Two Hats of Many

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Wanda holding sister, Jerrie (1), Karen (2) on Mark’s 11th birthday

I’ll bet every woman feels she is wearing too many hats from time to time as she tries to fulfill the needs of family, friends, personal, professional, neighbors and colleagues. Today we celebrate mothers of the family and the influence women have in society. Next to my own mother who gave me the gift of life and continues to effect who I am today, stands my mother-in-law, Wanda. Her optimistic power in Mark’s life is a great blessing to me too.

Besides being a creative, fun, loving and caring mother, she made a career as an Occupational Therapist (OTR). Wanda was the first OTR I’d met and I assumed she helped people find a job. It didn’t take long for Mark to set me straight. She helped people with mental illness perform activities needed in daily life by using a crafts media.

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Mark and Wanda

Through the years after our accident, I quickly learned the importance of skilled OTs. The ability to brush his teeth, feed himself and get a shirt on became the tasks Mark had to relearn after his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Since 1991, I’ve met more OTs than I can count and I appreciate each one for their help with improving Mark’s quality of life.  Whenever meeting an OT for the first time, Mark proudly states, “My mother is an OT” He then shares some experiences he had as a child with her work.

I’ve written, “I was raised to be a caregiver.” My upbringing helped prepare me for this challenge. Likewise, I believe Mark’s childhood prepared him to be a survivor.

Two hats, Mother and Occupational Therapist, which have had the greatest impact in our lives.

I asked Wanda why she chose this career and she agreed to let me publish this interview.

The first thing that drew me to OT was a movie called Snake Pit. It was about a woman who was committed to an asylum and how she eventually recovered and was released. When I was picking a major in college and looking through college catalogues, OT caught my eye because it involved helping people and a lot of crafts. I learned that psychiatric hospitals had OTs and the deeper I looked into it the more interested I became. Psychiatry and the idea of helping someone improve their attention span, concentration, attention to detail, better living and socialization skills and generalization by using crafts media was what influenced me most.

How long and what kind of schooling did you need before you could practice OT?

I had four years in college with a major in OT and a nine month internship working with other OTs and passing the national exam, which qualified one to add the R after OT. The internships had to be in all these fields: pediatrics, general medicine, tuberculosis, orthopedics and psychiatry and you had to be over 21. I started college in 1948 and got my degree in 1952. By the time I finished internships I really liked both orthopedics and psychiatry and decided I would take either kind of job. Psychiatry was the first job that turned up so I started in 1953. At that time about the only hospitals that had psychiatric patients were institutions. Since then most hospitals of any size have a small unit for psychiatric patients.

How long did you work in this field?

If I remember correctly, I think I worked in psychiatric settings for 22 years: small private settings, large state and territorial settings and the last 16 years at a medical teaching university.

What made a good patient to work with and what made a good family member or caregiver?

All patients were good to work with. We seldom even met family members because until recently, families were ashamed or afraid of mentally ill family members and seldom even acknowledged them. The patients were committed to hospitals and lived there, seldom seeing or hearing from their families.

How did you feel about this separation from family?

I thought family abandonment was terrible, but that’s just how it was. Some of the staff were concerned about the patients, others not so much. In hospitals where patients stayed a long time (years), they formed friendships and the hospital was like a community.

Describe a typical day at work and some of the crafts you did with the patients.

At Oregon Health Sciences University, the day started with rounds, then OTs led an exercise group and a crafts group before charting and lunchtime. After lunch, we led a relaxation group, then an activities group where we worked on attention span, concentration, social skills, etc. This often involved playing games of all kinds, quizzes or planning for the lunch that the patients got together to cook for everyone on the unit once a week, then more charting. Yes, we used a full variety of knives and never had a problem with them in any of the groups. We did check tools and equipment after all groups. In other settings, OTs were responsible for arranging social events, mostly dances and church services. This included everything from getting the band or minister to setting up the room. Sometimes we took patients on outings such as bowling, walks, etc.

 Some of the major crafts we used were: leather work (hand tooled and carved purses, belts, etc.), weaving on pot holders frames to floor looms, ceramics (slab construction, pinch pots, molds), needlework (knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing) and all minor crafts you can think of.

There was a job cut, so Wanda retired in 1998, seven years after Mark’s TBI. From my own experience with OTs I can imagine the constructive difference she made to hundreds of patients she helped, along with the students and colleagues she influenced. I witnessed some of this when Wanda visited Mark in the rehab center as she quickly became friends with Mark’s OT  The therapist was new to the field and appreciated Wanda’s experience and sought her advice at times. Since Wanda lived several hundred miles away, she mailed things for Mark to work on or sent articles with ideas to help him.

