Love, Forgiveness and a Monumental Weekend!

A monumental event occurred in my life this past weekend!! I co-facilitated a weekend retreat with my Rector and frienily (friends who are family) Paul Roberts Abernathy as part of a class called Love & Forgiveness that we developed. It was great in so many ways – the two of us teaching together for the first time worked like clockwork, the group of class participants were simply incredible, the sharing and bonding among us all was indescribable and the weather at our beach retreat was nothing short of spectacular!! If that was all that happened, it would have been more than enough! Yet that wasn’t the monumental event!

As a teacher and trainer, I like to think that I am always in control AND under control!! But this weekend, even though I was one of the facilitators, I may have learned more than anyone else. The most important lesson I learned was that the weekend wasn’t about being in control. it was about letting things come as they may with (here comes my new favorite phrase) No Expectations. My actual Revelation was one that I never saw coming!!

One part of the weekend called for the facilitators to share a personal story about forgiveness. When it was my turn, I shared a story about my sister, and how despite the difficulties in our relationship I forgave her (and myself) before she died from MS in 2011. I didn’t have ANY trouble writing down the key words I wanted to say during the class, but during the actual sharing of my story I started to cry. Huh????? Me, crying during a class!! What was that about?? Isn’t that unprofessional?? Before the end of the retreat, I discovered that the crying was about me letting go of stuff I was obviously STILL holding on to… it was about me loving and caring for myself, and it was about me allowing everyone to embrace and love me during and after my story. It was monumental and life-changing!! 

i believe everyone in attendance felt the weekend was special. But I wondered if anyone besides me felt lighter, unburdened and bursting with excitement by Sunday afternoon (even more than my normal Spunkiness)!! I’ve always felt that I have great training and facilitator skills, but this weekend I also learned that it’s perfectly fine if I bring a large dose of authenticity to the table as well! This weekend for me was definitely about Forgiveness, but it was even more about Love! 

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Revisiting Old Memories, Coloring New Ones

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This photo, from Mom’s 85th birthday luncheon this past Monday speaks more than a thousand words to me and it’s one of the reasons I love taking pictures. You simply never know what you’ll capture. Here’s a little background on the photo.

While waiting for other family members to arrive for the luncheon, our house was full of activity. My cousin Bonita and Kendal had a tea party, Tim and Paul snacked on cheese and crackers and raved over the final taste-testing of Tim’s pasta dish, and Herb and I discussed cable tv programming honoring Black History Month.

Of the many photos that we took, it was THIS one that put the entire day, and even LIFE itself, into perspective for me. There are three mothers in the photo, two of whom have been mothers and friends longer than many of us have been alive, and the other a fairly new mom of a little more than two years. Mom and Mrs. Adams, who has known me for my entire life, are enjoying Mom’s book of memories that she made during her senior year of high school. You have to strain to read some of what Mom wrote back then, as it was written in what appears to be white chalk that is starting to fade in many places. Yet Mom could name everyone in those pictures, and she and Mrs. Adams giggled at times while looking at pictures of Mom’s “handsome” and “cute” classmates.

The commentary Mom added back then to her now sixty-five year old photo album is priceless and timeless. It’s that commentary that has given me a glimpse into her amazing sense of humor that had faded quite a bit by the time I was born, much like the ink identifying her photos in her album. I believe it’s Mom’s dementia that has restored her sense of humor to the period of her care-free high school days. For that, I’m grateful. Watching two best friends in their eighties reflecting on their youth with such joy is indescribable, especially because it’s the only period about which Mom can converse.

The photo is also about youth and the new generation. Kim and Kendal are sprawled on the floor, a box of crayons and one piece of paper between them. There were other chairs and plenty of table space for them to color on, but Kendal loves being on the floor and coloring is one of her favorite activities. As I’ve said many times before, Kim is an amazing mother! I love how she ALWAYS meets Kendal “where she is”, physically and emotionally. If Kendal wants to do flips and handstands on the floor, Kim is right there (and Kim can actually still DO a handstand). If Kendal wants to lay on the floor and color, Kim grabs a crayon too. If she’s fussy and needs a nap, which occurred not long after this photo was taken, Kim’s more than willing to lie down right next to her.

