Our Lenten Journey-Week Five

For many of us we will not have the Holy Week and Easter we wanted, have come to know or would desire to have. Fellow Christians from around the world mourn with you. In this last week before Holy Week, I cannot help but think how we can be co-creators with God to make these last few days, and next week special, life-giving, and holy.

At the Easter Vigil Mass, we hear of the Creation Story and are reminded that God is the Great Creator. From Him, all life is born. He also created us to create and invites us to co-create with Him to live fully alive the Vocation He set before us. Take time this week to plan how you would like to live the journey through Holy Week and ask God to help you find the spirit of faith, hope, and joy that we have come to love about the traditions of this time. Invite Him into your hearts and minds, into your homes, families, Zoom calls. Co-create something beautiful with God!

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Co-Create with God

This Week’s Journal Question:
How can I open up my life to co-create with God during this time and throughout my life? What have I created with God in the past?

Prayer:
I invite you, Lord, to come and create with me during this time and always. You are the Great Creator, help me to bring beauty and goodness into my life.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Four (The Great Lent)

These Lenten reflections have been knocked off their original theme and arc, and have shifted in times of need and change. We are living our Lenten journey in ways we could not imagine before this time. The Great Lent. How are we remaining open to the will of God? How are we opening ourselves up to the possibilities of this time?

God has permitted this time to occur. That is clear, so, as a community of people going through this BOTH collectively AND individually, what are we doing to remain open to all that can still happen in these days of distancing, fear, and dark unknowns? It can be easy to fall into the darkness, but we must resist that urge and find the light that never dies. Seek out spiritual friendship. Find a spiritual director. Connect with fellow parishioners. Reach out to me. We are a community of faith, and nothing can destroy that. We can help each other navigate this Great Lent as artists, as creators, as children of God.

During these past two weeks, I have felt that for many of us we have never experienced a time that is fit for the imagination, creativity, the artist quite like this time. Each generation, each year provides new unknowns, darkness, light, challenges, opportunities, closed doors, and invitations. With God as our Creator, the Ultimate Artist, we too were created to be artists and creators. Two weeks ago I put out a call to create and to share in your creation. What have you created during this time that brings the glory of God into the darkness? What have you discovered about your faith, your relationship with God, with others, with yourself during this time? Have you discovered a spiritual friendship in being creative?

Last week we focused on seeking Joy. This week we refocus on creating for and with the Great Creator. We are over halfway through our 2020 Lenten Journey and how are we doing? No matter the world’s curveballs we can still draw closer to Christ, still prepare our hearts for Easter, still pray, give alms, and fast. How are you doing?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

This Week’s Journal Question:
How am I opening up myself to create a new with Christ during this time? How am I taking advantage of this Great Lent? What can I do in the remaining two weeks before Easter to embrace the spirit of the season and the joy of what is on the horizon?

Prayer:
Remind us oh Lord that you are the great Creator and that you have made us in your image, to be creators for your glory, your love, your joy. Help us finish these last remaining days of Lent strong in faith, knowing you are a God of great mercy and love.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Three

We are approaching Laetare Sunday, a moment during our Lenten journey when we remember the joy of our identity as an Easter People. It is a day of celebration. This year, for many of us this is the first or second Sunday we are not gathering as a faith community. We are unable to come together and the world feels a little darker, this Sunday a little colder. Because of this, we have an even more beautiful reason to find joy in the darkness.

This pandemic truly has shifted and played with all of our lives, in full ways. It has attempted to destroy the temporal needs and the spiritual needs each one of us has. I have heard stories of children in tears because they don’t know when they will be able to receive the Eucharist next, of families worrying about how the food will arrive on their table with lost work and wages, of feeling like we have been thrust into the unknown with a God who has abandoned us. I want you to know that God is with us, that our identity as His sons and daughters has not diminished or changed. We are marching into the unknown and we this week are called to joy.

Our Joy is beautiful. It will guide us through life’s twists and turns. It will help us cross the threshold of who we are now and who we are becoming, of what the world was into what the world can be. While we are called to sit in our homes we are called to joy. While we work at our jobs to help this country continue to put food on the table, remain safe, get from place to place, and help us in health we are called to Joy. Joy can fight fear in ways only God knows. Joy can be the light that helps a weary health care worker continue. Joy can be the assistants that can lighten the burden of our times. Joy can be what brings us closer to God when our faith practices and traditions are vanishing.

All that I shared last week is still true. God is still with us. Our Lenten journey and hopes are calling us to be flexible and adaptive. We are still called to give alms, to pray, and to fast but we were never called to rigidity or told we were failures if we didn’t keep our Lenten promises just as we have stated on Ash Wednesday. How are you being adaptive on your Lenten Journey?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.

