Moments

A few moments that have impacted me in the last few weeks.

Serenity

I saw the lavender bushes before I smelled them; my eyes are always drawn to these beautiful plants whose periwinkle flowers are so pleasing to me. Today though, the bushes did not have any flowers- nor many leaves either, for they had been freshly trimmed back for the winter.  As I approached the gravel walkway which they lined though, each inhale became sweeter and sweeter; the trimming had released their aroma.  My pace slowed- my breathing deepened.  At first, there was only the clean smell of wet earth and the crisp, soothing smell of the lavender, but as I kept walking the smell began to change.  A warmer, softer scent was present too; was it vanilla? Perhaps cinnamon? It was reminiscent of a warm snickerdoodle cookie fresh from the oven.  My gaze drifted across the street and I saw the ice cream shop; of course – it was freshly baked waffle cones.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever smelled a lovelier combination than I did at that moment.  My steps slowed to a halt, by breaths became deeper, and I closed my eyes as I tried to memorize it.  Perhaps heaven smells of fresh clean soil, freshly cut lavender, and waffle cones hot out of the oven.

Compassion

She furrows her brow in an angry pout; her hands flapping in front of her.  Soon, she shrieks loudly “I’m hungry! We’ve been traveling forever!” Her father takes a knee, with a gentle tone of voice, trying to soothe her.  Her younger brother sighs and turns his face toward the window.  Her mother looks tired, exasperated, and a little embarrassed.  A few fellow passengers react less than gracefully to her noise; we’ve ALL been traveling for what feels like a very long time- and patience is running low.  I wish that people could understand that Autism doesn’t wait for an appropriate moment to cause a melt down; I wish that people could just avert their eyes, keep their rude remarks in, and give this family the space they need to try to comfort their daughter who is obviously not handling the changes of the day very well.  I wish that I was in a mental space to reach out and offer a distraction or support- but I am fighting tears myself; knowing by this point that we will not arrive in time for the event that we were traveling to; a family member’s funeral.  A grey-haired woman with a gentle face approaches the family asks the parent’s permission, and then eases herself onto the floor a few feet away from the girl who is by this point sobbing loudly with her knees tucked up by her chin.  “I can see that you are having a rough day, young lady.  I’m afraid we all are.  I just wanted to come over here and ask you about your shoes.”  She pauses for a long moment; allowing her words to sink in through the sobs and the overstimulation.  After a few moments, the girl uncovers her face, and peeks at her shoes quickly.  (She has those wheely shoes on- the ones that you can skate with.)  She takes a deep, shuddery breath, and says “yeah?” The kind woman continued to talk to her; asking her simple questions that led her to find grounding in her surroundings; talking quietly without touching her or asking for any eye contact; leaving pauses in the conversation for her to process. Within about ten minutes, the girl was calm, conversing, and looking much more peaceful.   Clearly this woman had interacted with someone with similar many times before.  I don’t know her name, and I don’t know her story, but her kindness on that day affected me. I’m deeply grateful for people who choose to intervene in another’s struggle; especially when they are well- equipped to help.

Triumph

The musicians are leading us in a song about new life in Christ.  One of the pastors stands in the baptismal tub, already soaked from the previous baptisms.  Her video begins to play; her story- her struggles- her desire to be baptized.  The video fades away, and she is in the tank now- this young mother and wife-publicly declaring her love for Jesus and her desire to live a life that honors him.  She recently started attending our small group, and although I hardly know her yet, my heart felt such joy to see her baptism.  A precious moment- a beautiful declaration.  Tears stream down my cheeks as she rises out of the water-her face covered in the most beautiful, joyful smile.   A new beginning.

Gratitude

He stands in the doorway, sweat dripping down his jaw; his shoulders lifting and falling with each breath.  A cool breeze comes through the open door and he closes his eyes in enjoyment.  It is 8am on Saturday, and he has already done several hours of homework, connected with family on the phone, and just finished a run on the treadmill.  He is not a morning person. This is self-discipline.  He doesn’t particularly love studying, nor does he love running. He wants a better future; he wants to stay healthy.  This is diligence.  He smiles as his hand raises in a wave and he calls out to our neighbor “Good morning! How are you today?”  This particular neighbor has a social phobia and doesn’t talk to many people, but he always smiles when you greet him.  There will be no verbal response to this greeting, but it is given sincerely day after day.  This is kindness.  I sit here, in my pajamas; just observing.  He doesn’t know I am watching him.  He isn’t doing any of this for anyone other than God and himself. This is authenticity.   This man.  He holds so much of my heart.  He is flawed, as am I. He has struggles, and he sometimes makes wrong choices.  He is human.  But he is an amazing human, and I feel so grateful to be his wife.

 

 

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Six things I wish my professors understood

1)No matter how much I care about my education, my faith and my family will come first on my priority list. Sometimes things come up, and this means that assignments are going to be late. This is not a reflection of my lack of caring, it’s a reflection of my correct priorities. I will happily accept the point loss for the late assignment; however, the guilt trip is absolutely not helpful. If I didn’t care about my education, I wouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars on it each quarter, I promise!

2)If students ask questions it’s probably because they want to learn! Please don’t give a vague response like “the answer to that question is included in course materials” when I specifically told you that I have reviewed all the materials and I cannot find information I need to succeed.

3)Nobody excels in classes that combine something they aren’t good at with something they don’t care about. I will apply myself and complete my coursework, but please don’t expect me to feel enthusiastic about analysis of variance, correlation coefficients, or anything else that pertains to statistics. It’s just not in me.

4)Some of us just struggle with higher level math. We excel at other things, but not at this. We aren’t trying to be stupid. We honestly don’t get it. Please refer to number 2, and take mercy on our poor challenged souls by answering our questions.

