Monday, December 22, 2014

The TED Talk That Nearly Didn't Happen

EVERY so often I check my TEDx Talk on Youtube  and see how many views there are. I was excited to see that it had gone over the 5,000 mark- 5,105, to be exact. WOW!!! And to think it nearly didn't happen.
What an absolute mess I was just over two years ago. I remember wracking my brain, desperately trying to prepare. What should I say and how I should say it? Who is this Ted guy and why is this such a big deal? I was so stressed I could barely put two words together on paper. I was burned out, a heap on the floor, a broken, weary woman.
Why - you might ask? A few weeks prior, my brother's body had finally been recovered, after his  tragic accidental drowning. My husband was recovering from surgery and a bit of a scare. My mother in law with Alzheimer's was a constant challenge and strain on my everyday life and I was still very much adjusting from moving across the country to start a whole new life! Plus, I was travelling with my speaking and singing while juggling it all. I was certainly feeling the pressures of life! 
What caught me off guard were the triggers surrounding my brother's death. So many losses. One death and then another and then another. BUT- I had always been able to pull through, dig my heels in and move forward. Always. 
Gord and Miss Kitty (his mom)
This time was different. There were too many layers. I was weakening. I knew that something wasn't quite right. I found myself feeling scared. This wasn't like me. I had always been the strong one, no matter what.
I really wanted to do this! It was such a privilege and honour to be invited to speak on the TED stage. My flight was booked and all the arrangements made. People were counting on me. How could I possibly back out now?
Once again I would sit at my desk and wrack that brain. 
"Think Kelita, think. You've done this so many times!"
 It was my story the organizer wanted me to share and I certainly knew my story well.  But did I have what it took to expose myself once again, especially after what we had just experienced as a family? 
In my weakness I prayed. I surrendered. I knew that by doing this talk I might be able to encourage someone else. Perhaps there was even just one person that really needed to hear my message. Then someone greater than me began to rise up inside and I knew that God's supernatural Spirit was guiding and directing me. And giving me STRENGTH! I put pen to paper and the words began to flow. I started to visualize the talk, and I reached that point of knowing, that I could and would be doing my TEDx talk.
Yeh, I still felt weary and messed up but I knew I had the help that I needed to get me through.
I am thankful that I was able to realize, once again that I am my best when I am at my weakest, so that God's power and strength can carry me. I may not be perfect but I know no matter what, I am not having to do it alone. I know what I do is never about me! Now over 5,000 people have listened to my talk and I am convinced that someone, somewhere has been encouraged in some way.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you have are experiencing a crossroads where you are right now? Are you feeling burned out and broken? Are you in pain? Is it time to surrender and allow that weakness to introduce you to the greatest strength you have available to you? The power of the Holy Spirit. It is there for each of us to tap into.
I hope you will be brave enough to reach out and ask. God's arms are always open just waiting for you.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you". 

If you need someone to pray or talk to please go to the link below.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Breathing is Still A Good Thing!

Do you have a lot of negative self talk? Worry about where the world is going in a hand basket? Scared of  "C" word? Upset about what is in the food you feed your family? Anxious about the weather changes - floods and hurricanes? Find yourself thinking about the brain fog you never used to have? Worry about your aging parents, retirement, loss of hair and your sex drive? Concerned that there was a shooting in your neighbourhood last night? Pray adamantly that your adult children will soon leave home, now that you've stopped feeding them cheese?

Whew? Me too. I, like you am more and more aware of the world around and within me. I don't know whether it's just this thing called middle age. Yup, I still think of 56 as middle aged - which means I am expecting to be living to 112. Or, if it's just that the world is going a lot crazy and I am going there with it.

I really really do my best to be positive, uplifting, encouraging and optimistic, but if truth be known, I am much more of a realist. And from where I have been standing and observing, there is a deep sadness. I know just breathing air into my lungs everyday is something to be grateful for and might be ALL I can be certain of. For this moment anyways. We never know when lightening will strike or a phone call will come. Our lives can change in an instant.

The day is almost over.  I will  step outside on my deck and look at the pretty flowers that I planted. I can catch the sunset which casts a stream of colour above the houses in my neighbourhood. I will crawl into bed,  kiss my beloved husband of 23 years goodnight, and pray for my son and the world that he is inheriting.

Simple pleasures. Never taken for granted. Living in the moment. Yes, breathing is still a good thing.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

65 Things I have Learned Caring for 89 year old Miss Kitty!!

I appreciate you and THANK YOU for all that you do!

    Amazing smile!

