Sunday, December 29, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor

Yesterday afternoon I thought it would be nice for Dean and I to visit some of our neighbors and bring them a belated Christmas card and "family newsletter".

One of the families was new to the neighborhood. I was somewhat nervous about Dean's presentation, but he had shaved off his beard and mustache for me for Christmas, so I thought this might be a good time for the introductions. He didn't look as wild and wooly as before The Shave, so we bravely ventured outside and enjoyed the last of our unseasonably warm weather.

It was nice to touch bases with these families who live almost on our doorstep, but who really live such separate lives. It reminded me of a neighbor we had a few years ago. Even though they were right across the street, I had no idea that she was a caregiver too. She took care of her mother.

I only learned about her challenges and isolation when she was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. It was stressful and traumatic for the whole family. Her brother, who lived somewhere else, had to step in and attend to the business of selling the house, putting their mom in a long term facility, and finding some mental health assistance for his sister.

All this family drama happened right across the street. I should have been there for them earlier, but was too wrapped up in caring for my own. Her story, when I finally learned of it, inspired me to be more proactive in helping other caregivers. It's so important to reach out to others for help. Caregivers must learn to take care of themselves, in addition to their loved ones.

God created human beings as social creatures. We were designed to be with each other, to care for each other, and to love each other. And the whole purpose is to equip us to have a relationship with our Creator. In taking a tiny step in knowing my neighbors, I pray I can stay connected with them, but more importantly, I can grow closer to God, who doesn't need a card and "letter" to know ALL about us.

My best Christmas present ever--a clean-shaven husband (he did keep a little "soul patch" though).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bathroom Makeover!

It's been a hectic December so far, but one thing got completed yesterday: my NEW bathroom! Medicaid allowed us this home modification, which was supposed to be just a walk-in shower, instead of a became a ten-day remodeling project before it was over.

For years, I have had a dream of getting the floor replaced in that bathroom. The linoleum was probably almost fifty years old and had seen much better days. But when they decided to take out the tub and widen the doorway for wheelchair access, just in case we need it someday, it required much more than I thought it would.

They ended up replacing the flooring, painting the whole room, and putting in an exhaust fan system (to meet code), in addition to the new door. So basically, we had a bathroom makeover! I just keep walking in there now that it's done to absorb the beautiful bathroom they gave us. (see pictures below)

It was hard while they were working on it though. There were dust, paint fumes (not good for me), tools everywhere, and we had to desert the bedroom next to the bathroom all week for them to work in (meant the loss of our TV/toy/office room). Dean was incredibly patient with the changes in our lives while all this was going on. I think he sensed it was only temporary, so he was able to endure lots more than I thought he could.

I can't help but realize how abundantly God wants to bless our lives (more than we ever hoped for). And we are all capable of enduring trials far more than we think we can. Thank you, God, for our blessings, but also for the trials that enable us to enjoy them. Our final reward in heaven will be well worth what we have gone through here on earth.

notice the grab bars and pull-down shower seat
what a difference new floors make!
They even painted the cabinets under the sink and the vent on the floor, plus put up my towel racks! Thank you, North Star Construction!

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Plank

Believe it or not, I went out on a date with Dean tonight at Misty's Restaurant (probably the most popular steakhouse in town). I wasn't thinking of it as a date until it was over though. I shouldn't have been so negative about it the last few days, because Dean was really looking forward to it. I'm sure I killed a lot of his joy with my skeptical remarks.

You see, last week we got one of those marketing offers in the mail. Come and hear "information" about something, in exchange for a free meal. We have done it occasionally in the past, when our finances weren't as tight. But now it's just a painful reminder that there's a room full of fifty or so people, all with more money than you have. You definitely are not going to buy whatever they have to sell. And it's just not a good feeling for me.

Dean insisted that I call and make the reservations though, so I did. Just to appease him. I made it known that I was not on board with his request and frequently voiced my unhappiness over his decision to attend the "free" dinner.

Now my regret is that I didn't try to make it a more positive experience for him from the start. After watching him spill his drink almost as soon as we sat down, some of the old compassion started coming back for me. I saw that he was having a hard time cutting his steak (let alone eating it with his eight lonely remaining teeth), so I cut my steak in bite-size pieces before transferring it to his plate (our agreed-upon arrangement since I'm vegetarian).

Thinking back on our day, I recognize now the negativity I've had inside me lately. I'm always worried about Dean watching his language and behavior in front of our granddaughters, but I definitely need to watch my own words and actions and make sure they are full of the same patience and respect we encourage the girls to show their grandpa.

Jesus knew what He was saying when He told us not to judge, lest we be judged. (Matthew 7:1). And we see His sense of humor as He further describes it as looking for the splinter in your brother's eye, when you have a plank in your own! I pray God will show me how to get the plank out of my eye, so I can see clearly enough to help Dean with his little splinters.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Giver Husband

Mondays have taken on a whole new flavor since I've started watching my granddaughter during the day. It actually feels like the beginning of a work week now around here.

Dean has graciously agreed to attend another day at his adult day program--going there three times a week, rather than just two. I know it's asking a lot of him; it's not his favorite way to spend the day. But I'm sure thankful he's doing it for me.

I've convinced him that my work is doubled (actually multiplied more than that) when he is around when I'm babysitting. He asks and expects me to help him with things as much as I'm helping little Mae. I've been trying to get him to wait on himself more, even though I recognize he really does need some assistance. (This Sunday morning when he fixed our pancakes, for instance, he asked me if the peanut butter or the applesauce went on first.)

But there's also the fact that I try not to leave him alone with the girls for very long. It usually ends up with someone, usually him, getting upset about something. (Just like when some siblings can't be left alone for long.)

So you can see why my babysitting work is greater with him around. Going to his program more days is really going to lighten my load. I'm thankful that he loves me enough to do what he'd prefer not to do.

This makes me wonder if I'm willing to do what I dislike for God. Do I love Him enough to leave my comfortable house and do whatever it takes to serve Him? Are my stubborn desires getting in the way of God completing His work on earth? Lord, teach me to be as humble and giving a person as my husband. Caregivers aren't the only givers in this household.