5)Lectures are far more helpful when you organize your thoughts. Highlight a main point, and then give details about it for at least 30 seconds. This gives us time to write it down. Then introduce a related main point and continue. Lectures that jump all over the course materials without any outline are really hard for us to follow. The material might be familiar to you; but we are trying to create a whole new framework in our brain, and structure is highly helpful.

6)We have such a huge amount of appreciation and respect for professors who really know the material they teach, who go the extra mile to communicate clearly, who genuinely want us to succeed, and who care about us as human beings. They will have a lasting impact on our lives. Sometimes we forget to say thank you, but we are grateful.

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Dear families of clients receiving in-home care-giving,

There are a few things that I’d like to share with you. I believe that you want the best possible care for your loved one, and so do we, the caregivers. There seem to be some common misconceptions surrounding the role of caregivers, and I’d like to clarify those and implore you to do a few things differently. Here is a list of things we caregivers wish the families of our clients understood:

1-We are humans. Please treat us with the same respect that you do other people you meet. We do a lot of undignified things by choice to maintain the cleanliness, wellbeing and comfort of your loved one. This does not mean we are servants, or that we are somehow less than you. Please do not whistle for us, ring a bell for us, or have separate chairs/cups/silverware for us. Caregiving is not contagious.

2-Following up point number one, the reason we sometimes smell like human bodily fluids is because your loved one recently had an accident and we have cleaned it up. Smells unfortunately tend to linger. This is not some weird ‘caregiver perfume’ or a reflection of our personal hygiene.  It bothers us even more than it bothers you, however for the sake of your loved one’s pride, we act like we don’t even notice.  Please don’t act so shocked when we run into you out in public and we are well groomed and we smell good. We like to be clean just like everyone else.

3- If you plan to be around very often, please learn our name and get to know us a little bit. If we know your preferences and your personality, we will be better able to prepare your loved one and their home for your visit. We really want to foster good relationships between our client and their family.

4-Please don’t stop spending time with your loved one just because they have a caregiver to meet their physical needs now. Elderly and disabled people have the same social needs as everyone else. As caregivers we know that part of our role is to provide company for our clients, and we are happy to visit with them while we work. We cannot replace the role of family members in this way however.   I know that it can seem bothersome or inconvenient to spend time with people when their physical or mental ability is limited, so here are some suggestions of things to do with your family member:  Take them for a drive – most of my clients love getting out of the house to just go sight-seeing. Watch a sunset from the car. Go through a drive in and have a car-picnic overlooking a pretty park or a view of the water. Go look at Christmas lights in nearby neighborhoods on an evening near Christmas. Spend time looking at old pictures and reminiscing. Ask them to supervise you as you learn to cook something that is traditional for your family. Play music and sing old songs with them.  Watch a movie together. Bring them dinner and eat together. Please spend time with your loved ones. Feel free to let us do the work of caregiving and just come visit to enjoy spending quality time together. Please tell us if there is something we can do to help your family member get ready for an outing or an event that you have planned. (We are pretty good at getting people into a state of mind to enjoy a specific activity – feel free to utilize this. Most caregivers have at least one of the following talents: charm, pleading, coaxing or manipulating. Don’t hate us for this. If we didn’t have these skills, your mother would never bathe, go to medical appointments, or eat vegetables. It’s true.)

5- If you have emotionally charged bad news to share with your loved one, please do so in person rather than over the phone if at all possible. It’s always better if someone who understands the issue can be there to support and grieve together. If it’s not possible to do this, please at least give us a summary of the situation prior to telling your loved one so we can support them with understanding.  It’s exceptionally difficult to console distraught people when you have no idea what the situation is.

6-If your loved one has any level of memory loss, please do not assume that any messages you leave for us will get to us. Please contact us directly, or through the agency we work for if you have anything important to tell us. This is especially important for pertinent medical information, schedule changes, and any specific tasks you are requesting that we complete.

7- I think I speak for many of us when I say this: We sincerely love it when your whole clan descends upon your loved one’s house and decorates it festively from top to bottom for the upcoming holiday IF AND ONLY IF we know you will return PROMPTLY to take all the beautiful decorations down and place them back in their designated storage area after the holiday is over.  We realize that it only took you all 3 hours to decorate, so it may not seem like a big deal to leave it for us. However, there were 20 of you and there is one caregiver. It takes a very long time for one person to remove decorations from very large houses that have been fully decked out. My time would be better spent caring for your loved one. That is my job.

8-If your loved one has dementia or any form of memory loss, please don’t feel obligated to remind them of the anniversary of sad occasions. Memory loss has very few perks; but forgetting about the sad things in life is one of them. Please don’t destroy their happiness. If you want to honor them in some way on these anniversaries, send some flowers with a message “We are thinking of you. We love you.”  Or spend some time with them doing something they enjoy. There are ways to honor people without bringing back forgotten grief. I don’t think it’s fair to be reminded of the dark when you have also forgotten the sunshine.

9-Please understand that we usually will not consider your loved one a member of our family. In most cases, yes, we truly love and care about your family member. In some cases we even consider them a friend and we are glad to spend time with them. I am just going to be honest and say this though. We do not love scrubbing poop out of upholstery and vomit out of shag carpets. We do not love being belittled, yelled at and sometimes scratched and hit because your loved one is displacing their anger and frustration upon us. We do not love the backaches that happen after we lift people repetitively and bend to scrub floors and wash toilets, so please, do not make condescending statements like “oh, you are so very lucky to have the privilege of working with my mom! You must be so grateful.  A more saintly woman has never walked this earth!” While I am sincerely glad you have this wonderful view of your aging parent, my perspective is probably different. I have seen the good, the bad, the smelly, the unpleasant, and the downright mean in this person and I still choose to gently care for them with compassion and respect.   This professional relationship is beneficial for all of us.

