sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist, an unschooler, and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Spiritual Connections

When my husband was in the hospital after his massive heart attack, I had many spiritual experiences.  My husband experienced  near death as he went into cardiac arrest in our living room on May 4, 2011. He left the house in ventricular tachycardia, a fatal heart rhythm.  The medics had used the defibrillator several times before they wheeled him out of the house on the gurney. I remember his dark blue face as they took him.  I am forever grateful to the wonderful medics from Mint Hill Fire Department and Robinson Fire Department who took care of my husband and then stayed with me to help make a plan to get to the hospital.  And Lia Schwinghammer who came to my rescue and drove us to the hospital and stayed with us until I got to see Don like 4 hours later. She was one of my many angels and I had many, so I will just thank all my family and friends here.    I am also thankful for the cath lab at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte and the entire team who fixed his occluded arteries with stints allowing him to be with my here today, nearly 5 years later.

He spent 4 days in the CCU and then 8 more days in the step down unit.  I had family helping my kids at home and I would wake up usually before 4 am and head to the hospital each morning and spend the entire day with him and come home in time to put my 2-year-old to bed.  It was a crazy time and yet my priorities have never been so focused in my life as they were for those 12 days.  My husband was disappointed that he did not remember experiencing “seeing the light”.  I told him that I saw it for him.  I really do believe that.

I don’t even know how to begin to explain the spiritual experiences.There were many.  The first one was at home. I called 911 and 5 minutes after the medic arrived, my husband went into cardiac arrest.  The medics immediately moved me and my three children out of our living room.  I vividly recall taking the children to the stairs off our kitchen and sitting down with them and tapping.  I have since decided that the only way I was able to calmly sit with them and use EFT, was because Don’s soul guided us.  Later, when he was recovering in the hospital, I vividly recall being in the cafeteria getting food and hearing a song being piped into the cafeteria and I knew it was Don speaking to me.

The biggest experience was around day 8 or 9 after going with only 3 hours of sleep each night.  Because, the first night at home after his heart attack, I awoke after 3 hours with a horrible dream reliving the experience and I told myself I wasn’t going to do that again.  I did not consciously choose to not sleep more than 3 hours but that is what then happened. So by day 8,  I was very sleep deprived and living on adrenaline, and maybe even having blood sugar issues or just panic attacks.

 I had this one night at home where I  felt panicked and scared and I called my good friend and EFT mentor and therapist, Jan Luther. It was very early in the morning, too early to make a phone call, yet I decided to call her.  I heard the line pick up yet there was no one there on the other side, I began talking. I have no memory of what I said but all I know is there was silence, no dial tone, no one talking, just silence.  I think I tapped and talked.  Later, I talked to Jan about it and she told me the phone rang, she picked up and no one was there and so she hung up the phone and began tapping, because she knew someone needed her to do that.  She hung up the phone, yet I heard no dial tone.  We both knew that was spirit at work.

Just last month, my father had back surgery for his spinal stenosis.  He had the surgery on a Friday and I showed up at the hospital at 5:30 am to meet my parents to help my mom navigate the hospital system.  Surgery went well, took a little longer than expected because it was worse than the doctor had thought from the MRI and he took longer in recovery because of breathing issues. We got to see him for a few minutes in recovery area  but he was in a lot of pain but they couldn’t give him too much pain medication because they needed his breathing to improve.   An hour later, he was in his room and we went to visit with him.  He did well that day, he had to lay flat for 24 hours as a precaution but then the next day even got up with the nurse and walked to the bathroom.  I left after dinner Saturday night, with the plan to return in the morning again.  I woke up at 3:45am.  I have been waking up early for many weeks, most like from peri-menopause but usually after at least 5 hours of sleep.  I woke up and looked at the clock and said, “Why am I waking up now?”  I  had been asleep for like 3 or 4 hours.  I knew it was strange.  I should have gotten up.  I went on my phone like I usually do when i wake up early, using it in the dark in my room.   I got a text from my mom who had seen my posting on Facebook and so she texted me. It was 4:11am: 

 I’m in the family waiting room while they put restraints on Dad. Med Dr saw him then They gave him something for hallucinations and for blood pressure. Thought he finally fell asleep  when he awoke and starting lashing out violently. He is having some kind of psychotic meltdown. REally scary to see him like this.  

I immediately replied to my mom

Oh mom.  I’m so sorry.  I’m awake. I’ll just shower and come in.  It’s going to take time for the meds to clear out of his system. (We new he was reacting to anesthesia and/or medications.)

My mom was surprised how quickly I arrived, less than an hour after her message.  I showered and gathered my things for the day and drove to the hospital. It was 4:45 am, no traffic, easy drive and plenty of parking. I walked into the lobby at 5:13am.   She didn’t realize I had experience with this from the 12 days I spent going to the hospital to be with my husband.  I also had the strong feeling through my dads 5 day hospital stay that this was in part the reason that I became an Occupational Therapist.

It helps that I texted all of this on my iPhone and therefore have all the times of our conversation including the when she texted me, and I let her know when I got in the car to head to hospital and again when I arrived in the lobby.  As I read these posts, I see that she had also contacted me at 12:27am via text because my dad was asking for me. I was asleep and didn’t see those texts until morning.  I can share that in another post.  I talked to my dad tonight to get his permission to share this story and he is happy to sit with me and tell me more so I can share more of it. He believes he was talking to God and telling God to decide about leaving his body or staying.  I believe that he did experience that as well.  More on that for another post.

