Posts Tagged ‘botanical garden’

Forced to Follow my Dream

Since becoming my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC), I face new challenges daily. In some ways, on some days, it’s as if I am responsible for an 85-year-old toddler. Without family intervention, her meals would be meager and lonely, her health declining rapidly.

man on motorcycle

Prior to moving, my sister, Jane, or my brother, Joe, cooked for her, but they weren’t able to be on hand daily to ensure she ate what was prepared. That’s my job, now.

Without my support system, I might have burned out quickly. By far, my biggest supporters are my brothers and sisters. Each in his or her way has provided invaluable assistance. Some have taken us out to dinner.

family phot

Others have brought food or even tea parties to us. Some have helped with yard work. All have given words of gratitude and encouragement.

tea party

Jane offered to give my husband and me one weekend off each month.

I had no idea how important that would be, but Jane knew.

What a gift!

Gift with a bow

When we first moved in, I needed some time to unpack and assimilate.


We all needed to adjust to the new lifestyle. We were here three months before our first weekend away, which meant it was all the more important – but what a fiasco! We’d started planning a trip to a local resort town, but something didn’t feel right, so we decided my husband would follow his instincts and use “the force” to direct us on our spontaneous adventure.  My well-intentioned sister didn’t realize that my night-schedule husband wouldn’t wake at dawn, as hers would have. I knew this, so I promised her I’d call when we were leaving, but she came early. It all worked out well, but it seemed as if we were being rushed that day.

traffic jam

We drove an hour to North Charleston, where he surprised me by taking me to the Fire Museum, a wonderful visual tribute to firefighters all over the museum

That evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal and sat outside our less-than-ideal hotel/motel room watching a feral cat colony. The next day, we drove to historic downtown Charleston and the Battery where we started making plans for a future trip.

customs house

A short drive to the Isle of Palms, where we toured the island and I took photos, took us past the Windjammer Beach Club and we modified our plans. My husband then drove us to Sullivan’s Island. He  stopped so I could take some photos of the historical monument that described an early battle during the Revolutionary War.

monument plaque

Then we saw him.

A young man was rising out of the water, a hose attached to a jet ski. He rode on a stream of water, hovering the inlet. It was the highlight of our day.

jetski rocket

I have wanted to travel, for as far back as I can remember.

Wait. That’s not accurate or truthful.


My first memory is of my sister Bernadette “Bernie” and me making cucumber pies. I was five and she was almost four. We lived in the largest house I can remember for my family of ten, although at that time, the “babies” had not yet been born.

The house was situated on a corner at the intersection of two major thoroughfares. Long before interstate travel sped by on freeways created for the purpose, travelers used these small-town highways.

On one hot summer morning, our house roused to the sound of a collision and we knew a large truck had been involved. This one had been filled with cucumbers. Housewives and older children rushed to the intersection to help clean up the debris so traffic could resume as soon as possible. My mother pickled what she could and those too bruised or broken became playthings for Bernie and me for a day. We made the best-smelling mud pies in town.


When I wasn’t making mud and cucumber pies, I was reading. I don’t recall a time in my life without books. Once I started school, I read even more. That’s when thoughts of travel first entered my mind. I longed to visit exotic places I’d read about and for many decades, I believed travel meant passports, airfare and foreign countries.

I’m reconsidering my perception.


To be certain, I do own a passport. It’s in almost pristine condition, though it will soon be time to renew it. I have traveled outside of the United States, but barely.

cruise ships

Although I enjoyed it thoroughly, traveling on a cruise ship is an extremely limited sort of travel.

Hawaii hello

My husband and I have dreamed together of being able to spin a globe to stop it with a finger on “Where shall we go next?” knowing our dream is tied to our budget. Outside of a few cruises and some outings while visiting family, our travel has been limited – in location and ambiance.

As another month approaches, we are faced with a dilemma.


  • Where should we go?
  • What will we do when we get there?
  • What kind of restaurants will we find?
  • Do we want to visit the typical tourist venues or go off that path?
  • How can we avoid another iffy hotel, when the online rating system is flawed?
  • Can we really afford to spend the night away each month?
  • Can we afford not to stay overnight?
  • How much can we, with our current jobs, afford to disconnect?

