Hospital (continued)

It’s now two days since my mom came to the hospital. I can’t say admitted because a social worker came by earlier and said she was never admitted but is just under observation. I’m not sure how that’s possible since the emergency room doctor said he was going to admit her, and they’ve been working to re-hydrate her while running a lot of tests, but I will have to talk o the doctor when he comes around.

What we do know at this point is that an increase in Bumex to get the excess fluid off her lungs dehydrated her, but now she’s rehydrated and her kidneys are functioning better. She isn’t hallucinating like she was, but she is still a bit confused, not always knowing where she is or that I’m her daughter. The MRI showed that she has microvascular ischemic changes in her brain and the doctor said he thinks she is developing dementia. After reading up on it last night, it seems like he may be correct.

I’m not sure what will happen next. I only know that I’m tired, and I  can’t bring her home if she still can’t stand or walk. This situation has been a real test of faith, but I am still going to trust that God will help us through it.

 

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Hospital

I had to call for an ambulance this morning. My mother could not move her legs due to intense physical pain. She’s been having problems standing and walking since Wednesday, but it’s gotten much worse, and now she’s hallucinating. I’m not sure if it’s her kidneys or her brain, but it it’s awful to witness. Hopefully, the medical staff can discern the problem. They gave her morphine ten minutes ago and now she’s sleeping.

I’m going to be very honest. I was pretty upset with God Friday night when she was in a lot of pain. She wouldn’t let us call for an ambulance, and I felt completely helpless. I cried a lot and begged God not to let her suffer, but for some reason, he’s decided to let her go through this. It’s so hard not having answers and not knowing what to expect. I still have faith in God, but it’s hard to fathom why he lets his people endure so much.

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Quiet, please!

I recently finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I appreciated this book in that I not only learned about key differences between extroverts and introverts, but it made me feel validated and appreciated as an introvert. Before now, I’ve often felt like a square peg trying to fit myself into a round hole. This is because I’ve been labeled as “shy”, “quiet”, or even “mousy” several times in the past. The author, Susan Cain points out, however, that 1/3 to 1/2 of people are introverts, but that our culture, our schools, and our workplaces tend to place more value on extroverts. Our culture even glorifies them. Cain discusses all the wonderful attributes of introverts such as being cautious in high risk situations. We’re less likely to end up in the hospital, drive too fast, lose a lot of money in the stock market or on bad business deals, etc. She does point out some of our disadvantages as well, though. For instance, we tend to be less efficient in doing tasks because we like to reflect on them first like spending some time studying a maze that we’re given on paper before we start trying to draw our way through it. Sometimes we’re TOO cautious. We can also lose out on opportunities due to our lack of charisma. Fortunately, many of us do come out of our shells if we’re asked to do or talk about something we’re passionate about. Maybe that’s why I enjoy being a librarian. I love reading. researching, and writing, and I like talking to kids about those things.

Anyway, my mom is doing a bit better, and her extroverted self is definitely back. The doctor increased her diuretic due to all the fluid on her lungs, and told her she’s to put her feet up more and use her oxygen concentrator during the day and not just at night. As a result, she’s not coughing nearly as much as she was, and she seems to have a bit more energy. What this means, however, is that she’s being more social and talking more. She’s always been extroverted and doesn’t like solitude. It makes her feel out of sorts. Meanwhile, I LOVE solitude and quiet, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge. I have to keep reminding myself that I should value the time that I have left with her, and let her talk about what she needs to talk about. In his book How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with our Elders, David Solie asserts that seniors need to talk as part of their legacy. They need to talk about their past and basically relive it, sharing insights they feel are important in order to find closure and feel that their memories will live on through another generation.

