A landmark month…

I don’t like admitting it, but I really don’t like the month of December. Oh, when my kids were young I really got into the whole Christmas thing…the shopping, the decorating, the baking etc; In fact, I’m sure that’s where my kids get their love of Christmas from. They’ve shared with me on more than one occasion their fond memories of Christmas celebrations past. They, all three, have carried on the tradition of decorating their homes inside and out, having tons of presents under the tree, the ornament collection, the belief in Santa Claus, the holiday baking with goodie trays given to their friends and family members etc;

But that being said, December has become a bit of a “blue month” for me. I’m not one to focus on the negative nor to wallow in self-pity but I admit I do struggle in December.

#1) 18 years ago today, I lost my dad. Yep, you got it right…my “dad” died on Christmas eve. He was my step-dad, but he was the only dad I’d known since I was five years old. You’d think I’d be over his loss, but I hadn’t spent any real quality time with him for several years prior to his passing due to events far to lengthy to explain in this post. Suffice it to say, the longer he’s gone the more the good memories come to the forefront and the easier it is to forget the bad. I miss those good times we had!

#2) Too many miles & tight finances separate me from two of my three grown children – and the holidays are always so much better when you can be with family. Needless to say, we will not be together for Christmas this year. The upside is that we did get to spend Thanksgiving together (Two of my three and two of my hubby’s four were here)…which made for a joyful entry into this “blue December”.

#3) 1 year ago on the 18th of December my grown son and I had a “falling out”. I know..life’s too short. I will spare you the details but just know I pray about the situation daily and am trusting that the Lord will work it out. This situation has added to my “blue mood” this year.

#4) As I hard as I try to be supportive to my hubby at this time of the year – he also lost his dad (whom I never met) 22 years ago in December. It is sometimes difficult to comfort someone you love who is suffering when you also are suffering grief and despair!! Of course, many of you already know that it was just last year (2013) that my mother-in-law and brother-in-law passed away. Fortunately, not in the month of December, but my husband has had an unusually difficult time this year more so than last year for some reason.

So, as I was praying and pondering all the sad moments and talking to my Savior, He reminded me of some good times I’d experienced in December. The one that stands out the most in my mind was 5 years ago December 16th.

#5) My oldest brother, Jim was released from prison after being incarcerated 32 years for a crime he didn’t commit!! Just three months earlier I had plead Jim’s case before the parole board in Michigan and it was with cautious optimism that we awaited their decision. Our baby brother, John and I took a trip to Michigan to pick Jim up and take him home to North Dakota to be with our mom. It was an awesome trip and the very first time we three siblings had EVER been together!! We took our time traveling by car from Michigan to North Dakota and shared many meals, laughs etc; It was fun to watch Jim’s reaction to the world around him as a free man. His niece (my daughter) had me give him his first cell phone so he could call her and say “hello” as a free man. Once we arrived at mom’s home it was a tearful reunion. Jim, John, and I walked and drove thru neighborhoods enjoying all the cheery Christmas light displays. We went shopping and got Jim outfitted with some clothes, groceries he preferred etc; The last few days leading up to Christmas after John had returned home to Florida, Jim and I spent getting him signed up for any services he qualified for and going to the Parole office.

The best part of the whole story is that Jim is truly a FREE MAN today. He has been home for 5 years now. He has his own place, his own transportation, a cute little mutt named Irish that is truly his baby and no longer has to report to a parole officer!! He is truly a FREE MAN and has made me very proud. I always believed (as he promised) that he would do things right “if” he ever got out and he has done so!

I’m choosing today to remember those good memories from 5 years ago rather than the sad ones of 18 years ago. Mom is 90 years old and still ticking. Jim and Irish are doing great. I have two daughters and many grandchildren that love me. I have a husband that would walk through fire to save me. And I have a church family and a Lord that think I’m pretty special too! What do I have to be blue about?

