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Nursing Homes – A Place to Die or a Place to Live?

So, my family of 9 (not counting the 3 that are grown) has been spending some time lately at Deer Creek of Wimberley Skilled Nursing Facility.  How we wound up there is a story 18 years in the making.

The short version is I never JUST wanted a large family.  I wanted a large family with the purpose of being the hands and feet of Christ.  I knew if God blessed us with a houseful of kids, it would come with a call to serve Him as a unit.

Can I tell you there is no greater feeling than working alongside your spouse and children towards a common goal?  We got a taste of this helping a family clean up after the devastating Memorial Day flood that hit Wimberley a few years back.  We’ve been able to serve together at our last church on work days.  What a joy to see my children spread out all over the church property doing various tasks, working together and with others!

This life I live tugs me in so many directions with a desperate feeling so often of not being able to accomplish all that I need to accomplish; yet during these times of working together with my family, I am completely at peace that I am doing exactly what the Lord would have me do in this moment.

I’ve brought the kids to Deer Creek a few times to visit members of our church and a friend they had made when they visited with their Sunday school.  Our first connections.  I never minded taking them, but it never really tugged at my heart.  To me, a place like Deer Creek was a place you go to die.  I don’t think that way any more.

A few months ago, we lost a friend who had reached out to one of my teenage daughters.  Over time, they developed a very special friendship.  I don’t think Tommie would mind me sharing her name, so for my Wimberley friends who read this, you know who I am talking about.  Tommie was losing her battle against cancer, and when it became evident that she needed skilled nursing care, she was brought to Deer Creek.  The morning after she was admitted, we went to visit Tommie, and the Deer Creek Activities Director, Courtney, visited with Tommie while we were there.  The questions Courtney asked and the enthusiasm and respect she radiated surprised me.  Her focus was not on helping our sweet friend die; it was, for the time Tommie had left, on helping her live.  And she didn’t just reach out to Tommie, she encouraged Tommie’s husband’s participation as well.   Our second connection.

As an overwhelmed, silence-seeking introvert, it is rare for me to want to participate in anything that’s not mandatory, but something in my spirit leaped forward wanting, needing to be a part of this.  After that first visit, I immediately went to the grocery store and I bumped into a lady I had seen at Deer Creek who was obviously management of some kind.  I introduced myself and told this dear lady, MJ, how touched I was by the way Deer Creek was treating my friend.  I told her I’d like to get my family involved, and she was so kind and welcoming.  Our third connection.

Our friend passed away so our visits ceased, but I knew I wanted to go back.

About this time, I read the story of Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents https://www.gofundme.com/three-wishes-for-ruby039s-residents.  I’ll have to blog about that beauty later, but it struck a cord in me.  What grabbed me was how little insignificant acts from one person could have an enormous impact on another.

With all these thoughts swirling in my head, the time was ripe to come across a Facebook post reminding the community that Deer Creek was looking for volunteers.  What I loved about the post and what I continue to love about the Activities Director, is that while they do have some specific needs for volunteers, they are open to any activity that would bring the community into the doors of Deer Creek.  Their agenda is not just about getting their job done, it’s about bringing life through the doors of Deer Creek.

So for a couple months now, 7 of my kiddos and I go to Deer Creek to help with Bingo on Fridays.  The coolest thing ever is that every single one of those kiddos, from age 3 to 17, LOVE going.  My kids are great, but it is pretty unusual to have an activity that they all agree on.

Before we started visiting regularly, I felt sorry for people that lived in places like Deer Creek.  Away from their families, cared for by strangers, just killing time in their final years.

I see things differently now.  The younger ones, yeah, they still get to me – surely they don’t belong here, but I often wonder about all of them, if not for Deer Creek, where would they be?  It is a noble but very difficult thing to take care of an aging or compromised relative.  It takes time, patience, devotion, money.  How many of these people would at best be left on a couch watching TV all day, deprived of any socialization, nutrition, doctors care, etc.?  And not because of a lack of love, but just because we struggle so just to take care of ourselves; how much is left over to take care of another?  And then there are those few who perhaps have been abandoned – those who have no home to go to, no family to lean on?  Where would they be?  Who would comfort them, who would care for them?

Today, instead of feeling like I owe these sweet folks an apology that our society has “dumped” them, I see them and am thankful that somehow they found their way to Deer Creek.  I have learned that many of them are happy at Deer Creek, and their families are still involved in their life and care.  I am thankful for people like MJ and Courtney and the therapists and nurses that bring healing and wholeness if not to the bodies, to the hearts of these precious people.  And I am so thankful for the residents and employees of Deer Creek that have invited us into their home and have loved on us so well.

Hulloooo!

calligraphy print on paper
Photo by Donatello Trisolino on Pexels.com

I’ve had the itch to write creep back up on me lately, but the voices of discouragement are loud, and they come from within.  What I find so worthy of the written word is not really my experiences; the worth lies in my subjects – my husband, my children, my new friends at the assisted living center we have been frequently lately.  They don’t ask to be written about, and yet the stories of the part of life they share with me simply must be told.  My husband’s presence is the loudest, so I will spare him the infamy that comes from the dark chasm of internet blogging.  Just know he is relevant and so very loved.

My teenagers come next – only to be referred to by age and only with their permission.  All children who have not reached teenage status yet are fair game – just don’t tell them I said that.

And my friends from the assisted living center will be given pseudonames – I’ll just have to be careful to remember who is who – my memory has gotten so bad, I think I would fit in to their world just fine.

So without further adieu, I will write.

