Category Archives: Memories

Free books for my fellow bookworms

travel and memoirs twitter if sept

UPDATE: Over 170 books given away so far, giveaway ends soon!

This post will be short and sweet, to allow my fellow bookworms to do what they love most, read!

To mark the debut of The Reluctant Caregiver, my caregiving essays collection, I am participating in a free book giveaway via Instafreebie. Not only can you download my ebook for free, you can download a total of 2 dozen books in the memoir and travel genres for free. All you have to submit is an email address.

Instafreebie Travel & Memoirs Giveaway

The promotion ends this Saturday, Sept. 23, so claim your free copies today.

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My collection of caregiving essays is now available

I’m excited to announce that The Reluctant Caregiver, my collection of caregiving essays, has been published and is available on Amazon and most digital bookstore platforms. It will be available as a paperback soon.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]

Those of you who have followed The Memories Project for awhile know that I’ve been talking about publishing such a book for quite some time. It was very satisfying to hit the publish button.

I hope you’ll consider reading the collection, and telling others about it. Do keep in mind that the book presents a nontraditional perspective on family caregiving, and does contain some profanity. There are some graphic details about caregiving included in the essays, but also some humorous moments.

I think many caregivers will be able to relate to the roller coaster of emotions that accompanies any caregiving journey. I try to capture the good days and the bad days, the inspirational moments and those trying times that have sparked my interest in being a caregiver advocate. My ultimate goal is to reassure those caregivers who may be struggling, and to encourage caregivers to reach out if they need help.

Where to buy The Reluctant Caregiver:

Amazon: http://a.co/82c41dY

Other digital bookstores (including iBooks): http://books2read.com/u/3L9DnN

I’m available as a guest blogger and if you are promoting a book yourself, please reach out to me for cross-promotion opportunities.

Thanks for your support of The Memories Project. The feedback I’ve received from the blog and the connections I’ve made have helped turn The Reluctant Caregiver project into a reality.

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Marking Mom’s 80th birthday without her

Mom me portrait

Today my mother would have been 80 years old.

I wish she was still around to mark the milestone, but only if she was in a healthy state.

My mother and I were total opposites and we clashed plenty, especially during the time I was my mother’s caregiver. Much of those battles, some humorous, some painful, are captured in a series of essays that I hope to publish later this year. (It’s in the final edit phase now.)

But today is a day of celebration, and even though my mom could drive me crazy, she had many wonderful qualities that she tried to pass on to me. In honor of her 80th, here are 8 ways that I remember my mother and try to carry on her legacy.

  • Her sense of humor: Yes, it was corny as could be, but my mother loved to laugh. Even as she faced cancer, she still found ways to sneak in a bit of levity to the situation. We were all better for it. I have a much snarkier, darker sense of humor, but it’s there, and it did help me cope with the difficulties of caregiving.
  • Her love of family: Sometimes I found it smothering, but I know my mother truly loved me. In a world where children can be treated so cruelly, I know I’m fortunate to have had good, kind parents. Everyone has their faults, but even when Mom drove me nuts, she was doing it out of a place of love and concern.
  • Being a caregiver for my father: I may not have agreed with all of the decisions Mom made for Dad near the end of his life, but she earned the right to call the shots after taking care of him on her own for years. I helped where I could, but Mom was the one hands-on with Dad 24/7, as he lost his grip on reality thanks to dementia. Mom made the grueling Greyhound trips to see Dad at the memory care center, while she nursed a broken shoulder. Six months after his death, Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I think she paid the ultimate price with her health, but I know she would do it all over again.
  • Love of nature: My mother loved nature, whether it was animals or scenery. She even loved the blustery mountain winds that whipped around her condo in New Mexico, saying everything had its place. She may have been right, but those winds are brutal! But I do share her love of animals and an appreciation for the natural wonders of our world. I probably don’t stop enough to “smell the roses” but I make sure our birdfeeder stays full, in memory of Mom.
  • Appreciation for the little things: Mom could find delight in the smallest things, whether it was a good cup of coffee or a sunny day. It’s easy to take such things for granted, as I often do, but I try to channel Mom a bit and appreciate those small daily doses of wonder.
  • An interest in others: Mom loved to talk, but she also loved connecting with others. She didn’t discriminate in who she conversed with, and she certainly didn’t think she was better than others. The interest she showed in the lives of service workers who took care of her while she was at the bank, at the grocery store, or at the salon was admirable. I could tell by their reaction that many people treat service workers as if they were invisible. I’m not the chatty type, but I do make sure to make eye contact, smile and thank the person assisting me, to honor Mom’s legacy.
  • Her interest in the world around her: Mom maintained a keen interest in news until she died. She cared about world issues and was troubled by war and famine. She read the newspaper voraciously, and even though rehashing week-old news could test my patience, I admired her vested interest in the world around her. As a journalist, caring about these issues is my job, but it’s also my passion.
  • Her love of music: Mom loved the classic country and classic pop music of her youth, which included Elvis, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and many more legends. I’ve had a love of music since my youth, and while I enjoy music from many genres, I gravitate towards these classic country artists, as well as some new ones who are channeling their outlaw spirit.

