“If we are smar…

“If we are smart, we go to church or synagogue or mosque. If we are very smart we are still studying something. We are such knockouts. We are phenomenal.” — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is special to me. She has always been special, but for me… Once, she passed close by my 11 year old daughter and I after we heard her speak in Winston Salem, NC  many years ago. All I remember of her speech is that it was Performed. Danced. Beautiful. She said, about writing poetry, that pain must be expressed, shared. So that the reader then sees that someone else has been there. What I heard was about finding comfort, for we are not alone.

If that wasn’t enough of a thrill, we soon followed the crowd walking out with Dr. Angelou. And that’s when it happened: Maya Angelou walked by me and then gazed down at my girl and said, “What a beautiful child.”

My daughter, now 28, spoke through tears last week, with the news of Maya Angelou’s death, that this moment was life-affirming. And still is. Thank you to my friend Abigail who invited us to tag along that day. Thank you Maya, for writing, dancing, speaking, and sharing so eloquently, of yourself. Your legacy will live on and on and on. I promise.

For more, read: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/why-maya-angelou-didnt-believe-in-modesty/371965/

Lessons Learned in 2013

Welcome to yearend!

As I think about the last 12 months (it’s inevitable), I think about review what was enjoyable, painful, hard, and worth while. What is missing and what do I want more of? What do I want less of?

Some lessons are poignant, some not so much. Here they are. What are yours?

  1. Friendships come and go. So do clients. (They are supposed to!)
  2. True partnership is precious. Honoring partners in life and work.
  3. Family is like a Rock. Usually, they are the ones who have known you the longest and the best. It may be  rough or smooth, or both, but they’re yours, no one else’s.
  4. The search for meaning in life and work is worth the time you give to it, regardless of the outcome.
  5. Pictures make it real. Take them often and share.
  6. Honor the elderly in your world. Simple kindness goes farther than you know.
  7. Fresh coconut water sipped through a straw is heaven to me. It only happens in the tropics.
  8. Salt water does cure everything: the sea, tears or sweat. Take your pick.
  9. Don’t wait to write that letter to someone you’ve been thinking of. I waited. And they’re gone.
  10. Taking a vacation by yourself brings important insight into one’s consciousness.
  11. Brief moments of joy are within reach. Here’s one suggestion: go on a Youtube trek starting with your very first favorite band. See where it takes you! (Cream to Clapton to Prince was a really fun day).
  12. Dancing makes everything better. (If you don’t believe me, ask your doctor on your next appointment).

Image

Happy Holidays. I wish you a joyous and healthy 2014!

Be well, Carol

Caregiving 101, 201, 301…

In 2010 I began exploring new career options. Along came an opportunity to help older adults who wanted to “age in place”. I have worked part time for nearly 3 years as a Companion to folks who need help with essential tasks like grocery shopping and transportation. As a result, I have seen dozens of individual and family challenges around aging, health and caregiving. The natural direction became clear with the help of coaches and continued willingness to keep exploring:  social work. I am one third of the way toward my Masters at UNC – Chapel Hill (Go Heels). One conclusion:  Everyone is aging! You, me, our parents and siblings, cousins and grandparents, bosses and colleagues.

Some are struggling with the ongoing changes that inevitably occur in aging. Maybe you’ve heard of “healthy aging” – or, a person’s acceptance of what is, more accurately. Those who adapt to new challenges with a good attitude maintain a pleasant quality of life pretty easily. Not a lot of drama or denial about what is happening. Then, there are people who have a different type of temperament, or who are dealing with chronic illness, and cannot adjust to changes easily. This presents an entirely different challenge for the family.

Because many family members are in mid-life, active and thriving in the workforce and may live away from the aging parent, what often happens is that a family member finds out that mom or dad or sister or grandparent has a health event and upon assessment in the ER or admission to the hospital is also diagnosed with – let’s say: dehydration, hearing and some memory loss. Often, this initiates a crisis for the family, because they had no proof there was a situation to be concerned about. (This is usually due to the aging person telling everyone by email or phone they are “fine”).

Welcome to the world of Caregiving. Many of you are there now. My hat is off to you. I’ve been there. A few times. Long distance.

Do you know Rule #1?

Take care of yourself. Yes, you. Re-balancing life and work is often needed, along with adjusting for  surprisingly high amounts of communication with siblings, doctors, and home health professionals. It is a gross understatement to call this simily overwhelming and stressful.

There are Resources:

The #1 book I recommend for anyone new to the role of Caregiver: “Caring for a Distant Parent: Tips from Daughters and Sons Who’ve Cared” – Vol. 1: Helping Your Parent, by LaVerne Z. Coan. This book is user-friendly, direct and organized. Personal stories are shared on tough issues and the book is well-organized for ease of use. See www.parentcare101.com for more information or to order. When I meet LaVerne last year she was thinking about writing Volume 2.

Additionally, in June, there is an amazing Conference in the NC Triangle area: The Triangle Caregivers Conference on June 18 (Raleigh) and June 25 (Durham). Many exhibitors share resources and a luncheon is held which finds caregivers who are often socially isolated or housebound getting time to relax and meet others in similar circumstances.  I have gotten many useful resources at the conference for the last 2 years and will be at the one in Raleigh on June 18 this year. Take a look at the agenda at the link above.  Registration is online.

