Saturday, December 21, 2013

Guitarist and Singer/Songwriter Reynaldo Moreno shows inspiring passion through soulful music

When Reynaldo Moreno takes the stage, he starts with music the crowd is familiar with, as a kind of introduction to show who he is and who inspires him. As the show plays on, he opens up with “deep cuts” of his own. But no matter what song he performs, he gives each show everything he has.

“You have to strip your ego,” Moreno said. “You have to earn the right to be heard. What’s more, I have to enjoy it, or they’ll know. Every time, I work at it more. At the end of the day, I’m making music; I can’t ask for more than that.”

Moreno is devoted to his craft, and to showing the audience a fantastic time with great music he enjoys playing as much as they enjoy hearing. He takes time to banter with the crowd, or explain why he loves this particular song or songwriter, why it is special to him, and may be special to them, too.

As Moreno said, a great leader doesn't just open the door; they walk through it with you.

“As musicians, as performers, we are those leaders,” he said. “We are that passionate. Even the word ‘amateur,’ the root of the word is Latin for ‘love.’ You have to enjoy and study music as its own end. If you work on music just for fame, you fail. Maybe it’s not my place to say that, but music is too sacred.”

Moreno plays music and cites his influences from all over the spectrum – blues, gospel, you name it – but the heart of his inspiration and music is soul. Any kind of music with a soul, with heart – any music that has a story –is the music that drives Moreno. Whether covering soulful acoustic songs or presenting original works from his upcoming album, he wants to play something that breaks traditional patterns.

“I’m looking for that ‘wow,’ when instead of going to the normal pattern, the musician makes it their own – does something completely new,” he said. “When you write – whether it’s a song or whatever the case may be – you want to provoke thought. Too many people are not provoking thought, but instead telling you how to think. That’s irresponsible, especially when you have a mike or a camera in front of you. You have to ask questions to form your own opinion.”

Moreno loves the end of an evening most of all – the time of a performance perfect for trying something special. It is his most precious time with the audience.

“Some people there to drink or eat have wandered off, but the people still there are there for love of music. That’s the most intimate moment, when I can bring out the special work. They are really there because they enjoy it.”

That same passion for music drives Moreno himself, as well as the crowd. Moreno believes art has to be genuine, has to be real, and has to come from your gut.

“That’s why we love art, why we go to concerts and galleries, to visually or audibly experience a genuine personal expression,” he said. “It doesn’t matter about our economy and our struggles, that’s why art will always be there. That’s why art will always be needed.”

Moreno says no matter what your passion is, you need to pursue it passionately, while all the time remembering where you came from, and how far you have already come. Believing in yourself should always come first.

“I refuse to let someone assess me of my skill after three minutes, or even after an hour. To hell with that! I know I’m good; because I go all in, bust my ass to improve and grow and to be great. You should be confident in your efforts, and in how hard you work. Searching for or needing someone to tell you you’re good… it’s important. But it’s not everything. It’s not arrogance to have a comfort in your ability – it is VITAL. At the end of the day, you have to affirm yourself.”

But at the same time, Moreno said this confidence needs to be tempered with the humility which comes with the fact performers have been gifted with such an immense talent, such a gift… a humility that only comes from such an immense love as for music.

“Music does that for me, in an intimate sense,” he said. “You can lift people up, help them process their emotions, express how they feel. I do that on a daily basis. That is awesome.”

Moreno also is trained in martial arts, and is an instructor in boxing and Brazilian Jujitsu. He relates performing in front of crowds to martial arts:

“Maybe your first paycheck will reflect whether you win or lose, but if you go all-out with your heart all in it and you don’t take any crap… you’ve won,” he said. “The toughest guys I know have lost. They’ve been beat, they’ve learned from it, and they came back from it. Failure then loses its sting, and fear becomes irrelevant to the conversation. This is true with life, too.”

Moreno is ready to release a new EP album, “What It’s All About.” He said he was nervous about this album, which is a departure from the acoustic sets people have seen during live performances.

“I worry sometimes about the response, but then I see that I worked with all these great people, and I want to tell everyone, ‘hey, look at this… I wrote these.’ It needs to be put out there for people to listen to. I want to use this to pay homage to everyone’s belief in me. People’s belief that I am worthwhile – that I am worth someone’s time – it’s the most humbling experience.

Clarke Rigsby and his studio, Tempest Studios, helped incredibly during Moreno’s recording of his EP. Moreno said Rigsby and his crew really took him under their wing – and this is very important, getting such strong support from mentors.

“Clarke has such deep ears,” Moreno said. “He’s heard a lot of music. The guidance from him was tremendous. He has accepted everything I have offered. I’ve grown leaps and bounds learning from him. It was really neat working with musicians so invested. They didn’t just show up for work and collect the check, they wanted to work at it, create art – and get it right.”

Moreno said Rigsby pushed him, as all good mentors do.

“You say, ‘that’s too high,’ and the mentor says, ‘no, jump off, you’re fine.’ Then you do it, out of respect for your mentor – and you pull it off. Now, you have that confidence in yourself now. It’s like a roller coaster: when you start to fall when you reach the top, your head screams, ‘what are you doing?’ But your heart screams, ‘hell yeah!’ And when you succeed, you want to do it again.”

So despite Moreno’s venture into new territory with “What It’s All About,” he knows the album needs to be heard. It focuses not exclusively on the guitar, but on Moreno as a soul singer and songwriter.

Moreno said there is something beautiful about that roller coaster – the battle between the heart and the mind – the perfect example of the human spirit.

“You are never owed this, you have to earn it,” he said. “We’ve got one shot at this, man – if we aren’t living life to the fullest, what are we doing? Find something you love, and go for it. Life is meant to be lived.”

Moreno plays with that same charisma and confidence every show. His passion for music, not to mention his gratitude for audiences who come to enjoy the performer live onstage, is quite contagious.

“If you want to move people, be genuine,” he said. “Be true. Show emotion; show joy, show sorrow. You don’t tap on the mike and say, ‘excuse me, I’m going to play now,’ you just play. That’s how you get their attention. Sitting under the spotlight, pouring your heart out – you need to play for yourself. Be focused, play for your own personal joy, and put forth your best performance. Because at the end of the day, you’re playing for other people, be it 5 or 500, who aren't doing what you’re doing right now. And there is nothing more noble than that.”