My dad slept all morning. They had to put him in 4 point restrains and  give him Haldol which is an injectable antipsychotic.  He had kicked a nurse.  It was weird seeing my dad in his hospital bed in restraints.  AFter talking to my mom when I got to the hospital, I had told her to get some rest. The waiting room had a couch.  I went to sit with my dad to be there when he woke up.  I was able to explain to dad as he was waking up that he was in restraints and he was calm.  Later when he was fully awake, he shared the experience with us.  He actually remembered the psychotic episode and described what he experienced. he also appologized to all the nursing staff that saw him for the next few days.   I will just summarize: he explained feeling like he was in a box and there were bad guys trying to hurt him and he had to get away.  He explained it with much more detail but I don’t want to misquote him. But he also told me he heard me laughing. He couldn’t see me or get to me but he heard me laughing.  As the day progressed, he continues sharing about what he remembered in detail from his Psychotic episode.  I wondered if some of what he was sharing was also from when he was under anesthesia for his back surgery (3 hours) as well as the 3 hours he spend in recovery getting his breathing back to normal before he could be moved to a room.

It didn’t occur to me right away, but then I realized some things. I woke at 3:45 am which is when my dad had his psychotic episode and I knew it was odd that I woke up.  Looking back, I should have realized it was my dad.  But then I got ready quickly and grabbed my things and headed out in the car at 4:45 am. I turned on the radio and “Crazy Train” was playing on the radio.  I laughed out loud.  I switched stations and heard, “Take a Walk on the Wild side”.  I had the instant feeling like I did when Don was in the hospital, that my dad’s spirit was speaking to me.  Hearing these two songs both playing at the same time on 2 different local stations tickled me.  I talked to my dad out loud in the car, laughing as I did.  And sending positive energy and love to my dad.  Cause, I am weird like that and I talk out loud in the car.  I really do, all the time.  My favorite thing to do is scan stations to find a song that fits my mood.  I never listen to commercials, ask my kids and Don, I am always scanning for a song, a good song.

Wow!  I was laughing out loud in the car and my dad heard me! 

Some would call this coincidence yet as a student of Unity, Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God books,  and just my own personal spiritual beliefs, I don’t believe in coincidences.  It all has meaning, at least the meaning we give it.  I believe on a spiritual level, we are creating our reality, all of it.

 Creation is energy and all of life is energy.  

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Yesterday was my 50th Birthday and there will be more posts to follow on a “non-political note”. (Although, I believe that politics is a part of our every day life and can not be separated out from life.)

Yesterday I declared to release the negativity from the healthcare industry and its affects on my life. Yet, Today, I read something that that compelled me to respond.

If I do not speak up and speak out so all can be informed, then I am failing myself and failing humanity.

Change can not happen in the environment of silence and keeping our thoughts to ourselves.

Silence is deadly… I am empowered to speak out.

I would like to share with you a story on how our president and his government appointment employees are helping the economy and in particular health care.

Please read and please share.

To give you perspective on his “positive”effects on the economy:

The president appoints the director of CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) which is the government entity that decides about reimbursement for health care services. CMS just instituted the new PDPM in physical rehabilitation health care … “Patient Driven Payment Model”

I am a health care professional and have been for 27 years.

I am an Occupational Therapist. I am the person who helps your mother recover after a stroke, or breaks a hip, goes into respiratory failure and is told she may not live. I am the person that might help you someday recover from a hip or knee replacement or recover from a car accident.

I received a 3% pay cut effective October 1, and then WITHOUT warning, had a reduction in hours from 30-40hours/week to 0 hours one week and then 8.5 hours the next. I have no idea what my hours will be in the coming weeks…

I am being pushed out of this area of work that I love and have enjoyed doing for the past 27 years. I enjoy being an Occupational Therapist and using my education and experience to help others. I do not enjoy the system that governs the financial aspects of my job which in turn affects my ability to do my job well.

I can not do my job they way I learned to when I completed college and my training because INSURANCE companies dictate how I do my job. I see how this change that “claimed to be in the name of putting the PATIENTS back in he driver’s seat of care, is making it WORSE for the patients and worse for the staff who helps them to return home, to deal with their illness/ injury, to educate their families and help them with the transition back home or to a new place to live.

So, when you or your loved one has a stroke or is in a car accident or any other physical illness or injury that renders you/them unable to return home directly from the hospital, I will not be there to aid in his/your recovery. I have 27 years experience with working in stroke and physical rehabilitation recovery. I had excellent training with co-workers and an environment that facilitated education and learning with my first job out of college…yet, this type of setting no longer exists.

Instead you will get a less experienced therapist, likely someone recently out of college, who has had to work in an environment that is not conducive to learning and professional growth because productivity standards now dictate how we do our job and there is little time for mentoring new graduates and when I take the time to do that…I get a reduction in hours because my productivity (which means billable hours of direct skilled therapy services) has dropped.

When I take extra time to complete an evaluation so that these new therapists have a plan of care to follow to help them better do their job, I get a reduction in hours because my productivity is below 85%.

Many therapists work off the clock to maintain their 85% productivity so not to loose their job. No one speaks of it, but it has been happening for a long time.

I am already employed by several companies and continuously seek to gain hours and additional employment. My rate of pay has not changed in 20 years. I am growing a new business while doing all of this.

You know, I am one of those “lazy democrats who seek government assistance” like Medicaid for my children’s health insurance and was just dropped from that because I “made too much money” ..that was a month before the change… so now I get to use my “lazy-ass self”, to reapply for health insurance for my children, while searching for new work, growing a business, helping my children with special medical needs who will be without health insurance beginning Nov 1…because it takes forever to get the coverage again.

Now tell me how our current president and his government appointed employees are helping the economy?

Oh, that’s right, this new change, the Patient Driven Payment Model, is code for “How can we save insurance companies money and help them grow their profit at the expense of the patients and at the expense of the professionals who provide care to patients.”