My first thought – when I pulled up my blog tonight to see if I could find my way back to it – perfection!  The boy whose face leaps off the screen – the boy is perfect.  His face is perfect.  His hands are perfect.  His eyes – the purest picture of perfection I have ever seen.  Even the streaks of dirt on his face and hands are perfect.

How ironic.  So many hours are spent trying to fix Noah.  Could we just fix his speech?  His weird clothing habits?  His suppressed cognitive skills?

And yet, as I look at that picture, so far removed from the difficulties that each new day brings, I am reminded that having a child born with Down syndrome did not break our family, it made it whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Noah’s Mermaid Sequin Pillows – Supporting Meaningful Employability and an Entrepreneurial Spirit in the Down Syndrome and Special Need Community

noah pillows heart 1

https://www.etsy.com/listing/514903650

Have I got a story for you!

Noah has come a long way from the little baby who would fall asleep in his infant carrier if left unstimulated for more than 5 minutes.  At 10, Noah has no trouble staying up with his 6 siblings still at home; he fits right in with his church friends and neighbors, and he absolutely hates anything that even resembles resting except at night.

Our family has been undergoing some changes as my Etsy embroidery business is coming into its own, and we are shifting from relying on corporate America to sustain us financially to exploring more local opportunities and flexing our own entrepreneurial muscle with several family businesses.

Andrew’s expertise is keeping him in business development with an eye towards entering the field of property management in the Austin/Dripping Springs/Wimberley area, and I (Alyson) have my machine embroidery business over at http://www.21reasons.etsy.com.

Leah (15) has been learning everything there is to know about essential oils in hopes of developing a product line of functional essential oil products.  She is also entering into the field of pyrography, which combines her artistic ability with an application in wood burning.  More to come on that!

Andres (13) has started his own lawn care business specializing in mowing and weed-eating.  He went from having to borrowing his dad’s mower to acquiring his own and then adding a leaf blower and weed-eater all within a few weeks.

Eden (12) is our resident animal expert.  She is quite the animal rescuer, nursing every little thing that comes along back to health against all odds.  She does the impossible.  Think you have to have an incubator that automatically rotates eggs to hatch chicks?  Apparently you don’t; well, at least Eden doesn’t.  Her latest feat was hatching several eggs that had been abandoned by their mother hen, and all she had was an old heat lamp and a plastic bin.  She has a thriving egg business here in Wimberley, Texas.

That brings us to Noah (10).  Noah’s been watching with great interest all the money that the kids have been earning (and spending).

Before I go much further, let me give you some background:

THE STORY:  Visiting with a dear friend one afternoon, she shared with me how much her father, who has advanced Parkinson’s disease, enjoyed this fantastic reversible sequin pillow that he could run his hand back and forth over to change the sequin colors.  A color fanatic myself, I was totally intrigued and set out to find one of these pillows for my son, Noah, aged 10 with Down syndrome.  After searching high and low I came across one in a retail establishment for $30.  I snatched it up, brought it home, and Noah LOVED it!  Well, so did his siblings, all 6 of them!  It wasn’t long before other people we knew started coming to mind as needing to have one of these pillow.  Using my contacts in the embroidery business, I came up with higher-quality zippered reversible sequin pillows that I could assemble for $20 a piece before embroidery – 33% less than what our first pillow cost us.
We passed one of our completed pillows along to a neighbor with severe autism who is usually nonverbal.  After we showed him what it did and gave him time to process the information, we were surprised to hear him say Gracias.  He spent the next two hours tracing patterns in the pillow and now keeps it by his side.  We’re delighted!!!!
As I started putting the pillowcases and pillows together that we were gifting to our friends, I realized this was work that Noah could do, with some help.  That’s how Noah’s Mermaid Pillows were born.
THE PROCESS:  The pillow covers are manufactured, and I add an embroidered name to the back if requested.  Then the components are assembled, bagged and labeled for shipping.  For the pillows Noah assembles, he takes the pillow cover, unzips it, inserts the pillow (which, believe it or not, takes some serious coordination to do all the pulling and tugging and stuffing), and zips up the cover.  For every pillow Noah stuffs (starting at 5 a week), he receives $5 – $1 for spending money, and $4 to go towards the speech therapy and therapeutic horse riding at http://www.RedArena.org that helps to keep him at his best.  Our hope is that we could give back to Red Arena and allow the scholarships they have so graciously gifted to us to be passed on to another child.  Noah will participate in some way in every single Noah’s Mermaid Pillow order.  Every packing slip will be hand-signed by him; he’ll also be helping in the packing and shipping department.  This will introduce him to processes and procedures necessary in business with an eye towards meaningful employment or a greater role in http://www.21reasons.etsy.com in the future.
On our first pillow-assembling session, Noah stuffed 6 pillows, and our work time quickly turned into a speech therapy/occupational therapy session (with awesome cooperation from Noah).  We practiced talking about everything we were doing; zip, open, push, pull, etc.  We also practiced our colors as each pillow had two colors depending on which way you swiped it.  As soon as we get our first order, Noah will practice counting money, fulfilling orders, printing and placing address labels, signing orders, etc.  And I’m thinking he’ll be adding a special sticker to each mailout as well – we are still trying to capture each occupational therapy opportunity possible.  Noah will also be going to local businesses that have waiting rooms, introducing himself, and with some help, asking for an opportunity to leave a pillow as a gift and for advertising purposes.
Are ya catching our vision?  Let me know, because I have some ideas on how you can help.  Just leave me a note in the comment sections and I’ll get back to you!
For those wishing to purchase one of Noah’s Mermaid Sequin Pillows, follow the link . . .
Blessings,
Alyson