Hidden Blessings

Everyone can benefit from the encouragement of a promoter and believer in their abilities. I’m grateful for the activists in my life and therefore try to reciprocate by being supportive of others, especially Mark. Being his advocate is a responsibility I take seriously. I’ve witnessed the difference it makes not only in ours life, but in other’s lives as well. It boosts one’s drive to improve and changes their therapy and even the care they receive. Likewise, therapists and professional caregivers buoy up when they know there is a supporter on board. Being an advocate can feel heavy at times and weighs me down, but I see the blessing of improvement which comes from it.

Surgery or illness always brings more caregiving involvement due to the strength loss it brings and for Mark, another issue is his speech. Many people don’t take the time to understand him or they feel awkward when there is miscommunication. Some people are embarrassed to say they couldn’t grasp what he was saying. Mark realizes his speech is impaired and he is not upset by having to repeat himself. He’d rather do that than to be ignored or have someone not comprehend what he’s saying. With uncomfortable and pleading eyes others often look to me to interpret what he just said. Therefore, I feel the need to always be by his side to love, protect and encourage others to understand him. I see the blessing the blessing that comes from communication and when others get to know Mark’s fun personality.

I get lots of advice about what I should or should not do and I have to remind myself it’s generally coming because that person cares about our well-being. Some people think the level of dependency is unhealthy and wrong, while others praise the assistance. Ultimately, I’m just doing what I feel is best, which isn’t necessarily what I prefer to do. As most caregivers know, it isn’t about me. One of the blessings in all this is as I help Mark, my love for him grows and when I come to his aid with the right attitude, it becomes an honor to do so. Not all people can be caregivers, but I’m fortunate to have the health, strength and support which enables me to do so.

This year has brought some unusual difficulties in my caregiving journey. Starting with my large hernia, which was an easy fix with the obstacle being the six-week recovery time and finding someone dependable to care for Mark. Originally, I was in hopes to have my surgery right after Mark had his hip surgery. I thought it made perfect sense for me to recuperate while Mark was in the rehab center. Due to complications, Mark’s hip surgery was postponed and my recovery plan was ruined. Thank heaven for family and friends, especially a daughter who was willing and capable of moving in for the recovery time. It turned out to be a great blessing for all of us, bringing us closer together as we worked through those weeks.

After my recovery, Mark was approved and scheduled to have his surgery. Less than a week before the long-awaited date we were informed he would have to go a larger facility with an ICU due to the risk of complications. It became more frustrating when we were told the surgery date was now uncertain because they weren’t sure when they could fit the four-hour surgery on the bigger hospital’s schedule. Another hurdle was the surgeon wouldn’t start the surgery late in the afternoon. We anxiously waited until the day before surgery to get word whether Mark could be fit in or not. Fortunately the surgery was able to take place on the original scheduled date and having it done at the larger hospital proved to be a blessing. Mark needed one radiation treatment to hinder the excessive bone growth from recurring. This hospital has an oncology center so Mark didn’t have to go far the day after his surgery for the treatment.

I was disappointed when I learned Mark’s insurance plan wouldn’t allow him to go to the rehab center of our choice. I appealed to the insurance company and the doctor wrote a recommendation for an acute rehab center. There was no persuading the insurance company. Saddened by their decision, I searched for an alternative. I learned that not all rehab centers allow a family member to stay overnight with their loved one. I understood their concerns, but for our situation, I couldn’t abide by the rule. Although Rocky Mountain Care discourages overnight stays, they do allow it, so here we are. Another benefit of this place was that Mark had rehab here two years ago after three hospitalizations for blood clots. The admitting personnel and rehab coordinator were familiar with us. It has proven to be another blessing that we are here. We love the therapists. They work hard to help Mark gain improvement. We appreciate their knowledge and the equipment available. The in-house doctor, nurses and CNA’s are helpful. It may not have been my first choice, but I believe he is getting the best care possible.

isaiah-55-8-9Some days it feels like I’ve had more than my share of things not turning out the way I’ve planned, hoped for and worked diligently towards. However, when I look back on the end result, I realize it worked out for the best. I’m feeling fortunate as I recall these hidden blessings and realize there are many who support us. I’m grateful for each one of you and especially for our greatest advocator. He pleads for us and knows what is best.