This Week’s Journal Question:
Where did you find joy today? How will you seek it out tomorrow? How will you be joy to one another?

Prayer:
Lord, in this time of dark unknowns, bring rest to the weary, temporal and spiritual assistance to those in need, and joy to each heart and mind. Guide the hands of those who care for us. Guide the minds of those who are leading us. Guide us, oh Lord! For in you, we have no needs, no worries, no burdens. In you we find rest.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Two

We move through this second week of Lent on a different note than that of two weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, when we felt the promise of the season. I have heard from some of you that between this election season, the fears of the Coronavirus, and those fears leading to the decision to essentially cancel Mass, as well as many other faith formation events this Lent have left you feeling dry, empty, lost. I understand these feelings and share with you in some, and I wonder, is this exactly where God is calling us to be this Lenten season? No, He does not want us to fear, to worry, to hate or be in tension with our neighbors because of political views, and I am sure He does not want anyone to have to suffer or die from the health issues we are facing, but maybe this is where we are meant to be. Dry, Empty, Lost. God can do a lot with these feelings and He can full us up in ways that we were once empty. He can strengthen us through our dryness, He can guide us on a better path, away from our meanderings through the desert.

Last week we talked about using this Lenten journey as a period of rest. How are you doing? Have you allowed yourself to Rest in the goodness of the Lord? Have you allowed yourself to relax in beautiful conversation with Him who died for our sins? How can you continue to rest in the Lord and allow him to fill you up, nourish you, and guide you? It feels like we have been saying for decades that we are a no longer a society of faith, but that of the secular. But, are you, in your family, work, neighborhood leaning into the secular world? Or do you stand with the Holy Spirit and the communion of Saints to live the life God created you, me, us to live? Is it our lost hope that allows us to feel so easily dry, empty, and lost every election cycle, or time of crisis? How can we use these moments we are in to help us move in faith?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.

This week Journal Question:
How will you use these feelings, that find so much collective truth, in our world today as gifts for the Lord to strengthen, nourish, guide, and love you?

Prayer:
Come, Lord Jesus, come with the Holy Spirit to protect, guide and assist us on our Lenten Journey. May we find rest in you. May we grow closer to you. May we use these feelings we have about our lives and the world around us as gifts for the Father’s hands, to heal us, and form in us a pure heart.

5 Years of an Idea

5 years ago today, I had the idea for the Dementia Letters Project. At the time, it was simply a program, a way to connect with others along their dementia journey. I did not know where it would take me, or even if it was going to be a successful program. 5 years later, it is my work. It is the vehicle I use to live the unique purpose for which I have been created to live. As I think about where I can go from here, I am filled with excitement. Thank you to all the beautiful people I have met along the way, to be people who have mentored me, and the individuals who have been my true guides.

Come and join me on Social Media @dementialetters (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) on Pinterest at Dementia Letters Project, and join our Virtual Community via the Private Facebook Group (linked to the Facebook Page,) and join our email list at http://bit.ly/DementiaLetters

Our Lenten Journey – Week One

This first full week of Lent has always been special for me. The newness of the season has not yet dissipated, and the promise of spring is tangible. Our Lenten journey of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are still fresh and likely intact. It is exciting and I sit in awe of the faith transformation that is in front of me if only I reach out to touch it. Reaching out to touch. If you have worked with me over the past few days or are on my email list for our Monthly Memos, you know that I made a change around here. The St. Dymphna Dementia Ministry is now The Hem of Christ. Much like the woman reaching out to touch the hem of Christ, believing she will be healed if she simply touches His garment, so too are those living with dementia reaching out to you and me. I have long since dreamt of finding a way to reach back out to these individuals in a new way. It will take a visionary and creative approach to shift the current narrative, to reach back out and to help heal. We learn through the beauty of art. We connect through our shared stories. We find the hem of Christ in one another. The details of how this ministry will take action will unfold over this next year, starting with this Lenten Journey. Join me in faith, friendship, and service to those reaching out!

Last week I encouraged each one of you to pick one thing, to keep your Lent simply yet meaning full. Have you thought of something? Do you know what you are doing over these 40 days? How will you pray, give alms, and fast?

