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. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Catching Up

It has been a busy time, and I am far behind.  Over the next few days, I hope to write several posts updating you in a number of areas.  This was my second week back from vacation.  I hope that tomorrow will be my first day off.  Before I left on vacation, an elderly man was diagnosed with cancer.  I visited with he and his wife before I left, and apologized for the fact that I would be away.  When they realized I would be gone for 4 weeks, they informed me that if he died before I returned, they'd wait for me to do the memorial service.  They planned on cremation, so that would be possible.  He died while I was gone, and they scheduled the memorial service for this past Wednesday night.  I was grateful, because that would give me a week to get back into the routine.  I was over to their house 3 days last week as we worked out details.  There were family dynamics that made it challenging, but I came up with something that pleased everyone. 

Then, last Friday I got a phone call from the wife of a new member.  I knew their daughter was fighting cancer, and had met her at the hospital when her father was being treated for heart issues.  Their daughter had gone on hospice care, and wanted to see me.  They also wanted to talk to me.  Friday I went and visited the daughter, and Saturday the parents came in to talk to me about funeral arrangements.  Early Sunday morning she died.  I got the call before church, and they wanted to have the funeral today, Friday.  I knew what they wanted, and I knew the funeral meal would be huge, since she was a school teacher. 

Sunday I announced both services, and said we needed a lot of salads and desserts for today.  I knew
 it would be a challenge, as many of our people own summer homes and aren't around in the summer.  I also knew that the families for both of these services would be challenging in the midst of their grief, as they were responding by becoming very controlling.   I also found out we had two members having major surgery on Monday.  Fortunately, members were already planning to care for them

I was grateful that we had finished the bulletins for the Wednesday funeral and this Sunday on Thursday.  We always try to work ahead so we can handle big funerals that come up. 

Wednesday morning I received a phone call from the widow from that evening's memorial service.  An ongoing health issue had come back, and she was in the ER.  I began looking for someone who could make a video of the service.  We also decided to invite people to write her notes.  I also contacted a woman about going up to the hospital to see her.  She had come to the church to clean up the quilting room so it could be used for the funeral dinner today, so she cancelled her lunch plans and went to the hospital when she was done in the quilting room.  I was especially pleased when I found out the widow had been alone at the hospital-- all the family was mad at her, so no one went to be with her. 

We had over 150 at the Wednesday night service, which was amazing when I consider the age of the deceased.  The service ended up going very well.  In fact, I got a beautiful thank you note from the widow the next day.  She said a friend had told her it was the best memorial service she had ever attended.  We had a reception following that service with finger foods.  We had it upstairs in the sanctuary, and that went well.  I recruited one of the men to lock up so Administrative Assistant and I could leave.  I had stayed through the supper hour to deal with the people who were stopping by to drop things off, so she had picked up Daughter, who wanted to be at the service. 

Both of these services required a great deal of work.  The elderly man was well loved by the congregation, but the woman today wasn't even known.  Her dad hasn't even been a member a year, and has missed a number of Sundays due to health issues.  The congregation I serve is truly amazing.  They took care of the people having surgery.  Set up our fellowship hall for a funeral dinner for 150 people, and rearranged the sanctuary so there would be seating for over 200.  Members volunteered to bring salads and desserts.  They had more helpers in the kitchen than they needed, and they were kept running.  They ended up serving well over 160 people.  We ended up with over 250 at the funeral, so we had people bringing additional chairs upstairs so everyone would have a place to sit. 

The congregation was so patient and loving with the various demands that were being made of them.  They were very concerned about me, and suggested we just do a hymn sing this Sunday.  Administrative Assistant and I ended up working a couple of hours yesterday evening to finalize this Sunday's bulletin and the announcements.  (We had a brass quintet practicing in the choir room next to the office, so that helped lighten the work). 

