Meeting Julie Boone-Roth on May 6, 2013 was the Start of Something Big!

None of us have gotten where we are today without the help of someone else. Yesterday I got to work again with a very special person in my life for the first time in a long time, and it took me back to where it all started. I want to pay tribute today to Julie Boone-Roth, one of the world’s best Marketing Directors.

When Being My Mom’s Mom was published in February of 2013, I immediately started to look for events I could attend to market and sell my book. I found one that sounded interesting and signed up to be a vendor. It was called The Active Aging Expo and was held on May 6, 2013 in Montgomery County, Maryland. It was a great event with speakers and exercise demonstrations as well as a huge hall of vendors catering to seniors wanting to remain healthy and active in their later years.

As it turned out however, it wasn’t the best venue to sell a book about dementia. I sold only a few books and with about an hour to go in the event, I looked across the aisle from my table and saw a very friendly-looking woman from a place called Arden Courts (owned by HCR Manor Care), which I knew nothing about. I walked over to her table and gave her a book, because it would be one less book to carry back home. She explained that Arden Courts was a memory care community and gave me several brochures. I signed my book for her and asked if she ever had speakers to come to her facility and she said YES. I could never have imagined what that YES would eventually lead me to. She called me a few days later to say that my book had her in tears. We decided on a date for the fall to speak at her community. Tim went with me of course and Julie just loved him! She emailed me later that Tim and I made the perfect couple, and how right she was.

Prior to my speaking at her community in November of 2013,  Julie asked me to mail 10 copies of my book to a group for review and determination if it was suitable to be placed in the “warehouse” for Arden Courts communities to purchase for their clients and customers. In early January of 2014, Julie informed me that my book had been “accepted”!! I had no idea how big of a deal that was at the time until the first order placed was for 500 books! Julie and I did a virtual “happy dance” via email and were both so excited.

She informed me that various communities would begin to call and schedule me to speak at their location. That happened almost instantly and I began working with Kelly Lippincott, the Marketing Communications Manager for HCR-ManorCare who did all of the Arden Courts scheduling for me. I gave dozens of presentations for Arden Courts and according to what I was told, I got better and better as time went on. I poured myself into my dementia research and used much of it along with my humor in each presentation.

A few Managers and Directors I had met or communicated with at Arden Courts moved on to promotions at other memory care facilities and I began working with Pat O’Connor at Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. and Amy DePreker at Artis Senior Living. Between Kelly, Pat and Amy, I’ve given more than 140 presentations in memory care facilities to professional staff and family caregivers. Many people who attended these events later contracted with me for some of the most significant keynote addresses I’ve given to date. ALL of these opportunities lead right back to Julie. Through my connection with her, and all of the work it led to, I’ve discerned that this is absolutely the work I am supposed to be doing.

When I saw Julie yesterday at an Arden Courts event she planned and held at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Center we hugged like we literally have known each other our entire lives, as opposed to the relatively short period of 5 years. Yesterday reminded me of how much Julie means to me because she without a doubt is the primary reason I’ve been able to financially care for my Mom in the manner that she deserves. Seeing her again also reminded me of beautiful note she sent me after hearing of Tim’s death. She is simply one of the kindest people on this earth. Pat and Amy also fall into the category of “very special people” who are a joy to be around. I guess it takes really special people to work with our elders, especially those in memory care.  I don’t take for granted for one minute all of the opportunities that have been given to me since Being My Mom’s Mom was published so I wanted to take a few minutes just to say thank you to Kelly, Pat and Amy for all they’ve brought to my life!!

And a very special THANK YOU to Julie-Boone Roth for seeing something special in me back in 2013 and pushing me forward. Love you Julie and so grateful for the huge difference you’ve made in my life!!

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Crying Is Part of My Calling …

I’ve been trying to write this post for the past week, but the words wouldn’t come until now. This last month, from February 18th through today, has been one of the most emotional 4 1/2 weeks I’ve had since Tim died. On February 18th my Mom turned 89 and we had a joyful birthday celebration with her best friend in the world, Mrs. Adams who I’ve known my entire life. We laughed and laughed and laughed after a KFC lunch, which had been our once a month dinner treat when I was a kid. Yet in spite of all the joy and cake and ice cream, after I dropped off Mrs. Adams at home tears started to flow and I had to pull over until I could see well enough again to drive. I couldn’t really say why I was crying.

The very next week, I was in St. Croix, with the Virgin Island Family Caregiver Group, where I was the keynote speaker for a conference that was postponed for five months due to the hurricane. The caregivers, who fell in love with me when they met me in September 2016 six weeks after Tim died, were stunned to see me again and cheered loudly when their “favorite speaker in the whole-wide world” was once again the highlight of their respite weekend. Even though the damage to the island and lack of hotel rooms reduced the respite event from a weekend to one day, it was a powerful day of reconnection and love. At the end of the day when I got back to my hotel room, I cried and cried, but just like on Mom’s birthday I had no idea why…

After the Virgin Islands, I gave presentations at a DC area hospital, and a joint Home Instead and Alzheimer’s Association event that was called “Loretta Day” in Frederick, Md. At the Frederick, MD event I gave my debut of my presentation “Amazing Tools to Lighten the Caregiver’s Load”, and it was a huge hit. I was so proud of myself, and at the end of the presentation I was near tears.

