The Countdown

 

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Rocky Mountain Care Carnival September 2015

Facing another total hip replacement makes me so anxious and worried you’d think I was the one going through the surgery. I’m confident it would be easier for me than Mark to recover, so if I could I’d trade him places, but sadly it’s not possible. Fortunately for Mark, he remembers very little about the first operation and rehab. A poor short-term memory is the result of his traumatic brain injury and is a benefit in this case. It appears the surgery is not a big deal to him and maybe that’s a blessing for me also. I only need to deal with my own anxiety and not Mark’s too. However, I just may worry enough for both of us.

This journey began a year ago and to begin with we said, “no way,” but as the pain and stiffness grew and dressing and transferring Mark became harder, we started to consider the idea. I feared my ability to care for Mark was coming too quickly to an end with already needing a large hernia repaired. We discussed: Where do we go from here? Could we live happily apart? Who could take good of care of him and would I be satisfied with them?

Mark wasn’t a perfect candidate for total hip replacements, so he had several tests preformed to determine whether it was even a possibility. Every test revealed a new problem such as severe degenerative disc disease, osteoporosis and scoliosis of the spine and osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis) of the hips. These health issues are related to nearly twenty-five years in a wheelchair with limited mobility. Since his hips no longer had the ability to bend at 90 degrees, he spent hours in a poor sitting position, which resulted in terrible neck and back pain. Our bodies are meant to move and if we can’t or don’t, it causes additional problems. The hip replacements became our hope for relief from pain and improved movement in his hips to help with dressing and transferring. However, the test results were discouraging and overwhelming. The bone density test revealed he was a high risk for a break, which is frightful. What should we do and when do we give up? These two questions took months to answer.

The orthopedic surgeon gave Mark only a 50% chance of the surgery improving his condition. Mark replied, “I’ve beaten lesser odds,” as he consented to go through with the total hip replacements despite the risks. The surgeon then warned, “Recovery will be hard due to your state of mobility.”

Well I’m not afraid of hard,” Mark said as I thought, he’s rather accustomed to it. He lives with hard every day, which makes Mark stronger than he appears.

In May I had my hernia repaired and two months later Mark had his right hip replaced. August and September he stayed in a rehab center and has had outpatient therapy twice a week for the past four months. Oh, what a year it’s been and we now understand a new level of hard. Not that we regret the surgery, but we didn’t realize just how long and hard the recovery would be.

Mark’s continuing optimism and determination for improvement is inspiring and one of the reasons why I love and support him so much. We knew with the first surgery he wouldn’t get full benefit of it until he had the second one. I’ve dreaded this second surgery day and wished I could take him far away to a place unknown to earth where there are no limitations and only comfort is felt. If we could fly we’d surely escape, but instead we are here with the surgery date just around the corner. With family, friends, a skilled surgeon and therapists, we are confident he will come out on the winning end and hope it will be sooner rather than later.

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Rocky Mountain Care Carnival September 2015

I’m looking forward to Wednesday, post-surgery day. A week from now we should be in a rehab center healing and working on learning how to make that new hip work. As a wife, caregiver and advocate, I’ll be there every step of the way. Not because I have to, but because I want to be by his side. I know from experience he does better, just as we all benefit in any endeavor with support and encouragement from loved ones.

So if you’re reading this, you must care and we appreciate you for that. We are grateful for every supporter and welcome every prayer for a speedy recovery. We are better prepared and understand what to expect this time around, so it should be much easier. Besides, now he has one good hip to recover on.

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Friends Like Family

Donna CallDonna Call has more than thirty-six years of life experience on me, yet we instantly became good friends. She was older than my own mother and shared her first name. It was an unlikely friendship under different circumstances, but our similar situation has bonded us together since 1991. She called me her soul sister when we met at Mackay Dee Hospital in the ICU waiting room while my husband, Mark, was in a coma after a car accident and her husband, Wayne, was also in a coma after complications from heart surgery.

Wayne and Donna Call lived in Burley, Idaho while we lived in Sandy, Utah. The miles between us make it doubtful that we would have met otherwise, yet our husband’s critical health conditions put us together under the same roof in the Ronald McDonald home as directed by the hospital.

This small house, which was located by the hospital parking lot, became my home away from home. It had two bedrooms, one bath and living room with a couch, reclining chair and television. The kitchen had a small table, fridge, stove, a few dishes and utensils. In the beginning, I was assigned the basement of this home, which was set up just like the upstairs. After a few days, some plumbing issue surfaced and I had to move upstairs with the Call family. Donna had one room and I had the other. Each bedroom had a double size bed plus bunk beds. I don’t recall a dresser, but there was a closet to put our clothes in. My broken collarbone made it difficult to sleep while lying down, so we squeezed one of the recliner chairs in the bedroom in front of the closet. There was just a little pathway between the bunkbeds and the double bed and another small pathway between the foot of the double bed and the recliner chair. Sometimes I shared this room with our two children and my parents when they came to visit and on weeknights my brothers often took turns staying there.