10-Please be willing to have more than one caregiver on a weekly basis. I will give you a hint here: being flexible with having multiple caregivers almost guarantees better care for your loved one. The reason why is this: if we are good at our job, we are usually kept quite busy because clients get attached to us. Often the best caregivers only have one shift or one day available for new clients at any given time. Insisting that you have the same caregiver all week long as soon as you begin services will mean you get: a) a caregiver not in high demand at all – usually there is a reason for this. Or b) a caregiver that is brand new to the agency and was hired specifically to fill your requested schedule.  Having multiple caregivers also ensures that when one of us goes on vacation or gets sick, there are others who know the routine and can readily be a substitute.

11-I saved one of my most important points for last here.  Please, please, please advocate for your elderly family member; especially if they are timid about sticking up for themselves or if they are no longer verbally communicative. Share relevant information with us! Is your loved one vegetarian? Would they like to be reminded to observe religious holidays? Are they Autistic and there are certain patterns/noises/textures that upset them?  When is their birthday? Do they love certain foods? Are they more comfortable with only same-sex caregivers helping with bathing? Does it upset them if certain items in their home are moved around? Whatever this person’s values, preferences and opinions might be, knowing them will enable us to give them the best care possible, and that is really our goal.

The best caregiving happens when families are willing to stay on board and work with the caregiver as a team. Our job and our goal is to provide your loved one with the best possible care. We genuinely care about their wellbeing and we want them to be healthy, happy, and safe. Caregivers are human too. Please be patient with us and be grateful when we go above and beyond our job description.  Be understanding when we don’t smell the best. Please be considerate of our feelings. Please communicate with us so that we can do our best to care for our clients.  We will be so grateful.

Sincerely,

A caregiver

250_Caregiver

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My Terrible, Horrible, Incredibly Blessed Morning

Today was one of those mornings that I just couldn’t seem to get myself together in a timely manner. I hit snooze more than my allotted two times.  I keep hoping one day I will morph into a morning person and pop out of bed at 5am with a smile on my face and pep in my step; sadly that hasn’t happened yet.  After realizing I was getting a few minutes later start than I should, I slowly extracted myself from the warm cocoon of comfort that is our bed. A few miserable groans may have escaped at this point. Off to the bathroom I went to wash my face and get ready for the day. As I was washing my face I can’t help but notice the gargantuan zit on the end of my nose.  I think to myself “good morning Rudolph” and almost smirk the idea of just wearing reindeer antlers to work and going with it. Christmas is just around the corner anyway……I decide that I would be way to embarrassed and just try to forget it is there; which of course I cannot.

The rest of the morning involves burning my finger on the stove because I am especially klutzy when I am sleepy, spilling milk all over the kitchen floor and spending several minutes trying in vain to remove the piece of eggshell that hopped of its own volition into the pan of eggs I was scrambling. After failing several times to retrieve said piece of shell, I said a silent prayer that it would just end up on my plate instead of my husbands, and served breakfast anyway.

Shortly thereafter hubby headed off to work and I packed my lunch and got ready to leave too. I was running about 5-10 minutes late by now.  I ran out the door with no coat to get to the bottom of the covered stairway and discover a serious rainstorm in process. “oh well. I don’t have time now.”  So I make a mad dash for my car. I was safely enroute to my client’s house when I looked in the mirror and realized I never got back to the bathroom to put on my makeup. Oh well – it’s to be Au Natural today I guess. I don’t wear makeup everyday anyhow, but when my acne is particularly obvious I do try to cover it up a bit.

Traffic is light, and I start to calm down, realizing I will probably make it to work on time in spite of my late start. I take a deep breath and think “wow, I feel pretty comfortable, actually. I think I like these clothes.”  This nice thought pattern is soon followed by one of horror as I adjust my seatbelt and then realize I altogether forgot to put on a bra. “What the heck is wrong with me today? I’ve only been getting dressed the exact same way for the last 14 years now. Why did my brain suddenly decide it would be fun to skip a step? Oh this is so not a good day.” Frantically I try to come up with a solution. Go back home and get one?  I am already nearly at work; it’s an hour long commute on Fridays.  Just be a little hot and wear a coat all day?  Don’t have one.  Just rock the braless look?  Maybe no one will notice; or if they do they might think what an empowered woman I am; free from societies sexist clothing standards! Um no, I am way too big for that nonsense and I know it.  I am not coming up with any solution to this situation.

bra 2 bras

Then, by the grace of God, I then I recall the bag of extra clothes I always keep buried in my trunk. It contains a full set of clothing. I have had this practice for a long time – I also have a case of water bottles, an emergency and first aid kit, dehydrated food, and several blankets. I like to be prepared. (That is kind of a really major understatement. I have a crisis of personal security if I am not able to control my preparedness for whatever given situation I may face. Yes, I realize it’s probably not a healthy need for control. It has however, saved me from potential danger, discomfort, and like today, embarrassment. Being prepared is really helpful! You never know when you might get stranded somewhere or a global zombie apocalypse will happen, or you will be dehydrated, or you might forget to wear a bra. In any case – if I have my car, I am prepared for what may come.)

