The Starved Relationship

Matt-Head-ShotLast Thursday, Dr. Matt Townsend, a relationship expert, spoke to a group of survivors and caregivers at the Intermountain Medical Center. He presented life-changing skills with humor, teaching me how to improve my relationships in an entertaining way. I enjoyed his presentation so much that I’ve been listening to his many short videos on a variety of topics dealing with relationships while I work. If you like to listen to fun, uplifting, concise talks, you should check out his website.

A synopsis of what I learned from Matt is that life keeps changing and some experiences change the way we think and feel. Although our experiences may differ, we share feelings of: loss, sadness, insecurity, embarrassment, inadequacy, anxiety and/or depression at some time in our lives.

He quoted Carl Jung, a famous psychiatrist, “That which is most personal is most universal.”

Matt professionally counsels people for a wide range of challenges. Some have financial, fidelity, abuse and a variety of addictions. He calls these problems the smoke rather than the cause of the fire. He states we all have seven basic needs and we feel starved when those needs aren’t meet. When we feel starved, we don’t want to feed the other and the bond is broken, which ignites the fire.

We all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace in a relationship we must feel:

  • Safe – including physical, financial, mental, emotional, social and spiritual safety
  • Trust – consisting of honesty and competence
  • Appreciation- hearing or seeing words of approval (remember it takes four positives to ease one negative comment)
  • Respect – showing through words and deeds
  • Validate – hearing what is said to understand without having to agree
  • Encourage – getting into the heart of your loved one and doing what you can to help them reach their goals
  • Dedication – committing to your relationship and making them feel more important than any place or thing.

Matt said trauma or health issues are the number one way to expand in these areas. We don’t grow unless we are pushed. We learn through our challenges.

Townsend Starved StuffWhen these basic needs are not met, we feel starved which makes it hard to fill your loved one’s needs. We all feel love and express love differently. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, describes how some of us feel love by: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We tend to give love to another in the manner that speaks love to us. However, it is better expressed in the language your loved one speaks. Matt says his wife’s love language is acts of service. He vacuums or does another household chore and she’s appreciative. His love language is physical touch. They’ve tried holding hands while he vacuums, but that’s just too awkward.

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

GandhiWe all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace, we must feed the relationship. “You must be the change you wish to see.”- Gandi

Matt is the founder and president of Townsend Relationship Center, a relationship skills-building organization.

To hear Dr. Matt Townsend’s presentation of The Starved Relationship see:

 

 

 

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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

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

Our 36th Wedding Anniversary

Scan0053Yesterday we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. Sounds and feels like a long time until I compare it to my parents who have been married 65 years.  How can you live happily ever after? This is what I’ve learned from my experience and by watching others.

Physical contact is important.

I will never forget how much I missed physical contact with Mark for the three months he was in his coma. Sure I could hold his hand, but he was not capable of holding mine and I missed it! After my collarbone healed from our car accident, I was anxious to help the nurses and aides bathe Mark, rub lotion on him, and transfer him in and out of bed. I wanted so much to touch and care for him. I needed that closeness. The nurses and aides were willing to let me help and I loved doing it.

I’ll never forget the first time I slipped into the hospital bed lying next to Mark, hoping no one would care. It felt so good just to be next to him and since the nurses didn’t seem to mind, it became a routine. I have never taken for granted the need for physical contact since those lonely long months after the car accident.

Mom and Dad 2014I still love to see my parents holding hands as they walk or sit on the couch next to each other. To watch my father help my mother out of a car, down steps, or out of a chair is endearing. They have grown in tenderness with each other over the years. It is clear to me that they love one another and appreciate the time they have together. I am grateful for their example.

Positive reinforcement is a must.

Mark is especially good at accentuating the positive. He always makes me feel wonderful.  He calls me S.U.G.A.R. and spells it as an acronym for Sweetheart, Unmatchable, Girl of my dreams, Awesome, Reason to live. He often reminds me and others who will listen what S.U.G.A.R. stands for. It makes me feel special.

I’ve also noticed when I tell Mark he looks handsome, he sits up a little straighter and holds his head a little higher. We all need and enjoy compliments.

Express appreciation for the other.

