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Archive for the ‘caregiving’ Category

Caregiving, Empathy, and Storytelling

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Whether I am caregiving for my mother, working as a professional writer and consultant, or as a New Pulp author, one of the statements I frequently hear is some variation of “storytelling is an engine of empathy”. Regardless of my roles as caregiver/ marketing professional/or writer, I find myself dismayed that storytelling (especially digital storytelling) often gets misused as a buzzword. In the spirit of National Family Caregiver Month, I thought I would write about caregiving and storytelling.

Stories matter, both in how we identify with ourselves and each other. As caregivers, we deal with a wide variety of tragedies and triumphs while (hopefully) managing some semblance of stability. Every opportunity to share our experiences with other caregivers to find connection and understanding. However, like many organizations who have adopted “storytelling” as a buzzword, there is one key concept that often gets misunderstood:

Effective storytelling comes from a place of authenticity as well as empathy.

It is easy to use storytelling as a way to foster an ideal image, to suggest that we want to hit “key messages” with the listener or reader. Hiding behind a facade of “everything’s all right” can be easy for someone caregiving for a family member or loved one. Yet there’s something seemingly “off” when someone shares from that facade. Not sharing every negative or painful aspect of experience out of a sense of propriety is one thing; engaging in “happy talk” or expressing caregiver issues through a rose-colored view is another. As human beings, we sense when something is inauthentic, choosing to “tune out” and dismiss the narrative. We know something’s “off” and we find ourselves emotionally distancing from the storyteller. (Or worse, offering inappropriate advice and feedback to a caregiver)

Storytelling from a more authentic place allows the listener/reader to feel greater connections. One of the reasons many caregivers (including myself) avoid sharing our total stories is that reactions can often be unnecessarily dismissive. Despite the number of caregivers increasing in our country, there is still some sense of shame and feeling that something has been “lost.” For many caregivers, finding some room for adequate self-care can be difficult when dealing with extreme situations. Those stories, however, need to be heard. They’re not necessarily pleasant or optimistic, but can be a lifeline for those who need it. Sharing from that space is difficult, but can mean the world when someone feels truly heard as a result.

One example: pre-COVID, I had attended one of AARP Illinois’ caregiver gatherings. Like many other gatherings, there were people new to caregiving and confused about where to start. It was like many other AARP caregiver gatherings: small group conversation followed by sharing and open questions. During the open discussion and sharing, many caregivers discussed how they considered self-care as “pampering”. At one point, a caregiver disclosed that she never had any issues because “she turned her troubles over to God.”

Ironically, no one had bothered to offer the newcomers any advice…until it became my turn to speak. I had limited time (the woman with no caregiving issues dominated a large amount of time), but I simply spoke from the heart. This isn’t an exact transcript, but comes close to it:

“When I started caregiving for Mom, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, we worked with the social worker at her hospital to help her get a home care aide and supportive services. One of the things that helped us was contacting the Departmentsof Aging for Chicago as well as Illinois. But caregiving isn’t easy and can be overwhelming, and nobody expects us to get it perfectly. There’s going to be a lot thrown at you, but the only way to handle it is one at a time. For caregivers, self-care is a strategy and not an indulgence, and taking care of yourself is vital. I’ve learned to find comfort in my friends, but there are other resources like counseling and community groups. It’s not easy, but you will make it.”

Unfortunately, I never made it back to another session before COVID hit. But it was a good reminder for me about the power of storytelling. Professionally, I sometimes have to advise against focusing on selling a positive image to drive that mysterious quality called “engagement”. (Simply put, I avoid selling the sizzle at the expense of the steak). But the only way I have found to do that is through authenticity: seeing oneself for who one actually is and not some internal ideal. For caregivers, this is a challenge given the overwhelming nature of caregiving. It can be done, and sometimes, the reminder is very welcome.

Please comment below with your thoughts, or join the conversation on our Facebook group. If you want to reach out privately, please use this email contact form.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

November 10, 2021 at 5:22 am

Caregiving, COVID, and Defining the “New Normal”

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Being a caregiver means having a sense of flexibility and improvisation to balancing caregiving duties, work, and self-care. Dealing with COVID-19 in the past year has been especially challenging with everyday activities being reinvented and reconsidered. As Illinois and Chicago transition with more people vaccinated (including myself), our challenge is to determine the shape of the “new normal.” Here are some suggested principles that can not only benefit caregivers but provide support for the greater community as well.

