A new year brings anticipation for great things. This year feels like a warmth of sunshine after cloudy days. 2020 brought many challenges without the “perfect vision” the year number indicated. Learning from our experience gives us energy for improvement as we move forward.
My list of twenty-one take-aways from 2020 with optimism that 2021 will be a better year if we remember:
We are resilient and can recover from stressful conditions.
We care about others more than our own comfort. Wearing a mask is proof.
We are creative with ways to connect, celebrate, worship, and teach while social distancing.
We are resourceful and can adapt to difficult circumstances.
We are all passionate about our beliefs, therefore it’s important to respect individual beliefs especially when they differ from our own.
We are patient, notably when it’s necessary.
We persevere in hard situations as we work for improvement.
We are courageous as we learn to do things we’ve never done before.
We are fashionable. Masks often match what we are wearing or make a statement about our personality. Colorful, fun masks are amusing.
We need each other. Isolating negatively affects our mental health.
We realize hugs are not to be taken for granted.
We are more aware of what our teachers and healthcare providers do. We are so thankful for their dedication.
We gained gratitude for sanitary stations by most building entrances.
We have appreciation for disinfectant wipes to sanitize grocery carts.
We learned zoom meetings are an effective way to take care of business.
We learned routine doctor visits can be done efficiently and are convenient by facetime or duo phone calls.
When an in-person doctors visit is necessary, the sticker on your shirt with the written temperature reading puts other at ease or encourages them to keep their distance if you have a fever.
We appreciated less people in the doctor’s office making the wait time to get into the exam room significantly shorter.
More people working from home improves the air quality and drives gasoline prices down. It’s grand that city streets no longer filled with vehicles were roped off for recreational bike riding and walking.
Social distancing at home allowed more time to get projects done.
Each person is important. We make a difference in the lives around us.
This year has been an experience we’ll all remember. 2020 not only strengthened our character, but it helped us realize what is most important. I hope to remember the positive lessons learned from the past as we move forward.
The switch from daylight to standard time always throws my internal clock off. It takes a week or two for me to adjust. Losing the daylight an hour earlier in the evening makes it difficult to accomplish those pressing outside jobs after work. It’s a fact, I get more of my stuff done in the evening than in the morning. At daybreak, I’m devoted to getting Mark up and ready for whatever experience life has planned for him. Since I enjoy working without interruptions, I stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. I used to fall asleep seconds after my head hits the pillow and stayed that way until the morning alarm goes off. Consequently, I never considered staying up late as a sleeping problem but rather a necessity to get things done. However, the past couple of months have been different. I either struggle to fall asleep because my mind keeps going over unfinished tasks, or on those fortunate nights when I fall asleep quickly, I wake up after a short time. I can’t get back to dreamland because I’m worrying about silly stuff. Believe me, at 2 or 3 a.m. it’s all silly stuff and worry is such a waste of time. The sleepless nights increase my daytime stress level. I miss regular exercise, writing, and eating well planned and prepared meals. It doesn’t take long for a regrettable cycle to form. Insomnia interferes with normal physical, mental and emotional well-being, so I’m trying to improve my sleep disorder one habit at a time.
A few weeks ago, I spent 2 nights in the hospital with Mark which gave me a new appreciation for my own bedroom. It’s a hundred percent more comfortable and peaceful without the beeping sounds of monitoring equipment and hourly nurse interruptions found in a hospital room. The first night home I decided to write a few things about what I appreciated in that day. Thankfully, I slept soundly, so I set a goal to continue the routine. It appears that feeling and expressing gratitude is an antidote for insomnia. It puts my mind in a better place. Setting a bedtime routine and alarm which allows enough time to unwind in a quiet room also helps. Having it get dark an hour earlier can be a bonus too. It’s the perfect month to work on a gratitude attitude and it improves my sleep too.
This month I’m determined to turn over a new leaf by forming at least one good habit. I’m a list maker and it’s usually full of things that need to be completed. This month I’ll continue to list things I’m grateful for like support groups in our area. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with others in like situations. Increasing friendships is well worth the time. Their encouragement helps me meet challenges. The experience and knowledge shared is beneficial.Simply put, it’s uplifting!