Kim reminds me of all that I remember my Mom doing for me (minus the handstands). Mom always met me exactly where I was, and gave me just what I needed, even if it was a financial or emotional strain for her.
We probably threw away the paper that Kim and Kendal colored on that day. What we didn’t throw away were any of the memories, old or new. I pray that forty years from now Kim will be sitting on a couch with her best friend talking about the memories from her life today and that Kendal will be sprawled on the floor making memories with her family.

Our picture of Life isn’t always going to be filled with happy bright colors as there will be plenty of dark colors mixed in and shades of grey too. I believe that we should seize every opportunity in our lives to “color” the memories we can control as brightly as possible, so when the dark colors do invade our lives, they may be a little more bearable. So, what memories will you “color” today? Whatever they are, I hope they’re beautiful and life-giving! Thanks for the memories Mom and Happy 85th birthday! Love you always!

One Year Later …

I’m simply amazed!!! One year ago today on February 1, 2013, my book “Being My Mom’s Mom” was published. To date it has sold more than 1,000 copies and I’m grateful and proud! Today I celebrated this milestone in the most appropriate way, not at a restaurant, not shopping or at a spa day, but at the National Capital Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association participating in a Caregiver Support Group Facilitator Training course. I learned so much from our outstanding trainers, including ensuring that everyone in the support group feels heard, and how to be a great facilitator without taking over the group with our own story. It was a most fitting way to celebrate this day, given the whirlwind of Alzheimer’s related activities I’ve been involved in over the last 365 days. 

Here’s a look at the Top Ten List of my 2013 journey to support Alzheimer’s research and promote our story. 

1) Gave a presentation and signed books at three DC area churches, including St. Mark’s Capitol Hill, my own church community, which showed me a tremendous amount of love and support.

2) Discussed and signed books for three very diverse book clubs; a great group of women in their 30’s, a lively group DC seniors, and a group of lifelong friends from my childhood neighborhood.

3) Joined and contributed to five Alzheimer’s related Facebook pages.

4) Sold the book as a vendor at the John 3:16 Bookstore in Lanham, MD, the Active Aging Expo in Gaithersburg, MD, a Mothers Day Tea in Landover, MD, the Caregivers Journey Conference in Fairfax, VA, the 66 Beans Coffeehouse in Charlotte Hall, MD, and at the very popular Baltimore Book Festival. 

5) Sold a personal record of 60 books and was the Keynote speaker for the holiday luncheon for the Montgomery County MD Long Term Care Ombudsmen Program.

6) Was a guest on two Radio Shows; The Medical Hour on station WCBM in Baltimore, MD and the Blog Talk radio show Alzheimer’s Speaks with Lori La Bey.

7) Gave a presentation at the Clinton, MD Branch of the Prince Georges County Public Library, and 10 copies of my book were added to the collection in the Prince Georges Memorial Library System.

8) Sold 25 books to and gave a presentation for the Arden Courts Memory Care Community for Marketing Director Julie Boone-Roth. Julie has become a friend and a fierce promoter of my book. 

9) Participated in 30 days of activities in November in support of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month! I wore purple, the color of the Alzheimer’s movement, for 15 days of the month and met my goal of selling 100 books. 

10) Selected as a panelist for the prestigious Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, VA (in conjunction with the University of Virginia) to be held on Wednesday March 19, 2014. 

I’ve literally written more than 200 letters about Alzheimer’s and the book, read more than 400 pages on current Alzheimer’s research, met hundreds of people in all types of venues, and become passionate about writing my blog. I’ve learned more about myself in this year than I thought possible, working through my joys and my fears and recognizing my deepening love for my mom as this disease takes more of her away from me. I’ve learned to balance the sadness from this disease with sheer joy of being with our amazing Kendal. I find so much comfort in her love of life and her unconditional love for us. 

Who knows what the next year will bring, but whatever comes, I’m ready for it!!’m energized by the support for the book and by the tireless efforts of the thousands of people working to find a cure for this disease. What a year it’s been!! Though I’m tired right now from a long day of work and learning, I’m about to recharge because Kendal’s here and it’s time to play!!!

I love my life and I Love Being My Mom’s Mom!