I’M COVERED

Photo Courtesy of Stock.xchng

Photo Courtesy of Stock.xchng

I know there are heated debates across our nation about the Affordable Care Act. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion – It’s America, baby. Besides, a life devoid of diversity of opinion would be dull and boring.

This post is about how ACA has impacted me personally. My intent here is to state the facts of my personal experience as I see them play out in my life.

I was one of the fortunate few. The stars aligned and I sailed through the health care website without a hitch on my first try. My coverage was in place on 1/1/14.

This coverage is vitally important to me on several levels.  ACA allows me to get insurance without being tied to traditional work just for the sake of insurance coverage. A few years ago I shared a conversation with a friend who could not find an insurance company anywhere to take on all her preexisting conditions. And this friend could afford to pay a heavy premium. At that point, I thought I would be forever tied to traditional work just for the sake of medical insurance due to my preexisting cancer diagnosis.

Then along came ACA.

I work from home now with the flexibility I need to take care of my men. Where would we be without ACA?  I’d STILL be rushing to work away from home, attending overnight conferences, and dreaming every night about the daily juggle of family and work. Ronnie would STILL be watching me zip here to there at an exhausting pace like he’s done for 16 years since his stroke. The whole family would STILL be taking turns staying with dad, or he would be in a nursing home. Five or more different people would STILL be taking turns driving him to the next doctor’s appointment, five or more different pairs of ears hearing the latest medical update or medication change—a situation ripe for errors and miscommunications. I’d STILL be dreaming about working from home and praying that my dad and husband would make it through the day without one or both spending hours alone sprawled out in the middle of the floor.

It’s not all hearts and rainbows, however. When comparing my ACA plan to my previous coverage through my employer, I’m paying more each month in premiums and deductibles. Yes I was SPOILED. But I’m adjusting. Every time I have to pay a little more out of pocket than I’m accustomed to, I remind myself of the flexibility I now enjoy. Three months in, and so, far ACA has been a blessing.


THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN HIKE

path to cave

I took this picture the day after an extraordinarily windy Halloween night. A couple of Sundays prior, my son organized a team of us to clear this path and I wanted to survey any damage done to our work. His gathering us together and traveling 25 miles to complete manual labor on property he doesn’t own exemplifies what this land and my mom means to him – what it and she means to us all. There is no way to number the times we hiked this path with her. And on this day after Halloween hike, the sound of my lone feet crunching the blanket of leaves underneath reminds me of her, makes me long for her by my side, hand in hand for support as our feet crunch leaves at a slower more deliberate pace.

It’s been almost three months since we lost her. Unbelievable! It seems just yesterday she was helping me raise my son while I worked days I longed to spend with him. But if I had to leave him with someone, she was always first choice. And this land served as his ultimate playground. When technology was on the cusp of overtaking outdoor play for kids, my son romped these hills making paintball forts, camp fires and home videos.

For the time being, I’m fortunate enough to enjoy this land on a daily basis. Ronnie and I sold our house and have moved in with dad. I’ve left what has been traditional work for me and am spending my days caring for the both of them. I’m blessed that they are in good enough shape to spare me for 30 minutes here and there to walk this path. On this particular day after Halloween hike, I wait for the peace that solitude usually brings, but the rhythm of those dang leaves crunching underfoot breeds memories of her final days and what she endured. I stop and take this picture. In the silence, I push those painful thoughts aside, for I witnessed her suffering first hand and find no comfort in revisiting them. Instead I focus on paintball forts, camp fires, home videos and the unpretentious woman who made it all possible.


DRESSED BY A MOTHER’S LOVE

As this Mother’s Day comes to a close, here’s my post about three dresses, two pictures, and my sweet little mother.

I will never forget the day mom came home from work with a package in hand — FOR ME! What a surprise, and for no special occasion, no reason other than walking from the court house across Main Street to Smith’s Department Store to kill some time during lunch. She spotted this baby blue dress (my signature color) and felt I should have it (see pic – second from the left). Debbies weddingShe said it was on sale, but even then I realized the extravagance of the purchase. But I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying the coolest dress ever. I was hot stuff (or so I thought) and I felt so loved every time I wore that dress. I look back now and better see what that dress represented. It was the reason mom, despite her nature to mother, worked outside the home – so that we could have the occasional extra. Over the years she has told me that was one thing she regretted, not being home with us full time.

Even when she was working, mom could always make time to sew for us kids. While this was many times accomplished at four o’clock in the morning, I loved to watch her sew when I got the chance (which was not at four o’clock in the morning). By the time I was in high school, she had taught me to hem and remove the collars from men’s shirts for that mandarin collar look. When time for senior prom rolled around, we shopped for patterns and material, and she guided me in making my own peachy (my new signature color) prom dress! prom dress

The following year I attended college in West Tennessee. One day when I was feeling especially homesick in my dorm room, I heard a knock. I opened the door, and there stood my little niece, Mandy, with that head full of blonde hair shining like the sun. No one else in sight, just Mandy. I was delighted to see her but was frozen in space, confused, not only about how she got there but by what she was wearing. She had on a multi patterned dress that was the exact replica of a dress I had left hanging in my closet at home. She had on MY DRESS (no picture available at this time)! Mom appeared at the door as I picked up Mandy and gave her a big hug. Mom explained that she had unseamed, cut down, and resewed the dress for my darling niece. I had been so homesick, and to see one of the ones I missed most in that dress, made by the one I missed most of all, my mother, was heaven.

