Monday, January 30, 2012

Where Did This Come From?

I'm doing something a little different today. 

I'm winging it.

Usually, I try to write about a current situation or something inspirational or something amusing (like slipping Robert a veggie burger). 

Tonight . . . I don't know what's wrong with me so I'm just writing.  I was reading some posts from other caregivers and feeling very sappy and then started to cry.  I haven't cried in ages and actually started to think there might be something wrong with me.  I mean, when my dad died I thought I would eventually have a day of crying at some random, inopportune time, but that never happened.  Had I somehow hardened myself so much that I can no longer cry?  What happens to a person's tear ducts if they don't cry every now and then?  Do they seal up from lack of use? 

So, what's going on with me?  I had a productive weekend working on a project near and dear to my heart but I was pretty frustrated with Robert this weekend.   I want to make his life a bit easier but I don't want him to be so dependent on me and my husband that it's harmful to him.  He's used to stopping by Starbucks with me after I pick him for the weekend and we get a Chai tea for me, a regular ice tea for hubby and chocolate creme Frappuccino for him.  Before we even made it to the car this weekend, he asked if we were getting a chocolate shake.  It kind of bugged me because what started out as a "treat" is now something he's come to expect.  I told him we can't get that every single time I pick him up. 

"Why not?" he asked.  Well . . . because, we just can't, that's why.

Later in the weekend, he wanted me to hand him his pajama bottoms.   They were in the hallway on his walker, just outside the bathroom.  I was in a whole other room but close enough to listen for him if he had a problem. 

He asked me to hand him his pj bottoms. 

I'm in the other room.

I told him he could get them and he said, "but I'm sitting down."  Well, so am I and I'M IN THE OTHER ROOM! (Don't worry, I didn't actually yell at him).  He pondered this dilemma and then got his own pj bottoms but I don't think he was very happy about it.  I want to make his life easier (like by helping make sure he wears clean clothes or buying him shirts that close with Velcro instead of buttons) but I don't want him to be too dependent if it's not necessary.

I don't want to be taken advantage of, I guess.

Today, I had a crappy day at work.  It's been stressful at work because this is my busy season (reviews, budget, etc.) and there are just days that are tougher than others (or maybe it's just they all build up or maybe it's because I enjoyed the writing project so much this weekend and "day job" was a stark contrast to that). 

Aside from that, my mother-in-law went in for a heart procedure today (she's fine) and didn't think I was stressed about that but its possible thinking about her may have added to my doldrums.

Plus, Wayward Son is leaving in one week for Air Force boot camp.  His going away party is this weekend but then he's leaving next Monday.  He's certainly not doing anything lately to make me miss him (staying up all night playing video games, waking me up in the middle of the night as he forages in the kitchen, grunting greetings instead of using actual words).  As irritated as I am with him, maybe the thought of him leaving is bugging me too (although I'm really looking forward to using his closet).

Who knows.

All I know is I'm just down in the dumps and find myself with wet eyes at my keyboard.

I guess my tear ducts work after all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Caregiving Solutions: It's the Little Things

There are big challenges in caregiving.  Making sure your caree gets the right medications, fighting with insurance companies to get these medications or necessary medical procedures, completing disability paperwork (ugh!), or finding a suitable living facility for your loved one.

It’s great when help is available for these big challenges but I have a special love for those little things that make life a little easier (aside from the obvious, like coffee and our lovable pets).

A few years ago when Robert was in a Skilled Nursing Facility, the occupational therapist changed Robert’s regular shoelaces with shoelaces that never untie. 

Oh my god, I was so happy you’d think he handed me a basket full of Starbucks gift cards (I do like my coffee).

Robert loves plain black tennis shoes.  He’s worn the same brand and style for years and years (don’t worry, he gets new shoes every now and then but they are the same style and brand – hopefully, they never discontinue that style)!  These shoes lace up and Robert had increasing difficulty bending over and having the dexterity to tie the laces. Of course, they were always coming untied (you would think the job of shoelaces would be to stay tied). 

