Not Alone

One of the best things to happen this past year, is the opportunity to write and record my caregiving experiences. I have been “blogging” for just a few months and it has become a tool of therapy for me. I love to write and between the caregiving tasks, I am exploring this more. People have been kind to me and I am appreciative of the people that follow this blog and comment. It is another means of social interaction that keeps me connected to life.

Another good thing to come out of this experience is the confidence in my abilities to manage the two men who live with me. Obviously, no one goes to school to learn how to dress your husband or give him a sponge bath. No one goes to school to learn how to interact and be attentive to the many needs of a 90 year old father-in-law. It has been a crash course in learning each new skill. I have learned so much and have realized that I am capable of handling a lot more than I ever imagined.

Many caregivers feel very isolated. They don’t have opportunities for social interactions and friends seem to disappear quickly. I understand these feelings completely. Despite all it’s challenges, the internet is a great resource for people with common interests to share information. If you are on this caregiving journey as I am, you have found a kindred spirit in me. You are not alone. I wish you peace. I wish you hope. I wish you strength.

Via Daily Prompt:  Record

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The Plan of Action

The word “desire” can be deceptive. Something that is desired can be unintentionally unattainable simply because we say it is desired. Do we give up the possibility of having something when we categorize it as something “desired”? Is there any difference between a desire and a wish?

In order to reach a goal or to achieve a desired object, a plan must be created. It is the creation of the plan that cements the path. A plan with a desired outcome elevates the experience from just a wish to a real process that enables the fulfillment.

It is a commitment that goes beyond a vague and general wish or desire. The commitment drives us to make it a reality. When a desire has a commitment, it forces us to make a plan of action to attain that desire. The plan of action is a “no turning back” moment.

It’s easy for a tired caregiver to dream of spending a week on a beach. It’s easy to “desire” putting your feet in the sand. It’s really just a big wish for a caregiver who cannot leave a loved one for more than a few hours at a time. It’s only when you commit to a plan of action that will ultimately result in you actually sitting under a beach umbrella. It’s the “no turning back” moment when you enlist a home health agency to be your substitute caregiver. A successful plan will motivate you to buy the airline ticket. I learned this lesson. This is a very true story.

So what is on YOUR wish list? What is YOUR desired outcome? Go beyond a wish or a want. If it’s important to you, make it happen. Make the commitment and create a plan of action. Big aspirations are truly attainable if you make the process achievable. Good Luck!

Via Daily Prompt: Desire

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Bowling Shoes

My caregiving life doesn’t get me out as much as I would like. It’s just not possible for me to have much of a social life right now but I am taking baby steps to correct that issue. For example, a few weeks ago, I was able to arrange for a paid substitute caregiver and had a night on the town with my siblings and their spouses. After hearing my brother’s gypsy jazz band play at a local venue, we decided to go bowling.

I cannot even remember the last time I went bowling. I can guess that it’s been at least 20 years. There was a time when I could have bowled every night if I had the chance. I wasn’t that good, but good friends always made it fun. The siblings in my family have a great relationship for the most part and we love to laugh. This would definitely be a fun and different way to spend the evening together and we were all excited.

We had a marvelous night filled with laughter but I was struck by how much bowling has changed in 20 something years. We went to a “pub and bowl” which is some kind of a cross between a bowling alley and and bar. That was new to me. Clearly, this marketing concept is a success. The place was overflowing with people and this quiet caregiving girl was starting to have a phobia reaction to the large crowd. But something was different. Everyone was laughing and having a really good time. It was both exciting and thrilling.

Our party of six had to wait about an hour for a lane to open up. During that hour, we sat at a huge table eating pizza and having our first round of wine. Despite the crowd, we were able to talk, laugh, and catch up with each other. My sister’s phone rang to announce that our lane was ready. We dashed over to the counter to secure the shoes. This was another new experience. If you don’t know, you should Google what bowling shoes used to look like. These bowling shoes actually had the slightest glimmer of fashion or color to them.

We threw on our shoes and headed to find our lane. When we got there, we were greeted by another server who had miraculously transferred our food and drinks from the big table to our lane table. Wow. When did bowling get a bowling table? I was noticing that the scoring desk of long ago has now been replaced with a rectangular table with a black stripe down the middle. Two lanes now share a table and not a scoring desk. Wow. When did bowling get such a convenient table to put food and drinks? For that matter, I don’t remember food being allowed anywhere near the lanes. But what an improvement!

