Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Valuable Lessons

Sorry for the long delay in posting. We have been dealing with some issues with Steve's long term disability insurance which resulted in our need to move, request assistance from family, a state representative and the state department of insurance, and basically have a daily panic attack for almost a month. During that period I did not feel like I should be discussing the issues in a public forum. Especially since my thoughts were entirely negative.

Things have been resolved and Steve has finally been approved for long term disability. Through the process we have learned some valuable lessons.

Our families love us

Yes, we knew we were loved before this but their love was tangible during the last month. Without their financial assistance we would have never made it. But, what was even more amazing, was the sheer number of people who were willing to help us move with less than a week's notice, through a freak snow storm. I am afraid I will never be able to repay their kindness. The great thing about families is they don't expect to be repaid. But, I have made a personal vow to drop everything to help family, regardless of how short the notice.

Public agencies do help if you get to the right person

Steve spent hours on the phone trying to get us help when we needed it. He quickly found that the first person he spoke to did not always have the authority to get things done. He had to speak to supervisors of supervisors until he found a person who could help. In one instance he had to call in a third party. Thankfully, all of the work he put in paid off in the end. I believe they make it hard on purpose in order to determine if you have a legitimate need.

Patience is truly a virtue

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn, was simply to be patient. I always want things to happen yesterday. When it comes to insurance companies and state agencies, that's not how they work. Ever. I spent a considerable amount of time on my knees asking God to give me the patience to wait for the answers.

It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the flood gates open and you believe you are drowning. I learned in the last month that God does hear your prayers. He just moves at his own pace, not mine. It was not an easy lesson to learn, believe me.

Now that things have calmed down, I can get back to the things that are truly important, like getting our house organized and getting ready for the holidays.

What lessons have you learned recently?

Monday, October 31, 2011

We Moved our Household

Sorry for the disappearance there. Due to some major payment problems with Steve's disability insurance, we have had to move into a smaller, cheaper house.

I had exactly one week in which to pack and move. There was no time to breathe, sleep or blog.

I have a lot to say. It will have to wait until tomorrow, though. Tonight I need sleep and to simply calm down.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Loss of Pride

Steve has been talking about how much of a hit his pride has taken lately. Asking for help is one of the hardest things for him to do. He would rather suffer than ask someone other than me to help him.

I don't really understand this. In my way of thinking, he didn't ask to be disabled. He just is. If he needs extra help, he should ask. I'm beginning to think that its a gender difference.

Steve is the old fashioned sort. The kind of man that thinks the man should be the primary wage earner and prides himself on being able to fix just about anything. The fact that he can no longer work weighs on him like a ton of bricks.

I know that most disabled individuals deal with loss of pride. It is incredibly difficult to ask someone to help with basic personal care tasks. If your self worth is based on being able to do something you can no longer do -- change the car's oil, fix a computer, go to work every day -- the loss can be devastating.

I have learned over the last few years to be discrete, even sneaky, about how I help him. I also do a lot of his asking for him. For example, I ask his brother to "help" change the oil in the car. I also ask Steve to show me how to fix something then say I better do it so I can learn better.

I also give him gentle reminders that he has a lot to be proud of, even if he can no longer perform some functions. He's a great Dad and I remind him that if he was still working he would not get to spend as much time with his kids.

I know I'm not fooling him. That's not the point. I just want him to remember that his self worth is not based on his job or the ability to put on his shoes. No one's is.

It will take some time for him to get over how he feels. He was just learning to manage his bipolar disorder before this all happened. As he put it "he finally felt like he could look in the mirror and like what he saw." Now, he is having problems with that mirror again.

It's hard to stand by and let him figure it out. I want to shake him and say "it's all in your head!" But, I have to let him process it on his own. He will figure it out. I think it is part of the grieving process. He's grieving for his old life.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Explanation

Steve and I have an extremely unconventional family. Between the two of us we have five kids between the ages of 23 years and 18 months. This past weekend, our eldest -- the 23 year old -- and his family came to visit. He is active military and this is the first time in two years that he's been able to visit. His Dad has had two surgeries since his last visit. There was a lot of catching up to do. Including filling him in on his Dad's prognosis.

One thing I have become good at over the last three years is explaining Steve's situation. Steve doesn't like to talk about it and really hates to sound like he's complaining or whining. So, I have taken on the roll of "explainer".

It was hard for my stepson to see his Dad in obvious pain. Like everyone else, he wanted to help, but didn't know how to offer without offending his Dad. (Not that he would have, but until you've been around Steve for awhile, you don't know that.) He was also understandably worried.

He had gotten some wrong information along the way. Stuff like that happens. We didn't want to worry him, so we really didn't mention it when we talked to him on the phone. Other people like to spread gossip, such as his Dad lost his license rather than he simply no longer drives due to his pain levels. Same outcome, different subcontext.