The occupational therapist came along and, without fanfare, changed the shoelaces to what I call “magic shoelaces.”  Woohoo!  Happy dance!  Robert gets to keep the style of the shoe he likes and doesn’t have to worry about tying and untying the shoes (or having someone else tie them for him). 

It was love at first sight for Robert too and he actually became irritated with a doctor at a recent neurology visit because the doctor untied these laces without a thought.  (We got them tied back up and Robert was happy once again while the doctor apologized for his mistake once he saw how important these were to Robert). 

Another recent find that has brought just as much thrill to us: button up shirts with Velcro.  I’ve written about Robert no longer being able to button one of his sleeves.  Robert’s preference is button down shirts (pulling a t-shirt over his head is an impossible task for him) but the buttons take quite a lot of concentration and it takes him a long while to dress.  I began to wonder if bigger buttons were going to be necessary meaning my worst fear would be realized:

I would have to learn to sew!

Thankfully, I found Buck and Buck Clothing Company based in Seattle (yes, that’s free advertising!).  They make all sorts of handy clothing for the disabled and elderly but the dress shirts for men caught my eye.  Buttons on the outside; Velcro on the inside!  Bonus: they come in Robert’s favorite colors – blue and white.

Robert tried on his first new shirt last weekend and, aside from not being able to see the white Velcro on a white shirt (an easy fix with a permanent marker), he loved them!  Dressing took much less time than normal and he was even able to button both his sleeves. 

Robert declared the shirt “excellent” and I ordered him four more. 

Finding help for the little things make tackling the big things so much easier, doesn't it?

Have you found anything that is so simple yet makes such a huge impact on your or your caree’s life?  Please share in the comment section below while I keep doing my happy dance!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What is it like to be a “Care Receiver” instead of the Caregiver?

Last night I had a dream about caring for Robert. 

In my dream, Robert had a seizure and ruptured a disk in his back.  This was his last straw. 

The dream had Robert at my house for his weekend visit and he was uncooperative and surly.  He was angry about his condition. 
Robert refused to wear his helmet and threw it across the room.

Robert refused to use his walker and walked without it but with great difficulty and continued to fall into (and knock over) everything.  He knocked over the piano (I love how dreams put odd things into our minds – we don’t even have a piano).
Robert wouldn’t do anything I asked him to do.  He questioned why he had to have all of these problems.

Robert angrily asked why he couldn’t be normal.  
It was a nightmare.

Thankfully, in “real life” Robert is a good care receiver.   I often wonder what it is like for Robert to be so dependent on others (I know I would have a hard time depending on others: kids be warned!).  Robert really doesn’t seem to mind.  He knows he needs assistance in buttoning his shirts (although I recently bought him shirts with Velcro on the inside and buttons on the outside.  It looks like a normal shirt but he won’t have to mess with buttons!  I can’t wait for him to try them out this weekend). 
Robert relies on others to make him a good meal, keep him stocked in his favorite drink of 7-Up and, occasionally, treat him to ice cream. 

Robert never complains that he has to have a sink bath when he’s at our house or if I have to help him get cleaned up after an accident. 
Robert never asks “why me” because he believes in his heart and soul that God put him here for a reason and his purpose is to educate others about epilepsy.   His faith never waivers and, in fact, says grace for the rest of my family if we happen to be eating something and didn’t say grace first. 

Only when he says things like “I was trying to make you laugh” do I realize the face I must sometimes have on when doing things for him.  Very focused and trying to get as much done as possible (can I get Robert bathed and wash the sheets and get the sofa bed turned back into a sofa — all at once?), but without a smile.
Robert has accepted that he needs others to help him and tries to lighten the load for his caregivers with a little humor.

It’s amazing how a little acceptance, faith and humor can change a nightmare into just another way of life.  
Robert isn't only a good care receiver but a pretty good teacher too. 