The purpose of this newsletter is to
share information about organizations. In case it’s impossible for you to get
out, or you don’t live in this area, I’ve also included links to useful and
If you have an activity, announcements or other information you’d like shared in this newsletter, please add them in the comments or email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com.
Join me in celebrating November by
living in thanksgiving daily and see how it benefits your sleep!
FREE SUPPORT GROUPSFOR STROKE AND BRAIN INJURY SURVIVORS AND CAREGIVERS
November 7, 2019 – Utah Valley Aphasia Choir meets at 6-6:45pm
on the 1st Thursday of the month, prior to the support group at the BYU
Speech and Language Clinic. It’s for all brain injury, and stroke survivors,
caregivers, family, and friends. Come and enjoy the power of music and
friendship together. Everyone interested is welcome to join.
November 7, 2019 – Utah Valley Brain Injury Support Group meets
at 7-8:30 p.m. on the 1st Thursday monthly at the
BYU Speech and Language Clinic, Room #177. Address: 1190 North 900 East, Provo,
UT 84060. Dr. Devin Duval, an optometrist at the Child and Family Eye Care
Center and a member of The Utah Valley Stroke Association Board will speak
about vision rehabilitation. For questions call Lori Johnson at (801)422-9132.
November 12, 2019 – Brain Injury Alliance Support Group for
Adults, 6-8 p.m. meets every 2nd Tuesday monthly at Sanderson
Community Deaf Center, 5709 South 1500 West, SLC, UT 84123. This social group
is for caregivers and survivors. Come join us for dinner and games this month.
Bring your favorite dessert to share if you’d like. For more information,
please call Jennifer (801)386-2195, or Beth (801)585-5511.
November 21, 2019 – IMC Caregivers and Survivors Education and Support
Groups, meets at 7 p.m. every 3rd Thursday monthly at
Intermountain Medical Center, 5171 S. Cottonwood St., Murray, UT 84107,
Caregivers meet on the 9th floor Neuroscience
Conference Room. Jennifer Roney topic is yoga and meditation.
Survivors meet on the 9th floor gym. Stephanie
Obradovich, PT topic is Staying Active Through the Winter. For more
information, please call (801)314-2086 or email Emily Redd firstname.lastname@example.org
November 24, 2019 – University of Utah Brain Injury Support Group meets
at 7-8 p.m. every 4th Tuesday monthly at Sugarhouse Health
Center, 1138 E. Wilmington Avenue, SLC, UT 84106. For more information
please call Annie Wallace at (801)581-2221.
GROUPS INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTH CARE NEURO THERAPYin Murray, Utah
Aphasia Talking Practice Group – Meets every Tuesday, Noon-1 p.m. at
5770 South 250 East #G50
Meditation Group – Meets every Wednesday, 3 p.m. at
5770 South 250 East Cafeteria Conference Room
Cognitive Skills Group – Meets every Thursday Noon-1 p.m. at
5770 South 250 East #G50
FREE EPILEPSY SUPPORT GROUPS FOR
THOSE EFFECTED BY SEIZURES
Together we share coping strategies, provide encouragement, comfort and advice from people with common experiences.
For more information contact Margo at (801)455-6089 or Utah@efa
This Saturday, November 9, 2019 – Utah’s Seizure Strategies Seminar at the U of U Clinical Neurosciences Center, 1st floor auditorium. 175 N. Medical Dr., SLC, UT from 9a.m. to 1:30p.m.
November 13, 2019 – Provo Epilepsy Group for All, meets at 7:00 – 8:15 pm on the 2nd Wednesday at the Provo City Library, 555 N. University Ave., Provo, UT.
November 14, 2019 – IMC EpilepsyGroup for All, meets
at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. on the 2nd Thursday at the
Intermountain Medical Center, 5171 S. Cottonwood St., Murray, UT Bldg. 6, 1st floor
– CR2 in the Doty Education Center.
November 20, 2019 – SLC EpilepsyGroup for All, meets
at 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. on the 3rd Wednesday at the SLC
Main Library 200 E. 400 S., SLC, UT (3rd floor conference room).
