Short but Sweet, A Birthday to Remember!!

What did you do on your last birthday? Today is my Mom’s best friend’s 88th Birthday!! Her name is Vivian Adams and she’s been a fixture in our lives for my entire life!! I wanted to give her a very special afternoon today. Our original plan was for Tim to bring Mom to downtown DC to me and we’d pick up Mrs. Adams and have a nice lunch in one of the new restaurants in Brookland in NE DC, just a few miles from her house. The first part of the plan went just fine. I got off early and Tim arrived with Mom. But instead of going to pick up Mrs. Adams at her home, I was instructed to go to Providence Hospital to Mrs. Adams cardiologist’s office. She’d been hospitalized last week and needed an all clear from her doctor before she could do anything else.

She had an appointment for 12:45pm and Mom and I got to the doctor’s office around 1:15. We waited, and waited and waited, but Mrs Adams didn’t emerge from the doctor’s office until almost 2:45pm. Because of Mom’s sundowners issues, I knew we wouldn’t be able to have lunch after all because it would take too long and Mom’s anxiety would creep in well before we would finish. Making matters worse, I was worried about Mom seeing Mrs. Adams because for the first time ever, Mom no longer remembered who Mrs. Adams was. She hasn’t remembered me for almost two years, but has always remembered Mrs. Adams. I wondered, how would this play out?

When the patient door opened and Mrs. Adams emerged, she burst into tears when she saw us. She expected us to be in the parking lot as opposed to the waiting room. We hugged for a few minutes, providing the others in the waiting room with quite the spectacle. Mrs. Adams didn’t seem to notice right away that Mom didn’t remember her because they hugged for what seemed like forever, just like always.

Mrs. Adams kept repeating that this was her best birthday ever! I was hoping that it wasn’t, because we’d only spent a minute or so with her, and in a doctor’s office no less. But I think what she meant was that at a time in her life when she had to be very scared about her current health situation, seeing her bestie waiting for her after her appointment was the only gift she needed. So given that lunch was out, we went to their old standby McDonald’s where they got their favorite caramel sundaes to go and ate them in the car. I was sorry we couldn’t spend more time together, but in the twenty or so minutes that they were in the car together, instead of telling their same stories from the old days, they just giggled out loud about how good their sundaes were. If they were happy, I was happy. Mrs. Adams cried again when she opened her cards from us in the car. Mom had picked out her card herself a few weeks ago, and had even signed her name, which she can rarely do these days. I wrote a very special message on my card and included a gift card with instructions that she was only to spend it on herself!!

So all things considered, I guess it was a pretty good birthday for Mrs. Adams. She deserves the best because she hasn’t had the greatest life since her husband died suddenly many years ago when I was a teenager. She’s now the only friend who still loves calling and spending time with Mom, regardless of her dementia. I treasure this woman who has supported me and all of the decisions I’ve made in regards to Mom’s care for our entire nine year journey with this disease. Happy 88th Birthday Mrs. Adams, we love you!! Today I learned that birthdays are all about quality over quantity!! We didn’t have a lot of time together, but we absolutely shared a lot of love!



How Creativity is Shaping my Life!

Whenever I get out a few LEGO bricks to experiment with, I never know what the end result will be.  That’s actually the beauty of it, and the creativity I’m experiencing in my life at the moment because of my favorite childhood toy is something I never anticipated, though I’ve always dreamed big.

Prior to a couple of months ago, the only way anyone knew I was a trained LEGO facilitator was if they knew me fairly well. I wasn’t keeping it a secret actually, it just wasn’t my go-to topic of conversation because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy because I want to help adults become more productive through play. But now, so many people ask me about the “rumor” that I offer a course with LEGO bricks that now I share my truth easily.

I had no idea that sharing that truth would result in my LEGO brick collection growing by several thousand pieces over the past month, including yesterday when I relieved church friend Susan Sedgewick’s son Wally of his entire childhood collection. 

As I sort through or build from my now huge collection of LEGO pieces, I review all the current happenings in my life- my current work projects, my goals, my fears and successes and I work on building more of the ME that I’m supposed to be. In other words I’m learning that I’m actually “facilitating myself”! 