I think I’m ready for more smiles today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chocolate Shake or Bowl of Rocky Road Ice Cream? Choices in Caregiving

Tonight, we’re treating Robert to a cheeseburger and fries.  I figured since I have already slipped him vegetarian sausages and a fake burger this weekend, I’d get him the real deal before he realizes what I’ve been feeding him.

Or passes out from meat withdrawal. 

On my way out the door to the local fast food restaurant, Robert called out, “Can I get a chocolate shake too?” 

Hmm.   Well, do you want a shake with your burger or a bowl of Rocky Road Ice Cream for dessert?  You can’t have both (I’ve been down this road before and I’m on to him).

Robert gave me his best “I’m not going to say anything and will just stare at you hoping you’ll change your mind” stare.

While he mulled over his choices and I stood my ground, I thought about caregiving in general and how it is full of choices.  All the time.
Caregivers make choices every day.  Heck, sometimes choices even have to be made moment to moment.  What briefs do I choose for Robert to keep him dry?  Do we use the transport chair for an outing or let him use his walker?  How can I satisfy his taste buds but keep him healthy?  Do I follow him as he walks to the bathroom in case he has a seizure and I have to catch him or do I stop hovering and hope for the best?

Sometimes the choices are between living with dust bunnies or having a spotless house or deciding between cooking a great meal or running out for fast food.  (It’s usually a toss up around here on both counts).
I had my own choices to make this weekend.   Since I was feeling overwhelmed this week, a friend asked if I could shorten Robert’s weekend visit.  What if he came over for just one night instead of two or three? 

For some reason, this option hadn’t occurred to me but just knowing I could make that choice made me feel better.  I don’t have to be “all in” every weekend.  Why not leave my options open?  I knew I had several writing projects to work on and a couple to finish, I was feeling extremely disorganized and I needed some relaxation time too.   

I need to make some choices but I do have options (of course, some people have a different caregiving situation and do not have many options to choose from).

I asked New Home for enough meds for a three day visit but told them I may bring Robert back early.  I chose to pick up Robert later on Saturday than normal (which was made more challenging when he made the unusual move to call me that morning to ask if I could pick him up earlier than I had planned).  I told him “no” and kept to my plan to pick him up later in the afternoon.  He reluctantly accepted my answer but was perfectly happy when I arrived to pick him up later that day. 

As far as keeping the visit short, we chose to keep him at our house over the long weekend but it was nice having an option to cut the visit short. 

I explained to Robert this morning that I had to work on my projects and he would have to watch television or work on his word search puzzle.  Robert didn’t mind those options at all (he loves both activities) and was pleased just to be at our house surrounded by family and our animals that he’s come to enjoy. 

In fact, Robert became so hooked on a “Bonanza” marathon this afternoon he asked if he could eat the burger and fries in front of the TV!  So much for my thinking he needs to be entertained.

As far as Robert’s choice: once he realized I wasn’t going to change my mind, he chose Rocky Road Ice Cream for dessert. 

Good choice.  I may have to choose some of that myself!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tricks for the Working Caregiver

I’m calling these “tricks” deliberately.  Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into helping ourselves.  Working caregivers think they can do it all (I know – I am one).

The fact is, we can’t do it all (but admit it: we still secretly think we can).  See why we need tricks?
What is a working caregiver?  For starters, the obvious fact is that all caregivers are working.  A working caregiver is someone who is a caregiver but also holds down a job. 
That’s two full-time jobs if you’re keeping count.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP (November 2009), 73% of family caregivers providing care for someone over the age of 18 either work or have worked while caregiving.   According to the same study, 20% of family caregivers have had to take a leave of absence from their job at some point during the caregiving experience.

If we can’t give 100% to both of these full-time jobs, then what are some tricks to help manage the situation as well as maintain our health and sanity?
1.        Create a team.  Talk with other family members about the caregiving situation.  See if there are things the other family members can do in order to help.  If someone is good with money, they can manage the caree’s finances.  Is someone else a thrifty shopper?  Send them to the grocery store on occasion.  Ideally, someone could take over the caregiving duties for a few hours so you have a break.  Don’t forget to confide in your friends about your situation so they can provide emotional support or maybe even make dinner occasionally.  This is not the time to keep your caregiving situation a secret.  Now is when you need a large, supportive team.   

