Thankful for Grumpy

All around me this season I see grumpy people running hither and thither amidst their tasks and responsibilities.  I remember calling a friend of mine and her husband answered the phone.  "Hi (we'll call him Frank) Frank!  How's life?"  "It sucks." he replied.  Oh.  "How's (we'll call her Carol) Carol?"  "She's a pain in my *ss." he grunted. OK. "How are those beautiful kids?" "They're a pain in my *ss too." he laughed cynically.

A year later he was living with his parents, jobless and friendless. Carol had kicked him out and given him basic visitation rights for their kids. 

What I'm trying to say is to try to realize every day how many things are going RIGHT.  You may be having a hard day but the car started.  The garage door closed.  The washing machine didn't need repair.  If something went wrong you had a phone, you knew who to call to help you.

Nobody died. You were able to get out of bed and put two feet on the floor.  You were able to think for yourself.  Hopefully you didn't have to depend on someone else to help you with your most personal tasks.  

You may feel stressed by your budget, but if you have $10 in your wallet or your pocket you have more than most of the people in this world.  

THANK YOU for reading our blog.


Lizard Chapter 12: WINTER ARRIVES

Days, weeks, months passed. The winter was the hardest winter on record. She was grieving and she was healing. Time heals everything if you let it. Still, she thought of me night and day. She thought of her father a lot. She thought of Mr. Lizard often too. She thought of him as the monsoons washed the autumn away. She thought about him and worried for him with the snow and the wind and the cold. She wondered where he was living and she prayed that he was safe and somehow warm. She was glad that she believed in Heaven and the Rainbow Bridge so that she didn't worry so much about her Dad and me. She didn't understand that she didn't need to worry about Lizard either. 

Meanwhile Lizard was concerned that she was upset with him. It is hard to be God's messenger when you come to take someone away from someone who loves them. He hoped that she would forgive him because he knew that forgiveness is one of the most important things on the face of the earth.  


Putting The Pieces Together

It's hard to believe that I started my Elderplanning business nearly twenty years ago and have been a professional social worker for over thirty.  At a certain time in our lives we find ourselves asking: Where does the time go? 

I have worked tirelessly for many hours working directly with people to help them know how to plan for an uncertain future. Now I am writing the book in the hopes reach many more 
...and to plan for my own. 

Stay Tuned!


We're All in Training

Dear God help me.
I need more strength. Endurance. Tolerance.
It's getting more intense.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
"Increase the weight! Keep going!"
I don't know if I can take any more.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
They say that repeating something over and over makes it easier and makes you stronger.
"Add the weight and you will surpass what you have done thus far."
It's already so heavy. I don't think I can add any more.
I've been doing this over and over. The same thing over and over.
Repetition. Repetition.
I need to let go.
I need to stop doing the same thing over and over.
I'm strong enough in my body and my mind.
I don't know how to move forward.
"No, you can do it! Stick with it!"
Same old same old.
Day after day, year after year, time after time
I keep getting stuck and the same place.
I am not afraid of anything but I am afraid of this.
I have not been able to move past this point.
It's too heavy.
I don't think I can do it.
Dear God, give me the strength to love.


NAU's IHD: Making the World a Better Place

We are blessed to have been invited help The Institute of Human Development (IHD) with their latest round of campaign stories.  Please feel free to view the articles at the link below.


Always Leave Them Wanting More...

If you understand this basic law of Economics, you can apply it to every area of your life.  

You, as reader, probably learned more from this post by looking at the picture and the sentence than you would have if I took 1000 words to explain the same thing.   

Always leave them wanting more, not less.


I only had one Dad, he only had one daughter and he only had one mug. I'm using it now. 
He pretty much had only one of everything.
I used to have four of everything when I thought I'd have a family. I was so traditional and domestic.
Then I had two of everything when I still had hope that the right partner would come into my life.
Now I pretty much have one of everything. 


Technical Writing for Northern Arizona U

I just completed a series of articles for Northern Arizona University's Institute of Human Development.  

My "playtime" is creating graphics like this one.  
Stop by for a visit to the IHD website to learn about the amazing things they are doing for their community and for the state of Arizona.  I was amazed.  It made it really fun to write about it!  
I'll send a link to the actual articles once they are published.



She asked him if he needed anything but he said no. He never needs or wants for anything. He thought it was sweet that she left the light on for him the night before, but he wasn't not into eating bugs that night anyway. She took off her wet boots and coat and left them on the bench outside and went in to continue to get used to the house without me there. Somehow I could talk to Mr. Lizard and he would hear me, but when I talked to her she couldn't hear me. I had so much to learn. She had so much to learn.

