CEO Blog - Responding to Life

CEO Blog - Responding to Life

Laurie Mullet, MSA, RN, has been chief executive officer of Pines Village Retirement Communities, Inc, since September 11, 2001. Laurie has been a health care professional for over forty years, specializing in working with older adults in the home setting. Laurie is currently the Chairman of the Indiana State Commission on Aging. The 16-member commission assists in the development of the comprehensive plan to meet the needs of Indiana’s aging population. She is honored to have served on the board of directors of Leading Age Indiana, on the public policy committee of Leading Age national, and the board of directors of United Way of Porter County. Laurie is a tireless advocate for person centered decision making and lifestyle choices for all.

Who will you invite to your table this holiday season?

We received our first kitchen table as a wedding gift. Oak and 62” round, it came with two leaves and six rickety chairs. It had been handed down through my brother in law’s family for a generation or two and we were honored to receive it.

The table was perfect for our apartment and I did everything seated there. Together we journeyed through my life as a newlywed.  I studied for college, paid bills, and wrote letters. I prepared meals, entertained our families and played late night Uno games with friends and neighbors.  The table became the center of our home.  I adorned her with flowers, candles, holiday decor, and 1950’s tablecloths.

Soon we were blessed with two children and one leaf was permanently placed, making the table oval. From here, I heard tales of other children and listened intently as my children’s minds began to expand and grow in a world that I was no longer controlling. This table was the special place for birthday celebrations featuring lop-sided homemade cakes. I mended boo-boo’s, negotiated peace talks, and suffered over late homework assignments.  At this table, I cried into my milk and brownies the night that our son, Seth announced he would join the Marines during a time of war.

When Seth got married we decided to hand the table to the next generation. We were empty nesters now, off on a different journey.  My husband, Joe built a huge counter to prepare food for the two of us or for our family gatherings of fifty. 

A convenient breakfast bar, we centered there each evening, dropping our work bags at one end and preparing and serving dinner right from the counter.  Often we carried our plates into the living room to watch TV, a treat we rarely indulged in when the kids were home.

Time passed and the dining room remained empty.  We eventually purchased two plastic tables from Menards, covered them with tablecloths, and this served as our table when our kids and grans came over. All ten of us around one big table, it was great! We liked it so much we decided it was time to purchase a new table. We took a trip to Shipshewana, but the $10,000 price tag sent us home empty-handed.

One day Joe called and said, “They are getting rid of an old conference table at work. It seats ten, but you could squeeze in four more chairs at the corners. It’s not wood, it has a Formica top. Do you want me to bring it home?” A hearty yes was all he needed to lug it home. We bought ten stainless steel chairs, a rug the same width and length as the table, and voila! A family gathering place was created ready for meals, special occasions, and craft days or jarring up honey which can create a sticky mess. I never worry about nicks or scars to the table but embrace all the spills, glue and glitter that two gran-girls can bring! Most days the table is empty, ready for company.

Annually The Porter County Community Foundation hosts a tea. This year the speaker was Sarah Harmeyer, the founder of Neighbor’s Table and a self-acclaimed “People gatherer.”  Sarah moved to Dallas and found herself working long hours, exhausted, and lonely. When reflecting on her life, she discovered she was most energized when she was at a table preparing and sharing a meal with others. She asked her dad to make a table that would seat twenty and placed it in her back yard. She sent invitations to three hundred neighbors requesting them to join her for a carry-in supper. Ninety neighbors came to the first event!

Harmacher has since served over three thousand people at her backyard table. In 2017, she left her full-time job and began making and selling tables with her father.  With a goal of having backyard tables in all 50 states by 2020, she is already half way there!

Sarah got me to thinking about all the wonderful things I had done around the table. She emphasized that it wasn’t what I was doing at the table that held my memories, nor was it the table. Rather, it was the people that were with me that provided the warmth to my heart. It wasn’t the food that delivered the sustenance, but the conversation that was shared. She challenged me to begin inviting friends and strangers alike to our table, for there in may lay the memories of tomorrow.

With the holidays quickly approaching I have lots of plans for our table.  You too will have an abundance of opportunities to sit around the table. Who will you invite?

