Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dances with Wolves

We saw Psychiatrist this afternoon. I told her about Daughter's recent challenges. She asked Daughter if she'd ever seen Dances with Wolves. I have, but Daughter hasn't. She told Daughter she needed to watch it, because it is about a man who chooses his own tribe, where he fits in. She agreed that Daughter needs to put any thought of reconnecting with the people who hurt her out of her mind. She also increased her depakote some more, her blood level is still low, and she's concerned about the ongoing difficulties with sleep.

We went shopping and bought Dances with Wolves while we were in Big City. Daughter and I will watch it together this weekend. We'll follow that up with more conversation. Daughter is doing well today, and has been able to handle frustration. She is improving. Hopefully this increase of depakote will keep her moods more stable.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spoke Too Soon

So after bragging about how I had solved the problem of Daughter's distress by brutally explaining why she couldn't have contact with her birth family. She asked for permission to go watch a show she had recorded, and then come back and resume her work. She'd been cooperative and worked hard, so I allowed it.
Dr. Jekyll went upstairs, but it was Mr. Hyde who came back down. After raging, threats, wanting to die, and lots of drama, I asked what the show she had watched had been about. She immediately said that had nothing to do with anything.
"What was it about?"
It's taken a while, but she just came down and told me how scared she is. I explained that her body felt fear whenever she thought about contacting her birth family, because her body remembers that they aren't safe. I reminded her again that her safety is my number one priority.
She apologized, hugged me, and promised to make tomorrow a better day.


After two days of acting out, being difficult, and expressing a desire to die, I asked Daughter last night how she was thinking about S (birth brother J's daughter). She looked at me with great exasperation and said, "A lot."
She told me it should be against the law to split up families. I told her it is against the law to do to children the things that those people did to her.
Then I got rather brutal. She was removed from that home prior to the age of 3. She had been repeatedly molested during her time with them by all the male members of her family. I pointed out to her that when she had talked to E (birth mother) 2 years ago, she had commented that she sounded like a child. I explained that that was the reason E couldn't be her mother, because she was like a child, and had been unable to protect Daughter. I told her because E is so much like a child, she doesn't understand the current reality. I told her that E was wrong about S looking exactly like Daughter. I reminded her that E wasn't around her when she was that age, and so she didn't know what Daughter had looked like. I told her I had been around her, and that the only similarities were that S and Daughter were both girls with brown skin. She quickly added, "and brown eyes and black hair." I agreed, and pointed out there are millions of girls who fit that description. I told her that E wanted S to look like her so that E could do with S the things she hadn't been able to do with Daughter.
I pointed out that S was safe, because S's mom had been smart enough to divorce J. I told her she could pray for S. I told her she wasn't responsible for S. I told her that J, E, R and S were no longer her family, because they didn't know how to be a family. I asked her if she remembered what had happened last time she had even limited contact with E. She did, and acknowledged that she didn't want to go through that again (3 psych hospitalizations in less than 2 months). I told her that if she wanted to focus on a little girl, think about her cousin. At first she was belligerent, but the more I talked, the more her mood lightened. When I reminded her about her cousin, she actually smiled.
She slept last night. She stayed home today to help with the senior luncheon, and has commented a couple of times about how much better she is doing today. She is being cooperative and helpful. Her mood is much lighter. She is not expressing any desire to die. She is not sleeping every chance she gets to escape the pain she's in. I suppose the improvement could be a result of the increase in her lithium and depakote a week ago, but I think more of it has to do with my brutal rejection of any connection with or responsibility for the people who made her first 3 years a living hell.
I'm sorry she can't have a relationship with them, but any relationship is entirely too destructive for her. I'm not even going to tell her maybe she'll be able to be in contact with them someday. I don't want to think about what contacting them again would do to her. Psychiatrist told her she could talk about renewing contact after she'd gone a year without hearing voices. I don't think that will ever happen. I wish it would, but I don't see it happening. So I brutally told her she had no connection with them, and for today, she is at peace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This morning Daughter came down and announced that it had really rained hard last night, and that the carpet under her window was soaked.
"Didn't the rain wake you up?"
"Yes, I woke up and turned on my light."
"Why didn't you close the window?"