I will be ok.

The changes empower me like the universe “kicking me in the pants” to fully move forward into my writing and my new business helping families. The business, my husband and I have been growing recently and the business that takes the passion I have had since I became a mother 22 years ago and putting it to use.

Yet, I still am sad that the system is failing people. It is failing our elderly. It is failing people who need physical rehabilitation. It is failing the very people who help the inured, ill and disabled.

I will be ok. I only hope that my speaking out empowers others to make their voice hear and counted, to vote, and to help effect change.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…my 50th birthday celebration adventure!

Inspiration happens in many ways.

I often listen to music as I write and when a song captures my attention, it sparks something within me, and I begin writing, finding my own meaning in the words.

Growin’ up you don’t see the writing on the wall
Passin’ by, movin’ straight ahead you knew it all
But maybe sometime if you feel the pain,
You’ll find you’re all alone everything has changed

In my journey of self discovery, I have been reconnecting with old friends.

This time, I met up with someone I had known for years from when I began homeschooling. We first met about 14 years ago. We saw each other when our kids had shared interests and therefore we found ourselves at the same events. This is typically how I have met people and have made friends over the years of homeschooling my kids. We knew each other and became Facebook friends yet never spent time together as friends. Life circumstances connected us more, yet our connection remained virtual.

You know how you meet someone and feel an instant connection?

I knew I liked her from the time I first met her, yet our paths never led us to getting together with our kids.

We got together and what I intended to be a casual meet up turned into a 4 hour conversation with us discovering we had so much in common, our lives had taken similar paths and we found ourselves sharing things we had never shared with anyone before.

We both talked about becoming a mom and how it changed us.

I always wanted to be a mom.

I remember looking forward to the day when I would have my own daughter, and imagined what she would be like.

I remember going to college with a new passion for this field of study I had chosen, yet I always envisioned that I would work for a few years until I had children.

I found myself enjoying being an Occupational Therapist and happy with the field I had choose. When my husband decided he wanted to go into business for himself as he was tired of the corporate world, we talked about having children, and I recall telling my co-workers, it doesn’t matter who stays home with the child. Dad staying home with the child is just as good as mom.My co-workers with children disagreed.

After 3 1/2 years of marriage and a year of my husband left his job to grow his own business, our first child was born.

I didn’t have that instant connection with my child the way I have heard people describe. I loved him from the start and was so excited to be a mom, yet it took me time to develop the sense of a strong connection.

At the end of my twelve week maternity leave I found myself saying,

What have I done? I don’t want to leave my baby and go back to work!

Life changes us

We talked about how if someone had told us years ago that this is what our life would be like now, we would never have believed them.

Play the game you know you can’t quit until it’s won
Soldier of only you can do what must be done
You know, in some ways you’re a lot like me
You’re just a prisoner, and you’re tryin’ to break free

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher 
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where the future’s lying St. Elmo’s fire 

Burning up don’t know just how far that I can go 
Soon be home only just a few miles down the road
And I can make it, I know I can
You broke the boy in me, but you won’t break the man

I also enjoy discovering why a song was written and the author’s meaning.

In a search for the meaning for this song, I found this information on song facts

David Foster and John Parr wrote this song specifically for the movie St. Elmo’s Fire, but the song itself is about a Canadian athlete named Rick Hansen, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a car crash when he was 15. On March 21, 1985 Hansen began his “Man In Motion” tour, traveling about 70 miles a day to raise money for spinal cord research. At first, Hansen had trouble getting media attention and donations, but when this song was released with the movie in June, it became his anthem, and as the song rose up the charts, interest in Hansen’s journey grew. By the time the “Man In Motion” tour was completed on May 22, 1987, Hansen had put over 40,000 Kilometers (24,856 miles) on his wheelchair in 34 countries on four continents, raising $26 million. He became a national hero in Canada, where he is closely associated with this song.

How ironic

My children’s anxiety disorders and my own undiagnosed Bipolar Depression, paralyzed our family.

Now, my husband and I have created a business to help other people struggling in the ways that we did.

I am passionate about educating people on mental illness and in particular Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I have really enjoyed digging into this song because I found so much behind it.

St. Elmo’s Fire describes a weather phenomenon involving a gap in electrical change.

It is a phenomena that looks like dangerous fire, and is an electric charge, but in reality, it does not give you an electric shock the way lightening can.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, is a condition in which the brain tells a person that they are in eminent danger, when in reality they are not.

My life has had many challenges and twists and turns.

The unexpected challenges and changes in my life have led me to where I am now.

I now feel like I am being the person I was always meant to be.

And I am so excited to move forward in my journey…

I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I’ll be where the eagle’s flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where the future’s lying St. Elmo’s fire

I can climb the highest mountain, cross the widest sea
I can feel St. Elmo’s fire burning in me, burning in me
Just once in his life a man has his time
And my time is now I’m comin’ alive

Twisted Sister sings to me as I research the history of changes in rehabilitation services under Medicare. The more I research, the more validation I am finding in my experience and opinions. And the more I feel the importance of speaking out…

We’ve got the right to choose it

There ain’t no way we’ll lose it

This is our life, this is our song…

I have worked in the “health care system” for over 27 years, known to many of my like-minded friends as the “sick- care system”.

My career has been taken over by government entities who have changed the reimbursement system for skilled therapy services for the second time in 20 years.

The insurance industry is the one who runs the show and now decides how long the patients need therapy services.

When I began my career, after graduating from a certified and well respected Occupational Therapy program at Elizabethtown College, part of my role as an evaluating therapist was/is to determine the need for skilled Occupational Therapy, set goals, monitor progress, and determine when there is no longer the need for skilled services.