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Where has curiosity led me? Thanks for the question, Laurie.

Guest writer, Ruth Foster, writing in response to Laurie's last blog post.

I have always been interested in travel and writing. My husband, Lou, and I began traveling to Eastern Europe during the Cold War, chiefly Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. But by 1986, we began traveling to England with my brother and his wife to seek out our family roots and meet some distant cousins that we still had living in England.

In many ways, I feel as if it was more than curiosity that led us into this sort of exploration. Lou is an excellent photographer and bringing home thousands of slides taken while overseas was a great way to create slide programs and lectures about the countries behind the then Iron Curtain of which many Americans were not very well informed.

I found that being able to meet my family in England was something that seemed in many ways to complete me. Lou and I were able to live in England four different years while he did research at the University of Exeter in Devon and I was enabled to become a steward and guide at a 14th century decorated Gothic cathedral of Exeter. During those years abroad, we not only enjoyed being with family I had not known, but also it enabled me as a student of history to have hands on experience with a seven-hundred-year-old survivor of English history: The Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Exeter.

Lou and I were able to meet and grow close to many new friends and colleagues in England, some of whom still survive, and we are looking forward to being with them again during our next trip to England in October of this year. This year, we shall travel abroad with a good American friend and truly look forward to sharing with him our sense of return to an ancient kingdom which has inspired me to write seven medieval history novels in the past ten years.

It is obvious to us that curiosity can be a very positive influence in our lives. It can drive us to learn, to explore, to share, and to fulfill our interests in life. It is not to be ignored!

 

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Have you ever had an interest grab your curiosity to a point that it becomes an engaging hobby at best and at its worst, an obsession? In “Five Thousand Quotations for all Occasions,” I looked up curiosity and found the classic, “Curiosity Killed the Cat.” Also included was, “Curiosity is one of the permanent characteristics of a vigorous intellect,” said Samuel Johnson. Since I am going to share with you where curiosity has led me, I prefer #2.

In 1977 my husband Joe and I toured a log home in Brown County. From that moment on, Joe was determined we would have a log home and he would be the one to build it. Two decades later we were in a position to fulfill his dream. The journey commenced by touring three log home companies with our final destination being Hiawatha Log Homes located in the Hiawatha National Forest, Munising Michigan.

I immediately fell in love with the Upper Peninsula despite the fact that it was February. I had never seen five feet of snow along the roads. Nor had I ever visited a pub where the coat closet was BIGGER than the restaurant! I quickly learned my Hoosier fashion was not meant for the conditions and was forced to buy a coat. We stopped at the national park gift shop and this is where I bought my first copy of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee by the shining Big-Sea-Water. ” Those words are ones that most of you will recognize. I cracked the binding of the paperback and began reading, quickly becoming frustrated with the cadence of the song. However, after reading it out loud twice (it’s a long car ride) I came to find comfort in the rhythm and the emotions of the words. I cried real tears when I read of Minnehaha’s death to famine. Annually thereafter I would bring it out when the snow would fall and experience the same emotions of wonder, sadness, joy, and heartache.

Then I began to buy used copies of the book. One, then two, now my collection is a dozen. OK, a baker’s dozen. “How many do you need and what will you do with them?” Joe will ask; I somehow never find an answer. With each new book, I learn more about Mr. Longfellow, the Indian people, and the Land of Hiawatha.

This year I asked if our vacation could be on the eastern side of the UP, along the shores of Gitche Gumee, Lake Superior. I wanted to visit the many places described in the poem. This June we spent two full glorious weeks exploring.

I got to visit seven beaches and collected rocks as black as coal, as pure as snow and ones that look like ghosts! I took a tour boat and saw the beautiful Pictured Rocks seeping manganese, copper, and calcium. I climbed a portion of the Grand Sable Dune. We kayaked lakes and rivers. We hiked down the foothills of the Huron Mountains to discover remote waterfalls with crystal clear water and heard the voice of Minnehaha, Laughing Waters. We visited the breathtaking Tahquamenon Falls where I dipped my toes in the river.