  1. Patience, patience, patience
  2. To slow down and not rush with the elderly
  3. To speak louder and slower
  4. Awareness of the elderly around me in society
  5. To have more empathy and compassion for those with Alzheimer’s
  6. To have more of the same with the aging in general
  7. How to communicate with Alzheimer’s patient
  8. How to sit closer and look and speak directly to them
  9. How to shop for groceries with senior choosing smaller store
  10.  Managing the practical needs of the senior ie food, clothing.
  11.  Managing the health care of the senior – Dr’s appointments etc
  12.  Working with the Provincial Health System
  13. How to pretend that the Alzheimer patient is right and play along
  14. How to sneak into their room and organize and tidy up without their knowledge
  15. How to deal with a pharmacy on an ongoing basis
  16. How to pay for services ahead of time for the senior ie footcare, hairdresser
  17. How to monitor senior’s hygiene
  18. How to buy a walker and convince the senior to use it
  19. How to counsel a senior into having their meds distributed by residence
  20. How to encourage, inspire and motivate a senior who feels down
    Sad Face
  21. How to encourage, inspire and motivate a senior who needs to exercise
  22. How to move a senior across the country into a new province
  23. How much the move affects the senior
  24. How to shop for a senior’s residence facility
  25. How much the facilities charge and what they include
  26. How much the extra’s cost the senior
  27. Seniors need to social and party and celebrate
  28.  To appreciate the elderly for their wisdom
  29.  To appreciate the elderly for their experience and history they have walked
  30.  Learned they need antibiotics to visit a dentist if they have artificial knee or hip
  31. To converse with many seniors at the residence
  32. Learned that there are many in the same situation
  33. Met many caring caregivers, and care aids
  34. Where the Alzheimer's Society Office is and what they offer
  35. What about the various medications available
  36.  About urinary incontinence in seniors
  37. UTI (urinary tract infection) causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer's ie. confusion
  38. There are doctors who specialize in geriatrics
  39. That I or my husband will be in this place one day
  40. Happy Face!
    Long term memory can still be very much alive
  41. Seniors may be demented but are not stupid
  42. About Pharmacare (Drug assistance) available in my province
  43. Seniors don’t like to drink much water
  44. Seniors are often dehydrated
  45. Seniors love the old songs of their day and remember the lyrics
  46. Music brings them together in community
  47. Seniors still long for spiritual discussion and growth
  48. Seniors who have Alzheimer’s think everyone else is crazy
  49. Alzheimer’s patients are scared  and anxious
  50. They still like to have fun
  51. They all just want to be loved and respected as they have been
  52. Family is very very important to them
  53. They love to be included
  54. They need to be stimulated and challenged with games, movies, audio books
  55. They don’t want to lose their independence
  56. They feel lonely and isolated and need connection
  57. They can lose their filters and say what they truly think
  58. They need their finances and power of attorney in place before Alzheimer's
  59. There is still a lot of pride at any age
  60. To appreciate anyone in this care giving position
  61. Seniors often revert back to children with clicks and gossip
  62. Seniors still can be interested in the opposite sex
  63. Some seniors often still want an active sex life.
  64. It is an honour to serve the elderly
  65. I am modeling to my child how I would like to be treated

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Managing Miss Kitty's Litter!

   Quickly, two steps at time up the back staircase, then down the long hall I secretly entered the unlocked suite. The smell of urine and unflushed "business" met me head on. I wasted no time, flushed the toilet and opened every window.
   No one could have ever prepared me for my new role as caregiver to dear Miss Kitty, my 89 year old mother in law! 

   The best way to get the job done was to sneak into her suite while she sipped on beef barley soup in the dining room two floors below. This was my little window of opportunity for what had now become a familiar routine. I have learned in order to maintain Miss Kitty's dignity, and our good relationship I have needed to become the "wardrobe fairy". 
    I gathered the garbage from the bathroom and kitchen which mostly contained soiled urinary incontinence products. Oops, a cloth pair of cloth panties in there by mistake. In fact today there was an assortment of panties strewn, some with soiled pads attached by the sticky adhesive, not only in the garbage, but in the bottom of the clothes closet, under the sink, in the bathroom drawer and by her bedside.

