Kareen King

The Disease of Remembering

Peacock - Photo by Kareen King

Peacock - Photo by Kareen King

It was my birthday on a day with no time commitments. Free to decide how to spend my time, I chose to visit my friends, Brenda and Loren. Brenda and I go back years, having discovered a common thread of love of adventure and anything edgy and out of the box. I used to take groups of older adults, many with dementia, to their country home to see her farm animals. I would arrive with a full bus of up to twenty folks, open the side door, and Brenda would usher in dogs, goats, baby chicks, sugar gliders, her snout-painting pig, and even a farting turkey, to name a few. The residents delighted in holding them and watching their antics.

CD Cover Design and Photography by Brenda Cox

CD Cover Design and Photography by Brenda Cox

Brenda also designed the front and back covers and booklet for my CD, The Person in the Picture Ain’t Me. It’s an album of original songs about people in long-term care who feel dismembered from belonging because of dementia, disabilities, and dying. She, a talented professional photographer, photographed some of the people featured in my album, and also spent time with some of them. One of her favorites was Jewell, the 101-year-old lady on the album cover who once said of the photo by her bedroom door, “That’s my name, but the person in the picture’s not me.”

During those years, Loren held a prestigious job at a nuclear power plant. Whenever I saw him, most of his conversation geared around how proud he was of his wife and kids and all their amazing abilities. One time he gave me a tour of their back yard which extended much further than I had ever known. Surrounded by forest, he had created a walking trail just for Brenda and delighted in showing me how it was a secret portal to wildlife, as she has always been a lover of animals.

Years later, Loren’s cognition began to show signs of decline until one year, he was no longer able to pass the annual cognition test and was let go. After a series of tests, Loren, a man in his fifties, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. True to form, Brenda has somehow brilliantly navigated Loren’s well-being while juggling several jobs. All the while, Loren continues to demonstrate his typical positivity, gratitude, and pride in his wife.

So, back to my birthday. I chose to pop in on my friends to give them a little cheer after a setback in Loren’s health. When I arrived, I saw Brenda’s car was gone, so I gave her a call.

“Brenda, are you home? I’m sitting in your driveway.”

“I’m picking up groceries,” she replied.

“Well, I wanted to come visit you and Loren on my birthday, but I don’t want to alarm him with my presence. What should I do?”

“Just knock on the door and say, ‘It’s Kareen.’”

So I did just that. Loren answered the door and let me in while their beloved Corgi jumped up and down with excitement. I was then invited to sit down on a couch in the living room while Loren took a seat in the couch across from me. I had intended on only staying a few minutes, thinking that all that was needed was a brief reminder that someone cared. Instead, I wound up staying at least an hour. Though he struggled a bit with some word retrieval, he still managed to tell me how proud he is of his Brenda and how she can do anything, which is pretty true, by the way.

And then suddenly he switched gears.

“What happened to the church?”

Gulp. I now realized he had a sense of who I was, even though he had never addressed me by name. You see, many years ago he had been the chairman of the leadership team of the church in which my husband was its most recent pastor. I tried to explain as simply and generically as I could what happened to our church that is currently recovering from some unfortunate fall-out.

“You know, just a couple days ago I couldn’t walk. And now I can. I just keep moving forward one step at a time. We’ve got to keep moving forward, love people, encourage people.”

“Yes,” I agreed, tears now flowing.

“Love people, encourage people, forgive people. Keep moving forward.”

He said it again, and again.

“I have the disease of remembering,” he then declared.

The disease of remembering? Surely he meant the disease of forgetting. Was he just confused? I think not. How poetic it is that Loren sees his disease in the positive manner in which he has always lived his life. Though he is forgetting words and people and how to do certain things, he’s remembering what matters.

I have been a part of the Memory Bridge Retreat (founded by the brilliant Michael Verde) for several years where there’s a great deal of focus on “re-membering” those who have been “dis-membered” from the body of belonging. We hone the skill of listening more attentively. Each year I do a concert about Emilou whose songs are featured in my album. I tell the story of how we first met – an occasion in which after repeatedly hollering for help from her room, I went in and asked what she needed.

“I want to die,” she replied. “I’m an old maid. I want to die. Just bury me in the pasture.”

She repeated the plea several times, holding me close to her face.

“I’m all alone and lonely,” she continued. “I never wanted a husband. I wanted a best friend.”

We all want to belong. It’s what keeps us going.

So, back to Loren and I.

“I’m so glad you came here,” Loren said with tears in his eyes.

“So am I.”

I stood up. He stood up. We hugged. I thanked him for reminding me to keep moving, keep loving people, keep encouraging people.

As I headed back to my car, I noticed Brenda’s pet peacock was in full strut mode. Of course I had to take several photographs. Love followed by beauty. Two of God’s greatest gifts.

I had gone to encourage one I thought had been dis-membered, when it was me who had been dis-membered. In essence, we re-membered each other. It’s what the great philosopher Martin Buber would call an I-Thou moment. It was the truest moment I could ever wish for on my birthday.

Note: If interested in the album, “The Person in the Picture Ain’t Me,” click https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/kareenking

Find Me: A Reflection on Friendship and Dementia

Today is the birthday of Emilou who died in 2008. I've shared her story in keynotes, concerts, and workshops and in two albums I recorded back in 2007 and 2010. Here's a story in her honor.

Find Me

By Kareen King

It was a typical morning in the world of long-term care. Residents were resting in their beds, situated in living areas watching television, observing people enter and exit, eating breakfast in the dining room, or interacting with staff. Kitchen aides were washing dishes and clearing tables. Caregivers were busy attending to residents’ needs. Therapists were helping residents achieve mobility. Hospice workers were supplying comfort to those who were dying. Department heads, preferably called support staff, were working from their laptops or working out care strategies or staffing issues, and so forth.

I had just arrived and was headed straight to my office, hoping not to be deterred by anything or anyone, because I thought I had a lot of urgent things to take care of. However, there was no way I could ignore the sight of Emilou who was seated in her wheelchair in the dining room, directly in my path, eagerly waiting for my arrival. As usual, she called for help, just after having finished her breakfast. I responded immediately, inviting her to a gathering for individuals who have dementia, in hopes the invitation would give her something to look forward and eliminate her need to call for help.

