Monday, December 31, 2012

Our Christmas...

Christmas at our house is usually a predictable affair where we go to church on Christmas Eve, come home, open a present and go to bed.  Then, on Christmas day, we get up, make the coffee and open the rest of the gifts.
The traditional Christmas eve picture

Not this year.  This year, I was on call for Christmas Eve so at 5 am, the phone rang and it was a patient that had been ready to go for a few days.  The angels came at 5 am on Christmas day.  I left the house before anyone was up and went to take care of the gentleman.  It was sad but he was ready...

I drove home and woke everyone up to do Christmas.  The coffee was made, I threw a few gifts in grocery bags, wrote names on them and threw them under the tree.  I sat down to have my first cup of coffee and tell the kids that I didn't do much and the phone rang again.  This time it was my sweet lady who had also passed away.  I put my shoes back on and headed out.  The kids and Jim went about getting ready to leave for our trip and Christmas morning was on hold.

This time when I got home, everything was ready for our trip to Mexico.  The dogs were packed up, the fence was finished, the house was tidy and the kids were getting ready to pack.  At 2pm on Christmas day, we got in the truck and headed out.
Sleeping on each other like a pack of dogs

We drove about 4 hours and found an open McDonald's for dinner and kept driving.  We made it to Amarillo, Texas around 11pm that night.  We stayed at a Comfort in and one of the kids slept on the cot and the other four of us got beds.  Before we knew it, it was morning and time to get on the road again.  We left Amarillo around 8 am and got to Del Rio, Texas, put our stuff in the hotel and went to dinner.  

The next morning was "go time".  We needed to be up, packed and ready to cross the border early.  We met our team, prayed and dispersed into trucks.  After a short drive to the border, a quick talk with the Mexican polizia and a quick sniff of our stuff by some scary looking dogs, we were thru and on our way to the building site.

Standing where we are gonna build

When we got to the building site, we met the family we were building for.  It was a grandmother named Sylvia who had extended family on the compound.  She was a lady in her 60's and why she got to be the winner of a new home is a mystery to me.  Every time we go, I can look around and see people better off, but I can also see folks quite a bit worse off in these border towns.

Anyway, she was a delight to build for and she was there helping almost every step of the way. 

 We began by leveling the site, putting the forms in, and getting the concrete poured and prettied up.

Leveling the concrete

Then the group built the walls for when the concrete dries.

After we got all that done, we went over to the house of one of the missionary's and had a lovely dinner.  The day was cool and we were tired.  But there was still time to play with the kids...

After dinner, we went back to a church to sleep.  The girls slept in   the pastor's office in our sleeping bags.  Needless to say, I slept like a rock.

Day two was a big one.  We stood walls, put the roof on, put black board and chicken wire over all of it and put doors and windows in. It was exhausting.

End of day two

Our grandma is having health problems and on day two, she had to take a 7 hour bus ride down to Monterrey, Mexico to have some tests.  She came home the morning of day three with a folder full of test results and plans.  I read them over and then did some health teaching with her as my daughter translated.  She was very afraid of the testing and results and I was able to calm her a little bit.

That was a comfortable feeling for me...being the nurse and being able to tell her what she was looking at health wise.

On the last day, we put stucco on the whole house, on the inside, a group hung drywall and did the electrical work.  When all was said and done, we had a house...

Our family to their family

I often get questions from people about doing things like this.  "Why got to Mexico and build for them when there are so many folks in the US that need help?"  I don't have an answer to that question really.  I feel like I help here in the US but yes, it is a big undertaking to drive 16 hours, go to a place that has an unsafe reputation, and work like a dog to build an 11 x 22 foot home for someone I don't know.  But isn't that the point?  To do for others what stirs you?  

I am struggling with my faith these days.  It feels forced, like doing the same thing every Sunday with no meaning behind it.  I want to live my faith...my love for humanity, not just recite the words.  I want to be someone who can be counted upon to love even when it is the hardest path to take.  I feel like doing things like this put my faith, my love for God...into action.

Christians come in all shapes and sizes.  They come with all different beliefs and faith traditions.  If you want my opinion, that's okay, that's the human side of all of us.  What I don't feel is okay, is the lack of love and using love as a verb and not a thing that swirls in the air when two people are attracted.  

I have had the privilege of seeing so much love this year...the love of husbands to dying wives, of wives to dying husbands, of folks stepping out of the box and doing the most uncomfortable thing...
seeing someone in need of human touch and doing it, no matter how dirty, smelly or drunk as they are.  I have seen it and I am humbled.  I want to be that person every day and my hope is that this trip watching my husband and kids along with the others on the trip as an example...I can do it.

Here's to 2013 and using love as a verb...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mexico and temperatures...

I've been in bed all day.  I coughed all night last night and ached and pained and had a fever at it's peak of 102.9.  Sounds like a lovely day, huh?

I don't get sick...I take care of sick people.  I had to call my hospice patient's home and let them know that I wasn't coming because I was sick.  I felt like a fraud, a fake and it humbled me.  We are the the end with this woman and she is ready to go.  As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I get a call in the middle of the night...a call that the angels came.  Her husband and I talk about how that would be a blessing.

Interestingly, I am still in bed.  It is night, I managed a shower, a tub because I had the chills and 4 frescas.  That's it.  Secretly, I am hoping the weight is falling off of me but honestly it is not.