Moreno performs live every Tuesday night from 7-10 p.m. at Squid Ink Sushi in Peoria, as well as every Wednesday evening from 4-9 p.m. at the Squid Ink in downtown Phoenix. Visit Reynaldo Moreno at, or find him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for videos and more performance venue information.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Community Spotlight: Dr. Max Oppenheimer

Dr. Oppenheimer sits down with Matt Marn
Featured in the Fall 2013 Benevilla newsletter, "Connection."

Longtime Benevilla Supporter Dr. Max Oppenheimer Jr. will be the first to tell you he has lived an incredible life. And what’s more, he is very grateful. After years of serving his country and community in the Army and the CIA; as a professor at a number of universities; and as an author and columnist, he takes every opportunity to give back.

Max was born in New York City in 1916. When his father accepted a job overseas, Max went with his family to live in Europe. He spent time growing up in Germany and France until he was around 21.

“When my father accepted the job abroad, it produced for me a whole other life I never would have had otherwise,” he said.

He attended school in Germany and got his BA degree in Paris. In seven months he learned French and Latin just to get into the university.

“The BA test in France was very difficult,” Max said. “In Paris, the things they did, no American would make you do. Only 17 percent of students passed it on the first try. We really had to be devoted to learning. I have good genes, and a good mind, but a lot of it was very hard work. That helped make me who I am today.”

On his return to the USA, Max followed that first degree up with another Bachelors degree from NYU in 1941 and a Masters from UCLA in 1942. That dedication and commitment was shown in depth when, after Pearl Harbor, Max enlisted in the US Army. He said the Army was amazed at his background and fluency in so many languages.

He was sent a letter that told him that as soon as he arrived at his assignment, he was to be transferred to Military Intelligence. He was very useful to the cause, thanks to his dedication as well as his experience in many languages.

A Bronze Star recipient, he saw five campaigns from World War II. Max was in the pre-invasion maneuvers as well as the invasion on D-Day, where he drove one of the Jeeps ashore onto Utah Beach. He helped the
planning and intelligence gathering through many of the campaigns.

“I’ve spent more time in Europe than America,” Max said. “When I landed on D-Day, it felt like coming home.”

Max married his late wife, Christine, in 1942, and they were blessed with two children: Edmund Max and Carolyn Christine. He earned his PhD at USC in 1947, and went on to work as an instructor in foreign languages at San Diego State College in the mid-’40s and as an assistant professor of Romance Languages at Washington University in St. Louis in the late ‘40s.

In 1951, he was recalled into service to head for Korea. He also spent a number of years working for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. At that point he had also learned Russian, and he worked on interviewing Iron Curtain defectors. He remains grateful for his talents and the opportunities he has been given.

“I like to be well-educated,” he said. “I have a good knowledge of what’s going on around me. I am gifted for language; I know how to work the language… But it’s not just brains. You need the brains, but it’s also the willingness to work hard."

The drive inside of him has also taken him to eight universities, where he has served as professor for languages such as German, French, Spanish, Russian, and Latin. He even accepted a teaching position in China.

“It’s not about making a lot of money,” he said. “I was really valuable. I've gotten jobs that really meant something. I have no complaints.”

He not only has taught courses in many schools, but he has spent his time translating texts, plays and poetry into English from their native languages. He even translated a nautical text, and he was compensated for his time by a grant from the US Navy.

“I got involved in many other articles, writing things,” he said. “Now I write a column for the Daily News-Sun. I’m willing to write about anything.”

He attributes his dedication to his mother, who was always behind him. Now he feels compelled to give back, since he has been fortunate himself.

In addition to being a Bronze Star recipient, Max also received the French Jubilee Liberty Medal and several research grants. He also has established a scholarship at the Sate University of New York, the Fiat Lux Scholarship, which is Latin for “Let There be Light.” Max does not specify a required major in the scholarship. He only requires the students to be juniors or seniors – already showing the same devotion to their career as he has shown himself, looking for that same commitment in the next generation of learners.

“I believe in giving back,” Max said. “I don’t know how to say it, I've got my own way. I enjoy what I do. It’s one of the reasons I started that scholarship – I wanted to show my gratitude.”

Community Spotlight: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Offers Help, Information, and Hope for Members

By Matt Marn

West Valley, AZ – Grandparents’ Day is a time to recognize grandparents and their contribution to our lives. For some, that recognition comes with the acknowledgement that the grandparent is the primary caregiver for the grandchild.

Benevilla Family Resource Center’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program offers help to grandparents, teaching them to better care for their grandchildren, empowering and educating them.

Some grandparents may feel intimidated by the legal, school and medical issues that face this family dynamic. Teaching them to be their own advocates and to learn as much about the issues as they can truly makes a difference.

“When I meet with other grandparents like me and trade experiences, we all gain perspective; we gain knowledge,” said one grandparent in the group. “It’s nice to hear someone else tell us we are on the right track. There’s so much pushing against them – schools, families, doctors, the legislature. It comforts me, hearing others who have gone through the same thing already. And if that person can get through this, then I can, too.”

Taking in grandchildren sometimes causes tension with the parents. There are countless reasons why the transition may be needed, but grandparents fear the conflict it may cause in the family and the possible stigma from those who do not know the full reasons or jump to assumptions. This can lead to the grandparents growing isolated.

“There’s a lot of stress in our families, and we lose friends,” one member said. “This is a great opportunity to be with other grandparents, and the kids – many of them with special needs – can be around other kids and feel more comfortable.”

A major benefit of the group is the wide range of resources it offers the grandparents and grandchildren.

“It came in handy for me,” said Maureen, a group member caring for a young grandson. “It was still in the beginning of the transition, and I had never been through something like that before. The courts were very confusing, and I spent a lot of time researching and trying to find help. As soon as the facilitator got up there, we were among the first grandparents to join the group.”

Maureen said the information and support offered by the Benevilla group is nothing short of phenomenal. “It’s like a family. And there is no judging in this group – just the opposite. Without this group, some grandparents would be lost.”

Together, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group helps each other – and grandparents everywhere – provide a safe, loving home for their grandchildren.

Benevilla’s Family Resource Center is open 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM Monday through Friday at Benevilla’s main campus, located at the Hellen & John M. Jacobs Independence Plaza, 16752 N. Greasewood Street in Surprise. The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program support groups meet in various locations throughout the West Valley. For times or more information, please call 623-207-6016.