Our primary guiding principle: Other People Matter – Throughout the pandemic, there have been incidents involving people harassing mask wearers, businesses defying state orders, and even racially motivated attacks in light of the pandemic. Empathy, like compassion, is no ordinary word. After a year and a half of relative isolation and changing social dynamics, perhaps choosing to understand rather than be understood is a more realistic approach to adjusting to post-pandemic life. As our culture shifts towards caregiving across a broader population, perhaps learning to speak to caregivers empathically can be a good start towards approaching others with respect, consideration, and dignity.

Remote Work Should Always Be an Option – Regardless of what some CEOs might proclaim, remote workers are at low risk of “losing their hustle”. In fact, more companies are adopting remote work policies because they can be more effective and productive. As a remote worker myself, I find that I can more easily balance professional and personal matters. For companies who may be reluctant to adopt remote work policies, there are resources like Cultivate Now that provide consultation and insight. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a contract worker for Cultivate Now years ago). Managing remote teams can be challenging, but reducing the need for transportation, specific office space, and promoting worker autonomy allows for greater productivity and effectiveness for both caregivers and other employees.

And speaking of “losing the hustle”…

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Let’s Lose the “Hustle/Crushing It” Mentality – Many individuals often promote the idea of always being “in the hustle” when it comes to generating business, promoting their career, or even in life. Another well-worn cliche is the idea of “crushing it” or focusing solely on the number of accomplishments in a given day. Post-pandemic, it may be wise to consider that both “hustling” and “crushing it” are myths that need to lose their prominence. After all, it is easy for professional “hustling” to devolve into hiding, choosing to focus on the immediate to avoid introspection. Besides, caregivers are masters of the “hustle” in that they negotiate several complex networks of service providers (including health care, elder care, and social services) in order to accomplish major goals. Staying humble yet focused yields much greater rewards.

Let’s rethink how we approach family leave and other self-care resources – Although there are federal efforts to expand family leave, this should not be the only solution for caregivers and other individuals. Male caregivers, especially, are more prone to deny the emotional consequences of caregiving yet experience higher levels of depression. Taking on the stress of caregiving along with other tasks (including self-care) can be daunting and draining for many individuals. Easing access to mental health and support services (including virtual and offline support groups) can provide some comfort to caregivers at greater risk of isolation. After a year of dealing with pandemic-related issues along with caregiving matters, facilitating the use of community-based resources can assist with moving forward into a healthier future.

Let’s be honest: moving back to a old sense of “normal” is neither practical nor realistic. Our culture and everyday rituals have living were disrupted by COVID-19, and moving back towards “good enough” should not be an option. We have a great opportunity to integrate compassion and empathy into our culture after a very prolonged period of disruption and unrest. We have experienced how antisocial, disruptive, and misinformed forces have actively shredded the social fabric. Now, it’s time to begin reweaving that fabric for our community, because we’re all caregivers to each other.

Questions? Comments? Leave them in the space below. Please join the conversation on our Facebook page, or email us directly.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

May 12, 2021 at 9:26 am

2020 Year in Review: Five Things I’ve Learned

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When 2020 started, I had some big plans: find more freelance and remote work, improve self-care while serving as my mother’s caregiver, and increase my non-networking social activities. Very few people could have predicted the effect that COVID-19 would have on our lives. Rearranging priorities, adapting to new modes of communication, rethinking our work and job search strategies (or for many, losing their jobs outright). As much as many other “2020 Year in Review” posts will focus on the effect of coronavirus/COVID-19 on our lives, I would like to highlight the five things that I have learned during this pandemic.

  1. I can have anything I want, but I can’t have everything I want – when I wrote a post about zen-flavored advice several years ago, it was a reminder that having goals is worthwhile, but being able to let go of goals and accept what I have at the moment is also important. This year was going to be the year that I was able to be more present in my own life…and in a way, it did, but not in the way I expected. Lockdown and social distancing have meant letting go of activities like running a coworking meetup, but they have also allowed me to focus on strengthening my current professional and personal relationships.

