Friday, November 6, 2015

Blessings Amid the Stress

It has been a busy time, which seems to be an ongoing refrain.  We just lost another member to cancer shortly after diagnosis.  We've had 3 healthy, active men go through this this year, and it's taking a toll on the congregation.  Today's funeral was another big one-- as in almost 300 people.  Our guys were going downstairs for extra chairs as the sanctuary filled up.  I really liked this man.  He and his wife brought me home and spent the night with me after my second arm surgery.  We also had dinner and went to shows with them when we were on vacation, as they had a cottage they had built not too far away.  His family was wonderful to work with.  I was there when he died.  His wife had asked me where she thought I should take him for hospice care, and I suggested they take him home, so they did.  I had gone over to visit, and had a prayer with all of them around his bed.  His wife took me downstairs to show me something, and his breathing changed.  We went back upstairs, and his wife and all of his children stood around his bed as he drew his last breath.  He had told me last week that he was at peace, and we could see it in the way he died. 

Tomorrow is our bazaar, so that complicated things.  We had to call all the vendors to let them know they wouldn't be able to set up until this evening.  Administrative Assistant and I were both pretty much fried when we finally left the church today.  While our folks had done a wonderful job taking care of many of the necessities, Daughter, AA, and I emptied trash and replenished supplies in all the bathrooms.  We ran the vacuum to get rid of leaves and mud.  Of course, we had to bring up the vacuum cleaner from the basement, as we wait for a new belt for the upstairs one.  We all skipped bazaar set-up this evening.  We left that in good hands. 

We have reduced Daughter's new anti psychotic, and she is doing better in terms of side effects.  She is no longer having as much trouble with tremors, back pain, and bed wetting.  However, she is back to hearing the voices and having disturbing thoughts.  I suspect we'll have to look at other alternatives.  Her house continues to struggle with staff issues.  The newest live-in staff member is not recording her blood sugars and insulin, which makes it harder for me to  manage her diabetes.  She is also smoking in her bedroom, which isn't allowed, and since her bedroom is right below Daughter's, Daughter gets the smoke up in her room, and has complained to Home Owner.  From the sounds of things, I don't think this staff member will last very long.  Of course, with each staff change, it is harder for Daughter to trust.

I had told AA to come in later today, as she came back to the church last night to shut things down and lock up after the visitation.  Daughter and I arrived a little after 8, and she was there at her normal time of 9.  She said she figured she'd better get to the church so she could keep me together.  I told her that was probably wise.  Actually, the service went very well.  The sister-in-law was impressed with my ministry the day he died.  Today she was very happy with the service.  She expected it to be hard, but thought I had said exactly what the needed to hear.  That's the kind of thing I love to hear. 

Last week we had celebrated the church's anniversary.  The man we buried today was a charter member.  Daughter wanted to go to the funeral today, so she spent the night with me last night and will be with me through Sunday.  She was a good helper today. 

AA found time today to start on the bulletin for next Sunday.  She emailed it to me.  When I opened it, it said, "Do not look at this until Monday afternoon!!!!!!"  I had told her I thought I'd take Monday morning off.  Monday is her normal day off.  My normal day off is Friday, but obviously that didn't work today.  Tomorrow I will be at the church much of the day for the bazaar, so it will be nice to sleep in Monday morning. 

Next Friday night is our children's ministry, so I won't get all of that day off, either.  That's the way it is sometimes in ministry.  Fortunately, I continue to love what I'm doing. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Daughter continues to struggle.  We are going to have to cut her anti psychotic, as the side effects are devastating.  We did have her best planning meeting ever.  Her new case manager is wonderful with her.  Her psychologist is going to do an assessment on her when she returns from medical leave.  She is struggling with bed wetting, which I suspect is connected with the anti psychotic.

My arm is still broken, and I may have to have surgery for the broken elbow.  It's been broken for almost 3 months.  I am really paranoid about falling.  I am very discouraged with the situation.  I'm wearing a sling now, to see if that will help it heal.  I also continue to use the bone stimulator. 

Things continue to be busy at the church.  Tomorrow we are doing a drama.  We decided on it Monday night, and I wrote it Tuesday.  I asked 6 people to be in it, and they all agreed.  We ran through it Thursday night, and I'm pleased.  It's mostly directly from Scripture, and is the story of Gideon.  There is a little bit of commentary and some challenges interspersed with it.  One of the participants has been talking it up at the coffee shop.

That's the news for now. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


I'm alive.  This fall has been extremely busy, with more than a little stress.  Some of the highlights:

Daughter continues to struggle.  The medication is not right, and the side effects are such that we're going to have to change it.  She had an appointment for this month, but it has been cancelled and rescheduled for February.  Our mental health system is broken.  This state significantly cut support for mental health this year.  I just read an article about how the local mental health service is cutting people off because they don't have the funding to treat them.  People with serious mental illness, in a community where there was recently a high profile murder by someone who had serious mental illness. 

