The Journal Box

This is an article I wrote for the Care Connection Magazine.                                                                                                                The Care Givers Ride
As a child, I would write in my diary, then as a young adult, I would fill the pages of decorated journals. All those adventures and emotions are now trashed.
However, I started writing once again, but now I call it journaling. I believe journaling is the voice we can use to travel into the caverns of our heart.
As caregivers, it is important to have a safe place to visit. We spend so much of our time providing for our loved ones— creating a safe place for them. We sometimes forget about “us.”
I would like to share several pages from my journal.
April 26 2004
“I love flipping through cooking magazines, day dreaming about the wonderful meals I am going to prepare. However, I know it is only a dream. I barely have time to get a batch of pancakes thrown on the griddle, before my duty as a caregiver pulls me in another direction.
May 7 2012
Two more flips of the calendar will greet me with my 63rd birthday. Billy is only 2 years older than I am. I lost the brother I knew in 1987.He cannot change the fact 25 years ago someone kicked him in the chest and the life he knew is forever gone. He struggles daily to accept his imprisonment. Remnants of bull riding and serving his country decorate his room and overshadow the tubes that hang from his distorted body.
I haven’t always been the care taker of Billy. It doesn’t seem that long ago I questioned Mom’s decision to bring her total care son home from the nursing home. Mom died a little over eight years ago. I now fill that role of primary care taker. Yes, friends and family warned me of burnout and reminded me “You have a life of your own”. My first thought was to run away. I just spent the last 6 months caring for my dying mother. I wanted nothing more to do with sickness and responsibility. I tried to convince myself Billy would be better in a nursing home. But, something tugged within, an invisible string running through me—binding love, duty, faith. It runs deeper than I can imagine, reasoning and logic hold no power over this force. I now know what unconditional love is all about. I had a choice to walk away and give the responsibility to someone else. To my surprise I chose the role of the caretaker. When I enter Bill’s room I escape the reality of my world. I leave my to do list on the kitchen table. Gunsmoke and I Love Lucy re-runs entertain us. We recall old childhood memories and laugh together. For a moment, Mom, Dad and our oldest brother dance in our laughter then quickly return only to a memory. I wish I could say I never grumble about the work and responsibility, but I can’t. This choice can’t be justified to the outside world nor does it need to be, it is a connection between brother and sister that has no boundaries. Bill’s slurred words, “thank you, thank you” warm my heart.
August 10 2014
!! Hospice
December 18 2014
As I write Christmas cards to my friends, something is missing, for over ten years I always signed my cards, with Billy’s name also. This is the first year I cannot.
There is a going to be a lot of firsts for me this coming year, the first Christmas not buying “Big Red” or gathering in his room around his bed playing a silly word game.
Billy died sept 4th and his death has left a hole in my heart, a disjointed feeling. He was more than a brother he was an extension of me, you see I have been his voice for over ten years. I chose his clothes daily, his tv shows, the time his light would come on and the time his light would go off. My total care brother and I merged 27 years earlier when an accident left him  total care.

That is where I am now, stepping into the emptiness. This pain and emptiness would be black if I didn’t have the light of Jesus to guide me through. Jesus mourned for his friend John, so I know nothing is wrong with mourning—my care giving ride has ended.
Compassion fatigue is often the silent pain caregivers carry deep within,

Last week I wrote about stepping out of my comfort zone.
But this morning I see it from a different view. Why God would choose a poor Texas girl with a speech problem to write about his daily provisions and mercies still amaze me. And now I am stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing my testimony with others. Last night, I shared my journey with ten strangers. I spoke about giving God 100 percent of my tears and fears when I didn’t think I could go. I was so encouraged with the warm affirming response I received from these ten women.
I was nervous on the way to the meeting, but I soon remembered friends were praying for me. So today, as I reflected on the affirmation from the ladies and how my story touched their hearts, I realized that I had been lying to myself, when I said, “I am stepping out of my comfort zone.” If I am with Christ, how can I be stepping out of my comfort zone? He is my strength.
As I prepare to share my testimony/book with Hope Springs Mother and Daughter Tea this coming week, I will hold fast to the knowledge God is my comfort zone and His arms will be surrounding me as I share my story.

The Stranger with a Hug

During the Christian Writing conference, our instructor gave us an assignment. A five minute writing prompt. The word was “stranger.”

Here is an excerpt from my writings: “A stranger to some could be considered dangerous, but to others it brings a new friend, a new adventure. I hope I can look into each strangers face and see what Jesus sees. I hope I can accept the gift the stranger has for me.”

