Five Minute Friday: REGRET

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: REGRET

There’s a saying (I’m paraphrasing) that “you regret all the shots you didn’t take” — something a sports star said.

There are some shots I don’t regret not taking. I don’t regret making some career choices that kept me closer to home and more available to my children.

I don’t regret letting my daughter dress herself in dots and stripes when she was little rather than being matchy-matchy. She found herself of self and style more easily that way, in my opinion.

It’s a little hard lately in this latest life iteration not to regret being away from writing, proofreading and editing so long. I always had my finger in the pie, but there was a lengthy detour through child health policy.

I have decided for the most part, though, that in addition to the principle that things truly happen for a reason, my career path may have put me a bit behind competitively for some of the types of things I want to do now, but gave me so much that makes me a well-rounded professional:

  • Having to work through the federal government process to get funding for a start-up program
  • Multiple procurement processes for health plans, dental plans, and third party administrators (the TPA procurements taught me so much about technology, at least at a rudimentary level)
  • Becoming a Certified Public Manager
  • Overseeing the dispute process at a program with several hundred thousand enrollees
  • Supervising people

*** end of five minutes***

There is more I got out of those years, more than five minutes can hold. There were difficult bosses (and good ones), boards of directors to satisfy, the perfect timing of having a communications person who knew Twitter well and taught me when Twitter was new.

I got victories and defeats. Did some things well and messed up a few too (especially when it came to being the leader my people needed). Saw every single county in Florida.

I got so many things to write about, and that’s something for which I have no regrets.Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: BEAUTY

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.”

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: BEAUTY

Many things about my mom’s life between December 11, when she was admitted to UF Health, through February 13, when she died at North Florida Regional Hospital, were not beautiful.

  • The indignities of being handled so much by so many people
  • Not being able to take care of bodily functions privately
  • Not being able to breathe
  • Not being able to drink water while on CPap and BiPap (and intubated)
  • The broken wrist she incurred a few days before she died
  • Breathing treatments, IVs, heparin shots, insulin shots, stool softeners, swallow tests, bronchoscopies

The two months unfolded strangely and unpredictably. During about a week and a half of her time in rehab at Lake Butler Hospital, she was doing so well. Walking. Breathing without the aid of oxygen.

Every time I would call, she was say the same thing: “How are ya?” The typewritten words on a screen don’t do justice to the joy she exuded knowing that she was talking to me. Being a mom, even though she was the sick one, I could tell she was happy I was okay (moms never stop worrying about that).

I don’t understand why the two months played out the way they did, but they gave me more time, beautiful time. Over this time she reminded me that she derived joy from being with her family.

I had been oblivious to how much she needed that for quite some time.

###

Coincidentally, since this week’s word is beauty, this is the verse I chose for my mom’s funeral program:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

I am grateful for her gentle and quiet spirit; she was an unfading beauty inside and out.  Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Mom’s Challenge

The first time I saw Michelle Kwan skate in person, it was her first year skating as a senior at the national level. This was at the US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, in 1994 (yes, there was a quite noteworthy event that occurred at that championship).

She was so young. I don’t mean chronologically only. I mean still a girl in many ways. Bowled over as the stuffed animals rained down onto the ice after her performance. Giddy with the thrill of it all.

(Figure skating side note: her sister, Karen Kwan, also competed at that championship. She skated elegantly.)

By the next year, at the championships in Providence, Rhode Island, Michelle Kwan was a different skater and person. She hadn’t yet turned into the force she would be eventually, a combination of athleticism and artistry that defied being beaten, but she had more notoriety, more fame, more expectations on her shoulders.

Mothers and Challenges

I can only imagine the challenges her mom (and dad) faced, starting with years of expensive skating lessons and all the accompaniments necessary to a competitive figure skating career.

Michelle Kwan discusses her mom’s sacrifices here, talking about how her mom sewed her costumes to save money and how both her immigrant parents worked multiple jobs. “I’d be yelling across the rink like ‘Mom, do you have gloves?’ or even a tissue and she was right there next to the ice,” Kwan said.

Moms often intuit our challenges before we realize the gravity of them (or, conversely, the fact that the challenges we think are going to break us end up not being as drastically life-altering as they feel at the time).

When Mom Faces a Challenge

My mom has faced her own challenge since she was hospitalized on December 11 when her heart rate/rhythm, breathing, and overall health were compromised by a viral infection.

Although her recovery seemed to be on a mostly upward-bound trajectory, everything changed when she had an allergic reaction to one of the anti-arrhythmics she had been administered.