    Photo by Gordon Dymowski

    Photo by Gordon Dymowski

  2. Gratitude Can Be a Powerful Attitude – This past year, I was grateful for various work projects, but for really standing still and appreciating what I have. One of the greatest surprises and delights of this year was receiving a coffee mug as an impromptu gift. (There’s a long story to be told at another time). Gratitude doesn’t mean that I settle for less; it means that I am aware that despite feeling like I have nothing, I appreciate the gifts that I do have.
  3. Compassion, empathy, and respect matter, now more than ever – Even amidst the fear and concern, it is easy to forget that other people deserve consideration and courtesy. With many families affected financially, emotionally, and physically by the virus, showing people a modicum of respect and compassion through wearing a mask can be powerful. (I know four people who have had COVID, and one who had family members affected by the virus). In a year that served as a climax for the previous three years’ dissension and division, 2020 may be the year that reinforces the concept of common humanity.
  4. Online communication, especially Zoom, can be a tool for connecting: Fortunately, one of my resolutions for 2020 was strengthening and maintaining my current network, and Zoom has been especially helpful. (Like many others, I can found moving from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting a bit overwhelming). It’s also allowed me to schedule catch-up calls with friends, hold events for Chicago Doctor Who Meetup, as well as facilitate a panel for Chicago TARDIS. As someone who found himself rushing from place to place before the pandemic, Zoom has provided ample opportunities for me to connect and be connected. And finally…
  5. We are human beings, not human doingsEarly in the pandemic, a meme emerged that stated (to paraphrase) “If by the end of lockdown you haven’t learned a new language, started a new business, or some other task, you’re not taking advantage of free time.” Unfortunately, the hustle porn/“crushing it” mentality behind that sentiment can be crippling. (Especially for those who have other responsibilities such as caregiving). As someone who placed much of his self-worth in achievement, learning how to relax, meditate, and focus on the moment has helped me develop a much-needed perspective. As much as I have plenty to do, learning to take time to relax and rejuvenate has been an exceptional use of my time.

Granted, this is not the usual “2020 year in review” post. (And in the past, I’ve waited until January to highlight the past year). But I thought that as the year comes to a close, it was better to provide a more personal perspective over the past year.

What are your thoughts? Please leave them in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

December 7, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Five Lessons I Learned Finding Remote Work

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Recently, I experience a major change in my COVID-19/caregiving lifestyle: I was hired for remote work. Job seeking during the pandemic has been challenging, but the transition back into remote working has been much easier than I would expect. My experience freelancing and caregiving helped me develop my skills, but my transition into remote work helped me learn five key lessons:

  1. LinkedIn is A Very Powerful Professional Development Tool – Although many people use LinkedIn as a professional networking tool, it has also been a great tool for professional development. By researching companies and organizations, pursuing leads (which led me to my current situation), and catching up on professional news helped me stay current. In talking with other writers on Facebook (I am also a New Pulp author, many of my colleagues wondered why they were still on LinkedIn. I believe that any social media channel works as long as you regularly engage. LinkedIn has always been a powerful tool for me, even now while I’m homebound. Speaking of networking…
  2. Networking And Professional Development Still Matters – Much of my time spent in lockdown was not only spend caring for my mother but also networking via a variety of channels. Thanks to Eventbrite’s search, I found many networking events and training via Zoom. Engaging with my peers via Twitter and Facebook helped me stay connected. Taking advantage of free classes and training from organizations like Free Code Camp and General Assembly, provided new skill sets to bring to the table.
  3. Doing Small-Scale Work to Keep Your Skills Sharp Is Not a Bad Thing: During the lockdown, even though this blog was minimal except for the occasional story (like this recent post about, I managed to find some small-scale, low-paying digital research/remote work positions. Sites like and We Work Remotely were invaluable in providing some great leads. (It also helped that I had worked as a contractor with Cultivate Now, who consults around remote work issues. However, some remote work situations aren’t that positive, and my next lesson was…
  4. Know When To Leave A Situation That Doesn’t Work For You – Perfect example: I had been hired by a company that was looking for “academic writers”. Given my background, I thought it meant either proofing academic papers or research journal articles. Their payment scheme was unusual (you had to wait a period after completing a piece), but I thought it would be fine. It turned out…I was doing other people’s homework. People would submit money to this site and have people write their papers, do other homework assignments, etc. After working for a few weeks and having my pay withheld because my work didn’t mean their standards (although it meant the clients), I realized there was no way to win…but I had some payback with both a strongly worded Glassdoor review and better-paying work from reputable companies from that point forward. And finally…
  5. Taking Small Steps Lead to Big Rewards – During my time of inactivity, I made the effort to engage in small, positive changes getting new business cards, renewing domains, turning over some small scale volunteer efforts. Although I don’t think there is a one-to-one-correlation, taking care of smaller, less important tasks allowed me to prepare mentally for remote work. Feeling ready in the short term helped me feel more confident. That confidence helped me through several job interviews which led to my current work situation

