Book clubs and belonging, friendship and laughter.

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There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books. Irving Stone

Last night my book club finally had our Christmas dinner. We couldn’t make December work and when our January plans fizzled down to just two of us we rescheduled for February. We still ended up with only four out of six of us.

It is hard to schedule, everyone is busy, and life gets in the way. We had a lovely time, one of our members googled to see if there was a coupon for the restaurant we went to. There was a two for one coupon but our Masala Tea didn’t count as the beverage, we had to have a cocktail or mocktail as well. I chose the mango mint mocktail.  It was so good.

We laughed and our youngest member said when she first came out to the book club her husband asked her how was it? I got the impression he thought this would be a one-time thing. That she would not be impressed by boring old biddies drinking tea. To his surprise, she was impressed and loves it.

I’m looking at a post about book clubs, she says everyone has a vague idea what a book club is.  A bunch of suburban moms wearing white jeans, drinking white wine spritzers, and discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett. She must have been stocking us, we read The Help, we sometimes wear white jeans, and we’ve been known to have a cocktail or two.

If you’ve ever read a book where you thought I wish I could discuss this with someone. You are a candidate for a book club. If you like to laugh with people and talk about life, you are a candidate for a book club. If you feel you don’t get together with people enough because nobody organizes anything, then you are a candidate for a book club.

If you’ve ever wondered what you should read next, you are a candidate for a book club. If you’ve ever wanted to sit and talk to an author about a book, you are a candidate for a book club. If you’ve ever wanted to talk to people about issues, small and big, personal and what affects the world, you are a candidate for a book club.

Some books you read some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul. Joanne Harris

If you’ve ever felt you start books but don’t finish them because you’d do better with a deadline, then you are a candidate for a book club. If you’ve ever felt you would like a more diverse group of friends, you are a candidate for a book club.

If you’ve ever thought you wish you could talk to someone who would understand, then you are a candidate for a book club. There are books on every topic; we get to know characters better than our own family. We see issues and situations at deeper levels than real life. Books are lies that tell the truth. They tell the truth about family secrets, dysfunctional marriages, raising children, cultures and belief systems, human frailties, accomplishments, bravery, overcoming great odds, becoming who we want to be with courage.

Anything we’ve felt, done, wanted to do, want to know more about, it’s in a book. Sharing that with a group of people who share a love of reading, a love of talking, thinking, questioning, laughing, will add a lot more to our lives than we would think possible.

We now have a membership of six if we all show up it is a small enough group to congregate in a coffee shop, restaurant, or each other’s home. We can all fit in someone’s family room if we want to watch the movie. If a few people can’t come to the meeting we still have enough to meet most of the time.

Our book club started in 2000, I joined in 2001. We have had a lot of members come and go; we have one original member left. No two book clubs will be the same; each member will change it in some way. Not every member who joins will find it fits with what they are looking for. This is okay, the book club will grow and morph over the years. We grow and morph over the years, what worked for us once may not work for us now.

We may have been able to attend every meeting but now can only come sporadically, that’s okay. Book clubs should fit into our lives, if they become a burden we might be taking them too seriously. Or maybe everything else in our life is crazy, but our book club is what is staying the same and becomes our anchor. We get a lot more out of being a member of a book club than just reading books.

If this is a year you wanted to bring something more into your life and you aren’t sure what that is. Have you thought about joining a book club? It might be the answer you are looking for.

Some members want a formal, academic book club, they are out there. Libraries have book clubs and if you want to join a book club that might be the easiest way to become part of one.

Keep reading it’s one of the most marvelous adventures anyone can have. Lloyd Alexander

 

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Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World Paperback – Feb 5 2019


Friends, laughter, games and food.

Potluck dinner Toastmasters Games Night

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Everyone desires relationship and community. Most people want to belong to a cohesive, like-minded group. It staves off loneliness. It promotes identity. These are natural and very human instincts. Joshua Ferris

Last night was games night with Toastmasters, our spouses, and children. Everyone brought a dish and many brought games. The hostess has a beautiful basement perfect for entertaining and a pool table as the main attraction.

Everyone came with their dish and a smile. My daughter recommended we take Taboo as an ice breaker game. It was the perfect game to start the night off, other games were going on as well. As people came in or finished a game we just added them to the sides in Taboo, more people, more laughter.

We ate the fabulous potluck dinner everyone brought. Then we finished off the night with a game of Pictionary. When my team won you’d think we won something big. A lot of us were on the same team that lost when we played Taboo. We left a few hardier souls who were going to play one more game, Cranium.