In my professional life in the security industry there’s little opportunity for creativity. There are laws, rules, and regulations to follow and procedures that must be performed step by step. That’s not always fun. So building play time for myself into my evenings and weekends has been a true saving grace for me and I’ve made many new discoveries!! 

I realize that I’m not going to find a cure for Alzheimer’s while building sculptures that appear to defy gravity, but I may stave off the disease in my own life. Building LEGO projects with my Mom has brought me more joy than I can express given that she remembers the connection with LEGOs in our life even though she doesn’t remember me. I’ve even made a batch of LEGO toys that my Mom loves that I hope will help other Alzheimer’s patients. 

My newfound freedom to be more creative in most every phase of my life has resulted in me being much more calm and cool in stressful situations and allows me to jump out of my comfort zone with ease.

If someone had told me even last year for example, that I’d be teaching a LEGO art class to five to twelve year olds I’d have said they were crazy, yet I began such a class this past weekend. It was organized chaos, but ninety minutes of sheer joy!! I had envisioned a specific group project to be the end result of the class, but the hodgepodge of builds that resulted from the more than fifty kids and parents who participated was simply amazing and I was thrilled!! 

Life teaches us so many things, and right now I’m so grateful that my creativity has given me the opportunity to take my love of LEGO to places I’d never imagined. The funny thing about LEGO bricks is that if you don’t like what you’ve built, you can take them apart and build something else! So right now, I’m going to continue to build my LEGO vision as high as I can, and even if it falls over, I’m ready to pick up the pieces and make them into something even better! The very fragile piece of art (below) that I created this weekend is the tallest I’ve made so far and it’s still standing! So what role does creativity play in your life? What are you ready to build in your life?


Building Confidence Brick By Brick

I’m used to teaching and training adults and have been doing so for almost thirty years. But after becoming a trained facilitator in the LEGO Serious Play methodology, I decided to entertain the notion of expanding LEGO learning and building opportunities to children. I was primarily interested in the idea because of my love of LEGO art that I wanted to help others (and myself) create.

The perfect opportunity presented itself about six months ago when I was contacted by Blackrock Center for the Arts to discussing teaching an art class to kids using LEGO bricks as the medium. I jumped at the chance, but was a little afraid as well. I submitted the required course description and lesson plans, and have continued to build my LEGO collection through EBay, friends and family. A few weeks ago, I realized that the Open House for Blackrock Center and the LEGO art class itself was fast approaching and all of a sudden I was terrified!! 

Making matters more interesting, because I talk about my LEGO play with my Mom in my book tour presentations, several nursing homes have approached me about doing inter-generational courses with dementia patients and nursery school kids. I’ll be practicing with Mom and Kendal before I tackle any of these play workshops! Though I’m very excited about this idea and my ever expanding course offerings with my favorite hobby, I was also lacking the level of confidence I believe I needed for the success I wanted to achieve.

This weekend we were heading to Owego, NY to be with my bestie Kris and her family for some relaxation and fun. We took our camper Memory Maker and actually camped on their vast land. The view from their deck is inspiring with rolling hills and beautiful birds. For me, it was the perfect setting for me to build up some additional confidence by building LEGO art! I had a blast and built for hours as Tim and Kris’ family all cheered me on! I even used the wonderful yard and countryside as a backdrop for a few of my builds! 

 Given that the classes I’ll be teaching are sixty to ninety minutes in length, I practiced building different models within certain time limits, much like I’m required to do with in my LEGO Serious Play workshops. I also selected a handful of bricks without looking and built a piece of art from them, a challenge I’ll give to the students as well to help develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. I’ll be starting the first class with building mosaics, which can result in beautiful pieces of art. Over the last few months I’ve built a few mosaics I’m very proud of. Yesterday I made two in just a few minutes without any pre-planning or thought. Students will have the option of putting their mosaic in a frame, which they’d also build out of LEGO bricks. I built a few frames this weekend as well. 

By the time we packed up to head home this morning, my confidence level had soared! Sitting around laughing and talking with friends who have been my family for more than twenty years allowed all of my creativity to come pouring out as I snapped brick after brick together. Though my career as a security professional and my hobby of building LEGO models of my own creation may seem miles apart, the two have come together in a way that allow me to pursue both endeavors with fresh new perspectives, a true benefit for both my clients and students. I’m ready for whatever comes because I know it will be a great learning experience!