Daughter folded 200 bulletins for the service today.  Administrative Assistant created slides for both of the services.  Volunteers came in to run the sound board and projectors.  They truly showed the love of Christ to grieving families this week.  I couldn't be more proud of them.  A woman who has been known to complain about the work involved in funeral meals in the past brushed off my apologies over the challenges the one today presented.  "It's how they are coping with their grief.  God always provides the help we need to get it done.  You remind us of that all the time."  A number of people changed their plans to be there today to help.  Some took time off work to be there. 

Daughter wanted to attend today's service, too.  So she has been with me since Wednesday night, and will be here until Sunday afternoon.  By some miracle, I managed to finish Sunday's sermon and slides today, so I will have tomorrow off.  One of the men came over and mowed my lawn today.  I had asked for help due not only to my busy schedule but the fact that I fell and injured my still unhealed arm while we were camping.  It is very sore and stiff.  Tomorrow I will have completely off. 

Tonight I am tired and very grateful to be in ministry with a congregation that does such a good job of taking care of one another-- and me.  I will update you on Daughter and her challenges and in the next few days. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


1 more sermon.  2 more Sundays, but only 1 more sermon.  We were asked to host a guest preacher my final Sunday.  The board was enthusiastic in their support.

I have now made the reservations for our vacation activities, and I just ordered a kit to paint my brick fireplace.  I want to get some home improvement projects done while I'm off and at home. 

The new anti-psychotic seems to be helping Daughter.  She's doing pretty well with her working at my house on Tuesdays.  Last week she didn't do a very good job, so she didn't get very much money.  I told her she had to prove she could work even when she was tired or upset before she could get a community job.  So today she did a better job. 

I am ready for some time off.  Very ready.  I'm also excited about some of the concerts we'll see this year.  We are going to camp for 9 nights this year.  We will be home for the fireworks at the nearby park this year for the first time.  I've invited some friends for a cook out and to enjoy the fireworks.  Hopefully we will be able to see them from my back yard.  If not, we can walk to the park from here.  It will be fun. 

Monday, June 1, 2015


We talked about vacation yesterday.  I have been putting off making reservations because I was waiting to see what was going to happen with my arm.  Yesterday we began talking about it.  Daughter said she was bored with doing the same thing every year, and wanted to try something new this year.  She had some ideas, and she'd save the $20 she earns a week to pay for it.  I had to explain to her that $80 won't pay for a trip to Paris or a week in a cabin.  As I continued to explain why we do what we do every year, she wasn't buying it.  I offered her a more realistic alternative. 

I talked about camping in a different area, and gave her some information about it.  She looked at pictures, and thought it sounded good.  We talked about what it would be like, and the things we could do.  She began to get excited.  This conversation and negotiating took over an hour.  Then she thought some more.  "I want to go back to (the same place).  I'd miss if if we didn't go this year." 

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Daughter finally saw Psychiatrist today.  She was paranoid, and had a meltdown, and she is now going to be changing anti-psychotics.  It will take several months to get her up to level on the new one while gradually reducing the old one.  I hope it will help.  She's really been struggling.  Last weekend she said, "Mom, I don't know why I'm so irritable.  I don't want to be.  I just can't stop it." 

She has  now spent 3 Tuesdays cleaning my house.  Overall, it is going very well.  It certainly is easing my stress.  She's better able to handle her program now that she's only there 3 days a week.  She's also getting better at setting aside her emotions to take care of her responsibilities.  She collected a long hug from Administrative Assistant and then got busy and completed all her volunteer tasks in the office.  She complained about one, AA said it wasn't hard, so she got busy and finished it.  When she was done, she asked if we had more things she could do.  She has grown so much.

I saw a new doctor this week.  A new orthopedic doctor.  My 3rd orthopedic doctor.  I went to see him to find out if I needed to have my ulna shortened.  He pointed out that ulna is definitely not where it should be, and I probably have ligament and other damage that is contributing to that.  He wasn't concerned about the ulna, though, because he took x-rays from different angles, and they showed that the radius has not healed.  There is still a gap between the bones.  I may be looking at a third major surgery on it, and that would probably take place with yet another specialist.