Started by the community and for the community in 1981, Benevilla is a not-for-profit human services agency dedicated to enhancing the lives of West Valley residents by providing care services for older adults, intellectually disabled adults, children, and families. Services are provided through a dedicated group of staff and volunteers. For more information on services and volunteer opportunities, call 623-584-4999 or visit

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Upper Strata’s album, “Phantastic Pigeon-Holes,” retells journey out beyond the desert and back again

 By Matt Marn

Also published in

Jonathan Sanchez, guitarist, lyricist, and lead singer for The Upper Strata, sits quietly listening to his group’s new album, “Phantastic Pigeon-Holes.” His head cocked to the side, he concentrates on the music, hands tapping on the table along with the beat. When his guitar solo comes, he looks to the stereo and smiles.

“Don’t ask me to play that same way again – I don’t know how I did that,” Sanchez said with a laugh.

He passes over a composition notebook full of ideas and early lyrics that would later evolve into “Phantastic Pigeon-Holes.”

“It’s funny how these books take on their own life,” he said. “But that’s kind of what the album is about: our journeys this year. Prescott, Bizbee, Jerome… It’s kind of like a little journal.”

That is the point of the album, Sanchez said. It’s hard to define or classify into a genre, because it tells the group’s own story, their growth – something that should never be pigeon-holed into one category.

The Upper Strata at the Hard Rock Cafe Phoenix, 2-28-13
Much like the Southwest itself – the mining towns, the former attractions along Route 66, the mesas and canyons – they all figure into the album’s often cinematic tracks, turning the region into a character in the works, Sanchez said. “Phantastic Pigeon-Holes” expands on ideas born from years of traveling, writing, and performing around and exploring the Southwest, and learning from the story it has to tell.

Sanchez, along with bassist and partner-in-crime Regula Sanchez-Schmid, did not want the album to be classified into one specific genre or type of music, since they touch on many styles, and people go by genre and all too often judge based on the cover.

“I read lately in a music magazine, people were ragging on the Black Keys, saying how they were not blues, and everyone was joining in, commenting on the blogs,” Sanchez said. “It was kind of disheartening to have someone define what is good or bad, pigeon-holing every artist or song into a genre, or ‘good music’ or ‘bad music.’ It’s like telling a painter not to use red. Why limit someone like that? Is it even helpful?”

The idea of a “phantom” pigeon-hole, the inability to classify something so easily, stuck with them. So they decided to name the album “Phantastic Pigeon-Holes.”

“Besides, we want to think the album is fantastic,” Sanchez said with a smile.

Sanchez said they took a lot of chances on the new album, exploring what they could do.

“We just went nuts,” he said. “We wanted to use real sounds, real acoustics – from recording in the shower, slamming shut a filing cabinet, thumping on a table, or scraping chopsticks inside a wok – rather than just opening a drum preset from some computer program. We tried to use real effects at all costs.”

The group wanted some of the tracks to come off rough and live, without the produced feel you hear in some studio recordings, Sanchez said.

“In the early mixes, you could hear amps crackling, room noise… most of that was lost in the final mastering but some of it still comes across,” he said. “We kept hearing how much better we were live, and why didn't we come across on our CD's the same way? So we tried to get that live quality to be present on most of the tracks.”

The team worked hard on every sound from every track: they got up in the morning, began working on a song, spent all day fine tuning their work, and by the evening, they had come up with a kind of rough copy. Then they recorded it and listened to it through a surround system, as well as putting it onto an MP 3 file and listening to it in the car.

“There were other songs that didn't come together and it had something to do with the chemistry,” Sanchez said. “If it felt forced, we never got anything worth finishing, but if we took it easy and felt relaxed, we got some good stuff. We would throw ideas around, record something, try it again, add something else; in short work in a way you could never hope to in a studio where you pay for every minute. We tested it in so many ways – we analyzed it; this song needs a guitar solo here, pull back on the tambourine there. To do this largely at home – with no studio recording fees, and the freedom to test boundaries our own way; it was much more luxurious. It’s
the process of getting to that point where what you hear in your headphones is what you hear in your mind.”

Whether it is their stories of a building blaze that forever changed a small town, or the story of a little church on a hill built of dynamite boxes, these tales of The Upper Strata’s journey and growth into the powerful storytellers they have become is definitely a story to be heard, again and again.

Check out "Phantastic Pigeon-Holes" on iTunes, or visit The Upper Strata on their website:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Community Spotlight: Benevilla volunteer lives life helping others

By Matt Marn

The tradition of selfless generosity that started from Mildred Olegar’s father helping those in need in his community has continued on through Mildred’s own contributions to those in her own community, both from Benevilla and elsewhere, who need help getting around, shopping for groceries, or even just a friend to listen and talk to.

Olegar has worn many hats as Benevilla volunteer, including assisting participants with grocery shopping and transportation. She has also volunteered six years at St. Clements campus, working with participants suffering from Alzheimer’s. She came in on music days to sing and dance with them.

“They may not have remembered their name or where they lived, but they didn’t need that songbook they handed out. That love and knowledge of music is stored in a different part of the brain than what affected their Alzheimer’s. Music is a powerful force.”

Olegar’s husband had spent many years researching money management at the local library, so the pair could arrange their own financial affairs. Soon, word got out, and many people – often desperate widows with financial and legal woes – came to seek him out at the library for help.

“He began holding lectures in the library,” she said. “Others came to sell bonds or items, but when they learned he wasn’t selling anything, only the truth, they flocked in. They were so desperate for help.”

Olegar has continued that legacy now herself, helping anyone she can. Some say she does too much, but she said the love and gratitude from the people she helps more than repays what she does.

“It’s just a way of life for me,” she said. “I’ve had people say that I’m an angel sent down from Heaven, what would they do without me? …You can’t stop helping when you hear things like that.”

Olegar is amazed by all Benevilla does for their participants. It has grown by leaps and bounds from when she and her husband first learned about it in that library as a resource to help the community.

“It’s just a warm place full of great people with love for their fellow man,” she said. “I’ve never met anyone that feels that friendly, loves what they do, and who gives of themselves to others. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Community Spotlight: Benevilla Physical Therapist helps participants reclaim independence

By Matt Marn

When the unthinkable happens, such as a stroke or an injury, someone can have a long road ahead of them to recovering the facilities and skills they had before. But with a physical therapist like Dawn, who visits many campuses of Benevilla – including Sun City Restorative Day Center – they are in great hands.

Dawn sat down with Restorative Care Partner Jeannette, and Tom, a participant in the physical therapy program at Sun City Restorative. Together, the three caught up on Tom’s progress. Dawn does this with every patient every 6-8 months, when she and the participant discuss changes, progress and challenges in the their physical therapy program.