Donna and Wayne had six kids and since she was spending most of the time at the hospital with her husband, their kids took turns bringing her needed items and staying overnight with her. I believe before I moved upstairs, Donna had a room and whoever came to visit had the second room. Even though I cut their living space in half, they welcomed me with open arms. Once in a while it was such a full house they used sleeping bags on the floor in the living room. We got to know each other well over a seven week period of time. Despite Donna’s own heartache, she took me under her wing, making sure my needs were taken care of and made me feel part of their family.

If it was getting late and I wasn’t home, Donna worried about me. If I didn’t have a family member staying over, she’d send one of her boys to Mark’s room to check on me. They offered to walk me home. They were concerned about my well-being and crossing the dark parking lot alone. I appreciated they cared enough to make sure I made it to the McDonald home safe and sound. They’re kindness was inspiring, especially because they had their own worries and sorrow. I will forever appreciate their friendship. I was grateful for the comfort of this home which became a safe haven from the upset of the hospital. When their only daughter, Janice, came to visit and stayed in the McDonald home, we’d stay up late sharing tears of concern for our loved ones. Amongst the turmoil and worrying about Mark as well as missing my own home and family, I received the great blessing of new friends. Over a seven week period of time they became my hospital family.

Bear Tree 3We moved onto Western Rehab and a few months later Wayne got well enough to return home for three more years until cancer took his life in 1994. For our first Christmas after the accident they mailed us a package full of many adorable bears they had made together out of logs and branches. With the box was a letter explaining they had made each of their children these bears through the years so each family member had a “bear tree” for Christmas. It was a symbol of their love for us. I treasure our “bear tree” and every Christmas as I put it out I’m reminded of their loving care.

This bond has continued on for nearly twenty-five years. We’ve made trips to Burley, Idaho to visit them. We’ve stayed in contact through letters and phone calls. Despite our age difference and the miles between us, our similar experience and concern for one another kept us together. This is a friendship I will be eternally thankful for.

Donna died on her 93rd birthday, January 12, 2016. We made another trip to Burley Saturday for her funeral. By all those who were in attendance, I realized she was loved by many and made all who knew her feel just as important as she made me feel. I enjoyed reuniting with her children and recognized what a tribute their lives are to her. I don’t know a kinder, more thoughtful lady and I will miss her. Donna and her children were a light of hope and beacon of courage during a very dark time for me. I am blessed to know her and her family. I’m thrilled for her as I think about the great reunion she is having with her husband now.

 

Choices and Accountability

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1985, Katie and I

Children are great teachers. They remind us of how the grass tickles our toes or the joy of seeing white fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky. They are excited by the little things we often take for granted and their delight opens our eyes for viewing the world with more enthusiasm.

Children also test us to our limits, which teaches us where those limits are. I had several nieces and nephews before we had our two children. We loved each one of them and stayed involved in their lives as they grew. I thought I had child-raising all figured out, but by the time we had our own we handled things a lot different than we expected we would.

As the children grow into teenagers, they try our patience in a worrisome way by some of the choices they make. We have to learn how to let go so they gain independence and become responsible adults. Teenagers remind us of how exciting the adventures of adulthood appear without knowing the stress that comes with it. Their will to conquer the world is inspiring.

Although I miss our young children, I really wouldn’t go back in time. I love having adult children, where I no longer feel the weight of their daily care. I’m pleased with the good things they are accomplishing and appreciate their independent and productive lives. They still continue to teach me and help me see the world in a different light.

Yesterday I was talking to my daughter, Katie, about a new service project she is working on which involves the teenage girls in her church. She’s encouraging them to write two goals they want her to hold them accountable for. They’ll also choose their own reward upon success or punishment for failure.

As she related some of her creative ideas in helping the girls reach their goals, I associated it with some of the contracts I had with her when she was a teenager. The kids still enjoy giving me a hard time about them. I thought the contracts were a clever way of making them accountable for their choices. For example, my favorite contract written and signed December 1995 when they were eleven and thirteen:

It has been agreed by all parties that whoever complains about a meal will automatically by responsible for making the next healthy dinner. Complaints consist of any negative sigh or comment about the meal. We understand it’s best to appreciate what we are given. More than two negative comments will result in dismissal from the table without any more eating.

Another contract titled The School Agreement:

I, child’s name, hereby understand that if I have any incomplete or missing assignments I will not watch any television or visit with any friends or family by telephone or in person until my assignments are caught up.

I also understand that I am still responsible for my chores even though I got behind in my school work. I will stay focused and resist any temptation which would distract me from getting my school work done. I realize that good grades lead to a happy and successful adulthood. Therefore, I will take my schooling seriously.

I also realize that my parents are willing to help me any way they can to succeed in school and will let them know what kind of help I need. I know my parents love me or they wouldn’t do silly agreement forms or care if I do well or not in school. I plan on building their trust by showing them I can be responsible for my own school work. They will reward my efforts by the attached grade payment sheet.