With a sigh of relief that my momentary crisis had been resolved, I turned on my car radio. Maybe some music would help me forget the rest of my morning and put me in a better mood. Christmas music poured out of my speakers. “Jingle Bell Rock” Nope, I wanted something calm today. I pushed number two and the station switched over. Here is the song that was playing:

I have loved this song since I first heard it. What a precious gift – the baby Jesus born into our sinful world so long ago. What a difficult idea to grasp- the future that awaited this tiny perfectly innocent child; the great pain he would suffer to save us. He stepped into our world of bad decisions and hurt and loss and stress and created a way for us to escape the consequence of our sin. He took it all willingly and paid a price for me that I could never pay for myself. He made himself at home in our world of chaos, and he brought us peace.

In light of this truth, my spirit always returns to a state of gratitude. When I realize all that has been done for me and all that I have been saved from, little things that frustrate me don’t seem to matter anymore. In light of this gift, the horrible things in this world do not seem as overwhelming. I think of the situation in Ferguson and all the hurting people in that city and I feel so conflicted. I long for a world with mutual respect and cooperation, but I know it has not come yet. I wish that everyone understood that violence is not the answer, but they do not.  The words of this song are true.

“Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
World now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world”

Through Jesus, we can bring peace into violence. Through the provision of God, we can be a part of feeding hungry souls. With our prayers we can cry to heaven for help. I am so grateful that Jesus came into my world and equipped me to go into the world of hurting people.

Today I realize that in spite of my trials and the difficult situations around me, I am so incredibly blessed. I have hope, and peace, and provision.   Regardless of what else happens today, I know I won’t lose sight of that again.

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White privilege hurts us all

Yes, I know some of you don’t think that racial preference affects us anymore; but it does.  There is a reason that I have been pulled over for speeding more than once but I have yet to get a ticket.  It might be partly because I am a woman, and because I am respectful to the police officers, but it is also because of the color of my skin.

When I walk down a street, usually people make eye contact with me. Some people smile or nod a greeting. People often approach me if they have a question; even total strangers.  Elderly people and children have asked me for help. No one seems threatened by me or afraid of me. I know that my face and my manner of dress are more relaxed and friendly than some, so I suppose that is partially responsible.  I think my skin color and my sex also play a role though. For some reason, white women are perceived to be safer and more law abiding than men or people of color. I think it’s an unjust bias.

When I observe my husband walk down a street, people respond differently. It is subtle, but it is a consistent difference. He is well groomed and is often smiling. There is nothing about him that should be intimidating or put anyone off.  So why do fewer people make eye contact or smile at him? Why don’t people approach him to ask questions as they do me?  Maybe it is partly how he carries himself. Men tend to walk with more confidence and authority. Perhaps he isn’t looking for eye contact as I do. Or perhaps it’s simply because he is a young black man, and people have a misconception about him that makes them wary and afraid.

I didn’t realize how prevalent this issue is in my mind until a few months ago when I bought my husband a light grey sweatshirt to wear on evening walks. I know he prefers dark colors, but I intentionally chose a light one. When he asked me why, I replied without thinking “So you won’t get shot.”  At his puzzled look I explained further. “I realized the other day that I felt intimidated by a black guy who was walking toward me on the sidewalk. There was nothing intimidating about him, but he was wearing all dark colors and a big necklace and he had his hood up. Somewhere in my brain I associate that style of dress with gang culture and I experienced a fear bias based on his clothing. Although I realize it’s not rational, it’s likely that others have a similar train of thought.  If we are out walking and something goes down nearby, I want you to look as un-thuggish as possible so that the cops don’t shoot you before they realize you weren’t involved.”

So, for my peace of mind, he often wears the light colored sweatshirt when we go for evening walks in the city. He also keeps his pants above his butt and does not wear big jewelry. It’s not fair that a stereotype dictate how anyone dresses. It’s not fair that I assume he is in more danger if he wears dark colors. It’s not fair that I have no confidence in the desire of the law enforcement officers to protect my husband should he be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is not and never has been a criminal, but I am still afraid for him. Maybe my attitude is unfair, but so is the fact that young unarmed black men keep getting gunned down.

It’s time to end the stereotype of young  men of color as thugs. It’s time to end the fear-mongering that comes from media portraying criminals, thugs, drug dealers and armed gunmen as primarily people of color. It’s time to see people as people regardless of their skin color and ethnic heritage. It’s time catch ourselves when we look at people differently and choose to see them for who they are, not how they look. It’s time to acknowledge our white privilege and see what we can do about changing it.

You see, my sons won’t share my white privilege. They might not be as dark as their daddy is, but they won’t have my Caucasian complexion either.  I don’t want others to be afraid of them if they wear dark colors. I don’t want them to be perceived by their color instead of who they are. I don’t want to be afraid that if they do something stupid during their teen years (as almost all of us have) that they will be shot dead  instead of tried in a court of law in accordance with their rights. Ultimately, I don’t want to be afraid that I will end up joining the families of Michael Brown and Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin in mourning the tragic and unjust death of my son.

Regardless of your nationality, this is your issue. It affects all of us.  Please be aware. Please speak out. Please educate. Please join me in the effort to make this society a safer place for all our children.

hubby and I

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My Rollercoaster Client: Mrs Drama

As I look for the next work opportunity that God brings me to, I am treasuring my time as a caregiver. Honestly, this job has some jewels and a lot of not very glamorous moments; however one of my favorite aspects is how often my clients make me laugh and smile. Sometimes I need to suppress the giggles and save it for later when I relate the story to my husband and we both crack up.

Hands_of_an_Elderly_Woman

One of the laws in healthcare is that we are not allowed to share any stories about clients using their real names so I have nicknames for each client that I use only when relating stories about them. Currently I care for 3 ladies in their 90’s. I refer to them as Mrs. Sweetcakes, M’lady, and Mrs. Drama. I think that Mrs. Drama makes me laugh (and also sigh in exasperation) more than any of the other clients I have cared for during all the time I have worked as a caregiver. Today I want to share her with my readers.

