Being a caregiver to someone you love can be very grievous and challenging. Whether due to an illness or developmental or physical challenge, it is often very hard on our minds, emotions and also our bodies to be a caregiver. It’s very seldom you have a chance to leave your loved one’s side to take care of household chores or errands. It’s often nearly impossible to hold down an outside job, meet up with friends, go to family gatherings or even just take a bit of time to yourself.

More and more families are electing to care for their loved ones at home rather than send them to a facility. According to Caregiver Action, “More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.” Of course, families had no choice in the past before facilities were available, but over the years, many families have drifted apart either emotionally or geographically, which makes it harder to care for their loved ones. Hence, the booming business of care facilities. Don’t get me wrong! There are many wonderful facilities out there where our loved ones receive exceptional care, but unfortunately those facilities are extremely expensive and insurance pays little to no funding for long term care. If you have a family member needing care and do not have the capabilities to care for them yourself, you’d better hope they paid in to a long term care insurance policy (which I highly recommend).

There are some facilities that do take insurance, even state or federal insurance, but often those facilities are overpopulated and under staffed. Most families often choose to care for their loved ones at home rather than put them into such a facility believing they can provide better care for their loved ones than an overwhelmed care facility. I know I did!

One of the main reasons I am writing this, is to help you understand how you need to care for yourself if you’re a caregiver to a family member. You see, I can’t even count how many studies have been done showing the rapid decrease in mental and physical health of a caregiver. The stress alone can attribute to premature aging and take nearly 10 years off your life! (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dec 7, 2004, Vol 101, No. 49.)

So, what can you do to help yourself while helping your loved one? I’m not going to lie to you, it’s simpler said than done, but you need to follow some basic daily routines, weekly actions, and monthly strategies to keep yourself from circling the drain of complete exhaustion.

As my husband’s illness progressed, my time became more and more dedicated to his care. Feeding him became trickier than trying to teach a baby to eat with utensils. Staying on top of medications; keeping the list, timed checkoffs and dates, and updating dosages was becoming a full time job. At one point, I had to give him medications every four hours, around the clock. I was lucky to get in a couple of hours of sleep at a time only once or twice in a 24 hour period. I was cranky from lack of sleep, my blood pressure skyrocketed (making me more cranky) and to top it all off, I was in the midst of menopause. I was feeling the internal combustion ready to devastate my entire neighborhood.

I was more fortunate than some though; I had my sisters and mom who would readily pick up the phone in the middle of the night if I needed to talk, scream or cry; and a friend living close by who would run over in a millisecond to help me out on some of the more pressing, physical responsibilities needing to be handled; plus I had my daughter to run errands for me on occasion. Still, I was feeling as if I just couldn’t breathe much less take on one more thing.

In the midst of all this I managed to have my friend give me at least two or three hours of her time every couple of weeks to stay with my husband while I attended a caregiver’s support group. The group was hosted by a local, private nursing company and facilitated by a registered nurse. One day, I walked into the group and just as I sat down the nurse came up to me and told me I needed to get away for at least a week before I ended up in the hospital with a stroke. I must’ve looked pretty bad for her to have charged right for me within seconds of walking in the door.

At first I became defensive and told her there was no way I was going to leave my husband for that long and it would be impossible for me to find an alternate caregiver. Our insurance did not cover private nursing, so we were not candidates for respite care. She literally ordered me to take at least a week, as far away from home as possible. It took me a few days to secure someone who could come and stay while I drove from California to Minnesota and back to see my best friend whom I hadn’t seen in five years.

Having that down time, with no responsibilities was both horrifying and uplifting. After I returned home, I was able to breathe again, get back on a schedule and function like a normal human. I started making sure I kept up my exercises, paying attention to what I was eating, talking with doctors to change meds so I could get some sleep, making sure I went outside as much as possible and staying hydrated. Within a week my blood pressure stabilized without medication, I wasn’t as cranky and the depression had lifted substantially.

Through it all I was grieving for my husband, myself and the kids and grandkids. Yet, I was so very grateful for that support group and the nurse who took charge to ensure I stayed alive while caring for my husband. After my husband passed away, the nurse asked me to speak at another caregiver group regarding the difference in me after taking that break and staying on top of my own healthcare.

