That’s what friends are for

Mrs. Wesolowski would turn over in grave if she saw this title and its dangling participle.  So sorry my late English teacher.  It’s even a song title and a great pop tune as well:

Tonight I got to go back in time to my working days.  I had the privilege of talking on the phone with 2 ladies via conference call that I worked with over 10 years ago.  The two of them are long time friends from college.  As for me, “P1” was the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) where I was her supervising Occupational Therapist.  She was hard-working, dedicated, thorough, and very kind with all of our rehabilitation patients.  We had lots of memorable moments and a few we would rather forget as well.  It’s all in the mix when you serve others in the zany, fast-paced people business of healthcare.

“P2” was also a COTA in another SNF when we met, providing quality therapy services over the weekend.  We laughed and got an incredible amount of work done with residents we hardly knew when covering for the regular therapists.  On call work isn’t for everyone when you have to provide billable services in a place where you can hardly find the resident’s rooms in an unfamiliar setting!  What I remember most about P2 was our 1 1/2 years together when I assisted her with a Fibromyalgia Support group she founded for Central DuPage Hospital.  I learned a lot from P2 as she cared for those who attended as friends, as sojourners, emphasizing the importance of keeping our focus on wellness, not just illness when battling chronic pain.

I am so grateful that P1 put this call together tonight.  We got to talk “shop” for the first time for me in a long time.  They also understood the administrative details with which I have struggled in my brother’s care after a stroke 3 months ago.  With P2 we share a strong interest in gardening:  in the past P2’s home was a registered bird and butterfly sanctuary in the west suburbs of Chicago (a very unlikely place for a natural retreat!)  With P1 I share overcoming a traumatic event at our place of work when an administrator verbally attacked her in front of a regional rehabilitation manager who did nothing to defend P1.  She ended up resigning to save her dignity and avoid having to travel many miles between two facilities with the second one even further from her home.  I respected her tremendously for moving on.  We lost a dedicated employee that day but I gained a friendship that has endured more than this . . .

Their sons are now nearly grown and I have moved 200 miles away to another State to remarry and start a new life.  P1 is back in occupational therapy in a SNF near her home and P2 provides Ai Chi water classes to those seeking peace through gentle movements and relaxation techniques.  Both apply everyday what it means to be trained in the field of occupational therapy:  adapting to the challenges and opportunities of life, enriching the lives of others, connecting with those we hold dear.  I do miss working as an occupational therapist.  I also recognize that I am grateful for the skills I learned in O.T. that I use everyday to cope with an ongoing, serious illness.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to relive some of those days when a twinkle in the eye of an older adult was my greatest reward for a job well done.  Or when I hear a whoot! whooot! from behind a closed door from a patient who has just regained the ability to care for himself because of the therapeutic relationship with his seasoned COTA.  Those were the days, eh ladies?

As we move forward in life the focus must always change at some point.  I do wonder if I will get to share a cup of coffee or tea with P1 and P2 in person?  Or maybe we will walk in P2’s garden along the wetland in her backyard and marvel at the 80 birdhouse gourds she might harvest once again.  We probably will never work together again and that’s cool too.  But hey, let’s never lose touch o.k.?  You have filled my heart with goodness this night and I appreciate you too so very much.  Seeya on Facebook.  Love to you both,  Just Julie

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All You Need is Love

Sometimes you just need Jesus with skin on, ya know?

Tis quite humbling to find true love in the midst of the most wretched time of my life.  Even the worst of the trauma of my childhood cannot compare to the wrecking ball-like experiences of violent, waking seizures every day.  During the bewitching hour of night my beloved often lingers nearby, checking in periodically or lies next to me to warm my chilled, freaking out frame.  Perhaps he has carried me to the bathroom moments earlier or fed me some water to drink in my listless state after an episode.  And then comes the silliness that only a River Bear can muster in the midst of yet another crisis.   Seriously!  He finds a way to laugh in the midst of it all.

Sometimes you just need Jesus with skin on and I am exceedingly grateful love my Steve every day.  Making his lunch bag for work or cooking dinner a few nights per week is my meager contribution of late.  Sometimes I can do housework, grocery shop and laundry too; not so much lately.  It doesn’t seem to matter to my husband though.  He appreciates any of it and celebrates when I can get out and walk the dog or create a piece of jewelry instead of completing the chores.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches seem to fill his belly just the same!  What further amazes me is his compliments and words of encouragement when I am at my lowest.  I have never known this much love from anyone before Steve!

To those Gentle Readers who are single:  be the partner for which you seek and wait for the one who will love you above all else after the Lord.  I found Steve after 47 years of living and after kissing a few frogs along the way!  Oh well.  Sometimes you can’t tell a prince from a frog until it’s too late!  Yet when we trust the One who knows and numbers each hair on our pretty little heads, He will bring your night in shining aluminum*, or is that armor (?) at just the right time.  The trials and adventures of life come alive when shared with your intended beloved.

I used to say that I could make a relationship out of anything.  I was dumb and wrong.  Settling for less only brings heartache.  I now see too how the Lord empowers me to love Steve beyond my earthly capabilities and he must be doing the same for Steve as he loves me too.  In doing so we are drawn even closer together.  How does one prepare a lunch bag, clean up the kitchen at 4:00 a.m., and make it back to bed when sickly, nauseous, twitching in pre-tic episodes, etc.?  (How does Steve work full time, serve and worship at church, attend to household tasks, and keep up with athletic endeavors after staying up late with me?)  By calling on the Lord to add His increase, He brings blessings beyond the tasks at hand.  As for me, on particularly bad days I don’t do much of anything.  The look in my eyes is all I can give, to say how proud I am that my husband goes to work each day for us, or for me to muster up the strength to take a shower and wear the jeans he likes the best.  It is enough.  It is love.

Thank you Steve.  Thank you Lord!

Steve and Julie looking out over Lover's Leap, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
Steve and Julie looking out over Lover’s Leap, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

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*  The “night in shining aluminum” story stems from the theme of many romance novels:  the dashing young man will eventually scoop the young maiden into his arms and carry her off into eternal bliss as the sun sets.  I believe I had a similar experience the day of my move from the west suburbs of Chicago, Illinois 200 miles east to be with Steve in northeastern Indiana.  We met on Yahoo Personals and had a fairy tale long distance relationship for longer than my Prince Charming desired.  Each time we parted to make the long drive home he would tease me about running off to be with him in Indiana!  The tell tale moment finally came on moving day in November of 2007.  The movers had packed the 24-foot box truck with all of the earthly possessions from my beautiful condo near the Dupage River.  We were standing in the parking lot about ready to go when he popped the question.  Steve looked at me and said, “Julie I’m going to ask you one last time:  will you come away with me to Indiana?”  I jumped into his arms with a resounding “YES” and off into the beast of shiny aluminum we went!  My prince had come for me at last . . .  :J