Sunday, February 15, 2015

I'm Done Feeling Sorry Myself- Please Stop Feeling Sorry For Me Too.

Marriage. Is. Hard.

 I. Love. Being. Married.

 Marriage. Is. Hard.

Great accomplishments require lots and lots of hard work. A great marriage IS a great accomplishment- thus it requires lots of hard work.  And I don’t just mean work, like making time for dates and overlooking your hubby’s quirks that drive you insane or figuring out how to share housework so one person isn’t feeling overworked and or underappreciated. I mean HARD work. Hard like finding again your identity as an individual and as a couple when a defining factor has drastically changed. Hard like realizing some of your goals that you had hoped for as a couple just are not going to happen, and beyond realizing that, accepting that without blame or anger, and then discovering other goals you can share. Hard like wanting to yell out at church that “ Hey, we’re not contagious! If you associate with both me AND my husband doesn’t mean your spouse will lose his religion! Give it a try- invite my WHOLE family over” and “Please stop feeling sorry for me!”

My sweet husband and I have been married for 23 years.  Long enough to experience some HARD work.  I have dwelt on a lot of that hard work that came from him going from being an active Mormon ( or member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints) to being an Atheist. But to be honest- we had our difficulties before then, because you know what? LIFE is HARD.  LIFE IS WONDERFUL, BUT LIFE IS HARD.

Anyhow, the change from Richard being an active Mormon, as I am, to absolutely not being one provided the avenue for us to tackle some really hard work.  Which we have, and truthfully after about 10 years we continue to tackle this hard work. I am still trying to find my own personal identity as well as our couple identity because things that had clearly defined us before no longer exist.  And only recently am I recognizing the need to define us differently- because I’m kind of tired of feeling like “poor me”, because you know what?  “Poor me” isn’t accurate and it makes you feel like crap getting stuck in that mind frame. Lucky, blessed me- now that’s accurate. Why lucky me?  Because I have a husband willing to work through the HARD stuff too, because you know what?  This has been hard on him to.  When he decided our religion no longer worked for him, he had hoped that I would come to believe differently as well, but didn’t. I’m not going into details about how things were hard for him, that is his story, but they were hard.  And we worked and we worked and we worked. And as we hammered away trying to create an amazing relationship, yes sometimes one of our hearts got bruised. But the work continued. The bruises healed. We both try to support each other in our individuality.  He is constant and kind.  I hope he can say the same about me. Sharing a religion may make some things easier, but no longer will I think it is what defines a good marriage.  I have seen plenty of same faith marriages with abuse, criticism and infidelity.  And in our marriage I’ve seen compassion, friendship, respect, understanding and love.  Why would I accept a “poor me” attitude about that!  So I’m done with that, and if you’ve ever felt sorry for me because of the change in Richard’s religion, I’m letting you know now- please don’t, instead just realize that yep, amazing accomplishments take lots of HARD work, and team Ashead is just going to keep on working hard!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014- A year of Learning

Whether I wanted to learn or not, 2014 decided that it had a lot to teach me.  Some of the things I learned this year:

1.  I learned about my Dad.  My Pops passed away in July and as we celebrated his life and prepared for and had his funeral I learned more and more about him.  Things I wish I would have known before he passed.  He never talked a lot about himself, but at his funeral it was opened up for people to share their thoughts/memories of him. I learned a lot. After the funeral two individuals were talking about how it was "the best funeral ever!"- and they truly sounded excited and happy about it.  And you know what- I agree. His life was celebrated and I learned more of his awesomeness and how he touched many.  Even at the time of his death, he was still teaching us.

2.  I learned about myself.  I started a new job this year and it stretched me. I did things I've never done- plan a picnic for 300, pull off a huge bazaar, become a manager, do a radio ad. Of course I had help, I couldn't have done it without help, but I learned I could do things I didn't know I could.  I learned that people had confidence in me and that built my own confidence.