I went on to my office to check my laptop for staff communication and to look over plans for the day. Impatient, she called for help again, so I left my office and wheeled her around with me while I did errands, thinking I could kill two birds with one stone. I asked if she had any songs on her mind. Instantly, she started singing, “I’ve been working on the railroad,” and I joined her. We sang enthusiastically, moving from one favorite to the next including, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “Jesus Loves Me,” "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” to name a few. So far so good.

Eventually, in the spirit of camaraderie, Emilou asked for a drink.

“I want something good,” she requested.

I suspected that “something good” likely referred to her favorite drink, Pepsi. Yet, since I was in a hurry, I didn’t want to be inconvenienced with the additional effort required in servicing this special need. Instead I offered her ice water.

“No thanks,” she replied.

Knowing full well she probably wanted the soft drink that just the day before she referred to as the “drink that makes me quiver,” I took advantage of the fact she hadn’t specified her drink of choice. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that her request likely was an indication of the kinship she felt between us.

“What would you like to drink then, Emilou?”

“I don’t know. Whatever you’ll give me.”

That’s all I needed to proceed with my plan. I quickly prepared a cup of ice water, brought it to her, and offered her a sip.

“That’s not good,” she reacted, spraying both me and the floor with ice water. I was dumbstruck, having never been treated like this by her before.

“Emilou, you said you wanted a drink, so I brought you some ice water.”

“I wanted something good!” she shouted.

“So what do you want then, Emilou?”

“I want your nose. That’s what I want – your nose,” she lashed out. “I’m going away from you. You aren’t any good.”

Stinging from the outburst, I calmly attempted to justify my actions. “Emilou, you said you wanted something to drink and I asked you what you wanted. You said you’d take whatever I gave you, so I gave you ice water. So what is it you want?”

“Someone to be nice. You . . . they were so nice, but then they turned on me.”

It then dawned on me that I had just become the scapegoat for previous unpleasant encounters of her being dismissed or ignored. For example, it was once relayed to me that Emilou had been removed from another nursing home, years earlier, for flinging hot coffee on a caregiver. It was obvious that Emilou wouldn’t have attributed my selfish actions to the Kareen she had come to recognize as loving and trustworthy.

One of my coworkers gave me a knowing glance, coaching that it would be best if I gave her some space. She was soon rehearsing familiar phrases such as, “Help!” “I’m so beside myself,” I’m lost,” “I hurt.” Emilou, who had been sitting erect and eager, slowly sunk into herself as her volume diminished with each passing word.

What she spoke next stupefied me.

“I want you to find me,” she spoke feebly, back slumped and head facing the floor.

I walked toward her and invited her once again, with some trepidation, to the gathering I had invited her to earlier. She accepted, but not with the enthusiasm I had witnessed at my initial invitation. I brought her into the room to join her peers. By now, however, she looked like the typical “slumper” one might conclude as the by-product of negligence. Only this time, I was to blame. As she continued to complain of pain, I removed her from the gathering so the others could carry on without disruption.

I then returned her to her neighborhood where I re-encountered the coworker who had given me the knowing glance.

“This is what we experience from her every day,” she noted.

I went on to focus on the other residents, checking if there was anyone else who needed to be at our gathering. As I headed out for one last glance, I looked in on Emilou again because she was calling for help. This time, she accepted my invitation, and she and I returned to complete the number of attendees in our gathering.

The next 45 minutes were spent sharing ways in which we are lifted up or can lift up others. For the most part, Emilou’s head hung with her eyes closed. At one point when she lifted her head, I capitalized on the moment.

“What lifts you up, Emilou?” I asked.

“Being with someone who thinks they love me.”

After the gathering, Emilou accepted my invitation to join in our next activity, Movers & Shakers, an exercise group that featured creative rhythm and movement. I situated her, a bit more uplifted, in a new circle of individuals.

“I want you to hold my hand,” she declared.

I held her hand for a moment.

“I’m thirsty,” she added.

“What would you like to drink, Emilou?” I inquired.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Would you like a glass of ice water?”


I fetched her glass of ice water, pondering her change of mind. She took a sip from a straw.

“Oh, it’s good,” she stated. “I didn’t get it on ya, did I?”

“Oh, no, Emilou. You’re fine,” I reassured her. “Do you want another sip?”

She took another sip.

“I don’t want ya to get hurt,” she persisted.

I considered the profundity of the moment. Emilou, though forgetting details like names and places, hadn’t forgotten how others make her feel, or how she felt about herself after a combative episode. Emotions go much deeper than words – a curious phenomenon in the mysterious world of dementia. I was fascinated with Emilou’s subconscious awareness of the need to make restitution amidst the murky waters of time and place confusion.

And so, Emilou and I were friends again.

Happy birthday, Emilou.


What Gives You Goosebumps?

Imagine being an artist, a musician, and a motorcycle enthusiast with your life ahead of you.

Then imagine a sudden illness robbing your ability to walk, to care for yourself without the assistance of caregivers, or to express yourself through language. Your dominant hand no longer functions and you find your new home surrounded by "neighbors," most of who are at least thirty years older than you.

Such is the case of "Mike," a man I've had the pleasure and perplexity of engaging with during my work in long-term care. Since I cannot, nor anyone else, understand what he tries to communicate, I have resorted to simply mirroring his gestures and facial expressions, along with relying on information from his social history to tap into his psyche.

I witnessed a small miracle unfold before my eyes during one of my one-to-ones with Mike. During my efforts to connect with this complex individual, I suddenly had the notion to do an internet search for a virtual motorcycle ride. In moments, Mike and I were "traveling" vicariously through Canada, taking in the breathtaking scenery along the way. My peripheral vision caught his mesmerized face engage with the snow capped mountains and deep ravines as we raced along the rolling highways.

Suddenly he tapped me, drawing attention to the goosebumps on his arm.

It wasn't the only moment. He pointed out more goosebumps while watching a YouTube video of Three Dog Night, and later while perusing through the art gallery of a child artist prodigy.

Art, beauty, music, and human connection all in one setting. Love and belonging and peak moments in an unlikely space. This is the essence of The Golden Experience.

