Inspiration in Tough Times

It’s tough right now.

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Tough seems to be the operative word right now, but I’m still finding some great inspiration during these tough times.

I.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to watch many of the Olympic competitions in Rio over the past week, many of them live as they happened which is always a special thrill.  Watching these highly disciplined athletes from all over the world strive for excellence is always an honor, and once again, I’ve been moved to tears at times and have also cheered a few of them on from our living room, including athletes from other countries, too.

I also saw “Phelps Face” live on the evening it aired.  I was cracking up watching it and was not at all surprised when it went viral and produced some absolutely hysterical memes afterward.

Phelps face

Olympic athletes are definitely tough people, including and especially the Paralympic and Special Olympics athletes, and their personal stories are incredibly inspiring.  So many of them have overcome very tough circumstances to be where they are and do what they do.

If only our politicians were as inspirational as our Olympic athletes are.  Sigh.  I guess we can dream…

No doubt the Olympics tend to bring out the best in people during the games, even we spectators that are simply watching on our televisions thousands of miles away.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

II.  The weather here at home has been tough over the past five weeks, with no rain and typically hot weather for this time of year.  Despite the hot weather, the yard work has not gone away, and I’ve had to be more diligent in working in the yard to get those chores done and still try to avoid the worst of the heat each day.

I would much rather enjoy the cool(er) mornings with a good cup of coffee, but I also don’t want to work in the heat later.  The plants, grass and trees still need water to keep them from dying in this heat, and I’m their water source right now until the weather cooperates once again.

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Without a doubt, caring for the yard in recent weeks has been pretty tough.

My little reward for all this hard work is enjoying our little outdoor paradise and the wonderful beauty of nature just outside our doors each day, something we haven’t always had here at home in years gone by when we didn’t have the time to tend the yard as we do now.  Right now, though, we just enjoy it in the cooler part of the day, but hopefully soon, the weather will moderate, and we can enjoy it much more.

All ten of our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in full bloom, and they are absolutely gorgeous, despite the very tough hot and dry weather.  This is something I’ve come to look forward to each summer in early July, and once again, they did not disappoint, having grown even more since last year.

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Birds have to be tough survivalists in the weather we’ve been having lately, but sometimes it doesn’t work out for them.  For the second year, a little nest in the tree in our backyard failed.  A dove built the nest and seemed to be thriving before we went on our trip over the 4th of July weekend, but when we returned, it had failed.  Once again I am very sad, too.  Nature isn’t always kind, by any stretch.

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Doves are visiting in abundance, as well as robins, cardinals, house finches and blue jays, thanks to our beautiful trees and bird feeders, and I love to hear the doves cooing in the early mornings to greet a new day.

 “Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land.”  Song of Solomon 2:12

III.  One of our local sportscasters is once again doing something fun as the high school football season will be underway soon.  He interviews a different coach each day about their players and their upcoming opponents, and he actually tracks the number of times each coach says the word tough in the interview.

This sportscaster has found a creative way to keep viewers interested in all the interviews, not just the ones that concern their home team, and it’s fun to watch each evening.  One coach recently uttered the word tough 28 times during the interview, too.

Hats off once again this year to a very creative sportscaster!  Who knew tough could actually be quite funny!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ” Proverbs 17:22

IV.  A dear friend and her elderly mother are both going through a very tough time right now.  Her mother became seriously ill about three weeks ago and is not expected to live.  She moved her mother to a private nursing home with Hospice care a few days ago, and I’ve been on call for her each day to help as needed.

It seems that I’m now the “go-to” person when friends need advice to care for their parents toward the end of life, since I’ve already “been there and done that” several times.  I’m so happy when I can help others with the knowledge I gained and resources we used and/or learned about as our own parents all fought their own terminal illnesses.

Without a doubt, this is how God uses so many of us… by simply sharing our personal experiences and testimonies with others in this way to help them in their own struggles, and I always give thanks when I’m able to help someone else during a tough time… because I *have* been there and done that and know how I desperately needed help myself.

If there is any good that can come from enduring tough times ourselves, it’s being able to grow in our own faith and also help someone else lessen the effect of their own tough times by loving and helping them through it.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

V.  Our country is in a tough spot these days, for sure.  It’s sad when there just seems to be nothing good on the horizon for our nation on a macro level, but the good I’ve seen manifest on a micro level lately has truly been uplifting.  This is where we can actually make a difference anyway.  Spewing hate and division on a macro level accomplishes nothing good but does afford a few loud voices some attention, unfortunately, as well as a lot of misinformation… and I do mean a *lot* of it.  In times when it’s just so tough to find out what is true and what is not, we have to dig deep to look for it.

