Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Facebook Salvaged Christmas for Me

Until a few days ago, I was ready to gladly hand over my Christmas to the Grinch. He wouldn't have had to steal it; hey, I was willing to scratch the whole damned Yule season permanently from my crazy to-do list of a life.

My mom's increasing need for my care (which I consider a labor of the utmost love); a recent rear-ending of my car (banging ME up, too, pretty good); friends whom I have missed, but put reluctantly on the back burner; and my practice, a calling more than just a job.

All of the sudden, "holiday cheer" and 2010's end were staring down at me. All of the sudden, it all seemed too much. I was let down, irritable, and sad.

This mindset startled me--someone who normally couldn't wait, immediately following Thanksgiving, to haul out decorations. There are heirloom stockings, embellished with each family member's name, that my mother lovingly knitted over many decades. Ornaments, both contemporary and antique, waited for almost-prayerful placement on the tree I browbeat my son into carrying into the house. A macrame Christmas tree hanging, which my mom got as a gift and to which she cleverly fastened miniature lights, has always shown up in the dining room window facing the street.

This year, it seemed like one more pesky task for which I didn't have the energy or the inclination. After a day of dodging a barrage of Christmas carols on the radio stations, I came home, and said to Mom the unthinkable, "I hate Christmas!"

Mom did one of her wise-motherly soft contradictions, "No, you don't!" Even though I was in a prickly mood, Mom is one person with whom I prefer not to do battle, because I do so, with at least one person, on nearly a daily basis. When I'm home, I like to feel I don't have to struggle. I let the conversation drop. I did, however, rant to my Facebook pals, and am glad now that I did. Elizabeth suggested that I "go with" my feelings of angst if that's what I was experiencing. At first that was my thought, but my emotional memories weren't quite ready to succumb. Donna suggested I get a table-top display and "call it good." David reminded me of the "spirit that lasts throughout the year." Others suggested music and wine. The point was that my FB friends--old classmates from Burbank High--stepped up to give me support I needed more than I'd realized.

One night, after a particularly heart-tugging client session, I wended my way through the Burbank streets, saw some warm light displays (including that of my son and daughter-in-law), and was suddenly moved. I regretted my stubbornness about setting up our tree and for allowing the everyday rush to displace the joy I usually feel this season.

Out came the stockings and the window hanging. On the fireplace mantle, I placed two small creches I'd gotten as a little girl in Sunday School back in Kenmore, NY. In place of the big tree, I used my Grandma McKale's electric tree. It's about eighteen inches high, solid ceramic, and lights up with tiny colorful bulbs. When Grandma flew out here from Florida in the early Seventies to live here, she firmly refused to stow it with the baggage. It rode, securely packed in a box, on her lap to its new home. When I bring it out every year, it calls to mind the sweetly stubborn lady who was Grandma. Plugging it in this night, it was more than "good"--it was "wonderful." Once my task was complete, I took my friend Mary Ellen's advice and opened some Gazela Vinho Verde and toasted what will now be a "Merry Little Christmas."

Thank you, friends. Now I don't mind the Christmas carols at all. In fact, they're quite nice.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Postal (Dis)Service: When my elderly mother signs a delivery slip and has me attach it to the mail box for her annual delivery of two calendars from Miles Kimball. The slip gets picked up on 10-13-10, and the days tick by, as my mom sits patiently each day waiting for it to come (she needs to sign for this, too!). Mom has to sit in the living room, due to her limited mobility. She has called the local P.O., informed them that it takes her some time and effort to get to the door. This is supposedly "noted," and Mom is told to wait "anywhere between 8 AM and 5 PM." On 10-20-10, Mom calls up and is told that the package has been "sitting" in the Post Office all this time down the street. Today, I will go MYSELF to pick it up--all I need to do is present a signed letter releasing the package into my custody, and also my photo ID. If there are any further glitches, I'm prepared to raise appropriate hell.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Something touching as I listen to "Soul Music" on KUSC 91.5 FM

From, one of my favorite sites:

Friends Departed

They are all gone into the world of light!
And I alone sit ling'ring here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.

It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
Like stars upon some gloomy grove,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest
After the sun's remove.

I see them walking in an air of glory,
Whose light doth trample on my days:
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
Mere glimmering and decays.

O holy Hope! and high Humility,
High as the heavens above!
These are your walks, and you have show'd them me,
To kindle my cold love.

Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the Just,
Shining nowhere, but in the dark;
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust,
Could man outlook that mark!

He that hath found some fledg'd bird's nest may know,
At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.

And yet as Angels in some brighter dreams
Call to the soul, when man doth sleep:
So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes,
And into glory peep.

If a star were confin'd into a tomb,
Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lock'd her up gives room,
She'll shine through all the sphere.

O Father of eternal life, and all
Created glories under Thee!
Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall
Into true liberty.

Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
My perspective still as they pass:
Or else remove me hence unto that hill,
Where I shall need no glass.

Henry Vaughan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wisdom of the "Common Man"

Are we perhaps returning to the days of the troubadours? Many of us in the "love generation" of the Sixties were laughed at when that decade waned into the brash mega-materialism of the Eighties and Nineties. Maybe our day, and philosophies, have come around again. Click on the link below.

We NEED to see more messages like this on the web. Watch, listen, enjoy, and take to heart:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to Small

Right now, I think we're in the "Little Engine That Could" mode. We're SO weary of the uncertainty that the Great Recession has bred, and looking around desperately to see even the faintest signs of recovery.

