Wednesday, March 3, 2010

!!!!!! New Blog !!!!!!

Hi Everyone....

I started another blog... about everyday life - not on the mountain/not at the cabin. Be sure to check it out! It's called NOT YOUR AVERAGE WOMAN. You can read/follow at this address:

When we go back to the cabin/mountain I'll resume writing at MiracleMountain

Monday, February 15, 2010

Aging Parents & the Quality of Life

Aging. The natural progression of life.

What happens, though, when an elderly parent becomes ill, has a stroke or heart attack, a broken hip, dementia/alzheimers, or any number of ailments? Life as they know it has changed - possibly, forever. They need assistance with things they've done for themselves for years: dressing, bathing, eating, using the toilet. They may be hard of hearing or have problems with their vision. Their balance is compromised making a cane or walker their "new best friend". Not only does their life change... but often the lives of their children or grandchildren change as well. POA and DNR are terms one becomes familiar with at this stage of life.

My grandfather was 80 years old when I was born. He was always an "old man". He still lived by himself on the farm & cared for himself. My brother & I would go to the farm with our dad and spend time with Grandpa. We'd watch television with him - the volume turned WAY up - and he'd sit a couple feet from the screen. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but one day he came to live with us. He spent most of his days sitting in the recliner in our living room. As he got older, he had to use a walker to help steady himself. Although he was more than 90 years old, he still played Scrabble with his younger sister (both of them could beat me without even trying!). His mind was sharp. He went to church every Sunday until it became too difficult for him to go up the stairs to the sanctuary. When I was in high school he had a couple falls & we, as a family, couldn't go anywhere for more than a couple hours without having to have someone come in to care for him. My parents made the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home where he lived the rest of his life. It hurt me to see this man, my grandpa, failing to thrive. I visited him one time while he was in the nursing home because I couldn't stand to see him like that. His quality of life there was very poor I thought.

My parents (see post from May 2009) were in a car accident. By the looks of their car... they should've been hurt much worse than they were. Physical therapy & ongoing exercise has helped them.

My father-in-law recently had a stroke. Not a severe stroke... but it did affect his balance and left him quite weak. The stroke has affected his short term memory. He can recall events that happened when he was a boy but couldn't tell you what he did yesterday. (To be fair, I couldn't tell you what I did yesterday!) He was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's. Prior to having the stroke, he had had his eyes tested: cataracts in both eyes, macular degeneration in one, little to no peripheral vision. Laser surgery will correct the cataracts - but he's dragging his feet. Things he enjoyed doing - reading the paper and Reader's Digest, watching television, playing cards - all affected by the cataracts. He used to enjoy cooking - but now can't stand long enough to stand at the stove... and has forgotten to turn off burners - burning a couple pans pretty badly! I'm not sure if this is a product of the old age or the stroke - but he has some incontinence. He had been using a cane to assist in walking but since having the stroke he now uses a walker. He naps - a lot! Moans - a lot! He has mentioned a couple times that he's "ready" and reminds us of his "plans".

Having this stroke has not just affected my father-in-law. My sister-in-law lives with him but she can't be with him 24/7 because she works. She is under a lot of stress and now we're trying to help out. Jerry has gone to stay with him - to be sure he does his physical therapy exercises, to help him however he needs and provide some company for him and to hopefully alleviate some of the stress his sister has been under.

Only God knows how many days my father-in-law has left. We just want to make sure that those days are as good as the rest of his days were.

