Angels and Lifeguards: What a Caregiver Needs

When You're Drowning, There Is Hope!

Lifeguards: Angels in human skin who recognize signs of struggle in another person.

In this third part of our series on Drowning in Plain Sight, we salute those ‘lifeguards’ and ‘guardian angels’ who recognize a caregiver’s silent struggle in the waters of caregiving despair.

“Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.” On Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

The engine shuddered to stop and I hunched for a moment over the steering wheel.

I could see the family room light while the rest of the house was dark. That meant that Randy had been detained again, and the girls were home alone. I closed my eyes with relief that we live in such a safe place, with staff for neighbors and Randy’s office window shining its light across the parking lot. Fifteen hours ago Andrew and I had left home in the pre-dawn hours. Since then, Andrew had suffered through anesthesia, spinal tapping, recovery, chemo, and blood draws before the long drive home. The darkness magnified our exhaustion and reminded us that suppertime had come and gone.

I reached back and laid a hand on Andrew’s bony little knee and shook gently. “Wake up, little man, we’re home.” Oh, that didn’t sound very cheerful. It just sounded tired. I scraped energy from the bottom of my soul, shifted in my seat and tried again, “Let’s go in the house, Drew, we gotta get supper!”

“Not hungwy,” he grumped from the car seat.

“I know,” I sighed. Who would be hungry after all the things that had filled his little body today?

I slumped up the sidewalk, towing the chemo laden little boy after me.

Supper was the last thing I wanted to tackle, but I straightened my shoulders and mentally gave myself a shake. From somewhere I needed to dredge the energy to ask the girls about their day, to fix something nutritious, to read to them and tuck them into bed.

I twisted the handle and the door swung open. As I opened my mouth to call out to the girls, a wonderful aroma swept across my consciousness. Food! Someone had brought a casserole! Bless that someone!

“Hello Larissa! Hey Karina! We’re home!” I yelled.

Two sets of footsteps pounded around the corner and two happy girls bounced into us where we stood rooted in the entryway. “Mommy, Grammy brought us food! Everything! You can’t believe it!” shouted Karina while she hugged me hard.

“She said you didn’t need to think at all, just eat,” added Larissa, her arms wrapped around my neck.

I smiled with guilty remembrance. Last week, after the same kind of chemo day, Grammy had been at our house when we got home. She’d brought a casserole from a church friend and I was ever so grateful. But within a few moments, her gentle hands had pried mine from the refrigerator handle, where they had frozen in indecision. “Carol, you’ve been staring in the fridge for awhile now, what are you looking for? Can I get something for you?”

At that I had burst into tears, “I don’t know what I’m looking for, I don’t know what goes with this casserole, I don’t know what kind of vegetable to make, I don’t know what kind of anything to get. I just don’t know….”

Grammy had smiled, led me to the kitchen stool, left me there and gotten out salad dressing and salad fixings. Now why couldn’t I have thought of that?

I had explained to her the phenomenon of chemo brain,

how it can affect your ability to think at the oddest moments, and how while I never received any chemo whatsoever, I still got a hefty case of chemo brain after long days of chemotherapy. She had just laughed her typical hearty laugh, hugged me, and finished fixing supper for my family.

Today, someone hadn’t just brought a casserole.

Reverently I picked up a paper plate while I surveyed my kitchen counter. A complete meal, along with anything and everything needed to eat it marched down the counter. Drink, along with plastic cups, casserole, veggies, salad, rolls with bread and jam. I recognized some of the things from my refrigerator; others I had never seen before. But I didn’t have to make any decisions or fix a single item. I wouldn’t even have to wash dishes when dinner was over, as the spread included plastic ware, napkins—everything! My only decision was how much to put on my plate.

“Mommy, why are you standing there holding that plate like it’s gold?” asked Karina.

I laughed aloud, “Because it is!” I replied as I began to dish up platefuls of food for the family. “Because it is pure gold!”

Pure gold—that’s Grammy.

Grammy and Papa had been waiting for me on my front sidewalk on the day of Andrew’s diagnosis, along with a group of friends. Waiting so I wouldn’t be alone. Waiting to help in whatever capacity I needed. They had helped pack up the girls, and me, and held me while I cried.

