Category Archives: Memories

Wishing you a safe Fourth of July

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Pixabay

Hope you and your loved ones have a safe holiday weekend.

In addition to Fourth of July, Monday is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 83 years old. Mom served briefly in the Navy, but the lessons she learned helped shape the rest of her life. She valued her time in the Navy and supported those who served. I’m grateful that Mom saved all of her Navy memorabilia, so I have everything from photos to newspaper clippings to her class notebooks.

I’ll be thinking about Mom this weekend and all of those who have served their country, whether in the military or through volunteer work as civilians.

navy newspaper clippings

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A somber anniversary

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Photo and urn by Blocks from the Heart

Five years ago today my mother died. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Following on the heels of saying goodbye to my dear cat last week, it’s a double dose of grief.

When I think about my mother, the visceral pain has dampened with the passage of time, but such a profound loss changes the landscape of one’s heart forever. As those who have followed this blog or have read The Reluctant Caregiver know, my mother and I had our relationship challenges, because we were opposites personality-wise. But a mother is an irreplaceable figure in one’s life.

There are so many people experiencing loss right now. Having experienced a variety of losses over the last decade, I can say that grief does transform over time. Grief is an individual process, and while the established stages of grief may offer some insight, be prepared to slide in and out of stages over time. One thing I have found helpful is to give meaning to the loss, to honor the significance that person or animal had in your life. This could mean designing an urn, writing a poem, planting a tree, etc. One meaningful way I’ve honored both of my parents is to engage in caregiver advocacy work, to support those who cared for my parents during their times of need.

For those who are grieving right now, I hope you are able to find a path that will lead you to some form of inner peace.

 

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Saying farewell to a sweet, loving soul

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This week, I had to say goodbye to Nod, my 15-year-old cat. He was such a sweet and affectionate cat, a total lap magnet. He also was one of those old soul creatures who carried an air of wisdom and deep understanding. We had an amazing bond and his absence is being painfully felt everywhere I turn.

Still, he had as good of a death as one can have. When he stopped eating over the weekend, he let me know that it was time to leave.  (He’d had a chronic GI issue over the last couple of years and fought to live as long as he could.) I made sure to spend as much quality time with him as possible until the mobile veterinarian came to the home to perform the euthanasia. Nod always ran from the doctor, who has been paying visits a lot lately to treat my dog’s ear infection. But this time, he stayed in his pet bed and locked eyes with the veterinarian as she stepped into the living room. He knew she was there for him and he didn’t flinch. He was at peace, and that did offer me some comfort.

My other cat, Rosalie, was not particularly close to Nod. They had more of a sibling rivalry relationship. She initially left the room as the veterinarian set up her equipment, but then she came back in and intently observed the procedure from a safe spot. As soon as the veterinarian checked his vitals and nodded to me that he was gone, Rosalie got up, stretched and left the room. She knew that Nod was no longer with us.

I’m always floored by just how much animals understand. We don’t give them nearly enough credit. And we could learn something from them about how they approach death.

Farewell to my sweet friend Nod, who I know will be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.

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Send love, share memories this Mother’s Day

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pixel2013/pixabay

Many people are wondering how to handle Mother’s Day during a pandemic. If you are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with your mother, but are intent on keeping her healthy, you may decide not to meet in person. But there are many ways you can show her love this weekend from afar. And with so many lives lost this year, reach out to your loved ones and make sure they know how much you care.

A simple phone call would mean a lot to mothers who may feel isolated right now. Bonus points if the two of you can figure out how to video chat! Sending flowers is a simple, thoughtful gift that will brighten someone’s day. Mobile dining apps means you could have brunch delivered safely to her home. If you sent your mother a card, good for you. If you forgot, you could still send an e-card or a gift card electronically, if  she has email access.

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I’ve been reading about a lot of celebrations taking place in creative fashion, like a drive-by parade or holding messages up to the window. If possible, get the grandchildren involved and make it a family activity to brighten the spirits that may be strained during the stay-at-home period.

This Mother’s Day may look different than it does in a typical year, but you can still express your love and gratitude. And for those of us who no longer have our mothers, take time this weekend to reflect on happier times and cherished family memories.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

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You have been diagnosed with Dementia. Now What? — Dealing with Dementia

Those of us who have cared for loved ones with Alzheimer’s can’t help but think about their chances of developing the disease or another form of dementia. In her latest Dealing with Dementia blog post, Kay Bransford shares the most important things to consider. 

I am guessing that many of you share my fear of dementia. For those of us with loved ones who have lived with it, we know how devestating it is for the individual as well as the loved ones that surround them. But it doesn’t have to be. Once diagnosed, you have so much opportunity […]

via You have been diagnosed with Dementia. Now What? — Dealing with Dementia

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February 21, 2020 · 9:27 pm

Book giveaway with family theme

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There’s no better time than February to celebrate family. And caregiving  is one of the best ways to demonstrate unconditional love. Caregivers come in many forms, and one may not even recognize they are a caregiver. For those who care for children, pets and other family members, along with professional caregivers who treat their clients like family, this book giveaway is for you.