I know I do. Every time I see a real estate sign on a lawn, and a "SOLD" or "IN ESCROW" has appeared on top, I give a little cheer. Then, going down into the commercial district, as I see small storefronts with "closing" banners, even though I don't know these enterprises or their owners, I feel a sadness. This wasn't just the folding of a business, it was the relinquishing of a dream. And yes, the closing of corporations like Circuit City or Mervyn's is disturbing, what with the adding to unemployment rolls and all, but it's the little deaths that pain me even more. I envision the person who rented the space, invested in inventory, took out credit card debt for advertising and promotions...whether the company lasted a month or many decades (such as Kessler's Jewelers in Burbank), its closing diminishes a community. True, there are venerable businesses that ostensibly close for lack of a young generation to carry it on, but you can't tell me that our current pains don't also have a bearing on the decision.

Didn't even the mega-corporations (like the fast-food chains or computer companies) start with someone's mullings over a kitchen table, or in a garage? It has been the "little" ventures on which our country was founded and has evolved. Capitalism and competition are not dirty words.

There needs to be return a genuine work ethic. "Get rich quick" was not always in our mindset, and the fears of "being poor" have led to average people falling for scams. Can't we each look in our email boxes each day, and see questionable offers for making $$$$$$ per day or week? These offers have always been around, but it seems like they're proliferating--to pander to people's fears and desires to try to carve out some control and security.

I LIKE independent stores. Going up and down Magnolia Boulevard through Burbank, North Hollywood, and Van Nuys, it's almost a way of getting a read on the character of a neighborhood. The last few years have seen more and more store fronts putting their wares outside onto the sidewalk. It actually lends charm, I think, to what used to be a buttoned-down area. We've taken on an open-air bazaar atmosphere, much more inviting.

There is much press about big-corporate bailouts by the government. I'd like the private sector to begin problem-solving how we "little people" can quit waiting for "things to get better," and push things along with hard work, optimism, and creativity. It's happened before in our history. Why not again?

Something I found this AM...just something to keep in mind for us or those we love

Many of us from the Sixties dabbled in pot, booze, acid, etc., etc. And then we stopped when we "grew up." Or did we? May we were "clean" as kids, and then the midlife work and family stressors got to us...

Alcoholism Among Boomers

Curbing alcohol misuse in the elderly.(PREVENTION IN ACTION): An article from: Clinical Psychiatry News

Substance abuse in the elderly a growing issue.(GERIATRICS): An article from: Internal Medicine News

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Los Angeles County child welfare official falsified death reports, two employees claim -

OR: "Where is Charles Dickins When You Need Him?"

It's been nearly ten years since I left my position at a local (now closed) foster family agency, to take the next steps on my career path. We case managers were continually feeling the pressure to "place children," and monitor the situations in the foster homes. Our weekly visits were ostensibly to oversee the safe and proper care of these minors, and to ensure that the orders of the Juvenile Court judges and County Social Workers (CSW's) in the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) were followed. Implicitly, however, we were charged with doing whatever possible to make sure that the placements didn't "fall apart," which would ultimately mean lost revenue for the foster parents and our agency.

Bottom line -- many foster children are still not safe in this country. Being minors, they are represented by social workers, attorneys, judges, AND foster parents--the best of whom may be good-hearted, but poorly trained in the psychological processes of traumatized children, and also very overwhelmed. On the other end of the spectrum, I encountered all too many who thought of foster care as purely a business, or the children as an inconvenience. One man called me up on my duty day, and said, "Hey, I hear you pay people to take in kids? How much?" When I stated that it depended upon the the age(s) and number(s) of children that could be placed with him, and his successful completion of our orientation program, this man hastily said, "Yeah, I'll get back to you." We also fielded calls such as the frazzled mom who wanted us to "take my ungrateful daughter and teach her a lesson," and the couple who wanted placement so they could go on a cruise for their anniversary.

Then, after what would seem to be good matches and smooth placements, I would often get middle-of-the-night pages from foster parents, demanding to "PICK THESE KIDS UP RIGHT NOW!" The misdeeds? "They're going to the bathroom too much," "They're not staying in their rooms--can't I just lock them in," "There's too much sibling rivalry; my own kids never fought like this," "He's using the f-word at our dinner table. This is a Christian home!" And those are the tamer calls I got. I would be on the phone, trying to bring myself out of my sleep, giving these foster parents a crash Child Psychology 101 course, and begging them to please wait till I got there first thing in the morning and not do anything rash. Then I would be at the home, as promised, trying to get them to see that these were damaged, traumatized little ones. Despite whatever horrific situations existed with their biological families, it was what was familiar to them. In their minds, all the kids had to do was act up, and they would magically go back to whatever home they had. To expect them to sit with hands folded and be grateful little cherubs was too much of a stretch for them. Sometimes I got the message across--and too often not. In the latter case, I would sigh, call the CSW, and the disruptive process would begin yet again for the children.

And then there were the biological family members. A tiny handful would comply with the court mandates and get their kids back, and it was happily ever after. Others, however, would promise to visit--and wouldn't show up, leaving the kids to be crying, disappointed, and prone to acting out when I took them back to the foster homes. Or worse, there would be those who would spend what was supposed to be time with their children, ranting to me about the injustices of the "system," and that they had "RIGHTS."

Returning to the earlier bottom-line reference: children ARE inconvenient. They need lots of care--from either biological family, or others who can do the job appropriately. As long as this basic human need exists, there will be a need for a social system like DCFS. Please don't misunderstand--my agency did have wonderful foster parents, ones who realized the true nature and enormous responsibility that is foster care. There were also terrific CSW's, and they were prepared to suck it up and handle the hectic, heavy caseloads assigned to them. But until we stop just paying lip-service to family values, patch up the holes in our social safety net, and truly value our children, tragic oversights of the DCFS system will be perpetuated.