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Wanda & Mark 2016

There are all kinds of influential women in this world. If you’re lucky, you get one for a mother. Some people aren’t so blessed, but have other women in their life who nurture, teach and inspire them. Today we celebrate all women who make us feel like we’re easy to love and fun to be with. Who gives us freedom to grow and lets us know it is okay to make mistakes. I’m fortunate to have several such women in my life. The greatest of all are my own mother plus a mother-in-law or more appropriately thought of as a “bonus mom.” I think Mark is equally fortunate. He was raised by a wonderful woman and has the advantage of an ideal “bonus mom.”

MothersDayImages1To all the wonderful women in the world who benefit lives in a positive way!

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Scary Confessions

At this time of year, there’s a lot of discussion about what you what to be for Halloween. When you enter most department stores, there are isles of costumes for every imaginable character, but my favorites are the homemade costumes conceived by a clever individual.

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Wonder women shirt at Walmart

I want to be a superhero and not just for Halloween, but every day of the year. I know they’re fictional characters with super human powers, but that’s what I need. It takes a wonder woman to be a successful wife, mother, caregiver and have a professional career at the same time. I want to be friendly and helpful to all those around me. Having a perfect figure with a tiny waistline would be another wanted image when I look in the mirror.

Being a ninja who excels in a particular skill or activity with flawless strength and coordination would come in handy. My trip and fall accident in July proves I’m no ninja, but rather a silly clown who feels clumsy and not too bright.

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Witch costume at Walmart

My reality is that I often come up short in what I’d like to be or want to accomplish. This brings overwhelming feelings, which too often lead to actions and/or behaviors more like a witch. Sometimes the inadequate feelings nearly paralyze me to the point that I can’t decide what’s most important or the best direction to fly.

Yes, there are monsters inside me and they are discouragement and depression. Sometimes my mind dwells on life’s unfilled expectations and what I’m unable to accomplish. And then the ghosts of past memories or future worries come to haunt me, which sink my spirit into despair.

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Vampire costume at Target

Sometimes I’m like a vampire – not just because I have to draw Mark’s blood every two weeks for testing, but because I can’t go to bed at night. I know my body needs rest, but I lack discipline and think I have too much to do and deprive myself of sleep. This brings out the zombie in me the next day, which should only be found in the horror and fantasy genre—not real life.

What I appreciate about real life is I don’t have to wait until next year to change my character. Every day is a fresh start. I have the choice to get out of the character I don’t really want to be and strive to become the desired ninja or wonder woman. I’ve heard it said you are what you repeatedly do. As long as we’re breathing, I don’t believe we’ve run out of times to get back on track, so I can at least do that. Realizing that I’ll never become those fictional characters with needed super human powers is a good reminder to be more understanding of others around me who are also facing challenges, which may be bringing out their less desirable character. I imagine we all have “set backs” which don’t bring out the best in us. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t “come back.”

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Ninja costume at Target

Please forgive me if I act like a witch, clown, monster, ghost, vampire or zombie from time to time. I’m really striving to be a good daughter, sister, wife, mother, neighbor, friend and employee by showing and giving care to those around me. Yes, I keep falling short because I don’t have the super human powers I need to accomplish all I want to do, but I can repeatedly get back on track.

Although Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday, I sure can relate to some of the character costumes which I see this time of year. What are you planning to be? A ninja or wonder woman is at the top of my list.

Heaven Can’t Wait

Today’s guest author is my sister who shared the opportunity with her husband, Klint, in caring for his mother for more than twelve years. Thank you Rosanne for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this Memorial Day weekend.

Written by, Rosanne Day

This Memorial Day we have one more grave to visit. These travels are actually a walk down memory lane. I have spoken and unspoken remembrances along with feelings, which are buried, not in the grave, but embedded deep inside my soul. Father in Heaven blessed our lives with memory, which contains our loved ones who have passed on. Any representation to preserve their memory is cherished. We write down their quotations, retell their stories, compile books, and even build monuments to their name. In commemoration each year we set aside a day for remembrance – Memorial Day.

Just the other day I was asked, “How are you doing since the recent passing of your Mother?”

I could answer with a smile, “I am doing just fine.  It has been an easy transition.”

With due respect for any child who has lost a Mother, I too, hold her fond remembrance close to my heart.  I too, miss her physical presence.  I too, have plenty of things missing now that she is gone. But just how far away is she really? I believe the spirit world is not out in some remote part of the great cosmos, but is right here on earth.  The spirits of our departed loved ones are in reality among us. We are here and they are there. What separates us now? What clouds our view? I believe it’s not a wall, but a thin veil which can be penetrated when God deems it necessary. I believe just beyond this veil our loved ones, now departed, can still know and understand our thoughts, feelings and motions. I believe on the other side of the veil they still may be working with us, or should I say for us.

