A few years ago, when Mom was still able to fly across the country and visit me in California every January, I bought her a fancy tracksuit at Neiman Marcus for her birthday. It was black velour with little rhinestones on the side front pockets of the zip-up jacket, and she loved it. She not only wore it for lounging around the house, but she wore it on the treadmill for her early evening workouts while watching the news.
Yes, treadmill, the professional-grade machine that had a prominent place in her finished basement and was so big it dwarfed her. The woman was in her mid-90s but utterly disciplined about going on that machine every day and walking for an hour, and she’d been sticking to her exercise routine for years. It kept her trim. It kept her feeling productive. It gave her a sense of control, which became especially important when her memory began to deteriorate and she needed to rely more and more on Sandy, her full-time caregiver, who filled in the blanks when she couldn’t remember where she was going or why. She did her laps on the treadmill when she could no longer contribute to her monthly book group discussion and stopped going. She did her laps on the treadmill when she could no longer tell you who was president. She did her laps on the treadmill when she could no longer drive a car. The treadmill was her touchstone, a way to prove to herself and the rest of us that she was still in charge of her body and mind. She even got a new, more high-tech model not long ago, as if to say, “I’m still here. I’m still me.”
And then she stopped using the treadmill the way she stopped watching the news. At 98, she’s unsteady on her feet, shuffles more than walks, needs help getting up from the sofa.
But did she admit any of that when I broached the subject of my taking the treadmill to my new house in CT so I could walk in inclement weather? Absolutely not. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: “Mom, how would you feel if I bought the treadmill from you, since you don’t use it anymore and I need to exercise indoors now that I moved here?”
Mom: “What do you mean? I still use the treadmill every day!”
Me: “Uh, no you don’t.”
Mom: “Of course I do! I go downstairs and walk for an hour!”
Me, getting the picture and not wanting to agitate her: “Right. Well then, never mind. You keep it. Absolutely.”
A few minutes later, Thelma, who was covering for Sandy that afternoon and whose kind and gentle manner calms Mom, came into the room, sat down with us and said very diplomatically to my mother, “Jane would really like to have your treadmill. Wouldn’t you like her to have it? You don’t need it anymore.”
Mom: “Of course. Why shouldn’t she have it. It’s not even a question.”
It was as if I hadn’t asked the first time and gotten such a negative reaction, as if this were an entirely new subject. Now I didn’t know how to proceed. The last – and I mean the very last – thing I wanted to do was strip my mother of any vestige of the life she’s enjoyed, the life that has enabled her to live so long and so well, not to mention take advantage of her memory lapses. If she felt the treadmill was still important to her, then that was that and I wouldn’t bring it up again. I’d keep looking for a used one on Craigslist. No biggie. But if she didn’t have a problem with me taking it, that would be great too. Which was her “real” answer? To hang onto her treadmill or relinquish it and, perhaps, her sense of independence?
I went home and resumed my Craigslist search – until Sandy called.
“Your mom wants you to have her treadmill,” she said. “We talked about it. She knows she can’t use it anymore.”
I asked “Are you sure?” over and over again. This was tricky terrain for me, as I said. I wanted to respect my mother’s wishes, but I’d been confused about what they were.
“I’m sure,” said Sandy. “Besides, I’m not letting her use it. It’s not safe for her now.”
Not safe for her now. Sandy’s words made the decision easier. She was the one living in the house with Mom. She was the one who helped her bathe and gave her her medications and held her hand when they crossed the street. She made me understand that taking the treadmill would be an act of care for Mom, not a theft of her identity, as well as an act of care for me, for my health, given my much-too-sedentary lifestyle. And wasn’t that what good caregiving was all about? A balancing act between taking care of loved ones and taking care of ourselves? Hadn’t I written a book on that very subject?
