Me

I have never thought of myself as a Type A personality, and in reality I’m probably not even close, but as is the case with many people, I can find myself having trouble relaxing. There is just so much to get done in a day, and not enough hours to do it all.

Sometimes, I just can’t seem to give myself permission to slow down, until I drop. And of course, when I do sit down, I usually doze off. It’s like the minute my body isn’t in motion, it is just done. And yet, after 20 or 30 minutes, I feel like I need to do more. So, I often find myself still up at midnight or later. Probably because I tried to fit too much into my day…again.

People today, especially those who, like me, are cramming too much into a day, really need to learn to relax. I know how hard that is, believe me, but it is so important. Being overworked leads to stress, which leads to a multitude of health issues, so I am working, not on getting caught up, but on better planning of my day. And maybe, just maybe, on taking the occasional moment to do something just for me. Learning to relax…at least a little.

When I was a little girl, we had the most amazing German Shepherd dog ever. His name was King…for short. My parents actually named him LarKing Raesuekayal Vonlished. I can’t say for sure that I spelled that correctly, but if you sound it out, you will come pretty close to the correct pronunciation of his name. King was named after all for my sisters and me. Middle names were used for the three older girls, and the first part of the first name on my younger two sisters. Mom and Dad wanted his name to have special meaning. And it always has.

King was just about the greatest dog ever. When we were little he gave us girls “horsey” rides, and seemed to love doing it. He was very loving. King loved having the neighborhood kids come in to play, but we did have to tell them not to climb the fence without one of us girls there. Dad trained him not to bite obviously, but even more, you could put your arm in his mouth, and he would never even let his teeth touch your arm. But when it came to protecting his family, watch out. He wouldn’t have to bite…his bark was usually enough. He did bite one time, when a neighborhood boy was throwing rocks at him…boy was he in trouble with his mom when she found out. She wouldn’t even let the police issue any kind of ticket or warning, of course there was the required quarantine, but that was all.

The funniest thing King ever did though, was one time when my mom’s dad came over for a visit. Mom was on the phone when Grandpa knocked on the door. She motioned him to come in, and went on with her conversation. A few minutes later, she realized that he hadn’t come in. Thinking that he hadn’t heard, she motioned again. Then, she realized what the problem was. King was “guarding” the door. She said, “King, you let him in!!” She said it was the only time she had seen a dog smile. King sheepishly looked away, with a grin on his face, and my grandfather was able to come inside. I really miss that dog!!

The Love Of My LifeI met Bob when I was still in high school, though not in the way you might expect. We didn’t meet in school or at a game. We met at Kmart. We didn’t just casually meet there, I was working there, as was his sister, Debbie. I worked in the Millenary department…handbags, belts, sunglasses, accessories, and wigs, and I had a display near the delicatessen where Debbie worked. In fact, my display of winter gloves and hats was how I met my future sister-in-law. Every evening when I worked, I had to go over an straighten that display, and believe me it needed it after a day or even an hour of people going through it. When people would look for glove and hats, they would dig clear to the bottom to see if there was a set they liked more, nearer to the bottom. The display usually needed to be straightened twice in a shift. When I went to straighten the display, my future sister-in-law, Debbie and I would talk if it wasn’t too busy.

One day, Bob came in to take his sister on her break, and I happened to be there straightening the display at the time. She introduced us, and then they went to take her break. Bob took to coming by for Debbie’s breaks more often after that, but I didn’t know that it was because he wanted to get to know me…not right away anyway. Bob was a little bit shy, and didn’t know exactly how to approach me, so he and his friend, Paul would come in, dig to the bottom of my glove display and flip the whole stack of gloves upward, messing them up. I, of course, had just straightened them, not two seconds earlier. They would only do that if I was there straightening them. It was his way of being playful…and it was cute, after all.

Finally, he got up the nerve to ask me out…and wouldn’t you know it…I couldn’t that night. Being shy, as I said, Bob thought that was my polite way of saying I didn’t want to go out with him. That, of course, couldn’t have been further from the truth. Nevertheless, the guys decided to see if I would go out with Paul. When Paul asked, I did turn him down, because I wanted to go out with Bob. They thought that I didn’t like either of them, and pretty much dropped the subject…but, not coming up to mess up my display. I couldn’t believe that Bob and Caryn - the early yearsBob didn’t ask me again. Debbie and I talked about it, and she told me that he was shy. It was a big dilemma.