“If it were my mom, I would come,” said an ICU nurse around 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. My daughter drove herself and me to the hospital.

After several extremely tenuous hours, my mom was intubated and the immediate breathing/survival crisis was over.

When I didn’t know what to do over the days that followed, with tense nights in the ICU, another intubation, and the juggling act of medical needs/family member relationship management (not saying I managed any of that — just that it’s a fraught time when you’re trying to exchange accurate information through sleep deprivation and layers of dynamics)/keeping up with obligations to my two freelance positions, I thought about my mom holding my newborn son through the night so I could sleep.

Just holding him. Nothing fancy. No machines, no technology, no words.

Has a Challenge Been Met?

Michelle Kwan knew she had met her challenges when she tied Maribel Vinson for the most US Championships (9), when she won five world championships and when she won Olympic medals in 1998 and 2002.

I pray my mom overcomes her physical issues, which provide related emotional hurdles (she had to be readmitted to a hospital after less than 48 hours had elapsed following her discharge because she fell and broke her wrist).

I pray I can figure out how to give her the sense of reassurance I had when she held my son throughout the night, using solely the power of presence rather than words to calm him.

Editor’s note: My mom passed away on February 13, 2018. Her obituary can be read here

Mothers and ChallengesI am linking this post to Mama’s Losin’ It, for the “write about the word ‘challenge'” prompt.

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Five Minute Friday: SURRENDER

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.”

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: SURRENDER

From the moment I saw that today’s word was “surrender,” I have had an earworm of I Surrender All. I couldn’t begin to count how often I have sung or played that song over the course of my life, especially during all the Southern Baptist years.

I don’t think God really wants me to surrender right now so much as He wants me to fight. It has taken so much longer than I would have thought to come out of the fog created by being a primary caregiver for three years. Dad died in July and I feel like I am just starting to be able to organize my days and my energy better. Never underestimate the drain on your life and spirit of almost constant stress.

(On the topic of almost constant stress, though, I want to acknowledge that my situation could have been so much worse. We were able to secure respite care so I could do things outside of the home and so he could have supervision the last month or two when it was impossible to do my at-home work uninterrupted because his needs had gotten so much more intense. Some people deal with this much longer than we did, with much less support. It’s not a competition, I know, but it’s important to acknowledge that I recognize their struggles.)

It is tempting to shy away from making hard decisions and taking bigger risks. Fifty-three isn’t that old but there comes a time when some choices are no longer options. However, I suppose the upside of the new gig-oriented economy and all the technological changes in industry means some jobs exist I couldn’t possibly have known about even ten years ago.

Therefore, I am not totally embracing the surrender idea tonight unless it’s to say “no surrender” to the hurdles I am putting in my own way of recovering professionally and (by virtue of that) getting out of debt.

(Full disclosure — this took a bit longer than five minutes. I wasn’t willing to surrender when the timer beeped.)

Also, I ran across this song by Clay Crosse when I was considering adding a video. It’s different from the traditional I Surrender All. I like the line “I surrender all my silent hopes and dreams.” In a way, that is a total contrast to what I wrote, but in a way it isn’t — silent hopes and dreams still have a prayer of succeeding if they are verbalized and written down — if we hold ourselves accountable.


Five Minute Friday

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday linkup.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Needing to be Elsewhere

Sometimes, we have an overwhelming desire to be somewhere else or our life circumstances make it impossible to stay where we are. This week, three organizations/people addressed that need in ways that deserved more than a quick social media share. Therefore, I have chosen to highlight them today.

A Randy Pausch Quote

Every issue of SmartBrief ends with a quote. The featured quote  in many of the January 19 issues came from Randy Pausch.

Being elsewhere

What this quote has to do with “being elsewhere”:

The first time my husband heard “The Last Lecture,” he said “you’ve got to listen to this.” That was a good call. I wouldn’t go on to decide to leave the job I had held for well over a decade for seven more years, but Randy Pausch planted the seed. I listened to the lecture online, bought DVDs of it to share with friends, purchased the book.

As a person who has hesitated far too often to ask “why?” “how?” and “why not?” for fear of being told “no,” “that’s stupid,” or “who exactly do you think you are?,” Randy Pausch’s lecture reminded me that being reluctant to ask the hard and adventurous questions only hurts me and leads to someone else getting to go on the thrilling adventure.

(I also realized while re-watching the video today that Randy is wearing a Disney nametag and (I think) an Imagineering shirt. Now that I have seen the Disney experience as the parent of a participant in the Disney College Program, I love that touch.)