Below is a photo I took a few weeks ago of what I assumed is a coyote, but have since been offered suggestions that he’s either an Eastern Coyote (adaptation of a coyote, wolf, and dog) or a Coywolf (hybrid of a coyote and a wolf). I’ve also posted a second version of him, a little doctored up by my talented friend, Brenda Cox, to add a little holiday cheer. Both images give me goosebumps. :)

May your holiday season be filled with moments that give you goosebumps. :)

Coywolf - Photo by Kareen King

Coywolf - Photo by Kareen King

Your Life Story in One Box

What if you could place everything that means or has meant anything to you in one box? What might it contain? Seriously, this is a legit question. I hate to break the news to you, but IF you live long enough and become frail enough to wind up in a nursing home some day, you won’t take anything with you except your most prized possessions. And if you’re really smart, you probably shouldn’t have anything of significant monetary value in your room, one you most likely will share with another resident, because it may turn up missing. Furthermore, once you leave this earth, it’s unlikely any of your family members will want to sift through all your journals, read all your mail, or sort through all your knick-knacks, unless they think there’s a diamond in there somewhere.

So, due to my mother’s persistence, I accompanied her to attend my Great Aunt Carrie’s funeral awhile back. Initially, I was reluctant to make the trip, an eight-hour drive each way. But, I felt a certain call of duty to go. I’m so glad I did because of what happened before the service began. But first a bit about Carrie.

Photo Collage by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience

Photo Collage by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience

Carrie Alice Olson, a Norwegian descendant, was born on December 28, 1910 and raised with five siblings on a farm in Calamus, Iowa. She taught kindergarten for over forty years, including organizing two kindergartens. She was also a radio storyteller for the Association for Childhood Education (A.C.E.) and a Secretary of the Kindergarten Division of Illinois State A.C.E. She never married, and outlived her siblings (including my grandmother, Gladys Hoff), dying at the age of 102 on July 19, 2013.

Carrie’s pastor, Sarah Kretzmann, noted at the funeral that she had more fun writing Carrie’s funeral message than that of any other parishioner. We soon discovered why as she cited many of the notable events in history that occurred each month in 1910 including:

  • January: The first Aviation Meet was held in the U.S.
  • February: Boy Scouts of America was founded.
  • March: The first filmed version of Frankenstein came out.
  • April: Haley’s Comet was visible from the earth.
  • May: The Union of South Africa was created.
  • June: The ballet The Firebird by Stravinsky was premiered in Paris, bringing its composer to fame.
  • July: Jack Johnson defeated James Jeffrey in a heavyweight championship, sparking racial riots across the nation.
  • August: Florence Nightingale died.
  • September: The fastest professional baseball game in history took place in a Southern Association game in Atlanta, concluding 32 minutes after it began.
  • October: Henry Ford celebrated the 100th auto sale.
  • November: Leo Folsto, Russian author of Anna Karenina and War and Peace, died.
  • December: Carrie Alice Olson was born.

Sarah also recalled a witticism while visiting Carrie in the nursing home where she resided.

“Carrie, I can’t remember if you are 102 or 103,” Sarah apologized.

“Does it really make any difference?” Carrie quipped.

So, back to the funeral. Just before it began, I went to the basement to watch my mother, my uncle, and their two cousins finish sorting through Carrie’s remaining possessions. There was one box left that nobody was interested in. I made a last-second decision to take it with me, just in case there were any significant family photos that might have gone unnoticed.

The next day, I pored through the fragmented contents, surprised at what I discovered. The following poem expresses both my findings and my sentiments about the experience.

Life Story in a Box
By Kareen King
The remains of her life were bestowed in my care
The photos, mementos – once private, now bare
I poured through the fragments that unveiled her story
Considered each piece while I took inventory

T’was a book by Bjorn called The Home Has a Heart
Filled with recipes, goodness, and prayers to impart
An award from the quilt that her mother once sewed
And a box of black beads from her sister, bestowed

A diploma from Iowa State Teacher’s College
A plaque for her service, achievements, and knowledge
A notebook of poems and creative thought
Designed to give credence to all whom she taught

A hymnary filled with confessions and prayers
A book – ‘Round the World in One Thousand Pictures
A bach’lor’s degree signed by Northwestern U
And newspaper clippings with her point of view

An assortment of photos of her posed alone
Shown from infancy onward – each life-stepping stone
A tiny gold thimble, a high school class ring
Instructions to fix a broken figurine

A miniature locket, a Norwegian pin
Mementos and pictures of closest of kin
A birthday book detailed with barely a comma
A one hundredth birthday card from Pres. Obama

So, what does one learn from this life in a box
As life passes on like the ticking of clocks?
The things in this world have their time and their place
Including the items we keep just in case

But when seasons pass, attempt not to be saddened
Remember the good and be grateful it happened
In time our possessions and we have to part
For all we possess is contained in our heart

So, what does one learn from a life lived alone?
A woman contented to live on her own?
That happiness is no respecter of man
If soloing life or surrounded with clan?

And what is the value of living so long
When many you’ve loved did not journey along?
Oh wait! Here am I – one whom you barely knew
Who chanced to be present to bid you adieu

I found that my name was significant too
That surely it meant something special to you
You included me in your book of birthday
Recording my name on the seventh of May

You took on my story to add to your own
I’m sad, though, that I took no time to make known
My story to you, but in short bits and pieces
Now, pleased am I to be one of your grand nieces

‘Tis shame if our story should die when we do
And yet there is One who continu’ly knew
Who made you and gave you your life till the end
Who loved and supported you, called you His friend

He never forgot you, though others may still
And holds you on high in His heavenly hill
Perhaps one day we will have all the time needed
To learn of the things that in past, seemed unheeded

I conclude with three posthumous lessons from my very special great aunt.

  • Nobody will get your ducks in a row like you. Do it yourself before somebody does it for you. Write down your life story. And give the things that mean most to you to the people you feel will appreciate them the most.
  • There is no time like the present to make the effort to get to know people. You might find they are one of the jigsaw puzzle pieces that complete the final product of who you are and what you were meant to experience. Perhaps you are the same for them.
  • Everything matters, but not everything remains. Invest in what matters.
Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience

Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience

What Recharges Your Battery?

What recharges your battery? Read on to find out what I and a group of older adults discovered.

I periodically like to challenge myself by asking my residents to name one of the dullest topics they can think of. Then I promise to facilitate something creatively engaging. The latest topic, which was suggested by a 97-year-old Assisted Living resident, was battery acid! The duller and weirder, the more fun the challenge for me. As a result, the following insights and exercises occurred:

We learned, first of all, that this topic is more relevant than I would have initially guessed. Relevance, by the way is a crucial component in preparing creative engagement experiences.  Lead-acid batteries are an indispensable part of everyday life as they are used for automobiles, golf carts, forklifts, and marine and uninterruptible power supplies. Lead-acid batteries are especially pertinent to individuals in long-term care settings who rely on oxygen concentrators, powered wheelchairs, personal mobility scooters, and all things power when nature takes over.

