Monday, November 23, 2015

Four Important Things I’ve Learned about Hospice Care (from experience with my dad, grandma, and both of my in-laws)

This is an original piece of artwork
done some years back by my youngest sister.
Sometimes we are able to get used to the fact someone we love won’t be with us on Earth for much longer, but that still doesn’t necessarily make their passing easy for them or for us.  Other times, death comes suddenly, and is a jarring shock to all involved. 

The truth is we don’t know how long we have left here.  I’ve found honesty and a willingness to be vulnerable go a long way towards connecting with others on a deeper level.  When my dad was in a great deal of pain physically or was struggling in mind or spirit, I wanted him to feel safe enough to tell me that. 

I remember assuring him time and again I’d rather know the truth than have him expend extra energy pretending everything was fine when it wasn’t.  There were days when he was hurting too much to pretend, though he wanted to.  It was difficult seeing my dad so weak and fragile. 

The anguish he experienced pierced my heart as well, because, although I wanted very much to alleviate his suffering, there was only so much I could do.  I took courage in knowing the whole time that my family and I weren’t alone in all of this.  In addition to his doctors and medical professionals, we now had additional experts who were there for my dad as well as our family. 

Fortunately, my dad didn’t lose his sense of humor throughout the whole ordeal.  He referred to his nebulizer as his “peace pipe,” and joked about getting a wig with dreadlocks for when his brothers came to visit. 

He really freaked out the social worker on his hospice team when he asked how much it would cost for him to be cremated.  Given the estimated expense, which if my memory serves me correctly was somewhere in the $1000+ range, my dad suggested we just put him on a huge barbecue spit/grill sort of thing outside of his place once he died and have the Eagles (one of his favorite bands) playing in the background. 

His hospice nurse knew my dad’s twisted sense of humor after just a couple of her weekly visits, but the poor social worker was stopping in to see him for the first time.  She was rather unprepared for such a gruesome proposal.  Alarmed and unsure if she should take him seriously, she had to go back to the office and write a very in-depth report.

My direct experience with hospice care has thus far included each of Kevin’s parents, my father, and maternal grandmother.   These are some helpful things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Ask questions, express concerns, and feel whatever you’re feeling in front of these health care professionals.  This group of people can handle whatever comes up and has probably been through at least some of it before. 

2. If you as a hospice patient or the family member of someone in hospice care are worried that you might no longer qualify for hospice services, talk with your team about these concerns right away.  Under no circumstances should you start rationing your medicine for fear that you will be kicked out of hospice care.  This includes breathing treatments as well as pain medication.  It is too hard on the individual as a patient, the hospice team as well as the family. 

There are many organizations and resources for help with medical costs, including prescriptions.  Part of what the hospice team is helping to do is ensure your comfort and quality of life.  Don’t undermine your health and doctor’s orders by not following the prescribed regimen.   

3. Is it possible to be “kicked out” of hospice care? Yes, sort of.  My maternal grandmother got well enough that she was out of her room playing cards and visiting with people several times in a row when the hospice nurses came to see her, so they figured she probably no longer needed their services.  My grandma, mom, and the nursing staff at Little Sisters of the Poor all agreed on this.  (If you’re going to stop qualifying for hospice care, this is a great way to get out of it in my opinion.)

4. Talk with your family about your impending death.  Caregivers should feel free to ask hospice what signs to look for to know that the end is imminent and near at hand.  Discuss funeral arrangements and burial preferences honestly, openly, and (preferably without unnecessarily flipping out your assigned hospice care social worker and causing them to fill out a whole lot of extra paperwork).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Handwritten Notes, Simple Prayers, and Redemptive Suffering

How Could That Be?! 

I stared in shock at the handwriting on the envelope.  Had someone held onto this all these years and just now mailed it to me?  The cursive writing looked so very much like my dad’s: large uppercase letters with smaller, tight lowercase ones, slightly disconnected from them. What was the significance of mid-November 2015 for this to arrive in our mailbox? 

False alarm.  The card was actually from one of my Christ Renews His Parish sisters who has moved to Colorado, but the jolt got me thinking. What would a letter from my dad say at this point, after he’s been gone from this life for 6 years, 3 months, and 12 days?  I think it would be simple, honest, loving, sincere, devoid of all attempts to prove his importance, brag about his accomplishments, or call attention to himself. 

What if my life is, in part, one major chunk of what my dad’s letter would be? The mere thought that’s the case brings tears to my eyes and a sense of being completely overwhelmed and underqualified, undeserving and incapable of living out such a legacy.

