Thursday, January 24, 2013

Smoking, and Love

Yesterday, I learned that a resident had passed away. She was a smoker who had lost her battle with lung cancer. She leaves behind a precious 7 year old daughter.

Yesterday, I was reminded of my Aunt Maggie. She passed away when I was 9. She was a smoker because it was her life and she’d do what she wanted with it. She was a nurse. She touched countless lives. One day she got what she thought was a cold. 2 weeks later, she was dead. She had what they call “old-fashioned pneumonia” because it kills so fast. Imagine how many more lives she could have touched had she not died. Imagine her 8 year old daughter, my cousin, growing up without her mom. All because it was her life and she’d do with it as she pleased. *sigh*

I was a smoker. I smoked my first cigarette when I was 10. I started smoking regularly when I was 13 and quit when I was 18. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to quit smoking. I did it for my kids. These three precious children who I didn’t even know at the time. I knew that someday though, I wanted to know them. I didn’t want to poison them during my pregnancy and breastfeeding. I wanted to be around to see them grow up, get married, have their own kids. Please people, your life is not about you. You think you’re cool, a rebel, stickin’ it to the man. You’re not. You’re being taken advantage of by tobacco companies. You might as well roll up a dollar bill and smoke it. Or you could take that dollar bill and save it for your children’s education fund. You’ll drastically increase your chances of actually being around to see them use the education fund. You’re not cool. You stink. Your teeth are yellow. Your fingers are yellow. If you get cancer and go through chemo, you lose your hair. Not all at once, just in patches. You get open sores all over your body. You are in constant pain. Nothing tastes good. You don’t have the energy to even get up to use the bathroom. Someone has to come and help you onto a bedpan, or change your brief if they can’t get to you in time to put you on a bedpan. If you’re smoking to fit in with your friends, imagine your friends in a nursing home, in the condition I just described. Do you really want to fit in with them? Do you want your children to fit in with their children? Motherless or fatherless? 7 or 8 years old and dressed in black at your funeral? Yes, a lot of smokers don’t die that young. But a lot do. You don’t know until it happens if it will be you or not.

On a brighter note,

Today, I worked with a woman, let’s call her Pam. (NOT her real name.) I was encouraging her to eat her snack, so she could put some weight on. Alzheimer’s patients often have difficulty getting enough nutrients. She was doing well. Then she saw her husband through the window, walking towards us. She thrust the snack into my hands, called out excitedly, “My husband!” and ran to meet him. She wrapped her arms around his chest, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. She said again, “My husband!” then brought him back to me and said to him, “Introduce yourself!” I’d met him before a couple of times, but that’s okay. She doesn’t remember. My point is how sweet this scene was. She was walking around on his arm for awhile, just beaming. I hope someday to have someone so special in my life that I beam like that. I hope that I have someone that cares about me enough to come visit me even if I forget who they are, as she eventually will.

I’m so honored and blessed to be able to care for people like these.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Year 2013

I’m taking my blog on a bit of a turn in direction. I’m not totally moving out of the birthy stuff, it’s just on the backburner for now. The last time I posted was over a year ago. Here is what has happened in my life since then.

On September 18, 2012, I packed up my kids and we went to a domestic violence shelter. I’m going to try not to go into too much detail as it’s not my goal to shame him. I might share some detail at a later date, in the hopes of helping other women.

We’ve been here for four months and one day. A couple of days after I arrived, I was offered the opportunity to attend a CNA class for free (scrubs, babysitting, and transportation also provided). I couldn’t pass that up! I went, and tied with three other students for the top score in the class (98 something).