When I woke up this morning with a sad 19 yr. old memory on my mind…I said a prayer of gratitude, put oldies on the radio and sat down at my sewing machine. It was a very therapeutic time to say the least! Now, I’m looking forward to leaving on a little R & R trip with my hubby on Saturday. We will spend Sat. evening with 3 grandsons and family in the Austin area and then it’s off to Kerrville, Texas for a little sight seeing, antiquing, etc; We return to ring in the New Year with our church family.

Holiday blessings my blogging buddies! May you and yours have a glorious Christmas and New Year!

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There’s no rhyme or reason

When you are dealing with a terminal patient you never know from one day to the next what kind of day it will be.  Yesterday, Granny was having difficulty sucking through a straw.  I had to coax her every step of the way.  She only ate about half of her breakfast and half of her lunch.  She just wasn’t having a good day! 

Today, on the other hand, she was “bright eyed and bushy tailed” or at least as bright eyed and bushy tailed as you can be when you are confined to a bed 24 hrs. a day!  She ate a good helping of greek yogurt and cheerios for breakfast and an applesauce flavored with strawberries. 

Her yogurt is flavored with strawberries and honey and I grind up honey nut cheerios in the blender and stir it in.  Honey Nut cheerios was always her favorite cereal, but since she’s on a pureed diet I had to figure out how to give it to her.

She always drinks coffee and juice in the morning.  Her juice has her ground up meds in it.  She also drinks some water.  Yesterday she only drank about 1/2 her coffee (150 cc’s), only 40 cc’s of water, and her 150 cc’s of juice had to be given in several offerings.

Today, on the other hand, she SUCKED IT ALL DOWN! Juice w meds was sucked down in one fell swoop with no problem, 300 cc’s of coffe and another 150 cc’s of water!

The moral of the story:  Well, I’ve learned that often, if not always, it has nothing to do with me and what I do or don’t do as caregiver and all to do with her and how she’s feeling on any given day.  I try to provide her the love and care I’m capable of and the rest is just going with the flow.

 

 

Families, please take care of your elderly

Through the years I’ve witnessed so much of our elderly being neglected, abused or just plain ignored by their loved ones. I know there are two sides to every story and some elderly family members are just plain cranky and difficult to get along with!

Example!!

No two women could be more unalike than these two. The one on the left is my ex-mother-in-law who is a saintly, sweet, soft spoken woman. The one on the right is my mother. The woman who gave birth to me. She is the difficult, cranky one I referred to earlier. She is very difficult to please. And that is putting it nicely. She looks cheerful and pleasant though, doesn’t she? And she can be! She just chooses not to be! Key word: “Chooses”

Suffice it to say, they are both elderly and loved by their family and friends, but I digress…

For those of you that are following my blog, you know that I’ve just returned from an anniversary celebration in the DFW area. You also know that I am the FT caregiver for my almost 93 yr. old mother-in-law. We are pictured below:

[caption id="attachment_509" align="alignnone" width="169"]Granny & Linda Granny & Linda

My current mother-in-law aka “Granny” is also a saintly, soft spoken, gentle woman. She wouldn’t harm a flea even when she was able bodied. Every 30 days we are entitled to 5 days of respite. During that time she is transported by ambulance to the local Hospice House for alternate care since we will be away. Although we very much look forward to the break from taking care of her, we hate leaving her in the care of “strangers”. It’s just not the same!! She never returns in the condition she was when she left. Please understand the Hospice place where she goes is one of the best in our area and on a day by day basis we are very pleased with the services that they provide. We love the nurse that comes to visit Granny once a week to check her vitals etc; We also love her Aide that comes 3 times a week to bathe Granny. We get a visit from a social worker once per month and a nurse practictioner each month. They are all very kind and competent individuals.

You also need to understand that as a team (Hospice and her family) we are not trying to prolong her life. She is terminal and there is no hope of her improving. We are just trying to keep her as comfortable as possible for whatever days the Lord decides she has left. BUT REALLY???? She came home with ugly purple bruises on both arms, hands, and feet!! I don’t believe for one second she was abused. But, I do believe at least one person that was caring for her was too rough handling her. She also came home with a very croupy, ragged cough!! We have repeatedly warned them against leaving Granny near any kind of draft. Thirdly, she came home with a UTI which wasn’t discovered until day 5 (the day she came home) and an anti-biotic had to be prescribed! What’s up with that?