Second, I learned that the lead-acid battery has the ability to supply high surge currents. Thus, the perfect catalyst for the Human Wave – remember what those look like at the ballgames, for example? The wave is an illustration of a surge which is a sudden powerful forward or upward movement. So, yes, with the help of some of my coworkers, we helped even the frailest of elders do the wave! We also played Human Surge, in which you squeeze the hand of the person next to you, and then have them squeeze the next person’s hand and so forth until everyone’s hand has been squeezed.

Third, I learned that besides inventing the theoretical principle of lead-acid battery, Gaston Plante’ discovered the first fossils of a prehistoric flightless bird, Gastornis parisiensis (named after him) in Paris. Can you smell the metaphorical potential here?  Thus, I asked for a show of hands from those who feel like a flightless bird, or who feel as if they’ve lost their wings. I then asked what they do to recharge their battery, acknowledging answers verbally and on a dry erase board for visual learners. Here are some of their answers:

-          Drink an energy drink.

-          Take a rest.

-          Keep busy.

-          Keep a smile on my face.

-          Take a time-out with a Pepsi.

-          Eat an energy bar with chocolate.

-          Listen to the music I like.

-          People who know what to say at the right time.

-          My wife.

-          An ice-pack.

-          Coffee.

-          Inspirational reading.

-          Good movies and television shows.

One resident said, “My battery is always charged.”

“What’s your secret?” I asked.

“I always try to have a smile, have a good attitude, and say ‘Good morning’ to everyone. Many years ago while working as a CNA, we were told to leave our problems at the door. One of my coworkers entered the building and started complaining. I told her to go back out the door, leave her problems there, and come back in. She did. The administrator noticed and asked what happened. She reported to him that I recharged her batteries.”

Finally, I was introduced to the term, “Swan Song.” A swan song is a person’s final public performance or professional activity before retirement. It’s based on the idea that a swan sings a beautiful song, having not sung much during his lifespan, right before death. Detchko Pavlov’s “swan song” was the publication of his prestigious scientific publication of his book, Lead-Acid Batteries, Science and Technology, Second Edition: A handbook of lead-acid battery technology. So I asked the residents to identify their swan song. I added that if they don’t have one, what might they still wish to complete? For fun, I encouraged them to make one up, using the following template: Before I died, I  ____________. Here are some of their responses:

-          I created a pill to cure all illnesses.

-          I sang in an opera.

-          I had a pre-heavenly visit.

-          I invented knob in my ear to turn age back and make my legs limber. I only did it once.

-          I was the first lady president.

-          I eliminated all hate and pain.

-          I received communion from the Pope at the Basilica.

-          I road on horses on Main Street.

The grand finale was an improvisational story-telling about a swan who sings beautifully just before he breathes his last breath. I invited some of my coworkers to takes turns creating the story, one sentence at a time, each sentence beginning with “And then.” One of my volunteers was assigned to act as the swan who interprets each part of the story through improvisational movement. Here’s how it played out (take note of that fact that one lady wasn’t impressed – haha- you can’t please everyone all the time!):

ME: Ladies and gentlemen, we now present to you The Swan’s Song. Once upon a time there was a lovely swan. She was floating along the water, when all of a sudden a gust of wind knocked her backwards and she got misplaced from the flock and was lost. (Improv volunteer flaps imaginary wings backward)

Improv Volunteer #1: And then the poor scared little swan flew around tried and tried to find her family. She cried and cried. (Volunteer swan pretends to cry)

Improv Volunteer #2: And then she met another swan. And they both started talking. (Volunteer swan moves toward a resident and makes squawking sounds)

Improv Volunteer #3: And then while discussing their lives; they discovered they were long lost friends. So they flew around together, around and around. But they both got lost in a storm.

(Volunteer swan locks arms with the resident and pretends they are flying together while everyone makes storm sounds)

Improv Volunteer #4: And then a big bolt of lightning struck and separated the two swans. (Volunteer swan jolts forward)

ME: And then, the bolt of lightning was so powerful that . . .

(Volunteer swan twirls around and makes loud squawking noises as she lowers herself to the floor and lies down)

SHE (a resident participant who has dementia): That was stupid!

ME:  (trying to ignore what I just heard) And then the swan passed from this life to the next and entered Swan Heaven. And she began singing a new and beautiful swan song that was more beautiful than one can imagine. The end.

In closing, Dean Francis Alfar, a Filipino playwright, novelist and writer of speculative fiction said, “One of the best ways to recharge is by simply being in the presence of art. No thoughts, no critiques. Just full-on absorption mode.” Knowing this to be true for myself, I do a weekly photo show for my residents. I leave you with a photo of a swan taken right before I got lost on the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace in Germany. But that’s another story.  :)

Swan - Photo by Kareen King

Swan - Photo by Kareen King

P.S. I work with organizations that want to create a culture where older adults and their care partners are loved, validated, and creatively engaged. I would love to speak on creative engagement at your next event. Please contact me if you are interested in a keynote concert or workshop and I will send you a list of several compelling topics.


What Might You Decide to Do in the Blink of an Eye?

Have you ever done something both extravagant and impulsive? After reading Malcom Gladwell’s Blink, I’ve come to realize that spontaneous decisions are often as good as, or even better than carefully planned and considered ones. My most recent decision made in a “blink” was to apply for participation with a Therapeutic Arts Trip to Kenya via Global Alliance in January, 2018.

My initial reasons were to introduce myself to an entirely different population than the one I serve, and to find any commonalities between serving primarily Caucasian older adults made vulnerable from dementia, and African children made vulnerable from the AIDS pandemic, to learn from other Professional Artists, to hone my skills as a Creative Engagement Specialist, and at the risk of sounding cliché, to hopefully make a difference.

Though 2017 has been a really great year, I feel I have reached somewhat of a plateau.  I presented three sessions at the LEADER Summit in Louisiana, keynoted at the Illinois Pioneer Coalition Summit, keynoted at the Kansas Health Care Association Annual Convention, presented at the Memory Bridge Retreat, did a day-long training workshop for Jackson County Caring Committee in Kansas, presented at the Dementia Inclusive Arts Programming Workshop in Kansas City, and facilitated countless weekly creative engagement gatherings at Wellsville and Brookside Retirement Communities. I also continue to develop a staff training program initiated by my boss, Scott Averill, called ALIVE. As a result of that program, many of my coworkers have been enrolled in playful improvisational performances and activities with me and the residents we serve. It’s been fantastic. Still, there’s that sense that I’m still just scratching the surface. Thus, the Therapeutic Arts trip.