Our Lenten journey, especially as care partners should be about rest or at least offer elements of rest. Christ alone can do something with nothing, but, we must be filled. We need to find ways to fill ourselves physically, socially, spiritually, emotionally. The great gift of this season is that we can fill all four of these elements through our faith journey. It seems odd to talk about being full in a season that has fasting at its core. Yet, in our fasting we allow ourselves to be filled more and more with Christ who strengthens us. When we live for and with Christ, we are becoming who we were uniquely created to become. We can give and serve those we are in this moment caring for each day. How will you allow yourself to fast so that you may become full? Resting in the Lord can be a form of fasting. By fasting from the world around us, the demands of email, social media, etc, and sitting in silence, with a rosary in hand, or in adoration, in a bible study with friends, at a prayer service, we are allowing ourselves to be filled. There is a science behind this (because God is a creative and design genius), and in doing this, by resting in the Lord, our bodies and our minds, are cleared and healed, and our relationships (because we have taken time to be in relationship with God) will flourish. We find ourselves healing body, mind, spirit, and communally.

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.

This week Journal Question:
How will you allow yourself to Rest in the goodness of the Lord this week?

Prayer:
Jesus, open your arms wide to hold us close so that we may find rest in You. Help us discover the freedom to live for You alone, to be relational with You, and to take the time we need to best be of service to You and my family in Christ.

Fellow Visionaries! Do Not Give Up!

Every once in a while I hear a peer of mine say they are going to give up trying. Burnt out by the current medical and care world, tired of being told their ideas are not worthy of exploration or not inline with the “industry standards.” They are tired. We are tired. Not too long ago, I overheard a woman say that she was going to quit her position and move into a role where she could no longer be abused for her ideas. She was referring to an incident with a care community she worked for, poured her heart and soul into, deciding after she left, to implement one of her ideas in their memory care community. They executed the plan point by point and took credit as if the idea was their own. They did this, not only after she left the job, but also after they told the ideas didn’t fit the image they wanted, nor were any other communities doing anything like this program. I wanted to go up to her, hug her, and tell her to keep going! This would have been a touch creepy since I didn’t know her, nor was I fully apart of the conversation. I chose to not say anything to her. I regretted that decision later that day and posted on Twitter this statement,

“It is rough being a visionary, to suggest ways to improve care and connection, only to be knocked down and see the organization or program, a few months or years later, be implement without you, the exact thing you brought to the table. But keep going. We need you!”

I know this statement doesn’t make up for remaining silent, but I hoped a larger audience would see it, and maybe find some comfort, or at least feel a spark of energy to keep going.

Anyone at any time who has called themselves, or were called by others, a visionary or innovator, has experienced someone telling you your ideas are “stupid” (or a related statement fitting for your setting) and have them turn around without you to do exactly (or something almost identical) what you worked for and shared. It starts in grade school and moves into the professional world. It hurts, stings, is frustrating and causes us to feel a range of emotions. You have every right to go through this emotional journey, but please, don’t give up!

Whether you are the type of person that uses this experience to fuel you or not, know that we must keep going! While someone may have used your ideas and plan as their own, it was still set into motion by people who have a different lens of the world. You could go and do the program, exactly how you envisioned it, and it could be completely different because it came from the unique perspective and talents you bring to the experience. You may be working with a different group of people, in a different area or stage of life. The impact will be no less powerful. The lives you touch are no less worthy.

As I type this, I am feeling the sting of this experience. In short, a graduate program recently implemented two ideas that I had regarding theatre and older adults. These programs, while not exact, were quite similar to what I shared with the program back in 2012 in meetings with faculty. At the time of presenting these ideas and sharing how I would like to apply the degree to my work in aging and dementia, I was given the run-around. They combined a blend of comments with those sounding something along the lines of, “We don’t work with that population. It is not something we focus on and don’t see ourselves changing.” This hurt of course, but I moved forward. These theatre programs were put in place over the past two years, without me, without my input, without my knowledge, and one of the programs received international attention. This stings, respect for these individuals sinks lower, and where does one go from here? This place of hurt, betrayal, and abuse? We move forward! We create something new. We focus on those we wish to serve and support, and we envision a new program, event, and/or connection. There is enough work for all of us! While the actions of organizations such as this university are wrong and borderline unethical, it happens. It occurs on some scale every single day. If we are true visionaries, we will find something new, improve on what this group of people did, learning from their mistakes and enhancing their successes. There is another theatre piece in me, another creative idea already starting to take motion, and the people that this work will impact will far outweigh the hurt of this present moment. It is hard, but don’t think of the administration that is abusing you, think of the people these programs and models will benefit. If necessary, confront those abusing your innovation and vision, but don’t allow it to take over your every thought, or cause you to want to quit your job. Only you know the line that must never be crossed in your life. Keep going, keep creating, keep working towards a better way to care, serve, and support the lives of those around us.

