Thursday, April 19, 2012

How was your day?

My boys came bounding up the stairs from baseball practice and were looking for dinner.  I had gotten home early enough tonight to make tacos and set the table.  My youngest looked around, checked out the situation and headed to the table.  "Did you wash your hands?" I asked.  He wandered over to the kitchen sink and washed them.  My oldest son was already at the table stirring his chocolate milk and looking at the food.  We stopped, folded our hands and prayed our dinner prayer.  Then we started to dish out our dinner.  I began my litany of questions about their days and lives..."how was baseball practice, did you learn anything in school today" and, to my oldest, "what are you doing for prom?"  They took turns talking and answering...baseball practice was good, they liked BP with the colored balls, school was good and yes, was just trying to figure out about the prom.  The boys were bantering back and forth and avoidiing the nightly question, "do you have homework?" when my oldest said, " How was your day today, Mom?"  I answered quickly that it was good and about how it had to be better than yesterday.  My son agreed and said, "you had quite a day yesterday, didn't you...possibly your hardest day in a long time."

Yesterday was a hard day.  A strong man and what turned out to be a person I wish had know much longer was living his last hours.  He was being lovingly cared for by his soul mate, obviously the love of his life, and his time was approaching quickly.  While we all knew it,  I think his  family and I were hoping we would wake up from this bad dream and get on with the life they had before cancer.  I went to visit during the day and we talked about what to do when it was time and how to handle anything that went on.  His wife and son were remarkable and so strong.  I left the house praying for more time and a gentle passing. 

I then drove to my church to gather tables for a celebration of life for a 13 year old boy who left his family and the community way too soon.  He died tragically last week and stunned us all.  The memorial was at 4 but by 3, the seating was full.  It was a lovely service (as these things go) but I stood by the wall as I listened wishing that he was still here.  I know the whole group felt the same.  I prayed for comfort for his parents and sisters, and for a sign of him at the service. 

When it was over, I walked to my car and looked at my cell phone.  The familiar number was presented and I texted back.  Time to go and be with my patient...he had passed away.

I pulled in the driveway and walked in the door.  Our hero had passed as he had lived...with integrity, love for his family and a humbleness and strength that I wish for when it is my time.  I slowly did the things we do when a person dies, loved up the family, tried to keep the tears in and said my goodbyes.

When I got in the car, I sat in the dark for a long time.  I felt sad, mad and  exhausted from the emotion.  I pulled myself together and pulled out on the highway.  As I started to drive towards home, I realized that I didn't have any idea what my family was doing.  I picked up the phone and dialed.  My oldest answered the phone and asked where I was...I began to tell him I had to work late and sobbed into the phone that I would be home soon.  "What's wrong, Mom?" he asked...I told him I just lost a patient and was sad.  "I'm so sorry Mom...we're fine here" he answered.

I walked into the door and my husband ran down the stairs and grabbed me...I sobbed into his arms telling him it was a hard day...such a hard day.  I headed upstairs, brushed my teeth and went to bed. 

I woke up today to a beautiful view of Pikes Peak and sunshine.  When I went to bed last night, I wondered if a new day would come...but it did.  I thought of my patient's wife and kids and the parents of our "good" boy gone too soon and wished them the strength to climb out of bed today.   On days like yesterday, getting up the next day is usually difficult.  I couldn't imagine the sorrow they are feeling...

I was thinking about what I would change to protect my heart and came to the conclusion that I wouldn't change a thing.  I fall in love with these folks, these families and become attached to them... and they let me into the most tender time in their lives.  You don't let a stranger in at those times...at least I wouldn't.

So I ask, how was your day?  Did you live it like it might be your last?  Are you satisfied with who you are and the relationship that you have with your spouse and family?  Would you stay for however long it took to honor your spouses wishes?  Are you proud of who you are in front of your kids?  I can say that my answers were 50/50 and I need to do better.  I can also say that it can be done...it can. 

It was done yesterday.  I watched relationships and enduring love through seering pain,  a community that gathered to infuse strength to the hurting, and how things are supposed to go when another needs us. 