2.       Communicate with your employer.  Tell them what is going on.  Do you need a schedule change?  Maybe you even want to reduce your hours.  Give your employer the chance to work with you so talk to them about your situation.  You need them on your team too. 

3.       Manage Expectations.  If you know your day job is busier at a particular time of year, prepare for that by not planning major changes for your caree at the same time (note to self . . . ).  Acknowledge you will get tired, you will get cranky and you will even get sick on occasion.  Don’t beat yourself up when you are feeling this way because guilt is not going to help anyone.  Do the best you can.  Expect that not everything will go perfectly smoothly.  Actually, expect things to be pretty darn bumpy sometimes but know the next day may be just a little better. 

4.       Ask for help.  Why else did you create a team?  Ask them for help – specific help.  Some people actually don’t know where to start when it comes to caregiving and so need a little direction (sometimes a lot of direction).   Even if you know you can do the task better or you think you can eventually do the task, ask for help anyway.  The task is then done and you’re able to cross something off your list (what a great feeling!).

5.       Seek out resources.  Find reliable online medical supply companies (shopping for supplies online is so much easier and less time consuming than driving to a store).  Connect with social service agencies in your area.  Join a support group (whether in person or online).  Denise Brown has created caregiving.com which brings family caregivers together in a supportive and enriching environment.  Denise has also written an e-book called “The Working Family Caregiver: Tips for Balancing Career & Caregiving.”  Click here to learn more about this resource and to download the free e-book. 
What suggestions do you have for the working caregiver?  If you are a working caregiver, what has worked for you and what tricks (or tips) can you add? 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Take it From this Caregiver: Take a Quick Break

It’s my busy time of year at work and in addition to being busy all day and exhausted by the evening, I’m stressing myself out because my to-do list for what I want to accomplish once I get home from work is several pages long.  I want to write more blog posts and finish a few writing projects.  I have emails to respond to and am not answering them as promptly as I normally do, I’m not as active on the social media sites that I’ve come to use to connect with people with epilepsy or caring for someone with epilepsy or other caregivers ( I think I need a “I Love Twitter” bumper sticker). 

Also on the list is taking care of a few tasks for Robert (such as lighting a fire under New Home to get cable for the television in his bedroom).  Every time I email them about it, they tell me they are “this close” to having it done. 
Two months later . . .

Still, no cable.  I’ve let it slide too long, although part of me was hoping the garage conversion would be done and he wouldn’t need cable over there.  Now that I realize the garage conversion isn’t happening, I can get back to hounding them to get cable so Robert can once again enjoy Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in his room.

I get stressed out when my to-do list grows.  I also get stressed at work every year at this time (same projects with each new year) but I know the projects will end and the stress will pass (although there are those fleeting moments when I wonder).
I just hope everyone who I’ve snipped at realizes that there is an end in sight and I’ll be back to being nice again.  Soon.   I promise.

Just to cover my bases:  um, sorry to everyone I’ve been snippy with. 
Surprisingly, I’ve been nice to my Hubby who usually gets the brunt of my snippiness.  He should plan to have surgery every year at this time because, obviously, I can’t be mean to someone who’s just had surgery.   (He’s almost completely recovered, by the way). 

My advice to caregivers (working or not) or anyone else who is stressed out is to take a break.  Breathe.  Forgive yourself if you’re not getting as much done as you’d like. 
Maybe even ask for help. 

I actually took my own advice earlier this week and asked for Hubby’s help.   It wasn’t a huge task (taking Robert new glasses because his other pair broke – this must be his 10th pair by now) but it saved me a trip and Robert didn’t have to wait for days for the new glasses.  It may have been minor but I was extremely grateful for the help.
Next up:  Take a break.  Breathe.  Forgive myself for being behind.