Over the last few days as Mother’s Day approached, I’ve thought about this post and what I might write. I thought it would be perfect if I could get a picture of each dress to include in this post. So after a Mother’s Day filled family and good times, Ronnie and I drove back to mom’s and spent the evening searching through boxes of pictures. I knew I could get my hands on two of the ones I needed, but held little hope of finding an image of my niece in MY DRESS. Mom so enjoyed picking up various pictures and commenting on them or asking me who was who. First I came across my peachy senior prom picture and placed it on the floor at my feet. Then beyond all hope, there was tiny precious Mandy in my dress mom had cut down for her. I added it to my stack on the floor. All I needed now was my sister’s wedding picture with me in that baby blue dress. Jackpot! A framed picture of my sister’s wedding. We had found all I needed. I bent down to add the last picture to the pile and noticed a picture missing. Mom had already started cleaning up, and the picture of Mandy was gone. I handed Ronnie the other two pictures thinking they would be safe from mom’s busy hands. After searching a box by my side with no luck, I walked over to Ronnie to get the two pictures left. But mom had taken the framed wedding picture from Ronnie and stowed it away – SOMEWHERE! Beyond frustrated, I took the one picture spared, walk outside and put it in our car. I dug through drawers in the spare bedroom and finally found the wedding picture. But the one picture I doubted even existed, was nonexistent. Gone in a snap, like a thought or a memory. After a lifetime of picking up after us five kids and my dad, what else can be expected? To tell mom to not clean up after someone is like telling an accountant not to count, a teacher not to teach, a writer not to write, a human not to breathe. It’s in her DNA. It’s a task that keeps her moving, keeps her going. A task once about keeping the house in order but is now about DOING before the memory TO DO is forgotten.

Thanks to dementia and poor eyesight, those busy hands no longer sew, and her confidence in buying something personal for me faded long ago. But she eagerly awaits the opportunity to clean up anything I dare put to the side.

God love her! I love her, too!

Thank you, Lord, for a Mother’s Day I hope I never forget.


A DAY OF DEDICATION

How do you get Ronnie Foster to get his fanny to church? Invite him to his grandbaby’s dedication.

I was raised Church of Christ so this baby dedication stuff is new to me. But wow, what a precious experience.

The four babies to be dedicated and their parents were called to the front of the congregation. Each baby and their parents were introduced. The babies were presented with tiny Bibles with their name inscribed on the cover. Then, in line behind the Reverend, the families wound their way up and down the aisles of the sanctuary as the Reverend charged the congregation to encourage these children along their spiritual path and to model how to live a faithful Christian life.

Soon after they returned to their seats, Emily placed Madden in her daddy’s arm. With me being unsure of the unwritten and written rules related to picture taking in the Baptist Church, I quickly slipped my camera out of my purse and discretely shot the picture below.

Of course, after I take this shot, Madden grins from ear to ear. He just lies there for the longest, gazing into Ronnie’s eyes, smiling. I thought about trying to slip in another picture but then decided there was no need. There’s no forgetting. Does Emily have any idea of what her gesture meant to her dad? Absolutely. Does Madden have any idea of how his smiles touched his P. Pa’s heart? He has no idea – or does he?

That round, kissable face, whether smiling or not, holds great power — the power to bring great joy into the lives around him.


ANNIVERSARY MONTH

December is Ronnie’s stroke anniversary month. This may seem an odd anniversary to acknowledge, but it holds much to celebrate. Like Ronnie’s health, which the doctor told us today is “looking good” (Ronnie never tires of hearing he’s “looking good”). Like our new grand-baby who has peed on Ronnie enough to guide us to Ronnie’s true grandfather name – P. Pa (Ronnie never tires of being peed on by Baby Madden or being called P. Pa).

 

Like my son and daughter-in-law’s new puppy who loves to kiss Ronnie on the mouth (of which Ronnie DOES tire but tolerates because Puppy Sawyer is adorable and expects to get his way).

 

 

Like our three beautiful children and their significant others (whom we love and adore).


Grandfather

Bill Clinton was on The Sunday Morning Show this past Sunday (a show that is notorious for making me late for church). When questioned about his mortality, Mr. Clinton stated that he was determined to live to be a grandfather.

Despite a major stroke nearly 15 years ago that left doctors with little expectation of Ronnie living through the night, Ronnie, too, was determined to live to be a grandfather.

And today he made it!

 

It’s been a glorious day.


THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Pictured is the current state of Billy West Road near my parents’ home. TDOT has taken a huge chunk out of this road to make way for the new four lane highway.

I wish I could remember the last time I walked the full half mile stretch of Billy West Road. It was just the week before last, but I can’t remember if I was walking with my great niece or nephew or my mom.