The treadmill is now in my basement. The first time I turned on the TV news, stepped onto the machine and began to walk, I teared up. I pictured Mom on that thing, watching the news, hardly breaking a sweat, and I felt sad that I’d lost the mom she used to be. And then I quickly rethought my visualization. Instead, I imagined her standing off to the side cheering me on. “The treadmill was a big part of my life and now I’m passing it on to you, dear,” I heard her say. And then, because my mother has a sense of humor, I also heard her say, “Just don’t be a slacker and stop using it.”
I haven’t spent my May 2nd birthday with my mother in many years. I’ve been living in California and only visited her in Mt. Kisco, in New York’s northern Westchester County, in the summers. After Mom turned 98 on her birthday in January and her cognitive abilities deteriorated further, it became very clear that talking to her on the phone and getting reports from my New York-based sister Susan and from Sandy, Mom’s live-in caregiver and majordomo, that I wanted to be close by; that I needed to be close by. There were other good reasons to move back to CT but Mom was the primary one. Celebrating my birthday with her, as I did in the photo above. was a treat.
What I’ve discovered spending time with her is that she’s holding her own in many ways. She still has an amazing vocabulary, still has her sense of humor, still remembers plenty. But she doesn’t remember plenty too. Gone are the anecdotes about my childhood. Gone are the anecdotes about her two husbands, my father and stepfather. Gone are the anecdotes about her friends, most of whom she has outlived.
But just when the sadness of all this creeps into my head, I remind myself to find the silver linings in Mom’s dementia. My book, You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, was all about finding the silver linings in caring for a loved one with a chronic or progressive illness. I not only wrote about the humorous side of being married to a man with Crohn’s disease, but I encouraged the other caregivers I interviewed (a mother whose son is autistic, a wife whose husband has MS, a son whose two parents had Alzheimer’s, etc.) to find humor in their situations too. Being able to find the positives in even the darkest times – and laughing about them – keeps us sane.
So….what are the silver linings with my mother?
For one thing, she’s no longer estranged from her older sister. As I wrote in The Huffington Post a while back, she forgot she was mad at my aunt after ten years of their not speaking to each other, picked up the phone one day and called her. The conversation was friendly and cheerful as if there’d never been an angry word between them. (My aunt, who’s 100 now, has the same level of dementia as Mom.) They’ve been good buddies ever since. How that’s for an upside of dementia.
For another, every time I come to the house to visit Mom now, it’s a pleasant surprise to her. “Nobody told me you were coming!” she exclaims as soon as I walk in the door, even though I’ve spoken to her only minutes before on the phone to let her know I’m on my way. “This is such a wonderful, wonderful surprise! I can’t get over it!” See? Another upside: my mother is always really, really happy to see me.
But the most personal upside by far has been the fact that my mother’s dementia has changed the way she feels about my writing career. Let me back up and explain.
During a recent phone call, she said, “What’s new, dear?”
“Just taking a break from writing to say hi,” I told her.
“Writing?” she said.
“I’m working on a new novel,” I said.
“You write novels?” She sounded flabbergasted. “Nobody told me that!”
I thought I’d misheard her. A former college professor of Greek and Latin, she values words and had never forgotten that I earned my living through words. It was as if she’d suddenly forgotten who I was.
“Why don’t you walk over to the bookshelves across from your bed,” I suggested trying not to show how shaken I was. “You’ll see a lot of books with my name on them.”
She put down the phone, went to look, and came back on the line. “Oh my goodness! I can’t believe my daughter writes novels! I’m so impressed, dear, and so proud. I bet they’re the best novels ever written.”
Well, now she had done a complete one-eighty. I write romantic comedies – novels that have hit bestseller lists, been translated all over the world, and sold to Hollywood. Most mothers would be thrilled to have a daughter who was a successful author, and Mom was thrilled. She called me her “little celebrity,” woke up early to watch me on the “Today” show, and planted herself in the front row at my bookstore signings where she bought multiple copies and had me autograph them. Naturally, I’d assumed she read the books too. I was wrong. She didn’t read them, certainly not all the way through. And the fact that she didn’t – I discovered this after I’d just given her the galley proofs of a forthcoming novel and minutes later found her combing my library for “something good to read” – was like a stab in the heart.