November 28, 2019 – West Jordan
EpilepsyGroup for Teens, meets
at 7 – 8:30 p.m. on the 4th Thursday at the West Jordan
Library, 8030 S. 1825 W., West Jordan, UT. Come and enjoy an
activity and meet other teens with epilepsy. There are two teachers overseeing
TheLogan Epilepsy Support Group for All is in the
process of looking for a replacement moderator that is as passionate about
supporting their community as the last one. This Support Group will be
postponed until further notice. If you have any questions, concerns, or
information you would like to share, please contact Margo Thurman @
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Dr. Kimberly Sieber is a Clinical Psychologist Specialist in Salt Lake City, Utah and we were honored to have her speak to our caregivers group on August 17, 2017. Having more than twenty years of experience in clinical psychology, she is an expert in helping people gain a better understanding of their own minds and well-being.
When we pay attention to our mind, we realize it never sits still. It’s all over the place. We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and why this or that happened and wishing we’d done things differently. This can lead to depression.
We also spend a lot of time planning and worrying about the future. This often leads to anxiety or panic. I appreciated the methods Dr. Sieber shared with us for improved physical and emotional well-being. I’ve felt progress in my own life the past few weeks since I started practicing her five suggested ways, which are:
1. Mindfulness and Meditation
Techniques Dr. Sieber listed:
Notice your senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching)
Take a body scan of your physical sensations—tension, pain, etc
What are your thoughts and/or emotions
Adopt a non-judgmental attitude that the emotion isn’t good or bad, just “is”
Accept your current experience
Don’t rehash the past (depression), or rehearse the future (anxiety)
As we practice meditation, we need to accept that our mind wanders and bring it back to the thought at hand. Each day will be different and some days will be easier than others, but over time our mind will wander less and the more we do it the easier it gets. Gaining the ability to spend more time in the present will tame and control our brains.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” When we pay attention to the present, we are in the moment.
There’s more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment.
Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits:
Helps release depression and anxiety
Reduces stress and pain
Improves our concentration
Gives us more energy
Reduces stress (cortisol)
Reduces emotional reactivity (changes in brain)
Improves concentration and memory
Improves overall physical health (heart disease, blood pressure, pain)
Dr. Sieber’s list of benefits:
Releases brain chemicals like neurotransmitters and endorphins
Strengthens immune system, reducing inflammation
Increases body temperature which can have a calming effect
Distraction from worries and problems
Necessary for good health and growth, Dr. Sieber shared these ideas:
A good friend, Lauri Schoenfeld, spoke at our caregivers group on April 20, 2017 at the Intermountain Medical Center (IMC) in Murray. She gave an excellent presentation on embracing fear to move forward. She addressed what holds us back and how to overcome it so we can be our best selves. She is positive, fun and energetic.
Lauri is a wife, mother of three, child abuse survivor, scoliosis survivor and has dealt with massive depression. She revealed four tips to help us overcome our fears to enable progression.
Written By: Lauri Schoenfeld
1. Recognize your fear and call out to it. Get clear what you’re afraid of. It can be anything. A lot of times our fears are like an onion that has multiple layers. Is it spiders, clowns, natural disasters, death, being betrayed, getting too close to someone, loss, or rejection.
What happened to create this fear?
How is it holding you back?
If you’re going to let go of fear you have to recognize it first. It’s called gaining consciousness. When you start to feel yourself getting a little anxious or fearful, stop and take notice. Think to yourself, “Oh, here it is. I’m starting to get freaked out.” Then instead of reacting on your instant emotion, breathe and see what’s going on around you that could be creating this element for you. Watch how your body reacts to the situation for future understanding. By doing this you start to disengage from the fear as the ultimate reality. It helps you to realize that you are NOT your fear.
Fear is like a fire alarm alerting you to check something out. It propels us into action. This is good, not bad. We need this. Julia Cameron says, “Fear is not something to meditate and medicate away. It is something to accept and explore.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic, says that when she’s writing and feels fear sit on her shoulder, she acknowledges it and says, “Thank you for worrying about me today, but I don’t need you” and then she continues working. She doesn’t allow fear to control her choices or future because she is aware that she needs fear at times, but at other times she does not.