Sometimes you just need to be held while you cry #caregiver #angelsindisguise #blessedbutstressed Click To Tweet

Grammy had already washed my laundry more than once, she’d done mending for us, she’d cleaned my bathroom, and she’d watched my girls when I couldn’t be there. She and Papa had shampooed our carpet when we’d had to sterilize everything in order to bring Andrew home. Every day, as I walked into work, I received Grammy’s huge bright and happy smile, and a hug. When I couldn’t be at work, she would call to see what had gone wrong, and to find out what she needed to do to help out our family. Grammy and Papa kept track of our chemo days, long after others had forgotten, and made sure to call with prayer support when they knew it was going to be a long one.

Grammy and Papa are just amazing people, their help incredible, and their support inexhaustible. These two extraordinary people started out with regular names like Darlene and John, but throughout Andrew’s illness they grew into “Grammy and Papa,” the names their ‘real’ grandchildren call them, and the role they play in our lives.

But secretly, I think, their real names are “angels.”

If you missed the first two stories in this series, you can find them here and here.

‘Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.’ Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning ResponseOn Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue
Every #caregiver needs an angel, or a #lifeguard! #blessedbutstressed #childhoodcancer Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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31 Ways to Nurture Yourself for Caregivers

nurture

The Importance of Self-Care Increases with Caregiving

If you spend time caring for someone else, you need to make sure that you spend thoughtful time caring for yourself. This month on my other blog, I’m writing a series on 31 Ways to Nurture Yourself. So often people tell caregivers, “Take time to take care of yourself,” but in the stress of caring for someone else, caregivers can’t figure out what exactly that means.

You can find ideas, as well as the psychology behind self-care and self-nurturing over at www.anitaojeda.com.

A fellow caregiver, Karen Sebastian, also has a great series (this one designed especially for caregivers), called the ABCs of Self-Nurture for Caregivers.

Julie Steele has a series about mothering one’s self. You’ll find great ideas for self-care.

Tammy McDonald has a series on grief that might interest you, too.

If you do nothing else today to care for yourself, take the time to visit one of these series and glean some great ideas on how to take care of yourself! Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy and patience to take care of someone else!

If you don't take time to care for yourself, you won't have the energy and patience to care for… Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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You Might be Drowning in Plain Sight

Drowning and Caregiving

Sometimes caregivers are drowning in plain sight!

Drowning victims and caregivers share more than one might think. In this five-part series we explore the phenomena of “Drowning in Plain Sight.”

As you read, whether you’re a caregiver or someone who loves a caregiver, think about the people in your ‘pool’–is anyone drowning?

“Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.” Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response–On Scene, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

The doctor adjusted his stethoscope on my back and told me to take a deep breath. I breathed in, and sat, not paying much attention to what was happening. The stethoscope didn’t move. “Again,” he ordered softly.

I let out the air I’d been holding and took another breath while my mind skipped to what I needed to grab from the store before I headed home from this appointment.
The stethoscope still had not journeyed to a new spot.

“Carol,” he reprimanded, “take a de-e-e-p breath!”

I reached deep and breathed properly. This I could do. My life might be falling apart and things running out of control, but I could breathe deep. I’m a flute player. My flute teacher used to make me practice breathing and taught me how to breathe deeply from the abdomen. I drew a deep breath and found that my air seemed to have nowhere to go.

I pretended to myself that all was normal and waited for the stethoscope to go to the next spot.

The stethoscope dropped while the doctor felt along my back.

What was the deal? He’d only listened to my breaths at the top of my back, that wasn’t normal, was it? Oh really. Who cares? I wonder if I mixed Andrew’s nasty medicine with chocolate pudding, would that help him get it down? Swallowing posed the problems…pudding is soft, maybe he could get it down that way. Oh, and besides the pudding, I should get some shaving cream. Karina needed to study her spelling words and writing in shaving cream is a fun way. Yeah, and my grades are due next week, so while she’s practicing spelling, I should get those tests graded. Man, I wish this headache would go away.

