Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New way of thinking

You know, I've not had a lot of options in my life. I have always done what needed doing. I worked low paying jobs, and I worked more than one of them at a time, usually. It's how I made ends meet. It wasn't ideal, but it's what needed doing.

I've had a job offer, a part time job, one that would fit around what I'm doing. It would pay better than the job at the Tractor Supply. Since my hours there are so limited, it seemed like it would be the right thing to do, to take this job.

It was a private duty job. The man is a local business man. Imperious, demanding. I've dealt with that before, and I am pretty good at deflecting all of that. But I continued to watch him, and I realized that when he gets home, he has no intention of following any sort of regimen to maintain his mobility and health. He will do as he pleases. He will call the shots. I will do as I am told.

I watch his interactions with "his man," the person I would be working opposite of. I realize that this man is a 'yes man.' He is an orderly at a hospital, but he second guesses the doctor's orders, and the rehab department's work. He knows everything, and we know nothing.

I've been thinking about that. I am moving into a new field. To have a client do poorly, to lose the progress we've made in therapy...well...that would reflect poorly on my skills. It would make me look like a person that does not know how to do her job.

I've decided not to take that job.

This is the very first time I've ever made a job decision that was not solely based on the money aspect.

Monday, January 30, 2012


The one thing that I love about working with the elderly is that they have so many stories, years of them, and they are waiting to tell them. I could draw up a chair and listen to them all day long.

Working in a nursing home is like being in the middle of a novel, a rich novel brought to life by old voices spinning out words that swirl around your imagination and you see how it was, and feel what it was like.

You learn about the past, but also, in an odd way, you see how it will be, too, and you pull your own life closely about you, and you savor it all the more, knowing that one day, it will be you sitting there with a lifetime of stories, hoping for the chance to tell them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I got my case study finished, and after reading it a half dozen times, I sent it off. Really, I'm one of those people who could agonize over a paper and spend hours trying to make it better. I would let it chew up and spit out a whole weekend, one that I have set aside for my husband. I acknowledged my own shortcoming, took a deep breath, and I attached the assignment to an e-mail and sent it off. It is done, submitted 3 days early.

I then went out and mopped the kitchen floor. I stood at the door enjoying how it gleamed. I polished furniture, and put text books away once again. Room by room, I put my house back to rights.

Isn't it strange that I should get as much satisfaction from polishing wood as I do from sending off a seven page paper?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What I'm Doing Now.

I'm writing a case study now. I'm doubting my own sanity, really. This case is a toughy. The client's interests generally guide the intervention, but the fact is, this client has few interests, and has participated in little activity/occupation/anything for a long, long time. She has to be physically returned to the point where she is able to participate again, and then it will be a process to allow her discover her interests, and enabling her to take part in them.

I'm on my fifth page of this write-up, and I'm feeling a little stressed. I'm wondering "why oh why do you do this to yourself?" knowing full well that I could have picked an easier client.

But the fact is that this client responds well to me. The fact is that I can see progress after less than two weeks. The fact is that following the path of this client for as long as I can is going to make me a very excellent COTA. It is stretching my mind as I stretch her body. I am learning to use my words effectively, how to encourage properly, how to use what I know to make a difference. I could have taken the easier route, I suppose, but it wouldn't have been nearly as rewarding.

But doing it and writing about it...two different things. UGH!

I'm busting butt on this assignment. My goal is to have it done by Friday night. I want to be able to have a whole weekend to devote to Tim. He responds well to me too. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

My turn

Friday, I scooted down to Clarion to bake bread with Cara, to celebrate her 22nd birthday, belatedly.

Saturday, I returned home, and I was glad to be pulling in the driveway. I walked in the house calling, "I'm home," and I heard Tim's voice from the back of the house.

He came up and gave me a hug, and I hugged him back, but I'm always jangly after a long drive. I said, "So, have you eaten?" and he said, "No," and I headed for the cupboard.

Tim said, "You don't miss me anymore."

Surprised, I stopped.

"I do," I said. "I have been missing you for a long time. Between school and work, it just never seems like we have enough time together, and when we do...we seem to be talking about projects, or what needs doing next, or your back. My mom died, and the holidays. It's been so busy, but I do miss you. I thought I was the only lonely one."

I felt so badly about that. I still do. There are times in a marriage when you are so close that you can read each other's thoughts, but apparently, we have drifted. Usually, it is me, pleading for closeness and conversation, but this time, it was him, saying softly, "I just don't feel like you miss me."

This time it is me who has to step forward, and reach for my husband, hold him close. This time it is my turn to prove it, to make him feel beloved, once again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

True Love.

