Looking Behind to Look Ahead Monday, Dec 30 2019 

Last year my resolution was to be healthy. I ended up in the hospital right off the bat the second week of January. So, I hesitate to try this resolution thing again.

Statistics say that about half of all adults make New Year’s resolutions. The new year, and new decade, offers us an opportunity to assess where we are and where we want to go, as well as the person we want to be. However, fewer than 10% keep these goals for more than a few months.

The most common resolutions in 2019 were to diet, exercise, lose weight, and save money. Most said that keeping those resolutions, especially in relation to dieting, were difficult to keep.

Psychologists note that the best way to honor a resolution is to make a realistic goal. A small step is more likely to be reached than aiming far beyond what is possible. Their guideline is to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

2019 certainly was not the most difficult year I’ve ever experienced, but it certainly was intense. After 15 years of watching Alzheimer’s disease devour my husband, Marshall, he passed away in March. Although still greatly saddened by what was robbed from us, I’m at peace holding on to the love he showed me and my children and knowing that he is playing tricks in heaven with way too many other loved ones. This year alone, another dozen friends and family members in addition to Marshall crossed the threshold into eternal life.

No matter how difficult or sad life can be, it also offers us occasions to celebrate. 2019 was no different. I attended three joyful weddings, including Disney’s Rapunzel and Flint at Blackberry Farm, and a 50th and a 40th wedding anniversary.

Work was fabulous. I had the privilege of meeting with other family members dealing with Alzheimer’s disease through 19 presentations across the country. In addition, my 10th book, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, was published, and is selling phenomenally well.

Updating on my townhouse continued, and I’m loving living here. Thanks to my son, Joe, the laundry room and guest bathroom had complete makeovers; stairway railings, powder room cabinets, my bedroom and bedroom furniture, and guest bedroom were painted; and major work was done on my garage.

Frequent Flyer miles built up this year, and the travel wasn’t only for business. My daughter, Lisa, and I went on a memorable pilgrimage with her church. We traveled through Israel and Italy sparking our faith to new heights.

And our timing was perfect. Soon after our return, Israel saw some unrest and Venice flooded. The places and people challenged by these troubles touch our hearts so much more now since connecting with them. We hold all of them close in prayer.

My personal life also took an unexpected turn when a friend become more than a friend this year. Paul and I met when our spouses resided in the same memory care home. We supported each other through some of the agony Alzheimer’s presents spouses and are now enjoying making new, loving memories together.

I can’t imagine the new year will have as many changes as this past one. All I know is that it’s ending significantly happier and more peacefully than it began. And that is my goal, rather than resolution, for 2020 and beyond.

Here’s to a peaceful, happy 2020!

***

Please join me at my next presentations in New Jersey:

Tuesday, January 21, 2020, “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration and Dinner, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar, Arden Courts of West Orange, 510 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, NJ  07052, 973.736.3100

Wednesday, January 22, 2020, “Navigating Alzheimer’s as the Family Caregiver, 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar
Arden Courts of Whippany, 18 Eden Lane, Whippany, NJ 07981, 973.581.1800

Thursday, January 23, 2020, “Navigating Alzheimer’s as the Family Caregiver,” 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Registration, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Seminar, Arden Courts of Wayne, 800 Hamburg Turnpike, Wayne, NJ  07470, 973.942.5600

Singing the Holiday Blues Monday, Dec 2 2019 

I thought it would be easier this year. Yes, my husband, Marshall, only passed away less than nine months ago, but this was my fifth year without him at Thanksgiving dinner, and I am at peace knowing that Alzheimer’s has released him into the hands of the Lord. Yet, at the end of Thanksgiving Day, I was still depressed.

As my friend, David, who just lost his wife to Alzheimer’s, said to me, no matter how we fill our days, the evenings are sad and lonely. I’ve noticed that the last few years have been like that. I’m more depressed after being with loved ones and returning home.

Keeping busy and social are important elements in preventing getting stuck in the muck of holiday depression. We need to do things that bring us joy. And at the end of the day, especially the most difficult ones, ease the loneliness with uplifting music, movies/tv/reading, and friends.

