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Photos are Used to Capture the Struggles and Rewards of Being a Caregiver

Kelly Taylor

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It is important for everyone to spend time with the members of their family because they may not know just how much time they have. A caregiver who, about ten years ago, realized that time with her ather was coming to an end, learned how to value every moment she has with her family. First, she noticed that something was strange about her father. She says that her face wasn’t as reactive as it used to be. Her father came from Egypt and moved from the United States in search of a better life. He got a job as a successful professor of mechanical engineering. This allowed him to provide for his family. His daughter realized that it was time for her to give something back to her dad who had given her such a great life in America.

At the same time, this young woman also appreciated his smile and laughter as well. She noticed that this was changing. His personality had changed. His vibrant laugh was gone. She was worried that her father had suffered a stroke. She took him to see a doctor and then, about two years after the first event, she finally got the answer. He had Parkinson’s Disease. Initially, the symptoms were relatively manageable. He was stiff from time to time. His emotions were flat. At the same time, he was still himself on the inside. Unfortunately, this was not meant to last. Things started to get worse about two years later.

She learned that she was going to have to take care of her father full-time. The roles of parent and child had been flipped. She would have to bathe him, calm him, and make sure that all of his daily needs were taken care of. This took a toll on her because she saw the person that she had known her entire life was starting to evaporate before her very eyes. At the same time, she still had to take care of herself as well. That is why she developed a few rules that can help her, and others, serve as caregivers for members of their family.

First, caregivers need to take breaks. This is a necessity. Just because she is the primary caregiver for her father doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed to take breaks. Parents take breaks when raising their children and caregivers can take breaks as well. Research has shown that caregivers can get stressed. When this happens, they also tend to make bad decisions. Therefore, take breaks and time for self-care. This will make someone into a better caregiver because they are going to feel more rested.

Next, remember that there is an age difference. Try to bridge this difference using love. Take pictures. Bring up old memories. Try to find a way to help a parent who is aging. By reminiscing about the good times, those who are being taken care of are more likely to have positive moments and interactions that will make everything else worth it. Try to focus on the positives.

Finally, remember that the disease and the person are not the same thing. The two are different things. By remembering that the person and the disease are different, caregivers are going to avoid placing blame on the person or resenting them. In order to remember that the person and the disease are different, remember the good times that were shared. This is going to help the caregiver fight through the bad times by remembering that their loved one is still in there somewhere.

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Culture

Man’s Best Friend, Except When It’s Time for the Weather

Shannon Jackson

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Working from home these days comes with a number of new challenges and risks that most never expected to deal with in their careers. But when the computer camera or conference video is placed in one’s private accommodations, all sorts of issues can pop up that folks normally don’t deal with in the office setting. Everything from what kind of photos, art or prints one has in the background to their furniture in a personal room to everything else the home is shared with becomes potentially exposed. And in the case of a particular weatherman trying to provide his meteorologist work online, man’s best friend can be a notable interruption.

Paul Dellegato regularly works as meteorologist for Fox 13 based in Florida. However, like many others, Paul had to figure out in short notice how to relocate his work and his broadcast to his home to maintain social distance and health safety. While the access to his work networks and computer setups wasn’t too hard, the readjustment to a home office and presentation place for his work took a bit of additional thinking. He had to pick a place in the house that would be free of distractions, walk-in surprises, problematic backgrounds, and not be invasive to his own home as well. What Paul didn’t count on was that his own extended family might end up being the real disruption to Paul’s broadcast.

In the clip provided, Paul is working as usual on his life TV broadcast and covering the weather for the day and the next few days’ expectation. As he’s going through the details and the changes in high and low pressures as well as the temperature predictions, someone doesn’t want to let the weatherman continue. Paul’s golden retriever, Brody, has decided to be a gate crasher and literally jump up in Paul’s face and personal space. No matter how much Paul tries, his dog just keeps being persistent for his master’s attention. Chances are the dog is probably hungry for dinner and is making a point about it. Doing so, however, Paul’s dog is not only making a presence on the screen, the canine is goofing up the weather graphics on the nearby computer, making a ton of noise, and showing how useless it is for Paul to try to and stop the chaos. The audience loves it and Brody, and Paul’s dog became the new digital mascot for Fox 13.

The weatherman’s crisis resonates with all of us. We’re all going through a big disruption, trying to reconstruct our professional work lives from home all over the country. So, to find a bit of humor in Paul’s online dilemma with Brody provides a cathartic effect, helping us all find some humor and a bit of lightness in watching. Once you watch the show clip, you’ll understand why Paul’s situation went viral so fast.  

Things didn’t turn out bad for Paul. He earned big commendations for how patient he was able to stay under duress from Brody and the dog’s insistent interruptions of his weather show. And it was clear Paul loves his furry buddy. So, the feeling now is the heck with the weather maps. How Brody behaves on camera will indicate if tomorrow will be a good weather day or otherwise.  

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Culture

Jordan’s Black Cat Story

Shannon Jackson

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Black cats are evil! Do not let one cross your path!

