Senior Living Awards Nomination

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I’ve been nominated in the Social Media Rockstars — Individuals category for SeniorHomes.com. If you want to vote for me, click here. 

Here’s the excerpt: “Michelle Seitzer is a nominee in the Best Senior Living Awards 2013 in the Social Media Rockstars – Individuals. Michelle Seitzer, who manages the @Seniors4Living Twitter account and hosts #eldercarechat, has accumulated nearly 1,400 followers on her personal Twitter account to date. Michelle keeps her followers informed on the latest happenings in senior care and senior living.”

Today is important, but so is tomorrow…

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Photo on 10-18-12 at 4.46 PMIt’s New Year’s Eve, a day that is symbolic, reflective, painful, epic, festive, ordinary or extraordinary, a day that means something different to everyone, depending on the kind of year they had or the one that’s ahead.

Maybe we take the last day of each year too seriously though. Maybe these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson are a more fitting way of viewing December the 31st:

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Wherever and however you’re commemorating the day, I hope you’re excited for all the best days that are still to come.

I’ll be making a lot of life and career changes in 2013, and the blog will reflect them all. Stay tuned!

Post-Election Thoughts

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Isn’t it crazy how the much-anticipated, super-hyped presidential election happened this month, but it already feels like a lifetime ago?

So, since it’s still November 2012 for one more day, I thought it was worth sharing something I posted on my Facebook page the day after the election:

We have the ability to advocate for the changes we want to see in government anytime, not just when voting every 4 years for the president.

If you’re patient, passionate and persistent, you might actually see change occur…and imagine how much more fulfilling, exciting and meaningful that change would be if you had a part in it, instead of looking to someone else for it?

You know those other people on the ballot? Your local, state and federal officials? Get to know them. Talk to them. Hound them about the things that make you tick. Do something about the things you don’t like. Change what you can. Channel your disappointment or delight about last night’s outcome into something good. 

Advocate. Participate. ACT.

Your turn: What issues would you be willing to/do you already advocate about? 

A Glimpse of Something to Come: My Family’s Story

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As I’ve been anticipating the arrival of our first child (via adoption) in the coming months, my own family’s heritage, history, and roots have been on my mind just about all the time.

Also, as other dear ones have recently encountered loss at the hands of Alzheimer’s, I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, who passed away in January 2009 after his struggle with the terrible disease. Here’s a peek into his — our — story, via an excerpt from an autobiography in the works:

Whenever I entered the room, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew I would be sad when I left. During those months, I watched her watch him, watched her wither away into a fragile, tiny shell of a person, as he did the same (although he never lost his strength). I watched all of us struggle desperately to know what was the right thing to say or do when we visited, and I’m not sure any of us, except maybe my husband, figured it out.

*****

In all of our growing up years, we never spent that much time in his – their – bedroom. Yes, we used to play with her perfume in the bathroom, and try on her powder and foundation, but we only went into the bedroom to get to the bathroom.

*****

While we ate frokost (breakfast) that morning, I was antsy with anticipation, eager, surging with nerves of the good kind, as I waited for him to pick us up and take us to the land he loved, the land he called home as a child and as a young man, the land he always loved and remembered fondly. I couldn’t wait to see the land, to see his brothers, knowing it would be the closest thing to seeing him this side of heaven. I fully expected to cry when I saw him, when he hugged me, when he held me tightly against his tall frame, in the way he used to before he could no longer walk.

*****

My baby nephew was magic in those final months. When he was in the room, everyone else disappeared.

It was just the two of them, as far as he was concerned, and the little one always obliged, nuzzling his soft baby face against his coarse, unshaven one, and resting together, saying no words at all, but speaking more loudly to him than any of us could. We watched in amazement as these two souls connected on the deepest level possible, and maybe some of us even envied what they had, as we sat awkwardly, fumbling with words and our hands, trying to know what to say to make everything normal again.

Your turn: Has your family dealt with the devastation of Alzheimer’s or dementia? Share what got you through, gave you hope.