Finding any work in current times is challenging; finding and starting new work is an exceptional accomplishment. I refuse to take my new situation for granted, but with more employers relying on remote work and remote workers, I think I managed to hit the curve at the right time.

Thanks for reading! Please leave any comments below or join us on Facebook.

Written by gordondym

June 17, 2020 at 8:55 am

Meet Your Neighbor:

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After several months of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, many Chicagoans are still facing great financial stresses. Services ranging from the Chicago Public Schools’ meal program to the CTA have been shut down or closed, and many coronavirus relief funds and mutual aid resources are either empty or require updates. With many Chicago residents requiring further services, two tech professionals – a user experience designer and a software developer – built a new online resource…and it all started with a conversation over Slack.


Dawn Xiana Moon (who works as a UX designer and front-end developer) and Leah Neustadt (a software programmer) created, a peer-to-peer site where people can donate funds for other Chicago residents who require assistance. (Chicago residents who are in dire financial need can apply for up to $200 and receive the funds through PayPal, Venmo, CashApp and other services).  The site connects donors and recipients randomly and directly, so the organizers do not touch donated funds in any way. Since its launch on June 6th, has already raised almost $1000 for Chicagoans who need emergency financial assistance.

With Dawn building the website and writing copy and Leah handling backend functions, the eventual goal for the site is developing it into an application with a more robust software framework. However, arrives at a very critical time as the city begins reopening. With high unemployment numbers and dwindling and reduced resources, many Chicago residents need help now more than ever. This is an excellent opportunity for Chicago residents to jumpstart recovery as Chicago enters Phase Three of its Coronavirus Reopening Program.


Ways that you can support include both making a direct donation to (donations and distributions are run on the honor system) as well as spreading the word via social media (you can even share this post via the sharing links on top). If you have questions, you can contact via email.

As Chicago comes out of both the pandemic and recent protests, many Chicago residents need further help. If charity begins at home, here is a very necessary – and needed – first step for Chicago-area city and suburban residents to kickstart economic and social recovery for those Chicago residents who are feeling especially stressed in the aftermath.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

COVID-19, Caregiving and Compassion

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As my mother’s caregiver, I have learned how to handle various aspects of life including job seeking, freelancing, self-care, and creativity. In the midst of the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself reflecting on the lessons I am learning about self-discipline in isolation and self-care and how these impact my caregiving effort.

One of the greatest ironies that I perceive is that my own tendency to self-isolate and keep my distance has served me well when it comes to my social distancing efforts. Dealing with an immunocompromised mother (due to a liver transplant and anti-rejection mediations) has increased my awareness and sensitivity around preventing potential complications. My own efforts towards self-care had increased before the pandemic with an increased motivation to care for my physical and mental health. (Like many other male caregivers, I can drift into depressive episodes if I am not careful). My social activities have increased slightly, but are still erratic: given their professional and personal responsibilities, touching base with others can be challenging but I am experiencing an increase in connection).

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

However, this “leveling of the playing field” has also lessened the obvious stress and strain on my caregiving efforts. Recently, I had to run two short (but critical) errands on a quarter-mile stretch of a major street. Except for the occasional dog walker, the street was devoid of cars and pedestrians. Walking down that stretch on a Friday afternoon had an eerie, silent quality which had a calming effect on me. Both venues that I visited had a moderate number of patrons, many of whom were rushed to acquire what they needed and get home. Having time to spend on personal and creative efforts has helped alleviate the perpetual fear of missing out that comes to me regularly as a caregiver.