Los Angeles County child welfare official falsified death reports, two employees claim -

Monday, September 6, 2010

Beware the desire for a "savior"

Another thing that has been on my mind. Tough times spawn fear,emotional rhetoric, and the desire to get problems fixed--yesterday if possible.

I don't want my blog to become heavy with polemics, but perhaps wherever there lies desire for change, there is a political concern. Just as a generation ago, we women would defensively say, "I'm not a feminist, but..." now people sheepishly admit to their own leanings.

Okay, go ahead and be conservative...or liberal...or whatever. Just don't be sheep. I've seen the videos of the Palin-Beck rally, and now fast-forward through the repetitive onslaught of election TV spots. Regardless of who you voted for in the last presidential election, all I hope is that you didn't do it with the hope that the winner would miraculously save us from years of collective missteps. In the almost two years since the last big crusade (conducted with an almost spiritual zeal), there has been much second-guessing and disappointment.

I think it was inevitable that (given our human nature), whoever "won" the election was going to be set up--first as a rescuing hero, and then as a scapegoat. The political pendulum, as I see it, is being swung more by desperation than by pragmatism. A week or so ago, when I was contemplating this post, I thought that we were in the throes of a 1960's-like division, but now I'm concerned that we're more leaning toward a herd mentality. With divisiveness there remains spirited debate, a check-and-balance; in the thunder of a frightened mass, voices often fall silent. Silence can then engender apathy, and even despair. With lack of knowledge and ideas, a nation is prime for extremists to step in and do its thinking for it. THAT is what frightens me, not Obama-versus-the-GOP.

Our country, and our world, cannot afford the luxury of hopelessness. I noted that the recent 90th anniversary of the passage of women's right to vote got very understated press. Perhaps--at least I hope so--a bigger deal was made of it in the schools. We need an informed and involved populace, and it begins with our youngest citizens, our schoolchildren. I'd like to see publications like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the New York Times become standard classroom required reading for students AND teachers.

Years ago, when I worked in a boys' group home, I was saddened to hear the residents shrug and say things like, "Oh, well, what difference does it make? My life, and the world is f***** up, and it won't change. You grown-ups don't care." Those boys are now in their late twenties, and I wonder just how their statements have been validated. Or if we can each take an active role, and help try to alter the course of OUR history.

Why we need Betty White -- and Beth Weems Pirtle

At 88, she's achieved what we all envy -- yet another chance to be reinvented. Damn, I think this broad is a cat reincarnated, and only on maybe her third or fourth of the nine allotted lives!

When I first saw Betty as Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," her fierce brand of femininity was lost on me. At the time, I was a square-peg young lady trying desperately to fit into a very smoothly-rounded life, one with which I was unhappy, but told that I "should be" content. I was engaged to a "nice boy," and had a "nice job," and didn't want to admit how confining "nice" felt. Still, watching Sue Ann's antics was a guilty pleasure, by which I could vicariously tap into my inner bitch. She symbolized all the women friends who had betrayed me, and was a female I loved to hate. Still, I admired her acting out the same sexual boldness that men always had displayed with impunity. Her Rose Nyland role on "Golden Girls" showed us more of the same, this time with a little more ladylike fluff.

The context of Betty's life, which includes her long-time marriage to Allan Ludden, and her public animal-welfare interest, has diversified her public image and saved her from becoming a one-dimensional "dirty-old-lady" caricature.

With us boomers aging, thank goodness the concept of the "senior years" is being redefined by people like Betty. She is everywhere now again--commercials, TV (how about that SNL performance?), and the big screen. The sharply-timed wit puts Sue Ann's witticisms to shame. Such comments from a 33-year-old would elicit shrugs, but from Betty, they draw cheers. At a time when we think we may be past the need for an empowering role model, along comes Betty.

And then there's the 74-year-old beauty queen Beth Weems Pirtle. Funny, with the ebbing popularity of "Miss America," the news of Pirtle's success was just a little footnote. How regrettable, and why is that, anyway? Might it serve to remind us of our still-ambivalent view of seniors, especially women? If we take glamour for granted in a twenty-year-old girl, why then not celebrate it in an senior, who certainly reflects more life experience in every curve AND age-acquired line in her face. Again, we have another role model, one who defies the "old bag" inevitability.

As I continue my own journey toward 74, and then 88, I know people like Betty and Beth will be among my inspirations. Gray hair? Creases? An ache or two? Bring 'em on! Men have integrated the "distinguished" look into their aging process sucessfully, so it's up to us to do the same.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's the '60's all over again -- with all sides digging in!

As busy as I am today, I feel compelled to blog something about diverse things. So, check me out on, and then let me know what you think.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I did some marketing of my practice today. I want to thank Modesto at the Hillside Cafe, and Maria at Lancer's for letting me put a display of my promotional materials in their Burbank restaurants. My family and I patronize these fine establishments regularly, and it's my pleasure and duty to partner with them to give back to our community by offering my services!
Bad Cat Page-A-Day Calendar 2011

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Love of Community

During my relatively brief occupancy on this earth, I have heard anecdotes that, during hard times, we tend to band together. This certainly isn't the first economic downturn in my lifetime, but I think most baby-boomers agree that it is the most severe in our generation's memory. Not to be nauseatingly Pollyanna-ish here, but surely it will get better someday. And, hopefully, the lessons we take away from it are growing pains of the post-World War II generation.