I now have very little say in how long someone receives therapy services in adult and geriatric rehab under Medicare Part A services, at skilled nursing facilities where most of short term rehabilitation now happens.

Twenty-seven years ago, physical rehabilitation began at rehabilitation hospitals. Now, most people can no longer head from the hospital to an acute care rehab hospital, as the changes in PPS in 1999/2000 changed the criteria for admission to acute rehabilitation facilities pushing people to go for rehabilitation at nursing homes, with the new tittle of “sub acute rehab”.

Why did this happen?

From my perspective as an Occupational Therapist who has been practicing for 27 years and has lived through these changes, the mighty dollar has taken higher priority than quality patient care.

Sure, the people involved in establishing these changes, the branch of government now known as The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, including the head of the organization who is appointed by the president, would argue that it is to stop fraud and to improve patient care.

On November 29, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Verma to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Health Department agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the insurance markets.[16] On March 13, 2017, the United States Senate confirmed her nomination in a 55–43 vote.[17] One of her first actions was to send a letter to the nation’s governors urging them to impose insurance premiums for Medicaid, charge Medicaid recipients for emergency room visits, and encourage recipients to get jobs or job training.

Patient’s Over Paperwork:

Taken directly from the CMS.gov website:

Reduce unnecessary regulatory burden to allow providers to concentrate on their primary mission: improving patient health outcomes.

• CMS Administrator Seema Verma launched the “Patients over Paperwork” initiative in 2017, in accord with President Trump’s Executive Order that directs federal agencies to cut the red tape. This helps patients by allowing doctors and non-physician practitioners to focus on care instead of paperwork.

• CMS is eliminating overly-burdensome and unnecessary regulations and guidance to allow providers and suppliers to focus on their primary mission – improving their patients’ health.

• CMS is removing barriers to unleashing innovation.

• CMS is partnering with clinicians, providers and suppliers, administrators, support staff and beneficiaries to ensure we are focusing on the needs of patients.

I call “Bullshit!”

Suppliers and beneficiaries?

Is that code for health insurance companies?

I have MORE paperwork than I did 27 years ago and will have even more now with these new changes and have less time for actual patient care.

This is my favorite part of this information:

Our actions have delivered results

• Saved the healthcare system at least $5.7 billion through 2021.

• Eliminated at least 40 million hours of burden through 2021 giving that time back to providers and suppliers to spend with their patients and not on needless paperwork.

• Heard from over 2,000 clinicians, administrative staff and leaders, and beneficiaries through listening sessions and in-person visits throughout the country.

“Saved the healthcare system at least $5.7 billion through 2021”

Who have they saved $5.7 billion for?

THE INSURANCE COMPANIES!

And these changes both with PPS in 1999 and now in 2019 with PDPM have directly affected the lives of the healthcare professionals who provide these services.

There is a HUGE difference between rehabilitation services in 1992 and what is now happening in 2019.

I worked in an Acute Rehabilitation Hospital in 1992, my first job out of college. It was a great learning experience and an excellent facility. Sure, I hated many aspects of working for this large hospital system, yet I would not change beginning my career there. I left after three years to escape the strict schedule and stress of hospital policies.

I took a job in a Nursing home that had both long term care and “sub-acute care”, the new buzzword for rehabilitation services. My new job had flexible hours and a 35% pay increase. Yet, I soon found out that my role of being a skilled Occupational Therapist looked very different in this new setting and I had to spend less time being a skilled therapist and without the environment of a rehabilitation setting where the focus was on patient care and rehabilitation. And without all the necessary tools to do my job and the experienced professionals that I was surrounded by at my prior job.

I have been working in adult and geriatric physical rehabilitation since that time in various settings including nursing homes with “sub acute rehabs”, home health, and outpatient centers for assisted living and independent living residents.

When the PPS system was being developed, I agreed that there needed to be a change. Yet, the change was from one extreme to the other. The results were not better patient care, but less staff to patient ratios, a shift from quality of care to the number of minutes of therapy equating to a dollar amount, affecting not only the patients but also the staff whose job was to provide needed care for these patients.

Five years after I began working in nursing homes, I suffered a pay cut, reduction in benefits, and was shuffled to different facilities. My position moved from working 4 miles from my home with a 32 hour work week, hours reduced at my request to have time with my 2 year old child and still have full time benefits; to traveling to 2 different facilities in one day, traveling 147 miles round trip each day. I had an amazing boss at the time who negotiated some extra pay in addition to the standard pay for travel between the two facilities.

After traveling like this 5 days each week for a while, she then helped me to switch to working 4 days a week rather than 5 days to return to something closer to my “reduced 32 hour week”.

My other option, was to loose my job. Everyone was cutting staff. There weren’t many jobs to be found.

I spent 9 months searching for a new job. I eventually got a job offer for part time work in home health care which gave me more freedom in some ways but also evolved into traveling a larger area to see patients in 3 different NC counties, Stanley, Union, and Anson. I live in the corner of Mecklenburg county where it meets Stanley, Union, and Cabarrus Counties (see image below: Mecklenburg county is the pink county on far left)

Flash forward to 2019:

Over the past several months, everyone has been talking about the new reimbursement system, PDPM, Patient Driven Payment Model.

I wasn’t very worried about it, listening to my fellow therapists and co-workers “panic” and share the information they had from other employers and our mutual employer. I had gone through changes in the reimbursement system before. I have had issues with this system, and knew a change was needed. I wasn’t surprised that the change would be a pendulum swing to the opposite end of the spectrum.

For the second time in my career, my rate of pay is being reduced.

I had about a months notice for this pay reduction. 3% pay decrease starting October 1, 2019.

