All Is Well

Mark had a hip replacement surgery yesterday. This decision of whether to have the surgery or not has been weighing heavily on our minds since January. Over the past several months he has had many test to help us decide if he was a good candidate for the surgery. The surgeon was not sure and was worried that he might break a bone in the surgery due to his osteoporosis. After Mark’s bone scan he asked the doctor if he was “dense enough.” We had a good laugh at Mark’s humor and then he told us he was a high risk for a break. We decided to take the risk and it has felt like a huge elephant ride waiting for the surgery date. On day it’s on and the next day we’re swayed to the other side and maybe it’s off.  We were happy to finally slide down the elephants trunk and get off of that ride.

All went well and the surgeon is so pleased and is as relieved as we are. Now we face three days in the hospital and at least three weeks in rehab where the hard and painful work will begin. Unfortunately, Mark will have to do this again in October for the left hip to get full benefit. Mark jokes that he’s a basket case—because he has a basket full of complicated health issues. I love this man and his humor. He has the ability to make me laugh even, or most importantly, under stressful times. I feel so fortunate to have him in my life!

Just what I needed to remember today.
All is Well1

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Forging New Frontiers

We can learn from pioneers’ examples as they made their way into unknown territory. In July, Utah honors pioneers not only for their difficult trek here, but for their hard work and devotion to establish a new way of life, which opened up many possibilities for all who live here. We appreciate what they built, shaped and created in this beautiful state.

As we are innovators and developers of our own lives, we are like the pioneers of the past. Circumstances often force us to break new ground, hopefully leading the way to a better life. Sometimes we’re unprepared to meet our challenges, but as we initiate faith and courage we discover new frontiers. In this sense, we are modern-day pioneers forming and constructing, with anticipation, something good from a hard or bad situation.

When I reflect on how the pioneers made their trek west, I see wisdom and foresight in their method. I’ve listed five of their practices that could benefit our own journey.

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

Pioneer Trek Reinactment

1) Gather in groups. The pioneers organized themselves in companies and leaders were assigned to each group. They rallied around each other, helping one another. They needed and depended on each other for survival. They mourned and rejoiced together. It’s hard to imagine a pioneer making the trek on their own. Likewise, I can’t imagine making my journey without the advice, love and support of others. Just as the pioneers circled their wagons for protection at night, we should encircle ourselves by embracing those around us who are willing and wanting to help.

2) Consider advice from a scout or forerunner. Usually, a couple of men rode on horses ahead of the group to explore the best possible route and to help prepare for obstacles that might be in their way. I think of doctors, nurses, therapists and other caregivers who have knowledge or experiences similar to mine as mentors, guides and/or pathfinders. Their advice is valuable when navigating on foreign ground.

3) Allow for respite time. The pioneers walked or rode many miles every day except on Sunday for months. Logically, if they would have traveled on Sunday they may have reached their destination sooner, but they revered the Sabbath Day. I see the wisdom in taking time to rest from our everyday routine, yet it can be hard sometimes to stop and take a break because our eyes are set on the goal and we don’t feel like we have the time to stop. Whether we realize it’s needed or not, we feel refreshed and renewed after respite.

4) Develop courage, faith and hope. I think pioneers had to have these three traits, but did they always have them? Reason tells me no. They were regular human beings, just like you and I, with hardships. I feel fortunate that my difficulties are not like theirs and I appreciate their example of perseverance. I’m encouraged by their dedication as they worked daily developing courage, faith and hope. Hopefully some days were easier than others, when these traits came more naturally.Their endurance developed them into the strong pioneers they were. Likewise we become stronger as we develop courage, faith and hope on the days when it doesn’t come naturally.

5) Your best is good enough. The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. They must have felt despair and frustration from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Giving their best was good enough, so it must be the same for us. It may take longer and be harder than we expected, but if we are persistent in doing and/or giving our best, it will be good enough.

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

Pioneer Trek Reenactment

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, we don’t know how or when ours will either, but if we follow their example, we can also forge new frontiers.

What have you learned from the pioneers’ examples?

