Gratitude week 26

  1. After doing an iPhone update my phone started glitching out. I thought I was going to have to break the bank and buy a new phone. My daughter suggested turning the phone off and on again. I’m grateful it worked and I don’t have to get a new phone for awhile.
  2. Summer!!
  3. My mom ended up in the hospital this past week. I’m grateful that routine bloodwork for her physical caught a problem before it became a bigger problem. Because of her health concerns, I took my brother back to his group home for the first time since the pandemic. I’m grateful because that means a little less stress for her.
  4. My daughter didn’t come home for Father’s Day weekend because she was concerned she may have been exposed to coronavirus. Thankfully the COVID test came back negative and she was able to come home this past weekend.
  5. We took a ride around town in my daughter’s new Jeep with the top and doors off. It was a lot of fun. I’m grateful that I can still have fun even during hard times.
  6. We had a bon voyage party for our foreign exchange student Estelle who will be going back home the end of this week. All she wanted to do was light off fireworks for her birthday but we couldn’t because of the weird tropical storm that hit Wisconsin. We were supposed to get severe weather on the night of her going away party but just got a few sprinkles so we were able to light off fireworks.
  7. I’m grateful that I was able to spend time with all my kids this weekend laughing and talking.
  8. I’m grateful we were able to take a young lady with cancer sailing. She had two wishes, one was to go horseback riding and the other was to sail. It was a perfect night to make her wish come true. She was so happy that it felt nice to do something to make someone else happy.
  9. I’m grateful for a long conversation with my brother Luke. It really is nice to have someone to relate to.
  10. I’m grateful that our new business is doing well.

Caring for Matt

It’s been at least a decade since I took care of my autistic brother Matt in my house. A few things precipitated this change. Initially I stopped providing weekend respite care for my parents after Matt was violent towards my daughter.

There may have been a few times I took care of Matt and my mom took my kids although it wasn’t much of a break. It was difficult raising 3 little kids without having much for family support. My mom had to take care of Matt. My brothers didn’t live close. My mother-in-law could barely handle raising the one child she did have, my husband. I found myself bitter towards parents that could dump their kids off and get away every now and then.

But the biggest change for me as a care provider for Matt was when my parents placed him in a group home. I was no longer needed to help out, until now that is. Matt’s group home was closed since the virus started. It is now open but if he goes back this month, he is not allowed to leave.

Originally my mom wanted me to stop by the house every night to make sure Matt was okay under my dad’s care. I told her it would be easier for me to have him stay with us for almost a week which is longer than he has ever stayed with me before.

I told my kids that Matt was coming to stay here for awhile but they wouldn’t have to adjust their lives around him. If it didn’t work out, Matt could always go home and I could check in on him everyday. One of my kids called me selfish for saying that our world didn’t revolve around Matt.

As a child my whole life revolved around Matt and if I had to tiptoe around him in my own house it wasn’t going to work. No other family member is willing to step up and offer to take him in for almost a week. That should count for something.

The whole experience went better than I expected. Although Matt is no longer violent, caring for him is not easy. He is on a special diet. I needed to make separate meals for him. At certain times of the day his medicine needs to be ground up and put into applesauce. He doesn’t have table manners. He farts and belches at the table. Sometimes he gags on his food especially if you bring a napkin near him.

He has poor hygiene. He is a messy eater and soils his clothes. He often wears his clothes inside out and/or backwards. He doesn’t change his clothes often. He refused to shower which he would need assistance doing. He wouldn’t ask for help after using the bathroom and made a mess on the floor. I had to floss his teeth and big clumps of food came out of his mouth which made me feel nauseous. He made a total mess out of the bathroom he used. In all honesty, it did trigger feelings of hopelessness in me.

Not only are my parents hoarders, but they rarely cleaned the house. Cleaning up after Matt would be like fixing up a house before you knew a tornado was going to hit. I didn’t even feel completely relieved that everything was clean after I cleaned once he left. I can’t always clean up messy feelings inside by cleaning the filth in my house.