I learned that Longfellow based his poem on the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Schoolcraft was the first Indian agent to study and record the life of the Indians of North America, specifically the Algonquin-speaking tribes of the upper Great Lakes. Schoolcraft interviewed thousands of Indians and carefully documented the Native American customs, religious beliefs, ceremonies, music, and folk tales. He published over 20 books and numerous articles. It was from these documents that Longfellow located the material he needed to craft “The Song of Hiawatha.” In the last bookstore we visited, we found a copy of “Schoolcraft’s Legends.”

As we entered that store, I shared with Joe that I am interested in researching Ernest Hemingway as I would like to visit Key West in the future. Minutes later, here he comes across the store with another book saying, “You aren’t going to believe this,” and handed me a copy of “Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan.”

“This engrossing book vividly evokes the northern Michigan that Hemingway knew and loved as a youth that stayed with him for the rest of his life.” My husband looked me in the eye and said, “Does this mean we aren’t going to Key West?” It seems my hobby keeps lulling me back to the shores of Gitchee Gumme.

Where has curiosity led you? I would love to hear.


An Explosion of Color

I started to wear eyeglasses at age four but don’t remember much about that process until my exam at 13. When the exam was complete, the optometrist asked to speak to my mom privately. The next day my folks told me that my eyes were deteriorating at a very rapid rate. However, there was a new product that I could try that was supposed to help delay vision loss. After consideration of the expense and my maturity level, my parents wanted me to try it. Two weeks later, I was introduced to the experiment. Contact lenses!

The contacts arrived and they were made of hard plastic. After numerous attempts, I learned how to keep my eyes open while popping the contacts in and out.  When the tears finally stopped and I could focus, friends, it was as if I had gotten off the bus in OZ! Everything looked so REAL and so COLORFUL.  I ran around our yard touching leaves, flowers, pine trees and even the pets. It was as if I was seeing for the very first time.

Did you know there is a profession of people who study the psychology of color in an effort to determine what emotions are sparked in the human brain by various colors? For example, light green produces feelings of balance, harmony, and growth as it represents the renewal and restoration of spring. Conversely, darker greens trigger darker emotions such as greed and selfish desire as these tones are most frequently associated with money. And some colors are a little of both. I love a specific green fruit and eat it almost daily yet, I can most certainly assure you I will never have another avocado appliance in my lifetime!

I read in the March edition of the AARP Magazine* that the color of the walls in a home can actually increase or decrease the resale value. Who knew that powder blue/periwinkle walls actually add $5,400 to the value of your home; while off-white can decrease your home value by $4,035! Our second home had a BLACK master bedroom. It took a lot of paint and sweat equity, but I never thought to ask for a discount from the sellers.

What is the difference between periwinkle blue and cerulean blue (which only gains you $1856 in value) anyway?  To find out, I bought a new box of 64 Crayola Crayons. Contained inside were TEN crayons with blue names. They are cadet blue, turquoise blue, blue-green, sky blue, pacific blue, cornflower, indigo, just plain BLUE and yes, cerulean and periwinkle! Not that all this research matters to me. I live in a log home with only one painted wall on the main floor. My husband influenced the log home decision after painting that black wall!

I believe that color does matter to overall wellness. I personally love the beauty of God’s canvas, the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, the green of the grass, the orange of the sunset, the black of the night, the wonder of a rainbow.  These colors, especially in their natural environment speak to my soul.

Our new bus design was intended to be an explosion of color that crossed the entire spectrum. A FIESTA of color if you will!  What better way to Celebrate Life than through color! In the coming months, we will be introducing more color to Pines Village in various ways. I hope you will find your favorite on display and that your life will be enriched by “Living in an Explosion of Color.”

 *"The Color of Money." AARP The Magazine, Feb.-Mar. 2018, p. 13. 

Generations

I received a trade journal in the fall that sat on the corner of my desk. Ok, well I am not being honest. It sat in the pile of stuff that sat on the corner of my desk. After the first of the year, our administrative assistant told me it was time to “spring clean.” The Fall 2017 issue of the journal, Generations, published by the American Society on Aging had dedicated an entire issue to the study of generations.

