Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

2015,  My Dad

“I just need to work it off,” Dad says whenever he has an illness or any physical trial. He grew up on a farm and made his living working construction, so work for him has always kept him physically active. He’s a talented heavy equipment operator, but has never shirked from digging with a hand shovel if needed. My parents taught me how to work at a young age. No excuses were ever accepted. My dad still goes to work every day operating equipment and some days when they’re short-handed he’s also found with a shovel doing the hand work. He’s amazing and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Dad believes work will cure whatever ails you. I’m proud to be his daughter.

Work for me is sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Tapping my fingers across the keyboard or calculator as fast as I can isn’t much of a workout. I have to intentionally exercise to be physically active and I haven’t been able to do much of it lately. I’ve noticed my mood isn’t as pleasant as it should be and I don’t feel as well as I do when I exercise or can spend time outdoors hiking, biking or gardening. I’m missing my Vitamin D and unfortunately, summer ends in a few short weeks.

I shouldn’t complain because I’m surrounded by people who have physical challenges that make it difficult to be active. A few are like Mark and it’s impossible to do exercises on their own. At the rehab center most are concentrating on therapy to build strength and improve coordination.

I’ve notice a few people which resist therapy. I’ve heard a few say they don’t need it or give excuses to get out of it. Others push themselves with exercise and hope the insurance company will prolong the benefit because they feel the improvement. I suppose it all depends on the circumstances and their pain tolerance, but it’s evident to me that the ones who push themselves are the happy ones.

“You’ll be surprised what you can do when you put your shoulder to the wheel,” is a phrase my dad said to me often. “If we all put our shoulder to the wheel we’ll get this job done in no time. Many hands make light work,” are the encouraging statements I grew up with. I can’t sing “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” without thinking of Dad. If you haven’t heard it, here are the lyrics:

  1. The world has need of willing men
    Who wear the worker’s seal.
    Come, help the good work move along;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song,
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel.

  1. The Church has need of helping hands,
    And hearts that know and feel.
    The work to do is here for you;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.


  1. Then don’t stand idly looking on;
    The fight with sin is real.
    It will be long but must go on;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.


  1. Then work and watch and fight and pray
    With all your might and zeal.
    Push ev’ry worthy work along;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.


Text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909

What does put your shoulder to the wheel mean? The metaphoric term, alludes to pushing a heavy handcart as many pioneers did. The dictionary states: “To apply oneself vigorously and make a concentrated effort.” I’m inspired by those who do. .http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/put+shoulder+to+the+wheel

Last week while I was visiting the new Neuroworx, Dr. Dale Hull said, “there are some sad stories here of people and their struggles, yet this is a happy, positive atmosphere.”

“No surprise to me,” I said. “In our years of experience, I’ve noticed people are happy when they are striving for self-improvement.”

I try to imagine what it’s like to be trapped in a body that can’t function like most of us do, with ease and with little thought. How shattering it must be to lose abilities you once took for granted. It must be disheartening to see others move freely with capabilities you were never given. The world has need of willing men and women who wear the workers seal. I’m so grateful for those who come and help the good work move along by putting their shoulders to the wheel. I appreciate many who do their duty with a heart full of song. I’m inspired by the need for helping hands, with hearts that know and feel. The work to do is here for me and you, so lets put our shoulder to the wheel.

It’s a proven fact that exercise is good for us physically and mentally. It doesn’t matter what your age or limitations are. Everyone benefits from being as physically active as possible. It’s why I work and watch and fight and pray with all my might and zeal. Therapy for Mark is a worthy work which needs to be pushed along. If it isn’t, he suffers with blood clots and joints that calcify and are no longer able to function. Some days I wish I could stand idly looking on, but the fight for improvement is real. It will be long (a lifetime long), but must go on because it’s better than the alternative.

I’m trying to do as I’ve been taught. Working energetically towards a goal. I realize we all have work and I don’t want to be the one that shirks.

I was raised with the philosophy that work cures whatever ails you. If it can’t cure you, at least it makes you feel better. I’m grateful for a mom and dad who taught me this valuable lesson.