I felt guilty when I wasn’t spending every minute taking care of him. Most of the time he would sit on the couch and stare off into space when I wasn’t interacting with him. I felt the ingrained need to please him because his life is so sad.

I found his favorite movies and put them on for him to watch. We went on walks together. I talked to him about the shared good memories from childhood. I talked about places and loved ones that long since passed. I talked to him about the things only a sibling would know. All these things helped ease his separation anxiety from my mom. I think things went really well, as good as I could have hoped for.

As a sibling, I worry a lot about what life will be like for Matt when my mom is no longer here. My parents are getting old. It is comforting to know that maybe he will adjust with my help. Matt will probably never be easy to care for but I think he would do well with me. I was impressed with how well he adapted to his new environment. It felt good to be able to help my mom out. In some ways it was nostalgic and strangely comforting for me as well.

 

In health

Yesterday I had my first Craniosacral therapy appointment after the start of the pandemic followed by an appointment with my therapist. Afterwards, I felt great. I finally feel like I am making some headway with my healing process.

Fixing myself has been hard because I’ve been broken so long I got used to the cracks. It’s been an adjustment. It’s created some problems I’ve never guessed it would. Now that I am healing I’m starting to notice the brokenness around me more. For example, I find myself more critical of my husband because I feel like I am in a healthier place than he is. Before he was always the healthier one.

Since I started seeing the therapist a year and a half ago, I’ve gone through several crises. My therapist wants me to focus on letting go of the original trauma that I hold locked inside my body and mind. She thinks that once I do this all of the other stressors will flow through. I liken it to Tetris. If you clear out the bottom rows before everything starts piling up, it will be easier for everything else to flow through.

My therapist told me that with three teenagers in my house life realistically won’t be stress free anytime soon. What she says is true. Teenagers are stressful even when they aren’t trying to be. For example, our foreign exchange student Estelle wants to join in the protesting. I told her that she couldn’t because I couldn’t guarantee that it would be peaceful. I am in charge of someone else’s child and I want to feel reasonably sure that the activities she is involved in are safe.

Then Estelle said she wanted to run a mile every hour for 24 hours to raise money instead of protesting. Her idea was that she was going to run alone on country roads by herself day and night. She was rather upset when I said no to that idea too. Then she asked if she could run laps around the house at night and I told her it would be perfectly fine.

I think Estelle will be frightened running around the house at night. I took my brother Matt for a walk today and we saw 4 deer. We saw the cutest baby fawn. My autistic brother Matt is staying with us for a couple days. My mom is going up north to visit with her sisters for a couple days. I’m proud of her for not living her life in fear.

This means that I will be helping Matt with daily living. I will be fixing his meals separate from ours since he is on a special diet. I will have to help him shower, clean up himself after going to the bathroom, floss his teeth, and give him his medication. He is quite used to getting his way so I want to see how he will handle being with my family for several days. Someday when my parents are gone I will probably take him in once a month to stay with me if this works out.

If it doesn’t work out, I will take him back home to stay with my dad. I will just run over every day to check on him. My husband thinks it’s funny that my mom trusts me more than my dad to take care of my brother. But he doesn’t understand that is always the way it was even when I was a child myself. I hope this experience is not triggering. But I am mother henning right now which isn’t entirely unsatisfying since it is the last thing my teenagers want.

I am in a good place right now and hopefully I can remain here for awhile.

