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KAIZEN

June 26, 2019

Kaizen is the Japanese work philosophy based on the belief that continuous, incremental improvement adds up to substantial change over time. With Kaizen, you gain the full benefits of continuous improvement.

According to an article published on Quartz at Work "Kaizen is less about hustle and working more, and more about thoughtful adjustments, accepting failure, and applying learnings in order to work better."

When talking with family caregivers so often the conversation comes up about efficiency. Caregivers are task animals. Organized and distracted by others needs all at the same time. Kaizen is fighting for a presence without the caregiver really noticing. Our flurry in our caregiving makes the element of kaizen get squashed. We don't need more tasks as a caregiver, we don't need to be working more. We need efficiency and effective care for ourselves too.

Taking the time to assess the tasks at hand, embracing our own knowledge of time management, sitting with ourselves to own thoughtful adjustments that make our lives as caregivers more peaceful in the abyss, is what Kaizen is all about. Here are 5 helpful steps to activating kaizen in your life;

1) Take small steps forward. Ongoing, incremental improvements over time optimizes productivity, efficiency, and quality.

2) Focus on specific, actionable processes. Breaking down the big picture into measurable improvements helps manage the change along the way.

3) Eliminate waste and excess. Clearing up wasted time so resources can be recognized and/or eliminated.

4) Take action. Your energy can be focused on how to do something rather than making excuses.

5) Draw on your mental resources. Your most important resource to create good changes should be wisdom.

MOSS

For Katherine Verkade, who journeyed onward May 4th, 2019

May 10, 2019

According to the language of flowers, moss is the symbol of maternal love. Moss does not have roots, and much like when mothers have their children, maternal love grows spontaneously as if from nothing. It's true. As mothers, we never know how much love we have until we meet our children. It's instant and spontaneous.

From the start, moms hit the ground running putting other's needs in front of their own. So naturally, caregiving and motherhood go hand in hand. Motherhood is the truest thing and the hardest thing. (I think I stole that quote from someone). It requires a sacrificial and very deep care and love that is like no other. Being a mother takes strength. Emotional, mental, physical, all of it. It is also perfect that moss is the symbol for motherhood because moss is considered to be inconceivably strong.

As I reflect on motherhood and caregiving, I am thinking of my mother. She is a true example! Hands down the most amazing woman anyone will ever meet. Her name is Leneta, which means "mild and soft" and guess what...she is just that. To be sensitive, I know not all of us have had my experience with a mother and maybe as a mother, but I am almost sure along the way we have admired a female in our lives who has been like a mother to us. Or maybe we have gleaned wisdom from another friend whose mothering we strive to be like. Any way we look at it, we have all been impacted by a mothering figure in our lives.

As well as mothers gained, I also have been reflecting on mothers lost. This last year many of my friends have lost their mothers. But today I pay tribute to a dear friend's mother who passed away not even a week ago. I did not know her well but will forever be grateful for being the mother she was to my friend. Today he is the amazing man he is because she was his mom.

Mother Earth shall not go by unnoticed. Thich Nhat Hanh states "When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born." Mother Earth's beauty and care is shown and given to us daily. Landscapes, waters, plants, trees, flowers and so much more. Mother Earth's oxygen gives us moss. Moss is the gift, it is the soft, comforting sometimes unnoticed joy that transforms the beauty of a place, a garden, a tree, a field, a stone.

The truth of it all is that every day is mother's day. Every day we can probably recognize the impact of a mother. It is in our being, we all have one, and moss is everywhere when you look.

TRUE BELONGING

April 15, 2019

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” Brené Brown

I am kind of obsessed with Brené Brown these days. I am sure I join thousands of people when I say that. She has an inspiring and deeply satisfying way of writing that makes me feel like a whole person. This quote is from her book Dare to Lead, which I highly recommend to all whom I have crossed paths with in the last week. I hope you all are reading it!!!

The part of this quote and this particular section of writing to focus on is the word imperfect. For so long, as a caregiver (and a mother) I wanted to see myself and be seen as perfect. That I had it all together. Only in the last couple of years can I safely and carefully tell you that my journey as a caregiver has been extraordinarily imperfect. But it is in this imperfection that I have found complete acceptance of myself, I have felt the true belonging.

Because of this awareness of imperfection, I have come to recognize areas that I had no idea existed in my being. I compare it to driving down the same street a million times and glancing at a house on the other side you don't normally look at and seeing it for the first time. It was always there but I never saw it.

In my imperfection I have noticed more beautiful moments, clearer aspirations, true friendships, kindness, A LOT of joy, big time strength, the list goes on...

Caregiving should be about embracing the imperfection of ourself in order to better accept our task, our gift we have been given to care for our loved ones as caregivers. True belonging lives there.

DIVE INTO YOURSELF

March 26, 2019

"Dive into yourself, into your soul, and there you will find the ladder by which to ascend." Marc Chagall

One of the first things I ask a caregiver when I am meeting them for the first time is what it means to be self aware. So often as caregivers we are told to take care of ourselves and I contradict that to those I sit with and state that unless we do understand ourselves, we cannot take care of ourselves. Self aware promotes self care.