Katie scoffed at my connection between her ideas of accountability and my contracts. She said, “Mom, the difference is we didn’t get to choose our goals and rewards or punishment.”

Sometimes the truth hurts and I realized for the first time the mistake I may have made with the contracts was that I didn’t get more of, or according to her, any input on the agreements.

I quickly remember my words from last week’s post, “A goal has to be something I truly desire and not what someone else thinks I should be doing.

Was I wrong to use this method in making my teenagers responsible? I don’t think so, but I could have done better by giving more consideration to their thoughts and opinions. I thought we discussed the goals and rewards before I typed up the contract, but Katie’s memory is very different. She remembers I wrote them and they had to sign it. It’s interesting how parents and children perceive the same situation in their own way.

I haven’t thought about contracts for a while, but I still think it’s a great idea to make a written promise with a reward and punishment linked to it for encouraging improvement. What I need to do now is write one for my own personal progress, which I intend to do and I’ll bet Katie will enjoy holding me accountable for it. Maybe I should even let her write it for me.

Just for laughs, I’ll share one more agreement from my old “Contracts” folder:

Barbara Wilson promises Kathryn Wilson that when she completes 312 hours of piano practicing she may terminate piano lessons. She also promises not to annoy Kathryn about quitting her piano lessons (in which she shows so much potential) after she’s completed the aforementioned 312 hours.

Barbara Wilson also promises to be thrilled as all get out if Kathryn Wilson chooses to continue with piano after the 312 hours are completed and will gladly (notice how gladly is underlined) pay for them until she decides it’s time to quit.

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2014, Katie and I

Kathryn Wilson promises not to ask her mother to quit piano lessons until she has completed the 312 hours of piano practice previously stated. She also promises to keep track of her piano practicing hours on the sheet provided and only count those hours which have been initialed by parents or grandparents.

I appreciate Katie’s consent to share a few of our contracts. We may laugh about them now, but what a wonderful, responsible adult she became, possibly because of, or maybe in spite of those written agreements. I can’t imagine being more proud and grateful that she stayed true to those promises. I love my kids with all my heart and appreciate all they teach me. I recognize they are the better part of me.

Happy New Year

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Image Credit: http://www.webend.in

A new year brings anticipation for great things. It feels like a breath of fresh air or the warmth of sunshine after cloudy days. It renews our hope and gives us energy for improvement.  It brings motivation and opportunities for our success in many areas. Yet, as I reflect on my goals for 2015 and even 2014, they are so similar because life happens and things don’t usually go as I planned.

I seriously thought about not setting goals for 2016 since I seem to have such a hard time reaching them anyway. In an effort to sort out my feelings concerning this matter, I searched the web for information on New Year’s resolutions. I found many posts addressing why they are important or why they don’t work.

In my search, I stumbled across Joey Adam’s words, “May all your troubles be as long as your New Year’s resolutions.” I laughed and thought, yeah another reason not to have a New Year’s resolution.

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal?

A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something or the action of solving a problem,” according to https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=define+resolution

A goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result,” according to https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=define+goal

As I pondered the two definitions, I thought a New Year’s resolution is like a promise I make with myself. A goal has to be something I truly desire and not just what I think I should be doing. This gave me a new perspective on resolutions and goals and I viewed them as being different rather than similar.

All this contemplating led me to realize what a nerd I am when it comes to goals. Who else thinks about them this long and hard? I not only set yearly goals, but daily, weekly and monthly goals in both my personal and business life. So maybe I don’t need to worry about yearly goals. Could I be setting too many goals?

So much of my life is out of my control. I know that may sound like an excuse, but it’s truly how I feel. My daily direction is mostly determined by Mark’s physical and mental well-being. Our lives are so intertwined with each others by doctor’s appointments, therapy, seizures and other unexpected incidents, which always take precedence over my goals.

I want to keep this website uplifting, so I make an effort to focus on the positive, yet I experience plenty of disappointments, which is a softer way of saying failures. Most of those have to do with me not reaching my goals.

I've Failed

In the business world you may have heard the saying, “fail faster, fail often” in relationship to finding success. I agree with the concept that we can learn more our mistakes and when we recognize them and move on, the failures become stepping stones to our success.

I appreciate Dixie Gillaspie’s words, “the key to success is knowing that failing doesn’t make you a failure.”

So, now I feel better about my 2015 failures and hope I will remember what I learned from them. In fact, I’ve decided my 2016 New Year’s resolution, or promise to myself, is to not feel like a failure when I fail and to recognize and appreciate the lessons learned from my mistakes.

An anonymous person said, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” Hopefully it won’t be so this year.

As the days come and go, unfortunately so does the excitement and energy which comes from a new year. That’s why I appreciate a new month, a new week and even a new day is refreshing. With so many opportunities to start over, we’re bound to succeed. I truly believe we haven’t failed until we quit trying.