Category Archives: Unconditional Love

One Year Later


Love Has No Age; Love Has No Limits; Love Has No Death!

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Photo Credit: Carline Jean Sun-Sentinel

 

The year of ‘firsts’ is coming to an end, so it seems fitting that I publish this post today,  March 9, 2015  at 1:20 pm.  As Diane Lade so eloquently wrote on April 13, 2014 in her Pulitzer Prize nominated story; “Richard loved opera and classical music, and they were lsc_the-mikadolistening to the joyful finale of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado”: The threatened cloud has passed away, and fairly shines the dawning day! What though the night may come too soon, we’ve years and years of afternoon. From his seat at the table, Chris suddenly looked at the hospital bed across the room. Chris saw Richard shrug and turn his head toward him. At 1:20 p.m. on March 9, 2014, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Bernard Richard Schiffer died.” 1.

Richard loved opera, in fact, I remember him taking me to my first opera, ‘Madam Butterfly’ in 2006.  “This will be a good first opera for you because it is not too heavy.” Of course, the sentimental side of me said upon leaving the theater that evening, “You didn’t tell me it was going to be such a sad ending.”  He just smiled and laughed at me as we walked down the sidewalk for dinner.  It was fitting that we were listening to Opera on that ‘sunny Sunday afternoon’ as Richard spirit was lifted up, pain-free for eternity.

My year of ‘firsts’ has had its ups and downs.  We move on with our heads held high, taking the good days with the bad, the bad days with the good, and all that goes on in-between.  I’m still trying to find my place in my year of ‘firsts.’ Leaving my job at Sun-Serve, spending extended time in New Orléans,  going out on my own with my radio show, Healing Ties on iHeart Radio,   learning the group cruise business, becoming theNational Caregiving Advocate for Answers for Elders . com all of which has proved to be a challenge, but very rewarding too. Yet there is that empty feeling which seems to linger, and never go away.  So many of you, near and far, have been so kind and so supportive.  I find so much comfort from your thoughtfulness.

As I reflect today on my life with Richard, I can sum it up into one sentence…I am lucky to be loved in the way that I am loved by him.  Unlike Madam Butterfly, we did not have a sad ending, just a new beginning, it is the adjustment period that makes this year of ‘firsts’ so difficult at times.  As I have written before, my faith tells me that I will see him again, my mind tells me that he is forever pain-free, and my heart tells me that he is right next to me. Because in the end, just as in the beginning, love is the winner!

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1. Lade, D., & Jean, C. (2014, April 13). In Sickness and In Health: A Couple’s Final Journey. Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved from http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/lgbt-dying-couple/

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‘Things That Never Die’


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Photo Credit: Carline Jean, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

This is one of my favorite photos’ from Sunday’s article in the Sun-Sentinel, ‘In Sickness and in Health’ .  This picture was taken on Richard’s 83rd birthday on January 24th of this year. The picture really captured how good Richard was feeling as we started the evening.  As Diane Lade wroteRichard ordered one of his favorite dishes, salmon. He started to eat but became increasingly quiet.”   He was able to eat some of his salmon while enjoying his club soda with lime before we abruptly had to leave. Once we got settled at home and after his pain medicine kicked in,  he was able to enjoy some of the delicious cake that we were not able to eat while at the restaurant.  I know he thoroughly enjoyed the cake, and I wanted you to know that as well! 

As I continue to listen to the CD, ‘Love Changes Everything’ from the Gateway Men’s Chorus, I am struck by the lyrics from the song ‘Things That Never Die‘ on track 13…

The Pure, The Bright, The Beautiful

That stirr’d our Hearts in Youth

The impulses to Wordless Prayer

The Dreams of Love and Truth

The Longing after something Lost

The Spirits Yearning Cry

The Striving after better Hopes –

These Things Can Never Die.

The timid Hand stretched fort to Aid

a brother in his need

The kindly Word in Griefs Dark Hour

That Proves a Friend Indeed

The Plea of Mercy softly Breath’d

when Justice threatens nigh

The Sorrows of a Contrite Heart –

These Things Shall Never Die.