My “stranger with a hug” encounter. While nervously waiting for my appointment with the publisher, a lady put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You will do good.” She quoted a Bible verse, then hugged me. I relaxed and attended my meeting with confidence, knowing God was with me.

Thanks to the lady in a crowd of 200 who saw me.

How a stuffed dog and a drunk driver strengthened my faith

 

How a stuffed dog and a drunk driver strengthened my faith

 

As a child, I would write in my diary, then as a young adult I would fill the pages of decorated journals. All those adventures and emotions are now trashed.

 

However, one batch of my scribbles remain, my book, “The Unbreakable Cord.” My daughter’s car accident inspired the book. At the time, the events were so overwhelming, I isolated myself from my feelings and emotions. Using a stuffed dog, Woody, as my voice, I began journaling. I gave the little fluffy dog a personality and I channeled all my fears through him.

 

Different genres fill the writing field and the same is with caregiving. To the viewers, our life looks like a fiction movie. But, we live the suspense pages of our nonfiction journey. Writing my first book was like my years of caregiving— overwhelming.

 

When I decided to publish my book, someone told me, “You should choose the fiction genre, no one will believe that many things can happen to one family.” It took fifteen years to transcribe my scribbles into my nonfiction book, The Unbreakable Cord.

 

My new blog, The Caregivers Ride, shares my experience of writing and the involvement of being a caregiver. You may wonder how the two are similar. Looking back, they seem the same, not the experience, but the fear, the questions, and the doubts. Stepping into the world of punctuation was as new to me as stepping into the world of caregiving.

 

Some of you are in the beginning stage of your novel, while others are writing the last chapter. Maybe you story is a short story. For others, their caregiving journey is a series, with one character leaving to only be replaced with another.

 

The main characters of my suspense book were a disabled brother, an injured daughter, and an ageing Mom. They danced and cried on the pages of my journal.

 

So, in this blog, I am using punctuation to ride through the caregiver’s heart. Punctuation marks tell the reader when to speed up, slow down, when to stop and even what to expect coming. I’ve blogged about the question mark; the exclamation point and the comma.

 

However, today, I am setting aside the punctuation marks and writing about how I chose my titles.

 

The title of my blog, The Caregivers ride, relates to my experience of caring for my disabled brother. A photo of my brother riding a bull hung in his room until his death. But my brother’s accident wasn’t from a bull ride but a bar fight. Maybe it was easier seeing a photo of a bull rider than a bar fight. Realizing life is a ride, no matter if you are learning the craft of writing or the skill of caregiving.

 

For my book, I had many working titles. but when I submitted my manuscript I reflected on the one consistent theme throughout the book. Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” His love is unbreakable. So, my new title, The Unbreakable Cord was born.

 

For me, the experience of caregiving and writing were the same. I could only do my best. I know for myself, focusing on one chapter or one doctor’s visit was all I could manage on some days. I surrounded myself with support groups both in the caregiving field and the writing field. I hired helpers and editors. As time passed, questions became less and I moved into each assignment with a little more confidence. However, the work didn’t stop.

 

My hope is no matter how many rejections notices come in your mail box or how life invades your space and you can’t find time to write the book trapped within, you will hold tight to the cord that never breaks.

 

I suggest using your appointment book as your journal. Use a punctuation mark or an emotion icon to note the feeling about that day, that doctors visit, that loneliness, that writers block. Then when you have five-minutes free time open your journal and expand your feelings. Write from the heart, journaling is a rough draft and is for your eyes only. Who knows maybe one day your scribbles will become a book.

 

The Pause in Care Giving

Welcome to my blog, The Care Givers Ride, Journaling through the heart of the caregiver.

I wrote in my diary as a child, then as a young adult I filled the pages of decorative journals. All those adventures and emotions are now trashed. However, one batch of my scribbles remain, my book, The Unbreakable Cord, my account of my daughter’s car accident. At the time, the events were overwhelming, I isolated myself from my feelings and emotions. Using a stuffed dog, Woody, as my voice, I began journaling. I channeled all my fear through him. Writing my first book was like my years of caregiving— overwhelming. Someone told me, “You best do it as a fiction, no one will believe that many things can happen to one family.” It took fifteen years to transcribe my scribbles and share my emotions.

Different genres fill the writing field and the same is with caregiving. To the world, our life looks like a fiction movie. But, we live the suspense pages of our nonfiction book.

In this section of my blog I am using punctuate marks to ride through the caregiver’s heart. My ride as a my brother’s caregiver ended in 2014, however, the memories continue stirring within.