The Dad Connection & the Napkin Notes book

Thursday night I began reading Napkin Notes by Garth Callaghan.  I’d put off reading it until I felt like I was ready to tackle this book by and about a father who writes short notes to his daughter Emma and puts them in her school lunches so she’ll be reminded each day of his love and also have something to remember him by.

When I recently requested a review copy of this book from Garth Callaghan, who is actually a member of our parish, I had no idea how famous this homespun concept of connecting with your loved ones daily through brief handwritten notes had become. 

In light of my own father passing away when he was still pretty young, I wanted to pick the right time to read it.  I figured this week was as good as any to read Napkin Notes. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been more fitting.   

Handwritten Notes & Simple Prayers

Friday afternoon, while on my lunch break at work, I learned that my Godfather/my dad’s best friend from college, who has been battling an aggressive type of cancer for many years, has decided, based on what his doctors have recently told him, that it’s time to add hospice to his team of caregivers.  

This doesn’t seem fair or believable that this is happening now, just a couple weeks after his mother-in-law passed away and while his wife has also been undergoing treatment for cancer.  

How can this be?  What do I say, write, or do for this family at this time?  The only thing that seems like it will make any difference is to pray for them right now.  Beating myself up over not being better about writing them and staying in touch regularly isn’t going to help. 

I’m feeling exhausted, sick, and worn out myself, so my prayers are stripped down to the bare minimum at present.  Sometimes, all I can manage is: God and a loved one’s name.  Please be with them, help them discern Your will, and take care of them are all implied.  

It reminds me how my dad used to pray the Rosary sometimes.  Instead of praying the usual prayers, he would name a different person for each bead of the Rosary and pray for that individual.  I now have the blue Rosary my dad used for such simple, bare minimum prayers. I trust those and mine are made powerful because they are united with the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s Passion and death on the Cross. 

Redemptive Suffering 

There are times when we have reached our threshold for pain and suffering, but even then, or especially then, we can still offer whatever we are going through to God to use for the salvation of souls in time and eternity. 
Writings from the saints on redemptive suffering remind us of how offering our hurt to Christ in conjunction with the anguish He endured as expiation for our sins, makes everything from the smallest discomfort to the deepest sorrow powerful, meaningful, and of eternal value.

This family and all of those who are entering the holiday season with a loved one in hospice could really use our prayers and support right now.  Will you please join me in lifting them up?

Note to readers: I will continue sharing my thoughts, reflections, and prayers on the topics: terminal illness, parent/child relationships, losing a parent, hospice care, leaving a legacy, and Napkin Notes in subsequent posts.  Please subscribe to receive new posts and/or check back soon to read more.  Thanks and God bless.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vive la France! A Prayer for True Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Lord God, who are Love and Mercy itself, help us reach out to those who are suffering in mind, body, and spirit.  Let us be a listening, compassionate presence to those who have experienced tremendous loss and are grieving.  Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin in each of our hearts and homes.  May it spread far and wide, reaching well beyond borders, languages, religions, and political ideologies in the name of humanity, healing, and hope.  Amen.

Flashbacks of my time in France

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, I’ve been thinking about what it felt like to be overseas when brought to my knees with the shock of the terrorist attacks that took place in the US on 9/11.

Less than two weeks before, Kevin had driven me up to JFK with my huge bags and kissed me goodbye as I set off to spend my junior year in Paris, France. Kevin and I had seen the Twin Towers from a distance, of course, not knowing that the New York skyline would be altered forever in a matter of days.

Increased security and fear were more apparent even over in France after the terrorist attacks took place. We were advised to tell anyone who asked where we were from that we were Canadian or Australian, just to be on the safe side.
In the months to come, I got a bitter taste of the devastation felt in NYC and around the country. It wasn’t the graphic footage or the heart-wrenching stories, but visiting the areas in France that had been bombed during WWII that brought it all crashing home. Some of the churches and structures we saw had never been renovated after the attacks. The ruins, the museums, the photos and videos of places we had walked by just hours before shot through the history books, lectures, dates, and distant places.

