Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Small Miracle of Change

When I get on the train, I choose the same car every day. I sit with the same people, who also chose that car. Some of them chat with each other and some sleep, but all on the same car. My car is at the far end of the platform, and sometimes if I'm running late, I only make it as far as the accessible car, half way up the platform. Guess what? There is a whole community of people who choose that car every day. The same people on the same car.

I know few people who embrace change. Most of us avoid it where possible, clinging tenaciously to our routines. For good reason. Change, even change with a great outcome, involves stretching and growing, mess and discomfort, upset and disappointment. Our routines may be boring, but we know what to expect.

I recently watched the story of the nativity with a group of co-workers. I was struck again how God moved in and shook the worlds of Mary and Joseph, and ultimately, the entire world. Both of them had a plan for how their lives would go, and it involved change, but it was moderate, predictable change. Instead, God instituted a change containing shame and disgrace, danger and fear, wonder and joy. It was beyond anything they could have imagined. I'm sure there were times when they thought, "No! I'm not up for this." But God was.

I've come to the conclusion that God likes change, and even if He doesn't instigate it, as He did with   Mary and Joseph, He always knows about it and uses it to grow us into the kind of people He can use.--if we let Him.

Christmas letters are a bit of a barometer for me. There have been three years in my life when the change that a year brought ripped me apart so completely that I couldn't write a Christmas letter--the year my mother died in a car accident, the year Bill died of heart disease, and last year.

I'm still not ready to say much, I may never be. In September of 2016, Hunter left me. I don't understand why. It was a change that confused and devastated me, but God was there, and He is using it to grow me.

In December of 2016, another change occurred. Ruth, Shawn and Hannah, whose rent was crippling them, came to live with me.
Ruth's graduation with her ECE
We're all pretty easy going people, and as we look forward to our second Christmas together, the arrangement is great for all of us. There is nothing like a Hannah hug before bed every night, or a text from Ruth if I am late getting home, wondering if everything is okay. We are a family together, and it works well.
Hannah and Teddy at Chudleigh's apple farm
In late January, two unrelated changes rocked my world. The first was the arrival of a sweet little puppy named Teddy. I'd already made application and paid a deposit when I was suddenly coping on one income, and I questioned the wisdom of going forward with the purchase. The message after prayer was clear, "You need this."

I picked him up on a foggy January day and immediately fell in love. Teddy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the breed is naturally affectional, but he especially loves to be cuddled and give many, many kisses. I love every part of him, even his 5:00 a.m. bladder which means I can never sleep in.
Teddy's first day with me
Coincidentally, on the same day, the sewer in my basement backed up. Tree roots grew into a pipe on the front lawn, and created a huge, stinky mess. The whole basement had to be gutted, and in doing so, four small areas of mould were found. The contractor hired by the insurance company required an expensive mould assessment, and said they would rid me of the mould for $8000. This was after months of continuing issues with them, and in frustration, I fired them and cashed out with the insurance company. My son Ben removed the mould for the cost of a bottle of bleach. Geesh! God sent the wonderful Andrew, who has been working away the last three week (yes, we are now almost a year later!) and my basement should be done and looking amazing by next week. There were many times during this ordeal when I looked at the dark cave that was my basement and despaired of every moving the project forward, but here we are. God had a plan. The change was messy and painful, but the end result is lovely.

My family changed, too. In the fall, sweet, cuddly Jillian was born to Bek and Steve, and Dylan became a big sister. Ruth began her first job as an ECE with the YMCA, and is excelling there.
With my niece, Jenn at her daughter's
high school graduation

Surprise visit to my sister 
on her retirement weekend

Each of my kids has been amazing through all these changes, in so many practical ways. Ben spearheaded the mould removal, helped to paint and was available for advice on any issues. Ruth painted and helped me with Teddy on many occasions. Shawn installed a new tap, and walked me through the process of buying a used car. Steve rescued me when my bathroom vanity sink broke, and installed a new one. In each crisis, they reminded me I wasn't alone.
I learned to drive a boat!

It's hard to describe the enormous changes at work. Four years ago, our first neighbourhood, The Annex, was built. At that time, I longed for something similar--a family style kitchen where residents could come at any time, the smells of freshly baked cookies filled the air and it felt like home. The next neighbourhood, Seaton Village, was built that same year, but for various reasons,building stopped. This year, through messy, noisy change and months of disruption, Cedarvale Park was born, and Phase one will open next week.

During construction
Picture a huge area, with attractive kitchen and dining area, and my desk just across the hall. On one side is a wall, wallpapered to look like a bookcase, with an electric fireplace in the centre. Windows all around light the dining area. Best of all, my wish list of small appliances has been purchased, and I get to play "mama's in the kitchen" with waffle makers and crock pots.
My new desk

Cedarvale Park has almost double the staff, residents and families, and I have a lot to learn. This will be a year of growing and change as I learn to be all that is needed in an Advocate for this area.

I'm the Queen of the Advocates
My wish for you is that in all the changes 2018 brings to your life, you will ask our unchanging God to hold you, grow you and fill you with joy. Merry Christmas, everyone!                                                  

The Small Miracle of Change

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Care Partner Wednesday--Culture Change is Hard

On Monday of this week, we started something completely new. We've been planning for weeks and months--years, really. Two smaller neighbourhoods joined and the new neighbourhood of Cedarvale Park was born.

It's happening in stages. On Monday, the new staffing model began. By next Monday, we should have a laundry room, and the following Monday our new kitchen will be ready. Hopefully the shower  room will follow closely behind. Stage two is a lovely lounge area, which will be done in February.

But culture change isn't dining rooms and lounges. Culture change is people. "The Eden Alternative firmly believes that culture change unfolds one relationship at a time..."1

Simply put, culture change is putting people before rules or institutions. It's working together, and being willing to say, "That didn't work, what else will we try?" It's giving staff a voice and listening to their thoughts.

Culture change is hard. As my fellow advocate says, it's not all butterflies and rainbows. It's messy. It can be painful. I have been stretched beyond anything I can imagine this week, and it's only Wednesday. I've wondered "can I do this?" several times a day. I've been frustrated and overwhelmed.

And there are moments that it's beautiful. I am growing. We are growing. The elders benefit from each small triumph.

One staff member who, because of the shift she's worked, hasn't had the same opportunities to be touched by the changes we've talked about over the last four years. It's delightful to see her discover that she doesn't need to (and shouldn't) wake sleeping people in the night to change them. She can let them sleep. If she doesn't get a shower done one day, it's fine to do it the next, and if someone who is due a shower is sleeping, she can let them sleep. I told her today that no one was going to say she wasn't doing her job if someone slept in.

Staff from two shifts huddled together today to work out a few problems in the dining room. The common theme was "we're all learning." Ideas and suggestions bounced around the room, and in no time, we had a plan.

There is conflict. There are problems and issues we haven't solved, and many more to come. We'll talk and listen and have the difficult conversations to make it work. It's about improving life for our elders, but this comes as we grow together.

Yesterday, I was just about done in, and I had a few more hours to go. I came out of my supervisor's office and ran into a special resident. She has a most incredible smile, although her conversation is limited. I told her it had been a hard day and I needed a hug. She said, "Ohhhhhhh," and in the most motherly way possible, she hugged me and rubbed my back from her wheelchair. It meant everything to me. Because..."care is not a one-way street, but rather a collaborative partnership. All caregivers and care receivers are described as 'care partners,' each an active participant in the balance of giving and receiving. Together, care partner teams strive to enhance well-being by eliminating the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom."1

Culture change is hard and messy and painful.
But a hug makes it all worthwhile.


Care Partner Wednesday-Culture Change is Hard