If you need resources, or have some to share, please contact me directly or add your comment to this blog. Support is essential to getting the good resources for yourself AND for the ailing person.

Fondly, Carol

When is the last time you were at the beach and saw no one?

When is the last time you were at the beach and saw no one?

 

 

 

Leading in 2013

I’ve been studying leadership principles for over a decade, coaching leaders, and those who strive to become leaders.When I was asked to join a summer book group hosted by one of my UNC classmates. After several months reading and discussing important issues in our social work Master’s program, we didn’t want our education to come to a grinding halt for the summer. The first book chosen is Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, current COO of Facebook, and former chief of staff of the US Treasury.

What drew me instantly was Sheryl’s TED talk, where she spoke of the same gender disparities I had studied in graduate school this year.  True, women make about 80 cents to every dollar men make for doing the same job. You may remember the study done years ago where elementary classroom teachers were observed. It turned out that boys were, and still are, called on more than girls.  Does this make you react? I hope so. Sheryl actually outs herself on this one – admitting it is so socially constructed in our society to place men first. Her point, however, is that women have internalized oppression in the workplace – ie: taking a quieter, softer, “helping” role and, therefore, participating in discriminatory practices which affect all women. Women hang back because it is still quite risky to place themselves at the same table as men. How is it risky?

Sandberg points out that women judge, mistrust and dislike women who are assertive. So, a women may receive a promotion at work but is regarded cautiously by her cohort. Then, for these same women, what is going on at home is another hurdle. Is her partner supportive to the point of taking over making kid’s lunches and arranging carpool? How is it decided who stays home when a child is sick? At this point in my reading I was distracted by flashbacks to 1988 when I entered a hopeless power struggle with the man I was married to at the time, resulting in loss of (my) income and ambition, to say the least. Women must know they have a choice to make about how they lead themselves and others. The first step, as always, is to learn what it is you don’t know, and then take responsibility for making great change happen in your life. Trust me: Lean In will open the door.

Lean In has an important message for all of us – workers, employers, partners and as parents who will deeply influence the next generation.

Check out the book today, and it’s rich web site – chock full of useful tools, talks, online communities and ready-to-apply strategies.

I will be sending out important information and dates about my summer workshops in the next week or so – stay tuned. Until soon, I am wishing you a bountiful spring season.

CarolCMW May 2013

Liberation

What better time than Spring to cultivate new, raw and powerful energy to make positive change in your life? Not feeling it? No problem. We start where you are.  Right now.

Do you know what’s holding you back? Is it you, holding yourself back? Fear of the unknown, or of the floundering economy we face? If you know or if you don’t – you can make change happen – clarity will come. Try this month’s experiment: 

Name your top 3 priorities. Self care? More sales? Plan a fun vacation? Write them down on a large whiteboard in 3 columns, or if you don’t own one, on 3 brown paper grocery bags. Like this:

Image

(I have 2 Jobs under the heading of Work, Coaching and Companion to older adults, + School +  Fun).

Got it? Ok – Set up the bags where you can see them, standing upright.  Next, follow these steps:

  1. Plan your week, on Sunday or Monday morning, by blocking off TIME increments of 1, 2 or 3 hours, or more for one week. 
  2. NOTE: This is your INTENT to devote TIME to your PRIORITIES.
  3. Now, each time you make progress toward one of those priorities, make a mark on the appropriate bag. Reach over with a marker and make a slash mark.
  4. Each week, do this for a task that you actually do (phone call, email, have a meeting, or other activity) that moves you forward on your intention.
  5. At the end of the month (or before) you will see where your energy is.

I did this exercise when my father had a stroke in 2011. At the time, I’d just decided to apply to graduate school, I needed to study for the GRE, and wanted to build my coaching practice. Oh, and de-stress from the role of caregiver and nervous graduate school applicant. Or so I thought. I was completely unaware that these reasonable goals (?) couldn’t happen during the 4 months I had in front of me. I wanted them badly enough, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was I didn’t KNOW what I could actually do, and do well. My father was the first priority. Then school – time sensitive, demanding energy and temporary. Soon enough, it became obvious. My creative brain was toast. Growing a business requires creativity. As soon as my brother took over the role of main caregiver for my father (who was recovering well), my creative brain began talking to me. My blog was born. I got into the school I wanted. What happened then? I didn’t beat myself up about “not doing enough’! I was doing plenty.

So are you. Try the bag experiment. It’ll really help you see what you spend your time on. Here is the best part: The things with the most marks ARE what you are SUPPOSED to be spending time on, for now! The other bag or 2, without the slash marks? Not time for that yet. Sorry, it just isn’t. If you’re unhappy about what you find, OK. You now have a solid, concrete place to start. And you no longer have to wonder if… or when, or what….Welcome to Liberation. (Why is another question, best taken up with a Coach).

Let me know how your experiment goes.

All the best,

Carol