I broke my arm on May 11 of 2013.  The second surgery was in February of last year.  I'm pretty discouraged.  The good news is that as long as I wear my brace and avoid chopping down trees (or doing other impact work) I can work in my yard.  He twisted it around quite a bit, and it didn't hurt at the time, but it sure was sore the next day.  I go back in July-- after more time with the bone stimulator.  The good news is I only have to use it on one spot now, so it's 20 minutes a day instead of 40.

There are staff issues at Daughter's house.  I had a conversation with Home Owner following Psychiatrist appointment today.  She was going to address the issues.  Part of the challenge is knowing how much of Daughter's reporting is accurate.  I do think that staff has been taunting her.  As I told Home Owner, "It's not smart to poke a tiger."  She's also been giving her current anti psychotic incorrectly, which reduces its effectiveness.  There are also issues with her diet and diabetes management.  We are going to have these struggles as long as she is living in a group home.  She desperately wants to get out into an apartment on her own.  That won't be happening anytime soon.  However, it seems more like a possibility now than a couple of months ago.  I didn't think she'd be able to handle Tuesdays alone cleaning at my house.  But she is.  This week I left 3 bananas hanging on the counter, and when  I got home there were still 3 bananas on the counter.  That is real progress.   

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tough Conversations

Daughter is having a tough time right now.  I think she needs a change in her anti psychoticShe is desperately trying to escape the chaos going on in her own head.  Last weekend she tried to convince me that she should move back to Tiny Village.  She thought she could live on her own there and be happy.  I pointed out that she still wasn't managing to stay out of food.  I explained my theory to her, saying she was trying to get away from her thoughts.

"Mom, they aren't even thoughts.  It's a tangled mess in my brain.  I can't figure it out."  

I told her she had an appointment with Psychiatrist on Monday.  She was furious.  She said Psychiatrist was trying to kill her and was using her as a lab rat for her experiments.  She said the medication was poisoning her, and she needed to get off of all of it.  I asked if she remembered why she had started on medication.  She didn't.  I explained to her that she was afraid of the bathroom.  She thought her brothers were down the drain waiting to suck her in.  The only way she could bathe was if she took a shower with me.  I had to stand between the drain and Daughter to keep her safe.  The only  way she could sleep was if she was on top of me.  I mean full body contact.  Even at 8 she was a big girl, and so I wasn't getting much sleep.  She was terrified of school, as she saw snakes in her desk.  She started her first anti psychotic and I found out how wonderful it was to shower alone.

She listened carefully, and then informed me that we should never have changed her medication.  I told her why we changed it for the first time:  she thought bugs were crawling all over her body.  It was also her first hospitalization.  She was 10.  I suggested she write what she wanted to say to Psychiatrist, so she did.   

Monday she called me.  "Mom, did you know that my appointment is cancelled?  Case Manager is on vacation."  To say I wasn't happy would be an understatement.  I hadn't been notified.  Her program worker had been notified last Thursday.  Her appointment is now May 28.  She is struggling.  She told me yesterday, "Mom, I get upset at little things.  I can't control it.  I'm afraid I'm going to hurt someone."  

Last weekend she told me my voice sounded like I was giving up on her.  I reassured her I will never give up on her, I was just tired.  I am discouraged and frustrated, though.  

Administrative Assistant leaves for vacation tomorrow morning.  She will be gone two weeks.  I will be alone in the office.  I'm not looking forward to that.  

The good stuff:  Easter was wonderful.  Worship attendance is up, and giving is strong.  Daughter has been cooperative and grateful when she's with me.  Last weekend I bought and assembled a new desk that I'm putting in the family room.  I don't do well with paper, so I bought a Scan Snap and am now scanning the piles of paper around the house.  I'm trying to bring some order to my chaos, in the hopes that will reduce my stress.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Holy Week

I was in the office again today-- 4th day off I've worked in a row.  In addition to finishing Sunday's sermon, we also managed to finalize the bulletin for Maundy Thursday.  We feel like we're in pretty good shape going into Holy Week.  I think we could handle a funeral-- though I certainly hope we don't have to do that.  My goal is always to be far enough ahead on the work we can handle a big funeral. 

