Building to Serve a Purpose!

You can usually tell what’s going on in my life by the number of LEGO bricks I have out!! This picture will give you an idea of where my focus has been this week!

I decided I’d put my LEGO bricks to good use by holding a LEGO Lab to design additional fidget toys to help those with dementia. It would be my contribution as we all wait out the devastation of COVID-19. My goal was to use very unusual pieces in my collection and to think outside the box as I created pieces I’d never done before. I spent hours after work this week and many hours this weekend.

Mom loves things that are brightly colored and spin so that the colors mesh together like a rainbow. Since I can’t see Mom right now, one smart way to spend our separation time is to have lots of fun things to show her when I see her again.

My favorite creation reminds me of an amusement park ride. It spins completely around and I used pastel colors which she loves. I’m pretty sure this one will get a WOW from her!

I also created a little garden which reminds me of a small plot Mom had at her senior retirement home before dementia cane into our lives. There’s also a square to which I attached two different types of fences which I believe will keep her hands occupied. One of the most unusual pieces LEGO makes is a big orange circular piece that I decided to try to use like a spinning top! It came out even better than I had hoped. People with middle to late stage dementia tend to like things that spin. The last piece pictured with the two blue spheres reminds me of a rattle in a sense because I placed two small LEGO pieces inside each sphere. It can be shaken but also spins around.

When fidget spinners became popular years ago I had always wanted to make a LEGO version for Mom. So I gave it a try in my LEGO Lab and am quite happy with the result! While holding it in one hand it spins really fast and I believe it will be very popular.

I built a few art pieces as well, one of which I’ll likely hang in Mom’s room. The frustrating thing about COVID-19 is that we still don’t know everything about it yet. There’s no clear black or white about it… so I made a few black and white pieces. This one is my favorite!

I doubt when this is over that we will ever return to a “normal” that will include the live presentations I had been giving for the last five years to help families deal with this disease. So before virtual church this morning I spent a couple of hours using Zoom and practicing my newest presentation that I haven’t given live yet. It’s a show and tell type presentation with me showing and demonstrating different types of activities from my large gadget bag and I was very happy with my first trial run! I’m praying I can still provide help and hope to families in a virtual format.

One of the best things that happened this weekend was the number of calls for advice I received from stressed family members. Since most senior centers and Departments of Aging are closed due to the pandemic I’m happy to answer as many questions as I can. I know some people think I’m crazy for giving out my cell phone number at every presentation but now that we are facing such a crisis and lots of people need help, giving out my number has been the smartest thing I could have done. I can’t be on the front lines to help fight this pandemic but I feel I’m doing what I can do.

My favorite call this morning was from Billy in Delaware who heard me speak in Nov. He and several other relatives are caring for his Mom with dementia and she’s a handful. He’s called me several times since Nov and he’s always so grateful that I take his call. I gave him a few suggestions and we ended our call with him saying “Bless you my friend”! That’s what I’ve been saying in my prayers for everyone fighting COVID-19 on a daily basis and risking their own safety. I pray that this will end soon and that until it does that we all will continue to do whatever we can to help each other! Stay safe my friends and Bless you all!


Being Home Alone!

I’ve started a Coronavirus Journal so that years from now I can look back on how I spent my time during the pandemic.

Here’s one of the things I wrote…

I now seem to cry at the drop of a hat. It never used to be like that.

I always was as strong as ox, I kept all my feelings packed in a box.

I love traveling around to do my Alzheimer’s work. Fighting the disease taking my Mom helps relieve the hurt. 
I’m always hanging out and doing something fun, but when the Coronavirus showed up there was no where to run.
I’m forced to stay home alone with all my memories of thirty-four years. Memories that make me laugh out loud and cry buckets of tears.
Thank God I find peace while clicking together LEGO bricks. They help me process my life and the things I need to fix.
I miss my sister, my husband and my Mom who doesn’t know me. Very thankful that in my redesigned basement home I’m starting to feel free. 
I had never sat still long enough to enjoy my new living space, because there are so many things in my life I still wasn’t ready to face. 
Part of me still feels cheated cause I never met my dad. All things we never got to share in our lives even to this day makes me sad. 
This year Tim and I would have been married for thirty-five years. But on September 21st without him there will be no cheer!
The virus is preventing me from visiting Mom except via a screen or through a glass door. Dealing with the virus and dementia together almost caused me to collapse on the floor.
Maybe my recent tears are helping me heal. Grieving the things missing from my life I’m starting to deeply feel.
It was past time to stop running and to finally start to process all my life’s stuff. Who knew a pandemic would force me to uncover realities that have been really tough. 
As long as the stay at home order remains in place, I’ll continue to relish my time being still in my space. 
I pray that the virus that’s impacted the entire world will soon go away. And yet I hope that the growth and peace finally building within me is here to stay. 