For the first time, I got a sense of how horrifying it would be to live in a place where armies were invading, bombs were being dropped, soldiers were coming in tanks…it really scared me.  I would never claim to know how awful war is, but I’m sure that’s when I came the closest to feeling and seeing how terrifying it could be.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Paris and around the world who are suffering at the hands of cold, heartless people led astray by a legion of lies.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Few Photos of My Booth and Supportive Peeps at the Craft Fair TodayI

Kevin helped me laminate Spiritual Diva bookmarks for me to give out,
and he helped me get everything out to and back to our vehicle.
He also was kind enough to bring us some sustenance from Chipotle.
I was tremendously grateful when my mom said that she would be
happy to come and help me sell my photo art cards at the
St. Edward's Craft Fair on November 7, 2015.

These are just a few of the new line of notecards I unveiled at this art show.

Due to rainy weather and other events happening this morning in our area, there wasn't as big a turn out at the Craft Fair today. I'm still glad I did it. It was wonderful to have the love and support of my mom, Kevin Potter, as well as several of my CRHP sisters and Cursillo friends. I got to see the following lovely ladies at my booth: Eileen, Arline,Leslie, Barb, Julieta, among others.

I still have a great selection of card sets perfect for gifts. E-mail, call, or text me. If you're in town, we can set up a time for you to come over or for me to come to you so you can select the designs and types you'd like in person. If you're not nearby, I can e-mail you catalog and notecard options, an order form, etc. Don't worry! This wasn't your only chance to get some Prints of Grace frame photo art cards or newly designed notecards.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Would I Be a Good Mom?

It has been one of my biggest fears for quite some time that I wouldn’t make a good mom. I know full well that the high level of care I strive to provide for other people's children isn't something I could keep up 24/7.    

Even without children of our own for whom we are biologically or legally responsible, nannying for 10-11 hour days when my husband or other immediate family members have been sick, recovering from surgery, and/or in hospice care has pushed me to and sometimes beyond my limits physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I have been reminded in many ways recently that I am the only person who has thought I would need to be perfect in any role. God doesn't expect or ask for perfection. He asks us to trust Him and love others. I still need to get way better at both of those, but He knows I'm at least trying. Lord, help me be open to Your will in all areas of our lives. You are all we really have, and You give us all we really need.

When I had my week back with the three silly sisters, Rainbow Dash asked me more than once when I was taking care of them if we have any children at home, though she knows the answer is no.  When she asked me again on that Friday, I told her that she knows the answer to that question already: we don’t have any babies at our place.  Her response: “but you have us!”  Yes, we do.  And for that, Kevin and I are truly blessed and grateful!

A co-worker asked me one day what Kevin and I think about having children.  Yes, I remember writing this blog post not too long ago:  Top Six Things Never to Say to Couples, Parents, or Caregivers, but this was a genuine inquiry with intent to listen, so we had a discussion about it. 

There was a butterfly flying around the playground while we were talking about foster care and the adoption option.  I couldn’t help but think of a dear Cursillo friend who adopted her daughter from China after a long, arduous journey.  Throughout the stacks of paperwork and years of waiting, the butterfly was a symbol of hope and promise for her.  It was a sign from heaven that her dream and deepest desire to be a mom would eventually come true.    

The idea of being foster parents scares me, because it would absolutely break my heart if we took care of a child then it was decided he or she would return to a bad situation.  I know that’s not what’s supposed to happen, but that too often, it still does. 

I experienced such a sense of loss after I stopped nannying for “my two little guys” that I had a significant period of mourning.  I can’t imagine how profound that would be after having a child live with us for any length of time. 

I’m apprehensive about adoption for a few different reasons.  One of them being that if it’s a local adoption, there’s a chance the parents could change their mind and want to raise the child themselves, which would be heart-wrenching.  Several friends who have adopted have had a very long, strenuous, expensive journeys (ones they know have been worth every second and every penny) to bring home their children.   

Kevin and I have talked about foster care and adoption, and we’re open to both.  Either one would be something God would have to put on our hearts and make us absolutely certain that’s what He is calling us to do.  Right now, we’re doing the best we can to get by and take care of each other while loving and nurturing the children God’s placed in our lives. 
God has brought about some major transformation over the past year (to read more about one aspect of this, see How and Why I Broke My Addiction to Sugar), so anything is possible as He continues to work in and through us.  In some ways, it’s been a relief that we don’t have kids when we’ve dealt with major health complications, the deaths of our parents and other family members, financial worries, car issues, etc.  

Working with kids and other adults who see how I am with children, I am frequently asked the questions: Do you have any children? (or when young kids ask): Are you a mommy?  The reflection I wrote called A Mother's Heart has given me some comforting aspects of mothering to think about and pray over.