I’ve been preparing for this trip by reading numerous articles which have challenged my thinking, shifted my perspective, and corrected some of my false assumptions. I’ve been introduced to concepts such as reflexivity, colonization, and ethnocentrism, and have learned that not all humanitarian outreaches to developing countries have been positive. Some have caused more harm than good. For example, the more used clothing is freely donated, the fewer jobs there are in the textile industry; and the cycle of poverty is perpetuated as outsiders inadvertently cause a growing dependence on external aid.

I’ve also considered what I could possibly contribute in the way of creativity and “art” that crosses the cultural divide. For now, I have to let go of my American “lens,” and be willing to see through new eyes. My guess is that I’ll discover how little I really know. In the meantime, a unique gift literally landed on my front yard last month. It was a Red-tailed Hawk with a Starling in the grip of its talon. Both were dead, yet perfectly intact.

The Hawk and the Starling - Photo by Kareen King

The Hawk and the Starling - Photo by Kareen King

My husband walked me over to see the “fascinating” sight which I videoed and posted on Facebook. I wouldn’t have thought much more about it, however, if one of my FB friends wouldn’t have planted the idea that this sighting was not a mere accident, but divine. So, the next day, my husband and I returned to the site, and placed a table cloth underneath the birds so I could photograph it professionally. Since then, I’ve been mulling over the different ways it could be interpreted. The obvious one would be that the talon represents HIV/AIDS, and that the Starling represents the victims. But, that’s me interpreting through a western lens. I am guessing there are lots of conversations this image could spark. But, here’s a little tip on how to use a photo as a conversation starter, something I learned at a conference on aging. Ask the following:

-          What do you see?

-          What makes you say that?

-          Tell me more.

Finally, if you are interested in supporting me on my adventure, any donation toward my participation in the Global Alliance Therapeutic Arts Trip in January will be most appreciated. The cost of the trip is $4,800.00, not including additional travel expenses and immunization costs. Here are the steps:
1. Click: http://www.globalallianceafrica.org/donate/
2. Go to the middle pink box, using the "Donate with debit or credit card" rather than the Paypal link.
3. Type “Kareen King TAP trip payment” next to the little pencil symbol that says, "Add special instructions to the seller" to make sure your contribution goes toward my account.

For more information on the GAA Therapeutic Arts Trip, click http://www.globalallianceafrica.org/travel/therapeutic-arts-trip/.

 Thanks so much for your consideration.

29 Engaging Ideas for September 29th

As promised to the constituents who attended my closing keynote at the KHCA/KCAL Convention, here are 29 creatively engaging ideas that coincide with notable events and birthdays on September 29th!

 By Kareen King

(Events and Births adapted from Wikipedia)

1.      1328 – Joan of Kent, known in history as “The Fair Maid of Kent” and who was called by French chronicler Jean Froissart “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving”, was born (d. 1385).

a.       Using Froissart’s words as a template, make unique declarations about your residents. For example, “Arlene – the cleverest woman of Brookside,” or “Jim – the most patriotic man of Brookside.”

b.      Have improv volunteers act out their own version of “Snow White,” capitalizing on the magic mirror (“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”). For further ideas, look up Magic Mirror Snow White at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Mirror_%28Snow_White%29.

2.      1511 Michael Servetus, Spanish theologian, physician, and cartographer was born (d. 1553).

a.      Servetus was a polymath in that he was good at multiple things: mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, geography, anatomy, medicine, pharmacology, jurisprudence (the theory or philosophy of law), translation, poetry, and biblical studies. Ask who’s multi-talented.

b.      Hold a boasting contest with some improv volunteers by determining who has the most talents or areas of expertise. Encourage outlandishness, aka one-upmanship improv.

3.      1518 - Jacopo Comin (“Tintoretto”), an Italian painter, was born (d. 1594).

a.      For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterized by its muscular figures and dramatic gestures.

b.      Furioso!!!! Dramatic Artist Demonstration: Have an improv volunteer stand behind a large easel or dry erase board and pantomime sweeping artistic movements, flailing dry erase markers, etc. When, finished, have him turn the board or easel around to show his masterpiece.

4.      1571 - Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio, or simply   “Caravaggio”, an Italian painter was born (d. 1610).

a.      Caravaggio vividly expressed crucial moments and scenes, often featuring violent struggles, torture and death. He worked rapidly, with live models, preferring to forego drawings and work directly onto the canvas. His work featured Tenebrism, ("dark, gloomy, and mysterious") where there are violent contrasts of light and dark.

b.      Build upon the “furioso” painting demonstration by adding speed, dark music, and flickering lights.

5.      1640 - Antoine Coysevox, a French sculptor who at the age of seventeen produced a sculpture of considerable merit of the Madonna was born (d. 1720).

a.      Invite improv volunteers to create several human sculptures either as a group or individually to the tune of Lady Madonna by Lennon-McCartney.

6.     1798 - The United States Department of War first established a regular army with the strength of several hundred men.

a.       March while seated to the Official Song of the United States Army, The Army Goes Rolling Along (YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4i3jRe0yEY).

7.      1789 – The first United States Coungress adjourned. “Congress is the ‘heart and soul’ of our democracy.” – Lee H. Hamilton

a.       Sing, sway, and/or dance to Heart and Soul by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser.

b.       Invite a pianist to play the famous song and/or play the accompaniment and invite “players” to take turns improvising on the right hand. (YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8CSjDC18b0)

8.      1810 - Elizabeth Gaskell, English author of Mary Barton, Cranford, North and South, Wives and Daughters, and also a writer of ghost stories was born (d. 1865).

a.      Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of Victorian society, including the very poor. Do a “Status Walks” Improv:

i.      Have improv volunteers walk across the space with various parts of their body leading (i.e. lead with the nose, the chin, the stomach, etc.). Have audience observe how these postures might affect their “status”.

ii.      Tell ghost stories! (Note: Several of Gaskell’s ghost stories are public domain and can be located at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0605581h.html).

