Friday, February 12, 2016

Granola Bars and Restrooms

Several years ago, there was a woman {whom I will call Stacy} who was receiving services at the mental health organization where I work. Stacy had a substance abuse problem in addition to mental health challenges {kinda par for most of our clients}. The particular substance she chose to abuse was alcohol.

I bonded with her. I admired her. I rejoiced with her successes and was sincerely sad when she backtracked. She was my age and I'm sure that helped with the bond. She had been married and bore children. Now she pretty much lived with her mother, visiting her grown children and grandchildren when they would allow.

I was introduced to one son when she brought him to the office. Stacy wanted him to see where she came to get help. You could see he loved her.

Her mother was sort of a substitute home health caregiver. When the primary caregiver needed a break or vacation, she would substitute for them. This meant, when she did get a job, she was gone for several days at a time.

First thing one Monday morning Stacy's mom came storming in, with her in tow. Mom was washing her hands of her. She'd had it. Story came out that Mom had been away working all weekend leaving Stacy home alone. Mom had tried to get a hold of her off and on and could never make contact, which was worrisome to her. Stacy had basically been on a drunk all weekend, oblivious to the outside world and anyone caring about her.

And so Mom left. Stacy sat on a chair in my little office, waiting for a crisis worker. It took way too long. Based on her history, there wasn't a lot of urgency. Finally a therapist came and talked to her. She realized that because Stacy had been drunk all weekend she hadn't had anything to eat. She took her to feed her and left her eating to come get the scoop from me as to what was going on.

When she went back to the kitchen area, Stacy way lying on the floor, unconscious, in a small bathroom just off the kitchen. She was evidently so famished that she had eaten too fast, choked and gone to try and throw up in the toilet.

Medical help was given. Ambulance was called. Stacy never regained consciousness. Her mother has to live with her last moments with her daughter being those of washing her hands of her. I live with that, too. It's a way too vivid memory for me.

Fast forward to today.

This client, a man, {I'll call him John} was dropped off for his 10am appointment way early. I checked with the person who brought him and she nodded when I confirmed that she would be here to pick him after his appointment at 11am.

John has been in prison for 26 years. The last stint was a short amount of time, during which he fell/had an accident/something and hit his head so hard that his skull was fractured and pieces of it pierced his brain. Surgery was done and part of his brain had to be removed as well as part of his skull. His eye on that side is useless. He has long, unkempt hair, scraggly facial hair, a slow, halting gait {due to the brain injury} and has poor hygiene. But he is the quietest, most polite, gentle man. Looks are deceiving in his case.

During his appoint, he divulges to the therapist that his ride has dropped him off and headed south for appointments. At the earliest they'll return by 5pm. What is he going to do?

The whole day he has silently wandered our building, going outside now and again to smoke. He was able to walk a few blocks to a store and get some food; even though his balance and stamina are not very good. He tries to call to see about a ride but only gets an answering machine. I offer granola bars. Make sure he knows where the restroom and drinking fountain are.

Plan B is in place. We have permission for a case manager and myself to transport him the half hour to his home.

Finally, his ride does come about a half hour before closing. Even though his home life is probably not the best, my heart is lighter that somebody did come and pick him up.

I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. So much about life is unknown. I try to factor in that people make choices which have consequences. I get that sometimes you have to let people go - maybe even people you care very deeply about - because they drag you down or bring stuff into your universe that is unwelcome and hurtful - maybe even dangerous. My heart just hurts.

Maybe I'm more concerned that either one of these people - Stacy or John - could be me. Will you offer me a granola bar and show me where the restroom is, please?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Am a Wanderer

I don't know a better title.

A wanderer seems to fit. I sure don't seem to fit. A lot of times I wonder where I do fit as I don't feel comfortable anywhere, really. Such a conundrum.

I want to feel comfortable in my own darkness, but I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. Weird, huh?

When I was little I used to think I should have been a pioneer. I fantasized about how glamorous that life would have been. Being self-sufficient. The adventure of it all. The older I get, though, I realize I could never have been a pioneer. I can't walk up three stairs without stepping on my maxi skirt and tripping. How would I ever had crossed the plains?

