Two Hats of Many


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.


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!

Sunrise Sunset


1986- Katie, Mark and Christopher

It’s an old familiar expression, but it really does seem like yesterday when my children were small. On those hard days, I remember worrying if they’d ever grow up and be responsible. Then they did. I thought it would be a joyful day when they were no longer dependent on me. And it was in a sort of sad way because I realized how swiftly those days flew.

It sounds strange when your adult child says, “I need to go home” and they are no longer referring to the home you provided for them for so many years. It’s feels weird when a doctor walks past you to give your grown child’s surgery report to their spouse. It’s rewarding to see how well they manage life without you, but there are times when I really miss being needed and feeling their loving arms around my neck in a tight squeeze and slobbery kisses on my cheek. These are memories I will cherish forever.


June 1991, first picture with the kids after the car accident.

I see excellent mothers all around me. I can’t help wishing at times I had their patience or was more playful with my children. I regret the weight of responsibility which I let weigh me down. I’m disappointed I wasn’t more carefree. I worried about money and not having enough of it. When I compare myself to others, I feel inadequate and remorseful even though I realize each circumstance and situation is different. I know I did the best I knew how at the time and see that my two children have grown into wonderful adults. I still wish I would have done better while they were in my care.

It’s hard to let go because of all the energy, time and emotions put into the role of motherhood. My biggest desire is not only to be a good caregiver and companion to Mark, but also to be a good mother. I have spent years and probably all of my adulthood trying to improve my skills to fit that description. I feel blessed to have so many great examples of nurturing women all around me. I learn and am inspired by them.


Mom & I

2006- Mom & I

A few things I learned about my mother after I became one:


Motherhood was physically draining until I reached a level of being able to care for myself.

She sacrificed a lot of time and money for me.

Perhaps she had better things to do than driving me to dance lessons, school and other activities, but she didn’t complain about it.

She probably didn’t enjoy my piano practicing any more than I did, but she wanted me to improve so she insisted on it.

As a teenager, I was emotionally draining, causing many headaches and heartaches.

She will love and care about me no matter what. Her unconditional love is greater than most other relationships.

She wasn’t always right, but neither was I.

It doesn’t matter how old I am, I’m still her baby.

Possibly she will spend all her days wanting to protect me from mistakes which may cause physical and/or emotional pain.

I’m fortunate to have a mother who cares. As I’ve matured, I realize not everyone is so lucky.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who give so much care to others. I appreciate your examples.

I love being a mother to these three.

Chris w-band

2014 – Christopher

Katie & Eldin

2016-Katie and Eldin, my bonus son-in-law








I hope you enjoy another one of my favorite songs.


Feeling Gratitude

Feeling Gratitude - Dec.So grateful for our daughter Katie, who takes her dad shopping every year for my Christmas, Mother’s Day and birthday gifts. She has done this faithfully ever since she’s had her drivers license — and since she’s been married, her husband, Eldin joins her. When Katie was a little girl, Mark took her shopping for my gifts. We didn’t realize she would be continuing the tradition, when at age sixteen she started taking Mark shopping for my gifts. What a sweet and thoughtful daughter we have. We are so grateful for Katie and Eldin!

It has snowed all day today. So blessed to have wonderful neighbors who shoveled my walks and driveway. I am so fortunate to live on this street. I love my neighbors!