Friday, September 30, 2016

Coming Home

My legs beyond the skirt
You can see Huntsville in the window. September 23 I waited for the doctor to enter, hoping he would say,

Carol, you can take the right boot off and drive! 

Instead when Dr. Franklin entered,  he said the X-rays were great and

You may take both boots off!

I was thrilled! I had to wait a few days for the pain opiate to get out of my system to drive, and I switched to Tylenol Eight Hour for pain. I used my families' bins to pack up my car. My brother drove behind me and unloaded the car since I use a walker now. 

I had seen dog Ziggy twice since the accident. Once Sandra (who graciously kept him over 45 days) brought him to the nursing home, and another time I saw him in a doggie park. 

After several days getting settled--things like figuring out how to take a shower safely, getting the handicapped permit for my car, getting groceries, starting vigorous physical therapy at home to unfreeze and mobilize my feet, I missed Ziggy.

I called Sandra and invited her to bring Ziggy back and have dinner with me. Now I cheated! I bought dinner in because I don't stand to cook too much yet. Sandra is such a great new friend from my new church here. Imagine doing that for someone--keeping their dog! Apparently Ziggy was fun for them and they had recently lost a dog. 

Ziggy and I love being together. He wants to walk farther than I am capable of walking, and he needs to adjust to short trips.

Today a Facebook friend suggested I just take him to a doggy park. Will do. I can sit and he can roam! 

Monday, September 5, 2016

I live in a nursing home for almost three weeks!

Huntsville Health and Rehabilitation 
Never had to put my late husband who had mixed dementia in a nursing home. Had the privilege of having him in our Plant City home all his days. However two years later I have recently had the nursing home experience--not in Plant City, Florida, but in Huntsville, Alabama where I moved a year after he died.

Prayer. Breaking both ankles will send you to ER and then in my case to Huntsville Health and Rehab right across the Parkway from my apartment. The LORD has such a sense of humor 'cause this is the very facility that my Huntsville church has a prayer meeting in! So now I have been to prayer meetings there and expanded my prayer opportunity for my church and for the residents and staff I have met.

Residents. I have been able to identify dementia patients there. The first night I sat in someone's spot in the dining room. She said, I have sat here all my life! Of course she hadn't, but I got up and moved. No use arguing with a dementia patient!

I met lonely residents, parked here with little interaction and no visitors. When I can walk and drive (when my two legs are healed), I will come back to visit them. These three weeks have changed me. 

Nursing Staff. My mother was a nurse. She advised,  Carol, become a teacher. I see why after living in this nursing home. The tasks and responsibilities are endless. Maybe thankless. The staff is expected to counteract the realities of old age and disability. Teaching is easier, but just maybe nursing is more rewarding than teaching. They were great, and when I complained they heard me. The administrator even gave me her personal cell number and let a new friend give me a new hairdo in the home beauty salon!

Therapists. I had Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists. I thought I would have time to polish my dissertation and read--not so. Therapists would find me and the sessions would begin. I was very glad I had been using the gym at my apartment house because it gave me a "leg up" (pun intended). Sessions included hopping on the better leg for use with a walker. I was happy about my upper arm muscles being toned because of my old lady wings. Occupational therapists prepared me for when I would leave the facility and would have to dress and cook.

Now the speech therapist sessions were optional for me, but I elected to take the training. I had haunting thoughts about my own memory from all I have been studying. It turns out the memory enhancing skills I learned help with normal aging and some studies (such as The Nun Study) suggest that mentally, socially and physically active seniors are less likely to get Alzheimer's. The cognitive therapy that I was given is very interesting and useful to me.

I am now staying with my family and having home health care several days a week after Labor Day. They put in this railing so I can get in the house from their garage and have been most hospitable; the nursing home physical therapists trained me how to walk up steps with the aid of my brother and a gait belt. You put your best foot up first on the way up; on the way down you put your worst foot down first.

But there are a group of residents that are my new friends. I had many visitors in my 19 days in this nursing home, and I can never repay them, not to mention Sandra and Richard who are taking care of dog Ziggy. I am going to "pay it forward" by visiting my new friends. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dating As a Widow

The world has changed. Dating has changed. Betty Friedan changed the male/female in the work place over forty years ago and women have become more bold. Many women do not believe in enduring relationships and even forego marriage. For the Christian woman, however, cohabitation is unacceptable. Contemplating dating may help the widow realize she has come far in her grieving, or dating can be a disaster for her. Here are lessons I think are important.

Lesson one. TIME. Give yourself time to heal from the loss of your husband. If you date too soon, you will be both comparing and grieving. Some aspect of the person will be different from your late husband and that will bother you. Or if something reminds you of your late husband it can be a grief moment. I dated too soon with the death of my first husband and counseling for a year helped me pick up the pieces. I had heartbreak on top of grief to deal with.

Lesson two. COMMONALITY. Ask yourself if you have anything in common with your date. What commonalities are important to you? For me, the Christian faith and theology are important. Life will continually throw fast balls and without a faith to navigate life's trials a relationship or even marriage will not work in my humble opinion. You have to rise above the loneliness and embrace wisdom. Does the gentleman value Scripture and worship of our LORD? Intelligence and emotional maturity are also important to me. Age, looks and money are not so important to me, but commitment to health might be.