I wanted to share this all with you to help you realize the toll it can take to be a caregiver for a loved one. The sacrifices are immense and overwhelming, but you have to take the time to take care of yourself too. Make sure you have some help so you can have some down time. Eat right as best as you can, stay hydrated, get rest at every opportunity and for your own sanity, please find a caregiver’s support group to help you with all of that!

My prayers and blessing to you always.

Remembering Bop-Bop

Remembering Bop-Bop

It’s been a tough week. My daughter and grandsons have been staying with me since we’ve all come down with colds and allergies due to the change in weather. We believe it’s better to care for each other, rather than try to go it alone.

We’ve found a place of comfort with each other in the midst of our losses. Today was a different day though.

This morning my five year old grandson came into my room. We tickled each other and laughed for a moment. Then he got off the bed and went to stand in front of the shelf.

There, on the top shelf a display of my husband’s life is stored.

Although my grandson was only three years old when his “Bop-Bop” went to Heaven, he remembers him dearly.

He took one of the photos off the shelf, crawled back up on the bed and stared at it intently while silent tears fell down his sweet, flushed cheeks.

My daughter and three year old grandson came into the room. When my daughter saw what was going on, she quietly led the baby from the room to allow his brother some quiet time to grieve.

As I sat next to my grandson with my arm around him, my own tears began to flow in response to his.

My grandson then asked me if I had a movie of Bop-Bop; and I put on Jerry’s memorial video as we snuggled in the chair to remember.

In the two years since Jerry has left us, there have been many times both my grandsons have declared how much they miss him. As a point of reference, the boys have begun waving at the moon to say hello to their Bop-Bop.

Having that point of reference means so very much to them. It gives them something physical to relate to their grandfather. We’ve told them their Bop-Bop lives in Heaven way behind the moon. So the moon became their tie to the spirit of their Bop-Bop.

Even the baby calls out to him and tells of memories he has even though he had just turn a year old when Jerry died.

When you are so very loved by someone, the age does not interfere with the love and memories. You would think that such small children would not have such vivid memories, wouldn’t you? Yet, their memories are strong and faithful.

It’s hard when children grieve. Many people do not really know how to handle a child’s grief, but it’s actually quite simple. Give them a point of reference; something tangible to relate to. Remember with them; cry with them; laugh with them. Help them keep the love alive.

Remembering Bop-Bop is important to my grandchildren just as it is to the rest of us. Telling stories and sharing memories helps them remember the love most of all.

Even if it brings tears, do not hide reality from young ones. It keeps the love alive and the fear at rest. Give them hope, faith and assurance that we’ll all be in Heaven together some day. Let them know that trusting what Jesus has promised; that He has prepared a place for us, assures us of love everlasting.

That’s how we remember Bop-Bop.

You Know Me So Well!

You Know Me So Well!

We all have those friends that we’ve known for many, many years but only actually see once every few years, right? Yet, there may have been a time when you were very close and spent a lot of time together. Fortunately, we have amazing technology now which allows us to continually share our lives together from afar.

Well, I have a few of those friends that I very seldom see or get to spend time with. It makes me so very sad that our lives have taken different directions, but I realized today just how incredibly bonded I am to those friends still.

In speaking with one of those friends on the phone today, whom I’ve known for nearly 25 years, I received a detailed account of her interpretation on how I handle grief. I was surprised at how perfectly accurate she was at remembering and understanding how I still handle grief in my life.

Something else that struck me was that I’ve only seen this friend twice in the last 20 years, although we were very close the first four years we knew each other. In fact, I even stayed in her home for a few weeks after my house burned down until I was able to get into another home.

Twice in 20 years, and this friend still knew me so very well, in fact better than anyone in my family! So what does that say about the connections we make in life?

There’s a meme that I’ve seen on social media quite a few times which says, “Some friends come into your life for a reason, others come only for a season.” There are many people I’ve considered friends whom I no longer have any contact with. There are friends I’ve lost contact with for many years who’ve resurfaced in my life due to the ease of technology. Yet, through all of the distances, absences and re-connections, I’ve learned just how incredible those relationships have been and how much of ours hearts we’ve shared together.

