Adulting, elder care, Gangrene Gables

Poopsicle

I have done many things in my life as a parent that I never thought I would do. I have uttered phrases like, “Don’t put rocks in the dishwasher!” I have done disgusting things like using a thermometer to help a constipated infant get it all out. While one can never be prepared for parenthood, I had expected these things were just part of the territory. I didn’t, however, know that over the course of one year I would experience just as many of these joys as a daughter.

Sharon: We need to get stool samples to a Quest lab. We picked up the containers on the way back from the dr. One will need to be kept frozen or on ice when being transferred. Sure you are all excited about that.
Me: Sharon has power of attorney on medical decisions, which should include taking stool samples.
Sharon: The new medication for the diarrhea has a restriction of no alcohol, which means no perfumes, lotions, mouthwash, etc. I’ll start checking stuff later tonight for any problematic items.
Eric: But we can still drink when we are around her, right?
Sharon: Anyone know where Mom keeps dish sponges or dishrags? There wasn’t one in the sink today.
Me: I used it to clean up poop. I threw it out even though I knew Mom would want to save it for another blow out.
Sharon: She had several false alarms of diarrhea. Or a tiny bit. The collection hat is next to the commode with the hopes that she will use it in the morning so the collection can be done.
There is a little Lysol in the commode so if either of you is the lucky collector don’t use anything in the commode.
Me: I guess I’m the winner. What are the instructions for freezing and packing the poop on ice? Collecting? What should I know?
Sharon: Bring a plastic spoon that you can throw out. Instructions are on the desk in the kitchen. One teaspoon or thereabouts in the large container which is frozen. Add enough to each of the other vials so the liquid rises to the red or black line on the bottle. Those do not need to be frozen.

I don’t know what the doctor was looking for, but he ordered a stool sample. This is not a big deal for the doctor; he just writes out an order and scrawls his illegible signature on a piece of paper. Honestly, with today’s technology, he might not even need to do that much. He probably has an office assistant do it for him. But for us, this is no easy task. We, the caregivers, are left with all the dirty work.
The instructions were to get a sample of Mom’s diarrhea, to spoon a small portion into a testing vial, and put the sample in the freezer. Then, deliver the frozen sample to the lab. Gross, but doable. Certainly not the worst things we’d had to do to date.
I arrived bright and early on a Saturday morning, unprepared for what the day would hand me. After repeatedly trying to explain to Mom that her part was pretty simple, just to sit on the commode and go, I was finally rewarded with the gift of loose stool. Yay! I set up my scientific lab in Mom’s kitchen sink which I would never be able to look at quite the same again. Rubber gloves on and using a plastic spoon, I was able to prepare the sample in the least nasty way possible. I definitely did not need to be told I should throw away the spoon. I cleaned up the commode, and froze the sample in a double wrapped bag. I was envisioning some poor person getting a nasty surprise when they pulled this treat out of Mom’s freezer and decided to investigate its contents. I labeled it to prevent such a tragic situation.

Me: Two things- I hate my life, and we have a stool sample

Me (later): I’m going to drop the diarrhea off at the lab in a few minutes. (I just wanted to have record of the many things I have had to say lately)
Eric: You know, Barb, you may think it is funny…
But it’s really hot and runny!
DIARRHEA
phpplt phpllt!
DIARRRHEA
phpplt phpllt!

While the fecal matter began chilling in the freezer, my next step was to find the location of the specified lab that also had weekend hours. I scoured the Internet and found one only moments from home. Score! I retrieved the frozen poopsicle from the freezer and embarked on my errand. Unfortunately, upon arrival I discovered that the lab was closed; their hours had changed. Now I am sitting in the car with defrosting poop that I need to deliver it to another lab pronto. I find another lab in an adjacent town, 20 minutes away, but they aren’t open for that much longer. I understand the absurdity of this situation. I am a poop delivery girl, racing down the highway trying to assure the proper temperature of my poopsicle. This is where my life has taken me. This is my new normal. I check yet another item off my bucket list: Deliver frozen poop to laboratory- check.
The front desk nurse was kind and efficient. She assured me that the temperature of the poop was fine, and they would return it to the freezer promptly. Deep down, I was hoping the staff had a separate freezer for their lunches.