Lord, lead us to be who You have called us to be and open our hearts to anything You call us to do that will bring You greater glory in time and eternity while helping others to experience the tenderness and compassion of your unconditional love. Amen. 

Please keep us and all couples who love kids but for whatever reason don't have any of their own at this point in your prayers. Thanks!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me To Discover the Beauty of the Cross

After months of anticipating The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross, I read it from cover-to-cover in the span of a single day.  This isn’t unheard of for me when it comes to books that are engrossing, well-written, and/or particularly inspiring.  Since The Kiss of Jesus is all of the above, I stopped reading it only to eat and go to an interview. 

I expected to be impressed by the caliber of the writing, and I was.  I figured I’d be surprised by some of the trials Donna-Marie has faced, but I was actually floored by the amount of suffering she endured.  The most miraculous and inspiring part is that she always remained trusting of God and a persistent prayer warrior. 

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle has long been in the eye of the public as the author of many best-selling Catholic books, a popular speaker, as well as the host of EWTN’s “Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms” and “Catholic Mom’s Café.” 

My first time meeting her was at the Catholic Writers’ Conference in August 2009.  She was one of the presenters.  Two of Donna-Marie’s books that I have read, reviewed, and loved since our meeting in 2009 are Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship and A Catholic Woman’s Book of Prayers.  I highly recommend both of them!

Donna-Marie uses social media incredibly well as a tool for the new evangelization.  In that respect, she has served as a model of faith and ongoing intercession for me and countless others.  There are few people I keep up with on Facebook, if any, who are as steadfast in their intercessory prayer and willingness to lift up others they’ve never met as she is.  

As she writes in the preface of The Kiss of Jesus, “I decided to open the book of my personal journey—the good and the bad, the crazy, the ugly, the scary, and the redemptive—so that with God’s grace I could offer hope, especially to those who are struggling on the sometimes precarious or crooked path that leads to heaven.”  

Little did I know that behind her joyful smile and humble demeanor is a woman who survived many dangerous situations that were miserable, confining, and demoralizing at best.  Donna-Marie feared for her own safety as well as her family’s.    

The faith she exhibits in the midst of incredible opposition and persecution is truly a gift from God. Her devotion to the Blessed Mother as the Mother of us all, particularly through the Miraculous Medal, has helped sow the seeds of conversion and bring about fruit in some of the most unexpected places.   

She spent a huge portion of her life hiding from others the pain she was dealing with, but now she is ready and willing to bare her soul and the most intimate details of her past—not for shock value, out of revenge, or to gain notoriety—but for the purpose of bringing others closer to Christ, especially those still in the midst of the storm. 

From what I have witnessed, to reach such a degree of vulnerability and openness with others requires a tremendous trust in God’s ability to bring good out of every circumstance.  It also illustrates a deep humility that allows others to see the heartache as well as the many ways God has been at work in, through, and around her over the years. 

I can identify with her initial reservations about sharing some of the most painful memories and periods in her life.  From what I have read about and by Donna-Marie, her bravery in doing this springs from a desire to encourage others in harrowing, harmful, and hurtful situations not to give up hope.  Keep praying, keep trusting, keep hoping that God can and will make all things good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The concept of uniting our suffering with Christ’s on the Cross is one I have read about in many sources and tried to incorporate in my own life.  Two of the prayers Donna-Marie (and I) have found to be very powerful meditations of Christ’s Passion are the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. 

When near the depths of despair, sometimes there is only the smallest glimmer of hope.  What seems pointless, insignificant, and useless to us can be transformed into sacrifices that, when combined with Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, have real redemptive value in time and eternity. 

Donna-Marie survived many of the tragedies I’ve feared the most: sexual abuse, abandonment, miscarriage, being a single mom, not having a safe place to live or enough money to provide for her children.  

God provided numerous people, Mother Teresa being among the better known and admired, to help encourage Donna-Marie.  Following the example of surrender to God’s will in all things, she has turned to the Blessed Mother and the saints for inspiration in her darkest days. 

I highly recommend The Kiss of Jesus to all who have been and/or are currently experiencing times of darkness, doubt, and despair.  This book is also for those who enjoy reading about people who refuse to give up while experiencing their own versions of the agony in the garden.  This memoir beautifully illustrates that faith, hope, and love are possible regardless of the situation, and united with Christ’s suffering, our pain, great and small, has meaning, value, and a greater purpose. 

For more info about The Kiss of Jesus or to order your own copy, click here.

