I have said for years that building with LEGO bricks is my therapy! Those colorful bricks have gotten me through the best of days and most importantly through the worst of times. What some people haven’t experienced is that some of the power of LEGO bricks is the fact that you can “build your feelings” and then break that model into many pieces and parts to build something else, especially as your feelings and mood change! Thankfully I’m beginning to share that powerful feeling with more people as the dream that Tim and I had of my LEGO Serious Play sessions becoming a primary focus of my business is steadily becoming a reality.
This was definitely an up and down week emotionally for me! I got some incredibly exciting emails about some collaborations I’ll be doing in 2022, BUT I also was the lowest I had been in years on Thanksgiving Day. After I returned home that evening, I opened the huge box of 800 minifigures I’ll be adding to my Inspiration Kits of 45 LEGO pieces and as I stared at the dozens of bags of pieces I immediately began to feel a sense of peace and calm! There are nine pieces that make up each minifigure and as I slowly began to assemble the pieces I thought of how caregivers often feel as if we are broken into lots of pieces and parts. Our hearts break as we watch people we love and care for decline, our arms and legs feel as if they will fall off at times as we carry heavy emotional and physical loads, especially as we work to get the services we need for those we care for.
I had ordered eight different colors of the minifigures and had planned to build them in solid colors. But the more I thought about the different pieces and parts that can get tired as caregivers carry out their responsibilities and duties I decided to put several different colored pieces into one minifigure, as if the different pieces and parts made up our strengths and weaknesses and our superpowers. If we could replace different pieces of ourselves at times, our strengths and weaknesses, what would we change and why? Do we always use our brains effectively when making decisions? Do we bend our legs enough to take a seat to recharge ourselves? Do our hearts feel like a piece is missing as we grieve the decline we helplessly watch?
As we go into the last few days of National Family Caregivers Month, I hope that caregivers can find the energy they need so all of their pieces and parts to work together to make them the best caregivers they can be! I hope they can fill the hole in their hearts with the support of others and surround themselves with layers of love! As we head into 2022 my goals are simple. I want to help caregivers build their feelings with as many pieces and parts as they need and to encourage them to keep building with their Inspiration Kits whenever they need to. And I want to help those with dementia to rebuild as many of the pieces and parts of their memories as they can. Though all of the pieces and parts of my Mom seem to work differently each day there are still so many things she can do and enjoy! I love each and every part of her and will continue to do so until her very last day!
On Tuesday November 2nd I flew to California for the 2021 SAGE Conference by honor to provide a team bonding session for a group of honor’s partners in recognition for all the hard work they had provided throughout the pandemic. It was honor’s first conference since they acquired home health care giant Home Instead in August. I was so excited about this trip for several reasons, one of which was that I was looking forward to sunshine and nice weather! Even though it was very chilly in Redondo Beach and the sun never appeared during the two and a half days I was there, we definitely made our own sunshine with our energy!
I was scheduled to lead my session with the group after lunch on November 3rd. Whenever you’re scheduled for any kind of event after lunch, it better be something interactive or you risk losing the audience in the first five minutes. It goes without saying that the team bonding activity I was scheduled to lead was LEGO Serious Play!
The second reason I was so excited about this trip was because with 65 participants it was going to be the largest group I’d ever worked with for a LEGO event. As lunch began, attendees discovered that there was assigned seating for the 8 tables that they’d be sitting in both for lunch and the team bonding activity. There was initially some grumbling over not being able to choose their own seats, but that quickly passed. Only a few of the participants knew that the activity involved LEGO bricks!! Event Coordinator Extraordinaire Kelly Harrington and I stuffed the SAGE conference bags with 8 LEGO kits for each table and asked participants not to look into the bag until they were instructed to do so.
During the October planning meeting for the event with honor staff members they asked me to start my presentation with the story of me, Mom and the LEGO bricks because that would resonate with the group and they were absolutely right!! I followed that intro with a few facts about the LEGO Corporation and the creation of the LEGO Serious Play methodology!! By then everyone was very excited to get out the LEGO kits and start building! My only expectation was for them to have fun and to get to know some of the other partners better, and to say that they exceeded that expectation ten-fold would be an understatement. The two hours of building began with them building a bridge to familiarize themselves with the bricks and then holding their bridges up for a group photo! The bridges were amazing and I knew right then that the rest of the session was going to be special!! In three rounds they built 1) what steals their joy 2) what brings them joy and 3) how they will maintain their joy throughout 2022 and each person shared what they built with their table mates! I asked a volunteer from each table to summarize what their group members had built. Some of the models were so “deep” that the builder was asked to share the story of their model with the entire group.
I was in awe of what the participants created. In the what steals their joy round most people built something around the pandemic, such as not seeing family or being able to travel. Several built barriers to represent things that at times prevented them from them doing their jobs effectively! In the “what brings you joy” round one husband and wife team (without talking to each other) built a model to represent that joy for them was being with each other!! That got a rousing round of applause from the group!! A woman who had been a gymnastics athlete built her joy of watching her kids also loving sports with a model of her son upside down doing a flip while ski jumping!!! It was one of the best models I’ve ever seen!
The two hour session flew by and we built JOY and then some! Almost everyone was sad to see the session end!! After we took another group photo I was swarmed by the group with thanks and hugs for providing such an amazing activity!! It was the most amazing adrenaline rush ever!
After the LEGO activity there was a musician and a wine tasting event before dinner for the group in the hotel restaurant! I was out with the group until 9pm which was late given that I would be delivering a virtual keynote address for the Wellmed Charitable Foundation’s Caregiver Summit the next morning at 8am Pacific Time.
At almost the exact same time as my keynote the much anticipated episode of the Robin Roberts Thriver Thursday season four series finale with me and Mom was going to be previewed on Good Morning America. I chose not to view the episode prior to my keynote because I needed to totally focus on that presentation. The keynote went really well and after answering a few questions I ran down to the ballroom to grab breakfast and say goodbye to the group. I had the pleasure of riding to the airport with Kelly and each of us was aware that the success of the LEGO event experience had bonded us for life!
Almost immediately after the Thriver Thursday episode aired I began receiving text messages and Facebook post shares from friends and strangers from near and far congratulating me on the episode! It was just a little overwhelming. Though I saw pieces of the preview from the Facebook posts, I decided not to watch the episode until I got back home to Maryland Thursday night because I knew I was likely to cry through the entire thing, which I did!! So much emotion with Tim and my sister missing from the event! But I’m very proud of the episode and they would be too!
On Friday at noon I had a Joy of Caregiving presentation to deliver for a group of Johns Hopkins caregivers before packing up my RV Joy to head to Lancaster PA for the last rally of the season! The presentation went incredibly well and I was THRILLED! I didn’t quite get on the road right after the presentation as I had hoped, so I barely made it to the campground before it got dark! But I made it!!
It was soooo great to see all of my RVing Women sisters for relaxation after a few days of such an adrenaline rush! I quickly got set up and headed over for a group dinner. After dinner there was a short RVW Mid-Atlantic Chapter meeting and during that meeting my RVing Women sisters shocked me by recognizing my Alzheimer’s work and showing the preview clip on the pavilion tv making me cry again!!
I slept in on Saturday and it felt really great to recharge and recover from the total adrenaline rush from the previous four days!! I’m not likely to have another week like this for quite a while, but I’m grateful to have had it, AND that my Wonder Woman Mom got to see and experience the Thriver episode as it aired live on Thursday morning thanks to the awesome staff at Lifesprings Eldercare! This week was in a word, Priceless and I was Blessed by everyone who surrounded me with care, support and much love!