ADOPTION: My Story - Part 6

In September, a month after we found her, we celebrated her birthday. She was reunited with her younger brother and met her step-mother. She learned that she had grandchildren. She met my adoptive parents. She was afraid that they would look down on her for having given me up for adoption. I told her, "of course they'll look down on you! You're short!" (She was only 4' 10"!)
Over the next 2 1/2 years we built a relationship with Connie. We spent hours & hours talking & laughing & crying and had enormous phone bills. During that 2 1/2 years she spent time staying with three out of four of her children but finally became homesick for Boston & went back.
At 5:30 one morning in March, 2000, my phone rang. Scared the daylights out of me since my phone NEVER rings at that time of day. On the other end of the line was Connie's doctor. She said Connie had admitted herself to the hospital a few days before. She'd been depressed but was scheduled to be released that same day. She had died in her sleep.......
The next couple days were a blur. We wanted an autopsy. Since she had listed four children all four of us had to give our consent. Our brother Mark was not willing to give his okay. Finally he gave his consent, the autopsy was done but there was nothing conclusive. Her years of smoking, heart problems, diabetes, over-eating and depression just caught up with her. God said it was her time.
We had a memorial service for her... just the family. It was our hope that even when she left us that she'd know that we loved her... that even tho' she didn't raise any of us, she still gave us life and was still a mother. It was my hope that the talks we'd had about God's love and forgiveness sunk in & that she had, in her heart, asked Christ to be her savior!
In the 2 1/2 years we had with her my heart healed... and that morning in March, it broke again. It just dawned on me that it's been nearly 10 years since she left us. I still miss her... she had a laugh that was infectious & said things that would crack me up... and other things that would make a sailor blush!
The can of worms I opened ~ well, there are things that I've not liked but that was part of the deal. But I wouldn't change a thing!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The people you meet........

Sometimes I'm amazed at the people I meet. Since I was old enought to walk & talk my mom said I never knew a stranger. Yes, I have the gift of gab! And if you've been following my writing for any amount of time you'll also know that I LOVE thrift store shopping!

Let me back up just a bit.... we came back to Nebraska for Christmas & haven't gone back to the cabin yet (hey! it's only been a month). The problem is... I had packed up most of my kitchen stuff & hauled it to the cabin last spring. Being in the rental house without a fully-loaded kitchen is the pits & I've had to fill in a few gaps at the local thrift stores (measuring cups/spoons, knives, mixing bowls, cereal bowls, etc.). Now onward...

One day Jer & I were thrift store shopping - I was looking at books (big surprise) and he had disappeared. He came around the corner with a food processor in his hand - like the one in the photo only not complete - and a big grin on his face! I was SOOOOO excited! You see, I have a complete one, just like the one in the photo, at the cabin & another (not complete) in the camper... both 700 miles away!

One of the gals who works in the thrift store noticed how excited I'd gotten over something that seemed so mundane & utilitarian. I explained to her that this is by far my most favorite kitchen utensil (in its entirity) and that I already have a couple of them! She asked WHY I needed a third if I already have two. I explained to her that we'd been living off the grid in a cabin and this little kitchen gizmo was a HUGE time saver. It slices, it dices, it chops & grates... this thing cuts up onions & potatoes for hashbrowns, will chop cranberries, apples & oranges for cranberry relish, slices carrots & cucumbers for salad, grates cheese... it has a little device for beating eggs or light batter. It's AWESOME!!!

I could see the wheels turning in her head. She then began to question me about the cabin & what it's like to live off the grid. One questions really stuck in my head: "What one thing don't you have that you'd like to have?" Hmmm. My answer: "Running water!" I gave her our card - that has this site address as well as our email addresses & phone numbers - and told her that if she'd like to learn more she should log on or drop me an email & I'd be happy to give her more information. She then asked, much to my surprise, if we had considered a "live off the grid vacation" - where those who want to experience living off the grid & doing all the things we do could come out & spend a week living "without". I told her we had not thought about that (except for our friends who come to visit & stay in a motel) but that would be a good idea. When I mentioned it to Jer, he thought maybe that could make us a little money as well.

Who knows if we'll do that. I've always thought running a bed & breakfast would be fun... maybe we could run a cabin & camper... the camper being our "guest house". Something to think about... all because of someone I met in a thrift store!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 5

By now it was about 11:00 p.m. We were emotionally drained. But we made the phone call... and she answered. She was crying, my brother was crying, I was crying. By the end of the short call we had instructed her to take a cab to the hotel where we were staying. We waited anxiously outside the front door of the hotel for the cab to arrive. When it finally arrived she jumped out of the cab, still crying! My brother reached inside the front passenger side window to pay the cabbie... the cabbie was crying... our mother had told him our story & it had touched him!

We spent the next few hours talking, asking questions, crying, laughing. We told her that both of her parents had passed away. She'd known about her mother dying - the woman who had been living with our grandmother called her the day of the funeral & told her it would be nice if she could make it! Hmph! She showed virtually no emotion when we told her about her mother (we'd find out later), however, the news of her father's death brought her to tears. We told her that his dying wish was that if he couldn't see her again, at least her children could! It seemed to help knowing that her father was still wanting to find her... still loved her!

