Sunday, October 11, 2020

Unrestricted Access, NO access, #therehastobeabetterway

For anyone that finds this floating in the interwebs sometime in the future:

It is October 2020.The world is still dealing with the pandemic known as Covid19. It started to hit the United States in our area (Michigan) early March 2020. We are strongly urged, if not required, to wear masks indoors, as well as, socially distance (stand apart from each other) at least 6'. There is a lot of plexiglass in use to protect workers, customers and school kids. There is testing, but currently no vaccine. Covid has definitely changed the way we live our lives and conduct our businesses. Early on, there were shut downs resulting in unemployment and economic worries. Many employees that were able to worked from home. Schools closed early. Stayed shut for awhile. Did virtual online school as much as possible until the end of the year. Seniors in high school missed out on so many of those last year BIG events: prom, graduation, open houses. People did drive by celebrations. We made the best of a bad situation. 

We slowly have tried to return to "normal" or the oft dreaded terms of "unprecedented times" and "new normal". Covid seems to affect mostly elderly and those with other health issues. 

One of the shut downs has affected our shut ins most of all. Shut ins refers to those who live in residential care facilities. The care facility could be assisted living or skilled nursing. It could be a small group home for people that just need a bit more help or consistency than family can provide. 

In our family's case, our shut in is our mom. Prior to Covid, we were pretty much allowed unrestricted access to our mom. There are 5 of us "kids" (almost all in our 50's now). Between the 5 of us and our families, we visited mom at least 2-3 times a week. We attended events and activities designed to keep residents healthy and happy and active. BINGO!

We had a key card we could use to get in if it was after hours. I'm a night owl. Sometimes I visited later at night to help tuck mom in and say good night. There were many nights I would walk back down the hall to my car near tears. Mostly because I didn't want to have to leave her there. Some because I imagined it was like when she used to love on me when I was younger and ready for bed. 

I already felt guilty for having her go to a nursing home in the first place. It was not hers or our family's first choice. We kept her home as long as we could after our dad passed away in 2018 the day after her 75th birthday. There was home care OT, PT, nurses and doctors that helped us in keeping her home. She made progress. Then there was the week that things took a turn and the day the ambulance came to take her to the hospital. She went to a hospice facility for a few months. She rebounded health-wise and was released from the hospice program. By then, she could no longer stand on her own. Staff was using a lift to get her in and out of bed. 

We were blessed to find a good facility. Many of the staff have become like extended members of our family. When we visited, we attempted to assist staff as they are often overworked and underpaid for the skills they provide. We brought cheer up gifts, treats and encouragement. We visited other residents. We gained some 90+ year old friends that sat at mom's table for meals. In late Dec. 2019 and early Jan. 2020, mom's facility restricted visitors due to the "normal" flu and gastro stuff. It was hard on residents and staff. Emotionally. Mentally. That was weeks. We made do with phone calls to our mom on a smart phone that was becoming increasingly more difficult for her to use. 

Early March, one of my brothers and I visited and brought mom a cake from her and dad's favorite hangout. There was more than enough cake to share with staff and our friends. The next day, the anniversary of her husband's/our dad's death, I received a call that visitors were again going to be restricted, this time due to Covid and the unknowns that presented. 

As a family, we got it. There were states that were getting hit really hard and the goal was to keep the hospitals and staffs from becoming overwhelmed with Covid patients. We needed to "flatten the curve". That was March which has turned into April, May, June, July, August, September, and in Michigan currently, until October 31. For those of you counting, this is 7 MONTHS. With no end in sight. During this time, residents have been confined to their rooms. There has been NO communal dining. There has been hallway bingo over the intercom. We try to time our calls around that. There is television and what else?

During this time, we were allowed window visits. Thankfully, mom's facility is all one floor. Then, that gate stayed locked so no more window access. We try and do Skype which are scheduled online through the facility. Currently, Monday - Friday business hours for 20 minutes. The internet frequently acts up. A staff member stays in the room to make sure the call goes ok. Mom has an old-fashioned flip phone that on a good day has been charged, the volume is turned up, it is where she can reach it and she can remember how to use it. There is a glass door at the end of her hall. Staff has wheeled her to it and we use our phones to talk. Sometimes she is too tired to hold her phone up or she gets confused by hearing the phone AND us talking through the door. We call ahead of time to make sure her phone will be working and they know we are coming. We are researching other options. Thank goodness for technology!