Mom and I had always shared a very close bond. She was my anchor after my father died when I was six. I followed in her footsteps in college and majored in Greek and Latin. I graduated Summa Cum Laude, as did she. I earned a Phi Beta Kappa key that she wore on her charm bracelet. We were smarty-pants women together, rolling our eyes when grammatically challenged people said, “Between you and I.” So imagine my hurt to learn that my novels weren’t up to her intellectual standards, that my work was the sort of facile, mass entertainment she dismissed. The knowledge of her disapproval created a breach in our otherwise loving relationship that was always lurking beneath the surface, unspoken.
And yet now, during our phone call, Mom had just validated the work I had spent my adult life laboring over. In her cognitively impaired state, she had uttered the magic words at last: “I bet they’re the best books ever written.”
So yes, caring for aging parents with dementia can be a struggle and there are times when you long for your parent the way he or she used to be, but when there are silver linings, we have to grab them with both hands. I grabbed my mother’s compliment about my books and will never let them go.
Chronicle Books, publisher of my caregiver survival guide, You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, just gave me the heads up that the book has been selected for their special, month-long “Eye Candy” ebook sale! What does that mean? Special savings, that’s what! For the entire month of February, caregivers and the people who care about them, will be able to go to any ebook retailer and purchase the ebook edition at a substantial savings. I’m talking about a book that’s been priced as high as $14.99 selling for $2.99 and less in February – no small deal, right?
I came up with the idea for You’d Better Not Die after spending 20 years as the caregiver to my husband Michael, who has Crohn’s disease and who sent us both on a journey that involved multiple hospitalizations and surgeries and home health nurses and many, many doctors. I wanted to write about my experience with a humorous spin – not as a Debbie Downer, in other words, but as someone who could stare the dark days in the face and still find silver linings in them. I also sought out caregivers with stories about caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, a husband with M.S., a daughter with anorexia, a son with autism and much more. And finally I went to the experts – lots of them: therapists (how do we cope when we’re so stressed we can’t see straight?), a dietician (what the heck do we eat that’s healthy when we’re stuck with hospital cafeterias?), fitness coaches (how are we supposed to exercise when we’re sitting in a hospital room all day?), a bestselling cookbook author (who has time to cook a nutritious meal with flavor?), meditation teachers (how do we quiet the mind when it’s racing to check off all the items on our “To Do” list?), nurses (how should we deal with the cranky ones who won’t answer our questions?), and much more.
Since the book was published, my perspective as a caregiver has broadened. I did write about my mother’s increasing dementia in You’d Better Not Die, but I have a whole new appreciation for what caring for an elderly parent is all about. Mom recently turned 98 (her older sister just turned 100, so longevity runs on that side of the family) and while still very sharp at times, she’s more and more dependent on her full-time caregiver to fill in the blanks. She’s especially disoriented in the late afternoons and evenings when the infamous “sundowners” set in, and her confusion is a source of great frustration to her. Over the past few years I’ve been her long-distance caregiver since I’ve lived in California and she’s in New York, but I’m moving back east this spring and one of the main reasons is to be there for and with her in whatever ways she needs me – from interacting with her doctors to help with paying her bills to spending time with her and trying to brighten her days. She lives at home – at one point she wanted to move to an assisted living community and then changed her mind – and is isolated to a certain degree, and I hope my presence will mitigate that.
Meanwhile, I’m very heartened by the wonderful reader responses to You’d Better Not Die, along with the critics’ reviews. I write romantic comedies for the most part, so a caregiver book was new territory for me. But take a look at some of the words of praise on Goodreads. Wow.