3.  I've learned that I really do have friends and that a lot of people are here for me. I have a hard time making close friends- the kind that you run to lunch with feel comfortable dropping in on without notice.  I have had them and I'm grateful- but in general I just feel like I don't make close friends very well. However, I have learned that I have friends just the same. This year has had some really tough spots, but time and time again I have been blessed with caring friends who stepped up to the plate in one way or the other.  Whether it was answering questions, providing a meal, texting me to ask how I was doing, letting me know I'm not alone in one way or another.  I feel so blessed, and chastened for the times I felt sorry for myself saying I didn't have friends.  There is more than one way to be a friend.

4.  To go along with #3, I also learned that it really is the "thought that counts" - at times people did whatever they thought might be useful to us or kind.  And it really didn't matter if it was or wasn't- but what did matter is that I knew that they were trying to reach out to us and help us in whatever way they could think of.

I've learned more this year as well, but sometimes what I've learned is wrapped up in someone elses story that isn't really mine to share. 2014 taught me many things, but what I hold in my heart is that I'm blessed and have much to be thankful for.

And so it goes...

Reading Now: "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" and "Nine Lives"
Just Read- "How to be an American Housewife"

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love Steps Up- My Dad's story

My last post dealt with the way my Mom had stepped up to care for my Dad who lived with Alzheimer's for many years.  My Pops has recently passed away and I wanted to share some of his story and the many way he was an example of  "love stepping up".

My emotions remain tender in thinking about my dad, but I am glad that the last time I saw him alive his personality still shone through the Alzheimer's. He was still telling jokes.  As family and friends reminisced about him and his life people commented on his smile and joking personality, but time and time again what was recounted was all the ways he showed kindness and compassion to the world around him. What I have learned from my dad is that it doesn't take $ to and reach out to someone, we had little growing up and he had much less growing up, but the stories remained of how that didn't stop him. 

** Growing up my Dad's dad left his family when my Pops was in the 5th grade.  This left my dad to start working to help the family get by.  He worked for various farms and gave the money to his mom. He worked and worked and worked. At the funeral his sister spoke about how he gave up things so her and his other sister, both younger than him, could have things at school that others had, and how he went without.  In a book my sister had him fill out years ago, my Dad had written about how they used the cardboard from cereal boxes to line their shoes.

** Over the time us kids were growing up my parents cared for 7 different foster children.  Some for a short period of time, some for much longer.  Dad also spent time at the juvenile detention center working with kids who needed hope and guidance. For many who didn't have a male role model, he stepped up to the plate and became one.  He never did this for the praise of the world, or because he had excess money to spare- he just wanted these kids to feel safe. To understand when I say we didn't have excess money, a story my sister shared was how going out to eat was so rare and if you did stop it meant one order of fries for all the kids to share ( and how she hoped there wasn't many in the car when  they stopped.- and I remember him buying one Snickers bar and slicing it into 5 pieces for us to share.) I regret that in the younger years I didn't recognize my dad for the man he was.

** Hitchhikers, hobos and more!- It was routine for us to pick up hitchhikers and give them a ride on their way.  And if their way was past our house, it was also routine for them to either be given a meal or food.  We had a picnic table outside- and it was normal for us kids to be expected to serve these individuals. If a transient needed a place to stay they were offered the barn for the night, if they were a smoker, the garage. My dad helped out neighbors and strangers and more. 

I loved that at the calling hours and funeral there were people from many areas of Dad life- church, local restaurant, neighbors and more.  One man, with little worldly stature had a broad circle of individuals whom he had touched.

As family and friends talked it was mentioned time and time again how Dad taught us to look out for those who needed a hand up, to show compassion to those around us.  As I consider my last post and this one, it makes it easy to see why I have become the person I am - a person who desires to help others- whether it is a family of a child with disabilities or a nursing home resident that doesn't have anyone to advocate for their cause.  My Dad and Mom have taught me that compassion is essential. There is always something you can do. I'm grateful that my parent's taught me the importance of love stepping up, wherever you are.  I hope I can teach the same lesson to my kids.