An widower told us that he loved to dance, that he and his wife of nearly 70 years had waltzed.

A woman said, "Oooh! I have never waltzed..." and before you could blink, we were hearing where the hand went, and what to do with the feet, etc. They waltzed briefly, and then the gentleman sat back down in his chair.

I nearly cried when I caught a glimpse of his face. His chin quivered and his eyes were filled with tears. He had a far away look in his eyes, and I know that he remembering the fit of another woman in his arms.

Today I worked at Tractor Supply, and an elderly man came in to buy his dog food. He is a widower also, and he told me previously that all he has left is his little dog. He buys her the premium dog food, and special treats. He believes that she is the only thing that keeps him going some days.

So when I saw him today, I asked him how things were going. He's so thin that I worry about him. He told me that they were okay. Then suddenly, he said, "There's just so much. I never worried about meals. She handled the money. She paid bills. She did the cooking and the cleaning." And he looked so helpless that I said, "Listen, if you can't handle it alone, you really need to let your daughter know so that she can help." He told me that he had, that she does help him.

He lingered, and as always, there were tears in his eyes. "I miss her," he said. "We were married for 62 years." Today, I said, "Remember this: some people today spend their whole lives hoping to find what you had. You're a very, very lucky man that you had this for 62 years."

"I AM lucky," he said, "and I know it." I patted his hand, and he smiled his teary smile as he always does, and he pushed his cart out the door.

True love infuses two lives with magic, but that magic splashes over and blesses the life of anyone who is lucky enough to catch the tiniest glimpse of it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cara's Birthday

Cara's birthday was Thursday. Unfortunately, I could not travel to Clarion until last night. I hauled my KitchenAid mixer. The plan was to make a birthday cake, and whip up a batch of pepperoni rolls.

During the 1 1/2 hour drive there, I reminisced. I remember the first time we drove there, dropping her off at college. I cried almost all the way home after leaving her. It was no different. I always cry the first time I drop a kid off, or watch them head out for that first time. It feels like such an ending, but it's not. It's a beginning, and it is theirs.

Cara is no longer in the dorms. She and her friend Taylor have an apartment, and the girls had raved so much about homemade pepperoni rolls that Rukie was coming over to sample "those little bites of heaven" she'd heard so much about.

I got there and had a couple hours alone with Cara. The apartment is small and neat. Although the furniture came from here, there, and everywhere, it all matches nicely. Vivaldi played on Cara's record player, and we baked together. She unwrapped her presents and we laughed together. She told me that she just felt like 22 was going to be a momentous year for her, and I had to smile inside...I am turning 55 this year, and I feel like this will be a momentous year for me as well.

Rukie came bearing the sauce, and we watched an "Affair to Remember," and the girls sighed at the dresses and the romance and Cary Grant. They groaned at the cuteness of the children and their songs, and they rolled their eyes at the stupidity of Deborah Kerr ~ why didn't she just TELL him, for pete's sake?

When Taylor came home, she was in need of consolation. Her second day as a waitress netted her just $2.68 in tips. She had just one customer, which was a big improvement from the previous day when she had none at all. We plied her w/ carbs and sympathy. It seemed to help.

It was a pleasant night, and I slept on the futon in the livingroom. How much has changed since that first day of college. When I left this morning, there were no tears at all, just a satisfied feeling that I have a daughter who is self sufficient and resourceful, funny and intelligent. It made me glad.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Laughing with the Oldies

An elderly woman wheeled up to an elderly man, and said, in a very concerned voice, "Your hand is very swollen."

The gentleman looked down and good naturedly agreed that it was. The lady peppered him with questions...what happened to his hand? why was it swollen? did it hurt? Her concern was not gong to be stopped, so finally, the elderly man said, "Well, it's been in a sling quite awhile, and it just started swelling and..."

I looked over and said "Well now that surely explains my butt. Lord knows, I've had that in a sling times too numerous to count..."

He slapped his knee and guffawed while the elderly woman covered her mouth and giggled like a school girl.

In the Dark

I'm one of these people who get up in the morning and pad around in the dark. I don't turn on the lights. I know where everything is, so I just pad down the dark hall and into the dim kitchen (there is light there, from a lot of small sources). I make my coffee in the dark, and a bagel, if I am having one, pad into the library to sit at the computer for a few minutes, while I drink my first cup of coffee. Then I get up, pad back to the kitchen, pour my second coffee, and head down the dark hallway to the bathroom. I set down my cup on the stand at the side of the sink, and then I shower in the old clawfoot bathtub. Once I'm out, and towelled off, the lights come on. I can't deny it then. The day officially begins.