Benevilla physical therapist Dawn helps participant Tom
Jeannette told Dawn Tom has been doing very well on the stationary bike. The two shared with Dawn updates, and Dawn asked Tom if he would like to add anything new to his program to work toward. Together, they adjust Tom’s personal physical therapy goals, and congratulate him on the amazing progress he has been making.

“As a physical therapist, I talk to the participant and learn about their personal situation,” Dawn said. “I work with them to help figure out some goals to set for them that will lead to success, something reasonable that can be accomplished.  We work toward something that they will be able to achieve.”

Dawn said it all started at Benevilla with volunteer instruction and body mechanics programs, but soon she began talking with other Benevilla staff about setting up a physical therapy program.

“Some people need rehab after a stroke, but sometimes, insurance stops after awhile, and they still need ongoing therapy,” Dawn said. “We can help them stay active, and we can help keep it cost-effective. I also help in other places, like an aquatic therapy session in Sun City, where we keep the cost at $10 per year to participate.”

 Dawn said she can never promise someone will get back to the way they were, but if you sit around all day, you are going to get worse.

“For example, Tom may not normally walk again, but if he sat around all day, he wouldn’t have been able to climb those stairs today.”

Dawn added many participants, including Tom, have worked very hard at their physical therapy progress, and have achieved the goals they set, thanks also to physical therapy staff like Dawn.

Dawn said one participant earlier in the program broke her arm, and her goal was to be able to play the piano again – and she achieved that goal. Another participant had a stroke, and her goal was to be able to dance at her husband’s Christmas party. She, too, achieved her goal.

“We do as much as we can to help,” Dawn said. “In general, the toughest challenge I face is working with anyone not motivated to help themselves. They need the desire to help themselves to be successful. This desire needs to come from within… if they don’t want to, they won’t get better. … And as for Tom, he has worked very hard,” Dawn said. “He is one of the best advocates of the program.”

Dawn attributes her love for helping people recover through physical therapy to a friend and classmate she had in junior high and high school who had cerebral palsy.

“She was very independent, she insisted on walking with everyone, with no special treatment – just her crutches,” Dawn said. “I had to ask her, to what did she attribute her sense of independence? She told me it was all thanks to her physical therapist. Soon, I started to volunteer more and more in physical therapy, and I decided finally it was what I wanted to do.”

Restorative Care Partner Jeanette said participants love Dawn, and truly appreciate the work she does to help them recover what they have lost.

“Any time they have a question, they ask for her,” Jeannette said. “They love her, she does a great job.”
Participant Tom said his favorite thing about the physical therapy is riding on the stationary bike.

“Dawn is a very knowledgeable person, she gives guidance for everyone trying to achieve their goals,” Tom said. “You don’t know how lucky I feel having a place like this. The best thing about this place – I meet a lot of cool people, and make a lot of friends. Everybody gets along with everyone else – that’s the greatest thing about it. We’ve become a great big family.”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Community Spotlight:Benevillla’s Inter-generational day program spreads fun, encourages growth for all ages

By Matt Marn

They say it is better to give than to receive. And in many cases, the benefits the people we help are given can far outweigh our personal rewards. Unless... unless you see their faces light up with a bright smile. Unless you can see they are truly better off after what you did for them.

That is exactly what Benevilla’s Inter-generational day program is all about. The adult participants of the day program at Lucy Anne’s Place sit down for a weekly morning session of fun with some of the children enrolled in Wirtzie’s Child Development Center. The participants of these two programs on Benevilla’s main campus join together for fun activities, such as singing and many other fun, purposeful activities. During singing sessions adults often read the words as they sing along, while the kids sit on the floor with noise making instruments, and play their hearts out.

Today as they gather, visiting pianist Dorris Pierret leads them in the sing-along, including numbers from classic musicals, like “Danny Boy” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” mixed in with nursery rhymes like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “B, I, N-G-O.” They ended with “God Bless America,” where the sitting adult participants rose and put their hands to their hearts. One participant, wearing a retired Navy cap, raised his hand in a salute.

As the session went on, the kids got more into the music, clapping and beating the various instruments on the floor around them. Some made their way over to the adults, and climbed up into their laps to clap along with a new friend.And soon, smiles are contagious on both sides.

Allison Koegel, director of Wirtzie’s Child Development Center, sees this each and every day. Koegel was one of the key players in starting up a similar inter-generational group in her home state of Illinois, and had already seen the benefits of what a program like this can do for both parties. When she saw the role available here, she knew it would be an amazing opportunity.

“One day during the first few weeks of the program, we captured the essence of bringing the two generations together," Koegel said. “An activity therapist brought out a set of horseshoes to play, and one little girl had never seen them before. A ‘Grandpa’ taught her how to play, right there, and they both lit up. You could see the connection; the awe in his eyes as he taught her, and she was so excited to learn this new game... it literally brought tears to my eyes.”

Koegel elaborates on the terms ‘Grandpa’ and ‘Grandma,’ saying at Wirtzie’s, the teachers and staff call the adult participants these titles in order to help teach the children to see the adults as part of the family and to address them with the same respect, and that they are not intimidating, but warm, caring people just like their own families - not to mention they have so much to share.

“That generation has so much to offer the younger generation,” Koegel said. “In the United States, they are not looked up to as highly as elsewhere, and that breaks my heart. They’re the ones with the stories, with the lessons on respect and caring... it takes a group, a community, to help everyone - especially a child.”

Now that Wirtzie’s  - as well as the inter-generational program - has been open for children almost three years, Koegel said she has an amazing team of staff she views as more of a family than a corporate center.

“Some other care centers see the family as a number, but we want them to be personally served, a part of the community,” she said. “Without that, you lose what we try to do here, what we believe in. Everyone here really has a smile, knows everyone by name, asks about the participant’s family... Without that, you lose the compassion, the community. We work hard to keep that community, to protect it each day. That is my goal, in particular: for families to feel safe, to not worry where they drop off their kids. Without that, if we don’t instill that in a young age, we lose that forever.”

Koegel also knows the benefits of the inter-generational group are physical as well as mental. Through activities this duo partakes in, be they games, heading outside to the garden, making cookies, crafts with marshmallows (the adults set a bad example and began to eat them - the kids soon followed), or bringing in musical performers like harp players, harmonica players, clog dancers, or the pianist sing-alongs that got everyone clapping along, there are many more benefits than you would think, for both generations involved in the activity.

She mentioned that these activity sessions can enhance fine motor skills for both generations. Keeping muscles moving through activities like watercolor painting can help children develop these fine motor skills, while the adults can help prevent arthritis. Other benefits for both groups can include language skills, and improved self-esteem, which is key for the adults.