9.      1864 - Alexandra “Xie” Kitchen, English model and favorite photographic subject of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) was born (d. 1925).

a.      The photographic works made by Kitchin and Carroll were often in tableau (a posed picturesque grouping of objects or people) form.

b.      Improv Exercise – Tableaus

i.      Have improv volunteers do quick “scenes,” then freeze. Take photos of each tableau.

10.  1864 – Miguel de Unamuno, Spanish philosopher and author of The Tragic Sense of Life and Abel Sanchez: the History of a Passion, a modern exploration of the Cain and Abel was born (d. 1936).

a.      Creative Quote: “A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; a man dies of ______________ (being a man).”

11.  1879 - Marius Jacob, a clever French burglar with a sharp sense of humor who was capable of great generosity toward his victims, was born (d. 1954).

a.      Ask for a show of hands who has stolen at least once. Discuss why people steal. Then share the logic of Marius Jacob: “A liquor seller and the boss of a brothel enrich themselves, while a man of genius dies of poverty in a hospital bed. The baker who bakes bread doesn’t get any; the shoemaker who makes thousands of shoes shows his toes; the weaver who makes stocks of clothing doesn’t have any to cover himself with; the bricklayer who builds castles and palaces wants for air in a filthy hovel. Those who produce everything have nothing, and those who produce nothing have everything.” – Marius Jacob, from Why I Was a Burglar https://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/jacob-marius/why-burglar.htm.

12.  1881 - Ludwig von Mises, Austrian-American economist, sociologist and philosopher and author of his magnum opus, Human Action, was born (d. 1973).

a.      Creative Quote: “The root of evil is not the construction of new, more dreaded weapons. It is _________________ (the spirit of conquest).” – Ludwig von Mises

b.      A magnum opus is a large and important work of art, music, or literature, especially one regarded as the most important work of an artist or writer. Ask the residents to tell of one accomplishment of which they are most proud.

13.  1895 - Clarence Ashley, an American banjo player and singer was born (d. 1967).

a.      When Clarence was very young, he was nicknamed "Tommy Tiddy Waddy" (after a nursery rhyme) by his grandfather Enoch, and thus became known to friends and acquaintances as 'Tom'. As he was raised by the parents of his mother, the name "McCurry" was dropped in favor of "Ashley".

b.      Recite well known nursery rhymes as a group (Jack Sprat, Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, Old King Cole, Little Miss Muffet, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Little Boy Blue, etc.)

c.       Nickname Partner Conversation

14.  1895 Joseph Banks Rhine, an American botanist and parapsychologist known as J. B. Rhine, who founded parapsychology as a branch of psychology, was born (d. 1980).

a.      Improv Exercise: “Dr. ESP” (Played like the improv game Dr. Know-it-All) Three players (this number can be varied), sit or stand beside each other. They are only allowed to speak one word at a time. Absurd questions, which can be asked by any of the participants or from a designated interviewer, may be asked since the multiple-headed doctor knows everything. The doctor should rephrase each question and should answer beginning with the same player and in the same order of players each time.

15.  1895 – Roscoe Turner, a record-breaking American aviator who was a three-time winner of the Thompson Trophy air race, and widely recognized by his flamboyant style and his pet lion named Gilmore, was born (d. 1970).

a.      Creative Quote: “There is no excuse for an airplane unless it will ________________ (fly fast).” – Roscoe Turner (for fun, say it flamboyantly, and end with a “roar”)

16.  1897 Herbert Agar, an American journalist and historian and winner of the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for his 1933 book The People's Choice, a critical look at the American presidency, was born (d. 1980).

a.      Creative Quote: "The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which ___________ (men prefer not to hear)." – Herbert Agar

b.      Discuss how you feel about the current President. Just kidding. J

17.  1899- László Bíró, a Hungarian inventor who invented the ballpoint pen, was born (d. 1985).

a.      Creative Quote: “I always_______ (write) the same way. I always write with a yellow pad and a ballpoint pen in my hand.” – Woody Allen

b.      Ask, “What’s the last thing you wrote with a ballpoint pen?” Or share writing experiences.

18.  1899 – Billy Butlin, the South African-English businessman who founded Butlins, a chain of large affordable holiday camps designed for ordinary British families in the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1980).

a.      Billy Butlin's inspiration for his holiday camp empire came from an unhappy holiday on Barry Island in his youth, when he had been locked out of his bed and breakfast accommodation all day by his landlady which was normal practice at the time. Sing or watch YouTube performance of Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp), a novelty song by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch.

b.      Reminiscence: Share camping stories.

19.  1901 –Enrico Fermi, an Italian-American physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1and who was dubbed "architect of the nuclear age” and the "architect of the atomic bomb", was born (d. 1954).

a.      Creative Quote: “When asked what characteristics Nobel prize winning physicists had in common, Fermi said, “I cannot think of a single one, not even _____________(intelligence).”

b.      Nobel Prize Quiz: Q: What are the five Nobel prizes? A: Chemistry, Physics, Physiology (Medicine), Literature, and Peace.

20.  1904 Greer Carson, winner of the 1942 Academy Award for Best Actress in Mrs. Miniver and credited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest Oscar acceptance speech at five minutes and 30 seconds, prompting the Academy Awards acceptance speech time limit, was born  (d. 1996).

a.      Sing This is the Song that Never Ends and substitute the word “speech” for “song”.

21.  1907 - Gene Autry, an American “singing cowboy” and actor, and the only person to be awarded stars in all five categories on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for film, television, music, radio, and live performance, was born (d. 1998).

a.      Sing Back in the Saddle Again – his signature song.

b.      Have a Christmas sing-along with his memorable Christmas holiday songs, the first of which he wrote: Here Comes Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

22.  1908 Eddie Tolan, the first non-Euro-American to receive the title of the "world's fastest human" after winning gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters events at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, was born (d. 1967).

a.       Tell and/or act out the Aesop’s Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.

23.  1910 Bill Boyd, an American singer and guitarist who recorded Wa Hoo and performed it with Bill Boyd's Cowboy Ramblers, was born (d. 1977).

“Oh, gimme a horse, a great big horse, And gimme a buckaroo,

And let me Wah Hoo! Wah Hoo! Wah Hoo!”

a.    Improv Game: Invite “popcorn-style” expressions that start with “Gimme a ___________!” Then, the audience responds, “Wa Hoo!”