I’m hoping that as my mom continues to get her strength back (if she does continue to), I will be able to be the kind of caring daughter that I would like to be. My mom and I did not get along very well the last time she lived with me. I really want this time to be different. An interesting quote in the aforementioned book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking was about a psychologist named Dan McAdams. Cain writes, “We all write our life stories as if we were novelists, McAdams believes, with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined otherwise good things…while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise…Those who lives more fully realized lives…tend to find meaning in their obstacles” (Cain 263). This really resonated with me because I used to be one of those unhappy people who would be mired in feelings of sadness or resentment or guilt over past events, but now I’m trying to let go of those feelings and instead, learn from the past and see events as a chance at growing. Therefore, I’m choosing to see this second chance with my mom as an opportunity to be both more patient and assertive, taking advantage of the time and distance I’ve had for reflection on the lessons I’ve learned.

 

 

 

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On Forgiveness

In case you haven’t been reading my blog, or it’s been awhile, my eighty-seven-year-old mother moved in with me December 30th, one week after having a heart attack. She lived with me 3-5 years ago, and it didn’t go very well. She was still as stubborn, critical, rude and bossy as she was when I was growing up. I thought I had forgiven her for things she had said and done in my youth, but I hadn’t, and I was constantly tormented by memories of the past and resentment. When she got mad at me for refusing to take her to Olive Garden for the third time in a week and insisted on moving in with my sister in Memphis, I felt a surge of relief. Yes! I almost cried aloud. After 1 year and 11 months, I was finally going to be free. Looking back, I should not have endured such bad treatment from her. My sister certainly didn’t. My mom lasted exactly one month at my sister’s before a major fallout. After that she lived in an independent living “retirement resort” where she lived 2 1/2 years. During that time, I was able to forgive her and we had pleasant talks on the phone and visits in person. (It seems that it’s much easier to forgive someone the more physical distance there is between you.)

On December 23rd (three and a half weeks ago), she had a heart attack. The doctor at the hospital said she probably didn’t have long to live since she refused to have a stint put in, a decision she now regrets. I realized that I had to let bygones be bygones and take her in since she couldn’t live on her own anymore, and my husband agreed. I have to admit that hearing the doctor say she probably wouldn’t live long made the decision easier. I hoped she would be respectful once she moved back in with us, but I figured that if she wasn’t, at least it wouldn’t be for long.

It turns out that things are very different this time from the last. My mother is frail, and her condition seems to have humbled her quite a bit. She needs my help with doing everyday tasks such as showering and dressing.  She also says please and thank you, something she wouldn’t do last time she lived with me, no matter how much I told her I would appreciate it and it would make her seem less bossy. In fact, she would actually laugh at the idea before, but lately, she has been saying please and thank you quite a bit, and a few days ago, as I was dressing her, she said, “God bless you for helping your old mother. I really hope God does good things for you.” I was truly taken aback. This was not the woman I remembered from before!

Since then, we’ve had a couple of talks about death and dying. She told me one afternoon that she’s done some bad things like saying terrible things to her mother, and she hopes God forgives her. I asked if she truly felt sorry and if she has asked God for forgiveness, and she said that she did. I assured her that God gives his forgiveness readily to those who truly feel sorry, ask for forgiveness, and forgive others. I asked her if she held any grudges toward anyone (something she excelled at when she was younger), and she said, “No, I don’t feel any anger towards anyone anymore.” If you knew my mother, and the vendettas she used to harbor toward others, you would know what a truly remarkable transformation this is.

Yesterday, when she asked me what I thought Heaven would be like and what she will do in Heaven, I told her that when she gets there, she will probably see her mom and pop as well as her six brothers and sisters who have gone on before her as well as my dad and my brother. I told her that they’ll probably surround her and give her hugs with big smiles on their faces. Then they would all sit down at a great big table outside, and it’ll be loaded with the best Italian food you can imagine, and all she will feel is peace and joy all around her. She seemed to like that version of Heaven. I really hope that’s what it’s like, and I hope that Jesus is sitting at the table with them and feels joy at knowing my mother and her family are happily reunited.

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Mom loves it when CJ comes over to her for attention.