Perhaps we should just show what we’re made of each day on a micro level, and maybe, just maybe, some day things will improve on a macro level, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Bible and Cross

I need to remind myself every single day that God is still in charge, too,… “our refuge and our strength” in times of trouble. — Ps. 46:1

And to my sweet friend in Louisiana who sometimes reads my posts here, I continue to pray for you daily as you and your family an pets endure the horrific flooding and possible loss of your home/cars/etc. Our tough times pretty much pale in comparison to your tough times right now.  I am once again reminded to never take anything in this life for granted and to ever be thankful for even the smallest of blessings each and every day.

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Have a blessed week, friends, and look for blessings, joy and inspiration all around you, no matter where you are!  😀

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Making Progress

There is so much to be done following the death of a close relative, especially for the executor of the estate.  That responsibility has fallen to me following my mother’s death last month.  Slowly but surely, though, I am making progress in handling her estate matters.  I have the help of a good attorney, and she will likely schedule the hearing about the estate for the first week of March to make my job official.  All of the larger items have already found their permanent homes, and I am grateful this was done in a short amount of time.  I have a few things that I will try to sell to help with estate expenses, too.

I think I am slowly making some emotional progress as well.  Life is slowly, but surely, starting to get back to a new normal without Mom in my life.

On Monday afternoon, I had the opportunity to make a hospital visit to see a friend’s elderly father.  He is in the same hospital, and even on the same floor, where my mother was in early January, and I didn’t know how I would feel going back up there again so quickly.  Thankfully, it was a good visit, and I just tried to focus on my friend’s family rather than my own sadness.  As it turned out, I was there in the room with them when the same gentleman that I had previously worked with to get my mother transferred to rehab two different times showed up to assist my friend and her family get her father moved to the same rehab facility.  I was actually able to help them in a small way during that process, as they asked me to stay for that conversation with this gentleman.  It felt very much like a God-thing that I was there at that time when I had no clue that he would come during my brief visit.  I think my friend, her mother and her father truly appreciated my help, so that made me feel that the trip to the hospital that I dreaded was actually a blessing for me, too.

Bible and Cross

Such is God’s plan so often, isn’t it?  It gave me faith in the days to come that I will continue to be held in good hands and will have a good purpose in my life going forward, even if I don’t have a clue day-to-day what that purpose is going to be.  It’s just one day at a time right now, and I am perfectly fine with that.  Just as I saw so plainly over the past few weeks in taking care of Mom, I continue to see God’s hands in so many areas that are just working out on their own perfect way and in perfect timing.  It happened regarding many of the aspects of Mom’s care during the month that she was ill, in some situations with money, and in situations with family and friends that were there at just the right time for her and for me, too.  I talked at length to the Hospice chaplain about these God-things, and the Hospice chaplain broke down in tears when I finished telling her about all the things that I had witnessed during that time.  These God-things continue to happen even after Mom’s death, too.  Some issues that I thought would be problematic have been handled quite easily, even if it required some work on my part.  I don’t mind work, and what a blessing that there have been no real issues so far.

Yesterday, I finally finished my thank you notes to friends and family members that sent flowers, food and memorials.  I took the time to read all of the sweet notes and cards again, and I got very teary as I did that.  I am so blessed to have such sweet friends in my life, and I will never forget how so many friends and family members came running when I needed their support.  It makes me want to be a better friend going forward, and I think I will look into volunteering for the funeral food committee at church now, too.  What an important ministry this is at a critical time in the lives of so many families, and the members of the church where my mother was a member just did a fabulous job feeding our huge family before the funeral.  They even printed custom paper place mats with Mom’s name, the year she was born and the year she died.  This is something I could definitely do going forward, ministering with love through food.

One thing I will always regret, however, is not having a non-family member around to take pictures for us on the day of the funeral.  Friends and family members came that I have not seen in years, and I have no pictures from this day, except for a few pictures I took with my phone of the beautiful flowers before the funeral service.  “Flowergate” is a story I will never forget from this time, and perhaps I will share a post about it sometime later on.  My florist friend from the Houston area came to our rescue, for sure.

I have also begun to look at the impact to us financially, even though I’ve only given a little quick thought to this aspect.  I will likely have the rent house in a couple of months, as well as a nice little nest egg to help with retirement in a few years.  I will have some investment decisions to make soon, and I pray that God will continue to be in this process, too.  Investing these days is so tricky, and I am not big on risk at this point in my life, for sure.

We are hoping to get out in the RV again in a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to that opportunity very much.  Most of the state parks have plenty of openings for the last week of February, so we will just wait to see what the weather looks like and decide where to go right before we take off.  RV travel in the winter months in our area depends on weather conditions more than anything else, but if our present weather pattern holds for a couple more weeks, we should have beautiful weather for our little trip.  It was 80 degrees yesterday, which is a little warm for this time of year, for sure.  After all of the cold and snow we had while Mom was ill, I will totally take this gorgeous weather for a while, even though we have a little cold front moving in today.