Modern-Day Pioneers

July is fantastic in Utah, full of outdoor activities and celebrations that last all month-long. It’s my favorite time of year and I always look forward to all the festivities. The sun rises early, which makes it easier for me to do also. The weather is usually sunny and the daylight lasts until 9 pm, making this month the one I can accomplish the most outside. After a wonderful Independence Day celebration of carnivals rides, energetic music, food trailers and beautiful fireworks, our state gets ready for Pioneer Day.

There are parades, rodeos, pioneer reenactments, outdoor concerts and/or movies at the city parks and contests of all kinds put together by many cities and communities throughout the state all month-long. All these festivities are gearing up for an even bigger state celebration. The best contestants of the cities qualify for the state and we all come together every year on July 24th for a massive parade containing school marching bands, police academy on motorcycles and marching military soldiers often with their tanks. Community groups, businesses and churches design and build colorful floats for the parade. Gorgeous horses prance down the street, while others are pulling restored wagons. City officials and beauty queens are on floats or riding in convertibles. There are always funny clowns to please the thousands of people who line the two-mile parade route. Many families camp on the street the night before to ensure the perfect spot for viewing the parade. It’s a big deal here in Utah and fills the month with entertainment. Why do we do this?

Image credit: maidensmission.zionvision.com

In 1847, Brigham Young and a group of Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th. When Brigham first saw the valley, he declared, “This is the right place.” After pulling handcarts or driving wagons with oxen or horses across the plains more than a thousand miles, the pioneers were happy to settle the desert landscape now known as Utah. We celebrate in honor of their hard work and the sacrifices made to till, cultivate and make this new frontier into the beautiful state that it is. Their trek exemplifies courage, faith and foresight and their stories inspire me as they are retold.

They endured harsh weather, death of loved ones and starvation as their food and water supply diminished.  Nothing had prepared the majority of these travelers for the exhaustion and illnesses they would suffer. They were beginners, in a new territory, learning a new way of life.

I see similarities between my caregiving trek and my pioneer ancestors who walked approximately 1,248 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. Although we have the comfort of a home with plenty of food and water, nothing had prepared me for the anxiety and exhaustion of caring for another or the many illnesses that would arise. I’m a beginner, in a new territory, learning a new way of life that most people do not understand. I am a modern-day pioneer and so are you.

Gratefully, I haven’t seen wolf-pawed graves of the dead or the putrefying carcasses of mules and oxen on my journey. However, worry and heartache has come from the pain and suffering I’ve seen in hospitals and rehab centers. Only faith for improvement keeps one enduring through such difficult times.

Splintered wrecks of discarded carts or wagons have thankfully been absent on my journey, but I have worried about individuals whose family and friends have abandoned them in their illness. It saddens me and makes me wonder what happened to drive their loved ones away. Was it the ailment itself or the attitude of the afflicted person—either way, it’s troublesome.

The pioneers traveled in groups or companies. They rallied around each other, helping one another in their journey. They needed and depended on each other for survival. There are many stories written of selfless, helpful acts that saved another’s life. They mourned and rejoiced together. Likewise, I appreciate the help and support I get in my journey from friends, family, church and support groups. In return, I strive to give back the same to those around me.

The handcart plan was for seventeen miles a day for sixty days, but none of the ten companies could reach that goal. Despair and frustration must have come from the slow journey of seven to fifteen miles on a good day, making the trip tedious and wearisome. Today we can make the drive from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City comfortably in an air-conditioned or heated car in nineteen and a half hours. However, we know the disappointment which comes from unachieved goals and have felt the discouragement from slow progress, along with the worry that comes from an uncertain destination.

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, we don’t know how or when ours will end either, but like our ancestors, we can carry on with faith in every footstep and hope in a brighter future.

We modern-day pioneers celebrate small victories just as the cities in Utah party a few weeks before the state’s grand celebration. Some of us modern-day pioneers are still waiting for the grand celebration with trust that it will come. If not in this life, a belief that we and our loved ones will be blessed beyond the grave, free from the harsh physical ailments. With confidence, I believe this celebration will be far grander than I’ve ever witnessed and possibly can even imagine.

Expressions of Love

love LanI’ve enjoyed leaning about the language of love and appreciate Katie sharing her tips on it. It’s given me a lot to think about:

How do you like to express your love?

What language of love means the most to you?

My order is usually: Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts.