I’ll have to work on those.  Right after my projects are done.
(You didn’t really think I’d follow all of my own advice, did you?).  J

Monday, January 9, 2012

Garage Conversion -- On hold (for now)

It’s difficult for me to admit defeat so I’m just going with “on hold.”   We have overcome many roadblocks so far but we just can’t overcome all of them. 

Many of you know that last summer I was so fed up with New Home and Robert’s inadequate care, my family and I decided to convert our garage so Robert could live with us. 
It seemed like such a simple idea . . .

Hubby and I discussed converting the garage without a permit but since we were installing a new bathroom with a shower and not just constructing walls and plopping a bed in the garage, it seemed prudent to obtain the permit.  That was my first mistake!
Hubby went to the permit counter of our little city and was told unless we could provide two covered parking spaces on the side of our house, garage conversions were not allowed.  “Even though it will be for my disabled brother-in-law?”  Hubby asked.   “Yep,” was the reply. 

After much research and me showing the permit department their own “Reasonable Accommodation” code, they relented.  We had to jump through quite a few hoops and agree to follow every building code in order to receive a building permit.  We also had to agree to convert the garage back to the original state if Robert moved out or we sold the house (yes, that means removing the shower & toilet & windows & walls) but we agreed.  After two months, we got our planning permit. 
It took two months because we were the first people in our city to ask for such a thing so the agreement had to be created from scratch and attorneys had to be consulted but, if nothing else, at least the city now knows they have a Reasonable Accommodation code they have to follow and they won’t turn away others seeking to provide housing for their disabled relative.

Next up: building permit.  
Our “simple” project became quite complicated in a very short amount of time.  The wall we originally planned to install windows in (as well as the a/c unit) was a structural wall.  Apparently, with a two story house, you just can’t cut holes into any old wall that may be holding up the second story (good thing I’m not in construction). 

We had to track down original building drawings or spend thousands to have an architectural engineer do load calculations on the wall (which meant measuring the entire house – no small expense). 
The original building drawings were not available. Our city wasn’t a city when our house was built so they didn’t have our plans. The county didn’t have them either because they no longer have plans for us since we’re now in an incorporated city (can you say “run around.”)  We could go to the original builder to try to find them but most likely they wouldn’t have them since our house was built 15 years ago. 

Our contractor thought it would be simpler to remove the garage and install windows and a door instead of worrying about the structural wall.  We met with the city about their exiting and light requirements which, in order to meet these, meant large windows and a large door in place of the garage door.  (Remember, this all has to be removed if Robert ever moves out in keeping with our planning permit agreement).   I didn’t like the appearance of it and all these windows were increasing the cost but knew it was the only option.
Our water heater which sits quietly in our garage suddenly becomes a health hazard sitting in a bedroom.  We would have to either enclose it (with a steel door) or buy a new one and install it outside.  The a/c unit would have caused its own problems but we have friends who were giving us a deal.

With the rising cost of this project, permit fees are rising as well.
Hubby’s brothers are both handy so they were going to help with the construction which would save some money.  As an added bonus, one of hubby’s brothers is an electrician who could help do any electrical work. 

How fantastic is that?  Wonderful, except when you have to comply with the electrical requirements in order to get this building permit.  We need arc-fault something or other for all the electrical outlets in the new room which means adding space to the electrical panel for the house.  We need to add the a/c unit to the panel, too. 
We quickly learned we have a very small panel with no room to add anything.

We got quotes on a brand new electrical panel.   Brother-in-law referred us to someone who could help since he usually works commercial and we needed a residential expert.  After reviewing the electrical panel, the electric company “box” which feeds the box was nowhere to be found.  
SMUD came out to trace where the box is and found it buried under cement in our driveway.  It’s a long story but it’s been buried since we moved in. 

We have to break up concrete in our driveway to get to the electrical box to upgrade the wires in order to upgrade the electrical panel in order to provide a/c and arc fault whatevers for the “simple” garage conversion!
The cost of this project has tripled before construction begins.  I am not na├»ve enough to think the cost would not increase even more once we actually started construction. 