I think she puts it best when she says “I am 95 pounds when dripping wet, and five feet tall with shoes on.” Don’t be fooled by her size though; what she may lack in stature, she more than compensates for in personality. She has a mood for every minute of the day, a song for every occasion, and an opinion about everything under the sun. She has a sharp tongue and a ready laugh. She loves to tell jokes. She has a pretty face and eyes that sparkle with mischief. She is twice a widow to men she loved very much, and is now determined to meet husband number three. Mrs Drama is quite a character.

She has plenty of money and she feels that people ought to treat her with an extra measure of respect because of it. When they do, she rewards them by bringing them a cookie or a piece of candy next time she is there. She remembers their name and what they said last time she spoke to them. She tries to make them feel appreciated. However sometimes people aren’t quite as accommodating of her entitled attitude; for example, if a checker at the grocery store asks her wait in line with everyone else , she quickly informs them “I am quite Wealllllllthy (she always draws out the ‘l’ sound in wealthy….I still wonder why) and I am accustomed to being treated accordingly! I don’t have time to stand in line!” I am constantly surprised at how many people actually give her preference because of this announcement. I treat her respectfully because she is a human, but I am not impressed by wealth and I never have been. I am eagerly awaiting the day that one of them tells her to get her fanny back in line immediately or go shop at a store for ‘weallllllthy people’ where they don’t have waiting lines. I know she will make a scene when it happens, but I will personally go back to that store after I get off work and thank that checker. Sometimes entitled attitudes just need a reality check.

I don’t think Mrs. Drama used to be as demanding as she is sometimes now. She raised a passel of children by herself because her husband’s work often took him away from the family. What I have gathered from the stories that she tells me is that during the years she was raising her children, she found that she had to be extremely organized or complete chaos reigned in their home. She said she sat down one day and wrote out a schedule of household chores, cleaning tasks and errands for each day. As it became an established part of her life she decided that she would follow it until the day she dies.

Now in her 90’s she lives alone with her two cats, and she feeds them at the same time she fed her children each day. She still has a weekly shopping trip on Tuesdays even if she has a full fridge and pantry. We usually go to Safeway, where she chooses one small package of cookies, cuts in line by shoving her walker in front of other patrons, tells the cashier a joke that I would deem inappropriate for most audiences, and laughs loudly as the checker looks somewhat baffled. If she was allowed to cut in line and she likes the cashier then she gives the package of cookies to them and tells them what a dear they are. I simply stand on the sidelines and watch the drama unfold. It doesn’t make sense to me, but in her little world there is peace because she shopped on Tuesday and she was treated with extra preference. Sometimes these excursions amuse me and sometimes they grate on my nerves, but always they remind me that elderly people are adults with freewill. As caregivers we are not responsible for the actions of the individuals we care for. We can encourage appropriate behavior and present reasons for it but as long as our clients are in their right mind, they have the right to behave in whatever manner they choose.

caregiver clip art

Mrs. Drama is currently using the internet to meet a new man. She wants to be married again. I never realized just how complicated online dating could be until I saw it through the eyes of a ninety something year old lady. She created a profile stating that she is only 60. The pictures that she used are from at least 20 years ago. She thinks saying she is 60 is believable. She has aged very well and she does look younger than she is, but 43 years is a pretty big lie. I have encouraged her several times to list an age that is closer to her real one, but she refuses. She says nobody wants a ninety year old. I tell her that if God has another man for her then he will want her at her true age. She agrees with that but still keeps her age listed as 60.

online dating image

There are a number of qualities that are very important to her in her next spouse. He has to be very tall: over 6ft at least. He has to have a moustache and preferably a beard too. He has to have brown eyes. He has to be a certain astrological sign. He must be wealllllthy. He must possess his own teeth (honestly I can’t even type that one without giggling. I guess as a young person I took my husband’s teeth for granted. Evidently in the elderly that is a real selling point!) He must have history as a serviceman in a branch of the US military. Additionally, he must be willing to put her first on his priority list as soon as they have met.

Each week when I arrive at her house she has a new man to tell me about. She always leads with the teeth. “I have a wonderful man! We just got together! He has his own teeth! He is very wealllllllllthy, and he is very intelligent. He is a captain.” (often they are not captains of anything, but in her mind being a captain makes them seem important, so she states that they are hoping I will be duly impressed. I am not.) I always ask her the same thing. “What about his character? Is he a man that would serve God with you?” She usually doesn’t have an answer to those two questions and so she changes the subject to some obscure part of the emails she has sent him.

Last week she informed me that she told him she is original. I said “Oh, ok. You mean you sent him an email saying that?” “No, of course not!” she replied. “I went to the place where his picture is and it had a button to click that said ‘IM me.’ I thought to myself hmm…. ‘I’m me’ why yes, I am me! I am myself! An original! So I clicked it to tell him. Now he knows that I am unique.” She looked very proud of herself. Then she added as if a second thought “after I told him that there was this annoying white box that zipped up in my picture (she calls the computer screen a picture) and I couldn’t get rid of it. It kept saying it was waiting for him to chat. Maybe he wants to call me. That must be it. I better send him an email with my phone number!” No amount of explanation I gave her could convince her that IM means instant message. She was sure that he was asking for her phone number, and thought I was stupid because I didn’t know what that IM is a contraction for I am. I pointed out the missing apostrophe, and she said it’s because his grammar isn’t the best that he didn’t add one there. I just smiled at her and told her I hope he calls and that I was going to go vacuum while she emailed him.