One of the most powerful effects of being a caregiver during the COVID-19 pandemic is that I have a greater sense of empathy and compassion towards others. It is not just an effort to pay the kindnesses shown me forward, but to actively and assertively express that compassion. Self-isolation and social distancing may presently be the most compassionate acts towards others, but being able to show (and receive) smaller kindnesses can be rewarding. It’s never easy; last week was especially challenging since I served as an election judge for the 2016 primary; had several events cancel at the last minute, and an effort to run an online screening did not go rather well. Despite my desire to last out in anger, keeping my cool and remaining calm comes more easily from a compassionate approach.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Compassion as a caregiver can be challenging, especially when dealing with negative or obnoxious behavior. On the lighter end, many people do not know how to speak to a caregiver so dealing with those lapses in judgment can be annoying. But on the other end, with many people taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by hoarding hand sanitizer or buying out supplies from a Dollar Tree can be especially infuriating. (Especially since many caregivers deal with relatives who may have intestinal or digestive problems). However, compassion in challenging times comes from the smaller kindnesses of friends. Unexpected gifts both physical and emotional, ranging from an unexpected video chat to a surprise coffee mug, provide plenty of fuel for being compassionate as a caregiver.

We are living in uncertain, disquieting, and anxiety-provoking times. This is not a feel-good solution, and should not be read as a dismissal of those facing especially challenging times. One of the greatest lessons that I continue to learn as a caregiver is that compassion may not always be easy, but it is extremely necessary. 

I would enjoy hearing from others and getting their perspectives: please leave your comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you wish to comment privately, use this email contact form.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!

Written by gordondym

March 24, 2020 at 8:07 pm

Caregivers & Health Care: A Complicated Relationship

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As a caregiver for my mother, I frequently interact with our health care system. Having received a liver transplant ten years ago via Medicaid and Medicare, my mother has also experienced other health consequences including kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic heart disease. Last Friday, my mother went in for an angiogram on her liver (to determine flow) while I struggled with a skin infection on my arm. Although my mother and I belong to different health provider networks, navigating the health care system for caregivers and the people they care for provides the basis of a love/hate relationship.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

My mother had scheduled the procedure for 12:45 pm on a Friday, with our arrival time at 11:15 am. (Thankfully, I had called my doctor for an appointment about my skin infection the previous week, but was sent to Immediate Care due to a lack of appointments) A notification text the day before had indicated the time moved up to 2:45 pm, but my mother had clarified the time since we were depending on medical transportation. So we were both surprised when that Friday, at 5:30 am, we received a call from the transportation provider asking if we could be ready for a 7:00 am pickup. From that point,

  • We arrive at the hospital with nothing in their records about Mom’s appointment. After being bounced through various departments, we learn where we’re supposed to head, and we’re allowed in.
  • After arriving at the appropriate department. , we wait for Mom to be prepped. To kill the boredom, I sign up for text notifications about Mom’s procedure. While waiting, I call my primary care physician for follow-up; luckily, I’m able to schedule an appointment in between job search efforts and watching YouTube.
  • Once Mom is formally prepared, I grab lunch and sit in the family lounge. My time is spent writing, doing some job searching, and catching up on social media.
  • After making my way into the family lounge, I wait for another two hours when I am notified by an attendant that Mom is heading into her procedure. During this time…
  • I receive a call from Mom’s transportation provider; after I apologize for the delay, the driver informs me that his manager does not want his drivers out after 5 pm, necessitating a last-ditch effort (Spoiler: hospital staff ensured that we had transportation home), and
  • I discover that it was #NationalCaregiversDay on Twitter, and a tweet declared that “Caregivers are the health care system” and that caregivers “rock” at negotiating health care services.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

And that’s part of the problem: too many people advocating for caregivers do not understand the totality of negotiating the health care system. (Watch the above video from Last Week Tonight With John Oliver for details). Rather than focus on advocating for systemic changes, these advocates tend to focus on more superficial issues. Many caregivers dealing with the complexities of the health care system on top of their caregiving duties have a greater risk for compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. There’s a lack of acknowledgment about the burden and toll of caregiving on the individual, substituting self-help platitudes for more adaptive caring strategies and fostering connection and community.

