Roz Chast’s Graphic Novel: Serious Humor for Adult Children Caretakers

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This morning I am going to One More Page, my local independent book store, to purchase Roz Chast’s new graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I’ve never read a graphic novel, although I frequently pass by them in local independent book stores. Today, however, I will buy the book and explore this new-to-me genre, really a graphic memoir, because I love Roz Chast. More personally, however, I am deeply involved, by choice, with supporting and occasionally caring for aging parents. As Chast shares her experiences and challenges, doing so with humor and pain, I recognize much of what she depicts.

This cartoonist’s elegant work, mostly in the New Yorker, is synonymous with tongue-in-cheek observation. No matter what topic Roz Chast chooses to illustrate, a viewer laughs and thinks, though not necessarily in that order.              Continue reading

Happy Mother’s Day 2014, Mom

My mom and me in late 1952.

My mom and me in late 1952.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I know you are a bit frustrated by a few health issues right now, but I hope you know how much we all admire and love you.

In all these years, as far as I can tell, you’ve never encountered a subject that you don’t want to learn more about. Sometimes when I think about you, I just lean back and marvel at your drive and intellectual capacity. Every time we talk, you tell me about what you’ve learned by working on your computer, sharing at the book club, attending a peace and justice meeting, listening to music at the Bach Festival, or working hard in a committee you serve on at one organization or another. Or maybe I arrive and more plants are in the garden, so I know that you’ve been working out there.

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

Mom, Her Mom, and Me – 1973

Of course these days you tire more easily, but you are learning to pace yourself so you can do the the things you like to do.

Do you have any idea, over the years, just how many people you have registered to vote, all told? Hundreds, I bet. Of course, we all treasure the picture of you and President Obama (well he wasn’t quite the president at that point). But then you were one of the super-volunteers in the Shenandoah Valley, so active in politics and always willing to take on extra jobs. Then last year you were active in the governor’s election, and one day there you were pictured with former President Bill Clinton when he came to campaign for the candidate. Continue reading

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd: A Book Review


Grandma book

Recently I discovered a children’s book, Grandma, that tells a story, from a child’s point of view, about a much-loved grandmother who develops dementia. As an educator, I’ve often thought about the need for books that help children understand the disease while illustrating how to continue to love and support a family member who experiences dramatic memory changes. Only now, years after my family lost my husband’s mother to this terrible brain disease, are children’s books that address dementia beginning to appear.

Grandma, an easy-to-read picture book written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd, fits the bill. Young Oscar shares his thoughts about his grandmother, describing the fun they have, the fond ways they interact, and the changes that have come about since she “started forgetting a lot of things.” He describes how she lives in a new community, with caregivers, and tells about his visits.

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Second Wind: A New Book and Tour by Dr. Bill Thomas

second-wind-coverLeave it to Dr. Bill Thomas to write a new book, in this case Second Wind, and then use the book tour, not just to publicize its release by joining radio personalities and attending book signings, but instead to educate in a big way. Dr. Bill, some of his Eden Alternative and Green House Project colleagues, and other friends have undertaken a nationwide educational SecondWind Tour — with stops in 25 cities between the beginning of March and the end of May 2014. He’s using the book and the tour to promote his philosophy — and his beliefs — about aging.

Dr. Thomas’s philosophy is powerful, which is good because he is proclaiming and evangelizing to a large and very powerful demographic — the boomers — a generation that is beginning to age in earnest. A goodly number of us don’t quite know what to think about aging or how to get on with it. Of course we know we are going to age but are definitely uncertain about next steps. Participants at one of Dr. Thomas’s SecondWind Tour events — my husband and I attended the Washington, DC festivities — see and hear quite a bit about aging, gaining some insight, ideas, and tools that stimulate even more thinking. Did I mention that Dr. Bill is a great storyteller?

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Is There a Digital Divide Among Seniors?

seniors and tech border

Adult children who want to help their aging parents learn to use more technology may want to read the April 2014 Pew Internet organization report, Older Adults and Technology Use.

This fascinating document, freely available online, describes various groups of technology-using seniors and explains how they use or do not use computers and devices. It also offers some reasons why older seniors, especially, slow down in their use of computers and digital devices as they age.

What’s interesting to me is that less of a digital divide exists between seniors and the rest of the younger adult population, and more of a digital divide exists between higher and lower-income seniors. Also the researchers found that after age 75 technology use tends to drop off significantly for many elders.

Most Interesting Findings                Continue reading

The Art of Presence for People Who Need to Know We Care

presence2Each time a friend or acquaintance experiences an illness or death in the family, I go through the same thought process. When should I call?  What should I offer? Will I intrude?

What it really comes down to is this: I should stop dithering around and just do something — just about anything, really — to demonstrate that I am thinking about my friends. It all comes down to being present for the people who need to know that their friends care.

In a thoughtful January op-ed piece New York Times columnist, David Brooks, wrote about The Art of Presence. All of us, he explains, need to develop the ability to understand how and when and be near people who need our assistance and support, especially during times of great stress or loss. Many of us of are not that adept at responding appropriately when people need our help.

“There are no uniformly right responses,” Brooks writes. He also describes how blogger Catherine Woodiwiss shares her family’s experience with trauma and offers what Brooks calls collective wisdom — how to help others in need and the importance of being present (and maybe it’s just being around) when things go wrong in people’s lives.

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