We think we have a solution.lottery

Scaling down our global travels dream (until we win the lottery), we’re going to put names of cities and towns in a hat or a box or a basket or maybe just stack them like playing cards.

hat and cane

Each month, we’ll draw out the name of that month’s destination for our weekend away.

There are no rules, but we do have some guidelines.

  • No location should be more than a three to four-hour’s drive from home. This will ensure we can enjoy our destination as well as the journey to get there.
  • We’ll spend a little extra for nicer accommodations, even if we have to skimp on our main meal out.
  • Some months, we will pack a picnic basket, depending on our final destination.
  • Each location should have some draw: a museum, an aquarium, a historical monument, a botanical garden or some other special amusement.
  • We reserve the right to change our minds.


Now, my task is to locate cities and towns that fit our criteria, set up the cards with options for entertainment and search out accommodations.

historic inn

If you have any suggestions for exciting destinations or locations within a few hours from the Charleston/Columbia South Carolina or the Savannah Georgia areas, I’d love to know about them. Please, leave me a comment with your suggestions.

The Little House in the Country

City HallI was thrilled when I first moved from my lifelong hometown, with a population of 5,360 – according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau – to Atlanta, with well more than 900 times that.

City scape view

At the time, I needed to be absorbed into the city’s anonymity, to feel the pulse of cultural diversity. Several years later, I downsized the city but upgraded my lifestyle.

House in the suburbs

We moved from a small two-bedroom apartment on a fourth-floor walk-up into a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage. About one-fifth the size of Atlanta, this city was still fourteen times larger than where I returned to report for HANC duties. As a HANC I am my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities director, Nutritionist and Caregiver.


Much of what I’ve done has been typical for a homemaker or a HANC. Cooking, cleaning, stimulating conversation; memory work; driving to appointments, refilling prescriptions, answering the telephone and coordinating with family and friends who want to visit; these are all things that for more than a decade, I have resolutely eschewed.

Why am I now thinking of sewing myself an apron?

World Book encyclopedias

I have fought to be atypical in all my endeavors. I never thought I was superior, yet I felt somehow different from others. One sister has called me the family dictionary for ages. A friend told me my knowledge is encyclopedic. A co-worker nicknamed me the breathing style guide. An employer thought I had moved to South Carolina from Chicago or Manhattan, because of my demeanor and lack of strong southern dialect. No wonder I sought to escape my small town.

            Yet, here I am.


Thomas Wolfe wrote,

You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

    Yet, here I am.

I left my little house in the country for one of the largest cities in the U.S.A.

NAMPA AWARD   The whole enchilada







Filtered by my environment, I’ve lived my dreams of writing and editing.I am pleased that I seem to have achieved some level of glory and fame. I have no desire to escape time or memory. In fact, my mother’s fading memory is one of the things I hope to help her preserve. As Alzheimer’s begins to scar the surface of her recollections, I went back home, to my family, but not to my childhood.

place setting

I miss the culinary delights that are typically found in large cities, the hidden spots frequented on rare and special occasions. I do miss my friends, the bonds forged while working on our individual novels and short stories or as we groused about deadlines or unmet expectations. I miss my infrequent lunch and after-hours buddies.

Photo outing

I will have to find new photography field trippers and cultural outlets. Now, instead of one or two grandmothers, I am surrounded by them within my own family and it feels different. Good, but different.

house in the woods

I did not return to the Little House in the Country  as a child, seeking anything but peace of mind. For myself, primarily, as I ached every time I had to leave my mother, knowing her health declined daily. For my mother, secondarily, because in order for me to have peace of mind, I needed to provide her with a level of care and companionship that might ultimately improve her condition somewhat.

children in summer

I did not consider that I would provide peace of mind to my large family, but I have. Each one has conveyed in his or her own way how grateful they are to know that our mother is no longer alone.