Administrative Assistant was actually able to leave a little early today.  She's been working a lot of extra hours.  I'm glad we're closing the office for 2 days after Easter.  We both are looking forward to that time off.  

Daughter is still struggling with the staff changes at her house.  Home Owner laid into one of the staff members about the way she was treating the residents.  Daughter was shocked and pleased.  Her concerns were heard.  She survived her birthday.  She saw Psychiatrist this week, and her lithium was increased again.  She goes back in a month.  I hope the increase will help.  Psychiatrist said that spring causes cycling in many people with bipolar.  She also asked me directly what medication changes I wanted.  I'm not sure if that's good news or bad news.  I'm grateful she respects me, but wish there was a better way to determine needs.   

I'm through the third week of my therapy for my arm.  I'm spending 40 minutes a day attached to the bone stimulator.  My next x-ray is April 13.  I know my hand and wrist is getting stronger.  I hope the bone is also healing. 

Monday, March 23, 2015


Daughter has a birthday this week.  She will be 28.  Birthdays prompt an existential crisis for her.  "I'm going to be 28 years old.  I should be able to live in my own apartment."  We go through this every year.  I keep reminding her of what needs to happen for her to live independently.  She keeps telling me she's doing better and can handle it. 

Of course, it doesn't help that once again their is changing going on at her group home.  One staff member quit after creating much chaos.  The continuing staff member yells, triggering Daughter's PTSD.  There is also a new staff member, and a new resident moved in this weekend.  Change and Daughter do not get along very well. 

Holy Week is approaching, and I have been in the office the last three Fridays (supposedly my day off).  So Daughter is having an existential crisis and I am lacking in patience.  It is not a good combination, and I have been lacking in patience with her.  Yesterday I tried to remind her of the conversations we had when she turned 18 and when she graduated from high school.  Both times I explained to her that age was just a number, and it didn't mean she was suddenly all grown up.  That's something else that annoys me.  I don't like the word grown-up, as it implies that we reach a point and no longer need to learn and grow.  For people like Daughter, that idea makes accepting limits harder. 

Administrative Assistant and I have been talking recently about how much she has grown and matured in the 4 1/2 years we've been here.  Daughter doesn't recognize that, which is unfortunate.  I keep reminding her, and I continue to hope.  She has now been with me for 25 years.  Next month we'll celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption.  I never thought I'd still be parenting this intensely at this point.  Despite the challenges, I'm grateful to be her mom.  It would be nice, though, if her existential crises came during less busy times in the church year. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A New One

This morning I received a phone call at 3:45.  When the phone rings at that hour, I have mentally run through the sick list before I answer, anticipating news of a death.  This morning, though, I was informed that there was a broken water main in front of the church, which had created a huge sink hole in the middle of the street, which was closed.  We would have to cancel worship.  So we did.  It was the first time I've had to cancel worship for that reason.  I had several more phone calls over the next several hours as we figured out logistics, so I didn't get up until late.  Daughter and I went out to lunch.  It has been warm today, so I spent some time working in the yard today.  I wore my brace and was very careful. 

I'm working on all my exercises from physical therapy, trying to strengthen the wrist.  I'm getting the bone stimulator tomorrow, and I hope that when I go back to the orthopedist after Easter, the bones will be healed.

Daughter has been very cooperative this weekend, which has been nice.  It's been a good weekend.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Daughter's Heart

A couple of weeks ago we had our Sunday evening prayer service, which Daughter has come to love.  We got into the car following it, and she became to sob.  When I asked what was wrong, she told me she must be praying wrong, because the man who had just been diagnosed with cancer wasn't improving.  "Mom, that family has been through so much.  They just lost someone they loved.  His grandchildren love him so much and are so young.  They need him."  I was touched.  We talked about prayer all the way home, and by the time I dropped her off, she recognized that it wasn't her fault. She wrote some lovely thoughts she gave to the widow.  

