A Blessing in Disguise

i_dream_of_jeannie-showThere is always plenty of work to do and the holiday season is no exception. Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, but a lot of work. After hours of preparation, there’s the cleanup. What about Christmas? There’s more preparation for parties, dinners, decorations, shopping for gifts and all of this is done after employment hours. Sometimes I wonder why we do so much. Work Bewitched1can be stressful, strenuous and difficult. During those times I’ve dreamed of a genie (pun intended) granting my wish for less work and more play. In my youth, I also loved to watch the fantasy comedy sitcom, Bewitched. I’ve thought how awesome it would be to have the magical ability to accomplish anything with a twitch of my nose, clap of my hands, or a snap of my finger and thumb, eliminating all the hard work.

Have you ever thought of work as a blessing? Usually I think of it as the means to provide for the necessities of life. Without work, how do you pay for, prepare for, or participate in recreational activities and vacation time? Everything takes work, including the fun times.

I didn’t realize the worth of work until after our car accident, which made it impossible for Mark to continue in the electrical career he was schooled and trained in. He dedicated twelve years to the trade and was successful, reaching the highest level as a master electrician. After eighteen months of rehab, he was anxious to get back to work. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to work as an electrician while in a wheelchair, he asked every day what he should do with his life. He said he needed to be productive to have self-worth and wanted a purpose for life. Work provides purpose.

It was hard to imagine what he could do or that any other kind of work could bring him the fulfilment the electrical field did. I tried to convince him that rehab was his job. His focus should be regaining his physical and speech abilities so that he could go back to work as an electrician. Two years passed and he continued with his rehab, having eye surgery to fix his double vision and two surgeries on his feet to correct the foot drop, which made it difficult for him to stand. He continued to ask often when he could go back to work. I hadn’t realized before how important work is for making life worthwhile. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have or what we can do until it’s no longer available.

We volunteered at our children’s elementary school twice a week, reading with the kids or helping with math and spelling. Mark enjoyed the kids, but sometimes they couldn’t understand him because of his speech impairment. Children are so honest and they would ask him often what happened to him or why he couldn’t walk or talk. These comments appeared to bother me more than Mark, who is accepting and understanding of others curiosity. I wanted to protect him and our own two children, wondering what questions and comments they had to endure. I was worried our children might become discouraged or uncomfortable with our circumstances so I thought it would be best if we volunteer elsewhere.

After checking into options with our church, Mark was able to do some volunteer work at the Bishop’s Storehouse posting food orders in the computer twice a week. He also went to my brother-in-law’s family music store to stamp their logo on their sheet music at Day Murray Music. He enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to go to these places and volunteering his time, but he wanted to financially contribute to our family needs.

The next year brought two more surgeries to fix Mark’s hip joints, which were filled with calcium, making it impossible for him to bend at 90 degrees. With his sight still set on getting back to work, I heard Mark often rehearsing electrical codes or terms so he wouldn’t forget them. He wanted me to pay the fee to keep his Master’s License current, but he was willing and wanting to do any kind of work until he got back on his feet. I had a hard time envisioning him finding any kind of employment because he was dependent on me for most tasks of daily living such as dressing, transferring in/out of the wheelchair and transportation, but wanting to support his goals, we pursued Vocational Rehab.


Mark at work desk at Discover Card

The male crew in the mail room

He went through an intense week of testing. His I.Q. score was higher than normal, but his physical skills were low. The program helped place him in a part-time job at Discover Card. He did computer work recording P.I.N.’s (personal identification numbers) and enjoyed that job for eight years until they closed down the mail center. This was the appointed area for all the eight employees with special needs. They worked together with one supervisor who was trained to oversee and help each individual accomplish their job. Most of the special needs employees sorted the mail to the various departments and delivered them there. Mark worked on the computer, but because he needed help getting to and from the Paratransit bus to his desk, the restroom, lunchroom plus make sure he was stocked with the paperwork needed for his computer entries, his work desk was located in the mail room. He couldn’t do this job without the help of the supervisor. The group of special needs employees were devastated when they were replaced by equipment which sorted and delivered the mail to the various departments in 2004.

