May 2022’s Life-Changing Connections!

May is typically known for flowers after lots of April Showers, but for me May of 2022 has been filled with Connections that already have or will in the future change my life! It started from the very first day of the month when I laced up my shoes once again for an MS Walk in Washington, DC, which I hadn’t been able to do for 10 years given my work for my Mom and her Alzheimer’s Disease! But now that Mom is no longer with us, it was very important this year for me to also return to and reconnect with the disease that took my sister Renee in 2011. I connected with Christina Taranto from the MS Society on LinkedIn and the rest was history! Even though the walk has changed over the years it sure felt great to be back! The walk was more emotional for me than I thought it would be, but it got the month off to an incredible start!

On May 2nd, I had dinner with Louise Walsh a dear friend from St. Mark’s who was on a team of people who selected guest preachers to fill in on the Sundays that our Rector Michele is on Sabbatical, and I was one of the lucky people invited to preach. Louise and I not only had a fabulous dinner, we also discussed the theme of my upcoming sermon and she encouraged me to be as honest and forthright as I wanted to be. I opened the sermon series on May 8th, my first Mother’s Day without Mom and people said it was a powerful sermon! Louise came to all three of the services that day to hear me preach and I formed a connection with people I’d seen at church for years but had never actually had a long conversation with prior to that day.

May 5th was by far the most life-changing event of the month. I had met Jenee Williams, Genentech’s Director of Patient Advocacy Relations for Alzheimer’s Disease on Mom’s birthday Feb 18th at HFC’s CareCon event where I’d done a short LEGO Serious Play (LSP) session. She loved the “taster session” so much she told everyone she worked with at Genentech about it and on May 5th I did a 90 minute LSP session with Jenee and her team. Two other Genentech employees, Simon and Ruchir, also attended that session and their attendance was the beginning of what we all believe will be an incredibly powerful relationship that could bring LSP to the world of Alzheimer’s Disease in a huge way. Several other groups at Genentech are also looking at dates for LSP events for their respective groups.

The very next day on May 6th I offered the first session of my newest presentation “Who Am I Now – Life After Caregiving”, for my beloved partners at Johns Hopkins Medicine! I loved how the session went, and with some minor additions I hope it will help many current and former caregivers as they prepare for life after caregiving. Part 2 of the session will be held at the end of June to follow-up on where people are after the first session!

On May 10th I delivered the LSP kits for the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to their new offices in Towson, Maryland. I met briefly with Program Manager Kristi Mroz, to discuss their upcoming LSP event on May 31st and got a tour of the office! I was interviewed by two Baltimore TV stations for the Alzheimer’s Association event and the newscasts aired during the week of May 18th and helped generate additional interest for the session!

I had known Nicole Schmid for several years when she worked for Artis Senior Living, and her current employer Memorial White Rose Home Health and Hospice in York PA was a sponsor of the Making a Difference in Dementia Conference where I spoke on May 13th. I had spoken virtually for the event last year, but they wanted me to come back in-person this year. I drove up the night before, but instead of staying in a hotel as we had previously discussed, Nicole offered me the use a basement apartment in her home and I accepted!! Meeting Nicole’s husband and two kids was one of the highlights of the month for sure and they treated me like royalty, including a taking me out for a delicious dinner and leaving chocolates on my bed pillow! The special treatment had me full of energy and ready to go for my presentation which went amazingly well! I also met some really talented people representing organizations throughout York during the event and also had a very successful book signing event!

The middle of the month was all about connecting with new people and places and relaxation and restoration! I flew for the first time ever to Portland, Oregon on May 15th to meet in person with a LinkedIn connection who has also worked with seniors and those with dementia with LEGO bricks! People were shocked, not only that I would agree to meet and hang out with someone I’d never met in person, but that I also agreed to spend the night with her. We had met several times on Zoom and it felt like we had known each other forever. So not only did Patty Sherin drive more than 2 hours to pick me up from the airport, she took me to more than a dozen places in ten hours where we walked, hiked, ate and drank through rain, clouds, sun, and snow! The adventure was Absolutely Sensational!!

The next day after we hiked to the Big Tree in La Pine, Patty drove me two hours to Eugene to have lunch with and hand me off to my cousin Willette before we would drive two hours to her house and I’d spend the next week with my family! During our family time together, our first since 2017, we hiked to waterfalls, spent time in downtown Portland and smaller towns, ate at food truck parks, and stayed two nights on the Oregon Coast which is indescribably beautiful!

We explored several beaches and towns, walked to lighthouses, and stopped at many breathtaking viewpoints that were each dazzling from their vantage points! The trip ended with a walk through a gorgeous Japanese Garden and dinner and wine tasting at an African-American owned Winery. I returned to Maryland on May 23rd renewed, restored and ready for more great connections!

The end of the month did not disappoint! Thanks to an introduction from the one and only Steve Gurney, founder of the Positive Aging Sourcebook I met on May 26th with Charles De Vilmorin, founder of Linked Senior, which supports person-centered care through life enrichment and dementia engagement without drug therapy! To say that Charles and I hit if off in our first Zoom meeting would be an understatement. We will be meeting again in the first week of June to make some plans for the future!! My awesome friend the Networking Queen Melissa Koppal, also introduced me to two new people I’ll be meeting with in the coming weeks who work in senior living / memory care! I swear I think Melissa and Steve know everyone on the planet!!

The Business Highlight of the month occurred on May 27th as I facilitated a recorded 2 hour LEGO Serious Play session as part 1 for an event that will conclude at a Live session in CA in early August. Stay tuned for more details for this event that will likely be one of the most memorable of my LEGO Serious Play facilitation career thus far!

There was also lots of LEGO Building this month as we are in the last few weeks before The Longest Day event on June 21st where I’ll be displaying and building LEGO models for the Alzheimer’s Association largest fundraiser of the year. I can’t close without thanking my sisters from other Mothers – Kris Lopez and Gayle Fisher Stewart who have helped me tremendously by preparing Inspiration Kits for LSP sessions and completing proposals for what we hope will be a variety of new LSP work!

Now that we’ve come to the last day of the month of May, I look back in total AWE at the dozens of people I met or reconnected with who have helped to inspire me and push me to new heights for this work I was born to do!! I give thanks for all that I accomplished this month that has laid the groundwork for what I will be able to do in the future!

This morning’s LEGO Serious Play Building Hope and Health event for the Greater Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association was excellent!! The models built and shared by participants were full of love, care, hope and plans for achieving great health for the remainder of 2022. As soon as that session was over, I headed to Lancaster, PA for six nights with my RVing Women sisters!! Having dinner with them this evening and sitting by the fire afterwards was the best possible way to say goodbye to a fabulous month!

Thank you May of 2022 for restoring and renewing me and for allowing me to recharge and even reinvent the legacy that Mom and I started! The future is extremely bright and with help from all the amazing people who love and support me, as it says on my website – I’ve Got This!