Let nothing pass, for every hand

Shall find some work to do

Lose not a chance to waken Love

Be Firm, and Just, and True

So shall a Light that never Fade

Beam on thee from on High

and Angel Voices say to Thee

These Things Shall Never Die

Dickens

The outpouring of love and support has been simply overwhelming.    ‘ The Longing After Something Lost’ has been tempered by  ‘The Kindly Words in Grief’s Dark Hour.’‘  Thank you, ‘Friends’, for expressing your love and support because, ‘These Things Shall Never Die.’ 

Don’t ever  pass up a chance to love!

TLO

 

 

 

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Slumber Party At The Hospital!


As the day progressed from our visit to the Emergency Room early this morning, ‘The Little One’ was admitted to the cardiac unit at North Broward Hospital late this afternoon. He is resting peacefully now!

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We’ve been caught up in the emotion of the day, but we know that we are in a safe place this evening. The last week or so at home has been quite stressful for both of us as TLO’s health has been a challenge. New areas of pain overshadowed by different kinds of pain. A new experience?

As the Caregiver, I want to take away his pain. I am confident that all Caregivers understand this. As Caregivers, we sit back, take a deep breath and want our secret powers from our Caregiving Cape to make everything better… Whoosh

But the cold hard facts are that we all all human!

A slumber party is in order this evening; there will not be any pillow fights and there will be no popcorn as well. The slumber party may not take away the pain, but the slumber party will certainly p20130918-214639.jpgprovide the much needed comfort that we seek during our Caregiving journey.

Finding comfort is one of the common denominator in Caregiving. We all want it, we all strive for it, but we don’t know how to find it when we are in the midst of our journey.

Tonight I am finding my comfort zone by having a slumber party at the hospital. There is no comfort in going home to an empty house! Heck, I might even ring that call bell.

You see… We might have cancer, but cancer does not have us!

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Filed under Advocate, Caregiver Stress, Esophagus Cancer, LGBT Caregiving, LGBT Couples, Unconditional Love

Caregivers and Carees: Cherish Every Day!


 It is our hope that lets us withstand problems:

It is our beliefs that let us find solutions.

 

TLOCJM

Christmas Eve 2012

Yesterday is gone…

We Celebrate today…

We Hope For Tomorrow! 

No Matter how difficult your Caregiving experience might be…

Cherish every day!

Your love and support inspires us!

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Remember…Blame the Disease, Not The Caree!


When I was a kid, one of my favorite roller coasters was the Zephyr at the old Pontchartrain Beach amusement park in New Orléans.  Those steep curves and big drops were exhilarating, especially when the car made the turn to come back to the station ― when for a moment you thought  that you were going to fly into Lake Pontchartrain only to feel the car make that big pull to the left at the last second and head back to home base.  They do not make Roller Coasters like that anymore! 

Being a caregiver at times is like riding a roller coaster: up the hill, down the hill, swaying through the curves that Caregiving brings to us on a daily basis.  I know I must have ridden the Zephyr over a 100 times in my life, so I knew what to expect and could anticipate the bumps and curves as the car sped down the track.

Caregiving can change at a moment’s notice and… without any warning.  When your anxiety heightens, that is precisely the time when you have to be calm in the presence of your caree.    All of a sudden, those steep curves look ominous; those hills become daunting.

  • When your caree lashes out at you, take a step back and assess the situation; more times than not, it is the disease talking, not the caree.
  • Be attentive, not condescending.
  •  Be proactive, not reactive.
  • As a caregiver, remember you are not the one who is sick.

‘The Little One’ taught me this lesson as he related stories of being a caregiver for his partner Herman who passed away in 1999 from Alzheimer’s.  “As mad as I would get with Herman, I had to remind myself that it was the disease talking and not the man who I had known for 43 years.”   Over the last 48 hours, I have been reminded of this story quite a number of times as we are currently in the mist of change with ‘The Little One’s’ health.  We never know when the tumor is going to act up, but when it does, it takes its toll.   We are hoping that ‘this roller coaster’ gets back on track and pulls into the station .