I’ve heard many statements from people known and unknown such as, “Nobody understands” or “They couldn’t possible know how I feel” or “You couldn’t walk a block in my shoes”. Stop and think about why that is if you’ve ever said or thought any of those statements.

No other person can ever know exactly how you feel or what you’ve been through, but if you’ve never given your best in any friendship or relationship, then those statements will ring true. People can only know you when you give of yourself to them.

There is of course those who are deficient in integrity and character and will use whatever you give them against you and that is very unfortunate. Yet, when you give of your heart, there will be a time when those who once lacked those skills will understand just how positively influential you were in their lives and will learn to pass it on.

Listening to my friend today showed me how very powerful our relationship was and that only happens when you love yourself enough to pass it on to others.

So, who knows you so well? If you can’t answer that questions, you might want to look inside yourself and break down some of the fortifications barring your heart from loving and giving. It’s hard to get what you cannot give.

Blessings to you my friends.

Experience; The Greatest Teacher

Experience; The Greatest Teacher

You were born to be exceptional, so why do you think you aren’t?

Everything about you is amazing. You were born with a purpose in mind. Have you found that purpose yet?

Have you ever felt that you have nothing to give and therefore are unimportant?

Believe me friends, you are very important! Sometimes, we don’t understand our purpose until we’ve been through the ringer, and why is that? Because, we need to be able to understand how to use our experiences to be the best we can be.

So, if you’re unsure of your purpose at this point in your life, don’t despair! You’re purpose has always been there, it just may be dormant until you have the experience to know how to share it.

Take some time and think about the experiences you’ve had in your life; the good and the bad. How can you use that to propel yourself to the greatness you have inside of you?

I know it really helps you to gain clarity when you write down your experiences and realize what you really have inside of you. Take the lessons you’ve learned in every experience and use those as a guide to your greatness.

God does not make mistakes! I’m happy to share that I was in a devastating accident many years ago that nearly took my leg, but it also saved my life. I was heading down a scary path, but I couldn’t see that at the time. Laying in a hospital bed in traction in my living room gave me time to think about what I was doing and where I was going. That was one painful wake-up call!

I do not wish that kind of painful eye-opener on anyone, but sometimes that’s what it takes to bring you back to where you should be when you stray off your purpose driven path.

When you hear the statement, “Everything happens for a reason”, how does that speak to you? What do you really hear from that statement? What can you take away from that statement and why would it be in your best interest? Think about that for a moment and then write down your take-aways from the painful experience and put it into a reasonable format. What did you learn? How can you apply what you’ve learned? Why do you think you had to go through that experience?

Often, we become very angry at going through a tough, painful or traumatic experience. We then become very guarded and tend to push people away or adopt an attitude of fear, resentment and defensiveness, which will not serve happy relationships with your significant other, family, friends or even your job.

A young lady I interviewed told me that she’d rather be angry about her losses than feel the depression. The anger is how she keeps her grief in check (so she says). She’s consistently using anger to mask her depression over tragic experiences and refuses to allow herself to feel and get through the depression, which would then allow her to release the anger. Consequently, her anger is very apparent in her everyday life. She has terrible road rage, very little if any compassion for other people’s mistakes, and has a hard time connecting with many of her friends, family and especially her children. I’m so very sad for her because she’s missing out on some amazing life experiences because of it. Additionally, because she refuses to get past her anger, her children are growing up thinking it’s okay to always be angry.

Has your anger overtaken you? How can you get past it? There’s a very simple trick to help you overcome your anger; it’s called forgiveness. “What! How can I possibly forgive this or that, him or her, or even God for what happened to me?” Yes, I can hear you saying it.

It’s actually quite a feat to forgive someone who’s hurt you, especially when you believe that God had something to do with it. Let me tell you friend; God does not harm or set out to hurt you. Yet, mankind is a completely different story.

When people feel hurt, they tend to lash out and hurt others. Forgiving is your saving grace for yourself; it’s what gives you peace in your heart. Whether there is ever an apology or not, do your best to forgive the hurts so you may move on to your purpose in life.