“Have you ever had asthma?” the question came out of nowhere.

“Asthma?” Was he kidding? “No, I’ve never had asthma. My breathing is fine—I’ve never had any problem.”

Silence.

“Why, is there a problem?” I finally thought to ask.

“Well, Carol. If you don’t have asthma…then…you’re not breathing.”

I laughed out loud. “I assure you I’m breathing. I’m alive.”

He smiled kindly and explained to me that the muscles in my back felt like the slightly atrophied muscles of an asthmatic patient; showing signs of not breathing deeply enough. I sighed and the very act of doing so proved to me that this doctor was way off.
Not breathing – who ever heard of that. Of COURSE I was breathing.

One has to breathe to live.

The beautiful water belies the silent drama…

He explained more fully that while he was listening, I took a decent breath, but then half the time forgot to let it back out. I needed to practice breathing by taking in big breaths, holding it to the count of three and blowing it – hard – all the way out. Then push even more out if I could. I was holding too much in.

Brother! I’m holding too much in, all right, but it’s not air. It’s panic, it’s fear, it’s responsibilities, it’s life.

But breaths? I was doing fine!

I left the doctor’s office slightly miffed that I hadn’t gone in for breathing issues at all, yet he’d spent valuable time obsessing about my breathing.  Frankly, the doctor had scared me a little bit with his pronouncement about my back. This was the same doctor who kept telling me I needed to get some help; to stop carrying things on my own and to allow people to give me some relief. The same doctor who had, just the week before, reminded me that in order to keep caring for my leukemic boy I would need to eat a little better, drink more water and maybe begin exercising.

Again I snorted with disgust. Like I have time to exercise and eat better…I’d like to see him get up at 3 to get to chemo and return home after dark and still get Larissa to her club meeting and read with Karina and get papers graded. Drink more water? That’d be great, but who has time to count drinks and really, I’d just have to use the bathroom more often. But yeah…we all know those health rules and just as soon as I could, I would follow them like I used to do.

All the way along the one-hour highway route my mind berated that silly doctor who could never just treat what I was asking for, but continually reminded me of taking care of not just my sick boy, but me. My thoughts bounced around wildly like they had come into the habit of doing, and I drove steadily onward. Suddenly breath gusted out of my mouth as dizziness hit.

Whoa. That was weird. I think maybe I was holding my breath while I was thinking!

No, one doesn’t just hold a breath – no one thinks about breathing, they just do it and it works! It’s natural! I continued homeward, thoughts flying in a different direction. Out of nowhere another breath blew out. Oh my goodness, my shoulders are up and I had been holding my breath!

Catching myself holding my breath three more times on the way home convinced me that, indeed, my life had become so crazy that I was now holding my breath, along with my shoulders and my fears, in an effort to accomplish more than I could handle.
I had quit reaching out to friends, feeling that I didn’t have time.
All the things I most enjoyed doing I had given up in an effort to help my kids be “normal”.
I had quit walking in the morning, using that time to get a head start to my day.
I was no longer doing all the things to take care of myself, in order to care for my family.

And I was no longer breathing. 

Have you ever found yourself ‘not breathing’ and unable to communicate with others about your inability to breathe?

The series continues with Breathing Lessons.

Have you ever found yourself not breathing? #blessedbutstressed #caregiver Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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A Different Kind of Caregiving

SchoolOutdoor School Present

I watch as the sky turns from city glow to deep blue. None of the students stir, and traffic flows by like a roaring river (even this early). Finally the clouds behind the campsite change from vague shadows to glorious pink.

In the quiet of the morning, the stress starts to wash away. For the past six weeks, the students and I have planned for this day, this week. They decided what time they would need to leave school in order to arrive in San Diego by 4 in the afternoon (4 a.m., they said). They decided what they would like to visit and learn about on this Urban Jungle Expedition.

Today we go on a whale watching tour, and visit the USS Midway. Tomorrow, we’ll take in the Living Coast educational center and a beach. Many of them have never seen the ocean before. Wednesday, they will venture out into the city on their “Choose Your Own Adventure Day.” Using public transportation, they will travel to points of interest that they didn’t want to miss. The only caveat? They have a $10.00 budget. (Don’t worry, a staff member will travel with each group). Thursday, they’ll hit the zoo. “I can’t wait to see a lion,” one young man told me yesterday.