Mark and I 1995Every relationship is different. It’s not possible for me to have a relationship like my parents’, but I am capable of having a loving relationship. Mark and I aren’t able to travel to far away destinations and even a romantic dinner and dance is difficult. But I can provide a special dinner at home and turn on some music so we can sway back and forth. I believe no matter where you are in your relationship, you need to appreciate it for what it is.

I feel blessed to still have Mark here with me. When a person only has a five to ten percent chance to live and no chance of coming out of a coma due to the extensive damage to the brain, you know every day is a bonus day. Those days have added up to twenty-four bonus years, which means I’ve been his caregiver for two-thirds of our married life. I believe by being his caregiver and advocate my love has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Happy anniversary to my hero, Mark. I love you!

 

Caregiving Tips from Ann McDougall

Ann's kids awakeWhat became obvious to me as I read and edited Ann’s story last Sunday was how caregivers need other caregivers to be capable of doing what needs to be done. Her viewpoint wasn’t as a caregiver, but one that was receiving the care. However, she is a mother and all parents are caregivers. I learned from Ann’s story how important others were to enable her to give the care needed for her baby’s development and the care of her three year old son, Liam. I relate to that in my own caregiving journey. It’s clear to me I can’t do it alone. I don’t know anyone who can. Sometimes we may feel alone, but I hope that feeling doesn’t last.  Ann’s experience with being on bed rest for twenty-eight weeks taught her what was important to a person on the receiving end of caregiving. The following five tips were shared and written by Ann McDougall:

  • Be proactive. It was appreciated when others would ask what is needed and then follow through. With some people I was comfortable saying exactly what I needed and with others I wasn’t. I have a close friend who asked what she could do for me besides come visit and I asked her to pick up some specific snacks for me. I wouldn’t tell just anybody that. I had other friends who brought me crafts to do to keep me busy. All the supplies were ready so I could easily do it in bed.
  • If you say you are going to visit, visit. They are so important to someone who can’t get out. I felt isolated and lonely and really looked forward to the visits. I have a grandma who went blind in her old age. She was homebound and had to rely on caregivers. I know my grandma felt a lot of loneliness and thrived on visits. I have more empathy and compassion for people, especially the elderly, who are home alone all day and not able to do everything for themselves like they used to. Calls, texts, and Facebook messages were a good alternative to visits and were also appreciated.
  • Pick one doctor to be the primary doctor and stick with his/her opinion. When I was in the hospital, I saw a team of doctors who worked in the same specialty area. I also saw student doctors working under those doctors. Each one had a slightly different opinion and approach to my care. Before I was admitted, I had already picked one doctor to be my primary doctor so I was able to refer back to his opinion.
  • Remember the children. My mom brought toys to the hospital for Liam. It gave him something to do while he was there and those toys stayed at the hospital so they weren’t the same toys at home. He looked forward to those special toys and it helped make the boring, small hospital room a bit more inviting. Another visitor brought a children’s story book just for him that also stayed in my room. He loved it and still does.
  • Consistent child care is important, especially for young children. Liam struggled when I was on bed rest at home because I wasn’t able to get up and do things for him or play with him and when I was admitted to the hospital, his world was turned completely upside down. He acted out by hitting and had a huge potty training regression. It was tough for me to ask people to watch him because I knew he would be difficult to be around, especially if he didn’t know the person well. It was a huge help when my mom was able to take Liam the majority of the time. It helped Liam to have the same person watching him with a consistent routine. He knew what to expect from day to day, where he would be and when he would get to see me. I appreciated the many people who offered to take him, but I knew it was best if he wasn’t shuffled from house to house. I know it was hard for my mom to have him most of the time, but we were so grateful she was able to take care of him.

Life Does Not Have to be Perfect

Three tips from Barbara Larsen’s Story, Joyce, an Angel in Our Home

I see a girl not a condition1. Feelings of failure are normal. I have known Barbara Larsen for many years. She is a neighbor and dear friend. I never knew she felt like a failure nor did I ever think of her this way. I only saw the kind, loving sister she is. I am grateful for her honesty and it helped me realize that sometimes we just expect too much of ourselves.