Around the noon hour it was still raining like crazy. She took a phone call. She learned that her father had died unexpectedly in his sleep. They weren't sure what time but it was within hours of my passing. She was shocked. She had hardly come to terms with my death and now she was facing another. She was very glad that Mr. Lizard was there.

Now the crazy auric light out there is purple. Purple light in the dark night.  

It was comforting for me that he stayed with her outside the front door for the three days it took her to take care of the details and to clean out his apartment. She brought in some boxes from her car on the third day. She greeted him, glad to see him. She wanted to get some time to sit down with him later. She brought her tea out that evening and sat on the bench and talked with him for a very long time.  Mostly she thanked him for being there.  

The next day she was sad because not only was I gone and her father was gone, but Lizard was gone too. Well, we weren't really "gone" but she couldn't see us. Lizard told me that he had to leave on another assignment. He was not sure he would be back again.
Here Lizard, Her Father and Me we make up the colors of the rainbow.  


Saturday morning it was pouring rain. I thought she was crazy but she put her raincoat on and went out to walk our trail through the woods. People can do funny things when they are grieving. She opened the door, looked for Mr. Lizard to no avail, and went on her way to the trail through the rain. She walked until she was drenched. The trail was rushing with water in some places. She didn't care. She cried and the heavy rain drowned out the sound of her tears and joined her wet face so she didn't know where the tears ended and the rain began. She was strangely comforted by it.

Upon her wet return, there he was again! Mr. Lizard was in his appointed place underneath the light. "Oh am I glad to see YOU!" she said to him. She sat on the bench under the eave with him and they sat for a long time and talked. They talked about loss. They talked about death. They talked about love. They talked about the Rainbow Bridge and they talked about Heaven and God. 

She didn't know that he had left long enough between dusk and dawn to escort me to the Rainbow Bridge. But I wondered...Why did he go back to her? 



Mr Lizard was not really of this world. I don't know what that circular thing is out there. It was a moonless, dark night.
Early in the morning before dawn, I crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Lizard had told me ahead of time what to expect and how to get there. He told me that there would be others crossing over with me--many others! He was right. He was my guide and he made my crossing much easier. I was more worried about Kate but he reassured me. "Don't worry," he said,  "I'll make sure she's okay before I leave." 

That afternoon Kate went out and he was there. She sat down on the bench that she had sat with him on when we found him in the house on the fireplace bricks. She talked with him like he was a person. She cried and cried. She thanked him for being there for us. "I know you understand," she said to him. "I don't know how I know but I know that you do."  

That night she went out to see him again but Mr. Lizard wasn't there. He had not moved from that place on the wall by the door for five whole days and now he was gone. He told me he would be leaving Friday night, but he didn't tell her. If he did, she didn't hear him. That night she left the front light on for him all night in case he came back.  She thought he might be drawn to the light for the bugs or for the warmth.  He didn't return that night and in the morning after a sleepless night she sadly turned off the light. 



The next morning he watched us leave from his station under the lantern but he didn't say anything. He just watched us. Kate said "Good morning, Mr. Lizard," as we passed by him. She told him we were going back to the vet clinic. He didn't answer. He didn't say anything.  

I didn't know then what was going to happen. There were a lot of things I didn't know yet. I had some kind of surgery and I was in a lot of pain and I couldn't do much when we got home that day. Mr. Lizard was still there -- looking at me -- and saying nothing. He must've known I was in bad shape. Tuesday came and went. Wednesday. Thursday. I was getting worse and worse.  

Lizard Through The Leaded Glass
Every once in awhile she would get up off the floor where she was staying with me and she would stretch her legs and go out through the front door and talk with Mr. Lizard. She would smile at him like he was an old friend and then she would give him the report of how I was doing and she would cry because she knew it was inevitable that I was leaving this place. She asked him if he knew of anyone who could help us. She knew it was out of our hands now and she asked the only one who was available and near.  She asked Mr. Lizard.  

It's Like He's Half in One World and Half in Another
She couldn't hear him answer her but I could, even though I was in the kitchen inside the house. He said, "I'm here for you. I'm here for him. I'll make sure everything is okay." Even though she couldn't hear him I think she somehow felt better when she closed the door. She went out to see him every few hours. Every time she saw him he was just the same as he was the time before. 


We Can Create the World We Want to Live In

I have been writing since I could hold a pencil in my hand and I never took my ability for granted. Writing has been my passion and, at times, my escape. When the world became too much to bear, I would just go in and create my own. Adversity can inspire creativity.