Finally, I had to solicit Debbie’s help. She kept talking to Bob to tell him that I did like him and I wanted to go out with him. It was no easy task. Bob had convinced himself that I didn’t. Eventually though, Debbie talked him into asking me out one more time. Of course, I said yes, and the rest is history…with a little bit of a twist. While I’m sure a lot of people have met their spouses at work, I still think ours is a unique situation. When people ask me how I met my husband, I still say that I met him at Kmart, but I playfully add that he was my Blue Light Special. I don’t think I could have found a better deal anywhere.

When I was a very little girl, my parents bought my sister and me a rocking pony. It wasn’t on rockers though, it was mounted on a frame with springs. You could rock it…if you were of a mind to, but I always felt it was destined to gallop. Most of this story is what I’ve been told, because I was too little to remember, but I have also seen a few movies of me on that horse.

As a little girl, I had a head full of blonde curls, and from what I saw, I really kept them bouncing when I rode my horse. Our house had a wooden floor, and my mom told me that after the damage suffered at the hands of a little girl and her horse, there were ruts on the floor. Since I have seen myself in action in those movies, I can totally understand why that floor had ruts. As I would gallop, the horse would come off of the ground, come back down, and slide back to the starting position, where it would once again come off the floor.

Yes, that horse was for my sister and me, but it was my horse. I totally loved it. After I grew up, that horse was transportation to many other kids, but none of them ever rode it as long and hard as I did. We had many an adventure together, and I will always love that horse. It was so much mine, in fact, that when my mom decided that it was time to thin out the toys, since the grandchildren were growing up, that horse came to live at my house. It is a little worse for wear, but it had a good life. Now it is out to pasture, where maybe it will get a fresh coat of paint, a new saddle…or maybe not. The way it is shows that it was very loved. No, I don’t ride it, but a girl can still have her dreams…right.

My mother-in-law shares her birthday with my grandson, Christopher. He is her first great grandchild, so that makes it even more special. This is an honor her mother also got to share with Christopher’s mother, my daughter Corrie. It is an unusual statistic indeed. My mother-in-law turned 80 years old today, but if you ask her, she is 65. You see, my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease, and she often lives in her own little world.

On any given day, if you ask her what she did that day, you will get a variety of answers, from doing laundry or other household chores to going to work. This is the really odd one, because she never held a job outside the home. Still, she thinks she worked in an insurance agency. Probably because I am an insurance agent. She thinks she works at a school, but I’m not sure where that one came from since we have no teachers in the family. She has also told us that she babysits on occasion, and we are pretty sure she thinks she is watching her granddaughters, as it has been girls and the only girls of that age don’t live here. I have found that the best thing to do is go along with the stories she comes up with, but some of them really take me by surprise, making it difficult to come up with a good answer in the conversation.

Sometimes she gets a little frustrated when we tell her it is time for bed. She always thinks it is too early. By the time we finally get her up, she is mad at everyone for “being so ornery” to her. That is the bad part. The good part is that by the time she is in bed, she is back to her sweet self and thanking you for getting her to bed, because she doesn’t remember that she was mad at you, not 10 minutes ago. I have been told that many Alzheimer’s patients are aggressive, and I am thankful that, at least up to this point, she is not one of them. Very little bothers her, and in reality the only things are exercise and bedtime. Oh, to have that be my biggest problem.

A sad side to Alzheimer’s Disease is that every once in a while, she gets an inkling of the fact that she should be able to remember some things, and when she can’t, she asks, “What is wrong with me?” That is so hard to take. It makes me want to cry for her, and her situation of moments lost. She still has many of her memories of the distant past, but she doesn’t always have her present life. From one moment to the next, something happens, and then for her it is gone. She doesn’t know that her younger son got married in June. She doesn’t realize that her grandchildren are grown adults…moments lost.

Dad and MomAs a caregiver, I can understand fully just how easy it can be to hit the breaking point. Sometimes it comes with irritation, or worse, screaming at the person you are trying to help, but just as often, it comes in the form of an argument with someone else…one that has nothing to do with the things that are bothering the caregiver at all. Usually the breaking point happens over something that is so trivial that you wonder what your problem is. And sadly, so does everyone else. Basically it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s just that last thing to happen in a series of events that have been adding stress upon stress, to the point that you just have no more patience.