This is a brief interview of Donna-Marie Cooper-O’Boyle about her memoir:

Friday, October 9, 2015

One Prayer God Inspired Me to Write Years Ago That He Always Grants

I've been enjoying doing different graphic designs with my photos, some of my favorite, prayers, and quotes.  I thought it would be neat if I could combine my love of the Lord, photography, art, and prayer in one. Above is one of my attempts.  I combined two cropped photographs, the yellow background from a shot I took at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and a flower photo I snapped at school and cropped into a heart shape.  

The original prayer is one I was inspired to write in my prayer journal years ago and is one that I still pray frequently.  This largely sums up my spirituality and attitude towards discernment.  The Lord knew I would need a foundation of desiring His Will more than anything else if I was to make it through some very trying times.  This prayer is one He has always granted.

Has God inspired you to write or pray any original prayers repeatedly?  If so, what are they?  How have they helped you draw closer to the Lord?  

Please leave your post any original prayers you'd be willing to share in the comments below, so we can all enjoy them.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Intimate Graces: How Practicing the Works of Mercy Brings Out the Best in Marriage

God often speaks to me through books.  He knows that reading is one of my primary love languages.  Not only through the Bible, but also through a variety of other quality fiction and non-fiction books on faith, spirituality, and the human condition have I found inspiration, motivation, and hope in areas where disillusionment, despair, and darkness previously loomed largely.

On September 8, 2015, at 9:40 am I was sent the link to read Intimate Graces on NetGalley.  I don’t have a Nook or a Kindle, so my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone would have to do.  I wasn’t sure if I’d like reading a book on it, but I was willing to try.  Only the Holy Spirit could have known how desperately I needed to read this book by Teresa Tomeo and her husband Dominick Pastore.  

To say that things have been challenging at times for Kevin and me during the past 11 years of our marriage and the six years before that we were dating would be a ridiculous understatement. 

I could completely identify with their feelings of being so worn out and overwhelmed by life and work that their marriage and home life suffer.  Kevin and I recognize the pattern of becoming more and more distant.  Worries over finances, career changes, skyrocketing medical bills, and inadequate health insurance start to swirl around faster and faster until a terrible tornado develops. 

Teresa and her husband Dom emphasize throughout this guidebook on how the corporal and spiritual works of mercy can transform a marriage. They discuss how we need to meet people where they are at right now.  Not where they were or where we think they should be, but where they are.   

Their willingness to be extremely honest and vulnerable makes this couple’s witness compelling.  They haven’t had a perfect-looking marriage.  They’ve had some really rough times when they thought that the best thing to do might be to separate and eventually divorce.  The prospect of working through things together became almost unfathomable.  

In fact, two of their good friends, Greg and Julie Alexanderwho wrote the foreword, had some similar marital strife.  The two of them were also led to a closer walk with the Lord and each other and have since started a ministry to help married couples grow in faith and in their covenant to one another.  They talk about their struggles and newfound hope in another book I read, reviewed, and really liked called Marriage 911: How God Saved Our Marriage (and can save yours, too!) 

Fortunately, God placed people and arranged circumstances in their lives so that when things fell apart, they could bear the suffering together.  Love, faith, and the willingness to accept the need for God’s forgiveness, the need to forgive one another, and themselves opened the door to unprecedented healing. 

Dom shares about how a Bible study helped revitalize his faith and change his trajectory in life.  Teresa wasn’t there, yet.  She still needed to mourn the loss of her career and identity as a high-profile mainstream media broadcast journalist.  (Teresa talks about this transition in two of her previous books, which I loved. 

 They're Extreme Makeover and God's Bucket List.)  The best way her husband knew to minister to her at that time was to be a loving, welcoming, compassionate presence.  She needed a trusted friend and confidant with whom she could be honest and feel safe. 

Like Dom, if we’re open to the Lord working in and through us, then we’re changed, so our relationships with other people are also going to be transformed. 

Each chapter and explanation of the 14 works of mercy includes practical tips, a poignant prayer, as well as questions for reflection and discussion.  Intimate Graces is ideal for couples preparing for marriage or for those who are already married and committed to enhancing their vocation through continuing conversation, prayer, and study.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  

For more info, or to order your own copy of Intimate Graces, click here.

Click here to read an interview in Catholic Digest of Teresa Tomeo and Deacon Dominick Pastore. 

To read more about and by Teresa Tomeo, check out her website here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

What Are the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy?