We were allowed (so far) one outside visit mid-August. Allowed 2 visitors, 6' apart, no touching, but seeing mom outside: priceless. Visits were/are allowed Tues and Thurs. 10 visits/week and the weather had to cooperate. Once all the families had a chance to visit, we were allowed to schedule another outside visit. It is now OCTOBER. In MICHIGAN. I had a visit scheduled for this upcoming week. October 13. I received a call last week, that an employee tested positive so there is now ANOTHER 14 day quarantine period. Our mom and other residents have been tested NUMEROUS times during this time. How do think it goes for staff to test dementia patients more than once? 

My frustration rises. I'm in Michigan. There are 422 facilities. I advocate. Others advocate. A lady in Florida gets a job IN her husband's facility to be able to see him. A national Facebook page starts. State Facebook pages start. Who do we contact? President? Our Washington congress people? Nope state level. Governor? Canned email responses back that may, but probably not even cover what we emailed about. Our state senator and representative? Which county? I'm in Ottawa. My mom's facility is in Kent. I went with Ottawa. I got a staff email response from my rep and a phone call. It's election season though and the people I contact are up for reelection so where's the focus? On shuts ins that have PROUDLY voted in past elections? Who knows what happens this year? Many are not cognitively with it enough to make that decision anymore. The governor has tasked covid response to the health department. The health department issued exceptions dated JUNE 30, HOWEVER, the final say is still with the facilities. Most facilities stopped at provide electronic access (on devices the federal and/or state government provided 2 per facility). The governor appointed a task force, that to my knowledge, did NOT include a resident and/or family representatives. They issued recommendations similar to the exceptions with a bit more detail. We try to get the attention of newspapers, magazines, news stations. HEAR US! We may, or usually not, don't even get a reply. 

7 MONTHS of isolation and loneliness. It is not only Covid we are afraid of. We have watched our family members and friends deteriorate during this time. Some of us have lost our resident to death. Most NOT due to Covid. The only visits that are for sure allowed are "compassionate care" for when a resident is "actively dying". 

Facilities have been given an impossible task. Keep their residents healthy from Covid. BUT at what cost? To the staff. To the residents. To us as family and friends. What we are doing is NOT working. Quarantine the sick. The goal post keeps moving. The clock keeps getting reset. If the goal is 0? More will die, but not from Covid. They will die from the loneliness and isolation of trying to keep them safe from a virus that some even though positive, have few symptoms.

We took our unrestricted access to our loved ones for granted. Personally, I didn't even know that we could be kept out due to the flu or gastro illnesses, and now Covid. We're dealing with NO access currently. The tag for our pleas for help has become #therehastobeabetterway 

We are not asking for unrestricted access. We are asking for an essential caregiver (not just dependent on assistance with ADLs - Activities of Daily Living) to be allowed per resident. We will meet the same requirements as employees. We will test. We will sign a waiver saying you are not responsible for us or our loved one contracting covid at your facility. We will schedule an appointment. We will walk directly to our resident's room. What MORE do you want? What more can we do? THIS is not working for the residents. Or us. Help us help you find the better way. 

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If religion or discussion of God offends you, please stop reading or continue to scroll to your next bit of interweb business.

I cannot close this blog post without mentioning this. When I first thought of unrestricted access, I was thinking of how often I took it for granted with visits to my mom. I also thought of my access to God. According to the Bible, there was a time when people wanted to talk to God, they had to go to a temple. The priests had to relay the requests/prayers to God. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ broke that barrier and allows us, each of us, unrestricted access to have our prayers heard. Anytime. Anywhere. The curtain of the temple separating us from God was torn. 

I do not pretend to have all the answers to life's questions. I'm always willing to discuss and share what I have learned though. Feel free to reach out to me or others in your life that have made the decision to follow Jesus. My mom and dad made that decision long ago. They raised us knowing too. When we are aware of a gift, we don't want to leave it unopened. Thank you for opening your heart in consideration. 