“Our sweet daughter gave me this book for Christmas – and I took my time reading and thinking about every chapter. ‘A family caregiver is caring for somebody who has something that can’t be fixed-i.e., it doesn’t have a cure at this point in time. That requires a totally different medical approach.’ (page 284) This definition of a caregiver includes most of my family and friends…who don’t really see themselves as caregivers, but who, like me, struggle with all of the issues associated with this role as we care for a parent, spouse, child, or friend. This book is filled with simple, useful, needed advice based on the experiences of Jane, and her friends, family, and health care professionals that are helping her make sense of this complicated issue. Their insights and comments have helped me change how I see my own role as a caregiver and how I see and serve others filling this critical role.”
“I’ve been reading Jane Heller’s You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, and it’s exceptional. Two hours later (with lots of laughs and tears), I finished it from cover to cover. Honestly, after doing home health with a 87 year old , with her declining health and increasing dementia, I believe this book will be a godsend to so many. It’s unique in its scope – anecdotal, voices from a cadre of health care professionals as well as peeps like us, and very personal. I’ve experienced all of it – working nurses, asking questions, keeping records, doing follow-ups, arranging ambulances and rehab and homecare and wading through the Medicare stuff….and the author has put ALL OF IT down to help and to use….and ultimately, to speak of love and how it is tested….well, nicely done.”
“I cried at many points in this book because I recognized so much of my own experiences in the stories in this book. Lots of good advice, even though as a caregiver, you’re probably just too exhausted, frustrated, busy to take it. Excellent book that should offer solace to those of us who often feel alone in their challenges.”
I love hearing from readers and talking to other caregivers, so feel free to send me an email and let me know how you’re doing on your caregiving journey. If you haven’t read the book or you have a friend or family member for whom you’d like to buy it, February is the month. For the bookseller links to the Eye Candy Special Savings Promo, go to my home page on this site.
I met Pam Burke years ago during my New York publishing days. She co-executive produced NBC’s “Tomorrow” show with Tom Snyder, and as a book publicist I’d pitch her my authors for the show. Later, after I left publishing and before I started writing my own books, she and I worked together on the short-lived “USA Today: The Television Show.” She’s always been a doer and a whip-smart one at that. Her latest media venture is The Women’s Eye, a multifaceted web enterprise that includes radio, feature stories, interviews and just about every sort of news-you-can-use for women.
Now TWE has decided to launch their first-ever “tel-event” or “webinar” (choose your favorite term) on May 29th at 10am PT and I’m their guest speaker.
I’ll be interviewed by TWE’s fabulous Stacey Gualandi….
She’ll ask me questions about caregiving and my survival guide, You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, and everyone who signs up for this FREE event will be able to ask me questions too. See their invitation page below and please register, share with others, spread the word. I’m really excited about this as soooo many people I know are dealing with a parent or grandparent, sibling, spouse or friend with an illness and they’re feeling overwhelmed. We’ll cover how to be the best patient advocate while still taking care of your own health and sanity. And, as I said, it’s FREE. Not a bad deal at all! Just go to the TWE page and follow the links to register. See you there.
TWE TelEvent: LIVE Q&A With Jane Heller-Essential Tips for Caregivers
Yes, it’s our FIRST EVENT and we wanted to invite you…
Join us via the Web, your phone, or Skype
10 AM Pacific Time Thursday, May 29th
for a FREE, LIVE Interview and Q&A session with:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and long-time caregiver
How to Be the Best Caregiver and Still Take Care of You
TWE Radio host, Stacey Gualandi, will be interviewing Jane, the author of her Caregiver’s Survival Guide, You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, (what she says to her husband Michael before he goes into surgery). Then we’ll open it up for your questions.
Jane’s written 13 romantic comedies, so you know she’s got a great sense of humor, but she was also catapulted into the world of caregiving when she met and married her husband, who has had more than thirty surgeries for Crohn’s Disease.
