Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday Katie!!

Your Aunt Feather, Yoyo, and Jaaayyy sure do love you- even when you are a sticky mess!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

It's been a crazy fun week of company! My mom came to town on Sunday (and brought Joshua back - who had been visiting family and friends in Arkansas). We hung out together on Monday waiting for my sister-in-law, Molly and her kids, Ben, Emily, and Katie. Mom wasn't really comfortable driving to the airport in a new town (even though I also didn't know where the airport was), and the car wasn't big enough for all of us to go and bring all of them back, so I decided that Joshua and I would go pick them up and mom would hang out at the house. She was cooking and cleaning and watching a little HGTV (her favorite).

The guys next door have been doing really well, so we didn't really hesitate to leave Lowell there alone with them. I think maybe there is a sixth sense that they have that let's them know exactly when to get crazy. Because that is just what happened.

We are in the car on the way back from the airport when Lowell calls and says, "I think you need to call somebody to help me." To make a long story short, Lowell took one of the guys out for a drive around, the guy got upset (over what we aren't really sure) and so Lowell brought him home. When they turned in the driveway, the rearview mirror was immediately pulled off and thrown out the door. (It's true the the mirror is always the first to go). Now, of course we would have expected him to go inside, push the tv off the stand, rip off the thermostat, and break the phone and remote control. But he was in a more spontaneous mood I guess, so he proceeded to chase Lowell around the house. Oh how I wish I had been home to see two forty-something year old men chasing one another around the house. Lowell felt confident he could outrun him, so he wasn't worried about getting caught, and eventually, the guy did get tired and went inside. Lowell stayed outside until some support arrived. By the time I got home, all was calm and you'd never know there was an incident (besides the missing rearview mirror).

Now although all of that is so very funny to me, the part that really made me laugh was that my mom was in the house the whole time and never knew anything was going on. HGTV must have had some good programming on if it beat out the reality going on outside!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Yes Joshua, I Cried

When we lived in the group home with 12, Joshua would often ask me, "Mom do you think you'll cry when 'so and so dies'?" We had several residents who were older and in frail health and we knew that it was only a matter of time before one of them passed away. I always answered that I would be sad, but that I didn't think I would cry.

I was wrong. I received a phone call this morning that one of the women had passed away. And I cried. And I cried. And I cried.

People often question why God allows people to be born with certain disabilities. People who are classified as "retarded" by the world are often dismissed as being incapable of doing anything to really make a difference. They are many times tossed to the side to be cared for the best we know how while life goes on.

If someone had told me 15 or even 10 years ago that I would work with people with developmental disabilities, I would have laughed in their face. I was one of those people who was really intimidated by them because they often lack inhibition and will act in strange ways very spontaneously. Previous blog entries confirm that this is many times the case. However, God sometimes puts in positions that we don't want to be in so He can show us His Glory. That's what's happened to me.

My life has been touched by people with disabilities. I've laughed more, been more frustrated, rejoiced more, cried more, and in general experienced more because of the people with whom I am associated. I have seen God in them. I have loved them and they have loved me; even when I am not very lovable, they have still loved me. They have made me a different person. I have a new understanding of mercy and grace. I am humbled by the fact that my God loves me and enjoys being with me, even though compared to Him, I am "retarded" and I often do really stupid things that lack inhibition and act in strange ways, not His ways.

A person with developmental disabilities can make a difference. They've made a difference in me. I can't wait until I can sit down in Heaven with some of the individuals with whom we have worked and lived and thank them for showing me who God is, and how then we should live.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cause for Anxiety

I have a quilt that I sleep with. Every night. Anyone with whom I have travelled knows about this quilt. If I travel, it does too. Recently, I was going to sleep and couldn't find it. Lowell tossed me a quilt, but it wasn't the quilt. Even though it was dark, I knew. He had to get up and go find it on the couch; otherwise, I wasn't going to be able to sleep.

I used to tap my wedding ring on the steering wheel as I drove, and any time it wasn't on, I got nervous. I don't like to leave home without my cell phone. It makes me a tad anxious.

These are little quirks of mine, and I know that we all have them - certain things we have to have in order to make it through the day. Whether it is coffee in the morning, reading the newspaper in a particular order, exercising, Diet Coke, or a tangible item to carry with us, many of us have something routine that makes us feel more at ease about our day.

For one of the guys next door, it's chicken. Yes, chicken. But not just any chicken. It has to be a Banquet Select Recipe Classic Fried Chicken. Every day, he goes to work from noon to four. He takes his lunch. Every day, it's the same. It has to be chicken. And it has to be this particular chicken. It's $1.57 at Wal-Mart. Banquet makes a meal just like this one, but it's not "Select Recipe" and it's only a dollar. And it just will NOT do. It has to be this one. We about had a panic attack of our own about two weeks ago when Banquet went and changed the packaging. But there was no need to fear. It wasn't an issue at all. So this is his comfort item.