I’m fortunate to have people who help me through. My friend, Paul, insisted on coming over on Friday to watch a silly Christmas movie. He knew a cure for loss was company and humor. And then, my son and his girlfriend visited yesterday.

Remember, that although missing our loved ones, especially around the holidays never fully disappears, it does get easier. As my psychologist friend, Sue, says, it becomes a different kind of, more bearable mourning. My mother passed away in 1999, and I especially long for her while baking during the holidays. It’s not the heart-wrenching type of pain of the past, but more like a missing part of the puzzle of tradition and a gratitude for having those experiences at all.

May all your memories of passed loved ones bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart this holiday season.

***

If you’re in the area, please join me for my last presentation of the year. “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” will be from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at The Inter-Faith Chapel at Leisure World, 3680 S. Leisure World Boulevard, Silver Spring, MD 20906. For reservations, please call Julie Boone Roth, 301.847.3051.

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The Alzheimer’s Spouse is available from Amazon.com and ACTA Publications.comNavigating Alzheimer’s is also available from Amazon and ACTA.

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Do you follow my other blog, Midwest Mary, or my author Facebook page?

(Political) Climate Change Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

(Venice, Italy)

As I noted in my last post on my Mary K Doyle Books blog, the recent pilgrimage to Israel and Italy with my daughter, Lisa, was the perfect trip at the perfect time for us. The saying is that “Timing is Everything,” and that’s certainly evident with recent events in both countries we visited.

I’m grateful to the many loving friends and family who covered us in prayers. No doubt, their prayers helped keep us safe and make a holy pilgrimage. Our trip was peaceful and in perfect weather.

(Bethlehem, Israel)

Cross-border violence began this week between Israel and militants in Gaza and continue after an Israeli air strike that killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that their campaign is directed at Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza. Israel holds the group responsible for 100s of rocket attacks from Gaza since fighting began.

(St. Mark’s)

In addition to the troubles in Israel, Venice is under water. Water levels are at their highest in more than 50 years peaking at about 6 ft. St Mark’s Square was one of the worst hit. The square has flooded six times in 1200 years, according to church records. The crypt is now completely flooded. Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed the enormous damages on climate change.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is the bond that develops between differing peoples. Once we’ve met and connected with someone from another society, we become more aware of their daily situations and concerns and understand them better.

The trauma to the people and their land in both countries saddens me. Lisa and I were privileged to see Israel and Italy in their glory. May all of Israel and Venice return to peace and tranquility very soon.

***

(See all posts from both of my blogs on my author Facebook page.)

Jerusalem. City of Sensual Overload. Thursday, Nov 7 2019 

DIMG_3985.Old JerusalemStalls packed with brightly colored scarves, carpets, and clothing. Whiffs of olives, spices, and humanity. Ancient art and centuries of architecture intermixed with current signage and walls of graffiti. Heavy military presence controlling the massive crowds. Narrow cobblestone streets streaming with people from all over the world. Arabic, Hebrew, and English along with Russian, French, Italian, and countless other languages ring through the air.

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I just returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Italy and the impact of the trip has left my head full of images, sounds, and smells. As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, Americans such as myself quickly realize that in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem,  we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, an expression that indicates things are very different than our norm.

Jerusalem is the largest and poorest city in Israel. Located between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, it’s also one of the oldest and perhaps, holiest, cities in the world. The first human settlers are believed to have arrived in the Early Bronze Age around 3500 B.C. In 1000 B.C, King David conquered Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the first temple.

 

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In only about a third of a square mile, numerous locations are considered significantly important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims which has resulted in a long history of conflict.

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  • For the Jewish community, Jerusalem is recognized as the site of Mount Zion, the traditional site of King David’s tomb, and the Western Wall.
  • Christians hold the city sacred because it is where 12-year old Jesus impressed the elders in the temple and later spent the last days of his ministry, was sentenced, scourged, taunted, crucified, and resurrected.
  • Muslims also are religiously connected to Jerusalem because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven from what is known as the Temple Mount.

