Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mom's shared Christmas Memory: "Christmas In the Coal Fields'"

                                                         (Mom, Audella Evans, Age 5)

    In my last post, I mentioned that our older loved ones that we care for have memories of a childhood that was so very different from ours.  A few years ago, my Mom shared with us her experiences as a child growing up as a daughter of a coal miner in West Virginia.  I am sharing her story here because not only is it precious to us, her children, but also a glimpse into a time long gone.  

     May our Lord bless you and your family with a wonderful Christmas!     


                      Christmas In the Coal Fields

    Growing up in the mountains and in the Coal Fields of West Virginia wasn't always easy.  We had very few conveniences.  In the Coal Camp where I lived, we had one store that was owned by the Coal Company.  The store had a little of everything, but not a lot of toys or things for Christmas.  The miners' wages were not high, and transportation was limited, there were no buses and only a few people owned cars - we did not.  So, very little shopping was done.

    But we received catalogues thru the mail!  Sears, Montgomery Ward, and Aldens - we called them "wish books".  And they became well-worn!  We would choose 1 or 2 items from the "Wish Book" and our parents would go to Beckley, the nearest town to us, where they had stores.  They would try to purchase something for us.  They would get what they could afford.  I always got a beautiful doll.  And if it wasn't the item from the "wish book", that was OK - we were happy with what we got for Christmas.

    Dad didn't want to throw the catalogues away, so after Christmas, we would fold down the pages and make a door stop out of our "wish books". 

    We always had a Christmas Tree - one Dad cut from the woods and brought in.  We did have lights for the tree and some ready made bulbs, but mostly we made our own tree decorations.  We always thought we had the most beautiful Christmas Tree ever!

    The miners had a Union and throughout the year the men would each put a little money into a fund.  The Treasurer, my Uncle Fred Schlager, would use that money to buy nuts, candies, and fruit.  Then he would fill a large brown paper bag with these goodies - one for each child in a family.  We always looked forward to that special treat on Christmas Eve!  These items weren't plentiful back then, like they are today.

    And Christmas Eve usually brought snow - snow that would last for 1 or 2 months!

    What I remember most was our family being together.  We shared our memories and love toward each other and our neighbors.  Not exactly a Norman Rockwell Christmas, but it was ours!  And it was precious.

    Shared with love, 


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Caregiving 101: The Christmas Holidays

    With all that we have to do during the Holidays, it can be overwhelming to say the least!  And as a care giver, these added demands don't help!  Too often our loved one that we are caring for is the recipient of our frustration.  And if it isn't them, it is another family member who really doesn't deserve it either!

    So what about our loved one that we are taking care of during this time of year?  First, remember that they have their own memories and emotions that get tender during the holidays.  Their frustration and anger could be rising from these emotions.

    A major thing to watch for is to make sure our loved one don't feel like they are a burden to us at this time.  Unless they have advanced dementia or
Alzheimer's, they are aware of what is going on around the house.  Even if they don't say so, they want to be included not just in eating the meal, but in helping. 

    What the loved one is able to do to help us with our holiday preparations all depends on their physical ability.   I am not advocating giving your loved one "busy work" to do, however.  I feel it is too often perceived as demeaning, not helpful.  That destroys their self-esteem and can create more tension between you and them.
    My Mom is too frail to lift and carry, and she can't stand for long periods of time.  Anything she can do to help me has to be done while sitting.  But there are still things she can do and she is always willing to help out. 
    So, look at your "to do" list and see where your care-receiving loved one can be included:
    1.    Can your loved one sign the Christmas cards?  If not, you can sign them, address the envelope and let your loved put the return label and stamp on the envelopes.

    2.    How about wrapping small gifts while you wrap the larger one.

    3.    When it comes to the Holiday meal, ask you loved one to fold the napkins for the table.

    4.    If your loved one is mobile, put all of the silverware on the table and asked your loved one to place them at the seats.

    5.    Can your loved one use a peeler to peal the potatoes?  Spread a dish towel on their lap, sit the bowel in their lap and let them help.

    Remember, whatever they are doing to help allows you to do something else!

    And if your loved one is used to doing the cooking and want to tell you how to do it, ask the Lord to give you the grace to smile, love them, and just accept that as being a part of who they are!  Our Pastor reminds us often that we have to choose which battles to fight, and we don't have to fight a battle just to prove that we are "right" or know better.  Some things just have to be let go!
     In the midst of all of the doing, take some time to ask your loved one to share special Christmas memories from their childhood.  Sharing the memories not only includes the loved one, but gives us a richer understanding of what life was like when our loved one was a child.  Life for them was very different back then, and it is easy for us to forget that.

The Holidays are indeed a special time.  Have a very blessed CHRISTmas!  Make precious memories.  And may our Lord guide us into greater understanding and wisdom as we move into the new year! 



Friday, December 6, 2013

After Thanksgiving Thoughts

    Well, since I am writing this and you are reading it, we both survived Thanksgiving!  But I don't think saying I "survived" Thanksgiving is accurate because the it turned out to be a very good day.  Of course, I had to actually take my own advice and ask for help!  Interesting how the Lord does that sometimes - making you take your own advice!  But that was OK, too, because my need for help involved others and they were willing to do whatever I asked of them.  It was a blessing. 

     The greater blessing was spending a few hours with our family and sharing a meal.  It's interesting how eating a meal together seems to allow for a flow of conversation, a catching up on what is going on in the other family members' lives.  Perhaps it is a feeding of the soul as well as the body.  My best memories of my Grandmother Grubb are the great meals she could pull together from the simplest of ingredients and her interest in hearing about everything us grandkids were doing. 

     The memories are the best part of being together.  They last and can be touched and revisited whenever we want.

     My brother's wife, Tina, missed our gathering this year for the first time.  She choose to spend the day at the nursing home with her mother.  And she made the right choice, for her mother is in hospice care and only being given comfort medication.  If this is the last Thanksgiving Tina has with her Mom, then she spent the day making memories that will be more precious than gold.

     Should the Lord not return in our lifetime, we will all someday face these Holidays and special occasions without the ones we love. So we must choose to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones and how we act and react to the situations we find ourselves in, for we do not need to carry unnecessary guilt and regret into our tomorrows.

     We will not have these days again.  Once they are gone, they are gone forever.  We need to do the things today that will make the precious memories we and others carry forward into tomorrowCaregiver, the moments may be hard while we are going thru them, but the blessings are worth the effort!  Keep looking up!