A Community investing in its future…

February 28, 2014

“It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going the wrong direction.” –  (Diane Grant)

I love that saying by Diane Grant. It is such a strong endorsement about doing what is right, even in the face of unpopularity. For many young people the choice to buck the trend or direction of the crowd that they have been running with feels like walking alone. It’s not, of course, but it is walking without those around you that you may have felt were your friends and whose support you always counted upon. It can seem that to turn away from that crowd is to be alone.

That’s why programs like the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program are so important. My wife and I attended their annual fund raising event, A Taste of the Valley, Thursday night. Last year it was great to get to talk with some of the counselors and some of the kids who’ve been helped by the program. If there was one consistent theme that I got out of the discussions with the kids that I met, it was that the counselors and mentors and other volunteers in there program were there for them and gave them the strength and encouragement to turn and walk against that crowd that was headed in the wrong direction.

Many kids realize that what they are doing or the direction that they are headed in is wrong;mentoring but they don’t see any way out. It is a frightful and lonely feeling to realize that in order to do what is right, you have to give up those “friends” who have been leading you and encouraging you in the wrong direction. If there is nothing there it grab on to, it feels like a blind leap of faith to go against the grain. The YA Program offers that hand to hold onto through its counseling and mentoring and activities. When it comes down to “who can I turn to?” – the YA program offers an answer.

The event last night was a success with great support by the local restaurants that provided the “Taste of the Valley” and nice prizes to be won in the silent auction. If there was a disappointment to last night it was just that there weren’t enough people there. This is a program that should be better supported by the community because few things are more important that the future of our children. I will certainly try to figure out if there is some way that I can help make it even more successful in years to come.

A day earlier I attended the Community Breakfast at the Carl’s Family YMCA. It was well attended and had a great keynote speaker – Terry Woychowski, Vice President at American Axle – who spoke about “The importance and impact of Community”, especially on our youth.

kid jumping in poolThe Community Breakfast is the kick-off for the Y’s annual fund raising to support its scholarship program. The Y scholarships are provided to allow participation by kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to participate in many of the Y activities, like swimming, soccer, and other team sports programs. Like the YA programs these are intended to give kids healthy alternatives to activities that might be taking them in the wrong direction or t having no activities at all.

The common theme through this week’s youth oriented events is that there is a community support and community programs aimed at providing alternatives to those who choose to turn away from crowds going in the wrong direction. In fact, the message really is that you don’t have to walk alone when you make those choices – the community is behind you and beside you. I hope that you can support both of these worthy efforts. They are aimed at helping and nurturing our most important community assets – our youth. The fact that our community supports both of these effort gives credence to a quote that I’ve used here before –

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Creative Eldercare Consultants, LLC – when passion meets competence

February 26, 2014

Creative Elder Care logoThere is the potential for very difficult decisions to be thrust upon us about people at both ends of life’s spectrum. Sometimes we are called upon to make life and death decisions for those unable to care for themselves, whether as babies in neonatal intensive care situations or at the other end of life’s journey, with elderly parents who may not even be able to recognize us anymore. Neither case is easy. Both pull at us from many emotional and logical directions at once. We need help.

At the far end of the spectrum we are sometimes forced into the unwanted roles of caregiver and decision maker for the very people who brought us into the world and nurtured us into adulthood. When is it time for mom or dad (or both) to move out of the home that they’ve shared and loved for 40-50-60 years, who can help with that decision? What kinds of care will then need? What can they afford and where can you find such care at that price? Who can you trust with the care of someone in whom you’ve always trusted? We need help.

It’s at those moments when you need someone who brings the kind of passion to the task of helping find the right place that matches your passion for the job and someone who also brings the competence to the task to be able to match the needs of your loved one with the facility capable of meeting those needs. That is a tall order; but I have met such a person – Julie Haskins-White, the consultant and owner of Creative Eldercare Consultants, LLC. She can help.

“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” — E. M. Forster

Julie brings over 20 years of professional healthcare experience, including being at the Julie Haskins-WhiteExecutive Director level at two major Southeastern Michigan Hospitals and extensive home health-care experience. But, it is her passion for the job that led Julie to give up the corporate life and pursue her dream of having her own company to deliver the best possible housing and care solutions to those loved ones at the end of life’s journey. As a business, she focuses upon referrals for assisted living, residential care homes, memory care and independent living with on-site services and home care; but, her passion is making the lives of the elderly better one life at a time by helping them make the right choices.