Yesterday evening was our monthly children's ministry.  She was so happy following it.  "The time with the children is just so good for my spirit."  She was dancing through the store when we stopped to pick up a few things-- and it was late.  It is fun spending time with the kids.  I enjoyed it, too.  We made some changes this month and it improved it.  We had the kids suggesting verses to one song, and it was just a fun time.  I told Administrative Assistant that one of the things I love about ministry is that while I'm writing a memorial service I'm also planning music for the children's ministry.  That variety is wonderful. 

I've spent time in the office my last two Fridays, which are supposed to be my day off.  While it doesn't thrill me, it's okay, as long as it doesn't happen too often.  We have been working ahead, and overall we are caught up.  It's just a matter of having too many major events to prepare for in one week.  By going in on Friday, I can finish the sermon and truly enjoy my Saturday, so I consider it time well spent. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


There have been hints of spring in the air this past week, and it is much appreciated.  The snow and ice are beginning to melt, and I have determined it is now safe to make the journey to the end of my driveway to retrieve my mail. 

There has been lots going on, and some of it has been stressful, to say the least.  Highlights: 
  • Daughter continues to cycle, and is often manic.  She has two men she is seeing right now, and the one she is going to marry changes daily.  Earlier this week she wanted to move into an apartment with one.  We had a series of conversations that day, and she was not happy with me, to say the least.  At one point, I told her I loved her and the conversation wasn't going anywhere, so I hung up.  She called back so she could hang up on me. 
  • While I was meeting with a family to plan a funeral, Administrative Assistant interrupted to tell me a man from adult protective services was at the church to talk to Daughter and me.  It seems that they are establishing a pattern of having adult protective services involved with staff changes.  ..This time, the old staff didn't like the new woman, so was convincing the women to report that the new staff member was physically abusing them.  
  • Our new treasurer was having difficulty getting the January financial statement to balance.  He is now on a quest to find mistakes in past reports.  At one point, he wanted all the records since 2007.  We still haven't received a January financial statement from him.  He comes into the office several days a week to ask Administrative Assistant to print him more reports.  
  • I finally went for a second opinion on my broken arm.  I'm back wearing my brace (and Administrative Assistant and I worked together to create sleeves to wear under it to reduce irritation.  I'm getting physical therapy and will be getting a bone stimulator.  I go back to the new doctor after Easter.  
  • A man came by to talk about his struggles with his adult children.  I made a suggestion, and received a text from his wife that evening thanking me.  My suggestion had helped.  
  • Two of our staff members were in to tell me they are resigning.  We have a plan to fill one position, but have to figure something out for the other.  
 Today we had a memorial service for a member.  We buried his son several years ago, and he was diagnosed with the same cancer about a month before his death.  It was a big service.  Most of our members who aren't retired took time off work to be there.  Both the memorial service and the visitation yesterday were  at the church.  We did it this way for his son, and people complained that it was too much work.  They weren't sure we should do it this way again, as most of our members are older and we couldn't count on them.  The congregation has changed.  One woman said yesterday that we've become more caring as I've worked with our pastoral care team-- and it's not just that team, it's the entire congregation.  There were no complaints, and more than enough help.

The daughter called to tell me he had just died.  I asked where they were, and told her I was on my way.  I asked Administrative Assistant for  the address, and wrote a note giving the password for my computer and the key instructions for the Bible study I was supposed to lead in 3 hours.  I asked AA to call someone to fill in if I wasn't back in time.  The fire department was still there when I arrived, and I stayed with them through the coroner and the funeral home coming.  A member showed up to be with the family, and I left, arriving back at the church in time to lead the Bible study, which the potential sub had set up for me. 