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A bookmark from the past

My dad loved books, but he hated bookmarks.

Even though the library included free ones in every book, Dad insisted upon “dog earing” pages. My mother would nag him about it, saying the books were the library’s property and they probably didn’t appreciate him returning books with creased page corners. But Dad continued to do it, and to be fair, I never heard him getting chewed out at the library about it. Certainly he wasn’t the only person who dog eared books.

bookmark

As I was going through some books and sorting them for donations, I came across one of those library bookmarks. The bookmarks served dual purposes: marking your place in the book and reminding you when the book was due.

The bookmarks, with the sketch of the Downey City Library at the bottom, are so ingrained in my memory, having checked out hundreds of books from the library during my childhood.

The due date on this one was Aug. 29, 1981. I would have just turned 6 the month before. It would’ve almost been time for school to start, as we started just after Labor Day. I would’ve been entering first grade.

What’s even more interesting is that I found the bookmark in an old, worn copy of East and West, a collection of short stories by Somerset Maugham. That book is from the New Orleans Public Library and had a due date of Sept. 2, 1959. (Dad lived for a brief period in the Big Easy.) The next time I visit I may return the book just to see the reaction of the librarian!

Sorting through Dad’s book collection was the ideal task to mark Father’s Day.

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Is dying at home best for everyone?

bed

Photo by Lillian Nelson/Freeimages

In recent years, a growing movement has embraced the concept of dying at home, versus a hospital or nursing home. In general, I support the idea, after my father had a difficult death in a skilled nursing facility while I was 1,300 miles away. But having experienced the challenges of being a primary caregiver for my mother, who died at home, I also understand just how traumatic such a death can be for family members. The latter is a viewpoint that is not often discussed.

Ann Brenoff, who covers aging topics for Huffington Post, interviewed me last week to discuss the potential consequences for the family caregiver when a loved one chooses to die at home. The article, When Loved Ones Die At Home, Family Caregivers Pay The Price, offers an important perspective on the subject. The article references my 2015 essay, Why dying at home is not all it’s cracked up to be. Brenoff discusses how financial concerns are behind the government’s desire for people to die at home. While it’s cheaper for people to die at home, caregivers pay the ultimate price.

In many cases, family caregivers shoulder the burden of care duties. Some have to quit their jobs or reduce work hours, impacting their financial status. Chronic stress can affect their own health. The emotional toll can be devastating.

To achieve a good death at home standard, we must offer greater support to family caregivers.

There are pros and cons to everything, including dying at home. The more we learn about each other’s caregiving experiences, the better informed we will be when we face a family health crisis or end-of-life care situation.

 

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Marking 2 years since Mom died

Mom school

It’s hard to believe it has been two years since my mother died. The world seems like such a different place, even though two years is but a speck over the course of history.

While merely coincidence, Mom’s death seemed to send the universe into a chaotic spiral. I feel like I’m living in perpetual survival mode, just like I did when I was a caregiver.  Mom’s eternal optimism would have been sorely tested over the last year or so.

The grief is less oppressive and not as constant at this point, but it continues to lurk in the dark alleys of my mind, popping out like a villain in a movie from time to time. The “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” mantra hasn’t been silenced quite yet, but I’ve been able to turn down the volume on the second-guessing for the most part.

Just like in this photo of Mom, I will spend the day writing. She always loved this photo, which appeared in the yearbook. Mom took her education seriously, which wasn’t always a given for farm families when crops could trump classes. I inherited a similar love of learning from both of my parents, which is a precious gift that I use every day.

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Thinking of Mom

joy-mom-lamirada

Mom and I at the library, before taking a stroll through the park.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful, patient and loving mothers out there, both living and departed.

Even though it is easy to roll one’s eyes at this “Hallmark holiday,” it is a good opportunity to remember those who have cared for you and those you love. Mothering comes in many forms, from traditional to caregiving to caring for pets. A simple thank you, a sympathetic ear, a helping hand, all of these go a long way to honoring the mother(-s) in your lives.

Mother’s Day is extra difficult for me because once I get past today, the anniversary of my mom’s death looms on May 21. It’s a double gut-punch of a month now.

I’ll remember Mom today by doing some birdwatching in the backyard (our birdfeeder has become quite the hotspot) and taking a walk to appreciate other wonders of nature that my mother loved. One of Mom’s best qualities was always “stopping to smell the roses.” She appreciated every flower, every bird, all of nature’s offerings. It’s a good reminder for me to take time to enjoy nature as well and seek a healthier balance between work and other demands of modern life.

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