Making Loving and Historical Memories!

I always learn a lot in February because it’s Black History Month, but this year I’ve been especially focused on it and have been rewarded in a myriad of ways.

Last weekend we started a new family tradition with Kendal going to her first performance of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I’m thrilled to restart this tradition after more than 25 years of attending with my Mom and other family members. We all enjoyed the performances, especially the dance Revelations, but it was the free performance and demonstration after the show that was the most emotional for me. We all danced and learned as the retired Ailey dancers took the hundreds in attendance through the various dance moves in Revelations. Watching Kim and Kendal alongside each other and even up on the stage, and then me dancing side by side with Kim brought tears to my eyes.  I took quite a few video clips that I shared with Mom this week. She smiled and said “good” though I’m sure she can’t process what she was watching, but the fact is we are making historical memories that I hope will last a lifetime.

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The only part of February that I dread is Valentine’s Day. I’m used to being by myself now, but I still get that ache in my heart as the day approaches. So this year I made plans to spend the afternoon with Mom, and then to pick up Kendal after school to put together a LEGO set. I was stunned when I arrived at the group home and all of the residents and caregivers were dressed in red, looking gorgeous! I had made some Valentine’s Day coloring sheets for me and Mom to do, but she wasn’t talking at all or very aware so I just sat with her. Like I always say, I have no expectations with this disease so I wasn’t upset at all that we didn’t color. After a couple of hours with Mom I took a few pics and then headed to pick up Kendal. The surprise of the day was when Kendal got in the car. I told her that I’d spent time with Mom and she quickly said she wanted to see her too. So back to Mom’s I went. Mom was totally different when I returned. She barely acknowledged me, but when she saw Kendal, she smiled from ear to ear and said “HI!!”. She hasn’t smiled like that in a long time! The card I brought for Mom had gold colored lettering and it was hard for her to see. So all she could read was her name and mine that I’d printed. As she struggled reading the card, Kendal said “I’ll read it to you Grandma”. Oh Lordy!!! Mom and I listened intently as Kendal read and tears came to my eyes.  What an amazing kid she is. We had a great time building the LEGO set at my house too, it was simply the perfect day! I forgot all about being alone, and I know Tim was with us and smiling!

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Yesterday I had already set aside time to attend a Black History lecture on Josiah Henson (on whom the book Uncle Tom’s cabin was loosely based). The lecture was held at Surratt House (where Johns Wilkes Booth ran to after assassinating President Lincoln) which is literally down the street from my house. Most important of the many things that I learned from the lecture was how Josiah and his wife and four children walked through dangerous territory for 6 weeks from Kentucky to Canada so they could be free!!

Today was “historical movie” day for me! I watched the Netflix series on “Who Killed Malcolm X”,  and “Barry” (a young Barack Obama) and documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones, and Allen Iverson. It was a day full of pride and tremendous learning for me and I wish Mom could have enjoyed some of it with me! I hope we can continue to share our history with Kendal and I will continue to review history with Mom just as she used to do with me. Role reversal is such a humbling experience but I try to continue to rise to the occasion and pray I’m doing all the right things. Next up is Mom’s birthday on Tuesday and the folks at the group home are really looking forward to our celebration! Love you Mom can’t wait to have cake with you!

The Lessons I Continue to Learn…

The last two weeks of January can only be described as incredible Teachable Moments! Situations that could have turned out badly were both memorable and joyful!