“In these sessions, kids learn when a grandpa or grandma tell stories from earlier in their lives, and it also helps them keep those mental connections in place and working,” Koegel said. “It is so interesting to see what a child will say that will jog an adult’s memory. One day, we were headed for the garden, but it started to rain, so we had to stay inside. A child said something about digging in the mud, and a grandpa started telling stories about how he used to work construction, and drove giant earth-moving equipment. All the kids were listening, with eyes wide - they were so excited.”

Cindy Morales is the Activity Lead of Lucy Anne’s Place - the adult day program that meets with Wirtzie’s. She said her participants love the inter-generational program sessions.

“They love to see the kids,” she said. “One of our participants reminds one little boy of his own grandpa. They love the interaction, especially the sing-alongs, and when they get up and start dancing... Even for just those 30 minutes out of the day, they really love it. They have fun, and they make it fun for me, too... it’s great. I love the interaction between them.”

Morales said some adult participants look forward to the sessions with Wirtzie’s most of all. One adult even wants to read to the children, and one comes to Lucy Anne’s only for the inter-generational group sessions. The changes they make on each other is hard to miss.

“One little girl was just sitting there, doing nothing one day,” Morales said. “An older participant reached over and took her hand and just started patting it, rubbing her hand. The girl looked up and smiled.”

Koegel said the greatest benefits from this program are the respect and comfort that stem from the children's’ interaction with the adult participants. For the adults, just having someone to talk to, someone to release to, who is genuinely interested, can make all the difference. And in turn, the children learn the more senior generation is not intimidating, and they begin to warm up and interact very differently with them.

Morales agrees this can make a big difference, not only with the children, but with her adult participants, as well.

“Some of my participants were teachers, so they have that interaction with children still in the back of their minds,” Morales said. “Their own kids may now be too far away, and it benefits them to see kids again, to see youth... they love the interaction, both nourishing the children and themselves.”

Koegel also sees this impact, and the lives it can change along the way.

“I can’t tell you how many times, particularly around the holidays, when we hear from a parent, ‘My son did so great around Christmas, he was no longer afraid of his grandparents,’ or ‘my daughter and I were in line at the store next to a senior, and my daughter just started talking to the lady, she had no fear, just started chatting...’”

Koegel's voice falters, and she trails off.  But soon after dabbing her eyes, she continues.
“Hearing that what we do, what we care about so much here, really does matter and change things for the better, it leaves such an impact, for the staff as well as for the kids,” she said. “Even at a store, if it’s even about bubble gum, you never know - you don’t really think how much it could play a part in someone’s mindset."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Community Spotlight: Benevilla Caregivers Month article - Local wife cares for husband through illness, still finds joy in "the little things"

By Matt Marn

Susan P. has been married to her husband, Bob, for 16 years. He was already retired when they met, so when Susan went on business trips, he got to tag along. And when she also retired in 2003 and the pair moved to Arizona, that’s when the real adventures began.

“That’s when we really got to travel,” Susan said. “We went somewhere every year. We traveled to Australia, Italy… once we even took a boat from San Diego to Hawaii.

Susan said she is glad the two of them got the chance to travel, and they “got it out of our system.” Because once things began to change, she admitted it would be a lot of work, and not very relaxing to travel now.

“There were things I noticed, after a while,” Susan said. “He was a lineman for the power company, where he did electrical and woodworking jobs. Eventually he started calling his buddy over to help with things he should have been able to do.”

After that began to happen, along with an alarming was a driving incident, she knew something was changing with her husband. They began to run tests through the summer, and it took until fall to get in to see the neurologist. It was a six-month process. By the first of the year, they had the diagnosis.

“It was an early-on thing, too,” Susan said. “I got a call one day from a police woman, who said Bob had taken the dog out for a walk, like normal, but today couldn't find his way home. Someone found him and called the police for help. It’s hard to get a call from the police.”

Susan was not sure what to think, and was afraid of where this road would lead the two of them.

“My fear was that there was no hope,” Susan said. “I was afraid there was not really a lot you could do; just a long and painful process.”

Susan said the pair doesn't have a large family. While Susan’s mother has helped a lot, she is elderly and understandably can’t always be around. She said she and Bob have really used the Benevilla care systems, such as the day care programs and support groups.

“Benevilla adult day care, then the Area Agency for Aging… these helped a lot,” Susan said. “It’s a wonderful thing. You start learning about the others in your group, as well as the spouses. It’s like a whole other family. We even occasionally go out to eat, or go see a movie with some of them.”

Susan said it was very hard to go to the support group the first few times.

“You hear all these people, and you know you’re going to be in those shoes later on down the road,” she said. “It was very hard for me. Now I go more regularly, most of the time. I know most of them, you start to care about them… some are quite inspiring. They may be having a lot harder time than you.”

Susan also said Care Pro was also a great service that helped them with this journey. The program, run not by Benevilla, but through Arizona State University, is a form of training for caregivers – it helps family members know what they can expect, what to be ready for, when they care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“Care Pro should be required for every caregiver,” Susan said. “I’m an R.N. but I still learned a lot. It is specifically for caregivers; it teaches you to appreciate the little joys, to look past the big ugly of it. When I see people come in towards the end, at the end of their rope, at their wits end, I feel they could have been helped sooner by this group… They could have had that training.”

Susan said her advice to people in the same situation would be to get help – to stay connected. In addition to looking online and in the community for resources that can help, she said most importantly, they need to find others in the community to connect with… others who have gone through the same.

“If you don’t have that connection…” she began, “Sometimes I go online and read these support blogs – but sometimes I can’t even read them… they are so sad… But the people in these support groups have that physical contact. Those people have compassion for each other. And the members of the group need to encourage each other to come back sometimes. Not every week’s session is easy, but again, it’s kind of a family. That’s how a family is.

But the most important part for Susan – what she hangs onto the tightest – is the joy she finds in the little things. And the love she has for her husband, which grows stronger every day.

“You try to realize … To not dwell on what was, but what is – as they say in the support group, ‘the new normal,’ whatever that is,” Susan said. “I still find joy in things. He’s a very sweet man. Many have fewer resources than I do. I enjoy the small things now a lot more. I could do a lot worse.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Jivemind Music Labs features Glendale Jazz Jam, outlets and opportunities for musicians

By Matt Marn

Also published by

The organizers behind one of Glendale’s best kept secrets are ready to share.