One of the residents in Daughter's house has developed mental health issues and had some issues with violence.  They tried to hospitalize her but there wasn't a hospital in the state that would take her.  She has been creating problems at the house, and after she became violent with a staff member, there was a staff change.  All of this has triggered Daughter's PTSD.  She has been wetting the bed, something she hadn't done since she moved out.  She is begging me to bring her home.  She is desperate to get out of the house.  I think her case manager is planning to move the woman who is causing the problems out. 

The psychologist she's been seeing sent an email a couple of weeks ago saying that since Daughter is stable, she thought she'd close her case.  Case Manager and I were not happy, since there  is no way you can describe Daughter as stable right now.  I have requested a different psychologist to work with her, but given all the budget cuts, I'm not optimistic. 

The arm is now broken in two places.  The ulna has healed, but I broke the radius near the elbow when I fell on vacation.  For 8 weeks I thought it was tennis elbow, but the most recent x-rays show  the fracture.  The doctor told me they treat fractures like this with a sling for a couple of weeks.  He didn't do anything for it t this point.  Last week I shook a bell during bell choir, and the next day was in a lot of pain.  I believe that the bones are moving.  I scheduled an appointment for this coming Wednesday.  I'm hoping there is a brace that will work.  I really don't want a cast, and I'm not willing to have another surgery on it.  I'm really frustrated.  It's been well over 2 years since I originally broke it. 

The Church has been blessed with good health the past few years.  That has ended.  I've had a number of funerals, and we have had a number of people dealing with joint replacements or cancer (and in one case, both).  I have 2 people who have struggled hip dislocations following joint replacement.  Both have had multiple surgeries, including one who has 3 in the last 6 weeks.  He's also been diagnosed with cancer.

We've had a lot of people traveling this fall, making it hard to get volunteers to work concessions at the local university football games.  It takes over 20 people to fully staff the booth.  I've worked as a cashier twice.  Last week Administrative Assistant and I were both working.  In fact, we went together.  Right before halftime, she passed out.  Her coworker got her into the storage shed after she said she was feeling funny.  The paramedics arrived, blocking our access to our supplies.  We had to get ice from another stand.  AA husband is one of the managers, so he accompanied her to the hospital, leaving us down two key staff members.  We got through it, and it was challenging.  After the game, I went up to the hospital.  The couldn't find the cause of her problem, but they kept her overnight and did a stress test the next day.  After they moved her to the floor, I took her husband to pick up their car from the university.  She passed her stress test with flying colors.  I told her it was a pretty dramatic way to get out of being drafted to work in the booth.  Daughter was not happy with me working concessions, because it meant I didn't pick her up until Saturday evening.

Computer has been replaced.  I was having a growing number of problems with the old one, and decided I was flirting with disaster.  So, I bought a new computer.  Then the power  button stopped working after 2 weeks.  I took it in and they replaced the computer.  I tried to hook it up to an external monitor without success.  The retired head of IT at a major company here in town spent 5 hours over 2 days trying to figure it out.  He finally took it in.  I told him he was vindicated because they had trouble figuring it out, too.  He said they had access to resources he didn't, and finally figured out it was  a driver issue. 

Family Time this weekend is focused on Daughter and getting caught up on stuff at home.  We had our annual eye exams this morning, so she spent the night last night.  We then spent most of the day running taking care of various things.  Daughter is obsessed with escaping her pain, so she wants to leave her program and her house.  It is exhausting to deal with her right now.  We have her annual planning meeting on Monday, and she is super stressed over that.  I finally reminded her that I would be there and that Mama Bear would look out for her.  I could see her relax.  She wants to find Mama Bear and Baby Bear shirts for us to wear.  I hope once we get through the appointment she will calm down. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Productive Week

I took most of Monday off this week, to make up for all the work last week with two funerals.  It really is feeling like crunch time now, as fall program approaches.  To complicate things, Administrative Assistant is going to be taking two weeks off to go to her reunion.  So, we're trying to work ahead and get things in place for fall.  We are making major changes to some of our children's ministries this year, which means extra meetings. 

When I left yesterday evening, I felt good about what we had accomplished.  I still have some work to do before Sunday, but that's okay.  This morning I went back to the orthopedic doctor.  My bones continue to heal (slowly).  He also diagnosed me with tennis elbow, which is the result of tripping and falling coming out of the tent.  He offered me a cortisone shot to the elbow, but I preferred to try a brace first.  So, I now have a band on my forearm.  The pain lessened immediately, so I know his diagnosis was correct. 

He's still talking about the possibility of surgery, but I'm not going to worry about that now. 

Daughter has had some challenges this week.  One of the other residents at her house is being very disruptive and abusive.  Hopefully they can get her needs addressed soon.  Very soon. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Psychiatrist started Daughter on a new anti psychotic 2 months ago.  She is much less volatile, and much more realistic.  She is no longer bugging me about how she needs her own apartment.  She finally accepted that her current group home is the best place for her for now.  Unfortunately, there are also side effects.  She has developed a tremor that makes it difficult for her to do detail work.  She is also very slow.  It can be painful to watch her try to do things, she is so slow. 

So, when we saw Psychiatrist last week, we reduced the new anti psychotic by half, with the understanding we may have to go back to the higher dose.  I am seeing a return of the volatility.  She's also struggling more.  It's all a trade off.  At this point, though, I think a tremor and slowness may be preferable. 