On the 19th I headed down to Harrisonburg, VA excited to give an all-day workshop on Emotional Intelligence at Generations Crossing, one of my fav places on earth. In proactive fashion I had gotten my 65,000 mile service on my car the day before so I’d be ready for my trip. About 40 miles from my hotel in Harrisonburg another driver pulled up alongside me pointing to the drivers side of my car, alerting me that something was hanging from underneath my car. I pulled off to discover that the shield that protects the engine was hanging down. I quickly grabbed some duct tape from the gas station I’d pulled into, got under the car and taped it up. But I was clearly worried about going the 130 miles back home with the entire front of my car held together by duct tape. I looked up the closest Ford dealer and saw there was one just a few miles from the location where I’d be speaking. On the morning of Martin Luther King’s Holiday I pulled into the Ford dealer to see if they could fix my car before I got back on the road later in the afternoon, but the service manager took one look at me as I walked in and said “before you ask we are booked solid all day”….. I paused and then said “Good Morning, I’m Loretta and I’m in town to give a presentation before driving back home to DC this afternoon and I’m truly worried about going that far with this duct tape holding my car together. Is there any way you can help me?” He looked up at my sad face and then down at his computer. “Can you be here at 4?”…. I guaranteed that I’d be there and I was. Turns out the Ford dealership in MD had neglected to put 5 screws back in the shield that covers the engine and it had started dragging the ground causing sparks…. I was so grateful to the Harrisonburg Ford folks for helping me. The manager who waited on me in the afternoon said the manager who waited on me in the morning told him that I was the “happiest person he’d every met” and he had to help me though they were booked. Lessons Learned – Duct tape can be your friend, it pays to be nice to people even when they aren’t particularly nice to you AND I can do anything I need to do in a pinch!

On Jan 23rd, I finally got the injection in my infected eye that I’d been putting off. I’d been told that it wouldn’t hurt, and maybe that was true, but it was the most uncomfortable 21 seconds I’d spent in a long time. I’d tried to be proactive and had arranged a ride and backup ride to my appointment but both had fallen through at the last minute so I drove myself. That was a mistake! I was literally shaking after the injection and had to sit in the office waiting room until I was strong enough to head home. I made it home safely but it wasn’t a smart decision. Lesson Learned – don’t hesitate to call on others for help even at the last minute.

On January 28th I was supposed to fly to Westchester County, NY to give a presentation in Pearl River. The flight was delayed so I decided to drive. I had time to chill by the fire in the hotel lobby before my presentation and I was relaxed and ready to go! The Artis Senior Living staff was welcoming and loving as they always are and we had a blast together!

But I noticed right away that some of the folks attending were clearly not aware that the speaker was going to be African-American. A woman who was seated in the front of the room as the full dinner buffet was being set up in the back of the room came up to me and said “what’s on the menu for tonight so I can tell you what I want on my plate?”….. “ummmm”, I paused. “I don’t know what’s on the menu” was the best I could come up with. “Why not?” she shot back. “Because I don’t work here.” She simply said “oh” and brushed by me clearly aggravated and headed to make her own plate. As the presentation was about to start she realized I was the speaker. She turned her chair around away from the screen and with her back to me. “Oh Lordy” I thought. But I started my presentation with my usual humor and joy and within two minutes my friend in the front turned her chair around to face me. For the rest of the presentation she took notes, laughed and cheered and a couple of times wiped tears from her eyes. Artis had purchased books for every attendee which I had signed in advance but I offered to add their names to my signature if they wanted that. My “friend” in the front of the room grabbed her book and jumped up to be first in line. She came up to me, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked right into my eyes and said “you are a beautiful soul” and hugged me tighter than I’d been held in a while. I hugged her back for what seemed like forever! It wasn’t an apology for her earlier treatment of me, it was even better than an apology. Before I started my presentation I had decided I wasn’t going to let this woman or anyone else ruin that great evening that I’d driven 4 hours to get to. Lesson Learned – Be open and forgiving and give folks a second chance to make a first impression.

On the 29th after work I gave a presentation at Olney Assisted Living. A Facebook friend accepted my last minute invitation and joined me. There were just a few people in attendance but I’m a true believer that size doesn’t matter at all and we had the best time ever!! My friend Nancy Piness and I possibly had met many years ago and we have so many connections from work, church and the Veney family that we could actually feel as if we are related. What a gem she is and it was such a pleasure to have her there!! We will be friends forever! Lesson Learned – invite people to hear you speak even at the last minute!!

Last night I ended the month of January in the best possible way! I went Contra Dancing with my friend Katherine…it’s kinda like line dancing and square dancing mashed together (see YouTube) and you dance with almost everyone as the night goes on.