We had more help than we needed for everything.  A member took care of recruiting readers for the  service.  Someone else coordinated food and had hosts here for the visitation.  Someone else prepared a meal for the family last night during visitation, meeting their special dietary needs.  AA and I were amazed today.  People were seeing needs and taking care of them.  A man came up and asked if they should go get more chairs to set up.  I suggested they move some of the choir chairs down into the congregation.  The next thing I knew, he had six men over there taking care of it.  Not only that, but they put them back following the service without being asked.  A number of friends of the family commented on how wonderful the congregation had been and the support they'd provided the family.  "There's a lot of love in this church." 

Last night the choir director said he would be at the service today.  I said if I'd known he was taking time off to be there, I'd have asked him to sing a solo.  I mentioned what I had in mind.  He said he had the music at home and would be glad to sing it.  He scanned the music and emailed it to our pianist last night.  He did a beautiful job with it today, and it fit perfectly.  We decided it was a God thing.  

It truly was a gift to see the congregation pull together to surround this family with love, especially when I think about how many of our members are hiding in southern states right now.  I was able to come home this evening, since a member agreed to take Daughter home after choir tonight. 

Tomorrow evening is our children's ministry, and Saturday is a 90th birthday celebration, so it was nice to have an evening at home alone.  I continue to love being in ministry with this particular congregation.  Daughter continues to have moments when she drives me crazy.  She also continues to grow and impress me with her compassion for others.  I'd like to say things are slowing down and I will post more frequently, however, with Lent in full swing and Easter right around the corner, that seems unlikely....

Friday, February 20, 2015

21 Months

I went to get the "final x-ray" on the arm I broke 21 months ago last Friday.  There has been some healing, and it needs to do more.  Most concerning, there is a "halo" around one screw, which indicates the bone has been moving and is now loose in the bone.  He wants me to come in for another x-ray in the fall. 

I spoke to my nurse practitioner on Monday.  She's referring me to someone who specializes in the forearm for a second opinion.  She also thought it was a good idea to start wearing my brace again.  So, I'm back in the brace.  I bought some socks yesterday and am cutting off the toes to make a sleeve to go under the brace.  The skin was getting very irritated.

I think Daughter is still slightly manic.  Her program was closed today, so she called and wanted to come over here this morning.  She helped me with some cleaning.  A friend came over to play Scrabble this afternoon.  Yesterday she had a plan to buy a house, build a house, save money to pay for insurance for the truck she wants to buy.  She's going to finance this with her workshop paychecks.  $1.98 for the last two weeks.  When I suggest her plans might not be realistic, she accuses me of not supporting her.  I suggested she start by controlling her eating.  She really doesn't want to hear that. 

I'm pondering rearranging part of the house.  We have a living room we rarely use.  I have a sewing machine downstairs, and I don't like going down the basement stairs.  I'm thinking about bringing it upstairs and turning the living room into an office/craft space.  Daughter thinks it's a great idea.  We'll see. 

Lent has begun, so life is busy at the church right now.  We have a board meeting Monday evening, which will be interesting.  It's the first one after our big planning meeting, so we will be planning how to move forward with the goals we've set. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Today is my birthday.  There have been many years Daughter did her best to ruin my birthday.  When I picked her up yesterday, she was complaining about living in a group home and expressing her desire to die rather than continuing to live there.  I wasn't very sympathetic.  She managed to turn it around. 

Today she was up before me, making scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast that she served me in bed.  She gave me a pretty little cross necklace with breakfast so I could wear it today.   

As I walked into my office before worship, I could hear the choir director explaining that today was my birthday.  I walked into the choir room and glared.  They were embarrassed, but it didn't stop their plot.  They had the congregation sing happy birthday to me before worship. 

After church Daughter waited (sort of) patiently as I talked to various people.  Then she took bought our lunches at our usual Sunday lunch diner.  We came home and watched a couple of movies one of the men loaned her today.

It has been a good day.  I'm realizing that I'm getting older, and my ministry is beginning to wind down.  This fall will be the 30th anniversary of my ordination.  I hope to work another 10 years before I retire.  I have mixed feelings about retirement.  I know Administrative Assistant will probably retire within the next 3 or 4 years.  She is 6 years older than I am.  I've tried to talk her into retiring at the same time, but I don't think that's working. 