I’m finally off to take the dogs to the groomer today.  They are shaggy pups and have not been to the beauty shop since mid-December.  I will be glad to see their eyes once again.

D
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Overwhelmed

As I think back on life since December 23, I think it is safe to say that “overwhelmed” pretty much describes it for me.  I don’t really think that I have had the time I need to take in my mother’s death yet either.  I have transitioned from her primary caretaker in life to her estate business manager since her death.  I have had deadlines to get her things moved out of two different places, which is not a big surprise.  I knew someday this would likely be the case, having to get a move done quickly after her death, but I never thought I would be moving out of two places at once.

When Mom was released from the hospital in early January, I moved her to the same facility where she was for several weeks last year and received such good care for rehab.  However, after a few days in this facility for care with Hospice, the experience was completely different and not satisfactory at all.  The folks with Hospice assisted me in locating a more suitable facility where she would have her own private bedroom and bathroom, as well as her own furniture, and miraculously, I was able to get both Mom and much of her furniture moved in about six hours.  The new place was absolutely perfect for her situation, as it was a private home that was a fully licensed nursing home for ladies only.  The staff there was very familiar with this type of situation with Hospice, and I will never regret moving her there, even though she only lived a week there before she passed away.  She had both her regular bed and a hospital bed in the room, and she was able to sleep in her own bed until her final day when the Hospice nurses finally had to move her to the hospital bed.

This was our second experience with private “in-home” nursing homes in our area, and both were great experiences and far better than more institutional options for Hospice care.  My husband’s mother went through a similar experience just over a decade ago.

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Mom’s room in the private nursing home. What a blessing this place was to her and all of us in the family in her final week.

As a result of this move, I have had to clear her things out of both this new place and her former apartment very quickly.  As of yesterday evening, both places have now been vacated, with some things being moved to my house, my sister’s house and a storage unit for some out-of-town family members that have an interest in her estate.  While there is still much to do, this particular burden is now off of my shoulders, and I am grateful for this progress.

I am the executor of my mother’s estate, and this is a whole new experience, for sure.  I am fairly familiar with the process, having worked in the banking industry for a decade, but actually being the executor is quite a job.  I have already spent hours on an Excel spreadsheet to divide my mother’s personal property three ways, and she only lived in a one bedroom apartment.  I cannot even imagine having to do this if she was still living in her big house.  Thankfully, she divided most of her personal property a decade ago when she sold her house and moved to a retirement community.  There is also a rent house to be handled in her estate, which hopefully will not be a problem.

Due to all these things that have needed my immediate attention, I really have not had a single day of down time since Mom passed away.  My nephew has helped me a little bit here and there to take care of the needed moving, but other than that, I have had to do everything on my own.  When my father died, we had a lot of time to take care of things, such as clearing out his clothes out of their home.  This experience has been so different and so hurried, due to the necessity of getting Mom’s things out of two different places, and I can honestly say it has been far worse than I thought it would be.  I was prepared in my mind for what would need to happen, but I was not prepared for how hard it would be emotionally.

I’m exhausted and need a break soon.  Hubby had to resume his work travel this week, too.  Today may just be the day I just let everything go for a bit and have some down time.  I had dinner with our son last night, and I am scheduled to have dinner with a couple of dear friends tonight.  We have all had a tough start to 2015 in our own ways, but hopefully things will start to get better for all of us soon.  I cannot even begin to properly share how important my daily Bible reading, quiet time and gratitude exercises have been in all of this.  I am thankful for these healthy habits today, for sure.

Even when times are so very hard, God is faithful and provides.  Despite everything right now, I see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.

D
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Saying Goodbye to Mom

It is once again Friday morning.  I woke up about an hour ago, realized it was Friday, and reminded myself that I need to call Mom after she is done with breakfast around 9 a.m. at the place where she lives, and has lived for the past six years.

But, I then quickly realized that there is no need to call Mom because she is no longer with us.

Mom passed away on January 20 at 11:24 p.m.  I was with her by her bedside, as was a wonderful nurse from Hospice.  We were the only two people with her when she just suddenly quit breathing, took only a few more short random breaths, then left us to run into the arms of Jesus, leaving me reeling from her passing, which was a day or two earlier than what we had been told would likely happen by the nurses caring for her.

No more Fridays out with Mom.  Ever.

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Instead, I have a list of appointments with the attorney, the broker, the funeral home and the monument folks who will soon be etching her date of death on the marker that she placed on her own grave site back in 1999 when Daddy died.  She has missed him so very much, just as she has missed my older brother, and if there is any consolation to me right now, it is the fact that I truly believe she is with them once again, along with many other family members and friends that she has deeply mourned for years.  It is some consolation, but honestly, not much.

