Tears Worth Shedding

Two killed on air
Nine killed in church
Man stabbed in broad daylight
Suicide bomber kills forty, injures hundreds
Bomb hits China
ISIS beheads thirty men, kidnaps ten children
Terrorist attack hits England
Threat level rises in US

The news is full of the bad and the worse. Having a client who watches the news 14 hours out of the day, I hear so much negative news that I teeter on the brink of apathy.
I don’t want to not care.
I want my heart to break as God’s does.
I want my eyes to overflow with the shared pain of the world, as well as that heartbroken family, who just got the news their beloved soldier was killed on his way home.
I don’t want dry eyes and a hardened heart.
These deaths that blaze across the shimmering screen are worth tears.
Children being abused are worth getting angry about.
All are worth being prayed over, all are worth crying out to the God who knows all and mourns all.
These are tears worth shedding for the blood that flows, hearts breaking, and the pain felt.
Help me, Lord, to always love as you do.
Help me to the point I feel the sorrow you feel for your lost children.
No matter the actions of the body, the soul is always worthy of tears.

1 Timothy 1:5
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

2 Timothy 1:7
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

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The Art of Losing (Memories)

I finally got the opportunity to watch the recently released film “Still Alice.” I highly recommend this film, as it may give you the ability to understand some of the sheer terror that people face when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

As a caregiver, I have worked with clients in various stages of this horrid disease. It was remarkably well displayed in “Still Alice.” The film follows a renowned linguistics professor as she discovers that she has Early Onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease at just the age of 50. Alice is a very intelligent, hardworking woman whose very life is defined by words, but she slowly starts to lose the ability to speak her beloved words. It follows Alice and her family for a year, and you can see the quick progression of the disease to the point where she can barely talk.

What I love about this film is not only the amazing portrayal that Julianne Moore does, but how they show the range of emotions that the family members have regarding the ‘loss’ of their mother and wife. You have the denial in the husband as well as distancing, the fixer in the son, one daughter wants to remember for her, while the other daughter accepts it and learns to live in it. There is so much emotion displayed in this film; the fear, the acceptance, the fight for a life that is familiar.

At the beginning, when the diagnoses is given, Alice says something to the effect that she wished she had cancer. Cancer is acceptable, people will put on ribbons, run in marathons, and do fundraisers for you. You become a vision of inspiration. But, Alzheimer’s? It’s shameful, something to be hidden. No one wants to discuss it and friends start to fade away.

We fear mortality. We fear the loss of self. And in our fear, we distance ourselves from those who are in the midst of something we dread. Think about it. You know someone with a loved one who is becoming forgetful, they are worried about the outcome of tests and meetings with caretakers. In their stress, they stop contacting you, or whenever you do talk to them, it’s all about the struggles they are going through. You start dreading the phone call. You don’t want to hear about it.

Your grandma starts forgetting the stories she has told you, just 30 minutes ago. You start to ‘correct’ her, but it makes her worried. She stops talking. Because you always say, “You’ve already told me that.”

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are diseases that erase self. They make you forget who you were, who you are now, and who you could have been in the future. It makes you forget the ones you love, and the very ability to make your body work. Some people call it the “Second Childhood.” You become dependent on others for the very things that you once took care of for your children.

Your children take care of your intimate needs as your mind forgets the ability to do certain movements. Your spouse who looked forward to an exciting retirement with you instead has to keep track of your wanderings and pills. You become the dreaded burden you always feared.

Alzheimer’s is a demeaning disease. It’s full of angst and fear. As well as intimate demands.

But.

Alzheimer’s can also be an awakening for your family. Personalities can be changed because of this disease. One of my clients whom numerous people attested to be a very hard woman, became extremely sweet in the midst of the disease. Family members were able to connect to her in a way that they were never able to before. Forgiveness was found as untold stories came to the light.

There can be a beauty in the midst of losing.

“Still Alice” uses a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop who said: “The Art of Losing isn’t hard to master: so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost, that their loss is no disaster.” I encourage you to live in the losing with your loved one. Do not put upon them the fear of remembering, by correcting them thirty times a day about the things they forget. Many of them already know they are forgetting. Reminding them does no good. 

Follow the meandering stories the best you can. It won’t be easy, but remember, what you are going through is nothing compared to the labyrinth in their minds.