Caregivers tend to hold it all in for as long as they can in an effort to keep on keeping on. There is no way out of the situation…you are needed, and you would not leave your loved one without the help they need. You love them. So you simply pull yourself up by the bootstraps, take a deep breath, muster up every bit of adrenalin that you can, and you go on. It’s all you can do. Then, without warning, something hits that last straw point…that breaking point…and you find yourself losing that control you have worked so hard to maintain. It’s like watching yourself explode. You would stop it if you could, but it is beyond that point now. Your mouth is engaged, and your mind has already quit thinking rationally. It is probably the darkest, most horrible, single act that a caregiver can perform, and one that none of us want to do. We already know that we will have to apologize for acting in such a way…after all, it wasn’t the fault of the patient or whomever it was that we have just unloaded all those pent up feelings on. They were simply the last straw.

Not only do they not know what they did wrong, but they find themselves wondering why they never knew that you were insane before. You aren’t, of course, but you are overworked, and you are tired, and you are emotionally drained. The person you have always known to be strong and capable, has suddenly changed into a weak and needy person, and that has turned your life upside down. It is enough to make anyone go seemingly insane. You had always thought that your parents would always be your parents, and they are of course, but they are also your patient, and your responsibility. The tables have turned, and in the process, your life has hit a turning point too, and you don’t know what to do to fix it.

There really is no way to fix it. You find yourself in a position of having to accept that your parents will never be Dad and Momthe strong people they were. That part of their life has passed, and the future…the winding down of their lives has been set in motion. Even if it was just a day ago that they felt fine, there is no going back that one day. Time marches on and we have to go with it. We have to learn to make the best of what we have now, and take care of ourselves well enough that perhaps we can avoid that next breaking point…because if we can’t, we will once again find ourselves looking at someone who has no idea what they have done to us. All they know is that the person they love is somehow furious at them, and it breaks their heart…at which point, we lose all that anger, wish we had not let things get out of control, and begin the process of repairing the relationship again with that all too familiar apology.

When I was a young girl, I dreamed of the things I would do and the places I would go when I got older. At one time I thought I would move to Germany, and while there, I was going to marry a German man and live happily ever after. I discovered the German language in junior high school, fell in love with the country and I still love it today. Well, part of the dream came true. Bob comes from a strong German background, and we have lived happily ever after. As to moving away, well that didn’t happen.

Bob and I have both lived here since we were very young, and after marriage, we have stayed right in the same town. He had a good job, and our families were here, so we just never moved away. As the years went quickly by, the kids grew up and had families and stayed right here. We would never want to leave the kids and grandkids. Then our parents were suddenly older, and we were needed to help them. The time to move away…well, it became just a distant memory.

I suppose many people would think I missed out on a lot by living in the same place as I grew up. By never moving away and living somewhere exciting. But, while my life might seem boring to some, I have had the benefit of a close family. My mother was born here, and spent all her life here except the first five years of her marriage. Her family have all lived here except for a couple of them who lived away for short periods of time. See, I bowl with my cousins. My family has a family Christmas party every year, and we have to rent a hall to hold us all. My boss says I’m related to half the town, and he might not be far off. Many of my clients are relatives. I work with my daughter and granddaughter. I attend the sporting events of my grandsons. It takes three rows of chairs to hold our family at church on Sundays. I might run into my family at the mall or Walmart. Many of my friends on Facebook are relatives. And, my sisters are some of my best friends.

Yes, my life has been spent surrounded by family in one form or another. I grew up around grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I guess some people would think that boring, but there is something to be said for knowing what is going on in your family’s life. Something to be said for getting to know the babies, and knowing your grandparents through the years. Something to be said for being there for the good times and the bad times. Something to be said for being where you are needed. Yes, some people would say I have really missed out on life, but to that I would have to say, “I haven’t missed a thing. I have been blessed with the best life there is. A life of contentment, knowing right where I belong.”

I have been blessed a number of times in my life with what could only be classified as an unlikely friendship. These would be friends you find where you would least expect, or people you would least expect to be your friends. We’ve probably all had friends like these.