It took a month to get my license and another couple of weeks to get a job. I’ve now been there for nearly 2 months. I work at a facility that provides assisted living, Alzheimer’s living, long-term care, and short term (hospital to our facility to home) care. The Alzheimer’s patients are my favorites. I’m not putting them down when I say this: they are simple. They are not complex. I mean, their issues can be complex, and some require a lot of care, but they just are what they are. The further the disease progresses, the more they let go of what doesn’t serve them. It’s sad to see them forget their loved ones and so on, but I also get to see them for who they really are, and not the act that most have probably put on their whole life. They become like little children again. They feel what they feel, what they express is just the honest truth. It’s a refreshing break from the constant game that people in the “outside world” play of keeping up appearances and trying to impress everyone. Experts say that after they forget who they are, who you are, who their loved ones are, they recognize people by how they make them feel. If I make them feel good, safe, important, they’ll remember me, not as just my name or my job description, but as that person who makes them feel good, safe, and important. If I’m short-tempered with them, they’ll remember me as that. It’s awesome and scary. What a responsibility.

I wish we could all let go of “keeping up appearances”, “putting on airs”, trying to impress, trying to look like we’ve got it all together. I’ve been trying to do this. I’ve gotten some flack for it. Sometimes I think I’ve shared too much and gotten hurt for it. The more you open yourself up, the more you give opportunity for others to hurt you. But you’re gonna get hurt either way. By opening myself up, I’ve also received so much encouragement and support that I never would have gotten had I not expressed that I needed it.

Single motherhood is no picnic. It is not for the faint of heart. It is crushingly lonely. When my kids do something cute, I turn to say, “Look what he did!” and there’s no one there to appreciate it. When I’m sick, there’s no one to take the kids for an hour or two so I can rest. When the kids are sick, there’s no one to stay with the others while I take one to the ER. It requires A LOT of creativity, something I don’t excel at. I like to find ONE solution, one process, one way of doing things that works and KEEP DOING THE SAME THING! It’s emotionally and physically exhausting to constantly reevaluate the situation and come up with new solutions.

When my 3yo is sick and saying, “I want Daddy,” it crushes me. When my 1 year old says, “Dada” and it has no meaning for him, it tears me up. When my 7 year old sobs because he wants to go back to his old school, it makes me want to throw in the towel and do whatever I can to make him happy. But I don’t. Not because I’m stubborn or heartless, but because I believe this is the best thing for all of us. Someone had to break the cycle of violence. It’s been passed down from father to son for generations. It HAS TO STOP. I could not bear the thought of my daughter-in-laws going through what I went through. I couldn’t bear the thought of my three sons growing up and abusing me like they saw their father do (they were already starting to imitate him.) I couldn’t bear the thought of continually bearing children for a man who wanted little to nothing to do with them and saw them as an unwanted burden (but was unwilling to do anything to prevent having more).

It’s been very hard to go from being a stay-at-home mom to working full time. There is never enough time. For cleaning, for time with my kids, for doing things that maintain my own sanity. I’ve decided to drop down to part-time and go to nursing school. It’ll be busy for a while but I’ll end up with better wages, a little less physically demanding job, the opportunity to work in L&D (I hope), more job satisfaction, and a better life for me and my kids. (Any grants or scholarships you know of for nursing students, please pass them on to me! I’d much appreciate it as I’m attempting to get through school debt-free.)

As I told my therapist last week, it’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to be so stressed out, so worried, spend very little time with my kids, just so that I can be safe. If I work full time, I lose all my benefits (food stamps, housing, childcare…). Then I can’t afford to stay on my own and will have to quit my job and go back to him. Nice, right? So I’ve decided to go to school while I have the chance. I wanted to do it in the first place, but chose to work full time to save up money first. Until I learned I wouldn’t be saving money. FRUSTRATING!

Had I known how hard it would be, I would not have left. Had I known I CAN DO THIS, I would have left years ago. Doesn’t seem to make sense, but it does.
My goal for this next year is to get my driver's license and pay cash for a minivan. My goal for the next two years is to graduate with my LPN license. I'm putting this in writing so that I can look back on it and stay motivated.
Will I ever consider going back to him? I'll put it this way. The rate of recovery for abusers is less than 1%. So there's a more than 99% likelyhood that I will never go back. I'm not ruling it out. I do believe that everyone has in them the capacity for change, but it all comes down to motivation and I don't think the motivation is there at this time. That might change in the future, God only knows.

Well, I’d better go. A million things to do and never enough time to do it all. Please keep my kids and I in your thoughts and prayers.