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I Need Thee Every Hour

Right hip replacement with extended rod for added stability.

New hip-front view

Left arthritic hip with calcium buildup preventing free movement.

It’s been a hard couple of weeks.  We expected the healing process from a total hip replacement would be difficult, however, the distinct difference between expecting and knowing is living it day by day, which makes the actual experience a reality.

As I was searching for the perfect thought to go along with my last story and tip concerning true grit, I found a quote from John Wayne. “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” I chuckled when I read it, but it haunted me through our “tough” week.  I couldn’t stop wondering if we took a ridiculous chance or made a senseless choice in choosing major surgery for Mark.

We took months to decide. Vacillating back and forth nearly drove me crazy. When I was reluctant, Mark was assured and visa-versa. The stiffness and painful ache was bound to get worse over time and with the results of his bone density test, we realized if he was going to have the surgery we needed to do it now. After much prayer and discussions about risks and concerns, the surgery felt like the best solution for helping Mark to sit comfortably and move better as well as making it easier for me to transfer him in and out of his wheelchair. We were hoping this would bring an improved quality of life for both of us. I’ve wondered if the uncertainty was a sign we shouldn’t go through with the surgery, yet we couldn’t let go of the a hope for improvement.

Since the day of the car accident, I’ve felt responsible for Mark’s care. It isn’t because I want to be in control of his life, but while he was in a coma, I was forced into that position.  It overwhelms me to be in charge of another person well-being and I guess I could have shirked from the responsibility, but my love for him wouldn’t allow me to do so.  I hated the circumstances and would have loved to escape from having to make many decisions—however, obligation felt like the right choice.

In a rehab center, it’s easy to notice another person who’s had the same surgery near or on the same date who’s healing and progressing at a much faster pace.  Some of the patients here who came about the same time we did have already gone home or are getting ready to do so in the next week. It isn’t that they’ve worked harder or more diligently, but they had a physical advantage to start with.

I’ve wondered if we made the right choice or if we just made our life harder. Sure, Mark’s gained movement, but he’s lost strength and so far the improved movement doesn’t make up for the lack of strength, which makes transfers even harder than before. He’s far from ready to come home and that’s discouraging. We’re praying he’ll turn a corner soon and his recovery will speed up, but in the meantime, I’m trying to be patient and positive.

Every Sunday they have a short church service at the rehab center for anyone who’d like to participate. Today the opening hymn was, I Need Thee Every Hour. I fought the tears as the words seemed especially significant and reminded me how much I needed God to calm the raging storms in my life. Noticing a few others who also had tears, reminded me that our anguish can either humble us or make us bitter.

Looking around the room, I saw others with more serious problems than my own. Realizing my fortune gave me strength and desire to lighten their loads. It amazes me what some of these people endure with a smile. They have taught me I can focus on what’s right or what’s wrong in my life. It’s my choice.

Life is hard, and making stupid choices does make it harder. Sometimes I’m right and other times I’m wrong, but I’m always trying to do what’s best. For me life is easier and I have more confidence when I rely on the Lord.

It’s Not About Me

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to my daughter’s father-in-law, Chuck Ferguson. Chuck was a caregiver to his wife, Susan, until she passed away from cancer in May of 2003. He cared for her in their home in Richfield, Utah. When she died, they had four grown children and five grandchildren.

Written by Chuck Ferguson

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Of course, I suppose it never is. When Susan was diagnosed with cancer, it seemed like the end of the world. It was a devastating blow.

Nurse Susan Ferguson, 1972

Susan Ferguson, 1972

It also was a reversal of roles. As a nurse, Susan had been a caregiver since before we were married. She had helped countless patients who were suffering through hard times with a gentle touch and a heart of gold. Now it was suddenly I who was cast into the role of caregiver. It didn’t come easily.

This past July 11th marked 45 years since Susan and I were married in the Oakland LDS Temple. Marriage to Susan was the best thing ever to happen to me. She was the best part of me, and her spirit still is.

It was just before our 29th anniversary that Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer. It came as a shock to our entire family. Susan had regular mammograms every year, always coming up negative. Nevertheless, she had a feeling that something was wrong and decided to have a biopsy. The results showed her at stage 3 breast cancer. Apparently, calcification had masked the cancerous growth.

