Today marks 157 years since President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address, so my blog today is dedicated to this great American President who saved our union:
I made my trek to Bowling Green, KY from Arkansas in a little under 6 hours with no speeding tickets arriving just before dark. I craved a good wholesome meal (a T-bone steak with a baked potato and good glass of red wine) but instead, I decided to make it simple and went to a nearby Shogun for a bowl of beef with broccoli to go. Although fast food was not what I desired, I knew I’d have to leave first thing in the morning to get to Louisville for my noon appointment at the Atria corporate office.
It was raining and chilly in the morning and the only suitable thing I had to wear was a CK black jogger outfit purchased expressly for long distance driving. In my past corporate life, there would have been no excuse wearing something so leisurely for a business appointment, but we were in the middle of a pandemic, and I had been living out of my suitcase for 3 weeks already--so what the heck! Once arriving in Louisville, I parked at the Thrive Center parking lot just across the street from Atria, because I’d be there for a meeting with Sheri, Connie and Angela immediately afterwards. I checked in at the Atria reception and the VP of Memory Care came down to meet with me in the lobby. Masks on, we socially distancing ourselves on the couch. It’s sometimes hard to fully recognize people while wearing masks, but you can see emotion in the eyes, and I could tell she was smiling behind hers, and I mine. As we sat chatting, I couldn't help but to inquire about where the Bugaboo Boys were marching a few weeks ago that ultimately caused the delay for our originally scheduled meeting. As it turns out, they were only a block away. We are living in a surreal time, and I believe most of the world--especially we Americans--are in a series right out of “The Twilight Zone”.
I gave Christy a brief update on what I was doing with Essential Awakenings® kits that included a Holiday Edition and a Smell Training Guide developed for me by a neuroscientist to help people with anosmia regain their sense of smell due to COVID-19 or other illnesses. I also showed her the scent diffuser that I have been traveling with accompanied by 2 scents formulated with essential oils for “calming” and “focus”. I told her I intended to market the diffuser and aromas on my website because I really do believe "focus" helped me during my road trip, and they come at period of time when so many peoples’ lives— including mine—are under mental and emotional challenges due to the pandemic and political turmoil in our country.
For more than 2 years now, I have been nurturing relationships with Atria and other assisted living communities with Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory Kits as a vehicle to enhance the lives of their residents in a stimulating social activity involving the sense of smell. The activity helps residents connect with each other all-the-while bringing nature indoors with the smells of grass, lilac, pine and lavender. I myself, have witnessed audiences begin to engage in conversation, share their own stories, and even start singing "La Marseillaise" after I reminisced once about the smell of fresh baked baguettes and rotisserie chicken back in the days when I lived in Paris (this video can be seen on my YouTube channel). Christy and I had a positive meeting and we ended with steps moving forward, acknowledging that even as so much energy and budgets are focused on keeping residents and workers safe, activities such as Essential Awakenings® will continue to help keep residents from being too isolated from the world and from each other.
After Atria, I went to the Thrive Center to visit with the CEO Sheri Rose, Connie, and Angela Burton who have become mutual friends and supporters since our first meeting in March of 2018 (my first road trip through Louisville). It is because of these wonderful ladies that I was introduced into Atria, when Sheri made a call to someone she knew at their home office and it was good luck and timing that the SVP for Memory Care was available for a quick meet and greet. I’ll never forget that moment when she said, “they can see you now” and I gathered my Essential Awakenings® sensory kits and literally ran across the street! It is moments and gestures like these that confirms there is so much kindness and generosity in an often harsh world, and I am forever grateful to Sheri and her staff at the center.
The Thrive Center is a non-profit technology and innovation showroom displaying products to help enhance the quality of life for people 50+. I had my temperature taken as soon as I entered their lobby and passed with a 93.8. The four of us sat in their spacious office, masks on and caught up on everything under the sun. Other than featuring innovative products, the center has been offering specialized programming to enhance elder wellness and a series of educational programs for the community. Angela Burton is a writer, and has developed “Feet To the Fire” Writers Workshops and Journals that she markets to seniors living in assisted living communities and beyond. Like me, Angela has a passion and goal to enhance the lives of more than one hundred and six million people for what AARP says is worth $7.1 trillion in economic activity and $3.1trillion in consumer spending. I am a baby boomer, and empathize with a population that has been for the most part, ignored by the beauty and wellness industry and intend to start making a difference!