Our daily routine is pretty much the same every day. We hang out and take our time getting ready. Watch a little TVLand, complain about taking a shower and changing clothes, talk about what time we go to work, then he actually gets ready for the day. It's usually around 10:30 when we pack the chicken, head out to get a pop, go for a ride around town, run any necessary errands, and drop him off at noon.

Today, we got going early, so in all my wisdom, I decided to leave the chicken in the freezer and we would come back for it later. He was okay at first, with constant reassurance that we would get the chicken before work. But then he started asking, at least every 20-30 seconds, "gonna get my chicken?" His panic was leading me into a panic and I knew it wouldn't be long before we both needed some Xanex. So we headed on home to get the chicken.

Now, as if all this wasn't already a little on the crazy side, it's important to know that he doesn't ever eat the chicken. Nope, it comes right back home in the same bag it was packed away in and we throw it in the trash to clear out the bag for tomorrow's chicken. I guess I shouldn't say that he never eats the chicken. He eats it often enough that there is no way to fool him. You can't stuff a piece of foam in the box and reseal it. You can't give him yesterday's chicken, because God forbid he eat a frozen dinner that's been thaw for days. So, once every couple of weeks, he'll get in the van after work and immediately say, "I ate my chicken." There's no pattern or routine to this.

As odd as it seems, if the chicken keeps him happy, then we'll keep the chicken coming. And never again will I be so ignorant as to leave home without it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who gets to brush their own teeth?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking one of the guys to a dental appointment. No big deal to most of us, but for people who throw televisions and rip rearview mirrors off of windshields, the person drilling in their mouth most likely would qualify for one of those "World's Toughest Jobs" tv shows. And this did not go unnoticed for the dentist, who scheduled a block of time at a local outpatient surgery center, so that the teeth cleaning and other dental work could be completed under full sedation.

Before we left, we slipped him a couple of valium (which were prescribed for the procedure of course) and thought that would take care of things. However, we soon learned that even though valium is strong, one's will can often beat it out if so desired. This was the case. The valium made him tired, but the orders not to eat or drink anything before the "surgery" made him cranky. He was HUNGRY! And he let everybody know it. He was like a drunk in a bar. Too loopy to really do anything to damage any one or anything (as he couldn't really walk), but too irritated to be at all rational (which he actually can be on good days). To top things off, of course we had to wait once we got there. We kept telling the staff that we were quickly losing the "valium window" and once that had worn off, it would be all over.

Once a few completely inappropriate comments were made to others waiting, they amazingly got him in a room relatively quickly. There were three of us with him and they only let two people go back at a time. Since I am the newest one, I got to stay in the waiting room. Even from the waiting room, I knew (along with everyone else in the room), when a nurse walked in his room to give him medications or put in an IV. He was loud and unappreciative and said a few choice words to relay his feelings. It didn't take long at all before the rules were bent and they let all three of us be with him until it was time to take him away.

We went and got lunch and then waited for the three hours that it took to complete the procedure. I guess if I were having three hours of dental work done, I'd want someone to knock me out too. Finally the dentist came out and told us that he was finished and in recovery and should be there for a couple of hours.

The nurses had other plans though. It was three o'clock on Friday afternoon and he was the last patient, so you can guess that they were ready for him to wake up and get moving (and honestly we were too). This was one of the most comical experiences I've ever had. It reminded me of the movie "Weekend at Bernie's" where the guys are hanging out with a dead guy. Seriously, he was not moving. Nurses tried to get him up and as soon as they would prop him, he would fall straight back down. At one point, they tried to move him to a wheelchair and got him to a standing position. However, he quickly began to snore, although his body was stiff as a board and rapidly falling backward. They finally got him in the chair, while I was being completely unprofessional and laughing at the whole scene. It was good that we had a bit of a drive home to give him time to come to a little bit.

On the way home, while he was sleeping, the rest of us finally began to discuss the funniest scene of the day - what the dentist said when he came out. He was nice enough, but his bedside manner did not scream that he was a pediatric dentist. He was very direct and to the point. However, I couldn't help but wonder what world he lived in when he got on a little soapbox and gave the following instructions. He said that clearly our guy needed some help brushing - we interjected that he loves to brush his teeth but really isn't too keen on someone helping, and we've yet to find staff keen on sticking their hands in his mouth. We've all gotten a little too used to our fingers. He then said, "Well I'll tell you what I tell all of the parents in my office. Until your child can write a paragraph, in cursive, take it to the local QuikShop (gas station), give it to the guy behind the counter and the guy can not only read it easily, but also comprehend what it says, then your child has no business brushing his own teeth." I can't tell you how tempted I was to ask him who brushed his teeth (no offense to my friends in the medical field, but really, who can read your writing??)