The Parenting, Pregnancy, Partners and Pets Giveaway will continue through the end of the month, and my award-winning book, The Reluctant Caregiver, is among the titles available. Hope you find some books to enjoy!

Valid through Feb. 29, 2020: Parenting, Pregnancy, Partners and Pets Giveaway via Prolific Works.

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Grief at the holidays

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Whenever I learn of someone’s passing during the holiday season, I feel an extra pang of sympathy. Losing a loved one at any time of the year is devastating, of course. But there is something about loss during a period of such joy for others that is particularly painful.

Today it has been eight years since my father’s death. So much has happened since then, yet it’s still hard to believe that it has been so long since his passing. I remember how odd the Christmas decorations and Christmas music blaring everywhere seemed to be after I learned the news of my father’s passing. It’s a tough lesson to learn in such a fragile state: the world goes on without your loved one.

If you find yourself grieving this holiday season, cut yourself some slack. Don’t feel obligated to put on a happy front. There are many others just like you who feel conflicted emotions during this time of year. Hopefully over time, some happier memories will filter in through the grief. If you know someone who has lost someone during the holidays, reach out to them and offer your support.

I hope you and your loved ones have a holiday filled with peace and love.

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A trip of a lifetime

 

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In Belfast, Northern Ireland

What an amazing trip. Ireland was everything I imagined it to be and more. The people were wonderful, the weather was surprisingly good (mainly dry with plenty of sun!) and the sights were breathtaking.

If you want to see all of my Ireland trip photos, I created a public Google Photos album.

I started in the southern part of the country in Blarney and Cork. Blarney Castle was fascinating to tour. I air kissed the stone (couldn’t quite lean back far enough due to my vertigo) but also enjoyed walking the beautiful grounds. Spent the next day in Cork, a charming city. Then I made my way to Westport, where I took a break from being a tourist and enjoyed a stay at a writer’s cabin at a retreat. There were country roads that offered picturesque, serene walks and I loved how the owner’s pets came to visit me during my stay.

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Blarney Castle

writer cabin montage

It was in Westport while I was at the grocery store that I happened to see the Alzheimer’s fundraiser. It truly is a global movement and I was happy to support it.

Dublin was a lively, bustling city full of history. Seeing The Long Room at Trinity College was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

I saved my father’s hometown of Belfast for my last stop. I had so much anticipation as the train neared town. Of course Dad would not recognize modern-day Belfast, but there were markers of the past everywhere.

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I’m not a big fan of group tours but I did take a walking tour on The Troubles in Belfast. The guide provided an excellent historic overview of the origins of division and unrest, how The Troubles unfolded in the 1970s and what the future may hold in store for Belfast. From taxi drivers to shop owners, everyone I talked to in Northern Ireland and the republic were concerned about the upcoming Brexit actions that could trigger increased violence along the border.

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The above mural was taken in the working class neighborhood near where my father’s family members lived. I was able to locate the street that was on my father’s birth certificate and the street where my grandparents lived until their deaths.

While Belfast is known for its politically-charged murals, a new crop of murals have also emerged, offering a fresh perspective and are quite artistic.

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I visited my aunt’s grave at a sprawling ceremony just outside of Belfast. She lived to age 95, and while she was plagued by physical ailments in her later years, her mind remained sharp as far as I know, while three of her siblings (including my father) ended up with dementia.  She was a resilient woman, raising three children on her own after her husband died while working overseas.

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Giant’s Causeway was one of my favorite destinations. What a breathtaking site.

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I ate really well while maintaining my gluten-free diet. The awareness of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet is quite high in Ireland, and I ate as well and in some ways even better there than I do here in the U.S. The highlight food-wise was gluten-free fish and chips in Dublin.

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The modified Irish breakfast that was gluten-free came a close second. (I had a few variations of it during my travels.)

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I am grateful I was finally able to complete this trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to return.

 

 

 

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Taking a blog break for a bucket list trip

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Blarney Castle

Soon I will be departing for a two-week trip to Ireland. This is a trip of a lifetime for me, as it will allow me to appreciate my father’s homeland in person. I only wish we could have made the trip together. I know he will be with me in spirit.

I will share an account of my adventures upon my return.

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The best kind of birthday gift

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Birthdays are bittersweet for me now, as I have fond memories of my parents singing “Happy Birthday” to me across the miles each year. They would rehearse and make a big production out of it. Even as my father descended into the depths of dementia, he rallied for the birthday performance.

I’ve been fostering dogs for the last several months, something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. It has been a rewarding and enriching experience. While I enjoy fostering, my eye (and heart) was always on the lookout for “the one.”

And now, as a birthday gift to myself, I am adopting my latest foster dog, Magee. He is a sweet rat terrier/fox terrier mix that has proven to be a good fit in my life. (The cats disagree, but I overruled them, haha.)

Like me, Magee is middle aged or so and has a few personality quirks, but is overall a dedicated and loyal companion. Unlike me, Magee overflows with happiness and dare I say … joy.  Anyone who spends time with dogs know there is much we can learn and gain from them.

As we grow older, we learn that the simplest pleasures are often the most rewarding. I now have Magee to guide me on that exploration of everyday joy.

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