In this webinar, Jane will share her tips about:
How to Be the Best Patient Advocate for Your Loved One
How to Keep Your Sanity
How to Maintain Your Health
See Jane’s terrific book trailer on this page along with all of the details for this event including:
How to join us by the Web, your phone, or Skype
How the teleconference works (it’s simple!)
How you can ask your questions ahead of time as well as during the event
How to register for the replay in case you can’t make the live event
If you want to Register Now, just click the button!
Click to Register
Pam, Cheryl and The Women’s Eye Team
P.S. Please pass this on to others you think would like to attend.
On Wednesday, I flew to Little Rock, Arkansas – a first for me, even after 20 years of doing book tours. I’d been invited to speak about caregiving at this year’s Arkansas Blue Cross conference for Case Managers. The conference took place in Hot Springs, about an hour’s drive from Little Rock, and the organizers put on a terrific event – a day packed with informative and engaging speakers. My talk focused on the need for self-care among caregivers and I shared the many lessons I’d learned in the course of writing You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You, copies of which were on hand for purchase during the break thanks to Gayle at the Barnes & Noble in Little Rock.
So many in the audience stopped by the signing table to buy a book and to tell me about their own caregiving experiences. It was very moving to hear their stories. Lots of courageous people out there.
After the conference, Michael (he came with me to record my speech and serve as my cheerleader in case no one laughed at my jokes) and I drove back to Little Rock and had a fabulous dinner at a place called Brave New Restaurant.
It had been recommended by some at the conference but I’d also read about it on Trip Advisor and Yelp and it sounded like a winner. Overlooking the Arkansas River with a view of the city skyline that’s particularly attractive at night, Brave New Restaurant (yes, it’s really called that because the owner/chef’s last name is Brave) was spectacular. Everything we ordered – from the shrimp-and-avocado appetizer to my pan-seared tuna and Michael’s dry-rubbed sirloin – was delicious. I heartily recommend.
I would love to have stayed in Little Rock longer. The downtown area is humming with activity – lots of shops and restaurants and music venues. The Clinton Library was closed thanks to the government shutdown or we might have stayed to take a tour. But oh well. It was a quick turnaround to get back to California with fond memories of new places discovered and new friends made.
My niece was married over the weekend at a grand wedding, and Michael and I flew to New York for the festivities. One of the pleasures of the occasion for me was spending time with my mother, who turned 96 in January, and with my Aunt Maxine, who’s 98. She and Mom had their share of estrangements over the years – sibling rivalry to the max – but now that they both have memory impairment they’ve forgotten that they were ever mad at each other. See that? Dementia does have its silver linings, as I write in You’d Better Not Die, and Mom and Maxine are the perfect example. They’re both still sharp – smart, articulate, intellectually curious. They look so youthful it’s almost scary. And they laugh easily and often, just the way they used to. What’s changed is that there’s no tension between them, no simmering animosity, only affection. It’s a beautiful thing. Nowadays, they get together often for lunch. They repeat the same stories and ask the same questions, and if you tell them something they won’t remember what you said. But I sure hope I’m doing half as well as they are if I make it to my 90s. I mean look at them. Seriously.
First came You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health. Now comes its sequel….sort of. I’m not actually writing another book on the subject, but I’ve just partnered with the premier speakers bureau on healthcare to travel around the country and talk about caregiving.
Speakers on Healthcare has the absolute best roster of speakers – from celebrities like actress Meredith Baxter and broadcaster Anderson Cooper to health gurus like Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra to prestigious journalists like Jane Gross and Jane Brody. Now I’ve joined this stellar list with my own page on the SOH site. I’m really eager to get started and speak to groups everywhere and spread the word that caregiving, while demanding, also has its rewards – if we make sure to take care of ourselves.
Usually, I wait until I finish a book before blogging about it, but I’m making an exception in the case of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. I’m about a third of the way into the novel, and I love the setup, the characters and the possibilities of how things will go.