People from all over the valley, musicians and supporters alike, gather in the performance lounge of Jivemind Music Labs to enjoy the Downtown Glendale Jazz Jam.  Performers of all ages and skill levels, from seasoned professionals to a grade-school student with a ukulele, take to the stage with their guitars, drumsticks, and voices every Thursday night to share their talents and have fun in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.

But there is more at work in this building than the Jazz Jam, and whether you are a passionate musician, or you just want to try a new hobby, Jivemind Music Labs may become your second home.

Getting the Jazz Jam started

The Downtown Glendale Jazz Jam, which meets at 7:30 every Thursday evening, got its big break when the organizer, Elizabeth Doré, was offered a booth at Glendale’s annual Jazz and Blues Festival.

“We have been after a space to perform for 2 years,” Doré said. “I was working with Glendale, and they gave Jazz in AZ a booth 3 years ago. I met Gabriel Bey, the founder of AZ Culture, and told him we were looking for a venue. When he heard about Jivemind this year, he told them about us.

As Doré met with Jeff Rose and Dustin Chaffin, the two founders of Jivemind, they got along instantly, and she liked what they were working on opening the facility. Rose and Chaffin thought Doré wanted to hold the Jazz Jam once a month, but she insisted the jam be held weekly, to “keep it fresh and popular.”

Doré said so far, the Jazz Jam is getting a great reception.

“I’ve met a lot of my goals,” she said. “The word’s getting around, and we’ve hired a lot of good musicians. But right now, we are working on the financials. I’d love to see it pay for itself, through increased support, as well as sponsorships.

“This Jazz Jam is out of pocket for me and my husband,” Doré said. “It’s a hardship, paying out of pocket, but if we can keep money coming in, that would be great.”

Doré said the Jazz Jam hires a new professional jazz band every month to facilitate the jam, and people from all over the community are welcome to play. She said the arrangement with Jivemind is great, since the Jazz Jam satisfies Jivemind’s needs through the city, and it also gives Glendale nightlife business, as well as helping Jazz in AZ recruit new members.

“It’s a good opportunity for them,” she said. “We also have music promoters that come in, and they have hired people who perform there.  What I’m trying to do is establish relationships with people who are doing these things in the community.”

Doré said it is a dream come true holding a jazz performance in downtown Glendale.

“There are millions of people on the west side, and they don’t have anywhere to go. And the new performers get to play with professionals. Everybody wins; that’s how we roll.”

Doré wants to use the Jazz Jam to share the west side’s musical talent, and hopes to become a satellite for Jazz in AZ live music.

“We now have a west side center for live music on a regular basis. With this low cost and high-quality entertainment, we strive to bring young students out to play with seasoned professionals. It is such a wonderful outlet… there are so many well-educated musicians here.”

Jivemind Music Labs: A place to call home

Jivemind Music Labs, the home of the Jazz Jam, is also starting its own rise through the valley’s music scene. On the corner of 58th Avenue and Glenn Drive in downtown Glendale, the founders describe Jivemind on their website as “a community workshop where musicians, producers and hobbyists realize their projects, practice their art, and connect with others.”

Jivemind offers rehearsal space and a growing collection of accessible instruments, recording studio space, as well as regular clinics, workshops and performances, including the Jazz Jam. With nearly a dozen varieties and levels of membership plans at Jivemind, Rose and Chaffin believe everyone interested in music should be able find a comfortable environment to enjoy and practice music, and meet others who enjoy doing the same.
“I’d like Jivemind to continue to gain momentum, said Rose. “It’s going to be the happening spot, with lots of events, lots of really awesome equipment. We’ve gotten to funnel performance opportunities to younger performers. I’d like to see musicians playing, learning and networking.”

Jivemind, now open, held an open house the weekend leading up to when Rose and Chaffin opened the doors. They got overwhelmingly positive feedback, and a news network affiliate also came by to help spread the word. They are excited about the publicity, but they remain most excited about the good it will do for music enthusiasts in the area.

“Dawell, a drummer and regular here, said it best: ‘Everyone has a voice, however developed, and everyone should have a right to develop it,’” Rose said. “And we’re trying to do that. We want to foster a culture that is growing. We’re not in it to make money; we want to help by doing what we love to do.”

Different roads to the same song

Rose said he and cofounder Chaffin arrived at the need for a place like Jivemind separately, knocking on doors, making contact with musicians and organizers in the area.

For Rose, it started when he played his drum set at home, and with the paper-thin walls of his apartment complex, that didn’t go over well.

“It was not a healthy environment to play and practice,” he said. “I got my drums out of home, and I took them to another sketchy place, and soon they were trashed. I just wanted to play my drums…”

Rose said he wanted to also go out and meet musicians, and have a good, safe place to play.

“There ought to be a place in town that can provide you with contacts, instruments, and a place to play, a central location in Phoenix that provides that,” he said.

Rose said when he asked around for who he should talk to in the area to get started in the music industry, Kimber Lanning’s name kept coming up.

“She’s a player, well-connected and approachable,” said Rose. He said Lanning put him in contact with other active members of the music community, including Nate Anderson.

Meanwhile, Chaffin grew up an hour north of Austin, Texas.

 “Any day of the week, you can just walk down the street, and see a show,” Chaffin said. “The music scene is incredible. Here, there’s less places to just drive to and see what’s happening. Plus, I’ve been writing and recording music since I was able to read at all. Anything I did in music, I was very encouraged, coming from a musical family.”

Chaffin said when he looked into the issue; he found most recording studios in the traditional sense weren’t making money. So he formulated the idea for a “lean and mean” studio. He, too, approached Kimber Lanning, who also led him to Nate Anderson.

This was when Rose and Chaffin were introduced to each other.

“Together, we came up with a holistic concept,” Chaffin said. “Venues, recording, and gear usually get expensive, and can stifle you. We provide these resources, and a great chance to meet other musicians.”

Chaffin added with a smile, Jivemind is “like a gym for musicians,” and advised enthusiasts not to buy an expensive elliptical, but to go to the gym.

“And there are people there with you, with a shared interest, a like mindset you can’t get at home,” Rose added. “However serious or recreational it is, there ought to be a place like this.”

Taking it from the top

Now that Jivemind has opened and the facility is prepared, Rose and Chaffin are astonished, seeing their dreams for what the local music scene deserves turned into a reality.

“It’s amazing, seeing this come together,” Rose said. “I don’t know about Dustin, but it’s better than I had imagined. We’re happy with where we’re at now, but we know what we have to do to keep improving. It will grow so much greater from here.”

As part of that list of ways to grow, the duo is working more heavily on spreading the word through outreach to the community.