“This is minor compared to what I went through in 2000” I told my young coworkers.

From everything I heard, I was not too worried. It appeared that my employer was handling it calmer than other places. I felt secure because even though I am a prn employee, working on an as needed basis, I have had 30-40 hours of work lately because one full time therapist has been on medical leave. And, had plenty of hours before that happened. They needed me.

I knew I would likely have less hours. I was aware of the industry push to use less prn employees and have full timers flex hours and work weekends. This concept had affected me already at my last job less than 2 years ago.

I work primarily weekends because that his been my only semi-guaranteed way to get hours.

Because of the anticipated change, I had been working as many hours as needed while they were available. I typically worked between 15-25 hours before and now began working 30-40 hours. I had several weeks where I had to pay close attention to my hours so as not to go into overtime. Paying prn employees overtime is a big no-no in healthcare. As a prn employee, I have no benefits and so my rate of pay is higher than full time therapists. Yet, my higher rate of pay is the same prn rate as it was 22 years ago.

Flash forward to Monday, September 20, 2019:

11:16 am: I received a text saying I was not needed to come in for the 2-3 hours of work that I had agreed to on Friday. Not surprising, this happens all the time.

My reply:

OK, Hoping I will still be needed Friday with XXXXX having the day off, I had agreed to cover for her.

Working prn, my boss confirms if I am needed to work the next day. If I don’t hear, I check in to confirm I am needed to work. This has been the typical practice for years and across several employers. I have always been frustrated by last minute call-offs, but despite my efforts to change this, the best result I have gotten has been a confirmation text the day before. My current boss has been the most consistent with this practice and this employer has been my best experience working prn in a nursing home/rehab center.

I was then told that I would not be needed on Friday, And likely for the weekend as well.

There were changes that even my boss wasn’t expecting.

I like my current employer and am happy I am working for this company and not somewhere else. I share this because this is an across the board change affecting all of the Occupational, Physical, and Speech Language Therapists who work in rehabilitation where Medicare is the primary reimbursement system.

As is always the case, the need for prn coverage changes constantly and usually, how much help is needed, is not known until the day before because of fluctuations in the census.

This is good, I can now devote more time to the business my husband and I have recently started.

But wait, we are finally out of major credit care debt and I have been working extra hours to pay off debt and to build our savings.

This is good, Gina, the universe is telling you, once again, to pour your time and energy into your new business and writing pursuits.

Will I have any hours over the next week?

I have no idea.

Surely, they will need me once the census picks up.

Right?

We’ll fight the powers that be, just
Don’t pick our destiny ’cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong

Oh, we’re not gonna take it
No, we ain’t gonna take it
Oh, we’re not gonna take it anymore

Oh, you’re so condescending
Your gall is never ending
We don’t want nothin’, not a thing from you

Your life is trite and jaded
Boring and confiscated
If that’s your best, your best won’t do

It will be ok, Gina, you can finally write more and work on the book that has been inside of you for so long.

It will be ok, Don and I have come along way with our new business and have speaking engagements set up and we are working with a business coach.

This is time to step up and dive in to a new chapter of my career as an Occupational Therapist. I can use my experience and talents in a new way and outside the healthcare system.

Today I awoke at 5:30 am feeling refreshed and recharged. Looking out the giant window as I lay in the comfortable bed, I was able to remain quiet and calm and go within. I have learned that I use music to help me focus and to restore my energy. Music is healing

Silence is golden

I often resist quiet meditation time. My sweet husband has reminded me often how important it is to have time in the quiet. I know that in theory and believe it. Yet, I have used excuses as to why I don’t do that. Who has time to sit and be quiet? For me, it isn’t even about the time. It’s more about my mind being so busy with thoughts, often anxiety, that I have needed music to quiet the inner turmoil in order to focus.

Time alone is essential

I have discovered many things about myself over the course of the past three days.

I enjoy:

Walks on the beach without a plan or time frame

Reading while in my beach chair at the water side as my chair slowly sinks deeper and the water rushes against me as the tide comes in

Walking along the boardwalk at sunset

Walking on the beach at sunrise, something I already knew

Watching people

Talking with random strangers and learning about their life

Having casual conversations with the employees at the pier store

Connecting with someone because she has a dog and is standing alone

I have learned these things that either I didn’t realize or had forgotten:

Talking to people gives me inspiration for writing

Having an adventure by myself makes me giggle and also gives me writing ideas

I really do not care what other people think about me

I enjoy video blogging, even if I’m not yet good at it

What is good enough?

I like order and having a plan

I also love spontaneity and the freedom to do whatever…

Drink from the carton with the refrigerator door open

Leave things messy and fall asleep without changing

It is really cool to sit on a bed and be able to view two televisions and to be able to watch two shows at once

And I don’t understand why anyone, even an actress in a movie, would cheat on Richard Gere!

Watching Harry Potter movies by myself is not nearly as fun as watching them with my kids.

Watching feel good, uplifting movies inspires me to write

Stepmom is an amazing movie and makes me cry,while sitting in my pink bath

When I am depressed, I don’t feel real sadness

Depression and sadness are two very different things

Being on the 20the floor with an entire side wall of windows, in the heart of Myrtle Beach and being able to view the city and the ocean, is…

THE MOST AMAZING GETAWAY that I could ever have asked for.

I plan to make this a yearly pilgrimage and I want this very room each time.

I will be happy with any room with a side view from the 20th floor, or the 19th, even the 17th would be high enough for a beautiful view, right?

I like consistency and the idea of coming back to this very room to have memories to inspire me to write even more.

I also love change and variety and know that I will be inspired to write from any floor of this building, yet being up high is the most amazing.