Don’t hide them away as if they are a shameful secret. There will be times that too much stimulation will be hard for them, but hold their hand, read them stories. Engage them in life. Life may look differently for them, but they are still a part of it. Don’t remove them from the time they have among your family.

See things anew through their eyes. Sometimes the simplistic beauty of a flower becomes enrapturing. Looking at each individual petal can take all day, enter into that discovery with them. Maybe this is the time God has given you both to smell the roses they were too busy to see before.

Remember, if you meet one person with Alzheimer’s, you have only met one person with Alzheimer’s. The disease reacts differently to every brain it inhabits. Learn what is best for each person differently. Remember, that they are not the disease, they are people who still dream and hope, acknowledge that desire in them.

I have worked in private homes, adult foster homes, as well as retirement centers. No matter where I go, I see a person who deserves my respect and their dignity. It’s easy to get caught in the ‘doing’ stage and think they are moving too slow, that you have things to do. So you start shoving them into clothes, quickly scrubbing them in the shower, making them eat quicker, etc… When there is a lot to do, it’s easy to see a person as an object and move them where they need to be, rather than see them for a scared nervous man or woman who is uncertain of the next step.

I always think, how would I want to be taken care of? Like no matter what is wrong with me, I’m still someone of worth. I am still me. My self-hood is not contingent on my ability to remember your name or how to put on my pants. If I breathe and my heart still beats, I am still me. Treat me as human and worthy of your respect.

 On my good days, I can, you know, almost pass for a normal person. But on my bad days, I feel like I can’t find myself.-Dr. Alice Howland

There will be bad days. But, there will be sweet moments as well. As the disease runs it’s course, and the memories it eats run dry, there will be come a time, a week or a few days before their eyes close for good, that clarity is found. For a few hours, you will have your loved one back. The one you remember from years past. Cherish that time. It is the final goodbye.

Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is a hard job. It’s even harder when that person is someone you know and love. It will make you weep and make you scream. But, if you allow love to guide you through it, it can be very rewarding as well. Find support groups, make your family get involved, and take moments in the day to remember who you are. Take a walk outside, or read a book. Take a breather. You will love them better when you take care of yourself.

I highly recommend the movie “Still Alice.” I just got the book, but I’m sure I will be recommending it as well.

Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook

Very well written and something I agree with fully. We are called to love and not condemn. It is only through God’s love that anyone can truly change. We all have sins we don’t want discussed, but remember –God hates ALL sin equally. That includes gossip just as much as perversion of the flesh.

Please read this article and always remember — people are watching and judging the God you love by your actions.

Christians, Be Careful What You Say On Facebook.

Dear Mike Rowe

If I wrote a letter to Mike Rowe, host of the former Dirty Jobs show on the Discovery Channel, in regards to a dirty job I know of, this is what I would say. (And there is a good chance that this might have ended up sounding more like a rant. Which I might or might not apologize for, let’s just be honest.) 

Dear Mr. Rowe,

I always enjoyed watching you shine the spotlight on the unsung heroes of the work force. As a daughter of a dump truck driver and a para-educator, I understand hard work and determination. Since I was 14, I have worked hard and continually, helping put myself through college to graduate with a Master’s degree in Pastoral studies. I never once shied away from the idea of hard work. Also just because I have now succeeded in getting that degree, that does not mean that I still won’t work hard with my hands at every opportunity.

I held down a full time janitorial job on campus during the school year and then worked as a full time caregiver during all school breaks. I was actually told by one classmate that he could never “clean up after the professors who teach me because I’m better than that.” I was completely baffled by that thought. Being a janitor is a good, solid, respectable job. I have always been proud of doing that job for my 7 years of undergrad and seminary, and even now continue to be a housekeeper, as the opportunity arises around my other full time job.

Since I was 14, I have worked as a caregiver. Mostly, I have cared for clients who have either Dementia or Alzheimer’s, both of which are terrible diseases that can drastically change the person you love into a stranger. You might have to watch your sweet grandma turn into an aggressive banshee, who chases you around the house, trying to hit you over something already forgotten. Or see as your loving father struggles with the fact that he knows he is forgetting something and becomes extremely agitated over that knowledge.

There are so many emotional ups and downs involved with being a caregiver. There is a balancing act that many people don’t see. I always get variations of two comments when someone realizes that I am a caregiver, “Wow, I could never do that job! Wiping people’s butts and stuff. Wow. I admire you.” or “That would be so awesome to have a job where you could sleep all day!”