It doesn’t matter why we get together, it matters that we do. In times of hardship and want, people know this. They get together, laugh, dance, sing, and play games. If food is scarce they know putting together what they have can make a banquet.

Being part of a group of like-minded individuals opens up new dimensions in our life. When we see other people taking chances in their life we feel freer to take chances in ours.

Man is a competitive creature, and the seeds of conflict are built deep into our genes. We fought each other on the savannah and only survived against great odds by organizing ourselves into groups which would have had a common purpose, giving morale and fortitude. Robert Winston

Part of me wishes I’d joined Toastmasters ten years ago instead of two. The other part realizes that everything is working out how it should. Life is a process and accomplishing our goals takes longer than we think. Often overnight success is fifteen years of hard slogging. Ideas take time to germinate, become fledgling seedlings, and finally grow into what they are to become.

We often want to rush the process; we sometimes forget the joy is in the journey. Who we’ve met, who we’ve touched, who we’ve encouraged, and who encouraged us along the way is what’s important.

Getting together is part of being encouraged and encouraging others. We can be part of many different and diverse groups; each of them may serve a different purpose, and benefit us in different ways. We talk about different things with different people. Other people’s ideas and life experience help us expand our view of what we want our life to be. We may find answers to questions we didn’t even know we were asking.

Being part of groups adds so much to my life. Every group I’m a member of adds to my life in immeasurable ways. I enjoy including my husband in some of the Toastmasters events and I think he enjoys it too. We don’t participate in all of the events because we need time to do things together. When we are part of groups our partner is not part of, we have to be careful not to give too much to the groups and not enough to our partner.

A good life is walking fine lines, finding the balance so we give our energy to our spouse, family and outside interests. It is easy to go overboard and if we let anything in our life become more important than our spouse, or our spouse feels is more important, even if it’s not. We have a problem that will grow. We need our fifteen hours of uninterrupted time with our spouse per week, and if something has to give it should never be time with our spouse if we still want a spouse when we’ve met those fantastic goals.

When we look at our life, do we need to belong to more groups, spend more time with our spouse, develop new interests, or find someone to share our lives with? What do we need to add to our life to make it more fulfilling, and happier?

Most great learning happens in groups. Collaboration is the stuff of growth. Ken Robinson

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Friendship Matters: memoir, life lessons, laughter Paperback – Jan 27 2017

5 out of 5 stars   18 reviews from Amazon.com |

 

 

 

 

Belonging and self-acceptance. We are enough.

Photo of red roses by Belynda Wilson Thomas Sept 3 2018

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The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. Brene Brown

Last night was a fun night at Toastmasters. It was sixties theme night. We dressed in the style of the day. I chose the “mod” style and wore a black and white mini dress with tights. One of the speakers had the best outfit. She has long dark hair and wore a tie-dyed dress with a flowered shirt over it and flowers in her hair. One of our members made a huge effort to get the perfect outfit, it was perfect – for the fifties.

The Chair had a montage of songs he played, and a list of the changes the sixties brought to our society. Our Table Topics Master (one to two-minute speeches on the topic she gives you) chose songs from “the British invasion” and brought a British flag with British treats on it. One of the treats was an individually wrapped cookie with a cookie on the bottom, jam in the middle, and marshmallow on top covered in chocolate. I had to have one, it was delicious. It brought back memories. Dad always bought those kinds of cookies.

A night full of laughs, what more can you want on a cold January night? Our Hippie speaker spoke about the city she loves, the Russian City of St. Petersburg. Our Mod speaker spoke about “The Winter Blues” and what to do to mitigate the problem caused by a lack of sun. I bet they know a lot about that in St. Petersburg.

I envy people who have that kind of passion for a city. I think this is the kind of envy we who live in the “new” world have for those who live or lived in the “old” world.

One of the great things about listening to other peoples stories is we see a broader slice of life. We hear first-hand stories people are living that would bring us to our knees. We hear stories of overcoming adversity and hardship. Our General Evaluator said if she was born in the late fifties or early sixties in China she probably wouldn’t be here, because that was the time of the great famine. After the famine from 1962 to 1972 three hundred million babies were born in China, and she was one of them.

You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. Brene Brown

Is it hardship that creates some of these great personalities? Is it knowing where you are from over the generations that breeds pride in your country and city of origin?

Are we prouder of things and places we’ve moved away from than where we are? Do we look at where we were with rose tinted glasses? Do we feel if we love where we moved to more than where we were brought up we’ve betrayed our roots?