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Christian, gifts from God, marriage

Marriage: Having Each Other’s Back

I wish I could say that I have total faith in God and His strength to carry me through any difficult circumstance that comes my way. The truth, however, is that I rely far too often on the flesh and blood people around me when times get tough. I have an amazing support system of family and friends, which I thank God for. Truth be told, I feel like I could handle almost anything with God and Jay. The struggles we have seen are not for the faint of heart. The strength of our marriage is in part due to the sheer need to cleave to one another as we pass from hardship to hardship. It is something we have done well these past 20 years (though far from perfectly). When I look back on the last few years, the hardest and most terrible moments had less to do with the circumstances we were going through and more with the state of our marriage in the midst. I have grieved many things in the past 20 years, from both of my parents to one of our children, and from my  dreams to my sense of self. I have confronted many trials and worked through many hurts, but there has yet to be a pain that cannot in some way be softened once wrapped in the arms of Jay. There is something about knowing that there is someone whose primary role in life, before any other earthly job, is to have your back. I suspect that it is this mutual goal that makes our marriage strong. It isn’t about seeing eye to eye (though that’s always a nice treat) or everything around us being perfect (it never will be). It isn’t about evenly dividing the chores (though that helps ease some burdens) or trying to meet each other’s every need (we can’t). It’s about “where two or more are gathered,” and one person lifting up the other who has fallen. It is a three-strand marriage, and it is very good.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him- a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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adoption, gifts from God, grief and loss

Passing Us By

It is not uncommon for some of  the most life altering events to pass us by without our realizing. That moment when the stripe turns pink and you realize you are going to be a parent is typically weeks after conception. The acceptance letter to college arrives days after it was mailed and maybe weeks after the admission board made their decision. That first meeting of someone who will one day become your best friend or spouse might not even warrant you taking much notice. Even that tragic phone call with the passing of a loved one can come hours after the fact. There are moments, days, weeks, or even years in which we live oblivious to the big moments that have already occurred and will alter life as we know it. It is our human nature to look back and wonder, “What was I doing then?” We calculate back to the day of conception or think about those blissful moments before our life shattered.

Sean came into our lives like this, and he left our life in the same manner. I could not tell you what I was doing when Sean was born, completely unaware that someone had entered the world that would change my life forever 15 years down the line. And when he left the world in a similar quietness, he left me blissfully unaware of the pain that was soon to come. Part of me is sad that I cannot go back and know exactly what I was doing at that very moment, but I suppose it is okay. In the quiet mystery, there is deep truth. A sovereign God, who knows all things, is still in control. My knowing or not knowing does not alter the course of such things. Maybe a few more oblivious days/hours of life as I knew it was simply a gift to hold off my sorrow for a moment more.

A year has passed since Sean’s death, but this is a date that I am grateful doesn’t stick in my memory quite like it should. My memories of Sean, however, will never fade.

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Christian, prayer

More Than We Ask

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” – Ephesians 3: 20-21

Sometimes I find it difficult to pray. It’s easy to ask people to pray for me, but to actually pray myself is hard. I know a lot of this is rooted in my lack of faith. I feel that what I’d be asking for is impossible, or at the very least highly improbable. What I truly yearn for would require serious intervention by the heavenly host, countering science, and literally being supernatural. I know that God is capable of this, and in fact specializes in this, but I can’t bring myself to ask. Maybe I’m afraid that not getting what I asked for would lead me to doubt my faith; so it’s better to not ask than to be disappointed or disillusioned. It’s not that I have never asked for something spectacularly impossible, it’s just that I’ve never gotten a “yes” answer to those big requests. So now I just send up some token prayers to the general effect of what I desire, but I don’t really petition heaven. 

Tonight, as I read these words from Ephesians, I felt some comfort. It doesn’t let me off the hook in my cowardly failure to fervently pray, but it’s good to know that God can meet me even in this place. “Far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” He knows what I’m thinking. He knows what I want. He knows my fears, my fragile faith, and my weariness hidden behind those token prayers. He can still answer my meager offerings and my broken dreams couched in, “If it’s God’s will.”

God can meet me in my imagination even when I’m too afraid to ask him to make it a reality. 

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Adulting, women

Housekeeping Made Simple

People are always saying to me, “Your house feels so lived in.” You know why that is?  We live here. We don’t have a separate breakfast parlor for company, or a media and game room in the basement for the teens to congregate. We have basically one living area in which we all share. All 5 of us. You might think that this means that our little space is neat and tidy, but you’d be wrong. It is a magnet for everyone’s everything. So here are a few tips that have helped us maintain that “lived in” look without crossing the line into Hoarders.

carpet

Carpet

Get rid of carpet. If you must have carpet, limit it to small area rugs or mats. Anywhere you can have hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum the better. Outside of the occasional spot cleaning, you can go a very long time without cleaning these floors. Hair, lint, dust, even dried leaves and dirt will be blown across these surfaces and collect at the edge of the room and even more specifically, corners. Grabbing a few of these dust bunnies occasionally, can give you home a lovely fresh look with almost no effort. I use my vacuum cleaner so infrequently; I would need to think about how to turn it on.