Discover Card mail room crew

2004 Discover Card mail room crew

What do we do now? I knew it would be hard to find a job where Mark would be safe and get the help he needed to accomplish work tasks. I also knew he wouldn’t be satisfied being at home every day without work. I learned the importance of work and realize its worth is so much more than the monetary value. Work brings happiness.

Work is a blessing in disguise. We may curse it and wish we had less of it to do. I no longer dream of a genie to lighten the work load, but rather one who could help us find work for Mark. It would be nice if I could twitch my nose, clap my hands, or snap my finger and thumb and make a job appear.

On Tuesday I’ll share with you tips on how we found work for Mark.

Gratitude Is The Key To Happiness

GratitudeAfter I posted the article What To Do With The “What Ifs”,  I was asked, “How long after the accident did it take you to start counting your blessings? I started typing a long reply to the question and thought I should make it a Tuesday Tip.

My first thought after I realized we had been hit and were pinned inside the wreckage of our car was, I’m glad the kid’s aren’t with us. So I would have to say I counted my blessings, or recognized the positive, right from the beginning. However, that doesn’t mean I always see the positives and feel grateful. Sometimes I find myself in a pity party—wishing things would have turned out differently. I suppose it’s human nature. Yet when I’m feeling discouraged, I remind myself what a waste of time and energy it is because all the wishing, worrying or feelings of regret do not change the situation.

The best way for me to pull myself out of discouragement and unhappiness is to turn my thoughts around by looking for the positives, which creates a gratitude attitude. Sometimes this is harder to do than other times, but I’ve learned it helps every time. Some days are dark and worrisome, but when I start looking for the positives, more positives appear and my outlook on life changes for the better. I attract what I am focused on.

When I am focused on the positive interactions of family and friends, I can appreciate and recognize them for the love and support they give. The result is—they are usually all the more helpful and loving. That isn’t my motivation for appreciating them, it’s just the way if seems to work.

I don’t believe gratitude always comes naturally, but I try to make it a habit by having a positive attitude. When my kids were teenagers I started a gratitude journal. It really helped me get through a rough time. Every night I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Some nights it took a while for me to think of five things I appreciated, but it turned my discouragement into encouragement. It also brought inner peace because I was focusing on the good instead of dwelling on the bad. Another great aspect of writing in a gratitude journal or keeping a list of things I’m grateful for is that I can go back and read it in times of discouragement.  It really does help.

Gratitude makes what I have enough which brings peace and contentment, the key to happiness. I believe in and remind myself often to count my blessings and name them one by one.

The Best Christmas Gift

December 25, 1985 Christopher 3 days old

December 25, 1982
Christopher 3 days old

My experience has been the best gifts are those you wish a long time for. We had hoped to become parents for three years before our first born, and only son, joined our family December 22,1982.

I remember the doctor coming into the delivery room whistling Christmas carols. He teased me that my timing was terrible — I had interrupted his family’s Christmas party.

“I’ve waited a long time for this baby! Now is the perfect time,” I said.  “I can’t think of a better Christmas gift.”

I related to the Christmas Story that year more than before. How did Mary ride that donkey being great with child? I literally felt her discomfort.

It was hard enough to deliver a baby in a sterile hospital with Mark, a doctor and nurses there to comfort and assist me. How dreadful the situation must have been for Mary, to deliver a baby in a stable with only Joseph there. Angels must have been sent to assist and comfort, but still, what a grim place to deliver a baby. The smell and the dirt along with the noises from the animals could only intensify the stress and worry of the delivery.

I can’t think of a better way to feel the true joy of Christmas other than bringing a baby of our own into the world. What’s more precious than the gift of a child? We learn so much from them and they are a gift that keeps on giving. Usually, they give joy and happiness, and when they don’t—we are growing and learning how to be better parents and how to love unconditionally—the way Christ loves us.