 

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Providence

This week I’ve been questioning why certain things are happening in my life. Perhaps the best thing that happened to me last year was the huge improvement in my health due to my giving up wheat. I kept praying that God would help me to get better. I told him I was tired of being tired all the time, tired of the achiness, tired of itching, tired of the nausea and chest pain. If you have a Word Press account, you realize that sometimes Word Press will suggest another blog you should read, and, subsequently, I couldn’t resist clicking on the link to the blog at My Life with DM at https://mylifewithdm.wordpress.com/

The author of the blog had recently decided to cut the 8 main food allergens from her diet with outstanding results. She went into complete remission from Dermatomyositis. After cutting each of the food allergens, I found that wheat, something I ate everyday in some form, was the culprit. It was contributing to my muscle inflammation, itching, nausea (from a drop in blood pressure), and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart). I know that some people would say that my coming upon this person’s blog post was just a coincidence, but I truly think it’s a God thing, and I can say that as a former Agnostic. I’m well-educated and naturally skeptical, but I’ve seen too much after 42 years to believe this was just a coincidence. I think God put the answer in front of me. After removing wheat from my diet, I have more energy and less pain now which has changed my whole life for the better. As a result, my rheumatologist feels it’s time to get off the prednisone, so I am currently only taking 5 mg every two days instead of each day. Soon, I hope to be off the prednisone for good.

Unfortunately, one of the worst things that could’ve happened in 2016 came to pass. My 87-year-old mother had a heart attack, and it became apparent that she couldn’t live on her own in her senior independent living complex anymore. When I when to see her, she hadn’t read her mail in a couple months, and had not done laundry in about one month. We had no idea until she had her heart attack what was going on because she had stopped talking to my two sisters who live near her, accusing one of stealing an earring, and the other of stealing a picture. Fortunately, she reconciled with them after her heart attack.

Because of my mother’s situation, the only options we had were to either put her in an assisted living facility which she railed against or bring her to Texas from Memphis to live with me again. She was happy at the idea of living with me, so now she’s here with us again. My husband, who is spending most of his free time at home learning programming, looks after her during the day. When I come home from work, I’m able to help her take a shower, read her mail, take her to appointments, etc. There’s no way I would have the energy to do this if I had not stopped eating wheat. I used to come home from work absolutely exhausted to the point that I felt I was going to throw up. My chest would be hurting, and my muscles and joints would ache, but that is no longer the case.

My point in all of this is that I believe God decided to lead me to better health when I needed it most…when I needed to look after my mother. Being ill all these years with Lupus and then Dermatomyositis was like putting me through “the refiner’s fire”. There are many references in both the old and new testaments to how God refines us. For instance, Isaiah 48:10 tells us, “See, I have refined you but not like Silver. I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.” Some may say, “Well, that’s not very nice. Why would God do this to us?” If you study up on silversmithing, you would know that the silversmith does not consider his silver pure until he can see his reflection shine in it. God refines and shapes us through our trials because he wants us to become more like Him, a God who loves everyone, even those people whom it’s hard to love. That is why his second greatest commandments is to love others as ourselves.

Because of my experiences, I’ve become more understanding and compassionate (loving) to others, especially those who are in pain or facing the possibility of death like my mother who’s in the final stage of heart failure. Additionally, my priorities are very different than they once were. I’m no longer living for this world, but for the next. I’m no longer storing up treasures on Earth; I’m storing them up in Heaven. I can honestly say that I would not have traded the last 23 years of illness for anything, for through it, I have been endowed with a great gift, a Heavenly perspective that I wouldn’t trade for the world!

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Happy New Year?

Well, I can’t say that 2016 was the best year. My job is getting harder, my husband hasn’t had a pay check since last January, Carrie Fisher passed away, and now my 87-year-old mother is living with me again because she had a heart attack and can’t live on her own.

That being said, there are many things to be thankful for. At the beginning of this year, I blogged about my blessing jar. I never had one before, but after reading that counting your blessings is good for your well-being, I decided to start one, which you can see is now filled with slips of paper on which I wrote things I’m thankful for.

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I did not put in a slip of paper each week but I averaged about one every other week, and I just experienced some good feelings by reading them all. Things I was grateful for this year ranged from the minuscule…hearing my dog peacefully snoring next to me to major events such as my sister becoming cancer free after her surgery and my health improving significantly after reducing my gluten intake. We also went to the beach for a couple of days which was both fun and relaxing.