Punctuation guides the reader; when to speed up, slow down, when to stop and even what is around the corner. My first post reflected on the question mark. We all question ourselves and one common question runs through us all, “ Why me?”

Last week, the exclamation Point This can’t be happening to me! I don’t have time for this right now! It’s not fair! I can’t handle anymore. I can’t do this!” This week, is the more difficult of writing and caregiving—the comma.

I attended a small Texas school, and English wasn’t my favorite subject. I was terrified when I decided to share my private scribbles with the world. My world was full of question marks and exclamation points. However, it was the comma of both worlds that has been my enemy

When my daughter was fighting for her life in the intensive care unit, I wanted to be at her bedside constantly. However, the doctors knew the importance of slowing down, the pause was for my health. I know caregivers fear getting sick. One question haunts us, “Who will take over for me? “

Precise rules govern the use of the comma, when followed they lay the ground work for clear written communication. The doctors knew her story wasn’t going to be a short story, so, I followed their rules, and didn’t sleep by her bedside anymore.

And as in writing, I took the advice of an editor and paid to have my book edited. And wow, did she ever add commas. At each insertion, she gave the reason. Still too many for me to remember. But, the one rule for the comma I do know, is the pause. As caregivers we must pause , this is the groundwork for taking care of ourselves.

I hope you can find a minute to pause and journal the feelings within your heart; remember it is for your eyes only. For the list makers, use bulletin points to get the information out of your head onto paper. As funny as it sounds, writing does help, don’t worry about punctuations or spelling, just write from the heart.

Next week, I will share how I feel when my loved one pauses; I hope you will join me and share your “ride.”

 

The Exclamation Point of Care Giving

 

Welcome to my blog, The Care Givers Ride. In my first post, I shared, as a child I wrote in my diary, then as a young adult I filled the pages of decorative journals. All those adventures and emotions are now trashed. However, one batch of my scribbles remain, my book, The Unbreakable Cord, my account of my daughter’s car accident. At the time, the events were overwhelming, I isolated myself from my feelings and emotions. Using a stuffed dog, Woody, as my voice, I began journaling. I channeled all my fear through him. Writing my first book was like my years of caregiving— overwhelming.  It took fifteen years to complete my book. Someone told me, “You best do it as a fiction, no one will believe that many things can happen to one family.”

Different genres fill the writing field and the same is with caregiving. The dictionary describes genre, “a category of artistic composition.” That is us care givers, artistic composition. We adapt, we paint new pictures, we create. We become the noun and the verb in our loved one’s world. To the world, it looks like a fiction movie, but to us we know it is real.

I am using punctuate, to ride through the caregiver’s heart, my ride as a caregiver ended in 2014 but the memories continue stirring within.

Punctuation tells the reader, when to speed up, slow down, when to stop and even what to expect coming. My last post reflected on the question mark. We all question ourselves and one common question runs through us all, “ Why me?”

Today is the Exclamation Point. Definition of the exclamation point, “Used to show a forceful way of speaking or a strong feeling.” It can show urgency, anger, surprise, distress, excitement, intensity, loud noises and even strong commands.

In one of my writing critique classes the instructor said we could only use one exclamation point per project. Wow, only one I thought. I wanted to end every sentence with an exclamation point.

It was the same when I became the caregiver of my disabled brother. I wanted to use the exclamation point at every turn, “This can’t be happening to me! I don’t have time for this right now! It’s not fair! I can’t handle anymore. I can’t do this!”

However, I soon I realized the exclamation point was a way of life, and I needed to restructure my life and accept my new norm. I needed to reserve my one exclamation mark for when I really needed it.

At the time of my daughter’s car accident, my aging mother and disabled brother lived with me. The events of her car accident were more than I could handle. Journaling through the eyes of the stuffed dog, Woody, was my voice to deal with my inner questions and fears, the unknows, the daily exclamations points.

With all the exclamation points of caregiving, I encourage each of you to express your inner exclamation points. Use your appointment calendar. Note little punctuation in the date squares. For example, use a colon to note a routine follow up, question mark—why more test. Use the emotion icons to express your feeling for that day. Maybe write in the comment section of this blog how you feel, sometime one word can say it all. Mine was often, “ENOUGH.”

Then when you have a spare second expand on it. Journaling is a rough draft, remember it is for your eyes only. For the list makers, use bulletin points to get the information out of your head onto paper. As funny as it sounds, writing does help, don’t worry about punctuations or spelling, just write from the heart. Next week, the comma, I wish I understood all those rules.