But the greatest challenge in negotiating health care is engaging in self-care as a caregiver. Many caregivers are more likely to sacrifice their own health when caring for an elderly relative, and some caregivers experience health issues as a result. (Mental health issues for caregivers, especially male caregivers, are also critical). Caregivers are rarely reminded that self-care is not an indulgence, but a discipline. Negotiating a complicated system only adds to a caregiver’s stress; working to “game the system” makes it harder for caregivers and their relatives.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Final note: I was fortunate to learn that my skin infection was easily treatable with antibiotics.  However, getting to that point involved negotiating a tricky, often contradictory system that lacks empathy for patients and their loved ones. With the recent focus on public health issues around the coronavirus, it would be tempting to take a less even-handed tone about health care. However, caregivers – like many other people – have a complicated relationship with health care because of bureaucracy, costs, and lack of access to services.

And it shouldn’t be – health care is not an indulgence, it’s a right.

Please join the conversation via our Facebook page or leave your comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 27, 2020 at 9:17 am

Best of 2019 in Review

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Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

To be honest…the first half of 2019 had minimal activity on the blog. Part of it was moving past the infrequent posting in 2018 (yes, I did develop a content calendar…but caregiving duties and other things kept me away from the keyboard).

However,  I wanted to focus on finding social media and copywriting consulting work as well as my pulp fiction writing. However, as 2019 progressed I found that I could balance creativity and caregiving, and managed to carve out some great working relationships through blogging. (If you’ve noticed, the “Meet Your Neighbor” posts increased steadily through 2019).

But enough of my bragging…just like last year, these are the best posts of 2019. In reviewing these posts. I have chosen one per month (luckily, only one month has had one single post) and chose a random quote. They’ve all been linked, but you’re always welcome to choose your other favorite post about technology, social change, and the greater Chicago community. Here’s the best of 2019 in review – enjoy!

January – Think of it as the dark side of “clickbait” and “viral memes” – online information designed not just to engage, but to sow dissension amongst users.

February – One of the most brutal effects of this past winter has been its effect on my caregiving and my own self-care…and nearly cost me my sense of connection with others.

March – They were kind enough to share their video of my experiences…and via the magic of YouTube, I’m sharing it with you 

teddy-heidt-sidebarApril – With a mission-driven impulse towards collaboration and community, the Gauge Collective under Teddy Heidt’s leadership provides a great example for other businesses – and even some digital agencies – to emulate.

May – Over ten years ago, I attended a “free weekend” run by a local “business coaching” organization. Given some of their tactics at the time, I believe I dodged a bullet.

June –  In a business landscape that is becoming more focused on greater social benefit, there is also a greater need for introspection and honest self-exploration about their own potential complicity in fostering systemic issues

July – Driving social change through small acts is a radical idea: these acts can have ripple effects and enable people to make a huge change via small actions.

August – “For Seke Ballard, the emerging cannabis industry does not just provide great opportunities for business growth; it also serves to back Ballard’s principle that “the free flow of capital is the lifeblood of any community”.

September – In short, caregiving is no longer a “journey” – it’s a destination 

Raks Geek

Raks Geek

October – Because we ourselves come from marginalized groups, we know how important it is to have spaces that are truly welcoming, spaces where you’re able to belong, where your full humanity is respected and loved. Honestly, because of who we are, building an inclusive community has been easy for us.

November – Belmont Cragin is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets: it’s a neighborhood that has been experiencing a renaissance.

December –  Legal resources for low income and underrepresented tenants can alleviate housing concerns, especially since eviction filing rates are higher in neighborhoods of color which lack such resources.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2020! If you have questions or want to say “hello”, you’re more than welcome to join us on our Facebook page or email me directly via this contact form. (I also have a personal web site and online portfolio for your review as well). And as always, thank you so much for reading!

Have a wonderful, Happy New Year!

Some Public Domain Holiday Viewing for Caregivers

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(Updated on 11/13/2021)

Although we’ve covered technology, social change, and other great initiatives in the Chicago community, we’ve also focused on caregivers and caregiving…and we thought this year, we would provide a slight change of pace for the holiday.