In adition to being emotionally and spiritually moved, Israel was fascinating for me because I’m intrigued with other cultures and religions and appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, I never felt unsafe but often did not feel welcome by the majority of Israelies. When traveling, I strive to be a good guest and representative of my home country. I’m not sure how much this mattered to most people I encountered. Greeting Jews in Hebrew rarely resulted in anything other than a blank stare. Currently, more than 60% of its residents are Jewish, 36.5% are Muslim, and only 1.8% are Christian. (The other 1.2% are unspecified.)

The religious tension in the country is evident, even among the Christian denominations. Everyone vigorously defends their sacred site and appears to be reluctant to allow others to visit. Without the assistance of our experienced and knowledgable guide, navigation through the country and entering sites at the best times would have been difficult, if not impossible. Our guide also protected our money by pointing out where we could safely use a credit card and deal fairly with merchants.

DSCN6420.Jerusale,

Most of our meals were prearranged and buffet style. Typical meals consisted of stews, fish, grilled vegetables, salads, and breads. My favorite foods were those common in the region including falafal, schnitzel, shwarma, hummus, olives, herring, and dates.

Breakfast.IMG_3937

Stay tuned for more to come on this adventure! Faith-related posts will be posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

 

 

The Peculiarities of an Artist Wednesday, Aug 14 2019 

A writer died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter told the writer that she’d be going to heaven but would satisfy her curious mind by showing her hell before entering.

The writer walked into hell and was horrified to see all the souls with beads of sweat pouring from them as they frantically kept writing, writing, writing at their desks for all eternity.

“Wow,” remarked the writer. “I’m glad I’m not going there.”

Then St. Peter opened the gates of heaven and led the writer to a room where, again, souls were frantically writing, writing, writing at their desks.

“I don’t understand,” exclaimed the writer. “How is this different from hell?”

St. Peter responded, “In heaven, all the writers get published.”

*

Without a doubt, my mother loved me, but she did not understand me. She found me odd, especially when it came to my need to write, which I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I’d either write or memorize a little poem that I’d tell her before leaving for school in the morning. She realized that writing was my passion but was too practical to believe I could make a living at it.

I never fit my mother’s strict, mater-of-fact idea of a respectable employee and therefore, a responsible adult. I was, and am, a freelance writer, which meant to her that I could not adequately support my family as a single parent. She often pointed out that the department store, Penney’s, was hiring.

Many of us writers, artists, musicians, dancers, and others in the arts have college degrees or specialized training in addition to years, or decades, of experience. And yet, our employment and financial security can be uncertain. We rarely experience job security even if we once reigned at the top in our field.

However, our need to create and work in our art is necessary for us to thrive emotionally. Writing is my oxygen. I must put words together, write, rewrite, and publish, preferably, with financial gain. It’s integral to the essence of my being.

Overall, my mother noticed that artists are different. We perceive the world from an alternate perspective taking in everything and everyone around us, not only through our eyes, but also through our hearts. We are highly sensitive to universal energy, which sets us up for depression, anxiety, and sometimes, addiction to relieve the pain we absorb from others.

We are curious, playful, and compassionate. We are observers, often hiding in the background soaking in the action. We appreciate beauty, variety, the unusual, and unique. We are the explorers, risk takers, innovators, and visionaries–practical and impractical, fearful and fearless at the same time.

Yes, many of us have God-given talent and enjoy what we do, but we truly do sweat to make it as meaningful as possible. Our objective is that our pieces speak for themselves well beyond the words, the paint, the sounds, the movements.

All of this makes following an earthly clock challenging, especially when we’re in our groove. Our own sense of timing sets in, removing us further from the traditionalists. We definitely are following the beat of a different drummer, a rhythm all our own.

We can be that square peg trying to keep up with the rest who fit into all the round holes around us. And the ironic thing is, we don’t want to go into that round hole. It frustrates and irritates us. Our need is to be free, to fly.

We artists are accustomed to criticism and rejection. It’s not your response to our art that hurts us as much as our own. We are harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. It’s so difficult to walk away from a piece that can never really feel complete or perfect.