We are one of the few industries that I know that work directly with ALL six of the generations living in our world today. Jason Dorsey of the Center for Generational Kinetics defines a generation as “Predictability by scenario.” Peter Whitehouse *, president of Intergenerational Schools International states “trends associated with people who were born around the same time and place in history have been the basis for generation identification.”

According to the experts the generation breakdown is as follows:

My husband and I are boomers while our kids are split, the oldest is a Gen X, the younger is Gen Y. All our grandkids are iGen. Though our kids were raised with the same over all parenting style, in the same home, neighborhood and school system they are very different.  For example, my older son Aaron prefers to talk on the telephone, while our Gen Y Seth prefers texting. Now our grandkids expect FACETIME. In my house, they see the land line phone sitting in the cradle but don’t know how to use it, and laugh out loud when they see a rotary dial phone that we keep for emergencies (it can plug directly into our telephone line in the event of a power outage, my husband was in the Civil Air Patrol!) I was talking to them recently and said something about a telephone booth and they had a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that there used to be telephones that you put money in, “like a bank Grandma?” well…yeah sort of.

The reason I find the study of generations so interesting is because we have to continue to find common ground that join us here at Pines Village and in society as a whole. I have so much to learn from those who were born before me and those who were born after.  Most conversations about generations surround differences; yet to move us to the future, we have to unlock the strengths of each generation as we help one another to live in today’s fast paced world.

To illustrate, in October, I got a new car. It offered hands free telephone service by syncing with my cell phone.  My cell phone was 4 years old. It worked fine, but in order to activate this new feature, I needed a newer, more updated phone. So I got a new one. Despite reading the directions, I could not sync them. I tried for several weeks.  On the other hand, my 9 year old granddaughter had watched her father complete a similar task on his car. When I told her my problem, bam, just like that, she understood how it worked and we were calling her father, FROM MY STEERING WHEEL!  

I rest my case.

*From diversity to intergenerativity : Addressing the mystery and opportunities of Generation X. / Whitehouse, Peter J.; Flippin, Candace Steele. In: Generations, Vol. 41, No. 3, 01.09.2017, p. 6-11.

 

Summer

Summer, my favorite season is finally here! The time of year we get to celebrate the many freedoms that have been afforded Americans at the sacrifice of so many. Everyone flies the flag of our country high and with pride. This patriotic season starts with Memorial Day, followed by Flag Day and then Independence Day, my FAVORITE holiday of the year.

Through all of these celebrations, our family traditions include recognizing the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces. Those who fought for the flag, those who fought for freedom and independence, those who fought to conquer world terrorism; all are honored.

Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day was established in Waterloo, New York on May 5, 1866 and honored soldiers who gave their life while in military service. In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and as a nation, we have continued to observe Memorial Day on the last Monday of May since 1968.

Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States which occurred on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. My brother Bill celebrates his birthday on this day.

Independence Day, the Fourth of July, has been celebrated in our country since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. My cousin Shirley shares her birthday with that of our nation and also sports natural RED hair!

Through the generations, family members have volunteered for active service. Sgt. John Andrew Davidsizer, Company A. of the First Pennsylvania Volunteer Calvary is often remembered first. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism displayed on April 5, 1865 when he captured the confederate flag at Paine’s Crossroads Virginia. Sgt. Davidsizer survived the civil war and lived to be 79 years old. John was my great-great grandfather.

Like so many, my father, Robert Carr, was a Private First Class in the Army during WWII. He served in the South Pacific, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He contracted spinal meningitis, encephalitis, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pneumonia and cholera. My father remained paralyzed from the waist down for ten years but never once felt sorrow over his condition, actually quite the opposite. He would share that his wheelchair literally opened doors. He once told me, “I will never forget the dead. I cannot forget the dead. They are the true heroes. You cannot forget them either.”

As you celebrate your summer with family and friends, please remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. For, in the words of my Dad, the men and women who have died for our country are the true heroes.

Pines Village Retirement Communities is proud to be the recipient of a matching grant from the Porter County Community Foundation. Our Board of Directors has dedicated the funds to a newly established endowment “Veterans Charitable Fund” which will ensure that programs for our veterans here at Pines Village, and those in the greater community will receive recognition and support through patriotic ceremonies and education programs. I hope you will consider a gift to this worthy fund where your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar. Please contact me at l.mullet@pinesvillage.org for information.