Lesson three. TRANSPARENCY and TRUST. Are you able to be yourself with the date? Do they expect you to act a certain way? My brother advised me to not rap on the date, but his married daughter told me,

"Aunt Carol, just be yourself."

Trust must be earned. Often a divorced person will be very skeptical of a relationship possibility. I married and was widowed by two divorced men, and I think that our common Christian faith helped us be transparent and gain the trust of each other.

Lesson four. SOCIAL MEDIA.  What do they use? How do they wish to be contacted or not be contacted? It has all changed. This is not the olden days when women sat by the phone at home and waited to get a phone call. Today there are so many avenues of communication. Our girlfriends like to be contacted on social media, but men don't -- they often need to be in their "man cave". If they are truly shy, you may need to initiate I think if you would really like to get to know them. I like country singer Luke Bryan's song "Crash My Party" and maybe this song is so popular because the apparent extrovert Bryan easily lets his special woman into his life.

A caution is Facebook messaging. Do not accept someone as a Facebook friend who wants to sweet talk you and has no other friends but you. There is no way you can check them out. They may have seen on your profile that you are widowed. Oh well! They haven't even joined E-Harmony or some other site. Messaging you has cost them nothing and could turn out to be a scam.

Lesson five. FRIENDSHIP. Some old-fashioned men like to do the chasing. You walk a fine line between friendship and something more. Probably it is confusing for both of you. At least I think so. The age old advise of going slow applies. It doesn't hurt to just decide on a friendship at first and in the end.

Lesson six. FORGE A NEW LIFE. You don't have to date. You are forging a new life as a widow and it is okay to venture out with new friends both male and female and new experiences. Exercise some caution when you do venture out where men are involved. I took up line dancing when my first husband died and a married gentleman I met at line dancing lessons thought I would enjoy spending the night with him. I shot back,

"Why would I want a temporary fix! 
I am the kind you marry. 
Go home and love your wife, sir."

Lesson seven. LEARN FROM YOUTH. One high school student told me he would want to go on the first dates his widowed grandmother has to check out the gentleman! One young girl summed it up: "I want a guy to write me snail mail and just hang out with me!" Many young people are so wise.

Above all, widows, let the LORD be your husband. He will never let you down.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Sale of My Plant City Home

Back yard

It was about a year ago that the house went on the market after yard sales as I noted on this blog. The first week there was a buyer, who quickly got out. I moved to Alabama and the negotiations for the house included another buyer. Just when we were about to close, the buyers couldn't get insurance because the roof was too old and there were outlets that my late husband put into his workshop without a permit. Sale off. 

When the economy was better before his dementia my late husband and I had gotten a second mortgage, on advice from a financial consultant. That second mortgage would help us maintain the house he explained because we had less income. Surely the house would be worth more when it came time to sell it. We did use some of that money for improvements. The roof had been fixed in two places, but we never thought of replacing it. 

However the house didn't increase in value. When it came time to sell, it was "underwater".Short of foreclosure, the only other option was a cash buyer. 

The place looked occupied as I let neighbors put animals in the second back yard after I moved to Huntsville, Alabama. 

Cash Buyer Needed or Foreclosure

Enter Leroy  who lives in this neighborhood along with his wife. They recently celebrated their 60th anniversary! She has Parkinson's and I met them at my yard sales. I sold Leroy handicapped items for a dollar each--you know--port-a-potties, wheel chair, etc., and we became friends. He even gave me a chair.

It turns out Leroy buys houses to rent--for cash. Who would have thought? I called him when that second buy fell through. He made an offer for the short sale and it took from October 16, 2015 until this week for the negotiations to finish. Thank you, LORD.

Now Leroy is a fine Christian gentleman. When I rapped for him, he sang me this song.

Some people save their money
For the hard times that's to come
Planning for the future
For their daughters and their sons
But when life down here on earth is through
And we face the judgment throne
The only thing that matters
Is if to Him your soul belongs.

The only thing that matters
Is if you've been born again
Has the blood been applied?
Have you been forgiven of your sins?
'Cause when He opens up the book of life
And into your heart he stares
The only thing that matters
Is if your name is written there.

Thank you, Leroy, for this song and your testimony. It doesn't matter that the house didn't turn a profit. The only thing that matters is that I have real estate in heaven.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Love of a Caregiver Daughter

I had the privilege of interviewing an outstanding caregiver whom I had been corresponding with. My dog Ziggy and I were privileged to stay overnight with this couple. Over a breakfast of homemade biscuits Patricia said about her mother:

I was blessed with a great mother 
and I can do no less than care for her. 
She always tried to care 
for others in her family, 
selflessly giving even after she was disabled with leg fractures.