For several months we talked about the perfect name for our child who was going to be a Christmas baby. Christopher, meaning “Christ-like” or “steadfast for Christ”, was our perfect choice.

Since 1982, Christmas has been double the pleasure.

Mark & Chris 1982  1989 Building Dino

1991 Pinewood Derby  1st place trophyChildhood Highlights

1994 Comic Strip

1991, Pinewood Derby car wins 1st place.

1992, Comic is published in newspaper.

We appreciate Christopher’s artistic, musical, & handyman gifts.

2013 Christopher playing at Sun & Moon

2013 Christopher playing at Sun & Moon

2013 Christopher playing at the Farmer's Market

Happy Birthday to a wonderful son!

Feeling Gratitude

Feeling Gratitude - Dec.So grateful for our daughter Katie, who takes her dad shopping every year for my Christmas, Mother’s Day and birthday gifts. She has done this faithfully ever since she’s had her drivers license — and since she’s been married, her husband, Eldin joins her. When Katie was a little girl, Mark took her shopping for my gifts. We didn’t realize she would be continuing the tradition, when at age sixteen she started taking Mark shopping for my gifts. What a sweet and thoughtful daughter we have. We are so grateful for Katie and Eldin!

It has snowed all day today. So blessed to have wonderful neighbors who shoveled my walks and driveway. I am so fortunate to live on this street. I love my neighbors!

Home for the Holidays

Christmas can be a magical time, when wishes are granted. This was definitely the case for Mark and I twenty-two years ago. After eight months of hospitalization, I was finally able to bring Mark home —  just in time for Christmas. He was far from better and still needed extensive therapy and care, so I worked on establishing a “day- patient” schedule where he’d be there all day for therapy and I’d be able to care for him every night at home. At the time he wasn’t able to feed himself or take care of any personal needs. Mark’s doctor, Joseph Vickroy, and the rehab team of speech, occupational and physical therapist, requested that we spend several nights in an apartment-like room located in the center unit where Mark had been for six months. They felt it was important for me to understand the responsibility of caring for Mark before they released him.

I thought the suggestion was trivial since I had spent every day with him and fed him most meals anyway; however, I understood their concern and agreed to do it. I spent several nights there and took complete responsibility for him. Our two children also spent a few nights there to understand what life would be like to have Dad at home.

Once we realized Mark was going to be wheelchair dependent, we knew some home modifications would be necessary. In October 1991, we started building a large room which would become our bedroom with a wheelchair accessible bathroom off the back of the house. Fortunately, my dad and brothers work in construction and they were willing to do the job. My oldest brother, Mick, designed the addition with a ramp for the new back entrance. If you’re blessed to have a father who is an excavating contractor, “you can’t add a room without a basement.”

Top: Left - Don breaking ground. Right - Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings. Middle: Left- Dad. Right - Steve and Mick pouring the footings. Bottom: Left - Steve and Dad. Right - Mick, Steve and Dad pouring the cement floor.

Top:        Left – Don breaking ground.          Right – Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings.
Middle:  Left – Dad trying to escape.            Right – Steve and Mick pouring footings.
Bottom: Left – Steve and Dad.                        Right – Mick, Steve and Dad laying cement floor.

Because they were building this addition on their own time after work, it was not completed in December. Despite the unfinished construction we wanted Mark home for Christmas. Mark’s care was physically difficult until the new bedroom and bathroom were finished, but well-worth all the effort to have him finally home. Our regular bedroom wasn’t big enough for all the equipment now needed for Mark. Our queen-sized bed had to be replaced with a single-sized hospital bed. At night, after I transferred him into bed, I would raise it as high as it could go and place my air mattress on the floor in the only space available — which meant my legs were tucked under the bed. Worried that Mark might forget I was there and use the controls to lower it, I would unplug the bed every night.

This sleeping arrangement made for many jokes. I often said as I unplugged the bed, “You are now out of control.” He teasingly replied, “But, I’ve got the top.”

