NORMAL DEFINED

If you are reading this and you are a caregiver, I think my definition of normal might speak to you.

Normal is care-giving days filled with joy and fulfillment as I:

  • think about how much the people I care for mean to me
  • marvel at their accomplishments despite the bodily deterioration that comes with age and disability
  • take on every care-giving task with passion and zeal.

Equally normal are those days when:

  • it feels my life is on hold while I see to the needs of those around me
  • my energy is zapped along with my hopes, dreams, and goals
  • I feel guilty for taking a day for myself when my people have far too much time by themselves as it is.

This is my normal. Sometimes it’s pretty — sometimes not so much. To deny the “not so much” and declare only the “pretty” would be a lie.

But let’s make one thing perfectly clear: having these people in my life to care-give for is always a blessing.

Good days and bad, a plethora of emotions and feelings: that’s my normal. That’s my truth.


HARD TIMES CAN MAKE US BETTER

Have you ever heard of someone winning the lottery and becoming an instant millionaire only to be flat broke a year later.  Easy come easy go as they say. But what if a millionaire had worked hard, earned every penny the hard way, then experienced a devastating road block along the way like a major health crisis. Do you think the millionaire in scenario two might be a wiser consumer of her hard earned millions? I would assume so. When I become a millionaire, I’ll let you know for sure:-)

When life comes too easy (when we don’t have to work for it,) we sometimes lack the wisdom to make wise choices.

I will never forget the woman I meet in Jan. of 1998. Her husband was recovering from a stroke in the same facility as my husband. See my blog post THE GOOD THAT COMES WITH LIFE’S ROUGH PATCHES for more about her story. In short, it took a major roadblock to turn her husband around, to make him the loving partner he should have been all along. She told me his stroke was the best thing that had ever happened to their relationship. The stroke had made him a better person. How sad is that?

Has my husband’s stroke made me a better person? It has made me stronger, that’s for dang sure. I was a brand new teacher when Ronnie had his stroke. Had taught for four short months and was having a very rough start to my teaching career. Would I still be in education if not for Ronnie’s stroke? Without Ronnie’s income, there was no other choice–I had to teach. Not only that, I had a son to raise, a husband who needed me to continue the speech, occupational and physical therapy that was no longer covered by our insurance. Man, was I ever torn, dedicating so much time to my job when my life’s most important roles were based at home.

This care-giving journey has also made me a better listener, for I know that kick in the gut feeling from being asked, “How’s Ronnie doing?” only to have that person’s eyes wander when I give too much information. I think what they really want to hear is that Ronnie’s doing fine, but sometimes I have more on my heart to tell. This experience has taught me that if I take the time to ask, I MUST take the time to listen, to maintain eye contact, to hear and respond to whatever is pouring from someone’s heart.

How have hard times made you a wiser and better person?


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.


LASTING WORK

At the time of Ronnie’s stoke, he operated his own fencing business. Last Saturday as we rode along highway 96, Ronnie pointed out several PVC fences that Foster Fence Company had installed back in the day. Ronnie loves seeing how his prior work continues to service former customers 15 to 20 years post instillation. And I must say, while some could stand a little pressure washing, those PVC fences still look great.

We stopped to take a picture of one then rode down the road a bit further. Ronnie pointed out another fence his company had installed. It was a rusty, mangled chain link fence that looked like someone had beat it with a sledge hammer. I said, “Don’t think I would claim that one, honey.” We both laughed and continued our ride. Ronnie pointed out more of his fences; lasting, meaning work that he still takes great pride in today.

What work are you engaging in that will that stand the test of time?


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).


WRITING: GOOD THERAPY FOR THIS CAREGIVER

Processing my caregiving journey through this blog has served as a reflective and curative process. But this blog is not my only source of therapeutic writing. I’ve written short stories, poetry, an entire novel, and children’s picture books. However, most of these works remain undocumented. That’s about to change.

Check out my Indiegogo project for my soon to be published children’s picture book, The Readyville Mill. Indiegogo is a crowd funding site where artist can create and post projects in hopes that family, friends and followers will help fund their work.

I’ve tinkered with The Readyville Mill off and on for a few years now, with much help from writing friends along the way. As I reflect on those precious times, those sessions around the table critiquing each other’s work, I wonder if they realize how our time together not only supported me as a writer but sent me home to Ronnie refreshed and recharged. That’s what good friends and good hobbies do.

Who do you spend time with or what do you do to refresh and recharge?


Veterans Day

Where the love of music and the love of country converge to stir a neighborhood from its morning slumber.

A clip from the this morning’s Sunday Morning Show to remind us of those who have served, those currently serving, and those who missed their chance to serve for our freedom.

 


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?