Writing Is Easy Compared to This

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ImageI recently wrote a blog post for InCulture Parent Magazine, a fantastic online community that celebrates multicultural living and provides resources for families “raising little global citizens.”

Here’s an excerpt from my post, The International Adoption Experience: Living in the Great Unknown.

I’m a compulsive list maker, and I write (full-time) for a living. Deadlines and to dos are always with me. The pressure of an approaching deadline can be stressful, but when that blog post, research project or magazine article is delivered, the relief is a beautiful thing.

The international adoption process though? It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Read the rest at the site, via this link.

Your turn: What is something you waited a long time for? How did you get through the wilderness of waiting?

Changes to come…

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If all goes as planned, I’ll soon be unveiling a brand new website, which will include a list of services available to those of you (community and corporate professionals, elder care providers, and family caregivers alike) who are in need of elder care resources, advice, or expertise.

As my husband and I continue down the long and winding path to international adoption, keeping busy is one way to keep my mind off the chasm that stands between now and becoming a family of three. I’m also being proactive: seeking ways to diversify what I’m currently doing in order to challenge myself professionally and creatively, and to have several possibilities for work that are not associated with daily deadlines or being tied to a computer for 8+ hours a day (so that I can focus on our little one). These new offerings have been requested by many friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues already, so I am simply making it a formal part of my portfolio. (Special thanks to friend and fellow blogger/entrepreneur Hayley Croom for pushing me to do this!)

Stay tuned for the website’s launch, and feel free to contact me with any questions about services to be offered.

If you’re like me, you’re itching for the official arrival of autumn. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy a productive end to the summer season!

Great writing advice from Lewis Carroll

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When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,

But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.

~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

The downside of having a writing niche as I do is feeling like I’m repeating myself, or wondering, “Haven’t I written this before?” That’s why I found this advice from Carroll especially relevant and refreshing.

Writing full-time every weekday (sometimes 5 or 6 articles or blog posts a day) means that I must challenge myself to find new ways of saying the same thing, or I need to completely change my perspective on an old issue. Sometimes this process is fun, sometimes it’s frustrating… but I’ve also found that even the smallest “mental squint” can produce a completely unique point of view.

If I can learn something new about writing, my subject, myself, or all of the above, then I’ve been successful (and this continuous learning cycle is what I love so much about being a writer).

Sound off: Share your favorite tips from writers, about writing, in the comments section below. 

Cooking is not my gift, but I like the idea of it…

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Fresh tomatoes from our garden, tossed with chopped, homegrown basil, and balsamic vinegar, sea salt & olive oil (I can’t cook, but I can combine).

Somehow, the ability to cook well skipped a generation in my family. Both of my grandmothers were pros in the kitchen: Dad’s mom made delectable Italian food, Mom’s mom prepared meals for business men at the General Motors Building in Manhattan, and my own mother always put something delicious on the table (and still does) for her growing family.

Me and my sisters? We don’t burn the house down when we cook, and we’re good at following recipes, but we just don’t have the interest, experience, confidence or natural skill of our mother and grandmothers.

I know that practice would help, and I’ve had enough victories in the kitchen — times when my husband has said, genuinely, “This is the best thing you’ve ever made” — to keep me from quitting it altogether and declaring that our family will just eat takeout every night (although Trader Joe’s, our local farmer’s markets and Vietnamese restaurants are good friends of mine). But I definitely envy people with culinary savvy.

I was recently invited to pen a guest post for the Juvo “Live Actively” blog, and in brainstorming about topic ideas, the Juvo team and I settled on this one: cooking as a way for seniors to stay active. Despite my low culinary self-esteem, I’m really happy with the post. Here’s an excerpt:

“Cooking is a full-body, all-sensory experience. Everything about it is engaging, and it doesn’t have to be a hobby for this to be true. The brain is activated: reading or recalling a recipe from memory, gathering the necessary ingredients, timing all the elements, organizing and prioritizing tasks. The body is on the move: hands kneading dough, arms and upper body reaching for the spice rack, feet shuffling across the floor between the stovetop, countertop and sink. All the while, the scents and sounds of preparation (boiling water, a sizzling saucepan of onions, the wafting aroma from the oven) and the warmth of the stove fills the kitchen, spilling out into adjoining rooms. And of course, every cook and assistant must taste test their concoctions along the way…”