It's not easy though. We must dive deep. We must be ok with talking about things that make us happy, sad, glad, mad, etc. etc. These simple feelings promote huge awareness. When caregiving we put so many of our needs aside. Reminding ourselves of what makes us who we are makes it easier to be there for someone else as their caregiver.

So what makes you who you are? Make yourself aware of your feelings, feel them. Dive into yourself and get to know you. Sitting quietly for even a few minutes a day does wonders for that soul. Finding your happy, your sad, your mad, your glad will push those strengths and joys to the surface.

What a wonderful thing to know ourselves so deeply, so that we can find and climb that ladder.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO SOMEDAY

January 9, 2019

So often in our daily lives we find ourselves saying “someday I will do that” or “someday I will do this” or anything really that we find ourselves putting off to that unknown day when we think we will get to it.

That famous day called Someday.

Without even fully knowing I was looking for it, I found my someday last year on this very day, January 9, 2018.

It looked like this…

Our family was on a two week adventure driving the border of the United States and Mexico, from Florida to California. We were in the Anza-Borrego dessert in very Southern California. I had woken up just moments before I had experienced this epiphany! I gazed at the ceiling of our rooftop tent and felt so much clarity in that moment in time, that the only choice was to smile. I smiled so deeply I cried.

At that point in our trip, I had almost finished reading the book “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero (definitely read it if you haven’t already) and my mind and heart were very open to listening to my life. As well as feeling like a badass, I had also decided that the 2018 theme for the year was letting go. So really I had cleared a lot of space within to notice this moment.

This day, 365 days ago, I decided that, by profession, I was going to become an encourager of others. What this looked like in all it’s vagueness I had no idea, but I was surely determined to see it through. A life coach, a therapist, a quest, an advisory team, a business coach, a business class, a soft launch, a certification, a conference and oodles of networking and support later, I now find myself the proud founder, owner, and principal of a business you know today as Your Caregiver Journey.

Happy Anniversary to Someday. And I’m still smiling!

PRESENT LIVING

December 9, 2018

“Wherever you are, be all there.”

— Jim Elliot

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

— Henry David Thoreau

I challenge you this holiday season to be the present person you want to see and experience in others! When you are caregiving this is not easy at all. We try to stay one step ahead in all the planning and aspirations we have not only for ourselves but for our loved one we are caring for. We get distracted with what is next that we aren’t experiencing now.

So how can we be present? Perhaps look at yourself as being a present itself. The time it takes to unwrap a moment in time, experiencing the ribbon unraveling, the wrapping paper folded perfectly over the box, the tape placed to hold it closed in all it’s mystery. As your hands work peacefully while you open it, you are filled with a mixture of experiencing the fact it is almost over and you cannot wait to see what is inside. Then do that over and over in all the moments that come and go.

Be the present.

EMBRACE

November 19, 2018

As caregivers we find ourselves quite often wandering the map of advocacy as we head down the roads of unknowns with our loved ones we are caring for. We enter territories of new experience daily. All the time finding ourselves in the abyss of “trying to figure things out” that we quickly know what we like or don’t like about the health care interactions or the day to day tasks of caregiving, or anything else in between. We define our tasks in our minds of what we know we have to do out of obligation or what we want to do out of love. Most of the time frustrated with the overwhelming and time consuming and life sucking full-time-extended-overtime it takes to be a family caregiver.

In this quote by Eugene Peterson, he reminds us of a very simple life thought. In a world full of negativity, we are essentially known for the things we can embrace. We are caring for our loved ones who are fighting a health battle or an aging process and with that often comes resistance to the reality of the situation. Not only for the ones being cared for but for us as caregivers. We are essentially helping to get them through it unscathed or even be in a better place. Whether it be the word “remission”, or a state of mental clarity and health, or even a peaceful death. As caregivers we can be reassured.

Our assurance in all of it? Embracing what is.

Resisting the reality is unhealthy for the caregiver and the one being cared for. We must ultimately realize that we have been given this journey. We must know that by embracing the fact of the diagnosis or the awareness of the health situation of our loved one, our own mental and physical health does not suffer. This even means we can embrace the pain of it all.

From one caregiver to another I encourage you with this…your life is right now, your reality is caregiving, you are amazing at it, you are appreciated beyond measure for it, and you are a better person because of it. Visualize, accept and embrace all these things daily, hourly, weekly.

MORE GRAVY PLEASE

October 13, 2018

“It’s all gravy from here on out, we are just going to enjoy the experience.”

— Coach David Gerrish

I didn’t know it existed, but pouring gravy on your sandwich is such a thing.

Recently in our encouragement group for caregivers, we were speaking of what it is like being in the “sandwich generation”. The sandwich generation is defined as “a generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing up their own children and for the care of their aging parents.”

When speaking of the sandwich, a gentleman in the group quickly stated “more gravy please”. This made us all laugh. But really he had a good point.

Gravy has it’s normal meaning, but also another meaning. The urban dictionary defines gravy as: Mostly used in the context of it's good, great or delicious. It may also be used in the context of if something is without hassle or without a problem.