Lent is rapidly approaching, and so it's a busy time at the church.  Good thing I love my job.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


I've been dealing with blizzards-- of snow, of illness, of phone calls. 

Sunday was the lowest attendance in the 4 years I've been here.  It was snowing heavily.  People dispersed relatively quickly after worship.  I took Daughter out for lunch and then took her home.  When I got home, my poor car could not make it up the slope of my driveway.  After several attempts, I parked in the street.  I was pondering trying to clear the driveway as I walked up to the house.  I slipped on the driveway and my arm started to tingle.  I think it was telling me not to even think about it. 

Yesterday one of the men came over with his snowblower and salt.  It still took 3 men to push my car up the driveway to the garage.  We cancelled yesterday evening's meeting and I stayed home.  Much of the city was shut down.  This morning the roads were better, and I was able to get over to the church (where one of our men spent 2 1/2 hrs clearing the sidewalks and such at the church-- there was 3 ft drift in front of the office door.  We are supposed to get more snow overnight.  I hope it's not too much. 

We have 3 people right now struggling with very serious illnesses.   Two are facing death, and one is facing major lifestyle changes.  All of them are relatively young.  (Of course, my definition of young changes with each passing year.)  I'm providing care to the patients and their families and to all the church members who are upset by these illnesses. 

The final blizzard is the most frustrating.  Daughter is manic.  She is calling me multiple times a day, and texting when she isn't calling.  She sent a text at 2 in the morning informing me she wanted to learn to drive and she needed a Ford truck.  She has a new boyfriend, and wants to get engaged.  She informed me this morning that they will be getting married in November. 

She is driving me buggy.  She has decided she doesn't trust the new staff member, C.  Of course, she didn't like the old staff member, R, until the new one arrived.  Last night I received a call from Home Owner.  Daughter was refusing to take her meds from C.  She wanted to wait for R to get back.  R wasn't going to be back until morning.  She had taken one of the residents to the ER, and she had been admitted.  Home Owner had asked her to spend the night with the resident at the hospital.  She did finally take her meds.  She gets on a roll and is calling me every 20 minutes.  Her mood can change drastically between phone calls.  The snow has kept them home the last two days.  I hope she can go in tomorrow, though we are supposed to get more snow tonight. 

I'm hoping all the blizzards are almost over.  

Friday, January 23, 2015


Daughter sent me a text in the middle of the night Wednesday, complaining because staff was telling her she had to stop walking around her room rearranging things.  She was making too much noise.  She was outraged, because she was trying to be quiet. 

When she called me in the morning, she was still unhappy.  She was even less happy when I supported staff.  She informed me that she wouldn't be coming to the church and hung up on me.  I was talking to Sister when she called back the first time.  "I know you need me, so I guess I'll come."  "That's alright, you can stay home, we can manage without you." 

I told Sister she would call back shortly and tell me she wanted to come to the church for her volunteer work and apologize.  She did.  I agreed to pick her up. 

When I picked her up, I reminded her of how she had complained when the staff member in the bedroom next to her had had her TV on all night.  I reminded her that she said she didn't mean to disturb her, but it did.  Daughter did not like that.  When she started whining and complaining, I told her to stop.  She was silent a minute, and then complained, "I can't believe the devil has gotten to my own mother." 

I took her back home.  She was fighting tears as she went back into the house, and I'm sure became hysterical once inside.  Hopefully she learned something.  I informed her she had to apologize to the staff member, and she told me she had yesterday evening. 

I won't see her again until Thursday, as I have our big planning meeting tomorrow.  She said Home Owner reminded staff that when Daughter is up in the middle of the night, they should give her her sleeping pill.  I hope they do, and I also hope she becomes more respectful.  She now knows I am willing to make a u-turn and take her back home.  That's good. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015


This was one of those Sundays when a number of things went wrong, and I just felt off all morning.  Today we were installing officers, and one of our women was supposed to be lay leader and participate in the installation.  She emailed me last night.  She was sick, and couldn't find a sub.  So I got to church and had to find someone to take her place. 