The Value of Testing

Rehab GymAs Mark’s physical health stabilized and his awareness consistently improved, his daily therapy sessions became a test to find out what he remembered and what he needed to relearn. The physical therapist, Sharon, didn’t just do range of motion exercises where she did all the stretching, but now tried to teach him how to move his own body. The occupational therapist, Cheryl, and speech therapist, Kris, worked on simple math, reading and writing skills. Evident from the beginning, his long term memory was good. He remembered not only family and friends, but employers and events from his past. However, remembering what happened the day before or even just hours earlier in the day was poor. The therapist gave him a notebook and instructed him to write what he had worked on after each therapy session. In the next session, the therapist asked him about the previous therapy. When he couldn’t remember what he had done, they reminded him to check his notebook.This occurred in all six therapy sessions each day in hopes to improve his short-term memory.

The tilt table was as unpleasant as any test could be for Mark. After transferring him onto the padded table, Sharon positioned his feet so they rested on the footplate. Safety belts strapped his body to the table to ensure he wouldn’t slip off. Sticky patches (electrodes) were placed on his chest, legs and arms and were connected by wires to an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) machine, which monitored his heart rate. A cuff was wrapped around his arm to check his blood pressure. While pushing a control button, the table slowly moved from a horizontal to a vertical position. His heart rate and blood pressure regulated the degree Sharon would angle the table in each session. If his blood pressure dropped or there were prolonged pauses between heartbeats, she slowly returned the table to a horizontal position. It took several therapy sessions before Mark could tolerate going from lying flat to a head-up position. Once he could endure the vertical position, Sharon extended the length of time being upright from five to forty-five minutes over the next few weeks. She vigilantly monitored Mark and I always felt like he was safe. However, it appeared to me he felt unsafe, possibly confined or maybe light-headed because he despised the tilt table. When I asked him why or what was wrong, he said, agitated, “It’s just a waste of time!” While in the upright position, he often lashed out at the therapist, “Get me out of this senseless contraption,” or he’d demand I take him home.

When Cheryl and Kris gave Mark simple math problems and he correctly answered, my heart soared like a kite. He could read children’s books with little difficulty, but Mark had double vision, which made it nearly impossible to read the small print in adult books or a magazine. After reading a couple of paragraphs to him, the therapist questioned him on the content and he’d have trouble remembering what they had read. Mark seemed frustrated and/or embarrassed. My heart dropped into a dark hole as I remembered his perfect grades in college and the pride I had the previous year as he passed the ultimate test and earned his Electrical Master’s License. I wanted to give him the answers and save him from the humiliation. Other times it appeared he had the correct answer on the tip of his tongue, but the words came out wrong. Knowing he’d given the wrong answer, he struggled to find the right words to correct it. Irritated and impatient with himself, he’d say he was useless or felt inadequate. By the end of his daily therapy schedule he’d be exhausted and discouraged. It definitely was the hardest and most painful work he had ever done. The brightness of the day came at night when I’ brought the kids for a visit. They didn’t ask him trivial questions, or expect him to do hard and painful movements. They loved him unconditionally and were pleased just to see him awake and have him close to home. Every night they filled his empty cup with love and encouragement, which helped him get ready for the next day’s drain.

Mark was anxious to come home and nearly every night he’d make a comment like: “You need to take me home with you.” or “This is not a good place to be, please get me out of here.” Another night he said,“You need to take me far away from here. They ask silly questions.” One night he recited our home address and told me specifically, “That’s where you need to take me!” I was happy he remembered our address. I understood his longing to be home, to return to familiar surroundings and a normal way of life. I had the exact same yearning. Our house didn’t feel like home without him, but I silently worried about the future. How long would we have to deal with this new way of life? When would Mark be able to come home? How could we speed up this rehabilitation program? My biggest question: What changes did I need to make to improve this situation?

Learning how to transfer Mark in and out of his chair was the first answer that came to mind. It took two aids to do that. Could I learn to do it by myself? I went to the hospital library and checked out a how-to-video on transferring. That night I watched it and the next morning I told Sharon I wanted to learn how to transfer Mark. She demonstrated how she positioned her feet in front of Mark’s, pressing her knees on his legs. Her arms stretched over his shoulders with her hands reached under his arms. Using her body leverage she pulled him forward and up towards the chair and then set him down gently. I felt confident and anxious to try it, so I did and to my relief, I didn’t drop him. From then on we no longer had to wait for the aides to help Mark, which made us one step closer to getting him home.