   Sadly, Miss Kitty has become more incontinent, a weakness, yes, but also a symptom of Alzheimer's.  Panties, liners, pads, briefs, cranberry juice, frequent bathroom visits, not drinking enough water, and much discussion around these entities have become a source of frustration and disdain for Miss Kitty, the ever feisty, independent senior, and me the controlling, busy and 'bossy" daughter in law. She has resisted appropriate protection because of comfort's sake (Oh and a little denial I think)) but slowly we are making progress. 
   My next job, sorting through her clothes, of which there is abundance and readying them for the laundry. Miss Kitty's source of enjoyment and pride has long been her attire and fashion sense. She still resides over 1 double bedroom closet, 1 hall closet, 2 dressers, one cedar chest and 2 sets of under the bed drawers ALL brimming over with CLOTHES! Recently I even found some more clothes in the entertainment unit drawers under her TV. Over the last 23 years I have never seen my husband's mother without a new coordinating outfit with matching jewelry,  scarf, shoes, purse, and even reading glasses. The word 'mall' is still music to her ears.

   Unbeknownst to her in the past several months I have discarded at least four large green garbage bags of clothes and one of shoes. Sadly that hardly made a dent.
   Old age has taken Miss Kitty's sense of smell away, so she doesn't recognize when her clothes are soiled from perspiration.  Macular degeneration has been taking her eye sight so she can't see when she has spilled soup or gravy on her blouse or pants. Alzheimer’s has been stealing parts of her memory and her ability to reason so she no longer has the sense that her dirty clothes don't go back in the drawer and that maybe she just ought to be wearing the more absorbent thicker urinary incontinence product.
   I rush like a mad woman, sorting, folding, hanging, sniffing. No pee, yes pee, no pee, a little pee. Too much pee, minor odour, strong odour. I have to act quickly before she makes it back to her room and discovers me invading her closets and sniffing the crotch of her pants. Yikes!!
   I love Miss Kitty with all my heart. I will admit,this new role has been extremely difficult, humbling and frustrating. It has tried my patience like never before. Some days it brings out the worst in me and I want to scream and yell and kick things. Other days I want to run away and "quit" my new job. Then I feel guilty for having such feelings and go to bed early because I have totally been drained of all energy. This role has given me a new understanding for the word Alzheimer's and empathy for the elderly and their caregivers. I now have a much better appreciation and respect for the professionals who nurse and care for the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer's and dementia. 
   And so I have made it my job, as I must, to secretly organize and maintain my mother in law's wardrobe.  Who knew some of my most important assets in managing Miss Kitty's litter would be a sensitive nose, good eyesight and the mind of a sleuth.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Superwoman Burns Out - Part 3

Not quite like this costume!!

THIS past summer the Superwoman, whose costume I had worn proudly, came flying full speed ahead and figuratively hit the proverbial wall with an enormous THUD! There I was left slowly sliding down that long wall only to land firmly onto my backside.
     At just two months shy of our one year anniversary in beautiful British Columbia, I had completely run out of fuel and had zero reserves left in my super duper tank. My get up and go, simply just got up and went! I physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally fell into one big, sad, exhausted, smoldering heap. Stricken by a sore throat from hell (you know the one that feels like you swallowed razor blades?) I lay in my bed agonizing. I knew it could be a very long while until I ever wanted to get up again. Ok so I am being a little dramatic, but I am getting my point across right. I cried and cried, slept and slept some more. Cried, grieved, gargled with salt water, slept and cried some more.

   Immediately I turned to my naturopath who began to treat me for mild situation depression, and adrenal exhaustion. She also adjusted my dose of bio identical hormones which I have been on for the past 2 years. They SAVED my life and I highly recommend them for any woman dealing with mid life hormonal craziness which includes depression, anxiety, weight gain, sleeplessness, emotional rollercoaster rides, heart palpitations, HOT FLASHES, no libido, (can you imagine zoning out, ie.  loss of cognitive function, memory and the ability to focus and atrophic vaginitis
(medical term for drying of… well you know where)  Girlfriends, you needn’t suffer and just say “oh well I guess this is what aging is like.” You can find relief. Truly you can.
       I received large doses of Vitamin C intravenously; vitamin B12 shots (in the arm is torturous so the fleshy behind is much better) and I began to cut out all caffeine. Yes no more instant Chatty Cathy and no more buzz! I was placed on some helpful natural supplements to boost my immune system, adrenals and mood. My nephew who is studying to be a nutritionist also came to my rescue with more wonderful ideas and encouragement!  Of course I knew to cut out all the junk and anything white or processed, including bread, rice, pasta, (oh yes) cookies, (so long chocolate chip chunks of ecstasy) and my all time most favourite thing in the whole world -black liquorice nibs! I do manage to sneak a package every now and then, when I can find them.
      I am a very spiritual person so of course I reached out to God as I always do. There were now even MORE questions that I know will never be answered but I am getting better with that. (Perhaps someday I’ll know the answers, but it won’t really matter then will it?) God sure is a hard one to understand, so anymore, I try not to. I am thankful I have the gift of faith. I explicitly trust that His plan for me is the best one and continually place my life into His good hands. My strong faith has always brought me through.