One of the highlights of 2019 was the entry of works into the public domain, allowing people to view, reuse, and adapt these works freely. So in that spirit, we’re offering some great videos for caregivers (and others!) to enjoy this holiday season, including the Harold Lloyd classic Safety Last from 1923.

Happy holidays and enjoy!

Written by gordondym

December 21, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Help Caregivers Feel Gratitude This Thanksgiving & Holiday Season

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As National Family Caregiver Month comes to end, it is important to recognize that unpaid caregiving is becoming more of a national trend. (I should know – I have been an unpaid caregiver for my mother for several years). With Thanksgiving and the holiday season fast approaching, it might be a great opportunity to discuss how we can support family caregivers more effectively and help them through difficult, emotionally challenging times.

Caregiving Is Becoming More of a Destination Than A Journey – When you look at current trends in caregiving, with more men and Millennials caring for aging parents and relatives. slipping into the cliche that “Caregiving is a journey” can come across as insensitive, patronizing, and possibly out of touch. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that day-to-day caregiving provides numerous challenges to balancing life, work (including job seeking) and leisure time. It would be easy to do what an online support group leader once did, claiming that a participant needed to “believe in themselves” when dealing with numerous stresses. Caregiving is never easy, and caregivers like me find great solace when someone understands regardless of their own caregiving past. Speaking of being present for caregivers…

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Encourage Self-Care as a Discipline, Not an Indulgence – Taking a cue from a recent Forbes article, too many people – including caregivers – see self-care as an indulgence. Self-care for caregivers is not about pampering or treating themselves occasionally; it’s about developing a ritual that allows them to manage the challenges of unpaid caregiving more effectively. Exercise, diet, regular physical and mental health checks, and other behaviors can help caregivers develop skills and resilience for handling tough situations.

Offer Tangible Help When Asked – Recently, I attended a caregiver support event where a pair of siblings were looking for a great place to start…and a participant proceeded to lecture about how she “turns her problems over to the Father”. Although “thoughts and prayers” can provide some comfort (and spirituality can play some role in caregiving efforts), early-stage caregivers are at a loss to even start to find needed resources and relief. When a caregiver in your life asks for help, make it tangible and realistic. Whether it’s monetary or a moment of support, supporting friends and colleagues who are caregivers is critical to helping them find moments of quiet. And on that note…

Emphasize face time over Facebook – Caregiving can be time-consuming, and many caregivers don’t take the time to see people face to face. Although it’s easy to check-in via social media, making the effort to engage caregivers in real-time can have greater benefits. Even the act of inviting someone to an outing  – whether a high-end event or a casual conversation of coffee – can have extremely beneficial effects, even if the caregiver cannot intend. (As a caregiver, I enjoy being invited to outings as they help me feel less isolated, lonely, and overwhelmed).

Dawn Xiana Moon of Raks Geek (Photo by Nancy Behall)

Dawn Xiana Moon of Raks Geek
(Photo by Nancy Behall)

If you’re looking for an opportunity for face time and advocacy (as we’ll suggest in the next step), why not consider Raks Geek’s December 13th fundraiser for RIP Medical Debt. Think of it as a way to alleviate stresses for a variety of caregivers, including the one in your life)

Advocate for Caregiver-friendly Policies Although there is a curious political silence about eldercare in our country, there are several caregiver-friendly policies that require strong, consistent advocacy. Supportive services like mental health, Medicaid, and SNAP also frequently face legislative challenges, and these policies directly impact on unpaid caregivers and their elder relatives. Advocating for caregiver-friendly state and federal policies have a greater impact on the caregiving community, and these issues deserve your attention.

For many caregivers, Thanksgiving can serve as the harbinger to even tougher struggles during the holiday season. Social isolation, depression, and potential caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue can color how a caregiver perceives the holidays. Help caregivers like me feel more grateful for the holiday season…all it takes are small acts of kindness and consideration.

Thank you so much for reading; if you would like to continue the conversation, please leave your comments or questions below or join us on our Facebook page. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great holiday!

Written by gordondym

November 25, 2019 at 12:12 pm