just random electrical spasms of disconnected thoughts and of all the other thoughts you’ve suppressed. We all have it inside us, don’t kid yourself. We have to eventually make peace with our humanity, and our lack of humanity.

We have to make peace with this base self, animalistic, driven, insatiable self.

This isn’t even the bad part.

Alzheimer’s does a lot more to the body and mind than simply making a person different or moody or playing in their poop. You think that’s your biggest hurdle at the time, it’s not.

The forgetting grows like a fertilized weed and it begins to invade a different part of the brain and a person’s life: recognizing not only those they love but even themselves and what it means to be here, recognizing objects like what to do with a spoon, what to do with the food someone placed in your mouth, or when your body forgets to take its next breath.

 That’s when you wish for your fiesty loved one to return to you–memory intact or not. We have to come to terms with this too, and this is much harder and deeper. This is when chaos collapses in on itself. This is when as a loved one, you get quiet. You stop talking about it all, complaining. You’ve shed so many tears you don’t have any left. 

This is Alzheimer’s.

I kidded with my girls on Easter Sunday. I told them if I have mild dementia or Alzheimer’s, that I want a dress-up box–with a fireman’s hat like I had as a child, and French beret (we always had a dress-up box when they were little) I want a boa, and lots of make up, and a yellow rain slicker and golashes. I want a cat, I’ve always had a kitty. I want paints and crafty things. I want my room filled with Van Goghs. I want to work in a garden. I want to dance. A lot. I want loud music and me in my boa and fireman hat clutching a bouquet of forget-me-nots and a kitty in a windowsill looking thoroughly disgusted with it all.

We laughed. They said they would. Then they argued as to who would get me. They said they all took their turns with Nanny (my mother). I told them if I had known that would do them in, (trust me, I was the primary caregiver, not them), then I’d have let her fend for herself (joke, we’re quite a facetious bunch).

Each of my daughters have their attributes. At my youngest daughter’s house, I’ll be a fashionista–coach purses and Italian scarves. She promised me we’d make tents in the living room out of sheets and blankets.

At my middle daughter’s house, she’ll clean out my ears and under my nails. My clothes will be folded neatly–neater than they’ve ever been folded. We’ll color a lot there, and I’ll finally be on time wherever she takes me.

My oldest daughter will feed me anything I want. She’s a candy-aholic. We’ll stay in our pjs and watch movies, and she will kick butt with doctors, let me tell you.

While all this is “play talk,” it’s a good way for families to start easing into the more serious conversations.

I do this on purpose. To open the doors. To make everything not seem so ominous.

We all have living wills. We kid about what we want, but we also have the serious stuff in writing–about sustaining life, feeding tubes, and issues no person should have to make for another.

Am I worried about getting Alzheimer’s? Sure, but I fight it.

Are you? It’s only natural, but I hope you find your own ways to work through some of the fears.

I hope you turn the light on the bully monster in the closet and let him know you don’t plan on being intimidated for the rest of your life.

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I know what to do to prevent it as best I can–but life’s still a crap shoot.

I think I’m better off concentrating on having some big adventures, some wild tales and daring feats.

If I’m going to eventually forget everything, I plan on having a lot to forget.

~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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I had this huge personal revelation that was a part of a deep belief system–and I realized that I did this very “thing” during caregiving–and if I did this, other caregivers might be doing it too.

This is the “thing” I’m talking about.

Paying for what you’ve done.

Example: You know how when you’re a kid and you’re supposed to get to go do something fun–like say, to go a birthday party–your parents tell you that to be able to go you have to clean your room, cut the grass, and when you get back you also have to do all your homework for the week?

In other words, you have to pay for having the good time.

And of course, you really had to PAY if you were ever bad–came home late, got in trouble (they called it punishment)

Well, I realized that I was (and am) still doing this to myself.

If I went out of town or went out to dinner with girlfriends, I’ve always made sure the house was clean, there was extra dogfood–and if I was gone a few days, I’d make sure there was a roast in the crock pot, a lasagna in the freezer…in other words, PAYMENT.

I couldn’t ever just believe I deserved something good.

Not just a gift–a gift is given sometimes to the UNdeserving.

I mean, believing deep down that I deserved something good–with no need to pay for it in any way.

Remember the old Puritan Ethic?

Work hard and God will reward you.

 I twisted it even further…Work hard or God won’t reward you.

Even after you’ve been rewarded, STILL work hard because you probably haven’t worked hard enough! In other words…work, work, work!

Did I hardly ever give myself a break (in part) as a caregiver? Not too much because I believed I had to PAY for past transgressions. I told myself I couldn’t find good help (in part, true), or that mother wouldn’t adjust (also true) or…the list went on. I know now that I thought I had to pay for my own good health, or pay if I were to even think about having a good time. 

Sick, I know. 

I’m hoping someone out there will step up and tell me

I’m not the only one who does this.

Recently, as most of you know, I published a book, Mothering Mother.I’ve spent months and months at caregiving talks, book signings, TV and radio spots. I’ve gotten lots of attention–something adults don’t like to talk about. I’ve received “fan” mail from wonderful caregivers and readers, I’ve received roses at special events…been on CNN, and it’s been hard, hard work, but it’s also been a whole lotta fun!

I’m suited for this. I love the juxtaposition of thought and quiet and contemplation and creating something on the page–and then I LOVE dressing up, “performing” mom and me in my little one act plays where I do both of us–I love making people laugh and cry. I love signing books! I could do it all day! I love knowing that I’ve touched someone’s lives. I even love the drives, the bookstores, the blogs.