They totally miss the purpose and the wonderful aspects of the job.

It is my job and my pleasure to attempt to be all things to one person.

My client is knocking on her 100th birthday in a sliver of years. She has lived through riding on a horse drawn wagon, to seeing a man walk on the moon, and now being ignored by her great grandchild in favor of watching a small handheld screen. The amount of unplumbed history just sitting there, watching the world spiral out of control on the news, is staggering.

Through this job, I wear many hats. Gardener, chef, housecleaner, counselor, chauffer, bookkeeper, dog walker, spider catcher, bird feeder, and whatever she might need at a moment’s notice. To say the least, I do not have time to ‘nap’ because my client, though nearly 100 does not nap.

Caregiving is not a easy white collar medical job. So many people think that it is an easy job because there is so much demand for care of the aging Baby Boomers that are filling the retirement centers.  Too many ill equipped care givers are now in the system. This is why I vote for finger printing and background checks of all people who are charged with the care of these precious clients. Too many abusers now have in their care, vulnerable adults. As like with most public care jobs, you hear too much about the bad ones that destroy the lives of those put into their keeping, rather than showing how someone who deeply cares for their charges, can go about making their last years comfortable.

Despite working in a private home or adult care facility, while the clients may change, my job stays the same. That job is to give my clients compassionate care that protects their dignity and gives them respect in all aspects of that care.

If I find myself scrubbing a bathroom into an inch of my life due to the ferocious cleansing agents of prune juice and promptly having to do it again within two hours, it is just par for the course. If it’s about driving one of my clients over a hundred miles just so they could get out of the house, I do so with a smile. It’s about biting my tongue to keep my opinions to myself, because my job is to listen rather than advise.

Caregiving is not about MY desires or wants. It’s about keeping them happy and healthy. It’s about cooking the same meal 20 times because you finally found something that they will eat and will hopefully gain a few pounds. It’s about being a pharmacist who has to beg her clients to take their pills. It’s about defending your client’s rights to live their lives as they see fit. It’s about speaking up for them when they are too scared to do so. It’s about neglecting your own sleep so that you can make sure that they are sleeping well. It is about treating them the way you will hope and pray you will be treated when it is your time to be in the care of someone else.

Caregiving, in my book at least, is a dirty job. I always wanted to write in and ask you to do something in regards to it, but with privacy laws,  you wouldn’t exactly be allowed to shadow someone on the job! I would just love to see a nod to those in this noble profession who, as you put it, make civilized life possible for the rest of us. It is one of those jobs that is over looked but is so diversified.

All said and done though, I am very proud of being a caregiver.

Thank you, Mr. Rowe, for doing all you do. I agree 100% that Americans don’t understand what hard work is anymore. Most of my generation has lost touch with work ethic and it is translating down into their young children. It is so sad to see that juxtaposition between the ‘Greatest Generation’ who were such hard workers and the stereotypical ‘Generation Me’ who is more focused on ‘what I can get for myself’ attitude.

I might be called old fashioned for some of my ideals and morals, but taking a look around me, I’m glad for that old-fashioned value set. It has held me in good stead my whole life, and I get to listen to all the untold stories that are just waiting to be let free from the minds of my quiet elders.

So, my hands might be gloved in vinyl blue, and while I might not be crawling under houses or putting my hands in some animal, I  think all dirty jobs are the jobs worth doing. Because at the end of the day you know you have accomplished something. And me? I am accomplished in my job when I see my client face another day, knowing I’m in her corner.

Keep dirty and work hard!

Ranelle Gildersleeve

We are Story

Stories. We are surrounded by stories. There are ones that catch our attention and refuse to leave us. Others we carry for just a small bit of time before moving to another one. But, always, we are surrounded by stories. For example, the quotes that are placed here probably bring to mind the stories they are attached to, here’s a quick rundown of their power:

“Excellent!” I cried. “Elementary,” said he.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes, the Consulting Detective, came on the scene in 1887. This character has the ability to still catch our attention, so much that we have two big networks doing their own version of the story (BBC and CBS) at the same time. There are movies such as Robert Downey, Jr‘s and Jude Law‘s version of Sherlock Holmes not to mention Basil Rathbone‘s classic version. Also the famous cartoon version The Great Mouse Detective (1986), that I grew up with and which started my love for the Sherlock character. Other versions come and go and the rabid fandom lives on. Doyle wrote such an amazing character that when he tried to kill off Holmes in the paper serial of his day, the readers rebelled, wearing black armbands to mourn the character. Doyle had to bring back Sherlock Holmes because the readers were so invested in him. We still are!
Doyle wrote a story that has stuck with us for 126 years.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice”