So I ask again, how was your day?  I hope you had a day to remember, whether it was the day you planned or not...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Can I complain?

Woke up today exhausted and unmotivated.  I was all ready to head to the gym for the 6am class and then to start my day.  Instead, I shut the alarm off and wrestled with the voices in my head until 6...then I got up.

The sunrise was a vibrant pink and I thought about taking a picture but I was too tired.  I have been to 8 classes of boot camp in the last 9 days and I had convinced myself that I was doing a good thing.  Now I'm not so sure.

The list of aches and pains that have surfaced could fill the whole blog and I am still quite large.  I'm down 10 so there is only another 50 to go!

I admire the folks in this class that show up every day.  They are in phenomenal shape and look pretty good too.  I, on the other hand, am not in phenomenal shape.  For me, when I do this class daily, I am aching the rest of the day, wondering if I am ever going to get in shape and still burbling out of my clothes.  I know, I know, it's only been 10 days.

I have nothing to complain about.  Easter was good.  I had extra college kids here, my own kids and tons of food (which I did NOT eat.)   The weather was good, the boys ended up with a new truck to fix up and drive eventually, and Jim and I worked out our spring kinks that have surfaced every baseball season for the last 15 years.  So, I have nothing to complain about.

But, can I complain for others?  I have been so busy at my job...and it seems like things are not going to let up.  The folks that I am caring for are seemingly close to my age and have cancer.  They have kids and young spouses and unfinished business.  I am complaining loudly about that.

My house is a mess, my flowers (that I bought for myself) are already dying, and I can't seem to get my act together.  Are those things worthy of complaint? 

I guess not, huh?  Well, I gotta shut up, put my gym clothes on and get to the 9:00 class.  After that, I will muster up whatever energy I have left and see my patients, the ones that count on me to help them through this time.   If there is time, I will throw some laundry in, get rid of the dead flowers and cook some dinner.  While I am cooking, my guess is that my boys will show up from baseball practice and I will hear about their day, ask them to wash their hands no less than 4 times before dinner and sit down.  Then, there will be dishes to wash, a plate to fix for Jim who has a baseball game down the hill with his little team, and a discussion about undone homework.  Finally, if there is time, I'll throw a pity party for myself because I didn't have time to get anything done.

Sounds right, huh? 

We'll tawk tommorrow,
I love you all,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


This morning at the crack of 4:30, I got up, got ready and left for the gym. I got there about 5:45 and pushed the voices out of my head that are telling me I am crazy.  I am crazy and I think that is a fact at this point.  Anyway, I took my place in the hot room and began to watch the folks shuffle in.  When all was said and done, there was probably 30 at the 6am class.  I made it through and started my day.

The discussion at the end was about how a person comes to do the things they do.  I thought about it all day...

How do we come to do what we do...what we think and what we will put ourselves out for and what we won't?  Is it how we were taught, what we liked and disliked and how we remember what it felt like...sometimes that is what I think. 

I made the decision to get my health in order.  I do understand that this is drastic but some of us need a kick in the a** to get going.  I am learning that is me. 

After I left the gym, there was a phone call from a patient's daughter about her mother.  Her mother is a great lady, old and failing.  She does not want to fail and she damn sure doesn't want to die.  Sometimes that's enough and sometimes that's not.  In the case of this lady, she is failing and there isn't much more to do. 

She has to make a decision...to keep trying treatment that will probably make her sicker and spend time away from her family in the hospital, possibly on a breathing machine...or at home, with her family, doing her thing and treating the symptoms with comfort care instead of agressive cure (which there is none)?  While her family knows what decision they would like her to make, it doesn't matter because, in the end, the decision is hers.

I have to say this this is a very hard decision although the end result is the same.  Typically, when a person is like this, there is no magic...just one more treatment or different drug that will make them breathe better or take the cancer away.  That's not to say that we can't hope and that we won't try new things if they come available...but usually they have fought so hard that the end comes whether they want it or not.