We've been an individualistic generation--for good, but also to an extreme. Remember, among others, sayings like, "Do your own thing?" "Finding oneself" is healthy, but sometimes I think we (me included) became a little too selfish and short-sighted. Building a global community (not hard with today's technology) is vital to humanity's survival, AND individual emotional and spiritual health.

Personally, my church community has been a large "food group" in my psychological nourishment. It has restored my sense of civic responsibility, and, frankly, made me feel more accountable on a daily basis. My last post was about the ACAC, and a joint drive to give needy children in "the system" basic school supplies. Every week, we have calls for donations of food and clothing items, and it's amazing how, even when finances are tight for many of us, we can spare something to give to the local food bank. The list goes on of the outreach projects of our church members, and many of us have our individual endeavors to help our fellow humans. It honors me to be in this group of like-minded citizens.

Last night, the City of Burbank held a class in a local library, in which composting, conservation of water and other resources, and drought-tolerant lawn alternatives were discussed. As I contemplated how I might make my own premises "greener," I looked around at a room that was filled to capacity, and seeing so many people interested in these topics filled me with hope and pride for our city.

Then, there's my private "circle." As I get older, I really cherish my friends, neighbors, and family all the more. It's my loving duty and privilege to offer my time, advice, and any material resources to those I can, building links of love and support that benefit me as well. I'm so grateful to you all for sharing my life.

As we sing in church each week,

"From you I receive, to you I give.
Together we share, and from this we live."

As this Great Recession wanes into history, let's not forget what we've gained from it. We said we were the "love generation;" let's make our legacy prove it.
I wanted to let you all know about an outreach my church is conducting, and it will be ending on August 29. "Adopt a Child Abuse Caseworker" is an ongoing effort of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Studio City, and the church has been collecting basic school supplies for children unable to afford them. Can others out there help us in the final days of this drive? Contact the church through

Friday, August 13, 2010

I want to promote an enterprise of a good friend of mine. Nea, a really dynamite person, heads up a social group called Senior Moments -- and it's ANYTHING BUT "rocking chairs and shuffle board" time with this lady's activities. Check these out:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Any tattooes on my midlife sisters?

I'm a regular reader of the online journal, "Boomers Plugged In," and today I loved the article below by Neal Dranoff ("Done and Done," shown below at the end of my post). Historically, tattoos have been seen as the domain of old, salty military vets, or on the other end of the spectrum, the newest generation of rebels.

What about the women of my age bracket? I'd love to hear from you (keeping your identities secret, of course, if you want me to), and might even turn this into an article of my own. What prompted you to do this? Care to share your design(s)? Any regrets about getting tattooed--or desires to "ink on?" C'mon -- tell, tell!

Done and Done

Monday, August 9, 2010

RIP Patricia Neal

We've just lost another strong woman legend of Hollywood. I personally was inspired by Ms. Neal's personal strength, that which saw her remarkably rally after the strokes that nearly killed her in 1965. On our black-and-white TV, we watched as she was given a thunderous standing ovation at the Academy Awards. Strokes, or CVA's (cerebral vascular accidents) were pretty much a death sentence--or at least, consigned one to permanent disability. Along with cancer, the risk of strokes has always been a dread of mine, unless I could prevail as Patricia Neal did.

I think back to the film classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Ms. Neal's understated performance was significant on many levels. In a day when women were largely assumed to be embodiments of the happy-housewife archetype, Ms. Neal played a courageous widowed mother, who served as a bridge between her world and that of Klaatu (Michael Rennie) to prevent worldwide annihilation. There was also, pre-Civil Rights Movement, suggestion of an implicit attraction between a lonely earth woman and an alien heart-throb--the ultimate interracial relationship. This film was produced in 1951, as the Cold War panic was escalating, and those we feared were not in space, but just across an ocean. To project our fear of nuclear war onto "space men" made it safe enough be Saturday matinee entertainment. And since we were 18 years from seeing the first moon landing, anything not firmly rooted to earth by gravity wasn't yet real.

So, my sincere tribute to this lady. May she be long remembered and serve as a role model for us all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I am now an affiliate of, and offer the use of memory books as part of my service to seniors and their loved ones. Documenting their treasured memories helps seniors with their cognitive skills, boosts their mood and self-esteem by showcasing their life accomplishments, and can help bring the generations together with old-fashioned sharing and storytelling. See my "Goods and Services" page on my website,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secrets to Americans Living Happily Below Their Means -- AARP Radio - Jeff Yeager

When I "went independent" recently with my career path, I had to retool my lifestyle a bit. Guess what? It really works and I'm much happier. Check this out below:

Secrets to Americans Living Happily Below Their Means -- AARP Radio - Jeff Yeager

Have a great, truly contented day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death of friends in the senior years

Bereavement counseling is quite prevalent, a needed sub-specialty of counseling, of course. There are some grief support groups (including spousal and child loss) in my area, although not as many as I think there ought to be. Then, especially connected with hospital settings, one can find a number of groups for those who have lost a baby or a pregnancy. And now, there are groups and therapists who work with those who have lost a beloved pet. All very necessary and commendable.

I wonder though, how much outreach is there for people whose longtime friends have passed away, especially when the deceased and the survivor are seniors? I'm thinking that, beyond the quick "Oh, I'm so sorry about your friend..." that there isn't much done to help the elderly person process their loss. After all, what do you expect? These folks are old, and old folks die someday. Surely they know that.

