LEGO Bricks and Many Blessings Converge at a Clergy Conference!

I’ve often been asked HOW I became such great friends with quite a few Episcopal priests over the last couple of decades. My answer has always been that these are relationships that were meant to be and this week I added a few more of them to my list of friends! Spending two and a half days this week with a room full of clergy turned out to be one of the greatest Blessings of my life. When my dear friend / sister / retired priest Gayle Fisher Stewart told me several months ago that we’d been contracted to lead the Bishop and Clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri for their clergy conference using LEGO Serious Play, I was simultaneously terrified and thrilled! I was Terrified because it would be the first time I’d ever worked with a Bishop and group of Clergy and I needed to make some immediate changes to my schedule, and I was Thrilled because we’d be using LEGO bricks and it would be the first time I’d be officially working with Gayle! The theme of the conference was Building the Answers – Rest, Relationships and Renewal and we immediately got to work planning the event. I rearranged my schedule and made arrangements to drive my RV to St. Louis in order to attend my first RVing Women Convention being held in Iowa right after the clergy conference ended.

I met Gayle in St. Louis on September 12th and we were able to take an awesome trip to the St. Louis Arch National Park! Riding in the tram to the top of the Arch was the perfect journey for us before we headed to the Pallottine Retreat and Conference Center. We arrived at the site and learned from the staff that all three boxes of LEGO bricks that we shipped in advance to St. Louis had been damaged in transit and upon closer examination revealed that some pieces of LEGO had actually fallen out of the boxes! As if God personally intervened in this situation, when we counted everything we had just enough packets of LEGO bricks, connectors and plates for the event! Amen!!

I knew how great an event this was going to be as soon as it was announced that we’d be starting the first session a few minutes late because Bishop Deon Johnson was taking his Mom home from an appointment! I thought to myself, “he’s a Caregiver”, and immediately loved him before I even met him!!

Gayle got the conference started in a truly lively way by having the entire group stand and dance the Cha Cha Slide! One Rector arrived a few minutes late to see the entire room of his colleagues dancing and after initially looking startled he put his things down and danced the last minute of the song with everyone else! This was a group of really special people who were engaged from the word Go!

In her presentations Gayle shared with the group 1) the different types of REST and that we need to ensure that we make time for all of them, 2) the importance of determining if RELATIONSHIPS in our lives need to be formed, renewed, strengthened or even discontinued AND 3) the value and importance of truth-telling.

The lessons that Gayle shared were intertwined with 6 LEGO building sessions. After I explained what LEGO Serious Play is and how it works, the entire group was given sealed packets containing the same 6 LEGO brick pieces and instructed to make a DUCK with those pieces without conferring with their colleagues. One of the most powerful lessons of the conference occurred when everyone saw how different all of the ducks were!! We took a group photo with the ducks and left them on display for the entire conference.

The duck exercise demonstrates how we may all understand the assignment but how we process and execute it can be vastly different because we are all different!

For the majority of the builds, the group was divided into “years” 1, 2 and 3 as outlined in their strategic plan and the building questions were created from the nine mission areas outlined in the plan. Each Year’s group were given three mission areas to build.

The last morning’s assignment was to create a LANDSCAPE of the Diocese. It was incredible to watch as the groups were tasked with reviewing all the builds they had created the previous day and to put the most important builds on two new tables and make “connections and relationships” that will help make those mission area builds a reality for the Diocese of Missouri. Watching the entire group of more than 40 clergy discuss, move, add and takeaway pieces and parts from the Diocese Landscape was truly exciting and energizing!! The group was fully engaged and there was teamwork, laughter, discussion, lots of truth telling and pure JOY!! Throughout the conference Gayle helped to photograph the incredible LEGO builds and added much insight from her clergy experiences to the reflections that occurred after each round of building!

The only sad part for me was that the conference had to end! There was a JOYFUL Eucharist full of love and music to send everyone home and lots of LEGO models and pieces went home with some very happy clergy too!! I gave Bishop Deon extra ducks and a box of LEGO bricks for his son and he plans to do lots of building with him!