Outdoor School Past

For the past two years, I’ve done the bulk of the planning for outdoor school. Sure, they kids had choices about which hike or which class they wanted to take. But I made most of the decisions. I figured they should enjoy whatever I planned and go with the program because I’d done stuff like this before.

The results? We had fun. The kids loved the hikes, activities, and programming. But the trips took forever and kids dawdled at rest stops.

This time, the bus arrived 20 minutes early and everyone hustled through the bathroom lines at the rest areas. Students have told other staff members how much they appreciate getting to make choices and plan things.

Caregiver Lessons

In teacher mode, I’ve forgotten a basic human need. People (even students), like to have input. They like to feel as if their thoughts and ideas matter. It makes them happier about the situation–even if camping isn’t their thing.

And that’s a good reminder for caregivers. How can we involve and engage the ones we care for in the decisions? How can we make it a journey together rather than a journey for? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Hurricanes, Hospitals and Nurses

Children's Hospital Shout-out Time!

Hospitals and other heroes who go above and beyond…

Ever since spending an inordinate amount of time in three different children’s hospitals during my son’s fight with leukemia, I’ve had a soft-spot for nurses, social workers and other personnel who dedicate their lives to not only saving children, but improving their quality of life in the process.

They routinely go above-and-beyond, and you can read some of these stories here:

We’ve all been watching new of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and their very unhappy trail across the ocean onto land.  I’ve seen posts and pictures and news of ugly havoc and beautiful brotherhood on the news.  This morning, I came across this news of Hurricane Irma and a tear-inducing story.

www.cnn.com has this wonderful picture of 3-year-old Willow in a Children’s Hospitals.

Irma threatens birthday for 3-year old with leukemia, until nurses step in

 

Go ahead, take the time to click on this story and share the tears and the joy produced by nurses who sheltered a family stuck from the hurricane, trying to celebrate a birthday all while reeling from a brand-new-and-therefore-terrifying diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Willow turned three with only her mom present, because Hurricane Irma trapped the family elsewhere.  However, the staff at the hospital banded together to ensure a joyful birthday party that won’t soon be forgotten.  They made sure Willow and mom feel loved and valued and, for just a moment, “normal.”

Often, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard the media present stories expressing surprise at the beauty of people pulling together and the loveliness of strangers reaching out to care.  Truthfully, I’m sad that we, as a nation, are so shocked.

After battling Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia with my son, I’m not surprised.  We experienced love and care from strangers and family both and consider ourselves incredibly blessed by people from all three hospitals in which we found ourselves.

Mondays at Blessed But Stressed are for inspiration, and for me there is not much more inspiring than nurses working tirelessly to save lives or doctors who take the time to pin toys to their stethoscopes or social workers who bring in dolls to explain medical procedures.

It shouldn’t take a hurricane for us to recognize true bravery and heroism.

Hospitals should be on the news daily for their amazing work with children!

Here’s one mom who wants to just take a moment to say thanks!

Who would you like to thank, today?

It shouldn't take a hurricane to recognize true bravery and heroism #blessedbutstressed #ALL… Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Is Anyone in Your Pool Drowning in Plain Sight?

drowning

Is Anyone Drowning in YOUR Pool?

Drowning victims and caregivers have more in common than one might think. In this five-part series we explore the phenomena of “Drowning in Plain Sight.” As you read, think about the people in your ‘pool’—is anyone drowning?

‘Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.’ Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response—’On Scene’, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Diagnosis and Deliverance

downingSomewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I forgot how to breathe. I find myself, at odd moments, holding my breath—not in anticipation or fright, but simply because I have forgotten the rhythm of breathing.
I didn’t know about my loss until I started experiencing horrible, unexplainable pain in the middle of my chest that felt like a heart problem.

“You’re as healthy as a person half your age,” the cardiologist told me.