I hate to admit defeat but the electrical panel problem pushed me over the edge. 
At this point, our best bet is to hope the housing market rebounds a little so we can sell our house and buy a one story with an extra bedroom.  Then, we can move Robert in with us. 

In the meantime, he stays with us on the weekends and sleeps in the nice sofa sleeper we have for him and I watch New Home like a hawk so Robert gets quality care the rest of the week. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Intentions, Goals & Opportunities: What is ahead in 2012?

Robert had a haircut appointment Sunday afternoon with our favorite JC Penney hair stylist and I fully intended to bring her flowers as a small token of my appreciation for her love of Robert and as a “Happy New Year” gift.  Unfortunately, Robert had an unplanned clothing change and we were lucky we got there only ten minutes late – no time for a quick stop at the store for flowers.  (I always allow extra time for unplanned emergencies when we have appointments but this time I couldn’t accommodate both an emergency and a stop for flowers).

Sometimes, good intentions just go out the window or have to be moved to another day and time.  (Robert should be due for another haircut in a couple of months which could mean spring flowers for Salita the Stylist.)
Intentions are important to me.  I like to set goals and think of ways to achieve my goals and how I can create opportunities for myself and others.  My intended timelines don’t always go as planned but, eventually, we get there (and if I don’t want to spend another ten years writing my second book, I better get on it!).

I have a list of goals on my bulletin board next to my desk (written years ago) related to my book and I’ve left it up because I love seeing the steps crossed off.  I also love seeing the “pie in the sky” part of my goals which are not crossed off but that I wrote just for fun.  Don’t tell anyone, but these include “being on Oprah Ellen” (Oprah retired after I wrote the original goal and Ellen seems so much more relaxed anyway – I may not faint on her show).  The others are “movie” and “academy award.”  Ha – leftover dreams from my youth (not that I'm old) which I tied into the goals for my book.   How much fun is it to write these down as actual goals?  I wonder, though, what would have happened to my book if I hadn’t written down these last few goals.  Would the “publish” and “sell” part of my goals then become the impossible ones? 
I’m not taking any chances.  I’m going to dream big and set big goals.  The tough part will be to allow myself to be happy with what I’ve accomplished even if the “big ones” are left unchecked.   I’m excited about 2012 and have set both professional and personal goals (some big, some entirely realistic). 

A few of my 2012 goals (I have to admit, it's a little scary putting these out on a public bulletin board!):

1.       Find more freelance writing jobs related to epilepsy, disabilities or caregiving (goal: 5 submissions per week).

2.       Continue to write blog posts (goal: 3 per week);

3.       Put my sponsorship program into action.  Find a sponsor or two (or five) for my website that will benefit other caregivers or those living with epilepsy. 

4.       Create an Epilepsy Facts pamphlet that will be a free download on the website and that can be placed in Robert’s neurologist’s office (they have zero info on epilepsy in their waiting room right now);

5.       Participate in Epilepsy Awareness Month again this year;

6.       Have 100 “likes” on the Robert’s Sister Facebook page and 500 Twitter followers (heck, why not!); (find me as @robertssister1);

7.       Find the perfect living situation for Robert (the garage conversion isn’t looking promising);

8.       Create an outline for my Robert book (or, as Other Brother calls it, my “book of blogs.”);

9.       See some very important graduations this year!  Both daughters will be graduating from college and our son will be graduating from Boot Camp.  A year of exciting milestones for them! 

10.   Go on a trip to Europe!  The girls are planning a trip after their graduation and I would love for my husband and me to join them during their travels.  (This would be a lot easier to accomplish if that movie deal or guest spot on Ellen would come through. J )
What do you have planned for 2012?  Do you dream big or stick with realistic goals?  I’d love to hear what your intentions are for 2012. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Goodbye 2011

Okay, I know it’s January 2, 2012 (already January 3 in some time zones) which means I’m a little behind in reflecting on the last year but I’m going to reflect anyway.  Sometimes as a caregiver (or as a mom or wife or any other role for that matter), things get a little busy and great intentions go out the window. 