Watch it here. It will be an hour well-spent.

(If you don’t have more than an hour to watch the video, there’s a great ten-minute version here, the last one Randy delivered before his death in 2008.)

Princess Pigtails’ Diary

My friend Shannon recently served as a foster parent for the first time. The Tampa Bay Times published Princess Pigtails’ diary: the first 97 days of a foster mom and the little girl in her care on January 19.

Being elsewhere

Photo Credit: Katie Reeves/KT Creative

What this story has to do with “being elsewhere”:

“Princess Pigtails (PP)” was three when placed into Shannon’s care as a foster child, and almost four when she was placed back with her biological grandmother. Because I have been so absent from working out at the fitness student Shannon owns, I never met PP, but I felt like I knew her through the stories Shannon shared on social media (many of which comprise the Tampa Bay piece).

For her own protection, PP needed to “be elsewhere,” at least temporarily. As you’ll see from the story, our state’s laws, system and philosophy about what is best for foster children are imperfect at best. The placement may have been temporary, but PP made a permanent difference on many hearts (and I believe the experience may lead to positive changes for other children in foster care). Thank you, Shannon, for taking the risk to love this child even though it split your heart open when she moved on, and thank you PP for being a gift to so many of us.

Editor’s Note: Click here for a Tallahassee Democrat account of Shannon’s time with Princess Pigtails and foster care in general. 

Steve Schale’s Ode to Shitholes

My friend Steve Schale published Ode to Shitholes on January 13. Following the President’s apparent reference to countries including Africa as being “shitholes,” this is the best rebuttal I have read. Being elsewhere

What this post has to do with “being elsewhere”:

The people who are “elsewhere” (elsewhere from the United States, or from elsewhere and living in the United States but on the verge of being forcibly returned to “elsewhere”) often deal with the life inequities that come with what Steve (and many others) refer to as “the birth draw.”

I am so grateful to have spent time in Guatemala and El Salvador (that’s Guatemala City in the image I shared). It wasn’t long enough (two weeks in total) and it didn’t go deep enough (although I am grateful to have gone, for sure!). Both times, because I was traveling with Unbound, we were treated as royalty (literally …… flower-petal paths, extravagant (for the area) meals, and deference). They were beautiful, educational trips, but we didn’t deserve the deference — if anyone did, it was the people who work so hard to support their families in the face of indescribable difficulties, violence and educational deficits.

What can you do this week to find your own “elsewhere” (if that’s what you need) or to help another person whose “elsewhere” has become untenable? 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Calming Down the Swarm

It’s time to stop.

Location-based social media

What am I stopping?

I am (mostly) ending my relationship with Swarm (formerly Foursquare).

I have been checking in on Foursquare for nine years. NINE YEARS. That comes up to:

Location-based social media

My decision to (mostly) quit was pretty anticlimactic. I got a new phone in mid-December, and had to re-enter passwords for all my apps. I was having trouble (probably user error) logging back into Swarm. One thing led to another and a month went by.

Here’s what I love(d) about Swarm:

I made friends. Improbable as it may sound, I connected with people on Swarm and deepened local connections with Tallahasseeans (and others) I see rarely but still am interested in keeping up with.

Being able to support businesses and causes I loved. I have been the person to put several businesses on the Swarm system as they opened. Checking in to favorite businesses made me feel like I was giving them a bit of social media juice.

Being mayor. I know — I know — it’s so silly. But being “mayor” of places is fun – it was really enjoyable back when it resulted in perks at the businesses of which we were mayor.

The Optimism Light. The Optimism Light is a gift I gave myself a few years ago. I love this little creation of mine that adds a tiny bit of positivity to almost every day (since I cross that intersection so frequently (at least I did while I was still working outside the home)). But it’s still there. I may check in from time to time.

Here’s what I love (less) about Swarm in 2017:

Time. It only takes seconds to “check in,” but honestly. every second counts.

Risk. Specific to the Optimism Light, even IF I am at a full stop, I don’t need to be fiddling with my phone. It sets a bad example. Sigh.

Data. I’ve always been a little skittish about the amount of data I’m sharing with …. who? Whoever is at the controls at Swarm. It’s not like my phone and the location tracker can’t tell pretty much anyone who wants to know where I am, but I am growing increasingly leery of telling the world, “HEY! I’m HOME! (or wherever).”