Luke 23:44-46 (NIV) It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

www.biblegateway.com is an awesome resource if you would like to read more from the Bible.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

In-dependence Independence day


Today, July 4 is an important day in the USA. We celebrate the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Thirteen colonies became independent from a country we no longer agreed with. We celebrate our freedom.

As we celebrate differently this year due to COVID-19 Corona virus, there are not many big groups for parades, picnics, fireworks, etc. More people are doing fireworks in their driveways tonight. I can hear the booming of displays in our neighborhood. Many people invited others over this year to share in their displays. Independent doesn't mean alone. Our forefathers worked together to create our independence and identity separate from the King and Britain.

We usually strive for independence. Especially as we get older. As parents, we strive to get our kids to a point where they can handle life on their own.

I have been thinking the past few days though that sometimes I become TOO independent. Maybe you do too? I usually notice it most when I have tried to do life on my own. Again. Still.

My independence often comes at the expense of my leaning less on God. We are not meant to do life on our own. God, our families, and our friends can help us not to be dependent, but also not to be SO independent that we start to think we handle everything on our own. I know that even when I THINK I am, I'm not really.

Thankfully, God does not let me get too far off the path that I stop acknowledging I am not doing life independently. Today, I also celebrate my in-dependence of God, our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus: sent to truly set us free.

The really awesome thing is that God doesn't NEED me or you. He WANTS us. He made us in His image. Sparkle on, my friends. Today. And everyday. When our final Grand Finale comes, will you be ready? 

KA-BOOM!

1 Corinthians 12:4-13 The Message (MSG)
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel
clear understanding
simple trust
healing the sick
miraculous acts
proclamation
distinguishing between spirits
tongues
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

1 Corinthians 12:19-26 The Message (MSG)
But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. 

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

wHo'S on First? Easter/virus baseball

In the late 30's/early 40's, comedians Abbott and Costello did a comedy sketch eventually titled "Who's On First" (Wikipedia). It was a play on words where the baseball players names are pronoun/phrase "nicknames".

This year, 2020, many sport seasons were cut short and/or not starting on time due to the Covid-19 virus. Large gatherings of people for sporting events, concerts and festivals have been called off. The pandemic caused by the virus has rippled into cancellations of May and June events as major planning for Spring and Summer happens right while all of this is happening too.

It is also Easter weekend. A time when many of us would be attending church to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. A time when many of us would be having dinner with family and friends. A time to celebrate Spring and nicer weather. However, many of us are under Stay at Home orders. Our celebrations will be different this year for many of us.

The above events are what (2nd base!) got me thinking about what I'm about to write. I have also heard people struggle with faith especially at a time like this or when some other event rocks their world. I do too. Still. I don't know (3rd base!) all the answers. Still. Too much of the time I still find myself overthinking God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible.

It is when I overthink, I start to question something I have stood on most of my life. Faith. To some this is going to be too simplistic. To some this will be filled with theological/non-Biblical holes. Honestly, I don't know that much about baseball other than a comedy sketch and watching some of my nephews games. 

I often hear people say, "How could a loving God let "x" happen?" We often refer to God as our Heavenly Father. When a person has not had a good earthly example of a father, this can be a major sticking point to belief in God. I hear people say that the Bible is full of archaic information and too many rules. However, we follow rules everyday. Traffic lights. Employment. Safety. Rules to Stay at Home when we'd rather be out, even if we have nowhere currently to go.

So. Take a walk with me in your mind to your local baseball/softball field.

The rules. The Bible. How do you play a game without rules? How can everyone play by the same guidelines if each team and/or each player made up their own rules? We may not like it. We probably won't like all of it. Doesn't make it less of a rule. The basic rules of the Bible are the ten commandments*. If it has been awhile, it might be a good time to check out the Bible. It is more than just rules. There are more ways than ever to read and listen. Currently, in the United States, we are free to read it, search it or listen to the Bible whenever we choose. This is not true everywhere.