Often, as we get further and further from our high school days, we are able to look back at people we would not have been friends with because we were in different circles. Now, all that doesn’t matter anymore, and you are able to see things you have in common, and with that, a friendship is able to grow.

Sometimes, some of the dearest friends are the children of friends who have now grown up. Now while I’m sure most of you could not imagine some of your friends children as friends, but I have been blessed with a very dear friend whose mother was also a very dear friend. And I established that friendship after about 25 years had lapsed since I had seen her mom. Very unlikely.

Once in a while friendships are born between people who have never met, but were drawn together for a variety of reasons. I have met friends due to an error in an email address, the sadness of loss, and mutual faith. These friendships have become very dear to me, even though all we have of each other, is the internet, some letters, and a picture, but the blessings have been so great, and I an so grateful.

And sometimes, someone you would never expect to be your friend, becomes your friend through a random act of your kindness. Acts of kindness reach so much furher than we expect or could ever know. You simply filled a need, answered a call…you were there. And from such a small thing, grew a friendship that will last a lifetime.

There is really no way to do justice to what these friendships mean to me. I’m sure by my stories some of my friends will see themselves. I just hope they will also be able to see how important they are to me and how dearly I love each and every one of them.

Most of my life is spent running here and there. I help care for my mom, and my in-laws, I work, I go to as much of my grandchildren’s activities as I can, Bob and I walk 2 hours 5 days a week, and we bowl. Basically, we live our life, but once in a while, I like to spend a lazy Saturday just sitting around in the quiet, maybe reading my Kindle…doing nothing really.

I think everyone needs a day, now and then, that is just for self. Our lives are so busy these days. You watch shows about the west, and while they worked hard, it just seemed like a more peaceful, easy time than today. The work day ended and the family spent time together reading, sewing or listening to someone play music. There was no rush to go here and there.

I guess those feelings of wanting a lazy day, is why Bob and I like being out in the wilderness areas of the Black Hills…hiking. There is no schedule, no hurry, no cars, and few people. That’s what it’s all about. Now while many of you might not consider hiking to be in the lazy day catagory, but it certainly is in that, all thought of responsibility is gone, and it is just you and God’s beautiful creation. That is what puts it in the lazy day catagory!

Now, remember summer vacation when you were a kid. School was out for 3 months. The weather was warm. The air fragrant with flowery scents. The breeze was gentle. You had no cares. No job to go to. No homework. Just days and days of freedom to play, and very little chores to do. It was a time to rejuvenate. Looking back, I think, “Why was I in such a hurry to grow up?” I wouldn’t want to go through the whole growing up process again, but really, who wouldn’t love to go back in time for just one more lazy day of summer?

A few years ago, I found myself sinking into depression. There was so much going on in my life that I had no control over, and I was stressed out to say the least. This situation was so new to me. I had always been a happy person, and now I was becoming angry and bitter, and I didn’t like it one bit, but there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. My situation had taken on a life of it’s own.

After my Dad passed away in December of 2007, I found myself feeling like there wasn’t much to live for. It wasn’t like I wanted to commit suicide, I just felt so sad, that I couldn’t find anything to be happy about. We had fought so hard to get Dad back to health, and we were winning, and then his liver failed, and he was gone. It shook my whole world. Nothing was right, and it wouldn’t ever be right again. Even though I know that my Dad was saved, and I will see him again in Heaven, I missed him so much, and I still do, but I knew he wouldn’t want me to continue on in this depressed state.

I had to find a way back to life. I began to pray for help…for a way back. The Lord guided me first to begin eating better, thereby giving me more energy. Then the Lord began to encourage me to get outside and walk. I started walking on the trail near our home, and slowly began to feel like the fresh air and beauty of God’s creation, and the time spent talking with the Lord began to heal my spirit. I continue to look forward to the warmer months when I can get back outside and recharge again.

I still miss my Dad terribly, but I have been able to move forward with my life. I know I will see him again in Heaven, and I very much look forward to that day, but I know that I have a job to do here. My work here is not done. I am needed here. And my Dad would want me to live a full life.

I know that my life will always have it’s challenges, but the Lord is always there for me. He is my source of strength. I know many people might not find that to be true for them, but they have not been down the road I have. They have not seen the Lord help them to find the way back.

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