May you enjoy a wonderful summer and keep the red, white and blue flying high! 

 

Resolutions

Well it is almost February 1 and the New Year has come and gone. For some, this was a joyous occasion filled with parties packed with horns, hats and lots of good cheer. For others, it provided a time of renewed hope after struggling through difficult times. For me,  it was a time of reflection and goal setting.

I googled New Year Resolutions for 2017 and the following is the list of the Top Ten resolutions:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Life/self-improvement
  3. Better financial decisions
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Do more exciting things
  6. Spend more time with family and friends
  7. Work out more
  8. Learn something new on my own
  9. Do more deeds for others
  10. Find the love of my life

According to the source “statistic brain.com” 41% of American’s make resolution yet only 9.2% actually succeed, while another 48.4% have infrequent success. I wonder why we set ourselves up to fail!

Several years ago I decided to consciously set 5 goals a year. I don’t set resolutions. Call it splitting hairs if you wish, but the very word resolution to me denotes negativity and failure. You are “resolving” to change something, not because you want to, but because you have resolved yourself to the fact that something exists and you must change it. I prefer goals; they are something to achieve, positive and interesting in their very nature.

This year, one of my goals is to learn to play the drums. I love to sing, though I do not have a good voice. I tried the clarinet in fifth grade, what a boring instrument (at least to a fifth grader). I had to learn the recorder in college believe it or not.  However, I do not know how to read music. What I do have is EXCELLENT beat.  So yes, I think I can learn to play the drums.

To prepare for this feat, my husband, Joe and I went to the music store in Shipshewana in December. I found an inexpensive drum head and sticks that fit very nice in my arthritic hands. As I read the directions on the drum head I discovered that it needed a cymbal stand. Not finding any in the store, I sought out the clerk to see how much one would cost or if I had overlooked their location in the store. This was not an item they carried so she began to look in the catalog.” $250.00.” “No thank you.” “$180.00.” “No thank you.” “$120.00” “No thank you. I really would like an inexpensive one,” I replied. The clerk said, “Oh yes. You probably want to make sure your grandchild likes the drums before you invest more.” “Oh no. These aren’t for my grandchild. These are for me.”  Here it comes folks, the punch line you have been waiting for…”Ohhhhh, aren’t you cuuutttte?” in her most adoring puppy voice. I shudder to think how many times you may have been treated to that voice, not meant to degrade, but certainly does feel like it.

We have the responsibility to show others through our actions that the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” became obsolete in the 20th century.  Take an art class even if you can’t draw a stick person. Write your family history even if you are the only one who will read it. Join a book club and read books you would never have otherwise. Learn a foreign language even if you will never speak it. And then tell everyone you meet of what you have learned today! Shock them with your new found knowledge. Let’s make them speechless!

I will let you know how I do on the drums.  I may have to have a recital later in the year. I hope you will join me with bells on.

Christmas

My childhood memories of Christmas are some of the very best. Not only were they spent with my immediate family, but my cousins were always present for holidays. My uncle was a dean at Purdue University so his schedule permitted him to bring his family up the minute that classes ended, and stay through the New Year holiday. These were grand times and ones that cemented lasting relationships. My cousin Ruth remains one of my best friends.

Because they would often arrive days before the actual holiday, we children were relegated to the basement with shouts of “Go play” as my mother and aunt were busy in our very small kitchen preparing special treats or wrapping last minute presents. Lunch was even served in the basement to keep us from getting under foot or ruining a Santa Claus surprise.

To entertain ourselves, we would organize plays reenacting our favorite Christmas scenes. One of my favorites was the year we took the carol “We Three Kings” and made our own special play. The oldest kids got to be the Kings, Mary and Joseph, while the younger kids were the shepherds and stable animals. I believe we couldn’t trust anyone to be Jesus, so a baby doll took the part. Bathrobes and towel turbans were worn by all as we circled the basement over and over and over again perfecting our roles. The premier performance took place for our parents at noon on Christmas Eve. Every time that I hear “We Three Kings” I lovingly think of my family home, my cousins, our folks and the love we all shared. These were memories that have lasted my lifetime.

