The Spirit of Giving

black-friday

image credit: http://www.pcmag.com

Yes, I’m one of the crazy people who shop the Black Friday Deals. I love finding a bargain. I’ve heard and seen the horror stories in the media of people pushing others out of the way to get that last sale item or even grab an item out of another’s hand because they felt they should’ve been the one to get it. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never witnessed it in person. Instead, I’ve had strangers offer to share their cart with me to relieve my arms which were too full of must-buy items because there wasn’t an available cart. I’ve also had strangers offer to save my place in a long line while I run back and get a forgotten item. One year I bought a large television, back in the day when they were thick and bulky. My eyes were bigger than the car trunks dimension and I couldn’t get it to fit. The next option was the back seat. Now if you shop Black Friday you know there are no employees available at WalMart to help load your items. They’re all too busy indoors to even think about coming outdoors. The T.V. was heavy and awkward, but I was determined to somehow get it home. Lucky for me, a stranger stopped his holiday rush to assist me in this nearly impossible endeavor. After several tries of moving seats and pushing up the car door weather-stripping we finally got it loaded. I’ve since learned to better plan my shopping day and have a van instead of a car. My experience is that most people want to be thoughtful and caring, even on Black Friday.

This year my grand experience with strangers happened just before Black Friday. For months I’ve been worrying and researching how and where I could get Mark’s broken standing frame repaired. I’m not talking about a decorative wood folding stand that holds pictures or a mirror or shelves like most people relate to, but rather a standing device which assists a wheelchair dependent person to stand. The standing frame has been an essential piece of equipment at our house since Mark came home from the hospital in 1991. It provides an alternative position from sitting in a wheelchair and the weight bearing is important for his muscles and bones as it supports him in the standing position. The old standing frame started leaking hydraulic fluid last April, so I kept a pie pan underneath it to catch the drips. I started asking repair or handymen where I should take the standing frame to have it fixed. Most people couldn’t even imagine what a standing frame is let alone where to get it fixed.

As the months passed, it got harder to pump in the upward position. While Mark was at Rocky Mountain Care Center, I asked their equipment maintenance man where I might take Mark’s standing frame to be fixed. “The hydraulic lifts can’t be fixed,” he said.

Thinking it couldn’t be repaired, I started looking into replacing it. Not one medical supply company I called in the Salt Lake Valley carried one, so I searched the internet for one. The cheapest one I could find was $2,600. The rest of the standing frame was in good shape, so I wasn’t eager to buy a new one and although it kept getting harder to get him up and down, we kept using it. After time, the handle bent with the pressure it took to pump the hydraulic and one night after pumping him straight up it completely broke off. Getting him out of it was a chore because without the handle we couldn’t release the hydraulic.

“I don’t believe you can’t get a hydraulic fixed,” my Dad replied after I told him of my search for options. By now, I had posted on facebook and had a poster at Neuroworx and the TBI Conference that I was looking for a gently used standing frame. Dad started his own search and found Gustin Hydraulics in Salt Lake who was willing to take a look at it. Thankfully my dad was able to take the hydraulic off and into their shop. They filled it with oil, found the leak and repaired it with new seals for a total charge of $55.67. I was thrilled until we reinstalled the hydraulic and it wouldn’t work.

“Bring in the whole standing frame and I’ll take a look at it,” the repairman said, not fully realizing what a standing frame is. Dad and I loaded it in the van and he took it in.

Mark StandingBy the end of the day they reinstalled the hydraulic, which we had installed incorrectly, made a new metal handle and painted it to replace the broken one. They made it look as good as new. By now I was willing to pay some big bucks for this much needed piece of equipment and to have this long time problem and worry solved, but they wouldn’t let us pay a dime more than the hydraulic repair. What a splendid group of men at Gustin Hydraulics. They are caring strangers whom I’ve never met before. They took pride in their workmanship and wouldn’t let us reimburse them for their time, paint and the materials for a new handle.