Jane Austen wrote in 1813, Pride and Prejudice. It is a ‘classic,’ required reading in most English Lit classes. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy still have the power to gain our attention. Austen’s book is considered one of the most beloved stories and is much studied in scholarly circles. It has seen many adaptations over the years.
Austen wrote this romantic story 200 years ago, and still we hold it dear.

“Please take it,” says I, “and don’t ask me nothing—
then I won’t have to tell no lies.” – Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written in 1884, is another classic. It too has seen it’s share of various adaptations in movies and television shows. It also has seen it’s share of the ‘politically correct’ wars. I remember when I was in middle school hearing the various reasons of why certain words should be changed, and it’s a debate that is still going on. But, still we hold onto the story. Something about Finn’s coming of age in a changing world, grabs our attention and refuses to release us.
Twain wrote it 129 years ago and still we debate it.

Three stories out of the billions written since the first letter was shaped. Three stories that are just the brink of not only the stories of the English speaker, but of the world. Even if we have never taken the much needed time to read these classic works, most of us know of them. How could we not when even in this day and age we speak of these century plus stories?

We are story. We as a human race are made up of stories. We seek to understand the world around us and when we do, we tell others of what we have discovered- in story. Is it any wonder that when God spoke to us in the written word, He chose to do so mostly in story form? 75% of the Bible is in story format while 15% is in poetry. The small percentage that is left is letter and prophecy, which even there if you look closely, might have story format woven into it. The Bible as a whole is a story. We often forget in our search for truth that everything from Genesis to Revelation is related and part of the same story.
Why would God chose the form of story to teach us?
Because it is how we learn.
We love stories because it helps us realize that we are not alone in this world. We want to know that someone else, even if it is a fictional character, has felt a little bit of our fear, a little bit of our love. We want to know that we are not the only one to ever feel this way. We want to believe that the monsters that haunt us can be killed. G.K. Chesterton put it beautifully when he said “Fairy tales don’t tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.
Every one of us is in the midst of our own story. We have our own villains and heroes who interact with us on a daily basis. We become our own hero and our own villain as well. We become the evil in our autobiographies when we refuse to shoulder the weight of the hero’s burden, turning to the easy way out. Our stories are connected with each person we come in contact with. Sometimes we have the reoccurring characters that we come to love or hate, while there are the stock characters that show some aspect of our own character, but do not seem to have much impact on our lives. Our story is not alone in this vast world.
Our stories are but part of the larger Story. We become who we are through the lives of our relatives, the shape of their existence directs where we might show up in our own narrative. There is a reason why numerous people seek to understand their genealogies. It is because they feel adrift; without knowing who they are, they do not know who they will become.
Historians seek to understand that which has passed beyond our understanding. They seek to decode how the past still has power over us today. They wish to understand who we, as the human race, are and will become.
We are all connected. It’s not some mystical otherworldly belief. It is simple truth. Our stories slip into each other, they weave in and around every person we speak with. We never have to be alone. Since the moment Adam was given speech, he was speaking in story. God communicated with him about the world he created for him. How did Eve learn about the world she awoke in? Adam taught her what God told him, probably walking with her where he had tread with God. Pointing at certain things, he conveyed what he had himself learned.
Stories are not just what is between the covers of a book, nor is it only that which we find on the screen. We communicate our part of the narrative when we tell a friend about our day, when we write in our little journals about the person who caught our eye.
Our stories will not always be of love and adventures. Most of us will write in tears and blood at one time or another, while joy seems to be fleeting. The climax of our story will not truly come till our death, and even then, it might just be a bit of a cliffhanger until we see where we stand on the other side of death.
We are not alone. We need not seek a fictional character to be understood, when we can look to the person beside us. Though admittedly it is easier to handle a character’s reaction since they don’t talk back.
Wherever you are in the midst of your own narrative, know you are part of something so much bigger. You a very important part of my story. For you, I would wear a black armband.
Read well my friends and find comfort in the stories that are unfolding!