I was a case manager to home-bound, frail clients in Pasadena several years ago, and often saw seniors who were lonely and profoundly sad. When the subject came up about any social connections these seniors had, so often I heard, "All my friends are dead now." Their eyes would drift off, as if they could somehow make a U-turn down the road of life, and catch up with these old pals who were no longer making the journey with them. How many people, including me, were too busy to sit for awhile, and ask them to talk about these friendships, which, when gone, took a vital piece of our clients' lives with them?

My mother is now 85, and is one of the surviving members of a close, lifelong group of three friends. One of these ladies, who first met my mother when they were five years old, passed away suddenly about 18 months ago. It shocked my mother and the other friend, because they never imagined that "Betty would be the one to go first." In addition to being an unexpected and painful reminder of their own mortality, Betty's passing underscored how each of us occupies a unique position in others' psyches. When we are then permanently absent, it leaves our survivors with the task of making sense of the void. No more birthday cards or Christmas greetings exchanged, one less person who shares the web of memories that make up our consciousness...

Recently, Mom's other surviving buddy wrote a letter detailing some serious medical events, including a stay in intensive care. Now this once fiercely-independent lady has a visiting practitioner who comes in and assists her tasks with medication and bathing. Luckily, she still has friends (younger) who can do the shopping and transporting to follow-up appointments.

Mom has often expressed concern, as the span between their frequent, lively letters gets increasingly long. She has said, "At our age, it could be any time for either one of us." And, of course, Mom and I both know the "it" to which she is referring--the brief note from someone saying, "I think you're were a friend, and I'm sorry to tell you....". And that's assuming that "someone" does bother to write.

is differentiated from depression in the DSM-IV-R (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association)as an appropriate, expected expression of sadness upon the death of a loved one. If not acknowledged by the senior and any involved family, the mood can gradually worsen, and depression can set in, even mimicking mild dementia. For anyone who has been bereaved, you know that your thoughts can dwell upon the loss, impacting concentration as well as mood. If the relationship was less than smooth, the memories of the departed can become all the more complex and volatile.

I propose that those involved with any bereaved seniors test the about the dead friend, if and when he or she is willing...look through scrapbooks or photo albums, if they're brought out. Ask about letters, shared classes, common interests, past decades of history...offer to take the senior to a burial site, if it's practical and appropriate to do so. It's risky, especially at first, to know the senior's readiness to engage in such a dialogue, but far better than not acknowledging the loss of someone important to them.

I'm concerned about my mom, especially if she survives this last friend. That's why I want to not be afraid to be there for her, nor do I want to avoid saying something for fear that it's "not the right time." Through any tears and the reminiscing she's willing to show, I'll use my instincts and compassion to let Mom show me parts of her life and her self that were represented by her friend. That's how healing and resolution for our seniors can take place, and we adult children become enriched by the experience.

In my private practice, I invite anyone grappling with the problem of how to support their senior loved ones with bereavement and the fear and depression that may follow. Dialogue is one the most basic means of healing, but it's amazing how much it is avoided. For further information about my services, please refer to

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Check this out!

In addition to my own thoughts, I'm always on the lookout for really energizing and inspiring things to share with whoever reads my blog. Here's a clip off a really wonderful video site:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146

I urge anyone whose life, or that of a loved one, read this and weigh the pros and cons of joining a clinical trial for pharmaceutical intervention. This is an important piece of the solved puzzle.

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146: "Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site - 146"

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146

I excited, as always, to pass this information along to my readers. We've got a long way to go, but we are far away from the days when patients were simply consigned to the sidelines of life and family, with symptoms dismissed as "craziness" or "senility." Check out the photos of the PET scans, which are showing us more of what we're dealing with.

Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site -146: "Check out the Alzheimer’s Research Center site - 146"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Of old houses and hope for our future

I attended a meeting this evening at the Burbank City Hall Annex building, which was lightly attended in response to a mailer that had been sent to city residents within the past week.

Burbank adopted a Preservation Ordinance back in 1996, and its Plan was adopted three years later. We are approaching our city's centennial, and as a means of bolstering civic pride, the city is encouraging homeowners like me to explore the possibility of registering our residences for historic landmark status.

One of the homes featured in the power point presentation was the "Rock House" on Olive Avenue. It was built circa 1922, same year as mine. I've hit the ground running on this project, thinking that my little stucco abode might also be honored with a historic designation.

I love anything vintage, be it a wood frame house, a musty book, or an old baking soda tin. One of my favorite TV shows on HGTV has been, "If Walls Could Talk." For me, it's not really the recognition of the house being around a long time and surviving the wrecking ball. The emotional appeal is that these houses, like many people and ideas, have endured the succession of immediate crises and concerns of the decades. Who would have foreseen that the Rock House--and mine--would have come before a stock market crash, a depression, a world war, numerous presidents, and most of my family? I like to think of the workers who had their role in the construction of these houses, who they were personally, and what their own lives were like. Each historic structure that still stands is almost like a temporal reminder of those workers, and also the people who occupied them over the years. You can almost stop and hear the echoes of long-gone people in the creaking of the floor boards...

I have this acute sense of each point in our space-time construct having an eternal life of its own. Even after the people are gone, and also the physical structures, an indelible print is left on that point, changing it forever. Vintage properties are gifts from one point in time to another, almost like a bottle floating in the ocean with a note inside.

I really hope Burbank is successful in getting some homes designated as historic and preserved for the future. For one thing, having people taking pride and responsibility for the city's history is one way to foster a sense of ownership in the future. The kids of succeeding generations should know what a linen closet is, and a utility room, and see a bathroom that has those quaint, tiny octagonal floor tiles. These features shouldn't just be some overpriced restoration mock-ups. Anyone who doesn't get this experience, in my opinion, is the poorer for it.