When riding the Zephyr  I could anticipate the bumps and curves on the track, and I knew that I would always end up back at the station; however our health and well-being is not so predictable.  So when those bad days surface, we both take comfort in knowing that it is the disease, not the person.   Mindful that the person you love and care for, will always be inside your heart no matter what is inside their body.

You see…We Might Have Cancer…

 But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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Be A Healthy Caregiver on Blog Talk Radio


 

Join  Chris MacLellan ‘The Bow Tie Guy’ on Tuesday at 1:00pm (est) for ‘Be A Healthy Caregiver’ on Blog Talk Radio  with  special guest Patrick Cavanaugh from Broward County Elderly and Veterans Services in Broward County Florida

 

 

 

 

Substance abuse is an issue that is not often discussed as it relates to our senior community.  Join us for a friendly conversation with Patrick  Cavanaugh with Broward County Elderly and Veterans Services Prevention Program as we discuss substance abuse issues relating to seniors and caregivers.

 

The Prevention Program activities are directed at older adults 55 years and older. Some are provided to at-risk elders, primarily those experiencing mental health and/or emotional problems, caregivers and the general public. Mr. Cavanaugh interacts and/or provides direct services to older adults in an effort to comprehensively address older adult substance abuse in an integrated manner. Over one thousand consumers per year participate in these services.

 

You’ll enjoy Mr. Cavanagh’s upbeat and positive attitude, this is someone who really enjoys his work!

 

Click here to join the show scheduled for Tuesday October 30th at 1:00pm

 

 

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“I’m between 81 and Death!”


If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.
Mahatma Gandhi

We are three weeks into our FitPass program with Caregiving.com and the group is progressing along just fine. There are so many reasons why we put on weight; stress, poor choices, not seeing food as fuel is just a few of the topics that come up during our FitPass discussions on Monday night. While I have a long way to go in order to sort out why I have put on weight, I am pleased with the loss of 8lbs since we’ve started this program.

It just so happened that the ‘The Little One‘ had his own discussion on health and fitness with a nurse who came to visit him on Monday in our home. This visit was a courtesy of one of the many programs that his insurance plan has for him in Florida. (Hence another reason to be here full-time) While I missed the visit today, I certainly heard about it during our dinner conversation.

“I was given all these instructions on what I should be eating and how I should be eating. While I appreciated the concern and the information I was given, I just looked at her and said...I’m between 81 and death, at this point in my life and what I have been through this past year, what difference does it really make what I eat?” I’m sure he said this in a polite tone.

I mentioned ‘The Little One’s conversation this evening during our FitPass conference call and made the comment, “I’m the one who should have had that conversation today as it is my eating habits and fitness that is out of whack.”

The common denominator here is simple, it is about the perception of one’s quality of life.

‘The Little One’ can never be accused of not having a realistic view of his condition. Yesterday is gone — today is here — not sure about tomorrow. He has admirably lived by this motto for quite some time now. (Remember, he was given 3-4 months to live last October!) Like many people who are diagnosed with a life threatening illness, it’s not uncommon for a conversation to take place about Quality of Life. Quality of Life will have a different meaning for each one each of us. ‘The Little One’ has outlived everyone’s expectations; he is cognizant of what quality of life means to him. Who is it for anyone else to argue with him on this point? At this time in his life, eating one less scoop of ice cream or having one less helping of milk chocolate raisins is not going to do anything for him other than deprive him of a pleasure. I’d say ‘go for it and enjoy!’

Photo Credit: The Purple Jacket

The more I thought about his visit with the nurse, and the more I talked about it with our FitPass group, I realized that I have lost sight of what quality of life means to me. You see, as a Caregiver we get so wrapped up in the needs of our caree, we often forget about our own needs. That extra scoop of ice cream sure feels good when you’ve had a stressful day of Caregiving, work, life etc. However, that does not mean you have to have that extra scoop of ice cream every night!

Photo Credit: Wayne Dyer

In order to make healthy choices, we have to be aware of our options. With that, we have to recognize and own what quality of life means to us as an individual . For ‘The Little One’ that extra scoop of ice cream signifies an accomplishment and truly is a part of his quality of life; he has earned it! For me, my quality of life can not be tied solely to his, for in that, I lose my sense of self. (I.e. Weight Gain) How can I be a good caregiver if I am not taking care of myself?