vacuumChild labor

There is no reason to do a chore that your spawn is capable of doing. The earlier you train them up the better for everyone. They are learning important life skills. Who cares how sloppy they put away their clothes, you didn’t have to do it. Laundry, dishes, scrubbing toilets, whatever. I’m not saying they need to work like little Orphan Annie, but they can be responsible for themselves and contribute to the family. They should be doing all their own laundry, cleaning their room, clearing their place, putting away their things, and doing one or more chores that contribute to family life. What that means in a practical sense? I don’t wash dishes anymore. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking, along with the vast majority of cleaning, so unless they would prefer to do the grocery shopping and cooking every night, they can do the dishes. Oh, kiddo, you missed a spot.

hoopla

Multi-task

There are only so many hours in a day. I barely have enough time to get the most crucial things done, like feeding all the humans I am responsible for. So, I scrub the bathtub while I’m in it taking a shower. This gives the conditioner a little longer to work while I wipe crud from tiles. This is a quick spot clean process done without the benefit of corrective lenses. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better then it was yesterday. Occasionally, I wipe down the microwave after I pull out that cup of tea I made and forgot and had to reheat now for the third time. Also, I listen to audio books on my phone while I grocery shop.

bed

Don’t Do It

There are certain chores that are just not that important and, bonus, not doing those chores makes your life easier. Take linens for instance. Sure, it’s nice to climb into a bed made with crisp new sheets, but not only does it take time to change those sheets, but it takes time to wash those sheets, dry those sheets, fold those sheets, and put away those sheets. So don’t.  Put those kind of chores off as long as possible. Win-win.

It won’t look like a Better Homes and Garden Magazine spread, but whatever, I’ve got better things to do.

car freshener

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Adulting, women

A Night Owl’s Guide to the Day Job: 7 Tips

Nothing should ever begin before the clock reads 8 am. This should go without saying, but is seems this world is populated by less spiritual people who do not appreciated God’s glorious creation of sleep. Genesis 1 tells us that in the perfect order of things, “There was evening and there was morning the first day.” Evidently, even God didn’t want to start the day off with a morning. I have no idea why these morning people want to mess with the natural order of creation, but as long as we live in this fallen world, we must learn to be in but not of this world. So here are a few tips to help you survive getting up for your day job.

Showers

The only thing worse than getting up on a dark, cold winter morning, is getting up and getting in a shower that will alter my body temperature half a dozen times before I have fully comprehended where my own feet are. I cannot handle it. Shower at night. And by night, I mean after work. I have been known to come home from my job at 4:00 and already be showered by 4:30. If I can shower while dinner is cooking, I do. Earlier showers mean plenty of time for your hair to dry naturally and avoid all that wasted time with the blowdryer. Win-Win.

Clothes

Plan your wardrobe. After your shower, pull out your outfit for tomorrow. I am a huge fan of skirts and leggings. Match a pair. Put your leggings on now. Add a comfy shirt and an oversized sweatshirt and life is good, even if you still need to drive your kids around to scouts or a fancy dinner parties at the country club. You are already halfway dressed for tomorrow morning, and you haven’t even eaten dinner. BAM!

collared button down

Husband: Are you in your pajamas already?  Me: Um, no! This is a collared, button down shirt.

Food

I am an equally big fan of food as I am of sleeping in. “Skipping meals” is a concept I assume was invented by the same people that schedule meetings for 7:30 in the morning. I want my breakfast, but I can’t deal with pondering my options that early in the morning. While you are cleaning up dinner, pack your lunch. Use leftovers whenever possible. And when you’re done, pack your breakfast. You are fully functional and conscious now, so use this to your advantage. It also has the bonus advantage of allowing you to snatch up the last chocolate chip muffin for your breakfast to eat in the car tomorrow. Sorry kids, you snooze, you lose.

muffin remains

Alarms

Setting the proper series of alarms is crucial in the actually waking up process. The appropriate timing of these must be backtracked from the necessary leave time and the number of snoozes needed to move from sleep to semi-conscious. Give your alarms funny names that you are never going to read because your eyes aren’t open. Mine include: “Time to make the doughnuts”, “Open your eyes” (for the ironic factor), and “Big Girl Pants Time.”