I swear the people who were there were the nicest people ever!! New people like me wear blue buttons so everyone knows it’s your first time. Anyone can ask anyone else to dance regardless of gender or orientation. It was amazing learning the steps and the turns but it didn’t matter if you messed up!! People just laughed and kept going! There were different ethnicities, young folks and old folks and men in skirts and kilts so it would twirl when they turned, and everyone was so comfortable in their own skin and welcomed each other unconditionally! I honestly have to say I’ve never attended another event quite like it!! Katherine and I danced for more than 3 hours and I didn’t get home until after midnight but felt exhilarated! I laid in bed remembering the names of the people I’d danced with, the steps, the smiles and most of all the fun! Lessons Learned – be open to trying new things and meeting new people, it may end up being an experience you’ll never forget!!

Hello February!!! If you’re anything like January you’re going to be a great month and I’m ready!!

Lighting My Way to Intentionality!!

This past Christmas season I set a goal to see as many holiday light exhibits as possible, and I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations taking in more than 20 displays and events! Each one seemed to be more impressive than the one before! I felt so much Joy and so full of life that I didn’t want it to end! So I decided I wouldn’t let it end, because we were not only going into a new year, but also a new decade!! There was lots of talk about New Vision and Seeing Clearly in 2020 and I was absolutely onboard with that!! I wanted to figure out how to carry that Joy and Light into the new decade, as overall 2019 wasn’t the best of years for me!

I decided I’d choose one word to focus on for 2020. The word I chose is INTENTIONALITY! Why that word?? Well we all have family and friends that we spend time with but are we really fully present with them? Do we give them our full attention and really listen, or are we on our phones or doing other types of multitasking? My answer to my own question was NO, except for when I was with my Mom. We pass our friends and neighbors at church or the grocery store and we give a wave. We may even ask “how ya doing?” But are we really hearing their answers? If they said they were “just ok”, did we ask what was going on?

I knew I wasn’t being fully present with others, because even when I was standing still, in my head I was already moving on to the next task I needed or wanted to accomplish. But I really wanted and needed to be better in my relationships! Some of what I felt in 2019 was loneliness, but was it of my own making? In large part, I think so.

I’m writing this on January 15th because it’s halfway through the first month of my INTENTIONALITY and I wanted to write about how it’s going. I’m happy to report that it’s been wildly successful!! I’ve learned things I didn’t know about people I’ve known for a long time!! When I asked how people are, I stood still and listened about their health, their kids and grandkids, their jobs, their goals, fears and their hopes. And I would share as well. I’ve always been a hugger, but I have already hugged people I’ve never hugged before. And even with my old friends I held onto each hug a little longer so they knew I really cared. I can’t remember a year when I’ve felt this amazing about how it’s started!! I feel really connected and I don’t mean on the internet! I feel the same Joy and the Love and the Light that I felt looking at all the holiday displays! I’ve had tea, lunch or dinner with both old friends from my past and people I’ve known just in passing who have become friends and it feels as if I’ve filled a hole in my life!

There’s a lot going on in this world that I wish I could change. So I’m going to do my best for the rest of 2020 to continue to be out in this world helping and inspiring people, and connecting with them and being INTENTIONAL in my interactions in the hopes I can make even small changes in this world. So here’s to more Joy and Love and Light to us all!

“I’m Going to Read ALL of the Books in this Library!”

I clearly remembering saying that to my Mom on one of our first visits to the incredible Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as she was explaining how many books were contained in the Library. I was about 6 years old at the time.

We visited the Library often, sitting in its massive Main Reading Room researching and writing whatever assignment was due for school, or simply reading for pleasure. As a child I used to get dizzy holding my head back in attempt to see the room’s ceiling which to me seemed higher than the sky!

When I proclaimed to Mom that I was going to read every book in the Library of Congress she never corrected or discouraged me. Instead she said “then you better get started!” I remember reading two chapter books in the reading room that day and was so proud of myself for getting a good start on reading ALL of the books.

Those visits with Mom to this breathtaking place helped to make me the person I am today! My love of all things printed (and now on Kindle) were shaped by Mom’s love of them too. I wouldn’t be an author today were it not for Mom.

I still get goosebumps when I enter the Library of Congress – the marble, the statues, the millions of books, the exhibits – all of which emphasize for me the importance of reading and learning.