Yikes. Does part of me believe that because I love it so, so much that I should have to “pay” for all this fun?

Now, a little bit of the hullabaloo has worn off and I realize that I’ve lapsed into this “I need to pay my family back for all that.” I’ve taken time away, stayed overnight, spent copious hours online and in bookstores. They’ve been patient and proud, but I’m sure it gets old.

It’s not that they asked or demanded anything.

But I see that I’ve been in drudgery mode lately–working hard with no joy. Taking jobs that are clearly not me. I thought I had to. I had so much to pay back.

I once had this great therapist who said the magic words that

changed my life…

“It’s a new day!”

So, I ask you–is there some part of you that took on the role of primary caregiver, or hardly ever lets yourself take a break because you believe you have to pay something back? Am I attracting this because I believe I need to pay? Do I feel guilty that my loved one is sick/dying?

Do I need to pay?

For being that black sheep?

For that adventure in college?

For screwing up my finances?

For taking off and letting my siblings deal with mom and dad for a while?

Because I enjoy good health and financial security?

Let it go. (I says to me-self)

Look at the sky and say, “Thanks!” That’s it. 

A heart of gratitude is all that’s asked. That’s The Secret.

Make a list of what you deserve:

I deserve to have daily joy.

I deserve to view myself with tenderness and compassion.

I deserve to be appreciated.

I deserve regular breaks.

I deserve help on a consistent basis.

I deserve a real vacation every year.

I deserve to caregive out choice and heart of love.

I deserve for my siblings/family to contribute.

I deserve for my thoughts and opinons to be respected.

As for caregiving, yeah, you may still want to and need to give care–but this could be the revelation that changes everything–and open up new opportunities.

It’s a new day.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati Publishing

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Caregivers and the folks they love and care for experience transition in rapid succession.

It’s a lot like when your child turned fifteen–they can drive with you in the car, and before you know it, they’re sixteen and begging to drive alone–you aren’t ready for this–or for the dating, curfews, part-time jobs, SAT preps, and BAM! They’re eighteen and headed off to college.
Only three years ago they were still your baby–gangly yes, but not living in a dorm, voting, and heaven forbid, fighting a war.

Our elders also go through rapid changes. One of the first transitions from simply having a senior/elder mom or dad or spouse or grandparent who is independent and enjoying their retirement to stepping over the threshold into your role as a caregiver is when you begin to look at “the driving issue.”

Maybe you’ve begun to question whether they should still drive so you drive behind them, monitor their turns and parking. Your doubts are confirmed and it’s time to have the first of many BIG talks.

I’d like to take a moment to let you know that as a caregiver, you’re simply going to have to take a big gulp and say and do things you’re not comfortable with.

Don’t be afraid for your parents/loved ones to

hate you.

What do I mean by that?

Back to the teen analogy: you as the “responsible” one have to do what’s right. Teens, (and sometimes our elders ) do not have a fully developed brain.

It’s true. Ask any neurologist/psychiatrist and they’ll tell you that the human brain isn’t fully formed until our early 20s (if then) and our “judgment seat” at the frontal lobe of the brain is one of the last to fully form. In reverse, our elders who suffer from certain diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s,  Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders lose this ability.

Nothing like being a sandwich generationer and basically having “teens” on each side of you!

I know it’s your parent or your spouse or loved one–I know you love and honor them, but I also know that sometimes we feel like a five year-old when we’re around them. 

We’re conditioned to obey and respect our elders, but realize that making sure they’re safe drivers is respect! 

I know you don’t want to fight.

But some issues such as driving are much, much bigger than a fight.

What if this were brought into your life for you to practice bravery and take charge when needed? (That old law of attraction thing again)

The transition from driving to not driving is oftentimes the first a caregiver must prepare for, and I do mean prepare. It’s best to have this talk as a scenario that hasn’t occured yet.

“Dad–”
“What?”
“You know, you’re 85 and still driving, and I think that’s great, but let’s face it–one day, you will most likely not be safe behind the wheel.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“We have to.”
“No, we don’t.”
“Yes, Dad, we do. Hear me out. I love you. I want you to have your independence–I really do. I respect you immensely, and I love you and want you to be safe–and I don’t want you to hurt someone else.”
(silence)
“This is what I propose. I think we should do what I did with your grandson. I think you should consider driving only when someone else is in the car with you. That way, I can see how you’re doing–will you do that for me?”
(silence)
Take his hand. Be quiet for a minute. Change the subject. Enough for today. Go get an ice cream.

This is the first (big) conversation.

There will be many.

Dad (or Mom) has to get used to the idea that his life is changing. He has to transition out of the life he has–and it won’t be easy.

Let’s think about what our loved ones are feeling:

I’m still healthy and my driving is fine, what’s she talking about?
It’s my car. It’s paid for and I’m insured.
I only drive to the store and to church. I know my way in my sleep.
They just want my money.
Why don’t they take all the drunk drivers off the road first. They’re more of a menace than I am.
Once I give up driving, I’ll be her prisoner.

By putting ourselves in their situation, we see how painful having someone decide when you can no longer drive can be.

It’s best if they decide when it’s no longer wise to drive on their own, but in many cases, that’s just not going to happen. Their judgement is impaired. They fear losing their freedom. It’s teenage-hood in reverse!

What if Dad’s cantankerous and won’t stop driving even when it’s not safe?

We’ll talk about your options tomorrow.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

www.mothering-mother.com

http://www.kunati.com/mothering

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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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