Acts of service are the true spirit of giving. When we deliver a helping hand to a stranger we may not know how much it means or the difference it will make in their life. It’s the warmth and joy of the holiday season. I’m grateful for strangers who share their shopping cart, reach an item for me, save my place in a long line or help me load my vehicle. This year I’m grateful for the crew at Gustin Hydraulics for fixing a much needed standing frame for Mark and making it look new again. If you need any kind of hydraulic repair, I suggest you give Gustin Hydraulics a call at 801-487-0624. I’m sure they’ll take as good of care of you as they did us.

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The Fullness of Life

Gratitude-unlovks-the-fullness-of-life-happy-ThanksgivingMy day has been filled with gratitude for all I have. I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and should not be taken for granted. I appreciate the education of doctors, nurses and therapists who have developed the skills to help heal and improve our health issues. I’m grateful for the hard work and progress Mark has made through his hip surgery and therapy.

I’m grateful for our comfortable, wheelchair accessible home, which always gives me something to fix up or improve and the space I need to be able to work at home. I appreciate my employment in property management which enables me to pay for all the necessary things in life. I am fortunate to have wonderful bosses and friends such as Steve and Rick. I appreciate all they do for me in our business as well as my personal life. I am also blessed to live with Mom and Dad. I am grateful for their continued love and support and I’m thankful we can help each other in all things by living together.

I appreciate my children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles, who I know I can count on for help at any time or in any situation. They are the foundation for everything we accomplish along with the love and support of neighbors and friends. Many people volunteer their precious time to help us.

We are blessed by many people—family, friends and neighbors who love and give service to us. My need to give back is the driving force for writing our story and developing Uniting Caregivers. This passion has brought new friendships through writing and caregiver’s support groups, along with readers and participators of this blog. I have learned so much and have gained from their experiences. I am grateful for the influence of other writers and their encouragement in my own writing endeavors.

If you are reading this, I am grateful for you! I appreciate your feedback, whether it’s done with words or the click on the Like button. I hope what is written has helped you find hope and encouragement in your trials. I have truly been blessed in my life’s journey and writing about our experiences manifests those blessings to me.

What_are_you_thankful_for

How to Keep Thanksgiving

give thanks-candleA perfect picture of Thanksgiving is sitting at my parent’s large dining room table, beautifully decorated with an autumn tablecloth, centerpiece, nice plates, glasses and silverware, surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

I was in this type of scene a few nights ago, however it wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, but rather a birthday celebration. My mother still enjoys gathering her five children and their spouses home for a feast three or four times a year to celebrate birthdays. Lots of laughter is heard while we enjoy each other’s company. This is a happy table, yet I came to it feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I tried to mask the weight of my daily tasks and worries about Mark’s health. When the conversation turned to past vacations my siblings had taken and the possibilities of future trips, I forgot all my many blessings and had to leave the table. Instead of feeling joyful for their experiences, distress set in. I was no longer focused on how lucky I am to have all my siblings live close by and both my parents still alive. For a moment, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Unfortunately my thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to. I wasn’t living in thanksgiving, yet I know I’m happiest when I do.

Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which commemorates a harvest festival. It is an expression of gratitude, especially to God. I appreciate this time of year which reminds us the importance of giving thanks, however, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things.

Life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he knows how to keep thanksgiving. He appreciates everything, including his adversities. He is cheerful and content and loves to bring joy to others. However, he has reason to be bitter, resentful or has cause for deep sadness due to loss of abilities, a beloved career and painful health issues. I know I am lucky to be a caregiver to one who has such a grateful heart. I know many caregivers who are not as fortunate. Three of my favorite ways he shows his appreciation daily are:

Says “Thank You” Often — Two simple words, yet they are so powerful! Hearing those words is a great payment for the care or deed that is done. Joy and appreciation is felt when I hear those words and it makes my efforts worthwhile.

Writes Thank You Notes — Letters of appreciation are a keepsake and tangible evidence of gratitude for what has been given or done. I have hundreds of such notes written on regular lined paper in three ring binders, which I treasure.

Compliments — He notices the work that goes into a good meal and lets me know how much he enjoyed it. He tells me when he thinks I look nice or likes my haircut or outfit. He is constantly looking for and stating the positive.