The ego is the part of your mind that stays focused on the past. It feeds you all the time with messages like “Watch out. It’s going to happen again.” It’s a sly trick which uses our fear that we will indeed hurt again. Instead of being open to different experiences and outcomes, we halt. Most of us are afraid of fear because so many of our experiences with fear have been negative. In reality, it is a very positive and useful tool.
2. Face your fears. You have to surrender to them and become willing to create a different reality. Your life will not turn out differently unless you do something different.
What are your truths? (Example: Mine are being a child abuse survivor, scoliosis survivor, a writer, speaker, and a mom.)
Write down your truths and start peeling back the layers of the onion one step at a time. Don’t try to take it all at once as your truths are going to be deep, hard and emotional. Be gentle with yourself as you unfold each layer.
If you’re afraid of speaking, go speak. If you’re afraid of snakes, pet one, read a book about one or go to an aquarium and stand in front of the tank.
Encourage yourself to do one scary thing each day. It doesn’t need to be large. Every step forward is something to be proud of.
Courage, confidence and even fearlessness are the result of facing, embracing and dancing with fear, looking it straight in the eye and having a partnership with it.
3. Learn to love yourself and appreciate all that you are. Once I began nourishing myself, the fears I felt didn’t seem to control my life anymore. I began to have clarity on how to handle tough situations and challenges with more grace, patience and positivity. I began taking charge of what I wanted in my life.
Ideas that work for me:
Motivational videos – Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Tony Robbins are a few of my favorite speakers. Check out TEDTalks.
Gratitude journal – No matter how tough things feel, there’s ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Looking for those things gives us the opportunity to see that we can indeed find beauty even in the darkest moments.
Positive Affirmations – Write five things that you want to start shifting in your mind in a positive fashion. One positive thing per card. If you have negative internal dialogue that you don’t think you’re very smart, write on your card “I’m Smart.” Use reverse psychology and say these five affirmations EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s important to say those five things like you mean it.
Take time out to breathe – I call these moments “Lauri Time.” Depending on the week, sometimes I can do an hour or sometimes its fifteen minutes, but do something that calms your spirits, is enjoyable, fun or creative. Whatever you need in that moment, give it to yourself. You deserve to be treated with gentle loving care too. Write a list of twenty things that you really like and once a week, treat yourself to one of those things.
Read uplifting books – There are so many to check out. Chicken Soup for the Soul books are some of my favorite. Form a book club with a group and read a different inspirational book each week.
Get an accountability/support buddy – It’s important to find someone you can share your progress with. Every step, whether it’s big or small, is important to acknowledge.
Surround yourself with people who can relate to you and the things you’re going through – Having this support system and team will help to keep you grounded, supported and appreciated.
4. Be present and realize that this is your life.
If you were told that you had six months to live, would you live in the present or the past?
What kind of things would you do? Travel to a dream destination, swim with dolphins, spend more time with family, start taking a class you never allowed yourself to do?
Why are you waiting?
Why not start now?
Put on your shield and cross the monkey bars. If you fall, get up and try again until you’re on the other side. You are NOT your fear! You’ve got this.
Lauri and I connect through writing groups and conferences. For more articles by Lauri check out, https://thinkingthroughourfingers.com/. Type Lauri Schoenfeld in the search bar. She’s written many articles for that website.
Thank you Lauri for sharing your tips on how to embrace fear to move forward.
Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which celebrates a harvest festival. It is family time with an expression of gratitude. I love this holiday because it reminds me of the importance of giving thanks. It renews my goal to make every day a day of thanksgiving. Some days that’s harder than others, but even in the face of life’s challenges there is something to be thankful for.
This year I’m especially grateful for movement of my shoulder. I know it sounds silly, but when you go months without something and have to work hard to regain it you appreciate the simple movements that previously went unnoticed. 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 left hip surgery and therapy. I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and should not be taken for granted.
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 in Steve and Rick. I appreciate all they do for me in our business as well as the support in my personal life. They were patient and caring as my shoulder healed and took on some of my responsibilities.
We are blessed to live with Mom and Dad. I am grateful for their continued love and support and 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.