It gets frustrating.  I also recognize that this is going to be an ongoing struggle.  Every so often she complains that it's not fair that she has all these challenges.  I agree. 

Monday, August 10, 2015


Staffing continues to be an issue at Daughter's house.   Before vacation, I congratulated Home Owner for getting through a staff change without Adult Protective Services involvement, as had happened in the previous 2.  In the first case, staff quit unannounced, packing and moving out while all the residents were at their programs.  There was no one to let them in when the buses dropped them off, and when they couldn't reach the Home Owner, they ended up calling the police and APS was involved.  In the second case the staff member was not happy when a second live-in staff member arrived, as it meant she could no longer get away with making Daughter do things like her laundry, or warming up the van, or....  So she convinced the women to claim the new staff member was abusing them.  On that one, APS showed up at the church while I was meeting with a family to plan a funeral.  AA came to see if I was available, otherwise she would have sat in on Daughter's interview with the worker. 

The most recent staff change happened when Home Owner walked into the house and found the staff person screaming at the residents.  She was fired on the spot, and Daughter and I were both relieved.  She had a tendency to taunt Daughter and do other things that were not helpful.  She did not like when Daughter disrupted her schedule by coming home late after choir or some other outing with me.  This new staff member seems to be an improvement, though there are still issues.  She doesn't  always measure Daughter's food properly, and when one of the other residents became extremely difficult, she began complaining to Daughter.  This has been an issue before.  Daughter is so high functioning that they come to view her as a friend rather than a resident. 

The ongoing staffing issues are hard on Daughter and all the residents.  They need schedule and routine, and with the ongoing turnover, that is difficult to establish and maintain.  As a society, we do not value the developmentally handicapped.  Home Owner recently spent the night in a waiting room with a resident-- she needed psychiatric hospitalization, and they were seeking a bed for her.  No hospital in the state would take her.  They weren't "equipped" to deal with her needs.  They ended up sending her back home, where she continued to be disruptive. 

I try not to think about the reality that Daughter will most likely be dealing with staffing issues for the rest of her life.  I worry about the individuals who don't have a guardian who can be a strong advocate for them, or who are unable to communicate what is going on in the home.  I never dreamed I would be parenting this actively at this point in my life.  I'm grateful I can continue to be a strong advocate for Daughter. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Home Improvements and the Arm

While I was on vacation, I took on some home improvement projects around the house.  For over 2 years I have been limited by my left arm, which made me reluctant to take on major projects.  The arm has gotten stronger, and the new doctor has encouraged me to use it, as that increases blood flow and helps healing.   So, I took on the long delayed projects.   I stripped the wall paper border in the bathroom and repainted it, finishing a refresh I had started over a year ago with new lights (good bye brass), shower curtain, hardware, towels, and rug.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out, and next time I will hire someone to paint it.  My toilet is in a small alcove, and has the elongated bowl.  My arms weren't long enough to easily get behind it.  Daughter found it amusing.

I've always been frustrated by my family room.  It's open to the kitchen, but has always been dark.  It has a sliding patio door at one end with a large window right next to it.  The other end has a large fireplace.  There is a cathedral ceiling, but the walls are dark paneling and the fireplace was dark brown brick.  I have been contemplating ways to brighten the room.  I found Brick Anew online, and ordered it.  I spent several days working on the fireplace with it.  I'm delighted with the result.  I am now planning what I'm going to do with the rest of the room.

Daughter was very patient and supportive with my efforts.  It felt really good to be able to get these things done.  I was also able to do more work in my gardens this summer.  They had been badly neglected these past two years due to the arm.  I was really feeling good about what I had accomplished.

While we were camping, I tripped and fell coming out of the tent.  I looked down and was relieved that there weren't any bones sticking out or blood.  My arm was definitely injured, though.   I had taken my brace, so I put it on, but my mobility was very limited due to the pain.  I fell on Wednesday afternoon.  We were scheduled to leave Friday.  We went to the concert as planned Wednesday evening.  Thursday I called my doctor and we began to pack up.  I hoped to get an appointment with him or someone in the practice Friday.  Packing took us all day.  I couldn't lift, my grasp was weak, and Daughter found herself having to do much more of the work than she normally did.  The shift in her anti psychotic has slowed her down.  My speed was slower, too, since I was doing everything one handed.  The campers next door helped us finish up the packing.

I was frustrated, because my doctor was going on vacation.  He told me to go to the ER and see him when he got back.  Friday morning I went to urgent care.  The bones  are okay, in fact, think the gap in the radius had filled in some more.  But the arm was swollen, and continues to be very sore and stiff.  It has definitely slowed me down.  I see my doctor this week, so we'll see what he says about it.  I did 10 days of naprosyn, and it helped with the pain, but I'm still sore and stiff.  It has improved-- I can close the car door now and button my own jeans.  I'm not doing any heavy lifting, and the congregation has become very protective.  They didn't want me moving things around as we prepared for the funerals this week.  I assured them that it hurt enough that I was behaving.

The projects around the house were an important part of my vacation, and I'm grateful for what I accomplished, and hope to take on other projects soon.