Growing up in the 60's and 70's I coveted the real, true Hippies and their communes. Living together in perfect love. Being harmonious with life and nature and having no animosity at all. I know I would have taken to the bra-burning with a power and energy that could not be matched. The sandals and love beads and peasant dresses...I would have loved it. I think I would have thrived. I was to introverted for all that free love stuff, though. I would have been embarrassed shunned by the commune for not being more forthcoming and open.

Gypsies have always been a passion of mine as well. Watching them on old westerns. Their big earrings and flowing skirts. No roots. House on wheels. Go when things got uncomfortable. Big earrings and a camp trailer are the closest I've come to that aspiration. I have acclimated well to both of them, though. The dancing, though...I never could have danced good enough to get a scrap of bread, let alone money. Scratch that idea.

I get kind of hokey ideas sometimes. I see the world as parables - tangible things representing intangible things which make my understanding easier. I like to try potions and remedies that are unorthodox sometimes. Oils and just plain old time. Positive affirmations.Yeah. I would have probably been burned at the stake or drowned in the pond.

As I See It

My mother had macular degeneration. She found out she had it right after my Nathan was born. She was crushed and devastated and bitter and angry and sad - all the stages of accepting a loss in your life.

After my dad died, she took a year and went back to school to recertify her teaching degree. She had taught in Idaho but never Utah. She had a major in Home Economics with a minor in English. When she went job hunting, the only opening was for an English teacher at Springville Junior High School. She took it in hopes of eventually transferring into the home economics department - her true love. It wasn't long until she realized the home ec teachers were as young as she was and fully intended on staying in their capacity.

So for some 16 years she taught English. She was the best English teacher you could hope to have. Only problem was, you didn't realize that until you were well into life, with those junior high years only a tiny memory in the rear view mirror.

Finally she got a break and the sewing teacher at the junior high retired. She had her dream job. For about a year. Then she found out about the macular degeneration. It was difficult to see straight on. Images were wavy and out of proportion. Peripherally she could see adequately but straight on sight continued spiraling downward. She could no longer evaluate sewing projects as no seam lines looked straight. She was trying to decide what her future was going to be now. Certainly not what her carefully drafted blueprints had looked like not that long ago. She needed to plan and prepare. Because, after all, there was no one to take care of her....but her.

Enter Nathan. Born with bilateral lower limb deficiency. His birth defects hit her hard. Again she was crushed and devastated and bitter and angry and sad. Her faith waivered. Her understanding was lacking. I think she cried harder and more than I did.

However, without batting an eye or taking a second breath, she said to me, "I would give my eyes this very minute if it meant Nathan would have his legs."

I knew she meant it, too. If it were possible, it would have been done before her lips closed over the last word.

Needless to say, I throw a little celebration when I leave the ophthalmologist's office with a clean bill of "EYE" health. But I wonder, are my eyes really that good? Does his diagnosis really mean anything?

I feel like each day of my life is an "eye test". I'm surrounded by people in various situations and struggles and life experiences. Some of their own choosing. Some perhaps more circumstantial. A few of them ideal and some, well, some are just downright unfair. And I wonder {sometimes more verbally than I should} about their situation and why they don't do something about it or make different choices. It would be so easy, right?

At least in my eyes.

Am I seeing that bottom line on the chart? That fine print? Or do I focus on the fact that I can read that top line perfectly without skipping a beat or stumbling over whether it's a "C" or a "G"? Goodness knows the type font is large enough. And I think I see it all.

But that bottom line.

Grateful to be able to go home and kneel down before my Heavenly Father and get a real eye test. He will remind me that "I" do not see the whole picture and it is not my place to judge. He will guide me through the letters on that bottom, small-font line:


Monday, September 1, 2014

U-Turns and ZigZag Trails

I had two of my grandsons, Tyler and Carter, Granny Buck Shopping awhile ago. They wanted to go to Ogden, which is okay. I'm familiar enough with the "regular" stops. It didn't help that it rained almost the whole time but I even handled that quite well...considering. As has been mentioned many times in my life, however, I am not....I repeat NOT....cut from the same cloth as cab drivers or bus drivers or tour guides. I have no internal compass. Well, maybe I do but it doesn't sync with getting around in the world.