If you are reading this, I’m thankful for you and your interest in my life.
Last Thursday I had the opportunity to speak to the caregivers of the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah support group. The title—Gratitude When You Don’t Feel Grateful.
I’ve been asked, “How long after the accident did it take you to feel grateful?”
One of my first thoughts after I realized we had been hit and were pinned inside the wreckage of our car was, I’m grateful the kids aren’t with us. It was on a Saturday afternoon and we needed to make a final decision on which home to purchase. Fortunately, we left our two young children with my parents while we traveled to our three favorite homes one last time before making an offer. Looking at the back seat of the car makes it evident their chance of survival would have been near impossible. During the three months Mark was in a coma, I realized it could’ve been worse had our kids been with us.
I recognized the blessing right from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean I always see the positives and feel grateful. Sometimes my mind stumbles into a pity party where I’m entertaining thoughts of how Mark’s, mine and our children’s lives would have been if the accident never happened. Yes, at times I wish life could have turned out differently.
I suppose it’s human nature to feel this way, but before long I realized what a drag it is. When I recognize I’m staggering in self-pity, 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. It only brings me down.
Some days are dark and worrisome, but the best way to pull myself out of discouragement and unhappiness is to turn my thoughts around by looking for the positives. Sometimes this is harder to do than other times, but I’ve learned it helps every time. When I consciously focus on the positive, I see the it in more situations. It gets easier with practice and before long my outlook on life changes for the better. I’ve learned I attract what I’m focused on.
As I recognize the positive interactions of family and friends, I can readily appreciate them for the love and support they give. The result is—they’re usually all the more helpful and loving. That isn’t the motivation for appreciating them, it’s just the way it works out.
When my kids were teenager’s I started a gratitude journal. It helped me get through a rough time. Every night I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Some nights it took a while to think of five things I appreciated. Knowing I needed five things to write each night encouraged me during the day to notice the positive in simple things and take mental note. This practice turned my discouragement into encouragement. It brought inner peace because I was focusing on the good instead of dwelling on the bad.
I don’t believe gratitude always comes naturally, which is another good reason to write down what we’re grateful for. In times of discouragement we can go back and read it. I found that remembrance really does help.
One evening a few years ago, we were having a birthday celebration with my parents and siblings. The conversation centered on their travel destinations and the wonderful things their grandchildren were accomplishing—two things which are lacking from my life.
My mind traveled to that depressing pity party, with thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to with Mark. I lost focus on how blessed I am to have my siblings who all live nearby and both my parents still alive. For an evening, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Instead of enjoying with them their experiences, I let ungratefulness take over my heart and mind.
I didn’t live in thanksgiving that night, yet I know I’m happiest when I do. I believe gratitude is the key to happiness. I remind myself often to count my blessings so I can feel peace and contentment in my life. It works every time.
What hidden advantages do you feel gratitude brings to your life?
I appreciate Christine Scott sharing her story over the past five weeks of growing up with her mentally disabled sister and the challenges they faced as a family. It’s been insightful and very helpful for me while Mark has been recovering from his second total hip replacement.
We’ve been at the rehab center for the past seven weeks and we’re looking forward to returning home on Saturday. This second battle of recovery has been easier and harder. Easier because we knew what to expect and Mark was in better physical condition to start with. Harder because we knew what lay ahead of us and right from the start we were still tired from the first surgery.
We were tempted to wait awhile until our vivid memory of the surgery and rehab had dimmed. We moved forward with the original plan because we were anxious to get it behind us and we didn’t want the therapists who worked with Mark on the first recovery to forget what they’d learned about him the first go around. We saw more pros than cons in doing it sooner rather than later, which meant there were six months in between the left and right hip surgeries.
It was a good decision. We’re glad to have it behind us and fortunate to have the same therapists. Their previous experience working with Mark and knowing his physical limitations and capabilities have proven to be beneficial. We’re leaving the rehab center after 52 days rather than the 60 days it took with the first rehabilitation.