When I turned 12 Mom reminded me that the next year I would be a teenager, and at that time she expected me to share with others (including strangers) what I had read and learned in the Library so I could hold a conversation about the topic to get “a different perspective” from my own.

I so looked forward to turning 13 and starting on the mission Mom gave me! Countless people of all ages and ethnicities engaged me in conversation and contributed in a huge way to my personal and spiritual growth.

This past weekend I went to the Library to see the Holiday tree and the Rosa Parks exhibit. As I walked up the marble stairs to the exhibit, tears started to roll down my cheeks! The tears really surprised me, but at that moment I missed my “pre-dementia” Mom so much!

Though I miss going to the Library with her, she’d be very proud that I still go! In spite of the tears I also realized we’ve also received one huge Blessing along our dementia journey. Unlike many others in the late stages of dementia Mom can still read! She can no longer comprehend, but she can proudly belt out all the words on any given page. I read to Mom a lot and she still reads to me (she also makes sure I’m paying attention!)

As I always do any time I visit an exhibit, I took Mom the brochures on the Rosa Parks and the We Shall Not Be Denied exhibits. When I arrived at the group home, Mom was eating dinner and as I sat down to chat with her I put the brochures near her plate. She said hello to me, but never took her eyes off the brochures. Then she put her fork down and started to read, which is very surprising given how much Mom loves to eat!

After watching her read for about 15 minutes I asked her if she wanted to finish her dinner and then read later. What was her answer? “I’m learning something right now!” I love the intensity with which she does everything, and she seemed to really resonated with the black and white photos! As I sat with Mom I reflected on all the fun times we spent in the Library of Congress! Mom used to joke that it was the ONE place I felt honored NOT to talk. I am comforted by the fact that I can cherish those memories for me and Mom! I also reflected on how grateful I am to Mom for teaching me to love learning, something I pray I’ve passed on to my students over these last twenty-two years.

People keep asking me what I want for Christmas and my response is always the same, that I need nothing and that I already have so many gifts in my life! One of the main gifts I’m thankful for is that God has chosen to let Mom keep her ability to read, the ability she cherishes more than anything in this world! There isn’t any gift I could receive Christmas Day that is better than that!

What gift do you already have that’s better than anything you’ll open Christmas morning? My plan is to read a short story to Mom on Christmas Day and I hope she’ll read to me! Best gifts ever and I can’t wait! Love you Mom!

A Ton of JOY mixed with a Little Bit of Pain!

I was determined to start this holiday season early and take in as many of the DC area’s holiday lights and events as I possibly can! Last year I started late, missed a lot and regretted it when the season was over! So there I was on November 30th with Kendal at 5pm in front of the National Zoo waiting for the opening of Zoo Lights, the annual event with beautiful holiday lights that span the entire Zoo property.

We’d started going to Zoo Lights in 2012, the year after Kendal was born, making our first trip while she was still in a stroller. The entire family went each year, including Paul Roberts Abernathy who’d become part of our family years earlier! We’d ride the train and carousel and “oh and ah” over the colorful lights. We took a 3 year hiatus after Tim died in 2016 but I really wanted to restart our tradition.

Imagine my surprise when we discovered that Kendal had no memory of ever attending Zoo Lights with us and Pappy. That made me sad, especially because she has memories of lots of other events from the same time period. Thank goodness for all the pictures and videos we have to share with her.

One advantage of restarting the Zoo Lights tradition now that she’s almost 8 is that she can now ride an inflated tire down the big zoo hill!! That was a blast!! Kendal yelled and screamed during her ride and smiled at, admired and photographed so many of the lights with Tim’s camera. We walked every inch of the Zoo admiring the new animated and life-like animals. Even Kendal’s doll Luciana went with us! Kendal was so exhausted after all her running and playing for 4 hours that we had to catch a Lyft back to my car that I’d left at work. Needless to say we will be back at Zoo Lights next year!!

On December 3rd I left my car at work to take in the many areas in holiday decorated areas in downtown DC without having to look for a parking space. I first went to the upscale area called City Center with designer stores and incredible restaurants! The Center’s Christmas tree and reindeer are HUGE and I felt surrounded by JOY!

That night I also took in the DC Christmas Market, Union Station’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and the tree at the U.S. Capitol! What a night!