And the GPS on my Smart Phone....well, that's another thing altogether! Almost as directionally dysfunctional as I am. But we did okay. There were a few mistakes and retracings.

Then I heard them.

Two boys whispering in the back seat.

"Have you ever been with anyone who has made this many U-turns?"

"No, I don't think so!"

"I think she's made five now!"

But I found Chuck-a-Rama and Sportsman's Warehouse and the mall. Eventually.

Last year at our family campout at Leatham Hollow, we went on a couple of hikes. The second hike wasn't that big but the kids saw a cave and wanted to go to it. We'd already taken them on a hike - a long hike - where we were misinformed about what was at the end of it. We finally ran into a rock mountain and had to turn around. Never did really find the meadow. We had a hard time finding the fence posts! So, honestly we owed the kids a shorter, more encouraging fun hike.

The kids raced right up the mountain. Straight up the trail. My theory is that kids can do that because that's all they see - the road in front of them. They haven't got a brain full of garbage and baggage demanding their attention and causing distraction from the main goal.

Most of the other adults shot right up the side of the mountain, too. Nellie and Krisy chose to stay behind - they had no desire to make it to the top. Me, on the other hand! Well, you know I have to be a pain! I wasn't going to be left behind.

Sometimes I think people feel obligated to help me too soon; sort of without giving me a chance to figure it out myself. I'm not that handicapped and incapacitated yet, I don't think. But that's okay. I appreciate the love and respect and caring it shows when their arms reach out to take my arm and steady my step, steering me on a safer path.

It took me awhile to get up but I did make it. Obviously I couldn't make it up the well-traveled path. Way too straight up and dusty and slick. But that's my life. Always taking the little harder way. Everything is a recipe; a project; a major undertaking.

Maybe that's why I understand my firstborn, Nathan, more than he knows. I admire and respect and covet the ones who find making the right choices and staying on the right path easy. I empathize and relate with the ones who take the rocky path.

My theory also is there is no ONE AND ONLY straight and narrow way. I think it's a personal journey for each of us based on our abilities and spiritual gifts and just exactly what we're being prepared for. Christ with all his tender mercies and his Atonement is there for us unconditionally.

So, anyway, Nathan isn't going to be left behind and let his old decrepit mother beat him up the mountain. He starts his assent. He stumbles a bit. He drops to the ground, losing his grip on his walking stick - and on the ground in general. Then he started to roll down a little. My breath stopped. I had a vision of broken artificial limb parts and bloody real body parts. But he stopped himself and started over. On another area of the mountain.

He zigzagged up the mountain. It was a slower climb but he was more sure of himself and he was in control of his movements. He made it to the cave with the rest of us.

So those of us who chose to make the hike, made it to our destination - the cave. Multiple roads and trails were taken to get there - each choosing the road that suited them best. I'm not saying that we don't have to conform at times and make ourselves take a road the Lord has laid out for us; letting go of the path that is comfortable for us. My body kind of lets go of a little twitch when someone says, "We're all on the road together, helping each other get home." I see it differently.

In my head, we're all on the mountain together. Each getting to the cave on a path laid out for us.

And, yes, still helping each other. Reaching out for the steady arm or listening for the words of encouragement or direction. Sharing an extra walking stick. Joining in a needed rest.

Watching as I possibly make a sixth U-turn.

But I'll meet you all at the cave. In due time.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First and Foremost...

I don't know if anyone is even reading this blog anymore. I've let it slack even though I have every intention of "catching it up". Maybe if I just start now, I can fill in the gaps a little bit at a time. So much has happened since my Mother's Day post. I am so blessed and my life is so amazingly full.

So, I'm sitting here having a boob-fest while watching the Princess Diaries. Man, I love that show - 1 and 2. I love Julie Andrews and there couldn't be a better queen than her in my eyes.

Well, so anyway, Mia (the queen's granddaughter and princess-to-be) continues to fail at being everything a princess should be. She has failed big time and is tearfully apologizing to her grandmother and reassuring her she will relinquish her title of 'princess' so she will not continue to embarrass her.