I tend to act quickly to situations. I try to be prepared enough that I don’t overreact, but at times, I don’t work out all the scenarios. I had not considered how my transition to HANC-dom would impact others in the family. I just knew I had no option but to go home.

House in the country

My parents built The Little House in the Country and we moved into it when I was in the sixth grade. I was over-dramatic when I thought I would never see my best friends again. I thought I hated the new house and who could blame me?

two missing

I have four brothers and three sisters. The house had four tiny bedrooms. Now, it has two! The day we moved in, the house was “dried-in,” which means it had a sub-floor, four exterior walls, a roof and studs for interior walls. The electricity had been turned on and the plumbing was installed. There were no walls or doors inside the house. We had no privacy so my mother stapled sheets to the studs around the bathroom. Little by little, cardboard walls were also then stapled to the other rooms. As time and money allowed, sheet-rock was installed.

Worden parents

My mother told me she had moved frequently once she married my father and when they moved into the newly-built, but unfinished house, she told him,

“This is the last time I am moving. If you want to live somewhere else, you will have to do it without me. I am not leaving this house until I am dead.”

            She has “made do” with whatever she could and has improved The Little House in the Country as much as she has been able.


Now, it’s my turn. The city girl has come home to her roots and I rejoice when I find grubs or red wrigglers in my compost bin! A recent trip to buy a simple piece of hardware turned into a field trip for me, when I started setting potted plants and hanging baskets into the shopping cart. My urban-bred husband shook his head and waited.

outdoor flowers

I spent hours arranging and repotting dahlias and mums near the mailbox and I fretted over which soil to use for the rosemary and pepper.

rural house

I traded in my small country home for an equally small apartment in a thriving metropolis that was later traded for a spacious home in the suburbs and I pursued my career as city editor. Returning to my roots, I have swapped all I held dear for what is most precious to me. With that, came The Little House in the Country.



How to be a Master HANC

Leu Gardens brick walk   Almost anyone can be a caregiver, but t-o be a Master Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion requires more than organization, dedication and patience. It requires unconditional love, keen observation, tolerance, strong listening skills and superb grounding routines.

     Families often hire caregivers and nurse/companions for loved ones who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease dementia or other memory loss issues. While some of these employees demonstrate an extra depth of compassion or caring, when their shifts end, they gather their magazines, novels or laptops and go home. The Master HANC does not go home, because home is where the job takes place.

 Support groups can help with many aspects of caregiving, but the calling to be a Master HANC is an extraordinary opportunity to put personal goals and dreams on hold for a higher purpose. Everyone’s situation will be different, but here are some steps to lead you toward your goal.

  1. Notice a need to step up; don’t wait for someone else to offer.  Regardless of the size of your family, only one person can be the first HANC. It’s not likely you will have to compete for the position.
  1. Accept the fact that you will make personal sacrifices and you will make them often. Your family life will never be the same, your job and your habits will need to change. Even if you are accustomed to working remotely, while you are adjusting to your new lifestyle, your job could suffer. Be prepared to handle the changes and go with the flow. Consider contingency plans for the things you normally take for granted.
  1. Never question your choice to be a HANC. You may fluctuate between the joy of knowing you are the best person to provide care and assistance to your loved one and wondering what happened to your reasoning powers the day you chose to become a HANC. Don’t doubt yourself. No one else will. You have embarked on a noble journey. Enjoy it.
  1. Expect unsolicited advice. Family, friends, even strangers will offer advice on how they think you should be a HANC. It won’t matter that few of them have done what you are doing, they will be happy to offer their opinions about medications, menus and activities they think you should become involved in.
  1. Keep building your networks. Expand your social and personal networks and stay in contact. You never know when someone has the answer to one of your problems or concerns. It’s possible you can simply ask for help and receive it, if you have a strong network.

