I Interrupt This Blog…

I have to share something that I’ve found to be a big help to me during these times. It’s a TV show.

Most of us have seen movies and other media about the life of Jesus, and have found them boring and just plain flat. They tell the story just as the scriptures have it and that is good, but it tends to be a flat recitation of scripture. This show, The Chosen, has taken the story of Jesus at the start of His ministry and made it come to life. The apostles are real people, with real problems. Jesus is portrayed as a kind, loving but still strong personality that calls his disciples from their regular walks of life.

This show is one of the first to be “crowd funded” meaning that it is free and if you would like to give toward helping others to see it you can pay it forward. All funding goes toward the production of future seasons and making this a free app so that others can “Come and See”. And yes, there is a “Chosen Gift Store” for devotionals, bible studies and stuff to wear. Any merchandise purchased also goes to production and “paying it forward”.

I have found the stories to be engaging and uplifting. There are dramatic moments along with lighter spirited moments. It carries you along on this wonderful story and you want to see more. The acting is excellent, the staging is wonderful, showing first century life in all the hard ways that it was.

I encourage you to “Come and See” this story. You can download the app on your phone (look for “The Chosen”) or you can watch on your computer at https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen. If you have a streaming service you can stream the show from your phone. You can also view the backstories of the creation of the show and the round-tables with leading christian leaders discussing the parts of the show and how they are presented on YouTube. There is even a FaceBook page so you can follow any updates.

Acceptance

Now that I’ve written about Serenity, I guess I have to tackle the next line in this prayer. I’ve been putting this off a bit because acceptance is really, really hard. We don’t want to accept things, the way life is. We want the power to change things to the way WE want them. Acceptance means giving up control.

This is really hard to write about. I’ve had my struggles with acceptance for years. I want to control what happens. I want the outcome of any situation to be the outcome I envisioned. Of course this is totally self-centered. It’s so hard to think that you do not have control.

But this acceptance is about the “Things I Cannot Change”. There is a lot of stuff you can’t change. If you just look around you, especially at the people around you, you cannot change them. If you look at your situation, the trials and the problems, you may find a way to change that, but in most situations you can’t.

I fought against this for years. I didn’t want to be stuck taking care of my husband. I wanted him healthy but I knew that wasn’t going to miraculously happen. Now that sounds horrible, but it was the truth. Life was so hard. I had acquaintances say to me that they “Didn’t want to be me” or “Better you than me”.

Now that hurt sometimes, but I finally found an acceptance in saying “It is what it is…” When I went to my counselor I explored this. We went over my situation and there was truly nothing I could do to change it. Oh, I could leave my husband and try to make a “new” life, but I personally couldn’t do that. I couldn’t leave him to struggle on his own, so that left me right where I was.

The bottom line of this is that it takes a while to “Accept the Things you Cannot Change”. I still struggle with this now, but in a different way. Life is always going to hand us situations that we can do nothing about. Now, I have learned to bow my head in prayer and try to put these situations in His Hands.

Serenity

My father was a recovering alcoholic and he spent a good portion of his time later in life attending AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. He never cared about his “anonymous” status and would tell anyone that he was a drunk, just one drink from a bender.

From his recovery in AA, I came to know the Serenity Prayer. Every meeting is started with this prayer (at least they used to!) and it is (or was) a staple of life recovering from alcoholism.

One day, I took a really good look at this prayer. Oh, I knew it, could recite the first four lines by heart. That is all of the prayer that AA used, but they are powerful. This prayer kept me sane while I was taking care of Joe and I came to depend on it.

God, Grant Me The Serenity… who doesn’t want serenity? Have you ever had the kind of peace and serenity that only God can give? I have, several times, and each time I know it’s not me that caused the total and utter peace within.

Early in Joe’s medical history, he had a pretty serious surgery. He would end up having three extremely major surgeries, all of them lasting 10 hours or more. This was the first of those surgeries. He was to have a craniotomy and a biopsy done on a small tumor that showed up in a really bad place. It was in the place in your brain where all of your nerves gather to form the spinal column. Tricky surgery. Then, once the neurosurgeon was finished he was going to be passed on to the plastic surgeon to try to fix some of the scalp and skull that was rotting before our eyes. Yup, Joe was going to get a “twofer”.

Of course we had to get to the hospital before sunrise. I kissed Joe and off he went. I was very nervous about this surgery. Little did I know at the time that I would become a champ at sitting in waiting rooms. I was feeling really nerved up, so I went outside to walk around the hospital campus. While I was outside I was just praying for Joe and the doctors and nurses taking care of him. Suddenly, in my “minds eye” so to speak, I saw an operating room with someone on the operating table and doctors and nurses all around. I couldn’t see faces, but I knew it was Joe on that table. At each corner of the room was an angel. Then I realized that angels were watching over the operation…. I was floored and a peace came over me. My anxiety just kind of floated away.

I know the kind of Serenity that this prayer is mentioning. There are many times in my life I have called on God and requested this Serenity and usually He will bless me with peace.

More on the Serenity Prayer next time….