When people see the "real things" from the past, those who lived before are also real once again.

A History of Burbank: A special place in history

A little life, lived grandly

It's about realizing when I have all I need, and if I'm a good steward, I'll continue to be sustained.

Family. Friends. A roof over my head. Music on the radio. Ability to support myself. Hope for the future. Intelligence to know the difference between the incessant fear of lack and the sustained realization of enough.

Where are the likes of Thoreau these days?

Another thing to share with my boomer readers

The following is from one of my new favorite sites,

Boomers: Coming of Age and Old Age

I'd like to think of myself as assuming a mentor role to my peers, as we boomers age and make sense of this old-er age thing.

Have a great day.

Nonfiction Writing Classes, Psychology Tutor, Creativity Coaching & Memoir Writing Classes in Los Angeles, Glendale, Sherman Oaks & Burbank CA | Valarie Cascadden is a Betterist on Betterfly.

From my page:

Nonfiction Writing Classes, Psychology Tutor, Creativity Coaching & Memoir Writing Classes in Los Angeles, Glendale, Sherman Oaks & Burbank CA | Valarie Cascadden is a Betterist on Betterfly.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Depression may increase risk of dementia, study says

One study for my readers' consideration:

Depression may increase risk of dementia, study says

Connecting the dots between my teaching, writing, and therapy

I think I'm developing a bit of a side niche here, and I'd like my friends/readers to help in its development. As I've mentioned, I'm on now, promoting services as a creative and academic coach. Primarily, but not exclusively, I want to help students of the "mature" demographic to write effective papers and dissertations.

Another inspiration I had recently was to assist people with letter-writing. This is a vital tool, both to express one's feelings when face-to-face contact is just too overwhelming, AND to communicate expectations in the business world. Anyone remember Cyrano de Bergerac's intercession between his unrequited love Roxane and her true love interest, Christian?

Letter-writing is powerful when the sentences and paragraphs are skillfully crafted; otherwise, a communique can just get deleted from the email inbox, or sadly shredded...and thus a piece of someone's soul goes unacknowledged. There are just too many messages floating around in our world of media overwhelm -- making your message heard and understood by that other person is vital!

The same care needs to be taken with business letters, be they complaint letters about unsatisfactory service. Over the years, I've crafted "bitching" to a fine art, so that it has impact, but maintains dignity!

The actual letter is just one step in the actual process, and I can coach people in how to navigate the steps to being heard. Stay tuned online to hear more about this service...

In my work with seniors and their families, I find that writing in the early stages of decline can be beneficial. We hear of people making video recordings of their thoughts, to be passed along to succeeding generations. Shortly after a dementia diagnosis, while the senior still has the physical and cognitive ability, writing down one's thoughts in a simple journal could benefit the patient AND the family who sees them slipping away. Again, I'll have more information I'll share with my readers in future posts.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recommended reading

While I was watching a DVD for my CADODTS course, I was reminded of the following:

I'm sure I put this on a previous post, but it's a now-classic book for caregiving families.
I'm now a CADODTS (Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias Treatment Specialist). As a "baby-boomer therapist" (of midlifers and their own elders), I'm always proud to get more knowledge to be of service to my clients!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The A-Bomb

I've had periodic insomnia since I was a teenager, and it's frustrating to stare at the red digital numbers of the clock tick by the minutes, excruciatingly slowly, even if it is to the sweet melodies of KUSC. So, I got up and did that previous post.

I also worked on a home-study course I'm completing for continuing education units (CEU's) for my license. Once I'm done (very soon), I'll be able to add CADODTS to the alphabet-soup of credentials after my name. This stands for Certified Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias Treatment Specialist. In plain English, I'll be better able to serve clients and families with whose lives Alzheimer's is interfering. Since I market myself as a psychotherapist specializing in work with the midlife and aging "baby-boom" population, this extra layer of expertise makes a lot of sense. Much of what I'll continue to do, besides my already-supportive counseling, is to help senior clients and families explore their process and demystify it through education. I already am well-connected to many senior service agencies and case workers, especially after working five years in Senior Care Network through Huntington Hospital.

I have some dramatic family history related to Alzheimer's. In 1996, my uncle died after a long struggle with the disease. He and my aunt had been married just a little over sixty years. Roger experienced much fear and depression in the first few years after the initial diagnosis. He had been a lawyer, a local judge, and ultimately a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Together, he and Sis had led a full life with children, grandchildren, an active social life, and getaways to a beach house they owned in Canada.

Roger saw what lie ahead, and the sense of powerlessness over its progress ran counter to his lifelong self-concept of intelligence and competence. Sis, the devoted wife, cared for Roger. She reluctantly placed Roger in a skilled nursing facility in the final days, when he became enraged and tried to strangle her. Sadly, the toll was not just taken on Roger; Sis soon died of a heart attack. The family said that she probably "worked herself to death taking care of him."

Roger died 48 hours later, unaware that his life companion was already gone...

As I told a friend recently, who said he had always tried to "fight off getting Alzheimer's," this disease does not discriminate. Even the most gifted, talented, and deserving of us are at risk -- and therein lies the cruelty of Alzheimer's. Among my favorite celebrities that come to mind are Rita Hayworth of old Hollywood films, and the beloved Star Trek character "Scottie," James Doohan.

Aas we baby-boomers age, we're next at risk. And frankly, I'm terrified--for myself, and for my loved ones who would be responsible for my care if I fell to the A-Bomb.