Fortunately, 22-year-old Jordan ignores this silly and superstitious advice. Jordan, whose last name we’re withholding, has autism. As a result, she’s not very verbal…most of the time. But that’s where her black cats come into the story.

Gracie’s Tale

Jordan’s experience with black cats started with Gracie, a feline friend Jordan had when she was younger. While at Mychal’s Learning Place, a non-profit organization that supports those with learning disabilities, Jordan would draw pictures of black cats and call them Gracie.

That inspired the organization’s Culver City, California chapter to put Jordan in touch with the local Adopt and Shop.

Adopt and Shop is a pet rescue and adoption center, as well as a retail store for pet food and supplies. Jordan became a volunteer at Adopt and Shop, spending much of her time with cats-especially the black ones.

The Ideal Pet

Cats can be the ideal pet for many individuals with autism. Dogs tend to be loud and excitable, barking suddenly and moving noisily. That much volume can be a sensory overload to many on the spectrum. Cats, on the other hand, move quietly and are usually calmer than dogs. And a meow isn’t nearly as disruptive as loud barking or yapping.

Cats and other pets can play a major role in calming and comforting those with autism, helping them open up more emotionally and socially.

That’s been Jordan’s experience. Those working with her at Mychal’s Learning Place say that the young woman rarely talked except to possibly repeat the last thing she heard someone else say. But while working with the cats at Adopt and Shop, they say that she’s much more verbal. The animals seem to bring out Jordan’s communications skills.

Jordan loves all of the cats at Adopt and Shop. She cuddles with them, stroking their fur and talking with them for hours just as she would communicate with another person. But she can’t hide her special affection for black cats.

The Black Cat Curse

When people like Jordan go out of their way to show kindness to black cats, it helps offset the superstitions that negatively impact these animals even to this day. The fear and dislike of black cats might go back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Legends arose that these cats were actually witches in disguise. This belief even associated witches with black cats as recently as the Salem Witch Trials in America in the late 17th century.  

The color is also associated with death. Think of the Grim Reaper. In that regard, black cats were considered to be as unsettling as crows and ravens of the same shade. In time, many saw the animals as being bad luck charms. (Interestingly, Japanese lore said that ownership of a black cat could bring a young woman a mate, and British sailors of old considered black cats to bring good luck.)  

While most people today don’t take the black cat curse seriously, they tend to show up, unwanted, more frequently at some animal shelters. Some rescues are hesitant to release the animals for adoption around Halloween because of stories, whether true or not, of people who want to sacrifice black cats on this “demonic” holiday.

The Culver City Adopt and Shop also sees its share of black cats rescued as strays or put up for adoption. That’s why they so appreciate the volunteer involvement of someone who goes out of their way to offer love and comfort to this misunderstood segment of the feline population.  

So kudos to Jordan for her compassion and love for all cats-but the blacker the better.     

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Culture

Norah and Mr. Dan’s Very Special Friendship

Shannon Jackson

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Norah Wood of Augusta, Georgia met her best friend on her birthday. That fact, in itself, might not be all that surprising. But Norah was four and her best friend, Dan Peterson, or “Mr. Dan,” as she prefers to call him, was 82 at the time of their first meeting in a supermarket.

Tara Wood and her daughter, Norah, were at the store to pick up items for the little girl’s fourth birthday party, which was to occur that day. Tara says that her daughter’s first words to the elderly stranger they just happened to pass in an aisle were, “Hi, old person. It’s my birthday!”

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Reconnecting

The newly bonded friends chatted briefly in the supermarket. Peterson introduced himself as Dan, but Norah insisted on calling him “Mr. Dan.” The name stuck.

Mr. Dan needed the new friendship more than Norah did. His beloved wife, Mary, had recently passed away and he hadn’t been able to lift himself from the deep depression that had settled in.

That’s what Tara Wood learned later, after she posted that initial encounter on Facebook, with a photo of the unlikely new friends that she’d taken at the supermarket. Someone who knew Peterson saw the post and wrote back with the additional information about the older man.

Tara Wood got Peterson’s number from the friend and reached the elderly man by phone. Peterson did indeed remember the little girl he’d met at the market. And yes, he’d love to reconnect with Norah.

Wood and her daughter visited Peterson at his home and brought the photo of the two of them together, which they’d framed. Norah also brought crayon-colored art for Mr. Dan’s refrigerator.

That was only the beginning. Norah insisted on visiting her much older friend as often as possible. Neither of the adults learned what the attraction was for Norah, but it was strong. While they couldn’t stop by every day after school, as the little girl wished, they did visit often and Norah called her elderly friend on the phone at least once a week.

Mr. Dan looked forward to whatever form of contact he could have with his adorable young friend. Their relationship gave him the feeling that he still had something to live for after the death of his Mary.

Nonetheless, Norah regularly worried about whether Mr. Dan was lonely. She suggested bringing him a dog. That wasn’t too practical for his living arrangement, but Norah and her mom brought him a stuffed dog–the next best thing–on one of their frequent visits.  

A Three-Year Relationship

“She healed me,” said Peterson of his emotional health after meeting Norah. He said that he hadn’t slept through the night for the months since his wife’s death and had been having a particularly hard time of it on the day of that first meeting at the grocery store on Norah’s birthday. You might call that introduction a lifesaver.