 

 

 

The Care Givers Ride

From Pages’ Past 2004

“I love flipping through cooking magazines, day dreaming about the wonderful meals I am going to prepare. However, I know it is only a dream. I barely have time to get a batch of pancakes thrown on the griddle before my duty, as a caregiver, pulls me in another direction. Is duty even the correct word? Responsibility or love might fit better. I tell myself, “It’s my duty to keep my brother out of the nursing home, it’s my duty to pick up where my mother left off, it is my duty to God to care for my brother. No, maybe love is the better word, I love my brother and mother. I love God. I love family.”

My ride as a caregiver ended in 2014, these are my stories—“The Care Givers Ride, Journaling through the heart of the caregiver.”

As a child, I would write in my diary, then as a young adult I would fill the pages of decorated journals. All those adventures and emotions are now trashed.

However, one batch of my scribbles, remain, my book, “The Unbreakable Cord.” My account of my daughter’s car accident. At the time, the events were so overwhelming, I isolated myself from my feelings and emotions. Using a stuffed dog, Woody, as my voice, I began journaling. I gave the little fluffy dog a personality and I channeled all my fear through him.

Fifteen years later, I was encouraged to share my experience. You may be wondering what does writing a book and care giving must do with each other? looking back they seem the same, not the experience, but the fear, the questions.

Different genres fill the writing field and the same is with caregiving. The dictionary describes genre, “a category of artistic composition.” That is us care givers, artistic composition. We adapt, we paint new pictures, we create. We become the noun in our loved one’s world. (I will share some of the things my family created to help with my brother’s care throughout my blog, and I hope you will also share some of your creations and tips with readers.)

Some of you are beginning your novel while others are in the middle, but some of you are writing the last chapter. Maybe you story is a short story. For others, their caregiving novel is a series, with one character leaving to only be replaced with another.

I lived the pages of a suspense novel, with the main characters, a disabled brother, an injured daughter, and an ageing Mom filling each page of my journal with adventure.

So, in this blog, I am using punctuation to ride through the caregiver’s heart. Punctuation marks tell the reader when to speed up, slow down, when to stop and even what to expect coming. I am starting with the question mark. The writing rules of a question mark: Use after sentence that asks a question, use to mark uncertainty or doubt.

When it was suggested I turn the pages of my scribbles into a book, questions and doubt consumed me. “I can’t write, I can’t even spell correctly, and I sure don’t know how to write a book.” So, I went to a writing conference and words were thrown at me that was never in my daily vocabulary. Different rules—all different depending on your choice of genre. The same with caregiving, no stoke victim or person struggling with Parkinson are the same Was I smart enough to learn the craft? Could I find the time? Was I willing to fail? Looking back, these are the same questions that attacked me when I stepped into the caregiving role of my disabled brother. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to handle the ‘nursy’ thing required of me. My vocabulary filled with new words, Colostomy, bed sores, feeding tubes, and rules again became my guide. I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to give up my dreams to take this ride?” A ride without a roadmap. A ride, I knew that only had one destination.

My support group became doctors and nurses. I asked the nurse questions, made her slow down and explain. Things that were easy for her, I found difficult. My appointment calendar became my journal.

So, when it came to writing my book, I told myself, I can learn the craft. I needed to know the rules. I surrounded myself with writing crique groups and friends who encouraged me through the rejections of my manuscript. I even paid to have my final manuscript edited, some rules I just couldn’t get.

For me caregiving and writing are the same, I could only do my best. I know for myself, focusing on one chapter or one doctor’s visit was all I could manage on some days. As time passed, questions became less and I moved into each assignment with a little more confidence. However, the work didn’t stop.

I think a lot of caregivers are overwhelmed with questions and have no one to ask. I also know there is that spouse out there taking care of their partner and is drowning in loneliness.

My hope is in this weekly blog, The Care Givers Ride, it will be a listening ear for your questions. You may not get an answer, but I know for myself, just bringing that question to the surface is freeing. I invite you to write on this page, sometimes just being able to say, it’s overwhelming, or whatever your heart is feeling. As a past caregiver, I understand. I hope you will join with me and other readers.

Start by using your appointment book as your journal. Use a punctuation mark to note the feeling about that day, that doctors visit, that loneliness. Then when you have five-minutes free time open your journal and expand on that punctuation mark. Be honest with yourself. Remember, a journal is for your eyes only. Do not worry about the rules of writing.

My goal is to post a new blog every Sunday, next week it is on the exclamation point. Thank you for reading my blog and I do look forward to hearing from you.