Read the rest here: Cooking: 15 Tips for The Quintessential Senior Living Activity

Of African Men and Elders; Shattering Stereotypes

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When I discovered this video on YouTube a few weeks ago, I was struck by its message and approach:

Yes, I’m usually focused on a completely different demographic, but what hooked me was the use of humor and “real people” to convey a serious message in a lighthearted, non-confrontational way. (Little did I know it was a message I needed to hear.)

Stereotyping and prejudices are no laughing matter, but I believe that humor and even sarcasm can break through the stubborn surface of people’s misconceptions to reveal the truths they’ve been missing, ignoring, or denying. I’ve always loved satire for this reason, because some truths are better told “in slant,” a la one of my favorites, Emily Dickinson. (This would also explain my obsession with JibJab, my subscription to MAD magazine, and why I never miss an episode of The Daily Show.)

Disarming someone with wit allows a vital message about a social issue to get through where it otherwise may have been firewalled, diverted or batted away like a pesky gnat.

Sometimes, the influence of the media (Hollywood movies, to reference an example from the video) is quite subtle. We know on a surface level that the media is powerful, but if we’re educated, open-minded and self-aware, we like to think we’re above that, that we don’t buy into the media’s overt or subliminal messages.

I know I’m guilty of that, and the video showed me just how guilty I am.

As I laughed about the shirtless Matthew McConaughey jokes in the video, my conscience was pricked. I had subconsciously absorbed and accepted some of the stereotypes it portrayed. Since I don’t know very many African men (though all of the ones I do know are nothing like the ones in movies), I had allowed this mainstream perspective to fill in the gaps.

To prevent this slipping and sliding along the stereotype slope, make a conscious effort to interact with people outside of your usual group. Get to know someone new as a person and fellow human being, not a number or statistic or stereotype. If you ask me, that’s the best way to throw off prejudices as a whole, to change our perspective of a “group,” no matter if the group is elders or African men or lesbians or introverts.

Think about it this way: would you say something negative or derogatory about the wonderful grandparent or favorite elder teacher that you loved and admired? Or judge them based on their age? Pummel stereotypes and move into more realistic beliefs by putting a human face and name on the group you’re prejudiced against.

Next time you’re behind an elder who is driving slowly and you find yourself muttering aloud, “There should be an age limit for drivers,” think of your vibrant, independent grandfather, or your lovely 84-year-old neighbor who is a better driver than you, and remember that “seniors” or “elders” are made up of individuals like these. (Hint: the same rule can apply elsewhere.)

Talk about it: how do you shatter stereotypes in your world?

A Realistic View of Aging in Literature

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image courtesy of the Picador Book Club

Last fall, I read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, and a few months later, I read Home, another emotional, intricate, and stirring novel by Robinson (which happens to be a sort of companion story to Gilead).

I highly recommend both books.

Not only are they brilliantly written, both of Robinson’s works feature strong elders as her main characters; Gilead is actually narrated by one.

The perspective is heart-breaking at times, but what amazes me most is the honesty, vibrancy and accuracy with which Robinson portrays the leading elders, who are both men.

As they face frailty and struggle with dependency in old age, the men also wrestle with the unresolved hurts and painful memories that they’ve carried throughout their lives. Best friends and retired reverends from the small Iowa prairie town of Gilead, Boughton and Ames are forging their living legacies and finding ways to reconcile their pasts, presents and futures in a world that is ebbing and flowing and changing around them every day — and all in the context of their families, whose members are dynamic and fluid and broken and blessed.

I’m always grateful for books, films, paintings, songs, and any other type of artistic creation that grasps the rich complexities of aging in a truthful, illuminating, and authentically human way. Marilynne Robinson has accomplished this feat and I applaud her for it.

What books, poems, and songs about aging speak to you? Whether they are funny, sad, inspiring or thought-provoking, please share them here.