I intended to do 2011 reflections on December 31.  A reasonable date for such things.  However, between hubby’s surgery (he's recovering nicely, by the way), bringing Robert to our house for the long New Year’s weekend and being just a tad tired, reflections  got moved to 2012.  Reflections at the end of 2012 just may get moved to 2014.  It’s hard to predict but be prepared.
I was a little apprehensive going into 2011.  Just days before, I had turned 50 and I was disappointed I hadn’t yet published the book I was working on for so long.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my 50th birthday with a family celebration in my favorite place – Disneyland(!) but  I was being hard on myself for not finishing the book.  
Heck, I had worked on it for only ten years, maybe I should have been easier on myself.  J

I wasn’t sure what the new decade would have in store for me but I knew I was happy with my family, I was committed to caring for Robert, and I was employed.  I am thoroughly grateful for all of that. 
To my delight, 2011 brought so much goodness that I almost feel guilty about it!  It also brought some difficulties but that is to be expected (this is life, after all).

The good stuff first (in no particular order):
1.     I met some amazing caregivers through caregiving.com.  I accidentally found this site at the beginning of the year when I was trying in earnest to link my blog to related sites in order to grow my readership.  Caregiving.com isn’t a site to link personal blogs but instead offers opportunities to write about our caregiving situations and to develop friendships and gain strength and inspiration.  I also got a few tips on incontinence.  It’s pretty awesome.

2.     The blog was picked up by Sacramento Connect which is a network of local bloggers through the local paper, The Sacramento Bee.  Heidi (Atticus Uncensored) kept reading my posts and leaving me comments.  She loved reading the blog and she wasn’t even a relative!  We became online friends (and then realized, hey, we’re in the same city, we could become actual real-life friends).  So we did.  

3.     Heidi introduced me to a group of inspirational people who are entrepreneurs, artists, moms and bloggers.   I learn something from this group of talented people every time I read their blogs and am grateful to have them as readers here.   

4.     I published my book!!!  Much love and gratitude goes to my hubby, my daughter, Joelle Stone and Denise Brown for their undying support and gentle (well, sometimes not so gentle -- you know who you are) nudging for me to get this done.   And, it only took me ten years instead of eleven.  .   

5.     I learned about epilepsy.  Being the older sister of my 46 year old brother who has lived with epilepsy his entire life, you’d think that would be impossible.  It wasn’t!  I had a lot to learn and met some remarkable people (and organizations) along the way.  My own personal challenge to complete 30 days of epilepsy awareness was something I was extremely proud to complete and am already looking forward to doing it again this November.

6.     Robert moved from a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly to a smaller, more age appropriate group home.  (It turned out to hardly be a perfect fit but we’re working on that).

7.     I became a Staff Writer for Today’s Caregiver Magazine and branched out to another website to write as well (getting paid to write – wow!  A dream come true).  It’s a small start but I am thrilled to have to list some writing income on my taxes!  (Note to the IRS: it’s a very small start).

8.     I was interviewed a few times by Denise Brown of caregiving.com on Blog Talk Radio and was so nervous the first time I wouldn’t let anyone tell me if they would be listening (not even my own family who secretly listened in another room).  I sat in my home office, closed the door and talked with Denise, pretending it was just me and her on the phone.  I was so nervous I actually thought there was a good possibility I would pass out during the 30 minute interview (I didn’t; thanks for asking).  I was grateful I couldn’t be seen because I’m pretty sure my proclivity to blush when nervous would have been quite evident. 

9.     2011 was also full of reminders of what a wonderful, beautiful family I am blessed with.  We laugh, we enjoy time with each other (most of the time) and, most of all, love each other no matter what.
2011 had its difficulties (the big ones were extraordinarily heart-wrenching work decisions and health problems for my beloved mother-in-law) but I would like to let those difficulties stay in 2011 and focus on the positive moving into 2012. 

Wishing all of you a very happy and joyous new year filled with great possibilities for love, friendships and success (and many laughs along the way).