I remember when I was in college writing a paper in English class about nursing homes etc; and the care that the elderly receive. I know that nursing homes probably get a bad rap in most cases, but I know for certain that the elderly do not get the kind of care from an institution that they will get from loving family members. It’s a HUGE sacrifice, I know. And now that I’m getting to retirement age I worry with who will care for me in my declining years. How many of you have ever heard an older family member say, “I don’t want to be a burden”? Only to hear, “you aren’t a burden”. Tell them another lie! It is a burden. Anyone that says it’s not a burden to care for an aging family member regardless of the condition they are in, is lying!! It’s tough. It takes a toll on you. Emotionally, psychologically, physically, mentally – you name it.

You know how they used to vote and put in your high school year book – “most likely to…”??? Well, it would have said above mine “least likely to lovingly care for an elderly person” – and yet that is exactly what I am doing and have been rewarded in so many ways that cannot be measured. And yet, if we hadn’t been out of options for Granny, we too, would have continued to allow someone else to care for her. I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit that.

Approx. every 30 days we will continue to take advantage of the respite that Hospice allows us, but know in our hearts that she will not get the love or care that she gets right here at home.

The best patient!

IMG_20130609_134527_478

My Mother in law was told two years ago that she had two months to live. Since she is still alive, obviously, God had a different plan from what man had. As I was feeding her breakfast this morning, and thinking of the “control” I had to give up – and all the surrendering I had to do – I was overcome with emotion for what a great patient she has been and just how easy she has made it on me! God just does things RIGHT! He doesn’t screw up like we do! He’s always RIGHT ON TIME!

aka “Granny” is under HOSPICE care which means I do have an aide come in three times a week to bathe her and a nurse that visits once a week to check vitals etc; The rest is up to my husband and I. I am the sole person that feeds her three tiems per day. She is on a pureed diet, therefore all of her food has to be pulverized in a food processor before I can feed it to her. Ninja, you are a lifesaver! Granny is entirely bedfast and not in control of her bowels, so I am the person solely responsible for keeping them moving and keeping her cleaned up. (She has a catheter for her urine which sometimes doesn’t work real well thus the need to change the sheets etc;)

God knows the beginning from the end. He sees down the road where we don’t see. That’s why I am confident that he knew (WHEN I DIDN’T) excatly what I WAS & AM capable of when he brought Granny into our home for her final days – how ever long they may be.

She lived a quiet, gentle existence with a life dedicated to God before getting sick – and now she’s unable to read her bible or even being in church! And yet He had spent at least 20 years building up a fire in me for the things of God, so I could be her caregiver and substitute. God knew what he was doing! She never complains! She is the BEST PATIENT! While eating breakfast this morning (Eggs, Sausage & Cheese) with coffee & water – she had to be reminded to suck. She was weak and was very slow in drinking her coffee thru a straw. I had to encourage her with every sip to “suck harder”.

Let me add, we are not trying to “sustain or prolong her life”…we are ready for her to go, when God is ready to take her. We are just trying to make her last days on this earth as comfortable and enjoyable as is possible considering our circumstances and limitations.

Yesterday afternoon (see pic), while eating lunch (because she was eating very slow), I asked her three times if she “was full”. She shook her head “no” each time, and so I continued to feed her. She has a great appetite most days and she cleaned the entire plate of food!

I just think how smart God is! He knew that if I was put in charge of my own mother’s care that it would be an entirely different story!! My mother is a whole different person from whom I describe in this blog. She would be complaining non-stop and nothing would ever be right! Proof that the old adage is true “distance makes the heart grow fonder”…my mother lives over 2000 miles away! My sis and bro have to put up with her and she’s in much better shape than Granny even though she’s only 3 years younger.