Prints of Grace © Trisha Niermeyer Potter

Back in 2014 when I was selected to give the Action talk on a Cursillo Women's team, I created the above slide enumerating the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy to go along with my presentation.

These 14 "Thou Shalts" (as opposed to The 10 Commandments, which are a mix of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots) are the nuts and bolts of the ways we are to reach out to others in love, so I built my talk around these stalwarts of faith and service to others.

Since then, Pope Francis has declared that this coming year will be a Holy Year of Mercy.

Here is an excerpt from the Vatican  Radio's English translation of Pope Francis' homily in which he makes the announcement:
"Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is [a] journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord's words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (cf. Lk 6:36)”
This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – and living face of the Father’s mercy. I entrust the organization of this Jubilee to the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization, that [the dicastery] might animate it as a new stage in the journey of the Church on its mission to bring to every person the Gospel of mercy.
I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time. From this moment, we entrust this Holy Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she might turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey."

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Childcare Diary Quick Takes #1

This is a photo I took a while 
ago of a garden statue at a friend’s house.  
If looking at this photo makes you concerned someone's about to have an accident and your gut instinct is to tell the cute little cherub to go use the potty, chances are you have and/or work with young children.

To read about some of the adventures I've had in attempting to potty train young people, check out Once Upon a Potty Training.   

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What Do Karate Kid’s Mr. Miyagi and Dr. Maria Montessori Methods Have in Common?

A little more than you may realize.

At first, Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) seems to be taking advantage of Daniel-san in order to get some household chores done.  He has him wax his rather extensive collection of old cars, paint the fence around his property, learn to prune bonsai trees.  And Mr. Miyagi is very particular about how these tasks are to be carried out.  “Wax on, wax off.”  Make circular motions, first one hand then the other and keep alternating hands.  Paint the fence.  Wrist all the way up, arm extended.  Wrist all the way down, arm extended to the ground.

Daniel-san is more than a little miffed when he thinks he’s been duped into serving as some old guy’s lackey.  He’s gotten the snot beaten out of him more than once by some punks, and he’d like to return the favor.  Daniel-san asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate.  He fails to see how waxing cars and painting fences will help him reach his goal. 

Mr. Miyagi knows all along that these practical life skills are preparing this young man in mind, body, and spirit for life as well as the martial arts lessons to come.  Daniel-san doesn’t realize that there’s a method to Mr. Miyagi’s chore list until he’s shown through a mock attack that his muscle strength, mental acuity, coordination, and reflexes have improved considerably.  Suddenly things start to come together.  He sees all of his hard work hasn’t been for naught.  His sensei has been training him all along.  Once he developed the basic skills needed, he was ready for greater challenges and difficulties. 

Dr. Maria Montessori’s method is very similar: teach kids how to do the things that they will need to do in life at a young age by giving them hands-on experience, providing them with simple step-by-step lessons, and age-appropriate materials.  Give children tasks and activities that accomplish something and have a much broader purpose than is initially seen, certainly by them. 

At first glance, it might seem like a way to get kids to do the teacher's work.  Have them fold laundry, sweep up the messes they make, wipe off the tables, cut up and serve food, wash dishes, choose their own work, put things back where they found them, cut flowers, tie their shoes, wash their hands with soap and water, wait their turn, walk the line, respect nature, proceed at their own pace, indicate when they are ready for the next lesson, make a thank-you card, write an apology note, sew, use their manners, learn from their peers and those who are a little older or younger than they are…

Gross and fine motor skills develop as muscle strength, coordination, and concentration improve.  Children absorb valuable and practical ways they can be involved in, explore, and create in the world all the while building up their socialization, teamwork, independence, cognitive prowess, and leadership abilities. 

I’m fairly certain Dr. Maria Montessori would have approved of Mr. Miyagi’s seemingly roundabout approach to educating his student.  Daniel-san just wanted to learn karate, but Mr. Miyagi taught him a great deal more than that.  Really good educators teach a great deal beyond what’s required by SOLs and the written curriculum.  They allow their students to experience what they are to learn rather than just read it in a book or see someone else do it.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Can You Tell My Husband's Just a Little Excited to Be in a Program for Drafting and Design?

My husband was so cute the night he came home from his first drafting class at ITT Tech.  Kevin was pulling out all of his school supplies to show me all of the  stencils, rulers and such that were in the kit they provided.  He had a huge smile on his face, one I hadn't seen nearly as often in recent months as financial stress and an unending stream of medical bills have really been wearing on us both.

