How Can I Help?

The four most difficult words in the English language to respond to. I should know. People have been asking me for the better part of a year how they can help and it’s still impossibly hard for me to answer this, but I can offer some ideas for helping someone who is in a similar situation, for example, Anissa Mayhew (see the button to the right, click on it, and you can make a paypal donation).

There are a million and one things that we do to care for our families and our households that we don’t even consider until we’re unable to perform them. Immediate things that can be done while she’s in the hospital people seem to be on: gift cards for fast food restaurants, arranging for care for her kids so that her husband doesn’t have to worry about that and can focus on her, offering assistance in picking folks up from airports or other places and delivering them where they need to be.

But once the immediacy of the situation is over and she’s on the road to recovery, there are still tons of things that we can do to help and that, if we can, we should do to help. The things that cause the most stress are the day to day living activities that can drain a person of energy. So, research things like grocery delivery in her area, meal preparation services in her area, maid-type services in her area. There are online options like that could be used to order and deliver basic supplies that we often forget but people always need (toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, etc., etc., etc).

Meal preparation services cannot be underestimated in their usefulness. Our friends at Baby Toolkit gave us a gift certificate to our local meal preparation place Dinner Done!. We’d never considered that the worst part of cooking is having to do the preparation, but once we were in over our heads, we found that having meals we could just pull from the freezer and cook was the most wonderful gift. A quick search of the Atlanta area and I found The Dinner A’Fare which appears to be similar to Dinner Done! The great thing about these is that they will do everything for you AND deliver the food to the recipient, so it can take a great deal of stress off of her family during this incredibly difficult time and during the even more difficult time of recovery.

All of the day-to-day management tasks, laundry, dishes, and so forth can also be a serious drain on the caregiver and should be considered as things that people can “do” to help. Whether you help fund someone to come in and assist or if you are in the area, go over and fold laundry and make tea (a phrase suggested by a friend of mine last year; the best thing you can do is not really visit, but visit to help out).

This situation requires long term planning and strategic vision when it comes to how can I help. Right now, everyone is in shock and wants to do something RIGHTNOW. But remember, she’s not looking at a recovery that is a matter of days or even weeks. This is a long road she’s starting on and it will be some time before all of the things that she usually does will be done by her.

There’s also the reality that there are going to be things that need to be done for her. In that respect taking cues from the family is the best bet. If they have a home church, trying to coordinate with the church might be an effective strategy.

The thing is it is very hard when you’re the family involved to say what you need. It feels petty to say, I need help with the laundry or I need help taking care of the kids’ after school schedules or I don’t have the energy by the end of the day to cook dinner or even, I can’t face cooking breakfast in the morning. But these are the real things that drain the strength away from someone who is working on recovering and these are the things that we can be thinking about as Anissa moves forward in her journey.

I’ve only had “incidental contact” with Anissa through other people. I know who she is. I know what she’s about, but I hadn’t gotten to know her yet because of my own energy limits and the time that I don’t have because I’m still trying to recover from my own near death experience.

Linda at Sundry Mourning inspired this post with a comment about trending on Twitter. People want to feel like they’re doing something, I think, and creating the trend, getting the star to tweet to Anissa feels like something is being accomplished. We’re helpless; we’re not family, and yet we are. The Internet creates unusual relationships, but when we get down to the nitty-gritty details of life, that’s where we can all roll up our sleeves and pitch in. I hope this helps not only figuring out how to help Anissa, but also how to help the next person whose life spins out of control, because it will happen again and again — it’s the nature of life. And, when you have an army at your disposal, as does Anissa, you want to try to harness that power and make something good come from something awful. I hope this helps.

It’s Been One Year . . .

since my beautiful baby, Katie, was born. She’s still beautiful. Even sporting a haircut that would make a Marine (or a career Army guy) proud. She had a fun day today, I think. Ben sang her every version of the happy birthday song he knows (think, regular, Blue’s Clues version, Trout Fishing in America version, Imagination Movers version . . .at this point I’m thankful there aren’t more versions, or at least that he doesn’t know them). While she was napping Ben and I wrapped her presents. Well, I wrapped them once I wrested them away from Ben, though all three presents received his seal of approval. Then he and I made cupcakes. Our friend over at Overflowing Brain suggested a pile of icing on a small piece of cake to see if Katie would accept that. Miss Katie played with the frosting and that was about it, but we have cute pictures of her fussing about frosting on her hands, so that’s cool.

She loves her Baby Einstein Count and Compose Piano. She was thrilled when she figured out that pressing the buttons makes music. She’s big into the head bobbing, baby dancing thing at the moment. The doll was not as big of a hit, but she’s a bit young, maybe. Ben, however, adores it. He was busy all afternoon until bed time, feeding her doll, changing her doll’s diapers, and so forth. I wonder why it never occurred to me that he might like a doll of his own. Sigh. Well, there’s the option of Sam’s practice baby if he really wants one. Sam certainly doesn’t need it anymore (think babyproofing a dog — eh, I’ll add it to the list of things I want to blog about).

I think, for a one year old, it was about the best birthday one could hope to have. She will be having a party later with godparents, grandparents, and assorted friends, but that’s more of a thank you for supporting us this year than a true Katie is one party, though there will definitely be some of that, too.

And yet . . . all day I had a combination of happiness and sadness. I can’t believe it’s been a year. I can’t believe how much ground I still need to regain and it’s been a year already. I still can’t drive much past the interstate near our house. I haven’t been able to drive myself to my parents’ house in over a year. I fight bouts of dizziness that have nothing to do with my hair color (blonde, for those who haven’t ever met me); I get worn out easily. I feel like I’ve been flattened a million times over. I have less strength in my left arm than I should have and it is super pain sensitive (that would be the one where the IV infiltrated and left me with a pint of blood where tissue and stuff should be). My concentration is still weak. I have serious bouts of depression and anxiety. So intense that I can barely breathe. It’s just unreal to me that a year could go by and though I am miles ahead of where I was at this time last year, I still have miles to go before I get back to where I was on even November 16, 2008, and trust me when I say that wasn’t exactly the best place my body and health have ever been.

And even as I write this and think about what I have to do and where I have to go, I can’t help but think of Anissa Mayhew tonight and think about the journey she’s embarking on. Her road will be different from mine, but no less fraught with irritations, disappointments, and struggles. She has a fabulous support system and I hope, I hope that she gets the chance to be as grateful to hers as I am to mine.

So, to those of you who came and stayed with Ben, or who brought us things when we needed them, or who flew in to help my mom, or knitted hats for Katie to give to the hospital that took such outstanding care of her while her mommy couldn’t, we say thank you. And if you’re reading this and you want to help another young mother who is in a truly devastating situation, please go here: Help for Anissa and do what you can.