And so it goes...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Love Steps Up: A Personal View of Alzheimer's

When life and love get hard, we all have a choice: step up or step away. I am so grateful that my mom has chosen to step up. For the past several years she has been caring for my Dad who has Alzheimer's . Well in reality, she has been caring for my Dad way before then, isn't that what wives do?  I know that this is not what she anticipated in a fairy tale love story, and even before then I don't know that I would describe my parent's marriage as perfect. Is there really such a thing? And in marriage, unless you are one of the members, I don't think you can judge if it is "perfect" or even "good" or not. Feelings of the heart, and individuals hopes and desires are not always easily seen on the surface of day to day living.  So maybe it has been perfect.

The above picture was taken a few months ago as I visited my parents. My mom was shaving my dad. I asked her if she felt comfortable with me sharing this picture and some of our Alzheimer's story and she agreed.  I was hesitant to write this. My dad has always been a hardworking man and it is sad to see him in the state he is now. I didn't want to disrespect him by sharing how this disease has affected him.  But, it is a story that must be shared, in hopes of having others understand perhaps how to help out and love those like my mom and dad. ( or even my mom and dad if readers know them)

The Beginning
My Grandma Spriggs, my dad's mom, suffered from dementia. She lived with us for some of my teenage years until she was placed in a nursing home. I remember changing her diaper and her doing things like pouring orange juice into the milk and stories that she felt were true that were scary imaginations. My mom cared for my grandma a lot. It was hard for her and she will say at that time she thought some of the things my grandma did was simply to spite her.  My grandma suffered with dementia for several years, at that time I don't think it was given the Alzheimer's name, but it may have been.  When my grandma passed on, I'm sure my dad may have been a little sad, but probably not a lot. I recall him saying that he had already said good bye to her years before.
So, my dad, having seen his mom in such a state, never wanted to be in a similar position.  As he started to exhibit some of the initial signs of Alzheimer's it was scary to him. He didn't want to become like that.  That is a tough place to be in.  You are still cognitive enough to know that things aren't right, but you can't fix them or change them in the way you want.  It's like you see your nightmare rushing towards you, but you can't stop it. Things become more and more confusing. At the beginning ( and even later, too, I think) as he was aware that he was losing his cognitive skills,-there is a certain amount of faking. He may have run into someone in the store and knew he should have known them and was maybe able to muddle through a conversation with them, all the time wondering who they were and what his connection to them was.

For awhile my dad was able to do the majority of the things that he had been doing. He worked some and still drove to neighborhood places. Eventually my dad wasn't able to continue either tasks. He wasn't able to follow through on his job demands and although it was hard, slowly my mom decided that it was no longer safe for him or others around him to drive.  I think that was hard for my mom- how do you take away the simple pleasure of driving privileges from your husband ? He was still able to do many other things . 

For my mom this was a transition period.  Thankfully she had always been involved in family finances, but now she found herself having to make decisions that before her and dad would have made together. He was no longer able to understand the complexities of daily decisions and my mom, as she was losing, in part, the relationship she had had with my dad, and I'm sure that is a sad place to be, she was also having to take on more and more responsibilities.

Today, my dad needs help with the most basics of things.  He needs to be told how to eat something- for example do you use your fingers or a spoon.  At times he needs directed to use the bathroom and wears a diaper for the times when he doesn't make it. He wanders off. He might think I am his sister. He will ask if his mom has passed away. 

As I have watched my mom and dad- there are some important things that I need to share.  I know that I won't do justice to all the important things that need said in this blog post. So if you want to know more- please ask me.