Who knew my not-much-for-reading honey who was notorious for skipping class in high school would be so excited about a new undertaking that would involve reading and homework?  God did.
Kevin got right to his homework that night after class.  As you can plainly see, it's never ever too late to follow your dreams and get the education you've always wanted!

To read more about the conversations that sparked this new venture and my initial less-than-enthusiastic reaction, check this post out His Initial Announcement & My Initial Reaction

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blessed with One More Work Week with the Three Silly Sisters: Flashbacks, Fast Forwards, Reflections, and an Abundance of Love, Hugs, and Kisses (My Nanny Diary)

Last week I took care of the three silly sisters while their current full-time caregiver was on vacation. It's hard to believe that I first babysat for the oldest when she was about 8 months, and now she's started Kindergarten.
The oldest of the three silly sisters
as a wee little on under age one.
My Little Pony Flashback

The oldest this week at age 5.
Notice the T-shirt she's wearing.
The three silly sisters have given themselves nicknames that are My Little Pony characters.  I used to have My Little Ponies when I was young.  I had fun playing with them, braiding their brightly colored hair, etc.  As far as I recall, I don’t think I was imaginative enough to give myself a nickname based on one of them. 

I find it extremely entertaining that they often introduce themselves and refer to each other as Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Twilight Sparkle. The other day when Twilight Sparkle was pretending that she had to get her backpack and go to school, she was saying goodbye to each of us, and apparently she has chosen the name Applejack for me. Why she associates me with a cute blond Southern belle-type pony, I haven't figured out.

I used to have quite the Southern accent when we lived in Texas. My parents tell me I could make van a five syllable word before age 5.  I do like to eat apples. But quite honestly, I'd like My Little Pony code name to be Shutterfly, because I love taking photos, and I'd want to pick what she and her cutie mark looks like.  Is that too much to ask?

Once (Again) Upon a Potty Training

I had to laugh over the confusion this week regarding some key lingo.  What I refer to as Pull-ups (because that’s what they are), Fluttershy calls “big girl panties.” What I would call big girl panties, she calls underwear.  It took me a second or two to realize why we were having a breakdown in communication and she was having a meltdown.  From that epiphany on, I was careful what I said each time I reminded her what all needs to be pulled up before she leaves the bathroom.   

Naturally, these interactions brought me right back to when I was helping to potty train Rainbow Dash when she was this age.  My amusing experiences from that time, are memorialized in my original Once Upon a Potty Training post

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I repeat the exact same phrases throughout the day.  And they say toddlers tend to sound like broken records!  I can’t imagine where they get that tendency.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

This Mo Willems classic is one of the books I read over and over and over this past week.  For good reason, Rainbow Dash was a big fan of how enthusiastically I would read this and other picture books to her.  After reading about how important it is to “read it again!” for literacy, learning to associate words and pictures, sequencing, and reading comprehension, I rarely quit even if it means that I spend half an hour or more telling the pigeon that there’s no way he’s going to get a chance to drive the freaking bus. This time, the twins were the one requesting to hear about the plight of the poor, persistent pigeon.

I can still recall one particular little one whose parents were professors at Hollins who could and would sit for hours listening to one book after another, or the same book again and again.  One day, I started counting how many times we read one book.  I like Strawberry Shortcake and all, but I ran out of questions to ask her or things to point out or expound upon after we reached the 20th read-thru.  Then again, I also have a myriad of literary memories related to the boys and books.

Bring on the Rain (to erase my horrendous attempts at drawing Disney Characters with sidewalk chalk)

God is merciful. How do I know? It has been and is supposed to continue raining most if this weekend, so my failed attempts to draw a chalk figure even loosely resembling Donald Duck will likely be washed off of the parking lot. Twilight Sparkle requested I draw various Disney characters, but after a fairly recognizable Mickey and Minnie, things went downhill quickly. In my defense, I have a lot more experience with photography than I do with sidewalk chalk drawings of animated characters.

Their Abundant Xs and Os Warmed Me.  Yes, I Feel the Love!