“We have great press and a lot of marketing,” Rose said. “But selling this building and getting people on board is only possible with the finished product. We have spent months developing, finishing our product, and now we are really pushing our promotional efforts. It’s just a matter of building word of mouth.”

Rose said the pair is working now on workshops and activities based around various musicians’ topics. Many are still conceptual ideas, and would-be facilitators are still expressing ideas, or are being approached by Rose and Chaffin themselves, but Rose mentioned a possible drum lab as an example, facilitated by a teacher, where music lovers can jam, practice and socialize.

“For sure, we want to expand our membership base, and the continued growth of what we have to offer musicians, from instruments and performance space to fun, interesting programs,” Rose said. “That’s the kind of stuff we like to do.”

The Start of Something Great

Now Thursday evening’s Jazz Jam wraps up at Jivemind Music Labs, and everyone in the crowd who wanted to take the stage has gotten the chance to jam with professionals in the valley music scene. The crowd is clapping for great performances, and tapping toes and bopping heads can’t help keeping the rhythm that fills Glendale’s newest spot for live music and music lovers. And off to the side, Jivemind cofounder Jeff Rose works the sound console, and in the back of the room, Rose’s cofounder Dustin Chaffin stands with Jazz Jam organizer Elizabeth Doré, all three nodding and tapping along with the rest of the crowd.

Their smiles, however, may be just a bit larger.

Downtown Glendale Jazz Jam
Every Thursday, 7:30-10:00 pm

Jivemind Music Labs
5754 West Glenn Drive
Glendale, AZ 85301
 (408) 475-5483

“Tuesday Bluesday 2.0:” The Blues can smile once more

Popular blues jam reopens at new venue as fans look forward to bright future

By Matt Marn

When the Glendale blues jam known as “Tuesday Bluesday” ended along with the closing of its home venue, Next Coffee Company, they went out on a high note, with a packed house – the largest turnout of the event’s history. It was a bittersweet night for all, as everyone gave their best performances onstage, unsure what the future would bring for both Tuesday Bluesday and for the group of regulars who support it.

But the following week, “Tuesday Bluesday 2.0” opened at Zendejas Grill, right next door to their former coffee shop. Without missing a beat, the group had found a new home.

Tuesday Bluesday organizer and band leader Tom Mein breaks out his familiar guitars, takes the stage with his usual band mates, bass guitarist Rich Alfano and drummer “Rumblin’” John Rumbaugh, and begins their set with their favorite medley. As cheers grow louder from the audience, he welcomes the crowd, “Welcome to Tuesday Bluesday 2.0!”

Mein explains to the crowd how grateful he and the band are to have Zendejas as their new venue to continue this event. He said, as he always does, how important it is to continue to support live music, particularly on the west side of the valley, where local talent can have a place to perform and grow.

After the band’s intro blues set,  Mein starts moving through the list of performers in the crowd who wanted to step onto this new stage and jam with other local performers. The night featured a variety of blues, jazz, funk and even some country, as Tuesday Bluesday is admired as featuring a variety of genres for all tastes to share and enjoy.

“One thing I have noticed in the past year, there’s been an explosion of all sorts of jam sessions around here,” said Mein later. “But we have one of the best varieties. That’s our niche; we’re the most varied jam session. I don’t want to be just a blues or a jazz jam, I like mixing it up. I hope it stays that way.”

One of the performers to take to the stage was Blair Robertson, a guitarist and longtime blues admirer.

“I thought the whole night was phenomenal,” said Robertson. “I’m amazed at the amount of talent. It’s great we found a new place, and so quickly. Tom deserves a lot of credit. When something goes really well, you’re under pressure to keep that up, and Tom’s doing a phenomenal job.”

Robertson said the only problem is Tuesday Bluesday hasn’t grown, it has exploded.

“I see that as a good thing, since it brings better and better talent,” he said. “Tom just has the problem of getting everyone that wants to play onstage.”

That difficulty of organizing and ensuring everyone makes it onstage is the greatest stress for Mein.

“It can get hectic, scheduling everyone,” Mein said. “A lot of players drive a long way, and if they don’t get to play, they leave. That’s the last thing I want.”

Mein said he is very pleased with Zendejas Grill, and is sure it is a move in the right direction.

“Next was nice, but there’s good food here, a family atmosphere, everything we could want,” he said. “Here at Zendejas there’s more space, nicer seating, and they stay open later than 9 p.m. We always got to the end of the night at Next, and had to cram everyone in. This will help getting everyone onstage.”

Robertson celebrated the new venue’s opening night by performing the favorite “Honky Tonk Woman.” He said later this was a new song for him, a song he has wanted to perform since high school.

“This kind of event inspires you to learn a new song,” he said. “The beautiful thing is, I screwed up, but when you play with so many other musicians, they can help cover you, and together, you all sound great. It encourages people to come up and try new things.”

Regular Tuesday Bluesday supporters Jim and Paula Cowley didn’t expect the amount of talent they started seeing on a regular basis when they started attending the jam, and were also impressed with the great job Mein does every week organizing the jam.

“I didn’t expect this,” said Paula Cowley. “It grew from a little Tuesday night coffee shop to something much bigger. Tom is one of the better players I’ve ever seen. I was also surprised at how friendly everyone was. They are so supportive of young people or all the first timers. It’s a great group of people that go do it.”

Cowley said she is certain the jam will only get bigger from here, and the new venue will help them grow their reputation further.

“Everyone was starting to notice the crowds we were drawing in at Next,” she said. “I think Tuesday Bluesday will keep growing.”

House bass guitarist Rich Alfano agrees this is a good move for the Tuesday Bluesday group, and everything he’s heard from regulars suggests this was surely an upgrade.

“We’ve retained our core of regular jammers, and seem to be adding new faces all the time,” Alfano said. “The best part for me is working with talented players like Tom and John every week, and being a continuing student of the art of music, the variety of material we run through… Country, jazz, blues, funk, there’s always something different being offered.”

Mein said he has a great time performing at and leading Tuesday Bluesday, and said it is the most fun gig of his busy week. He also enjoys seeing new players come up and perform along with the group.

“That’s part of the great thing,” he said. “It’s not just about playing with others; I really enjoy giving people an opportunity to play onstage, and watch them grow better and better. After all, one gig is worth ten rehearsals. Once you play onstage, that experience multiplies your growth. And everyone is welcome at Tuesday Bluesday.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Community Spotlight: Benevilla National Caregivers Month

Written a while ago, but now posting it. The non-profit I volunteer for, Benevilla, is a support network for dementia and Alzheimer's patients, as well as their family members and caregivers. I wrote a series a few months ago for National Caregivers Month, when Benevilla featured a different family who participates in the organization's programs and services.