So please don’t take our need for periodic isolation and moodiness personally. We know that we can appear aloof and detached, but we are not ignoring you. We’re just lost in our art and a space neither here nor there. We’re off in other-worldly dimensions of creativity and will see you again soon.

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Join in the conversation every Friday on my author Facebook Page.

Have you seen my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Land of the Free?”

 

Always Believe Something Wonderful is About to Happen Thursday, Jun 27 2019 

Always Believe

I once bought a greeting card for myself. At $6.95, it was an extravagant purchase, but the beautifully decorated card offered a powerful message that spoke to me. It read, “Always BELIEVE Something Wonderful is About to Happen.”

At the time, the words were so needed. My husband, Marshall’s, health had been declining more rapidly than it had been due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. I was struggling to balance work and family responsibilities and remembering all the blessings that I do have in my life.

The card reminded me to hang in there. We never know what’s around the corner. Life is full of delightful surprises. We trudge along a path only to discover sunshine in an opening we had no idea was ahead.

Living with a positive attitude is so much more enjoyable and healthy than being stuck in doom and gloom. It’s certainly was how Marhall lived. He often said, “Think positively.”

We have every reason to remain happy. After all, something wonderful is about to happen.

* * *

(Want to know what I’m wondering about? Every Friday I tell you on my author Facebook page. Check out my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Is Love Enough?

Slow Down to Speed Up Friday, Jun 14 2019 

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How often have you wished for a few more hours in a day? Most of us practice a fast-paced regimen of hustling from work to activities and running errands beginning with the moment we rise to the time we go to bed. And yet, at the end of the day, we feel we haven’t accomplished enough. As quickly as we cross off an item from our to-do list, several more spring up. That never-ending cycle is frustrating and exhausting.

But counter to what most Americans may believe, slowing down from time-to-time increases rather than decreases productivity. We have to periodically veer off that highway to end up where we really want to go.

My friend, Sister Chris, says that we’ve lost the understanding of our need to retreat. By engaging in periodic self-assigned time-outs, we are not slacking from our responsibilities but increasing our performance. In general, the removal from the hectic daily schedule most of us engage in can promote clearer thinking, a renewed and more positive outlook, and a healthier way of life which results in better efficiency.

The separation from technology and daily problems during retreats helps to reduce the flight of flight reaction to ongoing events and the accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol. Our hearts become more open which enhances the ability to release sorrow and pain which benefits our overall health.

In addition, the resting brain is essential to self-reflection and stimulating creativity. We gain clarity as answers come in silence improving our decision-making capabilities. An added benefit is that we often make life-long bonds with other participants as like-minded people will be in attendance at these retreats.

And retreats are longer lasting than even a “relaxing” vacation because they are more focused. They also omit the need to schedule activities or seek dining options. Typically set in calm locations, everything is planned for participants.

To find your perfect retreat, consider what you would like to improve. Retreats are targeted toward specific goals. For example, business retreats strive to identify individual talents, increase confidence, and promote team-building. Yoga retreats’ goal is not only to develop better yoga practices but also mindfulness and meditation. Retreats that focus on overall well-being can assist with better eating and exercise habits, work/life balance, and emotional release. Whereas spiritual retreats focus on increasing inner peace and a greater connection with the divine.

(Do you follow my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?)

 

Passing Through the Tough Stuff Tuesday, Jun 4 2019 

Today is a painful, fibromyalgia day for me–body aches from head-to-toe and fatigue. The good news is, like most of life’s trials, it will pass.

No one escapes the tough stuff whether it is physical or emotional. However, as my sister, Patti, says, “It’s not what happens to us but what we do about what happens that matters.” We easily can make a difficult situation more trying if we resist or revolt rather than work through it. When we continue to move one step at a time through a troubling situation, we soon find ourselves at the other end of that tunnel.

For me, that means a quiet day at my desk with a positive outlook knowing I soon will see you on the bright side, my friends.

***

(Did you see my last post on Mary K Doyle Books: Marian Devotion through Art?)