It took a minute for our group of 50-something year old adults to figure out how to enter our names on the automatic scoring computer screen. We stared at the screen with fascination realizing none of us would be adding the number of pins to tally the score.

The most amazing thing happened when I stepped onto that special bowling floor. Somehow, the 20 previous years just faded away. For that amazing moment, I was 20 years younger as I looked down the lane at the pins. I held the ball up to my chest and looked over it. Would my body remember how to bowl? I looked down at my ever so slightly fashionable bowling shoes.  Would my feet remember the mechanics and the special little dance to release the ball? There was just the one hesitant moment as I paused to look back and see all the smiling faces behind me. I turned around to face the pins. I began the steps and pulled the ball back behind my body and then forward to the ball release point that my body remembered. My eyes were focused on the lines printed on the lane.

It was just like riding a bike. I’m still not that good, but my family made it fun. We had some really good quality time together and it became a night filled with happy memories and much laughter. This frazzled caregiver had a grand time being out in society and remembering how much fun it is to go bowling. It’s the little things…

Via Daily Prompt:  Hesitate

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Ten Minute Escape

Out from the chaos and away from the troubles we seek a simple asylum. The location is a place in our minds that allows an escape from the daily grind. It is a place that is easily reached with pure imagination. The commute is quick and very painless.

My personal retreat is a 10 minute escape to my living room sofa with a cup of coffee that contains more sugar than coffee. The escape will likely include earphones to serenade my brain with melodies from Sir Rod Stewart. Music is the background as my brain dictates the destination.

This sense of peace that I feel for a few minutes is my refuge. It is my log cabin at the peak of a mountain. It is my beach umbrella tilted away from the sun on a deserted shore. It is a place in my head that calls me too often when I am unable to answer.

When I go there, the time is limited. I can only stay a few minutes. This precious peace is the only reason I am able to do the things that require so much of me. It is personal. It is sacred and it is important. It is my own special hideout from the world.

If you are looking for an awesome caregiver, I’ll be with you in a moment. I have 8 minutes left to be on a cruise ship in the Bahamas.   🙂

Via Daily Prompt:  Hideout

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Soulful Laughter

Perhaps you are familiar with the television show, “America’s Funniest Videos”.  I’m not sure how long the show has been on, but it seems like a couple decades. It’s almost hard to believe there was a time when people didn’t have a camera permanently attached to a body part.

There’s a reason that a show about funny videos has lasted so long. Somehow, watching cute kids, silly adults, and adorable pets in embarrassing and funny moments never gets old. The videos from twenty years ago are still just as fresh today because we all need to laugh and share humor whenever possible. The freshness of humor never gets stale.

A caregiver knows the importance of finding appropriate ways to release stress. There is much seriousness involved in being a caregiver. Life situations can be difficult and sometimes the tears flow very easily. It is essential for the health of the caregiver to find ways to relax the mind and the soul.

My husband and I have discovered a few cable channels that run the Funniest Videos show at assorted times during the day and night. We have found therapy in humor.  He hears me laugh and I hear him laugh.  It’s a sound we both love to hear.  For a time, we both relax as we laugh together. There is much value in laughter to ease the burdens of the soul. What makes your soul laugh? When you find it, don’t let it go.

The body is only as healthy as the soul. Find humor and joy where you can.  You owe it to yourself and your loved one.  We all know there will be difficult days.  Arm yourself with humor and laughter for the difficult days and your soul will persevere.

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Chimes and Time

 

There are many things that my husband cannot control.  He is disabled and his mobility is limited.  The concept of time, or at least keeping up with the current time, is one thing that he can control.  For that reason, it’s important that I indulge him and be as understanding as possible.  That being said, you should know my husband has a relationship with a clock.

He might prefer me to move out so he can have the clock to himself.  It’s not a small clock.  It’s a grandfather clock that stands about 6 feet tall.  His uncle made the clock from a kit and our family now has it.

The clock has a Westminster chime that announces each quarter hour and then strikes once for each hour at the top of the hour.  It’s a lovely sound, if you like clocks.  I don’t feel the need to be reminded every 15 minutes, so I don’t share my husband’s love for the clock.  But I understand his attachment to it’s history, so I endure it.

A few months ago, the clock began having mechanical issues.  It’s kept time very well for nearly two decades.  I jokingly asked the repairman if there was an option to turn off the chimes.  My husband nearly threatened to divorce me right then. “Why would we possibly want to silence such a beautiful chime?”

