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.

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How to Keep Thanksgiving

give thanks-candleA perfect picture of Thanksgiving is sitting at my parent’s large dining room table, beautifully decorated with an autumn tablecloth, centerpiece, nice plates, glasses and silverware, surrounded by wonderful family and friends.

I was in this type of scene a few nights ago, however it wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner, but rather a birthday celebration. My mother still enjoys gathering her five children and their spouses home for a feast three or four times a year to celebrate birthdays. Lots of laughter is heard while we enjoy each other’s company. This is a happy table, yet I came to it feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I tried to mask the weight of my daily tasks and worries about Mark’s health. When the conversation turned to past vacations my siblings had taken and the possibilities of future trips, I forgot all my many blessings and had to leave the table. Instead of feeling joyful for their experiences, distress set in. I was no longer focused on how lucky I am to have all my siblings live close by and both my parents still alive. For a moment, I forgot how fortunate I am for the love and support we all share with one another. Unfortunately my thoughts turned to all the places I’ve never been nor could possibly go to. I wasn’t living in thanksgiving, yet I know I’m happiest when I do.

Thanksgiving is more than the annual national holiday which commemorates a harvest festival. It is an expression of gratitude, especially to God. I appreciate this time of year which reminds us the importance of giving thanks, however, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things.

Life with Mark is a happy one, largely because he knows how to keep thanksgiving. He appreciates everything, including his adversities. He is cheerful and content and loves to bring joy to others. However, he has reason to be bitter, resentful or has 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. Three of my favorite ways he shows his appreciation daily 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 around you. 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.

Recently in one of my writing groups we were given a blank piece of paper to write as many positive characteristics about ourselves in five minutes. The goal was to fill the page. I enjoyed the assignment and kept it to read when I’m feeling low.

thanksgivingdailyfinishLikewise, making a gratitude list to read when you’re feeling like you’ve missed out in life, maybe another good idea. Some general ideas to help you get started:

  • 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?

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

A Gratitude Attitude

Gratitude1Neils’ story, Dancing with Class reminded me of the benefits in looking back and remembering how smitten we were with our loved ones from the start. Beneath the surface of the caregiving responsibilities, it’s the beacon of love that motivates us in our journey. Taking a step back can rejuvenate our efforts.

I loved Judith’s beautifully written editorial comment, “When our eyes locked I smiled mostly in wonder because I could see love, a physical manifestation, as a light with many colors streaming from his face. I knew that we were together, united and I was safe, as I had never before been safe.”

This expresses perfectly how I hope to make Mark feel—together, united and safe. I imagine that’s the goal of most caregivers. If your loved one isn’t able to communicate their love and appreciation for you, imagine Judith’s wonderfully expressed words. Caregiving is a physical manifestation of our love and hopefully our loved ones see it and feel it too.

We often take our loved ones for granted and don’t appreciate or even realize many of their accomplishments until they either leave us or are severely injured. I related to Neil’s words, “I did not, until that moment, know how well loved and respected she was.”

I love the month of November and the Thanksgiving celebration, which reminds us to be grateful for what we have and the people in our lives. Taking time to reflect on our blessings and the positive traits of our loved ones brings joy and contentment in an otherwise noisy and hectic life.

What resonated the most with me from Neils story was, “The physical issues were not unlike that of a newborn baby. The changes in body functions required frequent attention. Preparing meals, bathing and nurturing were not unfamiliar, but the intensity of it was.”

Our individual lives are chaotic enough, but when another person is relying on us for the most basic needs of daily living, responsibility and pressure are added from sun up to sun down. It’s no wonder exhaustion and doubts creep in concerning our ability to be a good caregiver.

It’s been a tiring year for Mark and I. Tests, surgeries, therapy and too many needed doctor visits, which have nearly depleted all my energy. However, “no matter what’s going on outside of us, there is always something we could be grateful for.” I appreciate the connection and inspiration I get from other caregivers, which fill me up. I’m looking forward to the rest of Neils’ story and a Thanksgiving month, which continually reminds me to take time to count my many blessings.

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.

 

 

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?

Giving Thanks

give thanks-candleIt’s that time of year when we are focused on giving thanks, yet every day should be a day of thanksgiving. But it’s hard to give thanks in all things. I haven’t thought of giving thanks for a car accident which caused my husband to be comatose for three months and hospitalized for rehabilitation for another six months. I’ve not said I was grateful for thirteen surgeries and years of therapy he’s had to have due to his traumatic brain injury. I’ve never thought I was thankful for an accident that caused him to lose his ability to work as a master electrician, seemingly wasting four years of apprenticeship schooling plus two years of journeyman experience and testing before earning his master’s license. It’s difficult not to envy people who can travel and do other fun activities as they please, while it’s problematic for us to visit the neighbor next door or a friend’s home due to stairs and a wheelchair that doesn’t climb them on its own. Life is complicated and unsettling when you live with seizures and have the worry of blood clots due to the inability to move freely. The list of concerns and complaints could go on, but I’ll spare you more grief.

When I think about what we have missed out on and the unfulfilled expectations of life, I’m unhappy. I realize I need to change my focus and count my blessings. I should not compare my life to another—just my own. How far we have come and what blessings we have gained while overcoming our struggles. I am happiest when I recognize and appreciate what I have.

I am thankful for life and realize every day is a bonus day and must 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 surgeries and years of therapy, which has enhanced our quality of life.

Because it’s challenging to travel, we find fulfillment in simple things such as gardening, canning, reading, writing, playing games, listening to music, putting together puzzles and other activities at home. 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 on 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 anytime 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.

With the loss of some abilities we have gained others. I am grateful for every course in life, good or bad, which gives us knowledge that can never be taken away or become useless. Our self-confidence improves as we realize we can overcome grueling circumstances. Our compassion towards others has grown, along with the ability to understand their needs and our desire to help has intensified. We no longer take for granted the human adaptability and the drive to conquer challenges. We are inspired by people’s good will and how they strive to do their best. It gives us hope and the desire to do likewise.

We are blessed by many people—family, friends and neighbors who give service, love and support to us. Our need to give back is the driving force for writing our story and developing Uniting Caregivers. This recent 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. I appreciate my sister-in-law, Dianne, who edits nearly every article before I publish it to make sure I’ve punctuated correctly and that my writing makes sense.

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. In just over a year, Uniting Caregivers has had several exceptional guest authors participate and nearly 16,000 views. 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. So I must say—if I’m grateful for everything I’ve listed above, I need to be grateful for a terrifying car accident which switched our life’s track dramatically and helped me understand all that I’ve written and hopefully has changed me for the better!

Every day should be a day of thanksgiving. When I focus on my blessings I am happier and life is easier. Being grateful makes what I have more than enough.

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