 

Moving Along Monday, Apr 30 2018 

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On the first anniversary of moving into my townhome, I’m acutely aware of my blessings. I’m rich in what matters most in life.

The past year has been relatively peaceful. Marshall continues to do well. My children, grandchildren, step-children, and step-grandchildren are healthy. And I’m enjoying meaningful work to pay my bills.

For many years, my stress level was at a peak. The years previous to this move were intense caring for Marshall 24/7 at home for ten years and then transitioning him to managed care, working through a few disturbing issues with relationships, clearing out the house in preparation for sale, the intrusion of showing the home for two years, negotiating the home sale/purchase, packing to move, and then unpacking in my new home all while overseeing Marshall’s care and working. Countless times I believed I was close to the breaking point.

But here I am, and I’m so very grateful! I’m blessed with a home I can manage and afford. I love the space and my kind neighbors.

Marshall, although always on a decline due to Alzheimer’s disease, calls me by name and tells me he loves me every day. Our time together is typically very tender.

I am greatly blessed with an extensive group of family and friends. They are supportive, attentive, and carry me with their love and kindness. My children and grandchildren especially bring me great joy.

And to top it off, I have work opportunities that allow me to use the gifts God gave me in ways that minister and connect with people dear to my heart. I’ve written two books in my new home, one of which is under contract, and beginning a new one. In addition, I’m speaking regularly, predominately on caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

When we are traveling through the dark tunnel, the journey can feel endless. The rays that do shine through are difficult to see and the number of steps into the sunshine is so uncertain.

The only way out of that tunnel is to keep going. Most often, we enter the light wiser and stronger.

(Do you follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books?)

Rant on Comcast/Xfinity Wednesday, May 24 2017 

I’m cool as a cucumber, calm as a gentle stream. I don’t get road rage—I’m the most patient driver on the road. I rarely get rattled caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s or rambunctious grandchildren. I really am typically easy-going.

Until I had to deal with Comcast/Xfinity.

Working with them after my recent move turned me into an angry person I didn’t recognize. One day, I even lost my temper and was nasty with reps. My blood pressure rises just thinking about them.

There were problems with the cable. A second TV didn’t work, and I was repeatedly told there was something wrong with my equipment. All of it magically failed overnight while moving. Actually, after a visit, the technician said the error was on their end.

Most frustrating were all the phone issues.

  • Comcast said I’d have the same phone number I’ve had for 30 plus years. It was originally issued by Illinois Bell, so that tells you how long I’ve had it. After several HOURS on the phone with Comcast, and a week later, I was told the temporary number they issued me will be my permanent one. It happens, they say. Even moving only 2-3 miles from my last home. Had I been told of the possibility from the beginning, I wouldn’t have wasted so many hours dealing with reps who repeatedly told me it would be another 24-48 hours. I would have waited to print “Just Moved” postcards to include my new phone number.
  • It took ten days and multiple calls to get a rep to update my online info so that I could see my account online.
  • I had no voice mail for 16 days. The prompt said my number was unavailable.
  • Caller ID continues to identify me by someone else’s name. Yesterday Comcast said they aren’t responsible for that. It is the slow processing of the providers of those I call, such as AT&T.

No doubt, all this rambling and ranting sounds familiar to many of you as you’ve had the same experience with carriers. They aren’t life-threatening problems but still, intensely irritating, particularly because of the waste of time. I lost countless hours that cost me work and pay.

And it’s been unnecessarily stressful. All reps were pleasant as they read their scripts but few could reason beyond their prescribed steps. It took multiple contacts before anything was resolved.

I guess it is the sign of the times. I moved 8 times with my previous number with AT&T and it was as simple as lifting up the phone in my new home to find it all working. But today we deal with too much technology, too little employee training, and the fact that these providers are so much in demand they needn’t care how the consumer feels.

I apologize for the rant. As you know, I strive to write positive posts, so perhaps I can assist you with your next move by warning you. Perhaps if I’d known all of this was likely, I would have taken it more in stride.

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