So, if the guy behind the counter at your local gas station can't read and comprehend a paragraph that you write (in cursive), even if it's because the guy at the local station can't read, you really shouldn't be brushing your own teeth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

At least the smoke alarms didn't go off...

On tonight's menu from our garlic chef:

Homemade guacamole and Pan-Fried Tortilla Chips

Yes, I think it was about as tasty as it sounds. Too bad, for varying reasons, there were ingredients in each item that we could not eat. He did bring me a forkful of the "guacamole" - unfortunately I don't eat avocados. Wink-wink...

I came back over and was folding some laundry when a new smell entered our living room. This wasn't garlic. It was burning. I immediately hopped up and rushed over trying to find him through the fog of smoke. He was opening windows and fanning the front door trying to alleviate some of the smoke and the smell. He assured me that the chips turned out just as planned and then he offered me one. I didn't even feel obligated to make up an excuse as to why I wouldn't eat that. I just told him "no" flat out.

I took him a bag of store-bought tortilla chips and, keeping his pride in play, turned me down because his were "just like he likes them." I left the chips there, just in case he changed his mind when I turned my back.

I tried to take a photo with my phone without being too conspicuous about it, thus the poor photo quality. But you can definitely see that the chip is totally black.

As I was walking out, he says, "hey, at least the smoke alarms didn't go off." Uh yeah, I'm thinking it might be time to think about replacing some batteries...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is this what Baby Jesus smelled?

If you have read the previous posts, then you know that one of the guys next door likes to cook. A lot. And he doesn't really like to clean, so he generally cooks on the weekends when staff cleans up after him, or after 11 pm, when we are back on our side of the home.

It's easy to know when he starts cooking. The walls are fairly soundproof, but the scent has a way of coming through. The smell and ways to get rid of it are forefront on our minds. We were in a class the other day on building relationships with the individuals we serve and there was a "How well do you know your person" kind of quiz. When questioned about this guy's favorite food, Lowell wrote "garlic." Joshua calls it the "pungent odor" coming through. It has been a high priority to de-odorize our home.

We tried it all - Lysol, Glade, Oust - you name it. So Lowell took it a step further. He journeyed out to the local health food store and purchased a few things to try. The first thing he did was put peppermint oil on cottonballs and stuff them all around the crevices in the doorframe. No more garlic smell, now it smelled strangely like Christmas. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you really hope company doesn't show up at the door. It's really not easy to explain why there are cottonballs EVERYWHERE.

The next thing Lowell purchased was a mist spray whose label proclaims it will "spray the bad karma and funk away with a mist that can't be missed." Don't really know about the bad karma so much, but there was definitely a funk in the air, what with the mixture of garlic and peppermint. And lo and behold, this spray does the trick. It literally sprays away the funk. But it leaves behind it's own very distinctive aroma. What is this spray you may ask? It's frankincense and myrrh. Yes, you read correctly, frankincense and myrrh, as in two of the three gifts Baby Jesus received. I grew up in a Christian home, where I knew the story and I knew the gifts, but I never knew firsthand the scent of frankincense and myrrh. Until now. And now every time I walk in the door, I think about the first Christmas and baby Jesus and about how blessed I am not to be smelling the "pungent odor" of garlic and whatever else happens to be frying up next door.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A day with my favorite boy!

Since we had training every day last week, I wanted to do something fun with Joshua on Saturday. After he went to swim team, we headed into Kansas City.

We went to T-Rex Cafe, which is like Rainforest Cafe, but with dinosaurs instead of elephants and gorillas. It would have been his favorite place in the world when he was four, and he seemed to think it was pretty cool even at twelve.

It was loud. Dinosaurs were roaring all through the meal, so it isn't the best place to go if you are looking for atmosphere for good conversation. But it was fun, and the food was actually excellent.

After checking out all of the dinosaurs, we walked around and shopped. It's fun that he is finally at an age where he enjoys shopping. And he isn't quite at the age yet where he doesn't want me to be with him. So it's perfect. Afterward, we went and saw "Paul Blart - Mall Cop" at the theatre. It was so much better than I would have given it credit for. Not that I want to see it again or anything.

So not much to report this weekend, except some down time with one of my favorite people in the world.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

There's Some Strong Winds in Kansas

Before we moved in, we heard lots of stories about the men with whom we would be working and living. And since Lowell and I can both see, the holes in the walls and the MDF everywhere else did not go unnoticed for either of us.

Once we moved in, we began to hear stories about the damage to the van and exactly how it happened. However, we heard from the horse's mouth (meaning the guy responsible for the damage), that it was a very windy day, he opened the door, and the wind blew so hard that the van doors got all bent up. In his defense (because he definitely needs one here), it is really, really windy here.

