Posted: November 9, 2017 Filed under: Alzheimer's, Books, Family, Health, nature, poetry | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beauty, family, gifts, gratitude, grief, health, joy, love, nature, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, transitions, writing
(This post was first published on the AlzAuthors
Expressing the Inexpressible through Poetry
By Ann Campanella
When I was in my early thirties, my mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s. She was 41 when I was born, so I suppose it shouldn’t have been a shock to see her aging in this way. But it was.
I always knew she was an “older mom.” She had been a fount of wisdom for me during my adolescence and early years of marriage.
Mom always said her children kept her young. There was a span of ten years among us, and I had vivid memories of my mother hiking, playing tennis, swimming and sailing at the upstate New York lake we visited each summer.
My grandmother and great aunts lived into their nineties. I had imagined my mother would always be there for me, at least until she was well into her eighties. But it wasn’t to be.
My mother’s mind began to unspool at the same time I was trying to become a mother and struggling through a series of miscarriages. At first her memory became slippery and she began repeating stories. Her emotions seemed out of proportion to what was happening in her life. Her words no longer matched her behavior.
Mom’s descent into Alzheimer’s was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Heartbreaking because she was aware that “something wasn’t right.” It was painful to see her struggling to present a healthy face to the world when her memory was disintegrating. Beautiful because my mother’s spirit showed through her trauma, and the disease became a stage upon which the love in our family could be illuminated and acted out.
Poetry has long been a way for me to attempt to express the inexpressible. When the jagged edges of loss threatened to undo me, writing poems provided a way to hold onto pieces of my mother. Each poem or “stage act” allowed me to bathe my mother’s life in light and meaning.
What Flies Away is a collection of poetry that tells the story of my mother’s illness, my father’s sudden death and the miraculous birth of my daughter. This collection of poems won second place in the Oscar Arnold Young Book Award for the best book of poems in North Carolina in 2007. I was also honored that two of the poems, “The Chase” and “How to Grieve,” earned the Poet Laureate Award.
Now, ten years later, my collection, The Beach Poems, has been published. I consider it a sequel to What Flies Away, as this group of poems shares the story of what “comes after.”
I’ve always loved Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, a book where the author reflects on the patterns of her own life. I was able to do this at the beach.
My mother had Alzheimer’s for fourteen years, and her disease changed me. After a decade and a half of caretaking, it took time for me to find myself again.
During a series of retreats, I spent time walking the sand and absorbing the rhythm and beauty of the coastline. Gradually, held in the arms of the wind and waves, I was able to release my grief and begin to heal. Memories of my mother and the time before she was ill slowly trickled in. To my surprise, joy washed over me and I felt my spirit come alive again.
Writing about my mother’s Alzheimer’s experience, whether through poetry or prose has been a privilege. I spent 20 years working on my memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found, which was featured on this site on January 18th, 2017. My memoir has been recognized internationally and my poems have received many awards.
But I’m most grateful to have had the opportunity – through readings and speaking engagements – to meet and link hearts with those who are walking their own difficult path through Alzheimer’s. The Beach Poems is my gift to them.
I am here
at the edge
of the earth
on a mat of sand
wind cups the curves
of my body, waves
a constant roar
in my ears
blue belt of sky
presses against the horizon
I think of my mother –
all that was and never will be –
cry out into the void
but wind and sand and sea
my mother is here
and not here
and always will be
I hug the earth.
(from The Beach Poems, Main Street Rag Publishing Company)
About the Author
Ann Campanella is the author of the award-winning memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found. Formerly a magazine and newspaper editor, her writing has been widely published. She blogs about her life and horses at Fields of Grace and has been a guest on many blogs and podcasts. Ann’s poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Twice, she has received the Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society. She lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina with her family and animals.
Fields of Grace
https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Campanella/e/B001JOWQ3A (Amazon Author page)
https://mainstreetragbookstore.com/?product=the-beach-poems (Main Street Rag Online Bookstore)
Posted: November 3, 2017 Filed under: Alzheimer's, Books, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beauty, gratitude, grief, joy, lessons, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, transitions, writing
Happy November, everyone! I have a couple of special announcements today. First, November marks the release of The Beach Poems! If you took advantage of the pre-publication discount, you should be receiving your book soon.
November is National Caregivers’ Month. It’s so perfect that The Beach Poems was birthed during this particular month because these poems tell the story of what it was like being a caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s for 14 years and what it was like after she passed away.
The beach was the place I went for respite and healing. I took a series of retreats on the coast and in the midst of the wind and the waves, I gradually rediscovered who I was again. Memories of my mother and my younger self came flooding back to me, and I was able to release the grief I had carried for so many years.