path at leu gardens

  1. Embrace the life-changing event as an adventure. Whether you have made the choice to become a HANC on your own or with another person such as a spouse, partner, sibling or child; it can be a grand adventure. Never look upon it as a chore or something you “have to do,” but see it as a major opportunity in your lifetime.
  1. Recognize challenges as learning opportunities. When the person for whom you are providing care balks at changes, seek to understand the reason behind the protest. Are you attempting to make too many changes, too quickly? Are you making decisions without his or her input? Slow down and discuss the concern. You might hear an entertaining story and learn some family lore at the same time.
  1. Remember your place.  Never forget that you are most likely junior to the person requiring a HANC. If you are a child, grandchild, niece or nephew be certain to remain respectful at all times. The adage: a daughter’s a daughter all of her life, but a son is a son until he takes a wife has many implications. Even though caregiving roles may have reversed, the need for mutual respect remains.
  1. Know that some days will present more challenges than others. Fictional characters, such as Mary Poppins, might wake each day singing and smiling, but most people have mood swings and some have days that change from moody to worse or from dramatic to traumatic. Everyone has different ways to respond and cope. Be sure you are ready to accept the differences in each day.
  • Take a step back and breathe during challenging days.Don’t react to negative behavior with more negative actions or words. When challenged by circumstances or harsh words, take a moment to take a deep breath and if you can, separate yourself from the situation, if only long enough to get a drink of water. Often, just walking away is enough to diffuse a potentially volatile situation.

path with bench at leu gardens

  1. Learn something new. Every day offers a chance for learning something. Find a new recipe; discover another way to the doctor’s office or drugstore. See if you can create a new ritual or routine for daily tasks. Read something different or listen to music you didn’t think you’d care for, but never force your loved one to listen to music that might be offensive or simply foreign to older ears.
  1. Explore familiar territory together. Take a walk or drive through the same places you typically pass, but this time, notice something different. Look for a certain kind of car or dog and see how many you can count on your exploration. Notice the clouds in the sky. Do you see any similar patterns? Go to your childhood neighborhood, if possible or take a trip down memory lane by going through old photos together. Discuss the different styles of architecture or landscaping you see.
  1. Share stories. You may find yourself repeating some stories or listening to others more often, but sharing family stories can be fun and educational for both of you. Have fun with your new position. Note if the stories remain the same each time or if there are subtle changes.
  1. Make being a HANC a fun experience.  Especially if you are responsible for caring for a person with memory issues, find a way to make your job more fun. Have tea parties, color, sing or dance together – even if the other person can’t dance. Crank up the music and see what happens. Be prepared for the magic.
  1. Keep a journal. Record the funny anecdotes and jokes. Keep a record of the things you do together and don’t forget to record your dreams and goals for the future.

tree at sidewalk at Leu Gardens

  1. Blog your experiences. If you aren’t comfortable blogging, find a forum for caregivers and join the conversation. Your experiences might help someone else and you are sure to find help you need.
  1. Vlog. If you have a smart phone, you can make a video blog. Record your memories. Remember the good days and recall fond memories from your past. You don’t need special editing software or Hollywood lighting to make a precious family keepsake. Every generation has something special to share. Ask questions and make each video just a few minutes long, about one subject.
  1. Read books aloud. If you can both read to each other, it will be even more special, but reading books or magazine articles aloud will help strengthen your bond and will give you both something to focus on other than the reason you have chosen to become a HANC.

19.Limit discussions about medications or illnrose path at Leu gardensesses.

Don’t discuss someone’s medical condition with others, even with other family members, unless the person with the condition grants permission or begins the conversation. Be ready to change to another topic quickly.

Trust that you have a future life, after this journey is concluded. Life will go on and so will you. Don’t abandon your dreams and goals, but accept that they may be on hold for some time.