Imagine my delight when the repairman called to inform us that there was such a mechanism that would temporarily disarm the striking feature of the clock. I was able to convince my husband that we should have it installed on the clock just for the sake of convenience.  Thankfully, he bought my theory of convenience and agreed to it.  A slider was installed on the clock that could be pushed up or down to engage or disengage the striking feature.

At long last, the clock and I had come to an understanding.  At bedtime,we could turn the chime off and not have to listen to it all night. Despite having a digital clock six inches from his face that constantly blinds him with the time, my husband seemed somehow lost not being able to hear the supposedly angelic chime coming from the clock. I, on the other hand, relished the quiet time knowing the clock would not disrupt my sleep.

Most mornings, my husband will gently remind me that the clock needs to be engaged again in order for us to hear it.  “Well, of course, my dear.  I just forgot.  A simple oversight, on my part”.  I can play stupid all I want, but he knows better.  Every morning, I delay it for as long as possible and he knows it.

It’s become something of an amusing game between us now.  Every night before bed, when I’m locking everything and turning everything off for the night, I disengage the chime as part of my nightly routine.  Every morning, I conveniently forget to re-engage it until he reminds me.  I play stupid and we both laugh.

Having the chime disarm feature has made life easier.  My hubby allows me to disengage it every night and I’m allowing him to keep his clock.  He feels like he is in control and it makes him happy to hear his precious chimes.

I’m afraid my husband would suspect me if the angelic clock ever disappeared in the middle of the night.  And, he’d be right to suspect me.  But a 6 foot grandfather clock with an annoying chime just wouldn’t disappear in the middle of the night, or would it?

Via Daily Prompt:  Oversight

 

An Image of Love

Too much sun exposure is harmful.  A gallon of sunscreen may help, but you must decide how much is too much.   We, as caregivers, must decide if the caregiving exposure is becoming too much and when to get assistance.

Photography is the study of the fundamental particles of light called photons.  As an amateur photographer, I have learned that photography is the science of using light to create an image.  Ask any photographer about the challenges of creating a good exposure that is not over-exposed or under-exposed.

How are we identifying the ways to improve the beautiful images that we are?  Are we maintaining the balance in our lives to give us a proper exposure?  Only you can answer these questions.  It’s important to assess how you and your loved one is managing the caregiving life.

It’s easy to feel secluded in our own little worlds and not realize how cut-off from the real world we have become.  An over-exposed caregiver needs to take a break from the responsibilities.  An under-exposed loved one needs to find more involvement in life activities.

Be mindful of the image you are capturing with your loved one.  Maybe you or your loved one needs more light on the exposure.  Perhaps you or your loved one needs a new hobby or a new outlet.  Consider if you should seek help with the caregiving responsibilities.

Find the balance in your caregiving life and you will see the beautiful particles of light in your caregiving world.  Let the particle of light shine on you and your loved one.  A well balanced exposure will always create a beautiful image.

Via Daily Prompt:  Exposure

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Caregiving and Crayons

This year, I received an early Christmas gift that I didn’t quite know what to do with at the time.  The gift was an “Adult Coloring Book” with a brand new box of crayons.  Suddenly, I felt too young to even open this book.  Should I be getting a parental permission slip to use my “Adult” coloring book?  And exactly what will we be coloring in our “Adult Coloring Book”?  I was relieved to discover that it’s now considered therapeutic for adults to color.  Okay, I thought.  Let’s try this.

I turn my eyes to the box of 64 crayons.  I haven’t owned that many crayons since first grade.  How beautiful those crayons are.  I had forgotten how many colors there are in the box and that funky crayon aroma.  I took some out to read the color names.  In the flash of a moment, my first grade brain remembered that Aqua Marine was my favorite, favorite color.

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The pages of the coloring book are filled with flowers, plants, and animals outlined in black lines with lots of empty, boring white spaces.  There’s something obviously lacking.  These pages are in dire need of something very important that only I can provide.

Each crayon that I pulled out of the box had an aesthetic purpose.  It was my choice to decide which color would go where and no one would critique my work.  Sometimes the color choice was easy.  Sometimes it required more deliberate thought.  Regardless, this was my choice to make.

I’m sure there was a time in first grade when I would sip milk before heading to a small table for coloring time.  Now, I sip hot coffee before heading to the sofa for coloring time.  It’s a time for me.  No one is allowed to bother me.  As I pick up a crayon, my blood pressure goes down and some relaxing chemicals are released in my brain.  What a beautiful feeling.  Yes, I’m really liking this coloring therapy.