Julie’s associate in the business – Kari DeCarlo – brings over five years of Social Work experience, including nursing homes, group homes, and juvenile delinquency. In addition to her Social Work background, she also has a tremendous amount of experience working in the non-profit arena at the American Cancer Society, as a Corporate Events Manager.

Most of the time, the services that Julie offers are provided at no cost to the individual or their families. She is normally paid a referral fee by the institutions that she may end up finding as a match for the client’s needs. She is not affiliated with any of the institutions and so is free to make the choice based upon which one is the best match for the needs of her client. There are special cases where she may ask for a retainer fee. Sometimes she works with the client themselves; but much of the time she actually interfaces mainly with the families of the clients that she is trying to place, especially if the client’s mental condition has deteriorated. In either case, Julie believes her role is to be the client’s advocate first; to make sure that the clients get into the best possible facility for their needs.

The Creative Eldercare Consultants’ services include:

  • Doing an assessment of the client to determine social, financial and health care needs, as well as determining any geographic factors and preferences that will be in play
  • Working one-on-one with families to assist them with the delicate process of making a care/housing transition for a loved one
  • Scheduling and participating in tours of facilities and communities that may best suit the needs of the loved one
  • Post-placement follow-up to ensure satisfaction for both the client and the family

Currently the Creative Eldercare Consultants, LLC service areas include the Counties of Oakland, Livingston, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee, Ingham, Shiawassee and the Tri-Cities.

sunday walkThe types of clients that Julie deals with on a daily basis include those who have been in an independent living community but who now face care needs and cost that exceed their means; couples where one spouse is ill or requires care beyond the means of the other to provide at home; couples who require an alternative long-term living option, perhaps with additional care for one or both; Individuals with placement needs whose income exceeds the income limit or asset limit set by the MI-Choice Medicaid Waiver Program; Individuals who require placements in an alternative setting, due to complex behavioral or medical issue; Adult children who are unable to assist their parents due to difficult work schedules or geographical location; and families that need immediate placement of a loved one.

Julie admits that she is a perfectionist in life and in business. She is also still active in competitive sports; perhaps because she also a passion for athletics and is very competitive in anything that she attempts. Her competitive nature from sports is balanced in her business by her compassion for the elderly and their families during a challenging crossroad in their lives. I suspect that she will appreciate why this quote may sum up what she is trying to achieve in life, sports and in her business:

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. – Vince Lombardi

So, if you are facing a tough situation yourself or on behalf of a loved one and need to find someone that you can trust; someone who brings passion and competence to the party; and someone who truly cares about making sure that you or your loved one has the best life possible; call Julie Haskins-White at Creative Eldercare Consultants, LLC – toll free at 800-355-8932.

Once you’ve met Julie, I believe that something amazing will happen for you, too; you’ll start sleeping easier at night, knowing that she is on the case.

Experience the joy of service.

February 25, 2014

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” ― Kahlil Gibran

I like that little saying. This is the time of the year when churches observe Lent, the precursor to Easter. During Lent our church, like many others, holds a soup supper. We do a round-robin exchange of soup suppers with several other churches in the area.

For the last few years (I can’t even recall how many now) I volunteer to be what is washing dishesessentially the busboy during our church’s turn to host the soup supper. I originally did that because no one else wanted that job. I quickly discovered a great sense of fulfillment and joy out of taking that little role of service to others and have volunteered for that role ever since.

For me and for many people whom I have met over time, there is real joy to be found in serving others. There is an even greater sense of satisfaction to be found in taking on roles of service that no one else wants to do. Usually those are the jobs in the background in which the people toil away and never get any recognition for their efforts. They don’t do it for recognition; they do it because it must be done and someone must do it. Why not them?

There is another saying that I’ve struggled with how to use in a blog post, this one by George Bernard Shaw – Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness. I guess that I disagree with Shaw on one point; doing what must be done, especially in service to others can also be happiness.

helping elderlyThere are a great many of these little, unheralded or behind the scenes jobs out there just looking for someone to do them. It could be visiting with a shut-in or someone in a nursing home with no family nearby. It could be serving meals at a homeless shelter. It could be offering to shovel off the walk and drive for an elderly neighbor. Maybe it’s standing out in the cold with a bucket and collecting for a charity. Maybe it’s picking up the morning paper from the drive an placing it on the door step of an elder neighbor. One program locally that can always use volunteer help is the Huron Valley Youth Assistance Program, which provides counseling and mentoring to at risk youth in the community. See my earlier post on that program.