I wasn't feeling too good one weekend.  Kate scheduled an appointment at the vet clinic the first day of the week.  As we were going out the door on the way to the clinic, sure enough, there he was.  He had come back!  Kate noticed him too. He was hanging on the wall near the light by the front door.  Kate said "Hey Mr. Lizard!  How are you? Where have you been all this time?"  Of course he didn't answer her, but he was communicating with me. He knew I was going to the vet and he wished me well. 

When we came back he was still there. It was fun to have him hang out. I sat at the front door and he sat above me by the light and we just were together. He commented on the change in weather; monsoons were coming. He was making plans for where he could stay, protected from the rushing waters that come to the southwest at this time of the year. I told him that he was welcome to stay here with us, hanging out under the eave under the light, but he said No, He couldn't stay with us for too long. He told me he had a job to do and that he had to go other places but that his place this particular week was with me, with us, at our house. He said today is Monday, tomorrow is Tuesday and that he would be staying until Friday night. I was glad he'd be here with us.  


If You Have a Story, Maybe It's Time to Share It

They often say "It's never too late." I have worked in hospice long enough to hear the regrets that people express at the end of their lives. A famous quote by Lucille Ball says it all, "I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done."   

Do you have a tale to tell? A book to write? A song to share? A movie to produce? Don't let life pass you by without creating it. If you have a message, someone is waiting for you to share it. Dust it off if you've started it. Start jotting it down if you haven't. Write it, publish it. 


Looking Back

What will YOU say at the end of YOUR life?
Will it have been worth it?    


Never Underestimate a Person with Dementia

Around and around she went!  When she first was admitted to the dementia unite at the nursing home, Abbie was able to walk. In fact, she could hardly sit still. She was like a jack in the box at mealtime. She rarely slept through the night. She was on a mission, going to Who Knows Where. She did not seem particularly disturbed by her own wanderings even though there never seemed to be an end to her journey.

Her only child, daughter Karen, visited her each and every day. It was clear to everyone that Abbie did not even recognize Karen, yet Karen remained steadfast. "I'm giving her back the loyalty and care that she provided me when I was a child." she said.

Days and years passed. Abbie eventually started falling so she was given a wheelchair. People of any age can have a hard time learning how to maneuver a wheelchair, but Abbie had determination and she figured it out. She started wandering about on two wheels. Shuffling her feet as she propelled herself forward, she would wheel herself around the facility in what seemed to be a surprisingly consistent pattern.

I was Director of Social Services at the time, and I could tell time by her. Abbie would wheel herself to my doorway, speaking to me in a language that I could not understand; the language of Alzheimer's Dementia. Inevitably she appeared at my office each day promptly at 11:55 a.m. and then again at the change of shift at 3 p.m. Every day without fail Abbie was right on time, although she did not wear a watch and was assumed to be totally confused and disoriented.

One day we received the tragic news that her daughter had died in her sleep. She never had a chance to say goodbye to her mother.

All of a sudden Abbie changed her route. She started showing up at all different times in different places. She was unpredictable. She now mumbled constantly. Her words were not intelligible, but she was clearly repeating the same thing over and over again. One day I sat with her and I finally grasped what she was saying. I was amazed. 6-7-3-4-2-4-6.... 6-7-3-4-2-4-6... ad infinitum. I went to her medical record and, sure enough, she was repeating her daughter's phone number over and over again.

Everyone had just assumed that her daughter would pass from her life and she would never know the difference. Abbie taught us otherwise. We ultimately offered her comfort in her grief and could only assume that she might have been able to understand and receive it.

If you know someone with Alzheimer's Disease, the best thing you can do is to treat them with respect and dignity. They are trapped inside a body that seems to not understand because it can't communicate whether it does or not. Assume the best. After all, if you were that person, isn't that how you would want -- and need -- to be treated?


Care Manager Reverses Alzheimer's Diagnosis Decision

My client, we'll call him Walter, sat through an intensive three hour interview with his new doctor. I was impressed with how thorough the session was. After all, this was one of the reasons I referred Walter to this particular physician.  

Walter, at 90, holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering. His mind is beyond active! He has worked all over the world during three different wartimes. Top secret research has been his specialty. When he moved to Arizona he brought over 400 boxes of books with him. He believes in God and the angels and extraterrestrials. He forgets all about himself while making his mission his obsessive center of focus. He doesn't care what anybody thinks of him. The clock is ticking and he needs to complete his mission before he leaves This Place.

Before I meet with new clients and their families, I ask them to sketch out some basic goals to get a head start in preparing a customized plan of care. At our initial meeting, Walter was prepared. He had typed up five pages of goals!  