Facebook – Less yet More. Maybe I’m just doing something wrong, but now when I check in on Swarm and share on Facebook, the image on Facebook is generic. That’s no fun. (It’s a map, which I guess is good, but it used to be an image related to the topic.) On the flip side, choosing to be on Swarm less means I’ll be checking in more often on Facebook, and I am not thrilled about becoming more reliant on Facebook. Swarm seemed to be a bit segregated from Facebook (frankly, I kept thinking Swarm would be purchased by Facebook. Almost everything else has been!).

Endings

I guess this all falls in the category of one of those habits where you do it, repeatedly (19,036 times in my case), then stop and think one day and come to the realization that the habit is no longer serving you.

I’m surprised at myself giving it up this easily. Usually I would try to do something strategic like “get to 20,000 check-ins and then dedicate the 20,000th to some significant event (sort of like my 100,000th tweet)”, but it’s just not a big enough deal for me to engineer all that.

Still, I encourage you to embrace its premise:

Location-based social media

(I’m keeping the Optimism Light’s social media accounts open, so please don’t hesitate to visit on Twitter and Facebook.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Tracking Holiday Progress

“I want one of those watches.”

This is something my father-in-law, for whom we were caregivers for three years, said repeatedly in the fall of 2015, leading up to Christmas.

He had a tendency to watch two things – tennis or golf – on television constantly and a “fitness tracker” device was advertised often.

I don’t know what it was about that commercial or that product that captured his attention so much. Due to a series of “mini-strokes,” his memory was scrambled. He rarely remembered much of anything of consequence.

But there were the occasional exceptions (like the fitness tracker, or the one pair of pants that didn’t fit right), and when those exceptions occurred, everyone in the house knew his mind was set on the topic.

As Christmas 2015 approached, we thought we had the perfect gift for him: the fitness tracker!

Of course, we weren’t exactly sure what it was he would be tracking. He didn’t exercise. He wasn’t keeping track of how many steps he took every day. He didn’t care about graphing progress toward any goal.

But the fitness tracker would be a gift-giving hit!

Christmas morning dawned and we gathered around to open gifts.

Dad opened the fitness tracker. We expected joy, satisfaction, happiness.

We got ……. a mystified Dad wondering what the tracker was.

We explained it was the tracker he had been talking about wanting (for weeks, probably months!). He had no recollection. He also couldn’t really understand why it didn’t show anything on the display (that was our fault for not programming it/charging it up earlier).

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that he didn’t remember wanting the fitness tracker so badly. The incident mirrored so many other patterns in our life together. His retention was impaired. Although he perseverated on select items or experiences, that perseveration evaporated as rapidly as it entered our world.

My thoughts on holidays as caregivers:

Empathy is the best gift of all

One of my ongoing frustrations with Dad’s situation (not with him personally, but with the changes to his cognitive state as a result of his mini-strokes and (possibly) depression) was his utter lack of empathy. He had never been an overtly emotional or empathic individual anyway, but after his mini-strokes, my mother-in-law’s death, and a bout with head and neck cancer, he was even more depleted of the ability to feel someone else’s pain.

His lack of empathy, though, didn’t change the fact that he needed us to empathize with him. He needed us to understand (as long as it lasted) why a commercial promising fitness and fun, correlated with a cool fitness tracker, excited him. (He also needed us to understand his brain dysfunction enough to know he may not actually remember why the commercial lit a particular motivational fire within him.)

Realistic is best when it comes to holiday expectations

I can’t say we’ve ever been a family that has pulled out all the stops in the department of decorating, lavish gift-giving, or constant holiday socializing. However, when my mother-in-law was alive, we had a meticulously defined (and lovely) Christmas Eve tradition. She spent countless hours putting together stockings for every single family member, selecting just the right gift, and orchestrating a spread centered by the Advent candle and the crystal punch bowl.

During our three years as Dad’s caregivers, Christmas Eves were different. Barb (my mother-in-law) was gone, and Christmas Eve was a bit more fragmented. Our kids were growing older, with my daughter away at college, so gone was the frenzy of Christmas mornings with little kids. Still, our foursome was now a group of five, and Christmas morning took on a different tone.

Dad didn’t need the frenzy of a full house on Christmas Eve (he always faded as the day wore on – by 7 p.m. his pain and resilience were always fading).

Key to surviving the caregiving years, especially during the holidays, was being kind to ourselves regarding what we expected the celebrations to look like. Unpredictability is a hallmark of caregiving, especially when schedules are being interrupted by parties, extra errands, and visitors.