It’s About What’s In Your Heart!


Today I attended the funeral service for Bruce Ellington Foote, my friend and my niece Nia’s father. Bruce was a guy who truly loved God and loved his family! It was an incredible service of love, but of course was also filled with tears of sadness. I am thrilled that I was able to attend, as I was supposed to be flying back from Connecticut this morning and was worried that I wouldn’t get back in time. But due to the Coronavirus my event was cancelled and I was able to be there for my niece and Bruce’s wife Debbie who over the years has become my friend.

I have great memories of Bruce and his siblings, but my favorite memory is one he actually wrote about in his obituary (yes he wrote his own). I had my first ever concert experience when I was a pre-teen when Bruce and my sister took me and two of his sisters Elaine and Melanie to see the Jackson Five in Baltimore. At the time, Bruce and my sister were both students at Morgan State University. Poor Bruce was surrounded by all these screaming girls and women but he was a trooper and seemed to relish watching us have the time of our lives. Today, Melanie, Elaine and I talked about that memory and it still holds a special place in all of our hearts.

My other favorite memory with Bruce and his siblings occurred in 1998 when my Grandmother Alberta was dying. When Bruce heard about my Grandmother, he and his siblings who had a singing group called Wings of Faith came to sing as my Grandmother was bedridden in the home in DC I was born in. Our entire family was around her bedside, her eyes were closed and she was said to be in a coma. But as the group sang Grandma opened her eyes and began to sing along. Do I need to tell you that everyone in the room was crying? That room was filled with love, and it didn’t matter to anyone that Bruce and my sister were no longer married. It was simply pure love in that room doing an amazing thing for my Grandma, who died the next day. I will forever be grateful to the Wings of Faith and what they did for our family.

Today at Bruce’s funeral, his siblings, cousins and nephews who now make up Wings of Faith sang their hearts out. Thirty years after Bruce created the group, their song paid a very special and loving tribute to him. The entire church was in tears and many stood and sang along with the group.

The highlight of the service for me was the eulogy given by his uncle The Reverend Irvin Beverly! His entire focus was on how much love Bruce had for God and his family and how much love was in his heart. It was one of the funniest eulogies ever as he shared lots of Bruce stories! But on the serious side, he asked us the question “what was in our hearts” and asked us to think about that question in the coming days! So much is going on in the world today, most dominant being the Coronavirus, the pandemic which is in the process of changing life as we currently know it. I left the funeral feeling inspired and filled with the love shared by all who were in attendance! I also was focused on what is in my heart.

Those of you who know me well know that I am all about love, joy and hope! I believe that dominates my heart and how I try to live every day with God’s help! What’s in your heart? If there are grudges and hate and contempt I hope you can lay that down for now and forgive some of the things you may have been carrying around for years. I pray that even in our current state of uncertainty and fear, I can share love and hope with others using what I believe is my really big heart!! Until this crisis passes, I’m going to try to make others smile and laugh just as Bruce always did. While we are off from work and school for the next couple of weeks I’m going to call the sick and shut-ins and let them know that even though they may be home alone, there are many who love and care for them. Bruce would say “Seek God first” and we can’t go wrong. That was in his heart. Let’s be like Bruce, and may he rest in peace!

For the Love of Sisterhood!!

Today, March 4, 2020, would have been my sister’s 70th birthday. Renee Woodward Foote was my only biological sister before she died from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on July 17, 2011 at age 61 (my current age). My niece Nia and I gathered around Renee’s bed in Burbank, CA for her birthday in 2011 four months before her death.