I just wanted to PRAISE GOD PUBLICLY for knowing me, urging me to surrendar entirely (wasn’t easy), allowing Him to shape me and mold me, and for TRUSTING me in the care of a marvelous woman of God! I will do it, until and when He calls her home.

I want to be remembered for being weak

Linda & Granny 2

When I was up to my elbows in feces this morning for a woman who has done me no wrong and has blessed me with an awesome husband, I was reminded once again that when I die I want to be remembered for overcoming all sorts of adversity in my life! Having attended alot of funerals preached by some awesome men of God, a lot of nice things are usually said about the departed. Many times the things that are said, people in attendance DID NOT know about that person.

The family usually meets with the preacher before the funeral to share things about their loved one that the preacher MAY NOT have even known!! I would really like to write a book about my life (I know that sounds very narcissistic and egotistical), but ONLY as a means to IMPACT someone elses life in a positive way. I want to be a WITNESS, not just in life; but in death as well.

Paul said it best when he said, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.” II Cor. 12:9-10

This little duty of taking care of my mother-in-law (for his sake) is small by comparison to some other things I’ve experienced in life. I receive high praise from many for being her full-time caregiver. To me it seems unwarranted, uncalled for, unnecessary and not at all a BIG DEAL. It’s just what God has called me to do, at this time in life.

Because when I read that scripture, especially the last part I hear DEPRESSION, DIVORCE, ESTRANGEMENT, JOB LOSSES, DISAGREEMENTS/ARGUMENTS, SICKNESS, MISUNDERSTANDINGS – shall I go on? They have all been a part of my life, and much of it very painful – but for what it’s worth – they have made me strong because of have relied on HIM in my time of weakness! I am who I am today, because of the things I’ve gone through. No victim here – but victorious in Christ Jesus!

Reflections of 911

11 years ago I was a professional insurance agent working for AFLAC.  I was walking into one of my client accounts the morning of the attacks.  I had heard something on my car radio and as I walked into my account I witnessed the second tower being hit on the TV in their office.  It was the day after my baby daughter had turned 22.  She turned 33 yesterday.

Since that day 11 years ago there have been many changes in my life some of which I was ready for and others which I was totally unprepared for.  For one thing I was 60 lbs heavier back then.  That was one of the positive things that came out of the 911 attacks for me.  I realized how fleeting life can be and how important it is to put myself on my “to do” list.  My weight loss and new healthier lifestyle opened up an entirely new venue for me when I went to work for Weight Watchers.  It was an awesome 5 year employment.

In the past 11 years, we’ve had 6 more grandchildren, watched as a son married his soul-mate only to almost lose her to an infidelity just a few short years later.  Another son was released from prison after 4 years of incarceration and then saw God continue to bless him with a great job and new wife. We witnessed a daughter move cross country, another to divorce, and another (the baby girl who turned 33 yesterday) to join the military.  While in the military, she met and subsequently married the man of her dreams and is now a successful realtor.  In 2009, I also had the miraculous opportunity to take an elderly brother home to his elderly mother after 32 years of incarceration!

Yes, life is fleeting, indeed!!

Now, 11 years later, we find ourselves in a very different place physically, emotionally and spiritually.  My husband and I are once again trying to “survive” in the insurance profession.  While working from our home we are also full-time caregivers for his almost 91 yr. old mother who is entirely bedfast, making business appointments too far from home very challenging, indeed!  We have been blessed with an awesome church family and therefore are blessed with the help and friendships we need during this very trying time in life.

Our problems are very small in comparison to what many families experienced 11 years ago in NYC.  And I don’t know if the 911 attacks have had anything to do with the gratitude I feel amidst the hardship we’ve experienced – but I would like to think it has.  I don’t know if the tragedy that we all witnessed that day has anything at all to do with why I don’t want to argue or quibble over non-essential matters, but I’d like to think that it does.

What I do know, is that life is too short to sweat the small stuff when all around us there are much larger matters to be concerned with.  Hug someone you love today.

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