How can we get to the point as a sandwich generation, when we can add more gravy? The good, great or delicious. When we can experience our life, despite all the caregiving duties, as a life we find joy within?

As a certified caregiving consultant this is where my passion lies. The gravy. We can all easily say to one another, “you need to take care of yourself”, or “you just need self care”, but we gloss over the how to do that. Rather than ask what does that look like…we should be asking HOW does that look? How do you get to the gravy? The what comes when we remember what the gravy tastes like.

And only you know. Only you know how and only you know what. But utilizing the thought process to get us to move forward to our gravy is really hard. It’s the doing the how and what we find difficult. As a caregiver we would much rather spend our time working on caring for our loved ones, and we make excuses more often than we realize. This is my consulting specialty. Helping caregivers remember their joys and contentments amidst the daily caregiving.

Gravy is the goodness of who you are as a person that makes you an amazing caregiver. How is your gravy?

GOOD GRIEF...The Fine Mingling

September 24, 2018

“All the art of living lies in the fine mingling of letting go and holding on. ”

— Havelock Ellis

When you are a caregiver to your loved one, this quote resonates deep within. Being a mother feels this same way. Every day we experience new joys of what life situations, or livelihoods, or relationships have become. In contrast every day we experience some of these changes in life situations, or livelihoods, or relationships, as sadness and “nothing will ever be the same” moments.

Grief is this experience of when you feel this “in between” of embracing the memories of what once was, combined with recognition of sadness of what it has changed to become. Without the joy of it all, you cannot experience the sadness. It is this “fine mingling” as Havelock Ellis states above, in which grief gets its meaning.

In Russell Friedman’s grief support blog he explains:

“Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.”

While that definition is accurate, it doesn’t really explain what grief is. So here’s another one we use to give a better idea of what grief is, beyond Friedman's explanation of it’s normal:

“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

So perhaps, in his sarcasm and frustration, Charlie Brown was right when he stated “good grief.”

Grief is good.

Besides being a “normal, conflicting feeling” this normal can be perceived and felt as good. Because without recognition of the change of the familiar-the good-we cannot acknowledge the sadness of the change itself. Life is full of “good” daily emotional moments of all the new hellos and all the sad goodbyes.

ARE YOU, AM I?

August 29, 2018

"Whatever lifts the corners of your mouth, trust that" RUMI

The other day I asked my daughter to look up a quote I was looking for from the poet Rumi. She asked me to spell it out and I stated, "r" "u" "m" "i". Then I said it again...and it sounded more like, "are you am i". Then silently I said it to myself as a question..."are you, am I?"

So many days go by when we willfully, blissfully and longingly speak of mindfulness. Being present in our days and moments. What we fail to recognize is that we really should be seeking mindstillness. Mind"full"ness promotes a mind being full. Rumi is a wonderful poet who seems to understand that present and still moments are key elements to life by presenting beautiful words to the reader that cause us to look inside ourselves. We look internally and seek to understand who we are.

It is when we are clearer on who we are and how we are, we can be more present with those who we come in contact with. Are we being the selves we want to be to the people we love and surround ourselves with? Are we showing ourselves and those we love the joy of mindstillness?

Are you, am I?

POETRY IN MOTION

July 26, 2018

ee cummings, a well known American poet, and one of my personal favorites, wrote this poem in 1952. It is a love poem. But really it can be used with any relationship that we absolutely know we couldn't live without.

Last Friday we had our first "Caregivers Having Coffee" encouragement group. The overarching, intertwining thoughts that were shared had so much love within them. Each contributor to the group shared their story and without even having to say it, the rest of the group could sense all the love that they had for the family member they are or were caring for.

Caregivers are truly everywhere. If you haven't been one, you will eventually be one. It is a very hard process to be a part of but it will show you time and time again how much love you are capable of.

NOW

July 14, 2018

Now is a very hard place to live. Now is what we strive for, but never get there. It is a place we yearn to experience and try to muster up all types of ways to get us there.

Ever since I was young I have longed to know what present living looks like.

So often we do our lives as if we are on a train sitting backwards. Or we push forward to quickly to the next thing not exploring the moment.

I will tell you right now this has a lot to do with caregiving.

In the midst of caregiving lies an unknown dilemma. It lurks around in our subconscious and pops it’s head out when we least expect. It is called NOW. It forms itself as a delusion making us we must do all things for the one we are caring for immediately. But really what point it is trying to make is, what about you right now? What in this moment is bringing you happiness, joy, or contentment.

I have recently read The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort and Connection. This book has impacted my every day living in more ways than one.

Around every corner in our daily living are reminders of where we can just be content, comforted and feel connected either with those we love or just in moments we experience. Hygge embraces now. Understanding and embracing these realizations is sometimes a slow process, but when you start becoming aware of the Hygge around you, you will be amazed at how much now you are present with.

"Hygge is a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted and sheltered. Hygge is an experience of selfhood and communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation. To hygge is to invite intimacy and connection. Its a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being, not having." -Louisa Thomsen Brits