Monday, April 27, 2009

In Black and White

I received the order for the lithium and depakote levels in the mail from Psychiatrist today. Actually, it was her nurse that wrote out the order. Under diagnosis it was written quite clearly: schizoaffective disorder. Now this possibility has been thrown around for the last 8 years or so, but the two psychiatrists she's had long term have both sought to reassure me that they really thought we were just seeing severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I guess it doesn't make much difference what is causing her to become psychotic, whether it's PTSD or something else, but it was jarring to see it written out there in black and white.
I keep hoping she'll heal. I keep hoping she'll find stability. I think it's time to change my hopes. I think I'll celebrate that I recognized the mania early this time, so we were able to get on top of it more quickly. I'll celebrate the fact that she's recognizing that her reactions to me are not always rational, and that she needs to work on that. I'll celebrate the fact that there are medications that can help control the symptoms, and that we like Psychiatrist. I'll celebrate the fact that Therapist looks beyond the label and genuinely likes and cares about Daughter.
I'll celebrate those things. I'll give thanks that I work in a field where I can rearrange my schedule to transport her to her various doctors. No matter what the label, I will always love her. It was just disturbing to see it written out in black and white.

A Mid-Life Crisis

Daughter informed me this morning that she is having a mid-life crisis. She is quite advanced, to be experiencing this crisis at age 22. Her birth brother has a daughter who will be having a birthday this Friday. This niece has Daughter's first name as a middle name. Daughter has seen pictures of her. Two years ago, I helped Daughter contact her birth mother. Birth mother told her all about Niece and how she is exactly like Daughter. Daughter also wrote her birth brother, but he never bothered to write back.
In the aftermath of the contact, Daughter had three psychiatric hospitalizations in less than two months. I know many adoptive parents encourage ongoing contact with the birth family. Any contact Daughter has ever had has always triggered psychotic episodes, so at the advice of Psychiatrist and Therapist, I have not allowed contact. Two years ago we thought she was ready for it and set it up quite carefully, with letters first and then a phone call. The phone call was too much. Daughter worries about Niece, because she fears for her safety. Niece's mother was smart and got a divorce, so hopefully Niece is now safe. But Daughter still worries, and feels that since Niece is "exactly like her" she is somehow responsible for Niece's safety. I've seen the pictures, and Niece does not look like Daughter. The only similarity is that they both have brown skin and are female.
Daughter came down and told me that Friday will be Niece's birthday. She said, "I don't talk about her much anymore. I don't know why, I guess I'm having some sort of mid-life crisis." I need to call Case Manager this morning and ask her to inform staff not to encourage Daughter to seek contact with Niece. When Daughter took pictures in of Niece and birth brother 2 years ago, they made a huge fuss, telling her birth brother was "hot" and that they could see that Niece looked like her and encouraging her to go visit them. Since Niece lives thousands of miles from her and her birth brother was in Iraq at that time, even if it had been safe, a visit wasn't possible. Of course, all of that made the situation much worse.
Daughter's first three years were spent in a house of horrors. She has severe PTSD. Since she's now thinking about Niece, I'm going to have to prepare myself for a wild ride this week. I think I'm going to encourage her to say extra prayers for Niece. Hopefully that will give her the sense that she is doing something for her, and ease her sense of responsibility for a little girl she has never even met. It may not be a mid-life crisis, but we could well be facing a crisis this week.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Question

A number of years ago, a colleague shared with me a question that had stumped him in an interview. He was asked, "What is God teaching you right now?" It's a question I have come back to a number of times since, and I reflected on it last week as I prepared my sermon for today.

I believe that right now I am learning to live in uncertainty. Like most people, I want to have some sense of control over my life. The last few months, though, between my parents health problems and Daughter's issues have been full of unexpected twists and turns. It has been hard to plan anything, because I've been living on edge, waiting for the call that will cause me to drop everything and head off to be with family as we mourn the death of a parent.

I have been torn about seeking a new position, knowing that my ministry in this place is winding down, but facing the reality of limited possibilities near family and a reluctance to move further away in light of my parents' health issues.

Then there have been the larger issues in our society: the economic downturn and now the swine flu (have I mentioned how many hog farmers there are in the congregation I serve?)

In short, my life has felt very much out of control. I'm learning to live in the midst of the chaos, and to make plans and be willing to change plans. I'm learning that my security comes not from the circumstances around me, but from my faith in God. These aren't easy lessons, but they are important ones, and I'm beginning to learn how to put them into practice. I'm learning not to react to every health change my parents' experience. I'm learning to find peace in the midst of the chaos. That is what God is teaching me right now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Office

This congregation has never understood the needs of the church office. As a result, it has been a battle anytime we need something in the office. Just getting an office and a computer almost split the church. When that first computer began to have problems 8 years later, they demanded to know what we'd done with it, and assured me that they would not be continuing to sink money into the office. Someone finally donated a rebuilt computer-- complete with a 6 gigabyte hard drive and a corrupted operating system. Even so, it was better than what we'd been working with. A computer tech came out and finally figured out a bit of a network-- if the secretary saved a file to a specific folder, I could then go in and open it from my laptop.