      I made sure I told my friends and family what I was experiencing and did so through phone calls, texts and emails. I asked for prayer from my husband, son, trusty friends who I knew would pray and from my new church. I needed to let those who loved me, know. I was not hiding the fact that I was seriously in bad shape.

     My only close friend in my new city happens to be my cousin. She jumped right in and performed three Healing Touch Therapy sessions on me, which I know, were enormously integral in my recovery and healing. I saw beautiful visions of my dear sister, I wept, I allowed myself to feel deep deep pain and grieved, for all the loss I had experienced in my life and was experiencing again through the death of my brother. My cousin called me everyday, brought me flowers and supported me with love.

I live about 1 1/2 hours from this gorgeous place!
     Another thing I did is I went out and bought myself a bike and made sure I was going for regular walks. I postponed the gym for the most part over the summer months for when the winter rain starts here on the coast, but took total advantage of the amazing summer we had by getting my exercise outdoors. Being out in God’s creation, for me, is one of the best natural healing balms. I am surrounded by the ocean, mountains, tall trees and fresh air and could not ask for a better place to fill up my tank and rejuvenate.

This place of vulnerability and self awareness also allowed some needed discussion with my husband who happens to be one of my best listeners. I love him for that. There were things in our relationship that had become magnified in my present ‘state’, and I very much needed to air my frustrations, disappointments and desires. So… I did. Some things are a work in progress, but tell me what marriage isn’t?
  My faith grew enormously through that period of time and I am more than grateful for the outcome. I learned first hand that with God ALL things are possible. Forgiveness is a major healing instrument which has contributed greatly to my overall healing and well being. Forgiveness for others, - AND of course forgiveness for myself.
     In the midst of the Superwoman burn I took myself to a counselor. She merely confirmed what I was already feeling. I used up a few of her Kleenexes and that was that. I haven’t been back since. However, if I really needed professional counselling or therapy I wouldn't hesitate at all. I went through a lot of great therapy when I had left my first marriage and was dealing with all my childhood losses and sexual abuse. It was hard work but so well worth it.

     At the end of the day what I continually learn with each struggle and heartache or stress, is that ultimately I am responsible for taking action for my own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I could place the blame on others, and in some cases legitimately so, I could grow the bitterness root to new depths, fuel the fire of anger and resentment until the flames are out of control, or I could ignore the whole thing and pretend like life wasn't really even happening around me. But this last summer I chose to take the Superwoman cape off, remove her mask, and gently lead her to an honest authentic place of Grace …right beside Jesus. The place where I know that I am deeply loved for simply just being – me.

My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly so that’s Christ’s power may rest in me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Superwoman Burns Out - Part 2

We sold our home, bought the new house, found a residence for my mom in law, drove 6 days across the country, painted some rooms when we got here, and were fully unpacked, up and running and ready to receive our first overnight guests (When you live on the west coast people visit you) ALL within 3 months!!

   Throw in my work which took me back to Toronto 6 times and then 6 mini tours to the USA speaking and singing, including a high profile TEDx Conference talk in Utah ( see video below) to write and prepare for and 8 visits from overnight guests here at the new hacienda. (Don’t get me wrong I love having guests!)

   Add to that my newly required position and responsibility of personal caregiver to Miss Kitty, my mother in law, even though we had moved her into a senior’s residence. Then the daze, weeks and months of persuading, cajoling and nearly begging, her to; allow the staff to administer her medication, take up the walker and forgive us for moving her across the country, taking away her car, and insisting she rid her self of some extraneous too- hard- to- get- rid -of memorabilia. (Does my husband’s baby teeth and potty trainer seat give you any idea?) YES he IS an only child.

   This didn't however make her give up her four closets, 2 dressers, and one cedar chest worth of clothes and shoes! Oh did I tell you she likes to go shopping? Then came her five day hospital stay as she was treated for a bad to very bad UTI (urinary tract infection) that she probably had for months, thus all the signs and symptoms of full blown dementia. The learning curve was fast and furious. Who knew the bladder and brain were so closely connected!
 One day I came home and told my husband I thought I might be turning into an alcoholic, as I poured myself a glass of red wine to ease the stress. Slowly I came face to face with the reality that my new BFF was my 88 year old mother in law!