I am not into Christmas this year.  This year, my husband suggested that we go to Acuna, Mexico on the border across from Fort Worth and build a house.  So we are leaving on Christmas morning and road tripping about half way and then on the 26th we are going the other half.  We'll hammer up this house on the 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th and then head home.  The 31st, Jim and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary with the kids and then I am sure they will scatter.

So does Santa need to come to a house with 16, 18 and 20 year old children?  I don't think so.  But, because I didn't want to forget the season all together, my youngest and I hiked around our property, found a tree that was not gonna survive, cut it down and decorated it.

And of course, I bought a few things they need so they have something to unwrap.  What I really want to do is go shopping and get the family a few things...a broom, a bag of rice, some towels and sheets...things that make moving from a pallet house to a home all the more special.  Oh and some toys if there are little kids.

I'm not into Christmas in the sense of buying a bunch of junk no one really needs and hardly wants.  In my family, we are so lucky to be able to have what we need and most of the time what we want.  We live in a big house looking out over Pikes Peak...not a box car or a pallet house wired together and walls made of cardboard.  

My gift this year and every time we go to Mexico is watching my children change the world.  They don't see any differences in any of us and what we look like or have.  They all speak Spanish and communicate like old friends.  I like that about our world these days.  

I guess what I am trying to get across, is whatever Christmas is for you...enjoy it and do what you do.  I will be doing what I do with my family.

Just checked my temp again with that temporal thermometer and I love them...what I don't love is that I am back up to 101.  I better get some ibuprofen in me and get going...

We"ll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Goodness and badness...

I pulled up to the house and noticed that the old blue pick up was parked outside.  That thing hasn't been running for about 3 months. Jim and Howie started working on it over the weekend and got it going Tuesday night. 

I walked in and was greeted with "did you see the truck is outside?  I am gonna drive it to school tomorrow."  A chill of fear ran up and down my spine...

Howie turned 16 last Saturday and we had the first appointment at the DMV on Monday morning.  Needless to say, the kid passed and now is a licensed driver.

"Drive me to Safeway" I told him, "we need milk".  Off we went, with him working the clutch and the shift.  I needed to make sure he could turn onto the highway and shift into traffic smoothly...or he wasn't driving.  He did fine.

Earlier in the day, Jim and I went to a funeral.  This one wasn't one of my patients or even someones parent.  This funeral was for the wife of  Jim's buddy.  She was 52, got diagnosed shortly before Thanksgiving and passed away a week or so later.  She was going along, living and doing her thing and began to have some medical issues.  She went to the doctor and they told her it wasn't anything, gave her some pills and sent her on her way.  She was a healthy 52 year old, ya know?  By the time they got a diagnosis, she had cancer everywhere..."terminal" was the word Jim's buddy used.

We walked into the mortuary and saw him sitting alone, with his head in his hands.  I walked over to say hello, and he moved over and wanted us with him during the service.  I patted his back through most of it, handed him kleenex and thought, "This guy needs a drink."  He kept asking me when he was going to wake up from this nightmare and then shaking his head and saying, "I just don't even believe it."

The reception was at the Elks club and it was pretty nice.  Good food, waitresses coming around asking if you wanted a drink and a lot of people.  I am sure the celebration, which is what we call these things now, went on long after Jim and I left.  We still had Howie to pick up and work to get back to.

Jim was reflective after the service.  He was thinking about being 50 and how some of his coworkers had died recently, one from a brain tumor, another a heart attack and then today.  He was going into his "life is short and live every day speech"  when I tuned him out.  

I had one more thing to do on Tuesday and I was dreading it.  I needed to stop by a family member's house of a patient I just lost.  This patient reminded me of my mother and she was very special to me.  I felt as though she slipped away peacefully but I always worry that the family had experienced a different reality.  I knocked on the door and the dogs barked and I gathered her daughter up into my arms...I felt very close to her too.  Two hours later, I left that house thankful and energized about how much comfort she felt in her mother's life and death.  She was doing ok for what she had been through.  

Howie and I turned out of the Safeway with the milk in the truck.  He backed out of the parking spot and gave me a little whip lash but hey...whatever.  When we got on to the highway, I mentioned how his father and I were pretty lucky.  I talked about his siblings at college and how good they are doing, how we have what we need and how we have our health.  He replied, "you know Mom, we are pretty lucky.  Look at me, I have this nice old truck, all cleaned up, this air freshener on the mirror that smells like pine and this lucky rabbit's foot (from a real rabbit on a camping trip) and a parking pass to drive to school.  I ask you, what else could a 16 year old boy like me want?"

I sat in the passenger seat and smiled.  Life is so freakin' hard at times, so sad and there are days that nothing goes right.  There are also days that things are so good, you never want the day to end.  Seems to me lately, the good days are few and far between.

But then I thought about that day...was it a good day or a bad day?  Certainly it was a bad day for Jim's buddy...there is no getting around those kind of days.   But for us, for me...it was a good day.  I went to that funeral and offered all the support I could give this guy and we plan on doing that for years to come.  That's what friends do.  A visit with a bereaved daughter, lost her dear mother, comforted and laughing about how things went and how we got her to the place that she was okay with leaving.  That was so good.  To sit in the recliner and discover that her daughter is not only a client but could very well be my friend.  And the end of the night, in the truck with my precious, sulking, quiet, sometimes crabby 16 year old, hearing what he thinks and knowing that for him, an old truck, a rabbits foot and pine scent hanging from the mirror...along with a good dose of freedom makes him happy.

Yes, it was a hard day but a good one.  

As my college boy says...YOLO...you only live once...and he is right.  So live...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
]I love you all,