The Perfect Balance – Presentations and Play in Chicago

What a week!! The book tour in Chicago started with a bang. We landed in the middle of a violent thunderstorm and had to sit on the runway until the lightning stopped so the ground crew could get us parked at the gate safely. Then a few miracles kicked in, as the rain stopped long enough for our bags not to get wet as they were unloaded, and it held off enough for us to get into our rental car and start our one hour journey to our first hotel before it began pouring again!!

We got to the town of Geneva and even though it was after 9 pm, we could still tell it was a beautiful town. I couldn’t wait to see it in the daylight. The best thing ever was that the hotel was only about 100 yards from the Arden Courts of Geneva. The town was simply beautiful with quaint homes and shops. 

 We went sightseeing in downtown Chicago in the morning and returned to the hotel in time to shower and get ready for the first presentation. We rode across the street and met Kelly Fritz and Pat O’Connor. They were both incredible women, but were disappointed to tell me that there were only going to be a few people in attendance as there had been some cancellations. I promised them that we would have a great time even if only one person showed up!! Two women and the staff of Arden Courts attended and we had a ball!! Lots of notes were taken and some sharing too. Afterwards, Pat shared with me that I had made a huge impact on one of the women there, in the sense that she needed a little positivity about her situation and was able to get that from me!! I was so surprised AND thrilled that in a one hour speech I could make an important difference in someone’s life.

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I was told that the following day’s morning session had so many RSVP’s that they had to hire a person to valet park the vehicles!! Wow, that was intimidating!! No pressure on me! And it turned out to be a simply amazing time!! It was in a place called South Holland and there was almost standing room only with more than 60 people in attendance. A box lunch was served with a wrap, potato salad, chips and a cookie. I spoke with every single person in attendance before the program started. That was so much fun!! It was such a diverse group of folks – family members of those with dementia, social workers, nurse practitioners, and those who work with the Alzheimer’s Association. Everyone had a great time!! They raffled off 8 of my books which I happily signed, and I sold about 10 more!!The raffle winners cheered and smiled as if they had won the lottery!  I felt awesome !! 

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The next town was an hour away in a place called Glen Ellyn. My point of contact Patti was simply amazing!! There were great snacks, veggies and dips, fruit and cookies for the attendees. There was also an awesome young lady named Brittany who shared with me as soon as I walked in the door that she was the first person In her Glen Ellyn community who had read my book!! I was so impressed with her professionalism and her desire to learn. She reminded me so much of a younger version of me. There were almost 30 folks in attendance and we all laughed and had a great time!! There were great questions In that session too!! It felt to me like folks were connected to my every word. I signed the books that were raffled off for that group and sold a few as well!!

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The Last presentation was a perfect ending to book tour! Fabulous people!! Great appetizers and give-always such as bags, pens & notebooks bearing the Arden Courts name. The acting marketing director, whose name was Romance was a little disappointed because more than 13 people who RSVP’d didn’t arrive, but it was a beautiful Friday night at the start of a holiday weekend so I think people thought of better things to do!! That said, those of us who were there had a BLAST!!!! Romance said she didn’t want to let me leave. She had ordered enough books to raffle off, but because so many people didn’t come, everyone in attendance received a book..Which of course I signed! Everyone appeared to be soooooo thrilled with their books!! 

The program was supposed to end at 8pm, but everyone just hung out, just chatting and sharing their stories til 8:30. One young woman who attended had just placed her mom in the Arden Courts community that week, and was really struggling and the toll the disease was having on she and her family. We all listened intently. No one wanted to get out of their seats.

Finally Romance said, “let’s give Loretta one more round of applause”. Everyone clapped, then finally began to rise from their seats!! One woman in attendance has a sister in Temple Hills., MD a mere few miles from us. She said she’d tell her all about me and my story. That would be great if she shares with her sister because I’d love to meet her too!! I found out that the people who were there had all learned of the event through advertisements in the Chicago Tribune newspaper!! I was so excited about that! One person gave me a copy of the ad from her newspaper. It was cool seeing my face and story in a newspaper!! 