Then there was the internet situation. We were on dial-up, and they thought that was a waste of money. Why did we need it? Oh, I don't know, maybe because members email us announcements for the bulletin and articles for the newsletter. Of course, there were complaints when we were downloading a large file and the phone was busy at the office. The connection was so slow the only thing we did on the internet was download email. If we needed anything else, I'd pack up my computer and come home to get it.

They refused to buy us a new copier for years, even though a volunteer had to stand at the machine for a full day feeding the newsletter through one page at a time to get it to print. What once took 2 full days can now be done in less than half a day. We used to use much of the secretary's time each month on the newsletter. She only works 7 hours a week, so she'd work less the rest of the month so there would be 16 hours to give to the newsletter.

For 2 years I've been telling them the donated computer was dying. I was told repeatedly it wasn't a priority. Too much of the secretary's time was lost to waiting on a very slow computer.

Finally, in December, a member donated their old computer and laser printer. Then a man who lived away from here wanted to do something for the church and donated a new computer. Of course, that didn't solve the problem. Why did we need to network the computers? Why did we need software?

An anonymous donor finally stepped forward and paid for a year of DSL, and to get the new computers up and running. Yesterday was our first day with the new set-up. I can't believe what a difference it made. First of all, instead of waiting for the copy machine to finish copying so we could print something out, we could print it to scrap paper on the donated laser printer. When I saw corrections that needed to be made to a document, I could access the file on the secretary's computer from my computer. I didn't have to ask her to move files to the shared folder so I could see them. When I finished editing them, I could save them directly back to the proper location. We were also finalizing the newsletter, which looks fantastic this month, since we were able to get new graphics off the internet to use in it. I didn't have to take my laptop to the church, but brought the files home I need to use on a flash drive, which I connected to the key chain with the church keys on it.

The really sad thing? The anonymous donor doesn't want the financial board to know that he footed the bill for DSL and to get the donated computers running. They will be mad that we have an updated office, even though it didn't cost them any money. They will be mad, even though it will greatly increase the efficiency of the office and ultimately save them money. They will be mad, because I got what I told them we needed, and they think I'm too demanding and expect too much. It's the same mentality that has kept my salary at our judicatory's minimum level even after I've been here 13 years and in ministry for 24.

But here's the thing, even with all of this frustration, I still love what I do. I still am passionate about ministry. I'm still grateful for the opportunity to serve among these people. It will just be a little easier now to handle the administrative end of things.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

New Boy Friend is now history. I guess I won't have to worry about summer vacation. Apparently Daughter noticed on her cell phone that he had called her at 9:32 last night. She was in bed asleep by then, and is not supposed to have calls after 9:00. He knew that. Today she asked him why he had called her at that time. He claimed he didn't do it, a friend he was hanging out with made the call, because he thought it would be funny to call and wake Daughter up.
Daughter told him to grow up and broke up with him. At this rate, she'll have gone through all the men at the sheltered workshop by the end of the summer. I wonder if she'll then cycle back through them, or give up on romance for a while....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

At Last

I finally heard back from Psychiatrist's nurse today. We're doubling Daughter's depakote and doubling the morning lithium. After 5 days, I take her in for another blood test. They asked again if I was sure she is taking her meds. I assured them she is. I think, though, that I will watch her take them just to be sure.
Daughter came home in a fairly chipper mood today, and has been able to maintain it pretty well. Of course, I haven't made any demands on her, which helps. She spoke with Case Manager today about her desire for a job in the community. We're going to start by trying to find her a cleaning job here in town. We'll see how that goes. CM and I suspect she won't like it, and that will end her complaining, at least for a while.
I'm working at getting caught up and back into a normal routine. Today I got my hair cut. I was way past due. I'm almost done taking out communion to shut-ins. I had hoped to get that done before Easter, but that didn't work out. Even with the little challenges my parents are experiencing, I'm managing to stay focused on what's happening here. I'm going to register for the conference in June that we attend every year. I know there will be another crisis with my parents, but I'm not going to sit around waiting for it. I'll deal with it when it comes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