2. Frustration is common. It’s understandable and okay as long as it’s dealt with in a positive way. Find outside help from family, friends, church or other organizations. Share the responsibilities and the blessings that come with it. Taking a break is necessary for overcoming frustration.

3. Care Centers can be the best solution. Barbara said, “It’s okay, if it comes to a point you can no longer take care of your loved one in your home. Let the professionals do it. There came a time when I knew others could take better care of Joyce than I could. It was difficult to let her go, but we still loved and supported her at the care center even though it was hard to watch her slowly leave us.”

I really appreciated the stories shared this month by three guest authors of a mother, grandmothers and a sister. Since it is the month we celebrate Mother’s and Memorial Day I thought these three stories would be a perfect match for this month. I learned a lot from each one and based the Tuesday Tips this month on their stories. Each caregiver’s loved one has passed into a better place where health is no longer an issue. Each guest author stated that caregiving was a lot harder than they thought it would be and needed to seek help from others. I echo this feeling and add, it’s a good thing we don’t realize how hard it will be or we might not be so willing. I was impressed that each one voiced the love, personal growth and appreciation for the opportunity to give care even though or possibly because it was the hardest thing they’d ever done.

Life doesn't have to be perfectThese three stories helped me realized how similar caregiving is to raising children. Not only do they have like responsibilities, but when you’re in the middle of doing it—it seems like it will never end. However, it eventually does. Just like our children grow and leave our homes—our loved ones move on and return to their heavenly home. The responsibility does end and when it does there are things we will miss. Dianne, Julie and Barbara’s stories prompted us to appreciate the time we have and to make the best of our circumstances. Hopefully, in the end we won’t have regrets and we will be at peace, realizing we did our best.

I appreciated the honesty of each one as they expressed their overwhelming feelings and frustration at times. Thank you for reminding us that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful and neither do we.

Appreciate What You Have

AppreciateOften it’s hard to fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. When you miss it then you realize just how blessed you were. Last Sunday’s Story by Julie Brown, Caregiving Memories of My Grandmothers, was a great example of appreciation all way around. Julie was grateful for the opportunity to care for her grandmothers and they appreciate her for the care she gave.

I was fortunate to know both of Julie’s grandmothers. They welcomed our family when we moved into the neighborhood. They were friendly, happy and the kind of people that always made you feel better just by being around them. Last summer when Mark was at the rehab center, Julie’s grandmother was in a room just a few doors down from Mark’s room. Since I was with Mark most of the time, we witnessed the sweet visits from Julie and her children. I was impressed and touched by her love and support and know her grandmother was also. At mealtime we often sat at the same table with Julie’s grandmother and she spoke often of her family and how grateful she was for them.

Three tips from Julie’s story:

1)     Sometimes your presence is all the help that’s needed. Julie recognized the importance of visiting her grandmother in the rehab center. Sometimes she would rub her feet, brush her hair and other times she just sat and held her grandmother’s hand. Giving support and encouragement in this way was all her grandmother needed. Nothing feels better than knowing you are loved and cared for.

2)    Humor relieves stress. While Julie’s grandma was living with her and dropped something, she would apologize for the mess that needed cleaning. Julie used humor instead of getting upset by saying, “How did you know I needed to mop the floor?” Also when Julie’s kids couldn’t understand why she was happy to make another meal for Grandma and not them, she would say, “When you are 90 years old, you can be picky too.”

3)      Appreciate the time you have. During the hard times, when Julie was tired or frustrated she would remind herself that her grandmother would not be here much longer and what an honor it was to take care of her. Most things are harder than we think they’re going to be and being a caregiver is no exception. I think it’s wonderful Julie stuck with it and recognized the blessings which came because of her service. The appreciation her grandmothers expressed to her and the feelings of gratitude she felt from her deceased grandpa brought pleasure and made her caregiving worthwhile. This is a great reminder for all of us—when someone is doing something nice for us—appreciation is the best pay.

I thought Laura Nordfelt’s comment was worth repeating, “What an amazingly sweet person you are Julie and what a great gift you gave to your children, not only the time they had with their great grandmother, but the lesson they learned about giving back. You are one smart (and wonderful) Mom.”