Nurture the things that are Important!

I haven’t been feeling quite myself for the past few weeks. I’m still functioning pretty well, but had been missing the joy that usually permeates through all of me. There’ve been so many deaths of late or anniversaries of deaths of important people in my life, so I’ve been a little out of it. As a result, I haven’t been connecting with the things and people that are important to me.

In August 2016 when I returned to work after Tim’s death my friend Sam gave me a plant for my desk which I treasured!! Then this past Monday I arrived at work and the plant was totally withered!! I thought it was dead and I was devastated! I ran to get some water and poured it into the plant praying that it would come back to life!! Why had I neglected this plant that I love?? It doesn’t take any time to put some water into a pot!!

By Tuesday the plant was a little less withered but none of the leaves were standing tall as they always had. I kept praying. But I also thought about some of the other things I’d been neglecting of late. Friends and family I haven’t chatted with, and people I love that I haven’t seen lately. Don’t my relationships need nurturing too, just like my plant that I had neglected to water until it maybe was too late?? Would my relationships die too? I reached out to a couple of people I had been neglecting but definitely didn’t get to everyone.

Finally by Thursday I had some hope that my work plant was going to live!! Some bright green leaves started to appear and I was so relieved!! Then I headed on Friday to Waukegan, IL to give a presentation on Saturday! I stayed with my friends Chris and Denny who had hosted me in their home last year as well! I am glad it’s a relationship I had nurtured and our friendship picked right up where it had left off last year!

The site of the Saturday event was Shiloh Baptist Church. Two members of the church, Pat and her husband Jared joined me, Chris and Denny for dinner on Friday night and shared with me the story of the ministry of opening the church for the homeless to give them a place to sleep and a hot meal and even bag lunch to go the following day. Pat and her church kitchen staff do this every Wednesday between October and May. Other local churches fill in the other days of the week. I learned so much during that dinner about community and nurturing what’s important even with people who are different from us. I shared with them that there is a ministry at our church that feeds the homeless every Sunday night, though I haven’t personally participated in it.

I believe my work plant will survive my neglect and I’m sad that I couldn’t even remember the last time I had watered it prior to it almost withering away. What I learned from this week is that EVERYTHING that lives needs to be nurtured, our personal relationships included. If we neglect them long enough they just might die!! If we’re in a relationship and you haven’t heard from me in a bit, know that I love you and I’m sorry I haven’t been as connected as I should have been. My relationships are life-giving to me and I don’t want them to die. I’ll be focused this week on nurturing some of my relationships that need a little “water” in order to live. I’ll be excited to see green buds reappear in my relationships just as they are in my plant. I hope you’re excited about the upcoming week too! Are there areas and relationships you need to nurture in your life?? If so, there’s no better time than the present!

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Generations Crossing is an Incredible Place!

Almost two years ago I spoke at the Virginia Association of Activities Professionals Conference in Danville, VA. I had never heard of this group but they are a lively bunch!! They primarily provide all types of activities in a variety of settings, such as nursing homes, memory care facilities, and adult day programs. I met Glennette Poland during that conference and we became fast friends! Last evening I had the opportunity to be with Glennette in her work environment at Generations Crossings, an incredible place where they care for kids and adults together. I had arrived around 3:30 pm to get a tour of Generations Crossing, but the first thing I experienced was observing my friend doing the work she was born to do, conducting a poetry reading activity with the adults. Though she was expecting me at the center, Glennette was so surprised when I arrived in her session! It was a fabulous activity and I watched Glennette involve everyone in the room, regardless of their abilities. The room included Bill, one of the adults with Parkinson’s Disease, who read several poems he had written that were simply beautiful! Then he asked Glenette to read a poem he had written about his Mom’s dementia, and many of us in the room were near tears! I was lucky enough to get a copy of Bill’s poem and as I thanked him, I felt so grateful to have witnessed the activity! Bill seemed so proud to be the center of attention of the activity. I was proud for him and of him because he is an excellent writer.

After the activity with the adults, Glennette started our tour!! I got to see the infants, toddlers, Pre-K and after-school kids right down the hall from the adults!! Part of the toddler’s interactions with the adults involves doing activities with them AND high-fiving each of them!! Lots of the kids gave me a high-five too!!

There’s no way not to be impacted by a place like Generations Crossing because to me it proves you’re never too young or too old to have a meaningful relationship with each other!! According to their brochure, part of their mission is “children keeping the minds and hearts of the older adults young and adults sharing the time, attention and hugs all children need to thrive”.

After the amazing tour I had dinner with Glennette and some of the other dedicated and loving staff. We laughed and shared and it was clear that I fit right in with this group! Then it was off to Sunnyside Retirement Community across the street for my presentation. It’s a beautiful facility and they agreed to host the event for 70 people! We laughed, we cried, we danced and I gave them inspirational coloring pages and crayons to take home.

The book signing afterwards gave me the opportunity to give and get hugs, take photos with those who wanted them and to hear their stories of the loved ones they are caring for. I had met some of their loved ones at Generations Crossing during the poetry reading. Care was being provided for the adults over at Generations Crossing so their loved ones could attend the event. One woman brought her husband Pete to the event and he told me afterwards he was glad I signed my book for them so he could always remember my name!! Does it get any better than that??

I know some people may think I’m crazy for driving a little more than 2 hours after working most of the day, giving a presentation, signing books and then driving home to MD….but it’s not crazy at all, it’s energizing in a way I can’t really explain! It’s one of those things you have to experience in order to feel the energy!