While the nurse that visited our home on Monday was not there to see me, in reality the message she left…was solely for me!

You see…We might have Cancer…But Cancer does not have us!

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Filed under Advocate, Bow Tie Guy, cancer treatments, caregiver, Caregiving, Esophagus Cancer, Live Love Laugh, Unconditional Love

What A Difference A Year Makes


Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. Helen Keller
It was just one year ago that ‘The Little One‘ started his chemo and radiation treatments.  I remember one of my early blog posts during that first week of treatments entitled;  I’m Radioactive!  where ‘The Little One’ said ” I don’t care what you put into my body as long as it is going to help me beat this cancer.”

We learned that the first week of treatments is usually the easiest; we also learned six weeks later just how difficult chemotherapy was for  ‘The Little One.’  What they put in his body was dreadful, yet it helped stop the spread of his cancer cells. Now a year removed from the start of his treatments,  ‘The Little One’ still has his ups and downs, his good days and his bad days; we are enjoying life in the moment!   According to the American Cancer Society “Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen to any particular person.”  (“Survival rates for,” 01).

“The Little One” was fortunate that the cancer was local and had not  metastasized. We live life in the moment, enjoying each day as an extended stay, not worried about tomorrow. Given three to four months  to live, ‘The Little One” has far exceeded anyone’s expectations (except ours!).  In 6 weeks, we will be one year past that diagnosis! He has already beaten the first survival rate indicated by the American Cancer Society which is quite an accomplishment for someone of his age.

Through our Caregiving journey we have  learned the meaning of true friends, and what is important in life.  While each one of us deals with the reality of cancer in a different way, each one of us wants to look on the bright side of life. Yesterday is gone, today is here, not sure about tomorrow. It is our hope that lets us withstand problems; it is our beliefs that let us find solutions.

Phase II of our Caregiving journey starts this September as I will be learning  a new chapter in my life;  How to take care of me!   Sounds selfish, but it is the reality that I must face.  Each one of us deals with stress in different ways.  I dealt with the stress of this past year by over eating and over thinking.  I thought I had it under control, but I was in too much control. In many ways, I am better at taking care of others than taking care of myself.  That is a paradox and may be a bit overstated, but that is my reality at the moment. Thankfully I am in a place to deal with it and fix it.

Caregivers are so focused on taking care of their loved one (caree), that we as caregivers often lose sight of self.  To be a healthy caregiver, we do not have to surrender our individuality, we have to  celebrate it!  

What are the (my)  keys to being a Healthy Caregiver?

  • Health < Healthy Caregiving Starts With You!
  • <  Eat Healthy
  • A Achieve Your Personal Goals
  • L Live, Love and Laugh 
  • < Take Time for Yourself
  • H < Heal Your Soul 
  • < Yearn To Care For Yourself As You Care For Others

Checking in at 250 lbs on September 1, 2012 means that I have gained 25 lbs since arriving in Florida in March and have put on almost half the weight I lost 10 years ago.  There is no blame to go around, just a stark reality of a life lesson learned.  The Helen Keller statement is so true! “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

A lesson learned is just shelf-life if the lesson is not put into practice! 

In order to be a Healthy Caregiver, I have no choice but to take better care of myself.  There is no better way than to own it, realize it and blog about it.  As The Bow Tie Guy transforms into The Healthy Caregiver;  the lesson that  I have learned is that I have to practice what I preach.   As a proponent of a holistic life of body, mind and spirit, I must apply those principles to myself, too…DUH!

What good am I to myself and the one I care for if I allow my  health  to fail?   

I hope you will continue to join us on our new Caregiving journey!

Remember…

…We might have Cancer; but Cancer does not have US! 

 Survival rates for esophagus cancer. (01, 2012 11). Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/EsophagusCancer/DetailedGuide/esophagus-cancer-survival-rates

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A Night with ‘Harriet Craig’


This past weekend, we took the opportunity to motor  to Mount Dora, Florida.  Funny how the last two weekends have developed for us; two weekends ago we were on the verge of heading to the hospital, this past weekend, we are traveling to Mount Dora.  It is difficult to know just what to expect when you are dealing with cancer.