Really? Than why does it hurt to breathe or have my heart beat strong and deep?  Why does my left side swell up?  When my malady strikes, it hurts to lie down or stand up.  Why does it happen over and over again?

“You have superior lung capacity with normal breathing function,” the internist told me.

Than why did it hurt to breathe?  Why couldn’t I take a deep breath without agony?  Walking up the stairs presented a cruel form of torture.

“Have you ever considered acupuncture?” my family practitioner asked me.

Really?  Alternative therapy?  I couldn’t believe a physician suggested alternative therapy.

“Well, I do go to a chiropractor and a massage therapist,” I admitted.

“Does it help?” she asked.

“I’m not sure.”  I shrugged. “Sometimes it helps the pain go away if I go in early, sometimes it doesn’t. My massage therapist claims that I have incredibly tight muscles on my left side. It takes her an hour to work through the knots.”

Have you forgotten how to breathe? It might be killing you. Click To Tweet

The Million Dollar Question

“Do you know how to breathe?” my neighbor and friend asked me. She’s a life coach, and helps people with chronic pain—she also suffers from chronic pain. “I can teach you how to breathe.”  I reluctantly agreed to go over to her house after work one evening.

“It’s called diaphragmatic breathing,” she told me. “Put your hand right below your rib cage and try to push your hand out when you breathe.”  I felt silly, but I tried it. “When you breathe shallowly, you decrease your body’s ability handle pain.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”  She launched into the technical reasons why shallow breathing keeps a person from processing pain and releasing endorphins that help the body take care of pain. I thanked her and wandered out of her house, hand on stomach, practicing my breathing while thinking of breathing in general.

Over the next few weeks, while I waited for my pain to go away, I caught myself not breathing. The computer didn’t load fast enough, family members failed to put their own dishes in the dishwasher, or I got cut off on the highway. Each time I found myself breathing shallowly through clenched teeth.

Somewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I had started holding my breath—in fright, in anticipation of the next piece of bad news, in mental pain and agony, in emotional stress. No one ever warned me that a side effect of all that stress would be a loss of breathing.

In fact, no one warned me about any of the side effects of a cancer diagnosis. Slowly, ever so slowly, I put a name on the side effects and started dealing with them. For now,

Many thanks to my incredible next-door-neighbor, Becky Curtis.  If you suffer from chronic pain, find hope on her website Take Courage Coaching.

Share Your Stories!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com


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Work: When Teaching is a Gift

An FMF Prompt

Work can be grueling and it can be a gift

Today’s prompt is: WORK

 

I received a gift at work today.

My award-winning day did not start when I forgot to grab my school keys off my dresser as I headed out on my 45 minute drive to teach 7th and 8th graders.

It wasn’t the  middle-schoolers’ insatiable desire to learn that was wrapped in a bow.

Nor was it the several visits from my principal to deal with…well…you know (did I mention I teach 7th and 8th grade?).

No surprising tray of culinary delights awaited my lunch-duty supervision while 7th grade boys waited impatiently for a turn at basketball.

The decision of some boys to bring two weeks of smoldering resentment to a full-roiling boil today was definitely no reward (yeah…that 7th and 8th grade thing again).

The gift did not involve the surprising and first-time-ever visit of the Educational Superintendent in the midst of a catch-up period (all those 7th and 8th graders behind on work take a few moments to try to catch up while others gleefully punch at the keyboard on websites that practice memorizing states or spelling words).

There was no present of free-time – instead my long day involved the extra bonus of sponsoring year-book after school for a couple of hours.

While commiserating with my co-workers was nice, it did not feel like enough of a bonus to offset the sweltering heat of the gym, nor the smoke-filled skies.

Some moments are painful and grueling, others are beautiful and wrapped with a bow!

My gift came as a complete surprise, wrapped up in the maturity of the high-school class I teach.

It came because I had to step out to deal with a…you know…7th and 8th grade issue…right then.

I stood outside the doorway,  just seconds after the bell rang, taking a few deep breaths, preparing to give these ancient and wise 9th and 10th graders a list of directions they could follow while the school secretary supervised them.