Caregiving can be bland and boring.  Many things are beyond our control and leave us with few choices.  Open a box of crayons and choose the shade of color that brings you happiness.  Allow your soul to be painted with that shade of joy.  Find Peace inside and you will color your world a happy hue.

Via Daily Prompt:  aesthetic

Be The Turtle

It has been nearly 25 years since I pushed myself to participate in a road race that was 6.2 miles long.  Like most of the thousands of other people participating, the goal was to simply finish the race and get the t-shirt.  I was at the back of the pack for a reason.  I wanted to be with the race walkers.

My jog was never a real jog.  It was a slow jog followed by a fast walk.  My strategy was simple.  Select a single race walker and stick to her like glue.  Race walkers are excellent athletes.  They practice the form and stride necessary to propel forward and walk at a pace that is very efficient and fast.

My jog would never propel me the entire 6.2 miles.  However, I could keep a fairly good race walking pace.  I just had to pick someone out to follow.  I found a lady that matched my criteria.  She looked the part with her physique.  She was actually a bit older than I was and even had on colorful clothes that I could track.

I spent the entire race keeping up with her.  She race walked the whole time.  I alternated between my slow jog and fast walk to keep up.  I was not going to let her bright clothing out of my sight.  She was going to finish, and I would be right behind her at the finish line.  The strategy worked.  I claimed my prized t-shirt and the satisfaction of completing the task.

Caregiving will be the biggest challenge and the longest race of your life.  Be assured, however, that you are much stronger and resilient than you may think.  Stay strong and stay focused on the goal.  Use tools, resources, and support groups to encourage you.  Search out people who can guide you in the race.  If it’s helpful, ask them to wear bright clothing so you can find them when you need help.

A caregiving life is not merely a 6.2 mile road race.  It is a true marathon that may go on for years.  It’s important to “train” with tools and resources to help you.  It’s important to “hydrate” with rewards and indulgences that will personally make you happy.  And of course, “load up on the carbs” with the support of friends and family to keep you going.  We don’t know how long the race will be.  We don’t even know how this race will turn out, but seeing our loved ones happy and healthy is the main goal.

Pace yourself.  You are the turtle, not the hare.  Be the speed walker, not the sprinter.  Take care of yourself first, and everyone crosses the finish line at the same time.

Via Daily Prompt: Marathon

 

 

Her Highness

Exquisite:  adjective:  extremely beautiful and, typically, delicate.  Synonyms: beautiful, lovely, elegant, fine

It was a spring day about 12 years ago.  I sat on the front porch with a friend enjoying the warmth of the day.  As we talked, she remarked to me, “What is that in the yard?”  I looked in the direction she was pointing.  “I don’t know”, I replied.  Whatever it was, it just kept coming towards us.  It did not hesitate in the slightest.  As it got to the porch steps, we realized it was a tiny black kitten.  Where is the mama?  Where did she come from?

Dogs have owners.  Cats have staff.

I had just become supporting staff for a kitten.  She had marched up the yard, planted herself at my doorstep, and demanded that I bring in the luggage.

How could I not love this tiny, adorable, and beautiful black ball of fluffy fur?  I scooped her up, took her in the house, and have spoiled her for the past 12 years.

That is how “Mollie” found her way into our home and our hearts.

Like most cats, she has a totally insatiable appetite.  The bowl is never full enough and she will cry to make sure you know it.  My husband has insisted that it’s my fault.  He’s mostly right.  When Mollie marched up the yard to meet us, all I wanted to do was feed this poor baby.  She had me wrapped around her little paw from Day One.  My guilt for this little soul created her appetite.  Yes, it really is my fault.  I had unknowingly created a monster that had to be fed the moment she cried.  So, 12 years later, we have a somewhat obese cat.  Yes, Mollie is a big fat cat.

There is another unique and endearing part of Mollie.  She has an extremely loud purr.  Her meow is very quiet, but that big purr engine makes her special.  She is a V8 without the mufflers.  Sometimes it’s hard to sleep when the decibels get cranked up before bedtime.

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Mollie has taken possession of the DOG bed.  It seems to fit her better.

When Mollie enters a room, her stomach swings from side to side.  She walks as if slightly intoxicated as her highness struts in expecting us to curtsy.  And when she see us, the noise level on the jet engine breaks the sound barrier.

As you can imagine, there is very little about Mollie that is delicate.  She is, however, a beautiful fat cat with a big heart for those who feed her.  We think she is quite exquisite just the way she is.

Via Daily Prompt:  Exquisite