Memories are the thoughts that connect our history to today. Though they may at times get dusty, each time we claim them, we are bombarded with emotions, good and bad. What can we do to help keep our memories intact?  Dr. William Bortz in his book "The Roadmap to 100, the Breakthrough Science of Living a Long and Healthy Life" outlined a few helpful things. First, stay active physically and get exercise. Second, challenge your brain, learn something new.  Next, have a positive attitude, say yes to new experiences. And last but not least, minimize stress, which is according to Dr. Bortz, “the gateway to a broad spectrum of health issues.”

I hope you have a favorite holiday memory that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face this season. Enjoy each day of this magical season as you prepare for a new year that will be filled with new beginnings.

 

 

Honoring All Veterans

My father was a veteran of WWII; he served in the army in the South Pacific. While there, he contracted meningitis, encephalitis, and tuberculosis. When he was discharged, he was unable to walk and remained in a wheelchair for ten years. During that time he married and had three children, I was the youngest.

We were raised in a patriotic home. We knew and practiced proper flag etiquette. We learned to stand, remove our hats, and place our hand on our heart for the national anthem. We were taught to do the same for the first flag that passed in parades. We were NEVER to boo any soldier who served in our military forces but rather treated all veterans with respect and honor.

My father never spoke of his time in war. He would always say, “I was a baker and sometimes I drove a jeep.” Our entire family lived this illusion including my mother, until 2001 when Pines Village was preparing for their Tour of Duty trip. I needed someone to share their story with the press and all our veterans were reluctant. Finally with the charms that only a baby daughter can inflict on their daddy, he agreed to meet with the reporter. And the memories that came forward were of a magnitude that I was not suspecting. I learned why my dad slept with a radio under his pillow my entire life and I learned that the invisible scars of war are often the most damaging.

In recognition of Veterans Day this year, Pines Village is hosting a community conversation “Transforming our Communities to Heal Our Veterans” at Valparaiso University’s Harre Union on November 7, 2016 at 8 am.  Our speaker, Dr. Edward Tick, is an internationally recognized educator, author and expert on veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder and the psychology of military related issues. Dr. Tick has dedicated his entire career to healing the wounds of our soldiers and leads his own not for profit, Soldier’s Heart. Soldier’s Heart founded in 2006, exists to transform the emotional, moral and spiritual wounds that often result from war and military service.

On Friday November 4, 2016 at 1:30 in the Celebration Center, we will view a documentary, “Healing A Soldier’s Heart”. The movie follows a group of courageous veterans as they venture back to Vietnam with Dr. Tick to face their former enemies, in an effort to tame their inner demons and heal their wounded hearts. On Sunday November 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm in the Celebration Room, Dr. Tick will meet with our Pines Village veterans to share stories and commune together.

The traditional Veterans Day program will be on November 11, 2016 at 1:30 pm in the Celebration Room. Our guest speaker is retired Master Sargent Kirk Brownson, the Survivor Outreach Service Support Coordinator for Northwest IN, Southwest MI. In addition, we will have our flag presentations.

I invite each of you to honor our veterans through your attendance at one or all of the events. Thank our Veterans for the sacrifices they have made. We will never truly understand what that means.

Quality of Life

August 2016 - Dad was a traditional 1950’s father. He worked hard so that he could provide a good life for his family. We lived in the country where he installed a swimming pool. The entire neighborhood had summers filled with swimming, Marco Polo, and frozen Twinkies for after water snacks. Our quality of life was simple, yet tremendous.

When it came time for me to go to college, the traditionalist said “Teacher or Nurse?” “What?” I responded. He said “Do you want to be a teacher or a nurse; those are your choices as a woman.” I had aspirations of journalism and traveling the world with National Geographic. He said, “I will pay the bill, teacher or nurse?” I responded,” NURSE!”  And the decision was made!