I’ve been writing a lot about caregiving since You’d Better Not Die came out in November, so you’d think Moyes’ novel about a caregiver would have been on my Must Read List. Somehow, it slipped under my radar despite all the great reviews.
Like last year’s French film sensation “The Intouchables,” which I also loved, Me Before You features a quadriplegic millionaire and his unlikely helper. In this case, the helper is a twentysomething British woman who’s out of a job, lives with her family and has no idea what she wants out of life. She has no purpose other than to contribute to the household income. Her charge is a man who once lived life to the fullest – a success in business and in romance. An adrenaline junkie, he embraced adventure and risk. After his accident, he’s angry, bitter, wants to die. What’s a naive, inexperienced caregiver to do?
I’m about to find out.
It seems that caregiving is on a lot of creative minds these days, and I’m not surprised. It’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been or isn’t being touched by the experience personally, so it’s only natural that the subject has made its way into the zeitgeist. The more we share those experiences, the better it’ll be for all of us.
Roberta Mittman is a wellness practitioner with a thriving practice on Park Avenue in Manhattan. She’s all about helping her clients live healthier, happier lives, but she also knows that not everyone can come to New York and meet with her face to face.
So…she created what she calls “Telesummits” for those who want to love their minds and bodies more (and who doesn’t). The latest one will run from April 8th-12th and it’s free! All you have to do is click this link, sign up and you’ll be able to hear the 30-minute interviews Roberta has conducted with over 15 experts in the wellness field (like me!) sharing advice about health, beauty and empowerment. (I’ll be talking about How to Take Care of You While Caring for a Loved One.) You’ll be able to receive special gifts and bonuses from each of the experts too (I’m offering some secret prizes, so go look!). Listen on a computer at home or at work or wherever you happen to be while the Telesummit is taking place or save the interviews in the archive and listen whenever it’s convenient. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea and I’d think so even if I weren’t one of the experts Roberta interviewed, so I hope lots of readers will sign up.
Others that will be participating include:
- holistic nutrition expert Alexandra Jamieson
- anti-aging expert Alison Heath
- weight loss coach Andrea Albright
- “language architect” Hilary Rubin
- psychiatrist Dr. Hyla Cass
- cancer specialist Dr. Nalini Chilkov
- OB-GYN women’s health physician Dr. Anna Cabeca
- Sex-at-any-age expert Dr. Jennifer Landa
- Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin
- Herbal medicine expert Kami McBride
And here are some of the topics covered:
- How to rediscover your IDENTITY, VALUE, AND CONFIDENCE while finding your mission in this life.
How to navigate through THE AGING PROCESS with expert guidance and tips.
A WELL-KEPT SECRET to naturally REGULATE YOUR APPETITE.
How and why EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE could have been responsible for your pain all this time.
How to ACCESS YOUR INNER PHYSICIAN intuitively and spiritually—something that can save your life.
How to access the #1 STRATEGY to change your belief about WHAT’S REALLY POSSIBLE FOR YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.
Knowing how to use local, must-try, NATURAL HERBAL MEDICINE for optimal health.
The secret to why weight loss has been a challenge—FOOD INTOLERANCE.
How to surrender the struggle and overwhelm with PROVEN STEPS TO FIND FLOW IN YOUR LIFE.
How messages from the past can block abundance, prosperity, and MONEY.
How to become a hot, SENSUALLY EMPOWERED woman now.
What you can do naturally today to prevent any type of CANCER.
What you can do when starting to EXERCISE! (Do this first if you want it to stick.)
How to recognize and cope effectively with TRIGGERS FOR EMOTIONAL EATING.
How to extinguish NEGATIVE SELF-TALK FOR SOARING SELF-ESTEEM.
How to RELEASE WEIGHT: what’s been holding you back, and how you can overcome those barriers.
Why you still feel FLAT and UNFULFILLED even when you reach your goals.
How to handle the inevitable plateau—what you need to know to STAY ON TRACK.