Did our expectations of where we moved to go unmet, because no place could meet them? Do we live with one foot in the past? Do we feel we don’t quite fit in where we are and we wouldn’t likely fit in where we were born anymore either?

Is it true you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl?

Next week it’s my turn to give a speech. I haven’t written it yet. Writing my speech is one of my projects for this weekend. I hope I can give them something to think about.

When we find a group of like-minded people to share a little time with, it is one of the greatest discoveries of our life. Have you found your group?

Stories in families are colossally important. Every family has stories: some embarrassing, some shameful. Knowing them is proof of belonging to the family. Salman Rushdie

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Choices. Beginning is half done. Make a decision.

Decision - Choose a Path - Photo of stream by Errol Thomas

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. Tony Robbins

Making the decision to go forward is hard. Should we, is it a mistake, will we be happier, will we be successful, will we lose money? Will it just be a waste of time, money etc. We sit with whatever the decision is we have to make, unable to choose.

Sometimes we want to jump into a business, buy a house, start a family. We worry is this the right time? Should we ask the person we love to marry us, ask the person out we like, or ask someone to take a chance on us again?

We worry and think, think and worry, our indecision drives us crazy. Sometimes we stay undecided until the opportunity we were considering is gone. She couldn’t wait. He now has a girlfriend or she now has a boyfriend. The second chance opportunity is gone, everyone is now to bitter to consider it. We are down a road we don’t want to be on because we couldn’t decide to go forward.

It is usually worth going forward. We need to be willing to take the step and know we are strong enough to deal with what lies ahead. We want our life to progress, we don’t want regrets.

What lies ahead is not happily ever after, nor only good stuff regardless of our choice. When we make a choice we can unfreeze our self we can commit to a goal, a path, a life, a partner, a business, a career, a house, a family. Without the commitment we have none of it. We stay in the job we do not like. We stay living alone, we don’t build the family, business, life, we don’t start the painting, novel, song, exercise program, or join the group.

We have a decision to make because something needs to change. We are stuck, our life calls out for action. That action can’t happen until a decision is made. We know what we want, but we are afraid. If we listen to the fear we get what we have or sometimes we lose what we have. Life can’t stand still, we need to move forward.

Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. James E. Faust

We all have decisions to make every day. What to eat, what to wear, who to spend time with, how to earn our daily bread. Most of these decisions we make almost automatically. We have hamburger in the fridge so that’s dinner. When there’s nothing in the fridge we might pop out for a hamburger or order in. Most of us have figured it out by nine o’clock.

How do we know what the right decision is? What if there isn’t a right decision? When my husband wanted to start his own business. He was offered a good job with the City. He went with the business. There are perks to having your own business there are perks to working where you have a pension and peers. What wasn’t okay was if he’d stayed where he was. Had he been unable to make a decision that would be the outcome.

Some of us have been stuck for years. Things we want to do are still waiting. Talents are unused, friends are unmet, families are not created, and businesses are not started. How many of us have seen something come to life, fruition, reality that we thought of? We didn’t do anything with it, someone else did and they reap the reward.

We can’t do something with everything that crosses our mind. We need to do something with enough of the opportunities that present themselves to build a good life. Life is one decision after another. When we can’t make a decision, we’ve still made a decision. If it isn’t yes, it’s no, there is no maybe in life.

There are no guarantees. We live it one step at a time. We don’t know going forward that this decision will never be regretted. We do know we regret more of what we don’t do than what we do.

It takes courage to give someone another chance you feel has hurt you in a way you never expected, and it hurts more than you can comprehend. It takes courage to buy a house and put every cent you have and will have for the foreseeable future into it and put down roots. It takes courage to say this is the man or woman for me. It takes courage to say goodbye to a secure pay cheque and go it on your own. It takes courage to start a family.

One decision starts us down a path, gets us off a path, detours from a path, creates a new path, or continues on a path. That decision determines our life going forward. We need to make the decision that gives us the best chance of living our best life. If we take the chance we will likely look back at this cross roads with a thankful heart, a fuller life, a grateful spirit.

We need to feel the fear, look at the consequences and be willing to face whatever must be faced to build the life we want. If we want a happy, fulfilling life we’ll have to take a few chances along the way. We need to trust it will be worth it in the end.

Take a chance on life. Make a decision. Go forward in hope and promise, trust we can deal with whatever is out there. Choose!

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right things, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst you can do is nothing. Theodore Roosevelt

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Dancing with Dementia. Making the best of what is.