See measurement in different ways

If you have ever had a fitness tracker, you may have become obsessed with charting your progress. Did you take more steps than yesterday? Did you “win” a badge on the online app? Did you take enough steps to equate to climbing a skyscraper?

With caregiving, you have to learn to track progress differently. You may not be able to document steady, incremental progress.

With empathy and realistic expectations, however, you may be able to track the most long-lasting benefit of all: the knowledge that you took steps toward helping your loved one (and yourself) reach the goal of having a positive holiday experience.

Holiday Caregiving

pearlsband / Pixabay

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

I Should Have Known

NOTE: If you read this post prior to 10:50 pm on Sunday 12/3, I want to note that I have made significant changes. I may have come to an inaccurate conclusion that the author is also a life coach. I realize in doing so, I sort of shot much of the premise of this post (the parts about the author’s identity). Hence the multiple changes. ~ pk

Do a “Don’t Should on Yourself” search on the Internet and you’ll find plenty of anti-“should-ing” graphics.

Marital Infidelity

Source: qsprn.com on Pinterest

My academic background is in mental health. Therefore, I am an advocate of the fact that there are very few instances in which the word “should” is a fit for a constructive outlook, especially if we are using in retrospect to define how our lives could have gone differently.

After reading a recent Modern Love column in the New York Times, however, I can’t help thinking the author is going to say “I should have known” someday.

A Marriage Ends

The column I can’t get out of my head is An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce. Synopsis: The author fell in love with a married man; the man left his wife for the author; the ex-wife is a saint for “the grace and maturity she has displayed” as she welcomed the new love interest into their family’s life, paved the way for an amicable relationship with the young children, and took the high road.

The Gaping Flaws in This Situation

Here are the challenges I see. I can only call them as I see them.

Author: “He wasn’t a creep or even a cheater.” Time proved her wrong about the cheater part.

Writing “he wasn’t a cheater” after his infidelity led him to leave his wife is disingenuous at best.

In the article, the author discloses that she has Bipolar II disorder.

I just can’t help thinking the new guy’s move on this woman was more about him than her. She talks in the article about her proclivity for getting into unstable relationships. I can’t see how this is that much different. Maybe he wasn’t taking advantage of her exactly and maybe he didn’t have enough awareness about mental health to stop himself. I’m not sure, but my sense is that she is a victim here.

When the ex-wife-to-be (Beka) invited the author to dinner (a precursor to eventually meeting the kids), Beka handled it with aplomb, grace, and courtesy. The guy? “…he drank nonstop.”

So many red flags about this. So many.

The author spends a paragraph discussing how hard the three of them have worked to make this situation palatable for the children (the girls were seven and three at the time of the breakup). She says, “they have never reproached their father or me for the immeasurable disruption we have caused to their lives.”

They aren’t teenagers yet. That’s all I have to say. 

The Beautiful Aspects of this Situation

I do love the fact that all of the adults display so much love and unconditional positive regard for the children. It appears they also all conduct themselves civilly in front of the children, which is also an important building block.

I know so many people who put the children first in the way they relate to their former partners/the parents of their children. What a gift that is to model those priorities.

This is Not a Guide to Divorce

The title of this piece (An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce) is (to me) a misnomer. Who is the optimist?

I suppose the author pictures herself as the optimist. She discusses how meeting the two daughters made her glad she had never had children herself, writing her initial relationship steps with the girls were, “as if I had been saving my maternal love for [names].”

What? I will be the first to admit I have felt maternal love (in spades) for children who weren’t my own. I can see feeling maternal love for the children of someone I fell in love with who weren’t my own biological children.

I suppose the thing is if I felt the author had the capacity for maternal love she would have curtailed this whole thing earlier, realizing the disruption it would cause.

If I Had a Crystal Ball

Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have enough life experience to say that there is a possibility getting involved with someone who left his wife for her *might* end up with the author herself acknowledging….

“I should have known.”

Marital Infidelity

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat prompt: “Write a poem, post or story where the last words are ‘I should have known.’”

(Also, I really want to hear the ex-wife’s version of all this.)

Editor’s Note: Right after I pressed “publish,” I found this piece that summarizes comments to the original piece, shares the editor’s insights, and includes a quote from Beka. I still stand behind everything I wrote above, but I think this is an important piece of the entire puzzle.

Beka (according to the follow-up NY Times piece): “I wanted to do what was best for my girls. And, honestly, I didn’t want to be one of those women who was defined by her divorce — and end up bitter in the end. Josh and I have managed to maintain our friendship through it all, and Elizabeth and I developed one as well. Now, my sweet girls have even more people to love them, and they adore Elizabeth. Most of my family and friends have had a hard time accepting it, but I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made.”