Photo Credit: The Bow-Tie-Guy

Why Mount Dora, Florida you ask?  Going back to their days in Manhattan, ‘The Little One’ has a friend of 60+ years living in Mount Dora.    Mount Dora is a little town just north of Orlando, known for its quaint antique shops.   It is a beautiful town and surprisingly, has plenty of things to do.  But this was not a  weekend for tourism, this was a weekend of storytelling and laughter!

With over 60 years of friendship behind them, the conversation was unrestrained.  Names from the past,  (celebrities to boot!) stories that never ended.  To them, yesterday was today and tomorrow will come: it was a beautiful experience.   Finally the name…’Harriet Craig’ was blurted out and the laughter got more pronounced.   Harriet Craig was a nickname  given to ‘The Little Ones’ friend years ago because of his constant need to clean the apartment he shared in Manhattan with his partner of over 40 years.  Apparently, ‘Harriet’ just could not stand a dirty ashtray, one flick of the ash and up Harriet would go to clean the tray; always in constant motion, always on top of the conversation.  Once I learned why Harriet Craig, I understood the connection to the character in the movie as the villa was in impeccable condition!   As we moved on to dinner, it was easy to see who was in charge…Harriet Craig!     

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Harriet Craig is a 1950 movie played by the legendary Joan Crawford.  The movie credits go like this… ‘Domineering Harriet Craig holds more regard for her home and its possessions than she does for any person in her life. Neurotic perfectionist Harriet Craig (Crawford) makes life miserable for everyone around her.’  While the description of the character in the movie does not accurately depict ‘The Little Ones’ friend, the metaphor is there in order to create the ‘sting.’

I was told that I was not old enough and privileged enough to call him ‘Harriet Craig!’

Their stories sounded quite familiar to that what you would hear today. If you are a ‘Sister’ you know what I mean. Long standing friends reminiscing about their past, grateful for their partners, their friendship and their freedom to be who they are.  Gay Marriage, Equal Rights and the sorts, all talked about in their day, just not in the volume that we hear today.   

Yet…Who Are They?

They are two close friends, in separate (gay) relationships, lasting over 40 years each, which is quite the accomplishment, no matter what side of the fence you are on!  Yet these accomplishments often go unnoticed in our society as we here more about what’s wrong with gay relationships than what’s right about gay relationships.  They are your uncles, cousins,  they are your friends…

Who Are They? 

Photo Credit: Unknown

They are your neighbor right next door.  We have all heard the phrase…’home is where the heart is.’  That phrase applies to everyone’s home, not just a selected few.

Our friend in Mount Dora is just a few years older than ‘The Little One’, leads an active life, accepted by his cohorts, active in his neighborhood, has dinner with his neighbors and volunteers at hospice.   He is your neighbor. 

Who Are They? 

Stonewall Inn 1969 Photo Credit Diane Davies

They are two men who lived not only during the time of the Stonewall Riots, they lived in the mist of the Stonewall Riots where  friends of them were killed just for being who they are.  The riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.   They are your pioneers…

This weekend, when you see all the stores on the news about Gay Pride weekend, remember those Gay Seniors who live alone and cannot get to the parade.  Remember those Gay Seniors who still live in fear; Remember those gay seniors who lived and worked in the trenches in order to bring LGBT equality issues of today to the forefront.

And finally, remember the thousand upon thousand of Gay Seniors who have lived their life in committed and long lasting relationships only to be denied their equal rights.

 Who Are They?   

They are your American Seniors, who just happen to be Gay.

Photo Credit: Webshots

You See…We might have Cancer; but Cancer does not have us!’

Photo Credit: The Bow-Tie-Guy

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The Bow-Tie-Guy Tip of the Day:


The Bow Tie Guy Tip of the Day: Don’t wait around for your life to happen to you. Find something that makes you happy and do it. Everything else is just background noise. — George Mason

Photo Credit: Free Digital Photo’s

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