  • 21. Realize that you are making a tremendous difference in the life of your loved one. You are a Master HANC and most families have only one. Knowing that you have saved your loved one from life in a strange home or facility should be reward enough, but more importantly, you and only you, have the opportunity to spend quality end-of-life time with someone you love who loves you, too.
  • 22. Don’t take personally, the days when you wonder where the love went. There will be days you wonder what happened. The love will return. Be patient.
  • 23. Don’t see yourself as a victim and don’t become a false martyr because you are the unsung hero in this scenario. Some will not understand the sacrifices you are making. They aren’t the ones moving away from friends and jobs or making career adjustments. The sacrifices are part of the process, but if you dwell on what you must give up, you won’t be able to enjoy all you will receive.
  1. Find new hobbies. You may no longer be in a position to take leisurely walks, spend weekends away or engage in some of the recreational activities you once participated in, but this could open your time and mind to other opportunities.
  1. Take care of yourself. Remember that a caregiver can not give care while fatigued or ill. Stay healthy and mentally balanced.  path THROUGH LEU GARDENS
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of sunshine and fresh air. If the one you are caring for becomes chilled, sometimes a stroll or ride outdoors in the sunshine will warm better than a blanket. The vitamin D and bright light will help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder and most bad moods. The exercise will help keep you in balance.
  1. Respect the healing power of touch. Even those who shy away from warm and fuzzy or touchy/feely will usually respond to non-invasive hugs, hand touches or the application of lotion on aging skin. Never force someone to accept your touches, however. If you are caring for someone who is tactile resistant, you will have to start much more slowly.
  1. Seek touches if you need them. If you find you are missing your former companions, don’t be afraid to search for new friends in your new surroundings. Join a support or hobby group. See where it leads.
  1. Stay connected. Your new job as HANC may make you feel isolated both geographically and socially. Stay in touch via email, social networks, hand-written letters, phone calls or personal visits.
  1. Get away. It is imperative that you take time away from the job. Set up time off as part of your regime. Find a sibling, friend or hire temporary respite if necessary so you can take a weekend as often as possible. Take your spouse or a good friend and go do something fun.     path to gazebo at Leu gardens
  1. Treasure your personal space.  Respect the personal space of your loved one, too. Everyone needs space from time to time. Take yours without crowding anyone else and don’t forget to come back, soon.
  2. Rest. When you are tired, take a break or take a nap. You never know when you may need to go without pause for some reason. Rest while you can and be sure to always rest when you are tired. You can’t help anyone if you are exhausted.
  1. Stay sharp. Engage in lateral thinking or brain exercises. Tongue twisters can be fun and crossword puzzles or other word games challenge thinking.
  1. Exercise. Take walks, ride bikes, work in the garden or do whatever feels right so you can keep limber and stay active.
  1. Stretch. Stretching keeps you from stiffening up and is good if you can get your loved one to join you.
  1. Meditate.

statue hug at leu gardens

If you don’t already know how to meditate, you can learn . Even if you don’t wish to meditate, it’s a good practice to breathe deeply and rhythmically. Meditation helps lower blood pressure and stress.

  1. Remember breakfast.  While you are focused on your loved one’s nutritional needs, don’t forget your own. Make a weekly or monthly menu to eliminate the stress of planning. Once you have a menu worked out, it will help with food shopping and some meals can be prepared in advance, frozen to save for days that may not go so smoothly.
  1. Remain positive. Associate with people who uplift you and support you. Read motivational literature and avoid depressing television and people.
  1. Take it easy on yourself.  Know that you can only do your best and your best is good enough. You aren’t being graded or evaluated on your performance by anyone but you. No matter how you do, it’s better than doing nothing. You are at the head of your class before you start. Don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go as expected or when plans don’t fulfill according to your strategy.   walkway at leu gardens
  1. Expect the job to be difficult.  This will be one of the hardest things you will have to do. Some days will be rewarding, others will be exciting and some will be adventurous. Most will be complicated and filled with inflexibilities. Personalities and family drama could consume your life. Don’t let them.
  1. Walk barefoot.  Take a walk outdoors on the grass or dirt in your bare feet. It will help keep you grounded in a very real sense. Being grounded will help you stay strong, energized and positive.
  1. Take care. While you are cooking, cleaning and planning activities, remember that one of the most valuable aspects of being a Master HANC is being a Companion. Take care of your loved one and take care of yourself. Enjoy each other’s company and nurture your relationship. Enjoy it and take care of it.

Leu Gardens pink flower

All of these photos were taken at Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida and are the property of

Mary Brotherton. For more information or to purchase one, contact








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