Warning: Some people will try to shame you into one single alarm with false logic about how you’d get up quickly if there was a fire alarm. This is categorically false, proven by several vacation incidents and an entire year in college during which drunken students, who seemingly had made a pact with the devil, set off alarms at 2 am every single Wednesday morning. I might get out of bed, but I will wander around in dazed confusion unable to find the exit without assistance. Even if it were true, adrenaline is responsible for such actions. If an ax murderer was coming after me I would run, but that doesn’t mean I should run absent of that kind of motivation.

hotel fire

The 20 Minute Rule

I once read a devotional that said I should always spend the first 20 minutes of my day with God. I tried it. It turns out that I don’t like anyone, including God, during the first 20 minutes of my day. I have since matured in my faith and now give Jesus some prime real estate. He gets some time post dinner, and Bible study is a whole lot less hostile now. So who gets the first 20 minutes of the day? Facebook. Judge all you want, but as I am trying to will my eyelids open, I scroll through my FB feed. All the research about cell phones keeping people awake at night does not seem to apply to helping people wake up, but spending those first few moments in my bed, delirious with exhaustion, in utter silence (minus the few moments I accidentally play a video when I fall asleep and turn the phone on its side) is just about all my brain can muster up while there is a 6 looking back at me from my clock. No one speaks to me; no one gets hurt. The system works, so leave well enough alone.

Getting ready

Sometime around the time that your 8th alarm has rung, and you’ve scrolled past the same kitten video 16 times, your bladder will give you the only true motivation to get out of bed. Congratulations! The worst part of your day is over; you’re up. If you can manage to not fall asleep again on the toilet, which I’ve heard has happened to some people, then you’re gold. You’re already half way dressed. Throw on your top and that “eat-as-much-as-you-want” wrap skirt and you’re practically done. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, apply deodorant, and grab your shoes. Don’t wear makeup. This new natural look requires zero minutes to apply and bonus, zero minutes to wash off. I just saved you time this afternoon. You’re welcome.

Routine

Falling into rote patterns allows muscle memory and your subconscious brain to do the work that a conscious brain would override if you had a conscious brain at 6-something in the morning. Efficiency in these routines is the key to staying in bed longer. Start brewing your piping hot, caffeinated beverage and then put on your shoes. Do everything in the same order so you don’t forget your lunch or shoes. Yes, it can happen. Don’t break this routine. If you absolutely must do something out of the ordinary in the morning, set a reminder on your phone. I have set alarms that said, “Don’t forget the kids!”

forgot the tea

Sometimes I forget the details, like putting tea in the tea ball.

Total time from feet on the floor to bottom in the car, 16.5 – 17.5 minutes depending on level of delirium.

Warning: Not taking adequate time to work through these steps might lead to unfortunate driving issues such as mistaking the tachometer for the speedometer, or driving past your exit. Do not operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery until legitimately conscious. 

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book review, loss, women, writing

The Polygamist’s Daughter By Anna LeBaron: A Book Review

 

Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.                                           –Birdee Pruitt from Hope Floats

I had a great childhood. It wasn’t Beaver Cleaver, but it was idyllic in the crazy, eccentric, lower middle class, country hick sort of way. I think back on family camping trips and Christmas cookie making with a homesick nostalgia that sometimes aches even now in my mid forties.

Anna Lebaron’s childhood, going on at roughly the same time but on the other side of the country, was nothing like mine. Quite frankly, there aren’t very many people in the world who could say they had a similar childhood. I can’t say no one, because as she begins her memoir, “At age nine, I had 49 siblings.” Anna was not alone in this world, but her childhood was far from safe and secure. Growing up the daughter of notorious polygamist Ervil LeBaron, she lived a life that was marked by regularly moving to avoid the authorities, often leaving behind her few possessions, and being reared by various family members that rarely included her own parents. In her memoir, Anna shares about going hungry, being forced to work long hours at family owned businesses, and even being promised in marriage as a young child to an adult member of the cult.

As I read The Polygamist’s Daughter, I found myself drawn into this world of violence and twisted faith that I could not comprehend. Through each move and struggle Anna experienced, I found myself in shock and disbelief. I kept stopping to look something up on the Internet in order to learn more about her father, the cult, or the events mentioned in the book, such as the 4:00 murders.

Anna’s gripping story is far more than a tale about a broken childhood. Anna’s story is a tale of courage and faith. She tells of her escape from the polygamist cult and her coming to a true faith in Jesus Christ. She shares about her journey of healing and the hope we can all find in Christ.

Those of us who have experienced tragedy or loss, whether from childhood wounds or in our adulthood, will appreciate the hope that Anna offers. My favorite line from her book is, “But sorrow always accompanied the joy, inseparable twins at every event.” Recovering from the pain that life can bring often means that we live in a place where the joys and sorrows of life often collide. Anna allows us to walk with her on her own healing journey, and we can all find hope along the way.

I truly enjoyed reading this memoir. I read it more quickly than a typical book as it was difficult to put down. While not the most polished of writing, and a couple of times the timeline seemed a little disjointed, the story read like a suspense novel. I was engaged and emotionally drawn into the story from the start. Anna skillfully shares her story and invites us into her healing journey. I recommend this book to anyone who love stories of faith and courage.

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron releases March 21st and is available for pre-order at http://annalebaron.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Tyndale.

I received an advanced reader’s copy for my honest review.

 

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