It seems like my I'm entrusting my loved ones to the care of incompetent people these days. Dad is not happy at the nursing home where he is for rehab this time. He told Far Away Sister that it is a terrible place. They've lost all his clothes, which are all labeled from his many stays in rehab. This is the nursing home that Brother really pushed. We hope that Dad is telling him how bad it is. The good news is that Dad is continuing to lose the excess fluid. He's down to 218 now, the lowest he's been in month. He still is retaining some fluid, but he was 254 during this most recent hospitalization.
Sister received a call from one of the aides who is going in to the assisted living home and providing care for Mom. The aide is very concerned that Mom is not receiving good care, and is ignored when the aide isn't there. Sister called the administrator, but we aren't sure what to do at this point. The reality is that Mom is not capable of telling us what kind of care she is receiving, and we are not able to be there as often as we need to be to keep track of the quality of care she is receiving. She is also losing weight, those hers is not because she's retaining fluid, hers is because she isn't eating enough to keep her going. Her weight loss isn't critical yet, but the trend is there.
Daughter is becoming more manic with each passing day. She is becoming increasingly irritable. She is seeking to pick fights with me. When I refuse to buy in and don't respond to her, she goes off based on what she thinks I'm thinking or the way I'm breathing. The blood work showed that both her lithium and depakote levels are very low, but Psychiatrist has yet to decide what changes to make in her meds.
Tonight she's back on a rant about how she has to quit the workshop. They don't have work in currently, and once again they aren't providing Daughter the structure she needs. She recognizes that they aren't following through with her plan, which states they are supposed to give her other things to do when there isn't work in. Right now her plan is to go into the workshop tomorrow, clean out her locker, and grab her files. Then she intends to never go back. That's not going to happen, but I'm not going to engage her tonight. She's beyond reason. Hopefully she'll see things differently tomorrow morning.

Monday, April 20, 2009

And the Problem with That?

Last night Daughter came downstairs fuming. She had just gotten off the phone with New Boy Friend. NBF had told her everything that J had said about her. J had told NBF that he didn't want to be with Daughter, and carefully explained why. Daughter informed me that J was telling stories about her and saying things that weren't true, and she was going to get him today.
"What has J been saying about you?"
"He told NBF that I am a church person and he shouldn't be around me because I am a goody two shoes and a control freak."
"What's wrong with going to church?"
"Nothing! NBF said he doesn't have a problem with me going to church."
"Do you understand what J was telling him?"
"What do you mean?"
"J was telling NBF that you are a Christian and that you have clear boundaries and you aren't going to have sex with him."
"No he wasn't! He said I was churchy and a goody two shoes and a control freak."
"But that's what he meant."
We talked some more, but I told that it was wonderful that that was what J was saying about her, and she should be proud. She told me that she and J had talked, and he believes sex should wait until marriage, too. I'm skeptical, but at least he knows the right words to say to her.
This morning she told me she was still mad. I suggested she go in and say to J, "Thank you for noticing that I am a Christian!"
She was at least able to smile at that suggestion. With all the problems she's had and the terrible things she's said to me, I am grateful that she represents the values I have tried to teach her at the workshop.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The New Boyfriend

Daughter has a new boyfriend. She talks to him on the phone. They haven't done anything together outside of the workshop yet. I haven't met him. According to Daughter's Case Manager, he's "experienced." So this morning Daughter asked me if he can go on vacation with us this summer. Because I'm so unreasonable, I said no.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane: April 17, 1995

It was the day after Easter, and much of my family had come to spend Easter weekend with us. We were living in the inner city back then. On that Monday morning, we journeyed to a court room, where surrounded by family and friends, we completed a journey that had begun over 5 years earlier. Daughter's adoption was finalized. Following the adoption, we went to a small restaurant where friends and colleagues joined in our celebration as we ate brunch together. There was a large sheet cake with her name on it and a rainbow in the background. She fell in love with rainbows after I explained that the rainbow was a sign of God's promise never to give up on us. She was in the first grade, and I had big dreams for her. Within a year, she would begin having psychotic episodes. I'm glad I didn't know what was coming.

With her cycling into mania, it was hard to celebrate yesterday. Right now she has a hair trigger. All I have to do is breathe wrong to set her off. This morning we went and got her blood drawn for Psychiatrist. After breakfast at Cracker Barrel we went to Sam's Club. She is now pouting on the couch in the living room. She's warned me to stay away from her. I'm going to leave her alone, at least for now.

Even with all the challenges, I'm glad I adopted her. I'm grateful for all that she has added to my life (maybe not all the stress). I have learned and grown tremendously because I am her parent. I think I'll go back in coming posts and remember some of our journey to adoption day. I still celebrate the day, even when she is not able because of her mental illness. Hopefully Monday Psychiatrist will make the adjustments to her meds that will pull her down from the current mania.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Daughter's job is to write down her blood sugar, insulin, and carbs for each meal and snack. She does this so we can look for patterns and adjust insulin accordingly. She tests her blood sugar. I calculate carbs, figure insulin, and draw up insulin. She injects the insulin I prepare for her. All insulin is either locked up or in my possession since she OD'd on insulin. Yesterday she had great blood sugars until evening. Those were high because she was into extra food. This morning I asked her how much insulin I had given her at breakfast yesterday. I couldn't remember if I'd given her 6 or 7 units of insulin. She told me I'd given her 5.
She didn't write it down yesterday morning, so she guessed later in the day because she knows she has to have complete records before she can watch TV in the evening. I told her it was wrong and reminded her why she needs to keep records, and how important they are. She has announced that at soon as she gets home tonight she is leaving. She's not going to celebrate her Adoption Day. I'm ruining her life (again) and she's not going to put up with me anymore.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Too Laid Back?