Sounds good, right? Click this link and sign up!
I always look forward to the SAGs because they’re all about the actors without cluttering up the presentation with technical awards (not that the costume, wardrobe and sound people don’t deserve theirs; I’m just more interested in star gazing). But last night’s show was oddly flat. Even the intros featuring the “I’m an actor” vignettes weren’t all that charming or funny, and aside from Julianne Moore there really weren’t any actresses wearing unfortunate gowns. (The top of Moore’s gown was definitely a SAG winner, if you know what I mean.) “Argo” is suddenly piling up the awards and should make the Oscars even more competitive. Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway appear to be the only locks.
Switching gears, I had a post up on PBS’ Next Avenue site last week and Huff/Po50 picked it up over the weekend. It amplifies a chapter in You’d Better Not Die about caring for a loved one whose illness causes personality changes and what we, as caregivers, can do about it. I should mention that I’ve been posting a lot on Huff/Po and elsewhere, and all my posts, caregiver related and not, are up on my web site under “Other Writing.”
The big news in terms of my romantic comedies is that after successfully launching 11 of the novels as ebooks over the summer, we’ve decided to have a special “Winter Sale” starting February 1st. For a limited time only, we’re dropping the prices on all 11 from $4.99 to $2.99 to say thank you to those who’ve expressed interest in them. I’m excited to be able to share the novels with even more readers, so it’s a great time to jump in.
And finally, I haven’t posted here in a while because I had the pleasure of a two-week visit with my mother, who turned 96 on January 15th. She and Sandy, her caregiver, flew out to California from New York and we had a great time together, hanging out, re-connecting with family members and enjoying some wonderful dinners here in Santa Barbara. Very sad to see her go home but looking forward to her visit next year when she turns 97!
No, I’m not talking about winning an Oscar, although Hollywood’s awards season is here and I’m busily trying to see all the films that’ll be nominated as well as those that should be.
This is about me. I’ve never won an award or even been named the “best” at anything. (Well, let me amend that. I won the “best in tennis” award when I was in summer camp, along with a “most improved” in swimming.) But that changed today when I got an email telling me that one of my articles for Huffington Post/50 (the section for those of us in mid-life) was among their top 20 blog posts of 2012. Was I ever flattered!
So in honor of me, here are Huff/Po50‘s top 20 blog posts of the year. Check them all out, because they’re really good, but smile especially wide when you read mine.
Right. The better question is who doesn’t want a personal message from Derek Jeter? No one. We love our captain, so why not spend $299 to have him record a special message just for us? Here’s how…
There are just a few days left for everybody to donate and receive a customized audio message from Jeet (as well as from celebrities like Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, Betty White, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, Ed Asner and Carrie Fisher – Morgan Freeman is already sold out) – all to benefit the national advocacy organization Autism Speaks.
I love this fundraising idea, and Autism Speaks is such a worthy organization. In my new caregiving book, YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU, one of the other caregivers is filmmaker Yudi Bennett whose son Noah is autistic. Her story alone is worth the price of admission, so I feel especially impassioned on her behalf.
And think about all the things you’d like Jeter to say to you. He could:
- Explain that “fat” picture and assure you he really hasn’t gained any weight.
- Tell you whether he and Minka are over for good.
- Share what he thinks of A-Rod’s latest hip adventure.
- Give you an assessment of Yankees 2013.
Now back to the Hot Stove….
At our Cinema Society screening of “Argo” a while back, I couldn’t help but let out a little cheer when I saw the award-winning actor show up in the movie playing the good guy. I hadn’t realized that he was in it, and then there he was coming to the aid of the American hostages. Perfect casting, since Victor is one of the nicest men on the planet.
Having had two parents with Alzheimer’s disease, Victor was the primary caregiver for his mother when he was in L.A. shooting the TV show “Alias.” When I was putting together candidates to be interviewed for YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU, I had asked my friend, Laurie Burrows Grad, to make the connection with Victor, whom she knows from both their work with the Alzheimer’s Association. She emailed him about me and the book, and he didn’t hesitate to agree to participate.