Gratitude week 22

  1. It felt good to go in for a haircut this past week. Funny story, when I got to my appointment I had a fever from sitting outside in my hot car. I was a little afraid she would turn me away. By the end of the appointment, I looked great and my temp was below normal.
  2. We finished painting the shed. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen at first because it seemed like a wild animal was living inside. Every time I got close it started clawing at the walls. But a few days later it was gone. Estelle, Arabella, and I started painting together. Then Estelle and Arabella started fighting. Estelle will be leaving soon. I will miss her a lot because she became like a daughter to me, but I will not miss the fighting. The shed will be a visual reminder that everything happens in its season.
  3. The month of May is over. I’m saddened by the state of this country and have to hope things will get better. Maybe this month…
  4. We were able to go back to church for the first time since the pandemic this past Sunday.
  5. The books I ordered came in the mail. I paged through Colitis for Dummies and learned more than what my doctor told me already. Apparently I am the 10-15% of the colitis population that has an undetermined cause. It could be ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, but they really don’t know. I wish my doctor would’ve explained that to me.
  6. This past week I celebrated my 5th blogging anniversary. I’m still here!
  7. Today is the 2nd anniversary of moving into our house. I am thankful to be living in a house that I don’t mind being quarantined in.
  8. I am grateful to have a husband that loves to cook and is good at it.
  9. I’m grateful that my mouse issue was solved with replacing the batteries.
  10. I am grateful to be able to do a little planning and finally put some new things on my calendar after everything else has been crossed out. The funny thing as I was looking ahead at my wall calendar I put the wording on December’s photo as best year ever. Note to self: never put the words best year ever on a wall calendar in December…maybe in January.

What is love?

By the end of last year, my life started to crumble apart. I was dealing with some serious issues with my dad. I reached out to God. Please God, if you are there, show me that you love me. Trust hasn’t always been my strong suit. But what I was asking for didn’t seem like much.

In February, someone I am very close to attempted suicide. Do you know the pain of feeling that one morning you might wake up and your loved one is no longer there? It’s pure hell. I stopped sleeping and battled insomnia for over a month with nightmares. Maybe if I was always vigilant, maybe if I didn’t sleep, than nothing bad would happen come morning.

In March, someone I knew decided to quit battling kidney disease. He died and we weren’t allowed to go to his funeral because this new virus was sweeping the nation. Later that month, we were planning on driving down to Florida to show our 2 foreign exchange students our country. The week we were leaving Disney World closed and we had to cancel our trip.

It was not the only trip that was cancelled. My mom, daughter Arabella, and I were planning on going on a school related music trip to Europe this summer. The company cancelled the trip and kept $1900 per person to line their pockets. The money they kept for all three of us was like one person went on the trip that didn’t.

We decided that our daughter Arabella could no longer be a foreign exchange student next year not only from coronavirus. When we sold our company, we took some of the profit as private equity stock in their business. We were supposed to get enough money to live on for the next couple of years the first quarter of 2020. We were going to use this to jump start a new business. It never happened and now we don’t know if and when it will happen.

Our financial security is gone. With the virus and the economy, it is a struggle to start a new business.

The schools shut down. Prom was cancelled. The track season that just started was cancelled. The musical postponed. My college daughter’s recital and later graduation was cancelled. The gym closed. I struggled to get a good workout because winter held on to the middle of May.

In April, one of our foreign exchange students decided to go home. It was during that time that I started taking an antibiotic prescribed by the wellness clinic which says a lot since they mainly treat with herbs and supplements. Ten days after the last dose, my body crashed. I was sick running to the bathroom 20 to 30 times a day, day and night for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. I pleaded with God to let me die. After being poked and prodded by several doctors and a colonoscopy later, I was diagnosed with colitis and sent on my way.

After the flare up, I was left with a hollow shell of a body. I am weak. I had to give up running. I am still sick. I can’t eat. I watch as my family members eat my favorite foods. In the last week alone I lost almost 10 pounds.

Meanwhile my daughter Arabella is packing back on all of the weight she worked so hard to lose. She went from an honor student pre-coronavirus to barely passing. I’m not sure she is going to pass all of her classes. I can’t blame her for feeling depressed since everything she was looking forward to is now gone.

Then I heard the news that the family business my great-grandparents built over 100 years ago burned to the ground. Although no longer owned by my family, a lot of my good childhood memories are tied to the building and my family that worked in it who are also gone. It was painful to see something they lovingly built destroyed.

There are things that happened this past year that I can’t even talk about yet. Somethings I will probably never share. It’s not even June yet. I’m not even sure if there is a God anymore. But if there is, right now I feel pretty certain that he doesn’t give two hoots about me. Or is God just taking the things I have away to show me what I already have been given?