I just got off the phone with Case Manager. Daughter had been in her office to tell her about almost being raped last Friday. Case Manager was alarmed. I hadn't been particularly alarmed. I guess it takes quite a bit to get me riled up these days. Unless it has to do with mismanaging Daughter's diabetes. Then I get riled up quickly.
Last Friday a couple of Daughter's buddies called and wanted to come over and hang out. I said it was okay, and allowed them to go upstairs into the TV room. I figured that not much could happen with the three of them together. They were all upstairs for a little while, and then D came downstairs and was putting on his shoes and talking to me. A few minutes later, D and R decided to leave. I asked Daughter about it, and she said they hadn't had lunch yet so they were going to get lunch.
The next day she told R had been touching her like J did. I listened, but wasn't too concerned. I told her she'd done a good job of keeping herself safe, and she was fine. I also pointed out that since they were going together, he probably thought it was okay to touch her. I also pointed out that his last girl friend had been rather promiscuous. I told her I was proud of her. She seemed satisfied.
A couple of days later, she said she needed to talk to me. She wanted to call R's mom and tell her what had happened. Apparently, R isn't allowed to have a girl friend. I told her it wasn't her job to tattle. Then she told me that there had been more that had gone on that she hadn't told me. She said she'd almost been raped. Knowing Daughter's tendency to exaggerate and be overly dramatic, I wasn't too concerned. I finally figured out that R had exposed himself to her. At that point she had told him it was time for him to leave. They left not because they were hungry, but because Daughter kicked them out.
I had no idea anything was going on. It all happened very quietly. I again assured Daughter that she had handled it well and kept herself safe. I was amazed that she hadn't been acting out as a result of what had happened, and viewed that as progress. I also decided that I need to provide better supervision in the future. Just because there are three of them doesn't mean nothing can happen.
R is now history, of course. Daughter has moved onto J. According to Case Manager, J is experienced, too. I doubt that this one will last any longer than her others. I think Case Manager was amazed at how unconcerned I was about what happened. Before Daughter has one on one time with the next guy, I will help her come up with some ideas about how to set clear boundaries. I really feel sorry for the guys. Daughter is still overly sensitive to anything sexual. It isn't their doing, it's the fault of the family members who molested her when she was a toddler.
I will continue to be laid back. All of these relationships are going to be short and will end at the first sign of anything sexual-- like a simple kiss. Eventually, she'll have run through all the available guys at the workshop. Maybe she'll figure out that it's okay not to have a guy. Or maybe she'll meet one who will take it slow and she'll be able to work through her fears. It's out of my hands, and I've got plenty of other things to worry about.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Catching It Early

Daughter had an appointment with Psychiatrist this evening. Last year Psychiatrist thought that longer days triggered mania for Daughter.

So today I was able to report that Daughter is beginning to hear voices. For the last week or so she has been thinking I'm calling her when I'm not. This morning she called Sister and left her two 5 minute voice mails about her plans for our adoption day celebration this Friday. She's going to call John McCutcheon and have him come sing his song Happy Adoption Day at our house for me.

Psychiatrist ordered blood tests for her lithium and depakote level and is then going to increase her medication. She wants to see her again 2 weeks. I'm hoping that we can avoid her getting into full blown mania this time. Daughter had no clue what we were talking about, so I had to explain it to her on the way home.

We'll get the blood work done Saturday morning. I'll have to take her to breakfast after, of course. She's already lobbying for Cracker Barrel.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catching Up

I managed to avoid my Holy Week sinusitis this year, for which I am grateful. Or, I should say, I avoided it during Holy Week. By Sunday evening I was coughing and losing my voice. Between Holy Week and my parents' health struggles, I have fallen behind on so many things, so this week is going to be a week of playing catch up.
Of course, playing catch up is not particularly fun, so the fact that I'm not feeling great will make it more challenging. This morning we went over to the church office and discovered we didn't have any power. They are replacing the electrical box in the boiler room, and apparently the office outlets are on that box. Interestingly, the light fixtures aren't. Without power, we couldn't do the work we needed to do, so we rescheduled office hours for tomorrow morning.
One of the trustees came over and replaced the ballast on the florescent fixture in my kitchen today. I've had a strobe light recently. Fortunately, Daughter's seizures aren't triggered by strobe lights! The trustee is a farmer, and it's raining today, so it's a good day for doing inside work. It took some doing, but he got the light fixture working properly, and I'm grateful.
I'm going to do some commentary work today for my sermon, and I may do some more work on my office. I got a good start in their yesterday, but there was an unbelievable pile of papers to sort through. We aren't going to see the sun until Thursday, so I have a feeling I will be dragging all week. Sinusitis, post-Easter let down, catching up on old work, and gray days all add up to make it very hard to get moving.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ Is Risen!