Like a shell caught in the tide, it felt as if my heart was rinsed over and over, scrubbing away the grime of what had weighed me down. My mother was now free and so was I.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the transformative power of the sea as much as I enjoyed working on this collection. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few stories and poems from that time.
The next big announcement is that for the entire month of November, in honor of my mother and all the hardworking caregivers, the eBook of Motherhood: Lost and Found will be available for only $2.99, less than half the original price of $7.99. Click here to get your copy, and feel free to share the word!
For anyone interested in a signed copy of The Beach Poems, leave a comment and include your email.
Thank you to the many friends who supported me on the journey of caring for my mother and sharing our story through poetry and memoir.
Posted: October 19, 2017 Filed under: Alzheimer's, Health | Tags: Alzheimer's, gratitude, hope, joy, lessons, transitions
In Part I, Brian faced the devastating diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and in Part II, he moved from depression to action. To begin the series, click here.
Brian and his daughter running a race together in 2015, before his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Brian is running again, but his most important race is spreading the word about Faith2Care while he still can.
With all the media attention Brian has received, he realized, “I’ve been given a platform, and I don’t want to waste it.” He wanted to bring those with early-onset Alzheimer’s to withALZmyHeart, but he wondered who else he could help. He wondered and waited.
Brian began spending time on several Facebook caregiver groups. As anyone who cares for someone with Alzheimer’s knows, the work can be exhausting and emotional. “The posts broke my heart,” he said, “The suffering in these groups is mindboggling and outrageously sad.”
“I’m a fixer, so I wanted to help,” Brian said. “But I didn’t have answers.” He became involved with NAPA (the National Alzheimer’s Project Act), but soon realized that government could not address the problems caregivers had. Who could? he wondered.
The answer that came to him was: the faith community. Not just one religion or faith, but all of them. “When the idea hit me, I started thinking about the problems and the roadblocks,” said Brian.
One of the tenets of faith communities is to help the needy. “Caregivers are a hidden group,” says Brian. “They don’t have time to have a voice. The faith community wants to help, but they don’t know how to find the caregivers.”
With Faith2Care, Brian’s innovative website, he could find caregivers that need help – anything from mowing a lawn to fixing a leaky pipe or providing respite care – and match them up with those in the faith community who want to help. “It’s all about crowdsourcing,” he says.
The Faith2Care website would be the hub, providing a safe funnel where people could connect. He has already hired a company to help him manage all the data, and Faith2Care was recently granted 501C3 status.
Brian’s dreams are big. He hopes to get grants and large donors, so that he can hire people to run the program when he is no longer able. “I’m doing this because I have to,” says Brian. “I’m so motivated because I see it as an answer to all these hurting people.”
The future does not concern Brian. He’s focused on the present and doing everything he can to make the world a more compassionate place for caregivers and those who are living with Alzheimer’s.
Brian sees the silver lining in his own diagnosis: “This disease has given me my joy back! I am more fulfilled and more motivated than I have been in years.”
Brian meeting with students involved in The Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s
To read Part I: A Devastating Diagnosis, click here.
To read Part II: From Depression to Action, click here.
Connect with Brian through his social media:
Websites: withALZmyHEART and Faith2Care
Posted: September 26, 2017 Filed under: Alzheimer's, Books, Family, Health, nature, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, family, gifts, gratitude, grief, health, joy, lessons, love, narrative, renewal, serenity, trust, writing
As part of “Transformational Tuesday,” I am blogging with Divine Phoenix Books today.
This time of year always makes me pause. I want to hang onto the beauty of Indian Summer days, yet I feel the urgency of the falling leaves pressing me forward. September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and I’m reminded of the years my mother struggled through Alzheimer’s at the same time I was yearning to become a mother.
To read the rest of the post, click here: divinephoenixbooks.com.
Posted: August 15, 2017 Filed under: Family, Health, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beach, beauty, clouds, dawn, family, gifts, gratitude, grief, health, joy, love, nature, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, sunset, transitions, trust, walks, writing
The beach has always been a place of deep nourishment for me. When my mother passed away, after living with Alzheimer’s for 14 years, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. I fled to the coast in search of the parts of myself I had lost.
Each morning, I got up early and walked the damp sand, studied the shore birds, listened to the roar of the waves and inhaled the salt breezes. My mother had always loved the ocean and images of her inspecting shells or pointing out dolphins gradually began to float back to me.
As I remembered and grieved for my mom – the woman I had lost, the mother whose physical form had departed this world – tears filled my eyes and slipped down my cheeks.