Hearing noises, I pasted on a smile and pulled open the door.  I stopped and beheld the best gift a middle/high school teacher can receive.  My whole class was gathered together – one student at the board taking lead, while others threw out ideas and brainstormed.  This is our fourth week of school and every Thursday we do the same thing.

My gift.

They not only knew what to do, but they DID it.  They not only were completing the task, they were smiling, and happy, and in control and focused.

I stood there watching for a moment, while tears gathered in my eyes.   See, this group, not so long ago, were middle-school kids – crazy and wild and out-of-control.  They were fun, noisy, creative and gossipy.  Childish and adultish by turns, along with kind and rude: singing songs and making farting noises (or the real thing) at will.

This class used to be that way.  But today, they knew what to do.  They took control.  Cooperatively they set out to do what they knew was expected – and what was expected is for them to plan and set up the chapel/assembly/worship  program for tomorrow.  Today, children became leaders.

This was my gift today – and THIS is why I teach.

When #teaching becomes a gift #fmfparty #five-minute-friday #education Click To Tweet

 

In the Midst of Catastrophe and Crisis

You do what you need to do

When catastrophe hits and crises arise, it’s perfectly okay to Just Do You!

When catastrophe strikes and crises arise, caregivers and survivors often struggle with guilt and surreal feelings of isolation and wonder that life moves on around us.

Sometimes we are caught so deeply in our own battle that we forget others face different fights. But even harder –  we’re bewildered that some people obliviously go on as if nothing is wrong. That one is hard to take!

Hurricane Harvey blew into the world’s riveted attention in a catastrophic way.

We all watch and wonder at the overwhelming flooding – both literally with water, and figuratively with loss.  Many people are praying and thousands of people are helping.  Meanwhile the people in south Texas  are doing what survivor’s do: working together in amazing ways to get through this.

Friday, Kirsten Oliphant, a fellow blogger and a hurricane Harvey survivor from Katy, TX, posted this:

“It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in the world. It’s not that I’m not happy for other people or sad for other sad events. It’s not that I don’t hope for some version of “normal” in my life.

BUT. If there were a Hide Everything But Posts about Helping People Affected by Harvey option, I’d turn it on.

I’m just not ready for the outside world yet. Not that people shouldn’t be living it. They should! I just kinda can’t handle it right now.”

This hit me right between the eyes and sank deep into my soul!

I remember those days – facing the same four hospital walls day after day while my four-year-old lay fought Leukemia for his life. My mind jumps to a visit from family that meant the world to me.  They dropped everything and came to visit. Andrew had received blood the night before and so was happy and communicative as the family sat around discussing their plans.  They’d driven down from a small town to the big city where the Children’s Hospital housed us.  They were chatting and I zoned out, clicking back into the conversation to hear them mentioning hitting stores for back-to-school shopping.

It startled me – this mundane thing that people out in the real world were doing.  Shopping, especially Back-to-school shopping.  How could that be?  We had life and death stuff going on right here and frankly, I couldn’t think of anything else.  I nodded while the talk flowed around me.  It made sense.  Of course people needed to get their kids back into school.  Why not combine a a hospital visit for a nephew with a shopping spree in the city.  My mind came to grips with this shopping expedition and tuned back into the conversation.

“…and then we’re going to go to the river with Jim and Sarah and go jet-skiing this afternoon!  It should be fun!”

Wait.  What did they say?

They’re going JET-SKIING?  Is this even a thing?  Suddenly I couldn’t breathe.  While I could come to grips with necessary shopping,  or playing with friends, doing things that weren’t just fun, but extra fun was to bizarre for my mind to even process.  I nodded and smiled (I hope) while my mind struggled with alternate reality.

I wasn’t ready to let the outside world in because this world – this moment, this fight – were all I could handle.

That felt weird.  And selfish.  And uncaring.  I didn’t want to hear about fun my family was having.  When my mom told me about someone else fighting cancer, I sympathized, but cringed.  It was SO HARD to handle.

Awful.  I felt like an awful person that underwent an overnight transformation from someone who always cared about others to someone who just focused on this moment, this medical procedure and this fight.

Kiki said it so well, it’s “not that people shouldn’t be living it.  They should!  I just can’t handle it.”