If you have trouble forgiving, then you should ask for help. In Matthew, chapter 7, verses 7-8 it says

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

But, beware! Further in the bible you’ll find a warning in James, chapter 4, verses 2-3 where it says

“2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

I firmly believe that asking God to help you forgive, even if it’s for your own self-preservation, is something that He will gladly give you because it also helps those around you.

Remember, hate begets hate, but love begets love. When you’re living in love and peace, others who want to live in love and peace will surround you. Your relationships will flourish and you’ll enjoy a peace you’ve never dreamed possible.

And that, my friends is where you’ll find your exceptional purpose! So remember, use your experiences as your teacher, find the “Miracle in the Muck” and propel yourself to the greatness you were born to have!

My love and blessings to you dear friends.

Being Gramama

Being Gramama

          It’s cold outside. The frost blankets the ground like tiny diamonds, glistening in the morning sun. I walk around the concrete abutment so as not to impair the new, Spring grass budding beneath the minuscule icicles hanging from the blades. As I approach the rose bushes, I realize how long they have survived in blistering heat, drenching rain and heavy snow throughout the years. I look at the cross behind the roses, worn and weathered from the same elements that have spared the roses.

The cross was fashioned from a pattern my son had made in the shape of a sword he wanted for a costume. I had helped him cut it out of the thin press-board after he carefully drew the pattern, free-hand onto the wood. The following week, we made a cross for the side of the road where my son was killed instead of a sword for his costume.

Three years after setting the cross on the side of the highway, we moved out of town. I could not bear to leave the cross as it was something my son had painstakingly created on his own. Therefore, it now sits in my backyard, transplanted into a bronzed container, surrounded by the roses we placed in the church for his funeral.

My son was 20 years old when he moved to Heaven. I no longer had the opportunity before me to watch him grow into a man, to walk with him at his wedding, or attend the birth of his children. The realization of this lost future was devastating to me.

I was blessed to have had two beautiful, amazing children. My son was born just after my 24th birthday and my daughter was born shortly after my 26th birthday. I initially did not want children when I was younger, but having my children changed me and brought me love I never knew I possessed.

Losing my son so tragically, I tried my best not to lock my daughter in a closet. Although she was 18 years old when her brother left us, she was still my baby girl. When she moved out of our home a short time later, I sincerely felt I had lost both of my children. She had moved a whole three hours away and I felt like I had lost my world altogether!

I was so very grateful that my daughter moved back with me for the birth of her first child. I hadn’t really thought too much about grandchildren before that as my children were still young, mostly in my mind. Yet, being with my little girl during the blessed moment she had her son was beyond belief!

I am in no way saying that one child can replace another, but it felt like a new start for me. Although a grandparent’s role is far different than that of being a parent, I felt it still afforded me another chance at being a part of a future I had been denied with my oldest child.

I thought about my grandmothers and how they were an integral part of my life. They were the patience, reasoning and wisdom that young parents have yet to learn.           They were always a safe haven when “Mom/Dad doesn’t understand!” To me, my grandparents were angels on earth.

I count myself so very fortunate to have experienced a long life with my grandparents. In fact, I’m 52 years old and still have one grandmother living!

I know there are many people who’ve not grown up with grandparents and I’m so very sad they never knew that special love only a grandparent can give. Fortunately, technology has afforded us with Surrogate Grandparents to help connect families who live too far away, or simply do not have a grandparent in their lives.

Being Gramama to my grand-babies has made my world so very amazing. I love to watch them learn while they play, I love the “out of nowhere” hugs, kisses, snuggles and I love you’s that pop up so randomly. I love the fact that as I’ve grown and matured, I have achieved the kind of wisdom and patience that makes a grandparent who they are to a child.

If you are a grandparent and your grandchildren aren’t close, become a Surrogate Grandparent to a child or children close to you who do not have their grandparents with or near them. The benefits and rewards are so very amazing to both the children and the grandparents who pour out their love to each other, regardless of kinship.

Have a blessed day and remember to share your love and blessings with others!!!