Grief

We all have times of grieving, whether it’s a loss of a job, a pet or a person close to us. Caregivers have a lot of things to grieve about. When that diagnosis happens, it’s the grief for our loved one, the loss of a way of life we may have gotten used to. Our loved one may not be dead yet, but we are already on our way down the road of grief. We may have to help our loved one grieve as well, since they will know that this diagnosis may end their life. We have to grieve and still come out fighting.

I’ve had a lot of grief in my life. My parents had heart attacks and strokes before I was out of high school. By the time I was 35, both had left this world. My only brother died when I was 50. I am one of those persons who you read about in obituaries; “she was the last of her immediate family.” Sometimes just reading those words cause me incredible sadness.

When Joe was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we had been married for 21 years. For the next 16 years I was his advocate and caregiver. By the time he died, I was incredibly tired. I had grieved so much during those 16 years, loss of the husband I once knew and loss of the hopes and dreams I had for our family, that when death finally came, I had no tears. I have to admit that during those 16 years, some of those tears was for me, feeling sorry for myself due to the extreme work of taking care of Joe and working full time to support the family. This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to turn out. Yes, I had to grieve that as well.

We all have to grieve and part of that grieving is crying. We’re all told to be strong, keep the chin up, power through. No, sometimes we have to fall apart and just cry. It’s OK to cry. It’s a release of the bottled up feelings we have. This song has been playing on the radio lately and I think it’s a wonderful message. We need to cry, to process what is happening so we can go forward with our lives. I feel like crying when I hear this song, it touches my heart because it’s so close to home for me. I hope it blesses you as well.

“When We Fall Apart” by Ryan Stevenson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUPgzd3nwMo

Breaking up with Fear

I’m sorry I haven’t posted lately. I’ve been taking care of me, navigating the medical community while everyone is still under the Covid-19 restrictions. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like if Joe was still living and we had to navigate all of his medical appointments and visiting nurses and all that with the restrictions we have today. My hat is off you those of you who are trying your hardest to take care of your person and still keep your cool. I know I’ve been tempted to just chuck it all and hang it up and that is just from me trying to navigate alone.

I still see a lot of fear out there, but the “atmosphere” is much better than it used to be. Francesca Battistelli put out this song in 2018, but it’s gotten a lot of play lately. It’s such a cute song with a powerful message. You can listen to it below, The Breakup Song:

I’m Still Stuck?

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like I’m stuck in this Covid mess that we are in. I’m tired of wearing masks every time I walk into a building for work or the store. It’s really wearing on me. Going to the doctor isn’t simple anymore. Before walking in the doctor’s office or just after I get there I have to do a questionnaire. Before I go to work every morning I have to fill out a questionnaire that tells me I’m likely to be able to work. {{{SIGH}}} Yes, I’m feeling stuck. I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. I haven’t gotten Covid, although I know a lot of people who have. I still have my job, I didn’t have a loss of income. I know a lot of people who have really been negatively impacted by this. I’ve been blessed considering everything.

In my last post I mentioned (but didn’t get into) the way you feel when you’re stuck. You feel weary, frustrated, tired and angry. Well, weary of what is happening, especially if it’s the same old, same old everyday. Frustrated because it seems like you are not making any progress on anything. You feel tired because, usually, you are also depressed, which makes you tired and the more you think about being depressed the “tireder” you get. And finally, you get angry. At yourself, your situation, at people who just happen to cross your path the “wrong” way. We aren’t good for anyone or anything while we feel this way, and we need to stop the cycle.

Believe me, I still get these feelings, especially now in the Covid situation. Thing are not “normal” (what ever that means). I’ve found out that “normal” is a setting on the clothes dryer and nothing else. I’ve even come to hate the term “new normal”. What happened to the old normal? Was there even a thing that was normal? Not in my life….

I digress… The only thing that can calm me and help my mood is knowing that God is in Control. That’s Control with a capital C. Yes, He knows about everything that is going on and He has a plan. I don’t know what the plan is; He is God and I am not. So, my job at this time is to trust Him (and sigh if I must, He understands) and keep moving. I may not be moving very fast and I may not be going to a lot of places, but I’m moving. I’m working on improving me physically by trying to walk more and drink more water and eat better. I’m also trying to read my Bible regularly, reading Bible commentaries and trying to get into a habit of scheduled prayer time. I’m working to expand my mind and my heart as well as my physical self. This is something we all have to do to keep our spirits up. The “feeling stuck” mood has to go if we are to be any use to anyone.

I’m Stuck…

“…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

When Joe was first diagnosed with the brain tumor, I was panicked. Here was my husband of 21 years being told he probably would die in about two years. I totally when into a spin. Our life was just starting to get into a settled routine, one child still in High School and one just graduated, I had a good job and Joe was starting back to college to work on a degree. We had clawed our way up to this point and I thought we were almost “there”. Then this happened.

Joe didn’t die in two years. We spent the next 16 years going through medical treatments for his poor scalp and skull that had been radiated to death. No tumors, so that was good, but he was constantly under medical care for one thing or another.