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Grateful Challenge 2017

Grateful Challenge

There are 37 days left in 2017 (how is that?) and it’s time for the annual grateful challenge. (Gini Dietrich says so here.)

I did the Grateful Challenge the standard way (list everything you’re grateful for in 10 minutes, with a goal of getting to 99) twice. I reached 33 in 2014, and 99 in 2015 (yay!) then changed things up a bit in 2016.

I’m going to change things up a bit this year too. I like the 10-minute limit. I have been toying with the idea of writing a book about caregiving. I blew off NaNoWriMo though, and am at a bit of a loss regarding what to write (and frankly struggling with the courage to write anything).

Therefore, a (roughly) ten-minute list of what I am grateful for regarding the lessons learned from caregiving:

To set the scene, I am listening to the soundtrack from Sleepless in Seattle while writing this. It’s one of the things Dad wanted played at his visitation/funeral, according to his Five Wishes document. This always struck me as odd, but he did love movies and classic music, so it makes sense in retrospect. (We also only managed one of his wish list items (Claire de Lune (sp?)) at his funeral, so I guess I am making up for an item that didn’t get checked off his list.

That’s the thing about caregiving. The person at the center of it all is the subject of everyone else’s checklists and (at least in Dad’s case) has very little control over what happens to them.

To start the gratitude list then, I have to acknowledge the fact that it is an honor to be entrusted with a loved one’s wellbeing (and I’m not saying “honor” in the cliché way —- it’s as vital a responsibility as parenthood, being a spouse, or giving your all as an employee).

I, to be honest, am grateful for the opportunity to be at home for three years. I was mentally exhausted from my efforts to make peace with the degree to which I had become unmotivated at work and physically exhausted from my crazy sleep patterns as I tried to squeeze in freelance work. I may have said to many people “I have to be a caregiver,” and I did (barring some financial solution that would have enabled him to go to a facility coupled with our willingness to let him go to one), but I healed over the three difficult years in some ways. If nothing else, three years free of Monday Dread were worth all the hard work of caregiving.

I am grateful to know myself better (not that it’s all good). I have the academic training to be empathetic, organized, and deliberate in my approach to caring for someone (due to my degree in Child Development and Family Relations (okay, ONE class in elder issues but still …..) and my master’s in Counseling and Human Systems). About 95% of that went out the window, though, when it came to dealing with Dad (just like 95% of my child development knowledge went out the window dealing with my own kids).

It was really toward the end that I got better at setting limits and boundaries and not reacting to being baited (and I know he wasn’t baiting me on purpose — it was a dementia thing). I am also a pleaser by nature and it was so very frustrating that “pleasing” is really a bad approach to someone who is combative and irrational.

I am grateful to have learned that there are often more solutions than you think there are. I am grateful to have become more decisive. We went round and round hemming and hawing about whether to move Dad to Depends ….. until the night he stood in our hallway peeing on the carpet (again, not intentionally but it was what it was). I immediately made the decision we had been putting off.

Ditto the decision to switch him to non alcoholic beer. I guess maybe that wasn’t my decision but the whole situation pointed out how we had options we could have pursued earlier. It wasn’t until he had his emergency dental procedure and couldn’t have beer for 48 hours that we said “we’re going with non alcoholic beer for good now.” The funny thing is I had been knocking myself out to sneak N/A beer into his “real” beer when he wasn’t looking. I would wait until he went to the bathroom then do this weird sprint/scurry thing where I ran to the fridge, poured out part of the real beer, and replaced it with N/A. I was grateful to end my N/A scurry cycle, let’s put it that way.

I am grateful for the realization that humor and the end of life stage are not mutually exclusive, that sarcasm (private, venting to people who get it sarcasm) is not a sign that the patient is not loved (quite the opposite).

I am grateful that I was forced to be assertive over so many things — medical practitioners who didn’t take care of his needs (not that there weren’t some who were AMAZING) and home care people who lied to me (again, some were INCREDIBLE).

Most of all, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to *try* to live up to the care my awesome mother-in-law would have expected me to give (the woman had high high standards!). I am grateful to have seen this stage of someone’s life. I think it will help me be more empathetic to others in the same situation in the future (and maybe do some advocacy).

Grateful Challenge

On the left, the official funeral mass. On the right, his friend Dan sharing memories at Corner Pocket. Another day ending at his favorite place. 🙂

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.