It was a Joy to celebrate all together and embracing every moment. We told old family stories, laughed as if there was no tomorrow and ate the carrot cake cupcake we had sneaked into the nursing home for her!! We sang happy birthday which I recorded and still listen to on occasion. My sister could speak very little at that point, yet she said “YAY” at the end of our song. I think we all knew that it would be my sister’s last birthday and I tried to leave nothing unsaid during that visit. I flew cross country to Burbank again that July and told her how much I loved her. She told me how proud she was of the great job I was doing caring for our Mom. I was at her bedside with Nia when she died. 


Renee and I had a very complicated relationship, beginning with my birth and my father’s departure from our family both of which happened fairly close together. Renee was two months shy of her 9th birthday when I was born and as a kid who believed that our parents had a perfect relationship, she blamed my birth as the reason our father left us. 



By the time we learned the real reason for our father’s departure more than 30 years later, our relationship had been fairly non-existent. Renee and I saw each other for short visits and gift-opening each Christmas, but rarely celebrated birthdays together unless it was for our Mom. We never called each other unless someone was sick or dying and we definitely didn’t hang out together. That all changed when I made one last effort to forge a relationship with Renee by taking her on a cruise for her 50th birthday. It was her first and only cruise and we had the time of our lives! After the cruise we began monthly sister dates and we were loving our times together until the first signs of her illness began to appear in mid-2005, beginning the long saga towards the MS diagnosis around 2007. It was a devastating diagnosis especially since our Mom had been diagnosed with dementia in 2006. I wanted to do everything to help my sister so I began participating in MS 2-Day 50K marathons for her to raise money for a cure, participating in seven of them! I walked most of them alone, but in 2012 Nia and her Aunt Melanie and my awesome friend Jan did the marathon with me!


I was crushed when Renee died, and felt as though we’d been robbed of a great relationship that was just starting to become a real Sisterhood. I miss our sister dates in spite of the fact that we were only able to do them for about 18 months before MS invaded our lives. I hate the fact that Renee never got to meet her amazing grandchildren or to see what an incredible mother Nia is. I especially hate that she won’t be there for Nia’s wedding later this summer. 

I have to admit that even before Renee’s death my need for Sisterhood was very strong, actually almost overwhelming. That overwhelming need stemmed from the fact that I spent the first half of my life feeling as if my sister didn’t love me – and given that I’d never met my father I needed someone besides my Mom to love me and to be there for me. I most definitely have serious abandonment issues from my childhood. I began to choose my own Sisters – the women with whom I’ve built deep bonds that have been in existence for more than 25 years They are from my high school (Kathi), my early work life (Kris and Linda), and my personal life (Wendi and my Cha Cha sisters – Mary, Blanca, Emily, Millie, Rose and Sonia).



I’ve also built some amazing relationships with women from my church life and my Alzheimer’s sisters who are caring for someone with the disease, some of whom I’ve never even met in person but love just the same. Those lists are too long to name everyone, but they know who they are! I have two cousins in the D.C area as well and I’m thrilled that we’ve started to have frequent lunches or dinners which would make our relatives who are no longer here very happy. 


Though many of my relationships are great, particularly at church, I still longed for deeper connection with other women, connections that involve more than asking “how ya doing?” while still moving toward another destination before listening to their entire response. I’d like to sit down in a comfy chair with other women and talk about our careers, our vacations or bucket lists, our greatest fears (as I get older my list of fears about the future grow longer), and our deepest sorrows and greatest joys! I signed up for a Sisterhood class at church for no other reason than the title! We’ve completed two weeks of the five week class so far and it has already been incredibly beneficial. Great relationships are being formed between class members and there’s even homework that involves meeting outside of class with a different partner each week. Taking this class is one of the most important and meaningful things I could have done for myself!! 


Do you have a Sisterhood (or Brotherhood) that you can count on? Who are the “go to” people in your village? My village involves people who will listen when I talk about how much I miss Tim and my sister and how hard it can be to be a caregiver to someone with dementia. It can be incredibly difficult to allow ourselves to be open, authentic and vulnerable with new people we’re trying to form a relationship with. But don’t let fear or unnecessary worry stop you from forming that Sisterhood that could change your life! You are worth the effort and deserve that Sister you can choose for yourself. My biological sister would be proud of the women who now help to carry me through life after she no longer could! To all of the Sisters in my life, I love you from the bottom of my heart!