Despite the bad news, we tried to maintain our normal routines while sandwiching in Susan’s treatments. We tried to keep a positive outlook, pinning our hopes on an experimental stem cell program that seemed promising.

Susan first received four regular courses of chemotherapy. The program then required Susan to be in the hospital for about a month, then another couple of weeks in offsite housing. Between the collecting of stem cells, and the procedure of intense “near death” chemotherapy followed by reintroducing the collected stem cells for recovery, the whole experience could be described as nothing less than torture. After all that, surely the cancer would be defeated.

And so for several months after the treatments we carried on a “normal” life. However, within myself there was a constant undefined feeling of uncertainty, near inner chaos. Looking back, I can see that it affected me in everything I did. I think I knew that, as much as I hoped otherwise, I had a certain sense of inevitable doom. And with it there was a selfish feeling of, “why me?”

Not long afterwards, Susan started having an ache in her hip that would not go away. X-rays showed a fractured hip caused by bone cancer. An oncologist made it clear that the cancer had spread and that Susan was terminal.

It took me a while to overcome the “poor me” syndrome. But finally I began to realize and internalize what became my mantra – “It’s not about me.” It was difficult to be in the ironic position of caregiver for the woman I considered the best caregiver I had ever known. Trying to live up to the standards that she had established as a caregiver were often frustrating. I was required to do many things for which I had very limited training. Fortunately I had the best possible teacher, Susan.

Ferguson Family, 2002

Ferguson Family, 2002

The next three-and-a-half years were the best years of our marriage as we made the most of the time we had left together. We traveled the world and enjoyed special times with our children and grandchildren. It wasn’t always easy for Susan. Sometimes she was sick, sometimes confined to a wheelchair, often tired, or in pain from the medications and treatments. I did my best to meet Susan’s needs, whatever they might be. Frustrations became challenges, and challenges became opportunities to serve the woman that I loved so dearly.

Being a caregiver for Susan demanded a lot—physically, mentally and emotionally. It demanded more than I ever imagined I could endure. But it was easier whenever I looked into my Susan’s eyes and reminded myself, “It’s not about me.”

Thank you Chuck for sharing your story and for reminding us that our challenges are opportunities to serve the people we love. I’m grateful for you and Susan and the four wonderful children you raised together, especially Eldin, who happens to be my favorite son-in-law. When Katie Mae and Eldin were engaged, I knew it was a good match. They both grew up with a parent giving care to another. I love your reminder that caregiving, marriage and life in general, is not just about me.

Chuck remarried the following year and lives with his wife, Suzie, and their daughter, Katie, in the Salt Lake Valley. I appreciate him sharing this heart-felt message with us!

A Village of Support

Written by, Katie Wilson Ferguson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015, Katie transferring Mark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015, Eldin  Lizzy

2015, Eldin and Lizzy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accepting Care as a Caregiver

IMG_0720I’ve been spoiled for the past two weeks. Friends and family have made the anxious recovery time enjoyable by bringing in meals, cookies, flowers and a visit. My brother and employer, Steve, not only spent the first night by my side, but has come every day to make sure I’m well and has covered much of my employment responsibilities. I’ve also had Katie’s constant watchful eye. All these blessings have helped me heal quicker and better than I expected. I was dreading the recovery time, worried that I’d be hovering over Mark, his personal aide and Katie. How could anyone else take good enough care of him? I’ve learned Mark can be in good hands other than my own.

When Katie realized I needed surgery, she immediately offered to come and help. I didn’t want to burden her, so I thanked her and declined the offer. She is a self-employed, busy, graphic designer plus she volunteers in four different organizations right now. Eldin, her husband, is a great supporter of Katie, but he is a busy bishop in addition to his full-time job. Since our son lives in Washington State, I didn’t feel it would be fair for her to carry this load on her own.

After interviewing three aides who weren’t able to fulfill our needs for one reason or another, Katie offered her help again. Being a protective mom and wanting to preserve the father/daughter relationship, I’ve never given Katie the opportunity to have the hands on routine of transferring her dad from the bed to the wheelchair, showering and other personal care tasks. I knew she’d be capable, but I didn’t want to add caregiver to her many other responsibilities. I realize now I was denying her the blessings that come from caregiving.