Then the choir was late.  The clock in the choir room was 10 minutes slow, and it was time for worship to begin and they were no where to  be found.  Someone had to go get them, and so worship was late starting. 

When I got up to preach, there was something wrong with my microphone.  It is one that I wear over my ear.  I love it.  But it was full of static this morning.  I turned it off and the sound people gave me a cordless handheld (I pace when I'm leading worship).  I then had to juggle the microphone and the remote to control the Power Point, which requires coordination and multi-tasking skills that I don't possess.

The result:  I wasn't happy with the way worship went this morning.  It all felt off.  Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often.  Next Sunday I'm off on a personal retreat day.  We have the big planning meeting Saturday, and I use Sunday to pray and reflect on what has been discussed an plan for my priorities.  I'm glad I have it off-- I think I need it.  It will be a busy week. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Daughter continues to have her ups and downs, and rationality seems beyond her right now.  She is unwilling to take responsibility for her life, and doesn't recognize how contradictory her statements can be. 

This morning she was complaining because we are pushing her too hard to fast.  Yesterday we were holding her back. 

She wants to live with a nurse, and she will pay her nurse out of her paycheck ($3 for the last 2 weeks).  She can't handle living in group homes.  There are too many people and it's too overwhelming.  She wants to live in a larger group home because she'll be happy there. 

I have stopped locking food up, and she is responding by getting up and eating during the night.  I remind her she can't have any more freedom until she can control her eating. 

She can't handle a painting class at Painting with a Twist because the verbal instructions are too overwhelming.  She wants me to help her enroll in nursing school. 

She has a new boyfriend, but it's okay because if they get married he won't force her to have sex. 

She wants a  better job.  Her volunteer job at the church is too much work. 

I am disengaging from the turmoil.  I occasionally point out the contradictions, but for the most part I let her talk and just nod. 

She wanted to come help me this weekend, so she is now pouting on the sofa under a blanket.  It's amazing we both don't have whiplash. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Life has been busy.  After Christmas I'm always exhausted, and then we had a death while I was on vacation.  I gave up 3 days of vacation to plan and lead the memorial service.  The widow was mad at me for not getting up to the hospital.  The report I had was that they were going to re-evaluate him on Monday and see about sending him to a nursing home.  He died Sunday.  If I'd known he was that sick, I would have been there.  If they had called and asked me to come, I would have been there. 

After the memorial service I got hit hard by a virus.  I spent a day in bed.  Daughter was wonderful, preparing food for me and tending to my needs.  I hadn't recovered from the virus when we had another death and another funeral. 

The church system has a great deal of anxiety in it right now.  People are grouchy and blowing minor things out of proportion.  In addition to planning for our big January planning meeting, I'm also dealing with a woman who has decided to stop treatment for her cancer.  I don't anticipate her living long.  She's in her 50's, and people are upset about her illness.  Every time someone visits her, they call me to process their feelings, which is fine, but takes time and emotional energy.

Daughter is still all over the place, desperately trying to escape the chaos in her own mind.  Her plans are all totally unrealistic, but she isn't able to see that.  When she went back to the house after Christmas, there was a new live-in staff member.  She hasn't handled that change well.  I'm back to hanging up on her.  The good news is that Home Owner has finally decided I know what I'm talking about.  It's nice to have her respecting me and seeking my input.  Administrative Assistant's comment:  "It's about time."

We still haven't had our family Christmas.  It's now been moved 4 times do to illness or scheduling conflicts.  We are now planning at celebrating at Sister's on February 14.  Daughter things that's totally inappropriate because it's Valentine's Day.  Too bad. 

I think I have finally recovered from my virus, and I now have a plan for the big planning meeting.  Hopefully I will be able to update more frequently now.