Tim and I had a total of four days in Chicago. In addition to the four presentations in three days, we saw a lot of the city too. We took the train in from the suburbs and did the river architectural tour of the city, visited the Sky Ledge in the Sears (Willis) Tower, walked the Magnificent Mile, enjoyed the Navy Pier and went to a place I’d been dying to visit called Eataly … it’s an amazing complex of an Italian market, a wine and beer outlet, a full bakery, 9 full restaurants, and every type of cookbook and cooking class known to man all under one roof. We went there twice and tried two different types of meals. 

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 When we headed for the airport on Saturday, I felt as if I had conquered it all!!! I’d met so many people, gave fully of myself, and shared stories, was loved and embraced by all the groups. Yet, i also felt like we had a great mini vacation too!! We walked, and talked, laughed and photographed, and ate to our hearts content. We saw new towns, and embraced new “small town” culture. It’s all a huge part of what I call Conquering Life ….. enjoying every possible moment, and giving your all to everything you do!! It was a week of The Perfect Balance!!

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A Years Worth of Life’s Lessons in Just One Week!!

Eight days ago was Mother’s Day, and I had one of the best ever!! It was a glorious day, and we headed to Costca Park about a mile from our house so that Kendal could play (and Mom could watch and get some exercise too!). Mom had a ball watching Kendal swing on the swings and slide down the slide. When we pushed Kendal on the swing, she began to say “up to the sky!” so we would push her higher. None of us knew where she learned that phrase, but she said it over and over. Mom was sitting on a bench observing quietly. I asked Mom if she was having a good time. She said “YES, she’s going high as the sky!” .Hmmmmm. “What did you say?”, I asked. She pointed to Kendal and said “she’s swinging to the sky. Don’t you know that?” I thought to myself “I know it now!” Thanks Mom for teaching me that you still have the ability to retain a few things! Love my Momma!!

Between Mothers Day and yesterday, I had some amazing “teaching and learning” moments, one of which stemmed from the fact that for the first time in more than six years, I returned to the classroom to teach a grad school Security management course in addition to teaching my online classes. I had resisted going back to the classroom for many reasons – such as it requires that you physically drive there and be committed for nine weeks in a row, and that you teach for four hours in the evening after working all day. That’s a lot!! More importantly, I had fallen in love with online teaching where I’m free to “teach” at 4 am in my pj’s.

I’ve been sailing along online, with happy students and outstanding course evaluations. Did I even need to go back to the classroom too?? Yet I felt called, and agreed to teach this one class!! Something happened during the nine weeks that I hadn’t expected. I had a BALL being back in the classroom, and had the best class of students ever!! My students were eleven really bright folks who had all “heard” that I was a great professor who had been talked into returning to the classroom! Seeing those smiling faces in the classroom every week made me even more passionate about teaching, which I didn’t think was actually possible!! After our last class this past Thursday, everyone hung around, hugging and chatting seeming to not want it all to end! Each of them described how much they enjoyed learning all of the business and security lessons in my class. I was thrilled. As the last student was leaving the classroom, he turned to me and said “please don’t leave the classroom again, students need professors like you, I need you to know you changed my life!” Seriously, WOW! Does it get any better than that?

And then came yesterday…. . I was invited as an author to the Delta Sigma Theta Literary Cafe and Jazz Brunch at the Victorian Candle Bed and Breakfast in Hollywood, MD. I thought Kim would really enjoy it too, so I invited her to go with me. I told her I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to advertise her candy if we had samples at my book table.Turns out it was an outstanding idea and I was A VERY PROUD Momma! It was like a second Mother’s Day for me!! Kim and I had the best time ever!! The B&B was gorgeous, the food incredible, and the jazz entertainment was simply awesome!! The eight invited authors gave a brief synopsis and read from their written works, followed by brunch patrons browsing all of the books. Almost all of the authors had candy or mints on their tables, BUT I was the only one who had KIM’S HOMEMADE CANDY!!! To say that Kim and her candy were a huge success would be the ultimate understatement!! Our table was swarming with candy lovers!! I kept saying out loud “that’s my daughter!!” !! Books sales were brisk for all authors. Some of the Deltas purchased books from every author!! I sold books to more than half of the patrons. I was so amazed!