One day she told me one of the men she had been emailing with who was about 65 had said something about being a cougar, and she couldn’t figure out what that meant. She asked me what a cougar was. After a moment of careful thought I told her that a cougar was a large wild cat. “Well I know that! What else could it mean?” I admit that at that moment my no-lies policy was questioned, but it held true. I smiled at her and told her that sometimes it is a term that is used to describe women who are attracted to younger men. “Oh no no no! That couldn’t possibly be what me meant! I told him I was a bit older than I said in my profile, but my pictures look so young! I am sure he meant something else! I will figure it out.” I said “oh, ok” while excusing myself to the other room so I could laugh. She called me later that evening after I was home to tell me she had it all figured out. “You see” she said “He must have read my profile and discovered my astrological sign. My sign is the one right next to the leo. Leo is a lion, you know. Lions are pretty much large cougars. He must have meant that by being next to the leo I am like a small lion. A cougar. You see? That’s what he must have meant.” I could barely keep a straight face until I hung up the phone. I have no idea why some people are so hung up on age. Either we get old, or we die. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Mrs Drama is certainly a character. She makes me laugh almost every time I work with her. Many of those times I want to scream by the time I leave too. She often tries to manipulate me, and it never works for her. She had told me more than once that she has adopted me as a daughter. She often gets in a huff because I won’t agree with her when she is being unfair. Then she gives me chocolates when she is happy with me again. She sometimes yells at me and being yelled at is one of the things I despise most in life.

She surprised me with a beautiful handmade handkerchief with hand tatting around the edge for my birthday. Her hands have limited movement and I knew it took her hours and it probably caused her pain. I don’t really have any use for a lace handkerchief, but it was a gift of love so I treasure it. And I really don’t have any use for all the emotional turmoil that comes along with this dear lady, but she is a gift and I love her so I treasure these days with her while I have them.
caregiver hands

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Sometimes I feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex

As I typed that title, I had mental images of a giant dinosaur mauling little helpless animals running through my head. That’s not  what I mean at all though. I am not the angry mauling type. I am also not prehistoric, or a dinosaur. I just mean that there are certain aspects of the t-rex anatomy that I can relate too. You see, like them I have long muscular legs and miniature arms. To be completely honest, my arms aren’t nearly as undersized as theirs are. Most people don’t even notice that they are somewhat disproportionate.  During the moments where my short arms inconvenience me though, I often find myself sympathizing with the poor dinosaurs in these sorts of memes:

s:t-rex-making-bed   trex on the toilet trex pushups   trex dunking basketballtrex love you thismuchtrex short arms bicycle

I cannot dunk a basketball.  It is hard for me to touch my toes, even when I am flexible.  Some yoga poses are completely impossible for me.  Riding a bicycle is often uncomfortable because I have to lean down a lot to reach the handlebars. I know many tall women who proudly proclaim that ‘I can reach everything in my kitchen cupboards, even the top ones!’  This is a mantra that often plays in my head set to melancholy music as my nearly six foot frame pulls out my little step stool to reach my top cupboards in the kitchen.

Yes, have short arms. With some imagination, they are kind of like a trex.  And you know what? I like them this way.  Kitchen stools were invented for people just like me!  I don’t really need to dunk a basketball; I can just throw it. I get just as good of stretch from reaching my ankles as y’all do from touching your toes.  I enjoy yoga anyhow, and my short armed predicament always makes a new yoga instructor laugh. I can still make the bed and ride a bike, and most importantly, I can hug just as warmly as any long armed person out there.

trex unstoppable trex stop making fun

By now you might all be asking what my point is with this silly blog.  It’s simply this: we all have inconsistencies with our bodies. No one’s body is perfectly symmetrical or evenly proportioned. And that is ok. Maybe you have mini arms like me. Maybe you have orangutan arms. Maybe you have big feet, or one leg is longer than the other or you are really hairy. Maybe your body is so ‘normal’ that you wish you had some quirk like me. (I don’t really think anyone reading feels that way, but the idea made me laugh anyhow)  Whatever it is that makes you self-conscious because it’s not like everyone else, find the humor in it if you can, and appreciate the fact that your body is unique. You were lovingly designed by a heavenly father who carefully chose each feature you have.  He even chose the ones that you might not feel fit with the rest of your body. You are a masterpiece.

 

 

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Someone I Knew Well

Let me tell you a story about a girl who is 14. She is really self-conscious. She runs every day to burn calories. She doesn’t want to, but she often throws up when she eats. She hates how her thighs touch. Her belly doesn’t look like the washboard abs she sees in magazines. Her hips are way bigger than lots of girls her age. She feels like she is just too fat.  The scale says she weighs more than 200 pounds, and that is just too much. She heard somebody on the bus the other day say that girls over 200 pounds aren’t pretty. She wants to be pretty.  She hates wearing a swimsuit because her belly isn’t completely flat. She knows it’s not made of fat because it’s not squishy, but it still sticks out a few inches. No matter how much she tries to suck it in, it isn’t flat unless she is lying on her back. Then it looks hollow. Why can’t it look like that when she’s standing up? She thinks maybe then she could be pretty even though she is 213lbs.

The doctor tells her to stop trying to lose weight. He says her bodyweight is healthy, and that she is still growing and should maintain some body fat. She points to the height weight chart and shows him that at her height, being over 200 pounds puts her in the overweight category. It nearly puts her in the obese category!  “Just look at my belly! It sticks out. My thighs touch too. I need to lose more weight. I’ve been told that no guy will want to marry me unless my belly is flat. People say no men are attracted to fat women.”  The doctor scratches his head, looks at her and says “These charts are a generalization. They are not 100 percent accurate for everyone. Some families have very dense muscle tissue and it weighs more. Some families have a big bone structure, and it weighs more. I would guess you have both of those traits in your family. Let’s use an electronic bmi calculator to see what your body mass index really is.” She furrows a brow skeptically and says “Ok.” He retrieves a metal and plastic device and types in her height, her weight and that she is female.  He hands it to her, with instructions on how to hold it. “This machine is going to read your body with electrical impulses. They travel at different rates through different tissues, so it can tell how much of your body weight is made up of fat.”  She holds it obediently until it beeps. The machine says 21 % of her body is fat.