 I was good in science, but discovered one big problem. I had an aversion to blood. It made my stomach flip flop. Limits your choices in the nursing field don’t you think? I persevered and learned to draw blood, start IVs, and witnessed births and surgeries. But I knew I needed to find a career path outside of traditional hospital nursing that did not entail blood at every turn. Not long after graduation, I was introduced to home health care. Home health is designed to provide people with the tools they need to direct and empower their decisions so they can attain optimal wellness. I was hooked. The best of both worlds that my father advocated for, a nurse, who got to teach her patients in the place they called home.

This was 1981 and my first home health job was with the Visiting Nurse Association of Porter County. It was a ground breaking time for the home health industry. Physicians and payer sources discovered that people treated at home often recovered quicker and stayed well longer. Additionally, folks who had exhausted most forms of curative medicine could be supported in the home environment to spend the end of their lives surrounded by the things and people they loved. Elizabeth Kuebler Ross’s work with identifying the stages of grief was common reading in the medical community. And, Cecily Saunders, the mother of the modern day hospice movement, gained international recognition for her idea that “total pain” included physical, emotional, social and spiritual distress. The VNA studied this “new” concept, and started the first hospice in the county.

As life went on, my husband and I were named the medical health care representatives for all four of our parents. We learned intimately the concept of defining your wishes for your life, especially when faced with a medical crisis. Each of our parents had very different end of life journeys, but we were fortunate to have had the hard, difficult discussions and we knew what quality of life meant for each one.

Last year while attending a conference, we were privileged to hear Dr. Atul Gawande speak. He wrote the award winning book “Being Mortal.” Dr. Gawande became the health care advocate for his father, a surgeon, who was diagnosed with a massive spinal tumor. This experience led him to explore the world of palliative and hospice care and to learn that the “ultimate goal is not a good death, but rather, a good life, all the way to the end.”

I am so pleased that we are able to bring to Porter County, Dr. Gawande’s Frontline documentary “Being Mortal.” Hosted by Valparaiso University College of Nursing and Health Professionals and Pines Village Retirement Communities, and sponsored by the VNA of Northwest Indiana, the film explores what matters most to patients and their families who are experiencing serious illness. The film will be followed by a panel discussion led by a physician, family member, social worker and attorney, all whom have experience in helping to guide quality of life for those at the end of life. Please join us for this important discussion. See our website pinesvillage.org for details.

Dr. Gawande summarizes it best when he writes, “Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the dying role and its importance to people as life approaches its end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdom and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms.”

I want to do that, don’t you?

 

Milestone Birthday

July 2016 - I just celebrated one of those milestone birthdays. The ones that you aren’t necessarily looking forward to but others feel obligated to recognize. I do remember most. 21 was the largest party I had, as I married my dear Joe that day.  At 30, he surprised me with my first “professional” camera and a pair of Linde Star earrings. At 40, he hosted the surprise “Over the Hill” gathering where my friends and loved ones gave me tubes of Ben Gay, Poli-grip and a walker with a horn. At 55, together we held a huge “Mullet’s Rock” party which featured a hog roast, live music and a raging thunderstorm! Here I am, the big SIX ZERO, a new season of life.

As I reflect on the previous generations of my family, there are significant differences in our life journey. At 60, my beloved maternal grandma Bertha was widowed, working as a live in nanny during the week, and sharing a bedroom with my sister on the weekends. Her husband had died suddenly in his sleep at 58. He had worked hard and long hours in the steel mills of Pittsburgh where they rented an apartment. Grandma was left with no home, no savings, a meager pension, and limited social security. Domestic work and living with family became her only option.

My mother Shirley was busy raising children at 60. She committed her life to creating a home for her husband and kids. At age 37, her family grew with the adoption of three sons and over time she became a foster mother to 45 more kids. She lived the post- World War II dream life, beautiful home, beautiful children, secure income and prepackaged foods including Jello.

Now, here I am at 60, an empty nester, working at a job I love. My life is even fuller with family, travel, and hobbies. I enjoy this stage of my life. I set goals and relish when I accomplish them. So why did I recently tell a sweet, teeny, tiny white lie when I told someone I was 59? Could it be that even I, (one who has dedicated a career to serving people over the age of 62) am an AGE bigot?

In 1969  Dr. Robert Butler, coined the term ageism when he provided an interview to a Washington Post reporter. “Ageism can be seen as a systemic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old, just as racism and sexism accomplish this with skin color and gender,” Butler said.