Now I know Dorothy and Toto blew away from Kansas, but come on, really, how often do you see "wind damage" like this, unless they are tornadic winds? Even if it were the wind, we are having a hard time figuring out how he was able to accidentally damage both the passenger's side and the driver's side.

Insurance isn't too keen on covering damage such as this. (Crazy huh? You would think there would be some rider on the policy for those times when you get so mad you kick the car doors in, but, no.) So it looks like we may be driving a beat up ole van for a while. The good news is that we don't ever feel like we have to park far out in the parking lots to avoid a cart hitting us or a car door dinging the sides.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When You Turn Fifty...

Anybody with any experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities will attest to the fact that the best quotes often come from them. Lowell and I used to jot down the ones that we thought were especially funny. And I think that this is a good outlet to share some of the best. So, when we have good days, I'll share a favorite quote or two.

One woman with whom we lived always had the best zingers. She would pop out with things like, "I'm not coming to your funeral" or "I may visit, but I'm not putting flowers on your grave." When Lowell and I would get irritated at one another (and it does happen occasionally), we would often threaten not to put flowers on the other's grave. We also loved the day she emerged from her room complaining about a peer. She kept telling us that the peer needed to go to the doctor. When we asked what kind of doctor, she responded, "the nerve doctor 'cause she is getting on all my nerves!"

But my favorite interaction with her came the day we were talking about death (one of her very favorite subjects, as strange as it may seem). She was 77 years old, diabetic, had a heart condition and had lost a lot of family and friends in her lifetime. She was telling me over and over again, "When you turn 50, you die." About the sixth time she said this, I asked "Well how are you?" She thought about it a minute, looked at me dead on and said, "Well I reckon right close to 50."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When it's good, it's still crazy!

Today was a super day! We showered, put on clean clothes, took our meds, hung out, all without incident. But even when it's good, it's still kind of surreal.

After getting the pop this afternoon, we went to Dollar Tree to pick up a couple of small items. It's a relatively safe store, as everything in it, as the name suggests, is only a dollar. So there really is no occasion for fit-throwing. Generally speaking, if there is something strongly desired in the dollar store, it's not going to break the bank.

But today, we weren't quite as interested in the items in the store as we were the people. There was one woman in particular who drew our attention quickly. She was dressed in what appeared to be Muslim attire, with the long flowing dress and head covering. So, try as I may, we still seemed to follow her around the store, all the while yelling, "Hey lady!", or "How ya' doing lady!", or "Are you my friend?" I think it's safe to say that Muslim women in general are not prone to engaging in conversation with men, especially strange men. Well, we were having none of that and were going to be persistent. When he finally said, "I like your dress lady," she smiled and acknowledged him as she quickly made her way out of the store.

"Whew," I thought, "that's over." But once again, I was wrong. There was a man who walked by who we were sure we knew. The man wasn't quite as convinced that he was our friend as we were, but we soon had him agreeing we were all buddies before he slipped out of the store without making a purchase. (I'd love to see him explaining to his wife why he didn't bring home the dishwashing detergent he was clearly shopping for...)

One thing I can say about working with these guys is that they help us announce our presence everywhere we go. As embarrassing as it can be trying to distract someone from following all of their "friends" around the store trying to engage them in conversation, it probably doesn't need to be said that days like today are so much better than days when we are throwing things at people.

It does look like it will be a couple of months before we get a third person. This means we are losing our day staff for that time period as well. So not having anybody around who has been around guarantees that there will be plenty to blog about in the coming weeks. And chances are good, it won't be about all the new friends we are making in the community!

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Open a Door

A phrase often heard when working with people with disabilities is, "They have taught me so much more than I have taught them."

Lowell and I said that just this morning, when one of our guys taught us how to open a door that is jammed shut. When I went next door today, the first thing I noticed was the door leading from the kitchen to the garage. I noticed it because there was a hole where the deadbolt used to be. My first thought was "Hmmm, that's interesting..." and I sat down to watch TVLand. (By the way, we did replace the television with a $40 deal from Goodwill).

When I later questioned the guys about it, the guilty party says, "Yeah, well it wasn't my fault. The door was stuck and the lock wouldn't work." So I asked the obvious question of "Did you ask staff for help?" I should have known the answer without asking...

He tells me, "The door wouldn't open because the stupid deadbolt was stuck. Staff should know that this goes against my rights because I have food in the freezer in the garage and I have the right to get to my food!" He then tells me that he had to walk outside (barefoot, mind you, although I'm not sure why since I am pretty sure staff was not restricting access to his shoes as well), and open the garage door from the outside. He didn't feel like walking all the way back around, so he just "rammed the door until it opened." Apparently it worked, however, now the door looks like this.

Not a great picture, but hopefully it shows the split down the middle as well as the missing deadbolt. So that's how you open a jammed door. But now how do you close it??

So now we now how to open and close a door that has been jammed shut. So much easier than asking for a little help, don' t ya' think????