   And while we’re on the subject, didn't we go and adopt a cute little shiatsu named Penny from an 85 year old man who couldn't care for her any longer. And didn't this sweet little poochie need love and care and teeth surgery and understanding new owners because she had never been properly house trained. AHHHH!!!

The little culprits we love - Penny and Lily!
   For weeks, for months I was (and still am) stepping onto short little brown sausages camouflaged on my carpet and trying to guess which area rug she was now urinating on, marking as her territory. One bonus was that our 11 year old poodle Lily, has coprophagia ( A penchant for eating her own - dare I say feces...YUCK!) and so we were relieved from much of the clean up. Whew!

   Then throw in my husband Gord’s bout with jaundice, pancreatitis and gallbladder surgery. This time, two hospitals, ambulances, more tests and waiting, waiting and finally waiting! He is doing great by the way.

Lake Cowachin Vancouver Island, BC
   But what really sent me over the edge was the unexpected tragic drowning of my oldest brother Billy, which took place on my other brother Frank's waterfront property on Vancouver Island. It left our family waiting for 6 weeks until my brother's body was recovered in order that we might have closure. A great sadness for all of us, especially for his two young adult children.

   All the left over pain, the residue of such great loss starting as a young child, including my parents,  2 brothers and my only sister, came crashing down like a severe hail storm pulverizing a lone prairie wheat field in the heat of July. Once there were 7 and now just 2.

   The word "assault" was branded on my mind. Our family had felt this deep pain so many times. More children, left without parents. History continually repeating itself. The ache is old but it truly never goes away…never.

Singing  - still a way to cope and heal.
   To say the year was anything less than jammed packed with changes and challenges would be an understatement.

To be continued....

Super Woman Burns Out . Part 1

"Right on Eh!" - Jude Johannson
 I have been plagued with stress my whole life and at times, confessed myself a professional worrier! After all, both parents were and so it’s in the genes and I have come by it naturally. (That’s my excuse anyhow) I have, at different times fought and warred against worry and stress using a few tools like denial, escapism, and procrastination. Oh and morphing myself into crazy comedic characters and writing music have certainly helped me too and I have managed to make a career out of them. How fun is that?.
I have indulged in stimulants and self medicated with the likes of alcohol, drugs, dreaming too much, and yes I suppose, even sex. Oh and food – big time! I used to have an addiction to it. As a teen I secretly couldn't wait to go babysitting, just to check out the fridge and cupboard! Smoked oysters were a favourite ( But remember to discard the can...the smell is a dead give away)
Ah such a delicacy...or so I thought!
   Shopping therapy 101 has also served its purposes. Going to Value Villauge` (Needs to be pronounced with French accent) proves to be very medicinal. One can indulge in 2 hours of rummaging and trying on,  then walk out of the store with 3 large bags of “new”, gently used clothing, all for less than 50 bucks! Now that’s retail therapy! And who doesn’t LOVE a good deal? In fact a little known secret is, the gorgeous black dress I wore for  the cover for my Christmas CD was purchased at the trendy Value Villauge`. I  wore it to an awards show too!
Little black dress.

   But many years have gone by and I have matured into a middle aged woman. (That is really hard to write) It doesn't help matters I recently discovered as of Jan 22nd I will be eligible for the Seniors’ Menu at IHOP 
(That stands for International House of Pancakes). Who knew?

    The stresses of this fast paced crazy world – which include running my own music and speaking business, have begun to look quite different than when I was in survival mode as a young farm girl grappling with sexual abuse, my father’s drinking, his mental illness and eventual suicide, not to mention my mother’s affair and a host of other deep dark family secrets. No wonder I gravitated to the daytime TV soaps like "Another World", "The Young and the Restless" and later on, "Dallas". They were familiar to me because my life was and has been a soap opera.

Rare snow in Vancouver!
   One year ago after living in the Toronto area for 35 years of my life, our family quickly moved lock, stock and barrel to the other side of the country, to beautiful British Columbia, outside of Vancouver. Oh sure we did some purging including 2 garage sales, a snow blower and winter tires (Cause it doesn’t snow in Vancouver….much, or so they say) but basically moved our ‘stuff’ from our four bedroom home, which included three businesses, a recording studio, two cars, 1 dog, oh yes and one 88 year old mother in law… along with all of her ‘stuff’! And before our move we moved our son into a student house for his second year of university with all if his own ‘stuff’. We said our teary good- byes and then we were off!
Ready for the long haul!

   To be continued.....