  • Give the caregiver love and support-  My mom's world has gotten smaller as she has taken on the role of caregiver.  A lot of people have given her advice- and I know I know how I feel when people give me advice about my relationships in areas they know nothing about! I know so many people mean well, but unless you are living in the situation- trust my mom to make the decisions that need to be made.  Understand how totally time consuming and draining this is for her.  My dad attends an adult day program 3 days a week now, and he has a "sitter" that comes into their home 2 days a week.  You may think that this has made it so much easier for my mom- and yes it helps- but consider this- there are days when he doesn't attend day care because my mom just doesn't have the energy that is required to get my dad up and moving and dressed and ready to go. There are days that my dad has escaped from day care. It is not a lock down facility. As a concerned daughter I talked to my mom about this - and thought she made a good point. She said he looks for the opportunities that he can sneak out. She said he wouldn't be happy if he was locked in, and if this is the way he goes, then that is okay. True that we could extend a lot of people's lives by locking them in somewhere- but what kind of life is that. Nights are hard, I have stayed over some last year and I think one night was pretty restful, but there were other nights when my dad was up all through the night- agitated, wanting to pack for work and there are other nights, which my mom says are the hardest- when he just cries and cries. So on top of the daily stresses, my mom also doesn't have the chance to recover at night.  My mom has helped so many people in her life- this is what I wish people would do for her.
               ** Listen to her ! Call her up, stop in and visit and let her talk, let her share her feelings with you, be her friend. She doesn't get to attend church as much and socialize as much and sometimes she just needs to know someone is there. Not to offer advice, but to be a friend.
              ** Bring a meal over, offer to help with something at the house, help her with her garden in the spring and summer!  My mom loves her gardens! They help keep her sane! They are her respite, but also a lot of work.

  • Don't ignore my dad!- My dad is "still there", he can still joke around and although he doesn't know what is going on- he often returns to this mantra- "I've had a good life"  he will talk about the farm and the life that he has lived. I have found that at times I am even guilty of doing this- only asking my mom how he is and not talking to him when I call. I am trying to do much better, because I have found that he has happiness in moments. So those few minutes talking and connecting to someone are meaningful to him.  When I call and ask to talk to my dad my mom has to instruct him how to use the phone: "don't touch anything, put it up to your ear".  He is happy to chat- last time I talked to him he told me he had been picking rhubarb- I know it is January in Ohio and that he wasn't picking rhubarb, but it doesn't matter. I talk to him about the rhubarb I have in my freezer from the plant I got at their house.  His core beliefs come through as he says " I always think it is good if you don't have to get all of your food from the store" Self sufficiency was always important to him.  So call my mom, but then talk to my dad too!  Don't expect him to know who you are, don't expect his words to always make sense, but tell him you are glad to be able to talk to him.

I'm sure there is more to write here, but I just want to end with a thought about the picture above. My dad lives in a land of confusion. There are times when he says he wants to go home, although they are already in the home they have lived in their whole marriage. One visit he was agitated and I believe he said "I don't know where I am or who I am".  Yet through it all my mom is his safety spot. He wants to know where she is, he wants to be near her and he trusts her to take care of his needs. Love has stepped up.

And so it goes...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cyber School- one month in

Jayna has been doing cyber school for about one month now. Which also means I've been doing cyber school for about one month now.  Truthfully, I had no idea it would be such a part of life- which is probably why I am blogging about it now- to make sense of it all.

Last year I became increasingly frustrated with how much time at school was spent watching movies and doing other things with little educational value, and Jayna complained of how much free reading time she had while she waited for others to catch up/finish work.  I did address it briefly with the teacher and principal, and I know the teacher had organized a group of kids that were ahead to do a few things differently- however telling a group of 5th graders to come up with something they wanted to learn and do it- just didn't provide enough structure or guidance- or lead to a lasting educational benefit.  I must say that when I mentioned to the superintendent that we were looking elsewhere, he said they could have her tested and she could move up for some of her classes.  Why didn't the elementary principal suggest that in the first place?

Anyhow we looked into charter schools- brick and mortar and cyber.  It basically came down to two options- a brick and mortar charter school about 40 minutes away- benefits being great after school clubs, a cool science room, and the social aspect- or Commonwealth Connections Academy-benefits of moving at own pace, clubs, electives and fieldtrips. In the end Commonwealth Connections is what we felt best about.