My fear of heights is also exhilarating…

Standing at the edge of the balcony looking out

Looking to the ocean doesn’t really bring fear, but when I turn for the city vie, that’s when my heart races and my chest tightens

Maybe there is a message in that

Or maybe my fear is more about falling into traffic and landing on concrete

I do have some claustrophobia discovered when standing on a narrow hallway with no windows, on the 20th floor of a glass building, and reading the sign that say, “in case of fire, use the stairs, brings scary things into my mind that I had to shut down immediately to enjoy myself.

And maybe that’s the difference with someone with obsessive compulsive disorder and myself. I have fears and even obsess over ideas somethings, yet I have the ability to shut down the thoughts quickly. I knew that OCD involved the inability to shut down irrational, unhelpful, scary thoughts. Yet thinking about standing in the hallway reading that sign and how easily I was able to shut the thought out AND how easily I was able to NOT let it stop me from enjoying myself. Sure, it entered my mind each time I saw it, but I quickly moved on and didn’t obsess about it when I wasn’t standing there next to the sign.

I am always amazed at the clarity writing brings me. I had no idea when I sat down to write that I would talk about the sign and discover insight into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an illness that invades my children’s lives.

We won’t be staying on the top floor next month when I bring my family to North Myrtle to celebrate my 50th birthday. And that is ok with me.

I will stop and listen better to them, knowing that sitting with the fear is what they need to do to overcome OCD, and also that they don’t have to sit with all their fears, especially when on vacation. There is a difference between their fears stopping us living our lives, and minimizing being in fearful situations so that they can relax and have an enjoyable time while on vacation.

I could sit here all day on this balcony.

It’s 7:30 am now and I just remembered I wanted to take a picture of the sunrise for this post.

I can leave today, knowing I can come back here with points and also without points.

I can stay longer next time.

I can leave here today, looking forward to coming back in three weeks with my family with the thought of all five, and hopefully six of us, will be together on the beach.

We have a tradition of family vacations at the beach and that is something they will take with them for the rest of their lives. And even after I am gone, they can come to the beach and think about me, remembering our time together.

I need to go home and find the pen drive with the journal entries I write for Jason’s journal. I have Harrison and Abbys’s on paper in my bedroom closet. I likely have more entries for them as well on those pen drives or stored somewhere on a computer.

My post had moved from inspiration to a to do list….

I will capture my picture of where I am now and move forward.

Caregiver Burnout

I have both personal and professional experience with caregiver burnout.

I work in adult and primarily, geriatric, rehab as an Occupational Therapist. I have worked in this area my entire career, since 1992, when I graduated from Elizabethtown College with my bachelor of science degree in Occupational Therapy.

As I wrote The word career, I had to stop. Yes, I have had a career…it sounded bizarre to me after I typed those words.

Being a mom has always been my desire and passion. Occupational Therapy is something that feels like a part of me, yet since having children, it became a job, one I had to do to earn a living and had to continue doing when my husband’s business was getting started. And over the years, for many reasons, I have been the primary breadwinner most of the time. Don and I are part of book, our story is one of 60 others in Breadwinner Wives and the Men they Marry.

I don’t think of myself as a “career woman”. I think of myself as a mom who is also an Occupational Therapist. Being a mom is my most challenging and most rewarding “job” and my favorite role.

As an Occupational Therapist, caregiver education is very important. Over the years, I have realized in geriatric rehab and especially when working with people with dementia, that caregiver education is vital. With dementia, caregiver education is not only essential but also needs to be the primary role for an Occupational Therapist.

I see first hand from the people I work with and their caregivers, the impact of caregiver burnout.

I also have been a caregiver for my husband after he suffered a near fatal, massive heart attack in 2011 and spent 12 days in the hospital and 6 months in recovery.

When he graduated cardiac rehab 6 months after his “event”, I developed bronchitis which was reoccurring for over 6 months and then was in a car accident, ironically, one year after his heart attack. I still had wheezing at the time of the car accident, enough that they x-rayed my lungs. I didn’t have any major injuries and went home from the hospital the day of the accident. Yet, I suffered from that accident for a long time. Physically, I hurt for several months and mentally and emotionally, I suffered for years.

I honestly believe my recurrent bronchitis was a result of caregiver burnout and on a spiritual level, so was my car accident. The other driver was 100% the cause of the accident, or so the police reports and insurance companies said. I have forgiven the driver, never really blamed her per se. I blamed the fact that she wasn’t paying attention fully as she drove with her 2 year old in the car with her. One of my first questions after my accident was, “Are the other people ok?”, as blood ran down my nose after getting myself out of my car through the passenger door because I thought the smoke from the airbags meant the car could be on fire. The driver’s side door could not be opened as she had slammed into me making a left turn into the front corner of my car, pushing me sideways into another car at a stop sign.

“Are the other people ok?”

I am a mother of three, a wife, a healthcare worker, a child of aging parents, a child of a parent with chronic illnesses. Did I mention they called my husband’s heart attack, “a widow makers heart attack”? The medics and ER doctors, brought him back to life.

I am a caregiver.

I am significantly injured in a car accident and my first question to bystanders is, “Are the other people ok?”

As Caregivers, we often put the needs of others ahead of our own needs. Yet, doing this over time, affects our own health. And if we don’t stop and meet our own needs, we can suffer in many ways.

I am the mother of children who suffer with mental illness.

I am diagnosed with Bipolar Depression, Bipolar II. I only discovers my diagnosis because my brother also has this illness. I suffered for years with undiagnosed depression. Undiagnosed because, to me, it didn’t look like significant depression. I knew it was depression but told myself for years that it was “mild depression”. I was still functioning. I didn’t seek help until a friend who was prompted by my husband to convince me to seek help. That was nearly 5 years ago.