In a Heartbeat

Wedding Invitation

Wedding invitation picture

I heard a knock on my apartment door. I was expecting Mark, but still asked, “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” Mark replied. I opened the door to see my tall, dark and handsome boyfriend holding a bouquet of flowers in a vase. I welcomed him into the apartment I shared with a friend, Lori. He handed me the flowers with a note. I set the flowers down on the kitchen table to read the note:

“I Mark Wilson, being of questionable mind, but sound body, ask you Barbara Breitling to marry me.”

With anticipation and a grin, I noticed he was reaching into his pants pocket and pulling out a small box.

Now in all the fairy-tales the man bends down on one knee to ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. Since I wanted a fairy-tale wedding and marriage, I thought it only appropriate to have that kind of proposal.

“Aren’t you going to get down on one knee,” I asked. He dropped down and reached for my left hand. I gladly gave it to him and he placed a beautiful diamond ring on my finger, which was a perfect fit. So our journey began with the official proposal on May 2, 1979.

We had dated for two years and decided to make our engagement short since June is the best wedding month. Fortunately, my mother is a pro at organization and party planning. She also had experience with helping my sister and two older brothers with their wedding days. As an anxious bride, I thought six weeks was plenty of time to prepare for the biggest party of my life. To complicate matters, we wanted the wedding and reception in my parent’s backyard, so on top of the regular wedding preparations we had a yard to dress up.

Mark and I were raised in two different religions so we thought my Uncle Wayne, who was an LDS bishop at the time, should be the ceremony officiator. This was the first of many decisions. My aunt Lorna, who worked at a bakery, decorated a beautiful three-tier cake. My cousin, Melody, who worked at a craft store did mine and three bridesmaid’s silk bouquets along with five corsages and five boutonnieres for the rest of the wedding party which included my two oldest nieces as flower girls. There were bridemaid’s dresses to sew and mine to buy. For the men, tuxedo’s to rent. A photographer to hire and wedding invitations to have printed and mailed. We had refreshments to order and asked four close cousins to help serve them. Mom and Dad rented an organ and my brother-in-law Klint played the wedding march along with love songs throughout the night to add romance to the atmosphere. We also had some special musical numbers which were sung by a family friend and talented cousins. The two I remember best were the “Hawaiian Love Song” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”.

Scan0053It was the greatest wedding and reception I’ve ever been to thanks to the hard work of parents, family and friends who helped pull it together in just six fast passing weeks.

Our honeymoon is an awesome memory and we were definitely on top of the world. We spent our wedding night in a nice hotel in Salt Lake City and the next six nights were spent camping at Zion’s and Bryce National Parks, and the Grand Canyon. We had a wonderful time and fell in love with the beauty of Southern Utah while exploring the parks for the first time together. Even though the planning of everything was stressful, it was an exciting, blissful time of life. No other memory can compare to the wedding and honeymoon and then it’s back to real life.

Setting up a home together and learning to live with one another brings challenges. With work, school and a new home, sometimes we struggled to make ends meet. Three and a half years later our son came; add another sixteen months and our daughter joined our family. Children bring happiness along with added responsibilities and adjustments.

Two months before our twelfth wedding anniversary the car accident happened and the world as we knew it fell apart. Our life dramatically changed, adding physical and mental health issues. Thus far, we have survived it all which gives me faith for the future. This month we celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Our two children are grown and creating their own families. I remember how time consuming they were when they were small and now we have to beg, borrow and steal time with them, and we cherish every moment. It’s strange—I don’t remember growing older, so how did they get to my age? Thirty-five years sounds like a long time, but it went by so quickly.

One day Mark asked me if I knew then what I know today, would I still marry him? My reply was, “In a heartbeat.” Sure, I would write a different love story by changing some events in our lives if I could. But I wouldn’t change the love we share. Our marriage is nothing like we’d planned, expected or could possibly comprehend. It’s been a lot of hard work, forgiveness, juggling responsibilities, patience, and tolerance on both of our parts. Would I still marry him? Yes, in a heartbeat!

Best wedding ever.

Wedding Cake



















First kiss