Thank you Glennette for allowing me to experience what you and all the other amazing staff members at Generations Crossing do on a daily basis to make such a difference in the lives of children and adults together. I had seen that type of love the few times my Mom and Granddaughter Kendal shared as they played together, but seeing it operate on a large scale with loving staff has changed me for the better! There is a lot of bad in this world, but yesterday I got to experience a ton of the good!! Amen to that!

Going Down Memory Lane!

I had only one goal this weekend and it was to prepare my security course for the summer session after a textbook change. That meant writing new thought-provoking discussion questions and exam questions requiring critical thinking. I saw no opportunity for going down memory lane this weekend but it happened anyway.

I’ve been cleaning and reorganizing for the last few weeks so every 90 minutes or so I’d take a break from my academic work and go downstairs to the laundry room, my latest target to organize. I was stunned to find a huge box filled with cards, photos and other memorabilia. I had forgotten all about this stuff and have no memory of putting it all in this storage box. Some of the photos go back to when my Mom was a kid and also include lots of photos of my 35 total years with Tim.

I smiled and laughed and cried and spent much longer looking through the box than I had intended, but I’m way ahead on my classroom work so I allowed myself to indulge. It was incredibly restorative for me! I’ve lost so much of my Mom already but I found a card today that “temporarily gave her back to me” and really lifted my spirits!!! I don’t remember receiving it at all! Mom always taught us to send thank you notes whenever someone did something nice for you!! I remember once Mom’s friend gave me a pack of pencils (and they weren’t even colored pencils) and I still had to write a note!! And I still write those notes today!

Mom sent this card a little more than a month after she was diagnosed with dementia almost 12 years ago! The words on the front of the card remind me of the dementia work I’m doing as I speak around the country. I feel like I leave a little bit of myself behind wherever I go! I guess Mom believed that even back then I was spreading good deeds!! It also speaks volumes about the love Mom had for Tim since he too did so much for her and he loved every minute with her!

I’m so thankful for this card and this new energy because it confirms for me that I’m on the right mission. I’m so glad I took that detour down Memory Lane today because it was the road I needed to be on!! Love you Mom, I’m ready for my upcoming week now!!

Cleaning Out the Closets!

Easter Sunday was a very sad day for me. I was missing the joy that typically follows Good Friday. By Monday I had rebounded a little but something still didn’t feel right. Over the last couple of weeks, I had added some “Loretta touches” to the house with a new kitchen table set, and new curtains, benches and accent tables for the bathroom and bedroom, all of which I loved! On Wednesday I had shared an extraordinary lunch with new friend Christina Herman and an awesome dinner with old friend Sylvia Barnes Craig and was bouncing back to my joyous self. But there was one thing I realized late this week that I was obviously avoiding doing. I needed to clean out the closets in my bedroom and the foyer, where Tim had kept most of his clothes. It was a project that was a long time coming! I stayed up late last night (Friday) grading my grad students discussion posts and updating my website with upcoming speaking engagements so that today I could focus on the closets and whatever emotions would come while accomplishing that task.

Was I ready for the task? Turns out I was. I had given away to close family and friends some of Tim’s most treasured articles of clothing right after his death as many of them visited, but there was still lots of items remaining in the closets. As I sorted through everything, I had every possible emotion. While folding Tim’s golf sweaters and shirts, I could visualize him hitting some of his most famous shots on the various golf courses I went to with him. I always drove the golf cart and took pics and video as he played so he could focus on his swing. I laughed and cried at those memories.

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As I put his casual and dress shoes and two pairs of cowboy boots in a bag for charity I remembered all of the security-related and black-tie events I had to attend during my six years on the ASIS International Board of Directors. He always wanted to ensure that he looked professional enough to escort me to every function we attended. I could picture Tim doing his few dance steps in those cowboy boots and I laughed hysterically. I hugged his hiking shoes as I remembered the three amazing weeks we spent in Utah with Kim and Kendal celebrating his 65th birthday. I even stopped sorting items to look at my favorite Utah pics to savor once again the memories we made.

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But it was the pair of boots with the tags still on them that Tim never wore that made me cry the most. They were the rain / mud boots we bought at the outdoor store right down the street from the campground in Herkimer, NY, the place where Tim died. I cried because we never got to splash around in the mud at the campground diamond mine where we were supposed to work for 30 days. But after that cry, I put the boots in the bag and felt a huge sense of calm. I believe that calmness is another turning point for me because there are a couple of things I know for sure… I know I will splash around at a campground in the rain or mud in my boots that I bought at the same time as Tim bought his and when I do, Tim will be with me. I know that now that I am just two weeks away from my first trip in my new RV I named Joy that I’ll be making memories that would make Tim incredibly proud.

Cleaning out the closets today has freed me in a sense. I knew that I’d often walk quickly past the foyer avoiding looking at all of the clothes and shoes in that closet because a sense of dread had built up in me. Part of me felt like I was waiting for him to come back to wear those clothes again AND another part of me felt as if I was giving Tim away if I took the clothes out of the closets. Now that the job is done, I feel lighter and free of any guilt. Now I think of the men who may dance around in Tim’s cowboy boots, or may stay dry in the rain wearing one of his water repellant golf jackets and boots or staying warm in one of several bright orange sweaters. I hope that whomever ends up with all of the great things that came out of these closets will laugh loud or love hard just like Tim! It was time, and I did it and of course I now realize that cleaning out the closets hasn’t diminished my love for Tim one bit! I hope that if you have a closet to clean out or a task your avoiding, that you’ll feel inspired to tackle it soon! It may feel better than you think!