At the same time, descriptions and words filled my head. and I began jotting down lines of poetry that turned into poems. In this period of solitude, I gave voice to the myriad emotions that came to the surface.
Little by little, a lightness began to permeate my soul. It was as if my grief had been clogging the pathways to joy. And as I gave my feelings permission to take flight through words, a sense of the sacredness of life filled me. Gradually, I awakened to some of the day-to-day blessings I had been blind to over the years as I numbly cared for my mother.
I’m excited to share my journey from grief to joy in my new collection of poetry called The Beach Poems. It will be available through Main Street Rag Publishing Co. The list price is $12. But If you live in the U.S. and you order now, you will receive the pre-publication discount of $6.50 (plus shipping).
Click here for your pre-order discount. The collection will be mailed to you upon publication. Thank you for your support, and may your beach days be blessed!
Posted: July 28, 2017 Filed under: Family, nature, poetry, Writing | Tags: Alzheimer's, appreciation, beach, beauty, family, gratitude, grief, joy, lessons, love, poems, poetry, renewal, serenity, sunset, transitions, writing
I’m so pleased to announce that my collection, The Beach Poems, will be published by Main Street Rag Publishing Co. I’ve been working on this group of poems for oh…about 10 years. (Not long compared to the time I spent on my memoir.) 🙂
The beach has always been a place of deep beauty and healing for me. My mother passed away in 2007 after 14 years of living with Alzheimer’s. As you can imagine, it took some time for the layers of loss to lift. This collection of poems is special to me because it shares the story of my journey from grief back to joy.
Here’s the exciting part. My publisher Scott Douglass is offering a pre-publication discount. The book will be released in a couple of months. But if you order now, you can get it for $6.50 (plus shipping) instead of the cover price of $12. Not a bad deal.
Here’s a link directly to my author’s page:
The MSR Online Bookstore: http://mainstreetragbookstore.com/
*A note from the publisher: Those of you who don’t like buying online, Main Street Rag will take checks, but the price is a flat rate of $12.50/book regardless of quantity which includes shipping and sales tax. Please remember, though. This is for advance orders. It doesn’t mean the book will be shipped early, only that you are receiving a discount for ordering before it goes to press, but the price will only last for a limited time, so order now!
Thank you so much for all of your support! I send my deepest gratitude and blessings to those of you who have walked with me and been on your own journey through grief. May your beach days be blessed.
To read more about The Beach Poems, go to my website by clicking here: www.anncampanella.com
Posted: July 13, 2017 Filed under: Family, Lake George, nature, Writing | Tags: appreciation, beauty, clouds, family, fun, gifts, gratitude, joy, love, narrative, nature, renewal, serenity, sunset, transitions, writing
I’ve been at the lake for almost a week, just enough time to slip into the rhythm of a lake dweller. Someone who has forgotten the minutiae that occupied my mind before I arrived, someone who eats meals on the deck and no longer cares about washing my hair, someone who takes note of the wind and checks the surface of the lake each time I’m outside. Someone who cools off before dinner with a swim.
Here at Lake George the weather shifts from cool and windy to warm and sunny to damp and rainy within a few hours. This year, we’ve been blessed with beautiful days where we’ve enjoyed being out on the boat, swimming to the float at the family beach, spending a morning on a dining porch or an afternoon on a dock chatting with cousins, watching the sun set over the mountains.
The first few days, we rushed to get everything in, still running on the energy of our regular lives. But today, my last day here, I want to slow down and absorb the messages this place holds.
On our first days, we took Sydney tubing with a cousin, went kayaking around the bay, swimming at the beach. We gathered with cousins for our annual family meeting and picnic. There was a flurry of activity and fun.
Midway through our time here, something slowed inside me. My daughter and I canoed to Joshua’s Rock. The wind was so strong, we hardly needed to paddle on our way out. We sat on the ledge that I’ve shared over the years with my mother, my siblings and cousins and looked out on the expanse of lake. Neither of us said much. My daughter picked wild blueberries from the bush beside her as I studied patterns of moss on the granite under my bare feet. On the way home, we had to dip our paddles deep to keep from floating backwards with the current.
Before sunset, the wind died down and we took our friend’s pontoon boat out. The water in the bay was like glass and the sky a tapestry of greys.
Today, I walked down the hill to the beach and felt the echo of my childhood footsteps, how I couldn’t stop my young legs from running, skipping over the stones that rose from the green grass like the brows of my uncles.
The sight of water behind the tall pines along the shore never fails to lift my heart. And on a day when the sky is china blue and sketched with white clouds, this place feels like a small piece of heaven.