Tomorrow, I will do the same thing I did today.  I will get up at 4:30 and take my place on the hot floor for the 6:00 class.  When I am done, I will go over and see my lady and we'll talk about decisions. 

End of life care is starting to be a decision that is talked about alot.  When we bring the word "Hospice" into the discussion, people become afraid and stop thinking about the decisions to be made.  The sad thing about this is...this lady is not going to make it out of here alive...no one does.  She has the choice to be at home with her family, spending her last months loving her older kids and grandkids or she can go to the hospital for another treatment every time she has a new symptom, spending days with medical personnel and strangers helping her.  I guess you know what I wish she would want to do...huh?  But, it's not my decision and I will do my best to let her know it is all hers and we will honor whatever she decides.

Decisions are tough and sometimes it's easier to just decide not to decide...and that's okay too.

We'll tawk tommorrow,
I love you all,

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I want to show you a picture of me.  The true, unadulterated, not the best picture of me.  I always joke about being "heavy" and how I struggle but its okay.  I think, 10 pounds ago, it was still okay.  But, you know what, it isn't okay anymore.

I have become "obese".  I know, all of my friends are kind and say, "you look okay, you don't look fat..blah, blah, blah" and while I appreciate the kindness and politeness, I have become very large.    I am not writing this for sympathy either...I am writing this as a call to action for myself.

On Monday, I started a program at a gym by my work.  The gym is called "Nick's Pro Fitness"  and I already belong to the gym.  This is different because Nick keeps you accountable...to your  goals that you set, your fitness potential and the the voices that tell you that it is impossible.

I went yesterday to start my workout.  I was in a big, hot room with about 30 others.  It was obvious to all that I was the new girl (not only by my size) but because I was wondering if I would make it through the work out.  It was one of the hardest work outs I have done in my life and when it was over, I was so happy I made it.  Then I met with Nick to set goals and get going.

Today was even more difficult for me.  I was sore and fatigued from the day before and he called me up to the scale and weighed me.  He didn't shout it out, thank God, but it still was a sobering thing.
I got down on my hands and knees and started doing the mountain climbers, push ups, sit ups and all kinds of other things that pushed me to the limit.  I made it through day 2.

After the workout, he talks for a few minutes about how the work out was and what he thinks.  Today, the talk resonated with me...
He talked about processes and how everything in life is a process.  I know when I talk about death at home, I use that word alot.  Today, it applied to health and weight loss, he said.  He spoke about how you have to do what it takes to reach your goals and you will... if you exercise and eat right, you will have health.  He also talked about how if you don't do what it takes, there is no way that you will have health even if you get lucky for awhile. 

I have been fooling myself for awhile...a lot of years.  I can carry alot of weight and still look okay, but I'm not okay.  My blood pressure is up, I'm having headaches and I have gotten totally out of shape.  That changes yesterday.  I am doing this for a month...a whole month of being accountable.

Why, why do it?  I'll tell you why...because all or nothing is not working.  It's just not.  Because getting short of breath walking up the stairs is not okay.  I used to be an athlete...and I am a middle aged woman now.  The worst thing about being so big is the fact that I am having trouble keeping up with my teenagers.  For me, there is nothing better than hanging with them doing stuff and I would run out of gas.

I need accountability...tons of it. 

I am headed to bed and am so sore that I can hardly move.  That's gotta be good for you, right?

We'll tawk tommorrow,
I love you all,

Monday, April 2, 2012

Paradigm shifts...

I spent spring break in Mexico...not on a beach chair sipping drinks with a handsome cabana boy to bring them but in a dump.    It truly was once a dump and I must say...if  you look at it long enough...it still is a dump.  The interesting thing about this place is that the people who live there call it home...
their home.

Many trips ago, my husband fell in love with the concept of giving a person that lives in a box, the back of a trailer, a broken down bus without wheels, or a rusty shipping container...a home.  He felt "called" (as the "good christians" call it) to go there and build.  He's been there about 3 times in the last year.  To him, that's 5 houses.