24.  1935 -  Jerry Lee Lewis, American singer-songwriter and pianist was born.

a.      V Dance to Jerry Lee Lewis’ Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Fire

b.      Maracas to Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On (Or just shake your body and “play guitar”)

25.  1939 - Tommy Boyce, co-writer of (Theme From) the Monkees, was born (d.1994).

a.      Diamond Dance to (Theme From) the Monkees

b.      In the spirit of “Monkey See-Monkey Do” or “Simon Says,” either do Mirror Partners or make sounds and movements which should be mimicked by your audience.

26.  1936 – Hal Trosky, Jr., an American baseball player for the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox who batted left-handed and threw right-handed, was born (d. 2012).

a.      Sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and insert your favorite team.

27.  1948 - Mark Farner, American singer-songwriter and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad and Terry Knight and the Pack,  was born.

a.      Do a dance “train” to We’re an American Band.

28.  1948 – Bryant Gumbel, an American journalist was born.

a.      Improv: Gibberish Journalism

Have an improv volunteer act as a journalist from a foreign country (have audience make up the name of the country). He is to provide late-breaking news, which you translate for the audience.

29.  1966 – The Chevrolet Camaro, originally named Panther, was introduced.

a.      The Camaro is classified as a “pony car” and a “muscle car”. If possible, watch Dina Shore’s performance of See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet.

b.      Creative Quote: Ask the participants to fill in the blank, “I’d like to see _________(name a favorite destination or person) in a Chevrolet Camaro.”

Photo below by Kareen King:

"Furioso!" played by Travis Beaty, a Registered Nurse who blesses the residents and staff at Wellsville Retirement Community with his playful spirit and improvisational talent, showcases his masterpiece. :)

Furioso! - Travis Beatty, a playful nurse who blessed the residents at Wellsville Retirement Community, plays "Furioso" and showcases his masterpiece. :)

The Falling Man Experience

 The following creative engagement experience proved to be beautiful and enriching for the many older adult gatherings I facilitated. If interested in 28 similarly formatted creative engagement programs, you may purchase a copy of the book by clicking: Engage! 28 Creative Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults

The Falling Man Experience

By Kareen King

When to Use: April, May, August, and September


Photocopies of The Falling Man (available from the Internet).

Option: Enlist someone savvy with Photoshop to create an original version of The Falling Man photo. Otherwise, produce a good stick-figure depiction of a man in an upside-down position in the air.


Invite everyone to blow kisses to one another.


Conversation Starter: Where were you and/or what were you doing when you heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001?

Background Information:

The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, New York City was attacked on September 11, 2001 when Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers flew two Boeing 767 jets into the complex, beginning with the North Tower at 8:46 a.m., followed by the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. 2,507 civilians, 72 law enforcement officers, 343 firefighters, and 55 military personnel were killed. The Falling Man is an iconic photograph of a 9/11 unidentified “jumper” who is captured upside down, perfectly vertical. The photograph was one of a 12-frame sequence of a free fall taken by photojournalist, Richard Drew, while on an unrelated assignment with the Associated Press. “The Falling Man” was one of hundreds of other “jumpers” who were forced out of the upper floors of the Twin Towers due to lack of any escape by stairs or roof. “The Falling Man’s” descent lasted about ten seconds, but his image endures forever, very much like the image of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Notable dates:

-          The groundbreaking of the original World Trade Center took place on August 25, 1966.

-          The landmark twin towers of the World Trade Center opened on April 4, 1973.

-          The twin towers, along with the 7 World Trade Center, were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

-          The Falling Man photo appeared on page one of the New York Times Book Review on May 27, 2007.

Activity: Collective Poem

Pass out a photocopy of the famous Falling Man photo to each participant. Ask the participants to share words or phrases that come to mind as they view the picture. Acknowledge each response verbally and on a dry erase board for visual learners.

The following poem came from a number of Experiences:

The Falling Man

Man upside down




I really don’t know what to think


A very bumpy ride

Fell outside

Total frustration

How did I get here?

A falling man


Makes me cry



Does he know what’s happening in the world?

Is he on his way to heaven without knowing it?

Is he conscious?

Did anyone really believe what they were seeing?

A falling man

A great disaster



No escape

Thinking of his family

He knows he’s gonna die

He prays he gets to heaven

So many people died that day

“God help me!”

It’s days like this we remember to say those words, “I love you.”

Activity: Something from Every Decade

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a 2011 film about a nine-year-old boy named Oskar who is convinced that his father, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city. After finding a mysterious key in his father’s closet, he begins a search through New York City for the lock for which it fits. The movie, based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, contains images of “The Falling Man” as possibly being Oskar’s father. Eventually, Oskar imagines finding pictures of the falling body, ripping the pictures out of a book, then reversing the order of the fall, so that the last picture is first and the first is last. In the film, Oskar and his father played a game which was a reconnaissance expedition with instructions to search for something from every decade in the 20th century. Invite the participants to imagine holding a key which unlocks a safe which contains items from every decade in the 20th century. One by one, each participant describes the items they found and from which decade(s).

Option: If memory is an issue, facilitate a reminiscence discussion based on inventions from any of the following decades:

-          1900-1910

o   Teabag

o   Teddy Bear

o   Vacuum cleaner

o   Cornflakes

o   Instant coffee

-          1910-1920

o   Lifesavers candy

o   Crossword puzzle

o   Zipper

o   Bra

o   Pop-up toaster

-          1920-1930

o   Kool-Aid

o   Notebooks with spiral bindings

o   Frozen food

o   Bubble gum

o   Self-winding watch

-          1930-1940

o   Nylon-bristle tooth brushes

o   Brillo pads

o   Nancy Drew mysteries

o   Marbles

o   Yo-yo’s

-          1940-1950

o   7-inch screen television

o   Silly Putty

o   Duct tape

o   Scrabble

o   The Slinky

-          1950-1960

o   Mr. Potato Head

o   Hula Hoop

o   Car Seatbelts

o   The Barbie doll

o   Teflon coated pans

-          1960-1970

o   Audio cassette

o   Fiber-tipped pen

o   Non-dairy creamer

o   Permanent-press fabric

o   Hand-held calculator

-          1970-1980

o   Word processor

o   Post-it notes

o   Push-through tab on a drink can

o   Food processor

o   Platform shoes

-          1980-1990

o   Cabbage Patch kids

o   Apple Macintosh

o   Disposable camera

o   Prozac

o   High-definition television

-          1990-2000

o   Digital Answering Machine

o   The Smart Pill (any pill that can deliver or control its delivery of medicine without the patient having to take action beyond the initial swallow.

o   Viagra

o   The DVD

o   Web TV

Activity: 9-11 by Numbers – A Readers Theatre

Readers Theatre is a style of theatre in which the actors don’t need to memorize their lines. Actors use only vocal and facial expression rather than design elements to convey the story to the audience. Actors are seated in a row of chairs in front of the audience, with scripts held in similar fashion as choir music. Readers keep heads in bowed position when not reading. When it is their turn to read, they look up from the script, say the line, and then look back at the script. Invite four readers to perform the following piece, assigning a number to each performer:

9/11 - Count the Numbers

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 8:46 a.m. The moment Twin Tower One was struck.