So you see, my mission to help in the cause of Alzheimer's research and treatment is as personal as it is professional. And once more, I put out the call for anyone who wants to join me on November 7th for the Memory Walk in Century City, check out my walker page at Please feel free to type in my name to search for my walker page, and make whatever donation you feel inspired to and/or join my walking team!

Let's start conquering Alzheimer's in our lifetime!

What's up with me?

People are seeing many sides of me on this blog site. It's astonishing, even to me, how many interests and passions are coming forth as I create this thing.

The MFT (marriage and family therapist) aspect emerged back in 1996, and after years of internship stints, I was licensed in 2005. I hung out my independent shingle in 2007, and have been building my practice, one client at a time, since.

My clients' care is very special and important to me. Restless soul that I am, however, it was never my intent to confine myself to private practice. Many of my most inspiring professors have had their own offices, bringing their rich anecdotes into the classroom and bring the theory alive. I wanted to follow in their footsteps, honoring their contributions to my own development. Thus, I embarked on my teaching career as an adjunct psychology professor at National University in 2008. As I stand behind the podium, I see myself in each of the students' faces, their expectations and plans echoing mine a decade and a half ago.

Writing has always been a yearning for me, with my article ideas demanding to be in relationship with me. The words and ideas take on lives and energy of their own. They mirror what has happened, as well as providing suggestions as to what might be next. Ideas are the genesis for yet more.

In addition to creating my own work, I've always enjoyed assisting classmates and friends with piecing together theirs. It's not just tutoring and editing, but also doing real healing work by releasing the blocks to their self-expression. That's why, on top of everything else I'm trying to do, I have become associated with the site. As each of us endeavors to tell his or her own story, it puts into place a piece of the human puzzle, and validates someone's soul.

On some level, the combination of all these roles makes sense.

It's very late, and I need some sleep. I just wanted to share some thoughts...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Join my walk on November 7th in Century City

This cause is near and dear to my heart.

Long-Term Marriages End, Late-in-Life Divorce, Boomers, Separation, Pepper Schwartz -- AARP

I actually think the "till death do us part" can be harmful, if it's seen as a sentence rather than a loving covenant. Marital strife, denied and unresolved, could also be yet another source of late-life depression.

Long-Term Marriages End, Late-in-Life Divorce, Boomers, Separation, Pepper Schwartz -- AARP
From one end of the spectrum--lifelong joy--to unanticipated pain:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I just couldn't start off the day without sharing this:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making peace with some of my exes

So, here I go, into another post-holiday work week.

My kitty Tiggy is on my lap, my coffee is at my right hand, and the sounds of KUSC are wafting through my home office. Eventually, I'll put myself together and venture forth to see some clients, do some work-related errands, and then come back here to what I've come to think of as my "command center."

As you can guess, I like words--their origins, and how they are constructed. They can be masterfully woven into so many patterns, morphing fluidly, almost imperceptibly, like the subtle hues and undertones of an oil painting. In one's observation of the interplay, one can get swept up into it without even being aware...

Words take on lives of their own. Propaganda (social, religious, political), print ads, the conversations we have throughout our lives. Like the visual stimulus of the oil painting, each leaves its "thumbprint" on our psyche--positively or negatively. They carry what we therapists sometimes call "feeling-tones." If you remember the last time someone said something either really loving, or really hurtful, you can probably remember not only the words, the tone, but also the impact, both emotionally and physically.

That's why we therapists are concerned with issues like verbal abuse, or the systemic (and often dysfunctional) way couples or families communicate with each other. With each word, and its reaction from another person (think of Newton's third law of physics), reality is being created and built upon (word-by-word, one "brush stroke" at a time).

The same principle applies with our inner dialogues. It's so important to look at how we take care of ourselves by our inner messages. Let me share some:

The prefix "ex" is defined as "outside, or away from." When I hear this, my mind conjures up almost anime-like fonts and colors, harsh blood-red and black.

EX - cuse, EX - clude, EX - cess, EX - haust

Could these words might suggest that we spend much time putting our cognitive and emotional powers outside ourselves, to leave it up to others (like our families, coworkers, significiant others)how we react to our world? At any time in human history, this time most of all, such learned helpless is dangerous.

But--here's another "ex" -- ex - ist, "to have actual being." Some teachers would include this in their lessons about mindfulness.

My point is that we all have life-long relationships with these "exes," and still others. It's up to each of us to become conscious of them and form appropriate ways to deal with them.

We'll talk about this, and other things, more...

Have an aware day.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"The Secret Powers of Time"

A wonderful thought from one of my favorite scholars, Philip Zimbardo:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shopping, etc., at 7 AM (or as early as you can)

It's nice to beat the pre-Fourth of July crowds. True, it's a trade off, because instead of dodging people with carts full of beer and chips, you have to bob-and-weave around the crates and the the early morning crew stocking the shelves. The staff at the store today were pretty accommodating, and even said to me, "Just let us know if we're in the way."

I've always been an early riser, and I find it pays off in avoiding lines, waiting, and irritation. Patience has never been one of my major qualities, and I find trolling for parking around the ATM to be a major time-waster. Isn't it interesting that retired folks, or those with independent work schedules (like me)seem more likely to find the momentum to get up-and-at-'em before the 8 or 9 AM stampede? Far better to get home--or to your holiday destination--and let the rest of the town figure out which of the grocery lines are creeping along the "fastest."

As I hinted in my previous post, the universe doesn't graciously grant us time, nor do we happily "find" it. Running our lives like a business, we have to simply block it out, and take our appointments with ourselves (and our well-being) as seriously as we do the trips to the doctor or the office.