The articles could feature an adult taking care of a parent, a spouse acting as caregiver, or a grandparent acting as caregiver to their grandchild. This first article was quite a story. It was an honor to help this man tell it.

In appreciation of National Caregivers Month, Benevilla chose a different member of the community each week in November highlighting the enduring devotion and love of caregivers around the world. The support these caregivers show their loved ones is an example to all that with a little help, family members with various conditions can live rich, happy lives surrounded by those they love.

John S. loves his wife, Janelle, with a passion. After years together, they had been through so much, and their love just grew deeper. But after a number of life-changing tragedies, one after the other, John made the decision to stand by that love, showing just how much family really meant in his heart.

It began when Janelle began having back pain in bed while she was sleeping. It got worse for a couple of months, and when the doctor’s antibiotics didn't work, she went to the urgent care clinic for a CAT scan.

“She got the call to come back to the clinic right now… and bring your husband,” John said. “The scan had found cancerous tumors. That was quite a day.”

The next step for the couple was to work on the cancer diagnosis with the physician, to figure out what kind of cancer it was, and what their options were.

Meanwhile, Doris, Janelle’s mother, was also a large part of their lives. While Janelle was going through chemotherapy treatments, Doris fell and broke her leg. Soon she moved into an assisted living facility, where John and Janelle visited her a few times a day.

“Up to that point, Doris had been pretty independent,” John said. “But when she had her accident, not only did she break her leg, but now she had to move. Then we had to manage her old apartment, all while battling this cancer. It was pretty hectic for a while.”

John said when Doris was in the assisted living facility, they noticed everyone there wore Depends, because when someone needed help to go use the restroom, the staff didn't always respond in time.

“After that, we decided assisted living was not a great option for us,” he said. “And there wasn't really room at our place. But Janelle had the idea that we rent a place together. So we did. It was the three of us, going through that process together.”

And so the routine went, four months of chemotherapy, every third week of the month, leaving Janelle’s body to heal in between, as well as battle the nausea and side effects. At the same time, Janelle’s mother, Doris, lived with them, needing help to get around. They also had help from family, like from a daughter in Tucson.

“There was an awful period after the first of six chemo rounds,” John said. “ We were waiting to give the chemo a chance to work, and give her body a chance to recover. We had another scan, and later the doctor came back in, visibly affected by the news he had to give. He said, ‘I’m sorry, the cancer is still there, still an issue. You’re going to have to do more, and I’m not going to be able to help with that.’”

They soon turned to a lymphoma specialist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, as well as visiting a clinic in Houston. They spent four months there in an apartment with Doris.

In December 2011, Janelle passed away.

“After the funeral services, it was just Dory and I,” John said.

And as time went on, John grew more aware something was different with Doris. Later testing showed extreme challenges in executive functions in “command naming,” such as remembering the names of different items, as well as changes in her short-term memory.

Doris had developed dementia.

“She was pretty functional until then, but one day, she turned to me and said she didn't know how to turn on the cold water,” John said. “That was the real jolt.”

John called around and got help from the day program at Benevilla, which gave him more time every weekday to run errands, while making sure Doris was still cared for.

John said Doris’ dementia came with many challenges, to the point where she once grew sick, then forgot she was sick, and did not mention the problem to John. She grew worse, and soon was admitted into the Emergency Room for observation.

“If you have no short-term memory, and your pattern is changed, you don’t know the difference,” he said. “Everything is new.”

Over time, Doris’ dementia grew worse.

“She got quiet,” John said. “She didn't want to talk or read or watch TV. She just really regressed a great deal.”

Doris could no longer go to the bathroom at night, for fear of her falling. So John installed a remote doorbell in his own room, with the remote to set the doorbell off in the shirt pocket of Doris’ pajamas. After a while, this also seriously drained John’s energy and sleep.

John found her a placement in a group home, where they can help her with whatever she needs around the clock. But when a person with dementia changes homes, it can be very rough on them, he said.

“But she still knows who I am, and I still take her out every week for her hair appointment,” he said.

John said when he found Doris had dementia, and she got involved in the Benevilla day program, the pair truly found a great support with the groups.

In Doris’ case, she has progressed through the stages of dementia quickly, while for others, the process can take years.

“I found many have been caring for their spouse or loved one for years,” he said. “I couldn't help thinking, is this going to be my life? What will become of me? I was very concerned.”

But he said no matter what the question or concern a caregiver may have, Benevilla groups can help you find answers. He said they taught him about Care Pro, which provides training and discussions focused on the caregiver.

“Caregivers can suffer from major stress, shorter life expectancy, and reduced ability to care for the person you care so much about. It’s a huge demand, being a caregiver. This person you care about, it’s a 24-hour-a-day job, but they’re less and less present. If they get up at 3 a.m. and light the stove and put a pot on and go back to bed, you've got to be ready.”

John said back when Doris was not yet diagnosed, it was still obvious that something was wrong, but he still tried whatever he could to help her get better.

“But now I know, she’s not going to get better,” he said. “The hard news is, it’s a one-way street… you get worse and worse. Sometimes you take a step forward; they speak better or have better memory, but then another step back. The recovery seems to never be all the way back to where it was before.”

John said it does get frustrating, going through so much in such a short time.

“It’s just the two of us, after Janelle,” he said. “And now she’s almost not present. It’s called anticipatory grief: you know where this is going, but you have no one to talk to or vent to about what you are going through.”

But that is why John feels the support group at Benevilla is so important. A caregiver may be facing a very tough time, but the person next to you is facing huge challenges, as well, he said.

 What pushes John through these tough times? He says it’s the sense of doing the right thing.

“You don’t want to leave any unfulfilled needs,” he said. “You want to, you MUST, do the best you can for that person, leave no regrets. If you lose a parent, and there are unresolved issues, are you going to carry those around for the rest of your life? Or are you going to address them now? My wife and I had decided we were going to do all we can. That’s how we've done that. …That’s how I've done that.”

Dementia in a family member is a life-changing experience, for all involved, but John wants everyone to know that if it happens in your family, you don’t have to go through it alone.

“Connect with others who are doing this,” he said. “There are different support groups for different stages, whatever spot you’re in. That’s huge. Have a sense for what’s coming, and how to handle it. There are a handful of certain behaviors people with dementia often show… You need to know how to handle it.”