On December 6, Kendal was recognized in a ceremony at school for making honor roll, so we celebrated by going to an indoor trampoline playground called Sky Zone! We jumped for JOY for almost 2 hours having the time of our lives. Then all of a sudden Kendal stopped right in the middle of a jump, ran to me and said “I miss Pappy”! We hugged for a long time and I told her it was perfectly ok to miss him and I absolutely miss him too. Then it was back to jumping! One of the things I remember saying right after Tim died was that the wrong Grandparent died, and that Tim was made to be the Best Grandparent Ever, but could only do so for four years. I was determined to ensure I was the fun Grammy doing all the crazy things I knew Tim would do with her! I think I’ve done that so far!

This past weekend was loaded with events and with JOY! On the same day I attended my cousin Bonita’s annual holiday brunch which was filled with fellowship, food and holiday music, and the amazing holiday boat parade at the newly renovated DC Wharf. It was the first time I’d attended that event!! I was reminded at my cousin’s event of how much Tim loved her voice when she and her fellow choir members broke out in an impromptu song!! Tim would have been yelling “Sing Bonita”!! Tears cane to my eyes! Tim would also love the new wharf, and I’m sure that as much as he loved crabs we’d be down there all the time!

Even Mom was able to get in on the holiday fun as Lifesprings Eldercare held their annual holiday event with a red and black theme! I was worried how Mom would do during the two hour event, and packed lots of fidget toys for her to keep her busy, but I was worried for nothing because she was mesmerized for the entire event by her holiday napkin. She even missed the dancers dancing and kids choir singing thanks to her napkin filled with large print words including the word JOY !! Though I was sad she wasn’t aware of what was happening, I was thrilled she had found her own entertainment!

My weekend ended with another first! I trekked up to Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County and walked for two hours to see all of their holiday lights. After my hectic couple of weeks the walk was energizing and very peaceful! I’ll definitely be going back there next year too!

If I had to rate my holiday season so far I’d give it an A+! I’ve smiled and laughed, been sad and have cried and literally have allowed myself to feel every emotion that comes upon me!! The pain I felt in my heart without Tim has been brief and replaced most of the time with the feeling that his spirit was enjoying all the adventures right along with me! I thank God that I’m able to clearly see and feel the JOY of the holiday season while also embracing the moments of pain as just a part of my life! May this be a Holiday Season that allows all of us to feel what we feel and to do only what we want to do!

Blazing a Trail!

November is both National Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and because I’ve been working hard to promote them, I’ll be very busy for most of this month!!

I was so looking forward to my annual Pre-Thanksgiving Rally with the RVing Women this weekend because it was going to be a great respite for me in the midst of a lot of work. I knew I needed to leave my favorite ladies for a few hours on Saturday to drive 90 minutes to Baltimore to accept the 2019 Trailblazer Award from Johns Hopkins Medicine. I was told I’d have 12-15 minutes for my “acceptance speech”, so I finished up my speech Friday night while hanging out in Joy and then practiced and timed it before going to bed! I was ready! I had reserved a rental car with Enterprise and they were to pick me up at the campground at 9am so I could head to Baltimore. That turned up to be much more stressful than I’d intended! Enterprise didn’t show up, but thankfully one of my RVing Women took me the 7 miles so I could get my car.

When I stepped into the auditorium at Johns Hopkins Bayview and got the first look at the award I was going to receive I realized how big a deal this award is! Kim came to support me and videotaped it too!

What follows is a transcript of the speech I gave as the recipient of the Trailblazer Award!

“I want to sincerely thank Johns Hopkins for this award, especially Andrea Nelson and her committee and to Jane Marks for being one of my greatest supporters over the last two years along this journey. I also thank my daughter Kimberly for being here and supporting me today. Family really is everything!

When I was told I’d been selected to receive the Trailblazer award I was really overwhelmed. I asked myself am I really a trailblazer? So I Googled trailblazers to get some perspective, and my favorite article I found on the subject was from NASA, which defined a trailblazer as a Leader who points the way, takes the risks, and changes the environment. The article added that Trailblazers have a vision for a different future, a faith that turns their dreams into reality, and a determination that cuts through barriers and obstacles.