I’ve learned from Mark that expressing appreciation brings happiness not only to yourself, but those around you. It also lessens stress and anger, which makes you a healthier person. When we focus on our blessings, we see more blessings because our attention has been turned in a positive direction.

Recently in one of my writing groups we were given a blank piece of paper to write as many positive characteristics about ourselves in five minutes. The goal was to fill the page. I enjoyed the assignment and kept it to read when I’m feeling low.

thanksgivingdailyfinishLikewise, making a gratitude list to read when you’re feeling like you’ve missed out in life, maybe another good idea. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • People
  • Physical abilities
  • Material possessions
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Nature
  • Things about today
  • Places on earth
  • Modern-day inventions
  • Foods you are grateful for.

How long can you make your list?

How would your life improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily?

The Blessing of Adversity

adversityWhile organizing some files, I found and read a talk Mark wrote and gave in church, November 1990, five months before our car accident. The title, The Blessing of Adversity, grabbed my attention and my heart started to pound as I read on. By the time I got to the last few paragraphs tears were flowing as I realized twenty-five years later the prophetic nature of his words. The talk is well over 2,ooo words so I decided to publish only part of the talk. I try to keep these articles around 1,000 words.

If you didn’t know my husband before the car accident, this gives insight on how he was before and you’ll see the core of his soul hasn’t changed. He is an example of enduring to the end and appreciating life and the lessons learned along the way.

Written by Mark Wilson

Many blessings are obvious. Our families, friends, homes and the country we live in are all blessings most of us recognize and are grateful for.  But I’d like to talk about some blessings that aren’t always so obvious.  You see, I believe that very few things happen in this world that aren’t blessings, even being asked to talk in church, for instance. Like many of you, I am terrified of talking in public.  While serving as ward clerk, I sat in on many a bishopric meeting, wherein the topic of discussion often was “who can we get to speak in sacrament meeting?” You know, not once did I volunteer.  Come to think of it, I don’t remember anyone else volunteering either. How can giving a talk in sacrament meeting be a blessing, you ask? Well, if you do it enough, chances are you’ll learn not to be scared. Not being afraid in front of large groups of people would be a plus, I think. You see, what I’m really talking about is adversity, or rather the opportunity to overcome it, can be a blessing. We’ve all been taught this sort of thing before. The scriptures give many examples of how people have been blessed or how we can be blessed by “enduring to the end” or overcoming adversity.

In my line of work, I have on a number of occasions had to serve as job foreman, with anywhere from one to a dozen other electricians in my charge.  Being a foreman is a job that I’ve never liked.  The raise in pay (usually a whole dollar an hour) never seemed to compensate for the added worry over doing the job right, along with the pressure of getting the job done on time. There are always problems with getting the manpower, equipment and materials you need on time.

My first experience along these lines was a real disaster. When the first phase of the new minimum security men’s facility at the state prison was built, the company I was working for at that time was contracted to wire it.  This involved not only the power and lighting systems, but also some very involved security, communications and life safety systems as well. My boss asked me to be in charge of four of the seven buildings.  Up to that time, I had had no prior experience on jobs of that nature.  In fact, I was still only an apprentice.  I consented and before I knew it, I found myself desperately trying to figure out all these systems that were my responsibility. I was reading from blueprints that were rain-faded and wind-torn because the weather was so bad. The general contractor was literally pouring concrete down our boots as we worked feverishly to stay ahead of them on the conduit work. One conduit left out or plugged with concrete would have spelled big trouble and a great deal of expense to correct.

I was so nervous and uptight that I found I couldn’t eat my lunch. I was actually sick to my stomach with worry. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was a nervous wreck. After a few weeks of this, I called my boss one night and told him I couldn’t go on. He would have to find someone else to take my place. He did and I got my sanity back, but I’ve regretted that I didn’t stick with it. What a tremendous growing experience this could have been for me had I been able to “endure to the end”.

Several years have passed since that awful prison job and I’ve been in somewhat similar circumstances a few times. Although I haven’t quit, I’ve never really gotten used to being a foreman and I avoid it all together whenever possible.