Many scientists and social researchers have studied the topic of ageism. W. Andrew Achenbaum, in a recent article of the fall 2015 edition of Generations states, “Much since 1969 remains the same about ageism. Then as now, older Americans were a variegated group; their circumstances remain divergent in terms of financial resources and employment opportunities, mental and physical health, educational attainments, cultural diversity, marital status, religion, region…whereas most of us live long enough to become old, ageism is the only prejudice that can diminish EVERYONE’S quality of life.” As our world faces unprecedented population aging, we must actively address ageism.

Where can we go to find strategies to combat ageism? JoAnn Jenkins CEO of AARP in her new book entitled “Disrupt Aging” reminds us that first, we (the aging) need to look within ourselves and change the way we view ourselves and our inner lives. Collectively as a body of people, we must change the idea that aging is a time of decline, and prove to others through our actions that aging is an opportunity for continuous growth. It is imperative that we exhibit purpose, positive self-image and stake our claim as an integral part of society. 

So how did I spend my sixtieth birthday? I hosted a sleep over birthday party with my two gran-girls. We wore Japanese kimonos, ate sushi and drank tea with our cupcakes. And I taught them how to make origami cranes, an art I learned in 1974 when I was an exchange student in Japan. My husband surprised me with five different courses from The Great Courses to support my love of learning and foster my interest in the bible, photography, nutrition and guess what, AGING!

Ok here goes…..I AM 60! There I said it, and I even have a smile on my face.

I started to wear eyeglasses at age four but don’t remember much about that process until my exam at 13. When the exam was complete, the optometrist asked to speak to my mom privately. The next day my folks told me that my eyes were deteriorating at a very rapid rate. However, there was a new product that I could try that was supposed to help delay vision loss. After consideration of the expense and my maturity level, my parents wanted me to try it. Two weeks later, I was introduced to the experiment. Contact lenses!

The contacts arrived and they were made of hard plastic. After numerous attempts, I learned how to keep my eyes open while popping the contacts in and out.  When the tears finally stopped and I could focus, friends, it was as if I had gotten off the bus in OZ! Everything looked so REAL and so COLORFUL.  I ran around our yard touching leaves, flowers, pine trees and even the pets. It was as if I was seeing for the very first time.

 Did you know there is a profession of people who study the psychology of color in an effort to determine what emotions are sparked in the human brain by various colors? For example, light green produces feelings of balance, harmony and growth as it represents the renewal and restoration of spring. Conversely, darker greens trigger darker emotions such as greed and selfish desire as these tones are most frequently associated with money. And some colors are a little of both. I love a specific green fruit and eat it almost daily yet, I can most certainly assure you I will never have another avocado appliance in my lifetime!

I read in the March edition of the AARP Magazine that the color of the walls in a home can actually increase or decrease the re-sale value. Who knew that powder blue/periwinkle walls actually add $5,400 to the value of your home; while off white can decrease your home value by $4,035! Our second home had a BLACK master bedroom. It took a lot of paint and sweat equity, but I never thought to ask for a discount from the sellers.

What is the difference between periwinkle blue and cerulean blue (which only gains you $1856 in value) anyway?  To find out, I bought a new box of 64 Crayola Crayons. Contained inside were TEN crayons with blue names. They are cadet blue, turquoise blue, blue green, sky blue, pacific blue, cornflower, indigo, just plain BLUE and yes, cerulean and periwinkle! Not that all this research matters to me. I live in a log home with only one painted wall on the main floor. My husband influenced the log home decision after painting that black wall!

I believe that color does matter to overall wellness. I personally love the beauty of God’s canvas, the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, the green of the grass, the orange of the sunset, the black of the night, the wonder of a rainbow.  These colors, especially in their natural environment speak to my soul.

Our new bus design was intended to be an explosion of color that crossed the entire spectrum. A FIESTA of color if you will!  What better way to Celebrate Life than through color! In the coming months, we will be introducing more color to Pines Village in various ways. I hope you will find your favorite on display and that your life will be enriched by “Living in an Explosion of Color.”