IMG_0695

IMG_0700IMG_0709In these two weeks we’ve learned a lot. It’s a joy to watch Katie and Mark interact with one another. It’s evident to me when you serve someone, your love somehow grows. I never imagine she could be more thoughtful and kind, but somehow she is. I never believe she would love us more, but somehow she does.I don’t understand why this is or how it works. It reminds me of when I was pregnant and I wondered how I could have room in my heart to love and care for another baby. When she arrived, my heart magically grew and right from the start, I loved her every bit as much as my first baby.This growing magic continues throughout life as different nurturing experiences arise. It’s a beautiful part of life.

Before the surgery, I paid two neighborhood boys to help move some furniture and make a separate bedroom for me in the front part of the house which was originally my office. In this room I can’t see or hear Mark and can completely rest without any worries. Since Katie is here most of the day and night I can relax, confident that Mark is cared for.

I hired a shower aide to come every other day for Mark. She also helps him with his exercises. This not only lightens Katie’s load, but keeps her from having to do the personal care which would be awkward for their father/daughter relationship. Having others who know Mark’s needs and understand his routine is a bigger relief to me than I had imagined.

I’ve worried for months about how I’d manage the care for Mark during my recovery time and so far it’s worked out much better than I anticipated. The planning effort was well worth it. What I’ve learned from this experience:

  • Mark can be in good hands other than my own.
  • Accept help from family and friends and enjoy the love that grows from it.
  • Nurturing is a beautiful part of life. Share the blessing.
  • Make it easy and comfortable for those who are assisting.
  • Look for the good and realize tasks can be done differently.
  • Appreciate the efforts of another, even when they don’t do things the way you do.
  • Having others who know the caregiver’s routine is a great benefit in case of emergency or for caregiver respite.

I’m enjoying and appreciating all the help we’re receiving. Many hands do make light work and it has allowed me to get the needed rest for a speedy recovery. To all my family and friends—Thank You!

Looking for Inspiration

Mark’s pneumonia seemed to be improving, but the fever persisted and the white cell count was too high. Dr. Wright felt changing his feeding tube would improve his condition.

“The nasogastric (NG) tube is not meant for long term and can be a source of infection. Since we don’t know how long it will take for Mark to be capable of chewing and swallowing, I recommend it be replaced with a gastrostomy tube which allows feeding directly into the stomach,” Dr. Wright said.

“It would be his third surgery in nearly three months. I would hate for him to go through it, especially when he’s showing signs of improvement.”

“The percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) procedure is relatively common under these circumstances. It’s a simple surgery, which only takes 30-45 minutes,” the doctor said.

I despised making decisions for Mark. The responsibility was a heavy load that I was unprepared to carry. What would he want? I tried to connect with his spirit. Tell me Mark, what do you want me to say? Do you need the feeding tube? Should I agree to it? I knew I had to be his voice, but I wanted him to give me the answers. I felt and heard nothing.

“I believe the PEG will improve Mark’s condition and lower the frequency of aspiration. He’ll tolerate it better,” the doctor encouraged.

“Okay,” I agreed reluctantly.

Within a few days, Dr. Wright arranged for the surgery at a nearby hospital and ordered a specialized van which could transport Mark in a reclined wheelchair. I rode in the van with Mark. He was unconscious and seemingly unaware of the drive on this beautiful, hot summer day in July. When we arrived at Cottonwood Hospital, two male aides lifted Mark’s stiff body onto a stretcher and wheeled him into an operating waiting room. I meet the surgeon for the first time just minutes before the surgery was scheduled. With a nurse at his side, the doctor explained to me the procedure details. The nurse handed me a thin, wooden clipboard with forms for me to sign, not only giving approval for the surgery, but declaring my understanding of the risks involved. The complications listed included: aspiration, oversedation, wound infection and/or bleeding. These complications I could comprehend, but an injury to the liver, bowel or spleen took me by surprise. When I read hemorrhaging and perforation, or unwanted hole in the bowel wall, which could be fatal, a big red flag shot up in my mind.

Risks—wait a minute. I was only told about how common and simple this procedure was. Now I’m reading about all the unfortunate possibilities and just minutes before the surgery was scheduled. I felt trapped and wasn’t convinced Mark needed the PEG in the first place. I believed with every fiber of my being that life would get back on the normal track—the one we were familiar with.  I couldn’t imagine any other way of life, but these foreign road blocks kept getting in our way.