However, as I think of important people in my life and their love language, my order sometimes changes. I also wonder if Acts of Service would be most important to me if my situation was different.  There’s much to think about when learning the languages of love. I find it thought-provoking and interesting. I need to read the book.

What are your thoughts? Have you read the book, The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman?

Love Language

This may be a great family and/or partner discussion.

Learning the Languages of Love

Written by, Katie Wilson Ferguson

Love Language1The most life-changing book I’ve read is “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In less than 200 pages, Chapman taught me how to better understand every relationship I’ve had. While the original book is targeted to married couples, the information has also helped me in my relationships with family, friends, clients and business associates.

In short, we usually show kindness in our own love language. Those expressions might not be fully understood if the recipient doesn’t share the same love language. The two biggest points the book taught me are:

  1. My love and care for another individual is better understood when I express it in his or her love language rather than my own.
  2. I better recognize others’ love and care for me as I remember they are expressing themselves in their own love language rather than mine.

In my last article, A Village of Support, I shared how family and friends showed support to my family after my mom had surgery and while I was taking care of my dad. These kind loved-ones were probably expressing their concern for us in their own love languages.

The 5 Love Languages taught throughout the book are:

Words of Affirmation

Loved ones sent my mom cards with encouraging, thoughtful messages. My parents showered me with gratitude by thanking me and complimenting me several times a day.

Quality Time

Some friends showed they cared with a personal visit or phone call.

Receiving Gifts

My maternal grandma and other family and friends sent my mom flowers. My paternal grandma sent a box of homemade cookies.

Acts of Service

Friends and family showed us love by bringing dinners. I showed my love by caring for my parents and doing some housework.

Physical Touch

Some great examples of this love language are backrubs, snuggles, kisses and holding hands. This isn’t just applicable to romantic relationships. 

I have two love languages: Acts of Service and Quality Time. I appreciate compliments, gifts are nice, hugs feel good, but nothing says I’m loved more than these two questions: “How can I help you?” and “Want to go to lunch on Saturday?” Likewise, nothing frustrates and hurts me like an unfulfilled promise or last-minute broken commitment.

love LanWe express all the love languages at different times and often express multiple love languages on one occasion (for example, visiting a friend and taking a gift). However, some love languages feel more natural than others, so those are the ones we use most frequently.

What is your love language?

To learn more about The 5 Love Languages and to discover your own love language, visit: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

A Village of Support

Written by, Katie Wilson Ferguson

Last Sunday, I shared how I prepared to care for my dad for six weeks so my mom could recover from surgery, but I wasn’t the only one who prepared for the occasion.

My mom arranged for my stay by setting up a bedroom for me on the west side of their house. She cleaned out another room nearby for my home office. I had the closest bathroom all to myself. I liked telling people I occupied the West Wing. My mom wanted me to be comfortable, and I’m most comfortable when I have my own space.

Before the surgery, my mom’s friend and neighbor Michelle offered to bring food and find other neighbors to bring meals while my mom recovered. Not wanting to be a burden, my mom declined. Michelle texted me with the same offer, and I happily accepted. We had dinner brought in by friends and family for eight nights and many of those meals gave us leftovers for the following lunch. This helped alleviate stress as I adjusted to my new responsibilities. Michelle often checked in with me after my mom’s surgery knowing I would be more likely to accept help if we needed it.

My mom’s surgery was scheduled on a Tuesday morning. I moved in the Sunday before so I could set up my office and be ready for work on Monday, plus shadow my mom for a day before caring for my dad without her help. Although I’d seen her care for him since I was seven years old, it was the first time I watched with the intent of doing it myself.

My Aunt Dianne drove my mom to and from the hospital while I stayed home with my dad. The surgery was successful, but she was miserable with nausea for the first 24 hours. My Uncle Steve came to visit and decided to stay overnight so he could take care of her while I took care of my dad. Just as a harness once secured me to a zip line so I couldn’t fall, my uncle was my harness that night.

I woke up the day after my mom’s surgery feeling more overwhelmed than I had expected. My husband wasn’t there hitting his snooze button. My energetic Jack Russell Terrier wasn’t there sniffing my face to make sure I was alive. She wasn’t there for me to take on a morning walk. I knew my dad was down the hall waiting for me to get him dressed, out of bed and fed.