Her mother broke her hip and leg at age 84 requiring metal rods. Then 2 years later she broke the other leg in two places requiring rods and pins. Her resilience was amazing, but due to issues with blood pressure she began to lose her sight and have small TIAs. Then the dementia began as it often does in the 80s. Finally at 87 she had a stroke that paralyzed her left side and throat causing aspiration issues. Due to the extreme physical issues she was placed in a skilled nursing facility hoping for rehabilitation. Unfortunately a second stroke in rehab greatly reduced her ability to respond to therapy and today’s healthcare system discontinued the therapy due to lack of progress. 

This was a very stressful time for Patricia because she felt so helpless. She knew her mother didn’t qualify for therapy,  but without it she would just lose the existing strength and rapidly cycle downward. How do you watch a loved one lose their dignity and connection to reality? Her mother had good days where she was alert and realized that she was not getting therapy and therefore she had little hope of regaining function of her body and returning to her home. It is difficult to see a loved one lose their spirit and will to live. The 88-year-old mother also had a son, but he was not in a position to help. 

So for four years Patricia worked four days with the schools and then drove 3 and 1/2 hours to stay with her mother Friday through Sunday—so her mother could stretch her finances needed to pay around the clock caregivers allowing her to remain in her own home. Patricia said it overtook her life for those four years, greatly impacting the quality of her other family relationships especially the special time to share activities with her husband during their golden years together. She said that she always felt guilty trying to meet everyone’s needs at the same time and never doing a good job anywhere. Her mother had to pay $35,000 a year for Monday to Thursday caregivers when Patricia was not there during those four years. After the first major stroke her mother’s needs increased but Patricia was exhausted also. She had also developed physical ailments from helping to lift her mother over the last 2 years and now her mother would not be able to assist with any position transfers to prevent bed sores.

Something had to give. She was moved to live closer to the couple. They decided to have her dentist husband  hook up oxygen to create a sort of  SUV ambulance to move the mother to a nursing facility in their home town. The original plan was to receive therapy until she improved and could then assist with transfers and limited caretaking within Patricia’s home. Unfortunately, her health continued to degenerate and she was unable to make any physical progress. Now Patricia is able to visit her several hours a day and still have a life with her very understanding, caring husband.
I asked Patricia how she was able to sustain this selfless care giving for four years and even now going to the nursing home every day. She said,

I just do it.
I stay in the moment.
Then I’ve also let go of some 
other moments or expectations for my life.
I don’t look at it as an intrusion.
I know that once she is really gone
 I can’t touch her again, 
so for now it is all worth it.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Trip Back to Plant City

Presenting the draft of the dissertation
A seminary counseling dissertation has kept me very busy lately and I haven’t blogged here since December 1, 2015. So let me tell you about the trip I took recently back to Plant City, Florida.

Last fall I applied to be a registrar at Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida starting Feb. 25. When I was accepted as a registrar, I knew I could also attend much of this great  conference for free  have free lodging at friends since I have limited funds. Orlando is about an hour away from Plant City, Florida, where I used to live before I moved here to Huntsville, Alabama, also know as Rocket City.  

I did accomplish a few other things on the trip—namely the presenting of that seminary counseling dissertation draft, Hope for Dementia Caregivers, to the seminary in Florida along with attend the conference. Thank the LORD they both happened--the draft submitted and the conference. 

I  even managed to see people, and talk at Lakeland Toastmasters on Reflections of Writing a Dissertation. I had four points that I remember.

1. I reviewed my usual topics in the club--how I got eyebrows, accidentally became a rapper, and how I got my house organized (all covered on this blog).

 2.  But this time, I told the group, I have a serious talk on how I wrote the dissertation draft. 
I took people along with me. 
I had a dissertation committee in Huntsville that met with me about once a month at the Huntsville Library. They day before I left for the trip, I had two lovely ladies from my committee who proofed the dissertation at my house. 

3. In addition to the accountability of my committee, I described how I persevered writing it, getting up early to write before substitute teaching and finding other moments for writing. 

4. I also mentioned the wise advise from my Huntsville pastor--get it done even if it isn't perfect. If you have liked this page at the top right, you can hear my talk on that page. 

Also in Florida I record two raps to be produced for my YouTube channel, MC AC The Rap Lady. Lyrics for the rap "Rocket City Ditty" about Huntsville where I have moved, is on the last blog post. I took Dezarae and Pharis to the studio and they were featured as I introduced the rap “While You’re Still One”--see HERE. I knew these two young people because their father used to help me at the house while my husband was a dementia sufferer and couldn’t work on the house. Dezarae and Pharis were adopted by a wonderful couple so their birth mother didn't have to get an abortion. Because Florida is a pro-choice state, I had not recorded this rap previously. Because I now live in Alabama which is a pro-life state, it works here. 

I had the privilege of taking my dog Ziggy to stay with Plant City friends Sally and Jake for 10 days and even was able to arrange an overnight stay with Ziggy at another caregiver's home on the return to Huntsville. Both places a caregiver read the dissertation and approved. I so appreciate the hospitality of these two couples. 

With Ziggy at  a BBQ on the way back to Huntsville. 

Thanks to all who have been praying for my trip. Continue to pray for the revision of the dissertation. I need to add a chapter on grieving after your dementia loved one has passed away and make some other changes.