About a month ago, I was called into the office and asked to run a job. I thought, oh brother, here we go again. Next the boss starts telling me how important this job is because we’re looking forward to the people we’re working for to throw us a lot more work in the future if we perform well on this job.  That’s all I need, more pressure. One of the reasons I agreed to be the foreman was because he said we had three months to get the job done.

Shortly after I arrived on the job site, the general superintendent informed me we had three months to do the job, but that was two months ago. It took the lawyers, owners and engineers the first two months to get the paperwork done. We only have one month left!

That day, lunch was a little hard to get down. That one month is over in four more days. There’s a chance we might not finish on time. But whether we make it or not, I feel good because I managed to “endure to the end” and just did the very best that I could. The feeling that gives me is downright terrific. What a blessing trials and tribulations can be!

We’ve all had problems at one time or another that we thought at the time were insurmountable.  How did we handle it?  How about the times that we’ve given up?  How does that make us feel?  What a difference it makes when we persevere or “endure to the end” and win! Even during the times when we don’t give up and lose anyway, we still learn a valuable lesson. It’s not the end of the world! The sun will still rise the next day.

We should thank our Heavenly Father for this wonderful life He’s given us and all the problems that come with it. When we are faced with adversity, we should wipe the frowns from our faces and the tears from our eyes and with appreciation in our hearts for a God that loves us enough to test us to our very limits. With gratitude we should dive right in head first knowing that all things give experience for our good.

Note:

Scriptures and doctrine examples have been left out due to the length. If you’d like to read it in its entirety, let me know and I will email it to you. My email address: Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com

Appreciating Sixty Years

Back to the FutureNot too long ago I thought sixty years was a long time, but my perception has changed since I’ve gotten older. It’s funny how it works that way. In the Back To The Future film trilogy, November 12, 1955 is a key date. It is the date of the “famous Hill Valley lightning storm” which sends Marty McFly back to 1985 in the DeLorean time machine.

Wow, that movie was filmed half a lifetime ago.

The evening of November 11, 1955 brought one of the worst ice storms in Mt. Vernon, Washington. The freezing rain left a coat of ice on the roads, but the driver, Jim Wilson, successfully drove his wife, Wanda, to the hospital. Several hours later, on Saturday morning, November 12th, their first baby was born. This is a key event in my life because it’s the date my husband, Mark was born.

Marty McFly goes back in a time machine, but here’s another look back through my personal time machine:

Three months

Three months

Popular Culture 1955

  • Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s fast food restaurant chain
  • First riot at an Elvis Presley concert takes place in Jacksonville, FL
  • “The $64,000 Question” the popular US television game show starts
  • James Deans stars in the movie East of Eden
  • James Dean killed in car accident near Cholame, California
  • First Guinness Book of World Records published
  • “The Mickey Mouse Club” debuts on ABC

Popular Films

  • Oklahoma
  • The Quatermass Xperiment
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • To Catch A Thief
  • The Seven Year Itch

Popular Singers

  • Elvis Presley
  • Bill Haley and the Comets ” Rock Around The Clock”
  • Chuck Berry
  • Fats Domino
  • The Platters

Reference: http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1955.html

The most significant 1955 event to me

  • The birth of Mark Wilson
One year old

First birthday

Two years old

Two years old

Three years old

Three years old

I am grateful for and honor his mother, Wanda, for bringing this wonderful man into the world and into my life. Her time, efforts and sacrifices in raising a thoughtful, determined, respectful and admirable man are appreciated by all who know him. I’m grateful for his two sisters and grandparents for their influence in his life. He adores each one of them. He  is a devoted family man and I am fortunate to be his wife!

Other facts of 1955:

The US president was Dwight D. Eisenhower and the US began its involvement in the Vietnam conflict. “In God We Trust” was added to all US paper currency. The average cost of a new home was $10,950 and rent was $87.00. Minimum hourly rate was $1.00 and a new car cost $1,900. The cost of a gallon of gas was .23 cents. Disneyland opens in California.

http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1955.html

A lot has happened in the past 60 years. What changes come to your mind?

