Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger: Groovy!

Walking the Tightrope: Life as a Balancing Act

See that that post title? You can thank Marianne for that. I told her she could assign a topic for my guest post.

I've been panicking ever since!

Balance? In what areas of life? Did I want to write about the balance between dieting and eating "real" food? Should I broach the topic of finances by discussing the importance of living within your means and keeping a balanced checkbook? How about the balance between work and pleasure? That one might be interesting to consider, especially since I am the author of a website devoted totally to helping people procrastinate! Perhaps I should write about how to find the balance between being fun and groovy and being being serious. (Stop laughing. I can too be serious!) I could even consider the fine line between homeschooling and keeping up with
everything else that life has to offer.

I mulled, I pondered, I made several false starts. Then today it came to me. You see, today we took Grampy to the hospital. Again. And suddenly, in the midst of praying for my in-laws and canceling my plans with GrammaJ (my mom), I knew what I needed to write about.

Mulletman and I are smack dab in the middle of life right now; We are solidly a part of The Sandwich Generation. We have two little girls ages 6 and 8 whom we are homeschooling. My in-laws lived in an apartment that's attached to our house and my mom just moved up to Maine to be near us this past October. Her little duplex is about 5 miles away from us.

We are thrilled to have all the folks near us. It's wonderful for the girlies to be able to see their grandparents on a consistent basis. It's fabulous to have built in babysitters we can trust (and who don't charge a fee!). It's great to be able to have breakfast or lunch with one of them and get caught up on life. It's fantastic to be able to spend all our holidays with family.

But folks, it's also exhausting.

My father-in-law has more ailments than I have time or energy to list. He's been in and out of the hospital multiple times since they've lived up here - once for a 52 day stay- and sadly, his mind wanders on occasion. Fortunately his wife is healthy, but she's also worn out and depressed from caring for him and from being isolated
from any sort of a social life.

My mom also has numerous physical difficulties, including some severe problems with her hands. Consequently, we're the ones who open and shut and twist and arrange and fix. She's also lonely and emotional and, at times, VERY needy. My mom doesn't have a car, so sometimes she needs rides. We've moved her twice in six months' time and she hasn't had the energy to make any friends yet, so I am, for all intents and purposes, her only human contact in this ole world. She calls me. Often. And everything is an emergency! A nightmare! A catastrophe!

So, in addition to finding equilibrium between homeschool and housework, add in balancing caring for our folks and caring for ourselves, our marriage and our children. It was tiring before with 4-H and AWANA and homeschool co-op meetings and shopping and cleaning and cooking, but now we also have to embrace being sounding boards for three other adults who are sick or aching or depressed or upset, making doctor runs, making hospital visits, hanging pictures, fixing things, cleaning up blood (a whole unit on the bathroom floor last week when Grampy fell), feeding the cat, making meals, shoveling 2 extra walks, and more.

Seriously, we could easily spend all day, every day helping the folks out. And we could throw in some nights too since that's when Grampy seems to fall the most often. There are days when we barely speak to our own children because we're too busy assisting our parents. We had an opportunity to move to London as missionaries, but tabled the idea because we're needed here. Clearly we need some balance in this situation!

I can't tell you that we've got it all down pat, because we don't. However, we have managed to install some sanity saving methods into our lives. First of all, Mulletman and I try to encourage and help each other. It's unnerving for him to watch his dad go down hill and it's draining for me to constantly be "there" for my mom. Sometimes we switch off and he goes to help my mom and I go sit with his dad or take his mom to lunch. We pray together and remind each other of God's wisdom from the Bible. Then we make private jokes about both situations to relieve the tension. I can testify to you that a merry heart does indeed do good as a medicine. :-)

For the sake of our marriage (26 years next week - Whoo-Hoo!) Mulletman and I try to do some things together that have absolutely nothing to do with our kids or our folks. He plays guitar and I sing with him or we go for walks or bike rides and just reconnect sans family problems. I can't begin to stress how important this time is for our love life. We desperately need to time to be just the two of us!

Unless there is a true emergency, we try to make time with the girlies a priority over time with the folks. I spend time schooling them every day that it is possible to do so. We read to them, play board games, make crafts, eat together, and we try to make sure they can get out and visit with their own friends as well. We also encourage them, when appropriate, to help us be a blessing to the folks. The girls make cards and goodies for their grandparents and visit them and do small errands and chores for them. Most importantly, we all pray together for the folks.

Mulletman and I also try to set boundaries. We have an answering machine and we use it! That way when my mom calls (and calls and calls), I have the opportunity to triage her requests. I do call her back, but usually I find that I am able to wait until after we have finished school or our meal or whatever to do so.

Finally, we've tried to lay aside any resentment or bitterness (trust me, they're feelings we are familiar with) and embrace this time with our whole family being together. Chances are that Grampy will gone soon to be with the Lord. How can we begrudge him a little hand holding or football watching or raspberry pie? Grammy is so sweet and faithful and so tired, she really needs our hugs and reassurances and a wee bit of pampering. My mom is genuinely lonely and handicapped. She has been deprived of "family" for almost her entire life. We can't make up for all her pain, but we can love her and do our best to make her feel needed and appreciated.

So here we are, stuck in the middle and walking the tightrope of life. By God's grace and with His help we'll keep the balance and we'll grow through this time of ministering to our own family. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pick up Grampy's prescriptions from the drug store.

For more groovy fun, vist Groovy's blog!

Want to be a guest blogger? Click here to find out how!


groovyoldlady said...

Hey look! It's ME!!

Diane Craver said...

I enjoyed this post very much. Good luck to you, Groovy, with your continued balancing act with your loved ones. You are a blessing to them.

Julia_Champagne said...

Thanks for posting guest bloggers. It's a wonderful way to get to know some new people.

Lianne said...

Great post. I agree that this is a good way to introduce new people to us. I'm heading on over to Groovy's blog now. :)

Dru said...

Excellent post and remember God knows how much we can bear and you're doing aboslultely wonderful in handling life's situations. You are truly a blessing.

Brandy said...

Groovy, you are an inspiration! Keep on shining.

Melissa said...

Good luck with that balancing act, Groovy. My hat's off to you!

Dena said...

That is quite the balancing act Groovy. Reading this glimpse into your life I see you have a lot on your plate and a lot difficulties with caring for your aging parents. I mostly see what a wonderful, caring, and full life you have. I think it's wonderful that you are soon to celebrate your 26th anniverary, and it sounds like after all this time you are very much still in love.

groovyoldlady said...

Awwww. You people made me smile and tear up all at once. Marianne has AWESOME readers!

Selma said...

You are a truly wonderful person, Groovy. I really admire your outlook on life. How fortunate your family are to have you.