Sheri took me for a tour of the showroom where Essential Awakenings® is on view, and I discovered a Swedish innovation called BikeAround™️. The company, Camanio Care's marketing approach claims "happiness is an underestimated medicine" and I agree! BikeAround™️ allows a user to program an address, start pedaling, and voila! You are there! I was missing home pretty badly at this point, so I programmed my home address, started pedaling and steering, and was like a little kid in a candy store to be able to see my street and my neighbor's house! Another innovation I discovered on this trip was called Deva World that uses a touch screen for virtual activities that the company says gives a “non-pharmacological support for eco-psycho-social wellbeing.” The virtual experience let me roam in a garden, touch plants, and up sprouts a flower! Touching another character on the screen made that character come alive. It was fun and I definitely see how this activity can boost moods and cognitive health. After the tour, we said our goodbyes (until the next time), and I went to check into my hotel--a fantastic new Marriott concept called BonVoy. I fell in love with my first step expansive, modern reception area, and my spacious room with all modern amenities. I’m totally hooked!
The next day was traveling through parts of West Virginia and Ohio on to Pittsburgh for the last night spent at a hotel. It was a lovely Hilton Fairfield Inn & Suites on the Monongahela River. I appreciate how they are conscientious about sanitization of rooms, and when I arrived in my room, I found a little card with "Hilton Clean Stay with Lysol protection" and a QR code for more information. I snapped a photo of it, because I am definitely going to go back and read it. I felt safe. Before heading for dinner, I decided to take a walk along the river for fresh air and exercise and discovered the “Allegheny Goatscape”. It is a fenced in area between the river and the walkway that the borough of Homestead has built for Team Sunshine (a team of 8 goats and 1 donkey ) that spend their days chomping away at the weeds in order to replace any machinery and pesticides needed for overgrowth. I stood and talked to the herd for a while, and it appeared they listened. It was the first time I talked to goats since leaving the farm back in Arkansas more than 35 years ago! That night, I fulfilled my desire for a steak from a nearby Longhorns. With a plastic fork and knife, I thoroughly enjoyed it back in my room while searching for a COVID-19 testing site, a test I wanted to have before returning home because my husband was having anxiety about me traveling through all the "red" states. The only appointment available for the following day was at a Walgreens in Dover, a town just south of Harrisburg and not too far from Gettysburg. Gettysburg would be a bit of a diversion from a direct route back to Connecticut, but it was obvious I could not go to Dover and not go to Gettysburg afterwards to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers and read the Gettysburg address once again.
In the morning, the hotel offered a grab and go breakfast that consisted of a generous coffee bar, fruit, granola bars and a muffin. I looked at the muffin but decided I’d stick to the healthier offerings and my go-to bag of unsalted mixed nuts I’d been carrying with me throughout the trip. My estimated travel time for my 1 o’clock appointment at Walgreens was only a little over 3 hours and I arrived just in time for a bathroom break and drive through at a nearby McDonalds for a quick burger (no fries). The process for my COVID-19 test was easy, well organized with no waiting line and discreet. Once at the drive in window, the pharmacist asked to see my drivers license to confirm my identity and to see my insurance card. Then, he clearly explained how to self-administer the swab, and watched every step of the process to make sure I was doing it correctly. It was painless and less irritating than I thought and was quickly on my way to Gettysburg National Military Park, which was the turning point for the Civil War. To get there, my GPS took me onto a very picturesque winding country road with little farms and some quaint historic houses. Once I entered the National Park, I picked up a battleground map at the visitor’s center that showed the 24-mile roadway with 16 numbered tour spots. The map indicated that in order to see everything, I would need 3 hours, but I only had one —if I were to make it back home before dark. I circled the Soldier’s National Cemetery on the map and decided I’d stop to view what I could along the way because I knew I’d have to come back someday with my husband. From West Confederate Avenue, I passed the Virginia Memorial and viewed the Wheatfield where 4,000 soldiers either died or lay wounded. It was a sunny warm day with a light breeze, and overall, there was peace in the air. I passed Major General Meade’s headquarters and stopped at monuments dedicated to the soldiers from Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York and once at the cemetery, I read (for the second time on my road trip) the Gettysburg Address at the site where President Lincoln stood 157 years ago, November 19,1863. The following is an excerpt:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I arrived home just before dusk, and my husband had a wonderful home-cooked meal with a great glass of Bordeaux waiting for me. Then, as we stood several feet away in our dining room—both of us with our masks on—he gave me a small red Baccarat box. Inside, was a beautiful ruby red crystal flower to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary back on October 1st, just days after I had started my road trip. The next day, results of my COVID-19 test came out negative.
In closing, I hope you are wearing a mask in public to protect yourself and your family and checking on elderly neighbors who might be home bound to assure they are safe, so we can all get through this pandemic together. Despite the sadness and struggles so many people have had, I believe families will come out stronger: Parents who have worked in offices are now spending more time with each other and their children. And children will grow up remembering this time as an important and enriching part of their youth despite having to adjust to new and restricting habits. In my household, we are delaying our big Thanksgiving feast until next year but will turn on our computers for a synchronized virtual Thanksgiving toast.