After reading those words I’m thrilled to accept this award because it absolutely captures what I’ve strived to achieve from almost the day my Mom was diagnosed with dementia thirteen years ago. Back then I made many mistakes, though all with the mindset of getting any and everything that my Mom needed. While nothing bad happened to Mom as a result of some of my early mistakes, I knew I’d been lucky. I wanted to do everything I could to help other families avoid some of the mistakes I made and I wanted to change the environment by eliminating the stigma that typically accompanies the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Five years ago after learning everything I could about Dementia I began meeting with individuals and families in my home, work and church communities and then added giving presentations and keynote addresses at assisted living and memory care facilities, and at Caregiving, Aging and Alzheimer’s conferences all over the country. I’m stunned that I have earned more than 150, 000 miles on two different airlines and I’ve already forgotten some of the hotels I’ve stayed in. But I haven’t forgotten any of the people! I had no idea what I was doing at first, so much of it I just did on faith. But people responded to me in incredible ways –  I received standing ovations at the end of many of my presentations, and emails or handwritten notes from people letting me know how much I had helped or inspired them or people who burst into tears when I spent a few minutes with them, so relieved that they’d found hope when they didn’t believe there was any or because they realized that they weren’t alone in their fear of this disease and what it can do both to those with the disease and to those who care for them. These interactions, typically with people I’d met for the first time made it clear to me that this work is my calling. It’s what I was born to do, and will continue to do until I die.

The first time my Mom didn’t know who I was on Jan 3, 2014, my 55th Birthday. It was one of the worst days of my life, but since that time I have learned to be whomever she believes I am on that day. Two years ago she simply began calling me “very nice person”. I wish you’d known my Mom pre-dementia! Unlike me, Mom was an introvert but was kind and caring and a true lover of books! I wrote my first book Being My Mom’s Mom not only to help pay for Mom’s care, but also to capture in writing who she used to be.

After Mom forgot who I am to her I had visions of a world without Alzheimers and though it hasn’t come true as of yet, I believe there will be a cure, especially with the dedication and hard work occurring right here at Johns Hopkins and many other hospitals, universities and research facilities. Just as the NASA article mentioned, I am determined to cut through barriers and obstacles until a cure is found! My Mom raised me that way, to always help others and to fight for what was right. Until 3 years ago I had the best partner ever in that fight, my husband Tim who was so much more than a son-in-law to Mom. One of the blessings of dementia was that it allowed me to avoid having to tell Mom that her beloved Tim had died so suddenly. I may no longer have my husband and partner in this fight but I can tell you that he’s cheering me on in spirit. Though my Mom is certainly not the Mom I used to have, I see her almost every day and I find joy in being with her every single time.

If you’d meet my mom today, she would crack you up! As horrific as this disease is, there’s a lot of humor too, because Mom’s wit is as quick as ever! Let me give you a few examples. This past Feb right after her 90th birthday she escaped from her group home and after a couple of blocks she fell into a ditch. Believe it or not she was fine but they took her to the hospital to get her checked out. I rushed to the hospital and when I saw her I asked “so you went for a walk by yourself huh?” She answered “no, I haven’t been for a walk in a long time.” So I asked “then how did you get here to the hospital?” Without a moment of hesitation she pointed to the two EMTs who brought her there and said “they asked me to go ride a ride with them and I said ok”. The EMTs burst into laughter, but how could you not!!

Two weeks ago I had Mom with me as I was signing the coloring books you’re receiving today.

Mom looked at her picture on the back of the book and also noticed my photo next to hers and asked in an exasperated tone, “what are you doing on the back of my book?” I burst out laughing and replied “your book? You wouldn’t even have a book if it wasn’t for me!!” I just shook my head! And then just the other day I arrived at the group home where Mom lives to sign some paperwork just as they were loading the residents into their bus to go get ice cream. Mom waved goodbye to me and the caregivers. I waved back and yelled into the bus “have fun Mom see you when you get back”. She replied “I may go somewhere else, I’ll let you know if I’m coming back”…she’s just a hoot and I’d do absolutely anything for her!