For the first time in my life, I felt the weight of knowing another person was relying on my care. It didn’t feel like a burden. It felt like going into a job interview. I wanted to be there, but I was nervous I might not be good enough to fill the position and do a good job.

2015, Katie transferring Mark

I got my dad dressed, up and fed. My Uncle Steve checked in on us before leaving for the day. “Did your dad get his pills?”

I slapped my forehead. “No! I forgot! I woke up this morning and realized why I’ve been so nervous to take care of my dad. I’ve never had someone depend on me to get them out of bed or to feed them or make sure they’ve had their pills. I’ve been so worried I’d forget about my dad’s pills. I can’t believe I forgot on the first day.”

“Hey, it’s okay. Take it easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect.” Uncle Steve always has a knack for knowing how to make me feel at ease.

Because my dad has a poor short-term memory, he is no longer capable of taking his own medicine correctly. Years ago, he got confused on the day of the week, thinking it was Friday when it was actually Thursday. He saw he had pills left in his box so he took a double dose of everything that day. The overdose caused a two-day hospital stay. Overdoses are dangerous, but so are missed doses. One missed dose increases his likelihood of seizures and blood clotting.

My parents and I felt an outpouring of love for the next several weeks. Family and friends checked in with phone calls, text messages and personal visits. Some loved ones sent my mom cards, flowers and gifts. Not only were people asking my mom how she felt, but they were also asking me how they could help. I’ve heard the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think it takes a village to conquer many of life’s challenges – including caregiving. My parents and I are blessed with a strong village of support.

My full-time caregiving adventure didn’t always go smoothly, but we had a lot more successes than failures. My mom understood when I forgot to give my dad his pills. My dad forgave me when I sat him on the armrest of his wheelchair instead of the seat. My dad’s response to every apology was “no prob.” I heard that response a lot.

My dad’s patience amazes me. I almost dropped him several times while transferring him in or out of his wheelchair. I’d stand him up and start to feel his knees bend and his waist drop before I was ready to sit him down. “Stand up! Stand up!” I yelled in frustration. I hurt him a few times (without causing serious injury). He never lost his patience with me.

My dad is a pleasure to serve because he’s one of the most appreciative people I know. There were days I got tired of saying “You’re welcome.” Then I’d remember it was a blessing to help someone who acknowledged every good deed.

2015, Eldin  Lizzy

2015, Eldin and Lizzy

I’d like to follow my dad’s example of appreciation by thanking my village of support. Without the help I received, taking the plunge of accepting caregiving responsibilities would have been even scarier.

It’s been six weeks since I moved back into my own home. I hear my husband’s alarm clock every morning again. I start each day walking my dog. I went back to my usual routine without missing a beat, but with a deeper understanding.

So, here’s to all you caregivers: You wake each morning knowing someone else depends on you. Who knows how many mornings you’ve had to drag yourself out of bed after a long night of helping your loved one or cleaning up midnight mishaps? Who knows how many times you’ve felt at the end of your rope? Yet you choose to hang on for the person you love.

And here’s to those of you who rely on the care of others. You have to wait for others to assist you day after day. You’ve endured extensive testing and rehabilitation. You’ve been deprived of abilities others take for granted. Perhaps you endure hardships few people understand and maybe it’s difficult to express how those hardships affect you. Perhaps you endure physical and emotional pain no one can heal – yet.

Caregivers and care recipients alike have spent endless hours waiting at doctors’ offices. Together, they’ve experienced unfamiliar territory and anticipated the unknown. Their relationships have been challenged beyond arguments of whose turn it is to wash the dishes and where the toothpaste tube should be squeezed.

You caregivers and care recipients have been given a weight few people have the strength to lift. Thank you for lifting that weight and carrying on. I learn from your examples and admire your strength. I believe you add an exceptional level of beauty to the world. I hope you feel you have a village of support. I appreciate my mom for increasing a village of support through the worldwide endeavors of this blog.

Thank you Katie for your insights and words. I appreciate you sharing your experience and grateful for your help. Thank you Eldin as well. You were a marvelous help when Katie wasn’t able to be here and a great support while she was here. What a wonderful addition you are to our family. We also enjoyed Lizzy and the great cleanup job she did after every meal. I enjoyed watching her wait patiently by Mark’s chair for the food to drop.