I had alarms set for 5:00, 5:15, and 5:20 this morning so I wouldn't oversleep. I had to be at the church at 6:30 to complete preparations for the Sunrise Service. I lead worships for all sizes of crowds and in all sorts of settings. I've preached at regional gatherings of churches and at large funerals. I've had to improvise when key parts of the service fell through at the last minute. In short, I'm comfortable leading worship, and it takes a great deal to rattle me.

The most stressful worship service I'm involved in is the Sunrise Service on Easter Sunday. Every year I end up sweating and pacing before it's over. Our Sunrise Service is led by our youth. Teenagers don't do well with getting up and getting to the church by 6:30 on a Sunday morning. We've had to call and wake them up because they've overslept. The service starts at 7:00, and we've had key leaders rush in at 6:59.

Then there are all the speaking parts. Will they hold the microphone close enough to their mouths? Will they pronounce the Biblical names correctly? (O said Magdalene differently every time he read it today-- which was about 5 times, and never correctly). Will they speak slowly and clearly so the elderly people can understand them? Will they be paying attention so they catch their cues? (D just sat there when he was supposed to be leading the call to worship. He was waiting for the organ prelude, all there had been was a piano prelude.)

Every year I stress. I ended up standing in the back of the church pacing this morning. (I had gone back to adjust the level on one of the microphones and didn't bother returning to my pew.) I couldn't believe how much I was sweating.

Every year, the kids pull it off. They may drive me crazy, but they come through in the end. This year was no exception. As part of that service, we flower a cross, which is pictured above.

We then shared a delicious breakfast and had our main service of worship at 9:30. We had a good crowd. My computer and printer weren't on speaking terms this morning (it took 2 reboots), but I finally convinced them to print out the sermon for me. I forgot the choir was supposed to sing an introit, but the rest of the service went well. Daughter and I are going to share a relaxing afternoon. There is ham in the oven and strawberry cheesecake in the refrigerator. Daughter is upstairs researching ways to fold napkins on the internet. There will be time for a nap and a movie, I suspect.

Christ is risen! All is well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

We had a worship service last night, so we don't have one today. Daughter is off today, and wants to go out and have fun. Even though I'm not leading worship, I'm not going out to have fun. I will spend much of this afternoon in prayer and reflection, which will drive Daughter crazy (which will not be conducive to quiet reflection on my part.)

Since we are staying home for Easter, we will need to figure out what we are having for Easter dinner and make a grocery list. Tomorrow we will have a significant amount of running around to do in town. I just gave Daughter a chore list for today, in hopes of keeping her occupied and out of my hair. She began with protests, of course, but is now adding to it. I've promised her TV time if she gets things done.

Dad is moving to rehab today, but not the one we had hoped for. He's going to the one Brother picked out that is convenient to Brother. It doesn't have great inspection reports, and his doctor doesn't go there. Dad is already saying that when he gets out he wants a live-in for a week. The whole point of rehab was to get him strong enough that he won't need a live-in, and when he gets home, he tends to get weaker, not stronger.

Mom is not doing as well. She is less responsive and engaged. She is eating less. We're leaving her on hospice. We're taking one day at a time. Today is Good Friday, and Easter is coming.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Workshop, Again

Daughter is on insulin. Before meals, she checks her blood sugar and gives herself insulin to cover the carbohydrate content of the food she will be eating. She has a ratio insulin to carbs we use to calculate her insulin needs. The Novolog she takes before meals is a fast acting insulin, so it begins to work within about 15 minutes of taking it. Unless her blood sugar is very high, she takes it right before she eats so that the insulin doesn't get ahead of her food and cause her to go low.
Today, Daughter was part of a group from the workshop that went out for lunch to a restaurant. They had her test her blood sugar and take her insulin before they left the workshop. At that point, they didn't even know what she was going to order, so I don't know how they determined what the carb content of her meal would be. Fortunately, she didn't have a low while waiting for her meal, but I don't think they have any concept of how dangerous what they did was.
They are very fortunate, because by the time Daughter got home and told me what had happened, they were gone for the day. By the time I call them on Monday (they are closed tomorrow), I will have had time to cool down. If I were able to reach somebody right now, I would probably saw some things that aren't very Christian. I think I would definitely say some things that aren't very Christian. I might even be tempted to use some colorful language. I probably would use some colorful language.
Dad is supposed to be discharged today, but the nursing home doesn't have a bed available for him. So now he wants to go anyplace he can, but the admission people have already gone home at his second choice. The hospice nurse reports that the care Mom has been getting is not good. Some of my frustration with those situations would probably come out in any conversation I had with the workshop today. Have I mentioned how lucky they are that I can't talk to them today?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Ipod