The team. Christians believe in the Trinity of God. How can one entity be three? A team contains more than one player. The trinity of God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The other team. In this game, it is called spiritual warfare. Playing to win. The battle of good and evil. In today's world, we water it down to good and not so good. Everybody wins. If we are "good", we will get to go home, if you believe in that.

Umpire. God. We may not like the decision. We can question. We can argue. Umpire makes the final call and coaches and fans have to live with it. In a world of instant replay, wow does this come into question. Maybe more than it used to. Depending on which outcome one wants, we can find info to "prove" what we need to see to make us feel better.

The coaches. Other Christians. Want you to join our team. Encouraging. Cheerleaders. Help us learn the rules of the game.

The fans. Rooting for a team. May or may not understand the game that well. Sometimes embarrassed to let their friends know which team they root for. Coaches can be fans too. They might be sitting right next to you. (May probably will be eating snacks from the concession stand)

Home. Heaven. Christians believe that this life we live is not ALL there is. We believe that we will get to spend eternity with our team in Heaven if we accept Jesus as our Savior.

I'm trying to think of a baseball way to explain hell. I'm not being real successful. Right now, the only way I can think of is if you REALLY don't like the game of baseball, but you are told you HAVE to play whether you want to or not.....the umpire doesn't MAKE you spend time forever playing baseball. You can question the umpire, in fact it is encouraged. You can disagree with the umpire, that's OK too. You've had time to decide if you want to play. That is your choice. That is free will. We have the choice to walk.

The World Series. EASTER On Good Friday, the other team thought they had won. They had KILLED the home team. They sent them to the dugout. The coaches and some of the fans were brokenhearted. On Easter Sunday, the home team rose up and the world was never the same. 

In this game of life it may be the 3rd strike in the bottom of the ninth. Are you running home? You can be in the stadium as a fan. Or not. BUT you are always invited to get on the field and play.
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*Ten commandments are found in Exodus 20 BibleGateway.com


John 11:24-26 (NIV)
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”


Revelation 21:5-7 New International Version (NIV)
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Essential?

I haven't written in awhile. Not because I don't have any thoughts. Believe me, I have TOO many. I think that is part of the issue. Narrowing it down to one or two basic points without getting overwhelmed. Realizing that if the thoughts are coming with good intentions, it is ok if everyone doesn't agree. As a people pleaser, that is difficult for me!

We are at a challenging point in life right now. The world is dealing with COVID-19. A virus that is challenging to medical staff, governments, families and individuals. A virus that has tightened social restrictions from countries, travelling, to groups of less than 250...than 100....than 10....to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. A virus that has closed schools. A virus that is spreading faster than what we know to do with....for now. A virus that has definitely slowed, if not halted, the economy in Michigan and other areas except for "essential" services.

I looked up "essential". According to Merriam-Webster.com (HOW convenient! I didn't even need to find a dictionary!), as an adjective it means of the utmost importance. As a noun, essential means something basic or something necessary, indispensable or unavoidable.

We are told to wash our hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Don't touch your face!

The beginning of virus warfare was panic buying for essentials. Apparently, many considered toilet paper to be one of THE most essential items to have for staying at home. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer quickly flew off the shelves as well. This was probably early to mid March 2020 in the United States. As of the beginning of April, many shelves for paper products are still empty.

If we venture out to the store, we are urged to make as few trips as possible, to only have one person from a family shop, to practice "social distancing" of 6' from each other in lines, etc. Most doctor/medical appointments are being done by "telehealth": online conference apps between medical staff and patient. Schools were closed. Decisions are still being made about the rest of the school year. Most teachers and students can connect through online communication. Many parents are working from home if able. So far, restaurants are open for take-out, carry-out or drive through. No sit down dining. No sports - end of seasons. No concerts, but many musicians have cheered us up online with impromptu home concerts.

We are urged to stay at home unless absolutely necessary for food and other groceries. So far, we are allowed to be able to be outside for walks and exercise. If doing these activities with another person, we are urged to stay 6' apart. We are being told to try and limit exposure as much as possible. Our mom is at a nursing home. Residents are not allowed visitors. Staff is being temperature tested to enter for work. We have made some visits to mom's window or on Facebook Messenger to video chat.