Since the passing of our mother, Arlette Day, I have felt this assurance . . . she is not far away and still interested in my well-being. She was my career mentor for nearly 30 years. During this time she trained me to run our family music business, which she founded. She helped raise my children, as all good mothers do, with their years of wisdom. She lived with us for the past 12 1/2 years until, as she would put it, she “took off to the other side.” She passed away at age 98 1/2 That’s a long time to have her good influence in my life.

Mom’s guidance is still with me, yet in another form. She is still inspiring, prompting and motivating me in many happy ways. It’s hard to explain, but my business work load is lighter, even though I still do the same things, I can now do them much quicker. I understand complex problems more clearly. My contacts with other people are more meaningful and I can hear what they meant to say. My organizing is more thorough. I am completing tasks, which have been undone for years. My confidence is stronger. My decisions are quicker. Challenges in my life, which I thought were going to be nearly impossible, have already come to a conclusion and have been resolved.

Seeing Mom suffer with her cancerous tumor, which grew daily in her sinus, was difficult indeed. One night was particularly hard on Mom. I did not know it at first. I was in a deep sleep before the birds began to sing. I saw with my spiritual eyes, a gentle, kind man, walk softly to my bedside as I slept. He never touched me, but he reached under my bed covers and pulled out the pillow I always sleep with between my legs. This woke me up. He was gone. I saw the pillow on the floor. A light was on, so I went to check it out. I found Mom struggling to get out of bed, anxious and nervous about something. I asked her, ” Who turned on the lamp by her bedside?” She hadn’t had the strength to reach it for many months. She said, “Yes, it was hard, but I struggled until I managed to turn it on.”

After taking her to the restroom and back again, she told me she had not slept a wink. This horrible night of anxiety caused her to call out in her mind (because she did not want to awake us) for Dad, now her deceased husband, to come take her home.

It wasn’t her time to go just yet. However, he still did answer her call and came to her aid through me. Had I seen his face I would have recognized him. However, his gentle ways did revealed himself to me, as I’ve thought back on this experience. Yes, the veil is very thin at times.

She did “take off” a few days later and I felt the rejoicing beyond the veil. I could not cry. In fact, I felt more like dancing with those on the other side. She passed away at 10:10 p.m. While we waited for the mortician, I wrote this poem on that sacred night and emailed it just after midnight to my children and other family members to announce her passing. I’ve worked on it a little more for this blog and changed it some for a slightly better read – I hope.

Heaven Can’t Wait

 

 Heaven came to earth this sacred night
To pick up our dear angel mother.
She blew us a kiss as she took flight
On wings of songs herald by others.

 

 She wasn’t alone, nor aimlessly roam,
Though our arms are empty to be sure.
She sailed away, being escorted home
To that place on “Glad Paradise” shore.

 

 Heaven can’t wait, so they formed in a line,
Standing ready to hold her most dear.
Prepared at the coastline, knowing it’s time,
Eagerly waiting to cheer, “She’s here.”

 

 Privileged for years, 98 was the count,
Receiving her guidance face to face,
Flowing from her was God’s heavenly fount
Pouring generously out to our place.

 

 Sufferings they come and sufferings they go,
With each ebb flow’s purpose to fulfill.
Paddlin’ with endurance strengthens the row,
God’s currents further stretch us still.

 

 God is the one calling down as you ride,
“You can do it!  Keep paddlin’ up stream.
Enduring the tide which lengthens your stride
Brings you rest in Heaven’s bright beam.”

 

 Heaven can’t wait to receive such a date,
Appointed to catch those weary arms
Which paddled through storms until very late.
Good news! Come rest!  Refresh your life’s charms!

 

My Angel Mother

My MotherAbraham Lincoln said it perfectly and I couldn’t agree more about my own mother. Her example and unconditional love has brought me to where I am today, and I definitely know that everything I am or ever will be I owe to her. May is the month we honor our mothers and today just happens to be my mother’s birthday. She is also the world’s best caregiver so it’s triple fitting that I write about her today.

I’ve always known my mother loved me, but since the car accident it has become even more evident. She has been by my side nearly every day since then.

When I was eighteen I was anxious to be independent and to experience life as an adult so I moved out to be on my own. I was going to the community college, which was no reason for leaving home. I knew it broke my mother’s heart, but she loved and supported my endeavors even though she didn’t agree with them. They knew I would have been better off financially if I stayed home a few more years. We talked on the phone often and had Sunday dinner together nearly every week until I was married. I will be forever grateful to them for not giving up and for loving me even though I know I disappointed them.