I have such fond memories of the decades of joy this road has brought to my life. Jogging alone or walking with a family member, usually Mom. Over the years Mom and I have shared this road for more miles than we can count. Miles and miles of fretting, celebrating, troubleshooting, reconnecting, and bonding.

As bad as it hurts to see Billy West Road plowed under, maybe the timing is right. Mom can no longer make the full round trip mile. And I’m not so sure I want to walk it any more without her.

The short stretch to where construction begins will have to do for now. There and back is about as far as Mom can make it without getting wobbly and rubber legged. That’s still far enough to fret, celebrate, troubleshoot, reconnect, and bond. And these days we walk hand in hand across the rough parts to keep each other steady.


A ROLE-MODEL FOR THOSE WITHIN OUR CIRCLE

John C. Maxwell has released a new book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential. His 8th law is titled: The Law of Pain: Good Management of Bad Experiences Leads to Great Growth.

If you are a caregiver, something bad has happen to someone close to you. How you manage the struggles of day to day caregiving can lead to great growth for yourself and those looking to you as a role-model. And we truly are role-models, for most all who know us will be caregivers at some point in their lives.

While I try to be a good role-model, I don’t give enough thought to this role. And I’ve made plenty of mistakes to learn from along the way. But I am thankful for the caregiver role-models in my life, and all I have learned from their example.

How do you manage the difficult times? Have you experienced personal growth as a result? Are you a positive role model for the future caregivers within your circle?


FREEDOM OF SPEECH

There’s been much talk of the freedom of speech in the news lately, a freedom that is easily taken for granted. My husband may live in a free country, but in 1997 he lost his freedom of speech, a freedom we both took for granted. He has expressive aphasia, a condition cause by his stroke and the resulting injury to the language center of his brain. Ronnie knows what he wants to say but has difficulty communicating it to others. He has some good spontaneous speech, like hi, bye, yes, no, love you, etc… Sadly, my name was not included on his post stroke vocabulary list. “Hey” is as close as it gets.

My Ronnie

I had one of those sleepless nights recently. You know the kind – you wake at 1:30 and wrestle the bed for hours, only to fall asleep 30 minutes before your alarm is scheduled to blare. That’s prime time for me to have a wonky dream – and I did. In this dream, Ronnie and I were sitting at the table talking, just like old times. I can’t remember what we were talking about. I only remember that when it came to the point in the conversation where he should have said my name, he called me “Hey.” And in my dream, every time he called me “Hey” I said, “Say my name.”

I woke to a sad, sick longing to hear my name voiced by the man snoring beside me.

As I lay there feeling sorry for myself, the phrase “say my name” repeated in my head. “Say my name!” Say my name!!!” Why was that phrase so familiar? I turned on my side and smiled into the pillow, recalling that same line from the hilarious (albeit crude) movie, “American Pie.” This isn’t the first time a funny line from a movie has saved me from self-pity. It’s like a handy, yet unconscious, self-protection strategy that my warped psyche engages when I get too whiny.  I hope I never lose it. And I should stop taking it for granted.

 

Is there something in your life that you once took for granted for which you now ache? Has the healing power of humor ever come to you at just the right moment?

 


TAKING SHELTER FROM THE STORM

Photo Courtesy of Stock.xchng

Despite Ronnie’s right side hemiplegia, he is able to mow the yard using our riding mower. My regular readers know that Ronnie experienced some medical issues this summer with a couple of surgeries and infections. These medical problems curtailed Ronnie’s mowing for several weeks. I was surprised when he didn’t put up a fuss that first time I mowed in his place. He knew his body needed the rest.

Thankfully, Ronnie is well enough now to mow again. One day last week after work, I got Ronnie on the mower then went inside to finish painting our bathroom. I’m painting away, listening for the mower, and peeking out the window every 20 minutes or so to make sure he’s ok.

As the evening wore on, I got so involved in the painting I lost track of time, until thunder rattled the windows.  I looked out and at first thought I’d painted into the night. When I got outside I realized a horrible thunder storm was overhead. Lightening all around. Swirling black, angry clouds that looked ready to dump a hail storm at any second. And what was Ronnie Foster doing? Finishing the yard, no matter what. I rushed toward him. When he saw me coming and pointing toward the house, he kept on mowing. I had to run up to the mower and shout, “Get home,” like I was reprimanding a naughty puppy.

What was he thinking? He could’ve been struck by lightning, pounded by a hail storm, sucked into the vortex of those twisting and twirling clouds.

After he was inside and safe and after I had calmed down a bit, I reminded myself that mowing is a post-stroke passion for Ronnie. It gets him outside, allows him to operate a piece of machinery, provides the opportunity for productive work. Some think I shouldn’t let Ronnie mow, that it’s too dangerous. But this work must be preserved for as long as Ronnie is able, for it provides much purpose and satisfaction. Ronnie may not know when to come out of the storm, but he does know when his body can’t withstand the job.

We must walk a fine line in our role as caregivers as we attempt to balance safety with living life to the fullest extent possible. I believe it’s vital to support Ronnie in his desire for productive work, but sometimes I need to remind myself that Ronnie may not worry with the storm brewing overhead — That’s my job.