Helping People Retire? Ageism? Moving Forward

This statistic came across my Twitter feed again today, “by 2035, older adults will outnumber children under the age of 18 across the country.” When an older adult is generally considered to be anyone over the age of 65, we have a lot of work to do to better our society and our world. This asks us to deeply consider if we have the responsibility to support each other as we enter into becoming care partners for loved ones, and transition into retirement. It requires us to think long and hard about ageism and how our communities are built and function.

Do we have a responsibility to help our employees and fellow neighbors age? Do we have a responsibility to support those looking to enter into an aging and dementia profession? To support those already working? I think so, though the answer is as layered and complex as the question.

We live in a society where we are defined first by our profession and second by our hobbies, family life, and interests. This obstacle is only growing and gaining intensity in many circles. While our careers and the professional titles we hold are important to us, they are not the sum of who we are, our worth. There comes a point when for, whatever reason, we need to leave our jobs, retirement, family obligations, our health. What do we do next? Some feel shame, lost, or guilty, while others rejoice, feel great freedom, or maybe feel neutral about the whole thing. So, what can our places of employment and our society do to improve how we age and transition from active professionals into continuing one’s vocation outside the traditional form of employment? In addition to saving money and taking care of one’s health, we all must also look at our personal lives and know what brings us joy, our priorities, what sustains us emotionally, socially, spiritually, and intellectually.

When looking at agism we need to understand not only what it is, but also its many forms. We see and talk about the discrimination that happens along the spectrum, from those that are “too young” to those that are “old,” but do we ever consider the age-related discrimination that happens when someone wants to work with older adults, but is not admitted into the school because it is not one of the “it” populations for that program. Do we talk about the age-related discrimination that occurs when we separate the population into “abled-bodied” and those with “mental or physical limitations?” These points need to make it into our conversations.

Do the staff members within our care communities and in-home care organizations have a responsibility to help individuals who have recently retired or are transitioning into needing the next level of care? Making sure they are supported in the fullness of life? Do they have the responsibility of understanding and helping maintain the life each individual has created for themselves beyond their professional life? I think, yet again, yes.

We are holding on for dear life to the value of our professional selves, and it is not serving us well. How do we let go? How do we allow ourselves to be the sum of our professional and personal selves at every age?

This is not meant to hold the answers, in fact it may raise more questions, but we must talk about this and find ways to take action. Comment below what you think. I want to hear from you.

Bonae Memoriae the Blog

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Blog Purpose

What is Bonae Memoriae (BON-ay meˈmo.ri.ae̯) other than a Latin phrase that we might stumble on when trying to pronounce? It means, “of happy memory.” It is the name of this blog and my mission statement in short.

When working with dementia we are never sure what the person we are sitting next to might be able to recall or what they will remember from our time together. So we approach our visit with great care and creativity, working to make our time joy-filled. If we do this, it will be a happy memory. As the saying goes, “People will not always remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

The purpose of this blog is to be a guide for those who read it. It is not meant to be a medical or mental health resource, or diagnostic guide, but to discuss moments of the dementia journey. Not everything will be founded in scientific research, but all will be based on experience, both that of my own and of those I work with who have given me permission to share their story on this public platform. This blog is to serve as a discussion starter, and place to develop our shared story. If you have questions about anything I have posted, or find an inaccuracy, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. The opinions and stories are my own unless otherwise stated. Should something be referenced you will find the proper citation at the bottom of that particular post.

I don’t often have guest authors, however, if you would like to write a post for consideration I will gladly consider your submission. If you would like to share your story of dementia please consider writing a letter for the Dementia Letters Project. You may submit your letter by emailing dementialettersproject@gmail.com.

A New Adventure

The launched of something new is happening, expanding my work with Dementia Letters Project.

Over the last little while, I have worked on developing a virtual community that includes a Creative Engagement and Dementia training (and hopefully a conference in the spring.) I am heading into the unknown with great excitement for what could be.

It is here where we will have an opportunity to build a better understanding of dementia, and help everyone become relational with individuals with dementia via training workshops, videos, and podcast episodes. It is here that we become a virtual community of care partners both professional and personal.

During the virtual training, we will dedicate time to dig deeper into the topics of Understanding Dementia, A Creative Greeting: How to say Hello, Understanding Creative Engagement, and A Creative Program: Creating a Specialized Program for Your Community. 

If finances don’t allow for you to join as a conference attendee or during the training months, please, PLEASE email me at dementialettersproject@gmail.com so we can work something out. The more individuals we have at the Scholarship tier, the more we can help each other out financially. 

Please share with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. I invite you to join me as we grow in community, understanding, and creativity! All are welcome!

https://www.patreon.com/dementialettersproject