From that time on, said Peterson, the worst of his anxiety and depression passed and he was able to sleep through the night.

The special friendship continued for the next three years. Tara Wood started a Facebook page so that people all over the world could share in their special relationship.

Mr. Dan passed away in February. Norah and her mom had visited him just the day before and found him to be upbeat and in fairly good health.  He died peacefully, and not alone. Mr. Dan lived out his final days knowing that he carried with him the uncomplicated love of a very special little girl.    

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Culture

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Shannon Jackson

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Christina Koch is an American astronaut and engineer, who blasted off on March 14, 2019 to spend 328 days on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Expedition 59, 60, and 61. She left behind family and friends, as well as a very special furry friend, but it was all to achieve a historical moment. 

To date, 575 people have been in space. With all the space flights taken together, the total time in space has been 152.1 years. To put her accomplishment into perspective, Koch is one of only 12 active female astronauts. There have been 65 female space travelers in the history of space flight. 

What Was Christina Koch’s Historical Moment? 

Koch took off into space to be part of the first, all-female spacewalk in aeronautical history with Jessica Meir. She spent 42 hours outside the space station over six spacewalks. She conducted experiments in biology, tech development, and dark matter. Koch even broke the standing record for having the longest time spent continuously in space by a female astronaut. (She broke the record of 289 days, set by Peggy Wilson.)

Koch dreamed of becoming an astronaut, and she was trained to be ready for anything. She may not have been quite prepared for the reception she received upon her return to Earth and to her family on February 6, 2020. She’d been in space for nearly a year, and she was happy to be home. But LBD (Little Brown Dog) was more than excited. He was over the moon.

Who Missed Koch More?

Our favorite furry pets are with us every day, offering solace and support through our happiest and saddest moments. It’s easy to forget that the relationship goes both ways. For Koch, LBD was a constant companion and friend.

LBD appeared to feel the same way when she finally returned home. Beyond scratching the door and wagging his tail, he did not appear to be able to contain his affection and excitement. LBD licked her face. He may have been nervous that she would disappear again.

The Duo Back Together Again

Koch was glad that LBD remembered her, even after nearly a year. We might compare the adventure with The Incredible Journey, though in this case, Koch was on her out-of-this-world experience. LBD was waiting all that time for her to return home. 

Koch’s historic moment was made even more special by the warm welcome when she returned home, but it also puts her sacrifice into perspective. Her training and experience had already included time in the US Antarctic Program, with travel in the Antarctic and Arctic regions. She has faced every manner of training, with challenges designed to test her mentally and physically. 

Koch as an Inspirational Force

NASA selected Koch to be part of the Astronaut Group 21 in 2013. She finally completed training in 2015. Along the way, she’s also received many awards by NASA and other institutions. No matter where she has traveled around the world and out of this world, she’d probably agree that there really is no place like home. 

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Amazing

Starving Street Dog Can’t Even Stand Up, Then Rescuers Help Her Transform

Shannon Jackson

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There are many incredible dog rescue stories but this one might be one of the most astonishing and amazing animal transformations through human kindness and compassion. 

Animal Aid Unlimited, a leading street animal rescue center in India, received a message from a person saying that there is a sick and dying dog on the street that is not even able to stand up. When the rescue group found the collapsed starving pooch by the side of the road, they realized the words of the Good Samaritan were not an exaggeration. The dog was extremely malnourished and so skinny that her body looked like just a pile of rocks. She was covered in mange and was completely hairless with painful sores all over her weak body. 

The rescues covered the stray with a blanket and took her to one of their facilities full of doubts the dog would be able to survive. The pup was so weak that she even did not have enough strength to eat when volunteers were attempting to feed her. Her sad eyes were full of pain and hopelessness. All she was doing was laying on her mat on the floor in the corner of the cell and staring at the wall. 

However, the rescuers did not want to give up and decided to do all they can to help the dog to survive and get back to a happy dog life. They named the pooch Helen and started working hard and tirelessly on saving Helen’s life. The saddest and the most heartbreaking thing was to find out that the dog was completely cut off from human contact and did not know what affection was. When one of the volunteers approached her and stroked her head gently, Helen shook it off like a fly because has never experienced such contact before. 

Even though the dog was very sick, both physically and mentally, the rescue team knew they could heal her. The first things they did were hooking the pup up to an IV  to offset dehydration and cured her damaged skin with the help of anti-inflammatory medications.  It took volunteers several months to bring Helen back to life. After 10 days her will to live was getting stronger, and Helen started her journey to recovery. It took her several months until she finally started getting better and transforming into a dog with some hope in her eyes and trust in humans. 

Soon the dog was unrecognizable. Her eyes got filled with the will to live and the body got covered with white soft fur. She looked like a brand-new healthy and happy dog. The volunteers say that she is an old, frail, and toothless girl with a very young and strong soul. At first, they thought they might lose her, but her hidden strong spirit helped her to survive. 

This story is an incredible example of how human kindness and a big heart can work wonders and transform the lives of other living creatures. 

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