By 4:00 a.m. we finally gave up & went to bed. Our mother slept with me, holding my hand all night. Following breakfast we spent the day visiting, telling stories, asking questions, learning about each other. My brother & I both told her of the things our grandmother had told us... things we had suspected were either half-truths or just plain lies! We were right!

We spent an afternoon at Harvard Square people watching, eating ice cream at Herrell's, a little shop that had been a bank in a previous life, attending a bar-b-que at a friend's home that night.

Needless to say, when we arrived at the airport a couple days later it was SO hard to leave. The only thing making it easier was buying her a ticket to come to Oklahoma (where my sister & uncle live) the next month for her birthday!

Our trip was a success... it must've been in God's plan that we find her... that we'd get some answers to our questions... that we'd form a relationship, a bond with her.

There's more to the story... stay tuned!

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 4

The night before we departed I had a meeting to go to at church. Strangely enough no one told me the meeting had been canceled so there I sat... waiting. My time was not wasted tho'. I sat in the quiet of the sanctuary & prayed - poured out my heart to God. "God... I'm putting this in Your hands. You know what I want... but I'm selfish & want this for selfish reasons. If this is not in Your plan... I will understand, I won't be happy about it but I will be a 'big girl' and accept it."

Our plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston, mid-August, hot & humid. We grabbed our luggage, hailed a cab & checked into our room at the hotel. With a stack of 1000 fliers (have you seen this woman - with a photo of her from about 1973 on it) we boarded the first bus that came along. After getting on it occured to us that we should ask if this bus went anywhere near the address we had for her. It didn't... but the woman sitting behind us asked what address we were trying to get to & told us that was within 2 blocks of where she lived & she would get us on the right bus! An angel? We left a couple fliers on that bus, got on the "right" bus... left a couple more on that bus. When we got to her street we put fliers on windshields of cars parked on the street as we found our way to the address we had. Unfortunately it was a secured building & we could not get in. Down the street, where we'd gotten off the bus, there was a pharmacy. We went in to buy some tape to put fliers on doors, gates, poles - wherever we could. My brother decided to ask the pharmacist if they had a fax machine we could use to send a note to the PI. It was evident that he had told the pharmacist why we were there. As I came around the corner, having purchased the tape, the pharmacist stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at me & said, "You're Connie's daughter!".

At this point (this is before HIPPA) he told us that she got her prescriptions filled there and that he could call her & ask her to come to the pharmacy. Another Angel? He placed the call... she wasn't there but her roommate answered the phone. The pharmacist asked him if he could come to the pharmacy. He could. As he walked into the the store he glanced at me - my eyes were behind dark sunglasses so he really couldn't look at me. He headed back to the pharmacy desk; my brother & the pharmacist were telling him who we were & why we were there when I came around the corner again. I removed my sunglasses & before I could introduce myself he said, "You're Connie's daughter!". Twice in about 20 minutes! The three of us went next door to the coffee shop to visit.

We went back to their apartment... a horrible, dirty apartment that reeked of cigarette smoke & litter boxes. We spent nearly two hours there without her returning. We finally talked him into taking us to her... at a nearby hospital. It seems she got terrible migraines that lasted for days & she'd go to the clinic at the hospital to get a pain shot. He said the shots left her "foggy". He also noted that she had left her prescription glasses on the counter - they bothered her when she had migraines.

After telling the receptionist who we were & why we were there, her roommate asked to see her (she was in an exam room) and they generously allowed us to go into the exam room next to the one she was in. We could hear muffled talking - and then a scream - and the word "NO"!!!! He left her room quickly, opened the door to the room we were in & told us he was leaving. We were stunned! What do we do now?

We left... at least as far as the front door of the hospital. By now, the rain Boston was supposed to get that morning was now coming down - not just sprinkling but POURING!!! We were so hurt. Crushed. Why didn't she want to see us? We waited... and waited. Finally - from the clinic door emerged a short little woman with a large umbrella & a handbag that was nearly as big as she was! She walked to the bus stop. This was our chance... maybe our only chance? We held hands, ran thru the rain & skidded around the corner of the bus stop, sliding onto the bench on the opposite side. What do we do now? We huddled, soaked from the rain, whispering.