Even better, I learned many things from the other authors at the event! Everyone shared information freely, about publishing their books, marketing strategies and other helpful information. I was happy with all the lessons I learned and thrilled about the wonderful authors I met. It didn’t feel competitive at all, just cooperative, supportive and nurturing. I came away overflowing with pride for my daughter and the wonderful business / Mommy / Daughter day we shared together and for the lessons that the experienced authors gave me as I prepare for book #2.

The last eight days have felt like I’ve learned a year’s worth of life lessons in just one week!!Look out world, I’m ready for more!!

 

 

Conquering Life Through Great Experiences: Book Tour Part 1

My previous blog last week focused on my goal of Touching One Person at a Time as I ventured out on a mini book tour. I was excited to see how it would turn out. It began last Sunday with a presentation at a nursing home in Gainesville, VA for an event called “An Afternoon of education and Respite for Caregivers”. It was sponsored by The Links Incorporated, founded in 1946 and one of the largest volunteer service organizations of women who are committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-American and other persons of African ancestry.
 
I was originally scheduled to speak for 20 minutes near the end of the program, but I ended up doing much more because the original program wasn’t possible because no invited “caregiver” guests showed up. Only Links members and Link member candidates (who had planned the program as part of their service requirements to become Links members) were in attendance. 
 
The Links candidates had been warned in advance of the possibility that no caregivers would attend, but given that I was there and a musical quartet of young people was scheduled to play before an activity of assembling puzzles with the nursing home residents was to take place, the candidates pressed on quickly. I was asked if I would give my presentation first on the revised program and of course I said Yes! 
 
My speech was soooo well received. After my presentation, I was asked by Links members to speak at churches, golf tournaments, sorority events, and was even asked for the name of my publicist so they could book more dates with me…It was an amazing time!!! People hugged me, a few cried and I was actually overwhelmed!! One woman in the group purchased twelve books and I signed each one based on what she had shared with me about her friends and family who would receive the books. I know I take a lot of pictures, but the Links group took so many pictures of and with me that I thought they had me confused with a famous author! They told me that I had touched their lives in such a big way that they wanted to remember every minute of the event. 
 
The next event on Monday was at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was an incredible and amazingly beautiful facility that made me wish I was older so I could become a member! The center was huge yet warm, and very open and inviting with every kind of activity known to man occurring in the many rooms!! I was supposed to start at 10 am, but we started a few minutes late so that the women who were in the exercise class down the hall had time to come in and join the presentation! They were a fun group of women and one of them brought her mom, clearly a victim of Alzheimer’s who sat stoically in her wheelchair very much unaware of the event her daughter had brought her to. 
 
We had a great time and they loved my presentation! It was supposed to end at 11, but as the Center’s chefs (YES, chefs) were preparing lunch, some of my attendees purchased my book and then went to a crochet class while the rest of us hung out in the huge “Great Room” auditorium and chatted for another hour. It was a blast and I made a few friends!! I was told how inspiring my presentation was. 
 
I finally headed home to rest up for the 3-hour drive to Charlottesville, VA on Tuesday morning. The ride down at 5 am was very relaxing, and I didn’t run into any traffic!! I arrived almost an hour before the conference began so I was able to relax and enjoy the provided breakfast and get to know a few people right away. 
 
The all day workshop was sponsored by the Central and Western Virginia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and was called “Women at the Epicenter of Alzheimer’s. Dr Carol Manning, Director of the Memory Center at UVA was the first speaker of the day. Her ninety-minute presentation was entitled “What’s Normal and When should I Be Worried” and was everything you wanted to know about Dementia but were afraid to ask. I learned soooooo much!!! For example, I learned that a Stepwise decline is a sudden and steep decline in a dementia patient after a long period of stability. Several Stepwise declines can occur during dementia patient’s life. I remember Mom having a huge decline in memory function when my aunt Diane died, but I had no idea it actually had a name. 
 