Well, here’s what my three-and-a-half year leukemia battle for my son’s life taught me.  It’s all right everyone.  Handle what you can handle and just let the rest go until God tells you to take it up again.  Don’t feel guilty because if you try to take on more, you might just fall apart.

In catastrophe and crisis, it's ok to handle what you can deal with and shut the rest out!… Click To Tweet

God made our amazing bodies and brains to shut down what’s not necessary in the fight-or-flight process and when we SHOULD handle more, we will.

Until that moment just relax and let God handle things for you.  No guilt – no shame – no apologies.

You just do you.

Just Do You #hurricaneharvey #caregiving Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Easy Sweet Potato Quesadillas Smothered in Tomatillo Sauce

Vegan and Gluten-free (if you wish)

quesadillas

Healthy Food Choices Inspire Me

Healthy (er) food choices always inspire me. Take, for instance, lowly quesadillas. I’d never even heard of them until I started college, and after we married, we often ate them because they only took a few minutes to prepare. Somewhere along the way, we started adding beans to them, because all that cheese might taste good, but we knew it probably didn’t help our overall state of health.

I’ve been playing with quesadilla recipies for twenty years now, and this one wins every time.

Vegan Quesadillas?

I know, ‘vegan quesadillas’ sounds like an oxymoron. But in our family, anything that comes to the table in a folded-in-half-crispy-tortilla is a ‘quesadilla’. If you’re not vegan, add some cheese if you can’t stand eating a ‘quesadilla’ without the queso! Or, try it without—it’s quite tasty and a family favorite.

quesadillas
Print

Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Tomatillo Sauce

If you'd like to try the gluten-free version, simply use corn tortillas instead of whole-wheat tortillas.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Anita Ojeda

Ingredients

  • 3 Sweet Potatoes Peeled and grated. We use the lighter-skinned ones.
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 jalapeño chopped (remove the seeds and pith is want a more mild flavor)
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt add more if desired
  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat a very large non-stick frying pan or a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil and then cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds turn brown, lower the heat a little and add the onions, jalapeño and garlic. Stir occasionally until the onions are almost caramel colored.

    quesadilla
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and the 1/3 cup of water and stir everything together before covering the skillet. Every 3-5 minutes, remove the lid and stir the mixture. Cooking time will depend on which type of sweet potato you used (the lighter ones will take a little longer). When the sweet potatoes are almost cooked (they will be tender), add the salt and chopped cilantro and stir well.

  3. While the sweet potatoes cook, start the tomatillo sauce.

Print

tomatillos

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 6-7 to matillos
  • 1 shallot or ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ jalapeño
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 3 Tbs. cilantro
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsps. chicken-flavored seasoning I like Bill’s Chickenish Flavoring.

Instructions

  1. Peel the papery layer from the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos. Cut them into large wedges or circles. Cut the shallot, jalapeños and garlic into large chunks (everything will be blended, so you don’t have to chop anything into fine pieces). Heat a medium, non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then all of the chopped veggies. Stir and then lower the heat to medium. Stir occasionally. 

    quesadillas
  2. When the veggies start to look ‘roasted’, add the almonds and cook for another two minutes. 

  3. Put the water, salt and chicken-flavored seasoning into a high powered blender (I have a BlendTec) and then add the ‘roasted’ veggies. Blend everything until it’s semi-smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

  4. To assemble the ‘quesadillas’: Heat a lightly greased skillet or griddle to medium and lay your favorite brand of whole-wheat tortillas on the griddle and place about ¾ a cup of the sweet potato filling on one side of the tortilla (pretend it’s cheese 😉 ). Fold the tortilla in half and repeat with the other tortillas. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, and then top with two tablespoons of the tomatillo sauce and serve hot.

Recipe Notes

We prefer whole-wheat tortillas.

Try this #meatlessmonday #sweetpotato #quesadilla! Tasty and you could even try it #vegan! Click To Tweet

If you’d like to know why we eat the way we do, check out the Healthy (er) Choices Manifesto.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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What If and If Only

Caregiver burdens we must stop carrying

what if

What if we let God handle our doubts and fears

As I stood under the spray of my shower yesterday morning, the what if moments of our cancer journey replayed through my mind.