Out of the blue she said, "Our seats are getting wet!". She was right! She introduced herself. Racing thoughts! The name she had given me, the name on my birth certificate, was not the name I have now. My brother goes by a nickname. We introduced ourselves. She didn't turn & run. Not even an eyebrow raised. We presumed that between the shot & not having her glasses she really couldn't see us very well? We began visiting - about the weather, about flying in that morning & "getting lost", about not having had anything to eat since we were on the plane several hours before. We had found out from her friend that she liked Tex-Mex food... so we asked if she knew of a good place to eat. She did... and proceeded to tell us which bus & train to get on to get there! About that time a bus pulled up & her friend got off. You can imagine the look on his face when he saw us sitting with her engaged in conversation! She told us that was her friend Steve... my brother ran back out into the rain & "introduced" himself to Steve & whispered not to blow our cover! Having made the proper "introductions" we asked them if they'd like to have dinner with us as we'd not be able to find the restaurant. She said they really couldn't afford it - to which my brother replied, "We'd love to treat you to dinner" - of course, they couldn't turn that down. We took the bus & the train then walked a couple blocks to the restaurant, gave our name to the girl at the podium & went to the bar for a much needed adult beverage!

We sat at the bar visiting... oblivious to everything & everyone around us. The girl at the podium was calling "Briggs, party of four"... it finally dawned on us that that was us! We went to our table, ordered our food & while waiting for our food my brother played "Twenty Questions" with our mother. I felt a bit left out, but I had no questions to ask that would have hinted to my identity. It was interesting to watch. We sat in the restaurant for nearly four hours just visiting. We finally decided we should leave... but not before making a "date" for the next day for sightseeing. She hugged both of us & thanked us for dinner. We got on the bus... in total disbelief. We had just spent about 5 hours with her... and it appeared that she didn't know who we were.

Back at our hotel room we began making phone calls to family members. Sometime during our phone calls we had an incoming call, our message light was on. It was Steve. "Wally, it's Steve. Call me at this number." We called... and she answered!

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 3

Hmmm. I forgot to mention that shortly after meeting my grandmother & sister I got to meet my uncle. I wasn't really sure what to think about him... his attitude toward me. He did tell me that looking at me was like looking at his sister, my birthmom. That was the validation I was looking for! He drove a semi & would stop by to see me & my family when he was in the area.

I got to meet the older of my two half-brothers (I think I mentioned meeting him) - we had spoken on the phone several times & seemed to really get along well when we met. He would be the person who told me about growing up with our grandmother as caregiver. These things made me question even more the things she had told me. He was about 5 years old when our birthmom disappeared. He told me that he had few memories of her... most of them were memories of his abusive father beating up on her. Our phone conversations were usually quite lengthy as we went over & over information that had been given to us.

On New Year's Eve 1995 (or was it 1996?) our grandmother passed away. By this time, she had pushed away everyone but my sister. She'd not spoken to me in more than a year because I had the audacity to question some of her information. Her game had become this: as she noticed the four of us (kids) getting along really well, she'd stick her finger "in the pot" and try to stir up trouble. She did the same thing with our uncle if he was getting along with us too well. Life was good for her as long as she was the center of attention. Again, by the time she passed away one brother & I went to the funeral only to see if our birthmom would show up. How sad! We scoured faces & saw no one who even remotely looked like her.

Less than a month later we would all gather again in San Francisco for our grandfather's funeral. This funeral was far more traumatic, sadder than the first because grandpa continually spoke of "finding" our birthmom. We hadn't been able to fulfill that wish while he was alive. It then became our goal!! We (the older half-brother & I) began doing as much as we could to find her... including getting a private investigator. It was in July of 1997 that we received from the PI a list of women with the same name or similar name, along with their respective addresses & birthdates. We quickly eliminated women whose birthdates did not match or were not even close. We ended up with a rather short list. We finally picked ONE... the one we thought was the best/closest match. We purchased plane tickets... his from SF to Omaha, mine from Omaha to Boston.

To Be Continued.....