TWO: 9:02 a.m. The moment Twin Tower Two was struck.

THREE: 56 – the number of minutes Twin Tower One stood after impact.

FOUR: 102 – the number of minutes Twin Tower Two stood after impact.

ONE: 2,606 – the number of people who died in the World Trade Center

TWO: 246 – the number of people who died in the airlines.

THREE: 125 – the number of people who died in the Pentagon Building.

FOUR: 19 – the number of highjackers who died

ONE: 12 – the number of seconds it took for the towers to fall.

TWO: 343 – the number of firefighters who died.

THREE: 23 – the number of New York Police Department officers who died.

FOUR: One – the firefighter killed by a man who jumped off the top floors.

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 37 – the number of Port Authority police officers who died.

TWO: 60 – the number of World Trade Center companies that lost people.

THREE: 1,402 – the number of employees who died in Tower One.

FOUR: 614 - the number of employees who died in Tower Two.

ONE: 658 – the number of employees lost at Cantor Fitzgerald.

TWO: 22 – the number of U.S. troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom.

THREE: 115 – the number of nations whose citizens were killed in the attacks.

FOUR: 3 to 1 – the ratio of men to women who died.

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 35 to 39 – the ages of the greatest number who died.

TWO: 289 – the number of bodies found intact.

THREE: 19,858 – the number of body parts found.

FOUR: 1,717 – the number of families who got no remains.

ONE: 36,000 – the number of estimated units of blood donated to the New York Blood Center.

TWO: 258 –the number of total units of donated blood actually used.

THREE: 1,609 – the number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks.

FOUR: 3,051 – the estimated number of children who lost a parent.

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 20 – the percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks.

TWO: 274 – the number of New York City Fire Department retirements from January to July, 2001.

THREE: 661 - the number of New York City Fire Department retirements from January to July, 2002.

FOUR: 300 – the number of firefighters on leave for respiratory problems by January, 2002.

ONE: 200 – the number of funerals attended by Rudy Giuliani in 2001.

TWO: 98 – the number of New York City Fire Department vehicles destroyed.

THREE: 1,506,124 – the tons of debris removed from the site.

FOUR: 99 – the number of days fires continued to burn after the attack.

           ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

           ONE: 146,100 – the number of jobs lost in New York owing to the attacks.

TWO: 6 – the number of days the New York Stock Exchange was closed.

THREE: 684.81 – the point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average when the New York Stock Exchange reopened.

FOUR: 26 – the number of days after 9/11 that the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan.

ONE: 105 billion dollars – the economic loss to New York in the month following the attacks.

TWO: 600 million dollars – the estimated cost of cleanup.

THREE: 970 million dollars – the total FEMA money spent on the emergency.

FOUR: 1.4 billion dollars – the estimated amount donated to 9/11 charities.

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 40.5 billion dollars – the estimated amount of insurance paid worldwide related to 9/11.

TWO: 7.5 billion dollars – the estimated amount of money needed to overhaul lower-Manhattan subways.

THREE: 4.55 billion dollars – the amount of money granted by the U.S. government to overhaul lower-Manhattan subways.

FOUR: 500 million dollars – the estimated amount of money raised for funds dedicated to the New York Police Department and the New York Fire Department..

ONE: 25 – the percentage of total charity money raised going to New York Fire Department and New York Police Department families.

TWO: One million dollars – the average benefit received by each New York Fire Department and New York Police Department widow.

THREE: 17.9 – the percent increase in law-school applications from 2001 to 2002.

FOUR: 40 – the percentage increase in Peace Corps applications from 2001 to 2002.

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 50 – the percentage increase in CIA applications from 2001-2002.

TWO: 150 – the number of songs Clear Channel Radio considered “inappropriate” to play after 9/11.

THREE: 26 – the number of mentions of 9/11 at the Oscars.

FOUR: 30,000 – the number of apartments in lower Manhattan eligible for asbestos cleanup.

ONE: 1.4 million – the number of Americans who changed their 2001 holiday-travel plans from plane to train or car.

TWO: 422,000 – the estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11.

           THREE: 1,300 – the number of orphans created by the 9/11 attacks.

FOUR: 17 – the number of babies born to women whose husbands were lost on September 11.

ALL: Nine eleven. Count the numbers.

ONE: 2,996 – the total number of people who died in the attacks of 9/11.

           TWO: Zero – the number of survivors rescued from Ground Zero.

THREE: 2014 – the year the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was opened to the public

FOUR: Three – the number of the most important words exchanged between loved ones who received phone calls prior to the collapse of the Twin Towers.

ALL: And those three words were, “I love you.” Say it with us, “I love you.” Say it again, “I love you.” Nine eleven. Count the numbers.


After the Experience, ask the participants to identify memorable moments from the session.


The saying “yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery” has been cited in print since at least 1967. Bill Keane, author of the newspaper comic strip The Family Circus, however, brought the phrase to further prominence by adding an additional nugget of wisdom: “But today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Invite the participants to form a circle. Repeat the phrase in its entirety: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Instruct everyone to extend their arms forward, with hands in an upward cupped position as if offering a gift. Encourage each to look at the person across or adjacent and say collectively, “I offer you the gift of the present.”  A 96-year-old participant named John added, “There are three ways to show someone you love them: 1) Say ‘I love you,’ 2) Human touch, and 3) Give the gift of a present.”


The following songs, which can be viewed on YouTube, are related to the theme of The Falling Man Experience:

-          Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

-          At Last by Marck Gordon and Harry Warren

-          Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo by Helen Deutsch and Bronislau Kaper

-          Softly as I Leave You by Hal Shaper and A. De Vita

-          Today by Randy Sparks