This morning was like the rest of them.

Except this morning I did toast a bagel. I grabbed the packet of cream cheese thinking "Tim must be eating bagels too," because the cream cheese was opened. I had just bought a new package thinking we were out at the same time I picked up the bagels.

Except that he hadn't. I figured it out when I took a bite of my bagel at the computer. I padded back out to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and threw the opened packet of cream cheese away, noting the new unopened packet of cream cheese on the top rack with the butter.

I could have toasted another bagel, I suppose, but the nasty taste of mold in my mouth had caused me to lose my appetite.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Riding the Storm Out.

Tonight, I was meeting a prospective tenant at one of the buildings. I haven't driven for a while. No real need to. I can walk almost anywhere I need to go, and lately, it just doesn't seem like I have any real place to go. I go to work in the morning, come home, putz around the house, and then go to bed. It feels nice to have time to stay caught up, and to relax. Talk on the phone to a friend, read a book, or even watch TV, although I have to say that I keep forgetting that I have television, and when I do, it's mostly turned to a New Age music channel that plays while I do something else. I've forgotten how lovely it is to be surrounded by music.

In any case, I went to my car tonight, because after the appointment, I wanted to get Cara's birthday present, and run a few little errands. The last time that I'd tried to start it, back when Cara was home, it would not start. Tim looked at it, and pronounced that it was fine. I haven't needed it for over a week now, and when I jumped into it, natch: it would not start.

I took off at a brisk pace for my appointment, and then decided that I could quickly run over town to pick up some of the things that I needed, and so I did.

I took my time in the store, intrigued as I was by a very vulgar woman on a cell phone. "Sure, drown yourself in food. That's what you need to do. Weight does not matter. Eat yourself to death." She was a pretty rotund woman herself. "And you can quit trying to manipulate me into coming to England, because you're beginning to &(%$ me off." She strolled around the store, yelling into her phone. "Oh, okay, so now you're going to drink instead. Poor you! Poor baby! Everybody's got problems. Wah! Wah! Let's all feel sorry for you, you big baby. Meanwhile, you're killing my husband. Think about that!" Around the store she strolled, bellowing her head off into the phone, sounding like a strange mix between Dr. Phil and one of Maury Povich's guests.

In any case, I went to the checkout, only to hear a weather alert. Serious line of thunderstorms headed our way. A woman walked into the store dripping and wide eyed.

"Crap!" I thought.

My purchases were rung up, and I left with four bags. It has been unseasonably warm here, and the wind was like none other. A cart corral had blown over from the grocery store across the way, and carts were on the loose in the parking lot, flying every which way, crashing into vehicles. I began to feel very fortunate that my car was safely in my driveway, dead as a doornail.

I headed home into the wind, and there were times that I could not step forward because the wind was just that strong. My hair was everywhere, and my coat whipped around my legs. The rain had let up considerably, and I made my way home in the dark, through a violent wind, watching strange flashes across the sky.

I've been struggling lately (so many changes!), but tonight, making my way home, I felt exhilarated in a way that I have not felt for a long, long time. There were no questions. There were no doubts. There was no fear. There was me, and my four bags and the elements. I sidestepped puddles, and gave little skips. No obstacle was too great, I handled my load easily.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wielding Power

I overheard a discussion about 'the gay guy'.


The gay guy.

There is a man, probably a multifaceted personality. Maybe he is a good neighbor, a valued friend. A beloved brother. A devoted son. Maybe he helps little old ladies across the street. Goes to church. Runs errands for the elderly. Is kind to animals. I mean, there is a million things that can probably be said about this guy, but all of that was dismissed. He was summed up in one adjective: gay, and it was uttered like an epithet.

Now this is what teenagers do to one another. They call each other names: Slut. Whore. Gay. They diminish each other, gossip about one another. High school is a place where people are bullied with words. If they are lucky, that is all that they are bullied with.

I am 54 years old, and my high school days are behind me,but I've held enough low paying service jobs to understand that the mean does not stop, that middle aged women can be just as malicious as any high school girl. Their goals are the same. They want to be at the top of the pecking order. They want to wield the power, whether we are talking about a social clique or the local Kwik Fill.

So, yes, I understand it. But then I went to college, and I thought that with education, I would be entering a new world where people made sense, and where I understood the rules.

It is more disappointing than I can say to find that I've walked through that door and the view is, so far, not all that different.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Today I made a decision. I have left my church. It was a hard one.

I know that politically, the pastor and I are on opposite sides of the fence, but really, really, I never felt that it mattered. I went there to be strengthened spiritually. But more and more, the politics crept in. It became impossible to ignore, at least in my heart.

