Archive for the ‘Events & news’ Category
Cindy La Ferle on December 8th, 2013
If you do a good job for others, you heal yourself at the same time.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The signs were subtle, at first. Mom was starting to forget names and repeating the same stories at family dinners. But isn’t that common for older people? Until my mother was officially diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2009, I wasn’t sure how to deal with her changing behavior. And I didn’t know where to turn, at first, to get the help we’d both need as her disease progressed. I was often frustrated and exhausted — and very worried.
Whether your elderly parent is showing signs of a memory loss disorder or other major health problems, you won’t want to miss Michigan Prime’s 2014 Resource Guide: Special Caregivers’ Issue. (The magazine is delivered with the Sunday Detroit News and Free Press, and can be accessed online with this link.) This issue includes my piece, “Ten Essential Tips for New Caregivers,” as well as helpful features on choosing an assisted living residence, getting transportation for a loved one who can’t drive, and other key caregiving topics.
I wish I’d had a resource like Michigan Prime several years ago. And that’s why it’s so important to me to write about caregiving issues today. I hope that my experience — including a few blunders along the way — will help others who are just setting foot on this difficult journey with their own parents.
Cindy La Ferle on November 25th, 2013
Now in its second printing and available on Kindle, Writing Home is a collection of my published magazine essays and family newspaper columns. Awarded several prizes for creative nonfiction, it’s been dubbed “a love letter to home and family life.” If you enjoy my personal blog and current newspaper essays, you might appreciate this collection of earlier memoirs, too.
To read excerpts, reviews, and the new introduction to the Kindle edition, please click this link and visit the book’s page on Amazon.
Writing Home is an affordable gift for parents, homebodies, and other domestic artists on your holiday list this year. Here’s to a happy holiday season!
Cindy La Ferle on November 18th, 2013
It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” –Anne Lamott
Not long after my second hip-replacement surgery in 2002, a man who was preparing for the same surgery asked if I was glad I’d made the decision to undergo “such a massive overhaul.”
I assured him it was worth it, and that if the surgeon’s waiting list hadn’t been so long, I would have done it much sooner.
Even so, the guy shook his head. “What a shame,” he said. “You’re too young to go through that — but you’re braver than I am.”
Brave? Not really. Osteoarthritis cripples people of all ages, I reminded him, and surgery was my only alternative to a life in a wheelchair fueled by pain pills.
During physical rehab, where I learned to walk without assistive devices, it struck me that hip replacement surgery was not only a tremendous gift, but also my wake-up call.
For starters, I learned that many sufferers didn’t even have the health insurance to afford such an expense remedy. (Four months apart, my surgeries tallied $30,000 each.) Furthermore, chronic pain turned out to be the best teacher I ever had. It challenged me to find strengths and resources I hadn’t previously tapped. Arthritis had humbled and reshaped me, enrolling me in a three-year workshop in what it’s like to be disabled — albeit temporarily.
Not that I’m celebrating misery or suffering. I’m simply driving home the fact that most people under 50 don’t fully appreciate their good fortune until something is subtracted from their lives — a loved one or a job or the ability to stand on two strong feet. I was one of those who had to limp through a major health crisis to get the paradox.
Americans like to think that pain-free living is our birthright. We were raised on Disney plots with fairy-tale endings. Our definition of “the good life” is owning everything in abundance – health, recognition, money, and stuff. Then we blame our gods for punishing us if we get sick or fail to acquire what we want.
Even during the holidays, when the emphasis ought to be on gratitude for everything we already have, we’re preoccupied with acquiring more — most of which seems to be available at the mall.
In a radio interview, the Reverend Ed Bacon explained that we’re all working through grief over some kind of loss — and that most of the irrational things we do are attempts to fill our empty places. I’ve been thinking about this ever since.
And so, for the past several years I’ve used Thanksgiving as an opportunity to appreciate all that I’ve lost or had to let go. I remember that all of my challenges and tough experiences — including family emergencies and surgeries — have informed the person I am now.
If we can ride them out, pain and loss underscore the gift of being alive. And through their lessons, our richest blessings flow.
Mixed-media collage, “Transformation” (c. 2013), by Cindy La Ferle. Click on the image for a larger view.