I'm glad I had the chance to talk to him. Part of me wishes I would have explained things sooner, but I still stand by my decision. Explaining the situation while our stepson was in a combat zone just didn't seem appropriate. There was nothing life threatening and it could wait.

I'm also glad I got the conversation over with during their first night here. It saved a lot of awkward moments. Father and son had an excellent time and there was no white elephant in the room. We all had a wonderful time and the weekend was a smashing success.

Now we just have to figure out how we can return the visit. I'm not sure they make a large enough pain killer for Steve to survive a 1600 mile trip!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Preparing for Guests

My stepson and his family are visiting next weekend. I can't wait. We have not seen them in over a year as he was deployed over seas and his wife and kids were on base, half the country away.

Since we have not seen them in such a long time, we are in "heavy cleaning" mode around here. Is that weird? We clean whenever anybody visits, but for this visit we are purchasing new sheets, area rugs and even a new tv. These are all things we needed anyway, but we made a priority to get them for this visit.

I try not to put too much thought into it, I'm just happy the cleaning is getting done. But, I think we are doing it because we want everything to look as nice as possible and we want the visit to go smoothly. Steve knows me and knows that I will fret over things like a stained rug and old sheets.

I've always been a "the house has to be clean" type of person. In therapy the other day, I questioned whether I am borderline OCD. My therapist says its not OCD unless it interferes with my life. Since, normally, I prefer a clean, organized house, but am willing to let things slide for the sake of time with my family or work deadlines, I think I'm ok.

However, when it comes to visitors I become a mess. I stress for weeks over things like cobwebs in the corners, shampooed rugs and perfectly organized closets. Don't even get me started on the garage!

I get this way when we go away, too. I hate to come home to a messy house and I have a real fear of something happening while on vacation that would cause someone to have to enter our home. What is weird is the only people that would come in during an emergency would not really care if there are toys on the floor or laundry on the bed. They would be more worried about dealing with the emergency.

Anyway, with that being said, please excuse any erratic posting next week. I will be focusing on cleaning behind the refrigerator and stove. I'm just going to accept that this is my week to do my "fall cleaning" and leave it at that.

Do you do an all out cleaning when guests are expected? Should I put mints on the pillow?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Write Down Your Family's Goals

When a member of your family becomes disabled, life all of a sudden becomes all about them for awhile. Plans and goals are placed on hold while everyone learns to adapt to the new situation. It is so easy to just walk away from your goals and lament the fact that you never get anywhere in life.

I have become a firm believer in writing down my goals, both personal and for my family. This is different from my daily to do list. It is a list of the things I am working toward. My daily to do list is an extension of my goal list.

Steve and I have regular discussions about our goals. These are not formal "sit down" discussions. They are more discussions that happen in the car or while we are hanging out on our deck. They include replenishing our savings, buying a home, replacing our car and becoming better organized. Whenever we add to our goals as a family, I add it to my family goal list.

When I am creating my to do list and Steve's "honey do" list, I try to ask "How is this working toward our goals?"

I also try to have a single goal as the "main" goal. For example, we have decided that becoming more organized will help us reach our other goals. So, my to do lists focus on becoming more organized.

Having a written list of goals keeps us accountable as a family. I use Remember the Milk as for my list making app and my goal list is shared with Steve. That way we both have a visual clue as to where we are going as a family. We revisit our goals regularly (usually while driving or chatting on the deck) and make modifications as needed.

Do you have goals as a family? Do you have them written down?

Fear of Success

The other side of the fear of failure is the fear of success. I battle this fear, too. I often find myself taking jobs that do not pay me what I'm worth and then I stagnate in these jobs.

I am often to afraid to go after the jobs that I know I can do and that would pay me well. My thought process goes something like this:

"Just call them up. What's the worst that can happen?"
"Well, what if I'm not good enough?"
"You know you're good enough, stop it."
"Well, what if the job takes too much time?"
"So, what? You work for a living, it's supposed to take time."
"Well, I just don't think I'm ready. I'll take this other job that pays a lot less, for now."

This whole conversation is held within my own head. And I walk away.  I tell myself I will give myself another month, six months, year to get ready. But that time comes and goes and I'm still taking jobs beneath my abilities. And I get frustrated with my lack of advancement.

I'm not afraid of being rejected. Writers get rejected all of the time. I am afraid of what success means. Would it take more time from my family? Can I manage the additional stress? Am I worth it?

The funny thing is, I know that none of my fears are founded. Just because a project pays more money doesn't mean it will take more time. It will just expand my horizons. The lower paying projects usually end up taking more time than the higher paying projects simply because I have to do more lower paying projects to make the same amount of money.

This week I have made a goal to apply for at least one higher paying project. If I don't get it, oh well. I'm no worse off. But, being afraid to even try will hurt me more than being rejected.

Are you afraid of success? How do you overcome it?