Today from the pulpit, he decried political correctness, and said that it was nothing more than watering down the gospel. That sat me back on my heels a bit as I pondered it. Can political correctness go too far? Sure. Sure it can. But I don't believe that Christ stands for intolerance. I don't think that if you are Godly, you stand in judgement of the world.

Sitting there, pondering these things, I realized that I was missing most of his sermon.

Is our pastor Biblically accurate? Yes. I believe he is, but I believe that he is applying these truths inaccurately. I've tried to see it another way, but I cannot, and today, even as he read from the second chapter of Revelation, telling us what it meant, I read those words and felt strongly that it meant something else. I also realized that there is no room for opposing views in my church any more. Increasingly, there is only one right way to see it.

It's something that I've been wrestling with for some time now. Today, I stood up at the end of the service and there was no doubt in my mind. This church is no longer the place that I fit.

I walked across the parking lot for the last time, and I grieved that decision, but in my heart, there was no conflict. The decision is right for me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Catching up

I was back to work at the Tractor Supply today, and oh, my gosh! How I missed that job! I've been doing clinicals, which has really knocked my availability down, and I've only had a few hours each week.

A couple came in, and the guy was wearing a (honest to pete!) stove pipe hat. Like Abraham Lincoln. It made the customers stare. When he checked out, I said, "Nice hat!" and he replied that he'd forgotten that he was wearing it. He was buying horseshoes and volunteered that he had his own business. Crackerjack Farms. He has horses, but he hires out. He has two Victorian carriages, fully restored, a trolley, a stagecoach, even a hearse.

I told him that I lived on Water St. and that a horsedrawn trolley had gone by around Halloween, and that I thought it was an event put on by the local historical society. "It was," he said, "and that was us."

He told me how they'd recently done a funeral in Pittsburgh. His business is popular for fancy weddings. The stagecoach is a popular attraction too, and his son 'rides shotgun', keeping an eye peeled for robbers. He said, "It's a lot of fun."

He paid for his horseshoes and left, and I watched him go. I love it when I see people who love what they do. Made me smile.

I know that posts have been pretty sparse lately. It's not that I am out of stories. I am not. In fact, I am up to my eyeballs in stories, the most wonderful stories, but I cannot tell them. These are my clients, and I have a responsibility.

The one thing that I have noticed is this: that no matter what cognitive deficits an elderly person deals with, there is one thing that they do not forget. They do not forget home. They all want to go home. That is the one word that is never lost. Home.

Tim and I have mended our fences.

If Tim has his mind made up on something, he will not budge. He will simply repeat his viewpoint, over and over again, until I throw my hands skyward and say, "Just do it then...be done with it." There are very few things in this world that I feel so strongly about that this has really been a huge issue before, but after months of watching him deal with some serious chronic pain, well...this surgery was something that I felt very strongly about, and for me, there needed to be a discussion about canceling it. He did not feel the need for this. He called, he canceled, and that was that.

I was so mad at him I didn't even know what to do with that much mad. I stomped out the door for work, and I was in a fine temper, and it had not abated 9 hours later, stomping back home from work. In my mind, when you are married, you don't get to totally disregard your spouse's view on things, and I felt that this was what he'd done. It occurred to me that if he had the right to do this, well, this meant that I did not have to discuss whether or not I could have a dog. It was my choice, because I'm the dog person. The fact that he feels quite strongly that we should not have another dog does not matter, because I like dogs.

This morning, I told him that I'd decided to that I was going to get a dog. He suddenly saw the error of his ways.

I hate being mad, and I'm glad this is behind us. The first argument in our house was a lulu though.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Coyote

Written after a jolting experience last summer, recently dredged up for my church's newsletter:

It means a lot to me to be a Godly person, and recent circumstances had gone very bad. The final straw was this: I had been accused of stealing. It was mortifying, and it was not true. What do you do in a situation like that? In my heart, after prayer, my mind was made up. I would not go back into this place. I would not open myself up to further slander. I was after all, a Christian.

I sent an e-mail to another person involved in this whole sorry mess. I was finished. I was not going back. Her response, was quick and heartfelt. “Oh, no you don’t. You will NOT send me into this den of wolves alone.”

This weighed heavy on my heart as I drove to another appointment, this one in Erie for a scan that was going to determine if the pain I had been suffering for months now was cancer. I was afraid of that, and grieving about the e-mail, and I really had no idea what to do next, what would happen next. I was fearful and overwhelmed. I felt attacked on all sides.

