Anticipating the New Year

As a child, December was a long month of anticipation and wonder. The excitement in the air nearly took my breath away. I felt gloomy when the Christmas season and school break came to an end. The thought of having to wait another twelve long months or 365 days to feel that kind of joy and excitement was dreadful. Many Christmas’s have come and gone and the month no longer brings a school break, in fact it’s just the opposite.

As an adult, December can feel like a month of endurance. At work it’s a month of year-end bookkeeping and preparations for the new year. It would be a busy month all on its own, but throw in Christmas and all the beautiful decorations, sounds of terrific music, pleasure of parties, delicious baking and delightful shopping because everything is on sale. It’s no wonder we feel exhausted, overwhelmed and often get sick.

Forgive yourself

At the end of the year I always suffer with melancholy. As a child, it was because the Christmas season and break was coming to an end, as an adult it’s because I remember the year’s resolutions I didn’t achieve and other unfulfilled expectations. I’m plagued with wondering how I can better plan for the new year and actually complete my goals.

Don't Compare

 

I commit the sin to often  of comparing myself to others and what they have accomplished. I question why I can’t do better. The antidote to melancholy is optimism and I’m giving myself a healthy dose of it over the next week as I prepare for a new year, new beginnings and a better me.

Give ThanksA change of heart occurs when I reflect on the blessing of family, friends and experiences of the past year with grateful heart. When I’m thankful I find peace with my life and my relationships. This is what December and every other month should feel like—joy, peace, gratitude and goodwill to all mankind. If you are reading this, I thank you for being a part of my life’s journey.

I’d like to share with you my plans for the new year. In the past, Uniting Caregivers has had three categories: Sunday Stories, Tuesday Tips and Thursday Thoughts. I’ve decided to drop the day and have  categories of Stories, Tips and Thoughts. I still plan on posting three times a week, but without the days listed two stories may be posted in a week or two tips, or two thoughts depending on the inspiration that week. If a guest author has written two parts to their story it could be posted simultaneously on a Sunday and then on Tuesday. At least one inspirational story will be posted every week and the follow up tip may be shorter than in the past.

 

 

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 Joyful Season

Christmas @ 19 yrs old

1978 -Barbara and Santa Claus

It seems I can’t get through the month of December without getting sick.  I blame it on weather changing, lack of sleep, and the added stress. In past years I usually catch some sickly bug at the end of the month. Not this year, bronchitis hit me on the first day of December.

In my business life, I am an account manager for Earthwork Property Management, and I manage 560 property accounts. December is the busiest month of the year—wrapping up those loose ends while planning and preparing and for a new year.

In my personal life, I wear many more hats. I won’t bore you with the long list, but I’m sure it’s similar to yours. This December, we have the added blessing of health insurance issues to deal with. In our house that means two health insurance plans to research and decide on. Because of Mark’s disability he has Medicare and I have an individual plan, so double the work.

Add Christmas to this mix, with all the decorating in and outside, extra baking and cooking, cards to write and send, extra shopping for food and gifts and then wrapping them all up to look nice for someone special.

There are all sorts of ideas on how to survive the holidays. I don’t want to survive them, I want to enjoy them! There is so much to do and see. I don’t want to miss out on any of it. Christmas is the holiday most of us look forward to all year. As a child on Christmas night, I remember thinking how hard it was going to be to wait— a whole 365 days— until the next Christmas. I also recall on June 25th thinking, yeah, we’re half way there! Time moved much slower then.

First Christmas together-before marriage

First Christmas together-before marriage

Now time passes much too quickly, and every year it seems to fly by even faster. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done. December often feels like a society race to get everything done before the 25th. I love Christmas, for the reason that it is the day set to celebrate Christ’s birth. It brings a magical feeling to my soul. I enjoy all the activities that are associated with it, so much that I try to do them all. That’s when it gets overwhelming and becomes difficult to focus on the reason for this most celebrated day.

My wish for this Christmas was for life to slow down. I wanted to relish Christmas like I did when I was younger. Enjoy every minute of the season with all the celebration and no stress.  I know, a far-fetched wish.

So I’ve got bronchitis and I’ve slowed down.  I’ve already missed a couple of scheduled Christmas activities, which lessened stress but added disappointment. Yes, I’ve slowed down, but the rest of the world around me hasn’t, and I’m not looking forward to the catch up.