Most people want help preparing meals, cleaning the house or getting to church. Some need help getting out of bed in the morning... or need inspiration to face each day. Walter had five pages of goals related to complex and continuing research with his ultimate goal: To find a way to save human civilization. He had already met with the nearby Hopi Elders to learn their thoughts about how they have survived since the Dawn of Time. 

Sounds far out, yes. Walter was far out. But he was clear as a bell. He was brilliant beyond brilliant. Some people are so intelligent that they just don't handle the mundane things very well. 

When the doctor created Walter's initial file, the diagnosis of COPD was first and "Dementia: Probable Alzheimer's Type" was secondary. I was floored. Granted, the interview was all over the place because Walter was trying to teach the good doctor about what was important in his Great Scheme of Things. I could see where the doctor was coming from. The doctor remained firm in his opinion that Walter was fighting severe dementia.  

This is where a Geriatric Care Manager can come in very handy as an advocate. I took Walter back home that day and, with his eager cooperation, we completed a Mini Mental Assessment to determine the level of his "dementia". The tool assessed him in 30 different areas of cognition. His final score on the test: 29 out of 30. Early in the process I asked him to remember three things -- Pencil, Shoe, Watch. At the end of the test, when I asked him to recall the three, he missed the shoe. That was the one and only point Walter missed. 

On our next appointment we presented the doctor with the test results and he agreed that it was appropriate to remove the dementia diagnosis from Walter's chart. 

Click here for the Folstein 30 question MMSE assessment.  This 10 question format, a much simpler assessment, is available for people who have higher degrees of dementia.


A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.  
~John Barrymore

We Are All Just Children It Seems

Funny how long it takes us to Grow Up.  It takes our whole lives doesn't it?  I have realized that no matter how old people are (and I've worked with old people all my life) that we are all just children when we are in an area of life that we have never been exposed to.  Learning to deal with a new challenge in life is not much different than walking through the door of your kindergarten class on the first day of school.  There's always more to learn!

We are reminded that we are still children when we get caught up in emotional waves of concern, fear, overwhelm or feeling a loss of control over our life circumstances.

No matter how old we are we are still just children.  If we are blessed we have our parents alive and well for a long time.  If we are really blessed we will know how blessed we are to have our parents alive and well.  I am one of them!  My parents are doing well and I thank my lucky stars when I look at statistics and when I work everyday with people who are struggling to survive and to live.

I am also well aware that it is just a matter of time and the situation will change.  It makes me very thankful for Right Now for what I have, for what we have together as a family.

Look around at all the parents who aren't doing well.  All those who struggle with memory loss; dementia.  All those who rely on walkers and wheelchairs to get them from one place to another.  All those who rely on their adult children to meet their most basic needs on a daily basis.

This Mother's Day (and Father's Day) upcoming, please take a moment to thank your parent for being self-sufficient and healthy.  And if they aren't, take a moment to breathe in and think of ways to help them --- and to help yourself to help them.  You don't have to do it all.

If you don't know where to start, get yourself a geriatric care manager who can make it all easier for you.

It Pays to be Proactive! A Love Story.

Every day I hear many amazing stories in my line of work!  When you work with people and you care about them, you hear what they say with their lips --and with their hearts... and there's ultimately enough fodder for a screenplay!  I speak each one in confidence and with the utmost respect.  I decided I would start posting them here now and again so others can learn from them too:  


Roy and Angela had been dating since high school.  Same age, same year - both were now graduating college.  On Graduation Day Roy grabbed his diploma in New England, hopped the train and got to Seattle in time to see Angela graduate with honors.  She was always such a smart girl!  And pretty too!   Roy was stalling, however.  Angela had been saying for years that she wanted them to marry as soon as they finished college.  He loved her, yes, but was he indeed ready for marriage?  Children?  Career?  

Everett, WA Depot 1900's
Two days later they boarded the train together.  He was taking her to Chicago for a family gathering.  She looked at him with such admiration.  After all, he was such a gentleman!  She felt fortunate to have such a smart, handsome and chivalrous man at her side.  As they boarded the train she carried only her purse while he carried both of their bags and her bookbag too.  He was so strong!

They settled into their seats, their tickets were punched and the train started moving. Angela ruffled through her bag for a book and some magazines for the long ride.  Roy was preparing to take a nap.  He was a contented man. 

As the train picked up speed, she nudged him on the elbow.  He turned to her as she handed him the latest issue of the Seattle Times.  "Here" she said "there might be something of interest to you."  He gladly took the paper with a nod and began to read.  