My emotional state would swing back and forth, from being panicked to feeling stuck. Feeling stuck as in, I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life feeling stuck. I know I didn’t sign up for this earlier in my life. I was hoping for Joe and I to work our way into a nice retirement where we could do what we wanted and play with the grandchildren. It certainly didn’t work out the way I envisioned it. So I was stuck.

This verse from Philippians hit me one day and then I couldn’t get it out of my head. “I have learned the secret of being content… I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”. Being Content. You can’t be content if you’re feeling stuck. You feel weary, frustrated, tired and angry.

Since the verse wouldn’t get out of my head, I thought and prayed about it. Verse 13 is the kicker. “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”. Once I had thought through this verse well and prayed I started to try harder to rely on Jesus to get me through instead of myself. My feelings of being stuck got less. It was a long process. I’m stubborn and don’t like to give up, but in this case, I had to for my mental and spiritual heath.

So, if you are feeling stuck and the walls are feeling like they are closing in on you, look to the One who can give you strength. Then you can feel more content in your circumstances.

This is Me…

I had introduced Joe, but I think it’s time to introduce me.

I’m old now, a real card carrying member of the senior set. This seems strange to me… what happened to my life while I was living it? I’ve certainly been busy, too busy to notice what was going on with me. I’ve really been through a lot during my life and I hope some of that will come through these pages to help others.

I’m a daughter of an alcoholic. That alone sets your life up for struggles in the future. I was born late in my parents life, so by the time I graduated from High School my dad already had two heart attacks. Shortly after I graduated my mom started having strokes and seizures. Helping to take care of them set me up for the caregiving role. Yup, I started early. After dad had his first heart attack my brother had a bad car accident and his whole family (wife and two small children) came to live with us. My mom and sister-in-law got jobs in the evening at the same hospital, same shift, different jobs. So after school I had to come home, help my dad and brother and look after my small niece and nephew. Dinner (for all), baths and bed for the kiddies. Fetching and carrying for the men. After a year or two everyone got better, my brother and family moved out.

Once I was married I was still caregiving. Our first son was born a year and a half after we married and I took to being a mother and a wife naturally. I was already a proven caregiver!

My moms health slowly deteriorated over the years and my dad would call me to help with her, for baths and such. By this time I was working a full time job with two elementary age children. When mom went into the hospital (which was a lot) she would get agitated when she was having seizures so the hospital would call and I would go and sit with mom and calm her down. She died a few years after that and dad died three years later. I was in my early thirties.

Life kept rolling along until 1999 when Joe was diagnosed with his brain tumor. I’ve already told you what that was like (Introducing Joe), but the 16 years really took a toll on my life. Recovery has been hard.

Don’t think that stress and worry won’t tell on you later in life, cause it will. I tried to take care of myself spiritually and mentally while taking care of Joe, but let the physical go. To tell the truth, I was too tired to even think about doing more than brushing my teeth and falling into bed. Trying to get the minimum amount of rest and keeping my sanity and serenity took all I had. This last 5 (almost 6) years, I’ve spent trying to get my physical self better. It’s been hard and I have a long way to go.

If you are in the middle of your caregiving, try to take care of yourself. I can see now that I was too busy taking care of others to even think about me. It seemed selfish if I thought about it at the time, but I can see now, with 20/20 hindsight, that I should have been a bit more selfish. I don’t regret a thing that I’ve done except not doing more for me. That’s a regret that will stay with me for a while.

Find Some Help

When Joe’s condition worsened and he really needed someone to stay with him during the day I was starting to panic. I couldn’t stop working because at that time I was supporting not only Joe and myself, but also my son and his family. They helped with Joe and kept an eye on him, however, they had two young children that were autistic. This mix worked for the most part. My son and Joe didn’t always get along and the grandchildren were, well, children. They were noisy and messy. This caused some friction, but we got through it. My son and his wife were not really up to giving Joe a shower, for example.

After one of Joe’s hospitalizations the social worker at the hospital made an appointment to come over with a Department of Aging person. Now, Joe died at 58 so he wasn’t elderly, but, the Department of Aging also works with the disabled population. We live in Pennsylvania and I found out that PA loves her elderly and disabled. Through this talk I found out that we were eligible for home care aides and even a chair lift for the steps. Since they went by Joe’s income and not mine, we qualified. We received a chair lift (custom made for our steps) and daily aides that came in to take care of Joe’s daily needs. Joe wasn’t always happy with the aides (see previous post) but I was so relieved that I could count on someone to always be with him.

The help that these agencies can give you is different in each state. As I said, PA loves it’s aging and disabled but not all states do. One good place to start would be at your person’s doctor. See if they can refer you to a Department of Aging or other resource in your area. Just getting on the computer and doing a little research can help. In just a few moments I found Caregiver Resources & Long-Term Care on the Department of Health and Human Services page. Networking isn’t as strange as it sounds. You know, that friend of a friend that knows someone that received help from an agency. Keep your ears open and ask your friends and acquaintances if they know of an agency. If you are a member of a church, let them know of your need and someone there may know of a resource.

If you are in need of help, let someone know; a doctor, counselor, a good friend. Don’t keep struggling on your own. There are places you can go for help.