I know that I will need to keep reflecting on the good over the coming year. My mother has been left weak from her surgery and old age in general. I’m having to help her get back and forth to the restroom, help her shower, dress her, and wheel her around in a wheel chair. Because she’s mostly blind, I have to measure her blood sugar level, read her mail, tell her what’s going on if she hears something. I really don’t know how she managed to live in an independent living senior apartment complex for as long as she did. Because my husband isn’t working now, he’ll be able to help her somewhat while I’m at at work.

I have to admit that I’m a bit confused right now. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt. 11:28-30)

What does this look like when you have a life like mine? It’s a question that I will be grappling with this year as I pray for better times. Dear reader, I hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year, and if you happen to remember, please pray for me and my family as well.

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The Burden of Saying No

Have you ever seen that movie “Office Space”? In it, the main character who is a software developer of some sort becomes so stressed out, he decides to quit and go into construction. It’s a great movie, and yesterday, I knew exactly how the main character felt. I wanted to quit and go be a secretary. You see, yesterday, I was informed in a meeting of other educators that a new technology committee is being formed and that I will be facilitating it. I couldn’t object, of course, because my boss and someone else who oversees my job indirectly informed me at said meeting that this is now part of my job. I went home feeling dejected and had an exceedingly long cry since I’m already stressed beyond belief. Then I realized that I’ve got to give up some of the extra responsibilities I’ve taken on that are not directly part of my job, so today I informed the sponsor of a club that I help with that I can’t assist her with that club anymore. It was really difficult as I’ve enjoyed helping with that club and I know she could use my help, but what else can I do? As my boss said last year in a weekly memo, some of us are wearing too many hats. That definitely applies to me right now.

It’s not easy to say “no” or “not anymore” to someone, but there are only so many hours in a day. I’m not really sure why people keep asking me to take on leadership roles when I am not a leader. I’m good at administration and organization, and I’m pretty good with technology, but people seem to get these attributes confused with leadership. First, I’m highly introverted. I don’t like meetings, and I especially don’t like getting up in front of other people, especially my peers. I would much rather help someone (with a club for instance) than spend time planning and administering staff development sessions. I just keep telling myself that Moses didn’t feel like he was leadership material either, but he still answered the call of the Lord. At least I don’t have to go tell a king to let go of all his slaves.

Unfortunately, because of the way I was raised, I’m the type of person who feels guilty about backing out of stuff or saying no. I feel like I’m being selfish and that others will look down on me or be angry with me.The old me would just keep it all bottled up, bide my time, and quit at the end of the school year after finding another school in which to work. In fact, this is my sixth year at this school, and it’s the longest I’ve been at a any single school. I’ve been in education for seventeen years, and this is the fourth school I’ve worked in, which just goes to show how much I just quit and move on rather than assertively state that I feel like leaving and why. On the contrary, I used to polish up my resume and come up with some positive-sounding reason for moving to a new school…”I want to work closer to home” or “I’m now in a serious relationship with someone who lives over an hour away, and I’ve decided to move closer to him”, etc. I’ll never admit, “I’m being given more responsibilities than I can handle, and I’m about to have a nervous breakdown”.

On a positive note I’m still reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend albeit rather slowly since I can only read a couple of pages before bed sometimes. It really is helping me ease out of the guilt I would be wallowing in right now. I’m thinking that this is one of those books I will probably need to read once a year since I tend to lapse into negative thought patterns if I’m not constantly challenged and reminded to break them.

So you’re probably thinking, “Uh, she has time to write blog entries!” Oh, but dear reader, you must realize by now that my blogging, which I only do once or twice a month, is highly therapeutic. Blogging helps me reflect on what I’ve experienced or what I’ve read. It was extremely difficult at first, but now I can’t imagine ever giving it up.

So I leave you with this song for now, a song by one of the great rock bands of all time, and a song that’s been running through my head quite a bit today. Thank God for rock and roll!

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