Mark in therapy
Physical Therapist, Brandi
We’re happy with his progress and the new range and mobility he now has with both hips done. Last August, I wrote an article, A Man with True Grit, which is my favorite way to describe Mark. He reconfirms his grit daily as he works hard through painful therapy. Since I’ve watched and encouraged Mark through rehabilitation for nearly twenty-five years, the pain is both heartbreaking and tiresome. It’s easy to wonder why it has to be so hard.
Sam & Mark with their crazy hair hats
One of the benefits of being in a care facility is that we are surrounded by people with similar struggles. Most of the patients here are overcoming a knee, hip or shoulder replacement. A few have a more serious struggle like cancer or a stroke. As I get to know each patient, my heart goes out to them and I rejoice in their progress conquering their individual health challenges. We’re encircled by people with true grit and a few of them are still here from our first stay and feel like family now.
Mark wasn’t the perfect candidate for total hip replacements and we were told it would be a tough recovery for him. He had several tests 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. The results were discouraging and overwhelming. The bone density test revealed he was a high risk for a break.
The orthopedic surgeon gave Mark only a 50% chance of the surgery being successful. Mark replied, “I’ve beaten lesser odds,” and wanted to go through with the surgeries despite the risks. Mark’s continuing optimism and determination for betterment is one of the reasons why I love and support him so much. He’s taught me you don’t have to be a cowboy to be a man with true grit.
If you’re old enough, you may remember one of my favorite John Wayne movies made in the 1969, True Grit. The fearless, U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, was hired by a determined young girl, Mattie Ross, to find the man who murdered her father and fled with the family savings. Rooster was cantankerous and drank too much, but his shooting ability was flawless. He was known as a man with true grit.
The scene that runs through my head as Mark valiantly works in therapy is the one where Rooster rides his horse into an open area and faces alone the gang of four outlaws he’s been tracking down for days.
One of the outlaws shouts, “What’s your intention Rooster? Do you think one against four is a dog-fall?”
Rooster hollers back with sincere determination.“I mean to kill you in one minute or see you hang in Fort Smith at Judge Barker’s convenience. Which one will it be?”
The gang unwilling to surrender to this one-eyed, pot-bellied marshal moves forward on horseback.
Rooster puts the horse’s bridle reins in his mouth, drawing his rifle in one hand and his shotgun in the other as he charges towards the four men, shooting with both guns.
Despite the unlikely odds and with one heart-stopping mishap, he does take all four gangsters down.
This comparison may seem a bit uncouth and a little irreverent, but it’s what goes through my mind as I watch Mark courageously combat rehab. He boldly confronts each challenge with every ability he has. He fearlessly fights for improvement and gives little thought to it taking him down. He may ride on top of a different kind of saddle, but he is indeed a man with true grit. However, I must add he’s much better looking than Rooster Cogburn and his language, manners and conduct are much nicer too.
Right now I’m surrounded not by cowboys, but warriors with true grit and I’m particularly fond of the one I’m married to. Just like Rooster, Mark has come out the winner thanks to his surgeon, Dr. Rasmussen and his staff, along with the great therapists at Rocky Mountain Care Center. The fight isn’t over yet, but the end of this ride is near and that’s why I’m feeling lucky. A bright rainbow is in sight!
In Laura’s Story, Part 5, by Christine Scott, she remembers the angels in their lives who came to their aid after the death of her father. We often think of angels as beautiful beings with wings, but Christine was referring to family, friends and even strangers who helped them through a difficult time. A friend of her father sold equipment and hang gliders and put collection jars around town to raise money for their family. An aunt single-handedly packed up their belongings to help with the move and grandparents who welcomed them to live in their home.
These were angels who walked among them on earth—real people with mortal bodies. These wonderful people seemed to be sent from above and knew just what was needed at the moment. How can we recognize the angels in our lives? The answer is simple: acknowledge the kindness and help given to you. Those people who have made a positive impact in your life. I’ve been thinking about it and have listed a few.
Our biggest angels are parents. They brought you into the world and most of them sacrificed time and money for your care and well-being. They spent sleepless nights when you were sick or out too late. They were your advocates in sports, music and/or drama. They were your cheerleaders in school and other activities.
Our littlest angels are children. They are pure and wise beyond their years. Their innocence and curiosity gives us a new and delightful outlook on things which are often taken for granted.