Cindy La Ferle on November 9th, 2013
It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” — John Leonard
True friends occupy the top of my gratitude list this Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine where I’d be without the dear ones who chatted past midnight in college, coached me through my pregnancy, or held my hand at my dad’s funeral. And most of all, I cherish the troopers who still show up for emergencies as well as holiday parties.
As we age, our friendships change. As Irene Levine, PhD points out, finding the time to maintain strong friendships — and knowing where to look for new ones — can be challenging in our middle years. That’s the topic of my November column in Prime, which includes some helpful tips on friendship from Dr. Levine, also known as “The Friendship Doctor.” If you subscribe to the Sunday Detroit News and Free Press, look for a print copy in your November 10 edition. Click here and flip to page 12 to read it online.
Researching this topic for my column, I ran across lots of good material on friendship, in addition to Dr. Levine’s blog. Here are just a few articles you might enjoy:
On friends you should fire: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/11/17/3-kinds-of-false-friends-you-must-fire-from-your-life/
From Psychology Today: What makes a true friend: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201002/what-makes-true-friend
Why it’s hard to make friends after 30: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html?_r=1&
Must read: On friendship and paybacks in the Wall Street Journal.
Cindy La Ferle on November 2nd, 2013
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now, and stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.” — Carly Simon, “Anticipation”
My grown son, who’s married and lives in Chicago, is back in town with his wife for a friend’s wedding. It’s a short weekend visit, but I plan to enjoy every minute of it.
This morning I recalled an earlier autumn homecoming, nine years ago, when Nate first left the state for college. As a brand-new empty nester, I’d been anticipating his fall break and return home. I looked forward to being Mom again, if only for a few days.
Two weeks earlier, I channeled my inner June Cleaver and planned a week’s worth of family meals and favorite snacks. I reorganized my work deadlines, freeing extra time to take him out for lunch at his former haunts. My husband repaired the plaster damage from a roof leak in Nate’s bedroom, and then repainted it.
As soon as our son walked in the side door, the truth hit home: What the kid really needed was a low-key week. Stressed-out from exams, Nate wasn’t expecting a fanfare or fancy dinners. He’d been looking forward to sleeping in and simply hanging out with family and friends. In my efforts to turn his visit into a special event, I’d forgotten that my son didn’t want to feel like a guest in his own home.
Realizing my error, I released my grip and let the week unfurl without a plan.
In retrospect, the high points of that first break were the times we ran a few mundane errands together. Driving around town, between trips to the dry cleaner and the drugstore, we chatted about Nate’s classes, his new friends in the dorm, and the music he was listening to then. College was turning my snarky adolescent boy into a thoughtful young man — and I found myself enjoying his company.
More than wrinkles and gray hair, our kids never fail to remind us of our own aging. Overnight, they morph from preschoolers in OshKosh overalls to college students in size 12 running shoes. Letting go also requires that we accept the fact that time isn’t standing still for any of us.
It’s a sobering thought — and ever more poignant when autumn leaves start to scatter across our doorstep.
Earlier this fall, for instance, I watched from a distance while the neighborhood teens posed for homecoming photographs in their formalwear. Giddy with anticipation, the girls could barely stand still while a group of proud parents focused their cameras. The boys struggled to look comfortable in freshly pressed suits and ties. Their youthful beauty took my breath away, and my heart ached a little.
It occurred to me then that my days of snapping photos of prom gowns and homecoming suits were over. And I wondered: Had I fully experienced those moments, or simply captured them on film to savor later? How often had I dashed mindlessly from one “special” event to the next?
Recalling the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” I’m struck by the fact that our “good old days” are unfolding right here and right now. But we have to slow down long enough to appreciate them.
It’s a worthy thought to ponder before the onset of the winter holidays – before all of us get tangled up in holiday lights and lists, decorating marathons, and long lines at the malls.
In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I’m adding all things beautifully mundane and uneventful to my gratitude list. I’m counting my commonplace blessings — the bowl of red apples on the kitchen counter; the mischievous cat chasing the pens on my desk; a pot of vegetable soup simmering in my slow cooker; a weekend visit with my son and his wife.
This season I’ll practice coming home to the present moment, to the grace of ordinary days on my calendar.