Jayna did some testing before the school year and tested into gifted and talented language arts and gifted and talented science.  I am amazed at the level of work that is expected throughout the classes- and I can't really tell how much of it is based on the fact that she is doing GT classes, and how much is just overall increased expectations.  I feel like she is learning so much more- but I will admit having one month in, it hasn't always been easy.  There have been occasional melt downs- when Jayna feels like the work is more involved than what she would like- and as I said, expectations are higher. There are projects that put her outside of her comfort zone- for example involving the community.
Anyhow- I'm just going to bullet some of my thoughts/her thoughts to avoid writing this all day!
  • We started out doing 8-10 hours a day to get the work accomplished, but the first week there was some extra testing needing done. Now we are anywhere from about 4-8 hours a day. We are always over the required 25 hours a week.
  • Art- Jayna has actually liked her art class so far- which is different than previously. She liked getting out her art supplies and using them. Art is not something that is natural for her, so she really liked the opportunity to use other resources ( for example looking at a clip art picture) to guide her in drawing a picture. Also she didn't get that yucky feeling you get when everyone else is so much better at art than you are- she could just enjoy the process- and I love that!
  • The classes use some great online tools and at home activities- I find it crazy that she is finding this more hands on than the school classroom was.
  • I started out letting her do everything on her own, but after a few days, realized she needed a little more guidance. So often I will scan over the lessons ahead of time and make her a list of tips and reminders for the day's courses- and she will check things off as she goes.
  • Tests! Jayna is learning what real tests are! She recently studied for a test with a 10 page study guide with an additional 44 vocab words.  She has taken 2 tests so far and both have been hard, but she has done well- but it really made her think.  I appreciate that there are more than just multiple choice tests and that well written answers are also expected
  • The social aspect- this was one of my concerns, not just the opportunity to be and interact with others, but for me a I have felt that a lot of my learning comes from listening and watching others.  So, I am glad that the classes use discussions, where students are expected to present an answer or thought to a question and also respond to others input. Field trips- there are lots of field trip options- you can go anywhere throughout the state, but I have limited our general range to within about 2 hours.  We have signed up for 4 so far- an upcoming tethered hot air balloon ride, a trip to a zoo, an outside butterfly garden, and a trip to see a Christmas play and then go to the children's museum (with a great hands on activity planned) in Pittsburgh. I hope by participating in these she will make more friends and have some awesome experiences!  I have to drive her to the field trips, but the school pays the cost for me and her up to $20 a person for activity, so most are free. Also she is allowed ( and I feel a little guilty about this)- to participate in after school at our local school- so she is participating in chorus and reading club right now.
  • Live lessons are held weekly for each class-so she can interact with the teacher and students.
  • I am her "learning coach" and I hate feeling like her grade is also my grade- and I hate that I see grades all the time.  She has all a's and b's right now, but I also want to realize that even if her grades drop some, the level of expected work is higher and she is learning.
So, I guess it seems like it's a good fit so far- I feel like I am more involved than I had expected or even want, ( checking on lessons, checking on field trips, tracking attendance...)but that's what a mom does right?  We will carry on and see where the rest of the year takes us!

And so it goes...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Summer and heading into Fall

So much has happened in these past few months!  Andrew has graduated from high school and is now at Pennsylvania College of Technology ( Penn College- an affiliate of Pennsylvania State) studying Web Design and Interactive media.  He has been there for just over a week and so far so good from what I hear.  Of course this mom's complaint is that I haven't heard a ton from him- and I really am trying to give him his space- but it is hard- AND he has spent a lot more time talking to his DAD!!!  Now, I  understand that he talks to his dad about things like motorcycle brakes, hooking up gaming consoles and computer questions- things his mom can't help with- but still!!!