I have always known the importance of taking care of myself. I used to think I did a very good job at giving myself “me time”, attending to my own physical, spiritual and emotional health. My favorite metaphor is,

We must first put on our own oxygen mask, before we can help the person next to us with theirs.

Yet, I see now how much of my energy has been invested in caring for others.

I have repeatedly said that my job as an O.T. is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting and coming home to be a caregiver for others is very taxing. I even joke about how I wish I had become an accountant or gone into a math field, as math was my best subject in school. The thought of sitting alone with numbers all day sounds like a nice change from being a caregiver.

Caregivers care for others because they have to and also many times, because it is their nature to do so.

Many people of all ages, need a caregiver. From babies and children of all ages though aging parents, people can have needs that they can not handle alone.

As humans, we all need to care for each other.

Being a primary caregiver to someone demands our time and our energy. Giving energy to others and not refilling our own cup, is what depletes us.

For me, I need to be alone, away from the house and away from immediate responsibilities in order to recharge. After my second child was born, I began a ritual of Monday night out, writing time. I created Charlottehomeschooling,com in that time. I have written thousands of journal entries, for myself and for my children’s journals that I started for all three of them when I was pregnant with each of them. I started my bogs using Monday night writing. First Gina’s Life Journey and them Child-led Learning . I have used that time to both talk with my husband as well as work on my end for our family coaching Business, Focused Health Family.

My writing time started as a hobby, as my passion. I came home refreshed and renewed and re-energized for the other aspects of my life, for caregiving. Then it became “work” and I found myself escaping from writing during my time alone, playing online games and watching movies and TV shows. I escaped because my life was overwhelming and because distracting myself from all my stress was my way of “coping” and I thought it was recharging me.

I am here now, alone at the beach, for 3 days and 2 nights because I finally realized how burned out I had become. I also finally realized that getting away by myself was essential to overcoming my bipolar depression.

Please share your stories about being a caregiver. My blog is intended to spark a community of support for myself and for others. I would love to share other’s stories , either as a guest blogger or anonymously with my help and your permission to share for your story. I want to help others through my experience, creating a community and connecting others with similar struggles.

I am a caregiver.

Now it is time for a sunrise walk on the beach.

Relax, renew, rejuvenate and recharge, take 2.

I am at the beach all by myself. I have never done this before. I’ve been here for 6 hours and I am finally sitting down to write. It has taken me this long to settle in, move from the shock and excitement of actually being here, all by myself. And finally, focusing on here and now.

I texted and made videos and took pictures and FaceTimed my youngest, while exploring my room at the top of the resort building, while walking in the beach and pier. I felt kind of lonely when I got here. I always come to the beach with my kids or at least my husband. One time the two of us went, well, before kids, I guess we went several times. Who can remember 22 years ago before kids?

I have everything I need for my adventure, inspiring books, music, healthy and yummy food, drinks, did you know you can get wine in a can?

As I packed my bag to head to the beach to write, I realized that I forgot my Bluetooth key board that I use with my iPad. My iPad, has been my computer for a while now… years, I guess. Something else that I can’t quite remember.

I have a lap top, buried in books and papers on my desk. It is old and I used to use it often, but decided I liked my iPad much better.

I found myself responding to a post on a Facebook group, Unschooling Special Needs, earlier and it has inspired my writing today.

There are so many things I can write about. Yet, the concerns shared in the post on the Unschooling Special Needs group are so close to my heart and the reason my husband and I now have a business together helping families with challenges, especially those with anxiety issues and challenging behavior with their children.

I have Bipolar 2 Depression. My upswings, are hypomania, not full on mania (well, it can escalate to mania). Hypomania is great, highly focused, functioning and much energy! Yet, the downswing is like the riptide pulling you under the ocean water.

Helping my children with their struggles is extra challenging for me because of my struggles. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for my husband.

In three weeks I celebrate my 50th birthday. I am proud and excited to reach this milestone! Seriously, I am. With age, has common not only wisdom, but confidence, clarity, courage and healing.

I always make time to write when I have come to the beach with my family. I have wonderful memories being here with my family. And I also have memories of stress, anxiety, OCD flare ups, and the feeling of disappointment that we couldn’t just have a “normal family vacation” without the anxieties.

Here I am now, writing and also texting with my tech support son. I might have him help me locate a key pad. Typing on the iPad screen is slow.

It’s getting dark and the sound of the ocean is mesmerizing me.

When I was younger, I would never have gone somewhere like this by myself. The silence of being alone was challenging for me. I now cherish time to myself. I still love the sounds of people talking, and my music, Tom Petty and now Mary Lambert sing in my ear..which is even more beautiful with the sound of the ocean.

They tell us from the time we’re young
To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I’m not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I’m over it

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)

I was looking forward to two nights at a Myrtle Beach beachfront resort with a “limited view”. I planed this trip just one week prior to going. We have a time share and we had 700 points that would expire at the end of September. I have been working 40 hours per week as an Occupational therapist when typically I work about 20 hours, give or take 5-10.

I work PRN, as needed, and so I have no required hours but no guaranteed hours. I have not had my Monday afternoon/nights out for writing because of my working hours and fatigue after a 7-10 hour day working in adult and geriatric rehab. I love my work as an OT, yet it can be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. And then I go home to my family of 2 kids living at home, husband, 2 dogs, 2 inside cats and 3 outside cats, and I have a 21 year old child and he and his fiancé now live on their own and I am close to both of them, help them when needed like to move into their new apartment last month. I love my family, they are my priority. I have learned I must take care of me in order to be there for all of them.