A thought on actors

I am not a fangirl. I enjoy a great actor when I see them whether in a movie or on a show, but I will refrain from becoming a fangirl. Right now, I might be a little crazy over BBC’s Sherlock, waiting for the next series to come out–because let’s admit it- it’s a great show! The depth of character that these amazing actors portray is awe-inspiring. Plus, I just want the tears to stop when I watch “The Reichenbach Fall” and for Sherlock to come back. The whole crew who works on screen (as well as the writers) pulls off the emotional turmoil needed beautifully.
I appreciate actors who make their characters believable. It takes special skill to place a fictional skin over your own personality so that people only see the character.
I do not have the skill and I’m glad to be able to enjoy a few hours watching someone who does.
But, also, I would never want to be famous. Looking through different sites to see what thoughts there were about how Sherlock survived the “Fall,” I was amazed by the possessiveness of some of the fans. Not only do they defend their favorite characters aggressively, but they just as aggressively try to influence the romantic aspect as well.
Then you have the fanatic fans of the actors themselves. Men and women alike will stake out and stalk actors. Paparazzi will do everything in their power to get one picture to sell, the more possibly compromising the better. They are known to photoshop what is going on in the picture just to make it more racy.
I find it sadly ironic that in America where we believe in the right to privacy that we have no qualms of breaking that right when it is someone famous. I’ve heard some people say that they gave up that right when they became an actor. I’m shocked by that thought!
Just because someone is well known, they lose the right to their privacy? I bet those people would change their mind quickly if they were forced to deal with the paparazzi and crazy fans.
I feel sorry for famous people. The chance to do something that they love in front of the masses makes them lose their anonymity. Few well known actors can just walk along the street without being bombarded by questions and cameras. Quiet moments with a loved one become tabloid fodder and every supposed argument is leading to a break up. Every pound lost or gained is weighed by the public.
Just because they play on our screens, we think that these people are ours to dissect.
Honestly, sometimes it doesn’t surprise me when I hear the sad news of another actor going into rehab, or even worse dying due to an overdose.
We remove these actors’ ability to simply be. We seem to forget that they are NOT their professions, but rather are people who just act for work.
We forget that despite their money and their fame, they are simply human. They are just as broken and lost as we are and they are just trying to find a little bit of happiness.
No, I would rather never be famous. Questioning people’s friendships because you can’t trust why they hanging out with you, having your conversations sold to the highest bidder by your own relatives, and having money stolen from those that you thought you could trust.
To be famous is not the blessing we might think.
The next time we go crazy over an actor, maybe we can step back and allow them a breath.
Just a thought.

The bite of a snake

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Today, I was watching Animal Planet and they were talking about the venom and bites that snakes have. While I had known that a snake can bite you after it’s head has been severed, I never knew that it could be up to hours afterward that it could still cause you death. While the toxicity may lessen after the snake dies, it still has the power to kill you.
So if you see a severed snake head laying on the ground, don’t pick it up!
This random thought has been going around in my mind since I heard it.
But, it reminded me of something else. The toxicity of sin.
We tend to think that once we did ‘something’ it’s done. It’s in the past and can’t harm us now. How wrong can we be!
I was struck by this when I was watching Push Girls (a show that follows four women who are paralyzed). One of the women who was attempting to get pregnant was worried that an abortion she had had in the past, might be causing some of the problems that she was facing now. Something that she had done years ago was affecting her now.
People who have misdemeanors in their past, those infractions still haunt them when they are looking for jobs and have to go through background checks. Sometimes they were stupid mistakes but they still follow them, no matter how much they have changed today.
Sin has this insidious power that quietly waits until you think it is over and forgotten, then it rears it’s head to bite you again.
Even seemingly little sins have the power to cause great harm later on. A whispered mocking word can come back to haunt you, a cheating kiss can ruin a strong relationship, an insensitive action can damage a friendship. Little sins have great venom.
Sometimes big sins can seem easier to deal with because they are out there and you have to work through it. You can see the damage quickly. They are like the big old pythons that you might see coming but still have the ability to crush you.
What we might consider insignificant sins can be much like the fast striking rattlesnakes, they give small signs of danger then sinks their dangerous fangs into our flesh. Some might take hours while others only minutes to bring us to death’s door.
A snake’s head can still bite and kill you hours after it has died.
What can my sins do to harm me years after I have committed them?
What about yours?

Galatians 6:6-7 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.