This trip, planned at spring break was a group of folks from our church that wanted to go and work.  I was not so sure that I really wanted to go.  I had been to Juarez in 2001 and 2002, built a couple of houses and came home. In 2002, I came home to a newly built house that we just moved into a couple of months before.  I was so conflicted about what the solution is to poverty.  I decided I would never go back and for 10 years, I didn't.  

We drove to the site to find a mound of dirt and materials to build a "double".  In the US, my garage is bigger than a double there.  Next door, living with the lady that was getting the house was a daughter and her husband, two small children, two teenagers, the grandma and one more person.  8 people in a house smaller than my garage. 

Next door, to the left was the next home.  It was a the box of the back of a truck where at least 5 folks slept at night.  Interesting.  The streets are sand mixed with trash and of course, you can't drink the water.  Not my choice to live...but wait, they had no choice.  They are living in the situation that they know as we do every day.

While we were there building for the grandma, a few of the folks that were with us got evacuation notices that a fire was racing through the forest in Conifer.  At first, I didn't think too much about it until I realized that it was at a place called Reynold's Park.  Our land borders that park.  Panic struck my heart and I began to wonder what to do.  What if our house burns, I wondered and we lose everything?  

I called my neighbor and she posted pictures on facebook to show me where the fire was...that close...

As I looked at the pictures, I started to worry about the "what if's".  What if our house burns down?  What if the animals are not evacuated?  (Actually, if the truth be told, if we could lose a few key animals, I would be okay.)  What should I do?   I realized that the most important things in my life were with me...my family and ended the "what if's". 

As I went to bed in the bunk room in my sleeping bag, I realized that as much as I think I have control over things, I don't.  I slept well.  The next day, we headed out to the job site and began to build.  The walls were created and stood, the roof put on, and the house began to take shape.  At one point, I walked into the house next door to use the bathroom and peeked into what the family uses as a bedroom.  Lying on one of the beds was the young mother with her two babies...one sleeping and the other one being hugged and smiled at by mom.  It was a lovely moment for me and of course...got me thinking.  How many times did I stop during the day and lay with my babies?  I didn't do that on a regular basis.  If they were asleep, I was organizing and cleaning all the stuff I already had.  Interesting.

The next day, the house was complete.  Walls, drywall, doors and windows.  It is tiny by american standards but I kept telling myself and others, "I could live in that."  Yeah, right.  To celebrate, we had a barbeque, a band and a dedication...and celebrated the new home.  It was a wonderful day.

So I ask?  Who are the poor?  Is it the folks in Mexico that live on a sandy dump cramming a whole family into a tiny space?  Is it the folks who have no clean water to drink or can't flush the toilet paper?  Is it the folks who spend most of the time with their family and babies, loving them and caring for them...Or, is it me...who didn't make time to lay down and hold my babies before they fell asleep because I had to clean up my stuff?  Or is it you, who works constantly for stuff you don't need, for a status that will fade away when you get old, or for a false sense of control that goes away with the first illness or job loss.  Who are the poor?  I do agree that they are poor in Mexico and Nicaragua and other countries...as a matter of fact, we have lots and lots of poor here in the US.  But poor how? 

That's the paradigm shift for me...sometimes I get so full of myself, I can't stand me.  I am as arrogant and the dudes that run the insurance companies or the politicians that know what we all should be doing to make things right.  So, my shift is on, baby.  I am pulling my head out of my "you know where" and trying to shut my mouth and just live. 

I am going to slow down and love my family more, my patients more and count my blessings more.  The blessings will include the house, the flush toilet and the clean drinking water.  I will also count the blessings of time...to help a brother out, to sign up for the rescue mission on a regular basis and to even start taking better care of the animals...

The fire came close but didn't get us.  We can see from the kitchen window, the line of slurry that protected our house and our stuff.  For that I feel very lucky and want to respond in some way.  Haven't figured that out yet. 

Looking out the window, the snow is beginning to fall.  That fire ain't gonna stand a chance.  Talk about no control...80 yesterday and snow today.    

We'll tawk soon,
I love you all,