Sunday, December 16, 2012

I'm so proud to know Doreen Cox, loving caregiver

I first met Doreen in a women's memoir group on LinkedIn. We got to chatting and then moved on to reading each other's books and reviewing them. I was so intrigued with Doreen's story about caring for her mother - the pure love mother and daughter had for each other - that I wanted to get to know Doreen better. I found that not only did she give undivided love to her mother she gives it to all of the people in her life. I have been a recipient.  No day goes by when I don't hear from Doreen either on Facebook, Twitter, a comment on my blog, or an email. I am indeed blessed to know her.

Please read about her journey in writing her first book and how she got it published. I can relate since my memoir was culled from years of journaling as well.

A Cathartic Journey
By Doreen Cox

Throughout the three years of my Care Bear experience, I scribbled in a journal at night in order to stave off despair, to keep my sanity; to cut loose the tears that had been bottled up inside while I took care of my dementia-addled mom throughout the day. A few months before she died, a niece-in-law asked to read my scribbles. Jenni planted the seed for me to publish, at least for family and friends. After my mother died, I discovered a cache of letters that I had written her during college and when living out of state. Those letters were my first forays into journaling for I liberally wrote to my mom about my life. While rereading those letters, I had an ‘aha’ kind of moment.

For much of my adult life, my mom had been after me to write a book, any book. Technical and procedures manual writing in my earlier career endeavors was the closest that I came. My ‘aha’ moment occurred about three months after my mom had died. I told myself to just, ‘play with it,’ and began typing up and printing out my journal. There was no rhyme or reason to the content, the topic covered. Each page contained scribbles relating to the events, thoughts and emotions of the day. My computer had an old version of Word; I was not online. I did go to our local bookstore and perused a few books on writing memoirs. My mind, though, was too addled to focus on a ‘how-to’ process.

The next phase was cut-and-paste by topic relating to my experiences, literally, with scissors. Doing jigsaw puzzles while my mom read to me from children’s books had relaxed my stress. My cut-and-paste process seemed to temper the raw emotions that came while piecing together the story of this final journey with my mom. I began to write in more of the day-to-day incidences and ordeals that had occurred as dementia had taken over more of her brain. On two occasions, I actually threw the entire draft into the garbage can, albeit a clean one.

Deciding on and naming the chapters was also akin to doing a jigsaw puzzle. It was while typing a second draft that I began to feel a sense of excitement. Proofreading a manual had always been fun for me so editing the memoir added to my excitement. The most poignant aspect was that it often felt as if I were being guided to, ‘Take out this section,’ or, ‘Move this chapter here,’ or, ‘Use this word.’

I ran into a man with whom I used to work; Isaac was now a Hospice chaplain and had recently published his story. He gave me the name of his Indie Publisher, Phyllis Olmstead. We met and my excitement grew; all was in motion. She massaged the chapters for book-print, added pictures, and highlighted key caregiver points. Her respectfulness of my desires made the process a nourishing one.

About Doreen: Just look at that smile. It warms me all over. And I had the wonderful pleasure to have lunch with her last spring when we were both visiting in the Washington, DC area. Her zest for life and enthusiasm for her work are contagious.  

Armed with a BS degree from a liberal arts college, a sense of wanderlust and a passion for experiential knowledge relating to people and their social environments, Doreen Cox began a career path that, to some, might appear haphazard, like a revolving door. It includes: business firm project coordinator positions, hospital staff recruitment, substance abuse counselor, mental health screener, and emotionally disturbed children’s case manager. The common denominators for each career endeavor are the use of communication and liaison skills in settings that were dynamic to the author because of the diversity of people she encountered.

     The author was into her eighth year as a group counselor at an alternative school for at-risk students when her most challenging position presented itself.  The author’s first book, Adventures in Mother-Sitting, is a memoir of her three years as a full-time caregiver.  Because of the downward spiral of her mother’s mental, physical and developmental abilities due to dementia, the author’s well-honed communication and listening skills were put to their ultimate test.  Her previous career adventures had indeed added more stores of knowledge, fostered the growth of self-confidence and provided assuagement of that restless spirit.  The experience as her mother’s caregiver, however, offered the ultimate spiritual adventure, bringing to the author bittersweet lessons related to trust, faith, unconditional love, and compassion.  The author, wanderlust currently at rest, resides in Florida. 


Sherrey Meyer said...

Doreen, what a wonderful story about the worth of writing down our thoughts and feelings while we're still close to the moment that created those emotions. And letter writing! Now a lost art, and you have letters from your college years to rely on for some of your work. Kudos to you for taking the "aha" moment and playing with it.

Madeline, thanks for sharing Doreen with the rest of us. :)

madeline40 said...

Thanks, Sherrey. Yes, Doreen has a wonderful story. I'm so glad I got her to write about her process. I highly recommend her memoir to you. I call it a love story.

Dody said...

Hi Sherrey! I so appreciate your visit and validation of my experience. I still have a 'second-guessing-myself' voice in my brain. Your comments overshadow that voice :-}

kathleen pooler said...

Doreen, I already have your memoir downloaded and on my TBR list. This is a wonderful summary of the magic of the writing process, how it can unfold in its own time and way. Also the impact journaling has in clarifying feelings and events. I love your description of literally cutting and pasting your manuscript like a jigsaw puzzle. Your story behind your story makes me even more anxious to read your memoir. I can already feel the love between you and your mother. Thank you so much for sharing this engaging post and thank you Madeline for featuring Doreen. How nice you have been able to meet in person!

madeline40 said...

Kathy, I'm so glad Doreen's book is on your TBR list. Yes, the jigsaw puzzle metaphor resonated with me too.
Meeting Dody was such a treat. She has so much loving energy - that comes out both in person and through her book. I hope you get to meet her some time as well.

Anonymous said...

Madeleine, I echo all you say about Dody. And dody, great entry, so interesting to hear more of the background to your wonderful book.
Flick Merauld.

Anonymous said...

I too am a great admirer of Doreen (Dody), and recommend "Adventures in Mothersitting" as a heart warming, inspirational story. I love that Dody gave herself permission to enter into her mom's world, and so shared in her mom's child-like glee at simple pleasures we take for granted. A celebration of life, and a fitting memoir for a wonderful mom, told by a loving daughter. Wonderful.