She looks back at the chart.  “But if it is 21% , I should only weight about 165 pounds! I am way bigger than that!” The doctor tells her that at age 14, she is not done growing yet. He tells her that unless she becomes a lot less muscular at some point, she will probably never weigh anywhere near 165 lbs, but that is ok. He says to exercise and make healthy eating choices and accept the fact that she is healthy the way she is.

She feels crestfallen. She now knows that she will always be this huge. She is even going to get bigger, according to the doctor. Her dreams of being a slender, petite woman someday are shattered.  She goes on with her life though. She wears a swimsuit to the beach and ignores her protruding belly. She plays outdoors and climbs trees like the tomboy she sometimes is. She finds joy in life. Sometimes she even forgets to hate how huge she is. Let me show you a picture of this girl during a moment where she has forgotten about her size problem:

Image

She really doesn’t look that big, does she? When I see this picture, I see a happy healthy 14 year old girl. I see long legs, a healthy torso inside a baggy sweatshirt with some curves beginning to show. I can’t even tell that her belly protrudes.  I wouldn’t guess that she weighs over 200 pounds. I wouldn’t think that she hoped by putting her foot on that farther branch, it would make her thighs appear to have a gap in the picture. I wouldn’t think that she was sucking her belly in to look thinner. I wouldn’t think she took her shoes off to make her feet look smaller. I wouldn’t think so, except I remember.

This picture is me at age 14. I am smiling because I am with my Grandpa. We had just visited my grandma in a memory care facility (she had advanced Alzheimer’s at that point) and afterward he took me to this pretty lookout somewhere near Anacortes. We ate ice cream cones together and he told me that he was proud to have such a beautiful granddaughter (at the time it seemed odd to me because he didn’t usually say things like that, but now it is a memory I treasure.)  He told me to climb up in the tree so he could take a picture of me and we could remember our day together. I think somewhere in his loving Grandfather heart he could see that I was struggling and I needed someone to tell me that I was beautiful.  Maybe he knew it was awkward coming from him, but he did it anyway. He made a special memory with me that day, and he made sure I had a picture to remind me.

That was nearly 10 years ago. My grandpa is in heaven now. I am 23 and I am an inch taller than I was in this picture. I weigh more than I did when I was 14. The electronic bmi calculator now agrees with my assessment that I am overweight. It wouldn’t hurt me to lose 50 pounds, and I work towards fitness every day.  I know it is important for me to be healthy and make good choices, but I refuse to hate my body the way I did when I was a teen. My thighs still touch, and I have accepted that they always will. Who decided that everyone should have a thigh gap, anyway? My thighs love each other too much to be apart! My belly still isn’t flat, and now it is also squishy. I don’t hate it though. It makes a good pillow for loved ones.  I still have trouble with the number on the scale sometimes, but the reality is that I will always be heavier than many women. And that is ok.  I will continue to live a happy, healthy, 200 and something pound life. I will never wear single digit size clothing, but that is ok.

I will get into shape again, and I will still feel like a really big girl, but I will look at this picture and realize that I don’t look nearly as big as I feel. I will remember that I am beautiful. And so are you. No one sees your flaws as much as you do, and no matter what you perceive to be ‘wrong’ with your body, you are gorgeous. God designed you that way. Please don’t forget it.

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Being Real:

Often I choose to blog about what happens in my life that is inspirational, wonderful or otherwise happy and Pollyanna-esque.  I like to think that often what I write can inspire someone or brighten their day a little. I am so grateful for the divine appointments that sometimes give me writing material, and I do enjoy sharing them.

If you are one of my Facebook friends, you will find my page to be likewise. I usually keep things happy and light. Occasionally a bit of attitude escapes me, or I throw a prayer request out there, or I cannot refrain from posting something about an issue that I feel strongly about, but for the most part I think everyone has enough of their own problems, and they really don’t need to worry about mine as well.  I  think that we have to be careful what we share in social media of all varieties, and it’s often not the appropriate place to communicate about problems.

There is a movement going on among bloggers though, and it’s called Transparent Tuesdays. The idea is that whatever your online voice generally is, on Tuesdays what you write is very transparent. You see, those of us who write in a happy and positive manner have issues too. We don’t often mention them, but they certainly exist.  I appreciate this movement because it has made some of my favorite bloggers feel  more relatable to me – sometimes if we feel like someone’s life is much more ‘perfect’ than ours, we feel like they can’t relate to us, or we can’t relate to them.

So here goes my Transparent Tuesday post. (Yes, I know it’s Friday. The idea of this project is to be transparent though, and I don’t see why I can’t be transparent on a Friday too.)

First, this one is for all my newlywed peeps. There is this pervasive image of newlywed bliss: an picture of two adoring people gazing into each other’s eyes and smiling…this bliss..well, yes it’s there. We do our share of being ridiculously in love and over the moon happy. Marriage with someone you love and can serve God with is a true blessing.   However, there is another side to being newlyweds that no one really likes to mention. The part where you try not to elbow each other in the face as you roll over in your sleep because you are used to sleeping alone (and frequently fail and bruise your husband/wife as a result). The part where you have to decide who does what in your house, and as a result, the floor is dirty and the garbage is overflowing. The part where there is really only enough hot water for one good shower and you are both frequent shower takers.   Yes, these are definitely first world problems. Some people have no bed, no home, and no shower;  and in light of that fact, I see that having to learn to share these with another human that you love is really not a big deal.  Honestly, sometimes it feels like a big deal at the time though.