Not every job is the one that the newspaper prints a picture of or that makes the evening tutoringTV news. For every one of those there are a hundred jobs in the background that must also be done. Look around and find those little jobs, especially the ones that no one else wants to do; and take them on. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel about it and it will put a smile on your face that others will see and respond to with a smile back.

This saying by Mahatma Gandhi – “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”  – points to a side benefit of serving others. You may well find yourself in the process, find out what you are made of and find purpose in your life. Many people go through life with much material success – money, homes, cars, etc. – and yet live with a nagging sense of emptiness a lack of the sense of fulfillment. Committing yourself to acts of service to others, without any expectation of reward or remuneration, can go a long way towards filling that void.

Finally, I found this quote, which I thought is an appropriate way to sum this up – “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  ―  Martin Luther King Jr.

Occasionally visit, but don’t live in the past…

February 24, 2014

I find myself occasionally using the phrase “in a prior life” in conjunction with explaining something in my past, such as my long career in the IT products and services business prior to getting into real estate (my current life). While it is just a little affectation (a throw away phrase, if you will), it does sum up nicely the fact that our past may be thought of almost like prior lives. Not of course in any Shirley McClain reincarnation way. Read more on that and her autobiography  here.

The real point is that all of that is in the past and we are and should focus upon living in the present and perhaps planning for the future. The past is a place that you might occasionally visit, especially if there are many pleasant memories that bring comfort when remembered; however, you can’t and shouldn’t live in the past. If you find yourself constantly revisiting the coulda, wouldda, shoulda’s of your life and beating yourself up over choices that you made back then, it’s time to shut those doors and move on.

thinking of the pastWe all have past lives, some with many more chapters than others. Some of those chapters were exciting and fun and some were perhaps frightening to remember.  Hopefully all of those chapters contributed something to the person that you are today and to the knowledge base upon which you now make decisions in your life.

There are memories of things that you’d love to do again, feelings that you enjoyed having and would like to have again; and there are the things that are filed away under the heading – NEVER again. Both sets of memories contributed to who you are now, but they do not define who you are now. They were stops along the journey to today. You did not get off at those stops, so don’t go back and spend time sitting in those stations.

One key to putting the past in its proper place in your life is planning – planning for today and for the future. The more that you focus upon what is just ahead and maybe just over the next hill, the less time that you have to wander back into the past. Your subconscious mind will sort out the things that you need to remember (good and bad) in order to make decisions about today and tomorrow without you spending time thinking about the past.

Once you start planning for upcoming events, your subconscious mind will move into viewing futureanticipating them and you’ll find that your conscious mind will tend to focus on that – what you can do to make this upcoming event the best that it can be. Planning and anticipation will lead to actions and pretty soon you’ll find yourself lost not in the past but in the future and that’s a much better place to be than trapped in the past.

So, if you must let your mind wander, point it to the future and not back into some dungeon from the past. Live in the present and plan for a better future – at least you can still do something about that. Have a great day today and plan for a great day tomorrow.

Feed the right wolf…

February 23, 2014

The Detroit Free Press today had an article by Josh Linkner titled “Feed the Right Wolf”. It was a fairly typical self-help article based upon an old Cherokee legend.

I Googled  the referenced legend and got the wording (as did Linkner, I imagine). The legend goes…

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.

“One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

wolf eatingI like that story. It reinforces much of what I write about here. When I Googled it I noticed that there is a web site www.feedtherightwolf.org which I thought might also be an inspirational site. It is, sort of. It’s a porn addition self-help site. The site is devoted to trying to help those with sex or pornography additive behavior, I guess. I didn’t delve into it too deeply; but, it is the site from which I took the words of the story. I looked down the first page of Google results and 5 out of 7 entries are about porn and sex addition. Apparently, someone’s been feeding the wrong wolves.

