I learned on Friday May 7th that I had been selected as a Thriver for the Robin Roberts series Thriver Thursdays! A week after that, I was introduced to her production team and filming was set for May 22nd and 23rd. Initially I didn’t tell a soul because I just didn’t believe it was true! The producers worked with me to determine the hours we’d be able to film with Mom at the group home, and with my family members and friends. That’s when I started to believe it!
I spoke with the owner of Lifesprings Eldercare to get permission to film inside the group home and we set up a game plan to film Mom in the family room area, on the deck and in her bedroom at the end of the shoot. On the morning of the shoot I realized how big a deal this actually was when I arrived in the front of Mom’s group home to find three men unloading a huge truck of camera and sound equipment. The first task I was given was to film my arrival at the home, so Go Pro cameras were attached to my car and I left the area, drove a mile as instructed and drove back into the driveway and parked. I then went to the front door and rang the bell. The camera crew was behind me with huge cameras and a boom microphone and I was wearing a microphone as well. There were additional lights set up inside the house as well.
The World’s Best Caregiver Janet greeted me as always but I was entering the front door for the first time since the start of the pandemic. I usually entered in Mom’s bedroom but for the video shoot I was allowed in. Mom and I then did a variety of activities and she for the most part was oblivious to all of the cameras and mics around her, though several times she did look directly and the camera and the men operating them. The camera guys would zoom in on pages we were reading or activities we were doing! We spent about 30 minutes inside and 30 minutes on the deck. Janet and the other caregiver Sharita also looked out for the other residents inside the home. For the last part of the shoot, Mom was wheeled by Janet and Sharita down the wheelchair ramp on the deck directly to her bedroom. We took a few more pics and said goodbye. We were there for almost three hours and Mom was alert for the entire time!! It was amazing!
Next stop was my house and the crew quickly determined they wanted to film in my front yard. I was interviewed first and it took a little more than an hour. It was an amazing interview and I felt so comfortable, but it was more emotional than I thought it would be, primarily because I had to focus on the loss of Tim and our lives together and how the two of us cared for Mom as Team Veney. At the end of the interview, I was really overwhelmed so as I walked over to my family and friends I was in tears, and so were they. My niece Nia was next and she did a fabulous job talking about Mom, me and Tim. I was so impressed by her entire interview. After her shoot her husband Keith and their kids Krista and Karter got a tour in Joy and we had a ball! Next up were my friends from church Louise Walsh and Jan Lipscomb who were interviewed together about the support group they started for me after Tim’s death. They were sensational as well and shared that I had inspired them in our group meetings as much as they had inspired me.
Next up were Kim and Kendal and it was a very emotional interview for me to watch because the interview was so focused on great loss – of their parents / grandparents and dealing with Mom’s not recognizing or knowing them. The last segment of the day was one cameraman, me and Gabriel, one of the producers shooting the LEGO pieces that are part of my Art Against Alzheimer’s exhibit for The Longest Day Alzheimer’s fundraiser. They were blown away by the LEGO models and the meanings I attached to each of those models. By the time the crew broke all of the cameras, lights and sound equipment down it had been more than 10 hours since the day had started.
I knew I was so emotional during the day because I was so sad Tim wasn’t with us for this really amazing event. Yet, one of the most stunning things about the day for me was the presence of Tim all around the photo shoot. First you could see my RV Joy in most of the shots and the name Joy is on an orange background for Tim. Second, Tim had selected our patio furniture years ago, AND of course the cushions he selected were primarily orange, his favorite color. Those very chairs were the seats that all of us were interviewed on! Everyone involved commented on how we were sitting on Tim’s chairs. Finally while filming the segment with Kim my next door neighbor Michael, who has a disability, walked into the shot and all you could see was this big orange figure! Turns out Michael was wearing the orange t-shirt we’d all worn on the first anniversary of Tim’s death. Tim was absolutely there for the entire day!
The second day of the shoot only involved me, one cameraman and a producer (both named Gabriel). This day was to shoot BRoll, which is primarily action shots with very little talking. I walked through my old neighborhood of Petworth in DC, stopping at the house I was born and raised in . Then it was off to my church home of the last 15 years, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Capitol Hill. I walked through the garden and sat and reflected as instructed all while on camera. It was so cool that my friend Tracy, who was part of my church support group and our Rector Michele Morgan used my phone to take pics of the photo shoot for me!! I was so grateful to them! Our last top was to one of the highest places in the city where you can see almost all of DC. It’s on the grounds of a Catholic Church in SE DC. In addition to taking lots of photos of me with that stunning background, we also took selfies together to remember our weekend together!!