Secondly, let me talk about my job as a caregiver: I choose to portray the endearing and entertaining side of this job most often. I do enjoy it; I love the elderly, and it is a privilege to care for the aging loved ones from many diverse families. I relish the opportunity to get to know my clients on a personal level and to make their lives as dignified and as comfortable as I can. I think that on occasion, it should be stated that there is a side to this job that is extremely challenging at times as well. For those of you who are not in the medical field, let me just say that I deal with a LOT of bodily fluids of many varieties. I clean them up off many surfaces and in many situations. I don’t enjoy that aspect of this job at all.  There are moments where being a caregiver breaks my heart; such as seeing the pain on the family’s face as Alzheimer’s or another form of Dementia slowly steals the personality and intelligence of their mom or dad. Sometimes I struggle to be polite and patient when one of my elderly clients treats me in an abusive manner.  I absolutely despise being yelled at, and a part of many cognitive diseases is having unexplained angry outbursts.  I truly love my job, but sometimes it sends me home feeling like I have nothing left to give. Thankfully my husband is a patient man, and understands when I come home tired and down heartened on occasion.

Lastly, let me address the emotional side of being a woman. Sometimes it’s just ridiculous. I have never been one to have the angry type of PMS. I don’t scream or yell or have all sorts of entitled attitudes.  I just cry. I feel sad for no apparent reason, and cry, sometimes for hours. I can see the irrational aspect of this even while it is happening, and sometimes I feel so frustrated that I am crying even as I continue. I can function long enough to do my job with a happy face pinned in place, but when I get home, the waterworks continue. This happens every month. I have no control over it, and I don’t like it. (Yes, I have tried vitamin D, vitamin B, exercise for endorphins, and all sorts of other things. They all help a little, but I cry anyway. No, I am not depressed. It is temporary, and comes at the same time each month.) Other than this, I have to say I got off pretty easily on the female side of things. The crying is the only really bothersome aspect of womanhood for me.  I am grateful for that fact.

It is my hope that this blog will make me more relatable to my readers on some level. I have struggles and issues just like you.  The above mentioned things are just a few of mine – there are many more. I have to say though, that this season in my life is actually wonderful.  I have issues, but I also have a job that I find fulfilling, an awesome husband that I love very much, a warm and happy home, and good health. I am very grateful for my life, and all the blessings in it. I make a conscious choice not to let my struggles steal my joy. My life is filled with blessings, and that is what I will continue to focus on.

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Thoughts on Young Marriage (from a new kid on the married block)

Let me be the first to acknowledge that being married for 2 months hardly makes me an expert. It hardly makes me qualified to have an opinion, really. Nonetheless, I have some honest thoughts I would like to share.

As a young girl, I always imagined myself getting married young; in my mind 18 or 19 seemed like a good age. I have always wanted to be a wife and a mother. It seemed to me that getting married at that age would give me time to wait a few years and then have a passel of children without being at an age where childbearing becomes dangerous.

My young mind thought I had it perfectly thought out. I didn’t know how much my late teens and early twenties would shape who I became as an adult though. I didn’t understand the importance of being able to explore my personality and individuality as an adult before becoming part of a marriage. I am not saying that being married younger than I was is wrong or even a bad idea. I am just saying that for many people, I don’t think it’s advisable.  I know some people who have solid love filled marriages who were married at my age or younger, and people who have solid love filled marriages who were married much later. I don’t think there is an age that is the right one universally. Rather, I think there are a few questions that could be helpful.

Do you know who you are as an individual; do you know your strengths and weaknesses and dreams and goals?

Do you understand that when you marry, it is not to make you happy or fulfill all your dreams?

great marriage quote3

Are you willing to serve someone else selflessly everyday even when you don’t feel like it?

Are you ready to let someone else into every part of who you are, even the parts you are not proud of?

Do you understand that when you get married, God’s will is that your priorities will change radically?

I couldn’t have answered yes to most of these when I was 18 or 19. I was not yet developed enough within myself to be a very good marriage partner. Now at 23, I can answer yes to those questions. I am far from perfect, and there are many moments where my husband has to be patient with me as I learn to be a good wife. There are moments I have to be patient with him as he learns to be a good husband. I have a strong feeling that this process of being patient with each other as we grow as a couple is going to be a lifelong process. Perfection will likely never be a part of our marriage. Grace will definitely be a part of it though. Grace is a necessity, as are patience, forgiveness and lots of love.  In my newlywed mind at least, these are many of the things that a good marriage is made of.

great marriage quote 2    great marriage quote 1

I am so blessed to be married to a man that I love more than words can say.   He is a man who follows God.  He is a man who protects and cherishes me. He is a blessing to me. I am incredibly grateful to be married to this man now.

hubby and I

Unexpectedly though, I am also incredibly grateful for those years that I never thought I wanted as a single adult. The five years that I had after high school allowed me to develop as an individual in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had married younger. They gave me time to heal some childhood wounds that would have inhibited my ability to love and to trust. I still have scars that sometimes rear their heads and cause trouble, but the healing has happened. Those years that I never thought I wanted were a huge blessing.

So I would like to say to all my unmarried peers, don’t be in a huge rush. Maybe these single adult years (even if you, like me, don’t really want them) are going to be a huge blessing to you in the long run. Instead of worrying about when you will meet your significant other, explore yourself. Figure out who you are. Have adventures. Enjoy life. Love will find you when the time is right. I promise.

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