What is love? Is it giving or taking away? Or is a mixture of both necessary for growth like sunshine and rain?

Okay, okay enough complaining for today. Tomorrow gratitude…

In sickness and in health

I wonder if wedding vows still espouse the traditional in sickness and in health. It’s been awhile since I went to a wedding, my own being almost 23 years ago. When I think of someone getting married, I think about young and healthy couples who probably don’t think that their love could battle health issues that might mess up their future dreams.

And the two shall become one. But what happens if one is sick? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately since I haven’t been well.

Currently I am drinking 15 liquid elixir shots and popping 21 pills a day of supplements. I’m getting sick of it. I still don’t feel well. I am now trying to eat two small meals a day. My stomach hurts if I get too hungry and it pretty much always hurts after I eat. It’s a delicate dance.

Over the weekend I ate only bone broth. It is disgusting. I watched as my family ate pizza, hamburgers, birthday cake, chips with nacho cheese, and ice cream. It was hard to watch especially since my bone broth didn’t make me feel much better. I got very weak. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the kitchen up after they feasted which is a chore that mainly I do. Thankfully I didn’t have to.

Sometimes they feel bad for me. I get barraged everyday by well meaning loved ones with an are you feeling better yet. Sometimes they feel guilty for eating my favorite foods which I cannot have in front of me. Sometimes they care more about themselves.

Yesterday my husband went for a run and was apologetic to me. I didn’t enjoy running, I’m only doing it for my health. I feel horrible they are apologizing to me for doing the things they normally do. It makes me feel bad. But their normal behaviors are tormenting me because I can’t do it anymore. I think it is wrong for me to be upset about that. But it does upset me.

Oh, and another thing since I’m being totally honest here. It is hard to live with three teenagers in the house. The other day my daughter Arabella was eating cookie dough for breakfast at noon. My husband confronted her telling her she needed to eat something healthy. It was the right thing for him to do. Since then she has been angry at us and is once again slipping behind on her homework. I can foresee a lot of problems and confrontation with her in the near future.

Stress tends to make me feel worse. I have zero tolerance for stress right now which sucks because I see no end to that in sight.

Other than not feeling healthy, my mental health has been a struggle too. I used to cope with anxiety by running and keeping busy. Now I sit around and worry. I’m depressed because I don’t feel like I am accomplishing much. My husband gets irritated sometimes that he has to pull more of the weight since I’ve been sick. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It’s not like I’m trying to deliberately get out of doing my fair share. I’ve never been much of a slacker. No one in this house understands what it feels like.

I’ve been depressed because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. Now I think I understand why in sickness and in health are a part of the wedding vows. Will I still be loved if I am no longer the person I used to be?

For better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…If you stay with someone long enough, you pretty much see it all.

Gratitude week 20

I’ve been struggling a lot lately, so at this point having a weekly gratitude list is probably more important. I have to remind myself of the good things that are happening in my life.

The wellness nurse put me on a liquid diet over the weekend to try to calm my gut. I lost 7 lbs over the weekend. I haven’t been feeling well and I’ve been weak and tired to boot. It takes the energy of a 5k just for me to put the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Sometimes I have to take a rest after doing nothing.

This past weekend I packed up all of my running gear and put it in another room. It’s a painful reminder of what I cannot do. I haven’t cancelled the 50k I was planning on doing with my cousin late summer. Maybe, a miracle…

It’s been hard because I’ve always been a go go go person, type A all the way. I’ve really been trying to hide from the world how sick I am. It’s been pretty easy to do with this virus. I want people to remember me as strong and healthy.  I feel so discouraged because what I once was no longer is.

To make matters worse, the weather hasn’t been cooperating here in Wisconsin. We had snow flurries on Mother’s Day and record low temps this past week. Since yesterday it has been very cold with temps struggling to reach 50 degrees. It’s also been very windy and by the end of the day we are supposed to have a total of 3 inches of rainfall from the last couple days of rain. Everything is flooded. The weather guy keeps saying every week since the beginning of April that the following week will be nice but it never is. I really hope that the weather makes my gratitude list next week.