I'm actually following through with my ipod. I'm a little surprised, which is sad. I shouldn't be surprised that I'm following through on doing something that is good for me. One of the unexpected benefits has been that I'm doing more-- more housecleaning, more walking, etc. You see, I can't just sit and listen, so I'm getting up and doing physical things while I'm listening.

I'm currently listening to The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. It's their interpretation of the events of Holy Week as they are found in Mark. It's a fascinating book, and I wish I'd started it earlier so I'd have more time to digest it before the sermons I have to write this week. I'm grateful for the intellectual stimulation and the spiritual food. It was money well spent.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Family Fun

The plan was that we would send Mom and Dad for rehab at the nursing home where there doctor is medical director. It wasn't particularly convenient, but we thought that it was the best choice because their doctor knows their history and would be able to give us an honest assessment of their condition and what kind of care they would need following rehab. We wanted them together so that Dad could let us know if there were problems with the care. With Mom being nonverbal, we have no way of knowing what kind of care she is getting when we aren't around.
Brother decided that the location of this particular nursing home wasn't convenient, and he wanted them in a nursing home that would be closer to his home. He convinced Dad of the advantages of being there, and told him how many visitors he would have and how easy it would be for Brother to stop by. So today, Sister gets a call from the hospital saying Dad is being discharged to that nursing home. To say she went ballistic would be an understatement.
Far Away Sister and I had a long conference call with Brother. We laid it all out. He was belligerent. He was defensive. He finally heard us. He went back and told Dad are reasoning, and then offered to handle the admission of both of them to the nursing home on Thursday. The end result was good, but it was an exhausting day.
I came back here determined to put all of those things out of my mind and focus on my people here and their needs. So much for that plan. Daughter overheard part of my conversation with Brother and Far Away Sister, and that set her off. She eventually calmed down and asked what was going on, and I was able to explain it to her. Dealing with the needs of aging parents is hard, and even at a distance, it is exhausting. I'm glad that we were able to set it up for them to go to the place where they will be able to continue under the care of their doctor. At least, I hope the rest of the pieces will fall into place.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week

The busiest week of the year began for me yesterday. I'm not as prepared for it as I normally am at this time, but even my lack of preparation and the chaos that will surround me will not get in the way of the message of this week. Throughout Lent, we have been focusing on our brokenness. Yesterday the entire congregation came forward to glue our broken pieces of clay around a cross. The picture is the result, which was put on display during the final hymn.

There are plenty of things to distract me this week. There are some power struggles going on in the family as to what is the best solution for our parents. Daughter is not doing well at all, and her constant lying is exhausting. Dad continues in the hospital, where they are trying to get some of the fluid off. Far Away Sister thinks he is getting tired and may not fight his way back this time. I think she may be right, and that's okay.

All of Lent and Holy Week have been enriched by the health challenges my parents have been facing. Because of Easter, we know their death will bring healing, and we are ready to let go. We will grieve, but we will grieve as people with hope. I'm going to disengage from the power struggles within my family and pray for peace for all involved. I'm going to focus on the treasures of this week, and allow them to feed my soul.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Back to Normal