This has brought up some interesting thoughts and conversations for politicians and business owners. What defines an "essential" employee? What work can be done remotely from home? How will this change employment structures WHEN this all calms down?

Friends, I urge us not to find our self worth tied to any job title or skill set. I feel that this will be easy to do if we are told to not work and file for unemployment. The term essential does NOT define our importance. To our employer. To our families. To ourselves. Many things have changed or shut down. Here's an exciting discovery: The world HAS NOT stopped spinning.

Here's another thing. YOU are essential to the One that knew your beginning and knows your end. YOU were especially created for such a time as this. NOBODY ELSE can fill in YOUR piece of this puzzle we call life. 

Yes, this virus is scary. The situations coming because of it are nerve-wracking and anxiety producing. And yet....there are good things continuing to happen on our spinning sphere. Neighbors are looking out for each other. We can still smile with our eyes even if it is determined that wearing a mask will help. Keep looking for the good. Keep knowing that YOU are important and very essential just because YOU ARE YOU.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Esther 4:12-14 (NIV) When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”**

**If you would like to read more of Esther's story, there are 7 chapters in the book of Esther in the Bible. www.biblegateway.com is an excellent resource

Friday, November 01, 2019

I Didn't Know

I recently attended a writers conference. I have wanted to go in previous years, but always found a reason (ie: excuse) why "now" wasn't a good time. I figured if I'm going to do it, do it well. I signed up for the extra night and a pre-conference session. The extra night was to make sure I was there on time and in the right frame of mind to focus on one thing. Life has not been about only one thing at a time, or seemingly about me, for quite awhile. 

My anxiety struck up as I got ready to leave that day. I'm almost ready to give her a name as she seems like a nit-picky, perfectionistic version of me I'm trying to get away from. "Why are you going to this BY YOURSELF? YOU don't like to go places where you don't know at LEAST one other person! Do you know how much other life stuff you have going on right now? WHY?" 

Why indeed. I slammed the door a bit harder than intended. Set my map app. Turned the radio louder to drown her out and drove away.

I was not alone for long. I found out that weekend was where I was supposed to be for that weekend. I don't think of myself as a writer. I think of myself as a person who likes to write now that I don't "have to". Our name tags listed our name as well as what we had entered on our registration. Mine said "devotionals/blogger". I made the mistake a few times of saying I "just" have a blog. I was reminded and encouraged that nothing is "just". Point taken. Learn to own it. "I am a writer" Take that, anxiety!

I sat with different people over the few days. Some had come alone. Some had come with friends. Many it was first-time attendance. Some had attended numerous years. I sat with an older couple. The wife referred to her husband as her boyfriend. So cute!. They shared they had recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with their family. I didn't tell him that he reminded me of my dad. That would have made me cry. I sat with men and women younger and older than me. I listened as they shared why they were attending and some of their stories they were willing to share. I was able to encourage some. Many encouraged me a lot. 

I didn't realize until a few meals in that some of the people sitting at our tables were "in the industry" of writing: editors, publishers, authors, agents, presenters of the sessions. I was a bit intimidated when I made that little discovery. Why was I surprised though? They have to eat too! Anxiety snuck up again as I tried to replay conversations in my mind where I might have said something I shouldn't have to someone I shouldn't have. 

I learned a lot. The weekend ended. I came home. The feeling to write has nagged me. I made an online Facebook support group because I don't have time right now to meet in person. I "friended" some of the attendees. They "friended" me. Writing is really kind of lonely overall. Sharing what is in my head and heart is kind of overwhelming overall. 

How many times have I let what or who I didn't know get in my way? Is what we have written on our name tag as a job or how we would describe ourselves really what matters? It was a Christian writers conference. Would/Do people know that about me without seeing it on a name tag? 

I write this to remind me...and you....don't let what you don't know stop you. I was reminded of the verse: 

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

and then I found verse 6: 

So we say with confidence,“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
To those who shared hospitality with me: thank you for being an angel when I needed one. My new name tag: mere mortal/writer