Mark and Wanda

Mark (8) and Wanda

Wanda holding sister, Jerrie (1), Karen (2) on Mark's 11th birthday

Wanda holding sister, Jerrie (1), Karen (2) on Mark’s 11th birthday

Mark (13) with his sisters Karen (3), Jerrie (2)

Mark (13) with his sisters Karen (3), Jerrie (2)

Jerrie, Mark, Karen with Christopher (2) 1984 trip to Washington

1984, Jerrie, Mark, Karen with Christopher (2) in Washington

1990, Wilson Family back row: Mark Ray, Karen, Wanda, Mark, Barbara, Grandparents (LaFaye & Norval) front row: Jerrie, Jon, Katie, Christopher

Who is the Real Caregiver

“I’m not sure who the caregiver is in this marriage,” Neils said in part 1 of his story, Dancing with Class.

In his part 2, he explains in more detail some of what she does for him. “Her gentle prodding, encouragement and constructive criticism is the gas in my tank. She is the light in the tunnel, the gentle whisper in my ear, my tease, my best friend and motorized mentor who runs over my toes when I get curmudgeonly.”

“Judith has never given up. She always listens to people’s stories and encourages them to fight on.”

I loved Neils closing remark, “My part as a caregiver is insignificant compared to what Judith offers. So, I ask again, who is the real caregiver?”

I  wholeheartly relate and have written about it myself in three other articles.

IMG_0333I’m a full-time caregiver and occasionally I’ve been asked, “Who takes care of you?” Well, I’ll tell you…

Mark is my caregiver. He may not be able to make a meal or do the physical chores of housekeeping or yard work, but he does care about me and gives me support by waiting patiently for me to complete a task before taking care of his needs. He also lifts my spirits with humor, companionship and good times. Being with him is a pleasure. I love his wit and sense of humor. He also gives care through letters, expressing love and appreciation. These letters mean more to me than if he were able to give me flowers.

My parents are my caregivers and have been my whole life. Even though they are well into their eighties, they give me and many others lots of care through meals, visits and sincere interest in what is going on in my life, along with any help or assistance I may need.

My siblings are my caregivers and they too have been my whole life. They are all busy with their own lives and children, but they make time to check up on us. If I ever need anything I always know I can call on any one of them. It’s wonderful to feel the love and support of family!

My children are my caregivers. When they were small it was wonderful to feel their love and admiration. They were sure I could fix anything and no one was stronger. As they grew, experience taught them differently, but their love kept me going. They are my strength and what motivates me to do and be better. Their care is different now they are busy adults and no longer dependent on me, but I still feel their care and love and it means a whole lot to me.

My neighbors and friends are my caregivers. They give with listening ears and a caring heart. They give understanding, support and friendship. They are observant for what they can do to help without me asking for it. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who are anxious to help. Many times in the winter my snow is shoveled off my walks and I have no idea who did it.

My church provides caregiving. Not only do I find comfort and solace in my church activities, but my association with people there has led to friendships and an organized volunteer program where two people come twice a week to help Mark with his exercises.

So I just have to say, I’m one lucky caregiver. I’m supported by a lot of other caregivers who probably don’t think of themselves as caregivers. But I know they are and I know I couldn’t do my caregiving without them.

If you care and you give, you are a caregiver. If you drive someone to an appointment, prepare a meal, watch children, or go shopping for someone else, you are a caregiver. You may think you’re just doing what anyone else would do—but anyone who helps is a caregiver.

Thank you, Neils, for reminding us of the many acts of service which are considered caregiving.

Who’s your caregiver? Feel free to leave your recognition in the comment square.

My related articles:

What Makes a Caregiver

Six Traits of a Caregiver

No Foolin’, You’re a Caregiver

Dancing with Class, part 2

On Friday, July 2, 2004, Judith lost control of her bike and flipped into a ditch. Her back was broken. Last Sunday, Neils Knudsen, her husband, shared the emotional and physical impact the accident had on both of them. Today he shares part 2.

Written by, Neils Knudsen

Our search for a new home for ourselves ended when we found a development with new construction. A site was chosen and the contractor was eager to make the changes we needed for Judith. In January of 2005 she removed her clamshell brace for the last time and we moved in to a home with a view.