'Of Interest', sure enough!  There, on page 3: "Holstein and McFarland to Wed".  He did a double-take.  Sure enough there was a recent portrait of the two of them, Roy and Angela, taken over the holidays the year before.  The article went on to announce that the two would wed in Chicago on the upcoming Saturday.  Roy was taken completely by surprise.  

Angela had taken it upon herself to make all the arrangements. They were married that Saturday in Chicago and have been happily married for 77 years.  

"How can you argue with a woman like that?  And she's been telling me what to do ever since!"  he says with a smile-- and absolutely no regret.  

 Couple Discuss Their Plans



Spring was approaching and we were starting to leave the windows and doors open to let the fresh warm are into the house. One day, I guess when we weren't paying attention, Mr. Lizard came right into our house.  He headed straight for the fireplace bricks where he scurried up with his sure-webbed feet and he just sat there like a decoration that you would buy in a southwest novelty shop.  He looked like he belonged there and I was happy to have him back. 

I hoped that Kate might let him stay here with us but when she saw him she said, "WHAT are YOU doing here?"  She was really nice about it but she said he had to stay outside where he belonged.  

She carefully pulled his webbed feet and hands off the cinder block, placed him in a pretty towel and carried him outside where they sat for a little while talking.  I don't know what they were talking about because I went out to the kitchen to finish my breakfast and drink some water. When I came back Kate was inside getting dressed for work and Mr. Lizard was still sitting on the towel on the bench outside where they were sitting.  

Kate went to work and Mr. Lizard stayed in the same place on that towel on the bench for many hours.  Then I guess he left but I knew that he would be back because he told me he would be.  He told me he would come back to see me in a few months.  I liked the thought that I was sure I would see him again. 

Even though I knew he was going back out into the predatory world with lots of risks to life and limb, I just had the feeling that he would be okay and that he would do as he said he would do.  


Lizard Chapter 5: THERE HE IS AGAIN!

I was really surprised one day when I saw him clinging to the screen door on the back patio. A lot of time had passed because I had grown from a puppy into a dog and I was twice as big as I was last time I saw him. I didn't need to ask myself if it was him.  It was him.  He had a presence that no other lizard possessed.  He was clinging to the screen only because he wanted me to know that he was there.  He moved around until I saw him and then he just sat there and talked to me.  

He told me very calmly of the adventures he had experienced in the natural habitat that surrounded our house.  He told me how he traveled several miles into the national forest but that every once in awhile he would think of us and know that he had to come back to see us.  

He told me to keep special watch over Kate in the days ahead and to always be sure to come into the house when the coyotes would come near the house.  Of course I knew to do that, but it was endearing that he was so protective of us.  I told him I appreciated him and it was not long after that he was gone again.  



Days passed -- maybe even years. Every once in awhile I'd think of him.  Even though we didn't really play together when he visited, I liked him a lot. I wondered where he went when he wasn't around.

I felt like I knew him from somewhere, some time a long long time ago. I know it sounds strange but he felt like my father, my brother, my son, my friend, he felt like everything all wrapped up into one. 

I think Kate liked him a lot too, even though we really never talked about him.  



He was Over Her Head

The next time we saw Lizard he showed up on the front porch of our house and he just sat there a little higher than Kate's head.  We came up the steps one day and there he was.  He just sat and looked at us and we stood and looked at him.  "Nice to see you again." said Kate.  He just blinked.  He was trying to tell me something, I wasn't sure what.  It was something important.  
He stayed there for a few days.  He stayed there until the day we took Grady to the vet and came back to the house without her.  I don't remember seeing him when we came home, but maybe he was there. Kate and I were pretty upset about what had happened and maybe we just walked by him and never saw him.  

Godspeed Grady


So Focused on the Positive, I Didn't See The Rest

I visited a client in her Senior Living Community last week. As we were strolling down the hallway, a woman was pushing herself in her wheelchair, accompanied by her charming elderly boyfriend. 

We greeted the woman and my client introduced me. The woman smiled and I was very taken by her natural beauty. Her bright smile. Her stylish red outfit. Just enough makeup to highlight her blue eyes and warm grey hair. Her grace in pushing her wheelchair on the plush carpet. After they passed by, my client gave me an earful. Her boyfriend lives in their home and she lives here now.... She never figured out how to return home without her legs."

I had never noticed that she was missing her legs. Taken above the knee, both sides. Me, the geriatric assessor. Me the great observer.

This woman was so elegant and gracious, I never noticed anything about her that wasn't elegant and gracious. I was too busy looking at her beautiful smile.

It's all in the grace.

photo from
Premier Senior Living in Westchester County


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