Her grandmother turns to her and very graciously and emotionally says,

"Oh, Mia, you are first and foremost my granddaughter!"

That line gets me every time.

I hope I treat my children and grandchildren in such a way that they know they are 'first and foremost' my loves. That any success or failure they may have in their lives will not sway my love for them.

And secondly, I hope someday (with a lot of changes and recommitments in my life) I can hear my Heavenly Father say to me, "Oh, Janis, you are first and foremost my daughter!"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

My mom in 1945

It's been a great Mother's Day. Spent the weekend in Manti with Joe's family and had the rest of the family over for dinner today. I couldn't help but think about the good mothers in my life and how I am who I am and where I am because of them. My mom always did the best she knew how to do, considering she was in unchartered waters and away from her family.

I have tender memories of spending time with my Grandma Ward in Malad. I loved going up the farm. I know it was a burden to most everyone else. They were farmers, for heck sakes. We were city folk. We had vacations. Farmers don't have vacations. And then there we were - me, specifically - and I wanted to play with my cousins.

There are a lot of memories that I replay in my mind every time I make the drive to Amber's. I love going the "old" way where I reminisce the most. Lamb's Service Station where we got a bottle of pop. He'd let us take the bottle with us, without a deposit, as long as we remembered to drop it off on our way home. The road itself has changed multiple times, there aren't the same bends and turns that I remember but the spirit is still there.
My mom and Grandma Nellie

And then there are my girls. Four beautiful women and mothers who are each a constant example to me. Two of my girls I received through the pain of birth. Two of my girls I received through the pain of giving each of them one of my sons. All four of them mine, nonetheless. At least that's how I look at it :-).

Coming home from Manti yesterday, I actually had an ah-ha moment when I realized just how lucky I am. Thinking about these girls and their families, I just had the most peaceful feeling wash over me. I have been granted so much grace in my life. So many tender mercies and so much love.

I am open to receiving the blessings of a loving Heavenly Father.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bad Parenting...I Don't Think So!

So this top picture was floating around the office for a day or two as a joke. It had the title, "Bad Parenting" scrawled across the top. It was supposed to be funny. On some level, yes, I let out a snicker but when I got to the third frame and saw how the Mama Duck was looking down the grate and wondering how her babies had gotten down there, it wasn't funny anymore.

I related to her. It made me tear up and that was more than a little embarrassing. Especially at work. As the days wore on, though and more people saw it, the majority empathized with the Mama Duck and didn't really find it funny, either.

How many times as a mother I have felt I walked the straight walk or said the right words only to look behind me and see no one following me. Hadn't they watched me? {Obviously there have been more times than I care to count that I was glad to see no one had followed me!} 

Mama Duck looks so helpless. She knows her babies are in a dangerous situation and she can't get to them. She can't undo their choices {purposeful or accidental} or change their consequences. She can only speak in Duck Talk and encourage them.

And she can pray. Oh, my, how I understand she can pray. What Mother doesn't understand the concept of prayer?

The picture laid on the counter for days. It bothered me more and more. Finally I had to google it and see what I could find.

That's when I found..."the rest of the story". {I used to love Paul Harvey and his 'rest of the story' stories!}

So glad to find out that Mama Duck's prayers did not go unanswered. Help arrived. So thankful someone was paying attention and was where they needed to be that day so they could be the answer to Mama Duck's prayers.

It was also a testimony to me that, as great of a parent as you want to be {or think you are} there will always come a time when you can't reach your babies. You need help from another source.

And that's why we Mothers pray. We pray for that right person who will say the right thing at the right time to your babies and they will hear and understand. A light will go on in their minds and it will shine on a landmark memory imprinted in their brain by a loving Mother who may or may not have understood what a life-changer that landmark would end up being.

And the age-old adage that it takes a whole village to raise a child is perfectly portrayed here, too.

Mama Duck's prayers were answered by someone who had the resources she didn't have in order to rescue her babies.

Not to say they won't fall through another grate on another day. But that's another prayer for another day.