Judith at glacier (3)

Judith at glacier 2006

Judith was excited for the new beginning. Although the doctor visits, medications and surgeries continued for some time, life for her became more peaceful and satisfying. She was free of her constraints and could now test her new wings . . . and wheels. That cruise to the inside passage of Alaska was realized and she began to see a larger, more magnificent world.

The home scene, though more comfortable soon clashed with my work schedule. My normal work hours grew longer along with mandatory overtime on weekends. I couldn’t meet the demands of home and work.

We discussed our options and in April of 2006 I took an early retirement and Judith decided she would return to her old job part-time. I quite enjoyed the change and got a lot of insights into her career.

Construction of other homes was still underway in our development. Hammers, Skill saws, heavy equipment and tons of dust covered the streets and vehicles. It was difficult for Judith to be heard at a distance during the day.

“Neeeeeeee-ills.”

I lifted a handful of clothes out of the washing machine and paused, listening.

“Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ills.”

I tossed the wet laundry into the drier and ran upstairs in a panic.

“What?” I clutched my knees and panted breathlessly. “What’s wrong?”

She sat at the kitchen table and took a sip of her coffee, the morning paper opened to the daily crossword puzzle. “Hey you,” she smiled, “what’s a 6 letter word for ‘Spring’?”

“Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ils.” The unmistakable sound of a power saw knifed through my mind. It turns out, if you stretch my first name out as if you’re calling for me it sounds much like a power saw cutting wood. Add a touch of nasal cavity to it and it truly becomes a power tool.

“I didn’t call you,” she guffawed and pointed out the door. “They did.”

We began to travel, mostly by car. Judith had always been an easy traveling companion and that didn’t change. We no longer rushed to go places, often stopping to explore as we went. She sometimes grew wistful as she watched others strolling together at a scenic overlook. That prickly, stubborn and ‘always in a hurry’ woman had changed. She came to appreciate that what she had gained was equal to what she had lost and accepted a more measured and contemplative attitude. Soon, that new life would include painting the scenes which she now saw with new eyes.

The visits to doctors and hospitals subsided to an occasional check-up. She learned to touch and be touched. Gentleness and acceptance of life grew to replace her ambition. She retired from her job and began to focus more on her art.

Judith is also an avid reader and has a degree in English. She has distinct tastes in what she selects as a reading subject. Unfortunately we don’t share those tastes to any notable degree. So when I started writing as a hobby I chose Science Fiction and Fantasy as my genre. She once tried to read “The Hobbit,” but got bored with it. The same with “Lord of the Rings,” though she loved the movies.

Four years later I finished my first book, The Singing Stones of Rendor. Credit for that project, including all its awards, would likely not have happened if not for Judith. Her gentle prodding, encouragement and constructive criticism was the gas in my tank. I repeatedly tried to kill off one character, but she argued against it—often to the point of bloodshed. I’m glad I listened to her. The arc of the story would not have developed and garnered so many trophies, if any, without her insights and skills at knowing what makes a good story.

My wife is, for the most part, independent and needs little in the way of any physical help to do things. I still help her with some of her transfers on occasion, but not often. The day will come when she’ll need more help. I expect I’ll need some help by then myself. She is the light in the tunnel, the gentle whisper in my ear, my tease, my best friend and motorized mentor who runs over my toes when I get curmudgeonly.

Alaska Cruise 2006 (3)

Alaska Cruise 2006

Judith has never given up. She always listens to people’s stories and encourages them to fight on. The impact she has had on the people around her is best illustrated by a young man she mentored while she worked on Wall Street. He went on to establish his own hedge fund and became a wealthy man. When he heard of her accident he flew here to visit her in the hospital. Later he would establish a scholarship fund in her name at Utah State University which is awarded annually. It is a fitting tribute to this woman who has given, and still gives, so much of herself to help those around her.

My part as a caregiver is insignificant compared to what Judith offers. So, I ask again, who is the real caregiver?

What I can say for sure is that I have been dancing with class.

Thank you Neils for sharing your heartfelt journey. I appreciate getting to know you and Judith better. I agree, you have been dancing with class.