Daughter wasn't home very long last night before she was informing me (in sweet, dulcet tones, of course) that I was ruining her life. I actually expected her to help with laundry! I'm so unreasonable. I told her she didn't have to if she didn't want to have any clean clothes to wear. I can be reasonable. I took my clothes out of the dryer and took care of them, but hers I dumped on top of the washing machine.
Dad is being admitted to the hospital today. He was getting weaker with each passing day, and his kidney function was declining. He's also becoming increasingly confused. All of this, of course, is a direct result of his congestive heart failure. He will be sent to the nursing home where his doctor is medical director for rehab, and when he is sent for rehab, Mom will be taken off hospice and sent there for rehab, as well. The improvement she was experiencing with each passing day was amazing. Of course, improvement is relative. She'll never be able to carry on a conversation with us again.
Brother has renewed his campaign to have them in a nursing home closer to him. At this point, our priority is still having their doctor overseeing their care. Brother just doesn't seem to be able to understand our concerns in that area. We don't know yet what the long term answer is going to be for them. Our hope is that the time in rehab overseen by their doctor will give us a better idea of what kind of care they need and how best to provide for that. We still are facing some very tough decisions, but our hope is that this will give us more information to help us make those decisions.
I don't know when I'm going to be headed back in that direction. We're into Holy Week now, and my focus needs to be on worship and the needs of my congregation. I didn't get anything done on a sermon for tomorrow while I was away. I need to get out to visit the shut-ins with communion this week. Ministry here among my people will take my time and energy this week.
Hopefully, Daughter will be somewhat cooperative. Hopefully. At least she'll be at the workshop all day in her normal routine. That will help. I'll also print out a calendar with a schedule of chores and the menu for the week and put it on the refrigerator. That also helps her feel more secure.
I don't know where the roller coaster will take us next. I don't know how much longer we'll be forced to ride it. I do know, however, that eventually my parents will be "called home and made young again."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Packing and Option

We arrived home a little while ago, with much still hanging in the air with my parents. This morning, Daughter set about packing all of our dirty clothes into the bigger of our two suitcases. I don't allow her to pack clean clothes, but I will allow her to take care of the dirty ones. I reminded her that she needed to pack things down into the corners (the suitcase is a large, duffel type bag on wheels). She was frustrated, "I know!"
I was packing things out in the living area, and went in to check on her progress. She was trying to zip the suitcase, but without much luck. She had all the clothes piled high in the center. I assigned her a different task and proceeded to push things down into the corners and zip the suitcase up with no problem.
We have continued to struggle with what to do with Mom and Dad. Mom is getting stronger, and Dad is getting weaker. Of course, that's the opposite of what was supposed to happen with Mom on hospice, but life and death are always unpredictable. Part of the challenge is that we don't know if Mom will continue to improve and Dad will improve at all. So Far Away Sister and I have hatched a new scheme. We're going to get them both into the same nursing home for rehab. Dad's congestive heart failure is such that he could easily be hospitalized, which would give him nursing home rehab with Medicare. Hopefully Mom's discharge was recent enough that we can do the same for her.
This will give us time to evaluate how they are going to do, determine if they can sure a room without Mom driving Dad crazy (or vice versa), and to explore other options for their living arrangements. It's so hard trying to figure out what's best for them and consider the long term implications of various decisions. Earlier this week we were leaning toward one live-in aide taking care of them both in the same apartment. Now we're wondering if one person could handle them. There are no easy answers. We just want to do right by them and make sure they are safe and receiving appropriate care and support. I'm concerned that the lunches where they currently are living aren't appropriate for someone on a low sodium diet. On Sunday there are two options on the menu: fried bologna or BLT. Either one would add a pound of fluid to Dad's already swollen body.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Difficult Decisions

What Mom and Dad can afford short term will deplete all their resources long term. So, we find ourselves facing some difficult decisions. Currently, we are paying for assisted living for Mom, a live-in aide for Dad, and additional money for Dad's live-in to go see to Mom's needs twice a day. (Mom's care now is beyond what the memory care unit can provide.)
We had hoped Dad would be able to manage without the live-in, but this latest round of congestive heart failure has us concerned about whether that is realistic. We could bring Mom back to the apartment with a live-in for both of them, but don't know if the complex would allow that. There are also space issues, Dad lives in a one bedroom apartment, and they both have wheel chairs. Though Dad gets around with a walker in the apartment, Mom can't walk at this point. We could move them both to a nursing home (Dad can't move in with Mom because he's on insulin, so they won't take him).
There are no easy answers. There is no predicting how long either of them will live. Both have been near death and then recovered beyond our expectations. Mom is now eating some solid food, and after the swallow evaluation they didn't even want her eating pureed foods. Aide said that she seemed to like the solid food this morning.
We thought when we moved them into this senior complex with the independent living apartments and assisted living units that their needs would be covered, and they were for over 3 years. But now their needs have changed, and once again we find ourselves facing difficult decisions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Only one phone call from the church today, so that's good. I got some worship planning done this afternoon with my colleague, which was very good. I know themes for the first 4 Sundays after Easter now.
At lunch today Mom picked up her spoon and fed herself 2 bites. Dad has begun to lose a little bit of the extra fluid.
Tomorrow I'm going to go to lunch with an old friend (literally old-- I've known her all my life and she's 92 years old).
Daughter is moping. When I had her up doing things today-- walking over to see Grandma, walking with me to the store, she was fine. When she wasn't doing something, she didn't feel good and was sleeping. I didn't work too hard at keeping her active. At some point, it's her responsibility.
It will be good to head home on Friday morning.