We received many accolades about the sessions and how powerful the builds were. This conference made me realize that though this group was vastly different from the family and professional caregivers or those with dementia that I usually work with, all of these clergy are caring for entire congregations and that makes them very important caregivers too!! And just like everyone else I have used my kits with, the favorite piece in the kit during this conference was the LEGO heart!! When I got to my RV JOY to head to Iowa, someone had even left one of the pink LEGO hearts stuck in my door! What a wonderful way to affirm what I already felt, that Gayle and I had successfully delivered a very thought-provoking conference that was full of laughter, listening and love!


August Made All of My Wishes Come True!

I keep pinching myself to see if all the things that happened this month really happened!! I started the month in San Diego as part of a panel at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference where we discussed a LEGO Serious Play session I facilitated where we built our ideas on how a multidisciplinary team can eliminate barriers to Alzheimer’s care. That panel was a once in a lifetime experience for me! Then in the middle of the month I facilitated another LEGO Serious Play session for a different panel on the same Alzheimer’s Care topic, this time for an event that will be held in Washington, D.C in mid-September!

I was thrilled to do an in-person event for Arden Courts in Delaware, to hang out with Babbie who I hadn’t seen since a year before Covid arrived! We had a great time as I presented Engaging Activities for Every Alzheimer’s Stage, which was very well received by all the folks in attendance!

Then it was FINALLY time to head to Florida with the kids for the four-time Covid-cancelled Disney Cruise on their newest ship The Wish!! The almost three years of waiting for this cruise was more than worth it and the ship was simply spectacular in every way!! The photos of the ship, the excursions, the food and entertainment simply don’t do it justice! Me and the kids had a blast, even though I started the cruise in tears because I was missing Tim on this trip which he would have loved more than any of us since he was such a big kid at heart! We laughed so much on this trip as we watched shows on the ship, basked in the sun, floated on the water, pet dolphins and ate a LOT!! I totally understand now why some adults go on Disney cruises without any kids, because the adults-only areas are simply unbelievable both in decor and ambiance. I’m already planning for the next Disney Cruise because it was simply the most fun event on the planet! As a way to “relax” after the cruise, we spent a night at a Disney Resort and a day at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom!! Such a Fantastic time full of incredible memories!

After a very short 16 hours at home, I boarded a flight to St. Croix where I spent four awesome days with members of the Virgin Islands Family Caregiver Support Program! I was the speaker on Friday night and Saturday morning, BUT the true highlights for me were just hanging out with the awesome caregivers, some of whom I first met in 2016 just six weeks after Tim died. I wrote a blog about that experience called The Caregivers Cared for Me! This weekend too, though no one had died, I also felt cared for by these caregivers, because they listened intently and participated in both my presentations, AND they allowed themselves to be vulnerable enough with me to share their deeply personal stories about their caregiver roles! I had one on one time with many of them as we walked together, played in the water, and sat together before or after sessions or shared a meal. We laughed, we cried, we worked out, we played games, we danced, we hugged, we shared and we ate like there was no tomorrow. The weekend was all about taking a respite from caregiving – YET we certainly cared for each other. On Sunday morning, people shared what they loved about the weekend, and where they were on their caregiving journey. Some sang, some read poems, almost all thanked God for the caregiver’s group and it’s wonderful staff!! As people spoke, if they shed a few tears someone quickly went up to the podium with them to lend support. These are some of the most caring and grateful individuals I’ve ever met and my time with them is always Glorious! I took video of the testimonies of many of those who spoke on Sunday, which I’ll be watching on any days I’m feeling down!

I’ve been so busy today planning for a September that will be even more busy than August was but I couldn’t let the last day go by without writing about all my wishes coming true this month! You’ll have to wait until my September post to read all about everything that will be happening next month but I know it will be fun and will cover even more of my wishes coming true!! Doing a Disney cruise with my granddaughter was a huge Wish of mine, and I have always Wished for additional opportunities to see the Virgin Island Caregivers again – getting both those things at almost the same time was Incredible! My advice to us all is – Keep Wishing, you never know what will happen!