Whitney has started cross country again and although I can't really say that she seems to enjoy running 3 miles- doing it does make her feel good and she likes her teammates- both good things.  She has also started her first job that is not babysitting.  ( Yes- everyone just keeps growing up!)  She is working at a local bed and breakfast. I am thankful that she got the job basically after I was done or close to being done working 2 jobs ( more on that later)- and closer to when she may be getting her own drivers license. ( has an appt. to take her test in a few weeks!)  It just worked out well.  She does a variety of things from helping make salads to dishes to cleaning rooms and setting up for events.  It is nice because they are only open Weds- Sunday and they seem really willing to work around her schedule- and it is close. However there are stories that the place is "haunted"...
She starts school this week- I am hoping for a good year.  She is not excited to start- and it may be harder not having her big brother around. 

Jayna has been so excited to start Commonwealth Connections Academy!  That is the online charter school she will be attending this upcoming year. She is not happy that Whitney "gets" to start school a week earlier than she does!  We worked on her schedule the other day- she generally has about 4 classes a day and after a month can sign up for clubs and electives.  She has been a bit obsessive looking at all the info.  We also added some of our own things into the schedule- volunteering at the animal shelter 2 x's a month and our own gym class ( some kind of physical activity once a week)- although she does have a gym course.  I have to say that every time I have attended one of their sessions in person, I have felt good about the choice we have made to give this a try.  Here is to hoping it is a good year too!

So this summer I ended up working two jobs- in the morning at a preschool camp, and then in the afternoon at Easter Seals working as a COTA.  It was busy! Probably not many more hours than working full time- but was crazy trying to be done with one job at 12 then changing/eating/driving to the other job and sometimes having to start there by 12:30. I had accepted the camp job before the Easter Seals job had come available- and because I could- and knew they were having difficulty with staffing levels I felt like it was best to go ahead and try both. The Easter Seals job had started out as just to cover during maternity leave.

Well-this is now a few weeks old, and I still haven't put pictures in ( I can't find them, although my hubby says they are now on the computer), so I am going to go ahead and post this as is before it is even more outdated!

And so it goes....

Just Read: "The Confession"- by John Grisham  . I liked this book a lot.  Usually when I read Grisham I come out of it feeling like I have learned something- and this was true this time as well.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A spring update

April 2012

It's been awhile since I did an all around update- and yet so much that has gone on.  Let's see how far I can get with this.

In November I quit my job. That was a big decision, and kind of remains a bit of a stress.  Although I still believe it was right to quit the job I had; it involved a lot of stress and bringing a lot of work home with me.  It felt like it was always hanging over my head- even on my days"off" there was always something to do. However, I really learned a lot from my position as a COTA at the IU- I really felt like it was believed you could and should make a difference in the lives of the children you were working with- and it was inspiring.  I had the opportunity to work with a lot of children with disabilities I had little experience working with.  As I took a break from going to work I had the opportunity to do some online continuing education courses- which just emphasised to me that I DO like the field- and again I learned lot- some of which I really wish I had known earlier.  For those in OT, I have to say I have been impressed with the "" website offerings for continuing ed.  I had always felt it was best to do continuing ed in person, but where I live there are less opportunities without driving far- anyhow I have been pleased with some of their offerings. However, after a few months not working the finances have gotten tighter than Richard and I like- so I am looking again. Being in a rural area- there is less a need for school based COTAs- unless- like my previous job you spend a lot of time travelling ( one day I would travel about 1 1/4 hours to a school another day an hour), I had an opportunity for  a rehab position, but just didn't feel good about it. I'm actually interviewing for a sub "lunch lady" position tomorrow and have interviewed to work a preschool camp this summer.  I am still keeping a look out for the perfect position, but now know that  means more than a certain tittle. I still want to keep to part-time too.

Well, I was afraid that would happen! That is the extent of my dedication to writing today- perhaps more to come on things like: getting a "new" dog, researching schools , upcoming prom and college plans.

And so it goes...

Just read "Killing Lincoln"- it was ok- the first part was hard for me to read- mostly battle depictions. It was interesting to learn a little history though.