As soon as the book was published, I sent him a copy so he could see how his contributions turned out and to thank him for taking time in his busy schedule to answer my questions.
Today, he wrote me a thank you note. How nice is that? This is a man who juggles movie and television projects with theater roles and nonprofit work and is beloved by everyone he meets – and he liked my book. With his permission, I’m sharing his words, which touched me a lot.
Jane, your book is so moving, funny, insightful, and helpful in so many ways.
I am honored to be a part of it . Thank you for including me, and thank you for writing it.
I know that care giving is an ongoing activity for all of us, sometimes in small ways,
and at other times, much more demanding. This book is a helpful reminder, and practical guide,
for all situations requiring our help. I know it will be deeply appreciated.
I hope your holiday season is peaceful, and filled with joy.
All the best,
I really, really appreciated his kindness.
I did a national TV show today to promote YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU and I didn’t even have to leave my house. The Huffington Post launched HuffPoLive a few months ago and invited me to be a guest for a segment on caregiving and National Caregivers Month. Here’s the link in case anyone wants to copy, paste and watch:
(I’m sure there’s a way to embed it here, but it beats me how.)
Anyway, I’d never done a show that was live streaming on the web, so I wondered if I’d like it. Result? I loved it. How easy! How convenient! You can reach a national audience and not have to get on an airplane – my idea of heaven.
All I had to do was pop in my ear buds, plug them into my computer, turn off my phone so there wouldn’t be any distracting noise, click on the link for the Google Hangout chat and there I was – on the show with the host and three other guests for a half-hour.
The best part? You can only see me from the waist up, so I didn’t have to get out of my grungy yoga pants and worn-out Ugg slippers. Again, my idea of heaven.
Actually, if the segment helped other caregivers and made them feel less alone and bewildered, that would be the best part.
Here’s my yoga teacher, Christine Gordon, with another 10 minutes of zen-ness. Whether you’re rushing around trying to pull a Thanksgiving meal together, dealing with noisy friends and family over the holiday, or serving as the stressed out caregiver to a loved one, Christine’s latest meditation is a guaranteed soother. Check it out.
As I write in YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU, taking a mental vacation is key to maintaining a sense of balance – never more so than during this Thanksgiving season.
Now that YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU is out and getting lots of media attention, so is Michael. And the scrutiny is a little daunting for him. When this article appeared on Huffington Post the other day, it featured the above photo and I think it finally dawned on him that this wasn’t just my book. It was our book – the story of how he has a chronic illness and I’m his caregiver and how all the other opinions I solicited (caregivers, therapists, health experts, etc.) fed into it.
But it wasn’t until my book party that he really became the center of attention – in a good way. The party was at a beautiful wellness center and spa in downtown Santa Barbara called Alchemy Arts Center.
I’ll have photos of the event soon, but in the meantime suffice it to say we had a great crowd that night and Mary, the co-owner/manager at my neighborhood’s Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito, handled the bookselling honors, and Michael played host with aplomb. What’s more, several people on line to have their copies of the book signed said to me, “After you sign this I want Michael to sign it too.” That was a first.
I gave a little talk before I signed and afterwards one of our friends asked, “I’d like to know how Michael feels about being so exposed in the book.” I acknowledged that my husband was, indeed, “exposed” in the sense that his disease and its complications over the years are on full display. “Before I turned in the manuscript of the book,” I said to our friend, “I made sure Michael read over every word. I told him if there was anything that made him uncomfortable I’d take it out. He did say there were a few things he wasn’t thrilled with, but after a day or two he came back and said, ‘If they’ll help someone else dealing with all this, leave them in.'”
Michael’s a brave man in many ways, not the least of which is that he said, “If they’ll help someone else, leave them in.” He deserves to be the star.