The Cherokee legend follows the lines of every classical good vs evil in men story. From Wikipedia I found this information on that age old story –

The conflict between good and evil is one of the precepts of the Zoroastrian faith, first enshrined by Zarathustra over 3000 years ago. It is also one of the most common conventional themes in literature, and is sometimes considered to be a universal part of the human condition.[1] There are several variations on this conflict, one being the battle between individuals or ideologies, with one side Good, the other Evil. Another variation is the inner struggle in characters (and by extension, humans in reality) between good and evil.

There are lots of live links in that little paragraph, if you want to explore that further. Reading that seems to cast some doubt on the validity of the “old Cherokee legend.” Is it just coincidence that the old man in the Cherokee legend came up with this good vs. evil allegory, or has someone who was aware of the historical precept created the Cherokee legend? I guess it doesn’t really matter. The Cherokee legend story is a good device for illustrating the point.

Obviously our more modern religious movements have picked up on the same theme of the conflict in men of good vs. evil. There is even an explanation in the Christian Faith about why God allows that to happen – the whole “free will” argument. I don’t know enough about other religions to comment on them, but I’m pretty sure that somewhere in all of them the concepts of good vs evil in men’s lives is covered and some rationale for why men are allowed to do evil is covered somehow. All religions have what the Ronald Regan team coined as “plausible deniability” for the evil acts of man.

So, no matter your religious beliefs, we can agree upon the raging conflict in us all about whether to do good or evil at every turn. Do you do the so-called “right thing” or do you feed the other wolf and take the easy way out or the shortcut or cop a lie? Feed the right wolf.

I find it humorous (I have a weird sense of humor sometimes) that, as a modern society, we have developed our own variation on the two wolves’ story. You’ve all seen ads in print or on TV with the two little characters sitting on the shoulders of the person trying to make a decision. One is depicts as a little red devil (horns and tails and all) of evil and the other is usually robed in white and may have wings, but is surely the angel of good. That somehow meets our modern need to simplify everything down to the level of a cartoon. So, now, instead of the two wolves battling it out to get fed in us, we have two little characters sitting on our shoulders whispering in our ears. It’s not which wolf gets fed; now, it’s which little character do we listen to. The effect is the still the same. Feed the right wolf.

The real point of the story in the legend, and in a great many stories from various religions, is that we have the power within us to choose which wolf we feed and which character we listen to as we make life decisions. The images from the legends and the modern TV commercials are there just to help us stop and think before we decide or act. They also force one more question to be answered – do we know the difference between the two?  Feed the right wolf.

It turns out that evil does not always show itself clearly for what it is (that is part of its evil).wolf in sheeps clothing The wolf occasionally hides in sheep’s clothing to fool us. Evil can take on many forms. Evil does not always show us its horns and tail and is not always an easy to spot red color. Sometimes evil can be a seductive siren calling us to the racks of destruction. Sometimes evil can be found in a crowd all angrily going the wrong way. Sometimes evil is even more insidious and is something that we just have to forget to do or decide not to do. Feed the right wolf.

One thing that evil cannot do is to hide from the glare of the light of truth. Evil likes to lurk in the darkness and lure us to join it there. Shining the light of truth on evil makes the darkness drop away and exposes the ugly thing that was hiding there. Evil is based upon lies about others or lies told to us; it is about lies that cannot stand up to the truth. Feed the right Wolf.

deceptive wolfThere is no truth that you can find to justify saying bad things about another person or hating another person because of something that they said or did that you don’t agree with. There is no truth to be found in your decision to by-pass the needy or poor because evil tells you that you are too busy. There is no truth to looking the other way when you see something wrong or someone wronged, because evil tells you not to get involved. Evil hates the truth ad will try to keep you from seeing it. Feed the right wolf.

So, it all boils down to the decision that the old Cherokee was trying to get the young boy to understand in the legend. You have choices in life. Those choices will always involve two wolves vying for your attention – good and evil. The choices that you make will determine the course of your life and to a great extent the course of your life (your ability at any point in time to discern the difference between right and wrong) will determine which wolf gets fed. Oh; and did I mention – Feed the right wolf!

Allow joy in your life…

February 22, 2014

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. – Marianne Williamson

Every now and then (more often that I’d like to admit) my wife has to stop me in the middle of grousing about something and remind me of how good things really are. She takes time to enumerate the things that we have – a great home, two wonderful dogs to share it with, wonderful children and grandchildren who are nearby and most of all each other. She’ right, of course; and it does always work to get me out of whatever funk I’ve wandered into about something that has gone wrong or something that I wish I had but don’t.