The two Gabriels (GabeSquared) treated me to brunch at Busboys and Poets in SE DC and it was a fabulous time with great food and conversation. I feel as if our weekend photo shoot has connected us as friends. I learned during that meal that there are 6 Thrivers chosen for each season (this will be season 4) all focused on different topics and that the show will be produced over the summer and will air this fall. They will be in contact with me to publicize my segment of the series and I’m so grateful I’ll be working with them in the future. As Gabe put it, “once a Thriver, always a Thriver!”. There is hope that all of the Thrivers can go to NY at some point now that COVID is ending. Previous seasons had Thrivers going to NY to appear with Robin Roberts. Whether I get to meet her or not, being honored as one of the Thrivers is incredible in and of itself! This is a weekend I won’t ever forget and I plan to continue to Thrive and Inspire caregivers who care for those with dementia. One of the coolest things about the entire photo shoot was when I was instructed to look directly at the camera, fold my arms and say “YEAH, I”M A THRIVER!” I hope all caregivers know that they too can Thrive! Love you Mom, this is all for you and the millions of others suffering from Alzheimer’s!
Congratulations, wow oh wow! Tears of joy, happiness filled my spirit! What an honor Loretta! I just had to send this email, now. I am so thankful to God that MoM is here to share in your glory and honor along with Kim and Kendall. The extra blessings the presence of your beloved Tim surrounded you, smiling from Heaven just for you! I am going to make sure I contact Nicole Ware, AARP who arranged our meeting in June, 2016. Our picture and my book. What a deserving and great honor. I absolutely love the way you care fir you Mommy.
Thank you Belinda!!!! It was such an incredible experience!! Just wow!!! I STILL love our photo we took back then!!!! Who knew a month later my life would change forever with Tim’s death! Please tell Nicole I said hi!!!! Love you back!!!!
Loretta, how amazing is all of this!!! Incredible and so well-deserved. Can’t wait to hear more next time our Caregivers Support group meets!
Thank you Julie!! It IS pretty incredible!! I’m really still in shock!!! It was one of the most amazing things of my life!!
I was very sorry to miss Jan’s 100th birthday yesterday as we filmed 2 hours before her party and had more filming and production discussions after that, but I’m sure she’d understand!!
As I know I have said before, you never cease to amaze me. I can’t think of a better word to describe how you live your life and the energy, commitment, and love you inspire and create in the world: THRIVER! Yes, that’s you! What a wonderful way to describe an award meant to recognize you and you all you do. I’m not a TV watcher, but I do know who Robin Roberts is, and I am so thrilled that you were chosen as a Thriver!
The experience of the day with the film crew sounds amazing. But I have to smile when I think that – as full as it was – it sounds pretty much like a typical day for you!!!! The good thing was that it was being caught on film, and you had the experience of showing others – many others! – how you do what you do. I am so glad it was such a perfect day, that your mom was able to be a large part of it, along with her caregivers and facility, that your family – especially Kim and Kendal – were there too. And of course that Tim was there smiling on, blessing, and, without a doubt, beaming with pride and love for his Loretta.
Thank you so much for sharing this so richly with those of us who love you, Loretta. I can’t wait to see it. Will you let me know when you find out how it might be available or when it will be shown? I want to let my friends know, so they can all get to know you!
Many hugs and lots of love, my dear sister!
Thank you! You are sooooo perceptive! It was like a normal day for me, BUT a little more adrenaline pumping!! There was a lot of prework involved too, getting signatures and permissions, lots of pics from my past…. so I had to ensure everyone arrived on time etc!! I had been really nervous on Friday but Sat I was soooo calm!! There were lots of moving parts which is unusual for me as I work in the same space in my house every day! So tearing down the set at Mom’s and moving it to my house and taking an hour to set it up again there really opened my eyes being able to work anywhere!!
Each of the people had to describe why I was a Thriver and their answers were amazing!! This was such a great experience full of lessons for me!!
Much love my friend!!
Once again Mrs V…I couldn’t get thru without tearing up. When you said thanks to mom it really reminds me that even though this disease has taken so much it has given so much in terms of the people you’ve met, your book, the wonderful caregivers that take care of your Wonder Woman! Plus all of us who have gotten to know and love your mom thru the pictures, videos, FB post and your beautiful story telling. Love u always Mrs.V!!!
You KNOW I love you too!!!! Remember those videos you helped me with at PG Community College??? I thought about that as we started filming on Sat!!! You are 1,000 percent correct that this disease has given me a great deal too even though it’s taken so much!! I’m friends & family with some folks I’ve never met in person and have met people around the country I didn’t even know I was helping!!! And yeah it’s really cool that my Wonder Woman Mom has her own fan club!! I just love her!! Thanks for reading my blog Lt. Col. Gen!! You’re awesome!!!
Hearty congratulations!! But what a process! Cecilie
Sent from my iPad
Thanks so much Cecilie!! I loved every minute of it and learned a lot!!