Here is my list for this week:

  1.  My daughter Angel made a surprise visit home this past weekend. She hasn’t been home in over two months. It was very comforting to have her around when I wasn’t feeling well.
  2.  My baby Arabella turned 17 this past weekend. She ended up having a nicer day than she thought she would.
  3.  Since Angel got a nice job, she decided to lease a vehicle and gave us back our old car for Arabella. Although the car is older than she is, Arabella now has a car. It was nice to see her all excited about it and take the time to vacuum and care for it. Now Arabella doesn’t have to borrow my car for school or work. I will not have to drop her off or pick her up anymore which will be less stress on me.
  4.  Today I can eat something besides bone broth. Yeah!
  5.  I talked to Paul’s friend who has colitis and got a lot of advice from him. It does feel good to know I am not alone in this despite the fact I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
  6.  I had good appointments with the wellness nurse, counselor, and mentor this past week. I am making progress on my healing although at times it doesn’t feel like it.
  7.  Estelle found her lost Nintendo Switch. I was very worried once it went missing that it was stolen.
  8.  I got my new t-shirt in the mail.
  9.  Paul put our sailboat in the water last week. With all of the wind and rain it hasn’t been sunk, damaged, destroyed, or cast away yet.
  10.  My aunt tested negative for Covid. Yeah, it’s only pneumonia! Seriously though, my uncle has lung issues and they were around other older family members with health issues. So it is a good thing. I was worried that the coronavirus might wipe out several of my family members.

Gratitude week 19

  1.  It’s hard to believe that our foreign exchange student Clara has been gone over a month already. This past week we were able to have a conversation over Instagram. It was so nice to see her again.
  2.  My daughter graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree over the weekend. I am grateful she was able to get a job in her degree field. I am happy she is doing great on her own.
  3.  I’m thankful for technology to be able to watch our daughter’s graduation. The graduation was held on zoom. Apparently family members were supposed to be watching it on live stream. We weren’t. When all of the graduates were on the screen in cap and gown moving their tassels, Paul and I appeared on the screen taking pictures of our daughter with our cell phones. Angel was smiling so widely, I thought she was so happy and proud. But she was really laughing at us for bombing her graduation. I was mortified about it when I found out, but she said it made her day since we couldn’t be together for it. Thankfully I wasn’t watching in my pajamas.
  4.  I was feeling bummed out on Mother’s Day. Not only was it cold and snowing (yes snowing!!!!) but I wasn’t able to have my mom over to celebrate this year. My daughter Angel was also not home. My husband Paul went out of his way to make it a really nice day for me.
  5.  Angel had flowers delivered to me for Mother’s Day. Plus the church dropped off a flower for me too. It was cool to go outside and see flowers delivered to me unexpectedly.
  6.  My kids remembered Mother’s Day and I was able to spend several hours talking to each of my kids over the last couple days. I feel like we are getting along really well at this time. I am grateful for peace within my family. That is very important to me.
  7.  Since I was not able to see my mom for Mother’s Day, I bought her flowers, a card, and a big bag of popcorn. Early that morning, I snuck over to her house and left her gifts outside her front door to surprise her. It was an adventure to try to get everything to her without being caught. It made her very happy. She wasn’t expecting anything and said she was going to decorate her house with all of her previous Mother’s Day cards. She wasn’t forgotten.
  8.  I have a great counselor. She wants to follow my blog. I think I will let her. I hesitate telling people about my blog. I’ve had friends want to follow me before but never told them how to. It is very difficult to put myself out there and be personal especially with people I know. I think she truly cares and wants to help me. I’m grateful to be able to trust a few good people in my life. I am grateful for healing however long it might take. I’m thankful to have a place to share my story.
  9.  I am meeting with my wellness nurse tomorrow and hopefully she will have some answers for me about my health. I’m still not feeling the greatest and hopefully she will be able to give me some insight on what to do next.
  10.  We had more deer in our yard this past week really close to our house. I found out that deer eat weeds. They ate some of the dandelions in our yard and started munching on my weed pile. Yeah! I have some help weeding this year.