The remonstrating hospital staff telling me that I shouldn’t do that repeated in my head as well.  But my son bleeding in his tears haunts me and I’ve always wondered how I let him get that sick.  The bruises spreading like wildfire as I drove the hour to the hospital have sent their own bruises into my mind, leaving black holes of self-doubt.  The wondering voices of nurses who came back to see us our third and fourth week in the hospital, speaking in awe that Andrew was “still with us” as they hadn’t “thought he would survive the first few days” have sounded like a gong of “bad mother” through my head.

No matter how many times the doctors said not to, I always wondered, “What if…”

Andrew on his way to chemo

What if I had brought Andrew into the doctor earlier.  If only I had known the bruises wouldn’t make doctors think of abuse, but of cancer.  If only we hadn’t all caught that flu bug.  What if I had taken Andrew to the doctor when he first began throwing up?

Gianmarco

This week is a sad, confusing and rejoicing week for our family.  It was thirteen years ago this week that my four-year-old Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia – a terrible day, an awful week, a horrible month and a terrifying time.  Also, a friend (found through this website) had her oldest son (Gianmarco) diagnosed with leukemia this week two years ago.  Sadly, he didn’t survive the fight.  Another little girl (Julianna)  I’ve been praying for many times a day (click here to read a post), passed away on Friday, the valiant victim of DIPG.

Julianna

The difference for this caregiving mom is that my son is a survivor.  He didn’t survive because of anything I did or didn’t do, nor did those others pass away because of anything done or not done.  It’s the ugliness of cancer. Our battle wasn’t easy, and at times it still isn’t – but we’re out the other side of that cancer fight.  For the two moms mentioned above?  My heart aches for theirs as they mourn the loss of their beautiful children.

I couldn’t help myself this weekend, I’ve been thinking about the what if and if only thoughts that have plagued me.

I wondered about Gianmarco’s mom and Julianna’s mom and I know that these thoughts hound them too and I prayed for peace.

After thirteen years of beating on myself (logic says not to, but emotion often doesn’t agree), I heard something different yesterday.

Several doctors told me (all through the three and a half years of treatment) that if I had brought Andrew in earlier, they would have said the same thing I did.  “Oh, your family has had the flu?  Get this boy some juice and let’s deal with the anemia brought on by all the throwing up.  He’s a healthy kid, he’ll be fine.”

Suddenly I actually HEARD that.  As that memory popped into my head, so did the distinct realization that had I taken Andrew into the doctor earlier, that doctor would have told me the above lines.  After which, I would have gone home and proceeded to treat my boy as I was: juice, water, rest, anti-nausea medication and lots of cuddles.  I would not have gone in again very soon – not wanting to over-react to throwing up, paleness, and listlessness.

What if I had gone in earlier to a doctor, like I’ve been kicking myself for not doing?

I would be, right now, so ANGRY at that doctor for not catching the leukemia.  They all assured me it was acute and extremely fast and hard to predict until it was almost too late.

Immediately my what if and if only mantra that I’ve clung to for years changed tune.  First, catching leukemia early doesn’t mean you don’t have leukemia.  Second, What if my waiting saved his life because he was diagnosed and received help just barely in time.  Literally one day later and he might not have made it.

Oh.my.word.

If I had gone in earlier, I might have gone in the second time too late.

The Bible tells us that to EVERYTHING there is a season.  Not my timetable – His.  God says that He’s got the whole world in His hands.  Not mine – His.  Jesus said that He holds the keys to the grave.  Not my keys – His.

I know that.  Logically.  But I too often forget and try to place things on my own shoulders that are designed for Jesus to carry for me.

Caregivers, moms and dads, loved ones – let go of those what if and if only moments.  We can’t go back and change them anyway, and maybe things worked the way they were supposed to in spite of our limited understanding.  Our lives don’t always feel good (please keep Gianmarco and Julianna’s families in your prayers) but God ALWAYS has our best interest in His plans.

What if we let Him keep control?

Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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