Photo of sweet pea by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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One person caring about another represents lifes greatest value. Jim Rohn

This morning I stop and watch a clip on TV before I come to write my blog. The topic is dancing with dementia. The muscle memory remains and the music enables people to regain closeness when dementia is closing doors. The goal is to have fun, physical movement, closeness. It looks like it’s working on TV.

We need to build closeness into our relationships at every stage. Sharing activities, accomplishments, friends, relatives these are all strings that bind us close. Music connects us in a way that few things do. Old age homes should be filled with the music the residents grew up with and danced to in their active years. Are there any fun old age homes?

I haven’t been in many. The one I was in, visiting someone with my mother was hospital quiet. When my late aunt was in a home she said she had to get out or she would become just like the other residents.

I hear we have romances and dare I say it, “sex” going on in some of these places. Why wouldn’t we? People are still people at the end of their lives does it matter so much if people have a little fun and excitement in their life? No one is getting pregnant, there are no social issues coming out of having fun in a retirement home.

The belief that all we need to do for the elderly is keep them clean, fed and safely tucked away is destroying lives. I’m reading there is a better way and it is being implemented in Ontario, it is called the Butterfly program. The man responsible for this program is Dr. Sheard from Britain.

They start in one long term care home. The walls go from beige to bright retro colors chosen by Sonja Hidas curator and educator with the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives. The bright blocks of color help the residents with spatial problems navigate hallways that in beige look like endless confusing tunnels.

Sonia Hidas learns about the residents, where they come from, and interior designs that were popular in the decades when they were raising families or working. Brilliant colors are key because they are bright and happy. As children we enjoy bright and happy colors. When we become seniors colours come back to us. It’s part of being in the present moment and just enjoying what is.

What happens to a person is less significant than what happens within him. Louis l. Mann

People who are lonely and bored become frustrated and sometimes angry. The industry calls this “responsive behaviors,” saying it’s an outcome of dementia and other neurological problems. Sheard disagrees. He says it’s the result of frustration, loneliness and boredom, created by cold, clinical care.

A keyboard is brought in and one of the residents flips through song sheets, taking requests. The response to the music is that manic walkers no longer pace endlessly, everyone is calmer as the music taps into deep emotions. In the dining room cd’s are played.

A mini fridge is brought into the dining room. Residents are allowed to serve themselves any time of the day. Small pleasures bring back the humanity. There are other changes they want to make. They want to split the dementia unit into two. One side for residents still mobile. The Butterfly project realizes small homes are key. Most nursing homes are built to house 32 people per unit, an arbitrary number chosen years ago in the belief that bigger is better, particularly for operational efficiencies.

The staff has dropped the scrubs, street clothes are a requirement in the unit now.

Butterfly’s David Sheard says people with dementia can’t explain their emotions. Their emotions are best understood through metaphor. If the elderly woman is calling for her mother, what is she really seeking? It’s probably comfort, love or reassurance, so the Butterfly program says give that to her instead of the truth, “your mother’s dead.”

The staff has been trained in the old ways that dominate long-term care, focusing on systems and processes, not people. Butterfly relies on emotional intelligence, the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and respond with compassion.

The Butterfly project believes if you live in a sterile environment, it will kill your soul.

At the end of a year this care home passes the test and is recognized as a Butterfly home. It still has more changes to make but it has progressed a lot in treating the residents as people. It is now called by the person assessing it, a place of engagement and love.

The Peel council votes unanimously to keep funding the Butterfly project in this nursing home and to add it to a second facility. This Butterfly project has a financial cost but we have Politicians who would like to see the program adopted by the provincial government and expanded throughout all Ontario nursing homes.

This would be progress. Maybe we wouldn’t be so scared of ending up in one of these facilities if it seemed more like a home and less like an institution. We can’t stop the progress of age, disability and death. We can make it a little easier for those going through it. We can act like the people are still people. It is better for the people being cared for and the people doing the caring. Violence is a huge problem in people with dementia, caring for them like they are people seems to help.

We are moving in the right direction. We can put people ahead of profit. One small change at a time. We are learning to do better. We need to look at the positive changes being made. It is the goal of many people to bring positive change into the world. We need to acknowledge it when we see it. We need to be willing to embrace change. Things don’t have to be done the way they’ve always been done. We can make it better. We can fix the problems. We can start small.

There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver. Rosalyn Carter

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Songs You Know By Heart: A Simple Guide for Using Music in Dementia Care

Songs You Know By Heart: A Simple Guide for Using Music in Dementia Care

Feb 25, 2016

by Mary Sue Wilkinson and Teepa Snow
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