I can book my points – based time share online, viewing available resorts. I found 2 options for my three day stretch without scheduled work hours. One on the beach with a “limited beach view” and the other at a resort 15 minutes from the beach. After debating it, because the beachside resort would mean I use additional points, meaning less points for the spring when I hope to have a get away with my husband for our anniversary, and with the encouragement of my ten year old who said, “Mom you deserve to be on the beach”, I booked 2 nights on the beach.

I debated paying the $50 points protection fee so I could cancel or reschedule at anytime and not loose the points. I opted not to get the points protection.

Hurricane Dorian began to threaten my plans a few days ago as models predicted it’s path shifting from across central Florida to the Carolina Coast. I fretted over loosing my points and the disappointment of not going to the beach all by myself for 3 days.

My husband said, “Call and ask if you can reschedule.”

“No, I can’t. I didn’t pay for points protection.” Was my defeated reply.

Yesterday I anxiously watched the storm tracking news and updates online. I kept hoping it would disappear out to sea or even move west across Florida. I felt guilty wishing the latter, not wanting people in Florida to suffer, yet, that would mean I could still likely go to the beach.

I woke this morning feeling defeated as the weather news informed me the storm was sitting over the Bahamas as a large category 5 hurricane, the worst kind, and projected to head up along the coast, likely not making landfall, yet strongly impacting the coast.

I debated the safety of still going, as they did not predict impact until Thursday and I could always leave Wednesday if I needed to.

Apparently, I know nothing about hurricanes along the coast.

After posting on Facebook inquiring from my Carolina coastal friends and then messaging a few people for spiritual guidance for my internal dilemma, I sat on the bed and tapped, EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique.

“Call the resort!”

And so I did.

“It’s ok. We are under mandatory evacuation and have to clear out by noon today. You won’t loose your points.”

She was friendly despite the urgency of evacuating the resort within 5 hours. I asked some more questions and discovered all I needed to do was call the time share company tomorrow, today is Labor Day, and I could reschedule or cancel and not loose my points by just telling them there was a mandatory evacuation.

Relief.

No decision to make.

I decided to not let Dorian “Rain on my parade” and decided I would make other plans.

I can choose to not work the next three days. Sure, it is easier to say “No” to last minute requests to work when you are out of town, but I can also choose to not work. I have scheduled work hours for Friday and Saturday this week and had just worked a 5 day stretch: Thursday through today, Monday, Labor Day.

I had told myself, I can happily work though the long holiday weekend, knowing that afterwards I would be off for 3 days and at the beach all by myself!

Much needed respite and rejuvenation for a busy mother of 3 with writing goals and career pursuits outside my current job. Did I mention I homeschool my kids? And my kids and I have anxiety/ depression disorders.

I needed to get away!

I worked today and decided to think about other options for my three days, talking with co-workers and my patients to share my challenge and also gain other ideas and confirm outloud my intention to be off work and “on vacation” for the next three days.

I live in a beautiful city, Charlotte, NC, located 176 miles from Myrtle Beach, a three hour drive. The weather has been beautiful and cooler than usual the past few days, mid to upper 80s, down from the mid to high 90s we had for most of July and August.

I enjoyed being home after work with my family and had time with my kittens who have been quarantined to the basement for a few days, after finding some fleas on them.

I debated my options for the next few days and chatted with my husband. I wanted to make a plan and not let the next three days slip through my hands. My husband remained onboard for giving me vacation time and planned to take care of things, asking only to take our youngest to a therapy appointment Wednesday morning at 10am rather than take her with him to several of his business appointments.

“It is Monday night, I can go out to a coffee house and have me time to plan.”

I ate a quick dinner and packed my writing tools and planner book, and “don’t forget my headphones!”

I arrived at the coffee house where I first had time out for a writing club meet up and had first spent time writing. I used to write with colored pens in notebooks, because I did not yet have a laptop. The place was rather empty, yet it is Labor Day.

“Are you still open until 10?” I inquired.

“eight”

It was 7:45. I debated what drink to order and then sat outside at the picnic tables to decide what to do now. Google search. Amelie’s is open 24 hours, I recalled seeing it on my phone. Wow, they have many locations now.

I looked up the original location, not far from where I was and checked to confirm the hours. I called them. The recorded voice stated, “We are open 24 hours 365 days per year.” I could not connect to a live person.

24 hours, 365 days a year

They will be open!

I followed Waze to drive there, because I like the certainty of following a map app.

I realized it was taking me near uptown, Charlotte has an “uptown” rather than a downtown.

I checked to see if that was the best way to go.

The sun was setting and I was enjoying the drive with my sun roof and windows open, my hair blowing, listening to loud music on Spotify.

I love this city. It is beautiful and such a beautiful night.

Oh yeah, and I love “uptown”! The city life with tall buildings, sidewalks for easy pedestrian travel with a all kinds of people bustling about. My route took me skirting the beltway that circles our small yet rapidly growing downtown/ uptown.

I had already had the thought to spend one day, taking the new light rail into the city, and now finalized the idea to spend a day uptown at a coffee shop to write.

I love the skyline of a city and with the clear Carolina blue sky at sunset tonight, it was breathtaking.

Take a picture of it!

I was almost off the beltway but was able to capture one tall building in the sunset as I was stopped at the light at my exit.

I love the beach, my first choice destination, yet I can find beauty in other places and inspiration to write.

I have overcome another obstacle in life, finding peace and light in the detour.

I spent my life trying to answer to the voice inside my head
But all I found were empty questions from a time that I forget

I learned my lesson, it was wrong of me to look so far ahead
I’ll count my blessings one by one, I’ll live a life I won’t regret

And now I finally see the future’s right in front of me, yeah
And now I finally see the future’s right in front of me, yeah

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