In closing, please know that I‘m going to use this Trailblazer award as extra motivation to keep moving forward in this fight, so be on the lookout for me! I’ll be using my faith and my determination as I continue to speak around the country, and as I continue to participate in fundraising walks and as I continue to go to Capital Hill to beg Congress for more research money! Though I’d never previously thought of myself as a Trailblazer I promise you that I will uphold this title proudly from this day forward! My Mom Doris and I Thank you for this recognition from the bottom of our hearts! Though Mom can no longer remember much of anything, this is a day I will not forget! Thank you all!”

After my award was presented I was congratulated by so many people during lunch and as I personalized the copies of my coloring books that I had signed in advance of the caregiver conference of hope. When I left the auditorium and got in my rental car to head back to Lancaster, PA I burst into tears! The tears were a mix of pride that my work in the fight Against Alzheimer’s is recognized and appreciated, and joy of receiving such a prestigious award, and of sadness that Tim wasn’t here to celebrate with me! During our Thanksgiving dinner last night where my beautiful award was on the display, even the RVing Women acknowledged my awards with loud cheers! I sold quite a few coloring books as well!! It was simply one of the most extraordinary days I’d had in years!

I have three big events this coming week! There’s a caregivers conference in Harrisonburg VA, a luncheon event for Johns Hopkins and a dinner event at a memory care facility. The following week I’ll be in Baltimore County for a caregiver event and in Dover, DE for the Alzheimer’s Association. It may seem like a lot, but when you’re blazing a trail it takes work!! I’m definitely up for the challenge and I’m so proud of this work and the opportunities I’ve been given!! I’m truly Blessed!

What’s That Noise? Oh,… It’s Life!

My house has been dead silent for more than 3 years, especially the upstairs part of the house. There were few sounds unless me or the TV made them. When Kendal visits, there is always laughter and joy, but as soon as she’d leave, the silence returned. Tim was 6 ft 2 inches tall, and when he walked around the house, you knew he was there. The floor creaked in spots when he walked, but the greatest sounds were his laughter.

People have always said I don’t need a lot of sleep, and while that is true, a good night’s sleep has been hard to come by since I’ve been alone. It’s possible that that’s all about to change. After 5 1/2 months of renovation, I officially became a landlord this week when my renter moved into the top floor of my home on Thursday. I don’t think she moved much in on Thursday as I didn’t see any furniture and no car was in the driveway. But I knew she was here because I heard the sound of footsteps above my head. I remember smiling broadly though at the time I didn’t really understand why. It was a long week so I went to bed fairly early on Friday night. One of the last things I remember before falling asleep was the creaking floor caused by footsteps. The next thing I knew I woke up Saturday morning feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time. I felt rested and calm and UNAFRAID. I’ve never liked the dark and I believe that living alone scared me a little. So the sound of footsteps Friday night brought me a peace I hadn’t known since July of 2017. How much peace did it bring? I was shocked when I looked at my FitBit and discovered that I’d slept 8 hours and 5 minutes last night. I don’t know the last time I slept that long.

This evening I took my cousin JoAnne out for a birthday dinner. When we returned from dinner, there wasn’t a parking space to be had in front of my house and a moving truck was in the driveway. Clearly my renter’s furniture had arrived. We did some brief introductions and I learned my renter is one of six siblings and they grew up in SC. As I retreated to my lower level home and settled in for the evening, I couldn’t stop smiling. Above my head my renter and her siblings were laughing and talking as they moved pieces of furniture around. It was glorious chaos and I loved it. These are clearly people who love each other. I haven’t heard sounds like that since the Veneys last came over for Thanksgiving dinner. This house used to be loud … Tim laughing uncontrollably over nothing, which caused me to laugh harder… Tim telling a joke and starting to laugh before he even finished the punchline. Tim yelling at the tv during sports events or movies and me yelling along with him.

For me, hearing my renter move furniture and laugh with her siblings is something that’s been missing in my home for a long time. For me, it’s not noise – it’s life! When I first thought of renting part of my house almost two years ago, my only goal was to use that money to fund my travels. Who knew that one of the greatest benefits would be that in Tim’s favorite part of the house the floor would creak again, and there’d be laughter again. I’m grateful for my renter, and I thank God that my house is alive again!