I looked at Mark, who was unaware of my turmoil. I resented being in this position. I was hoping and praying for inspiration to know what his desires were, but I felt nothing.

“I can’t sign these forms,” I said to the surgeon, handing back the clipboard and forms to the nurse. “I wasn’t made aware of these complications.”

“Oh, the chances of any of them happening are one in a thousand,” he said in a reassuring voice.

“Before our car accident, I could think Mark would never be that ‘one in a thousand’. The statistics mean nothing to me now. How many car accidents happen and result in a traumatic brain injury, causing a coma for three months? If you happen to be that ‘one in a thousand’, that’s all that counts.”

“He’s had the NG tube twice as long as recommended. They are not meant to be used more than six weeks. Dr. Wright has recommended this procedure in order to maintain adequate nutrition for Mark.”

“I understand, but I just don’t know how much longer he will need any feeding tube and I wasn’t told about the risks until now. I need a few minutes to process this information. I don’t want to sign the consent forms under pressure. I need to think about it, I’ll be back soon,” I said as I walked out of the room, leaving the nurse and surgeon with Mark.

I hurried down the hall wanting to vanish from this situation, but not knowing where to go. I can’t believe I just walked out. I don’t want to make one more decision about Mark’s healthcare, but I’m expected to. I wasn’t getting an answer from Mark on what I should do, so I knew my best option was to find a secluded place to pray. I spotted a women’s bathroom, went inside and locked the stall door. Lord, I’m under pressure to sign for this procedure. I believe you know all from the beginning to the end. Please tell me—should I sign for Mark to have the surgery? Does he really need it?

Feeling awkward and anxious about this strange place for such an important prayer and my desperate need for inspiration, I was quickly overcome with a calming sensation. Yes, he needs the surgery. Fear not, everything will be alright., I am with thee.

Thank you for your insight and reassurance.

I walked back to the room with confidence in my decision and the surgeon and nurse were relieved when I told them I was ready to sign the forms. The nurse handed me the clipboard and after my signatures, they rushed off to the operating room.

Ninety minutes later the surgeon finally came to the waiting room where I was told to wait. “The surgery was a success. The reason it took longer than usual was because of Mark’s strong stomach muscles.”

“He’ll be proud to hear that,” I said with a smile. “Mark did a hundred sit-ups nightly to stay fit and trim. He never wanted a pot belly.”

“Well, he definitely doesn’t have one. It’s more like abs of steel,” the doctor said as he shook my hand good-bye.

Mark and I spent a few more hours at Cottonwood Hospital in a recovery room and by early evening the van came and drove us back to Western Rehab. The dreaded G-tube was in place and all went well. Mark survived his third operation and I looked forward to telling him that the surgeon confirmed his abs were made of steel.

 

How to Live in Thanksgiving Daily

Give-Thanks2I’ve noticed people who have a gratitude attitude are the happiest kind of people in the world. It’s a quality which makes them more likable and at peace with themselves. Think about a happy person you know. I’d be willing to bet they are grateful for what they have, look for the best in all circumstances and are a joy to be around. They tend to make others feel better about themselves. Where there is an abundance of gratitude, there is happiness.

Now, think about an unhappy person. Are they resentful and bitter because life didn’t turn out the way they thought it should? You might hear them say something like, “If only I were smarter, had a new car, a college degree or a different job, spouse or parent, then I could be happy.” There are many good reasons for us not to be happy and it’s easy to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. The more we focus on the things we don’t have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become. The lack of gratitude can make us miserable. I know from my own experience I am much happier when I appreciate what I do have rather than concentrating on what I don’t have.

My best example of someone who lives in thanksgiving daily is my husband, Mark. I don’t know of another person who is more grateful, happy and gives more joy to others. I also don’t know anyone who has more reason to be bitter, resentful, or has more 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. The inability to appreciate others causes criticism of efforts and does not allow one to acknowledge another’s contributions. My life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he lives in thanksgiving daily. Three ways he shows his appreciation 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 you are grateful for. 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.

thanksgivingdailyfinishTry making a gratitude list and read it when you’re sad and feeling ungrateful. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • List 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?