Again, enjoy the weekend! No -- savor it! That's my "assignment" to you all today.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Independence Weekend to all!

I've posted a couple of items that I liked. One was called "Learn How to Benefit from Play," and another was "Benefits of Being a Slow Study."

It's important that we budget time in our lives for down-time to have enough physical energy, and so that our minds function efficiently. Have you ever noticed, when you've pushed yourself beyond your normal capacity, how you find yourself making errors, getting irritable or emotionally fragile, forgetting pieces of data (names of those you know well, appointments, where you last put your keys, etc., etc.)

That's when it's time to stop and rest. Rest and recreation are not self-indulgent time intervals. In fact, the word "recreation" suggests "re-creation" or "re-building." It's NECESSARY -- so STOP being a martyred workaholic! It gets old -- for you and those close to you (how many times do they hear, "Oh God, I've got so much to do!"). So what? Think you're going to get some kind of medal when you've worked yourself into an early grave or medically-mandated leave?

Declare your independence from a no-win mindset and learn to TAKE TIME OFF. You may find you're more productive in the long run.

Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything



Thursday, July 1, 2010

Synchronicity and convergence...I'm getting inspired to do another article/book because of the inputs I'm getting from colleagues and clients. In this piece, I'd like to explore the impacts of Alzheimer's on multi-generational relationships. Especially, I'd like to discuss young kids who have to care for a demented relative, and how that affects their own lives....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life on my own terms: It's only happened now, because I'm ready at last.

Those of us who are old enough to remember Vietnam (the war, not the country), can recall the plethora of bumper stickers: "America: Love It or Leave It," or its irreverent counterpoint, "America: Fix It or F*** It," "Freedom is Not Free," etc., etc. And with each skirmish in which our nation has become involved, this theme has been echoed.

Security, national or personal, is an instinctive human quest. Freedom is actually the antithesis of security. It involves the sacrifice of those mindsets that make security compelling, but also dangerously limiting.

I've been reading articles about a not-insignificant number of people who are boldly stepping out into their own business and professional ventures right now, despite the collective hand-wringing over the economy. These folks--many baby-boomers like me--are making the conscious choice to "do their own thing." This catch-phrase of my generation has taken on new meaning for us. Instead of simply dancing in the park with "flowers in our hair," we are "leaving home" from the corporate world, which shielded us with steady (?) paychecks and "benefits," but also exacted heavy prices of work loads, treacherous office politics, freeway commutes, and encroachments into our personal time. We intrepid entrepenurial souls are "rebelling" from "the establishment" to grow up and dictate our own lives. No small feat.

Recently, I began wearing a pendant that shows a compass-face on one side, and an saying by Thoreau on the other. It reads: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams." On my desk right now, I also see a paperweight a friend gave me. The saying on it says, "May you live every day of your life -- Jonathan Swift." These were real flesh-and-blood human beings, living before the luxuries of 401-k's and group managed health care plans. And yet they managed to carve out a philosophy and life plan that meant something once: independence that cost dearly, but fed their souls and freedom.

Harking back to the '60's bumper stickers, freedom on any level costs, often painfully. I recently left a four-day-a-week hospital position that included a check and some health benefits, but was, frankly, pulling my soul out of me. And now, I couldn't be happier.

I'm now budgeting time and money down to the minute and penny, but at least it's my time and my resources. Beholden to no one, I'm now capable of succeeding as I wasn't before . Unfettered, I can only see potential for my future. One slim little book I re-read recently has inspiration in its title alone, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, by Doris Lessing.

As we approach the Independence Day holiday, maybe all of us--baby-boomers included--can reflect on where in our lives we are still "stuck," and make a realistic escape plan.

Friday, June 25, 2010

In my never-ending quest to better my knowledge and skills, today I went to Clearview Women's Center for the seminar, "Treatment Strategies for Borderline Personality Disorder and Trauma." In addition to the DSM diagnosis of Trauma, I came away with a better sense about how we ALL are traumatized in numerous ways. That being said, it lends a new meaning depth to my practice tag-lines of "mid-life crises."

Some more things to share from my recent trip

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm researching baby-boomers' search for long-term relationships through online dating. Here's the link to the survey. Please feel free to participate or pass along to someone who will:

Click here to take survey

"The Nine Myths of Aging"

This is another handout Dr. Young gave us. Enjoy!

Some "show and tell" from last weekend's San Diego event

This is front and back from one of the handouts Jonathan Young gave us in the "Invoking the Sage" class.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I'm back from my "Invoking the Sage" conference. It was more than theoretical information; it was a profound experience that added richness and depth to my personal and professional journey. Jonathan Young of the Center for Story and Symbol is a powerful presenter, and I recommend his lectures to my colleagues. More on this a little later -- I'm still reflecting on all this.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm on my way to San Diego for a couple of days of fun getaway and soul-nourishing learning. The teacher is Jonathan Young, PhD, of the Center for Story and Symbol. Tonight, the class is "Writing in Therapy" and tomorrow it's "Invoking the Sage," about aging. Hopefully, I'll bring back lots of good information to share.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time to speak up!

This is my introduction. I had another posting elsewhere, with a misty, ethereal look. Calm and pretty, but BORING!! I can't do "sweet and gentle" anymore. I'm a middle-aged lady, smart, and with lots to offer the world. So, I can't be shy anymore. If I'm a PhD, a scholar, then I need to act like I mean it.

Stay tuned for links to a survey, and exciting future projects. A professor of mine said, "You've gotta find your voice." So, stand back and hear me yell.