I listened to Chip Ingram, who was relating a similar time in his life, a time when everything was upside down, and nothing he could do was improving things. His ministry was in trouble, his wife was grieving over a family situation, and he was troubled in his own heart. One night, lying in bed, he realized that his wife was crying on her side, and that he could not comfort her. It came clearly to him that his family was under assault by Satan. He immediately sat up in bed, and rebuked Satan to be gone.

I listened to this, and I turned down the radio. I prayed out loud commanding Satan to leave my life, to leave me alone. As I drove, praying, I saw the carcass of what appeared to be a deer along the road, and as I swung out around it, I got the shock of my life.

It was a coyote, with his head thrown back at an impossible angle over his back, his tongue lolling between his teeth. The most startling thing was this: the dead thing’s eyes were wide open, as if he was looking at me.

“Oh, no you don’t. You will not send me into this den of wolves alone,” that e-mail had begun, and I suppose that it was way too much to expect that God would have brought a non-native animal to Pennsylvania to be killed along the road as a message to me, but I knew exactly what He was trying to tell me. I must be brave enough to believe that, and to step forward in faith. God could handle the wolves.

Later on the way home, I stopped to tell my good friend the news. The scan showed no cancer. Two middle aged women danced for joy right there in the driveway, Mary still holding the hose that she had been washing her car with. My God-given friend then looked at me and said, “Debby, I have been praying for you about the other situation too. I keep getting the picture: You are dealing with wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

I looked at her and laughed once again. “I am not so afraid of the wolves as I was before," and I told her what I have just told you now.

God knows His sheep, and He will not leave us to the wolves, my friends, because we are HIS sheep. Believe this, for it is true.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gonna be mad for a long, long time...

This morning, my husband got out of bed. We were traveling to Erie for his surgery. He felt better, he told me. I told him that he still had the problem that caused the pinched nerve. He said he wasn't having surgery. I told him he needed it. He told me he would not go.

It is the first argument we've ever had in this new house. I'm so mad at him I cannot stand it. He has called the hospital, called the surgery off, and I am so angry at him I don't even know what to do with myself.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Purposeful Intervention

There is a woman that wants to go home. So very badly. But she needed to be where she was, because she had a serious physical problem. A meeting today determined whether she was ready to leave or not, and yesterday, she was fretful and impatient. I knew that she worried. I get like that, myself. Been there. Done that. I was not put off by it.

This morning, I asked her if she were excited, and she said "I have learned not to get excited. It's just too disappointing when it doesn't happen." I asked her when her meeting was, and she told me. I promised to say a prayer for her.

I was amazed to be invited to sit in on this important meeting. I agreed, and I took a place at her side. Her daughter was excited that I was there. She recognized me from the paper.

I listened as it was discussed. Would it be possible? How could we make this work for her? Although I had not planned to speak, I did.

Long story short, my friend will go home. At the end of the meeting, I hugged her neck and she whispered "Thank you," very emotionally, although I'd done nothing at all. But it was a galvanizing moment for me. I realized my own purpose. I don't want to work in a facility. I want to be in home health. I want to help people go home.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


My feet are still doing well. I'm so amazed by this continuing miracle, there are not even words. I walk down the street to where I'm doing my first round of clinicals each morning. Seriously, a month ago, I'm not sure that I could have done this. I don't know what to attribute this to, but my feet are nowhere near as painful as they have been for (what?) months now?

I walk to work and walking is a pleasant thing. It allows you time to observe, and to see the details around you. I realized again, what a beautiful little community I live in. Every morning, I see something that makes me realize it anew. Every morning, I feel very blessed, very lucky.

It is an interesting world we live in. I've been offered a job, a part time job, from a man who was impressed by my courtesy. Maybe the fact that I am observant. I'm not sure. I spoke with him politely, and he spoke back. We talked, discovering (as per usual) people that we had in common. That is the way of small towns. He knew my grandfather. He lives on the same road as my aunt and uncle. The conversation turned to a more personal nature as he asked me questions about myself, what my husband did, where we lived, etc. In any case, he asked me if I were interested in a job. I listened to what he detailed, and realized that this would fit my schedule. I told him yes.

So strange that simple courtesy would have opened such a door.

The house is tidy and I'm waiting for Cara to get home. She got a job today, as well. We are watching the Harry Potter movies from the first to the last. I've never seen one all the way through. When they started, I drove her and her friends to the theater, and fell asleep within minutes (I worked 3rd shift). Before it was done, she was driving herself to the movies. The last movie was watched in a Korean theater, half a world away.

We can never predict where we will wind up, how things will go, can we? I like that about life.