One has only to watch the nightly news to see images of those in war-torn countries or starving in Africa to see people who are so much worse off than we are just because we haven’t got whatever the latest and greatest gadget is right now. Right here in America, we have only to look on the streets to see the homeless huddled in doorways or under bridges; yet we are miffed that we don’t have the most stylish pair of winter boots. Grumble, grumble, grouse, grouse. Poor me, look at all the things that I don’t have.

I think it’s important to give ourselves permission to be happy, to experience joy in our lives by recognizing how good things really are for most of us. The fact that we have someplace with access to read these blog posts is a good thing. The fact than most of us are not hungry or cold while doing that is a good thing. The fact that most of us have clothes and shoes on is a good thing. The fact that we woke up this morning is a good thing (more so the older I get). The fact that many of us have family and friends who love us is a good thing. So, take stock of all the good things in your life and allow yourself the joy that comes along with that.

Amazing things happen to those who allow joy to rule their lives. They look happy because they are happy. People want to be their friend because they are happy and people prefer being around happy people. They achieve greater business success, because people prefer to do business with someone who is smiling and happy. They have a better home life, because spouses and children much prefer a happy partner/parent than that grousing old grump that you sometimes can become. So, allow joy in your life. Be happy about what you do have and not grumpy about what you don’t have.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that Joy is a choice and …

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

happy face

Who really cares…Why do I write?

February 21, 2014

One of the age old questions for writers and bloggers is “Why?” Why do I write? Who really cares? I may have 20 -40 -100 followers on various blogs; is that who I’m writing for? Am I creating prose and blasting it into a great unknown void called the blog-o-sphere in hopes that someone finds it, like finding a note in a bottle that has washed up on shore? Does that make sense? Does the Internet make sense? Does anything about writing and posting to blogs make sense?  Must it?

One can make the case, that Arianna Huffington started this way, so why not me. Of course, then one could look at the amazing success of Adam Kutcher, who garnered over a million followers on Facebook in a short period of time and ask “Can there be that many lonely, bored and pathetic people who need to know what Adam Kutcher thinks about anything?”

So, millions upon millions of the rest of us blog away in total anonymity; posting into the wind, in hopes that someone, somewhere will see it and perhaps even read what we have written.  To have our posts read; perchance to even have a comment posted; what joy.  But then, one must be willing also to put up with the tons of spam and trash ads that are sent your way by every yahoo (no offense Yahoo) who ever took a t quick course on SEO optimization and now positions himself as an expert. A thousand idiots will email assure you that they can help you make money from blogging and ten thousand more try to sell you their services to improve your obviously struggling little blog. There aren’t enough rocks to hide all of the slimy little characters out there just waiting to pounce upon the poor little bloggers who fantasy themselves to be authors.

So let me give you this piece of advice for free.  You are an author if you write. You may be a crappy one, but at least you are one.  If you have something to say; say it. If you care about what others think of what you have to say or how you say it; ask someone that you trust, and who has the ability to render a valid and educated opinion, to look at your work and make suggestions. Understand your limits, but work at it like you would work at anything else.

The next thing to consider is that what you are writing about must matter somehow to the reader. I don’t care (nor does anyone else) about what you had for breakfast or where you went last night (unless, of course you have a great story about what happened last night). I’m more inclined to read about your opinion of something that is affecting both of us and something that you’ve been through that I’m still facing. Tell me something that I can learn from your experiences or maybe just something that I’ll enjoy reading, get a chuckle out of or shed a tear about.

Lastly trust that your message in a bottle will wash up on some distance shores and be read. I  get comments on my blogs all the time from all over the world.  Most were written in native languages of the countries that the readers liven in and most have suffered greatly in the translation. The translations of some are humorous and some just make no sense, but most have this in common – they are from someone who read what I wrote.

So back to the beginning; why do I write? I write because I enjoy it. I hope others will enjoy it, too; but just the fact that I wrote it and posted it and sent it on its way into the blog-o-sphere is enough for me. Somewhere out there someone will see it and perhaps read it and maybe even comment on it; but I’ll be smiling just because I wrote it. For some there is no reward without accolades, but, I suspect for many of us writers in the blog-o-sphere, it is enough reward just to have written it in the first place. That’s what allows you to call yourself a writer.