Then came last week when I traveled to Ohio, a place I’ve been to six times now for presentations. I was the keynote speaker in Cincinnati for the Council on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Associations Dimensions of Dementia conference in Dayton. Between both events, for which I gave two sessions to each group, I spoke to almost 1,000 people. I had mailed a total of six boxes of books to Ohio, but only five arrived. I was so busy with my presentations and book signings that I couldn’t worry about the missing box. The only thing I’ve learned to date is that it is somewhere floating through Ohio. While in Cincinnati I had a mini meltdown when I met the morning keynote speaker and her husband. He was helping her sell her books by running the credit card app on her phone and chatting with customers just as Tim did for me. Before I knew it, I was crying… I explained why I was crying and they both gave me a hug. I was surprised that I had cried in front of others something I’m careful not to do. When I got out of Ohio last Friday night ahead of a big freezing rain storm, I was excited. I had met and chatted with so many people over my three days in Ohio that I was emotionally spent when I arrived home. I fell into the bed with my clothes on and burst into tears.

I regrouped over the weekend in spite of attending a very emotional funeral at church and working on Monday. The weather report was ominous for today, so I headed down to Salisbury, MD Monday night to ensure I was present and ready for today’s Alzheimer’s Association presentation. On the two-hour ride down to Salisbury I “uncovered” why I’ve been so emotional over the last month. I’ve FINALLY started to say out loud that this work, speaking to and encouraging caregivers, is the work I was meant to do. This is my calling…. It can sometimes be tough, sharing my vulnerable self, and then listening to the sharing of others. I’ve been crying because I’ve thoroughly embraced the fact that I AM inspiring and encouraging others to continue to serve as caregivers even when it isn’t always easy!! I’ve been crying because people are hearing me and responding and embracing me…. more than ever before. Even in the middle of my grief of losing Tim, I’m strong enough to carry this work and to hold up others and myself in the process. I’ve finally figured out that all my tears of late, are tears of PRIDE and JOY!

Where Is Your Zeal??

Following is the sermon I preached twice this morning on the 3rd Sunday in Lent at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill, based on John 2.13-22. I’ll have the pleasure of giving it once more at 5pm this evening.

Good Morning my St. Mark’s brothers and sisters! When Michele asked me to consider preaching during Lent, I promised her I’d look at the readings and get back to her. After reading and reflecting, it was Lent 3’s Gospel that resonated most with me and I hope that as I share why, it will resonate with you as well. I’m a very visual reader so as I read through the Gospel I was visualizing Jesus in the temple throwing folks out for selling animals and other items and giving change as if they actually were in a market. I tried to imagine how angry Jesus must have been.

Now, let me give you another visual… I want to take you back 12 years to my very first Sunday here at St. Mark’s. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I stepped into the Nave and the very first thing that got my attention was how loud it was in here! There was a man selling tickets to what I now know was a St. Mark’s Players event, women were gathered in a circle laughing and chatting away, there was a huge box that people were dropping can goods into and Lord have mercy people were even eating snacks and drinking coffee right here in the Nave! I thought to myself, “Where is the reverence that’s supposed to be going on in here. What kind of church is this????” I was raised in a church where there were only three acceptable things that could occur in the actual church space. Those three things were listening, praying and singing. I had so much Zeal for God’s house and how I BELIEVED it should be, so I wasn’t sure what to make of St. Mark’s, the place where “we do it all in this space”. I wondered to myself if God would want to throw y’all right out of here!

But over these past 12 years, like many of you my life has changed dramatically…My Mom was diagnosed with dementia and she no longer has any idea who I am. My beloved aunts who were two of my best friends in this world died, as did my sister and only sibling who would have turned 68 years old today. And most recently of course I lost my beloved Tim. In a cruel irony my sister and my husband died on the same day five years apart and during my lowest times I truly feel like an orphan! We’ve also changed as a congregation too…. we completed a major renovation, several Assistant and Associate Rectors departed and most recently and significantly we’ve had a change in Rector.

Over my time of “being active” here, I began to embrace everything that goes on in this space!! I too have talked loud, laughed and cried, spoken at Sermon Seminar, danced, eaten snacks and dinner and drank coffee, made friends, signed books, comforted others and been comforted…things I never would have thought about doing in church space prior to my time here. I feel bad for Jeff on some Sundays as he tries to get us to “keep the noise down” so the choir can rehearse.

I’ve embraced all this that is St. Mark’s because even though at times there is chaos, disagreement and even anger here, I believe that our individual Zeal for this place and our quest for love, justice and acceptance for ALL would please God in a huge way! I’m pretty sure none of us would be thrown out of here because the only “wares” being offered here are love and fellowship especially as we share open communion in our large circles. St. Mark’s is definitely a different place, but I feel it’s our Zeal that makes us Special!

I’ve thought a lot this Lent about my life on the road over the past few years as a speaker providing knowledge and hope to caregivers. This work has taken me to hotels, country clubs and event centers, memory care facilities, hospitals and churches large and small, where I fully embrace the people and whatever our sacred space is for our time together. I take with me every day the Zeal of my love for life, my love for God and my love for this work I’ve been given to do that is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. Then I drag myself back here – here to my St. Mark’s home to recharge my soul, so I thank you for embracing and energizing me over these last 12 years. I’ve learned that expressing our Zeal can be hard and can definitely take us out of our comfort zones but I believe it’s a necessary component for us to live the lives we are supposed to live. As Lent 3 concludes I ask you to consider one question….where is your Zeal and how are you applying it to become the person you’re supposed to be? I’ll look forward to hearing or reading your answer and in the meantime let’s all go out into this tumultuous world with all the Zeal we can muster! Amen.