I haven’t had the ugly cry yet.  I am trying to put it off until I get more of her business affairs in order and can eventually just try to relax a bit.  There has not been time for that since late December and probably won’t be time for at least a couple of weeks at best.  I guess I am afraid that once I break down, it may take a while to get back up or something.  But, it will come.  It always does.  I’m betting it will come when my hubby resumes his work travel next week and leaves me home alone for the first time since her death.  It won’t be his fault, but being alone will now have a whole new meaning in my life.  I also don’t think the reality and finality of her passing has truly hit me yet.  I know it will at some point.

I have been able to share some brief tidbits on Facebook with friends there through this sad time of her illness and death, but I just couldn’t bring myself to actually write more from my heart here.  This is about the best I can do right now, but I think over time, I can start writing again.  I’ve always been able to move on at some point after a tragedy and loss, and I trust it will happen again.

For the first time in our lives, my husband and I have no living parents.  I am now a matriarch at age 56.  That just doesn’t seem right.  I’m too young to be without a parent, I think.

Time to get ready and head out for all these not-so-fun appointments.  I would much rather be looking forward to lunch at the steakhouse with Mom instead.

I miss you, Mom.

D
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Weebles Wobble and They Do Fall Down

For the past few years, my hubby and I have a shared a secret saying about my 92 year-young mom.  While watching her attempt to walk on her own, we smile and secretly say to each other, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”  Maybe you are old enough to remember that toy commercial?  I certainly am.  That is pretty much what she looks like when she walks these days, a cute little Weeble wobbling back and forth, back and forth.

My mother is not a tall woman and has only grown shorter in recent years as osteoporosis takes its toll on her.  More and more, she is very unstable on her feet, and she has fallen several times with various degrees of injury as a result.  Mom is a very stubborn lady and has never liked to use any kind of device to help her walk more safely, even though she has pretty much every available tool to assist her in getting from one place to the next.  She has a cane, a walker and a power chair, and she stubbornly refuses to use any of them much of the time, with the exception of driving her power chair to meals and to play bridge at the assisted living home where she presently lives.  I think she is agreeable to use her chair at those times only because she can drive faster than she can walk.  However, she has stubbornly refused to use anything to help her walk while alone in her apartment for many years.

That chicken came home to roost last Thursday night.

Yes, she suffered a bad fall around 11:30 pm when trying to get up from her living room chair and walk to the bedroom with nothing to steady her.  She went down hard, resulting in three fractures in her pelvis, a knot on her head, a gash over her right eye, and a skin tear on her right arm.  It wasn’t hard to figure out which side hit the floor by any stretch.  She couldn’t hide those wounds, as hard as she tried to do so when the ambulance folks arrived.

I received the call right at midnight, and I was at the hospital with her until about 6 am on Friday morning.  As hard as I tried to come home and get a little sleep, Little Red would have no part of it.  He was wide awake and ready to play.  So, I just decided to have three cups of coffee and made the best of the day, and all was actually fine.  Maybe that playtime did more good than harm for me.

Over the weekend, the therapists attempted to do a little therapy with her, but they had no real luck in doing so.  On Monday afternoon, she was discharged to a rehab facility and will be there for some time, I’m sure.  She has also had (and is still having) a very severe paranoia reaction to a UTI that was diagnosed.  That was definitely a first for her, too.  I didn’t believe the doctor and nurses when they told me this horrible reaction was most likely due to the UTI, but of course, I came home last night and searched the web for other such stories, and sure enough, UTI’s in elderly women quite often cause such a harsh reaction.  She was literally screaming at the top of her lungs and saying such things that I cannot even begin to repeat here.  God bless her nurses and aides right now.  Seriously.  They need a big dose of it.

My mother is in good and capable hands, and for that, I am grateful beyond measure.  A huge prayer request was answered when a room opened up for her at this particular rehab facility.  This is not our first “rodeo” with the falling routine where she is concerned, but it is definitely a first with the off-the-wall screaming fit paranoia.  She fell and broke her shoulder about two and a half years ago, and it took months for her to recover.  I could attempt to remind her (when she gets back to being herself again) that she could have avoided this entire scenario by just using her walker, but it won’t do any good.  So, I won’t go there.

We will just try to make the best of this awful situation as best we can with the prayerful support of others.  I’m already overwhelmed at the support from many friends and a few (older) family members, but I will admit that there is precious little support from her adult grandchildren in the area that don’t belong to me.  That makes me very sad, mostly for her.  This generation is so focused on themselves that often do not realize what life is really about and what God calls us all to do for our elders in our families.  They don’t belong to me, so I will just let them be.  I sometimes wonder, though, if our society is truly changing in a manner where friends are the new family.  That might be a good topic for discussion later on here sometime.

D
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