Our living quarters were cramped and hard with the construction going on, but it was so worthwhile. My heart is filled with gratitude for my dad and brothers who made our home so much better for our new circumstances. Our trials were lightened by their skills and hard work.

Top: Left Don knocking out the brick wall into the new addition Bottom: Left - Chris, Katie, Dad and Mick nailing the top floor down. Right - Chris and Katie painting our the new room.

Top: Left and Right – Don knocking out the brick wall into the new addition.
Bottom: Left – Chris, Katie, Dad and Mick nailing the top floor down.                                   Bottom: Right – Chris and Katie painting our the new room.

After nine months of living in a hospital — it truly was the merriest of Christmas’s to have Mark finally home.

Finished room in March. Christopher, Mark and Katie.

Finished room in March 1992. Christopher, Mark and Katie. Mark in our new queen-size adjustable bed.

A Season to Reach Out to Others

walk aloneRecently I read this post on facebook—”It’s important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now.”

It is a good reminder— there are people who need our prayers, support and friendship. Those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of all kinds. It is always good to know that someone cares and understands. Whenever possible, reach out to those who would benefit from an invitation to dinner, or some other activity.

Every family situation is different. Some family members and friends may not even enjoy a gathering and prefer alone time — but it is important they know they are remembered and included especially around the holidays. We have all felt to some degree rejection and have been offended at times. None of us are perfect and none of us have perfect families or friends. This is the season to forgive one another.

One of my most memorable Thanksgiving’s is when I missed our extended family dinner to serve with my son at the homeless shelter. It was Christopher’s idea and I went along with it because I wanted to be supportive of his noble idea. It turned out to be a very good experience for both of us.

Nobody is immune to hardships, loneliness and grief. Let’s reach out to those around us. As we do so, our own burdens will be lightened. As we focus on giving service and sharing with others, our love and blessings grow. When we appreciate what we do have, the things we don’t become less important.

Celebrate Life

Three months

Three months old

November 12, 1955 a wonderful woman brought a sweet baby boy into this world and made it a better place. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARK WILSON!

He’s so: Adorable, Bright, Courageous, Daring, Ethical, Fun, Gentle, Humorous, Inventive, Joyful, Kind, Loving, Miraculous, Notable, Original, Positive, Quotable, Righteous, Silly, Terrific, Unified, Valiant, Wonderful, Xtraordinary, Youthful, Zany.

One year old

First birthday

Thank you, Wanda Wilson, for this special person. We’re grateful for the care and love given, and regret so many miles are between us. We love and appreciate all you do.

  • Two years old

Three years old

Mark and Wanda

Mark (8)

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

Jerrie, Mom, Mark- 2013 trip to Washington

Count Your Blessings

November is the perfect month to count our blessings. Mark has a wonderful ability to recognize blessings that have come from the car accident which left him wheelchair-dependent, living with seizures and speech impairment, all due to his traumatic brain injury.

Mark says, “The accident has improved and strengthened my emotional well-being. I’ve learned not to be hurt as easily as before by comments made by other people.” People often say things without thinking. Mark chooses not to take offense but rather makes a joke of it.

Other blessings he counts from the accident: “patience with myself and others whom I have to wait on to get their help; my differences make more of an impression, so people remember me easier; my sense of humor has improved (at least in my mind); I have gained many special friends through work and volunteers who come to help me; and the best parking places for our van.”

Because of Mark’s speech impairment, when he talk’s people look at him more intently – to understand what he’s saying. He counts this as a blessing and appreciates those who look him square in the eye and not off somewhere else.

The most fun is when he counts the blessings of his short-term memory problem. “I don’t remember an argument; I can read or hear the same joke over and over again and it’s still funny; I enjoy redoing the same puzzles.”

What a wonderful example he is: counting the blessings in his adversities and letting them strengthen his character. Just one reason why I love him so.

Adversity- Nov.