My mother knows and understands me better than I do myself sometimes. When the car accident happened she knew just what I needed and gave me the love and support that carried me through some very hard days. I remember she even had to help me in the bathroom until my broken collarbone (in two places) healed enough that I could manage by myself with one hand. My mother would do anything for her children no matter their age. As I get older, I realize she would still do anything for her children no matter her age.

Since our car was totaled in the car accident and I was unable to drive with a broken collarbone, my mother drove me 120 miles every weekday so I could be with Mark during the day and our children at night while Mark was at McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, UT . Weekends she took care our kids, Christopher and Katie so I could stay overnight at the hospital with Mark.

When Mark was transferred to Western Rehab in Sandy, which was located not far from my parent’s home, my mother was able and made it a priority to visit nearly every day. She was either watching the kids or visiting at the hospital. Because of her daily visits and Mark’s mother living out of state, many doctors, nurses and therapist thought she was Mark’s mother and was often called her Mrs. Wilson. My mother loves all her in-law children and treats them as her own. She calls each one a bonus child.

Mom, Dad, Mark & IIn 1996, five years after our car accident, we built a home together which is wheelchair accessible for Mark, so for the past eighteen years we have lived together. It’s brought some challenges with health issues, raising two teenagers and differences in how things should be done, but it’s been a great blessing for both Mark and I and we hope it’s been for them too. I can’t imagine how we would’ve gotten along without them.

My mother is a great example to me and some of my favorite traits about her are that she is:

Insightful – aware of others needs

 

Loving – unconditionally to all
Obedient – to God’s commandments
Virtuous – honorable and trustworthy
Educated – always seeking to learn new things

 

Youthful – care in her beautiful appearance
Organized – everything is always in its place
Unique – to me, for she is the best mom ever

 

And I’m so lucky that she’s mine! My world is a better place because of her.

 

Let Go of the Things You Can’t Control

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A few weeks ago I got a call from my daughter, Katie. “Hi Mom, Eldin and I are in the neighborhood. Can we stop by for a few minutes?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Just thought we’d return the book we borrowed.”

“Sounds good. I’ll look forward to seeing you soon.”

When they arrived she handed me the book and said they had some bad news and some good news. This news was the real reason for their visit.

I suggested we all sit down. Katie hesitated, then took a deep breath and looked at Eldin. He softly said, “You can do it.” She took another deep breath and announced they had just come from the doctor’s office and she had thyroid cancer.

In total shock a hundred thoughts darted quickly in my head: How could this happen to my daughter? How could I have had no warning? Why didn’t she tell me she wasn’t well? Am I so caught up in Mark’s health issues I don’t notice my own child’s health? Was she afraid to tell me because of Mark’s health? I want to be the kind of mother my kids can come to and count on. I thought we shared important things. We used to be close or at least in my mind. What have I done for her to keep such important information from me? Why wasn’t I there for her during the testing? The horrible thoughts kept darting in my brain and in my heart. I tried to fight the tears, I wanted to be strong for her, but they welled up anyway.

Katie said, “The good news is the doctor said if you’re going to have cancer, this is the best kind of cancer to have. It has a 95% cure rate.”

I thought of my dear friend, Michelle, who had part of her thyroid removed and I knew she lived a healthy life. But the tears kept coming, not just because of the diagnosis, but also because my daughter hadn’t turned to me for comfort or strength. I felt like a failure as a mother.

Katie said the testing just started a couple of weeks prior just as a precaution. She really didn’t think anything would become of it. She hadn’t been feeling pain. The only symptom she had been experiencing was fatigue. She was surprised when her doctor discovered the lumps in her neck.

I’m realizing once you’re a mother, you are always a mother. The feeling of wanting to make it all better never goes away. For an unreasonable moment I resented my son-in-law for taking away my daughter at the young age of nineteen. I wasn’t ready to let her go then and even now that she’s been married nearly eleven years—I still struggle with letting her go.

As my children age, I become less needed. Their lives are busy and filled with opportunity. I’ve heard my own mother warn about this cycle and know she struggled with it too, so at least I know I’m not alone.

When our children are young it’s physically draining meeting all their needs. As they get older and don’t need you it becomes emotionally hard. Letting go is a difficult thing to do and it starts when they become teenagers, struggling for independence. It wasn’t easy then and now that they’ve gained their independence, it’s still hard at times. My guess is it will never be easy.

Letting go

When you love someone it’s just hard to let go. I raised my children to be independent and productive adults, and they learned it well. I should be grateful. I am proud of them, and as hard as it is to let go, it’s rewarding to watch them fly independently!