This stinking sinking boat we’re in

I think the numbness has worn off and it is starting to hurt now.

I’m struggling today. Just the other day I was thinking about how hard it would be to be trapped inside the house with toddlers. But, you know what, it is hard to be trapped inside with teenagers.

It came to my attention yesterday that my daughter Arabella is behind in her online schooling. I had a sneaky suspicion about that although she has never had issues with grades or school before. I didn’t think I would have to micromanage my teen. I would almost rather teach common core math to a grade schooler right now. It would probably be less frustrating.

I can imagine how hard online schooling must be for a teenager. It takes a lot of grit, maturity, and strength of character to have self-motivation. When your whole world is falling apart you still have homework to do. The world is ending, but math..

The girls were supposed to go to prom this weekend. They had appointments to get their hair done. Now their beautiful dresses hang on a rack in the back of a closet. I could go on and on. The musical. Concerts. Going to state. Track. Spring break trip. Goofing around with friends. ALL GONE!

Why bother when the only thing left is the thing about school that most teenagers don’t want to do?

I have been angry. YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I have been frustrated…impatient. How do you help your teenager cope with disappointment? Now my daughter dug herself into a hole she might have a hard time getting out of. How do you deal with that? Should I ground her from her phone? She hasn’t seen her friends in a month. What else is there to take away?

How can you be upset with someone for feeling depressed right now?

It is hard to deal with disappointment if you never learned to deal with it at this level before. My daughter clearly is not at her best. All she does is mope around and eat junk food. Over the past year she worked really hard to lose 50 lbs. Now she is packing on the weight again and it is awful to see.

Our remaining foreign exchange student is not fairing much better. She has been sleeping a lot and not eating much. She hardly weighs anything as it is. It’s hard for her to find the motivation for school as well since this year does not count for her when she goes back. This is no longer the American experience she paid a lot of money for.

Also, her mother was going to visit in June and they were going to go back home together. Estelle just found out that her mom won’t be coming and she is not even sure she will be able to go home as planned. So far her departure is the only remaining thing left planned on my calendar.

So here we sit. What do I do? My just do it mentality is not working. I see everyone around me falling apart and I can’t motivate them. I’m trying to be supportive and understanding but it isn’t working well.

I’m not sure what to do about it but I can’t be the only one in the same stinking sinking boat.

Would it kill you to be nice?

What if I told you that my son had a couple of friends overnight last night? Would you lecture me and call me stupid?

What if I told you that the two boys were brothers who got kicked out of their house by their single mother who went off of her medication for severe mental health issues? What if I told you that when she is like that she is violent towards her children? Would that change your mind?

What price is too high to pay for human kindness?

What if I told you that the day our foreign exchange student went home Paul asked the coordinator if there were any other children in dire need of a place to stay? Who willingly takes on more teenagers in a time of crisis? Who steps up to take the children who have nowhere to go?

My best friend Cindy took in a teenage boy who is friends with her son. He was going through a hard time at home. Yesterday Cindy took this kid to the ER for what might have been kidney stones. Would you risk getting sick by taking someone else’s child to the ER right now?

What if your parents were in need of groceries and were afraid to leave the house? Would you spend over two hours in the store to get them everything that they need even if you didn’t have a mask to wear?

All of these things happened within the last couple days. It’s the new moral dilemma. Do you put yourself at risk to help others? There are so many people who are struggling right now.

What price is too steep for human kindness? Seriously, I want to know. Is the risk too high to help others if you are healthy? Would you donate blood? Would you try to make a difference in this world even if it means you might get sick?

I think of all the doctors and nurses who are stepping up to save lives at the price of losing theirs. What is that worth? There are many people out there making a difference in other peoples lives.

Would it kill you to be nice? Maybe it would this year.

At Eastertime I reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. What would he want from us? I think he would want us to be caring and kind towards the other people he placed in our lives. In times of struggle it’s hard to do nothing if there are people out there that need help.