Friends who are honest and loyal and lift you up when you’re feeling down.
Teachers who taught you how to read, write and do arithmetic. Most have angelic patience and without their help, you wouldn’t be able to read this right now.
Doctors and nurses who attend to your medical needs and help you feel better.
Therapists who help you overcome hardships and improve your abilities with their knowledge and encouragement.
We can all be angels by lending a helping hand. As we appreciate and recognize the good in others, more angels become apparent. When I think of the angels in my life, I realize they all have at least two things in common. First of all they are thoughtful and caring and second, they don’t always seem like angels. But how can they? They are people with mortal bodies and not perfected yet.
It reminds me of a “standing joke” Mark and I have. When I help him stand up I often say, “Look up at my halo,” to encourage him upward. To that he replies, “Oh there it is, resting on top of your horns.”
It’s true, sometimes I’m sweet and sometimes I’m not. However, by recognizing and appreciating the helpfulness in others, it usually triggers more kindness.
I can relate to Christine Scott’s feelings and well written words in Laura’s Story, Part 4: “You should have some type of warning before your life unequivocally changes so you have the chance to do things differently—to take advantage of those last moments to say ‘I love you’ and ‘goodbye.’”
How easy it is to take for granted family, friends, life, health and abilities.
Today’s a great day to hug the ones we love and appreciate what we have. Remember, “in the blink of an eye everything can change.”
Part 5 of Laura’s Story will be published on Wednesday.
Christmas can be a magical time, when wishes become a reality. This was definitely the case for our family in 1991. Mark literally slept in a comathrough Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day. He missed out on additional celebrations such as my birthday and our twelve year wedding anniversary. Although he was awake for Independence and Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving, all those holidays were spent in the hospital. After eight months, our wish was for Mark to be home for Christmas.
The preparations started in October as we realized Mark was going to be wheelchair dependent. We knew some home modifications would be necessary. My oldest brother, Mick, designed an addition off the back of our home, complete with a ramp for the new back entrance. A large bedroom and bathroom was drawn up to accommodate Mark’s equipment and new needs for care. Fortunately for us, my dad and brothers who are experienced in construction were willing and capable to do the job. My dad, who is an excavating contractor said, “You can’t add a room without a basement.”
Top: Left – Don breaking ground. Right – Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings. Middle: Left- Dad trying to escape. Right – Steve and Mick pouring the footings. Bottom: Left – Steve and Dad w/cement floor. Right – Mick, Steve and Dad w/cement floor.
Mark was far from better and still needed extensive therapy and care, so I worked on establishing a “day- patient” schedule where he’d be at Western Rehab all day for therapy and I’d be able to take him home to care for him every night. 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 therapists, suggested that I 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 request 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.
Because my dad and brothers were building this addition after the hours of their normal work day, it was not completed in December as we’d hoped. Despite the unfinished construction, we wanted Mark home for Christmas. His care was physically difficult without the assessable bathroom, but well-worth all the effort to have him finally home. Since the new bedroom wasn’t finished and 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 an 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.” With a smug look on his face, he teasingly exclaimed, “But, I’ve got the top.”
Our living quarters were especially cramped and difficult with the construction going on. The sounds of saws and hammers could be heard until late hours into the night, but with the excitement of having Mark home we hardly noticed. I am filled with gratitude for my dad and brothers who worked tirelessly to make our home fit our needs for our new circumstances.
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. Right – Chris and Katie painting our the new room.
Chris Chipping, a friend and former employer of Mark’s, did the electrical wiring for our new addition while another friend, Walt Fisher, did the plumbing. It was a crazy, busy and noisy home with construction going on for five months until the addition was completed. However, the acts of service and love from family and friends made the Christmas of 1991 unforgettable. Our world was turned upside down that year and after eight months of living in a hospital — it truly was the merriest of Christmases to have Mark finally home.
Finished room in March. Christopher, Mark and Katie.
Our trials were lightened and my caregiving responsibilities were made easier once the new bedroom and bathroom were completed. We were blessed by many skilled hands and a lot of hard work who were definitely making our Christmas wish come true.