I'm beyond sore from top to bottom from carrying little ones, playing on the floor, chasing, sorting, sitting in the sandbox, drawing on the driveway with chalk, cleaning, singing, dancing, reading, organizing. I gave and received more kisses and hugs this past week from the three silly sisters than I have in quite some time. I got to have dinner with their family and catch up with good friends (the three silly sisters' parents) Thursday night.  They graciously let me do some laundry there on Friday since I'm a little reticent to use the machines in the basement of our building after one recently caught fire and they didn't evacuate everyone. I got to stroll down memory lane when toys and books came out that I have fond memories of sharing with Rainbow Dash when she was a baby and toddler. I experienced the joy of being loved, welcomed, and appreciated by three little ones (and their parents) all of whom have long held a special place in my heart.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Celebrating My First Full-Time Nanny/Part-time Mother Job Which Began Eleven Years Ago Today (My Nanny Diary)

A mere nine days after Kevin and I got married in 2004, I began my first long-term nanny job taking care of “my two little guys.”  Actually, I was just taking care of one adorable baby boy for the first few months since the other infant’s mom was still on maternity leave. Before long, I had two babes 3 months apart in age to care for 54 plus hours a week.  I was 24, the same age my mom had been when she had me.

Why are you nannying when you have a Masters?!” is something I have heard numerous times, especially from my family members.  The short answer is: I love kids and we don’t have any of our own.  

Being with children gives me great joy!  Taking part in their care, education, being one of the people in their village helping to raise them to feel safe, confident, and loved in this world is such a tremendous responsibility. 

Raising and educating children is truly one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs I've ever had!  Sure, I applied to a number of different non-profits after graduating from Hollins University with my Masters degree, but I knew that I would really miss working with children if I took a job in a traditional office setting.  I’m perfectly capable of working in an office, answering phones, setting up for meetings, giving presentations, writing and editing newsletters, creating spreadsheets, coordinating gatherings, following up with clients, and I have done all of those things in the various jobs and volunteer opportunities I’ve had over the past 20 years.  Life without children being an integral part of it just isn't the same, though. 
What would you like to be when you grow up?  The short answer to that is: a faithful servant of God who puts His Will first, a good wife, and a good mom. However, since I may never get the chance to do the third of those, with God's blessing and Kevin's support, I’ve dedicated a lot of my time, energy, creativity, love, dedication, determination, willingness to be adaptable, learn new tricks of the trade, and grow as an individual by being a childcare provider.  I figured being a nanny is the closest I could get to being a mom when we don't have children (at least not ones for whom are biologically or legally responsible).
Close to two years after I started, each of the families made the decision that the mom would start working from home, so they would have more time with their sons.  The day one boy’s parents told me about their decision, they were both tearing up. I was deeply moved they were really going to miss having me take care of their son.  

Fortunately, God gave me the grace and peace of mind to encourage them that they were doing the right thing.  I knew that they had been really beaten down by demanding jobs and that their family life and health had suffered.  I affirmed their decision.  I didn’t burst into tears and start mourning until later on, long after I’d gone home and was sharing the news with Kevin.

To be kind and considerate, they gave me close to three months’ notice so that I would have ample time to look for my next job.  I tried my best not to let the boys see me sad, but sometimes one of them would be sitting on my lap listening to a book or showing me something, and tears would start falling down my cheeks.    

From early on, I had two car seats installed in my car and kept the double stroller we used in my trunk, so that I could take the boys on field trips and such.  We went to different parks, The Children's Museum, the mall, and various playgrounds.  We'd meet up with their parents for lunch or go visit with some of my family.  We had all sorts of adventures inside and outside! 

"Ride in Trisha's car?" the older of the two boys asked me one day.  Since I wouldn't be taking care of them much longer, I'd returned the car seats to their parents.  I explained to the little guy that I didn't have a special seat in my car for him anymore, so I couldn't take him anywhere. He looked sad and clearly disappointed.

Then, it occurred to me what he was really asking: do I still have a place in your life, in your heart?  Will you remember me? Will you miss me and still love me?  My emphatic answer to all of those questions was and still is a resounding YES!

Even nine years after nannying for "my two little guys," I still think of them often and pray for them regularly.  I'm grateful for Facebook, so I can see photos and such that their parents' post about what they're up to these days.  One just started middle school, and the other began fifth grade.  

I knew it would be a huge adjustment once our “daytime family” broke up.  I couldn’t even make it through the weekend without missing the boys and wondering what they were up to.  I went through a period of significant mourning and the grief usually associated with loss.  

In fact, my separation anxiety and missing the boys were so painful that I decided I would never nanny for anyone, again.  I was too devastated when I stopped taking care of “my two little guys” in August 2006 to risk that level of love, attachment, and ultimately loss, again.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

FB Like Button

There was an error in this gadget