I was the second presenter of the day and was a little nervous being on a program with academicians from UVA. It was also going to be only the second time I would use a PowerPoint presentation of family pics to illustrate all the points of my presentation, with the first time being the previous day at the senior center. It was a risk trying it out without much practice in front of this large and distinguished group of people, but thankfully it worked phenomenally well!! As I spoke about our journey, the group’s emotions ranged from sadness to empathy, to loud laughter.  I think the most effective part of the presentation was my discussion of three of my favorite apps on my IPhone that I use to help with Mom and her changing behaviors. Everyone wrote the information down. I ended right on time for lunch to a rousing applause from the audience. I was so excited and felt very connected to the audience. 
 
The Charlottesville Holiday Inn put together a fabulous buffet for lunch with salad, soup, meats, veggies, bread and cheesecake for dessert. In addition to the food, lunch was filled with great conversation and fun with new friends. I spent some of the lunch hour with a very young professor named Dr.Ishan Williams from the UVA School of Nursing who was to be the next presenter. Her presentation was called “African-Americans and the Alzheimer’s Journey”. I learned a great deal about research studies from the presentation, and it was much more interesting and thought-provoking that I had thought it would be.
 
The most fun presentation of the day was called “Healing Power of the Arts” which included painting and singing along with the presenters. I could definitely see how viewing and painting pictures could really benefit dementia patients. It was FUN!!! 
 
The day ended with a presentation by Flo Feldman, which included a very moving video called “Life in Reverse: Selma’s Story”!! Flo recorded many conversations with her mom which became an amazing eleven minute video. Flo is an amazingly energetic woman who had cared for her mom in her home until her death. Flo was the perfect person to end the day. She and I chatted and hugged and shared more stories. We even talked about the possibility of doing presentations together. 
 
May 6th was one of the most amazing days I’ve had on this journey with dementia. I thought I’d be tired after driving for 3 hours, and staying all day for the workshop, but I was so energetic at the end of the day and had no trouble making the 3 hour drive home, and did so without stopping. My book sales during the day were great too! But the true icing on the cake for me were the three email messages I received from attendees at the workshop letting me know how much they enjoyed my presentation! That was Priceless!
 
So how did my goal of Touching One Person at a Time work out this week? Actually better than I could have imagined! What I hadn’t expected was how many people would actually touch me! Everyone has a story about the impact of this disease on their lives. I hadn’t expected that our story would become so compelling for so many people. Part two of the book tour begins in two weeks in Chicago. I’m looking forward to touching more people then. On this day before Mother’s Day, I’m proud to honor my mom by telling our story, and I KNOW she’d be very proud of me. Love you Mom!! 
 
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Touching One Person at a Time in May!

Today is May 1st, known also as May Day – International Workers Day. On this day, exactly fifteen months after the publication of my book, I set out to ten venues for my greatest month of “work” to date, joining thousands of others in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. This month, I’m hoping to share my story with many people and am eager to hear their stories as well. I’ll be speaking at five Arden Courts / Manor Care Nursing Homes, two Senior Activity Centers, two hotels, and even a Bed and Breakfast for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Literary Cafe event.

One of the all-day events I’ll be participating in next week in Charlottesville, VA is called “Women at the Epicenter of Alzheimer’s”. I’m not sure I’m actually the Epicenter of anything, but I am sure that I’m going to do my absolute best to touch one person at a time, acknowledging their individual pain and struggle as they cope with the invasion of Alzheimer’s disease in their lives.

We are all different, with different voices and different causes, but we all have the ability to positively touch the lives of others with our big hearts as well as our kind words. We’ve all seen an incredible example this week in Los Angeles of how destructive words can be, but with a little effort from each of us, we can choose to use words that build people up even when they are at their lowest. For whatever reason, ten groups of people have invited me to share my words with them this month. I pray that the words I’ll share will touch each of them in the way they need it most. I’ll be giving lots of hugs too because few things in life are better than a great hug. For me, hugs help hold the comforting words in. As I start of my journey this month I’ll be giving my Mom a big hug too, as I know she’s proud of my work thus far! Let us all commit to putting in some great work this month!! This month’s for you Mom!